13 January 2023

2022 December Roundup

It's a fabulously cloudy morning as I begin typing this. My favorite kind of weather (if it's not going to properly rain, snow, or storm!) ☁️ I'm listening to the Disney Goes Classical album that Spotify recommended to me; it starts out with the overture from Mary Poppins, so I've got goosebumps all over, ha ha.

I'm trying something different in 2023 with these roundup posts. (Happy New Year, by the way! 🎆) They've been taking far too long to compose, so I'm limiting how much I write and how many photos I post for each topic. I hope that not only will this allow me to share the same ideas in less time (time that could be spent creating new stories in word and image!) but that you, my readers, will enjoy the faster clip, as well. That said, let's try it out!

Patreon Rewards

I sent the rest of the six Inktober rewards in December 😄 You can read more about it on Patreon. And if you'd like to get my illustrations in your mailbox, you can sign up there, too! You can choose between a monthly postcard, a set of three postcards, a print, or a print AND three postcards. Patrons don't just get rewards, they are directly funding my storytelling work! They are truly members of Studio Mikarts and my most precious audience 🥰

deviantART

Click here to view and comment on deviantART.

I'm only a year behind on posting to dA now! 😂 I've uploaded several pieces from 2022 recently, but this is my proudest, my birthday gryphon illustration. I'm still sending this one out as a birthday card to friends and family through the first half of this year. I plan to create a new birthday card illustration at around the same time of year as this one was done. Then my people will all receive the new design on their special days 😊 You can buy this as a greeting card, print, or dozens of other things on Fine Art America. Birthday shower curtain, anyone?

Gryphia Progress

It may not seem like much, but I'm actually quite proud of the two days' writing work I managed to squeeze in during December's holiday and birthday madness (I have six birthdays to celebrate! 🥳). To be honest, I was really struggling mentally with everything I had to do. So being able to sit down, two mornings in a row, and make good progress on chapter seven was a huge win! I don't have any major interruptions to my regular schedule until March, so I'm looking forward to finishing up this roundup post and getting back to writing my novel!

Art Livestreaming

This is another area where I was proud of myself for keeping up with it during the end-of-year madness. It would have only been too easy to just give up and take the whole month off. That is to say, it would have been easy if livestreaming was still as disheartening as it was a few months ago. Things had changed by the beginning of December. I have been honored for months now by a dedicated viewer (hello, Exie~!!) who I look forward to chatting with every stream, and I was shocked to be notified that I qualified for Twitch Affiliate status, as well!

Being offered affiliate was not only a boost to my confidence--an affirmation that I've been doing the right things in my off-beat way--but I had two folks subscribe to my channel on my very first affiliate stream 🥰💕 I'm so glad I stuck to it when things were looking so bleak mid-year; now I'm looking forward to growing my channel and sharing my art with more people!

Charity Fundraising

My featured charity in December was The Protego Foundation. I had only recently learned of their work using the power of the Harry Potter fandom to encourage positive change for animals through veganism (from the Harry Potter Vegan Cookbook! which I reviewed in November) and because Harry Potter always comes to my mind during the holiday season, it seemed like a great fit.

My fundraising challenge uses the number of unique viewers per month to determine how much I will donate. I give $0.10 USD per viewer, with a minimum of $10 and a max of $100. I had 15 unique viewers in December, so I made a $10 donation to The Protego Foundation!

Mika's Monthly...

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I'm trying something new in my presentation of these roundups. I considered cutting this section altogether, but I like giving these recommendations, not only as a way to share what's been going on in my life, but because I think they could inspire and enrich, even lengthen, the creative lives of anyone who decides to try them. One's creative life is not separate from everything else one does, after all! But I want this blog to focus on my creative endeavors, and until now, these recommendations were taking half the time and space--a bit too much. I hope this new presentation will work better all around 😊 

As always, I'm not in any way being compensated for these promotions, they're just honest recommendations from me ❤️

...Workout 🏃‍♀️ I finished the YMCA Christmas Run again this year. Running is such an easy sport to get into, and it's a full-body workout, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. There's nothing so fun as running a themed race with a few hundred (or thousand!) other people!

...Vegan Victuals 🌮 Try the "Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch" recipe from the Vegan Fast Food cookbook (which I happily received for Christmas). So good my mouth is watering just remembering these amazing tacos 🤤 

Mmm...soft crunchy vegan tacos...

...Book 🐲 The Hobbit audiobook as read by Andy Serkis. This is my favorite book of all time to start, then adding Andy Serkis's excellent narration, let's just say I started his reading of The Fellowship of the Ring immediately after! You can read my full review (which is relatively short) here on The StoryGraph.

...Show 🤶 The Santa Clauses on Disney+ was pleasantly surprising! I grew up watching The Santa Clause, and I still watch it every year, but I have a well-founded distrust of sequels made decades later. This show therefore exceeded my expectations, didn't disappoint in the least; it was hilarious, wacky, and magical. I'll definitely be watching it again next holiday season!

...Game 🤓 My husband had kickstarted this game and received it in October, but it wasn't until December that we finally played it. Um, Actually... The Game of Nerdy Corrections is a hilarious game that we played with my siblings during the holidays and it was enthusiastically requested multiple times. It's a great party game--pure fun, no stress--that I think anyone will enjoy!

