Make your own comics with Bitstrips and Pixton

At this moment I’m looking for a software where I could create and make my comics look more refined in an easier manner. So instead of a comic that looks like this, I prefer it looking more like this :

rinaz.net Showing off my marathon medal

This looks much cleaner and neater in its own strip. I think that you’re able to do this from Photoshop elements, but I think the steps involved are quite tedious. Instead, I’ve been spending my time, researching and trying out the different kind of editors out there.

For now, I’ve stumbled upon Bitstrips and Pixton. They aren’t exactly what I’m looking for as I have my own drawings which I want to use. Nevertheless, I think that they are really fun to play with, so much so that I was completely engrossed playing with them and spent my entire day exploring their different functions.

Pixton

rinaz.net Pixton Comic Maker for fun

Pixton is an award winning website created by a husband and wife team. I like pixon as it’s easy to edit – you just click and drag by directly on the object you want to adjust.

If I wanted to move my avatar’s limbs for example, I  just click on that part of the body and rotate them around. So easy. I also loved that I could adjust the poses and expressions quickly from the templates.

rinaz.net Pixton Comic Maker for fun

There are so many other customization that you could adjust – like the shape of the hands which I appreciated. It’s the little details like these that gives the overall website a professional feel.

One downside is that free users are limited in what they could do – only a maximum of 2 characters and if you wanted to download your own comics, it requires 25 credits each. You could earn 5 credits by logging in daily, or you could get an unlimited subscription plan for about 4 euro a month.

Here is a strip that I did with Pixton. I love the style of the drawing. I think it even looks good in black and white.

rinaz.net Pixton Comic Maker for fun

On hindsight, I should have used this for my actual Cart and Rinaz comic.

Bitstrips

For those who are active on Facebook would be  very familiar with Bitstrip as its app has been very popular as a way to convey status updates.

But bitstrips also come in an online version where you could create full cartoon strips.The interface is clean and I loved the cheeky look when creating my avatar each time I progressed a step further.

rinaz.net Bitstrips Comic maker online

It appears to be completely free, and it seems that you are not limited by the amount of characters that you wish to create here. You are also able to  download your strips when you are done.

While there are preset poses that you could use in bitstrips, unfortunately you can’t click on the limbs and move it around directly, and instead you’re required to adjust using the control panel.

rinaz.net Bitstrips Comic maker online

Nevertheless, it’s still easy to use and I especially liked that you could even adjust the props. All the furniture in the above strip can be rotated and you can also change its shade.

Here is a strip I made using bitstrips :

rinaz.net Bitstrips Comic maker online

I love how cute Bitstrips avatars looks like. And on hindsight, I think I should have made this into a Cart and Rinaz comic too!

Nevertheless, I had so much fun creating and playing around on both the websites and they are both giving me so much ideas on how to improve my own comics. Feeling quite inspired right now. :-)

I had a good easter

Apart from Christmas, Easter is quite a big deal in Italy. A week leading to it, there will be Domenica Palme, leading to the feet washing ritual by the pope, followed by a Via Crucis.

rinaz.net Easter Pasqua

Friday would be the start of a week long vacation for school kids and by this time, you’d feel a festive air around you – people scurrying around to find the right kind of chocolate eggs, usually the size of footballs.

rinaz.net Easter Pasqua

On Easter itself, I spent the evening with my extended family.

Cart and I decided to give our niece and nephew a set of Peppa Pig easter egg and I’m absolutely tickled to see how much they adored their soft toys and the little figurines inside much more than the chocolate itself.

rinaz.net Easter Pasqua

It was a lovely evening. Lots of good food, lots of laughs. Here are some of the food that we had :

rinaz.net Easter Pasqua

Parmigiana di Melanzane. I love eating this, but it’s quite a hassle to make.

rinaz.net Easter Pasqua

Zucchini ripiene. I’m probably going to try making this by myself. If it turns out well, I’ll try to make a video blog :-)

Suffice to say that I was completely stuffed. I planned to jog to burn the extra calories off today, but I’m feeling quite disconcerted from the lack of sleep.

