Taking the Cake: Dessert Pet Pics from Habitica’s April Fool’s Celebration

April 1st came round again, and turns out the April Fool served up a totally sweet prank this year! Hearing we’ve all been having a hard time, he made sure to come up with something we can all get our teeth into: this year he turned all Habitica’s pets into various sugary confections!

As part of a special Challenge to mark the occasion, we asked Habiticans to show off the results of this Great Habitica Bake-Off on social media! We thought we’d share just a few of the many awesome pics you all posted as part of the Challenge to whet your appetites.

First up, here are our challenge winners! They’re on a (cinnamon) roll:

“One S’more into the breach for Silvercat17!”
RaidingPartyGames decided to spice things up a bit to match their cinnamon bun pet with a Dune reference: “The spice must flow!”
A starring roll for Pangdood
No-bun foresaw this, not even Spacehawk!
“Donut test me,” VixiMonster says!

Of course, the mods and staff wanted in on the fun…

Cantras spilled over with excitement to match her pet! Dessert in the desert!
beffymaroo had muffin to do with the April Fool’s plans!
Sabrecat’s no sucker, he’s keeping this Lolly pet in line!
Apollo is sneaking about in the dead of night with his new friend, ready to commit the perfect cream.
Piyo finds herself with a dang ol’ dango!

We also just had to highlight some of the best bakes we saw on social media and while judging the contest…

ProbablyASeaBass’ Rogue skills have got what it cakes
x4ojM gave us a whole sweet of images!
x4ojM combines a little heat and sweet with this Cactus/IcePop combo!
x4ojM conjures Valentine’s Day with this dreamy Chocoberry scene
citrusella
Citrusella really leans into the Sugar Rush this year!

Natevaelle

Natevaelle2
Natevaelle can’t decide if they’re the baker or the treat!

 

jjgame83
jjgame83 is taking some time to mallow out with his toasty friend
coreythechosen1
And finally, CoreytheChosen1 treats us to a selection of sweet profile pics to show their different sides.

Wow, that was enough to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth! We hope you all enjoyed the event as much as we did… and let’s see what the April Fool can whip up next year!

Want to see the April Fool’s past antics? Check out our posts from the social media challenges in 2017, 2018 and 2019!

Behind the Scenes: Coping in a Crisis

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. Right now, though, it’s a rough time for everyone in the world, and we’re aware of how much it is affecting all our users in different ways. We thought we’d share with you some stories about how we’re protecting our mental health and keeping ourselves truckin’ along! We hope this might give you some ideas on how you can cope with a crisis situation.

Staff avatar of redphoenixFirst off, redphoenix kept her contribution short ‘n’ sweet: she’s making time for meditation, and “making sure I actually take proper breaks instead of attempting to work through them”. Just because you might be working from home now doesn’t mean you should let work encroach on your free time! Take your breaks!

Piyo‘s words of wisdom included a reminder that when times are tough, we shouldn’t be too tough on ourselves: “I’ve learned to be more lenient with myself when it comes to goals. It’s not realistic to have the same level of focus or productivity right now.” She’s also making sure to keep up with her friends via Discord, and taking breaks in the world of Animal Crossing collecting fish (gotta catch ’em all! Wait, wrong game).

Beffymaroo catching an emperor butterfly

As you can see, beffymaroo concurs with that last bit! She’s also gotten into playing Animal Crossing, and no surprises here… she loves collecting the butterflies! (Don’t forget to check out her post on butterfly gardening!)

Like many of us, she’s also reaching out to friends in new ways:

Beffymaroo's staff avatarI’m trying to make a point to reach out to people more, which historically I am not great at doing not-in-person! I’m trying to find fun ways to do things with friends, like the Netflix Party extension for Chrome or watching my local drag performers do their streaming show while using Google Hangouts with friends for voice commentary!

