& the slipper still fits

henry iv part 1

Sorry for the delay lovelies! I've have an insane last couple of weeks and unfortunately, the computer usage has been at a minimum. If you've been waiting for this - I'm sorry!

Henry IV pt. 1 is tells (like Richard) more the rise of who will become Henry V. The man we'll know as Hal. Like his father, Hal walks among the people; unlike is his father, he takes to the bars and seedy areas of London to have fun and get drunk. Hal has a plan in this - one which he confides in the audience - to be a failure and a playboy, a good old friend to those who seem the most human of us, will only lead him to greater esteem when he rises to the occasion. Smartly, he understands that the rise of man with faults becomes a much greater legend than a good courtly prince who will be King.

Unfortunately, his cousin Hotspur (also named Henry) is everything the court wishes Hal would be, and King Henry IV even wishes Hotspur was his son more than Hal. In the play Hotspur angers the king (though Henry IV respects his actions) and is demanded to turn over the prisoners and loot he took in a battle. Refusing his uncle Hotspur, would rather go to war to protect what he considers his - and, you know, take the throne too if need be.

This conflict sets the stage for Hal's rise to glory and his chance to prove to his father he is the proper son. Which, SPOILERS!!! he does.

Because this is one of my absolutely favorite Shakespeare plays (seriously. I adore) I thought I'd highlight my favorite moments without getting too complicated or oh-so-lit-major on you.

Um...I'm not sure how this is still up, but just saying - you can find everything on youtube if you look hard enough. YOUTUBE LINK HERE

Henry IV's opening speech

Prince Hal is a party boy. He hangs out with drunks in bars and brothels; the stories of his mis-adventures are numerous and have many gory details and as a prince, well, he kinda sucks. Sure the "low-lifes" of London love him, but if the court isn't loyal, not much else will matter. Hotspur is Hal's cousin and he's the golden boy- he's everything Henry wishes his son was. In this opening speech Henry tells his closest advisers so, and we realize there is absolutely no love loss between this father and son. Henry refers to his son as a changling boy, a fairy who was traded with his real son when he was just born.

Hal's speach

Falstaff is hands-down one of Shakespeare's best characters. He's a brilliant man in the disguise of a fool. He's all of London embodied in one man asking the future king what kind of king he will be. (If you parallel this play against the angst going on in Elizabethan Court, you love it even more.) Much of Falstaff's lines return to one question for Hal, "Will there be gallows when you are king?" Hal repeats that there will be, but Falstaff will be the executioner. Ultimately Hal is stating while there will be law, but London/England will be his judge and jury. Just like his father, Hal is a brilliant mind. He tells us so in his soliloquy - the rise of a king is much better from ashes than from a gilded cage. This speech is beautiful and Tom's inflection during the voice-over is just stunning.      

Roles reversed

Hal's last night before war ends in a small play. Hal playing his father and Falstaff playing Hal. Here we not only get to see Tom play the pants off pretending to be Jeremy Irons, but we see Hal draw a clear line in the sand between Falstaff and himself. I think the scene speaks for itself. You know this is Hal's goodbye not just to Falstaff. We see Hal cut his own image to shreds and realize he knows exactly what kind of man he's portrayed to everyone - a fact he now chooses to change. (Sidenote: total girl sidenote - do you see those hands??? OMG ladies, let us take a moment to appreciate those hands.)

A Complimentary Hal

At the battle (this is not THE hollow crown battle btw, that happens later), Hal overshadows Hotspur - willing to fight with courage against him in single combat to save the lives of thousands of soldiers. This should be a reasonable parlay. Hotspur, had he ever heard the offer, most likely would have agreed. But Hotspur's envoys never tell him of the offer and so battle wages forward. This speech by Hal and the offer of his sacrifice for all solidifies the people's loyalty for him and his father's respect.

The battle ends with Hal's victory. Although Falstaff tries to take it for himself. And Hal allows him to take the glory this one last time. Symbolically, Hal is allowing England to rule the victory, to take all the glory and pomp. It shows that Hal will be a king not out for his own glory, but the glory of England. Can you tell I LOVE this play?!

Next up, is part 2 of Henry IV, where we crown a new king, have another battle, and see some parts of Falstaff you can't burn out of your eyes.    

this is not a love song

It's more of a gushing, glorious, excited post about The Hollow Crown

Last week I was given the best gift by a discerning friend - the four episodes of The Hollow Crown. When the series first aired in England, I'll admit, I stayed ignorant just so I wouldn't get obsessed. Someone's gotta look out for my own sanity.

Well, I decided to just to go for it. My rebound with obsessions has been better as of late, and the only thing it could change, my was opinion of Tom Hiddleson. 

I'm going to open up here a little - I didn't know the Hollow Crown was actually 4 Shakespeare plays grouped together. I hoped. I wished. But I really didn't think BBC would group them and call them something else. MOM WAS FURIOUS when we started watching. It's not that she doesn't enjoy a Shakespeare play every now and then, but she need preparation before such things, and so she just couldn't focus at all. 

Luckily, this particular series of historical plays have been my friends since my senior year of college. I remember ever so fondly reading out Falstaf's parts with my roommate and writing essays about the importance of Hal's transformation. Just thinking about that last semester has me glowing. I loved that class. I would have killed to have 3 more of them. We had the prefect professor, a great group of kids, and the fearlessness as seniors to just go for it. Those days were glorious and we knew it. 

So, watching The Hollow Crown has been a mixture of those feelings and the powerful performances before me; mixed with a healthy does of telling my mom what's going on. (Too many Henry/Hal/Harry (s) for her liking.)

For this post, I'm going to do a short run-down of Richard II, the first mini-movie in the series; and over the next month, we'll be discusses all four. (Hiddleson is in the 2-4 movies ladies -- you'll have to wait till next week.) 

Richard II

The film opens with some of our favorite BBC actors before the court, Ben Whishaw presiding over them as Richard II. This Shakespeare play does not have a particularly captivating scope. Much of the action takes place in the palace, on the shores of England, or in "the countryside". Likewise, much of the focus in Richard II is aptly on Richard and his loss of the throne. We are not supposed to focus in Henry IV's rise, so much as poor Richard's fall. 

