Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Reading List for 2014

CC Image courtesy of dr_tr on Flickr

I've always been an avid reader, a lover of fantasy and science fiction, the abnormal, the paranormal, the weird, and the wonderful, but I also love reading things that are insightful, creative, informative or funny. Last year, however, I managed to let my other hobbies get in the way of my love for books and reading. To make up for it, I've compiled a list of books that I can't wait to get my hands on this year! Read on!

First, I'd like to start with an impending release: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. This collection of irreverent short stories is by B.J. Novak, whose name you may be familiar with if you're a fan of the U.S. interpretation of Ricky Gervais' The Office. As of yet, I've only read small snippets of the stories found within, as this book won't be released until February the 4th, four days from now.

CC Image courtesy of Wicker Paradise on Flickr

If you're a fan of HBO's Game of Thrones, then you can imagine why the written series by George R. R. Martin has captured my fancy. I'm a huge fan of medieval/fantasy stories as it is, and I love finding myself consumed in such fantastical settings. I'm very certain that I will love and hate these books and all the feels that come along with them even more than I have experienced from enjoying them on the silver screen.

CC Image courtesy of Mikasi on Flickr

One series of books that I've already started to delve into (and will also be making its way to film in the near future) is that of Odd Thomas. A few years ago, at the suggestion of my boyfriend, Brad, I started reading the first book, also titled Odd Thomas. From there, I continued into Forever Odd, Brother Odd, and Odd Hours, and then assumed that I was done. Luckily, I was mistaken, as there are apparently SEVEN books that I've yet to crack open in the series.

If you're new to the stories by Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas is a young fry-cook who doesn't want fame or glory... but to get on with his life, which is made infinitely more difficult by the fact that he can see the dead. Odd does whatever possible to help the spirits that approach him find peace with the help of a ghostly canine companion and the spirit of the late Mr. Elvis Presley.

The next fantasy adventure that I've picked out is in the form of an anti-superhero novel by Carrie Vaughn, titled After the Golden Age. In this story, Vaughn takes a step back from the ideal superheroes that we're all so familiar with and introduces us to someone else - the average, everyday, superpowerless daughter of two heroes - and has the reader ask herself what truly constitutes heroism. I've only flipped through the first few pages of this one, and it's already drawn me in. Plus, there's a sequel, which definitely helps with the pain of finishing a really great book and not wanting it to end just yet!

CC Image courtesy of Magic Madzik on Flickr

I've also recently been introduced to this fantasy series by Terry Brooks, starting off with The Sword of Shannara. The original trilogy, written between 1977 and 1985, recounts the story of a post-apocalyptic world, destroyed by nuclear & chemical weapons and finally reborn into a magical medieval setting.

CC Image courtesy of Claudio Beck on Flickr

This is surely one of the books that I'll be checking out later on in the year, once the holiday season creeps upon us again. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore is about a young boy of seven, who mistakenly sees Santa take a shovel to the head and die. Luckily for him, the Archangel Raziel has descended to grant his only Christmas wish: to bring Santa back from the dead. But, as you'd expect from the book's title, Raziel isn't all that smart, and manages to do nothing but reign Christmas terror down on the happy little town of Pine Cove. I have theories about the way this book will turn out. They involve a zombified Santa, but don't correct me if I'm wrong. No spoilers!

CC Image courtesy of phlubdr on Flickr

Another book that was suggested to me for this year is The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett. This is the story of a young man who joins vaudeville to hunt down the troupe of the man he believes is his father. There's a catch, however, and as he gets closer to the answer he seeks, things start becoming more and more strange. Reviews of the book claim that it is gripping and thought-provoking. Certainly this is a book that I hope to get the chance to flip through this year.

Thanks for reading! I hope to do quite a bit of reading myself this year! If you have any more book suggestions for me, be sure to let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Treasures 04

The following three images are from an installation called "Chemical Imbalance" by Jean Shin. The sculptures are made from thousands of used prescription pill bottles and are inspired by formations of stalactites and stalagmites, but they represent a far deeper meaning, touching on society's over-consumption and dependence upon prescription drugs. The installations were features at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2009.