There’s a constant stream of news at the moment, and most of it isn’t good… and what’s more, it isn’t surprising either. You don’t have to constantly beam the crisis into your eyeballs! beffymaroo and shanaqui are both avoiding the news: beffymaroo is only reading the Washington Post once a day and that’s it, while shanaqui has cut down their news consumption by unfollowing the BBC and CNN accounts on Twitter, and using the filter feature to just mute tweets from everyone containing certain keywords.

shanaqui is also throwing themself into new challenges:

I’m using courses from FutureLearn, Coursera and EdX to keep me busy and spend the time learning: right now I’ve just started an introductory course to archaeology just for fun, while also practising my microscopy skills from the safety of my home in a course on histology! Not to mention tackling my TBR Mountain…

It’s not all about distraction and keeping busy, though. It’s a rough time for those with mental health issues, and both shanaqui and Cantras wanted to mention managing their anxiety with medication. Don’t forget you may be able to reach out to your doctor and explain that things are rough! Cantras also has some tips on this:

Cantras' tension-tamer teaI’m lucky that I already work from home, but I work in news media which is not great for anxiety. I have a tea called “Tension Tamer” that I originally bought for the cool box design but having some halfway through my shift really helps. I’ve been working out more and more consistently, and if that combined with the start of spring doesn’t help as much as I need it to, I’ll get my anxiety med dosage bumped up a smidge.

She’s also got plenty to do keeping Alvin entertained, a problem all the mods and staff with pets can sympathize with!

Cantras' dog Alvin needs a lot of walks

Apollo has been finding the use of voice chat to keep in touch the most helpful:

I’ve been keeping in touch with a lot of my friends via Discord. We’re not all required to be on conference calls all day, so sometimes we’ll just hang out in a voice channel during the work day. Additionally, I’ve been able to do some mixing and engineering with band mates, play trivia with neighborhood friends, and received coaching lessons from a chef friend while trying out one of his recipes. Speaking with people (not typing) has been big in keeping things moving for me.

Hanging out in a voice channel as Apollo suggests can really help you focus: you’re not alone, and you know everyone else is working too. Habitica even has a guild for enabling that, called The Quiet Room. shanaqui and deilann both hang out there sometimes!

Dewines is using technology to keep up too, and has an unforeseen problem…

I suppose I’m coping by trying to transfer my normal face-to-face meetings to online. This is not working perfectly because most of the participants are not very tech savvy, but it’s definitely better than nothing. We held our second Welsh chat session via a hangout. We normally meet in a local cafe every Wednesday morning, but we’re trying to keep in touch and practise our Welsh via hangouts. I now have ceiling envy. I live in a little 1980s house with artex ceilings. Three of the group members have lovely wooden beams in their old houses. Dewines' mod avatarThis morning’s hangout also featured a dog and two pheasants, courtesy of one member who joined us on her phone whilst out walking on a hill near her home.

Down with artex ceilings!

That’s a really quick roundup of things we’re all doing to keep ourselves going. We’d love to hear what you’re doing as well!

That said, we want to remind you all that it’s also okay not to be okay. Things are really strange and unsettling, and there’s no shame in needing some time in the Inn. As Piyo put it:

Accept that it’s okay if you’re not coping very well yet. It’s hard to process such profound grief and uncertainty. Reach out to your friends and loved ones. Focus on what’s within your control to change in the present.

Don’t forget, we’ve also pulled together a post with Helpful Resources for Tough Times, and you can reach out to other Habiticans in your favourite guilds for support. We really are all in this together!

Helpful Resources for Tough Times

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Illustration by Aspiring Advocate

Hello Habiticans! We’re sure we don’t need to tell you we’re experiencing a unique and stressful time during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you’re all taking care of yourselves as best you’re able, as well as being responsible about doing your part to slow the pace of the outbreak and protect those who may be more vulnerable to serious illness.

