Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WIP Volume 41

 I spent a lot of this week traveling. I also spent a lot of time dealing with motivational issues because of air conditioning not working properly and it being too hot to function properly in our house. XD The mermaid is making progress--maybe another week or so on it. The 2nd image should be finished in the next day or two. =)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Turning a New Leaf?

So, last week I broke down and let my mom buy Animal Crossing: New Leaf for me. My mom plays this game. Kid #1 and Kid #2 play this game. At least half my friends play this game. This is my first experience with this particular title, so I can't say how it relates to previous editions, but I will give my impressions on it.

First off, for those who haven't played the game--they might exist, right?--this is ACNL in a nutshell. You are the mayor of a town. Your aren't supposed to be mayor, but when you get off the train in this town, everyone says that you're the mayor, and they don't even have the decency to provide you with a house. No, you get a tent, and you have to pay to upgrade it to an actual house. My first impression was that the main character (me) must be more gullible than Fluttershy because you protest, but everyone's like you're mental, this is how things are; deal with it. Of course, if there was a way to back out of the job, it would be a pretty short game. XD (Don't get me wrong, I like the game.) Anyways. So, ACNL plays like a cross between a sandbox game and a sim game. The whole purpose is to build up your town with public works projects, build up your house, collect lots of stuff ranging from clothes to furniture, and that's about it. This version has the ability to connect to other players and visit their towns or vice versa. I'm discovering that this is the only way to actually collect all the things (or maybe I'm wrong because I don't know everything about this game). You spend your day in game (which progresses real time) building stuff, catching bugs, fishing, collecting items, talking to people, shopping, and so on. At least, that's what I've figured out so far.

I'm not sure if there's an ultimate goal to this game. I know you can unlock a variety of upgrades to the town, to the shops, and to your house, stuff like that, but as far as a way to "win" the game... I'm not sure if there is one. Any thoughts on this are welcome. It is a fun game to just sit and play--no purpose, just for the sake of playing. The world is what you make of it. There are a wide variety of activities to focus on, so things can progress however you want them. You can decorate however you want--go with themes, be eclectic, be whatever you want. The custom design feature is awesome--probably one of the most awesome features in my opinion. The sky really is the limit. So yeah. I actually started the game with some concept of turning it into a steampunk world inspired by a writing project I've been working on with my husband. I named my main character Abigail after the main character in the project. Unfortunately the main town name was too long to use; I named it Aelyria because I couldn't think of anything clever at the time. Right now my town is not steampunk at all; it's half pony and half goth and half-does-not-match-anything-because-the-housing-store-won't-get-in-the-roof-color-I-want--yeah I'm just as distractable in these games as I am in real life. XD So yeah, if you play and want to exchange friend codes, leave a comment or whatever. I probably won't open my gates though until I get a better roof color for my house. =P

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WIP Volume 40

Last week, my mom was visiting, so I didn't put up a WIP post. I've been a little distracted with house projects (take advantage of opportunity presents itself) the last week or two, so there hasn't been much art progress anyways. =P Anyways. There has been some progress on the bags I posted about last time, but not much; I'm going to take pics again when there's some more noticeable progress. (see pics here) There has also been progress on a baby blanket, but it doesn't look much different from the last pic I posted. XD It looks about the same, just bigger (okay maybe twice as big).

There has also been progress on a couple of commission projects:

More on the mermaid (sketch here):
 Plus a couple commission.