Whishaw is strangely magnetic in the role - his mannerisms feminine and his voice child-like. Much of the time, my pity for the character seems to stem more from what appears to be his fragile state. This is not a man like Richard III to come. This king, though he does fight, does not cling to his crown with the fervor of a man sure of himself and his right to lead. 

But Richard does have some breath-taking speeches. And Whishaw breathes life into them with such dedication it is hard to imagine them spoken by anyone else. Likewise, in Richard II it is the small parts which have some of the best lines in the play.  

I know this review is short, but I don't have much impassioned focus on it. Wait till I cover Henry IV part 1 next week...

Who you'll see
Ben Whishaw, Patrick Stewart, David Bradley, Lindsay Duncan, Rory Kinner, David Morrissey, Clemence Posey, and James Purefoy.     

Check out the youtube search for more.
PBS should be airing The Hollow Crown series in the US in 2013

Summer lull - watch Girls

There are some shows that take themselves too seriously. They know it, you know it, and the whole world or critics seems to think that because of this, their work is true cinematic genius. Those shows end up on the list of "best shows you're not watching". Then there are the shows that think they're funny. They think it and for some reason we go along with it. Those shows win emmys.

Both have been said about HBO's series Girls. Well, with the small amount of dead time I had before the Olympics took over 2 weeks of my life I was able to watch the 10 episode season at HBO Go. While there are moments that the show seems too serious and melodramatic without realizing it, it is also refreshingly funny - in that ironic way, most of the time. Thus, I'm sure it will end up on the "watch me, please" list and win emmys.

Take for example our main character Hannah Horvath - she's awkward and sarcastic and tries very hard to be funny, but much of the time she seems to be cracking a joke, I don't know if I'm supposed to laugh or sit stone-faced. It's an interesting challenge for this viewer and I really enjoy the sense of imbalance her character brings. While other characters are more together - at least you think in the beginning of the series - Hanna is a hot mess: just out of college she has no job, wants to be a writer, wants her boyfriend to love her more than she loves him without understanding the clear boundaries of their relationship, and is constantly dealing with a skewed body image most girls would understand. She's not the adventurous one, she's not the perfect one, and she's not the quirky one. What kind of girl is Hanna then? That's what the whole first season is trying to define for us. 

Every time I was an episode, riddled with Hanna's self-loathing/self-loving, I feel like I should be using the hash tag #firstworldproblems for any comments I may have. And for some reason, you feel like the show knows that and is commenting simultaneously on how important/unimportant these 4 girls' problems are.

And I'll try not to gush about how Girls is the brain child of Lena Dunham who writes, produces, stars, and even directs (an episode) the show. Point blank - it makes the show even more fantastic for this girl right here.

Think a gritter, angrier Sex in the City, if we really need a comparison. Though somehow, I don't think that does either show justice."Girls" is a refreshing short season to watch this summer. Bravo HBO for green-lighting a show without supernatural anything in it or politics.

cheveron stripes psd

Everywhere I've been going, I see Chevron Stripes, and while my mother would tell you this is something form her era, I actually really like them. BUT they can be a serious pain in the butt to create. Since I had some extra time, I thought I'd make a few for my favorite dear readers. 

This is just a psd file with different layers featuring a different sized chevron stripes. The best thing to do is copy/paste the selected layer on to your image of choice and change the color with the paint bucket. They were also made SUPER large so that you can use them in large wallpapers and for print media. Leave a comment if you have any questions!

discover something new?

Are you dealing with the summertime blues dear reader? Have you been listlessly surfing the internet or the tv channels but nothing seems to spark your fancy? I’ve been there. I’m doing that. And even though I don’t get a summer vacation, I am most certainly struggling with the anstys.

Normally, I would tell you to pop in Persuasion or watch one of our favorite versions of Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice, but…they’re not helping. I’m serious. Something it utterly wrong with me dear reader. Tell me this is happening to you too. Tell me a flip of Mr. Thornton’s hair, while still thoroughly entertaining, has struggled to keep your attention for the last few months. (I’m not saying the sight of his naked neck isn’t still turning my head, mind you.) Tell me that Mr. Darcy’s general taciturn speech isn’t captivating you.

Nope? No one? You’re all gonna leave me hanging out here aren’t you? Every costume drama girl for herself here, aren’t we. Well, fine. I can take it. I’ll own up to it. The burnout has hit me hard this time and I’m strong enough to say so.

But if – just in case –  you’re feeling the same way I am: that our old favorites aren’t hitting the spot this summer, why not try watching something completely different? Thanks to the mini-series nature of costume dramas, we girls are much more able and apt to watch entire seasons of shows in 1-2 sitting(s) without blinking. So why not watch a season of something you wanted to see last fall, but could never catch? Today I propose an option that will leave you enchanted. 

Once – ABC
When I heard tales of this fairytale show from ABC/Disney I just about jumped out of my skin – in a good way. I will forever be that doop at Disneyland with tears in her eyes over the fairytales of my youth. I screamed with joy when I saw the lineup for actors and characters, and just about alienated my entire family with my emphatic commentary during the series premiere. That didn’t sell you? Lemmesplain.

Do you remember watching the 10th Kingdom? That glorious month where we traveled with Virginia and Wolf through the 9 kingdoms to help save Prince Wendell? (I still ask my cat if we’re going for a “walkies” fyi…) Once is like the 10th Kingdom on Disney steroids – the ones where you can directly make your favorite characters just like the Disney versions and not get slapped with a law suit. The goodies are lovely, the baddies rock (I still believe Mr. Gold is my favorite character and Maleficent was ROBBED of more screen time), and the costuming is something pretty fantastic too.

This is not that knock-off 80s crap going on over at the CW. This isn’t even one of those made for TV movies with low production values. This is a series with big dollars invested and even bigger supporters creating a unique world that could only be done with Disney’s support.

