A Home for your Art

Many artists want a place to share their creations and engage with other artists as well as potential fans. It feels great to get good feedback on your latest creation or see inspiring work! However for some that can be hard to find if you aren’t interested in the problems that occur with mainstream social media.

For example, I refuse to use Facebook and since Instagram is owned by them, I don’t use that either. I’m not interested in having my data mined like that. I liked ArtStation as a place to post my semiprofessional work and then they were bought out by a gaming company and the attitude displayed by admins turned sour very quickly. I used to truly enjoy DeviantArt! It was a huge, relatively supportive art community that was also fun and quirky. Then I noticed that they basically ignored spammers, scammers and art thieves. They were gradually reducing the options open for non-paying members and were hosting questionable events. Worst of all, they were using the art of their own userbase to feed AI algorithms. Not cool. Now they claim to offer protection against that but the “protection” is mostly a sham. What’s a lonely artist to do?

After much searching I discovered a new site called InkBlot. It’s only been in existence for two years and is currently in open beta. It’s US based, in my own state actually, and it has a strict policy against AIs and NFTs. It contains space for visual artists, musicians, and writers. It even has an account type for people who want to enjoy art but not create. They are welcome too! There are no outside ads on InkBlot, and it’s community funded.

I really like InkBlot – the only downside is the community is a bit small, but masses of weary artists are pouring in who want a break from the BS in other art communities. There is “Forever Free” account option so you don’t even have to pay, but I have chosen to. The subscription levels start at a dollar a month and are all very reasonable. I don’t mind paying a small fee since it means I am buying a product not being used AS the product.

Before moving to InkBlot I researched a lot of other communities but this one won out by a mile. Here are a few screenshots – development is still ongoing and there are plans for accessibility options for the disabled, different color themes, and more. You can already control the colors on your own profile to a degree not often seen on other sites.

See below for a screencap of my profile – the home page contains other peoples’ art so I didn’t want to re-post that without permission.

If anyone reading this wants a good place to go to post and enjoy art, I’d recommend InkBlot! I like that it is built and maintained by small group of passionate people. If you have your own artistic haven, I’d love to know where – I might check it out too!

Horse Isle 3 – Continuing Adventures

You’ve finally bred your ultimate competition horse, fitted them out with the perfect tack, and made your ranch exactly the way you want it. Maybe you’ve learned to glide or finally gotten that sailboat you’ve been saving for. But now it’s boring – what next? I’ve been playing Horse Isle 3 for years now and it still hasn’t gotten stale. How is that possible? In an open world there is always to do and see, because you can make your own challenges too!

In-Game Challenges

Weekly Challenges

Horse Isle 3 has some neat options if you are looking for something new to spark your interest. For example, In the Players Menu, scroll down to the bottom and you’ll find “View Current Weekly Challenges.” If you place in the top 100 you can win an Esroh Essence and if you place in the top 10 you get four of them! You can place in one, two, or all, so potentially this can get you a lot of extra energy! The challenges rotate every week and might include discovering new areas, delivering mail, flying the longest, walking the longest, catching the most wilds, and more. The really cool thing about having three challenges is no matter what you are good at there’s a really good chance you can place in the top 100 of something if you try.

Breeding Challenges

If you go to the Myself menu, then click on “View My Profile,” you will find breed challenges down at the bottom. Some are hard, some are easy. Basically you have to own one horse of each type listed. You didn’t have to breed them, you can buy them too. Once you have all the horses on the list, go into the page and click the “attempt” button. Don’t worry, you can try again if something was wrong! You keep the award even if you then sell the horses.

Photo Challenges

Each time a new plushie, creature, or horse is introduced you can immediately take a picture of it and add it to your collection. You can even collect photos of different breeds, and you are rewarded every so often for collecting enough! Never ending quest as long as new items are added.

Plushie Collection

Collecting varied or high stat plushies is definitely a thing, they are nice for decorating your ranch or augmenting the stats on your horses. Best of all, new plushies are released periodically so this is another one that could go on forever.

Club Quests

Don’t forget that clubs periodically make new quests! It’s worth a look at the Adventure tables to see what’s available.

Essence Anomalies

I have a whole article about these linked in the heading. These are nice 30 minute mini challenges that keep things lively.

Random Events

You could also try the different in game events such as Mane Event, Star Searches, Snowball fights, water balloon fights, jousting, and photo hunts – all manner of mini-events show up in the System section of chat. New ones are still being added, such as People Tower.

Making Your Own

If you get tired of the challenges built in by the game, there are all sorts of challenges you could make for yourself! The possibilities are endless, so here are a few of my own favorites.

Making Quests

As a club owner or leader, you have the ability to make quests. It can be hard to get them just right, but it can also be really rewarding. In a way it’s like writing a story. The best ones really immerse the player in the story and make them feel like they accomplished something. Think about the kinds of quests you like to take, as well as quests we need more of!

Overland Endurance Challenges

This can be kind of fun – basically the challenge is to pick two clubs or landmarks and ride from one to the other. You have to go over any terrain in the way, and let me tell you it can be cool to finally see that tall Clubhouse coming into view. You could pick two clubs that are only twenty kilometers or so from each other or could choose a bigger challenge. You could set the club as your heading, or you could try to only navigate by the map as additional challenge.

The Newbie Challenge

This is something I’ve done a few times. Basically I will set a time for myself where I will decide to not use any of the items I have gathered or earned. I’ll walk around in some area till I find a wild, catch that, ride it bareback, or maybe I’ll allow myself a basic set of tack. I’ll see how far I can get while only feeding the horse things I gather. There are all kinds of variations here but it can be fun remembering what it was like back at the very beginning when I was still discovering the game.

Playing “explorer”

Most of us do this already but it can be interesting to try it with different constraints. For example, what if you could only use a kayak? How far could you get into a continent by only paddling up rivers? Or how well can you get to know a single island? Or, can you sail place to place by tacking even when the wind isn’t perfectly right? Or maybe try a chariot or pony cart when you won’t normally do that?