Nevertheless, happy holidays to all and hope that you’re having a nice and relaxing day with your loved ones :-)

rinaz.net Easter Pasqua

If you like my cartoon, feel free to click on the image for a bigger version.

Marina the camera destroyer

As much as I find myself using my android phone a lot for taking photos, many a times, I still prefer to use my trusty point-and-shoot camera.

I think it’s still the more superior choice when taking photos – it loads up faster, the picture quality is better, and I could just leave it for weeks and the battery would still be full.

rinaz.net Canon Ixus 200 IS

When I first got my little blue camera, I was very happy with it. It was sleek, had interesting functions and using it, I started and learnt how to create HD video blogs. And I always put it in my bag, ready for a photo opportunity.

It’s just that … I’m so clumsy!

My trusty camera has probably been mistreated more than by a regular person. It’s been dropped countless of times, one of the worst fall it had was while we were in Viterbo and I accidentally dropped it on the cobblestones as I was trying to reply to my ringing mobile phone.

rinaz.net Canon Ixus 200 IS Camera

You can imagine how bad I felt as it dropped on the surface. It was badly scratched, and the battery cover didn’t close properly but thankfully, the LCD screen was whole and the camera still worked fine.

I promised myself to be more careful next time.

But recently I was horrified to find out that the shutter won’t open and close properly since a few days ago. Like something was stuck inside. Inspecting it, I realised that it smells of strawberries.

Even though I did ate and take a picture of a strawberry ice cream, I’m usually very careful when doing food photography. I don’t remember dripping anything on the camera. It doesn’t make  scientific sense. Ice cream drips down! And my camera was always pointing up.

rinaz.net Scratched Canon Ixus 200 IS Camera

This is a Magnum Strawberry Ice-cream covered with White Chocolate by the way. Was it worth killing my camera for this shot? I don’t know -_-

It was till when I noticed my camera slip cover. It had dried strawberry ice cream inside it. I must have had dripped ice cream in it some how.

And now all my shots look like me waking up at 5 am.

rinaz.net Damaged Canon Ixus 200 IS Camera

Sigh.

I feel like such a bad owner. It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose and I know it’s not a living thing, but my heart hurts each time it gets damaged. And as a blogger, I should be taking better care of my camera. But for something that has lasted for about 4 years, it’s not that bad right?

At this point of time, I’m eyeing on this. It’s just that … I don’t want to break another camera!

Rinaz Cry

How to grow beansprouts

Sometime back I got a really thoughtful package from Kynne. Inside the box was a number of Asian food. One of the things inside was a pack of peanut sauce. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, until I thought of making gado-gado.

rinaz.net

The picture probably doesn’t look very appetizing. But believe me, it’s really tasty.

Gado-gado is an Indonesian dish mainly made of vegetables mixed with the peanut sauce. It’s quite easy to get the ingredients here such as eggs, cucumber and cabbage. Even Tempeh and Kangkung are easy to find.

But interestingly one of the ingredients, the bean sprouts, which is really cheap in Asia, can be quite expensive here. The only shop where I found it for sale costs about 3.50 euros for a small box. It may be organic and all, but I thought it was just too much.

So in the end, I thought that it would be much more satisfying to grow it myself. After searching a few supermarkets, we found a pack of “Fagioli Azuki” beans from Panorama and I got ready to grow it.

rinaz.net

It feels like I was doing a Primary 3 science experiment all over again and it’s really easy to do.

  1. Take a plastic container and line it with a wet tissue paper
  2. Sprinkle the seeds inside and leave it in a warm place
  3. In a few days the sprouts will be ready .

rinaz.net

It was quite therapeutic to see the sprouts grow bit by bit each day. As soon as the leaves come out it was ready for harvest. So it’s time to pull them out for a rinse and cleaning.

rinaz.net

And as sit down and clip the roots away, the familiar scent and rote reminds me a bit of how my sister, my mum and I would be doing the same thing together back in Singapore before we start cooking for a meal.

rinaz.net

There was something comforting in the thought.

