17 May 2024

2023 Japan Adventure - Part 12: Exploring Kanazawa

Welcome to the next installment of my Japan Adventure series! Last time, I shared our experience on the ship-sponsored shore excursion. This time, I'll share our experience exploring a Japanese city on our own for the first time! We only had a few hours before all-aboard, but we visited two great locations and once we were back home on the Silver Muse, we enjoyed an epic Kanazawa farewell before settling into some shipboard activities to round out the night as we sailed to the next port 🛳️

Tuesday 21 March 2023 - Exploring Kanazawa

We had dinner at Fumuroya Café (カフェ加賀麩不室屋) which is a chain of cafés and shops that specialize in traditional fu (麩) dishes and products. There was a thirty minute wait but it was worth it!

It's been so long now, I don't remember exactly what I ordered, but from the photo it's clearly curry rice with fu, miso soup with fu, and a veggie side salad 😆 All, to the best of my knowledge, vegan!

Our next stop was just a short walk away...

...Pokémon Center Kanazawa! It was my first time at a real life Pokémon Center 🤩

My husband and I, on the shuttle home, joyful after a successful unguided outing!

The dreamy view of our ship as we approached the port.

Our Pokémon Center haul! Plushies--including regional exclusives--postcards, a hand towel, a water bottle, and promo card packs ✨

We were treated to a farewell yosakoi performance just before departure 🤩

I'd never seen yosakoi before; there were dancers and flag wavers, sometimes at the same time, all timed to music. They performed several different routines for an epic farewell!

The game room was an excellent place to wind down with some correspondence and crosswords 🖋️

As always, I loved coming home to the ship's newspaper--which included information about our next port, the weather forecast, and upcoming shipboard activities--and some chocolates!

That's all for our adventures in Kanazawa. Next stop, Niigata, for some of our most epic moments yet! Thank you for reading to the end. I hope you'll look forward to the next installment. Until then, please stay happy, healthy, and safe ❤️

02 May 2024

2023 Japan Adventure - Part 11: Kanazawa Shore Excursion

Hello, everyone! It's been so long since my last entry in this series but I never forgot about chronicling my 2023 Japan adventure 🎌 I'm going to continue sharing my travels with you; I've dedicated my writing time for the next six weeks to this endeavor! I hope you'll enjoy reading until the end of the journey.

Click here to read the previous entry in this series.

So, on the eighth day of our adventure (I think? It's hard to figure with crossing the dateline and being awake when we'd normally sleep and such 🤔) we visited Kanazawa, and with our newfound courage, we not only participated in the ship-sponsored shore excursion, but did some exploring on our own! Today's post will focus on the excursion, which included a samurai house, geisha district, and modern art museum.

Tuesday 21 March 2023 - Kanazawa Shore Excursion

The beautiful sunrise as our ship neared the shores of Kanazawa.

The cruise terminal in Kanazawa.

They actually had a sign with our ship's name on and everything!
A little touch like that made me feel especially welcome 🥰


The first place on our guided tour was the Nomura Samurai residence.

This awesome suit of armor was just inside the house, as if to greet you!

A big feature of the house was its small but splendid garden.


Always lovely to spot a koi 🐟

Extra exciting for me was a collaboration with the new anime adaptation of My Happy Marriage!

This standee features the character Tatsuishi Kouji, the main character's childhood friend ❤️

After the samurai neighborhood, we visited Higashi Chaya, an old geisha district, and did some shopping! This is one of the gold leaf shops we visited: HAKUZA hikari-gura. There were many such shops because Kanazawa is famous for its gold leaf. The "kana" part of Kanazawa even means "gold"!

We bought some tasty treats and souvenirs for people back home at this matcha shop, Sawawa.

I was excited to come across this Shinto shrine, Higashiyama Sugawara Shrine, as it was the first one I got to visit during this trip! I offered my prayers to the resident god (kamisama) and received a good fortune in return 😊

The top of the fortune has a waka poem, followed by a general fortune, and your luck type (I believe mine is the lowest possible good, which is literally not bad!). The final sections address specific areas, such as desires, lost items, studies, illness, etc. The back also has a longer message of wisdom from the kamisama.

Our next stop on the guided tour was the Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Art. As you might imagine, this sculpture caught everyone's attention as the tour bus got parked!

This clever piece changes every moment, as the large square hole makes the entire room a frame for the sky! It's titled Blue Planet Sky, designed by James Turrell. There's seating all around the room, so you can sit and really enjoy the dreamy effect.

This is my favorite piece from the museum, The Man who Measures the Clouds, by Jan Fabre.

So nice to get to see this whimsical sculpture on a cloudy day!

It seemed our cruise was perfectly timed to enjoy the sakura in most of the places we visited!
This is me and my husband, Sean, posing with one of the museum's trees.