Making new Breeds

This has endless possibilities. It can be a lot of fun breeding in traits that aren’t normally found together. I know one person who loves breeding metallic coated drafts. I do too. I also have a metallic coated Arabian project, and a miniature Akhal teke project. Recently I also started breeding giant Arabians and Thoroughbreds. A TB or arab who stands 21 hands at the withers is a truly stunning sight! My mini tekes are all 8 hands or less, usually 7.2 currently. Not bad for such a long legged creature.

I’ll be adding more options as I think of them. Similarly, if you have a fun challenge that keeps you interested, share and I’ll add it here! I’m likely going to write a guide to quest-writing in the near future. Stay tuned!

Like to join me on this awesome game?  If you would, make sure and use this link or place my ID, 1023, in the box when you join.
That way, if you ever decide to buy a subscription, even for one month, you’ll get a bonus 1000 essence, plus 10 Esroh Essence to help you get started.  A subscription costs 500 Mobia per month and you can buy Mobia from other players in-game if you don’t have cash to spend.

Supplies for the Starving Artist

I think it’s pretty clear that most of us are having more struggles with money. Usually, there isn’t enough of it. For those of us who like to draw, paint, or otherwise make visual art, that can be a real struggle! We might see an awesome tutorial for an epic art supply and really want to try it out, only to find out that those markers or paints are way beyond our price range. Maybe our kid wants to get started in art and we want to help them out without breaking the bank. What to do?

Luckily, there are solutions and some materials are both affordable and of good quality. I’ll be mentioning a few of these that I’ve tried myself, and giving links to those. If you happen to buy the item using my link, I might get a small amount of money but remember that these are things I have bought myself, and use every day.

If you are flat broke but still have that burning desire to be creative, remember this: though good supplies can really help, you don’t need them to make awesome art. I’ve seen people create beautiful images with nothing but a normal pencil, hunk of charcoal, or even a basic ballpoint pen. Paper can make a big difference, but I’ve still seen some great stuff done on basic printer paper. It helps a LOT to pick a medium that is more forgiving.

Cheapest Media:

Pencils – will work on a variety of papers, have a wide range of prices, and can look good on cheap, rough, sketch paper.

Charcoal – usually fairly cheap and don’t need a premium paper to look good.

Watercolors (to a point, see below)

Digital – if you already have a computer, you can do a lot digitally. An inexpensive drawing tablet will serve you well. See below.

Inks – This can mean a dip pen and ink bottle, fineliner markers, or brushes – either way it’s fairly easy to get these.

Water-based markers – depending on what you buy, these can be dirt cheap. They will work better on very smooth paper.

Best sources of higher-end art materials:

Alcohol Markers

Alcohol markers can be a fantastic medium but they are stupidly expensive. For example, I have seen Copics go for $10 a marker. If you buy super cheap alcohol markers though, they can have poor coverage and be really frustrating to use. I’ve used a brand called Ohuhu, and they are as good as (or maybe even a little better than) the Prismacolor Premier art markers I used to buy. They come in a fantastic array of colors with good tips. You can get brush tip, bullet tip, and chisel, and all the markers are double ended.

You can also buy themed sets such as gray scale, flesh tones, pastels and more. The main downside to them is that you can’t get single markers, but if one comes to you already dry or bleeding all over the place, the company will replace it. They also provide nice extras, such as marker cases, swatch sheets, and protective shseets to go under your paper. I’ve been using this brand for a while now and none of my markers have run out yet.

These also go on sale fairly often and they are easily a third of the price of more well known brands.

Here are some affiliate links if you want to check them out:

Basic Set of 48 colors

Pastel Set (36 markers)

Flesh Tone Set

Gray Scale Set (warm grays, cool grays, a really nice selection)

Marker paper sketchbooks (really nice heavy weight paper that is smooth and doesn’t bleed)

Massive set – has pretty much everything – 320 markers – on sale at the time of this writing

Watercolor

There are a lot of different travel kits and sets of watercolor out there. Generally I like finding tubes so I can mix larger quantities. Generally the most expensive thing you are going to have to buy is the paper since a watercolor tube actually lasts a long time. I found a really cool travel kit though with a nice metal tin and literally everything you need to make art including a pencil, a sharpener, an eraser, a brush, and really nice refillable water-brush. The colors are vibrant and work well. This makes an awesome gift.

My favorite travel kit – this has everything and it’s really pretty too! It even has a small paper pad to get you started. It is also frequently on sale.

Watercolor Paper – 140 pound is the lightest grade of paper you want to go with for watercolor, and even then it’s helpful to tape it down to a board to help prevent buckling. There are many options but here is one I’ve used and like.

Acrylic

Liquitex Basics has a decent array of colors and their tubes aren’t tiny. It is worth shopping around though because you may find other brands that suit you just as well. The best tip I have for acrylics is to learn to color mix, and to buy the best paints you can in good primary colors. If you have good primary colors that mix well, you avoid having to buy every color of paint in the rainbow, instead you can make your own. Brushes are important too, I’ve had good results from brushes with nylon bristles, you don’t have to get the super fancy brushes to get good results.

You can use acrylic on canvas, hardboard, even mattboard meant for painting. I’ve gone to the hardware store and gotten hardboard project panels, they will even cut it to size for you if you need. That can be a good source of cheap but durable surfaces. I’ve tried painting on foam core poster board but that curls so badly that I wouldn’t suggest it.

Oils

It’s pretty hard to do oils cheaply but if you are absolutely determined, be careful that you buy paint with really good pigment (the more warning labels, the better) so the colors mix well and you need to buy fewer of them.

That said, the hardware store is your best friend. You can get canvas drop cloths there that can be stretched for painting canvasses. You can get furring strips to make into the frames for those canvasses, or hardboard to paint on. It’s also the cheapest source of turpentine, mineral spirits and linseed oil. You can even buy your larger format brushes there – for example, one or two inch natural bristle brushes.

By comparison, art stores will charge a premium price for those basic supplies, in much smaller quantities!

Digital Art

Digital art can be really expensive to do, or nearly free. My favorite free art software is probably Krita. It works on a wide variety of computers and is very flexible. GIMP is another good one, also free, also works on a wide variety of computers. Both are amazing but are a little different, so try both!

