Playing with the new Hipstamatic

RP Oct15

Hipstamatic had a massive update of their app recently and up till now I haven’t really had a chance to play with it properly, so I took a long cut home through Richmond Park this morning and had a go.

The app is a lot more stable now than when it was first released with its big update, however I still found it crashed sometimes but I think that says more about my phone than the app as despite really parring my phone down, I’m having massive storage issues at the moment. I think the redesign will take some getting used to, as it looks quite a bit different now (although you can still go back to using the faux camera case if you want too). I do like how the viewfinder is much much bigger and I really really like how if you don’t like the camera lenses / film combo you’ve just used, you can change it on the photo after the fact. One of my bugbears with the old Hipstamatic was how I could take an at the moment photo that couldn’t be replicated and find that the lenses / film combo was crap.

However there is one thing that really annoys me (okay, not ‘really annoys me’, there’re worse things in life but still, it’s a bit grrr), maybe there’s a setting I’m missing somewhere but although the photos save find on my phone’s camera roll, when they move over to my photostream they turn into normal iPhones shots (ie none of the filters). All my iDevices are generally being pissy at the moment but the whole normal iPhone instead of filtered shots on my photostream thing meant transferring the photos in the format I actually wanted was difficult (but that’s due to some tech, not design issues). I ended up having to load the photos into Instagram, which I’ve recently started using again too (that app’s changed a bit too!), so I could then get them onto my computer. I didn’t apply any filters to most of the Richmond Park photos I put on Instagram, as I wanted to show Hipstamatic filters, not Instagram’s. However, I did use an additional Instagram filter on the far right, bottom photo of the ferns, as the reds weren’t really showing up.

Appointment with Death

Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot, #19)Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading A is for Arsenic, which mentions Appointment With Death as one of the examples, I thought I’d give it a go as I like Christie’s books which are set overseas and this one is set in Jerusalem and Petra. I didn’t think I’d read it before but by the end I realised I had, although I would have been about 11, so it was quite a while ago.

The book starts really well, an American family is on holiday, led by the most appalling, tyrannical matriarch who doesn’t let her adult step children do anything remotely independent. Into the mix and the various locations, arrives a young, newly qualified English female doctor, an eminent French doctor, a bossy female MP and a bit of a wet blanket old woman on holiday with some inheritance. Ending up in Petra the matriarch dies and Poirot, who just happens to be on holiday nearby, investigates.

The bits prior to the murder were fun, I may not be able to get to Petra myself or find a time machine but reading about a holiday party there was really interesting, even if they were all racist and sexist as hell. But the bits after it got a bit boring, as Poirot is called in and interviews everyone.

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A is for Arsenic

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha ChristieA is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A is for Arsenic is a look at the variety of poisons Agatha Christie used in her stories. Christie had trained as a dispenser during the war and she used this knowledge to create elaborate poison murder plots, which were mostly extremely accurate. Her first novel was even reviewed with high praise for its accuracy by a pharmacology journal. Poison was a favourite method of dispatch for Christie, as she knew so much about them, whereas she would readily admit she knew next to nothing about guns, which is why she used those so rarely in her stories.

The book looks at a number of different poisons and as well as looking at how they were used in the books, Harkup also looks at their discovery, chemistry, uses, detection, treatment and real life poisoning cases. Harkup covers a wide variety of Christie books and although there were a couple of incidences where she warned she was going to reveal ‘who dunnit’, as she discussed how the poison was used in the books and to skip ahead to the next chapter if you didn’t want to know, her general discussion could be considered mildly spoilery. For example, Harkup’s discussion of Appointment with Death reveals how the poison was administered, her description of the book made me want to read it, which I did and knowing in advance how the murder victim was going to get her dues, when in the book it took a while for the characters to figure it out, did take a little bit of the fun out of it.

Other than being an interesting background read to Christie’s novels, Harkup also provides some interesting general facts that appealed to this science nerd. For example, in the chapter about cyanide Harkup discusses how it can be released from the burning of natural products, so therefore a number of smoke inhalation deaths in house fires are actually caused by cyanide poisoning. And in the chapter about digitalis Harkup discusses the theory that Van Gogh’s yellow period and his starry night paintings could have been caused by his doctor prescribing him digitalis, as it can cause a yellow tinge to vision and blurring. In the chapter about phosphorous Harkup discusses how unsafe matches were before safety matches were invented, safety matches are made from red phosphorous, which is more stable, whereas originally matches were made with white phosphorous, which was so unsafe they could ignite just from the friction of being carried in your pocket or even being trodden on! And in the chapter about thallium, which was used in Christie’s 1960s book, Pale Horse, Harkup discusses how Christie was criticised for bringing a then little known poison to light (as in it could give people ideas), however years later the Pale Horse book was credited for saving the lives of at least two people poisoned by thallium, as people around them who had read the book, recognised the symptoms.

