It’s Game of Thrones Night on HBO Now!

game of thrones night on hbo now

If you have followed me on my blog since last November, you might have noticed I am a Game of Thrones fan. I was never all that into the fantasy genre before, but after I gave into the hype of the TV show phenomenon I was hooked on it. I didn’t have HBO, so I began watching the seasons on DVD from Netflix not long after the third season finished airing. I would eagerly await the two episode DVD in the mail about every four days. If I could have binge watched three seasons in a day, I totally would have.

The series was good. It was damn good. I can’t say it any better than that!

A show like Game of Thrones is rare. I don’t think it’s often a production team comes together with an epic author, chooses such perfect acting talent, and makes magic happen to this caliber. It’s true, the writing of George R. R. Martin is the foundation, but in order to make his story visual with the level of quality it deserves, it took the right combination of people to do it (even if they mess with the original storylines).

Obviously by now I have read all of the books, and there are certain things that have been or will be cut out that I wish were to be kept in the show. However, there really is an abundance of characters and storylines. I understand why it’s not possible to include everything on the TV program. I hve a hard enough time trying to summarize it for someone who has never watched it!

Tonight, GOT premieres it’s fifth season on HBO at 8pm and I will be watching it on the new streaming service that was recently launched, HBO Now. I decided since I will not be adding an additional expensive channel set to my cable plan, I’d try this online viewing method (the first month is a free trial, and the monthly subscription plan is $14.99–I’m not being sponsored to mention anything about it, I just wanted you all to know you can watch it free for a month)!

You will have to subscribe through the iTunes App Store on a compatible device, or there is another service I have never heard of that is handling subscriptions as well. Once I downloaded the HBO Now app to my phone, I signed up for the service using the app. After that I signed in via my internet browser on my laptop so I can watch HBO programming on my computer.

I signed into the website and watched a movie last night to test out the quality of viewing and content selection. I’m a bit worried about the fact that while I was watching Capturing Mary, the sound and picture glitched a bit now and then. It might have been my connection, it may be HBO Now’s server load or a streaming issue. I’m hoping it won’t continue to be an problem, but we’ll see. It didn’t affect things too badly.

I am excited to finally be able to watch one of my favorite shows the same night the new season begins (unless the server crashes). If you tune in tonight, enjoy the season’s first episode of Game of Thrones!

 

How to Easily Choose Fonts for Your Blog Graphics

how to easily choose fonts for your blog graphics

I was always trying to be creative on the computer when I was a kid. As a teen, I sat in my room and made website layouts and played with Adobe Photoshop for hours on end. It was probably more like an obsession than a hobby for awhile. I often would refer to a homemade font style guide in a Word document for picking out a typeface more quickly on my computer. I hated cycling through a list of tiny font examples in the programs I used to get a good idea of what a font would look like.

It’s rather time consuming to easily choose fonts for your blog graphics when you are sitting there, clicking every choice on the list.

I made my style guide by copying and pasting the same word over and over, making each one a different style. All the fonts were there in front of me without me needing to go through the list in Photoshop. They were also displayed at a more adequate size. When I wanted to select one, I just clicked the one I liked and looked at what the name of the face was.

The other day, I was exploring the interwebs and I came across a website that caused me to have a, “Why didn’t I think of that?” moment. There in front of me was Wordmark.it. Basically, a similar concept to what I had been doing eons ago–but better!

how to choose fonts for your blog with wordmark.it

What Wordmark.it does is it finds the fonts residing on your computer and shows them to you like the image above. You can type in the word or phrase you’d like to see in your font styles, make the text bigger or smaller, and see the letters in all caps or lowercase.

how to choose fonts for your blog images with wordmark.it

Another thing you can do is to reverse the black and white to make your text white on a black background. So, if you want the words white, you’d click the word negative at the top of the screen. Click positive for black text which is the default option when you first visit the site.

The names of the fonts are also displayed below each typeface so you can easily find it in whatever program you are using.

Another cool feature is, you can filter certain fonts out of the bunch to see them together.

how to choose fonts for blog graphics with wordmark.it

Just click the font examples you are contemplating so that a green box appears around your selection. Once you have chosen them, click on filter selected at the top right of the page. It helps to see them side by side like that, don’t you think?

From there, you can also share the fonts that you have picked out with someone else. Don’t worry, it doesn’t share the actual font file. You are given a url you can share with a client or design partner in order for them to see your selections and give you their feedback.

I really love it when I can find handy design tools like this! What are some of your favorite tools that make your creative process a bit easier? Comment below!