Short storyline version – Regina (Snow White’s evil queen) loses her epic battle with Snow White and Prince Charming and promises to send everyone someplace where there are no happy endings (present day Maine…it’s a very unhappy place I’ve been told! – have you been to Maine? You know they have troubles right?) She succeeds (go baddies?!) but not before Snow White can have a baby and send it to Maine first. That baby shows up 28 years later as Emma Swan – man’s woman, woman about bounty hunting, birth mom to Evil Queen’s stepson Henry. In order for Emma to save everyone she has to defeat Regina and break the curse; which we do find out at the end of season 1. Really we get a nice little wrap up with the season finale. 3 guesses how the daughter of Snow White breaks the curse…

What I love: I love seeing our standard characters with life breathed into them. I love that we have huge fairytale characters intertwined into multiple storylines. I love how the writers have the freedom to play with Disney lore and make it real for our generation. (Come on dear reader, we are the generation that grew up on a healthy diet from birth of Disney, Winnie the Pooh and Star Wars.) I love that while the evil characters do some pretty messed up stuff, they are still people you want to root for, and dare I say, be friends with.


If you only watch one episode:
If you’re not sold by my fanboating/rambling I suggest watching episode 17, Hat Trick. Why? Well, I think the mad hatter’s storyline is one of the most interesting we have seen on the show and draws you into the modern storyline well too. There’s nothing like fairytale character personalities in the real world. And Sebastian Stan is brilliant. Just – the way that man can have his eyes filled with tears almost every moment on screen is a wonder. Not to mention his borderline insanity/sanity play is rather fantastic. For that matter, if you want some gushy love gooey eyes, check out episode 3, Snow Falls – you’ll get to see Prince Charming be pretty epically, well, charming.

Don’t watch this episode: Episode 12, Skin Deep. I actually like Emilie DeRaven as Belle. Heck, I even like the twist they play on the beast (I didn’t see that one coming!), but the production values on the episode are just plain poor and the actors aren’t given nearly enough time to develop a truly heart-tugging relationship, and I miss our macho 80s Gaston from the Disney version.

And with all the FANtastic information we just learned from Comic-Con, it looks like season 2 will be something epic to watch. (Link to spoilers! Change is Coming Article | CC Round Up)

You can still catch a few choice episodes over at ABC.com for US viewers, or check out Hulu plus for all the episodes. If not, we all know how much youtube can be your friend. :)


A few days back I found this fantastic article on grouping fonts for your designs. I love finding articles like this. Tell me, when was the last time you only wanted to use 1 font on anything? That's right - NEVER!

Even on our blogs, we have multiple font choices to make and more often than not, we go with what we've always used (inherited from a previous theme or blogger) or just go with one font to be safe. H&FJ gives us the bolstered confidence to not be scared about mixing fonts; and gives us some direction on how to do so too. They even made beautiful and lovely mock ups to show us just what the font combinations would look like in action. I was inspired! Excited! Let's start using these methods to group our own fonts! 

Enter - Heather's tiny problem. I thought all the fonts they were featuring where accessible. In other words - free. I totally somehow missed the purchase font now button on the bottom. 

Do you know how many times lately I've looked for a new font, and then am told I'd have to pay for it? A LOT. This does not make me happy. This is not something I can afford. But wait! Don't despair! Luckily, I'm a little more creative than I thought I was. 

There are free fonts that can help us achieve these same font groupings. And I'm going to share my knock-off font picks with you. Just so we can do a page-to-page comparison, I'm going to use the same colors featured on H&JF's font examples. Let's see how this maps out.

Disclaimer: Buying fonts is like buying artwork - you're helping an at times impoverished medium and artist and helping foster creatively for things we use everyday. If you adore a font - buy it. That being said, there are thousands of free fonts that are beautiful, inspired, and um...cheep. I'm not saying don't buy a font. I'm saying don't feel like you have to buy a font. With enough looking, you'll find something very close to what you were going to pay $100 for.

For a design with Wit, it would cost $427. Here I've replicated the mock-up example using a variation of Bebas (my favs!), Dunkins Sans and Chaparral. Other fonts that could be used to create almost the same look are Headlines One, Antipasto, and Big Mouth. To get this exact look, I did have to play with the character settings in photoshop (this occurs with all the other mock-ups as well.) "Lady Earl Gray" is the font Bebas New set with a gray gradient layer effect on 20% opacity. "Lovely / On the House" is the font Dunkins Sans (based on the Dunkin Donuts font) bolded, with a letter spacing of 200%, and a character height of 120%. "20 individually..." is Chaparral at no change. 

For a design with Energy it would cost $467. This was the first font group I tried replicating and love what I get when you mix Chunk 5, Bebas Original and Fanwood text. Here, I wanted to give you a few secondary options that look just as fantastic. "Breakfast/Mornings/and the food titles" are set in Chuck 5 with no changes. "Cafe de la.." is in Headline One with no changes. Numbers and "Tiffany's/Gwen..." are in Fanwood text with no changes other than regular or italic settings. And "1224..."/food descriptions are in Antipasto no changes. "Reservations/Owner..." are also in Antipasto, but the line height was adjusted to 80%.

A font group with Poise presented the greatest challenge for me. And priced at $697 it should. I'm still not totally happy with the smallest font Ostrich Sans as a subsitution for Verlag, but it does the job well. "Lion Roars" is in the font Black Oak set at a 200% line height and adjusted to have a 18pt space in between each letter. Justus has no changes other than it is set to Italic (a drop down option, not the italic button) for "Just the...", and Ostrich Sans is set to Bold Black and then Medium for "New prosperity...".

A design with Dignity? Well that will put you back $567. What's surprising about this font set, is you could replicate it with Times New Roman, Garamond, and Verdana...if you wanted. (Those all come free on your computer...fyi). Here, I've used Adobe Garamond (a thinner lined font tweaked by Adobe) with no changes for "Lizt Remembered/Suite for Chopin"; Circle New with a character spacing of 50% for the "CML info"; and Fanwood text, all caps and not, for the "The history of" and the paragraph of Lorem ipsum. 

