Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Have you discovered the joys of Instagr.am?

© Adriana Glackin

Sometime over the last few days, I decided I would take a look at Instagr.am. I downloaded the app soon after I bought my iPhone, but just never had the chance to set up my profile or have a play with it.  Oh boy, didn't things change when I discovered just how easy - and how much fun - it is to use. There are some serious advantages to using Instagr.am:

  1. The main one for me being that it integrates with not just twitter, but also facebook and flickr! How good is that?! You can determine which platform you'd like to upload your images to.
  2. It comes with a set of pre-determined filters - the tricky part is actually deciding which cool filter to use. It also has an option for blurring, you can control the positioning and strength of the blur. Very arty!
  3. Square Format - is there anything more retro than the square format, complete with its off-white border!
  4. Discover other Instagr.am fans, and see what they're shooting. We're all sticky beaks aren't we, and we can't resist peaking at others' photos. It's a bit like a swap meet in your iPhone - you show me yours and I'll show you mine. Instagram will display the popular images, as well as giving you the opportunity to 'follow' others. (It even helps you find the people to follow by finding them for you in your list of contacts). Within minutes, I had uploaded four images and found a few Twitter friends.
  5. You can comment and 'like' other images you see, which is something else we all enjoy. I uploaded an image from country NSW, and one of my US twitter friends, Cathy Ross saw it and 'liked' it. I don't know what made me smile more -  the fact that I was happy the image was 'uploadable' considering that it was taken from a moving car (yes, I was the passenger, don't panic), the seconds it took to upload, or the fact that within minutes of uploading it, my friend from the other side of the globe had seen it. Have we ever lived in a more instant world?
  6.  I feel that it also helps you improve your compositional skills. You can't zoom in, you can't crop - so as a 'fixed' lens, you need to move around to get the composition just right. Surely if you take enough Instagram images, you start to get the feel what which compositions work and which don't. Hopefully then, you'll be able to transfer these skills over to shooting with your DSLR camera. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  7. Something that I haven't really delved into, but you can also allow Instagr.am to pinpoint the location of your shot to share with others. This can be useful with sharing location details with others.
  8. It's free!

©  Adriana Glackin

There are a couple of downsides that I discovered. One false move with the buttons, and you've deleted your shot for good. We were away for the weekend and I'd just shot the bowl of pea and ham soup I'd had for lunch. Back in the car, again as passenger, I was deciding what filter to use and whether to blur or not when going over a bump on the road made me slip and accidently hit the delete button. No more pea and ham soup image to share with the world. There are those of you out here that would be grateful for that and I put that attitude down to not having Instagr.am and/or a fun and/or addictive personality. The other issue I guess is, just how many images is too many images to share in a 24 hour period? I felt really guilty that I was bombarding flickr, twitter and facebook with these images - but the urge to shoot images and share them was greater than the guilt, so maybe I didn't feel that guilty. At the moment, the other downside is that Instagram only works on iPhones, but I'm sure that will change in time.

So. Do you have an iPhone? Well - what are you waiting for? Head over and download the app and start having a little fun. :) Come on - you show me yours and I'll show you mine - lol!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Book Review - "Mezza Italiana" by Zoe Boccabella

book review mezza italiana

I would like to start with a disclaimer. I am not a writer. I am not an editor. I am not a book reviewer. These days anyone with internet access can start a blog and share their opinions with others. So, look at me as one of those anyones who has a blog and is happy to share an opinion or two with whoever is happy to come across and read it.

Right, with that out the way, I'm going to tell you how I felt when I finished this book. Disappointed. That, is not the end of my review, by the way. Let me explain further. The title and author's name caught my eye, "Mezza Italiana" by "Zoe Boccabella", the collage-feel to the cover also appealed. But it was the blurb on the inside cover that sent my heart racing. This was the book I had been waiting for and finally someone had written it. And this was my mistake - I had set it up to fail, to fall from the dizzying height from whence I'd perched it.

The story is a common migrant story of growing up in Australia in the 70's where Italians were still referred to as 'wogs'. The older generation Italians were holding fast onto their traditions while the teen generation just wanted to fit into the Australian way of life. If that meant denying or stifling your heritage, then so be it; they weren't interested in their heritage; I wasn't interested in my heritage. I had expected the narrative to meander through the author's journey in some sort of logical order and to be charmed or shocked, whatever the case may be, by the anecdotes where I would nod my head in agreement and understanding. If I use the analogy of meandering along quiet country lanes and being charmed by the surrounding scenery, then this book does not fit with that analogy. Instead, imagine you're in a buzzing city with tight little lanes, distractions are everywhere. The lanes look enticing, exhilarating until you come to dead end after dead end. The buzzing little lanes whilst offering initial promise, fail to deliver. They soon lose their initial appeal and instead become annoying. So it is with a lot of the author's anecdotes in the book. I felt as though I was trapped in those buzzing little lanes wearing a blindfold and not being able to get my bearings, constantly bumping into the dead end walls.
It was relief I felt when I came to the end. And of course disappointment.

