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Easy DIY Facemask with Filter Pocket

Hey, all! So with the craziness of COVID-19, medical personnel are incredibly lacking in surgical masks, partly due to factory closures in China and partly due to increase demand by the public and hoarding. To make up for the lack of supplies, there have been multiple requests for capable members of the community to make masks.

Well, TO ARMS, CRAFTERS! If we cosplayers, crafty people, and sewists gather our resources, dig through our tremendous caches of supplies, and supports our communities! If you don’t have these supplies, or there is just a thing or two you’re missing, I’ve got a handy dandy list for you. (And, by the by, I definitely suggest utilizing Amazon or other online service. Most stores are out of elastic because of this project. And, of course, if you don’t have to go out, stay home.)

This post may contain affiliate links to help me pay to keep this blog on the web. For more on that, check here.

Materials:

Tools:

You need one (1) piece of your main fabric that is 11″ x 8″. You will need to cut two (2) pieces of your lining or inner fabric that are 8″ x 5″. Putting this together is really easy, and is a GREAT beginner sewing project. (You can even use this as a home economics lesson during quarantine lock down!) You need to be able to do is measure, cut and sew a straight line, use an iron, and fold pleats similar to folding a paper fan.

Video Instructions: (psst, watch till the end! <3 )

It’s really as easy as that!

You can also add an optional channel in the top of the mask if you want to add some wire to better conform it to your nose. (However, I’ve found that it’s not necessary for a good fit.) You will add the channel prior to sewing the pleats, and after sewing the three pieces of fabric together. At the top of the mask, sew a rectangle with one short side open to allow you to slid the piece of wire into. The wire should be about 1 1/4″ long. With your needlenose pliers, round the ends to prevent them from poking through the fabric. Slide the wire into the channel, then simply sew it closed before moving onto the pleats.

After you’ve sewn up your mask, you can cut a portion of a vacuum filter bag to aid in filtering out particles. (A study was done and found that vacuum bags are nearly as effective as surgical masks.) But because the internet is a weird place, I’m letting you know that I am not a doctor, a scientist, or in any profession to make a professional recommendation about the ability of these things to protect you or others and I encourage to use common sense and ask a professional and also don’t sue me if you get sick kthxbai.

And now you are ready to make your own mask!

Please share to help others!

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Main Street Balloon Ears Are Coming!!!

If you aren’t following the many website dedicated to publishing Disney news as soon as possible, you might have missed this AMAZING development: BALLOON MOUSE EARS ARE COMING!!!

As of right now, prices and release are still hidden behind that mystical curtain, but with official promotional images already out, I would hope we get to see these beauties soon!

Do you have a Disney trip and just can’t wait for a fresh set of ears? Check out these! Two-day shipping is always nice when you get the scratch for some new magic.

So what do you think?

Will these be the hot new item? I expect to see a lot of these come spring. (I definitely want them for my personal collection.) Will you be shelling out for these fresh new head decorations? Tell me in the comments!

P.S. Did you know? This blog runs exclusively off the money I earn from Amazon links. It doesn’t change the price for you, but as a thank you for directing you to their site, Amazon pays me a small percentage for each purchase made after a click (even if it isn’t for the item highlighted!). So what does that mean? It means whenever you click one of my links to amazon, and make a purchase for anything off Amazon, you’re helping to keep this blog running month to month. SO THANK YOU! <3

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Streaming Gear: The Best Deals

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, streaming has completely changed the way consumers experience entertainment, and in turn, has totally rocked the entertainment industry. And with the popularity and easy access to the platform (you only need a smartphone to start streaming) and the ridiculous amounts of success it has enabled (Ninja, popular Fortnite streamer, made nearly $10 million in 2018 and advanced in 2019 to a total net worth of $15 million and rising), more and more gaming enthusiasts are hoping to turn their hobby into a stream of income (no pun intended).

While streaming can certainly be as simple as downloading a streaming app to your phone and giving it a go, there are a few pieces of equipment that can take it from home video quality to a stream with crispy graphics, quality sound, and professional transitions. The content, though, is completely up to you!

This post may contain affiliate links to help me pay to keep this blog on the web. For more on that, check here.

Control Deck

A control is essentially a small additional keyboard that you use to program commands for your stream, like playing a sound, starting a screen transition, muting your mic, turning your camera on or off, etc. The possibilities are only limited by what your streaming program can handle and how many buttons your control deck keyboard has.

Many professionals opt for the Elgato Stream Deck. Because it is a popular option, there is a lot on online support and tutorials that show you how you can really maximize your new tool. But for beginning streamers, it might be too much of an investment.

If you want the functionality of the stream deck and don’t mind a bit of DIY, you can easily set up custom commands on any additional keyboard pad like the ones below!

