So… Horizon Zero Dawn Feels Really Important.

So buckle up, birdies, because this post is going to be a little… all over the place. I don’t quite have my thoughts fully sorted on this matter, nor have I finished the game yet… but the bottom line is that Horizon Zero Dawn feels really important to me and I feel like I need to tell someone.

Horizon_Zero_Dawn

As far as video games go, it’s pretty impressive for all the typical reasons games can be impressive. The visuals are beyond beautiful, the soundtrack is great, the battle mechanics are interesting and unique, the enemies are legitimately terror inducing, and even on the easiest difficultly level (because while I love video games, I’m super bad at them) still pose enough of a challenge to keep the fighting exciting… The game is critically acclaimed for all the usual stuff.

And yet it still just feels so much more important than that to me.

The main character Aloy has a lot to do with it. The fact that she is THE scripted main character matters. She’s a fixed element in the story, as opposed to a player character that is chosen and sculpted by the player… and she’s a she.

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As a female who has been into video games for a long time, this still seems pretty revolutionary to me. It shouldn’t, but it does. While I can think of a handful of other games where this has been the case (Tomb Raider, for example), the fact that even now, in 2017, this still feels important is indicative of a much broader issue within the gaming world. Having a female protagonist is still seen as a risk, and as a result, it’s not often done.

This shouldn’t still be a risk. Women make up at least half (according to some numbers, more than half even) of the gaming demographic, and we’ve been playing as and relating to set male characters for years, so I really don’t see why having male players play as and relate to a set female main character should be a risk for the industry. And that’s a problem that goes well beyond gaming and into plenty of other media – starting with children’s books even… But that’s a matter for another post. That I’ll probably never get to.

So anyway…

It’s not just the fact that Aloy is a girl that makes it feel important. It’s the fact that Aloy is female, and yet in the context of the story that doesn’t matter. Her gender is completely irrelevant, and is left as such. Her character design is practical, as are her outfits, and we are not constantly reminded of the fact that “oh shit, Aloy has ladyparts,” whether that be through a sexualized character design (*coughLaraCroftupuntilRiseoftheTombRaidercough*) or constant reminders that she’s filling a role that’s not typically female (e.g. comments from NPCs in surprise over her gender, or deriding her gender). As a gamer who also has lady parts and identifies as female, it’s kind of an awesome experience, to be honest. It’s revolutionary because of the simple fact that it doesn’t present the decision to have a female player character as different or revolutionary. It just simply is. And that fact alone is striking me as unique, and – if I haven’t said it enough yet – important.

Because it’s something even the best, most inclusive games sometimes miss the mark on when writing strong female characters. Even my beloved Bioware occasionally misses the mark in their super-progressive Dragon Age series. Despite culturally existing in a world that has seemingly eliminated most gender norms (and in the places they’ve been kept, they’ve often been flipped – for example the “church” of the world is matriarchal instead of patriarchal) while playing as a female Warden, Hawke, or Inquisitor there are still these moments that crop up where your character’s competence and fitness to lead are questioned on nothing but the basis of being female – bits of dialogue and implications in the way things are voiced that play out very differently when playing as the male counterpart. They’re moments that can feel very out of place in a world as egalitarian with regards to gender as Dragon Age seems to set itself up to be – moments that sometimes feel to me like reality is bleeding in and upsetting the world-building a little.

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In Horizon Zero Dawn, I haven’t yet had one of those moments. Not one. There were a couple moments where an NPC would flirt with Aloy a bit, but everything is written in such a way, and the world is set up in such a way that I’m confident that those moments still would have happened regardless of her gender – because that’s just normal human interaction. And somehow that makes the lack of super set gender roles even cooler?

And all of this is to say nothing about the seemingly effortless diversity of the NPC cast. Which also feels super-duper important to me. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever before encountered a game that is this nonchalantly racially diverse, and I freaking love it. And it really is the nonchalantness of it that gets me. It’s not mentioned, questioned, commented on, or fussed about… it just simply is. And oh my goodness, it’s so amazing.

I could easily go on for several more pages about the things in this game that feel important to me, but I think at this point I’ve gone on long enough for one post that’s basically just a rambling brain-dump. Additionally, I have not finished the game yet – I’m taking my sweet time and being a bit completionist, so I’m only about half way through. It might very well be that the impressions I’ve gotten so far don’t maintain themselves through the rest of the story, but I guess we’ll see. I just needed to gush a little over how awesome this game is.

