A Butterfly Gardening Adventure with Beffymaroo!

Hello Habiticans! Today we’re going to take a journey into the exciting world of butterfly gardening with Habitica’s resident amateur lepidopterist, Beffymaroo!

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How Beffymaroo sees herself!

You may have heard, particularly if you’re in the U.S., that one of the world’s most iconic insects is in trouble. Monarch butterfly populations have dropped a lot in recent years. There are many reasons, but one of the biggest is habitat loss in areas where the butterflies lay their eggs and where the caterpillars feed.

If you’d like to help the Monarch, as well as other pollinators like bees, plus have a lot of fun watching nature unfold at your own home, read on for a basic guide to starting your own butterfly garden.

This will mostly be geared toward Monarch butterflies, which are best known from North America. They make their famous migration across the continent to overwintering grounds in Mexico, the U.S. Gulf coast, and the coast of California. Monarchs and their cousins are also found throughout Central and South America, and significant numbers of Monarchs also overwinter and breed in Puerto Rico, Cuba, New Zealand, Indonesia, Australia, Hawaii, and other Caribbean and Pacific islands where suitable food plants grow (in many places these plants are introduced rather than native- more on that later). The basic concepts of cultivating safe food plants for caterpillars as well as nectar flowers for the adult butterflies should be applicable to many species!

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/portals/0/Images/Nongame/monarch%20butterfly/monarch-butterfly-population%20Ryan%20Hagerty%20usfws_376.jpg
Overwintering butterflies in California- they huddle together to stay warm! Photo from wildlife.ca.gov

First, you need to find a good spot for your plants. If you have a yard or garden space, perfect! If not, many types of milkweed (the monarchs’ food plant) and flowers will also thrive in containers. My garden is a collection of potted plants on a concrete patio- a little urban nature oasis!

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Before you purchase any plants or seeds, research what types of milkweed and flowers are native to your area. The most commonly sold milkweed plants in U.S. nurseries and garden stores is Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. Some folks will tell you it’s straight-up bad for Monarchs because in warm regions it artificially extends their breeding season, and it can harbor disease since it doesn’t die back in winter. Tropical milkweed grows fast, does well in containers, and has beautiful flowers that butterflies love. If you choose to grow it, especially if you live in a region where it doesn’t dip below freezing, cut it back to a few inches above the ground twice a year. This helps prevent it from spreading invasively, keeps it from causing out-of-season breeding, and will stop it from accumulating pathogens that can hurt the caterpillars and butterflies. It will grow new fresh foliage with a little time!

Native plants will generally grow better in your climate and be easier to care for. While my garden has a lot of tropical milkweed because of availability (and because it seeds like crazy) I also have some natives and they tend to handle the weather and resist pests better than my tropical (I’m trying to clone this type from cuttings so I can eventually replace my tropical). Not sure what type of milkweed or wildflowers are native to your area? The Xerces Society (an organization dedicated to the preservation of invertebrates) has really helpful lists of pollinator garden plants for every region of the United States as well as some other countries- these lists also include native milkweeds. They also have a guide for sourcing seeds, if you’re unable to obtain plants at local nurseries or by getting natives and their seeds from the wild.

A big word of caution: if you choose to buy full-grown plants you should do some research and talk to the nursery or store’s plant buyer to ensure that the plants have not been treated with any kind of pesticide. Even organic or “pollinator safe” pesticides that are supposedly safe for bees and butterflies will kill caterpillars that eat the leaves. I learned this the hard way after buying milkweed from a local organic nursery and watching twenty of my caterpillars pass away as it had been treated with organic pesticide. Not fun, do not recommend.

The best time to start a butterfly garden is before the butterflies arrive! In regions where it freezes, sow native milkweed seed before winter as it requires some time in frozen ground to germinate. If it’s warmer where you live, start your plants in winter or early spring so they’ll be ready for earlier butterfly arrivals. Monarchbutterflygarden.net has a great guide to planting and caring for many commonly grown varieties of milkweed and nectar flowers. There are also some very helpful groups available on social networks for Monarch enthusiasts and pollinator gardeners, especially on Facebook. They’re great places to ask questions and get answers quickly!

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When will the butterflies find you? This depends on where you live on the migration route. To make sure they spot your garden, have lots of flowers to feed the hungry adults and a group of six or more milkweed plants for females to lay their eggs.

The monarch life cycle is fascinating to watch- and lots of fun! I bring a few eggs inside to watch the caterpillars grow and make their chrysalides while safe from the many predators of the milkweed jungle. In the wild, 95-99% of caterpillars don’t survive to the adult stage. That’s not an issue of human intervention or an especially dangerous garden- that’s just how it is! The survival strategy for most insects is “have as many babies as possible so a handful make it”- hence Monarch females lay up to 300 eggs each!