  1. The ELSRA USB keypad can be programmed to do basic shortcuts for your streaming at less than HALF the cost of the Elgato Stream Deck. Bonus: it has clear keys so you print your own button layouts so you can completely customize the way it looks!

2. Use the Touch Portal app with your smartphone or tablet.

While this does require that you already have a tablet or smartphone that you can dedicate during streams to just this function, the app has a free version that let’s you do a lot, and working within the app is simple and easy to understand, even for a novice streamer.

If you don’t have a tablet or you need to have your phone accessible and want some more screen real estate, I highly recommend an ipad. A basic ipad is only twice the price of the Elgato stream deck, and it has many more functions than just being a streaming control deck.

My favorite option is the ipad pro. I absolutely love all the things I can do on it, from composing music, to creating art, it’s a powerhouse of a tablet that makes my workflow so much easier. Surprisingly, amazon actually has the best deal currently (even considering my military discount with Apple). While it is definitely going to be the most expensive thing on the list, for the price, you’re getting every single penny’s worth. I use it to do my merch design, manage my storefronts, social media hubs, and so much more. If you have an artist on your hands, pairing it with the apple pencil turns your ipad into a draw on tablet. Similar products marketed to artists are upwards of three GRAND. Imagine my delight when I found the experience on the ipad pro in ProCreate nearly a seamless transition from pencil on paper drawing. It is SUCH a joy to use!

While that might be too much of an investment for a budding streamer, you could always opt to using your current phone, tablet, or even old smartphone without cell service to host the app to get a feel for it before making a large dollar investment.

Microphone

You can often get away as a streamer without using a camera at all. But you absolutely will not gain followers if listening to your stream is a chore. Most gaming and headset microphones won’t cut it for the competitive world of streaming. But the good news is that getting a quality sound is a lot less expensive these days!

If you’ve seen me in stream, then you have definitely seen this bad boy in the corner. This is my beloved Yeti mic by Blue, aka the Blue Yeti.

The sound from this is so incredibly crispy. It has multiple functions so you can get the balance just right for your streaming location, whether it’s a corner of your bedroom or an office all to yourself. I often get compliments on how clear my mic sounds when I use this while gaming instead of my headset. And since it is USB, you can also use it with a console!

If that’s a little outside of your budget, then be sure to check out it’s little brother, the Snowball!

It runs about half to less than half of the Blue Yeti and is still a massive improvement over a headset mic. And don’t forget to use your Amazon Prime benefits – free shipping and returns! So if it doesn’t work for your set up, you can easily return it. (Psst! If you aren’t sure if Amazon Prime is right for you, click here for a free 30-day trial. It’s a great time of year to give it a go!)

Before you invest in something brand new, be sure to check for opened box deals. You can score DEEP discounts on used or opened electronics. The stock is always changing, so it’s a good idea to check often. You can click here to see what is available. And if you’re in the market specifically for a camera, you can find it here.

Aesthetics

Making your stream look good can be very simple or very complicated. From green screens, to overlays, the options are as endless as your imagination and budget. But one easy way to make it look great it to use LED tape. Even something like your bedroom suddenly looks like a high tech gaming center!

This LED tape has a self adhesive 3m backing that makes putting it up really easy. Even if I wasn’t a streamer, I would have wanted this YEARS ago because it’s FREAKING COOL. I mean, can you imagine having your room and door outlined in sweet LEDs? It would have been the coolest thing ever when I was 14 (and I’m not so secretly excited about pimping out my workspace now at 33). And at under $50, it’s going to make a HUGE impression on your ambitious streamer!

Extras

As a digital illustrator, blogger, and streamer, I sit in front of screens a LOT. Combine that with my favorite form of entertainment (video games) that’s a lot time spent looking at screens. I was getting eye fatigue very easily. I got myself a pair of blue light blocking lenses, and it really does help!

Because I also have glasses, I got these fit over style glasses. They look great over my prescription lenses or if I’m wearing contacts. This a great gift for anyone who is a computer most of the day!

Well, there you have it. Some of my favorite bargain accessories for successful streamers and content creators. If you were going to add something to this list, what would it be? Let me know in the comments. Have an awesome day!

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script
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Tampa Bay Comic Con

Tampa Bay Comic Con this year (2019) was so much fun! It is also a bit of a home-base convention for me; in 2014 I went to TBCC for the first time, and in 2015, it was my first troop with the Tampa Bay Squad of the 501st Legion. So it was only fitting to bring it all around and this year, go back to Florida and troop on the home front.

This year, our (the 501st’) presence at TBCC was aimed at raising funds for The Peter Mayhew Foundation.

