Things That Made Me Smile (March 14, 2022) #WeeklySmile

Hi all. I’m joining the Weekly Smile today. I don’t promise this will be a weekly feature, of course, but the hashtag is #WeeklySmile. I could really use a bit of cheer today, so I’m going to share some little things that gave me joy lately. Hopefully writing about them will make me smile now too.

First up are flowers once again. Last Thursday as well as yesterday, I went for a walk and took some pictures of flowers I came across on my way. The below picture is of an anemone we came across yesterday. We initially called it a giant crocus, but I found out it’s an anemone by running the picture through some plant identification apps.

That’s my second little joy: I just love learning about all sorts of different plants and running my pictures through identification apps. I haven’t yet found the perfect plant identification app after having tried out several, but that’s okay.

Finally, a thing that’s been making me smile for days: discovering an app that will allow me (with some help) to make collages and mosaics with my photos. The app is called PhotoGrid and, though some parts of the app are free, I decided to try out the premium membership right away and didn’t cancel when my trial period (which admittedly is only three days) was over. The below collage, my staff and I made with most of the photos we’d taken while going for a walk on Thursday. I’m linking this post to Mosaic Monday. Hope I did it right.

One of my staff later suggested I use this collage as my cover photo on Facebook, so I did. I had never had a cover photo before.

It may seem weird that I, being blind, like photography. However, with the image description tools, including now the plant identification apps, on my phone, I think it’s a great way of getting acquainted with my surroundings.

Sunday Ramble: Technology and the Future

Hi all. I’m feeling kind of off today. I’m not sure it’s all in my head or I’m suffering with the early symptoms of a mild case of COVID. I haven’t had another lateral flow test, as I don’t feel worse than I did yesterday – in fact, I feel slightly better. On Tuesday, I’ll have a PCR test, so unless I develop really telling symptoms, none of which I have so far, I’ll wait and see until then.

Anyway, for my blog post today, I’m answering E.M.’s Sunday Ramble questions. Her topic for this week is technology and the future. Here are her questions.

1. Are there any applications on your mobile device, tablets, etc. that you cannot live without? Feel free to ramble about them! Maybe we will learn new apps that will become important in our own lives.
I am going with the more unusual apps here, as I doubt I’ll be inspiring anyone else to download Facebook or a web browser (I use Edge even on my iPhone, by the way) if they haven’t already. Apps I truly love on my iPhone include the diary app Day One. I previously reviewed Diarium, another diary app, but have since gone back to using Day One mostly because it allows me to have multiple diaries.

Other apps include MyNoise, an app that allows users to select soundscapes, the task management app Microsoft To Do and Seeing AI, an app that describes images. It most recently guessed my age in a photo to be 44 though. 😒 Admittedly, I pulled a rather odd face in a forced attempt to smile. And just so you know, no, I’m not going to post the photo here. 🙂

2. Do you prefer Apple or Android?
Apple for sure! It is far more advanced with respect to accessibility for the blind.

3. Windows OS or MacOS?
Windows. I tried a Mac some years ago, thinking it’d be easy to use with my being an iPhone user already, but I couldn’t get used to it. The only advantage of MacOS is that it comes with a built-in screen reader, like iOS. For Windows, you have to buy (or get insurance to pay for) JAWS.

4. What do you wish that you would have placed in a time capsule 15+ years ago to have access to now?
I answered a similar question already on another blog a few weeks back: I’d bring back the disability-related story-sharing websites we had in the early 2000s, like Tell-Us-Your-Story.com. I also would’ve put Diaryland’s diaryrings into the time capsule, but then I’d have hacked the concept and applied it to today’s blogs. Webrings are cool! I think the concept still exists, but hardly anyone participates nowadays.

5. When you think of the what the world will look like 50 years from now, what does that future look like through your eyes? Go as sci-fi and/or fantasy as you would like and ramble on however you wish to ramble When you think of the what the world will look like 50 years from now, what does that future look like through your eyes? Go as sci-fi and/or fantasy as you would like and ramble on however you wish to ramble.
I have absolutely no idea. I did a post on this topic some six years ago on my old blog, but I mostly focused on what my life would be like when I was in my late seventies. I really hope that image description and the like will be very much improved, so that the blind will be able to “see” this way. There already are glasses, such as the Orcam or Envision Glasses, which will describe things a person is looking at. I haven’t tried those, but if they evolve more, and they likely will, I’d love to try those someday.