Another disclaimer for you - I don't have the foggiest at what is involved in writing a book, how the process works, how long it takes, how many re-writes are involved. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to write a book that not only recounts your journey physically and emotionally, but also the journeys of your nearest and dearest. I do appreciate the enormous effort involved. What I don't understand is how the book slipped past the editor and over to the printer without just one more critical read-through.  I am not a high school English teacher and I'm sure this post is peppered with errors, but I feel the narrative could have been improved immensely with tighter editing. There were too many unanswered questions for me, too many half anecdotes, no photographs (apart from the covers).

The trouble is, no matter how well it could have been written, this book was always going to disappoint me to a certain extent. Do I recommend you read this book? No, I don't. Unless of course if you are related to the Boccabella family then you may be privy to some of the stories already and your knowledge will be able to fill the many gaps that left me wanting. If in the future, I purchase another book with a similar story, I will lower my expectations and simply go along for the ride without being so critical of how the story should be presented. 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Runaway Plastics - Where Do They Go?

mis-matched plastics

Why is it that no matter how often or how recently you tidy your plastics cupboard, the number of containers and the number of lids never seem to match?  I would like to declare that my plastics cupboard is tidied often, but that would be a big fat fib. It is only when I reach the stage of sheer frustration of not being able to close the cupboard, or find a lid, or find the right size container, that I empty the whole cupboard out and begin to play the frustrating game that is "Find The Matching Lid!" It sounds an exciting game, especially when you say it just like a Game Show Host, and it was exciting when the Teens were Toddlers. But it's not an exciting game at all. The Teens now just look at me, roll their eyes and go back to doing what they were doing,  leaving me to play "Find The Matching  Lid!" on my own.

How is it possible that even though bases and lids tallied up in the last tidy up and the cupboard closed effortlessly, that suddenly numerous lids don't have bases and vice versa? It's always been my policy - if it doesn't have a matching base, or there's no lid, it doesn't go back into the cupboard. It goes, instead to a new home courtesy of Vinnies. For whatever reason, this policy isn't working, as I now have bases without lids and lids without bases. Again. Sigh. I do try to maintain some kind of order, but really, it's to no avail. That and the fact there's more to life than balancing the plastics cupboard with the precision of a trust accountant.

I have a theory as to why I'll never balance the number of plastic bases and lids in my kitchen cupboards. I think that some of the sneakier lids and/or bases (as they're just as capable), manage to run off with those single sneaky socks. Those same sneaky socks that leave you with useless matchless single socks that accumulate with each load of washing. (FYI: We currently stand at one shopping bag full of variously coloured single socks).

I'd like to know whether you have this same problem of mis-matched plastics in your kitchen. How do you solve it? Do you have a better solution? Do you perform roll call each day before the situation really gets out of hand; these plastic containers are quite expensive, after all. Where do you think the runaway plastic goes to? And why is it that even though you have less than what you started with, after a week, you're back to not being able to close the cupboard? Sigh.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Lesson of the Day #1

choc monte cupcakes raw
I'm half way through my first week of a two week break. The winter wind is howling and I'm staying within my cosy four walls - hopefully for the duration of my break. I've set myself quite a few tasks, a major one it seems is trying to keep the food up to the growing teen boys that stalk the pantry 24/7. My youngest had asked for some oreo mini cheesecake cupcakes as sampled at the weekend at a do we attended. I had forgotten I even had the recipe for them, and I was fortunate that the ingredients required were at hand, albeit with some minor variations. Substituting the oreos for chocolate montes, whilst yummy, meant the cupcakes were very messy to eat. There's a reason why a round biscuit, rather than an oval biscuit, fits so much better in a round patty pan...hmmm... And leaving out the sour cream and substituting it for more cream cheese - it really was too windy to go to the shops - meant the cupcakes lacked that certain tang.

choc monte cupcakes cooked
So, lesson of the day - teenage boys will eat just about anything, no matter how it looks, and it helps if it's in a bright and colourful patty pan. Also, if it can be eaten with your fingers, then all the better. The not-oreo-but-chocolate-monte cheesecake cupcakes were gone in the blink of an eye.

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