Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Preparedness I: Vehicle Travel in Winter Weather

 I’d like to start each of the preparedness articles with a small note. We are preppers; not the insane end-of-the-world kind, but the kind that never leave home with a go pack. These articles are more about preparing to take care of yourself in small emergencies but I will always write with the assumption that there is no help on the way. It’s easier when you’re prepared to handle as much as possible yourself, and I’ll have some anecdotes as to why. Also, I will not be walking you through tire changing, but just reminding you that it’s a important skill to learn
Jump to the Bottom for instructional information!
 It’s no secret that many of us dread winter conventions simply because of spontaneous magical blizzards and ice possibly stranding us on the road, at a hotel, or just somewhere not home. There are a lot of things to consider, and a lot of things to prepare.

Emergency Car Kit
A vehicle kit is easy to build, and will solve 99% of problems. Also learn to use the tools rather than just buying them and tossing them in the car. Things like first aid kits will be covered in another article.

  • Car charger for phone
  • Car jack
  • Tire Iron
  • Food & Water – healthier snacks are better than junk food. If the temps are below freezing, you’ll want to take the water into your hotel/home so it won’t freeze and burst.
  • Jumper Cables – add an instruction card if you don’t know how to use them.
  • Hot Hands hot packs
  • Blanket
  • Flashlight
  • Book – help may take a while if you have to wait.
  • Knife or hand shovel – dig out mud, snow, ice.
  • Portable battery – can be found at Walmart for $45. Charge it up at home, use it to jump your vehicle (or charge your electronics).
  • Map of the state/area you’re traveling through.
  • Tow straps* if you have a truck! Help pull other people out.

Note: prepare like your phone will be useless. Know how to jump a car, change a tire, without having to Google it. You might be out of battery or have no signal.

Vehicle Maintenance & Assistance
Whoever is driving should be able to answer the questions:
  • Has the vehicle had an oil change recently?
  • Is there a spare tire in the car?
  • Does the vehicle have 4 wheel drive?
  • Do you know how to use the car kit?
  • Do you have roadside assistance?
Also, know whether or not you’re prepared to help someone else. If you’re not ready or comfortable, there’s no obligation. But be firm about whether or not you can or will. If someone asks you for a jump, it’s probably a no brainer if you’ve got a running car and someone’s got the cables. But what if you witness an accident? Will you pull over to check on them? Will you call 911 while you drive past? Will you do nothing? There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing, just don’t regret whatever decision you make.
Highway Patrol was roomed at my college dorm for two weeks to help with the winter relief (2007)
Relying on 911 or roadside assistance.
If your engine stalls or you get a flat, it’s easiest to call a tow truck or roadside assistance (which is totally worth it). You might wait a little while but it’s definitely the least complicated method of fixing a problem. I recommend you use it if you can. If there’s a more severe emergency (car slides off the road, accident on the ice) 911 should definitely be your go to even if you’re not hurt, the other person might be.

But did you know that there have been times when these services, including police and fire, just can’t make it to you?

Last winter (2013-2014) I was part of a fire department in Mid Missouri. Every time it iced, which was often, the number of accidents sky rocketed, not to mention other emergencies like homes not having heat and fires from people trying to warm themselves. One weekend where I was away at a convention, I pretty much lost contact with my husband and the entire fire department for two days because they were so busy. All available personnel and volunteers were running ragged, trying to help everyone that had been in a vehicle collision or didn’t have heat in the -40F weather.

If you called 911 and you weren’t seriously hurt or dying, you didn’t even make the pending list for emergency responders. Dispatch would tell you to call someone for a ride and that was it. And this went on for days. I remember driving home almost four days later and seeing dozens of cars in ditches that the tow trucks hadn’t even gotten around to yet. Don’t get trapped because you expected to get rescued.

Stranded on the road.
You are in your car and stuck. Maybe there’s a huge accident ahead of you, maybe it’s snowing too hard. Either way, you’re bunking for a while. If your car is running, you’re already in good shape. As long as that baby runs, you have heat.