Have you played Horizon Zero Dawn? Did you notice any of these things? Or do you see them differently than I did? Are there actually plenty of games out there like this already, but I’ve just managed to miss them because I’m picky about gameplay mechanics? Is there something big and glaring that I’m missing in my enthusiasm? (*Since originally writing this post, I’ve read several interesting commentaries by Native American authors on both sides of the “is it cultural appropriation?” debate, which I must admit is not something that would have even occurred to me had I not happened across it on Tumblr.) I still haven’t finished the game (so try to avoid spoilers), and am still formulating my thoughts. I feel like I’ve sort of danced around points here… like they’re on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t find the words to properly convey them – so I would love to hear how other people see it. Maybe it will help clarify this overwhelming bubble of nebulous “this is important” that’s bubbling up in my chest as I play (but please keep it respectful)!

(Clicking on the photos will bring you to their source)

Reassessing for 2017

So any of you who have been around for a while know that my blogging over the last two years has been… sporadic at best. I’ll have a month or two where I’m really consistent, and then go on radio silence for three. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to figure out why I can’t seem to break this cycle, and honestly there are like, a thousand reasons.

I originally had a massively long post typed out listing them all, but I scrapped that because it all just sounded like I was making excuses. And that makes this feel like less of a hobby and more of a job, and goodness knows the last thing I need right now is another job (I currently have four).

So no reasons, no excuses. I’m done looking for them and focusing on them. Instead, I think the time has come for some retooling.

Part of this is to make it work better for me, for my life and schedule, and in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling guilty for not having posted in a while. Part of it is to try to provide more consistent content here.

I do, of course, want to start focusing a little more back on my hobbies – expect more book reviews, hopefully some more project posts… that goes along with some lifestyle changes that I’m trying to make on a more personal level. But I also want to figure out some semi-regular features that can stick around even when I don’t have time to create anything physical.

What form those are going to take, I don’t know. Any suggestions, or well established blog events (things like Blogmus or Throwback Thursday or Friday Favorites) would be welcomed.

So I guess, my question in all this is, beyond project posts, what kind of content do you like? What would you like to see more of from Magpie Making Do? Are there any older posts in particular that you’d like to see more like?

Additionally, I’ve been intending for a long time to switch from wordpress.com to a self-hosted wordpress.org site. I even bought the domain name, and have hosting all set up – but I’ve been holding off until I can be more consistent about content… mainly as an excuse, because switching over seems a little intimidating and scary, and I really don’t want to lose the readers I already have here. Has anyone taken this plunge already, and are there any tips or recommendations you might want to share?

Any and all input (as long as it’s polite!) is welcome in the comments, and I’ll keep mulling over things too!

For the Last Week…

My Lady Jane

If you follow my instagram you may have noticed that my last two photos have been a little… unseasonal looking? Considering I hail from Northeastern Pennsylvania and the place has been cold and grey and snowy for the last month or so, my photos definitely may have seemed a little out of place.

Well, that’s because I spent the last week in Florida at Disney World!

Disney Castle

I’ve always had a soft spot for Disney, and had never gotten a chance to visit as a kid, as when we were saving as a family for a trip, in the end we decided that putting in a pool would be a better use of that money, since it would last oh, 20 years as opposed to one week.

No regrets there. In fact, I feel like I was able to appreciate the overall Disney experience far more as an adult than I would have as a kid (and god, did I love that pool). It’s SUCH a great vacation experience, and they have all sorts of little details covered that make the whole thing super easy and super relaxing – even at the budget resorts. We went for the first time three years ago, and decided pretty much as soon as we returned that we’d go back as soon as we could afford to.

Well it took three years, but we managed to get back. And the second trip was even better since, having already been there once, we didn’t feel pressured to cram every sight, ride, and experience into 5 days.

I’m not going to write a full post on the trip because we just did too much, but while I was there I read three books, and took a ton of pictures. If you’re interested in the visual side of my trip you can follow along on my instagram @magpiemakingdo over the next few weeks as I get photos up, and reviews of the books are forthcoming as well!

Sabriel

2017 Bullet Journal Setup

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I’ve done a detailed Bullet Journal Set-up post the last two years, but as I started to set up this year’s, I realized that over the course of those two posts, I’ve really sort of settled into the system that works for me. So this year, I’m not really changing much up from last year, and as a result this post will be a bit more brief than prior years.

I’m using a different size notebook this time – last year I tried to stick with the standard Moleskein size, but without actually using a moleskein, and I ended up rather unhappy with my selection, and ultimate choice. It was cute, but kind of boring, and I didn’t end up using it as much as I should have as a result. Because I’m fussy like that for whatever reason.