I wanted to enter this installation, but, as you can see, it was very popular, especially with energetic kids! It's called Colour Activity House and was made by Olafur ELIASSON.

This is another piece I would have liked to try, but it's specifically designed for kids, so I left it to them 😉 It's titled Wrapping and was made by Fernando Romero.

One thing I DID do was get a selfie in this awesome sculpture! It took some digging but I discovered it is a commemorative piece made for the museum's 10th anniversary in 2016. It's called Spherical Pavilion “MARU” and was designed by Sejima Kazuyo and Nishizawa Ryue.

After this, we returned to our ship and prepared to explore the city on our own. I must say, I expected to share our Kanazawa adventures in a single post, but the research necessary to write knowledgeably about our excursion was a huge undertaking! I hope you'll check out some of these places if you get the chance to visit Kanazawa yourself 😊 I'll be back soon with the next entry in this series. Until then, please stay happy, healthy, and safe!

30 April 2024

2024 April Roundup

Spring has truly arrived here in Boise! It's bright, colorful, and fragrant, but also windy and full of pollen 🥲🌸 My eyes are dry and grainy, but it's worth it in exchange for gorgeous patio weather every weekend ⛱️🌳🍃 Today is the last day of April, my birth month! Allow me to share with you all the cool and fun things I got up to in the first month of my 39th year!

Patreon Rewards

April's rewards went out last week. They featured an updated WIP (work in progress) scan of my 2024 Birthday Gryphon greeting card illustration. I sent these rewards with hopes that their recipients would enjoy comparing the first WIP (from March) to the second! Next month the final piece will go out, completing the trio 💌

Supporting my work through Patreon helps me both financially and mentally, giving me the funds necessary to run Studio Mikarts and the emotional boost that comes from knowing you really believe in what I'm doing 🥰 If you're already a member, thank you so much! If you'd like to become a member, just click here.

deviantART

I only finished one piece in April, one piece, from One Piece! It was another chibi caricature, this time of live-action Usopp, in celebration of our shared birthdate, April First 🥳

Click here to view, fave, and comment on dA!

Unexpectedly, this chibi helped me realize that a setting had mysteriously been turned off in Photoshop, so that all of my .PNG images were saving with sad, dull colors. Looking back, the issue had been happening since the end of last year 😱 I've resaved most of the affected images, including this chibi Usopp, and now I know to make sure the "ICC Profile" box remains checked when saving!!

Livestreaming

I made a slight change to my Twitch schedule in April: still live on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday for two hours, but starting and ending 30 minutes earlier. See the new schedule in your time zone here. I made this change to accommodate the amount of time it has been taking to do my followup work, including raiding a fellow art streamer, publishing the stream recording on YouTube, and making a YouTube Short from a previous recording.

Here's the last livestream from April, part two of my Mika & Sean Astin chibi caricature, which also features another change I made this month: the addition of a second, alternate camera view!

I was glad last week, for making the schedule change, because I realized I had another item to add to my followup checklist! I had never touched Twitch Clips before (I now know they're basically like YouTube Shorts) and the person I raided played my channel's featured clip, which was at least a year old and a complete surprise to me because apparently viewers can clip stuff but you don't get informed of it 😅 Now I've been making a new Clip after I'm done streaming, so that my current streams will get featured when I raid!

Charity Fundraising

Our charity of the month for April was Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.). Among the many things they do to help make the world a better place for animals (including us humans!) my favorite is their amazing offering of free vegan recipes for well-known foods from around the world, including Mexican, Chinese, Filipino, and Lao, with a Soul Food project underway! It turned out they are currently fundraising specifically for their recipes, making this the perfect time to feature them for a donation 💸

Before I talk about my donation, though, I MUST thank my Twitch subscriber, Wolfaxe2, for blowing our humble $10 Twitch viewer goal out of the water! He contributed 1.5 times the entire goal, $15 to F.E.P.! 👏👏👏 Thank you so much, Wolf!! 💖✨

So what about my donation? While we didn't break the unique viewers record a third month in a row, we still had 22! My formula is $0.10 USD per viewer, minimum $10, max $100. That equals another $10 to support F.E.P., for a total of $25! As always, I opted to cover the processing charge 😉

If you'd like to make your own donation to F.E.P. please click here! Our next charity, for May, will be The Vegan Society, the OG vegan charity that started it all, including inventing the word vegan, and is still going strong today! Please join me on Twitch throughout May, and bring your friends, to support The Vegan Society's efforts to make the world a better place for all animals! We just need 30 unique viewers to break the record set last month 😎

Gryphia Progress

Here's some exciting news hot off the press! Just this morning, I finished the first draft of the epilogue, which means the entire first draft of my first ever novel is complete!!! 🥳🎉🎊✨

There's still plenty of work to be done before it's in a readable state (including rewriting the bits of chapter one that were lost to the aether after a freak glitch deleted the entire file 😱) but, like I said last month, I'm going to follow Stephen King's advice and let it rest for six weeks first. In the meantime, I hope to complete my Japan Adventure series here, so you'll be seeing a lot more posts throughout May! I hope you'll look forward to it 😊

Other News: 38th Birthday Vacation Awesomeness

I took the last week of March and the first week of April off for my birthday. Here is a little photo log of some of the highlights!