Drawing Tablets – it’s pretty hard to do digital art without some kind of a drawing tablet. My favorite brand is XP-Pen. They have good prices on their tablets, have a wide range of options, and are usually on sale. They also have good customer support and their drivers are solid, I’ve never had one stop working or crash.

Ultra basic drawing tablet – here’s a good one to start with. Much less than $100!

Drawing tablet I currently use – this one has served me well and never given me problems – it has a nicely sized drawing surface.

My dream tablet – this is going to be my next upgrade. And it’s still a fraction of the cost of the name brand competition.

Colored Pencils

These can be really cheap or extremely expensive depending on what you do. You can get decent results with cheap Crayolas but you may face a lot of frustration along the way. You also want to get a good quality paper for colored pencils to look their best, like a hot rolled watercolor paper or cardstock with a bit of a tooth to it.

That said, I have found that Arteza pencils are almost as good as the premium brands yet are still affordable. I base that on experience and obsessive watching of YouTube comparisons.

48 color basic set, Arteza Pencils

72 color set in metal container, Arteza pencils

Unexpected places to find art supplies

The best place to find cheap art supplies, if you are really broke, is probably not where you’d expect. I’ve found my best deals on basic supplies at post-back to school sales, in the grocery store. That’s where they just had the big back to school blitz, but now it is time to switch to some other promotion so they heavily discount the school supplies. You can usually get good markers here for example. It’s often a Crayola product of some kind but remember, with determination and creativity, you can make art with ANYTHING.

Another good place to get cheap art supplies is at a big craft store like Michaels or Hobby Lobby, when they have their seasonal discounts. They usually have sets of basic art supplies or at the very least, paper.

Thrift Stores can be a good source of materials depending on what they get. They are usually found around the kid’s section. Another thing you can get at thrift stores is canvasses. Find a painting on a canvas, any painting, gesso over it, and feel free to paint away. You can do the same thing for frames. If you are more of a crafter you can also usually find random items to redecorate.

Office Supply Stores often have sales too, usually at the holidays or at back to school time. You can get markers or paint or pens there, but you can also get things like card stock and better papers. They are definitely worth a look.

For those who want all the flexibility of a major art supply store, but don’t live near one, or maybe the one live near has management you can’t stand, Dick Blick is a great website that has a huge range of art supplies. They do a good job explaining what everything is for and have competitive prices.

Lastly, the Dollar Store (or equivalent) can SOMETIMES have art and craft supplies. Beware though, you may end up paying more there for the same thing, or not be able to use the item because of poor quality. So be careful. Example: say you are a crafter and want to use those little jars of Apple Barrel Paint. Maybe you see them at the dollar store for a dollar each. That same paint might be 89 cents each at a craft store. Or even less if you buy a set.

The end…. or is it the beginning?

I hope this was helpful to someone. I’ve gone through a lot of hardship and been flat broke on more than one occasion. It’s helped to know where I could get some sort of art supplies when the creative bug bit me! I was helped a lot by watching YouTube reviews, which by the way is also an excellent source of art education.

If you have your own best places to get art supplies, or I’ve missed a category you want me to cover, feel free to comment below.

11 things I wished I’d known as a young artist

Or, “Art, Talent, and Arrogance”

This is a painful subject for me, and one that has hampered my progress my entire life. I still struggle with it. In fact some would consider I’ve lost the battle merely by writing this article!

I’m talking of course about arrogance in relation to art. Personally, this has manifested in the idea that my thoughts were superior to others. I didn’t often think of it that way but that’s really what I was saying every time I refused input, avoided constructive critique, or thought my work didn’t need improvement. This was deadly to my progress and nearly caused me to leave art altogether. I know I’m not alone here, this is something many artists struggle with, and that’s why I’m talking about it. If I can cause even one artist to rethink some of the decisions that caused me so much struggle, than it’s worth it.

Quick story: I was having fun with art, drawing whatever my li’l heart desired. I was on DeviantArt. I was posting every day, doing all kinds of paintings and drawings and proudly posting them. I was a bit too blind to my mistakes. On my profile I’d put that I was professional level and had some high number of years in art – over twenty years I think, because I was counting the stuff I’d done when younger. Some of it was middling, some of it had promise. Someone came along and posted on my profile that I didn’t look like I’d been doing that art that long. I don’t even think they were all that rude about it. I was crushed – that was one of the biggest reasons why I deleted my profile. There were others at the time but that was a biggue.

The biggest problem here was the poster was right. Objectively, if a person compared my stuff to an actual professional (not just one who occasionally did an illustration or two for pay) the difference was like night and day. I had a long way to go, mostly because I’d focused on the stuff I thought I was good at, rarely pushed myself, and hated using references. At best I was an amateur with promise provided I actually applied myself.

I see that now and that’s why I carefully label myself as “hobbyist.” I’m finally getting to a level that I’m somewhat pleased with but I know I have a hell of a long way to go before professional level. It’s okay though because I’m enjoying art again and that’s important to me. I could avoided a lot of heartache if I’d seen feedback – even HONEST feedback – as the gift it is.

When I got feedback as a young artist, I never really saw it that way. I pretended to because after a certain point I knew it was expected, but it always hurt inside. At some level I saw my work as perfect, and I saw myself as talented, special. As a talented person I didn’t need to think of these things as much as others did. Or maybe my judgement was superior. Sometimes I told myself that it wasn’t my fault if other people didn’t see what I was trying for. Actually it was – art is primarily about communication and I can guarantee you my technique always needed work.

One of my biggest roadblocks was believing the idea that I was talented. If so, that was mostly in the fact that I was a bit better than average at getting my tools to do what I wanted them to. I certainly wasn’t better at observation or remembering what I saw! My visual memory is actually a bit worse than average. Over and over I deluded myself that drawing from imagination was better. However since no one around me could draw at all, I got away with it until I went to school for art, and saw how wrong I actually was. It hurt a lot. Later I went online and saw how amazing so many other people were. That was great to see but hurt more. I started realizing that I needed to quit believing my own PR.