This year I went with a slightly larger size journal from Design Works Ink and I am in love with it. The size is perfect for me, I love the Month/Day listing at the top of the page for daily to-do lists, and the paper is thick enough that I can even use my sharpies and heavy duty markers with minimal bleed through.

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As for the setup, I have some pictures for you, but it’s pretty similar to what I’ve done in the past (>here’s 2015, and here’s 2016). Once again I used the free monthly calendar pages from The Handmade Home’s 2017 Planner. They’ve worked very well for me over the years, and I suspect this year will be no different.

Bonus of the larger notebook size, I didn’t have to fuss with folding and getting the pages to lay flat like I did in the past. I printed them at 93% of full size, and they fit perfectly at one to a page.

Yearly goals

Next up, I’ve got my yearly goals, which you can read more about here

accomplishments

And then the one actually new page for this year is this monthly accomplishment tracker. Basically I’m trying to be more positive, and I think if I go back at the end of each month and list my overall accomplishments, at the end of the year I might feel a whole lot better about how things went than I did this year. I hope, anyway.

book and savings log

Next I’ve got my book log, and a savings tracker (as per my 2017 goals, I have to get my savings happening again).

monthly goals and habit tracker

Following that, I’ve got my individual monthly goals (I suppose that this is a new-to-the-blog feature, as I only started including it AFTER I posted last year’s set-up) and habit tracker.

daily

And then I’ve got my monthly detail calendar for more nitty-gritty planning purposes. (See either my 2016 or 2015 post for why I need the printed calendar AND this).

I’ve enjoyed experimenting a little to match my writing styles with the overall more polished look of the notebook itself, and I think planner-wise, it’s going to be a good year!

How about you? Do you use aspects of the Bullet Journal system? Any fun new spreads you’re using this year?

My 2017 Goals

Yearly goals

So it’s January, and of course, that means it’s resolution time. I’ve spent a lot of time these last two weeks really putting thought into what this year’s goals should be, because I feel like I’m very much at a crossroads of sorts. I’m turning the big 3-0 this May, and there’s a lot of things in my life that I feel like I need to address before I cross officially into the realm of “Thirty-something.”

The resulting list is a lot more conceptual than my goals have been in the past. More overall lifestyle changes than specific, quantifiable goals. And while that made coming up with photos to break up the wall of text in this post almost impossible, I feel like overall this is a list of goals that has some real potential to up the happiness factor in my life as I cross this major milestone.

And so without further explaination, here are my goals for 2017. Hopefully you’ll all be able to follow along and see the changes along with me.

Magpie’s Goals for 2017

1) Limit my video gaming.

One of the big byproducts of my anxiety problems over the last two years has been an excessive gaming habit. When my anxiety got bad, and as my work schedule became more and more consuming I turned more and more to video games as the only way to effectively “shut off” my brain and my anxiety. They are an easy refuge – no materials or supplies to pull out, and I don’t need the concentration level that reading requires… just press a button and BAM, I’m in Thedas. Or Tamriel. Or the Wasteland. Somewhere far far away from the constant juggling of responsibilities that is my life.

And sometimes, that’s not a bad thing. But over the past few years I also feel like it’s become a bit of a crutch. I’ve spent far too much of my already precious free time on video games, and all my other hobbies have completely fallen by the wayside. Reading, knitting, crocheting, my photo albums… pretty much everything. And I miss my other hobbies.

2) Spend more time on creative pursuits.

An auxiliary to goal number one – I want to use what little free time I have a little more productively. I did not finish a single knitting project in 2016. I’m well more than a year behind on my photo albums. And basically, if these are hobbies I’m not going to pursue, why am I storing all these supplies here? Which brings me to my next goal:

3) Purge stuff.

I have too much stuff given my current living situation and constraints. And it very much is a problem for me – for my mindset, for my productivity, and for my ability to stay organized and on top of things. And so I need to spend 2017 fixing that. Getting rid of things, putting things I can’t get rid of but don’t use regularly given my current situation into storage. Basically just simplify. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

4) Develop a more consistent routine.

I don’t have one. And I should. With all the jobs that I’m juggling, as much as the “free spirit” side of my personality may hate it, I need to be a little more regimented and disciplined in my routines. First on the docket will be a morning routine, then once all four jobs are back in swing I’ll tackle a meal planning routine. Hopefully, anyway.