Today, its about Pintrest

Hey strangers!

I know, its been a while - let's not dwell on it :)

I'm hoping back into blogging today with a bit of a new look and a mini revelation.

Pintrest. What do you do with it? I seem to repin what's already been pinned unless its a useful design article or photoshop idea. How do you actually utilize it? I FIGURED IT OUT!!!! (I know, I'm slow.) 

Let's set the scene. My new job is much more design friendly. Yes, I can actually say with confidence - part of the reason they employ me is to "play" in the new Adobe CS6 suite. I just had to share that.It's awesome. And the new suite is gorgeous!

ANYWAY, today I went looking for a specific picture of Paris. One I knew I had saved on my home computer, one I knew came from flickr, but other than that - I was lost. After 30 minutes of looking for it in vain, I realized THIS is why I have a pintrest account. I should have pinned it. Then I could find it. Then I wouldn't have spent 30 minutes in vain.

And - yes, then again! - I realized if I pinned more things I like/find useful online I could easily access all my ideas, actions, brushes, images, rights-free photos and fonts AND tutorials all on my lovely pin board. For me dear reader, this is a revelation. It helps me integrate my resources from home and work and allows me to have everything I need as close as possible.

And not only can it now be a huge resources for me, but it can also allow me to share my inspirations and resources will all of you and others. (If say, but Heather you're not really THAT inspirational right now, I might have toss you out of my kitchen into the 103 heat outside...)

With the job interviews I did a little over a month ago and the consulting I've been doing on the side, it seems like everyone is asking me why/how they should be on pintrest. Which, for the most part, has been a rather emphatic answer of "you don't/shouldn't be on it".  For me, the practical application to connect with customers didn't appeal to me unless your medium was fashion or art or design. Let's face it, people are not going to repin pictures of dental kits, and they probably won't repin a toothbrush tutorial unless it looks homemade. As with most social media applications, people don't want to feel like they're being sold something. They want to feel like they're sharing a best-kept secret.

So, at its best for a company, pintrest should be an extension of your brainstorming or idea gathering for a marketing department, etc. After all, we've gotten much more open about giving credit where credit is due.

This allows customers/followers to feel connected to the creation process. Who doesn't like a behind the scenes? These are ideas I know the fashion houses and design studios have already integrated into their everyday life. They are the groups that don't mind the total access sharing. They also realize how important their online fanbase and presence is. But for the average company who can't use twitter, pintrest can be a large monster they want to tackle, but don't know how. Now when a company asks me "What should we do with pintrest?" I have a fuller answer for them. It's easy to say its a nitche market; it's easy to say you shouldn't be on pintrest, your follows need to pin you to pintrest; but now my answer can also have an active element - "if you want to be on pintrest, use it to be a tool within your company and pin relevant topics for that person."

As with all social media tools, you have to look at pintrest through the eyes of what can it do for you personally/how can this online application make my life easier than how to use it as a sale tool. 

Then again, I get to pin ideas for events and food and designing. That already makes pintrest for me much more fun and a lot less about selling toothpaste.

Good life choices come in threes

Hello dear reader - missed me much? I've missed you. I have to admit the last few months for me have been challenging, overwhelming and, well, a little strange. My literary drive seemed to dwindle slightly at the end of March as work began to run my life. Without going into too much detail, because what this post really is about, isn't my inability to compartmentalize, last week I made a huge work-life change that came with it a fair amount of bolstered confidence and vindication. That, is good life choice number one. The other two are much more characteristically me.

Yesterday The Hunger Games made it to to cinema 2.5K - my code for the cheep seat theater one town over. I went, I saw, I basked in the over 2 hour movie and am happy I only paid $2.50 to see it. Good life choice number two. 

The third life choice began as more of a tumblr mystery. A few of the people I follow adore Sebastian Stan (Mad Hatter in Once Upon a Time and serious bad guy in a dozen other movies). And why wouldn't they? He's fantastic as the Mad Hatter Jefferson and has a stunning ability to call tears to his eyes at the drop of a hat. Plus, he's got something going for him with that ominous angsty attitude. These tumblr peeps started posting about a little show called Kings he was in. The caps and gifs looked amazing and I was certainly interested, BUT, with no funds and a somewhat selfish part of me refusing to trade in seasons 1 and 2 of Fringe to make a trade, I wasn't sure where I was going to watch it. 

About a week ago, I remembered the glory that is free Hulu. And to my wonder, Kings was totally on the list - the whole season.

Do you ever remember seeing bits a pieces of scenes, but you're not sure if you could place them? I swear my parents must have watched Kings and I walked through during the episodes when they first aired, because there a definite moments I remember.

Kings is a modern/alternate reality retelling of the Biblical story of David. And just like in the Bible, David slays Goliath and is thrust into the spotlight as a national hero in the middle of war. The characters are refreshingly human and the military drama aspect of the show is handled as a complimentary piece of the puzzle, not the whole puzzle itself.

While I started watching just to have more mad hatter in my life (why did Once Upon a Time have to have their finale a month ago?! I'll admit it! I'm weak! don't ask how many times I've watched Thor to see a goofy Charming...), I continued watching for the brilliant acting. Christopher Egan (of Letters to Juliette and Eragon fame) plays David Shepard and you can't help but love him. And Ian McShane as King Silas is unquestionably brilliant. There are clear moments where you loath almost every character and then they show up minutes later and either redeem themselves or unravel a deeper emotional scar that makes you hope to comfort them. 

Part of me can't decide if Kings was just a few years too early for our social climate, or if  NBC didn't give it a good enough chance to succeed. Luckily, we're able to watch it on Hulu. At least for now. And wonder what subsequent seasons would have brought. 

I'm just starting episode 7 and I'm already having end of the series anxiety.

Escaping into some medieval times

Hello dear reader! I'm sure you've noticed Rusty inactivity of late. Between working (this is my very very, dear God make it stop, busy season) and writing (almost 50k words!) and the occasional facebook update or two, I've been relatively silent around here.