...Music 🎄 It's out of season now, but all month I listened almost exclusively to my new Christmas favorites playlist on Spotify. It's full of the Christmas albums and soundtracks that I absolutely love. I recommend listening straight through (not on shuffle) because one album is a reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Other News: 2023 Goals

Finally, I'd like to share with you the goals I set for myself on January 1st this year (using my Jibun Techo planner, which is new to and absolutely perfect for me~) both as a topic of interest and as a form of accountability! I will check in at the end of the year and report on how things went 😊

  • Career 🎨 I will create 12 new, large, full-color illustrations.
  • Education 💮 I will sit and pass the JLPT N2 exam.
  • Finances 💸 I will make, rather than buy, birthday & holiday gifts.
  • Health 💤 I will go to bed on time on work nights.
  • Hobbies 🎮 I will play Animal Crossing every day.
  • Travel 🛳️ I will cruise around Japan with my husband.
  • Family 👩‍🍳 I will host seasonal family dinners.
  • Relationships 💌 I will send a card or letter every week.
  • Reading 📚 I will read & review at least 26 books.

And that's it for December's roundup! It only took me half the time it usually does, so I'm rather looking forward to checking in again next month, and sharing all the progress I'll be making in my creative career journey. Thank you for reading! 🥰

22 December 2022

2022 November Roundup

I've got my curtains half open, so I can see if it starts to snow, while still preventing the morning sun from blinding me when it peeks out through a crack in the clouds. This is the second day in a row the weather forecast said it would snow in the morning, but instead I sit here disappointed, looking at the pale blue sky behind the icy grey clouds 😑 Come, Mother Nature, let it snow! 😆

Still, it's pretty cozy in my studio this morning. I've got a mug of lemon tea at my elbow, my two dogs sleeping peacefully in their beds, and a playlist of my favorite Christmas music filling the air. My tootsies are cold, but I've got a fluffy robe keeping the rest of me nice and warm~ With all the holiday busyness ever since Thanksgiving, I haven't been able to sit down and work on this roundup post until now, the third week of December. To make sure I can actually get it done in a timely manner, this will be a condensed roundup, a few sections removed, and others combined. If I can finish writing this today, that would be ideal~ Let's get started!

Patreon Rewards

In November, seven different Patreon rewards were ordered all at once! It was the first time I've created so many different designs at one time. Included were the six Inktober drawings that Studio Mikarts members voted for, plus the chibi tanuki illustration that was finished at the beginning of the month.

All seven Patreon rewards: six Inktober plus one chibi tanuki.

Two of these seven rewards were sent out in November. I wanted to space them out weekly so that everyone would get a nice, steady stream of happiness in their mailboxes, instead of one big art dump 😅 Plus it saved my hand, since I am still handwriting my messages of greeting and gratitude.

Inktober reward #1: Flame

After these seven rewards have all gone out, I am going to begin printing all rewards in-house and handwriting only the first message, which will then be replicated on or with all the rewards. This saves me a lot of money in production costs (while still delivering museum-quality art reproductions 😎) as well as time and physical strain.

It was a big concern as I thought of the future and the growth of Studio Mikarts. I put it to the vote on Patreon, and was so relieved that all of my patrons voted for the printed message option. So kind and considerate, I have the best patrons 🥰 And their comments about still loving the heartfelt nature of the handwritten message is what led to my hybrid solution of handwriting once and replicating, rather than simply typing the message.

Inktober reward #2: Bouquet

So what's next? I have two illustrations in the works. My main project is my winter gryphon, which in November I got halfway through the final sketch. The snowy evergreen environment is all worked out, I just need to add the gryphon itself now.

The full-size sketch for my winter gryphon illustration.

The other illustration I'm working on is my chibi orca. More about that in the Livestreaming section below 😉 To sign up and become a Studio Mikarts member on Patreon, click here! You can choose from five tiers, receiving postcards, prints, both, or neither (the latter is actually the most supportive option ❤️) and all members get access to exclusive updates and limited time rewards. I'm looking forward to seeing you there~!

Gryphia Progress

Just a small update here. I'm proud to say I've continued working on my novel, but it's been very slow going, so there's not much to report. Still, something is better than nothing and in November I exceeded 3,000 words written for chapter six!

deviantART

An interesting thing happened as I was preparing material for this section of my post: I noticed that deviantART got rid of their physical prints shop 😲 Fortunately, I already have an alternate on-demand prints account through Fine Art America but it was still a disappointing surprise. dA is turning heavily toward digital offerings, including subscriptions much like Patreon and even A.I. generated artwork (hotly contested by the community there; I'm still not sure how I feel about it...), which unfortunately makes it far less in line with my creative journey than ever before.

Still, after some consideration, I decided to continue using the site. For one, it remains an online repository of my artwork, including all my major work going back to my high school days! For two, they still have the commissions feature, which allows me to offer chibi caricature commissions online. It's a nice feature! There are some other fun things that make the site worth using too, like silly badges and cool profile customization, so although I'm still disappointed that they're pushing so hard toward digital stuff, I feel fairly at peace with the recent changes 😅

Click here to view and add to your collections on deviantART!

Anyway, this is the piece I am featuring today: my Nyan Meow Mice. I recently uploaded the rest of my 2021 artwork, which is to say, all the work from my capstone illustration project 😄 I'm really proud of this project and I intend to expand upon it next year. I love all the pieces I created so far, but the mice one just feels extra good for some reason, which is why I chose it for this post. If you'd like to see all six illustrations and the endpaper and cover designs, click here to visit my gallery on deviantART!

