16 September 2022

2022 August Roundup

It's another bright, sunny day. The vines growing up my garden floor window are protecting me from the harshest rays. The sky is cloudless and yet not clear; the normal blue is a hazy grey, probably smoky from the wildfires. Despite the summer heat this week, I'm wearing a hoodie. It's cold in the air conditioned basement.

August was a wild, eventful month. In rounding up everything for this post, I was surprised time and again, "Wow, that was in August? It feels like ages ago, now." I hope you'll enjoy examining this final full month of summer with me!

Patreon Rewards

This was the first thing that surprised me, when I realized it was indeed part of August. Patreon rewards for the month went out on the 8th. They featured my Spring Gryphon greeting card illustration, which was started back in June. It was my hope to get my Summer Gryphon completed in August as well, but with Sun's unexpected passing at the end of July, I couldn't muster the focus to meet such a deadline.

Copying the final sketch lines onto a sheet of tracing paper.
Physical media work complete.
The final piece, with digital adjustment and additions.
Not only postcards, but a full-size print went out into the world this time!

The very limited handwritten-note tiers of my Patreon are still open 😊 Your support helps me keep making art and telling stories, both from a practical, financial perspective, and also in an emotionally encouraging way, by showing me there are people who truly believe in my work. Sign up here to get a monthly postcard, print, or both 💖

Gryphia Progress

At the end of August, I had reached 3,600+ words written for my first draft of chapter five. Just today, September 2nd, I finished the chapter! I'm honestly getting a little worried that my 12-chapter format won't be long enough to contain the story I intend to write, but I continually remind myself that this is only the first draft. There will be plenty of time for revision, where I can edit to fit the original format, or decide to lengthen it. Right now, all that matters is writing the very first, and very rough, version of this story.

I'm aiming for 3,000-5,000 words per chapter.

deviantART

This blog post prompted me to finally get some more art uploaded to dA so I would have something to write about in this section! dA is the place I've posted my art online the longest, nearly twenty years. Keeping that going, so I can see how far I've come, is the reason I continue to use the platform. It's a fun impetus but never a priority. Hence why I am still a year behind in posting, lol.

"海鮮鍋 (Kaisen'nabe)" Click here to view on deviantART.

The piece I'm featuring here is my favorite project from my final undergraduate painting class, finished spring semester of 2021. The details are all on dA (so click the link 😉) but in brief, this is both a wolfy representation of the characters in one of my favorite otome visual novels, 百花百狼 aka Nightshade, and a depiction of the primary emotions using color and flowers. I'm so fond of this piece, I considered getting it as a tattoo!

The only art I have left to post from 2021 is my senior project, which includes six pieces. Then I have all the art I've made so far this year 😅 It would be nice if I could be caught up before 2023 arrives, lol.

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference

Now this was an exciting and exhausting weekend! I attended my first "work conference" at the beginning of the month. It wouldn't have happened if SCBWI wasn't holding it 100% virtually. Ongoing pandemic aside, I simply can't afford the cost of attending a conference in New York City ☹️

The conference had a huge range of speakers and topics, delivered in keynote speeches, moderated panels, and breakout presentations. I learned so much about the publishing industry and how to improve my storytelling! It felt like I finally walked up to the distant, looming gatekeepers and found them not hard, sneering power mongers, but normal people just trying to help others find the correct door to pass through.

My studio viewing setup.
Sketches from the live, guided drawing session.
I love the sweet little story that I ended up creating!
I took SO MANY NOTES. It was like a semester in three days!

You might have noticed my awesome, crayon red hair in those photos 😊 My sister both reminded me of my childhood plan to dye my hair bright, flashy colors once it naturally lightened enough, and she actually helped me dye it! I found the Arctic Fox brand when I was googling around for long-lasting color, but I chose them because they're vegan! It goes without saying I'm chuffed with the results ❤️

Art Excursions

A huge, immediate impact the SCBWI conference had on me was inspiring some changes to my monthly routine. I am now adding an art excursion to my schedule every couple weeks, to get some live drawing practice. In August, I visited Zoo Boise two times (I always loved drawing the animals there, so of course it was my first choice) and nearly filled this sketchbook (which I bought at the zoo itself; it's made of fiber reclaimed from elephant poop 🤯).

From my August 13th visit.
From my August 18th visit.

I haven't decided where I'll go for my next excursions, but the World Center for Birds of Prey is top of my list. I'll also be visiting the Grand Canyon later this month, so I'll definitely be sketching the sights there! Please look forward to my plein air sketches in every roundup post from now on 📝✨

Livestreaming

It's the 7th of September now (yes, this blog post has taken me a while to compose!) and starting today, my livestream windows will be shortened to one hour. To be honest, it's been lonely the past few months, with hardly any viewership. On top of that, even when I have a live audience to keep me company, it remains physically taxing and mentally exhausting to make art while sitting still and talking for two hours straight.

I started using a new formula for Chibi Friday, to start telling stories with each piece.

Last week, I felt like giving up livestreaming altogether 😔 But I would like to continue fundraising for charity through my streams, and to keep open the opportunity to share my work with new people. Plus, it's Inktober next month, an event I almost always participate in. The popularity of Inktober may increase viewership, which will increase both the funds I donate to my October charity and the chance of having my work seen!