And when all this crazy seems to be baring down on me and I go to bed repeating my work list in my head, there are a few of my favorite books I pull out and reread my favorite parts.They are medieval fantasies about keeps and knights and homecomings from the Holy land. And I have to admit that they suck me right away from my everyday very thoroughly.  This week, I've been trolling through my copy of Ivanhoe like its nobody's business and find myself just a little more centered after my crazy week.

What do you read to center yourself? What do you read to escape your everyday?

What I watched this weekend 4/9

Hi all! Don't get used to this, but I thought I'd leave you a video. Here the quick note version of my weekend -

My rules for reading

I've finally done it dear reader. I gave in, gave up, got going.

The last 3 months I've have The Hunger Games sitting in my pile of "to reads". I'll admit, in the last year, its become a rather big pile (classics and current authors alike). Books and me, well, we've been on a little hiatus in general. So that last thing I that I thought would renew my love affair with fiction was The Hunger Games. And then on Saturday, on a complete impulse, I just started reading.

And didn't stop. At 2AM Sunday morning, I was done, and could already feel the itch of the bookstore calling. It didn't matter WHAT was in that pile of "to reads", finishing The Hunger Games became priority. But let me give you a little back story on why I was so hesitant.

I tend to not like the popular thing. Truthfully, I have this sick need to either seem indifferent or hate "the popular thing". Especially in fiction. Classic example - I was the definition of a Twi-hard before the movies. I had every soundtrack song, knew huge chunks of the novel by heart, and had my own inside jokes with other readers. In fact, you ask any of my close friends and they will tell you I bullied them to read it. Enter lots of word of mouth and book three crazy... and those movies. Suddenly, I don't tell people I liked Twilight, I don't even tell them I've read the book. I even waited 48 hours before breaking down and buying Breaking Dawn.

For me books are like secrets. When I read a great book, I get sucked in; I think the whole thing was written just for me. And the idea of sharing that now personal world with...everyone, it almost hurts. ...Now you can see why I was a lit major, huh?

Naturally then, when someone tells you they have the next big Twilight, I steer clear. That statement means two things - a series with at least a year's downtime between new novels; a huge, huge movie; and no privacy. And I'm too old for that crap...again.

With that back story we enter -- my rules to reading. They've been developed over my 24 years, mostly at personal and emotional cost. These are all very hard lessons I've learned.

1. Don't start a series, unless all the books are on the shelf
Admit it 20 year olds, you hate that your kids (and kids now) have all the Harry Potter books at their feet. We WAITED for those, we cried for those, we wrote thousands and thousands of pages of fanfiction desperate for those books. And then we read them in 24 hours. What the hell did that achieve? Its like waiting all year for Christmas and you rip through your presents before the parents wake up. Sure, we enjoyed reading them that fast, but now don't you wish you'd taken just a little time, broke for an hour just a few more times, just to make that magic -- that first magic -- last? And then we waited again. I refuse to wait for books now. I'll hold off reading the whole series until its out. Game of Thrones fans...look at what you're author does to you!

And then, even after this agony, I fell into it again. After I'd promised myself to steer clear of this pain. I thought I was doing good, I really did. I waited to read the Mortal Instruments series until all three books were out. I was even frugal, I bought paperback. AND THEN THE AUTHOR ANNOUNCED THERE WERE THREE MORE BOOKS. THREE. MORE.BOOKS. And I'm back where I started with Harry Potter. WORSE. I have to wait till the hardback turns soft. Don't ask how many times I've walked into the book store, praying that City of Fallen Angels is in paperback only to see hardbacks staring me in the face. I feel like punching them.

Still haven't learned my lesson. The Hunger Games? The first book was a Christmas gift in...paperback. They don't sell Catching Fire or Mocking Jay in paperback. My ass just spent $60 for 3 hardbacks because I'm weak. Sure all three books are out, but if I hadn't given in to weakness, I'd still be fuming...with a paperback to keep me company.

2. You keep it consistent
When you buy a series, I think they should all look alike. Hence, my 20 minute breakdown in Barnes and Noble today over hardback Hunger Games books. Mortal Instruments already has me dancing a horrible dance, and I think books should be more fun than this. This is something momma doesn't understand.  When she bought me the Golden Compass series, they were all three books, from three different sets. My surprise face at Christmas was not joyful...

3. Take breaks. You'll thank yourself later
At about book 4 in Harry Potter, my mother demanded, it was part of the I'll-drive-you-at-midnight deal, that I not start the book till the next morning. And then I had to stop every 5 chapters and do something else for an hour. Like say, homework, internet, anything but read the book, or read recap commentaries of the book. This continued through the rest of the series and into Twilight. Heck, even in to any book I start busting into commentary on out of the blue. (I'm just waiting for it to start with Catching Fire.)

While I was annoyed at first, I realized this action kept the book alive for me. It became an even greater escape from the everyday and in the end, I was happy for the prolonged time with characters and the places they were in. The break built more suspense and made me even more eager to read.

4. Spoil at your own risk 
Harry Potter, I didn't mind the spoilers. We all thought they were crap and half wrong anyway. Mortal Instruments, it was essential. Heather got out of bed, yelling, at 1 AM in the morning not believe'n this crap essential. Twilight, I stayed far, far away. I don't even venture into that section of internet town. And The Hunger Games, I'm just not doing it. I think I'm too old for it. I think I couldn't even find spoilers if I wanted to.

When you spoil, or hang out online at places that do, you're venturing into that at your own risk. Part of me doesn't care; I'm still going to love the story, and still read it because you know wikipedia is 60% nonsense anyway.  We all knew how Pride and Prejudice ended before we read it, and we still did. Yeah, I went there.

5. Go with the flow
If your "to read" pile is huge, don't schedule what books you're going to read. Pick one up and just read it. Your subconscious knows what you want to read more than you do most of the time. And I firmly believe books find you when you need them. It might sound horrible, but when I did pick up Twilight, I needed that desperate escape to the West Coast (since I was then stuck in snowy New Hampshire will drama up to my ears); when I read Aurora Leigh, I needed that stunning example of female epic poetry, even with its confounding ending. Books can change you. And what's worse...they know it.

