Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Technology is amazing, isn't it? Did you know you can now watch the ball drop live over the internet? Granted, it's not time-delayed, like I'm used to on tv, but in a way, this is even better! Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 Resolutions Blog Hop

I was recently reviewing my GoodReads account and realized I've only finished 22 books this year! Twenty-two!! That's... like... crazy talk. Seriously. When I was 12, I could easily finish 22 books in one month. Granted, my life is busier now and the books I read tend to be longer, but still...

If anyone's curious, I read 27 books in 2012, 22 books in 2011, and 13 books in 2010. This is an alarming trend, people!

One realization I've been coming to is that I spend far too much time zoning out in front YouTube, television, The Sims, Solitaire... basically anything on my computer or phone that could be considered fun. And while there's nothing wrong with fun, I think perhaps I need to put fun back in it's rightful place.

So... I'm going to try an experiment. I'm starting this week, even though it's not the New Year yet, because if I don't start now I never will. This is a modified version of my previous technology fast, in case you were wondering. Here's my plan:

Goal #1 - No zoning out on digital media during the week.

This includes video games, scanning FB/Twitter outside of actual communication purposes, watching tv, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube for hours on end, etc. Because I run an online business (or two, or three), I cannot actually NOT go online, but I can definitely limit the types of activities I do and when/how much I do them.

Goal #2 - Limit Email/ FB/ Twitter communications to once or twice a day.

When I hear the ding of a new message, I have to check it... or do I? I am going to attempt to batch-check my messages once or twice a day to hopefully avoid the time-suck that is responding to messages. I've turned off most of the random alerts on my iPhone and moved all the apps with alert badges (like Mail, FB, etc) to back screens. This way I'm not tempted to check my messages the second they come in, but rather when I actually decide to sit down and think about them.

Goal #3 - No screens in bed.

This means no listening to podcasts to try to put myself to sleep and no designing webpages while not at my desk. As comfy as doing these things is, I think it is actually contributing to my insomniac tendencies because when I lay down to sleep my mind starts getting excited about all the different media or projects I want to consume/ work on. I may have to allow watching TV in bed because I do that on my laptop and no one really wants to watch TV while sitting in a desk chair, but everything else will be done elsewhere.

Goal #4 - Limit binge-digital-consumption to weekends.

I won't attempt to quit technology cold-turkey. I like it and it's fun, so...

This rule goes along with rule #1. Basically I'm going to limit my tv-binge-watching and my Sims 3 marathon-playing-sessions to the weekends, along with all other "fun" media consumption. If I find myself running out of time to "get everything done", this may be a good clue that I don't need to watch or play everything. Lol.

Goal #5 - READ more books!

All the previous rules were made with the intention of freeing up time to work on the things that I have been wanting to get to but never feel like I have enough time to do. First up on this list... reading! I hope that by curbing my always-connected-ness to technology, I can actually re-build my concentration-on-reading powers. Also hopefully I can clear out a bunch of the half-read books on my shelf. Lol. I have a bad habit of beginning books and then forgetting about them because I only read about once a month. No more!

Goal #6 - Design more.

Seeing as how I'm trying to be a graphic/web designer, I probably should put more thought into designing things, right? Lol. I do design quite a bit, but I think a more regular concentration of energy on this would be a good thing. I have so many "to do" projects I want to design (sample websites, etc) that it would definitely be good for me to have a regular habit of "business hours" where I can concentrate on this, rather than getting around to it after I binge-watch my shows for the day. ;)

Goal #7 - Exercise, photograph, pray, shower, and hydrate more.

This the "everything else" rule. I tend to get stuck in my rut of being a couch potato, to the exclusion of everything else, so I want to try to be healthier, more active, and more focused on God this year. I don't have specific goals for these areas really... just the awareness that I need to make more of an effort in these areas. Feeding my creative and spiritual appetites can only breed good things, and showering and drinking more water is always a good idea. ;)


What are your 2014 resolutions?

Link up below and grab a button to tell people about it!

Living the Creative Life 2014 New Years Resolution Link Up

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Ultimate Web Design Resource List

I was recently asked for a list of my favorite web design tutorials, and... well... I got a little carried away. So, here's my ultimate web design resource list! Merry Christmas!

Basic Development Platforms

Blogger: This one is free and very versatile, since you have full access to both the HTML structure of the site, as well as the CSS style sheets. They have a WYSIWYG editor, as well as a custom CSS editor, making it extremely easy to customize a basic blog or site very quickly.