Fantasy Wardrobe Friday: Valentine’s Day Jewelry Gifts

valentines day jewelry gifts

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner (the ads are all over the place). Red, white, and pink hearts are friggin’ everywhere, the symbol of the event…I guess hearts are almost like a logo for Valentine’s Day if you think about it. Though there is also Cupid’s arrow and Cupid himself. Anyway, the heart shape is the most synonymous with the day, but it has never really been my favorite shape at all. So, for this week’s Fantasy Wardrobe Friday, I decided to compile a collection of heart-free Valentine’s Day jewelry gifts.

I mixed things up a little stylewise. There’s some chunky, dainty, blingy, and natural looking pieces. I really like all of these items, but my favorites besides the chunky rainbow statement necklace are the items with the more organic stones and geodes. They are very pretty and the metal parts have a lot of simplicity, so all of your attention goes right to the colorful stones. They would definitely make unique gifts for Valentine’s Day!

What are your suggestions for unique Valentine’s Day gifts?

Swarovski Creativity Ring

 

Janna Conner Turquoise Fire Agate Aurelie Ring

 

Full Spectrum Crystal Bracelet

 

Navy Drusy Rue Ring

 

Turquoise Fire Agate Pendant Necklace

 

Rainbow Frank Collar

 

Illuminating Rectangle Ring

 

Grace Cuff

 

Vintage Crystal Studs

 

Terra Rock Pendant

 

Concentric Wrap Bracelet

 

Pyxis Earrings

 

Pavé Droplet Ear Crawlers

 

 

11 Free Open Source Software Alternatives

11 free open source software

Software can be really expensive. If you are a designer, animator, photographer, video editor–the industry standard programs can cost into the thousands of dollars. Understandably, these computer programs are fully loaded with all the bells and whistles, but if someone is just learning or trying to experiment in a certain area of interest, it may be an investment that the individual does not yet want to make.

A great example of high priced software that is pretty popular is Adobe Photoshop. It’s not just for photographers and professionals working in design firms. A lot of bloggers use it, as well as more casual users.

Adobe has changed their pricing and the way they offer their software since I last purchased from them. A few years ago, you could have bought Photoshop for about $600. Now, a user can pay for a subscription to download and utilize it. I think it’s a convenient way to offer their products to people who want to try them because it is a cheaper alternative than having to purchase the entire kit and caboodle while in the learning stage. The user can cancel if they don’t like it. The programs also stay current and up to date as new tools roll out. However, for a long term user, I don’t feel it’s always the most ideal plan (frankly, for my needs I don’t require the most current version as I can go a few generations without an issue…although, I am really hankering to test out Illustrator since mine is ancient).

It seems Microsoft Office is veering toward the subscription route as well, but there are still CD versions available. I personally don’t think anyone should have to pay a subscription for an office suite. That’s like having to pay a subscription fee to use your hand to write. It’s a commonly used tool that is pretty necessary.

Software choice is still a thing of personal taste, and you may be okay with shelling out the money. However, the main point of this blog is there is an entire cyberspace of free open source software programs out there that can be downloaded for free.

Keep in mind, they might not quite have all the same capabilities but as I said before in this post, if someone is wanting to experiment with a certain interest–trying out open source software could be the way to go in the beginning.

Graphic Design, Photo Editing, & 3D Modeling

Adobe Photoshop = GIMP

GIMP is a powerful software that has many of the same capabilities as dear ‘ol Photoshop. This is a widely used program. While the interface might not be as slick as the industry standard photo editor, it still features layers and masks for non destructive editing techniques, among other things. It supports PSD, TIFF, JPEG, and PNG. There are plugins in the GIMP registry online that can extend the software’s capabilities to work with other file formats as well.

Adobe Illustrator = Inkscape

Inkscape is a program I initially stumbled on when my Illustrator 10 kept refusing to work properly on my machine. I needed to edit my logo, and fast. So I searched for open source vector programs and Ta Da! Besides some simple tools I used within it, I haven’t explored the program much more but have been researching what it can do. As far as I’m aware, it doesn’t have quite the nifty pattern generator the new Illustrator has, but it does have tiling pattern and image tracing capabilities. It isn’t as user friendly or intuitive; in most cases though, it looks like it will get the job done (whatever the job is)!

Adobe InDesign or Quark = Scribus

The other day I was watching a tutorial that included working with Adobe InDesign. I remember having nightmares about that program during my college years. It looks a lot easier to me now, but I was curious about the open source alternative. The one that I found was Scribus. This one doesn’t sound quite as advanced as the industry standard programs, and from what I have read the learning curve is steep. But, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use.