Most researchers say that raising Monarchs indoors like this is something you should do for fun rather than as a conservation effort- it’s possible butterflies raised indoors, once released, may have disadvantages in survival compared to their counterparts that grew up in the wild outdoors. Keep in mind that providing outdoor habitat (along with generally trying to live sustainably) is the most important thing you can do to help their populations.

Recommendations I’ve seen on how many butterflies per household per year scientists say it’s OK to raise indoors without potentially weakening the wild population range from ten to one hundred. As you will read later on, they eat A LOT so definitely start small, especially if your garden is new and you don’t have large stocks of wild milkweed you can get food from.

Every step of the Monarch life cycle is dependent on temperature- the numbers I give here are for warm summer conditions (65 F and up). In the winter, their life cycle can take much longer!

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Can I offer you a nice egg in this trying time?

Monarch eggs are very very tiny! They’re about the size of the head of a pin. You’ll often find them on the undersides of leaves (especially new leaves) and on flowers and flower buds.

In 3 to 5 days, the eggs will hatch into tiny caterpillars. At first, the holes they’re chewing in the leaves will be easier to see than the little guys themselves.

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Monarch caterpillars, like all invertebrates, have an exoskeleton. It doesn’t grow with them- to get bigger they have to shed their skin. Monarch caterpillars shed their skin five times before they make a chrysalis, and the growth period in between molts is called an “instar.”

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On the left, a fourth-instar caterpillar beginning to molt. On the right, his big fifth-instar brother who can’t let him just molt in peace. They are one day apart in age and look at the size difference!

While they shed their skin, the caterpillars will stay still for 12-48 hours. Don’t panic that they’re not moving or eating during this time! Also they definitely look weird while this is happening.

After they shed their skin (which they usually eat later), their old “faceplate” will also pop off.

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A macro shot of a discarded face!

By the end of their final instar they’ve increased in size 2000 times! This is why it’s good to try to keep smaller newer caterpillars in a separate raising area from the large ones. Eggs and hatchlings can be accidentally eaten by the big guys.

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Image of Monarch instars from monarchconservation.org
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They also produce a lot of… waste to clean up.

This is what I like to refer to as the “they’re eating me out of house and home” stage. You’d really be amazed how much food they can put away. One caterpillar can eat an entire average-sized tropical milkweed plant all by itself! So do keep that in mind when considering taking them inside, where they are more likely to survive to adulthood and need all that food.

Once they’ve gotten to their maximum size, the caterpillars wander around for 24 hours or so, then find a spot to make a button of silk for their chrysalis. After they make the button, they’ll anchor their rear end to it and then hang upside down in a “J” shape for 24-48 hours.

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As opposed to a cocoon, which is spun from silk and other materials (and more of a moth thing), Monarchs become a chrysalis- it’s really just another molt! But a really weird one where they turn into a strange green wiggling blob that then hardens into a more recognizable chrysalis. Here’s a YouTube video showing this process in time-lapse (maybe not something to watch if you’re particularly squeamish about bugs).

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Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar has essentially turned into a weird magic soup that’s going to re-assemble into an adult butterfly over the next 8-12 days.

As the time comes for them to emerge, the chrysalis will start to darken – soon you’re be able to see the familiar orange and black pattern of the wings through it!

Within 12-48 hours of the chrysalis darkening, the butterfly will break through the chrysalis (in essence, this is their final molt!). It will spend a few minutes pumping fluid from its abdomen into its wings to inflate them to the proper shape.

It takes a minimum of two hours for the butterfly to be properly “dry” and ready to go. I recommend releasing them as soon as possible after that as they tend to get unhappy pretty quickly when they’re confined. If it’s cold or raining hard, it’s OK to wait a day or so.

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The complete life cycle of one of my b-flies.

It’s always a little sad to say goodbye, but it’s an amazing feeling to send a beautiful and beneficial creature out into the world. Especially if you watched their whole journey from tiny egg to hungry caterpillar to weird chrysalis to gorgeous butterfly!

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I hope you had fun learning more about one of my favorite hobbies since my childhood! I’m linking a few more favorite resources below. Have fun learning about and helping pollinators. If you’d like to chat in Habitica about your butterfly gardening experience, please check out the Lovers of Lepidopterans Guild!


Further Reading:

Monarch Butterflies on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_butterfly

Other butterflies in the Milkweed butterfly family- a lot of them are based in Asia and Africa and their host plants there include popular ornamental plants such as Crown Flower (Calotropis gigantea): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danaus_(genus)

A good startup guide for indoor butterfly raising: https://monarchbutterflygarden.net/how-to-raise-monarch-butterflies-inside/

(Note though you don’t have to to buy all the things this person recommends. Most florists will give you a few bud tubes for free if you explain what you’re doing with them. Egg cartons make great stands for the tubes and an aquarium or converted pop-up hamper is a fine cage. There’s tons of informative guides that can be found on the internet!)