6. Read what you want 
Okay, so I guessing you think I'm going to give this grand statement about how popular books are just awesome and I'm a jerk for judging the Hunger Games before I read it. Sorry! Not sayin' it. But I will say that you can't force books on people. And the fact that I came around wasn't because I gave into peer pressure, but that the book became a part of my home landscape and I felt comfortable picking it up. I never want to go into a book thinking I'll have disdain for it; and by waiting, I embraced the fantastic nature of the book instead of hating it for that nature.

And just in case anyone wants to know, I'm kinda hooked on the Hunger Games. The book. The movie will be a whole nother can of worms I'm sure.

There's my 6 rules. I live and die by them. Now tell me, do you have any reading rules?   

Off Reading

Checking out what this whole "Hunger Games" thing is about...
Look back next week for new posts!

Caption Contest Winners!

Email address: sarah.meholick (at) gmail dot com
Photo 1: I'm surrounded by idiots.

Email address: shellygrrl(at)gmail(dot)com
Photo 4: Lucrezia insists Cesare would never run an army like this and is utterly perplexed as to why they are not trained in the finer points of torture.

Photo 5: This is THE BEST outfit I could ever hope for. I'm going to wear this in all my movies. I will have more acting roles, right?

Photo 4: "Willoughby, will you not shake my hand...whoops, wrong century!"

Email address: sadweirdkid at gmail dot com
Photo 3: You remind me of my brother.

Email: lakeyg@gmail.com
Photo 5: Does this outfit make my butt look big? Be honest.

Email address: carosibley@gmail.com
Photo 3: Congratulations. You're not the father.

Email address: caseemarie[at]yahoo[dot]come
Photo 2: Della Rovere: "Tell me, why do you have the words 'Chest Array' tattooed on your back?" Micheletto: "I knew I didn't spell it right..."

Rusty's personal fav - Photo 4: "Explain to me again, please...why exactly can't the women run things now?"

Email address: sabine4242@gmail.com
Photo 1: No, I said we are going at twilight not TO "Twilight."

Email address: mommamanefox@gmail.com
Photo 4: These were the extras for 300?

If I don't have your email, please send it ASAP - heather@gmail.com. If I do have your email, look for your Rusty letter soon!

20 iphone wallpapers - Borgia inspired

Does your smart phone need a Borgia facelift? Mine did a few days back, and I got just a little over-excited. So, since I can only use 2 wallpapers at a time, I thought I would share! Almost all photos are season 2, with a few of my favorite season 1s thrown in. And remember, if you comment on these season 1 photos, you just might win the first season on DVD!

Color Themes based on The Borgias Season 1 photos

One of my favorite parts of The Borgias is all the vibrant and beautiful costumes featured throughout the season. Which got me to thinking, why am I not using those colors more? Jump to a few hours later in photoshop and LOTS of ooogling my favorite season 1 photos, you have the below. Use the colors to create fabulous looks for your blog, twitter, etc. layouts!

Hex color codes: 6c202c // b19d89 // b8bbc3 // 819245

Hex color codes: cfb3a8 // dddcd8 // ba7252 // 784240

 Hex color codes: d79b64 // f69b33 // b33e1d // 51140e

Hex color codes:d9b28c // glitter! // 6b2103 // 8e6c23

My twitter is rockin' some royal we-ness at the moment. Check it out to see the colors in action!

By the way, have you submitted your caption for the caption contest? You know you want that free season 1 DVD set!

Borgia inspired textures & brushes

Happy Saturday everyone! And Saturdays, for me, are always the best days. I hear you can be your most creative...have you submitted your caption for the contest? The chances to win are still VERY VERY good. So, don't think your captions won't be funny enough! I have a special prize too for the person with the best of the worst.

But today, I have a wonderful photoshop surprise for you - a brush set AND textures. 

The Borgias are all about gold and extravagance and a little bit of masked danger. So, the gilded (extra large) textures and brushes reflect that. While you can utilize the texture as a clipping or shape mask, you can also put them on color burn or hard light and make a bloody touch to your photo (a la our sexy Cesare example). And the ink blots inverted can add an eerie touch. But don't take my word for it, try them out for yourself! 

"To the Brink of Madness" - Borgia Playlist

First of all, have you submitted your caption for the photo caption contest? Come on ladies and gents! There are 15 free season 1 DVD sets at stake! 

Today, for this fantastic preview week of costume, I have delightful (okay, I know you can't call a fanmix delightful with the songs that are included...) mix of songs that remind me of The Borgias. Enjoy!

Starlight - Muse
Just like you - 3 Days Grace
If you were there beware - Arctic Monkeys
No light, No light - Florence + the Machine
Open your eyes - Snow Patrol
Fear - One Republic
10,000 fists - Disturbed
Assassin - Muse
My never - Blue October
I'll be waiting - Adele
Drumming song - Florence + the Machine

The Borgias Season 1 Caption Contest!

Sponsored by Showtime

With The Borgias returning on April 8th at 10:00PM, my entire state for the next 3 weeks is just starting at my TV wondering why The Borgias season 1 isn't replaying all day, every day. Luckily, I can turn my head for a while and stare at the pictures below.

Dear readers, we're kicking off our Week of Borgia, with a HUGE contest! Do you want to win 1 of 15 season one DVD sets? Oh, you heard me right. This is Rusty's first caption contest, and with the help of Showtime, we're making it fantastic. Submit your snarkiest, funniest, most Borgias fabulous caption to the follow images and you just may will win a season of The Borgias.

Rules are simple:
- You may enter one caption per photo
- Comment on this post with your caption(s) and your email address.
- You can only win 1 Season set

Caption submissions can be made till MARCH 28th. Winners will be emailed the morning of MARCH 29th and the announcement of our 15 winners with be the night of MARCH 29th.Like always with contests, I have my panel of judges. Good old Heather here (your author) will be judging, along with her Borgia-savvy mom, her unbaised brother, and her hysterical co-workers.