A great art teacher recently said that if someone looks at your art and says you are talented, they are in a way insulting your hard work. I totally understand that for most people it’s just a simple compliment and they don’t mean anything by it, but I wish I’d heard that when I was young. For me, my “talent” was mostly a passionate interest that caused me to practiced more. If I had practiced properly, and had worked harder in the right ways, I could have harnessed that interest into some really phenomenal art. If I’d actually taken people’s advice and used references more, or learned to draw from life, it would have been a game-changer. But I was too busy thinking I was too special and too talented to do all those boring things, meanwhile I was still getting paint up into the ferrules of my brushes and lacking basic studio skills.

I’m not bashing myself. I am however looking honestly at the fact that I hampered myself more than circumstance ever did. That mindset hurt me more than inadequate art supplies or poverty ever did. You can make amazing art with the simplest of tools if you have the right mindset! Here are the things that would have helped me most:

Tips for anyone wanting to be great at art (or anything really)

Maintain Beginner’s Mind – there’s always something to learn

Stay Curious about new techniques and how others do things

Listen when feedback is offered, because it truly is a gift – probably the hardest tip in here

Find out the basics about your tools even if you think you already know them

Whenever possible, practice from life, or at least photos – even fantasy is based on reality

Spend time on the fundamentals, they are the basic building blocks of your craft

Think about what your goal is and what you want to communicate

Observe in as many ways possible, new information is grist for your creative mill

Forgive yourself your mistakes but always try to figure out what to do better

Keep it fun by challenging yourself

Stay humble!

I wish someone had told me this stuff! If they did, I wish I would have listened! Who knows, maybe I’d be doing art for a living? It’s an expending field with more opportunity than ever.

Do you have any tips that should be included? Things you wish you would have known?

Blog Rebirth!

It’s been a long time since I’ve made an update. This is changing as I have more things to say. In future weeks I’m returning to the topic of creativity, but also including some health tips and such as my weight loss journey has borne fruit. I’m still about 90 pounds below the point when I started, nearly three years ago. I did it without fancy diet programs or expensive coaches or gimmicky supplements. So if anyone wants to learn more, I’ll clearly mark that content so you can easily find it.

Revamps are coming. In days to come I’ll be looking through everything and removing old our outdated content, leaving only quality behind. There will be new art, new photography, and hopefully something that interests you and inspires you. I’ve returned to art, with a renewed dedication, and I think some of the things I’ve learned might be helpful to others with curiosity about the creative world.

Stay tuned! Horse Isle III content is coming also! It’s still one of my favorite games, some things never change. Till then, here’s a picture of the Kitties.

If you are reading this and want any particular kind of content, I’ll consider it! This could include tips, tutorials, product reviews, and more.

Beating Hunger

This is something I wrote up for my weight loss group and wanted to share. Over the last two years I’ve lost 100 pounds in total. I gained a bit back over the holidays but the fact remains that I started at 245 pounds and am sitting here right now at 155 pounds, at 5’3.” I’m in my forties, I’m not an athlete, and I work a sedentary job. If I can do it, a lot of other people can. The tips I’m including below worked for me. So if you’re looking to improve your health, they might help you too!

Hunger is the enemy of pretty much every person trying to lose weight. It’s so much easier to stay in a calorie deficit if a person isn’t hungry all the time! It can also be pretty hard to avoid. After all, our bodies don’t wan tto think we’re starving to death. Here are the best tips that have helped me the most so far.

We all know about eating slowly, chewing our food, etc, but hopefully these will go into a bit better detail.

Identify your trigger foods

I’ve learned there are some things that if I start eating them, I don’t want to stop. Other foods are so delicious that I will convince myself I’m hungry just so I can eat them. Still other foods don’t satisfy and can even make you feel hungrier! It’s good to stay away with that sort of thing and if at all possible, keep them out of the house entirely. If they can’t be kept out of the house, at least make them hard to get to.

Say a family member just HAS to have their cookies. And those same cookies are your favorite kind. Putting their name on the bag and asking that family member to keep them in their desk/bag/car/whatever would be good here. Out of sight, out of mind. Or, maybe ask yourself, why is it so important that they have their food even though it’s endangering your health? Maybe a compromose can be found.

Identify satiating foods – for you

Some foods make us feel a lot fuller than their calorie content might suggest. Oatmeal with low calorie toppings for example. It’s warm, it’s bulky, and can be very flavorful depending on what you do with it. Soups can be in this category, so can wraps with massive amounts of leafy greats, protein filled foods, and more. There are tons of lists like this around, the point is to think about what satisfies YOU. Then have more of those foods.

Personal example: I love Built bars. They have good macros, good ingedients, and they taste AMAZING. They are fairly low in calories too. However I’m taking a break from them because they don’t satisfy me at all even though they should. A simple meat stick is more satisfying for me, or maybe a bunch of string beans and a small piece of cheese, or an apple, or whatever. So I’m taking a break because for me, they aren’t satiating and they encourage me to eat.

Think about the order you eat them in

Sometimes hunger can be beaten by just altering the order you have different foods again. For example, if I start my day with some hot tea with caffiene, then have protein with my breakfast, I will be full a lot longer than if I had a bowl of cereal. I’ll also avoid a lot of problems with blood sugar spikes and crashes if I avoid sugar in the mornings, even if I might have sugar at another point in the day. It doesn’t have to be fancy, for example I might have a couple hard boiled eggs or a meat stick, or even a simple protein bar, if I’m too busy for something else.

Choose nutritious foods

In general, the more nutrition your food has the more satiating it will be. If your body isn’t getting the things it needs, it’ll set up cravings till it gets everything. For instance, what if you keep craving cheese? You might be low on calcium, protein, or fat. What if you are craving sour things? You might need more vitamin C. Craving savory things usually means you need more protein as well. In general, if you have two snack choices, picking the one with fewer empty calories will be best – 100 calories worth of apples will stay with you longer than 100 calories worth of cookies.

Drink enough water

We all know this but it bears repeating – drink liquids. It doesn’t have to be water, but water is great. Tea, coffee, soups, non sugar sodas, and more. They all add up. Some say caffeine dries you out – yes, it can do that, but the water still partially counts because your body gets used to the caffeine to some degree. Water helps fill you up.