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On the menu: birthday cakes for Boy Lacer



Boy Lacer loves wine gums and gummy bears, so for his birthday I thought I’d make him the Jelly Jewel cake from Peek-a-boo Cakes and I was going to alter it slightly by putting gummy bears in the middle instead. I happened to mention this to the family and that the cake would be a lime cake (the flavour of the actual cake) and everyone was all “hmm okay ….” and “can’t you make a chocolate cake, Boy Lacer likes chocolate cake”. So still wanting to make my lime cake, as after all I’m always making chocolate cake, I adapted my plans and made miniature versions of the jelly jewel cake. As they were miniature I also didn’t ice them on the outside, the instructions for the icing on the outside were complicated.

Anyway, it turned out that it’s lucky I listened to my family’s wisdom, as the jelly jewel cakes weren’t actually that nice. The actual cake was a bit on the dry side and although the filling was okay, especially with the gummy bears hidden inside, but it was a bit cloying. The gummy bears did work with the lime flavour in a way that a chocolate cake would not have though. But it’s lucky I did make a chocolate cake too.


The recipe is called ‘Mummy’s Salted Chocolate Cake’ and is from Tea and Cake with Lisa Faulkner. It was incredibly simple and quick to make, which was good as I’d spent so long faffing about with the lime cakes. The actual cake is not too chocolatey (good for Mr. Lacer who doesn’t like overly chocolatey cakes) but is incredibly moist and lovely. The filling, which is just a simple buttercream with a bit of milk, was lovely, even Girl Lacer, who is fussy about cake fillings and icings, liked it, in fact she liked the icing too and has requested that I repeat the recipe for her birthday cake (bye bye my more adventurous plans again, although perhaps I should take this as a lesson to reign in my ambition and just be happy making stuff my family likes). The icing, by the way, is quite chocolatey, still nice though. And I do like how the white of the filling contrasts with the rest of the cake. It feels a bit naughty but you can find the recipe on Google books.

Taking Stock September

Playing along with Meet Me At Mike’s Taking Stock.

Making : I’ve had more surgery this month (and I’m having more next month too), so with that and finishing one commission and starting a new one, I haven’t had that much time for personal crafting. I did do some EPP from my sick bed though (something that will probably never see the light of day as I just won’t have time to finish it) and I started a mammoth cross stitch project for Boy Lacer, I joke that it’s going to be his 40th birthday present, oh and I finally made a pin cushion I’d been meaning to make for years, oh and I made a PE bag for Girl Lacer, so actually I’ve done quite a bit more sewing than I normally do, relatively anyway.