AutoDesk Maya = Blender

If you’re into 3D modeling, sculpting, or animation, you might enjoy working with Blender. I have spent hours trying to learn this program for creating Second Life objects. It is an amazing program once you conquer the steep learning curve, but there are so many informative tutorials out there that will help.

Sound and Video

I want to start by saying there really isn’t a super fantastic equivalent video editor to something like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut. Most of the editors I found were not cross platform, had basic tools, or progression had seemed to halt on their development. With that said, the two that looked like they would be sufficient were Blender and Lightworks.

Adobe Premiere or Final Cut = Blender

Yes! You can use Blender as a video editor. This is just like a third arm of what the program is capable of. It doesn’t look like it would be the easiest to figure out right off the bat since there is a lot of other functionality to this software, but if you need something, it’s there.

Adobe Premiere or Final Cut = Lightworks

This isn’t a true open source program, but this version is free. There is a Lightworks Pro that does cost money, but for more simple projects the free version looks like it might be worth a try. One drawback is it does not export in 1080p.

Camtasia = CamStudio

CamStudio is a program that will allow you to record videos of your computer screen. It also records audio. This is ideal for recording software tutorials for YouTube or other video websites.

Apple LogicPro = Audacity

If you record music or voice recordings, Audacity is something you may want to look into. I remember downloading this to record something a few years ago, and it worked well.

Office Tools and Other Utilities

Microsoft Office = LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a full office suite. Much like Microsoft, there is a bundle of programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and one for math. I haven’t tried any of them out, but from doing some investigating it looks like a useful alternative.

Microsoft Office = OpenOffice

There aren’t many differences between LibreOffice and OpenOffice because they are two branches from the same tree. They use most of the same code, and the feature set is nearly the same. So, choosing one is much like choosing the other except for a few minor differences. One of which is where the word count is located in Writer, the word processing program both of them have.

Adobe Acrobat XI = PDF Creator

If you need to create a PDF, this is your tool. Perhaps you want to create printables or ebooks. PDF Creator has the features needed to make these documents have your desired security restrictions on editing, opening, or printing.

I hope you found this list of open source software helpful! We all would love to have the highest rated, fancy programs on the market, but it is nice to know there are free options that will work for most of what we need to do. The equivalents may not be perfect, have steeper learning curves, or not have quite the same features, but be patient. Use Google and YouTube to guide you in learning what you need in order to complete your task.

Have you used any of the free open source software listed here? What are your thoughts?

Fantasy Wardrobe Friday: Super Bowl Cute

Super Bowl Cute

This week’s Fantasy Wardrobe Friday is inspired by…you guessed it! The Super Bowl! I thought it would be an interesting challenge for me since I’m not a sports fan and don’t have any jerseys or athletic wear in my closet. Well, I have sneakers…those might count I guess.

I wondered how I was going to put together two game day looks, but I thought obviously the outfits would be very wearable, simple, and casual. I didn’t really take into account whether or not I was going to make them outdoor friendly before I started working on them. So, the Patriots outfit is a little more geared for a colder climate. The Seahawks ensemble could be more for an indoor party setting.

I think the two looks also somewhat resemble the style of their respectable geographic locations. When I think New England, I think peacoat, whereas I feel like Seattle is in more of a puffy vest region.

Maybe that’s just a weird association in my brain. Haha.

Anyway, whatever team you are cheering for, please have a safe and fun Super Bowl Sunday!

Super Bowl Goat Cheese Balls

super bowl goat cheese balls

A number of weeks ago I was watching some mind numbing reality television in the form of Vanderpump Rules (I wasn’t really watching, I was listening), and one of the characters (I mean cast members) was raving about Sur’s goat cheese balls.

Wait. What did she say? Goat cheese balls? There is such a thing?

Being the cheese enthusiast that I am I just had to investigate this. I couldn’t believe they existed!

So, I went to Pinterest and I Pinterested for a reference recipe.

I came across a tasty sounding recipe at And They Cooked Happily Ever After. I was so excited to try this out, and now that I have, I decided it might just be a great snack for a Super Bowl Party (even though I hate football and uh, I’m not attending any parties)! Read more »

Fantasy Wardrobe Friday: Sick Days

sick days outfit

Please excuse the singular post this week; I got sick…again. It’s so annoying! This is twice in one month I have caught something, and this rarely happens to me. Hopefully, this is the last time I will be ill this season (knock wood).