Get enough fiber

Yes, fiber fills you up. Try to get it from natural sources if you can. Why? Because a couple of fiber gummies might contain fifty calories and a bunch of sugar, while fifty calories can get you lots of cooked or raw veggies. Again, more satiating.

Get enough sleep!

If you don’t sleep enough, your hunger hormones are activated. If you do sleep but it’s poor quality, same thing. Take a look around at ways you can improve your sleep if at all possible, it’ll help a ton in recovery and in controlling hunger. It also improves memory, healing, and a lot of other things. Did you know for example that our brains are at times MORE active during sleep then when awake? It’s when we do a lot of sorting and filing of information we took in during the day. Not only that, but there was a study done where two groups of people were put on diets. One group was deprived of sleep an hour each night though they were allowed to catch up on weekends, the other group got their full amount of sleep. At the end of the study the two groups had lost roughly the same amount of weight but the people who slept properly lost a lot more fat, while the ones who slept poorly lost some muscle along with the fat.

Stay occupied

Boredom eating is definitely a thing, I still do it sometimes. I try to save some healthy but filling snacks for when I just want to nibble. Popcorn with low calorie toppings, cut up vegetables, sugar free mints, gum, herbal tea, that sort of thing. Sometimes you just want flavor and there are tons of ways to get that without adding calories. But having something to do so you aren’t bored is even better. Hey, light exercise is good too!

Forgive yourself

This part can be the toughest tip of all to follow but it might be the most important. A wise friend recently said that a big part of dieting is between your ears.

Sometimes mood can affect hunger greatly. There may even be other factors like hormonal influences, stress, and more. However, and this is something I constantly have to tell myself, blaming yourself won’t help at all. It may feel like you’re enforcing god behavior by holding yourself accountable but it backfires. Better to take by responsibility instead and be kind with yourself. Kind doesn’t mean lenient, but it is a lot healthier than blaming.

The best way to handle a lapse in judgement, or a binge, or simply having way more calories than you had planned…. “what? A serving was 1/12 of a box not a box?” is this:

  1. Recognize what happened
  2. Figure out why it happened
  3. Forgive yourself, and plan what you are going to do differently next time
  4. Do it differently next time.

If you don’t, or you forget, go back to step one and repeat. Figure out why you weren’t able to do whatever it was differently. Try something else. Life is an experiment. It can be really hard to remember, but maintaining an attitude of curiosity can be a great tool when it comes to dealing with lapses and mistakes.

So – no self hating allowed. No nasty self talk. No backbiting. If you wouldn’t talk to your best friend that way, don’t talk to yourself that way either. It can be hard, you’ll forget. I forget all the time. But that just means – go back to step one.

I hope some of these tips were helpful. If you have some of your own that I didn’t cover, feel free to comment! We all have our own journey, and it’s essential to figure out what’s best for us.

Horse Isle 3 – Horse Affinities

This is a pretty big update and a welcome one! Our horses now have the ability to be released so they can run around within 100 meters of the player. You can whistle to get them to come back. They even have their own favorite things! This, plus the update allowing use of a lead rope and halter, really makes me feel like I have a companion with a unique personality rather than just a pixel pony.

Rope Halters and Lead Ropes

You can craft them in your workshop and this will allow you to lead any horse, including a newborn foal. How well a horse leads depends a lot on their personality. Finally, a fun way to show off those tiny little foals and unrideable ponies! Halters are dyeable too, and the shortcut is U. Cause it looks like a droopy lead rope.

Not two years old yet and already this tall? I can still lead him!
Closer view of the halter

Roaming

From the Trick Menu, which is Ctrl + Z, you can select the “unlock” icon to let the horse roam freely, up to 100 meters away. If you select the Magnifying Glass icon instead, the horse will automatically try to find its favorite thing. If such a thing isn’t within 100 meters, then you’ll get a message saying that.

If a horse is let loose to wander without any particular goal, it will do things like graze if it’s hungry, find water if it’s thirsty, move towards people if it’s social, move away if it’s antisocial and so on. If it’s fully healthy, fed and watered, it’ll run and play and gain some mood! A quick whistle (F) will bring them right back again.

The Trick Wheel – all of the available tricks, plus more!

Affinities

So you know by now that each horse has its own Favorite Thing. It can be something simple like rocks or twigs, or it can be wild horses, people, and more. It can be pretty funny watching a horse run around looking for them! It can be useful, too. Say you need to find mushrooms in the Dark Forest Biome. Pain in the tail, right? Well, if you find a horse that likes mushrooms you can use them like a hunting dog! The same is true for things like Essence, Ores, and so on. Another use might be if you are supposed to find a rare flower, like Red Roses or Poppies, get a horse with a flower affinity and follow them!

So you don’t lose track, once a horse finds out what it likes, the affinity shows up permanently on their profile.

Full list of Affinities by rarity

Common: Berries, Cloth, Critters, Essence, Flower, Fruit, People, Poison Ivy, Rocks, Sticks, Wild Horses
Half as common: Caves, Course Starts, Epics, Gemstones, Mushrooms, Quest Tables, Spices, Sweets
10x rarer: Minigames, Ores, Tappable Trees.
200x rarer: Crystal, Treasure

A note about Cloth: That will cause a horse to find silk cocoons, flax, or cotton plants.

Since some affinities are really rare, a Crystal hunting horse or a Treasure hunting horse is worth some cash should you decide to sell it.

Interested in joining? 

Click  HERE or go to the HI3 site and put in my user ID, 1023. 

 Whenever you buy your first subscription, you’ll be rewarded with 10 Esroh Essence (good for more energy) and 1000 gold dust to help you along!

Snacks to help you lose weight

Some may be wondering what I did to lose 97 pounds (so far, I’m 15-20 pounds from goal weight, starting at 245 at 5’3″ and it’s been a year and a half since I started. )

I increased exercise, though not as much as everybody says I should. I cut calories too, but for the most part I was between 1300-1500 calories, not the ultra low calories some fad diets reccomment.