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Homeschooling Place

[Note: this paragraph is a tangent, and is quite skip-able. Skip to the 2nd paragraph for the actual content for today's post. The paragraph is staying because I like rambling and this is my blog so I can ramble here to my heart's conent. =P] I'm back after a short break. My mom was visiting some last week, and we were busy sorting and cleaning out stuff, so that's where last Wednesday's and last Friday's posts went. You didn't miss much. I haven't made a lot of progress on anything art-wise lately. XD I've been on a big purge-all-the-things and an organize-all-the-other-things kick. Ostensibly by simplifying things I am hoping to make it so I can have more time overall to work on art projects. Right now, I feel like I spend way too much time trying to keep up with basic chores around this house. Okay, so realistically, it will never be that clean considering six people and four cats live here, but my goal, right now, is to streamline things so that a reasonable state of cleanness can be achieved with less time and effort. So, I'm reorganizing things so that everything has a place (this is the organizing part). If I cannot find a place for something, I am getting rid of it (this is the purging part)--you can imagine after 13.5 years of marriage, my husband and I have collected quite a bit of stuff, not to mention the 20.5 years of stuff before getting married. XD There are a few things I can't find places for now that I really really want to keep--a lot of my books are falling into this category right now--and those things are getting boxed up, labeled, and put in a special place in the garage for the time being. My books will come out eventually, but for now it will just have to wait. I plan on converting my oldest's bedroom into a library as soon as he leaves for college (<5 years away now); I'll put a fold out couch or something in there for when he comes home to visit. He's okay with this since he's actually more bookish than I am. =P

Anyways, back on topic. I spent a lot of last week working on the reorganizing/purging project since we had the week off from school. The focus was mostly the room I use for homeschooling stuff, and sorting clothing since my boys seemed to be having trouble figuring out what was theirs and what was their brothers--given all of them have very small waists and no butt to speak of even the 12 year old can fit into the 6 year old's shorts. The school area is a big focus for me because it's one of those places that gets a lot of use and gets really messy really quickly, and I spend a lot of time cleaning it up. I got new shelves for the school area last week that suit the area much better than the shelves I had there before. The old shelves have been sent up to my oldest's bedroom (step one to making his room into a library and in the mean time I'll let him store his books on it =P). I'm not 100% finished getting everything back on the shelves. I did manage to throw out 2 giant trash bags worth of stuff and box up 2 large plastic buckets worth of books we probably don't need out right now. The idea is that if there's less stuff, there's less to pick up, and if everything has a clear place, it's easier for the kids to help pick things up in the afternoon. A couple of weeks ago, I also invested in a drop leaf table. I put fuzzy felt things on the bottom of the table legs so I can move it easily. This way the kids have a place to work at, but when we aren't doing school, I can fold the table up and slide it out of the way.

So, here's some pictures of the progress on the school area. There area still some things I'd like to do, although it's starting to get into the cosmetic changes as opposed to practical changes. For instance, I want to recover the red chair, and I'd also like to paint the bottom half of the room (you'll note there is a random piece of molding going across the middle of the wall--that came with the house, and I'm disinclined to go through the effort of removing it).

 The chair I want to recover. It's a 3rd generation hand-me-down and is super comfy; it's just not my color. This corner probably needs the most work, but mostly just in straitening things up. After a couple of weeks of use the book boxes there on the left get kind of messy.
 The new shelves...
 The kids' computer area plus the drop-leaf table stored away.
The drop-leaf table when it's pulled out.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back to Black Mountain

About a week after AMA my husband and I decided we needed a change of pace and scenery, so we decided to spend a couple of days in Black Mountain, NC. I grew up in Black Mountain. It's a fairly small town in the mountains of western NC. It has a fairly artsy-craftsy feel down town. It is now home to my favorite fabric store in NC--Carolina Fabric Outlet--which used to be located Swannanoa. I'll have to post pics one week of the new fabric gems I found on this last visit there. It has a great selection of quilting fabrics, and their satin is amazing quality and very well priced. Anyways, I digress.

Aside from lazing around, playing video games, reading, and visiting (my brother and grandmother still live in that area), one of the more fun things we did on this trip was go hiking. Hiking used to be one of my favorite hobbies. In high school, I would be out in the woods most every day I wasn't at drama or band practice after school. The Black Mountain/Asheville area has some amazing places to hike. Here are the very few pictures I got from the hike--I totally meant to get a lot more pictures and share them on Tumblr, but that didn't really work the way I'd planned it.

This was at the start of the trip. You can see my dad here. The picture doesn't really do justice to how pretty the environment was. This area looks very similar to where The Hunger Games movie was filmed. Watching the movie was a little weird because so much of it looked like my old back yard. This is the start of the Graybeard trail in Montreat.

This is Ty and Logan (Luke wouldn't get in the picture, and Sophie was riding on my back in a back pack carrier and I was taking the picture, so...). This was maybe 1/3 of the way through with the hike? At least getting up the mountain. 