The ink wasn't Copic-proof, so I mapped colors with the markers before going digital.

So my plan is to continue livestreaming at least through the end of October. If by then I still feel like my time could be better spent on something else, I'll quit livestreaming and think of a new way to have fun raising money for charity together. For now, here is my updated schedule:

  • Wednesdays 15:30 - 16:30 MDT (GMT-6) Lucky Dip
    (making a single piece of art using four randomly selected art supplies)
  • Fridays 15:30 - 16:30 MDT (GMT-6) Chibi Friday
    (drawing one of my adorable, signature chibi caricatures)

Be sure to subscribe to my channel on Twitch (it's free!) to get notifications whenever I go live, and to see my most up-to-date schedule, including which days I won't be streaming due to vacation.

To honor Sun's memory, my Lucky Dip sessions featured 15 random items!
15 items for Sun's 15 years of life. His portrait turned out great 😊🤍

In happier news, I'm getting somewhat caught up on posting recordings to YouTube! 😅 Here's one of my recent uploads:

Staying caught up on YouTube posting is another benefit of the shorter stream window. One hour is half the time I was streaming previously, which means half the file size for the recording, and half the time required to upload and share it! This is another area where I'd really like to be completely caught up before the end of the year 🤞

Charity Fundraising

My charity for August was Best Friends Animal Society, whose mission is to eliminate the practice of killing homeless animals in the United States of America. Frankly, it's appalling that in our modern age of advanced technology, global communication, and unprecedented overall prosperity, this is still an issue. I remember that harrowing scene in Lady and the Tramp, with the happy-go-lucky, innocent dog being led off to the gas chamber, and it's shocking to realize this still occurs today.

In August I had 15 unique Twitch viewers, which equals a $10 USD donation to the organization! This is on top of a donation I made shortly after Sun's passing, at the beginning of August, in sponsorship of their long-term resident Shiba Inu, Hazel. I wanted to put August's Twitch-generated donation directly toward her care once again, so I actually increased the amount to $25, which is the minimum for a sponsorship 🐶💖

If you'd like to make your own donation to Best Friends Animal Society, or sponsor a specific animal in their care, click here ❤️ And to participate in my Twitch fundraising for September, join me when I go live and bring your friends! This month, I am raising money for Zoo Boise, whose activities support conservation of endangered species and the protection of wild animals around the world.

Monthly Recommendations

Now we come to the most fun part of my monthly roundups: recommendations! These are all things that brought goodness into my life in August and I'm excited to share them with you. Anything that requires a purchase is not being sponsored by the producer, nor am I being compensated in any way. I just really love this stuff for real 😄

👟 Workout of the Month 👟
Swimming

It being the dead of summer, with record-breaking temperatures, I had a great time swimming in August! The nice thing about it for me is that I don't swim as a sport, I just mess around in the water, come up with games, try some acrobatics, and just become a kid again. I always have a crazy fun time, and because these activities aren't part of my everyday life, I always end up sore as if I had done a full-body strength training session. It's the no-workout workout!

Although I'm desperately looking forward to cooler temps and autumn weather, I'm making the best of the remainder of summer with more swimming! Why not jump in yourself? I hope you can find a gym, public rec center, a friend with a pool, or even a lake or river to enjoy before summer is over!

🍽️ Vegan Victuals of the Month 🍽️
Red Curry with Tofu by Veestro

We started ordering Veestro meals last year and we enjoyed them so much (both the deliciousness and the convenience) that they've become a freezer staple ever since. They are the perfect weeknight dinner because they're tasty, healthy, vegan, quick & easy to prepare, and come in a variety of cuisines!

Although there are several Veestros (our term at home for "Veestro meals" lol) that I'm always happy to eat, there is just one stand-out favorite: the Red Curry with Tofu! This meal is SO DELICIOUS. Just writing about it this moment, even though it's breakfast time (this blog really is taking me forever: it's now the 16th!) and I just ate, my mouth is salivating in hopes of enjoying the brown rice smothered in mellow red curry filled with broccoli, cauliflower, and tofu 🤤✨

Unfortunately, Veestro recently announced a completely revamped delivery style and menu, which doesn't include my beloved Red Curry 😭 Please, Veestro, bring it back! I could eat this meal every day without tiring. It's not just my favorite Veestro meal, it's one of my favorite dinners, period!

📕 Book of the Month 📕
The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo

This month's recommended book is one that I purposefully took months to read. If you're a writer, or have dreams of becoming one, this is a must-read book! Check out my StoryGraph review for more details:

hopeful informative inspiring reflective slow-paced
5.0 ⭐
It's hard to decide where to begin or what to include in my review. I have so many glowing remarks swirling inside me, I think I may end up saying less than I could, just because remarking upon all the individual points that make this book so informative and valuable would take too long! I think every writer should read this book, and just as is recommended in the book itself, they should read it slowly, while engaging in their writing practice. When I read that part, it convinced me to finally settle into a purposeful writing routine, with this book as my daily warmup. It is no exaggeration to say that the thousands of words I've added to my manuscript this year are hugely due to the constant, gentle encouragement this book provided. It didn't matter if the advice was relevant to what I was writing at the time. I absolutely filled the book with written sticky notes, marking things I want to remember later, things that I'll need when I finally get to that point in the process, things to be reminded of when I'm starting my next project, and things that are just good advice for any creative professional engaging in long-term projects.
I just happened to come across this book when shopping at Barnes & Noble one day, looking to use a coupon. The title caught my eye because it had already been years since I started my current novel and I still hadn't finished chapter one of my first draft. Who knew it would become my favorite book on writing, a paper teacher, encouraging and informing, and a magic talisman, spurring me on through darkness and doubt? It may sound overdramatic, but that's really the feeling I have toward this book. You can bet I will be reading it again and again throughout my writing career.