Art Excursions: Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve

It's gotten really cold here since late October, so this excursion was a bit tough! In November, I went with my sister, who is also a professional creative, to Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve, a hidden gem right in my backyard. It's a small nature reserve with unpaved trails and excellent viewpoints where you can relax in the stillness, or be enchanted by the cacophony of bird voices, all while gazing at the wildlife (I've seen countless bird species, bats, deer, and even stray domestic rabbits here!) and taking in the scenic wetland environment.

As I mentioned, it was very cold that day, but gloves weren't an option for me while sketching, since I needed precision for my chosen media: watercolor! The golden rays of the sun camouflage how red my frozen hands are in these photos 😅

I used nothing but watercolor for my sketches, no pencil or pen. It's an exercise I really enjoy, because it forces me to be creative with my brush strokes. How can I depict this, knowing the colors will blend when they touch? Knowing this brushstroke might dry before I can get the color ready for the next one? How can I make this shape recognizable in the least amount of time and strokes? These are the types of questions I'm answering when I sketch with watercolor. And the answers show up later in my more detailed and complete watercolor illustrations 😁

Livestreaming

I had a great time with my viewers on Twitch in November; I am so grateful to my regular chatters who make each art stream such a pleasure! Here are the results of my Lucky Dip and Chibi Friday streams:

Lucky Dip XIX
Chibi Friday 35: Tanuki Part 7 (final)
Lucky Dip XX
 Chibi Friday 36: Orca Part 1
Lucky Dip XXI
Chibi Friday 37: Orca Part 2
Lucky Dip XXII

For Lucky Dips, which are on Wednesdays, I randomly choose four art tools and then make an image with them. For the past few months, I've been working through a manga pose reference book so that I don't have to worry about what to draw, just how to draw it using the tools I have. Plus, I think my manga/anime-style drawing is getting better thanks to this!

For Chibi Fridays, starting in August this year, I have been asking my patrons to vote on which animal they'd like me to draw as a chibi. Then I generate two random words and use them to construct a scene with the animal at its center. I keep working on that illustration for as many Chibi Friday livestreams as it takes to complete it. Here's the recording of the last one from November:

Be sure to follow me on Twitch to be notified every time I go live! Let's chat soon~!

Charity Fundraising

In November, I chose Farm Sanctuary as my charity of the month. They do amazing work helping end the suffering of farm animals, both for individuals and for the billions trapped in the misery of the farming industry. They run a turkey adoption program around Thanksgiving, which is how I found them last year. Thanksgiving is often referred to as Turkey Day. For me, that now has a different and more positive meaning, as I enjoy symbolically adopting a turkey from them, rather than killing and eating one 🦃🤎

I had 19 unique viewers on Twitch in November. I donate $0.10 per viewer to my selected charity, with a minimum of $10 and and max of $100, which means a $10 donation to help take care of the animals at Farm Sanctuary this time 🥰

December's charity is The Protego Foundation! They use the Harry Potter fandom as a base for building a kinder world through veganism and other animal activism. I hope you'll join me on Twitch this week for my final December stream and have fun hanging out while helping improve the lives of magical (that is to say, all!) animals 💖

Monthly Recommendations

This will be a condensed version of the funnest part of my monthly roundups. I hope you'll enjoy reading about these recommendations and perhaps giving them a try yourself! (As usual, I am not being paid to advertise these things; they're just positive elements of my November that I am excited to share with you~)

🍽️ Vegan Victuals & Book of the Month 📕
The Unofficial Harry Potter Vegan Cookbook by Imana Grashuis & Tylor Starr

My review from The StoryGraph says it all, so I will let it do the talking, spiced up with some photos of my cooking!

adventurous funny hopeful informative inspiring fast-paced

5.0 ⭐

Absolutely five-star cookbook! For TL;DR: the recipes are delicious, the book beautiful, and the information about veganism and vegan cooking both helpful and inspiring!

If you're a Harry Potter fan, get this cookbook! It doesn't matter if you're not vegan, forget about the stereotypes, this food is indulgent and beautiful and absolutely satisfying. The good you'll be doing for animals, the environment, and your own health can just be considered bonuses! It's easy to forget, but the book itself is a beautiful showpiece as well, with a silky, embossed cover; patterned endpapers; well-organized, easy-to-read text; and full-page, color photographs included with every recipe.