We hope to bring you content in the coming days and weeks with helpful information to help you keep up self-care and wellness, necessary tasks, and find activities to help you weather isolation or quarantine. For now, we’ve compiled a list here of some past blog posts that you may find helpful:

Use Case Spotlights: These posts feature tips and tricks from fellow Habitica users related to these tasks and goals.

Mental Health and Wellness

Health and Fitness

Sleep and Rest

Reviewing and Evaluating Your Tasks

Food and Cooking

Guild Spotlights: These posts feature collections of Habitica Guilds dedicated to particular topics and types of goals.

Guilds for Mental Health and Wellness

Guilds for Self-Care

Guilds for Taking a Break

Guilds for Positivity

Guilds for Nutrition and Cooking

Other Features:

Routines: This featured Wiki article has information to help you add structure to your tasks.

Establishing a Meditation Habit in 60 Seconds Per Day (or Less!): A special Behind the Scenes post by Habitica’s Redphoenix about creating a mindfulness routine.

Take care 💜 We love you!

How the Habitica logo (and Melior!) Came to Be

Hello brave adventurers!

Some select few of you may remember back when we were known as HabitRPG. We had this gradient logo, which was a contribution from the community!

habitrpg_pixel.png

And also, on the original mobile apps, we used this chest icon from Browserquest:

bqchest.png

When we first decided that we needed to refresh the brand, we reached out to baconsaur, early community contributor pixel artist behind the Gryphon boss and the Mammoth pets and mounts. They had some great ideas:

You can hear the 8-bit MIDI song playing as that title unfurls! But something wasn’t quite right.

It was hard to link the mobile apps to the web site if you weren’t already familiar with what we were trying to do, and we were having trouble figuring out how to shrink the scroll down to an icon. We were also being gently encouraged by advisors, including designers and visual historians, to rethink our approach to be more welcoming of people who didn’t necessarily identify as core gamers, since that was already more than 40% of the userbase.

The clincher was having to explain to more than one kindly elderly gentleman that no, HabitRPG did not mean that you made a habit of rocket propelled grenades.

One offered alternative: calling ourselves Habit. Unfortunately, Habit is already a different app. We also felt that calling ourselves Habit sounded either really beige and boring, or reminded us of hamburgers.

Instead, we decided on “Habitica” to represent the new identity. Habitica was already discussed among the community as the name of the fantasy land we were all visiting while trying to be productive, and it felt fitting to elevate that name to more common usage. As one person put it, renaming HabitRPG to Habitica simultaneously made it more welcoming (because you didn’t have to know what RPG meant) and more immersive (Habitica as the domain–literally and figuratively–for improving your life!)

We also decided to expand our search outside the community for the first time, so we could broaden the scope of what our logo could look like. Our investors recommended 99Designs to help us get a sense of what was out there. We also knew we had a limited budget and were looking for a particular sensibility–something that could communicate a way of bringing a bit of fantasy into your real life. 

While we opted not to use the contest option, largely because design contests are unfair to participants, we were able to narrow down to a few standout portfolios, including Zoran Lalic’s aka Camo Creative. Zoran appeared to be present on 99 Designs, but also had a well-established web presence on all the major design sites, like Behance (https://www.behance.net/camo) and Dribbble (https://dribbble.com/camocreative). His work also showed a solid understanding of fantasy themes and a goodly amount of range. 

Zoran is one of the exceptions to our usual hiring process, where someone usually has worked with us in the community before coming on board for formal work. We had to do a bit more preparatory work in order to set him up with a strong understanding of what Habitica is. 

One of the things we sent him was this imgur post that had gone viral at the time we were talking: https://imgur.com/gallery/GqLQG

Zoran got what we were trying to do pretty much immediately. 

[3/6/2015 8:52:17 AM] Camo Creative: i was thinking about a dragon

[3/6/2015 8:52:22 AM] Camo Creative: if you have one in your game

[3/6/2015 8:52:26 AM] Camo Creative: or a knight

We also sent him a bunch of wiki links for Vice, Gryphon, and the Basilist. We also sent over an image of Recidivate Transformed, which was one of our newest quests at the time. (Zoran referred to it as “that spiky wurm thing” in case you needed a nickname to reduce the amount of terror induced by the Recidivate quest.)