Ask yourself:
  • How much gas do you have? How long will it heat you?
  • Is there snow outside? Is your tail pipe clear? GO CLEAR IT!
  • Do you have a car kit with a blanket, coat, snacks, water?
  • How long will it be until you can get back on that road?
  • Is anyone around you hurt or need medications? Do you have medication?
Your vehicle is safe until it stops running and it’s freezing outside. If that happens, you have to ask yourself if it’s safer to stay in your car, waiting for help, or if you need to get out and move. If you’re stuck in a city, there’s probably a restaurant, hotel, store or other shelter within walking distance that will offer you better protection from the elements than your car.

If you’re stuck on a highway or far from other shelters, it’s a pretty tough sell to leave your car. Are you ready to tough it out for hours, maybe even a day? Are you dressed appropriately, with things to keep you warm?
 Stay safe, stay warm and be ready to dig yourself out of snow, push cars, and bunker somewhere warm for a while. Check back for additional information and new articles on preparedness.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Art Dump!

Just finished a massive art dump on my DeviantArt! I would love comments, faves, and watches from all you lovely folks! WARNING: Mostly super cute stuff.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Anime ZAP 2015: Review for Artists

Sweet Apple Tea kicked off the new year with Anime Zap in East Peoria. Last year we got snowed in for almost a week, remember that? The boring stuff: applications and acceptance are FCFS, $90 for a 6’ table.

This year, we traveled on New Year’s Day and were carefully watching the weather. It was supposed to get a little snowy so we were nervous all weekend about getting stuck again. I did run into another problem. I’d forgotten that this convention was falling right over the New Year holiday and no banks were open to get change. Fortunately, I was able to get the front desk clerk to break $80 for me. He was extremely polite. I never knew you could ask the hotel to do that but thank goodness for the Embassy Suites.


The Embassy Suites in East Peoria is the same hotel as last year and let me tell you, I LOVE THIS PLACE. It’s beautiful inside, spacious, and the staff are unbelievable friendly. Free hot breakfast, sky bridge to the convention center, ample parking. So breakfast is worth noting. Made to order omelettes, pancakes, fresh fruit, hot breakfast things like bacon, biscuits and gravy, etc. So gooood.

We met a little Illinois construction on our way north to East Peoria and got a bit turned around. Aside from that, The Embassy Suites is a straight shot up the highway. Bonus: Steak and Shake is across the parking lot. Also if you forgot anything, there’s Walmart, Target, and a ton of restaurants and stores nearby for those last minute zip ties and snacks.

I absolutely love this venue and the hotel staff.

Artist Space
So we got in on Thursday evening and started setting up. Artists were in the hallway this year with ample space between tables. We set up directly across from the dealer’s room doors, which was also close to main events. One of the nice things about being in the hall was the access to power. There were four outlets even ten feet so phone chargers and laptops were good to go.

Being in the hall, there was the concern that the side doors, which spanned half the hallway, would be letting in a lot of cold air as people came and went. Friday morning after a majority of vendors had set up, the hotel actually locked those doors. That was very nice, because it kept us warm, plus there were artist tables set up there and no one wanted crowds walking in behind their tables.

Despite being in the hallway, artists were asked to open and close the same hours as the dealer’s room. I like that system. Here’s why. Vendors in the dealer’s room want to be open as long as possible to make money too! It’s pretty unfair for artists to get to open 10, 12, 15 hours when the dealer’s are only open for 8. Another point is: while it’s nice to be able to open and close whenever to catch those early or last minute sales, you’re just killing yourself by not giving yourself decent hours. An 8 hour day is good, but 10 is usually my max. After all, if you go to conventions solely to make money and you’ll forego eating, sleeping, and just relaxing on a regular schedule, you’ll get sick of it really fast. Or just sick. Stay healthy by not overworking.

Shopping & Variety
All conventions run by this group sell their tables first come first served. Usually there’s the concern that without a jury or selection process, you might end up with a ton of one type of vendor, or just bad variety in general. This wasn’t the case last year, and not the case this year. There was a good mix of crafts, cosplay, prints, fanart and original work.

There was definitely plenty for everyone. I found quite a bit I wanted to buy and trade for. Typical of an anime convention, there weren’t too many high dollar items for sale from artists.
AA booty!