Wordpress: Though the basic software is free, this one does require you to purchase hosting. I personally find Wordpress cumbersome and annoying to code, but it can be extremely robust and versatile if you know what you're doing. There are many, many free and paid templates to choose from, which can give you a good starting ground for designing a site. (Or if you'd rather design a completely custom site, there are many people who specialize in coding Wordpress sites from scratch, which can be a solution if you feel like paying someone to code your designs into reality).

--> Some great WP themes can be purchased here: Studio Press (Genesis Framework) & Elegant Themes

Squarespace: This is my new favorite web development platform. They have many very attractive templates that you can start with, but they also all have CSS access, which makes each base template very versatile. This service does charge a basic hosting fee, but no more than you'd pay for a Wordpress-based site, and every template is mobile-responsive!

Classes, Tutorials, Etc

Tuts Plus: A very extensive tutorial website for just about anything you'd want to know regarding design, coding, and web development. They have a lot of written tutorials and also quite a few video tutorials. (Click the drop-down arrow next to the site logo for a list of all the categories they offer).

Pugly Pixel: I've taken the CSS: Pretty ecourse from her and found it extremely helpful. It's a video course that is extremely helpful for wrapping your head around basic CSS edits. She designs mainly on Blogger, but these skills would be helpful anywhere you can use CSS. (She has another very helpful tutorial here for creating a quick static site (no blog) on Blogger.)

Udemy (Instructor: Rob Cubbon): I have taken most of this guy's courses on Wordpress and found them pretty helpful. This site also has other courses of many types (and prices), so could be a useful and interesting place to look around.

A Beginner's Guide to HTML/CSS: This site is a pretty good resource if you're still trying to figure out the basics of web coding. It is pretty well organized and doesn't go into unnecessarily nerdy detail about anything.

Treehouse: I have not actually used this site, but they appear to have pretty good (paid) courses for web design. It starts at two weeks free, then $25 a month, so it may be worth it sign up for a month and cram as much into your brain as you can.

W3 School: This free site has a very thorough library of CSS coding snippets & tutorials. Also has other coding languages as well, for when you feel up to learning beyond the basics.

Canvas: This is an interesting site that has all kinds of university-level classes on it, most of them free.

Blog Designers Network: These cost money, but they do offer several classes on Wordpress developing specifically. I haven't personally taken any of these classes, but they look like they'd be good.


Adobe Creative Cloud: Sign up with your student id and you can get a very sweet deal for the entire line of Adobe products. Best of all, you'll always have the latest version without having to re-buy them!

Harvest: I highly, highly recommend this service/software if you are going to be billing clients at all. It does have a small monthly fee, but it saves me soooooo much time. Besides having great client organization tools (including estimates and invoices that you can email to clients), they have a great time-tracking tool to help you keep track of how long your projects are going.

Mail Chimp / AWeber: These are the two most-used newsletter systems. If you are planning on building a web design business and want to maintain a mailing list, these are two great ways to construct and send out your newsletters.

Coffitivity: This site doesn't really have anything to do with design, but it does help make the atmosphere you design in much more conducive to thinking. It's basically a white-noise generator of coffee-shop sounds, which can be very helpful if you're trying to design in an environment of irritating and interrupting noises. They also now have a downloadable version that you can use on your computer without needing to be online.

Skitch: If you're on a Mac, I can't recommend the old version of this software enough. (And I highly recommend against the new version - it was recently bought out by Evernote and they completely changed all it's functionality). Skitch is a photo-annotating software, but what I mainly use it for is for quickly resizing/cropping photos. When I'm in a hurry and don't feel like opening up Photoshop, Skitch is my favorite way to quickly resize/crop a photo for a web design project.

CSS Tricks

Removing padding from the Blogger headers: This is a great little trick for creating better looking Blogger blog designs. It's also just basic CSS, so the principle is good to know and can be applied in other web design areas as well.

CSS Sticky Footer: This tip is wonderful for basic site designs where you've got control of the CSS/HTML (ie: Blogger or some Wordpress templates). Makes the footer of your page stick to the bottom of the screen, no matter where you're looking on the page.

Make Any Widget Sticky: This is another helpful one for designing on Blogger, especially. Learn how to make any of the built-in widgets stick to the top of the page, even when you scroll down!