If you are looking for a dedicated cage for Monarch caterpillars, I do like these mesh popup cages as they fold flat and are easy to clean: https://www.amazon.com/Insect-Butterfly-Habitat-Terrarium-Pop-up/dp/B07CWRYTLH/ The mesh is also a great place to make a chrysalis.

A very well-established Monarch garden in the U.S. can be certified by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation! You can even get a nifty sign. https://monarchwatch.org/waystations/index.html

You may have heard about tagging butterflies to help scientists learn more about Monarch populations and migration habits. Different U.S. regions have different tagging programs:

Monarch Watch encourages tagging east of the Rocky Mountains: https://monarchwatch.org/tagging/
Monarch Alert has a program for citizen scientists to tag Monarchs in California: https://monarchalert.calpoly.edu/citizen-science-0
Southwest Monarch Study has a tagging program for the U.S. desert Southwest: https://www.swmonarchs.org/tagging.php

The Monarch Butterfly Trust of New Zealand also has a tagging program: https://www.monarch.org.nz/introduction-to-research/taggingtransects/

Some information on raising other types of butterflies: https://www.joyfulbutterfly.com/what-do-caterpillars-eat/

I post regular updates on my Monarchs on my Instagram account! Here in southern California, I see them nearly all year round, but mainly in March through October.

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Guac This Way: Fruit and Veggie Pet Pics from Habitica’s April Fool’s Celebration

Habiticans enjoyed yet another April 1st marked by goofy pixel antics this year! This time, the April Fool lulled us into a false sense of security by claiming he’d refocused his life on health and nutrition. We should all know better by now, shouldn’t we? It turns out he went and turned all our pets into cute little fruits and vegetables!

As part of a special Challenge to mark the occasion, many Habiticans shared their  avatars with their produce pets on social media! Here are just a few of the many awesome pics you all posted as part of the Challenge!

First, here are the entries from our Challenge Winners! They’re kind of a big dill.

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issaleonardo knows when to turnip the volume.
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“Just hanging out with my peach of a pet for April Fool’s…” says Bee_
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“My lion turned into a banana! Perfect for the banana cake I’m about to bake lol” says alittlebitofeverything.
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We hope Zelah_Meyer likes frozen fruit!
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kitt-haven isn’t sure where their regular pet went, but it should turnip soon.

Here are some from the Habitica mods and staff! Olive them are looking quite excellent, if we do say so ourselves.

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“That banana has seen some things.” says Beffymaroo
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Oh no! shanaqui‘s bunny pet, a proxy of one of their real life bunnies, has turned into something a bunny might snack on!
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Although she is normally a bustling town of foxes, Fox_Town took a moment to experience being a tranquil Farm Fox.

For those who may not have known, this April Fool’s prank was inspired by Socialite and Artisan QuartzFox‘s Art Trello request for fruit and veggie Magic Hatching Potions, hence her guest appearance in the Bailey (er, Carroty) that day !

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“Here I am being a sushi chef! Sorta. 😉 I love my pet avocado *so much* and I wanna keep him!” says QuartzFox.

And here are some more of our favorite entries! All your pics were so rad-ish it was hard to choose just a few to feature here.

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kakudennu‘s party found themselves a buffet of cuteness!
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makura747 and company enjoy a bountiful harvest.
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Citrusella gives us three looks! Left to Right: The main avatar look for the day, some fun with CSS in commemoration of the original 2014 April Fool’s prank that inspired this year, and then a variation with a blooming onion on the side!
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louvelune has a really interesting breakfast in the library.
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imjustarogue is off to travel the world on her royal purple wolf mount with a befriended dragonfruit.
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ProbablyASeaBass says, “I’ve heard of sea cucumbers, but not sea peaches!”

Overall it seems like everyone had a lot of fun! We’re glad you had enjoyed it as much as we did. Lettuce wait and see what the April Fool is up to next April 1 – this prank is going to be hard to beet!

Want to see the April Fool’s past antics? Check out our posts from the social media challenges in 2017 and 2018!

 

Staff Spotlight: Tressley AKA Apollo

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Tressley, how did you get involved with Habitica?

I had been an early HabitRPG user, but hadn’t been using it very often and was never much of a contributor. In late 2015, I picked up Habitica and became a regular, somewhat active user (all thanks to Parties.) I saw a post in the Tavern about Habitica looking for a UI designer, so I fired my portfolio off to Vicky. A few weeks later, I had a video chat with her and Leslie and they brought me on to help contribute to the web redesign.

What’s your proudest contribution to Habitica?

This is actually a tough one. I’ve always been proud of the faceted icon style we introduced for HP, EXP, Mana, and classes. Those were one of my first contributions and approved designs.