The voice of Italy – A different kind of singing competition

By now, I think you’ve already heard of the singing nun :

I find it extremely amusing seeing the faces of the four judges as they turn to see her, looking completely gobsmacked. By the way, this video has been viewed 31 million times in a span of just 7 days!

This clip was taken from the program, The Voice of Italy. And while I think that Italian TV is quite saturated with singing competitions, there is a little twist that makes the voice of Italy an interesting show.

rinaz.net The Voice of Italy

The big difference between this show and regular singing competitions is that the four judges have their seats turned away from their stage. The seats are big, so they are not able to see the contestants and can only judge by what they hear.

The contestant will sing and while they are singing, the judges decide if they like what they hear. If one judge turns the contestant will automatically be mentored by that judge.

rinaz.net The Voice of Italy

But if two or more turn around, the contestant has the power to choose the judge they want to be mentored by.

To me this format is quite refreshing as the focus would be completely on the voice of the singer – it wouldn’t matter how they look or dress as long as they sound good.

The voice of Italy is presided by four coaches, each of them an icon in their own right :

J-ax

rinaz.net The Voice of Italy

J-ax is a rapper and rock singer from Milan. He started as a a rap group in 1990 and went solo 2005 on wards. One of his famous song is Piccoli per sempre.

Noemi

rinaz.net The Voice of Italy

Noemi is probably most recognized as a former contestant of X Factor Italia. The interesting thing is that she didn’t emerge as the winner, not even the runner up,  nevertheless she turned out to be the most successful among all of the contestants of that season.

At this point of writing, I hear her song, Bagnati del Sole a lot on the radio.

Rafaella Carra

rinaz.net The Voice of Italy

Wow, she was probably one of Lady Gaga’s inspiration. Rafaella Carra’ was known as a TV host about a show that reunites families around the world live.

I think she’s more well known as a singer and a dancer. Always dressed flamboyantly in shiny outfits when performing, in the 1970s she came out with the songs Tuca Tuca,  a far l’amore comincia tu, as well as Tanti Auguri.

The hair swish thing that she does while dancing is her trademark and you’ll see her doing that often in her performance.

Piero Pelu`

rinaz.net The Voice of Italy

Piero Pelu` started as a rock singer from  the band Litfiba in early 1980. He produced a solo album in 2000. I’m not familliar with his songs, but I really love the one where he made a duet with Anggun.

The song is gorgeous and the two powerful voices blend so well together.

So far in the program, the auditions are over and the judges will now start to be coach the singers. Would be interesting to see how this develops so I guess I’ll try to remember to tune in the telly next Wednesday.

Is it a big deal to bandit a race?

Not too long ago there was a runner who participated in a marathon. To pass time, she decided to take selfies to keep herself motivated. Quite harmless fun.

Personally I’ve never thought of doing that as when I’m running, the only thing I’m focused on would be to finish the distance in one piece. Besides, I don’t look very photogenic when I’m all huffing and perspiring. Unlike this guy :

rinaz.net

Nevertheless, the post got so popular, it went viral. Which was probably the inspiration for another blogger to do the same thing.

The thing was, she didn’t pay for the registration and crashed in the event. It was made worse when she was disrespectful to the other athletes and making inappropriate jokes. It was also reported that she took the refreshments during the event and a medal at the end.

When I first read about this, I was quite put off. And as expected, a lot of people were not happy about her behaviour. Going through the comments, the crux of it was because of her not paying for the event. Part of the costs to go for safety, security, refreshments and whatnots.

And that’s how I learnt about the term, “race bandits” – people who crash in running events without paying for them.

rinaz.net

A non relevant picture

I don’t condone her behaviour. And I was bothered by how rude she was to other people and she took food and a medal when she didn’t pay for it. But the thing is, it doesn’t really bother me that she crashed in the event.