This isn't the first teapot I've featured in a Tuesday Treasures post, (nor the second, for that matter) but I imagine it won't be the last! The shape is absolutely wonderful, and the placement of the floral pattern just makes it all the more beautiful. This is a piece by Trevor Jackson and it's available for sale for $900!

This beautiful bangle was made from a real branch, cast in sterling silver and oxidized for a perfect finish. You can find many more handmade botanical beauties, handmade by Amber Mahler, at her Etsy shop, ManiDesigns.

I absolutely love this idea! As a society, we spend too much time judging. We judge others based on their appearance, we judge products based on their packaging, and we rarely treat books any differently. This program at Book Shop Santa Cruz encourages us not to judge books by their covers - literally. You can go on a blind date with a book by ordering one of these hand-picked selections that have been covered plainly, categorized by genre, and defined by their content alone.

I love reading something that perfectly describes my state of mind in a way that's typically difficult to define. This is exactly how I feel about this original print by blogger and illustrator Jamie Bartlett.

Thanks again for visiting this week's Tuesday Treasures! Did you discover anything worth sharing this week?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

DIY: Dry Erase Calendar

I'll admit that staying organized is not one of my strong points. I've spent a lot of time searching for a calendar that is efficient for blogging, but many of them have fallen short. A real, physical calendar is hard to edit and change around, a printable calendar is such a waste (and not so environmentally-kind), and online applications are not always accessible(due to lack of internet connection or server shutdown, which is an issue I had with my own calendar app as I was typing this). So, of course, I fixed my problem by making my own decorative dry-erase calendar!

The materials this project requires are:
  • Picture frame
  • Sheet of light-colored paper that is large enough to fill frame
  • Picture backing or cardboard scrap cut down to size of frame
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Dry-erase markers
Disassemble your frame. If this destroys the canvas in the frame, you will need a piece of cardboard large enough to replace it.

Paint your frame, if you find it necessary. I used some shiny bronze paint that I had lying around.

While your frame dries, draw a calendar template on your paper, then adhere the paper to your cardboard base using invisible tape. Be sure to leave room on top of your calendar area to write in the month and week names. I chose to leave an open space to the right to make notes or doodle in.

Assemble the calendar. Make sure your glass is perfectly clean on both sides before inserting it back into the frame. Because I couldn't find a sheet of paper large enough, I created a border out of contrasting paper and laid this into place before carefully inserting my calendar paper and cardboard into the frame.

Before securing the back of the frame, turn it around to be sure that everything is in the right place. It's very easy to misplace your paper when inserting the backing, place the calendar template in upside-down, or even drop a little hair or something behind the glass and not notice until you've already put it together. Check a million times to make sure none of these things happen, or else you may end up having to take the whole thing apart again to clean it out. 

Once your sure that it looks perfect, secure your frame. Mine required the hassle of prying down staples with a screwdriver to hold it all together. This part may be a bit difficult, so feel free to recruit a helper!

Now it's time to hang it up! Then you can proceed to fill it in using any dry-erase markers you may have on hand. I use mine to record my blog post schedule, but yeah, you can doodle in some weather symbols and write cutesy holiday messages too, if that's your thing...

Now just write, erase, and enjoy! I hope you've found my tutorial useful; thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Swap Ads with Brittanibus

Hey folks! The Blog of Brittanibus is looking to swap ads! If you've got a blog that focuses on crafts, do-it-yourself projects, creative business, style, beauty, or rustic living, and are looking to swap ads with another blogger, feel free to message me at or leave a comment in this post! Thanks for reading! I hope to hear from you soon!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday Treasures 03

This week on Tuesday Treasures, I've discovered some wonderfully unique findings and creative ideas! Read on and enjoy!

Prepare your pet for the apocalypse with this real leather cat battle armor, handmade by Etsy user Schnabuble!

I love this DIY clock idea using twine! Get the full tutorial by Dria over at the DIO Home Improvements blog!

I'm a little bit crazy over this shy & adorable little mule portrait by Zoe. You can see more of her great photographs in her Etsy shop, Zoe, With Love.

