2017 Favorites: September

September doesn’t seem like it should even be here let alone be over. But it is and though I love autumn and Halloween and everything that comes with this time of year, it’s strange to already be here. September had a lot of great things in it, though, and here are some of my favorites.

I recently purchased an iPad and have fallen in love. My MacBook’s battery has been iffy lately and I haven’t been able to unplug it from the charger without it shutting down immediately, and with my job, the convenience of an iPad would work well. So far, I love it, and most of my favorites have to do with it:

Procreate App

While working on my illustration skills, I downloaded the Procreate app for iPhone a long time ago, liking it but not loving it. Now with the iPad, I purchased the Procreate app for iPad and love it. It’s an incredible app for illustrating on – it has incredible features, layers, tools. It’s wonderful and easy to use. I’ve been playing around with it all month and can’t wait to work with it more.

Scrivener App

As a writer, I use Scrivener on my computer exclusively for any project I’m working on. With the convenience of the iPad, I’ve been able to sync my projects (through Dropbox) simply and easily to use the Scrivener app for iPad. It’s amazing. Once a week, I’m the passenger of a one hour drive, there and back, and have been able to (among other things) write while on the go and it’s been great. I don’t particularly love typing long form on an iPad, so I’m working on the right orientation and angle that is most comfortable, but the app itself is wonderful.

Photo Editing

Polarr and ColorStory are two digital photo editing apps I’ve been working with on the iPad. They’re not perfect and I know there’s better ones, but I found these to be great while wanting to edit a few pictures. Polarr has some good filters and lighting editing, and ColorStory has a few filters I like and some effects that are cool.

Makeba – Jain

I first heard this song on a Levi’s commercial a few weeks ago an fell in love. It’s such a cool, fun song that is literally the perfect example of my favorite type of music. Jain is a French artist and I’ve since fallen in love, but this song continues to be my favorite. I’ve been listening on repeat almost ever since buying it.

Z by Therese Anne Fowler

This novel is a fictionalized version of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, artist, writer, and wife of the famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story chronicles her life from meeting Scott and all their struggles and successes throughout their life. They lived through the Roaring Twenties, directly in the middle of the Gatsby-like parties and the rise of modern art. It’s a great read, completely hooking me in right away. I really couldn’t put it down—I had to force myself to go to bed. It’s fascinating, about a decade I love, and is paced so well that I was never once bored, and with the shorter chapter lengths, I just kept reading and reading and reading.

Audible

I’ve been hearing about Audible forever, and as someone who is subscribed to a lot of YouTube channels, I hear about it almost daily. But I never tried it because I didn’t think I liked audiobooks. But boy was I wrong. I love them. I listen to podcasts on my walk, but when I don’t have a new episode to listen to, I usually just listen to music. And then I started a free trial of Audible and got two free credits (TWO WHOLE AUDIOBOOKS FOR FREE) and now I’m hooked. I can get even MORE reading done this way. I was unsure of the $15 a month for a while, but hadn’t realized that you get a credit every month with that. So really, it’s just like buying one audiobook a month. I don’t know if I’ll continue, but I’ve been loving it so far. I’ve been listening to Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and preordered Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman.

And that’s my September! I’m very excited for October, as it’s my favorite month of the year, even if I’m upset that it’s already here.

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2017 Favorites: August

August rushed by quicker than any month this year. Going on a vacation in the middle of the month always does that—the first week was planning and packing and getting ready for it, the week after spent catching up and recovering. Then, all of a sudden, August was almost over. Yikes. But in there somewhere, I was able to read a little after BookTube-A-Thon in July and enjoy some music and films. Here were my favorites of August:

Logan

Hands down, this has become my favorite X-Men film in one viewing. It’s violent and rough and raw. It’s heartbreaking. First of all, spoiler alert if you didn’t already know, this was the perfect end to Wolverine’s story arc. Hugh Jackman has played him perfectly for seventeen years and this was the most fitting, perfect end to his time in this cinematic universe. Same with Patrick Stewart’s Xavier, but I have a feeling that won’t be the end of his performances as Professor X. The films itself is beautifully done, the action sequences were incredible—especially with the character of Laura. The young actress playing her was brilliant. I loved every second she as on screen. Everything was just so so so good about this film—except for the end, though I thought was beautiful, just didn’t feel finished. We didn’t see the children Logan was helping reach their destination, only that they all survived and started on their journey again—but to where? They never showed if the place they’d been trying to get to is even real. It didn’t feel completely finished, but in a way, I kind of liked it that way. It lead us to think that the story isn’t completely finished, whether setting up potential sequels/connections for down the road with other films or simply stating that mutants will survive, they’ll continue to be. Either way, it didn’t feel complete. Even so, I loved it. It’s my favorite X-Men film ever.

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Unashamed to say that I’m a Taylor Swift fan. She’s a problematic fave and I love this new persona of hers, even if it’s petty. I’m here for the drama. I’m here for this new sound. I love it all. The video rocked, the song is cool. That chorus is such a dramatic reverse to anything she’s ever done before, unexpected and rad. The song’s not perfect by any means but it sounds good. It’s fun. It’s crazy. I love it.

Malibu – Miley Cyrus

Completely different from the previous favorite, this is a song that came out a long time ago but I haven’t heard yet. Miley Cyrus has swung back around to a more calm, mellow persona (which was so obviously her genius plan to follow the footsteps of other pop stars to make a bigger name for herself) with a new album. The song has a mellow, Sheryl Crow vibe that I love. It’s a perfect summer song (I’m angry I hadn’t heard it ’til late August) that has a beautiful vintage-sounding guitar riff in the chorus that I love.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite young adult authors. Her Grishaverse books (starting with the Shadow & Bone trilogy and then with the Six of Crows duology) are an imaginative world of magic that reminds me of the books I’m writing. I obviously fell in love. And although I really liked the first trilogy set in this world, the duology Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom have hands down been her best work yet. Six of Crows is one of my favorite books of all time and Crooked Kingdom follows close behind. It’s a great book, and because it’s the second, I’m not going to go into too many spoiler details about it, but the story wraps up perfectly in this book and kept me surprised the entire time about the plot. All the characters are so well crafted, the story could’ve gone in any direction, and I probably still would’ve enjoyed it just to spend more time with the characters. It’s so good.

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer

Switching over to an adult book, Vermilion by Molly Tanzer is not a book at first glance that I would’ve chosen. Well, technically it was because I bought it solely for the cover—but if it had had a less beautiful cover, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Not from knowing the surface material: it’s a western. But not just a western, it’s a paranormal, steampunk-esque book about a young woman who dresses as a man and deals with sending ghosts off to the afterlife. Then? I’m totally in. But if I’d known it would’ve been a much more fantasy, queer-heavy, mystery novel, I would’ve read it immediately after purchasing. It’s so so good. I’ve heard word of a sequel and I’m all in. Especially if the covers match and the second is just as beautiful as the first. Then I’m doubly in.

And that’s what I’ve enjoyed in the month of August!

2017 Favorites: April

Alien: Covenant

Alien is one of my favorite horror/space movies of all time. There’s a special place for it in my heart. Though I’m not such a fan of its sequels, I am a huge fan of the recent connected series that began with 2012’s Prometheus and the sequel to it, the upcoming Alien: Covenant. I don’t know where I’ve been, but the trailer for Alien: Covenant has been released for quite a while, but I just found it online. It looks amazing. I can’t wait to find the connections to Prometheus—I know Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace may be reprising their roles, and that there will be a second sequel, set between the first two films with them in it—and a prologue was just released online with them in it. The film looks great and I can’t wait to see it.