The Peter Mayhew Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, suffering, and the financial toll brought on by life’s traumatic events. By providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need, we assist numerous charitable organizations in order to promote and boost their effectiveness and provide support where needed.

http://petermayhewfoundation.org/
Me and R2-D2 ready to work for the Legion!

When we show up at larger conventions that allow us space, we love to show you with actual props a bit of what it is we do! You’ve probably seen Stormtroopers walking around and assumed it was us, and you might be right; with over 14,000 active members across the globe, you have probably seen us! But we do more than dress up like plastic spacemen on the weekends. We are a 100% volunteer charity support group. We donate our time, our talents, and money to work on movie replica costumes, props, and even sets. We then use those to educate the public about our organization, visit children and families in the hospital, do birthday parties, weddings – you name it! We never charge for our appearances, and money earned goes right back into the community, either locally or the larger, overarching global community of charities that we support. To learn more about what we do, how we can show up for your event, or how you can be a part of the magic, go here! https://www.501st.com/

My favorite part of working the table is encouraging guests to play in our trash.

When I was not at the 501st table interacting with guests, I was able to be a nerd and fully immerse myself in the amazing art, merch, and cosplays that were all over!

Look at this AMAZING Vanellope!!!
Die, die, die!

Each convention I’ve been to has a little bit of a different flavor, but you can expect to see the usual: an artist alley, where people display and sell their own, unique creations. This year, I bought a mimic keychain a la Dungeons & Dragons, an enamel pin set, a pair of clay polymer lollipop earrings (perfect for Jester!) and an awesome woodblock print of Majora’s mask. There are booths with assorted merch (though I personally tend to stick to purchasing original artist’s wares) and plenty of collectibles. And of course, there are awesome cosplays! Check the events at whatever convention you are attending. You could spend your entire day shopping, but if a giant, geek-themed flea market isn’t your type of a good time, be sure to check out the special guests or go to one of the many events that also take place. Some conventions even have gaming areas, where you can learn a new game or meet some new players for a game you already love. (And yes, board games, card games, video games, role playing games, all of it are included!)

This man looked SO MUCH like Gibbs from NCIS, particularly in profile.
And check out this details!!!
The 90s kid in me was FREAKING OUT.

The food at a convention varies. Check the website if you have certain nutritional needs or food allergies. Most conventions don’t allow you to take in your own food or drinks. BUT! You can take in an empty water bottle, which is what I recommend. With water and a CAN of soda running you a minimum of $4, it makes good sense to bring a bottle that you can confidently fill up at any water fountain for FREE. I recommend this Brita filter bottle for the price, but the LifeStraw bottle is great option for a little more (and the filters are easier to find, I’ve noticed). For TBCC, with so many amazing eateries in walking distance, it just makes sense to go for a nice mid-con walk and get some local cuisine. Just make sure you have an umbrella or poncho just in case! (As I was leaving for the night, the skies opened up!)

And this reminds me of another VERY IMPORTANT tip I have, especially for you art collectors: get yourself a POSTER TUBE. It will keep it from getting bent, which is what will most likely happen at a con if you shove it in a bag. And it will also keep it from getting wet when properly capped. Trust me. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll find something you’ll fall in love with enough to take home (you will), bring the poster tube. Just do it. For under $20, you can ensure your prized piece of art makes it home where you can put it up for everyone to enjoy. And finally, a tip you may not remember until after you need it, but here it is:

And that’s a wrap on what to expect at TBCC and how to enjoy it! Stay tuned for some awesome vendor highlights! Y’all, there are some goodies you will NOT want to miss!!!

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script
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Get Lost, Millennials: Disney Isn’t For You

No magic for you!

If you’re on Facebook at all, then you have probably seen a rather angry article floating around about the evils of childless millennials taking over Disney world. The expletive-laced tirade stated,

“It pisses me off TO NO END!!!!! when I see CHILDLESS COUPLES WITHOUT AT DISNEY WORLD!!!!” as well as the exceptionally articulate, “People without CHILDREN need to be BANNED!!!!! Mothers with children should be allowed to skip ALL THE LINE!!!”

And you know what, sassy no-doubt sunburned mother of an impatient pretzel craving deviant?

I agree with you.

You, dear lady clearly in need of some therapy, have made some fantastic points. Disney and its variety of attractions are most certainly not meant for millennials or couples without children. (By the by, I’m terribly sorry my infertile womb disappointed you. To be fair, it’s been disappointing me for years. And here I was thinking the worst of it was the miscarriage. I’ve since recanted my statement and hereby declare your mouse-shaped pretzel debacle to be the clear winner in heartache.) One good look around Disney will clearly prove this anonymous crier’s point: Look to the expensive Dooney & Burke goods themed with cartoon characters and silhouettes of Minnie. Clearly those $100+ price tags were meant for your seven year old. The variety of food and adult bevies during the ever popular Food & Wine festival are 100% sans liquor, entirely child safe and pitched in such a way that no adult would ever dare crave them.