What do you wish you could’ve put into a time capsule to take with you from 15+ years ago?

App Review: Diarium for Windows 10 and iOS

As regular readers of this blog may know, I’m perpetually looking for an offline diary to keep. The problem doesn’t seem to be the lack of apps available, though I find fault with each of them. Rather, it seems to be the lack of commitment to actually keeping a daily journal.

That being said, I’ve tried a lot of apps. Until very recently, the iOS app Day One was by far my favorite. Now, it seems to have gotten a strong competitor in Diarium.

Diarium was originally developed as a Windows 10 app. This was before I had a Windows 10 computer. At some point roughly three years ago, they however launched the iOS app. It was still far from ideal at the time. If I remember correctly, most buttons weren’t labeled and there was no timeline view.

In the current iOS version, the tabs in the bottom right corner allow you to switch between timeline, calendar, search, map and tags. I really love this.

In the top left corner of the screen is the button to add an entry. This will open a calendar with an ability to pick the date. Diarium, though it does seem to support multiple entries per day, does not automatically include the timestamp. Rather, you have to click a button while typing your entry to insert it. You can also add images (not sure if you can add just one image per entry or multiple), audio or files.

Also in the top left corner are buttons to sync your diary with OneDrive, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, WebDav or Dropbox. This is a paid feature, but the positive about Diarium’s paid plan as opposed to for example Day One’s, is that it’s €5,99 (if I’m correct) and is a one-time purchase rather than the €37,99 per year for Day One. To Day One’s credit, it does offer more features.

I have Diarium on both my iPhone and Windows 10 PC now. At first, I had no clue how to use the Windows 10 app, because it doesn’t work like Word or Notepad or any of the older Windows programs at all. For example, Alt or Shift+F10 doesn’t work to open a menu at all (there doesn’t seem to be a menu). I’m still figuring things out a little, but it seems most buttons at least are clearly labeled. When I tap the button to add an entry though, I have yet to figure out how to get back to my diary without closing and relaunching the entire app.

Diarium allows integration with several services, including your weather app, Twitter, Facebook and Fitbit. I so far only have integration set up with the iPhone’s weather app and Fitbit. I love how that way, my daily step count is included with each day’s entry. Unlike apps like Momento, Diarium as far as I know doesn’t create separate entries for your integrations, but rather includes them on each day’s main entry. This may be both a drawback and an advantage depending on your perspective.

There are two things I find slightly annoying about Diarium. The first is the fact that each entry is auto-titled something like “Dear diary” and auto-formatted to start with “Today I …”. It does look like you can delete or ignore this though. The other thing is the fact that, despite the fact that I turned it off in settings, my entire entries are still shown in the timeline. This might be a bug, so I’m going to contact the developer about this.

Overall, I really like Diarium. If, like me, you’ve been using Day One and would like to migrate, there’s an easy way to do that by exporting your Day One journal into a .Zip file and importing it into Diarium. Some of the preformatted stuff from Day One looks weird in Diarium, but it’s still readable.

A Recent Purchase: Apple AirPods Pro

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to write about a recent purchase. Like I said last week, I was seriously considering getting Apple AirPods Pro once my vacation allowance landed in my bank account. At the time, I had not yet seen the payment details of it, so I was still unsure I’d get it at all, or how much I’d get.

By Monday, my payment details from the benefits authority arrived in my government inbox. I wouldn’t be getting the money until Friday, but on Wednesday, I was so excited I decided to buy the AirPods anyway.

I ordered them from Bol.com at 1PM Wednesday. They gave me the option of selecting to get the AirPods delivered the same evening, so I was like: “Yes please!” Unfortunately, my screen reader wouldn’t let me toggle the button, so I got a staff to do that for me. My brand new Apple AirPods Pro arrived at 6:30PM that evening.

I struggled a little to get the AirPods connected and the medium-sized earmuffs felt uncomfortably large to me even though the fitting test on my iPhone said they fit. Then I struggled to remove the medium earmuffs and replace them with the small ones, but my staff eventually found out how to do this.