📺 Show of the Month 📺
X-Men on Disney+

For the past couple months, my husband and I have been watching the 90s X-Men cartoon on Disney+ (to avoid spoilers, I'll just say that the final episode of a certain new show inspired us!). I had seen a random episode here and there when the show was still airing for the first time, but never before now have I sat down and watched it all, start to finish. We're in the middle of season three, so we're only about halfway done with the series, but I already want to feature it here because it's surprisingly good!

While giving it concessions for the period it was made in (early 1990s) and its intended viewing platform (standard definition television) the show's pacing and storytelling still holds up today. I even found myself emotionally moved during several climactic moments! The show has also reaffirmed my love for Wolverine. I always liked him on those rare occasions I saw this cartoon as a kid, and of course Hugh Jackman's performance in 2000's X-Men made me fall totally in love. Seeing cartoon Wolverine again now, even though I've grown up and changed in so many ways, I'm very happy to confirm that he's exactly how I remembered 🥰

🎮 Game of the Month 🎮
Duolingo

August's recommended game is a bit different from usual. Duolingo is primarily a learning tool, but they've gamified it such that you can consider it just as much a game as anything else, it's just one where your real life skills level up as you progress!

Plush Duo: Specially released for Duolingo's 10th anniversary this year!

The reason I chose Duolingo for my roundup this time is because the annual Duocon took place in August. I attended virtually last year, and I couldn't help getting excited to do it again this year! I got all dressed up in my Duolingo shirt with matching makeup, and even Sora joined me in its green-accented flyper!

A bird on each shoulder. Which one is real? (The pigeon is real.)

Duocon isn't the only reason I'm shining my spotlight on Duolingo. Unlike any other game, Duolingo is something I do EVERY day. I practice my Japanese with at least one lesson per day, often doing two or three when Duolingo's game elements and encouragement from mascot Duo prompt me to keep going. I have an 827-day streak (about to become 828 once I finish up this blog post!) and I can't credit the platform enough with helping me advance and hone my Japanese language skills. I truly love Duolingo and recommended it to everyone wanting to learn a language!

🎧 Music of the Month 🎧
To The Opera! by Hans Zimmer

I've been listening to the Stephen Fry-narrated Sherlock Holmes audiobook for the past couple months, often while eating lunch and when working on illustration. It is phenomenal and it will certainly make an appearance in a future blog post after I finish it. That audiobook inspired me to feature here one of my favorite songs from the soundtrack of one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes adaptations:

Oooo, this part just gives me such chills, it's so powerfully moving, so exciting, so much darkness. The web of Moriarty is fully deployed, and our heroes are absolutely confounded by it. How can they possibly rise triumphant?! Goodness, I have riled myself up so much, I may have to rewatch these Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law movies again during my vacation next week 🤩

And, at last, that is all for my August roundup! The sun is shining terribly brightly this morning. I'm keeping my curtains closed against it. You wouldn't know that autumn weather has been sneaking its way in, blessing us with cloudy days and thunderstorms and cool mornings. I love it. I love the time of year that's on the way ❤️ Thank you for joining me again this month. I hope you enjoyed the ride! See you again in a couple weeks!

10 August 2022

2022 July Roundup

It's a lovely cloudy morning as I begin writing this. The summer sun is valiantly glowing through the hazy cover, but I'd be happy if the clouds thickened a bit more~ Google says it probably won't rain today, but I can always hope! To be honest, I'm finding it a bit difficult to start this month's roundup post. I'm feeling relatively well today, but about a week ago, we had to say the big goodbye to our 15-year-old fur baby, Sun. It was a sudden and shocking event, and I have been in a state of grief ever since. In my Sun-boy's honor, I'm including a celebration section at the end of this post 😊

July Patreon Rewards

It was actually Sun's 15th birthday in July, so I livestreamed a chibi caricature of him and made the end result into Patreon rewards! Patrons who have been with me since July 2021 now have two birthday Sun rewards, since I did the same thing last year 💌

First livestream session: ink complete!

Second livestream session: all done!

The sleepy Sun-dog poses with his portrait~🧡

Rewards away! Sun lives on in Studio Mikarts member collections 🤍

Click here to join Studio Mikarts on Patreon and get either a handwritten postcard, three blank postcards, a full-size print, or three postcards AND a print, all featuring my newest illustration work, every month.