Before I describe my experience with the half-dozen recipes I've already tried, here are some highlights from the other sections of the book:
  • Enthralling foreword by Evanna Lynch. If you're already vegan, your passion for the cause will be set ablaze ❤️‍🔥 For those who are veg-curious, you may be moved to finally take the next step!
  • Listing the reasons to go vegan and tying them to the Wizarding World we all know and love~
  • Vegan alternatives section that can help veganize any recipe or allow you to throw together a quick vegan meal without instructions.
  • Fun and helpful Kitchen Witch Tips. A bit too new age witch (spiritual/religious) and not enough fantasy witch (my view of the Wizarding World) for me, so I came up with my own versions because I did like the core ideas being presented (such as clean the kitchen before cooking, get as much light into the kitchen as possible when working, be mindful and grateful as you cook, etc.).
  • The appendix section that lists all recipes, including by which Harry Potter book they're from (such a good idea!), and the metric conversion page (I grew up with Imperial but I prefer metric for its precision!).
I made several recipes from this book for Thanksgiving this year and I was able to provide my family with a complete and magical vegan feast! In fact, I had to make some recipes the weekend after the holiday because I chose way more things than I could make 😅 Here's what I made and how it was:
  • Rabbit Food Grazing Board: So delicious, so filling, perfect for a big gathering or party! The grilled olives were an awesome, unusual addition that I loved, and it was treat to have pomegranate seeds for the first time since childhood (they went well with everything), but the star was the tzatziki sauce. I will make this sauce any time I want tzatziki from now on!
  • Dragon Roasted Nuts: These were a big hit with my entire family, one of the things people called out as particularly delicious. The best thing is, they have a flavor that is both seductively familiar and yet wholly unique. It's hard to stop eating them because you just want more and more of that enchanting taste!
  • Fang's Boarhound Treats: I made these as my pups' Thanksgiving treat and they LOVED them. Absolutely no hesitation or polite curiosity, just munch, munch, down the hatch! Being vegan, these treats are made with stuff humans wouldn't mind eating, like applesauce, peanut butter, and vegan yogurt. I might have to reserve one for myself next time...
  • Butterbeer Three Ways: For Thanksgiving, I chose to make the hot butterbeer and kept it warm in a small slow cooker. The only downside is the calculation necessary to quadruple the recipe, as it only serves two normally. This was another item that was particularly praised by everyone in my family!
  • Pumpkin Patch Brownies: SO INDULGENT. So rich and delicious~ To simplify the recipe, I replaced the cubed pumpkin, coconut oil, and gingerbread spices with canned pumpkin pie filling. It worked great (the pumpkin pie flavor sat evenly with the rich chocolate) and cut off at least a good half hour of cooking/prep work!
To make cooking easier for Christmas this year, we've ordered catering for the main meal, and I'm just going to make some desserts and drinks, several of them from this book, including the Apple Pie and Arthur's Eggnog 🤤 And there are so many holiday appropriate recipes still remaining, not just for the end-of-year holidays. How about Liquid Luck for New Year's? Amortentia for Valentine's Day? The Great Feast for Independence Day? Full Moon Cookies for Halloween? Not to mention Happee Birthdae Cake for all those special days! And there are plenty recipes more for whatever you're in the mood for, such as Cheery Owl Breakfast Donuts, Buckbeak's Stuffed Pumpkins, Coconut Snow Cones, Caramelized Devil's Snare, Ernie's Sandwich, Slithering Snake Ravioli, Polyjuice Potion, and Treacle Tart (Harry's favorite!).

I hope everyone will try this cookbook and enjoy all its magical offerings~!

🎧 Music of the Month 🎧
Mika's Celtic Christmas 🎄 on Spotify

Christmastime is my favorite time of year, so although you might think this more appropriate for December, I was already listening to my Celtic Christmas playlist the month before X3 I especially like to listen to it at the end of the day as I'm winding down for bed~

I recommend listening to this playlist on shuffle, though it's not a problem to listen straight through. I just added whole Christmas albums until I was satisfied, no rhyme or reason to the order other than the playlist's theme and my memory of artists that fit it 😅

Other News: Gratitude Postcard Project

In November, the month of Thanksgiving in my country, I have for years now tried to practice active gratitude through a daily project. Usually, I pick something I'm grateful for each day and consider it through a social media post, journal entry, sketch, etc. This year I thought to do something a bit different: sending gratitude postcards!

So many postcards to choose from🤩

I'm sure I was inspired by the fact that I send so many postcards all year round, not just to my patrons, but to friends and family as a way to stay in touch. Still, I find it interesting that only this year did I think of doing such a thing. Maybe it's because this was the first November in four years where I wasn't overburdened by end-of-semester projects and looming finals. Being a degree-holding college graduate is something I'm very grateful for 😆

First batch included the hand-painted postcard I made at the Grand Canyon!

So, for this project, I posted online everywhere I could think, inviting folks to send me their addresses if they would like a postcard. Considering that's very personal information, I was pleased to have sent out a total of twelve gratitude postcards throughout the month!

Second batch~

I'm not sure if I'll do this project again next year, but I think I'd like to. Perhaps more people will trust me with their addresses if it becomes a yearly event 🫡

Final and largest batch~!

And here we are, at the end of November's roundup. It's the day after I started writing and the clouds are thinner than ever, and it's even colder! I still have hope, though: the forecast says it will snow tonight! 🙏❄️🌨️ It also says it will rain on Christmas Eve and Christmas, but let's just ignore that for now...

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and perhaps got inspired to try something new 😀 This is my last blog entry for 2022, so I would like to wish you a very happy holiday season and a magical new year~! 🎉💖✨ As always, may you be safe, happy, and healthy!

10 November 2022

2022 September & October Roundup

It's a snowy morning as I begin typing this entry, one of my favorite atmospheres, but unfortunately, it's already wet and mushy and melting. I'm listening to Tchaikovsky, my favorite classical composer. His music seemed like a good fit for the weather. My usual morning tea has gone cold, but that's ok because there's not much left anyway. I'll wait until lunch for another cup. For the next couple hours, I'm going to focus on sharing my roundup of the past two months with you 💕

October marked the first time I've missed a roundup since I started doing them. After over two years not being sick with anything, in September I caught COVID-19. And I had symptoms; I wasn't one of the lucky people it doesn't affect. Thanks to my vaccination and booster shots, I was never sick enough to go to the doctor for care, but I was sick enough that most everything in my life got put on pause while I recovered. That included writing my September roundup. Instead of scrambling to catch up once I was better, I decided to just do a joint post after October, and here we are!