The AirPods came with a wireless charging case. As is the norm with current Apple products, they also came with a lightning to USB-c charging cable but no charger. I have an iPhone SE 2020, which still came with a regular USB charger. For this reason, I wondered whether I could charge the case with my iPhone charger or I needed to buy a USB-c charger. It might be faster with that one, but my iPhone’s charger works at least.

It also took me a little figuring out where the force sensor was located and how to use it. Once I figured it out though, it’s really intuitive. It works similar to the home button on my iPhone, really. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to take incoming calls using just my AirPods, but today I found out I can.

The AirPods Pro have really good noise-canceling, which was one reason I wanted the Pro ones specifically. When I have noise cancellation on, I feel quite well shut off from my surroundings, even when I’m not listening to music. When I do want to hear what’s happening around me, I easily switch to the transparency mode and can hear everything just fine even while still listening to music.

I originally wanted the AirPods so that I can fall asleep while listening to soothing sounds, for example from the myNoise app on my iPhone. That, unfortunately, isn’t working yet, as I haven’t found a way to make the AirPods feel comfortable when I’m trying to sleep. That might be a good thing though, as I have no idea whether the AirPods will really be able to withstand a sleeping me. Overall, however, I really like my new AirPods.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Gratitude List (November 28, 2020) #TToT

Hello everyone. Like I mentioned yesterday, I have not been more grateful than I am now in a long while. Part of the reason is my recent depression, but part is also my increased attitude of gratitude. For this reason, I am trying to make posting about gratitude a weekly habit again. As always, I am linking up with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. Quiet dinners in my room. Last week and early in the week, I was very stressed out about needing to eat in the communal room with the other clients. This has been a stressor for me for a long while already. I was given the opportunity to eat in my room if I didn’t cope in the communal room, but was struggling to say I didn’t cope on time. For this reason, me and the staff decided I for now will always have dinner in my room. Yesterday, a staff noted that I eat much slower now.

2. Extra staff. I may’ve mentioned this before, but there is now an extra staff member to support me in the evenings. I am not yet sure how they will cover this financially, but we’ll see. Today, I thought there wouldn’t be an extra staffer, but thankfully there was.

3. Podcasts. I’ve mainly been listening to church services. I am so grateful for my podcast app that enables me to listen to church services from all over the world. Oh and of course also other podcasts, like the Parcast Network originals.

4. The YouVersion Bible app. I have only a three-day streak so far, because I missed one day of Bible reading on Wednesday. I am determined to make this streak much longer though. Right now, I’m on day six of a seven-day devotional on forgiveness.

5. Soaping supplies. My day activities staff ordered 3kg each of white and clear soap base as well as a few micas (powdered colorants). She already ordered them early last week, but they finally arrived last Thursday. In addition, my husband brought my Christmas tree soap mold. I am really looking forward to soaping again.

6. Cake decorating. In addition to the extra staff in the evenings, there’s an extra staff in the morning on week-ends. The one who had this shift today, asked me earlier in the week whether I’d like to decorate cupcakes with her today. We ended up using regular slices of cake, not cupcakes, because these are easier to decorate. I loved it.

7. Beautiful skies and sunsets. I regret not having taken a photo of the pink sky we had on Monday. I didn’t really see it, but did see some and loved the staff’s description. Also, on Sunday, I saw the sunset. This was really cool.

8. Eating lunch in the car. My husband came by this afternoon to take me out to lunch. Since all restaurants and such are closed due to COVID, we drove to a Subway drive-through. We each had a chicken teriyaki wrap. It was delicious!

9. Homemade wraps. Okay, they weren’t as good as the Subway chicken teriyaki one, but they were good too. We made wraps with chicken and lettuce on Monday and, because we had some wraps still left over, made some more with minced meat and beans on Thursday.

10. Good talks with my husband. He keeps me interested with his knowledge of theology in particular.

What have you been grateful for lately?

Journal #SoCS

SoCS Badge 2019-2020

Journaling is one of my favorite activities. That being said, I’ve taken forever to find the right means of doing it. I tried a regular Word document, at least twenty apps on my iPhone and a couple on my PC too. In fact, at one point I spent $100 on an app that didn’t even work.