Because possibly a number of people have bandit-ed a race at least once in their lives be it intentional or not.

While I haven’t done such a thing personally, I have thought about doing it. As I live in an urban area, it’s not such a big deal for 10 km runs and under. However while I was training for the marathon, going for distances 20 km and over, it can get quite challenging to plan for a suitable route – no running children, no traffic lights, no cracked concrete side-walks etc.

rinaz.net #rinazdoes42km Training

I was stressing so much about my 32 km path that Cart said that I could crash in the Roma Ostia Half Marathon that coincided that day. Even a mutual friend who was doing the half marathon suggested the same. At first I thought that they were joking, also it feels shameless to be doing something that I didn’t pay for. But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I was and the more willing I was to give it a go.

It’s not an issue about not being able to afford paying for the event. And I am not convinced that bandit-ing is being disrespectful to people who has taken the time to train and travel to the race.

For the Maratona di Roma event itself which I participated in, there were a total registration of 19 thousand. However on the actual day, only around 15 thousand turned up for the actual event. Around 20% of the registrations unaccounted for. Which probably means that the organizing would be 120% ready right?

rinaz.net #rinazdoes42km Completed my first marathon!

It’s just that the final 10 km while I was doing the race, there was a crowd of workers hovering around the refreshment tables, the porta-potties that I saw were completely stuffed. I was surprised to see that there were people already disassembling the barricades and at the end of the race, I didn’t get a thermal cover and there were no massage kiosks to be seen. Something I was really looking forward to with my sore and aching feet.

I know that I’m one of the last few runners but it seems quite disrespectful.

But please don’t misunderstand. I am not complaining and overall, I did have a good experience. But my point is, regardless if a person have paid or not for an event, stuff like this happens. Sometimes kiosks run out of food. Sometimes there isn’t enough stuff to be given out at the end of the race. I don’t think any organization would be 100% smooth, 100% of the time.

rinaz.net #rinazdoes42km

Which is why I don’t see the big deal about bandit-ing. Typically around 10 – 20% of the registrars don’t show up for an event anyway, so I don’t see how it’s taking away from another person. I mean it’s already there as a public commodity – the path and the barrier. Might as well take advantage of it.

Of course, if it were me, what I would do instead is to :

  • Go right back at the end of the line and start probably 30 minutes after the last person has passed.
  • Respect registered athletes
  • Never take any of the refreshment.
  • Obviously not take a medal
  • Not turn this into a regular basis.
  • Don’t do it unless absolutely necessary.
  • Be discreet about it.

In the end, I didn’t bandit the half marathon due to the weather forecast. But if you think race bandits are bad, I think jeopardizing a race like this is even worse :

A slice of Naples in Rossopomodoro

As much as I adore Roman style pizza, there is a place in Rome that I like going to when I have a hankering for Napoli style pizza.

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

Some years back, Cart and I visited Naples and we managed to eat from a recommended pizzeria. I find Napoli a very charming place, and as you know, Naples is where pizza was invented and there, I had a very memorable and delicious dinner.

Unlike the Roman styled pizza which is characterised by its thin and crispy crust, the Naples styled pizza has a soft, thick crust at the border but gets thinner towards the middle. It’s been said that a good pizza Napoletana could be folded in four.

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

It takes about two hours by train to get to Naples from Rome. But for any reason that you can’t manage to get there, there is a place in Rome that serves pretty good Napoli styled pizza, called Rossopomodoro.

There are many Rossopomodoro branches all over Italy. A quick search online, I’m quite surprised that it has different branches in other parts of the world.

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

The one that we normally go to is the one in Euroma2, a commercial centre that’s not far away from where we live.

While it can get quite crowded during high traffic hours during lunch and dinner, it’s all worth waiting for once you get a table, and bask in the atmosphere.