One way I kept hunger at bay was by always having good snacks, a variety that would fit my macros in whatever I was low on. I generally tried to keep my snacks at 150 calories or less so they would be easy to fit into my day. That way, if I had a sudden craving, or just was a little peckish before dinner, I wouldn’t have to suffer.

I’m only recommending things that I actually used in my fitness journey. I am including links to buy them, and if you use my links I might make a little bit of money, but they are suggestions only so if you find a better deal somewhere else, feel free! However, since I like saving money, I’ll be linking to the best priced versions of everything to save you time.

Meat Snacks

“Chomps” are simply amazing. The turkey is my favorite flavor as it only has 60 calories and 10 grams of protein. I also like that the meat is responsibly sourced and not full of additives. You can find them in natural foods stores, or right here.

Lately I’ve also been enjoying these turkey sticks made by “The New Primal”, I like the flavor and the price is good. 45 calories each for these and 7 grams of protein.

These are just a couple examples. I also use jerky, Epic bars, and other forms of meat for snacks. I like using turkey because it’s very lean and usually not as expensive.

Shakes

While I don’t recommend using shakes as a meal replacement, they can be nice as a snack. They are also great to add to things like protein pancakes, oatmeal, or other things. You can use various forms of protein powder but for an all in one, low calorie shake that has vitamins and other things, this mix by Designer Protein. The flavor is good and mixes well with berries and other ingredients to make smoothies. It’s also not super expensive.

Nutritional Yeast is another thing to add to shakes – it’s tasty, savory, and can be sprinkled on food as a seasoning as well. I get this at my natural foods store.

Protein Bars

Protein bars are good as a snack or if you are running around and can’t have a proper meal. For low cost and a good protein content, usually 19-20 grams, as well as a pretty good taste, I like Pure Protein. Their variety packs are nice and I really like the lemon flavored ones too.

The absolute tastiest protein bars, bar none, in my opinion at least, are made by Built. They basically taste like you’re having dessert and the calories range from only 130-180 depending on flavor, plus some fiber. Protein is usually 17-20 grams. I love them so much that I have them for dessert and don’t miss a thing. They also have a ton of flavors – eating one is like having a high end candy bar with a really good chocolate coating. The coconut flavor is just like a Mounds bar, for example. My only issue is cost, but I’ve found they are worth it because the ingredients are good and I don’t feel gross after eating them, or have blood sugar issues. You can get a variety pack here.

Quest protein bars are pretty good too, I’ve had them off and on, and I like their fiber content. They taste pretty good too. If you haven’t tried them, you can see them here.

Vegetables

When I’m going to mindlessly nibble, I cut up some red bell pepper, or carrots, or seasoned jicama, or something else. Snap peas or snow peas are awesome too, especially with hummus or a dip made using Greek Yogurt.

Sometimes I’ll use berries, a small orange, or an apple as a snack. Usually I’ll pre-log the fruit I need and eat it at snack time, to increase my enjoyment and keep myself from getting hungry. There are a ton of good fruits and vegetables out there that make great snacks, just steer clear of dried items because they don’t satisfy nearly as well and it’s easy to overeat them.

I love seaweed snacks. They are crispy and fun to eat, like chips, but don’t load me down. There are a ton of kinds you can buy online but here is one that I like.

Speaking of veggie snacks, they are all improved TREMENDOUSLY by sprinkling a bit of popcorn seasoning on top. There are a ton of flavors available. For example, today I had some cut up red bell pepper with ranch sprinkled on and it was amazing! Using the low calorie sprinkles saves you from most of the fats in dips and is also a little neater and easier to clean up. Varying the flavors makes things even more interesting.

Dairy

I love Babybel Lite cheese wheels. They are 50 calories each and as a bonus you get some cool red wax to play with!

Greek Yogurt is a staple in my household. If you mix it with a little zero calorie sweetener and some vanilla extract, then mix in some berries or cut up fruit, you have a fantastic snack or dessert. 3 ounces of fat free greek yogurt with 3 ounces of berries is only around 100 calories and really good for you.

I love making a dip for fruit by mixing 3 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, and some zero calorie sweetener. Vanilla flavored Stevia makes it absolutely delicious.

Fat free cottage cheese is great too! Sometimes I have a little before bed if I’m caught with a bad case of the nibbles. Plus it’s slow acting protein so it’s good for if you’re building muscle. Adding a little dill, black pepper, and salt can make it a fantastic dip or spread.

Teas and coffee

Not really a snack but they are fantastic for if you just want something to drink. Most have zero calories. I’ll drink green tea, oolong, black tea, various flavors of Celestial seasonings, as well as home blends, hibiscus tea, dessert teas from Republic of tea, and more. For coffee, if it’s preground I really like Bustelo, or I’ll grind my own. I like doing cold brew. Cold brew is REALLY easy to do in this pitcher.

Also, for tea lovers, I’ve had great results with this tea kettle. It heats quickly, it’s affordably priced, and it has lived on my counter for a few years and not worn out.

Sweeteners

I will use Stevia packets, though lately I really like to use vanilla creme liquid stevia. A few drops of this is fantastic in a vanilla caramel tea. Also one bottle lasts you a good while!

I hope this list has been helpful. I may add to it from time to time. Some items that I use I haven’t included because they are much better to buy locally.

This is six months of progress – started losing weight January 6 2020, and this was taken in July.

Dealing With Partners While Losing Weight

Today I’m going to write about a subject that can be touchy – it’s gonna be a long one.  I’m talking about spouses, family members and living partners.  They are a huge factor in your weight loss journey.  They can undermine and sabotage, usually unknowingly but sometimes completely on purpose. They can also be incredible supporters and the key to your success.   Sometimes whether you have a supporter or a sabotager depends on how you approach the situation.

In times past, the opinion of my partner or roommate has totally derailed my progress.  Or more accurately, my perception (often inaccurate) of their opinion has been an excuse I’ve used to derail my own progress.  I have worried about jealousy, about taking away things they love, and more. Once I gave up weight training because I didn’t like the advice my partner was giving me.  That was stubborn and honestly pretty foolish of me.  Their advice wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t prepared to listen. So instead of thinking about what they were saying, I gave up, and started gaining weight again.