This moose antler illustration poster by Jessica Rose at Moorea Seal would look absolutely perfect in my room!

The following pieces are by Polish ceramic artist Marta Turowska. Once I discovered her, I spent hours just browsing all of the beautiful handmade pieces of functional art that she's created. You can buy one for yourself over at her Etsy shop, Clay Opera!

This gorgeous red-orange octopus-inspired bowl is actually a standing sink basin!

Finally, the pattern on this teapot is just so whimsical! I also love the little spout!

Thanks for stopping in to read this week's edition of Tuesday Treasures!

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Finding Blogs for Ad Swaps with Google Advanced Search

If you're a new blogger, then I can bet that you're probably looking to increase your blog traffic. There are many ways to accomplish this, but one of the best ways to benefit your blog and build a network is through advertising.

For some of us, advertising on other blogs may not be an affordable option. Luckily, there's a simple solution! You can easily swap ads with other blogs, oftentimes those of the same niche, with a similar number of followers. By doing this you create a mutually beneficial relationship: their readers see your ad on their blog, your readers see their ad on yours, and you both increase your potential for blog traffic. It's not a difficult concept.

What can prove to be quite difficult, if you're DIYing it or even using a free advertising service, is finding a blog that's willing to swap ads with you. Luckily, I have a solution for this, too. (I'm such a problem-solver, I know...) All you really need is access to Google and a little bit of patience.

Go to Google and perform an advanced search. You can do this by clicking on the "Options" button, a little gear icon to the far right of the screen (under your Google+ info), and selecting "Advanced Search" from the drop-down menu. Of course, Google doesn't make this easy for you. You'll have to run a search in order for this menu to make itself available.

This is Google Advanced Search. This is where the magic happens.

If this menu is intimidating to you, relax. I'll explain. The menu is broken into two parts. We'll start with the first: "Find pages with..."

But first, let's discuss this step. You'll often see that blogs have a whole page dedicated to advertising, whether it be selling ads, swapping them, or both. This is often labeled as the "Sponsor" page. What we are searching for, essentially, are various bloggers' sponsor-related pages. Therefore, we are going to search for pages that contain either the word "sponsor" or the words "ad swap" by filling in the "any of these words:" section with the following:

Because "ad swap" is two words, you'll have to put them in quotation marks. This way Google knows that you're only looking for pages with those two words together in that specific order. In this case, it will return pages with those two words, OR pages that contain the word "sponsor".

You're halfway done now, but these search terms aren't going to pinpoint you directly to other blogs. This is where the second part of the search menu comes in handy - the narrowing of results.

To narrow your results to only search for blogs, scroll down to the text field labeled "site or domain:". This is where it may get a bit tricky...

It would be beneficial to start by searching for blogs within your own domain or blog host, to increase chances of finding a blog that is using compatible ad options. For me, that would mean entering "" into the box, but there are many other popular blog domains that you might want to search within, such as Wordpress or LiveJournal. I highly recommend associating with blogs on other platforms as well, in order to broaden your horizons as much as possible. So, once you've completed this search and exhausted all of your options, try it again, but with a different blog domain each time.

You might narrow your search results further by selecting the "terms appearing:" drop-down menu and selecting "in the title of the page" rather than "anywhere on the page". This will result in pages or posts that specifically mention the words "sponsor" or "ad swap" in the title.

The best way to widen the number of blogs you'll find is to try out different combinations of search terms and see the results for yourself.

But wait! There's more!

Perhaps you use a specific ad service for your blog, and you're looking for other blogs that use the same advertising service, because it's just frickin' easier that way. AdProval, for example, gives each user a snippet of code to add to your blog's advertisement sales page, and each code includes a link back to the AdProval site that reads "Powered by AdProval". Therefore, if you want to return only sponsor-related pages that are also utilizing AdProval, all you have to do is enter "Powered by AdProval" into the Find pages with... "all these words:" section, as seen below.

To skip the Advanced Search steps in the future, you could easily just type "Powered by Adproval" (quotation marks included) in the search bar on the Google search page and return the same results.