Art Livestreaming

I put myself on vacation mode for obvious reasons last week, but until then, art livestreaming proceeded smoothly in July. I completed two Lucky Dip pieces (which is where I choose four art supplies at random and make a drawing or painting with them) and two chibi caricatures (Sun, my dog, and Deku from My Hero Academia, whose birthday was also in July!). My streaming schedule remains the same this month: Wednesday and Friday afternoons, 15:00 - 17:00 MDT (GMT-6). You can check for schedule updates and subscribe for livestream notifications by visiting my channel here

Thank you to everyone who joined me for these streams! Especially those of you who helped the time pass pleasantly by chatting with me while I worked 🗨️❤️

Lucky Dip XII, made with acrylic, watercolor, and ink.

Chibi Deku part 1, ink complete, marker started.

Lucky Dip XIII, graphite and metallic ink.

Chibi Deku part 2, complete!

I am unfortunately behind in uploading my art streams to YouTube, but I've got everything queued up and nearly ready to share, so there will be some new videos this month! Click here to visit my channel and subscribe to get notified when those videos debut 😉

Gryphia Progress

As with everything else in July, I wasn't productive in writing during the last week, but I had already reached a total of 2,734 words for my chapter four first draft, so I feel satisfied with my progress. There will always be ups and downs in any long-term project; what's important is keeping the work flowing, even if it's only a trickle!

My goal for August is to finish chapter four and start chapter five. I'd be super happy if I could finish chapter five within the month, but I have learned from long experience that setting goals too high ends up with my lamenting what I didn't accomplish, rather than celebrating what I did (which is usually still a lot!).

deviantART

I'm making progress in catching up my deviantART account! This was one thing that actually benefited from my week of rest at the end of July. I wasn't very motivated most of the time, but I realized that I had uploaded neither my most recent Sun chibi, nor the one from last year! So now my 14th birthday Sun and another chibi dog caricature have joined the other 19 years of art on my account 😊

Happy 14th Birthday, Sun!

Monthly Recommendations

Now it's time to have fun with my monthly recommendations! In every roundup post, I like to share things that I've really enjoyed and hope that you will enjoy, too 😄 Here we go!

📕 Book of the Month📕
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

I wrote a huge review for this book on The StoryGraph last week, so I'll just let that speak for me!

 adventurous challenging emotional funny fast-paced

    Plot- or character-driven? A mix
    Strong character development? Yes
    Loveable characters? Yes

5.0 ⭐

It's been over a decade since I last read this book. I remembered loving it at the time, so much so that I preordered all the sequels as they came available, but after the fourth book, life got busy and I never finished reading the series, even though I owned it. Well, this year, with many recent disappointments while trying to discover new fantasy books, and after hearing about the rerelease of the Temeraire series in a set of beautiful, matching trade paperback covers, I was inspired to read His Majesty's Dragon again.

I was afraid my memories of loving the book (I remembered nothing but my feelings about it; everything else had completely evaporated from my mind) might end up being rose-tinted relics of the past. That actually happened to me with a gryphon book series earlier this year; in an odd way, being disappointed by an old favorite is heartbreaking. So I was half expecting to be let down when I flipped to the first page of His Majesty's Dragon this time. Imagine, then, my elation when I was desperately taken by the story from the very first line! And how much pleasure I experienced when, every time I opened the book to continue reading, I felt just as excited by the plot and as enamored with the characters, as I had the last time I set the book down ❤️

Naomi Novik's storytelling has done nothing less than restore my faith in fantasy. My entire life, this genre has been my absolute favorite, but for many years now, I just haven't encountered anything satisfying outside my frequent rereads of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series. I was legitimately questioning, when I picked up His Majesty's Dragon again, whether my tastes had actually changed as I've aged, and that the only fantasy I still liked were my childhood favorites. I am so grateful to feel completely reassured that I do indeed love fantasy books! I just need to be a little more selective when I give new books a try; from now on, if I don't feel gripped after reading the first page, I'll move on. I've spent too much time in recent years, trying to force myself to like a book, slogging through page after page, chapter after chapter, telling myself that I just need to give it more of a chance, perhaps reminding myself of how much other people have said they love it. As odd as it may sound, Temeraire has given me the confidence to respect my own tastes and opinions.

To get at last to talking about the contents of His Majesty's Dragon, I think my favorite part of the book is the deep, loving relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. There were so many moments that just touched my heart, and reminded me of my own feelings toward my non-human companions. I think, perhaps, the only reason I can write this review right now, is because of this heartwarming friendship. The reason being, just hours after I finished reading the book, my dog of 15 years passed away. I am still in the throes of grief as I write this, but rather than feeling like writing a book review is at odds with my feelings of loss and loneliness, instead I feel glad to finally have the motivation to put my ideas into words. The relationship between the principle captain and dragon in this story is so similar to those of us humans and our non-human friends, full of understanding, loyalty, love, comfort, and camaraderie that spans the boundaries of species (and confuses those who have not the pleasure of such a relationship).