I am lucky because my spouse is very supportive, and doesn’t act jealous of my success.  I’m really grateful for that.  Even if she did, at this point, I think I would probably continue my journey – because I’m ultimately doing this for myself and no one else. However it has taken a LOT of work to get to that point.   Self respect and self care are like anything else, habits you have to build up if you aren’t good at them. The good news is, you can do it with enough persistence!   For example, in the past I have had some long periods where I didn’t think I should put my foot down and follow a healthy plan because it was selfish, while at the same time I was also acting completely selfishly in other ways and in deep denial about it.  Yep, I have some serious warts there. The truth is, it’s not selfish to care for yourself because then you can care for others in a better way. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

When your partner is undermining your progress

In weight loss forums I hear quite a bit about people who have spouses who bring in unhealthy food or snacks that they then have trouble resisting.  I understand the desire to not disrupt another person’s life in the quest for health.  I’ve been terrified of becoming THAT health nut, the one who made life miserable for other people around them.  

Compromises are totally possible though.  They usually start with a little honest, open conversation. A lot of people will just live in the same way until acted upon by an outside force, so that’s why communication is great! Something I’ve often had a hard time remembering is, most spouses and partners are actually pretty happy to help if you can come up with a clear way to do so.  For example “could you please keep your snacks in the cupboard so they are out of my sight and I’m less tempted by them?  I don’t want you to have to do without something you enjoy but I’m trying to avoid that stuff right now.”

If you have a spouse, partner, family member, etc who isn’t supportive of your weight loss journey it can also help to talk about why you are doing it, so they know more about what you are doing and that you aren’t going on some extreme crash diet. “You know, I haven’t been feeling very good lately, and I could stand to lose a few pounds. Would you mind if we ate some more salads?” It can start as simply as that.

A hard truth is that sometimes we use our partners, spouses, family as excuses so we can get out of something we don’t really want to do.  I’ve done this.  I’ve used someone else’s eating habits as a reason to eat more, have things that aren’t good for me, or keep treats around that I find hard to resist.  It’s because I wasn’t truly motivated to change, and I was often afraid to advocate for myself.  Afraid of what?  Nothing direct, but I grew up with an issue around asking for things.  I’m still working on that.

What I did in my case was use a weight loss contest as a bribe!  I said to my spouse, “look, this is a really good prize, and I think I can win.  If you help me out, and support me with what I need to do, I’ll split it with you.”  Later when the contest was canceled (I really was winning, but Covid) I continued my healthy habits and she didn’t mind because she saw what kind of a difference it was making for me.  A year and a half later and I’m 97 pounds down, which is about three times what I’ve ever managed to lose before.

What do you do when they want to lose, but can’t?

There’s one other problem that comes up.  In my case my dear spouse would love to lose weight, and is having some success, but isn’t doing all the things required to lose weight.  I’m not very comfortable counseling her about this kind of thing, so I will drop bits of information here and there and try really hard to avoid lecturing.  So when she consumes extra calories in the form of sugars and carby snacks, and continues to use a lot of oil to fry with, I bite my tongue – but continue to suggest healthy meal ideas.  Yesterday we had good talk about her needs, which are very different than mine, and I was actually able to advocate for my needs too.  Sometimes that’s all that is needed, is a good conversation.  

Another thing I have to remind myself constantly is that her journey is not mine, and vice versa.  I can enjoy being active and eating lots of low sugar foods, and lots of vegetables, because I am a lot lighter than my spouse, who has many health problems that I don’t have.  She deals with arthritis, neurological challenges, social anxiety, issues with digestion that are exacerbated by too much fiber, and has a really bad reaction to most protein powders and non sugar sweeteners.  She doesn’t need me bugging her about things she can’t control. Instead we need to focus on other things we CAN control like portion size, and making more of my famous loaded salads. 

Sometimes the people in our lives just get tired of hearing about our healthy journey. I can understand that, I would have before I got on my journey. So I limit what I say about it, so my spouse doesn’t get overloaded. I channel part of that energy into blogging to try and help others, and giving support to my MyFitnessPal friends. That helps a lot and gives my energy and enthusiasm a good direction.

So if you have a spouse or partner who really needs a health makeover, I think gentle, non confrontational conversations are best – depending on the person of course.  Succeeding will prove to them that what you are doing is right, and you can also extend the hand of help.  If the situation is dire you might want to tell them that you care about them and want to help them have a healthier life, but they won’t start until they are ready.

Above all, for whatever reason, don’t give up a healthy journey because of anyone else.  This is YOUR life and your health, after all!

What if they won’t even try?

A person WILL NOT lose weight or gain health until they choose to for themselves. They must see, deep down, what’s in it for them, choose to do it, and think it’s possible.  I can say this from both sides of things.  If any of those three things are missing it won’t work.  If a person wants to get healthy but doesn’t think they can, they won’t!  Or they’ll try, halfheartedly, give up when it gets difficult, and say “see? I told you I can’t lose weight.”  

So, in those cases where someone wants to get healthy but isn’t doing anything about it, it can be useful to figure out where their barriers are, just as you may have at the beginning of your journey.  For example, do they think weight loss means you have to sweat all day and kill yourself doing cardio?  It doesn’t.  Maybe they think you have to eat like a rabbit and give up all flavor?  It doesn’t.  Maybe they think keto, or Paleo, or going vegan, or doing juice cleanses, is the only way?  Well they aren’t!  Or maybe they have a messed up idea of what weight loss means and think if they don’t lose five pounds a week, every week, they are a failure?  Well it’s not!  Very successful people lose a pound a week, or half a pound a week, and do just fine!

So, screwed up ideas of weight loss and what it means can be a serious detriment, especially since quite a few beginning dieters haven’t done the massive research on the subject that some of us have, and may believe the ads and magazines giving bad advice out there.

Still, just as you didn’t lose weight until you decided to, they won’t either until they believe they can, and want to do it.  Gentle, non pressuring persuasion is probably the best way to go.  Cooking healthy, flavorful meals for them when you are together, inviting them on walks, suggesting healthy activities to do together, being a good role model – without lecturing – usually works best.  Let them see the joy that you take in life.  Invite them along for the journey but don’t overwhelm them with detail at first.  Baby steps.  