CSS (and other code) Snippets: This site has many interesting articles, but it also has this helpful section of code snippets so you can find quite a few helpful bits of code in one place without having to search all over the internet for them.

Cheat Sheet for Blogger CSS code snippets: I usually just use "Inspect Element" to figure out which bits I want to change on a Blogger design, but if you'd rather have some of the basic edits listed out for you, this page can be very helpful.

Fonts & Font Helps

Flipping Typical: Hands down one of the best time-savers you'll ever use for typography. This site scans all the fonts you have installed on your computer and shows you an example of what your text will look like in every single one of those fonts. This is an excellent way to quickly browse your font library to choose the best fonts for the job you're working on.

Font Awesome: I love this very unique webfont and use it mainly for creating social media icons, though they do have quite a few other symbols as well. You can install it on any site you're building and then style it with CSS to make icons that look any way you want. (I'm using them in my sidebar right now ----->). Best thing is, because each symbol is a font instead of an image file, they're vector graphics and will look good no matter how large you re-size them!

Font Squirrel: This is my go-to site for free, commercial-use fonts. Anything you find here, you are allowed to use in client designs, which makes it that much easier to find what you need and get back to work. (They also have a web-font generator that helps give you the code you need to use your desktop fonts on the web).

Google Fonts: This is a rather large web font library that has a lot of good, quick, free options for fonts to use in web projects.

Lost Type: This site has some very unique fonts that you won't find elsewhere... and they let you name your price. If you're looking for cutting-edge and unique typography, this is the place to go.

Other Web Design Helps

iPad Peek / iPhone Peek: See what your website looks like on a mobile browser. Great for when you're building a mobile-responsive site and want to see what it will look like on various devices.

Lorem Pixel: Get randomly-generated images to use as placeholders in your designs. (Here's a similar site that uses randomly-generated kitten images instead).

Special ASCII Characters: If you happened to need to know the HTML code for character symbols like the em dash, this is the place to get that information.

Textures, Clip Art, & Other Resources

The Ink Nest: Some very cute and quirky clip art, vector frames, etc, all royalty-free, so great for client work!

147 Colors: I absolutely love this site and use it all the time. It has 147 CSS names for colors that you can use anywhere you are coding CSS. Instead of using a hex#, try using one of these color names instead!

Subtle Patterns: This is another free site that I use regularly. They have many, many subtle pattern tiles that work excellently for site backgrounds. I love adding these to give a bit of texture to a site that might be otherwise pretty plain and boring.

Etsy: There are many freelance designers (myself included) that sell great patterns, clip arts, and vector elements (many of them instantly downloadable as soon as you purchase them). While you do have to dig a little to find what you're looking for, this is a great place to find unique elements.

Adobe Kuler: This site feels a little dorky to me for some reason, but it can be a good place to send clients when you need them to choose a color scheme for your project. (Design Seeds is another similar site).

Download Free Vector: A rather dated-looking website, but if you dig, you can sometimes find some great free vector elements.

Vector Stock: This not-free vector library has some great options if you have a little money to spend. It's like a stock-photography site, only for vector art.

Background Labs: You can sometimes find some very fun backgrounds for web designs here. If you're looking for something bright and colorful, this is a good place to browse. They also have some interesting brick and wood textures, which can come in handy.

Design Articles & Reading

A List Apart: This is a fascinating blog/site that talks all about design, web design, being in the business of web design, etc. They also occasionally have web design tutorials, which can be helpful.

Graphic Design Blender: Great articles to read on the subject of building your graphic design business.

The Deep End Design: An interesting blog and podcast, dedicated to helping freelance designers understand the business a bit better.

Digital Point: A forum for web design and online marketing. Can be a great place to ask questions and/or learn something from other people's questions.

Update 1/8/2014:
Sorry guys, but I'm closing the comments on this post. I've been getting LOADS of spam on this particular blog post, for some reason, and I'm tired of moderating it. Thanks for understanding! :)

New Blog Designs

Here are a few client blogs that I've been working on recently. Thought you might enjoy seeing what I've been designing!

View this design in action.

View this design in action.

If you'd like your own blog or small business website designed, reserve a spot on my calendar today!
I'm now booking for January and February!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Recent Life Updates

Hello! Sorry for my few and far between posts lately. I'll try to be better about that.