But the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire isn't the only thing carrying this book. There is so much depth in the characters, different captains who have different relationships with their dragons (even entering the painful, heartbreaking realm of abuse and neglect), complex relationships between humans (mothers, fathers, daughters, lovers, commanders, subordinates, etc.), and of course the myriad of dragons who have varying levels of intelligence, sizes, features, desires, personalities, etc. The writing itself is so good that all of these things are very well presented, so that I was never confused about which dragon can do what, or why something was happening, or where the story was going next. I will say, however, that my love for late 19th and early 20th century British and French writing is probably a boon for me; if you're not good with the original Sherlock Holmes stories or the English translation of The Count of Monte Cristo, for example, you might find this writing style challenging. It is so akin to older such writing (at least that which I'm familiar with) I actually took a moment to see whether the author was British herself (nope, she's a fellow American 😊). After the characters and writing, the plot is the next feature I'd like to highlight. I remember when I first read this book, I had no interest in history whatsoever. The idea of Napoleonic Wars-era dragons was wacky and wild, which is why I gave it a shot, but I didn't expect to actually enjoy the historical aspects, which I did, both then and again this time! Just goes to show that well-written fantasy can make everything it's associated with awesome 😄

Something I liked about the end of this book is the excerpts from the "sketchbook of Sir Edward Howe". It's a very fun addition to the world of Temeraire and a nice way to ease the reader off the high of the final, exciting chapters of the story. The inclusion, as well, of an excerpt from the next volume in the series was also a great way to get readers excited about continuing their adventures with Temeraire. Well, for this reader, it's not just exciting but worrying! I want Laurence and Temeraire to be happy! I need to get reading Throne of Jade right away, so that the versions of that pair who live in my mind can overcome the challenge that has been set before them by this final teaser!

It may not be surprising to know that I am currently over 50% done reading Throne of Jade 🤓📖

🎧 Music of the Month 🎧
Imagine by John Lennon

The music I'd like to feature this month is one of those rare old songs that seems ageless. It was written about 15 years before I was born, but I didn't really begin to appreciate it until I was an adult, when the harsh realities of life were starting to sink in, conflicting with my bright vision for the future. My favorite lines are these:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

It wasn't always so, but these days, Imagine is my favorite song. I don't know if I've ever heard a more bold and encouraging proposition than that which it offers. It gives me hope for the future and makes me feel like I'm not alone ❤️

📺 Show of the Month 📺
Raya and the Last Dragon by Disney

We've been having a weekly movie night at my house for about two months now and I enjoyed all the movies we watched in July. It was tough to pick just one, but ultimately, Raya and the Last Dragon is my featured feature 😉 I had no idea what to expect from it other than humans and dragons doing stuff together (wow, humans and dragons is a bit of a theme for July!) but that mystery paid off in the form of a touching, humorous fantasy adventure that I'd love to watch again!

🎮 Game of the Month 🎮
Olympia Soirée for Nintendo Switch

I'm still playing Olympia Soirée! It's my featured game again because, other than fitness games, I haven't played anything else, ha ha. Like most Otomate titles, it's a very long visual novel. According to my Switch console, I've already logged over 55 hours of play time, and that's including the fact that I skip read text on all but the final route 😅 I'm now on the second-to-last route and I'm very glad that the order I wanted to play these final characters in is actually the only way the game allows!

Without repeating too much of what I said about this game last month, I would like to reiterate that it is a shining example of an otome visual novel, complete with gorgeous art, music, and voice acting, and driven by a complex, engaging story that deals with some very tricky and timely real-world social issues. It's a game that really makes you think, but still doesn't skimp on the adventure, romance, and fantasy.

👟 Workout of the Month 👟
Garage DDR

My featured workout this month is a fairly rare undertaking, I assume. Every Saturday, I slip on my athletic shoes, walk into the garage, and play an hour of intense Dance Dance Revolution! Just this year, my awesome husband drove all the way to Utah to pick up some homemade arcade style dance pads. We started playing DDR in our garage last year (after a multi-year hiatus) but all of our old dance pads were worn out, with buttons that didn't always work, or they slid around so much that we'd start missing arrows because the buttons had physically moved under our feet. With the new setup, it's like playing DDR at an arcade, but even better because we don't have to keep feeding the machine money, nor do we have to share with strangers, and we can play dozens of console and PC DDR games, making for days (weeks??) worth of songs to choose from 🤩

Believe it or not, this dancing game is what first set me upon the path of lifelong fitness, over twenty years ago. Until that point in my teens, I always thought I hated exercise. In fact, at one point in my childhood, my mom even used exercise as corporal punishment! No wonder I hated it! But then, during a visit to family in Southern California, my sister and I discovered DDR in a video game arcade that was, I think, part of a mini golf place 🤔 Of course, we totally sucked the first time, and failed out in the first song, but it didn't matter. My fate was sealed. My interest in the game grew, thanks to my parents gifting me a PS2 DDR game complete with foldable plastic dance pad, and when I was old enough to get a job, one of the first things I invested in was a sturdy metal dance pad set that lasted me all the way until last year! DDR taught me that exercise can be fun and these days, I even do squats and pushups, and all the calisthenics that were once used as punishment, just for the fun and satisfaction of a good workout!