[3/7/2015 6:25:42 AM] Camo Creative: YESS

[3/7/2015 6:25:50 AM] Camo Creative: i love the griffin and the dragons

[3/7/2015 6:26:06 AM] Camo Creative: i will try to do 3 different sketches

Then we got to see drafts. Zoran had a clear favorite. 

We liked this fantasy based illustration, but realized this was just a higher resolution version of the problem we had with the pixel art logos. We also wondered how to tie this fantasy-based image back to the real world. 

At some point in here, we decided to focus on the gryphon as our representative.

[3/24/2015 7:08:30 PM] Vicky Hsu: we’d also like to see something that’s more real-world related, so maybe the griffin can be holding something

[3/24/2015 7:08:49 PM] Vicky Hsu: maybe a toothbrush, maybe a pencil and a clipboard? we’re open to ideas

Then we started to think about how to use the logo, and asked if we could have a design that had both an image and the wordmark to be used both independently and separately. We also wanted to nudge the design towards a more logo type style rather than an illustration.

[3/30/2015 8:48:42 AM] Camo Creative: http://thumb9.shutterstock.com/photos/display_pic_with_logo/375898/147171422.jpg

[3/30/2015 8:48:46 AM] Camo Creative: maybe something like this

[3/30/2015 8:48:51 AM] Camo Creative: silhouette of a griffin

Image swapping ensued. Did you know there are already a bunch of companies using the gryphon as a mascot?

Something about the brandcrowd example was particularly appealing in terms of the posture.

[4/1/2015 2:09:15 AM] Camo Creative: yeah, he is acting tough, but he is funny 😀

[4/1/2015 2:11:46 AM] Camo Creative: http://www.stepbystep.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/How-to-Draw-a-Griffin-Mythical-Creature.jpg

[4/1/2015 2:11:53 AM] Camo Creative: ahahaha this face is epic 😀

[4/1/2015 2:12:19 AM] Camo Creative: i can imagine him holding a toothbrush

Then there was more image research and exploration:

But we kept circling back to this image:

picture13531587433404
Source: https://www.brandcrowd.com/gallery/brands/pictures/picture13531587433404.jpg

And then:

3d6a8880720fb3d388f14c0c0161f50a

The first instance of the gryphon that would eventually become Melior made his first appearance. Look at that smirk!

Then we went down a side path exploring possible variations. Which way would a gryphon hold a toothbrush? Or wear a tie?

But we didn’t want to come across as a toothpaste company, or a briefcase supplier.

Maybe something a little more general?

de087b49e4edc27bc58adb4f3bcc6e1c5870592da476f182fcee4b30802852c4

It felt like we were getting close, so we did some research on how exactly to incorporate the wordmark while continuing to play with different ideas, like giving the gryphon some neckware and some facial expressions.

488968f8fb77ec50d6d83101c8405192640cfa3218d1a6b12d7ff55001c6fedf0cc158fc1016873db5313ead3f8e2021

At this point, we started asking Sara Olson her opinion. Sara had been working with us on the mobile apps, and in conversation we realized that she had a really good eye and vocabulary for the kind of logo we wanted. We decided that it might be easier if we brought the project in-house to continue developing this logo.

Sara opted to go back to the drawing board and do some brainstorming to see if this is what we really wanted. Here’s her original mind map of what Habitica looked like.

screen-shot-2019-07-29-at-4.39.52-pm

From there, she started to doodle some possible concepts:

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saraolson:

basically it was just:
-gryphon
-polygonal game art
-pixel game art
-game items: gems/weapons/items/scrolls
-the H for habitica
and just exploring within that

Gradually, the ideas were refined into this collection:

habitica_identity_digi_progress-43

She also started playing around with some of these ideas, which you can see below.