To catch you up... My previous job situation got downsized after about 2 weeks, so since then, I've been either looking for work (which is surprisingly exhausting, if you've ever done it), building up my Etsy design shop, flushing out my business website, and also helping my dad with his job (a night-time route delivering the LA Times).

On the paper route

My neice turned one years old a couple weeks ago. Time sure flies! She's crawling now and starting to learn to stand while holding on to things.

Rachel's First Birthday

The weirdest thing about living in Southern California to me is that it never really got to be winter here! We had one week where it got into the 30's at night, but for the most part, it's been fluctuating between the 40's and the 70's (night & day, respectively). Last week we even got into the 80's! That definitely makes it a little more difficult to get into the Christmas spirit, but the lights on everyone's houses around town does help.

Carlita investigating the Christmas tree.

It actually rained Thursday, which was nice. Made me feel right at home! The newspaper called it a storm and people I talked to around town called it a downpour, but we Oregonians would call it a sprinkle. Lol. Still, it was refreshing and envigorating, as rain after a long, dry spell can be, and it made for a pretty photographic moment when the sun peaked out again!

Sunshine after the rain

Friday, December 20, 2013

5 Things Every Woman Should Know How To Do

Originally published as a guest over at a la Mode:

Five things every woman should know how to do:

#1 -- Fry an egg

No really. There's something awesome about knowing how to make the perfect fried egg. It's gotten to the point where I don't even like eating eggs other people have made because I like how mine taste better.

#2 -- Pin stuff on Pinterest

Because it's fun. And relaxing. And a great artistic feeding ground.
I am learning that, as an artist, it's very important to feed my inner artistic self or I will not be able to be very creative. For some reason this is easier said than done. I think maybe we artists get used to being depressed and "blocked" so much that we forget that the quickest way out of it is to inspire yourself with other people's creativity. One free way to feed your creativity is by curating a Pinterest stream that speaks to your sense of wonder and imagination!

#3 -- Go to the movies alone

Okay as an introvert, I actually enjoy this... prefer it even. But I really think every woman could benefit from having the strength to do things on her own. Going places w/ friends, boyfriends, family is fine... but you're always seeing these places and things through their eyes. When you go places by yourself, everything looks and feels differently. It can be very envigorating!

#4 -- Generate passive income

I'm not particularly good at this yet, but I keep trying! Passive income is when you continue getting paid for something long after you stop working at it (as opposed to getting paid only for the hours you show up to your job). Example include, e-books, digital downloads (like on Etsy), or even rent from a roommate or tenant. The point is to free up time for you to do other, more fun things... like travel! Because really, who wants to be stuck in a cubicle the rest of their life?

#5 -- Sit still

Again, not something I'm particularly good at. I used to be. I think. I sort of grew out of the ability to sit still without constantly thinking about something, but it's something I wish I were better at. I always sort of feel guilty whenever I have down-time, which really makes the down-time not so relaxing (and kind of ruins the point of down-time, don't you think?). I blame it on the always-on technology feast I gorge myself on daily.
Sitting still, daydreaming, people-watching... etc... can be a great way to give your brain some downtime. Which, from what I've read, is something that your brain really needs in order to function at it's peak abilities. It's a myth that working harder, faster, and with more multi-tasking will improve your performance in things. You actually need rest regularly for your brain to get it's productive surge again!
So it's okay. I promise. I give you permission to sit around and do nothing this afternoon. Your brain will thank you for it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Looking for new Web Design Clients!

I've been working hard this week pulling my new business website together. After trying to make a design blog work, I realized that's not really what I want my site to be about. I want it to be professional and clean and ready to sell myself to clients! So....

J. Maloney Design - website design Santa Clarita California

I of course will still build Blogger blogs when I get those requests, but I am expanding my offerings to include mobile-responsive Squarespace-based websites as well! Squarespace is so much easier to manage than Wordpress (at least, in my opinion) and every site built on Squarespace version 6 is automatically mobile-responsive, which is amazing!

I look forward to working with small businesses, indie artists, and small-town churches who haven't built their own site yet! Is that you or do you know someone who that sounds like? I'd appreciate it so much if you could help me spread the word!

Visit my site.

Update 1/8/2014:
Sorry guys, but I'm closing the comments on this post. I've been getting LOADS of spam on this particular blog post, for some reason, and I'm tired of moderating it. Thanks for understanding! :)
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