Speaking of which, to the right of the text entry areas you'll see that Google has laid out the shortcuts to perform all of these searches without accessing the Advanced menu. Take note of these; they'll make searches like these even easier once you learn to utilize them!

From here, it's up to you! It may take a bit of browsing to find blogs that fall into your niche and also use your advertising platform. When you find them, you'll be able to use those blogs' ads to find more and more blogs, until you've built your network.

Feel free to comment if you have any questions regarding this tutorial! Thanks for reading and best of luck to you in your blogging journey!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday Treasures 02

Hello again! Thanks for checking in for this week's edition of Tuesday Treasures! In this series, I like to share beautiful treasures that I've discovered on the web. Enjoy!

These adorable Snowy Owl Earrings are hand-drawn by Kirsten Stride. Although I'm normally a pretty big fan of symmetry, I love the subtle differences between the owls which make them look more like a cute couple rather than two of a kind.

This beautiful handcrafted octopus chandelier was recently sold for a whopping $18,000! The head and tentacles light up both together and separately, but is also adorned with sconces for romantic candlelight.

I love this BeadFX tutorial on how to make pendants with copper pipe! They're so beautiful and original, and I can think of so many ways to customize them! I'm definitely doing a project like this if I happen to find myself with some leftover PVC pipe.

This beautiful wooden, turquoise, and titanium wedding ring is absolutely perfect. Incredibly gorgeous and masculine, this ring was designed by husband-and-wife team Minter & Richter on Etsy.

I love this easy DIY Decorative Magnifying Glass idea by Gina over at The Shabby Creek Cottage! Once you get the materials, you could adapt this idea for so many different items; the possibilities are endless!

Thanks for reading this week's session of Tuesday Treasures, and be sure to come back next Tuesday!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top 13 Pins of 2013

Hey folks! I feel like I've spent a ridiculously unforgivable amount of time on Pinterest throughout the year, but I decided to make it all worthwhile by compiling this awesome list! So here's the count-down of my top 13 re-pinned items on Pinterest! I've managed to hunt down the sources of these pins, so be sure to click on each image for its respective link!

#13: This DIY Christmas Ornament at Hang Ups in KC was repurposed from an old measuring stick!

#12: I learned about Pairing Muscle Groups for a Custom Workout from this Examiner article:

#11: After a bit of research, I've discovered that this pretty tree stump tattoo is a work of art by Mike at The Vault Tattoo Shop in River Falls, Wisconsin.

#10: This beautiful scrapbook was handmade from a real shell by Craftster user battlesheep. You can find more pictures of this one-of-a-kind piece at the thread in which it was shared:

#09: This Eyebrow Tutorial at The Wonder Forest comes with a super helpful picture guide for filling in your brows, but you'll have to check out the blog post for the full how-to:

#08: This beautiful black anchor tattoo is one of many amazing pieces by artist Andrey Svetov.

#07: Below is "Bloom Tones", an inspiring color palette produced by Design-Seeds.

#06: The Crystal Cat is the first of two wonderfully creative tattoo designs by Lauren Winzer at Hunter & Fox Tattoo that made the list!

#05: You'll find quite a few creative ideas for DIY wind-chimes in this blog post at The Garden Glove! The chimes shown below are by Trina Lyn of Trina is Artsy Fartsy!

#04: I must admit that when I repinned this, I wasn't concerned with making sure that the source was correct. Fortunately, I've done some scouring around and discovered that this DIY card-holder idea was originally shared by Jeanish over at Project Wedding!

#03: This amazing furniture makeover was done by Debi Beard with CeCe Caldwell paints and is featured over on the Redoux Interiors blog!

#02: Here's another Christmas ornament DIY idea that'll come in handy if you're looking to upcycle some old CDs by Natalie at Creme de la Craft! There's even a video tutorial!

#01: And finally, my top re-pinned item of 2013 (you should've seen this coming) is this beautiful crystal rose tattoo, another great work of art by the talented Lauren Winzer of Hunter & Fox Tattoo!

Thanks for checking out my top 13 pins of the year 2013! You can follow me on Pinterest at Brittanibus! Or, you can always find me in other social networks by checking out my social media icons in the right sidebar. Thanks again for reading and have a great week!