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What are your secret superpowers?

When I was younger, a kid at my lunch table had a bag of Andy Capp’s Hot Fries and everyone was talking about how hot they were. Now, Andy Capp’s Hot Fries are my absolute favorite, so I took this opportunity as my time to shine. I was going to wow the whole lunch table. I bet the kid that I could eat his whole bag of hot fries without a single drink. Sure enough, he handed the bag over and that’s exactly what I did. I guess it’s not a superpower, but I did get a whole bag of hot fries.

What are your secret weaknesses?

It’s not even a secret, I will tell you; the smell of canned tunafish.

What are your favorite Habitican pets/mounts?

The Veteran Wolf has been by my side for as long as I can remember. I tend to not have a mount equipped, but it’d have to be the White Tiger. It reminds me of White Blaze from Ronin Warriors.

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What some things you’re tracking in Habitica?

I’d have to say the number one thing I use Habitica for is keeping track of my pomodoros throughout the day. I also use it to keep track of how much water I’ve had.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I’ve been playing drums for close to 15 years, but had to take a break while I lived in various apartments in the city. I now have a home with a basement, so if I’m not behind the computer, I’m behind my drums.

What are your top Habitica tips and tricks?

Roll a rogue, cast Backstab. 🙂 In all seriousness, join a party or start your own! For me, the extra accountability helped me stay on top of Habitica. Plus, you can crush quests and get geared.

Where do you like to hang out in Habitica?

I’d say I’ve always been a lurker, but I like to bounce into the Tavern to see what the community is chatting about.

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Habitica Cookie Exchange!

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In honor of the holiday season, the Habitica Team is here to share our favorite cookie recipes!

First, a cookie collaboration from Alys and shanaqui!

Start with this shortbread recipe: https://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/the-very-best-shortbread

Of the recipe, shanaqui says: “I always loved shortbread as a kid but never had it made for me… and then my wife got a Mary Berry book, masses of semolina to use, and a new oven. We *might* have eaten most of the first batch before the oven even cooled. No regrets!”

If you’d like to make them into adorable snails rather than cutouts or rectangles, Alys recommends you slightly reduce the liquid in the above recipe.

To make the snail bodies, roll dough into 6cm long shapes, thinner at one end, and flatten slightly. Place them at least 2cm apart on a lightly greased oven tray.

Make the heads by rolling dough into balls and placing the balls on the thick ends of the bodies. Create the faces with cachous for eyes and mouths and thin strips of liquorice for antennae.

Cook as described in the recipe but cooking time will probably need to be less than the recipe says because the shapes are small.

After cooking, melt white cooking chocolate and drizzle over the snails’ backs with a piping bag or a spoon. Use more melted chocolate to attach shell-shaped chocolates to the backs.

 

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Fox Town offers a delicious (and gluten- and dairy-free!) Ricciarelli (Almond Cookie) recipe!

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150C)

Mix 230 g almond flour (a generous 2 cups) with 130 g confectioner’s (powdered) sugar (a scant 1 1/2 cups unsifted), 1/2 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt

In a small bowl mix one egg, 2T honey, and 1/2 t vanilla extract;
add into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Dough will be firm and a bit sticky.

roll into 1” balls, roll balls in more confectioners sugar, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 18 minutes.

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Beffymaroo is here with a childhood favorite: a Spritz recipe, presented to you as an 80’s flashback (courtesy of the classic Wisconsin Electric Cookie Book):

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These cookies are traditionally made with a cookie press- an item that often ends up at thrift stores, so that’s a great place to pick one up inexpensively.

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Piyo goes for a cookie that’s great any time of the year: Cookies and Cream cookies!

https://kirbiecravings.com/soft-cookies-and-cream-cookies-2/g

And, for another fantastic anytime cookie, check out her favorite chocolate chip recipe: https://kyleekitchen.blogspot.com/2015/08/tips-and-tricks-for-perfect-chocolate.html

And last but not least, Redphoenix gives us a neat and simple recipe for salt dough!

It’s not quite an edible cookie dough (because I’m still trying to find my go-to cookie recipe!) [editor’s note: Beffymaroo definitely tried to eat this dough as a child anyway] but I have been on a bit of a kick to decorate for the holidays without spending money on chintzy, poor-quality decorations. Hence, salt dough, which is classic, easy, and extremely cost-effective.

Mix 1 cup flour and half a cup of salt. Add most of a half cup of water (not all of it—you may want to reserve some until you have a sense of how much moisture your dough needs. Mud textures are fun but uncooperative in holding to a particular shape).

Roll out the dough. I prefer somewhere around half a centimeter or a quarter of an inch in thickness. Cut out with cookie cutters, or a glass or jar if you haven’t got cookie cutters and you’re ok with round ones. If you have a straw handy, it’s useful for making a nice clean hole if you’re planning to string up ornaments later.