 This is the picture I got at the end of the hike. Again, the photo does not do justice to the view at all. The hike was generally fun. We got rained on a little bit on the way down; it didn't last long, but it was enough to soak everyone pretty thoroughly. Logan had to stop to pet every mushroom on (and off) the trail from the 1/3 mark (2nd picture) to the top and again going back down. XD He was absolutely fascinated by their texture. All told the hike was just shy of 10 miles round trip.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Once Upon a Time

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit a friend while she was sick. While there she had me sit down Once Upon a Time with her. I enjoyed what I saw there, so over the last week or so my husband and I have been sitting down to watch an episode of it each evening and watch a couple of episodes of it (thank you Netflix).

For those of you who have not seen Once Upon a Time, it's another one of those "different take on fairy tale stories." This time the premise is that all the fairy tail characters are actually from the same world but because of a curse they all live in a community in our reality where time does not pass normally and with no memory of who they are. The main character is Snow White's daughter who was able to escape the curse and she is supposed to come back to break the curse. That's the first episode in a nutshell and pretty much the preview you get narrated at the beginning of each episode.

Some of the rehashes of the fairy tale stories are pretty creative and original. Some of them are slight variations on variations I've seen before. One thing I really like is how they tell the story. The show alternates between what's happening in reality and what happened in the fairy tale world before the curse. The part of the story in our reality takes place in a community called Storybrooke. This part of the story unfolds chronologically and is the core focus of the show. With the fairy tale side of the story, the show jumps around in time. I like this for several reasons. First, I don't get the whole story all at once. Second, I don't get the whole story in order. I think by doing both of those things the series keeps me guessing what's going to come next a little bit more. If I got everything all at once in chronological order, it would be too easy to see where things are going in the Storybrooke timeline. I think, telling the story this way also keeps it more interesting.

My opinion so far (I'm not quite half way through with Season 1): Once Upon a Time is a good show. Is it epically awesome? No. I can think of several shows that were better. If you're just looking for something fun to watch though, this could be right up your alley. Personally, I love the traditional fairy tales; those stories have always been some of my favorites for as long as I can remember. I will probably always watch/read variations on them as I find them, and I will probably always like them. Once Upon a Time is better than many of the ones I've seen.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WIP Volume 39

 So, what have I been working on since Anime Mid-Atlantic? The short answer is, not much. I cleaned up my craft room, which was a disaster area after 2 conventions. I have been working on a couple of commissions, one pretty much finished and just waiting on final approval before I print and mail it:

 The other, still very much a WIP. Aside from life being relatively non-cooperative with the amount of project time I've had, I'm taking my time with this one. This commission is for a mascot for the Chesapeake Bay Dive Center. When it's finished it will be printed on t-shirts for them--honestly I'm a little nervous about that (like many artists, I do no always feel like my art is that good, although I try not to voice those doubts very often) but I'm fairly excited as well. The store owner moonlights as a mermaid--I am learning that this is a very interesting subgroup of the cosplay world who take becoming the character (usually their original design mermaids) to a whole new level. I think it looks like a lot of fun, plus the photo shoots look amazing. You can see the young lady I'm drawing for on her Facebook page, here. Right now I'm still trying to get the sketch to some place where I'm happy with it. The arms are going to be leaning back on the dive center logo...

Aside from those commissions, I'm working on bags--like that Fluttershy one I made a couple of months ago for myself. Remember how I said a while back that I'm changing the focus of what I'm doing at the studio here? Well this is going to be one part of that. Here are fabric samples for 6 different bags. The first pic is of fabric samples for 3 bags: one will be fanart-ish (no character art, just in design style) and the other two will just be pretty, although there's a pretty good chance that at least one of them will end up with a panda appliqued on it, cause, you know, pandas are awesome. =P The next two pics are of fabric samples for 2 pony bags--see if you can figure out which ponies are going on those bags. =D The last pair of fabric samples are for a bag that is going to be mostly a collage of my art with those 2 fabric pieces filling in as needed. Maybe next week I'll have some finished squares to post. XD