I have some unique news to share with you in this post, so I hope you'll enjoy reading to the end 😄

Patreon Rewards

Because of being sick for several weeks from the end of September into the beginning of October, I wasn't able to produce any worthwhile new rewards to send out to Studio Mikarts members during those months. I won't deny I felt guilt and anxiety about it, but as always, my patrons are amazingly patient and understanding people. I'm excited to report that they are soon to be thoroughly rewarded for their constancy 🥰

I completed all 31 Inktober drawings in October (for the first time ever! more on that later) and chose my top ten to present to my patrons. They voted on their top six at the beginning of this month and now all of the winning drawings have been ordered as rewards!

A preview of the patron-only voting post on Patreon.

If you're interested in becoming a Studio Mikarts member, now is a great time to sign up! If you select any of the postcard or print tiers (Pen Pal, Writer, Collector, or Connoisseur) before 21 November 2022, you'll be guaranteed to receive all six of the Inktober rewards! What a solid way to start your collection! 😮 You'll also have the pride of knowing that your support is helping me continue to make cool, unique artwork, both in a financial sense--helping me with things like buying art supplies, paying for intangible costs like the very URL of this blog, and funding entries into art shows, contests, and professional guilds--and in an emotional and social sense, giving me reassurance that my artwork is worthy, and proving to others that these images have value 🖼️✨

Click here to join the studio!

Gryphia Progress

It's not pleasant to realize that I haven't written anything for my first Gryphia novel since the latter half of September. But it's not as if I have lost my motivation or have writer's block. It's just that I've been so busy ever since! First I went on a week-long anniversary vacation (a planned break from writing), then I spent several weeks recovering from COVID-19, soon after that it was time to go to New York state for the Inktober retreat, and for the past couple weeks, I kept finding both legitimate and silly reasons to be busy during my writing hours, until here we are today 😅 The good news is, once I'm done with this post, my writing time will again be available for Gryphia work!

It's not as if I didn't get ANY writing done in the past two months, either. I got about halfway through writing chapter six (of twelve) before my extended break began. That means I'm almost halfway through the entire first draft! It's no longer realistic to aim for my goal of finishing the first draft this year, but I intend to ride the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) energy to make as much progress as possible this month! Wish me luck!

deviantART

I uploaded a lot of work to deviantART last month! It bothered me that in 2020, I had done several lovely drawings for Inktober, but I never even scanned them into my computer. So I took the time to digitize and post all eleven pieces. Even though they're a couple years old now, I still love how they turned out~

This is one of my favorites from the lot. Click here to view on dA.

All of these Inktober drawings followed the same format: a Halloween-themed animal depicted with some sort of plant or mineral, inked in black with limited color added using marker. I drew them all in my tiny Royal Talens sketchbook, which has beautiful, warm ivory-colored paper. Click here to visit my Inktober gallery where you can see all of the 2020 drawings and some of my favorites from previous years, too!

Art Excursions: Grand Canyon North Rim

As I said in my previous blog post, I have continued to go out on art excursions to practice my plein air work, sharpening my life drawing skills and working with subjects I don't see every day. In the past two months I only had a single plein air session, but it was a biggie: I painted the Grand Canyon!

Sitting on the edge of a cliff while painting the view. It was a first for me!
Thank you to my husband, Sean, for taking these photos 😊

The only thing I didn't like about this art excursion was my own choice of media. I did not realize that the travel watercolor kit I brought was mostly full of bright, neon colors 😱 I initially chose it because it had a few lovely metallic paints, but the other colors didn't look so shockingly bright in the pan. Not until I wet and applied them to the page did their true nature show.

I did my best to work with them, though. After all, I wasn't going to waste the opportunity just because I didn't have the colors I expected. Indeed, the session was a great art lesson because I began experimenting with mixing colors. I ended up being able to produce some nice hues that reflected what I was seeing quite well. And even if the end result wasn't what I hoped to produce, it's still a unique experimental piece!

The final plein air watercolor sketch, with ink details added later.

There was a particular reason I chose a watercolor kit that included metallic paints. Normally in my work, metallic, glitter, and other light-reflecting elements are a waste, because they're not picked up properly by the scanner and therefore don't make it into the final piece. In this case, however, I knew I would not just be creating a plein air sketch, but that I would be doing it on watercolor postcard paper! The final painted postcard, with all its metallic glory, was mailed to my best friend since adolescence, Sarah, who is now the owner of my first ever painting of and from the Grand Canyon 😊

Greetings from the Grand Canyon!

While I was at the Grand Canyon (we visited the North Rim, which I had never been to before and has a very different look from the South Rim I visited in childhood!) I bought a bunch of neat souvenirs from the gift shops. One of them was a purely practical purchase: a sling rucksack that will make future art excursions much easier! Until now, it's been cumbersome carrying my art tools, a waterbottle, perhaps a snack, and my personal items in a regular backpack, which I have to take off and put back on every time I need something, usually with the backpack or something else spending time on the dirty ground while I rearrange 😬 With this new rucksack, I can just swing it around to my front when I need something or even wear it across my chest the whole time! It's hard to put into words how much this bag is going to improve my art excursions. The bottom line is, I'm going to be spending more time making art!