Bake at 200F (93C), but play around with this temperature setting, as every oven is different. Let cool and dry, which may take anywhere from a day to several days. Once it’s dry, you can do things like decorate it with markers, apply a layer of ModPodge (which will seal it and also add gloss), or if you’re lazy and/or a minimalist like me, string it with a pretty ribbon and hang it up.

What’s your favorite cookie recipe? Let us know in the comments, or on our Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, or Instagram!

 

Staff Spotlight: Sara AKA Piyo

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Welcome to the Staff Spotlight Series, where we interview members of the Habitica Team! Today we’re chatting with Sara, also known as Piyo. Sara wears a lot of hats around Habitica, but is best known for her design work on the mobile apps!

Sara, how did you get involved with Habitica?

I came about Habitica in a rather roundabout way! My friend linked me to a social media post from the Habitica accounts seeking a mobile designer. I thought, “Hey, thats me! Gamified tasks sounds neat, I should check this out.” I was about 2 years out of college at the time and had worked on gamified educational tools as my thesis, so an opportunity to work on a gamification product for work sounded amazing. So in the end, I actually started using Habitica at the same time I applied to work for them!

What’s your proudest contribution to Habitica?

Probably the giant rebrand endeavor, including drawing the beloved Melior logo. It was the first thing I did even though I was brought on to work on the mobile apps. The great renaming was already in the works and I felt that the Habitica brand could become something really special. So I proposed we start with a rebrand that we could then apply the the mobile apps. This was so long ago, there was no official native android app yet! I drew probably 50+ logo concepts then narrowed it down to a few directions with the help of Lemoness and redphoenix, until we landed on the gryphon. However, we didn’t just want any gryphon, we wanted something that synthesized the mood and spirit of Habitica. It was pretty late in the process when I turned the tail tuft into a pixel graphic, but that was the final detail that sealed the deal and brought you the logo you see today.

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What are your secret superpowers?

I consider myself a pro at laying on my couch to do the majority of my work. Most people work at desks or at least sitting up. But I take the opposite approach of the standing desk movement and choose to lay on my side for the work day. All of my best work is done laying down, preferably in a onesie. I’m convinced I must have a super-human spine since it’s just fine with this.

What are your secret weaknesses?
‘Buy 1 Get 1’ sales. I like to think that I’m a semi-frugal person in most areas, but these get me every time. Look, I don’t *need* two cakes (I probably didn’t even need the first one), but if I get one free for buying one… there’s no way I’m not taking home a free cake.

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What are your favorite Habitican pets/mounts?

I really like the phoenix and baby gryphon pet. I just think they’re neat.

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What are some things you’re tracking in Habitica?

I like tracking things that are reoccurring on different schedules and are hard to keep track of, like watering my plants or what days to do different parts of my skincare routine. Dailies are my jam, but I spend all my time in the Inn because I personally don’t like being punished for missing things, just rewarded for doing them. (Also because it made my glasses-wearing character look like they were wearing sweet sunglasses when sleeping before I got actual sunglasses to equip).

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love playing games, watching twitch, cooking, and baking! Browsing food blogs is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I’ll watch any baking competition show you throw in front of me. I’ve watched so much Chopped that I can convincingly take random ingredients and come up with a dish idea from them.

What are your top Habitica tips and tricks?

Don’t be afraid to use the Inn! And try clearing out your task board every now and then to give yourself a fresh start. Life changes, so your tasks and goals do too. Making sure the tasks you track stay relevant has helped me a lot.

Where do you like to hang out in Habitica?

I don’t speak too much, but I often scroll through Tavern to see what people are saying. I look and gauge what questions people have to figure out where they’re getting confused. Then I take that and think about how we might be able to prevent that confusion with slight improvements to their experience. Its a nice, casual, direct line to some feedback.

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Want to learn more about the people who make Habitica? Check out our other posts in this series:

Spotlight on Vicky AKA Redphoenix
Spotlight on Leslie AKA Lemoness
Spotlight on Sabe AKA SabreCat

Spotlight on Matteo AKA Paglias
Spotlight on Phillip AKA viirus

Spotlight on Beth AKA Beffymaroo

Coming Soon: Unique Usernames

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Illustration by Aries Faries

Hello Habiticans! We’re making a change to unique usernames! This change will be gradual and even though it won’t start rolling out until November, it’s still important to go to Settings to confirm your username as soon as you can.

Have questions about this new feature? Here are a few questions we’ve been hearing, and some answers!

What are usernames and how will they be used?

Unique usernames will allow you to invite friends to parties, Guilds, and Challenges more easily. Our team will also be able to use them to help you if you send a bug report. In the future, usernames will allow us to add the option to receive notifications if you are mentioned in chat.

What are Display Names and how will they be used?