Peak

Peak is an app I saw advertised on Instagram. I usually never click on the ads, but it looks interesting, and I’m all for these kinds of games. The app sets up a brain game schedule for you (I chose to do it every day) where you play four games (or if you go Pro, six, which I think is a little too expensive for what it is, but whatever) that help sharpen your mind a little each day. So far, I’ve been gradually making progress with some of the games, and I’m having a lot of fun. It’s basically just really fun puzzles and number and words games that you play, then it tells you how your improving with different skills, like memory, problem solving, and focus, and compares you with others in your age group to see how your doing. It’s mostly just fun.

So Says I – the Shins

I’d heard this song on an episode of Gilmore Girls a long time ago, and with every rewatch of that episode, I like the song more. The band plays it live in a bar in the show and with my recent rewatch of the episode, I just had to find it and buy it. I’m glad I did, because it’s been on repeat the last few weeks—a new favorite that I’d had all along and didn’t know it.

Beowulf

The epic poem taught in high school is boring—but only boring because it’s in your high school english class, which makes everything, no matter what the topic, boring. But reading it for pleasure is a whole other experience. We only read passages during school, and though I did enjoy it at the time, it’s something completely different reading it all together. Seamus Heaney did a brilliant job translating it to modern english for us to enjoy today.

2017 Favorites: February

This past month of February, I’ve enjoyed several new things that I want to share. I have a perfect variety of favorites this month: a YouTube channel, a book, a song, and a film. Here are my February favorites:

Aubrey Aiese’s YouTube Channel

I’ve been subscribed for a while to Aubrey’s channel, HurricaneAubrey, and have enjoyed her videos a lot. She took a long hiatus on her channel, but eight months ago she’s uploaded several videos and vlogs that I found so wonderful to watch (I marathoned her latest on a playlist I made of videos I’d missed over the last few month because of being busy). She’s an artist (she does all the lettering for Lumberjanes!) and lives with her boyfriend, also an incredible artist, in Portland. Like in the video here, she vlogs about her life and the places she goes and the work she’s doing. It’s fun and light and even inspirational to see the life of another artist, how they work and live. I love watching these types of videos from other artists and designers and illustrators, it’s fun to see how other people in your general field of work live and work.

The Bad Beginning

A long time ago, in like the fifth grade, I read the first book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I never finished the series for some reason, even though I enjoyed the book, but I loved the film with Jim Carrey. Now that there’s a Netflix series of the books, I decided to reread the first book and read the rest of the series in time with watching the show. I haven’t started the show yet, as I just finished the first book, but now that I have, I’ll be watching the first two episodes (as the show goes two episodes per book) and will read the rest of the books probably along with watching the show. So this year, I plan on reading the first four books to watch the first season. The book itself, after not having read it in almost fifteen years, is incredible. I mean, it’s terrible, but a really great read. I can’t wait to continue with the rest of the series and finally learn what happens.

Sick of Losing Soulmates – dodie

I recently discovered this song by dodie, a singer song-writer and YouTuber. Sick of Losing Soulmates is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are lovely and emotional, dodie’s voice is soft and wonderful, and the video is A+ incredible.

A Single Man

One of the best films I’ve watched, A Single Man is a beautiful adaptation by Tom Ford (I read the book last summer) and has one of the best performances by Colin Firth I’ve ever seen. The cinematography and the sets are gorgeous, the entire aesthetic of the film is beautiful, highly stylized and vibrant. It makes the day-long story of a man (after having lost the love of his life, Jim, in a car accident) going about his day with the plan of killing himself at the end of it less bleak, though not any less sincere. It’s an incredible, tragic, beautiful film.

Monthly Selections – September 2016

I say this every month, but how in the world is September over already? It’s been a weird month since my last semester of school has started and the small business I co-own launched a new product. Weird and busy. Here’s what I’ve liked this month!

Cheap Thrills

I’ve been a fan of Sia for a while but somehow missed Cheap Thrills when it came out earlier this year. It’s a fun, bouncy song with the catchiest lyrics and I’ve been listening nonstop for weeks. Pop song of the decade. I’m also kind of obsessed with the video.