All right, the interesting stuff. This convention was very young, mostly teens and lots of children. On Friday, I had a huge buzz while setting up and made quite a bit of money in that first hour. The rest of the day trickled on with sparse sales as people were coming in and finally making it through the registration line (which was huge). I say sparse sales but not terrible. I made sales both large and small, but it just seemed like there was a lot of time in between. It was a fairly ok start, with some artists getting decent sales while others barely got a glance.
I keep wanting to say “typical” but that’s a little vague. Customers came in waves between events and it was pretty slow when the big panels were happening. That’s fair though. Also, mainstream anime things sold really well like Pok√©mon, Black Butler, and Vampire Knight.

Saturday I woke up to rain. Ugh. The morning was slow for me, with a lot of my teenage would-be patrons telling me they didn’t have any money left (already!) Traffic picked up a little after noon, but it was pretty unimpressive. I made a lot of $1-3 sales as people ran by between events for a quick button. Despite the large number of, “I’m out of money,” and, “I have to save the rest of my money for food,” I didn’t hear a single person complain about prices. Even about the dealer’s room! At the end of Saturday, we began packing up at 6pm and for whatever reason, sales picked up like crazy for almost an hour. I’m guessing a major panel must’ve let out because all the artists around me that were partly packed quickly unpacked to catch the tide.
By the time I woke up Sunday, I was so preoccupied with the snow and weather that I was ready to go. Despite being slowish all weekend, I had made enough to call it a successful weekend. I’d rather sacrifice those last few hours of open time than get snowed in East Peoria again like last year. Especially since the weather indicated that if we were to get stuck, we’d be stuck for a long while. X_X Nooooo!

My driver and I agreed to check the streets and weather at noon and roll out from there. It was snowing pretty heavily but it lightened up and wasn’t sticking anymore by noon.

Hours were also printed incorrectly on the badges. We thought artist alley closed at 1pm on Sunday, but it turned out we were supposed to be open until 5pm. While sales were ok, with lots of returning customers, we still packed up around 4ish and booked it back to the good ole state of Misery. But let me tell you, we were in a state of panic over the snow.

Staff & Volunteers
Staff are, as usual, friendly and fantastic. Emily, the wonderful person always running around taking care of artists, does a fantastic job. Her crew are very chill and easy to approach if you need anything. I’m sure they still get plenty of complaints and “suggestions” but they handle everything very well. I love their conventions.

Other stuff!
Bonus! So I’ve started announcing that after July of this year, I will be taking a hiatus from conventions. I’m attending training for a real job (HA) that will go from August to December and all artistic endeavors will be put on hold indefinitely. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever hop back into conventions full steam again afterwards.

But for the next six months, I’m still kicking! I held a raffle this weekend for FIVE individual unicone acrylic charm necklaces. Every $5 spent at the table = 1 raffle ticket. I was very happy with how well it turned out, and all my winners were very happy to come get their unicones! I got a ton of positive feedback about them. For my next giveaway, I’ll be putting up some Pegasorbet for adoption. Those should be arriving any day now and I’m super excited! This second giveaway will be online for all my lovely followers.

Final verdict:
Anime Zap is a great convention to go to if you’re in the Midwest. I’m not sure I’d recommend it if you need to travel super far, but I can walk away from this convention with about a grand after expenses so the risk is up to you. If you want to get in on this and other conventions by them, I strongly suggest signing up for their email updates. Ryan is very on top of his email list and you’ll know the moment tables are available.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

TBL Progress

Here's the progress for TBL.
It doesn't make much sense unless you see the finished piece HERE.

I've made this piece in a poster size as well as regular print size. Poster size will be available to departments, support organizations, and individual first responders.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WIP More Chibi Characters!

I'm currently taking a little time to finally revisit my fan art chibis. I get so many requests for other heroines, princes, and villains it's about time I get to it!

Don't remember what I'm talking about?


So here's the first peak at my WIP. I've got Megara and Esmerelda finished, Odette sketched out.

My list to do so far includes:
  • Kida 
  • Tinker Bell
  • Bell (in the blue dress)
  • Vanelope 
  • Jessica Rabbit
  • Flynn Rider
  • Sven
  • Shang
  • Aladdin
Maybe more of the princes/heroes. Maybe.

Another sneak peak at a bigger piece I'm working on!