🍽️ Vegan Victuals of the Month 🍽️
Field Roast Stadium Dogs

My featured vegan food this month is another example of a childhood favorite that's kinder to our animal cousins and better for the planet 💚 Good ol' classic hot dogs! I've tried and enjoyed many vegan hot dog options, but these Stadium Dogs are exactly like the quick lunch and backyard BBQ fare I grew up with. They grill, pan fry, and even microwave just as you'd expect, and have the precise texture and flavor a former meat-eater will remember. The only negative is, they are made with pea protein, but oddly, although I have a mild allergy to the ingredient, I've never had a reaction to these dogs 🤔 (Maybe it's because I always eat them after cooking to a high temperature?) Of course, if you don't have pea or peanut allergies, you will be good to go! It's the middle of summer here right now, so it's just the perfect time to grill up some vegan dogs and enjoy the dog days! 🌭🌞

💸 Charity of the Month 💸
The Peregrine Fund

For July, I designated The Peregrine Fund as my featured charity. They work to conserve birds of prey and their habitats across the globe, and I consider myself fortunate to live in the same city as their public face, The World Center for Birds of Prey 🦅🦉💕 This is now the second month of my new charity fundraising system in which I use my monthly unique viewer count on Twitch to determine my final donation amount. The formula is $0.10 USD per unique viewer, with a minimum of $10 and a max of $100. Here's how viewership stood in July:


Of course, the number was negatively impacted by my unexpected week off at the end of the month, but if we divide the existing number of viewers by three to get an average per week, then add that number as an estimate of what that missing week might have added, and round up for good measure, that's about 27 unique viewers for July 🎉 Accordingly, I have made a $10 USD donation to The Peregrine Fund 🤎


Just so you know, my favorite raptor is actually this charity's namesake, the peregrine falcon!

Celebrating the Life of Sun Liu Shennaimu Hu

To close this post, I'd like to remember my beloved doggy with some written memories, photos, and artwork 🤍 I first adopted Sun (which is pronounced 'soon' like the Chinese surname) in 2008. It came about because my coworker--who had just learned of my deep affection for the shiba inu after showing her its entry in a dog breed encyclopedia when we were on a lunch break bookshop trip--noticed an ad in the paper from someone wanting to rehome their shiba inu and Yorkshire terrier due to divorce. I jumped on the chance, and 8-month-old Koda soon became Sun Liu Shennaimu Hu.

My first photo of Sun, taken during our first meeting.

If you're wondering about the length of his name, there was a good reason for it! It made no difference to whether I wanted him, but it turned out he was a pedigree-holding descendant of champions! Pedigree animals are generally given long names to ensure no two animals are registered under the same name. Since I wasn't interested in breeding or showing Sun (I just wanted an awesome shiba inu buddy!) I defied convention--which often has the pedigree name containing the kennel name and maybe some play off the parent dogs' names, and is rarely the dog's real name--by giving Sun a long string of real names. Sun and Liu are Chinese surnames, and I took them from a couple of my favorite characters in the Dynasty Warriors video game series. The next name, Shennaimu, was my attempt at converting another favorite character's Japanese name, that is Kaminogi Soryuu from the Ace Attorney series, into Chinese. Finally Hu is the Chinese word for fox 🦊

Sun's pedigree; he had some amusingly named ancestors 😅

For the first few months, Sun lived with my dad because I was right in the middle of buying and moving into my first house. I still remember introducing Sun to my other dog, Kenshi, who was also living with my dad. I was full of trepidation. I wanted them to get along but I didn't know how long it would take for them to become friends. Would it be a long warming up period? Would they get into a fight at first? I needn't have worried. They were fast friends from the first moment, and stayed that way for the rest of Kenshi's life ❤️

Sun & Kenshi, BFF 💖

Once we were all settled in my new house, I realize now, Sun was with me for every major event in my adult life. My mom's death; meeting the man who would become my husband; adopting our cats Kiki and Kiba; my Oma Jan's death; seeing a mental health counselor for the first time; making my marriage proposal (and getting the yes!); losing my job; getting married; Kenshi's death; starting my Patreon; running my first 5K race, my first 10K, and my first half-marathon; buying a bigger house with a proper yard for Sun to play in; the deaths of four more grandparents, and that of our cats, Bear and Kiba; rescuing our pigeon Sora; graduating with my Illustration degree...a perfectly bittersweet mix of life that was always better thanks to Sun being by my side.

Sun, one year old, at our new house, enjoying the grass and sunshine~

Sun made his way into my artwork frequently. Even when it wasn't Sun specifically, I drew and sketched him so much, the shiba inu silhouette is now my default when I think about drawing a dog from memory 🐶 I won't post all of my drawings of him, but here are a few examples of his many appearances:

In 2011, he joined chibi Bear on an ACEO.

In 2014, I made a simple sketch of him enjoying a day outside.

In 2019, he joined me for a tea party in one of my first illustration class assignments.

Although I am grateful for the many, many years I got to spend with Sun, I feel greedy. I wish he was still with me. I know this is such a tired line, but it truly describes my feelings: there's a Sun-shaped hole in my heart, and nothing has been able to fill it 😢 Perhaps for now, it doesn't need to be filled. Time heals all wounds, albeit slowly. Until then, I'll savor my happy memories, and smile every time Sun's photos pop up on the Google kitchen display and my phone charging screen.

The 15-year-old birthday boy, enjoying a delicious peanut butter bowl 🐶✨

It's now been a week since I started drafting this blog entry. My work progresses slowly as I adapt to my new normal. It's hot and cloudy again today, but my wish came true: the clouds thickened up and it even rained a bit this morning!

