App Alternatives and Screen-free Solutions for the Modern Heroine

App Alternatives & Screen-free Solutions

The main difference between Jane Austen’s heroines and me

…is technology. Sometimes I dream of Regency England for its simplicity. For letter-writing to the tune of Mary Bennet playing her pianoforte.

In truth, it’s silly to wish I lived in a different age, when there are such advantages to modernity, and I can choose to opt out of whatever I find distracting. And that is exactly what I attempt to do.

Raise your hand if you spend too much of your day in front of a screen.

I spend enough time in front of a screen during the day, so I’m always looking to find ways to break my screen-using habits, especially before bed.

Here are some screen-free strategies I’ve developed to give my eyes a rest.

App Alternatives & Screen-free Solutions

Flip through a magazine or art book.

When I get into a mindless Instagram scrolling mood (mindful Instagram scrolling is totally okay!), I reach for a fashion magazine or one of my favourite art books. I have such a beautiful collection of coffee table books that often just live on the shelf. It feels like such a luxury to browse through their gorgeous pages.

Consume news mindfully on paper.

I noticed myself becoming anxious by getting my news from Twitter. These days I prefer to buy a copy of The Economist or pick up a free Guardian with my Waitrose card. When I do read the news on a screen, it’s not skimming headlines out of impulse or boredom, but getting educated more thoroughly through my daily “10 Things You Need to Know” email from The Week, or on, which presents news from multiple perspectives.

Keep a stack of postcards by your bed.

Sometimes I’m tempted to send a friend a message as I’m falling asleep, but this means exposing my eyes to my iPod’s screen again. Instead, I keep a stack of Disney postcards on my bedside table for jotting down these messages by hand.

Delete apps.

I cleaned up Kiki (my iPod)’s collection of apps to the bare minimum. I don’t have a smartphone, and mainly use my iPod for podcasts, music, and Instagram. I have to remind myself to avoid the rabbit hole of having too much information at my fingertips. I deleted Twitter and Facebook, choosing to limit my use to these addictive apps to my more-mindful browser instead.

Take email off your phone.

Checking email too often does more harm than good. I disconnected email from the Mail app, deleted the Gmail app, and logged out of Chrome. I use LastPass to store my passwords, so if I need to access email, I can, but it’s a hassle. I prefer to check email once a day, in a focused fashion.

Related: A Minimalist’s Guide to Gmail

Carry a camera.

Sometimes I bring my iPod places I don’t need to because I want to use the camera. Then I end up using it for other things. I have a fancy DSLR camera (called Thomas), so sometimes I bring him instead of Kiki (my iPod).

Take advantage of multimedia options.

When you do use messaging apps, consider using voice memos or sending videos. I consider which medium would be suit the message at hand. Recording a message can be easier on the eyes and posture than tapping on a tiny keyboard, and might be easier for the recipient to consume as well!

Plus, some problems I’m still solving [I need your help]:

  • I’ll often bring Kiki to count my steps as I’m a slave to my Pedometer app. I’m considering getting a fitbit to prevent this, but it’s expensive, and another thing to carry around. Thoughts?
  • I miss the days of popping a CD into my yellow boombox and enjoying an album from start to finish. Now I have to fiddle with selecting music on iTunes or the music app. Getting a record player is something I’m considering for my wish list. Any other suggestions?


P.S. I also prefer to give my eyes a rest by navigating without a smartphone.

This lesson is filed under HUFFLEPUFF for encouraging patience and dedication to one task at a time.

Little Autumn Adventure List

Little Autumn Adventure List

I declare it autumn!

Normally I honour seasons by the solstice, but I couldn’t wait for autumn! When the first of September rolled around I declared it autumn in my life.