Maybe I’ve got the idea wrong, here. Maybe what she wanted was a section that was segregated, where parents with small, helpless, and clearly impatient children should be kept safe from the throngs of millennials and childless couples of any ages who paid the exact same amount for their admission as she did. (Personally, I support this idea. Please separate us from the parents with children. PLEASE.)

To be honest, I think that the premise isn’t drastic enough. Disney isn’t not just for “childless millennials,” but it also isn’t for children.

Disney is not for children.

In fact, I have a strong suspicion with a LOT of evidence that says Disney was never intended for humans at all. Everywhere you look there are anthropomorphic and stylized animals! Bears, pigs, tigers . . . Even a BEAST. There are houses for ducks, dogs, chipmunks, and I have personally danced with a fox and a rabbit. And none of this takes into account the sheer HOARDS OF MICE. I mean, THERE ARE MICE EVERYWHERE!!! You can’t go into a single portion of any park and not see something of a mouse. Symbols are even cleverly hidden throughout every park. Whether it was written by a previous civilization warning us of their evils, or some form of alien communication, or some sort of cult, I don’t know. But I do know this: IT IS EVERYWHERE. It is INFESTED, I tell you!

In the linked article above, author Johnny Oleksinski has even more faults to find with millennials: we choose to spend our money on things he doesn’t think are cultured:

“But another oft ignored problem with letting a kids brand control your adult life is the stupidity and culture ignorance it leads to. You’re skipping great films such as “Booksmart” and “The Farewell” to relive second grade. And your annual (or more, God help us) trip to Disney World costs as much — and more in some cases — than a trip to Europe, South America or Canada, where you would meet people different from yourself. People for whom the only color of the wind is see-through. Fanny-pack-less people.”

Yes, this “kids brand” is dangerous, everyone. They are really out to control our lives. And as someone who HAS traveled to 8 different countries, I have clearly let myself be duped, fallen for the wiles of The Mouse. HOW DARE I enjoy an environment where I feel safe to travel to as a woman by myself among well-kept venues and a variety of entertainment? HOW DARE I appreciate the imagination and childlike wonder while simultaneously being a higher educated, well trained, politically informed, worldly traveled, adult? CLEARLY I should have made my entertainment choices solely based on what others would consider “mature.” My error is grave, and I a BEG YOU not to repeat my sin.

IN FACT, I believe it is such an infectious malady that I believe it is necessary to point out these miscreants with a clear label, akin to the crimson “A” that adorned dear Hester in The Scarlet Letter. To that end, I present you with the perfect solution:

And if you, like me, want to warn other so that they do not catch your disease (I admit it is EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS) you can pick yours up here in my shop in sizes XS-3X.

shop.ambertheblog.com

Please, PLEASE be careful out there.

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script

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Charming Charlie to Close ALL Stores

The fashion and accessory retailer has applied for its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a move that will affect over 3,000 employees.

Charming Charlie | by JeepersMedia on Fllickr

The reports are out. The accessory and jewelry giant will be permanently closing its doors. Charming Charlie filed Thursday (July 11th 2019) for bankruptcy in Delaware.(1) Liquidation is suspected to take until the end of August, and the retailer cites the failing retail market as a large contributor to the closure. (2)

“The Debtors once again face issues similar to those that precipitated filing the Prior Cases: unsustainable operating expenses, including onerous leases, and constrained liquidity under our loan documents,” Charming Charlie said in its bankruptcy filing. “This lack of liquidity has resulted in reduced inventory, further exacerbating the Debtors’ lack of availability under their asset based loan. These factors combined with the continued decline of the brick-and-mortar retail industry have made it increasingly difficult for the Debtors to support their cost and capital structure.”

The Chron
Charming Charlie | by JeepersMedia on Fllickr

This is the retailer’s second bankruptcy in two years. Their first was filed in 2017.(3) The closure is among a chain of long-standing retailers permanently shutting their doors as consumer preferences demand more e-commerce.

So this begs the question . . .

How do YOU prefer to shop?

With more and more options becoming available online, has this changed the way you prefer to shop? One of the year’s most competitive online shopping events next to Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day, and is quickly approaching. (Psst! You can get $30 to spend and free access to the deals!)

Does what you are shopping for change your preferred method of shopping? I rather enjoy getting to put my hands on things, feel the material of the clothes I buy, and I definitely like trying on shoes. But oftentimes a brand becomes a favorite, and I no longer need to try it on. Myself, I prefer a mix of online and brick and mortar browsing.

However you like to shop, one thing is certain: the market of retail is constantly changing!