Fran Meneses

Recently, I’ve been wanting to work on my illustration skills and I’ve been searching for illustrators to follow online and get some inspiration from them. That’s how I found Fran’s Instagram and later her YouTube channel. Her work is amazing, I love her color palette and style. She has a lot of great videos about illustrating and her life on her channel and I’ve been soaking everything in (along with other illustrators I’ve found) as I start on this journey of working on my illustration skills. The video is really great resource for materials and tools that she uses.

ICA Tote Bag

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For the past month, I’ve been using this tote bag to carry my stuff to work and back instead of a backpack. For one thing, my backpack is too big for everyday carrying and I don’t need all the space it has—though it’s the perfect backpack for traveling. I have messenger bags from high school I could use, but they’re waring and even still, too big. With this tote, I can carry my laptop in a sleeve, a book, a binder for work, a charger, and a few smaller things like gum and hand-sanitizer. My favorite part about the bag is that it has long handles and short handles, so if I’m carrying something else, I can sling it over my shoulder to have both hands free. It’s pretty thin fabric and has almost no shape to it, but with my laptop in its sleeve in it, it stays upright enough. And it has, “I care about the environment!” in Swedish, language of my ancestors, so, win-win all around. (I received it at a moving sale of a Swedish man who gave it to me for carrying all the cookbooks I bought.)

Monthly Selections: June + July 2016

Remember that time I had a lot of summer goals? And then remember when I became so busy that all of those plans/goals went out the window? Yeah, well, that happened. But that’s okay! I’m going to pretend I just skipped the last half of June and all of July writing on this blog on purpose and come back swinging with a favorites post for both June and July!

Heathens by 21 pilots

While I wanted to see Suicide Squad at the theater this year, I’m probably going to skip it and rent it later – mostly because I haven’t been seeing any films in the theater lately (unable to carve out the time—or have the money—for it) and also because I heard it wasn’t that great. But the 21 pilots song Heathens featured on the soundtrack is aces. I’ve listened to it non-stop for the last few weeks.

iPhone + Dots & Co

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After years and years of wanting an iPhone, I finally bought a 6s. I’ve been using the worst, oldest slider phone since high school and now that I’ve upgraded, I can’t imagine my life without it and it’s only been a few weeks. I also got a cool marble/geometric phone case from Redbubble.

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Because I’m new to smartphones, I was really excited to find a game to pass the time with on car rides and breaks at work, and I found the perfect game for me: Dots & Co. The design and illustration of the game is exactly up my alley and the game is addicting. I like puzzle games and this one is great, getting more and more complicated/difficult as you go through the levels. The concept is fun and I love playing it—I’m currently on level 41. (Dots & Co doubles as my design obsession this month(s) because I MEAN COME ON LOOK AT IT.)

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BookTube-A-Thon

In July, one of my new favorite summer events is BookTube-A-Thon, a week long read-a-thon created and hosted by Ariel Bissett, one of my favorite Booktubers, that brings the Booktube community, from creators to audience, to join in on the fun. There are different challenges for each day on Instagram and YouTube, and different challenges for the books you have to read. Overall, it’s a whole lot of fun, even if I only read 3.5 books this year compared to my 6.5 books read last year (again, this summer has been insanely busy). There were seven reading challenges: read a book with yellow on the cover, read a book that’s older than you, read and watch a book-to-film adaptation, read a book you heard about from Booktube, read a book from a favorite author, read a book only after sunset, and read seven books. The challenges could be combined with one book or not, it doesn’t matter, it’s all fun! Here are the books I planned to read/completed (bold=completed, italic=halfway completed):

  1. Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K Vaughan (read a book after sunset)
  2. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (read and watch a book-to-film adaptation)
  3. The Time Machine by HG Wells (read a book that’s older than you)
  4. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas (read a book you heard about through Booktube)
  5. Rooms by Lauren Oliver (read a book with yellow on the cover)
  6. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (read a book by a favorite author)
  7. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (read a seventh book)

And those are my monthly selections for June and July! I would have had more, however, I’ve been too busy to really enjoy anything or find anything new. But these were just a few that were favorites the last two months!