Livestreaming

One of the first things I was able to get back to once I started feeling well enough, thanks to the impetus of Inktober, was livestreaming on Twitch. In September, I streamed every week until I took my anniversary vacation, completing two Lucky Dip pieces and making a couple more hours of progress on the digital coloring of my chibi tanuki piece.

I think the chat-inspired title of this one ended up being Beast Boy Be Creepin' 😆
My final Lucky Dip until November!

For October, I switched from Lucky Dips and Chibi Fridays to Inktober! This was my plan since returning to Twitch earlier this year, and it went so well I intend to do it every year 😊 I livestreamed a total of six Inktober drawings this October (the other 25 were all done during the Inktober retreat! More on that later~). I'm not sure how outwardly apparent it is, but without a doubt, participating in the Inktober challenge this year helped not only my inking skills, but my composition and design skills, and improved my drawing efficiency and confidence.

My first drawing served as a warmup for the entire challenge.
This gryphon was nicknamed the "wiener bird" by Twitch 😆
You can't really tell, but this is a bat-snake gryphon!
My first attempt at using a gesture drawing to increase overall dynamism.
By this time, I was less hesitant to try drawing unusual scenes from imagination!
I absolutely love this, my final drawing 🤩
Gives a completely different meaning to "turkey farm"!

To join me during future livestreams (where we can chat in real time!) visit my Twitch page and click the "Follow" button. You'll get notifications when I go live, either in your email, on your Twitch app, or both. My streaming schedule is the same every week. Check out the schedule on my page to see times and dates in your time zone 🌏

Charity Fundraising: Zoo Boise

Because I lost so many streaming days in September, and because I was too ill to update it before I resumed streaming in October, I kept Zoo Boise as my featured charity. My fundraising formula is based on the number of unique viewers I get on Twitch in a month (or in this case, two months). I donate USD $0.10 per viewer, with a minimum of $10 and a max of $100.

Across September and October, I had 26 unique viewers! That amounted to a $10 donation 🤗💸✨

When I made the donation, I was pleasantly surprised to find a specific goal listed on the donation page. This $10 is going to help build the red pandas a bigger, better home! I'm excited to see it when it's done 💕 If you'd also like to help with the red pandas' new home, please make a donation here!

This month, November, my featured charity is Farm Sanctuary. They are working to create a more kind and healthy world, where farm animals are allowed to live out their natural lives freely, in peace and happiness. Since 1986 (my birth year 🤯) they have run the Adopt a Turkey Project, redefining the meaning of Turkey Day 🦃💖 You can even take a quiz to determine which of this year's spokesturkeys match your personality! I got Roberto, the Adventurer~ The money we raise livestreaming in November will count towards his symbolic adoption. If the total is greater than that, I will donate the extra as well!

Monthly Recommendations

Now it's time for one of the most fun parts of my roundup posts: monthly recommendations! This time they span two months, but because this post is already plenty long, I'm still sticking to one recommendation per category. As a reminder, I'm not being paid to promote any of these things (though I wouldn't mind if that were actually the case 🤑) they're just things I legitimately want to share in hopes that you, my readers, might enjoy them, too.

👟 Workout of the Month 👟
Hiking

With a trip to southern Utah in September and to northern New York in October, hiking was a big theme for both months! I hiked with my husband along an easy trail at Grand Canyon National Park during our day trip there, and then joined in a couple group hikes in Adirondacks Park during the Inktober retreat.

It's starting to get snowy and cold here, so hiking is more dangerous for many reasons. I've probably done my final hikes for 2022. If you're lucky enough to find some trails that are still warm and dry, why not don your hiking boots and set out? Physical exertion in the great outdoors, there's nothing more invigorating!

🍽️ Vegan Victuals of the Month 🍽️
Cinnaholic Cinnamon Rolls

Ever since I went full vegan earlier this year, Cinnaholic has become my favorite indulgent dessert shop. Everything they offer is vegan, so it's a safe haven where I can order anything without spending a bunch of time checking all the ingredients. The calories in their rolls are over the top (no surprise there, nothing so delicious could be low-cal!), so I've had to limit myself 😅 but there's nothing better when you're craving comfort sweets 🤤

Chai frosting, maple frosting, apples, chocolate chips, graham crackers, and marshmallows~

I reminded myself of Cinnaholic during the Inktober retreat, when I drew an owl gryphon eyeing a delicious roll for the prompt "tempting". My trip back to Boise was very stressful (in fact it was the worst day of flying I've ever experienced...), so of course, my first full day back home, I ordered the scrumptious roll you see above!

Spoiler alert: This Cinnaholic-craving gryphon (which I'm considering a loose self-portrait 😆) was one of the Inktober drawings that got voted into reward status! Postcards are on their way to the studio as I write 💌

📕 Book of the Month 📕
A Man and His Cat by Umi Sakurai

My recommended book this time is the start of a series that spans at least ten volumes (the eighth English volume is slated for release in May 2023). If you love cats or pets or just warm, fuzzy feelings, I think you'll love this~ It was originally published in Japanese on Twitter.