I guess not feeling well inspired this week’s Fantasy Wardrobe Friday. I decided to put together sort of a sick day outfit, as well as showcase a few things that help me to be a bit more human when I am really feeling like a piece of junk!

First of all, I love to drink Celestial Seasonings India Spice Chai Tea. It’s my absolute favorite! I am not a big tea fan, but I like teas that have spices in them. I always add milk, sugar (the naughty stuff), and a little organic coconut oil for some extra health benefits. This tea has become almost an addiction for me, and no other brand has come close to the flavors this one has. It’s sooo YUM! It’s even better in a cute mug…

Another thing I like if I am coughing or have a dry throat are organic lozenges by Zand. I hate medicinal tasting cough drops like Halls, and so normally I would do without. However, these blueberry flavored lozenges taste like candy. Have them on hand when you are sick and you will want to constantly have one of these lozenges in your mouth!

A couple of other essentials that make me feel a bit more energetic and less crappy are a good lip balm, and my tinted moisturizer by TheBalm. Winter is already dry enough. When you have a cold, you just feel as if every part of you is drying out even faster (except if you have a runny nose, that doesn’t ever seem to dry out fast enough).

Aside from the items already mentioned, my idea of trying to be comfortable on a sick day is to keep warm and wear relaxed clothing. You will usually find me wearing sweatpants or pajamas, a long sleeve shirt, and cozy slippers. I loved these printed pants from Topshop when I was looking for clothing for this post. They looked super comfy, and I adore prints (granted, I probably would not wear $90 pants to take a nap and be ill in, but that’s why this is Fantasy Wardrobe Friday). I chose a basic gray sweater to wear with them, and some toasty looking slippers.

Hopefully, you all find yourselves healthy for the rest of the season! I am counting the days until warm weather is here and I don’t need to worry about catching as many nasty bugs!

Fantasy Wardrobe Friday: Downton Abbey Style

downton abbey style

 

Downton Abbey is a guilty pleasure of mine. Every Sunday night, I am not on my computer from 8-9pm because I am totally devoted to watching the Crawleys and their dramas. I’ve always loved period based movies, television shows, and books. There is so much about past eras that intrigue me, especially the fashion.  It’s so interesting how trends have evolved over time.

When Downton Abbey first began, the fashion was different than where the show is currently. The setting began in 1912 when the Titanic sank. That’s when the Crawley family’s problems all began. They survived World War I, and are sailing through the 1920’s. The show is set in 1924 this season to be precise. The clothing styles had changed much during that short time period alone at the beginning of the 20th century.

Back then, there was such pomp and circumstance with the style habits of the wealthy. They changed clothes multiple times a day, wore corsets until that trend changed, and were required to wear gloves to social functions. But, if you watch Downton Abbey, how can you not drool over the luxe fabrics, intricate details, and dazzling jewels that were popular at that time?

So, this week’s Fantasy Wardrobe Friday is my set of Downton Abbey inspired fashion picks!

The Ins and Outs of Disability Advocacy

the ins and outs of disability advocacy

Sticking up for one’s rights, or the rights of a specific group of people is an important way to encourage change.  There are many ways society advocates for different things; person to person dialogue, media commentary, writing to the proper representatives, protests, campaigns, lobbying, or–as hopefully only a last resort, a lawsuit. All of these can be done in a peaceful way, but certain methods can leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth.

I am a strong supporter of advocacy. I am a woman who is physically challenged, and I live in a rural community where not everything is necessarily the most user friendly to suit my needs. Most issues I have are minor; store racks being a little too close together, uneven curb cuts, door thresholds not being easy to drive over in a power wheelchair, and my ultimate pet peeve; restaurants or bars having only the tall tables in the most accessible areas. These things I consider to be relatively minor annoyances but easily remedied or dealt with.

All it takes is to ask for a little help or talk to someone if I am having a problem, and that’s it. Usually help is given and the other party, if they own the business or building I am in, hopefully are more aware of something they may have not noticed before. These issues really aren’t worth getting in too big of a tizzy about in the grand scheme of things.

I know there are more serious situations out there–problems that make us feel unequal and are severe violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Luckily I haven’t really had to deal with many of the big ones…aside from the obvious: stairs.

Some might think of me as maybe a bit too complacent; I just think of myself a realist. There are certain things in life I choose not to dwell on because in reality, these certain things don’t have that big of an impact on my daily life and the smaller snags don’t prevent me from doing things. I can utilize that time and energy on something more fun than getting pissed off at a clothing rack that got caught on my chair tire.