Display names will be shown alongside your username in chat and in your Habitica profile. Your display name can have symbols and emojis if you desire, but they are not unique (people can have the same display name).

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Where will my username appear? Will there be changes to my privacy?

Right now, you can find other players in Habitica by name in the following places: chats where they have recently posted, lists of Guild members, and lists of Challenge participants. These are the same places your username will appear – if you participate in those spaces. There are no changes to user privacy- your tasks and account information will remain private.

Can I change my username and display name?

Yes, you can change your username and display names in User>Settings. You can change them as many times as you like. However, if you change your username, your old username will become available for someone else to claim.

When will there be changes to chat? When can I start using my friends’ username to invite them to my party?

These changes will be rolled out gradually over the next couple of months. We want to give you, our community, time to adapt to changes and provide feedback that we can take into consideration throughout the roll-out process. We’ll be keeping you all informed as we go, so keep your eye out for news from Bailey!

Coalitions of the Quick-Witted: Guilds for Training your Brain

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Illustration by RoseMonkey

Hello Habiticans! The summer is heating up and many students are enjoying their summer break from school. Even though classes may not be in session, it’s a great month to think about challenging your brain with puzzles, games, and new knowledge! Here are just a few of the Guilds in Habitica dedicated to sharpening your intellect and expanding your knowledge.

Habitica’s Court Jesters: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/fddaeafc-125c-4b43-a339-14c1d37634e8

Habitica’s Court Jesters is a Guild dedicated to jokes, riddles, and other witty and humorous media. Maybe it’s surprising that a Guild for jokes is on this list, but there’s a high correlation between problem-solving ability and having a good sense of humor. Plus, a good laugh is always healthy for your mind, body and soul!

Sedulous Sesquipedalians: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/8302e17b-e2b6-419b-bd7a-c1983f2c318b

Learning new words is a great method for challenging your mind and improving your communication skills! Sedulous Sesquipedalians is the perfect place to expand your vocabulary- check out the Guild chat for folks sharing the exhilirating vocables they’ve discovered.

Creative Minds: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/00b0eff0-85bd-402a-bd38-33f507624dfa

Creative activities are another fantastic way to keep your mind active and learn new skills and information. You’ll find all types of imaginative Habiticans chatting in this Guild, and there are some exciting Challenges to help get your creative juices flowing!

Puzzling People: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/330c4c91-8513-43ba-b0bc-b093ebda7573

This Guild is here for puzzle-loving Habiticans of all types! Pop into the Guild chat to discuss your favorite puzzles, riddles, and brain-teasers.

These Guilds and many, many others are here to give you lots of fun ideas for keeping your mind sharp and active!  Until next time, take care. ❤

Use Case Spotlight: Training your Brain

reading-rosemonkey_2x
Illustration by RoseMonkey

Hello Habiticans! Last month we looked at ideas from your fellow players for using Habitica to manage parenting and family matters. This month we’re exploring ideas for training your brain and sharpening your mind with the help of Habitica’s Tasks, Challenges, and social spaces. These great tips come from your fellow players in the Use Case Spotlights Guild!

Miechelle starts us out by using Habitica as a reminder for their educational apps and books:

I have as dailies my Lumosity session, my Duolingo session, my Khan session and then at least a paragraph in each of the [educational] books I am reading which range from a Grimoire to Getting Things Done to The Power of When – I am always trying to improve my mind and myself – I think it is the point of it all. I used to have to try and remember all this in my ADD brain and honestly I have progressed a lot once I started using Habitica to keep my checklists and get my ticks 🙂

Fox_Town points us to a fun Guild to help with memorization and expand your poetry knowledge!

I co-run the “Rhyme Commando” guild, where we have a running monthly challenge to memorize a poem. I still know by heart the poems I learned as a schoolkid, but it isn’t something I’d thought to do in years. I like the experience of both setting the text of a poem in my head, and also spending the month thinking about one poem, because I usually end up coming to a few new realizations about the language or the structure just by returning to it again and again. And with luck when I’m old, I’ll always have a few poems to reflect on whenever I”m stuck somewhere without a book.:)

Gumnos notes the importance of storing To-Do lists outside your brain to keep your memory free for other information:

I use Habitica both to challenge my brain and save my brain energies for other things.

For challenging it, I have dailies that force me out of my brain’s natural comfort zone (like thanking complete strangers) and hand-writing letters to grandparents. I’ll also create projects for myself to expand my programming skills (I give myself various personal coding challenges and landmarks along the way for them)

For preserving it, most of my To Do list consists of checklists I’ve offloaded so I don’t have to hold them in my brain and possibly forget them.

Dan O’Dea gives some other great examples for using Habitica to train your brain!