Here's my review of the first volume, originally posted on The StoryGraph:

emotional funny hopeful lighthearted relaxing fast-paced

⭐ 5.0

This was such a touching, heartwarming manga! It's very reminiscent of Chi's Sweet Home, both being cute tales told mainly from the point of view of cats who find new homes with loving humans. If you enjoyed Chi's story, I'm sure you'd love this. A Man and His Cat is a bit more bittersweet, with hints of past tragedy and more moments of sadness, but it's also full of humor and cuddly scenes that make you smile. The artwork is well done: pretty and easy to digest. When I finished this first volume, which I waited a long time to purchase so that I could save money by buying used, I immediately ordered all the following volumes--used if I could get them, but new if that was the only option--because that's how much I wanted to continue the story! If you're in the mood for something uplifting and fluffy, and especially if you were already considering reading this manga, I encourage you to give A Man and His Cat a try~

📺 Show of the Month 📺
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney+

I was looking forward to watching She-Hulk long before it premiered, simply because I'm always in the mood for more female superheroes to inspire me, but I had no idea what to expect from the show. Happily, I enjoyed it from the beginning, and the more I watched, the more I liked it. After finishing the final episode, it had planted itself firmly in the top three of my Marvel series ranking. I think Moon Knight is still my number one, but She-Hulk is so unique (and so hilarious!!!) that it displaced Loki for second place. I highly recommend the show, and make sure to watch to the very end! It's so good, just writing that last sentence gave me goosebumps 😆


Official Trailer | She-Hulk: Attorney at Law | Disney+

Digging around a bit, it looks like a season 2 might be dependent on viewership of season 1, so why not help a girl out and give it a watch? 🙏🙏🙏

🎮 Game of the Month 🎮
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective by SPACE Cowboys

The first time I played one of the cases from this series was at a board game cafe that unfortunately (but understandably) closed down at the beginning of the pandemic. Just that one session was enough to get me hooked, and I was very pleased to receive one of the games for Christmas last year! I could finally play again 🤩

We've made it through three cases so far this year 🔎✨

While the replayability of each individual case is questionable, since all the details are revealed at the end, there are four games with ten cases each, for a grand total of 40 cases to get through. I'd argue that one could still go back and attempt to solve the cases again. 39 cases later, the details might have been forgotten, and if they weren't, one could try for a better score. Either way, even if you played a case a day, it would take you over a month to solve them all!

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a multiplayer, cooperative experience that challenges your logic and deductive skills, and requires a scrupulous attention to detail to achieve a high score (we've never beaten Holmes yet 😅). I recommend keeping pencils and paper in the box for players to use for note taking, and as a way to chronicle your gameplay journey, showing who you played with, when, and how you did. This is one of the few board games I own that specifically gets requested on game nights. Goes to show what a strong and positive impression it leaves on its players!

🎧 Music of the Month 🎧
Mika's Halloween 🎃 on Spotify

For my final recommendation, although it's now out of season, I'd like to share my Halloween playlist with you! It's a truly eclectic mix that includes everything from otome game themes to classical music, from 80s rock to obscure oldies, and from Disney songs to movie soundtracks. The one thing tying all these wildly different genres together is the Halloween theme! I hope you'll enjoy this seasonal playlist, if not now, then next year 😄

Shuffle play is recommended here, since I've been casually building this playlist for two years, without regard to how things are ordered. Tracks are ocassionally removed, but by and large, the run time has only increased. I'm sure by next spooky season, it will have grown even longer. In fact, if you have a favorite Halloween tune that isn't already on this playlist, send it my way! I'm always open to new ingredients for the musical brew~

Personal News: Growing Our Family

One of the activities we planned for our anniversary vacation this past September was adopting some new pets from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary 💕 The pain of losing Sun this summer had finally lessened enough that, instead of feeling like I never wanted to keep a dog again, I began to feel desperate to share my love with a new animal friend. In the end, we welcomed two dogs and a pigeon to our family 🥰 The following are photos of all our beloved pets, old and new.

First we have Aoife, our home's gentle giant. She became firmly attached to me from day one! She now follows me around the house, whether I'm doing yoga in the den, working in the studio, or cooking in the kitchen. Of course that means she sleeps with me every night, too~

This is Sora, who we rescued last year. We were content not knowing her sex all this time, but she finally revealed it when we brought her new pigeon companion home. Just seeing him in his separate cage, as we slowly introduced them over several days, was enough for her to lay her first egg 🤯

Here we have Kumo, our little shining prince. His adoption timeline met so perfectly with our visit to the sanctuary that he was never even publicly listed for adoption. He's a calm, gentle boy, who nonetheless keeps strong, pushy Sora in check.

Longtime readers may remember Kiki! She's our oldest pet now, though you'd never know she was over 14 just by looking at her. She's still healthy, energetic, playful, and spicy 😈 She's also an excellent beta-reader and editor, as you can see here!

Finally we have Chappie, our little wiggle worm. She looks exactly like a black & tan Australian Kelpie, though we won't know her breed for sure until we do a cheek swab DNA test. She was cautious and shy at first, but after a couple weeks she also ended up super attached to me 😅💕

So it is that we have a full house once again~ It's been many years since there were so many of us: two humans, one cat, two pigeons, and two dogs. It's actually been great for my daily routine and overall health. Taking care of the dogs in the morning gets me out of bed when it was so easy to sleep in before. I have new running buddies (the dogs, of course!) so I've finally gotten back to my main sport after being derailed by illness and travel. I even get up and move more often throughout the day, enticed by a coo or meow or the squeak of a toy.