Thank you for joining me for July's roundup post, especially if you read the entire thing! I appreciate the opportunity to share my professional and personal life with you through this blog ❤️ I hope you'll stick around and look forward to finding out what happens next!

30 June 2022

2022 June Roundup

It's the last day of June and summer temps have arrived. The sky right now is so bright and blue and cloudless that it's difficult to look at ✨🌞✨ Usually, I open my curtains when I'm at work in my garden floor studio, but recently I've kept them closed to tame the light and block the heat. So it is now. I've got ambient nature tracks playing on my Google speaker, some lemon iced tea at my right hand, and my list of topics to cover in this roundup propped up on my left. I'm excited to examine June and prepare to enter July, especially because I'm going to enjoy a staycation during the week of Independence Day 🇺🇸🎆 So without further ado, let's begin!

Patreon Rewards

My most recent illustration was finished on the 10th and reproductions were mailed to studio members a week later. Over half a dozen postcards featuring my Birthday Gryphon were sent into the world 😊 It takes so long to complete all the handwritten messages that I have limited the Pen Pal, Writer, and Collector tiers to just 10 members each. Once all the spots have been filled, I will open new tiers that replace the personalized handwritten messages with printed ones addressed to the community at large. There are still four Pen Pal spots (a single handwritten postcard every month), seven Writer spots (three blank postcards with a separate handwritten note), and all ten Collector spots (a full-size museum-quality print with handwritten note) available 😄 Check out the images of June's rewards below, I think they turned out lovely~✨

Final physical media work (watercolor and ink on 300 lb cold press watercolor paper).
Final digital media work (Adobe Photoshop).
Postcards professionally printed and ready to be filled out!
💖 Happiness in Your Mailbox 💖

Twitch and YouTube

We're now in the middle of week six of regular art livestreaming on Twitch! I started streaming on May 25th and haven't missed a day yet 😄 I'm fairly confident in saying this is the most consistent my streaming schedule has ever been. As I mentioned above, I will be taking vacation in July, so be sure to check my Twitch schedule to know which days I'll be on! You can click the "Follow" button while you're there, to sign up for notifications whenever I go live.

YouTube uploads of the stream recordings continue, as well. Here is the most recent video posted there, a Chibi Friday first, where I worked on two chibi drawings during the same stream!

Writing Updates

I continue to work daily on my illustrated novel project, which has already been years in the making, with many more left to go. My goal for this year is to finish the manuscript first draft. My goal for June was to finish chapter three, which I accomplished on the 23rd 😎 I've made it over 1,200 words into chapter four already, so I'm feeling good about my rate of progress!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter or Facebook to see all of my writing updates. 

deviantART Uploads

I'm slowly getting caught up posting my art to dA! Eventually (I hope) I'll be completely caught up and there will be no need to mention it in these roundups, since it will be the same art already featured in my Patreon blurb. But since I'm putting in the effort, and I think it's fun to revisit older work, here is my most recent deviantART post. It was my holiday greeting card from 2020, which featured my cat, Bear, who had passed away that year.

Click here to comment on deviantART.

With that piece, I am now only one and a half years behind on posting to dA 😂

Monthly Recommendations

Now it's time for the most unique part of my roundup posts, my monthly recommendations! I've added a new category this time. I wonder if anyone will notice what it is... Also, I thought it might be prudent to mention that I'm not receiving any compensation for my recommendations. They're all just parts of my life that I love and want to share with you 😊

📕 Book of the Month📕

 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Primary Phase by Douglas Adams

I started using a new book tracking site this week (just so tired of all the little problems with Goodreads; I've been there almost ten years and I'm ready to move on 😩). It's called StoryGraph and has some really cool features! Here's my reading stats page, for instance. Unfortunately, it doesn't have embedding for reviews yet, so I'm just going to copypasta this month's recommended book review. In reality, I am not recommending a single book so much as a series of radio plays on Audible! The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, to be precise! I listened to all six entries this year and absolutely loved them all 🥰 Here's my review for the first one.

5.0 ⭐

It's been ages since I last listened to the radio show for Hitchhikers. Like many people, I have fond memories of listening to it on cassette tape, recorded from an original copy and shared friend to friend, family to family. I don't know who got her into it, but it was my mom who first shared those tapes with me, when I was aged only in the single digits. I've remained a die-hard fan ever since.

The show was just as hilarious as I remembered. The jokes still fly today, even when I've already heard them a thousand times. The acting and sound effects come together wonderfully to make you feel like you're right there with the characters. I really loved the extra documentary episode at the end, too. Not only was it interesting learning about what went into the creation of the show, learning that Douglas Adams struggled with procrastination and perfectionism makes me feel less worried about my own creative efforts!

Click here to see my entire review on StoryGraph 🤓

🎧 Music of the Month 🎧

At Wit's End by Hans Zimmer

Aside from generic playlists that I put on when I'm relaxing at the end of the day or as background noise while I work (like my current ambient nature sounds) all this month I've continued listening to the same playlist that I featured in my May roundup 😆 To make this post a bit different then, I am featuring just a single track from that playlist. It comes from my favorite of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, At World's End, and every time it comes on, I'm so moved I have to just stop what I'm doing and enjoy the magic~

By the way, I've been a huge fan of Pirates of the Caribbean ever since I was a little kid. My parents and grandparents took me to Disneyland several times when I was young and Pirates was always the ride I looked forward to most. I didn't even mind when we had to wait in line for hours, which is saying something, since I'm sure I normally had no better an attention span than any other imp of my age 😅 Even though interest in the movies seemed to die down after the third one, at least among my circles, I've enjoyed all five of them and have been recently entertaining the idea of doing a movie marathon!