The most obvious way to challenge your brain is to learn something new every day. So…

  • Habitica has a guild called Today I learned… where people share things they learned. The guild leader requires posts provide sources for the learning so you can follow the links and see for yourself.
  • Build a habit or a daily task to read something, Google something you heard, or likewise add something to your knowledge.
  • Create a to-do, complete with a checklist, to learn a new skill. Of course, you can also add habits and dailies to this. For example, I have a to-do every month to draw some new thing (trees, faces, roads) and practice a technique (e.g., one-point perspective) and a daily habit to support that, such as “Draw one scene from work, my town, or a reference picture using one-point perspective”.

There are several guilds in Habitica for learning new languages, skills, and the like. Check them out – in fact, create a to-do to do just that.

There were so many helpful and exciting tips we couldn’t feature them all here! You can see them all and join in the discussion in the Use Case Spotlights Guild– one of your ideas could be featured next month! Look for an announcement of next month’s theme from Bailey soon.

And lastly, be sure to take a look at our most recent Guild Spotlight, where we’ve highlighted groups for puzzles, riddles, and other ways to train your brain!!

Behind the Scenes: Weird Tales of the Mod Slack

moderators_updatedMar2018
Habitica’s Mods! Left to Right, starting from the top: Bailey, deilann, Cantras, Alys, Fox_Town, Blade, Daniel the Bard, shanaqui, Dewines, Megan, and Breadstrings! (Art by Lemoness)

The “Behind The Scenes” series is a chance for us to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of HabitRPG, Inc., the company that makes Habitica. Every so often, we’ll treat you to some silly staff shenanigans or show you the work that goes into your favorite features. Enjoy!

Hello Habiticans! In this special edition of Behind the Scenes, we’re going to take a dive into the wild and weird world of Habitica’s Moderator Slack channel. This space is where the moderators and a few members of the staff hang out to discuss issues that pop up in the community, talk about feedback and bug reports, and just generally hang out and chat! We thought it might be fun to share some stories of some of the most amusing and weird things that happen there, so buckle up!

Fun Fact #1: There is a channel devoted entirely to bunnies!

Moderator shanaqui is the proud parent of two adorable bunnies, Hulk and Breakfast. There’s a whole channel just for bunny-related pictures and posts because the buns were really dominating the Off-Topic channel!

buns
Hulk and Breakfast. Breakfast is sporting an interesting nose haircut here.

The buns also occasionally commandeer shanaqui’s keyboard to send special messages. These are most often directed at Alys, because Alys is the bunnies’ favorite (and just a fantastic critter whisperer in general).

If you’d like to get in on the bunny fun, check out the buns’ Twitter accounts linked above!

Fun Fact #2: Beffymaroo raises Monarch butterflies.

Beth (AKA Beffymaroo) has always loved animals of all shapes and sizes. As a kid she enjoyed bringing in monarch caterpillars and feeding and caring for them until they became chrysalides and then finally butterflies (which she’d then release so they could start their epic migration!).

Last summer, she bought a milkweed plant on a whim and discovered it already had a butterfly egg! This little egg hatched into a caterpillar named Herbie the Love Bug, and Beth shared lots of photos and stories on the Slack documenting Herbie’s growth and metamorphosis.

Image uploaded from iOS (12)
Little Herbie!

This summer, Beth is at it again! If you’re interested in learning more or following along, check out Lovers of Lepidopterans, a Habitica Guild Beth started for those interested in butterfly- and pollinator-gardening and/or raising butterflies and moths.

butterflymaroo
*not shown to scale*

Fun Fact #3: Emoji-a-go-go

We often let the emojis do the talking in our Slack messages! Because users get an alert when their name is mentioned (and we typically try to avoid sending actual alerts unless it’s an urgent matter),  the mods and staff devised “emoji nicknames” for some folks so that there was a way to mention someone without making their phone beep!

lemonessLemoness’s icon is pretty self-explanatory! The Queen of Lemons.
sabrecatSabreCat’s emoji callsign is also fairly self-explanatory! He is a pointy kitty.

alysAlys’s emoji nickname is also a fairly straightforward rebus.

foxtownFox_Town’s emojis also are what one might expect. This is only because there is no adequate way to convey “many foxes in a trenchcoat pretending to be a human” in emoji.
beffymaroo Beffymaroo’s emoji nickname refers to an ongoing joke about how some users misread/misspell her Habitica handle as “Beefymaroo.”
redphoenixThe closest thing to a phoenix offered by emoji selection is a Fire Chicken, which Redphoenix found very amusing, and so it stuck!

shanaquiCare to take a guess whose emoji this is? Perhaps Habitica’s leading contender for Most Enthusiastic Reader, shanaqui!
cantrasCantras is a big fan of dragons. In fact, her mod avatar is a part-dragon!