For me I think about how I would have reacted to myself if I came along to the me of two or three years ago – I wouldn’t have trusted me at all!  I wouldn’t have believed what I can do!  I would have said “you’re nuts, now let me get back to my snacks!”

And yet… here I am.

The Most Important Aspect of Weight Loss

What is the most important aspect of weight loss? Is it diet? Nutrient Balance? Exercise? Calories in/calories out? Keto? Intermittent Fasting?

Not quite.

Today I want to talk a little about the mental and emotional work that is needed to lose weight, gain health, and keep it off. It’s a subject that I don’t think is covered well enough in many books and resources – people focus more on the details of macros, calorie counting, exercise programs, etc. Without handling the mental aspect, all success will be short lived.

So, here is what I have found so far in my journey from 245+ to 150 pounds.

Never Give Up

I think the most important thing I had to do in my journey was to give up on the idea of giving up. Quitting stopped being an option. Part of that was a decision that I made, but what kept that decision from being forgotten was MFP, because every morning I will log in and read all the updates, and I don’t want to let everyone down. I also had to realize that I am doing this for myself, and nothing, not depression, not scheduling, not stress, not boredom, would make me quit.

Forgive Yourself

I have had to learn to forgive myself too. If I have a day where I go over, or if I don’t exercise as much as I planned to, I say to myself “I will do better, I won’t repeat that two days in a row.” Then I try and take a little time to notice how my body feels when I get off track. Whether if it’s a heavy feeling of having too much in my stomach, a lack of evergy, or a feeling of stiffness from not exercising enough, I notice that feeling and I let it show me why I keep my good habits. In the past I used to say “well, I messed up this day, so I might as well enjoy myself and come back to it later” then later never came.

Be Positive

Another thing that has helped a lot is thinking in terms of challenges to overcome and solutions to be found, rather than obstacles. Once I did really weal on a healthy journey, lost thirty pounds or so, but it was all derailed when I had a broken tooth and could no longer eat the healthy things that had gotten me there. At that time it was insurmountable, partly because other stress in my life was also high, and I just quit. These days if that happened again I’d break out the protein shakes and make a bunch of green soup, sugar free protein pudding, and other things . If my stress levels are really high I have an assortment of herbal teas that are very soothing. I also can feel how exercise helps me relax so I will usually get some minimum amount even if I don’t get in a huge workout.

Connect with how your body feels

Being in touch with my body has helped. Really feeling if I am actually hungry or just “have a case of the nibbles,” for example. Feeling if my body is asking for exercise. This isn’t so hard to do, it just takes a decision to notice more. Perfection isn’t immediate, you have to work at it, but the awareness will come. Another example of this is when I am stressed and inclined to nibble, and I realize that what I really need is a hug, or some kitty cuddle time, or a nap. Food becomes the cure-all, that proverbial hammer that makes every problem look like a nail, but we all have so many more tools than just that one.

How much is enough?

I learned portion control, too, and this is a tremendous tool. It was hard to give up the idea that I could have as much food as I wanted. Having grown up in deep poverty, that was a way I had of making myself feel safe because food equaled safety and comfort. So why shoouldn’t I have a whole bag of chips? I could afford it now. Yet, that wasn’t doing me any favors, it was still too much. My own solution for this is to buy smaller amounts of really high quality food, portion it out ahead of time, and take my time to enjoy it.

“This is the good stuff,” I tell my brain, “I don’t need a lot of it because it’s high quality nutrition and it tastes great.”

And it works.

Celebrate!

I learned to celebrate small victories, not using food but just noticing them and thinking ‘Hey! That’s great!” Going over onto the NSV thread has been a great way to do that, it makes me happy every time I have something to report. Celebrating other people’s small victories in the same way has been great too, it makes me realize that I’m not alone in the journey and it makes me feel good to support other people. So many times we feel like we were the only one to be this fat, or the only one to have this problem, and seeing that we aren’t alone helps us stay motivated and keep going because we see other poeple having success.

Gain Inspiration from Success

Speaking of success, the forums on My Fitness Pal have been a fantastic place for inspiration. I love reading about people’s success stories, and their in-process wins. I can see that there are folks with the same challenges as me, or worse ones in some cases, and they are winning too. I know that I don’t have any excuses, that this thing is possible, not the insurmountable task that I once thought it was. My success or my failure comes down to my choice so why would I choose to fail?

Be Patient

With success comes patience. We return to persistence as the key to success. There will be plateaus, there will be ups and downs. Sticking with it, and tweaking things a bit when results aren’t being found is essential. It took a long time for this weight to get on to our bodies, it’ll take a while for the weight to come off. Quick fixes aren’t permanent. Sometimes we even need to take little breaks to renew our focus. If we learn to be kind to ourselves, to forgive our own failings, then temporary setbacks won’t halt our progress.

How does this all work?

Now the question comes to HOW to do all this? The answers are going to be different for everyone. Part of it comes with time and thought. Brainstorm with yourself. A lot of these realizations came for me when I was writing about my journey but not everyone will have the same exerience. Maybe ideas will come during a drive, or a long walk. Maybe after reading a book. Just beginning to ask yourself these questions will help you think of your own answers. “What are some of my victories during this journey?” “How can I inspire myself to continue after I’ve had the worst day ever?” “What is my most compelling reason for weight loss?” Etc.

The Number One Tip

If I could tell everyone one thing to do, to help them be successful I would leave them with this. “SEEK THE MIDDLE PATH.” Avoid extremist thinking – the idea that if something isn’t an absolute success it’s the worst failure ever. This is still a challenge for me. I still tend towared being a bit polarized but I’m working on it and every time I do it helps me in all aspects of life.

I hope this was useful and helpful to someone. If there is a particular topic anyone would like me to explore further, I’ll be happy to do that. In future I might start thinking about specific examples of different challenges I had and ways I overcame them, because honestly, if there’s a diet mistake to make, I’ve probably made it!