I held a three-day Lord of the Rings 4K Extended Edition marathon and cooked vegan British Isles food each day! Here's my full English breakfast with a non-alcoholic snakebite and creamy Earl Grey tea, and Aoife in the background 🐶

One of the birthday gifts I received was this epic portrait of Samwise Gamgee, drawn by my sister, Aryssa, and commissioned by my husband, Sean 💖

A gift from me to my pet pigeons was this new aviary! My husband helped me build it, and I've been filling it with more and more lovely things for Sora and Kumo to enjoy, including a bale of hay to make nests with, and soon a whole wall of potted, bird-safe plants 🪴

The most exciting birthday gift I received was a fan package to meet Sean Astin at Gem State Comic Con! The package included an autograph, which went on the epic portrait, and this "selfie" which was generously taken by one of the con staff and is now my current Chibi Friday project 🥰

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That's it for April's roundup! Thank you for reading until the end! I'll be back again soon with another Japan Adventure post. Until then, may you stay happy, healthy, and safe ❤️

12 April 2024

2024 March Roundup

It's time for another monthly roundup! I'm getting started on this one late because I took the whole first week of April off for my birthday 🥳🎂 So as not to delay it any longer, let's get started!

Patreon Rewards

March's physical rewards featured a WIP (work in progress) image of my current illustration project. It's a birthday gryphon scene, thus far rendered in graphite and watercolor, that will eventually be an illustrated greeting card!

Patreon is the best way to support my work. You can choose to receive monthly postcards, prints, both, or none, and all tiers receive digital rewards like printable coloring pages 😁 Please click here to join and help me build my creative career!

deviantART

In March I finished my chibi live-action Sanji caricature and it's my most recent upload to dA.

Click here to view, fave, and comment on dA!

Also new on dA in March are subscription tiers! They share some similarities with Patreon, such as offering the same printable coloring pages, but the higher tiers are unique for their chibi caricature rewards! If you enjoy my chibi drawings, click here to become My Jolly Friend or My Best Friend and start getting custom chibi caricatures every year or quarter! You can also click here to read more about the tiers and everything they offer 😄

Livestreaming

Twitch streaming in March was just as fun-filled as ever! I continue to work on illustration Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Chibi Friday on, you guessed it, Fridays 😎 Here's the photo and recording from the last stream of March, during which I started a chibi live-action Usopp caricature!


Twitch is another platform where you can support my work by subscribing 💖 Members there get access to our private Discord server (same with Patreon and dA members, so we can all hang out together!), custom emotes that can be used in channels all across Twitch, and more. Click here to check my schedule and join me when I go live!

Charity Fundraising

Every month I support a charity that works to improve the world for animals 🥰 I do this by taking my unique viewers count on Twitch and donating $0.10 USD per viewer, with a minimum of $10 and a maximum of $100. This allows me to add more meaning to my streaming for both me and my viewers! So what was the unique viewers count for March?

✨🎊 Twenty-nine!!! Another new record!!! 🎊✨

How AWESOME that we broke the record two months in a row!!! Thank you to everyone who joined me and made this happen! Our charity for March was Food For Life Global, an organization that helps animals by, among other actions, serving healthy vegan meals to humans in need 💚 This meant a $10 donation to them!

If you'd like to support Food For Life Global's efforts, please click here to make your own donation. April's charity is the Food Empowerment Project, which makes a difference for animals by promoting veganism in various ways, including by offering vegan recipes from Mexican, Chinese, Lao, and Filipino cuisine 🤤 Please join me on Twitch this month and bring your friends! Let's break the record again 🤩

Gryphia Progress

I am so excited about my first draft, it's almost done! At the end of March, I had nearly 3k words written for chapter twelve, the final chapter.

When I finish the first draft, I'm going to follow the advice I took from Stephen King's On Writing and set the project aside for six weeks (so that I can detach from it and start edits with a more objective mind). In the meantime, I'll be focusing on my Japan Adventure post series here, so when you start seeing more blog posts, you'll know I finished it!

Other News: JLPT N3 Certificate

In January, I shared that I had passed the JLPT at the N3 level. So I thought I'd also share my official certificates that arrived in March 🤓✨

N3 is only the middle level among the JLPT tests, so I have plenty left to learn before I'm done! These certificates make me feel like I'm now standing on solid ground as I work my way higher!

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That's all for now, thank you so much for reading to the end! I'll be back again with another roundup post next month, or maybe a Japan Adventure post even sooner! Until then, please stay happy, healthy, and safe ❤️