(emoji images shown are those used in Slack Direct Download 3.2.0 64-bit for Windows 10)

 

We also make a lot of use of Totoro-based emoji (thanks pixel-soup.tumblr.com!), especially :

tumblr_inline_p8p96ms2J71rhwzwl_75sq  for “Thank you”

and

tumblr_inline_p8p96k4eR41rhwzwl_75sq  for a complex set of feelings Cantras described as “gleeful agreement”!

Fun Fact #4: Dream Titles

Weird dreams are a fun topic we sometimes chat about. shanaqui recently had a dream where they came up with exciting (and maybe slightly odd) titles for some of the staff and mods. In fact, if you go to the Hall of Heroes right now (see Beffymaroo, SabreCat, Fox_Town, Alys, and Cantras) you can see some titles Alys changed to match shanaqui’s dream.

Well, Habiticans, seems like it’s time to get back to our tasks…

no fun allowed
We’ll let you imagine the context in which this may have occurred.

That’s all for now! If you’d like to know more about what’s going on Behind the Scenes in Habitica, feel free to suggest topics for posts you’d like to see! Thanks for reading ❤

 

Use Case Spotlight: Parenting and Family Life

parents_families
Illustration by UncommonCriminal

Hello Habiticans! Last month we looked at ideas from your fellow players for using Habitica to manage mental health and wellness. This month we’re exploring ideas for enhancing your parenting strategy with the help of Habitica’s Tasks, Challenges, and social spaces. These great tips come from your fellow players in the Use Case Spotlights Guild!

Stephonee starts us out with a great way to take advantage of the times when you can be productive (and take a break!):

My main use of Habitica for parenting is my “Nap Checklist” Daily. I find that my brain goes kinda haywire when changing gears from “kid-time” to “nap-time ohmigorsh I have time to do things what?” Rather than trying to mentally make that shift and remember what I need to do during every nap, I have the Daily with the checklist!

It includes self-care things (drink a glass of water, hungry? then eat!, tired? then nap!, etc.), mundane have-to-get-done-before-baby-wakes things (clean off the high chair for next feeding), work things (check work email, check blog for new comments) and I can add things to it temporarily if there’s something special I need to get done during the nap on a certain day.

I check the daily off at the end of the nap (or at the end of the day), regardless of whether I got through the whole checklist or not, because it’s not meant to be a “do everything single thing on the list every single day” thing. It’s just a way to reduce the mental load of remembering ALL those things, and a reminder of what they are and in what order they should be considered. Sometimes I’ll check off an item just to say “I considered whether I should do that, and I shouldn’t so… check it off to cross it out!”

Dan O’Dea reminds parents to model the behavior they’d like to see:

If you make this a daily, put a description of the ONE behavior you want to model (if you have more than one, make separate dailies for each). I’ve deliberately left this unspecified as you will have your own ideas on what behavior you want your kids to demonstrate. A simple example: washing dishes right after supper is done. I hate it when dishes accumulate over several days, and I want my kids to help with that chore if they’re old enough. When they were too young to wash effectively, I made them dry and put away the dishes as I washed them. When they were old enough (and tall enough to reach!) I made them wash while I dried. Then I made them both do it without me and gave them a “schedule” (that is, they alternated washing and drying from day to day). Note: obviously, this does not have to be every day. They’re kids, it’s OK to give them weekends off .

If you make this a habit, put a plus and minus on it. This will be more general (i.e., not a specific behavior, just “a behavior”) and works equally well as a plan for you to create better behaviors (or more consistently doing the task) and for them. Check the plus if you did model the desired behavior(s) and check the minus if you didn’t. In a way, this is like the proverbial “quarter in the swear jar”.

sagestacy notes the importance of maintaining your relationship with your partner when parenting can seem all-consuming:

Habitica and the Parents’ Guild have been helpful for me to maintain my relationship with my husband after the birth of our child. Taking care of an infant is exhausting for both of us–physically, mentally, and emotionally–and so having those dailies and habits to check off reminds me to do little things to preserve our connection, like holding hands, talking about our day, and scheduling a date night.

peach pip gives us great tips for remembering to keep taking care of ourselves even as we devote ourselves to the care of others!

With the birth of my daughter, I transitioned into a new role of a full time mom. I found it much more difficult than employment, particularly because infants don’t provide a lot of positive feedback at first, and tasks that used to be simple had become really challenging, such as eating a decent meal or showering. Additionally, it was much more difficult to stay in touch with loved ones. Habitica helped me celebrate little accomplishments and remember my self-care, as well as stay in touch with loved ones by creating a party together!

There were so many helpful and exciting tips we couldn’t feature them all here! You can see them all and join in the discussion in the Use Case Spotlights Guild – one of your ideas could be featured next month! Look for an announcement of next month’s theme from Bailey soon.

And lastly, be sure to take a look at our most recent Guild Spotlight, where we’ve highlighted groups that can provide further support and motivation as you manage parenting and family life!