Design: Favorites – Updated Album Covers

Like I posted in March, my series of posts about my favorite designs (cover art, title sequences, prints, etc.) need to be updated from time to time to reflect recent favorites that I’ve discovered or forgot about. For this post, I’ll be adding to the original post here about my favorite album covers.

Here are the covers of Birdy’s Beautiful Lies with art-deco-like typography with an image of her, standing in a field, draped in red against a darkening blue sky; Halsey’s Badlands, showing the blue-haired singer among the rocky desert, bold type covering her face with a vintage, textured layer over the image; the band Lucius with Good Grief, the sort of childish cursive type under an image of a woman holding an invisible person, a blip of color in a sea of black; and SOHN’s Tremors, an photograph of a man walking down a dirt road with snow on either side, white smoke climbing out of frame ahead with the large, simple type at the center.

All great album covers, all some of my favorite designs.

Monthly Selections: April 2016

After a busy month, I sort of forgot to keep track of my favorites throughout the month of April like I usually do. But I do remember the following three things that were definitely my favorites the last few weeks, anyway. Here are my selected recommendations/favorites for the month of April!

Amanda McLoughlin

A week ago, I stumbled on this YouTube channel hosted by Amanda McLoughlin, where in the month of April she was doing VEDA (Vlog Every Day in April) with a whole bunch of videos talking about goals, reducing anxiety and stress, budgeting, organizing, meal prepping, being a good host/guest—and those are just the ones I’ve watched so far. Her videos are really helpful, she explains things in an easy-to-understand way—seriously, helping me be a better adult. I instantly subscribed and can’t wait for more. And I have to catch up on the videos I’ve missed! She also co-hosts a podcast called Spirits, which is fantastic.

Coolors.co

In a recent YouTube video by CharliMarieTV, she mentioned this handy website that I fell in love with right away. It’s an incredible website that helps you come up with random color palettes, edit it to your liking or create one from scratch. Super useful and easy to use. And you can export them and download it right to your computer to use them for whatever project you’re working on—I’ve also used it to make a color palette for an interior redesign for paint colors, too.

Here by Alessia Cara

Let’s just say that this song has been on repeat for a week straight and I’ve listened to it upward of a two hundred times. Because this song is so popular right now, I’m surprised I love it so much. Not to say I don’t listen to things that are popular or on the radio—I love me some Top 40—but I’ve never been this obsessed with a song that’s this popular. All of my favorite songs and music is from artists or bands that aren’t popular or on the radio.

This song is fantastic—Alessia Cara is incredibly talented, as a former introverted-teen I relate to the lyrics a whole lot, and I’ll be honest, I’ve had a lot of fun learning the words to sing along with it while alone in the car. There, I said it. It’s a difficult song to sing along to—holy breath control—and I’m proud of myself for being able to do it while remembering the lyrics at the same time.

Design Obsession:

These labels for Harvest Moon juices and shakes reminds me of the same illustration style of Rifle Paper Co. Perfect color palette, great illustrations, awesome design, and a killer typeface that I’m in love with and want right now.

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Monthly Selections: December 2015

I don’t understand how it’s already December. Okay, I do. Time moves fast when you’re moving so quick. It’s been such a busy month—no, year. I started a business, had two part-time jobs (caring for my nephew—no longer because of time; working at a restaurant—summer only), began the start of another design-related business on my own, and attempted to keep up with writing my book. And I balanced school all in there, too. The fall semester is over and I can finally take a nice long breath until schools picks back up in February.

This post will also be my last post of the year! I started this blog in March for school and kept it going because I really started to enjoy it—a lot. This is the longest I’ve ever kept up with a blog, after many attempts, and I think it has something to do with the content I’m making here, being a great interest of mine. I have many plans and ideas for 2016 here on the blog.