I currently use an app called Day One on my iPhone. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can get so far. That is, at one point there was an app called Dyrii that was better, but they went into maintenance mode and at the last update, messed things up pretty bad.

In addition to journaling, I love to collect journaling prompts. I probably have about twenty collections of journaling prompts in my various book apps and on my PC. I don’t use prompts as much as I’d like, but just the thought of having them at hand is helpful. It may be a kind of autistic perseveration, but oh well.

In Day One, I have four different journals righ tnow. One is a general journal that I rarely update. The second is specifically for my alters to journal their thoughts. The third is a prompt-based journal and the fourth is a gratitude journal.

Just yesterday, I thought of starting another one, specifically for chronicling my recovery from compulsive overeating. I also may want to start a quote-based journal. I so far decided against either of these, but Day One allows unlimited journals if you have the Premium version. Which I’ve had a couple of times but each time deactivated again. I’m pretty sure I’ll keep the Premium subscription now though.

This post was written for #SoCS, for which the prompt today is “Jour”.

Lovin’ Lately (September 11, 2020)

Hi everyone on this beautiful Friday! How are you all? I’m doing pretty well. I thought I’d share another edition of Lovin’ Lately. As usual, I’m linking up with Friday Favorites.

1. Cold tea. Last Saturday, a staff brought a bag of so-called cold tea. This is a new product from Pickwick (I believe). It’s herbal tea that you add to cold water instead of hot water. The staff brought me the pineapple and lime flavored one.

2. Fragrance oils. I decided for the first time to check out a webshop specializing in fragrance oils for candle and soap making or oil diffusers. I’d heard of this shop before, but never bought anything off it. This time, I ordered two fragrance oils: one pineapple and the other juicy yellow lemon. I got another fragrance oil as a gift. That one isn’t suited for soap or skin or hair care products, but I’ll try if I can diffuse it in my oil diffuser.

3. MyNoise. Emilia over at My Inner MishMash recommended this app (well, she didn’t name it until I asked). Like she says, it’s an app that lets you listen to various soundscapes and you can set the volume for each individual sound within the soundscape. I pretty soon decided to purchase the full version, which has like 150 different sounds. You can also somehow calibrate your own soundscapes or something, but I’m not sure how that works. I’ve so far been listening to a lot of nature-based soundscapes.

4. Soap making recipes. On Monday, I decided to check out YouWish, a Dutch soaping supplies store with a great blog. I really want to get into the soap making craft again. I haven’t yet tried out any of the recipes yet, but will next week. Some use micas, which are powdered colorants. I bought two at the fragrance oil store too.

5. Matcha green tea powder. When searching for more melt and pour soap making recipes, I saw a recipe that uses green tea powder as a colorant and additive. I immediately decided to order some matcha green tea powder. The site said that it’d arrive within a day, but it didn’t. It finally arrived today. I saw on the packaging that besides tea, you can also use this in smoothies. That sounds pretty cool!

What have you been lovin’ lately?

Quotes, Sayings and Affirmations for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my Letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Man, how time flies! We’ve just entered our sixth week in “intelligent” lockdown here in the Netherlands. Tomorrow, prime minister Rutte will hold another press conference to determine whether any restrictions will be lifted on April 28. I doubt it, but oh well.

Today I want to talk about using quotes and inspirational sayings in your self-care routine.

Quotes may seem a little cheesy to some people at first. Then again, maybe you haven’t found the right one yet. If you find a quote that truly speaks to you, it can definitely set you off in the right direction.

I for one love quotes and not just the deep ones. Anna Borges’ first self-care strategy is called “A.A. Milne” after the author of the book Winnie the Pooh. There are lots of funny quotes in that book and in the Disney movies based on it. They may actually make you laugh and inspire you at the same time.

I do also love deep quotes though. My favorites come from Helen Keller, Tori Amos and Madeleine L’Engle. However, I enjoy quotes from a ton of different people.

For those of us who are religious, Bible or other sacred text verses can also certainly speak to you. I am a true cherry picker where it comes to the Bible, picking out random passages to use for motivation. That’s totally okay if you ask me.