The saying is true: life is good, pets make it better!

Other News: Inaugural Inktober Retreat

Now we near the end of this double roundup post. While the trip I took in September was of a personal nature, during the third week of October, it was all business (in a way, the business of honing my drawing skills!) as I attended the first ever Inktober retreat. I wrote a detailed review of the Focus Retreat Center, where the event was held. Here it is on Google Maps, and also pasted here in its entirety, followed by annotated photos from my trip.

I stayed at the Focus Retreat Center (FRC) for the third week of their Inktober retreat in 2022. I'd never been to a retreat of any kind before, so I only had vague expectations based on FRC handout materials and Inktober retreat-specific information, plus hopes built up by stories I've heard from people who have gone on various retreats elsewhere. I'm happy to report that my stay here was everything I had hoped and much more!

As a vegan, I wasn't sure if FRC could accommodate my dietary needs, but there was plenty to eat (in fact, I couldn't stop myself eating too much!) and I never needed to prepare/source my own food to maintain my vegan lifestyle. The retreat was all-inclusive, so three square meals, snacks, and drinks were included, and the dining area was open 24-hours, so if I needed a late-night snack or hot cup of tea to get me through my last Inktober drawing that day, I was able to satiate myself freely.

My room was spacious and comfortable and quickly became my main workspace as I marathoned 25 Inktober drawings over six days. We were allowed to roll in an electric standing desk and office chair and mine fit perfectly at the foot of my bed. I came to rely on the desk to mitigate as much physical strain as possible; I would sit for one drawing and stand for the next. This kept my chronic low back pain, and other complaints that crop up during long work sessions, at bay. Other cool features in the room: digital thermostat, remote-controlled lighting with brightness and warmth settings, and two-way window shades so you could let in natural light while maintaining privacy. A couple downsides to the room(s): the floors were squeaky and the walls paper-thin. I was able to hear my neighbor clearly and I felt overly conscious moving around too much later in the evenings, for fear of disturbing others. At least for sleeping, the bed was super comfy, so I just used my usual earplugs (normally to block out nighttime city sound) and the thin walls weren't an issue.

Something awesome for my room in particular: it was next to a bathroom! The bathrooms are shared (Poo~pourri recommended!) and a bit small, but the water pressure/heat was good. I have long, curly hair that takes half an hour to wash properly, but even on wash day, the hot water lasted! I don't even get that at home!

FRC is situated facing a lovely park that was full of gorgeous autumn leaves, fluffy grey squirrels, and little chirping birds during my stay. I really enjoyed my evening walks through the area. There were also plenty of conveniently close businesses and facilities, such as a police station, visitor information center (just walk in any time for free Malone postcards!), a drug store, and a post office. Walking around Malone is easy to do (the drivers were extremely considerate of pedestrians; I'm used to having to walk around the back of cars that don't stop until they're sitting on top of the crosswalk, but here every car I met stayed well back until I had passed) and full of interesting sights, especially the architecture. The only time I needed vehicular transportation was on my way to/from the Adirondack Regional Airport (which FRC generously facilitated) and when our group went out on hikes. I tackled two trails while I was in Malone, both beautiful and just the right amount of challenging. The relatively easy access to hiking is another point in FRC's favor, if you're like me, inspired by nature and rejuvenated by physical activity.

I think the greatest compliment I can give FRC is that the positive, inclusive, and healthy atmosphere they actively foster is no doubt the reason I was able to achieve my goal of completing 25 Inktober drawings during my stay. And because of that, I was, for the first time in many years attempting the Inktober challenge, finally able to complete all 31 drawings! If ever circumstances come together again the way they did this year, I would return to FRC for a future retreat without question. I highly recommend it!

The start of my trip from Boise to New York!
The glittering New England ocean was beautiful from the plane 🤩
My room for the week!
The desk I worked at for 24 of the 25 drawings.
The desk got this high, so even tall people can use it standing!
The gorgeous view from the Azure Mountain fire tower.
The fright of climbing the multistory tower is worth it!
This pen holder was 3D printed by request for me by Pete, co-owner of FRC ✨
I never knew I needed this but now I can't do without it! Thank you, Pete 🥰
First of the Inktober retreat goodies: a t-shirt!
Other Inktober retreat goodies: supplies for next year, including a Moleskine sketchbook!
My workstation setup for most of the retreat.
I collected so many pretty leaves while I was in New York 🍁🍂 And I loved the rain!!
My evening walks in the park through crunchy leaves were the best~
Picturesque scenery right outside the retreat center!
A view from the front entrance.
Watching Moon Knight (told'ja it's my fave) while working.
Malone is a beautiful place in autumn.
My Inktober theme was gryphons, and here were some outside the post office!
I had to buy tape to protect my pen-rest finger, which was getting raw from so much drawing 🤕
One of the many delicious vegan meals that were served: tofu pad Thai.
Being presented with my certificate of attendance, just after I gave my concluding speech 😊
So grateful to this group for making the retreat amazing!
Bonus Inktober retreat goodie: a hoodie!
Of course I can't not send local postcards to my best!
Just before I left, my new friend Vika brought me to visit Lake Placid ✨
It was a rough journey home, but it still had its moments!

And that's it for this double-month's roundup! So many events to report, so many memories to share, I hope you enjoyed the read 😊✨ Thank you for sticking with me to the end. Until next month, stay safe and be well~!