Anyway—the point of this post is what I’ve been loving this month. I have THREE great things to share. Two podcasts and a song.

I’ve recently been getting into podcasts, a still very new medium to me. I hadn’t liked them before because I never had free time to just sit and listen to something. While writing, I can’t import information and export different information at the same time. I’m not a computer. But I’ve been having a lot of menial, low-thought tasks and decided to give them a try. Man, I made a great decision.

Here are two of my new faves:

The first is called Design Life. Its hosts are designers Charli and Femke, who talk about design and their obsession with side projects. Obviously, a perfect fit for me. I found out about it because I watch Charli’s videos on YouTube (so good, check them out through the link above). Their incredibly smart and informative, and it’s a great listen. Best part: they just started recently, and you could catch up real easy. Find it on iTunes, every Monday. Trust me on this, it’s good stuff.

Second is more of a conversational, comedic podcast called People Watcher. It’s hosted by CJ Bisset, who takes questions/topic suggestions from the podcasts email (I should probably send something in, but I always forget—maybe now that I have more time I will) and just talks. He tells stories, asks questions, is very funny. His YouTube videos are great too—he’s a musician and all-around hilarious guy. I suggest the 10 Minutes at a Time videos (the birthplace of the podcast, really) because his sister Ariel (also great videos about books and things!) makes some hilarious cameos. Listening to his podcast just makes me happy, it puts a smile on my face and I look forward to it every Tuesday(ish and sometimes Fridays).

Next up: a modern Christmas song.

Karmin is a fantastic duo that started on YouTube (this post is VERY YouTube heavy. Can you tell I watch a lot?) and are incredible. This modern take on the classic Christmas song Baby It’s Cold Outside. It’s song not as a duet, but as a singlet (is that a word? there’s no red squiggle under it, so it’s staying) with backing vocals by lead singer Amy.

Basically it’s amazing and after the first 10 seconds (those DRUMS) I paused it, searched for it on iTunes, bought it, then continued listening. I just love new takes on old Christmas songs.

And that’s all for 2015! I hope you have a great holiday season and a happy new year!

Design: Favorites – Album Covers

Music is a large part of my everyday life. I listen to it while I work, whether that’s writing or designing or doing homework or writing blog posts (currently listening to: Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes) and I’m always looking for new music. I often get tired of songs after so many repeated plays—except for selected favorites that I can listen to over and over and over again.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart (music change: Can’t Sleep Love by Pentatonix) for album covers. I even remember making a cover for mine and my sister’s adventure of starting a band when we were eleven or so—neither of us can play an instrument and only she can sing. It lasted a day. I made a few other covers for fun, mostly for fictional bands or re-creating covers of actual albums (music change: Only if For a Night by Florence + the Machine). Most of these were awful and are now forever dead and buried.

Here are some of my favorite actual album covers from my iTunes library:

Some thoughts:

Laura Mvula’s cover for Sing to the Moon is gorgeous. It’s so simple, a beautiful photo with minimal typography. Incredible.

Pentatonix’s album cover is fun! I love the use of color and transparency, overlapping the images. Against the white, it just pops.

(music change: Easy by Son Lux)

Speaking of, the Son Lux album (song is on a different album) is so great. I like anything that features interesting photography as its main element and this photo of what appears to be florescent light bulbs with colored powder flying through the air. Really cool.

For Gotye’s, I like the story behind it. I watched a documentary he made of making that album and (music change: A Tooth for an Eye by The Knife) he said with the cover, he’d found old art that his father had made and he repurposed it to create that cover, digitally touching it up and making it more symmetrical. I really like the texture of the original paper and paint—using physical tools and methods and art to create a photograph is interesting and something I’d like to explore more.

There’s a few other albums along with these in the gallery. All of them have something unique that I really like, something that appeals to me for some reason.

Hope you enjoyed both the covers and the music recommendations sprinkled through the post. Peace out, dude.