5) Be more disciplined.

I give into my whims far too easily these days – and it’s not a freedom I really have room for. Whether it be snacking when I know I shouldn’t, or impulse purchases when I know I need the money for other, more important things down the road – I’m just not disciplined enough. A lot of that comes from fatigue. I’m tired all the time, and the more tired I am, the more likely I am to say, “let’s just order in” or “McDonalds is right there” or “just five more minutes of sleep – I don’t need to put on makeup today.” The result is that I feel bigger, less productive, and less on top of things than ever, and it’s not good.

6) Retool Blogging.

I like blogging as a hobby. Its one I very much enjoy and very much miss when I end up going on my little radio-silences. And I want to try to avoid that this year. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do it yet, and I’ll probably make another post throwing around ideas at a later date, but bottom line is I need to come up with a better system for here, so that I stay inspired, stay consistent, and all without making this feel like a chore. That’s a lot packed into one goal, eh?

7) Avoid overeating.

This goes hand and hand with #5. I don’t eat particularly unhealthily. I try to get my veggies in, and even when we eat out I try to avoid super fried or unhealthy stuff. My big problem is not WHAT I eat – it’s HOW I eat. I overeat far too frequently and my portions are just WAY too big for the size I’m supposed to be. I also eat super quickly – probably a byproduct of my hectic schedule – so I don’t realize exactly how full I am until it’s too late and I feel miserable. I’ve gotta stop this. Both for the wellbeing of my waistband, my wallet, and my state of mind.

8) Move more.

Again, hand in hand with other goals, this time #1, #4 and #5. I don’t move enough. It’s that simple. My life has become increasingly sedentary and it’s not good. I’ve tried specific exercise goals in the past and they never work for me, so this year I’m starting smaller and I’m just going to try to move more, in whatever manner I can.

9) Eat out less.

This is as much a money thing as it is a portion control thing (see goal #7). I need to start saving more efficiently. I used to be really good about it – but when I had a few unexpected financial catastrophes last year, it set me back like, six years worth of work in the matter of a week. And that was… discouraging? Demoralizing? Dispiriting? Motivation killing? Gutting, really. But anyway, it’s super stressful not to have an emergency fund. To know that the next unexpected financial stress could mean ruin. And I’ve gotta get back on track with some SERIOUS belt tightening.

10) Make progress with language studies.

I’ve been trying to learn another language on and off for probably six years. My biggest problem is consistency. I’ll make a lot of progress for like a month, and then by the time I get back to it a month and a half later it would all be gone. I want to see concrete progress this year. Which means consistency.

11) Take better care of myself.

In many ways these last two goals seem to be the underlying theme of this whole list. Bottom line is that I’ve let my own wellbeing, both physically and mentally, fall to the wayside as I juggle four jobs. And it’s not good. It’s not healthy. I have to fix it.

12) Advocate for me.

I’ve become super super bad at prioritizing myself, and prioritizing my own wellbeing. And it’s begun impacting my ability to enjoy things. So I’ve gotta cut that out and start being my own best advocate.

What are your goals for 2017?

2016 New Years Resolution Postmortem

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Another year, another set of goals not fully met.

I know that sounds really pessimistic, but that’s just how these things go – I’m not a resolution maker who actually expects to fully complete each. Instead, I make resolutions with the goal of making progress, and using those goals, however unattainable, to improve myself or particular aspects of myself.

So I never really expect to fully fulfill them. If I do? AWESOME. If not? Oh well – the real question is did I TRY?

So let’s see how I did this year, shall we?

brush pen

1) Learn Brush Calligraphy

Success Level: High.

I think I did pretty well on this one. I’ve gotten significantly better – although obviously I’ve still got plenty of room for improvement (particularly when it comes to spacing and design) – I’m pretty happy with the progress I made on this one.

sketchbook

2) Fill a full sketchbook with figure drawing

Success Level: Low

I did not successfully fill a sketchbook. Bottom line is the year sort of got away from me with this one, and like last year I filled several sketchbooks, but all with lettering – not with figure drawing. So this one I think qualifies for another attempt.

reading

3) Read for at least 2 hours a week (reading not required by work) and be better about updating Goodreads.

Success Level: Medium

I didn’t quite meet the 2 hours a week quota, but I definitely did better about making pleasure reading a habit again. I’ve gotten through almost a dozen books that are not directly connected to work (of course my actual tally is much higher – but again I’m not counting stuff I HAVE to read, only the stuff I CHOOSE to read for no other reason than I want to).