Pattern from BoxCat Shop

Cooking : This month’s surgery meant that my appetite was a bit reduced and what I did want to eat was bland, bland, bland with carbs on top, so I haven’t really done proper cooking all month and I miss it.
Drinking: I was drinking coffee whilst I was in hospital and the taste for it has sort of leached over into home. I do drink coffee occasionally anyway (black, no sugar, as strong as possible) and have always wished I would do so more often as I think it’s a darn sight healthier than my normal caffeine of choice, coke. I also tend to drink less coffee, as in one cup is enough for me, whilst I could drink coke non-stop. Anyway, I have been drinking coffee slightly more frequently this month, so yay!
Reading: I have done a lot of reading this month, mainly audiobooks again, as I’ve been going to bed early and falling asleep to them and also they’ve been absolutely essential to get me through the hours and hours of work each commission has been taking. I’ve been reading Agatha Christie, a bit of gruesome Val McDermid and lots of Peter May, plus some others.
Wanting: to know the date of operation number 4, that’s the biggy and it could be anytime between November and May. Once that operation is over and done with I will be rid of something that I really, really don’t like.
Looking: I did manage a quick flying visit to the V&A to see the London Design Week this month.
Playing: still way too much Two Dots, I have Mr. Lacer playing it now too. I have managed to get Angry Birds 2 off my iPad though.
Deciding: I had to ‘decide’ whether to go for operation number 3 next month, this month, it really wasn’t much of a decision though.
Wishing: our finances were considerably better.
Enjoying: walking Boy Lacer to school, that is an era that is rapidly closing.
Waiting: for medical letters.
Liking: Radio 4 at breakfast, I am getting old.
Wondering: about how we can rejig the flat so that we can continue to live in it with rapidly growing children, as we can’t afford to move.
Loving: Mr. Lacer, as he’s a very practical sweetie and actually much more domesticated than I am.
Pondering: my new wardrobe I’m going to treat myself to after operation number 4.
Considering: how and when to shift my work balance.
Buying: not much, I’m broke but it is birthday present season.
Watching: not much, my ‘day job’ is actually for the vast majority of it, in the evening, so I don’t normally get much chance to watch TV (as I very, very, extremely rarely watch it during the day), so all those evenings working I kind of assume I’m missing out on a whole cornucopia of amazing TV, well, since I’ve been having to take a lot of medical leave, I’ve obviously not been working at night and so (when I’m awake enough), I’ve been able to watch TV, in theory anyway, because dum dum dahhhhh, it turns out there isn’t that much on anyway! Of course, I have been watching the new Doctor Who though! I am also a great fan of Mock the Week, which is just what the doctor ordered, even if it’s been known to make my recovering stomach ache from too much laughing!
Hoping: for more commissions plus a work-life balance to miraculously appear.
Marvelling: at the discovery of water on the surface of Mars, I’m a bit of a science nerd anyway but it’s always good to be reminded that as well as being mean and horrible to each other, we’re also as a species capable of doing the most amazing things. I really do hope the discovery this month means we’re closer to possibly finding actual life on Mars.
Cringing: at gatherings where I don’t really know anyone, still I was brave, I went.
Needing: as usual a bigger flat / house or failing that a studio and/or one of those rental self-storage places (none of those are going to happen).
Questioning: my work life balance (can you sense a theme developing?)
Smelling: coffee.
Wearing: I both like and dislike this time of year, I like it because it’s a change in season so new (old) clothes, yay! But I dislike it because the weather is very changeable at the moment, there’s been plenty of days where you could almost wear shorts and t-shirt and yet other days where you need the full coat and jumper get up and you can’t always tell which way the weather is going to be when you leave the house in the morning. So anyway, what with that and my need to wear comfy / baggy clothes due to the recovery from operation number 2 (I couldn’t wear a bra for nearly two weeks, eek, sorry world), I’ve been wearing a lot of tunic dresses and leggings. Now that I can be reasonably confident that what I’m wearing isn’t going to hurt me (too much), I’ve been back in my uniform of grey and navy blue, I have a long, tiered grey skirt from East that I love and I am wearing the max out of at the moment because it’s definitely not a winter skirt. My uniform may be grey and navy blue but I have become obsessed with yellow / mustard yellow, I blame my yellow Converses, which I am still eeking out the last few wears of before they become impractical for the weather. Since I’ve been wearing my yellow Converses, I have absolutely loved seeing the bright flash of colour with my grey and blue clothes and I have been desperately searching for more winter appropriate yellow shoes. I haven’t been able to find any, although I am now trying to tame my feet into a pair of red Mary Jane Doc Martens and they sort of have the same effect. Although I have no idea why I still try and punish my feet by trying to get them into Doc Martens shoes, as although Doc Martens boots may be the most comfortable things in the world, Doc Martens shoes take blinking ages to wear in and whilst I’m doing so I might as well be putting my poor feet into a mincer, as they don’t just cause blisters, they go beyond blisters, they actually cut into my feet. I wear blister plasters and the blinking shoes actually wear a hole into the plasters, so what chance do my feet have! But still I persist because I love them, the colour is great and when I do wear them in, they have the most comfortable soles and they actually do my feet a lot of good, I just have to grin add bear it in the meantime. So, anyway, whilst I’m going to have to say goodbye to my yellow Converses soon, I have been looking into getting more yellow into my wardrobe, particularly mustard yellow, I’ve been particularly thinking about finding yellow accessories, as I don’t actually want to give up my grey – navy blue uniform anyway / I don’t think all over yellow would be a good look for me (although I’d love a seafarer style yellow mac) / I much prefer flashes of colour / I can’t afford it anyway. So if I can’t wear my yellow Converses soon I thought I might as well go for the next best thing and go for mustard yellow tights instead, I think they’ll look great with denim or brown cord skirts and could I find any? Well actually I could, I got some from White Stuff but they were an effort to find. I normally buy my tights and socks, like pretty much any British woman, from Marks and Spencer, M&S have done some fantastic, interesting tights / knee high socks in the past, are they doing them this season? Nope. According to Marks and Spencer, we all want to wear black opaque tights and boring ankle high socks with dubious patterns, yawn. They say fashion reflects how a country feels about itself, are we all really so depressed we just want to wear boring tights? Anyway, thank goodness for White Stuff, although their tights never fit quite as well as M&S tights. White Stuff also have a lovely range of mustard yellow accessories / mustard yellow accented stuff, it’s like they’ve raided my brain. They also have a little cafe area (in my local store anyway) where you can have a cup of coffee or tea and eat a biscuit and donate whatever you feel to charity to say thank you and they have charity quarter pound of sweets at the till, they have definitely raided my brain.
Following: on Twitter my last three follows were @EmrgencyKittens because I like my oxytocin hit, @HemsleyHemsley, as I have a strange urge to spiralize stuff and @Hipstamatic as I love their camera app and despite the hiccup with their recent massive update, the app is now even cooler.
Noticing: the positive effect of doing housework.
Knowing: I shouldn’t be writing this, I should be working on my commission (to my credit, this is my lunch break).
Thinking: I shouldn’t have bought the bottle of what turns out to be nuclear hot chilli sauce from Kew Gardens.
Admiring: the scientists at NASA, they must love going to work in the morning.
Sorting: the big pile of junk under my bedroom window.
Getting: new socks and tights because it’s that time of year.
Bookmarking: my last three favourites on Twitter were