15 DVD sets will be awarded for best caption (which means you have 3 chances to win per photo).
Region 1 DVD sets. Shippable to region 1.

Photo 1:

Photo 2:

Photo 3:

Photo 4:

Photo 5:

Comment Submission Form
I even make submitting your winning caption easy :)

Email address:
Photo 1:
Photo 2:
Photo 3:
Photo 4:
Photo 5:

Don't want to take the chance of not winning? You can buy season 1 ladies and gents, right here on the Showtime website.
Want your photo caption to have even more flair? You can always hop over to meme generator and post a link for me. I'll make a special gallery just for your creations. AND, maybe you should post it for the Showtime Facebook to see. I know they'd love to see them! Or upload it on Twitter! And add @Showtime and @heatherfrances to your tweet!

This is only the first day, dear reader; check back over the next 7 for even more goodies, photos, and excitement for season 2 of The Borgias!

Something's coming

The Borgias Season 2 begins on April 8th. If you haven't seen all the previews, click here.
Come back Wednesday March 21st for the biggest event Rusty has held yet - all about THE BORGIAS. 
Let's just say, its a week of costume (and you know how I run week of costumes), times a million...with some seriously amazing prizes in the works. 

Learn even more: Facebook | Twitter | Buy Season 1

Useful Photoshop Actions for your blog photos

We've all heard of them; we've all seen them all over the place -- photoshop actions. Do we know how to use them? Or usefully use them? Eh...that's the question. Today, I'm dissecting the photoshop action, and sharing with you some of my favorites.

First things first. What is a photoshop action? Well, its like the condensed, do-it-for-ya type of tutorial. An action is a file, and when you tell the file to play it applies different actions (like saturation, curves, etc) for you in a pre-set template. When you press play, the automatic file does all the work for you.You can find actions all over the place, for many different things, but favorites are played with photo filter actions. For example, Instagram.

Instagram is a smart phone (free!) application which will change your photos at the touch of your finger. These "actions" can add interest, contrast, and a dynamic feel to your photos without having to know a single principle about photoshop. Plus, its super quick and easy. And I suspect Instagram is the reason photoshop actions themselves are so huge right now. And without going into each instagram editing feature (you can see them on the right), I will say that you can find actions/filters/tutorials to achieve their effects. Try here and here.

I advocate -- of course I do, I'm writing this post -- using photoshop. You see, when you post photos for your blog, not only is it wonderful to use pictures you've taken, but to add a little pinash to them. By using a few choice actions, you're able to transform a photo and adjust key elements of that transformation to be prefect just for your blog. Not to mention the time that you can save by using an action on a blog photo.   Below are some of my favorite actions to use, shown with a photo I would post here on rusty.

Freezing Blue by Amatorka
Cute Pink Effect by SilverSkins
 Autumn #2 by Freezy
Sundown by lieveheersbeestje
 a15 by Etikate

Now for the fun part - how to use them! Once you've downloaded the file from where ever you download it from, unzip it and save it in a place you will remember. To load the action in photoshop, use the following paths,

To open the actions pane: Window > Actions 
To load an action:  The "More" button (far right top corner of the pane)   > Load Actions   > pick the action you want to use (remember where you saved the file?)  > Load

Now, you just have to pick the photo you want to work with. Then, open the action pane, select the action, and press play. Want to see it in photoshop? (It's way easier to understand, I think.) Click on the image below:

Actions made easy? I think so! Even if you're not the most advanced photoshop aficionado, actions can help your photos look trend setting and fashion forward. 

Blog Branding

Do you ever look at a blog and think, "Wow. That person has it all together. That person writes a real blog"? I guarantee you, its because they've spent time thinking about their brand. And by brand, I don't mean that the blogger is selling you anything, but that she/he knows the focus of their blog and executes that focus well. Today I want to discuss branding - why you need it, when you need it, and how to make it happen. So if you're a new blogger or looking to formalize your online writings -- please continue.

Personal Branding, the last great narcissistic adventure
Sometime a few years ago, when the economy tanked and collegiate fairytale endings stopped, a group of Mad Men discovered that if you market yourself well enough, you'll still get the job you want. Part of this is true - much of personal branding is discovering your strengths and focusing on them when you apply and interview for jobs. This is good; this is real-world self reflection that can help you.  But then there is the other side of this fad. Personal branding quickly turned into this narcissistic monster of a concept where you turn you're whole being into something you're not. Think Lady Gaga and her constant, "I really do live this way every minute of my life." We know you take your heels off to sleep Gaga, really. Personal branding became selling yourself, even if there was nothing to sell.

This is not what we want. Blogging is about sharing, not selling. And branding your blog is allowing the reader to recognize when your thoughts are being shared. We want people to know who's opinion they're trusting when they see your logo or hear your blog's name.

Enter a real world example - our little Rusty here. (Just Rusty, without the MM feature.) In a determined move NOT to categorize what I do, or what I do well here at Rusty, I've never really created a personal brand.  I didn't feel the need. I'm not selling anything; if anything, I would be selling my opinion, and opinions don't cost much. So in that way, Rusty is simply a "personal blog" that I write for fun and doesn't need a serious branding concept. But Manhattan to Maine? When you hear those words, when you see its logo, I want readers to know what that means. I want MM to be a presence, not just an online antidote journal. 

So what if you want your blog to be something more? What if you want to make your blog a part of your working life?  Ladies and Gentleman, this is where you brand.

When you blog becomes your business
Branding is a wide concept. Its the overall jour de vivre of your "business" (we're just going to say blog from now on): it can be the look, what you write about, your logo, etc. But first things first - once you've created your own place on the web, or are positive you want to create one, you must have a focus, and specific parameters on how you are going to maintain and further that focus.

Mission Statment
I know, its like those horrible thesis statements in high school. Sometimes I think that the school system makes you loath the key concepts that would help you most in life. Case in point - a good thesis statement. In a general sense, a thesis statement is just a statement of purpose, or the mission/goal of your "paper". You have to have one; or you have nothing. And then you ramble -- and some people can ramble for pages. The same is true of a blog. Without a clear focus, a clear mission, bloggers will tend to ramble through their favorite things without any real rhyme, reason, or dedication (sound familiar??). When creating a blog that you want to become "your company" a mission statement is an absolute must.