It’s been a pretty mild summer here in Edinburgh, so I could freeze in my summer skirts, or layer on the wool cardigans and embrace it. Guess which one I did? 😉

A heroine appreciates the season with intention, curating her own personal list of favourite activities. Here are mine. What’s on yours?

my little autumn adventure list

1. shop for a fabulous winter wardrobe piece

2. bake apple crisp

3. make pumpkin butter

4. dine at timberyard

5. go to a pumpkin patch

6. walk on crunchy leaves

7. rock climb outdoors

8. drink apple cider 

Shop for a fabulous winter wardrobe piece.

Since moving to Scotland, I do two things to cope with the long winters:

  1. Fly south in February. (You don’t have to go that far for the weather to be significantly brighter in comparison. London works. Paris works. This year we’re being extra ambitious and eyeing up Portugal.)
  2. Invest in something fabulous and warm each year.

My many Gossip Girl reruns have taught me that the key to staying fabulously warm is to layer with a fantastic cape. So my first piece was this Ted Baker cape (seen here!).

Last year I was on the hunt for the perfect winter hat. I searched the most fashionable department stores in London only to return to local milliner, Fabhatrix. I am obsessed. [It’s the one I’m wearing on the cover of my free ebook, A Spell for Feeling Well]. 

This year I’m thinking of getting a massive scarf. A doubles-as-a-blanket kind of scarf. Bonus points for looking fab on a hook with the cape and hat (pictured below)! Let the search begin.

Little Autumn Adventure List

Bake apple crumble.

Nothing says autumn like an apple crumble. Not just to eat, but to fill the kitchen with that perfectly crisp fruity scent. I’d love to get into the habit of whipping one up to the extent that I have the recipe perfected and memorised. Remind me to pick up some dairy free ice cream to go with it!

Make pumpkin butter.

I love Angela Liddon’s Pumpkin Butter recipe, and part of the fun is the challenge to use it up in creative ways. I remember last year’s pumpkin butter pancakes, and we even added it to her Mushroom Walnut Pesto Tart (a favourite in this household!).

Go to a pumpkin patch.

Childhood Octobers were all about the hay bales and pumpkin patches. The culture here isn’t as pumpkin-crazed, but there is a lovely pick-your-own farm just outside Edinburgh called Craigies. I love checking their website for the seasonal status of the different fruits and vegetables they keep.

Walk on crunchy leaves.

Going for scenic walks is something I love to do year round, so I got real specific on this one: I want to walk on leaves that crunch. I’m giving myself that specific sensation to look forward to.

Rock climb outdoors.

Ever since high school, when my ‘fall sport requirement’ was Outdoor Adventure, I equate this season with climbing outdoors.

(We also did kayaking, but that was a bit cold for the time of year in New England, and it didn’t become a personal obsession like climbing did). 

(And yes – best fall sport EVER).

There’s something special about climbing in the autumn, and in the UK it’s the last chance to do so before it gets too dark and cold. Get me to a crag!

Little Autumn Adventure List

Dine at Timberyard.

Hygge is a not-quite-transltable Danish word for cosiness/happiness. Stepping inside Timberyard restaurant fills in the rest of that definition.

It’s my favourite place to dine in Edinburgh for its relaxed candlelit rustic vibe and the gorgeous plates to feast upon. I almost didn’t include it on this list because it’s not something you can do anywhere in the world, but consider this a sign to come to Edinburgh, greatest city ever 😉

Drink apple cider. 

I usually make lists of 7, but here’s a bonus one since these last two are a bit location-specific. Apple cider is non-alcoholic, and it’s not apple juice (this article explains it!). You can get it in abundance in US supermarkets, and can drink it cold or warm – but it’s just not a thing in the UK! When I go home to Boston for Thanksgiving I will be getting my apple cider fix for sure.

What are your favourite things to do in autumn? I started a thread on Instagram: post your favourites.


P.S. I write about my relationship with rock climbing and what it taught me about life in my book, Own Your Story!

P.P.S. If it’s still warm, and you want a few more summer activities, see my little summer adventure list!

This entry is filed under HUFFLEPUFF for slowing down and connecting with the earth as the seasons change.