Lobster soirée.

— Emily Peacock (@EmilyJPeacock) September 29, 2015

New Cross Stitch Pattern – Periodic Table

— Rebecca Greco (@hugsarefun) September 29, 2015

Not often I feel this good. But the sun is shining, the air is pure, I kicked anxiety’s butt, got a new film deal, ran 10k, and am ALIVE.

— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) September 29, 2015

Coveting: pretty much anything in Lakeland but I do particularly like their doughnut pans.
Disliking: a brand of veggie sausage I accidentally picked up in the supermarket.
Opening: Monster Munch bacon webs, yay, I love this time of year!
Giggling: at Mock the Week.
Feeling: the whole gamut.
Snacking: frazzles.
Helping: Girl Lacer has left primary school now (Boy Lacer is still there obviously but for some reason I’ve always tended to help out for her year group and not his, I think maybe because the mums in his year group are little bit more together), there’s less involvement in secondary school but there’s still a bit and I have volunteered to help out with a coffee stall. That was a real internal battle of introvert versus really introvert, that offer was, the coffee thing is on a rare night off work and I would quite like to just veg at home and not be social, that’s the really introvert side of me but the introvert side of me knows that I may not be 100% comfortable but I do enjoy getting out and meeting people, most of the time anyway and it would be good to get to know some of the parents at Girl Lacer’s new school, so (sensible) introvert won, I’m going to help serve coffee.
Hearing: the soundtrack for Geometry Dash, thank you Boy Lacer, not.

The Firemaker

The Firemaker (China Thrillers #1)The Firemaker by Peter May
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I thought I’d give Peter May’s China series a go after reading the Lewis trilogy, which I mostly enjoyed. Unfortunately the China series is nowhere near as good, if the first book, The Firemaker is anything to go by. More of a thriller than a murder story, it is set just before the turn of this century in Beijing and features an annoying American pathologist and a Chinese policeman. The pathologist, Margaret, is on a six week secondment, running away from a recently traumatic past and hasn’t bothered to read her briefing notes. Detective Li Yan is newly promoted and after an extremely rocky introduction, reluctantly accepts Margaret’s help in the autopsy on a man found burning in a Beijing park.

May’s writing style, which could be a little florid at times in the Lewis trilogy, is much more florid here (although to May’s credit, The Firemaker was written ten years before the first Lewis book, so I guess he’s improved). The way how the relationship between Margaret and Li Yan is written is cringeworthy and I just found all the characters to be quite two dimensional. However, as in the Lewis books, May does give quite a good sense of place and culture for Beijing.

By the latter third of the book I was literally gritting my teeth to get through it because I wanted to know how it ended, I just had to get through all the bad writing to get there.It was fairly obvious as well the motive behind the killings and I wanted to yell at the characters, as they were so two dimensional, surely they should understand that the person who ‘did it’ was the big bad obnoxious guy introduced right near the beginning of the book because after all, it’s always the rule with these things, the bad guy is always someone who has already been introduced. It took ages for Margaret and Li Yan to get it and only then after it had virtually been spelt out to them by the aforementioned bad guy.

I am probably not going to read any more books from this series, although part of me is drawn, like a car crash, to see what’s going to happen next.

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The Chessmen

The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy, #3)The Chessmen by Peter May
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last in the Lewis trilogy has Fin starting a new job as Head of Security on an estate in Lewis. The estate has been rife with poaching and Fin has been tasked with stopping it, the problem is, the first poacher he has been tasked with stopping is his old childhood friend Whistler.

Whilst chasing Whistler the pair discover a plane that had been reported lost many years before, a plane that belonged to another childhood friend they both shared. Again the story switches between present day and the past, this time concentrating on Fin’s teenage years and his time spent roadying for a band. And again the story is incredibly atmospheric, with some great scenery and some very believable characters.

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