📺 Show of the Month 📺

Spy x Family on Crunchyroll

This anime has been extremely popular ever since it debuted this season and I can confirm that the attention is well deserved! While there's surely nothing truly perfect in this world, right now, whenever I think of Spy x Family, perfect is the word that always pops up first 💖💕 It's got beautiful animation, impeccable music and voice acting, lovable characters, an intriguing plot, and a fabulously balanced blend of humor and action. Check out this official trailer:

The only negative thing about Spy x Family is that the first season is already over! The twelfth episode aired five days ago and now I have to wait until October for more 😭

🎮 Game of the Month 🎮

Olympia Soirée for Nintendo Switch 

I haven't had much time to play video games this past month, but when I did, it was often this one 😍 I'm a complete freak for Otomate's visual novel otome games (i.e. choose-your-own-adventure romance games) and this is no exception. Olympia Soirée has all the hallmarks of Otomate's best work: beautiful visuals and music, dreamy voice acting, compelling characters, and perhaps most important of all, a deep and complex story that continually expands in unexpected ways as you complete each character's route. Here's the game's opening animation, which also stands as its official trailer:

So far I've finished two routes out of six, Kuroba and Riku. They were so different and I enjoyed them both, but Riku's was definitely the more surprising! I honestly didn't think I would like Riku, based on his behavior in the common route, but the genius storytellers at Otomate showed me, once again, what they're capable of 😆

Now I'm starting Tokisada's route, and I think I might have given myself some clues as to his past when I looked up his home of Amakusa on Wikipedia. It's a real place with some interesting (and dark) history that explains a lot about his jumpiness and distance...I'm really looking forward to learning more about him during my vacation next week 💚

🍽️ Vegan Victuals of the Month 🍽️ 

immi Ramen

I've been a pescatarian for many years but I've been slowly working my way to full vegan. This year I've finally cut out all remaining animal-based products and for the past month or two, I've been able to maintain a 100% vegan, nutritionally complete diet without feeling deprived of my favorite comfort foods. It's thanks to all the insanely delicious vegan foods that have been popping up and how easy it is to get a hold of them through local grocery stores and online ordering.

immi ramen has become a lunchtime staple for me. I ate so much instant ramen as a kid and young adult, but as we all know, that stuff is unhealthy nutritionally, ecologically, and ethically, so I hadn't eaten it for years. Enter immi ramen. It satisfies the cravings for my childhood noodles but is low-carb, high-protein, high-fiber, animal-free, and DELICIOUS. (Also, no pea protein, which I am mildly allergic to.) I eat it about three times a week, stir frying some veggies while the noodles cook in the microwave, and then adding some yummy cut wakame before slurping away 🍜✨

👟 Workout of the Month 👟

Ring Fit Adventure on Nintendo Switch

In anticipation of the hot summer weather, I switched from running to strength training via Ring Fit Adventure. I was very excited to finish the main story, after years of on-off playing, earlier this month!

Just today I finished another fun but challenging workout. I'm so glad that even after the long and rewarding main story mode, there's still plenty left to do! I intend to keep using Ring Fit for my indoor workouts every Tuesday and Thursday for most, if not all of the summer 💪✨

💸 Charity of the Month 💸

Predator Defense

Predator Defense is another charity for which I have a regular monthly donation set up. I also have my Amazon Smile account set to support them. In a nutshell, this organization helps protect my favorite animals in the world, wolves, other predator animals such as cougars and foxes, as well as domestic animals like dogs, that get caught up with tragic results in the horrific traps set by humans to kill our wild animal cousins. The American war on wildlife is one of the most heartbreaking ongoing tragedies in our history. It's my deepest belief that all animals deserve to live out their natural lives without "management" by self-serving humans. We can coexist peacefully, especially considering the depth of modern knowledge and the power of modern technology. I support Predator Defense in order to help make this possibility a reality 🤍🐺🧡🦊🤎🐶💛

Starting this month, I'm going to use my monthly unique viewers count on Twitch as the base for a new donation system. For every unique viewer in the past 30 days, I will donate $0.10 to my charity of the month, with a minimum of $10 and up to $100 USD!


In June, I had 26 unique viewers, so I've just now made a $10 donation to Predator Defense 🎉✨ This in addition to my usual monthly amount. I will do my best to spread the word about my donation system and I hope you'll join me on Twitch (and bring your friends) to see how big a donation we can generate for next month's charity! Of course, if you're able, please do make a donation of your own to Predator Defense as June's featured charity 🙏

That's all for my June roundup! It took me all day to put together 😆 The sun is getting ready to set, my tea is long gone, and it's perfect timing for my usual evening walk~ I hope you enjoyed reading this post, that you'll try out some of my recommendations, and that you'll look forward to next month's roundup 💖