Story Time

Let me preface the next bit of this post by saying I am trying to explain the following situation without being too specific about location or names. I’m not trying to call out anyone involved on the internet. This story could happen in any community. Nevertheless, the following events bother me and that is why I chose to write about it.

Recently, in the rural town I live in, the newspaper released a story about three local businesses that had lawsuits filed against them by two local residents for not being in compliance with the ADA. Keep in mind, two of the businesses are in buildings downtown, which are pretty old. I am not saying that old buildings should be exempt from being accessible due to their age, but I know some buildings are not structurally equipped to be adapted in a way that is cost effective to the owner of that building. The businesses in the older buildings downtown are a restaurant and an antique shop. The third small business is an animal supply store.

The violations consisted of barriers like blocked or inaccessible doorways and a non ADA compliant bathroom at the animal supply store. Potential penalties to these businesses include the awarding of civil penalties to the plaintiffs, payment of court costs, and injunctions to fix the alleged barriers mentioned.

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs in these civil suits has been involved in over two dozen other similar cases throughout the state, representing individuals with disabilities. The lawyer and these clients are all members of a certain nonprofit advocacy board registered under the representing attorney’s law firm.

Most of the people involved in the cases documented in that particular story couldn’t be reached for comment or declined.

There was another article in a larger newspaper which talked about a clinic owner in the metro area who had also been victim of a lawsuit by someone on the same advocacy board with the same lawyer. This article contained more details about the case against the antique store owner in my town as well.

I have to say, I am pretty disheartened at the lengths some people go in the name of being an advocate.

This shit bugs me because lawsuits should never be a first resort. Both articles make it seem as if lawsuits were simply filed without any other attempt at resolution. Did the plaintiffs talk to the business owners to bring the barriers to their attention? Was there a respectful dialogue made between parties? Did any of the owners say they absolutely could not change a damn thing? If so, what were the reasons?

Then I also wonder, is the lawyer taking advantage and pushing these clients to file lawsuits?

The owner of the antique store is a woman in her mid 80’s, a widow, and she maybe sells fifty dollars worth of merchandise a day. This is what the one article stated. Her store is part of her livelihood, and it makes me sick to think someone lacked so much compassion in this situation that they are attacking a lady who is beyond retirement age. Yes, maybe there was a barrier in the store. But to sue her over it is just wrong.

Also, do the plaintiffs receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? If so, don’t they know what it feels like to be strapped financially? If they work full time and earn income, great for them. However, have a little humanity and think about other people’s circumstances as well. Think about the least mentally and financially taxing solution possible that will still promote positive change.

Luckily, that particular lawsuit had a dismissal agreement. The others, I’m not sure.

I would love for everything to be completely accessible. I hope that one day other people like me with disabilities will be seen as citizens who are completely equal in society. Unfortunately, we have a long time to wait before either of those things happen. So, in the meantime we need to set an example of advocating with class.

To sue without trying other means to resolve an issue is a really crappy way to advocate for anyone or anything. It gives advocacy a bad name. Also, it reflects badly on all people with disabilities. I don’t want to go into a local store and make the business owners here feel nervous that I will be the next person trying to sue them.

Getting money from someone under the guise of fighting for civil rights isn’t a fix all. It’s not even a band-aid. Getting people to discuss things like an adult and explore solutions is the only way to begin making real progress. I only hope more “advocates” will stop, think, and find some compassion before taking the most extreme route to achieve results.

What kinds of situations have you faced in which you advocated for yourself or another person? How did you handle it?

 

Fantasy Wardrobe Friday: From Day to Night

01_08 day to night

We have a blizzard going on right now, and so I wanted to put a Fantasy Wardrobe Friday post together with an outfit that came across a little more….warm and Spring-like. I also wanted to find an item that could be used in a day to night look. I began looking for the main piece, a dress I ended up finding by Ted Baker. I haven’t been familiar with Ted Baker until recently, when I saw there was a discount sale on one of those sale websites. I think it might have been HauteLook. At any rate, I like how the brand has simple cuts, with bold prints and colors without being too noisy.

For the day look I found a black blazer from Topshop that is simple, but has a nice shape. I kept the jewelry and shoes more on the simple side as well. The bag is suited for a daytime routine, but I kept it in a flashy color that compliments the dress.

The night time look I decided to amp up a few notches. A cropped leather jacket adds some edge, along with some fuchsia, strappy, studded shoes. I completed the look with some fuchsia and silver drop earrings and clutch.

So…is it Spring yet? 🙂