WIPs

4) Finish all outstanding WIPs – both Knitting and Crochet

Success Level: None.

I really shat the bed on this one. Not even a single FO this year. I guess I just wasn’t feeling knitting in 2016.

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5) Run another 5k

Success Level: Another None.

Nope. This one just didn’t happen.

recipe books

6) Try 12 new recipes

Success Level: Medium

I added a few more recipes to my repertoire, but not 12 like I wanted. The reality is I really really did not cook much this year beyond sort of “okay lets throw something super quick together for myself.” No real meal planning, nothing complicated. This definitely needs to change come 2017.

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7) Get better with makeup

Success Level: High

I’ve actually learned a lot in the last year. I’ve started using more of my eyeshadows, gotten better with liquid eyeliner, and even started wearing red lipstick occasionally. Overall I’m much more comfortable with my makeup skills, and all those amazing products I have saw a lot more use over the last year.

PJs

8) Pajamas are for bedtime only.

Success Level: High

Part of this has to do with the fact that I spent a lot less time working from home this year, and the other part of it has to do with actually HAVING a dedicated bedtime wardrobe that is separate from my lounge wardrobe. So yea, this one happened pretty consistently.

9) Make the damn bed. EVERY. DAY.

Success Level: Medium

I’ve definitely been better about it, but there’s certainly still room for improvement.

10) Organize, Organize, Organize!

Success Level: Medium

Again, the success here has been mixed. In a lot of ways I feel like my surroundings have ended up even further out of control than they were last year. I’m thinking 2017 is going to have to be the year of purging as opposed to the year of organizing.

11) Drink more water

Success Level: High

Generally I’ve been a lot better about this. Getting into the habit of carrying around a water bottle has helped, and specifically they addition of a Tervis water bottle was great – far easier to clean and keep clean than those nalgines since it just cleans like a regular cup.

gratitude

12) Stay Thankful

Success Level: Low.

I’ve had a rough year in terms of stress and its sometimes very hard for me to stay grounded in gratitude when I feel like I’m being chased by someone with a knife all the time. I’ve spent a good chunk of the year working on ways to help manage my stress a little better, and keep all my various commitments under control, but it’s still a struggle.

So 2016 was a pretty mixed bag in terms of my own personal goals. Hopefully next year I can improve on them even more!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2017!

How did you do on your resolutions this year?

(All photos originally appeared in the original resolution post here)

Meet Seiglinde.

I’m a little late on this post, since we got her in June and she’s pretty much a full grown dog by now, but better late than never I suppose.

puppy play

So this is Seiglinde. Pronounced Zig-Lin-Deh.

I call her Linde (Lindy) for short. My mom and I spent the entire hour and a half ride up and back from the breeder’s arguing about her name. Ultimately Mom won, since she’s her dog not mine.

Tongue out

Seiglinde is Brunhilde’s half sister. They share a poodle father. They are both also characters in a Wagner opera – one of the Ring cycle shows. I don’t know which one. I never cared for Wager. I was always more of a Puccini girl, myself.

But anyway, the characters are half sisters too, so there you go.

So, this is Linde.

Playful Linde

And Linde? Linde is an asshole.

Rough housing

While Hilde had a rough introduction into our lives, what made it rough was entirely outside of her control. No puppy is going to be perfectly perfect when trapped in a cast for two weeks. She was strong willed and resilient, indeed – but once the cast came off, the stubborn streak went away. And even with it on, she was sweet and learned super quickly and willingly.

Hilde had (and still has) a need to please. She likes making us happy. She likes being given tasks. In fact, she trained so easily and so quickly we thought that there might be something wrong with her at first. No puppy is this obliging. It must be too good to be true.

It wasn’t. Hilde is just awesome. She lives to serve. Probably would have made a great service dog if we weren’t too busy spoiling the living bejeezus out of her.

Cowlick

Lindy, on the other hand?

Yea, she’s just as strong willed and resilient as her sister… but in very different ways.

Hilde needs to please. Linde, on the other hand… need to BE pleased.

Post op puppy

She is stubborn, and strong willed, and when she decides she wants something, by golly she’s going to have it. She barks incessantly, she picks fights with her sister, she plays way too rough, and she has taken FOREVER to train by our standards. Simply put, she is a demanding dog.

But she is also hilarious, sweet, and a barrel of fun.

That Smile

And most importantly, we love her. And I’m pretty sure she loves us too.

Seat Stealer

As long as we surrender our seats to her, anyway.