So lets take 5-10 minutes and write a mission statement.What is the mission of your blog? And be honest. You're not getting a grade for this one. If its as simple as providing your take on current fashion trends or highlight breathtaking travel photos, that's okay. Its your blog. You have to love what you write about. Now if you already have a mission statement, go proof read :) We all can use a good proof read once in a while. Here, let me show you Manhattan to Maine's:
Manhattan to Maine strives to highlight and provide design elements, tutorials, and dialogue for/on personal branding, blogging, and social media. We are dedicated to making your online extras as elegant and clean as the Manhattan skyline with the warmth and rustic soul of Maine.
Now from that mission statement we are going to take 2-3 key words. Those words are your goals, your focuses, they will be the foundations, not just of your blog, but your brand. It is your who, what, and how. This statement is just as much for you as it is for the reader. For example, in reading MM's mission I am reminded what I will provide the reader (design elements, tutorials, and dialogue), the subjects I will cover (branding, blogging, and social media), and how I will do this (with a fusion style of Manhattan and Maine).

Your words should reflect the who, what, and how. My 3 key words would be - provide, dialogue, and elegant. Your statement can be general, but must have a who, what, and how. Otherwise, we're right back where we started.

Your mission statement should direct what you blog about. Thus, if your blog mission statement is to bring up-and-coming fashions to your reader, your posts should be about fashion. Now your blog becomes more than you're personal musings; you have a direction and will follow it accordingly with your content.

Branding a blog is all about the look
Once you have your mission statement, then you are able to focus on the superficial side (I say this with love) of blog branding - your layout, your header, your logo, your look.

Pick an image that you think embodies your blog. From this image we are going to take colors, traits, and proportions and pepper them throughout your layout. While there are finer points to an overall blog layout, consistency of image and theme are always the most important. Your header is going to be the first thing people see; and your logo will be what they share across the internet. Think of this image as what your blog embodies.

From the image above: you see I'm highlighting New England nautical with elegant lines and I've pulled some colors that I want to use for the blog layout. Sticking with a few specific colors, or sticking with a few specific ways you edit photos will help keep your blog looking consistent. Once your blog posts are focused AND your images are consistent, you'll really have the start of something beautiful.

The application of this image and color platte to your blog is a WHOLE different discussion and demands a little bit of photoshop and CSS time. The point for our purposes it that you now have a definite point of view and image for your blog. 

What we can learn from print branding
Have a logo. Have a button. Have an image with a tagline. You have to give your reader a reference point. You have to give them the option of an image to post on their own blog. While this somehow went the way of obscurity after fanlistings.org crumbled, its still an important tool to provide.

Allow you logo some versatility. That way, if you do get a little bored with it, or your logo is looking out-dated, the change to something new is less dramatic for the reader. Now I'm going to show a little bit of my comic book geek side. Last month, DC Comics announced their much anticipated logo redesign. Most boy bloggers are in hate with it, but I think the new logo is simple, versatile, and speaks to what DC does best - Iconic Characters.

I love the idea that the logo's typography stays the same, while its coloration and accents are adaptable to the comic they are printed on. The humdrum "D" is pulled away to unveil the extraordinary within. I think we all could learn a little mystery from the new DC logo.

The wrap up
Once you have your blog branded you can apply your mission principles and design colors to all other social media associated with your blog. You know, the facebook, the twitter, the instagram, the tumblr...the list goes on and on.

Blogging is essentially a Bohemian ideology. We write because we love to; we write and place it online because we know the power of shared experience; and we read others blogs because there is just something deliciously voyeuristic about reading someone else's life. But when you want your blog to be more than just your personal musings, that's where the real work begins. And branding your blog (remember blog="business") early on, will save you a good deal of frustration, confusion, and time; then you can focus on what's important: the content.

The Borgias are back! The latest on season 2

48 days! That is all that's left till The Borgias return. And I'm reeling over the fact that there is almost NO information, photos, sneak peaks, anything out there. So, I've decided, that in an effort to help all other fans, I'm going to post all the info I can find below.

Have you seen all the trailers yet, dear reader? There's some serious plot defining and costume loveliness going on in all of them. See The Borgias season 2 trailers here, and watch my favorite below:

Are you surprised all this info was flooded on youtube and you had no idea? ME TOO. While these trailers are fantastic as showing us visually the family tensions that will fill season 2, they are nothing compared to the 2 behind the scenes videos.

Juan is striving for greater ground against his brother, and we can only assume by Oakes' and Arnaud's interviews that we're going to see much more of Machiavelli's "The Prince" going on with Cesare. Didn't we all want that? I do! Cesare is a fascinating historical figure and I can't wait for more defining moments. And, for full disclosure, I can't get enough of Francois Arnaud.

And it looks like we'll get to see Lucrezia taking her seat on the papal throne. While I'm surprised with the choice of pulling out the "big guns" so early, I'm excited to see Lucrezia take some serious control of Rome. You know, this actually happened? Rodrigo had bigger battles to rage outside of Rome and he left his daughter in charge. I'm not EVEN going to talk about the hot mess that is Rodrigo's life in season 2 - it looks more like family triage than leading millions of souls.

There aren't many. Actually, I've only seen the two below so far. But I'm hoping will all the trailers that are going to air shortly, we'll get some more stock episode photos soon. These two are already lined up in the FYCD queue, so look for them there in the coming weeks.

Get ready for season 2 with a rewatch!
You know me reader, I'm all about a good rewatch. Showtime will begin airing last season in anticipation of Season 2 over the coming month. Keep an eye out to get your costume drama fix. Or...you could always just read my episode by episode review posts here ... or the PDF.  I know, its not like watching showtime's first crime family, but at least everything's in order.

I hope this this has proven helpful Borgia fans - look out for more soon!