Monday, July 8, 2013

Schoolhouse Disney for Real

Back in January, I made a big decision (by my standards) for my family (well mostly my kids and myself). I completely dropped the curriculum we'd been working with for that school year--just threw the entire thing out the window. We invested in something new for us. I won't go into too much detail on this cause I'm sure most of you reading this won't care about our homeschool habits, since this isn't you know a homeschool blog. What I have been doing up till now was following a pretty grade-specific generic curriculum for each of our boys. This wasn't too bad when it was just one, or even when it was two. When it became three, it was difficult--not really, only when it came to scheduling and time (this way was getting really time-consuming). When it became four--okay so it's still only three in school, but adding a newborn did make a real kink in my available time for not just school but everything else ranging from personal time to art to whatever, you name it. Anyways, what I picked up was a year-long, not-grade-specific, unit study. It mixes literature, science and history/geography together, so I can do school for everyone all at the same time. The actual work given to the kids is scaled by age, and math is, of course, still separate and my middle-schooler is getting extra science to prepare him for high school science. But, this has been a major time saver for me, and the quality of discussions has gotten better because I'm not feeling so rushed to get through things.

 This year we're focusing on a comprehensive world geography and ecology study. We're spending a little bit of time in every continent, learning the countries and the ecosystems found in each region. The studies are centered around 2-3 week case-studies focusing on specific countries. So far, we've studied Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Norway, France, and Germany. Right now we're in a 3-week study of Kenya. We got to spend last Wednesday at the zoo, since NC has some really amazing Africa-themed exhibits. We've also been able to integrate a lot of stuff my dad brought back from his trip to Kenya/Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro--you might remember my post a while back on the quilt I helped my mom put together for him.

Anyways, that's getting off topic (only a little though, by my standards). This curriculum gives us a free 2 weeks at the end of the school year, which will fall in December (yes this has kind of messed up our school year temporally). I spent a little bit of time debating whether I wanted to add another country--but then I'd have to pick one, and there's so many fun ones to choose from--or maybe travel somewhere--but then where would I go. Well, skimming through some homeschooling forum posts, I was reminded of the World Showcase part of Epcot in Disney World. There are only a couple of countries that we're studying that are not represented there. It seemed like a great way to practically visit every location we're studying (or at least a lot of them). So, we are planning on spending our last week of school on a field trip to Disney. We'll probably spend about half the trip at either Epcot or the Animal Kingdom as those locations go with our unit study theme the most, but I'm sure there will be time for fun too.

We started planning and saving for this trip in mid-February since this is the kind of thing that we could not normally afford to do. We got a bit of a head start with this year's tax return, and for the rest of it, I've saved most of what I've made from Animazement and Anime Mid-Atlantic and from Etsy. We've also tried to cut out little things here and there and put the extra we've saved aside for the trip--like drinking less soda and getting less desert. Well, we just hit the point where we actually get to go last Friday (July 5)!  I made this chart right after we started saving to give us a visual of our progress.
The red and yellow sections represent the cost to pay for park tickets and lodging (we're going to be camping at the Fort Wilderness on-site campground because it's cheaper and we don't mind sleeping in a tent since it'll be December and not sweltering anymore). This will also cover gas and groceries (we'll be packing our own food at this point). Not bad for an 8-day Disney trip for a family of 6!

The four blue squares represent what it would take to allow us to visit the water parks or some of the other extra locations there--I've been to Disney's 4 main parks but I've never actually been to any of these other places. It's one of those optional things. The green is what it would take for us to be able to eat on site as opposed to packing our own food. Depending on how far down that part we get, I might put off the water park extras in favor of the food. Chances are, we won't need all that amount, but I'd rather budget extra than come up short and hungry. Also, I'd like some room to play and not just go for the cheapest of the cheap for food. One thing I'd really like to do is to take a day and go snack hopping where we go through every country in the World Showcase, and pick up a couple of snacks to share--everyone gets to try everything, and then afterwards we'll discuss what we liked and didn't like, compare flavors, etc.

So this is something big that's been going on in my life, and I'm super-excited that we're actually going to get to go. I really wasn't sure we could pull this off, and I want to send a big thank you to everyone who stopped by my art tables at AZ and AMA or who purchased something from my Etsy because you guys have really made this possible. <3