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

You could see families, group of friends, businessmen, basically people from all sorts of life here, giving it a cozy vibe.

On your table, there will be a piece of paper printed with different Italian recipes at the back. You could bring it home, and it comes  pre-punched for easy filing.

And when going through the menu, it’s nice to see sprinkles of Napoli dialects for some of the names of the food.

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

Rossopomodoro serves a variety of foods like pasta and grilled meats, but I feel that their pizza is the highlight of the show.

I noticed that the menu changes seasonally, which I appreciate as there are so many wonderful seasonal ingredients. Each pizza is cooked in a wood oven, and comes out fluffy and perfectly cooked.

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

Each bite is such as joy as the dough is soft and chewy, the toppings taste delicate and the ingredients work well together, never overwhelming the other.

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

Here are some of the pizze that we had. I don’t quite remember the names but I’d normally ask for a tomato based pizza with mozzarella, while Cart loves pizze with strong cheeses or tartufo. I think it’s quite easy to tell who had what in these pictures :-)

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

rinaz.net Rossopomodoro

At about 8 euro a pizza here, Cart and I normally spend about 25 euro in total when dining here. Personally I think it’s always a treat to be here and it’s a pretty close to the real deal to the pizza in Naples.

Rossopomodoro
83, Viale Dell’Oceano Pacifico - 00144 Roma 

For fun, I’m going to add this video of a guy who’s crazy about pizza boxes. According to him, this box from Rossopomodoro is the best that he’s come across. Skip to 2.16 onwards.

 

Anyone play ingress?

Cart introduced me to Ingress some weeks back.

Ingress is a multiplayer game for android devices. In this game, you are supposed choose to fight for the enlightened (green team) or the resistance (blue team) and basically the aim of the game is to establish different portals.

rinaz.net ingress

Portals are usually public landmarks, like sculptures or murals. We get points by hacking, deploying or recharging resonators and linking portals. These actions takes an amount of energy, but you can refill them easily by passing by areas with the tiny floaty lights as seen below.

rinaz.net ingress

So many enemy portals to hack!

When Cart told me about the game, I thought that it was a great way for us to spend time being more active together and perhaps indirectly, start to be fitter like how a friend did after playing this game for several months.

We chose to be part of the resistance team but the first time when we started the game, it was quite confusing for me though. The learning curve is high as the interface is overwhelming with information and it takes a while for my GPS to stabilize and be in range for the portals.

rinaz.net ingress

Eventually it got easier to understand, the more I played it. And it got quite exciting as Cart and I work together and try to claim and fight enemy portals. We’d go exploring different places in our neighbourhood just to search for these portals. It’s real time, so whatever we do gets updated and seen immediately on each other’s devices.

rinaz.net ingress

Some of the weapons I got by hacking

What I liked about the game is that it makes you more aware of your surroundings as you try to spot the portals. For example, despite living in my neighbourhood for a while, there is a statue near my house that I probably wouldn’t have noticed if it weren’t for Ingress.

rinaz.net ingress

And there are a lot more portals to be found the more popular the place is. So tourist destinations like Piazza del Popolo, or the Colosseo or Piazza Navona would be filled with them so it’s easier to level up there.

The only thing I don’t like about the game is that it’s a huge battery sucker. I’d play the game for a few minutes and my battery would go down to almost half. On top of that, my phone lags a lot and it takes time for it to see me as being in range even though I’m right there! It’s extremely off-putting so I’m not so active in this game.

Cart on the other hand absolutely adores this game and plays whenever he gets the chance. He’s now almost at level 5 and I’m still stuck at level 2. I doubt I’d ever catch up to him.

rinaz.net ingress

Unfortunately, whatever motivation I got about Cart being more active is diminished when I found out that he’s been hacking in portals while driving his car! I don’t know about you, but I feel like that’s cheating.

Use a bicycle at the very least -_-”

Here is a video for a more in depth information about the game :

Diary of a Singaporean now living in Rome, Italy