& the slipper still fits

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.