When you find a quote or verse that speaks to you, you can use it as a mantra or affirmation. You can also create your own affirmations. The key to getting affirmations to actually do good for you, is believing in them. I mean, I don’t believe in Law of Attraction-like ideas that say anything you set your mind to can come true. Affirmations need to be useful to your life right now. For example, I use the following affirmation: “I love, accept and respect myself exactly as I am right now.”

There are a number of different apps that can be used for focusing on affirmations. I use ThinkUp and Mantra on my iPhone. Both are free but come with ads and an in-app purchase to get premium features and remove advertising.

What are your favorite quotes, sayings or affirmations?

Organization as a Self-Care Skill #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 15 and my letter O post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today’s topic may seem a bit boring. I’m going to talk about how organizing your life can help you take better care of yourself.

Let me start by saying I’m a terrible organizer. In high school, I had a calendar that I’d typed out myself in Word. I started out keeping it faithfully at the beginning of the first school year. By the time we got to the end of that year though, I forgot to write down my homework about half the time and looked it up even less. I had a great memory, which meant I didn’t usually miss homework deadlines.

I never kept a calendar in college or beyond, but now that I have an iPhone, I do try to use the calendar app to track appointments. Which reminds me, I still need to write next week’s phone appt with my community psychiatric nurse into it. Going to do that now. Be right back.

Okay, done. Where was I? See, I’m pretty disorganized. Still, I try to keep some order in my life. It helps me, for example, to have reminders about taking my medication in my phone. Otherwise I may forget and that’s not good.

I also, like I mentioned before, have an app that reminds me to drink enough water. Habit-tracking apps like this exist for a bunch of habits that will help you have a more meaningful, organized and productive life.

Decluttering is another way of getting more organized. There are lots of specific methods for it, such as FlyLady, the Konmari method, etc. I would love to stick to such a method, but honestly more so that I could talk about it than to actually get cleaning. I guess that’s weird.

Because I am blind, I don’t usually get bothered by clutter unless it’s in my way. However, of course, clutter does make it harder for me to remember where I left my things. That’s why currently I try to keep at least some order in my drawers and my wardrobe. It’s hard, but it pays off.

Are you an organized person? Or have you developed strategies for organizing your life?

Journaling for Emotional Wellbeing #AtoZChallenge

Wow, did I seriously not think about journaling when ruminating over what word to pick for my letter J post? Well yeah, indeed I completely forgot. But now I know, so for today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite yet most challenging self-care habits: journaling.

I started my first journal when I was about eleven. It was a handmade diary with Braille pages stuck in it. I didn’t keep it for long though. When I was thirteen, I started writing a regular diary on my computer. That one lasted for over three years, until I discovered the Internet and online journals. I always wished for my journals to be read by others, even though I never wanted my parents to be those other people. That happened with the online journal, which gradually morphed into a blog.

That being said, I need to learn to write in private again. Not just anything that goes on in my head, is suited for the whole wide world to read.

Journal keeping can have many benefits for your emotional wellbeing. It can help you identify patterns in your thinking, find triggers for negative feelings and be more grateful, among other things.

Remember, the diary is just one form of journaling. Usually in a diary, you write what you did during a day, including how you felt. There are other types of more focused journals, such as:

  • Dream journal, in which you write down your dreams after you wake up in the morning.
  • Goal-related journal, such as weight loss or smoking cessation journals. In this type of journal, you track your progress towards a goal. For those of us dealing with addictions, eating disorders, etc., a journal for tracking how many days you’re in recovery, may help too.
  • Gratitude journal, in which you write a list of daily gratefuls or otherwise express your gratitude. See my letter G post for more tips on this.

Some journaling “experts” recommend writing stream-of-consciousness style. Others recommend using prompts. You can combine the two by responding to a journaling prompt in stream-of-consciousness style too. There are many free and cheap books of journaling prompts. My favorite is the Journaling with Lisa Shea series. I have the whole series in one single eBook.

There are lots of ways to keep a journal. You can have a standard paper journal or a document (or more than one) on your computer, tablet or smartphone. There are also lots of apps that are aimed at helping you journal. I have tried dozens of those on my iPhone. My current favorite is Day One, which is available for all Apple products and I believe Android now too. Still, no matter how many products you try, you need to be the one sticking to a regular habit of journal keeping.

Do you have a journal (other than your blog)?