We were still fond of the gryphon, though, so we started trying out different variations.

Screen Shot 2019-07-29 at 4.35.15 PM

At some point we decided on the purple as the color to focus on, because of its connotations of luxury, royalty, and fantasy. For a while we tried a brighter, more Twitch-like purple, but eventually deepened it to the dark, almost midnight purple that we use today. 

android_habitica_feauture_graphic

habitica_lockup_retina

(Incidentally, you may see some lighter versions of this deep dark purple show up here and there. We’re always experimenting!)

We also incorporated the red and blue colors that show up in task values, but into the two dots on the i’s of Habitica. It seemed to brighten the logo—a little less serious, and a bit more fun. Candy colors!

Once we had settled on this design, we ran a Name the Gryphon challenge so the community could suggest names for the gryphon. Melior was NobleTheSecond’s suggestion and was selected because, as the wiki states, “[t]he name represents how Habiticans strive to become better at their goals in their quest to improve their lives.”

So there you have it—the long, winding journey of how the Melior logo came to be. I’ll leave you with this amazing work that came out of the community when we announced the change: professional embroidery designer Erich Campbell’s rendition of the gryphon as an embroidered fabric patch!

20d97dcb84efb1457002826e5f9f021d

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!

butterfly_gardeners
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!

monarch_garden

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!

monarch_gardenbutterfly

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!

monarch_egg
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.

monarch_hatchling

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.”

monarch_growth
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.

monarch_face
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.

https://i0.wp.com/monarchconservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/larva.jpg
Image of Monarch instars from monarchconservation.org
monarch_hungry
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.

monarch_j

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).

monarch_chrysalis

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.

IMG_4976.JPG
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!

monarch_release

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.

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.

isaaleonardo
issaleonardo knows when to turnip the volume.
bee_
“Just hanging out with my peach of a pet for April Fool’s…” says Bee_
alittlebitofeverything.png
“My lion turned into a banana! Perfect for the banana cake I’m about to bake lol” says alittlebitofeverything.
zelah_meyer.png
We hope Zelah_Meyer likes frozen fruit!
kitt-haven
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.

af_2019
“That banana has seen some things.” says Beffymaroo
af2019_shanaqui.jpg
Oh no! shanaqui‘s bunny pet, a proxy of one of their real life bunnies, has turned into something a bunny might snack on!
fox_town
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 !

quartzfox
“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.

kakudennu
kakudennu‘s party found themselves a buffet of cuteness!
makura747.png
makura747 and company enjoy a bountiful harvest.
af2019_citrusella.png
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!
louvelune
louvelune has a really interesting breakfast in the library.
imjustarogue
imjustarogue is off to travel the world on her royal purple wolf mount with a befriended dragonfruit.
ProbablyASeaBass.jpg
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!

 

Habitica Cookie Exchange!

cookie_exchange_large.png

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.

 

snail
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.

ricciarelli

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):

Image from iOS (2).jpg

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.

Image from iOS (3)

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!

 

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 ❤

 

Behind the Scenes: What We’re Playing

video_games_v2_emmavig2x
Illustration by eyenne

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! It probably won’t come as a big surprise to you all that many of the Habitica Staff are huge video game fans. Today we’re sharing some of the (non-Habitica) games we’re currently playing.

Vicky (AKA Redphoenix):

“I Love Hue (iOS and Android) is a soothing mobile game where you put colors in order. I find it just hard enough to be interesting, but not so engaging so as to suck me away from work I need to be doing and thereby cause more stress. When decisionmaking can get reduced to “is this a purple-y grey or a blue-y grey”, I’m in a comforting kind of zone.

Bastion:  Oldie but goodie! I’m on my first play through (rather than watching someone else play it) and I’m enjoying a lot about the game—particularly the narration performance and art direction. Did you know it was made by a seven person team?”

Leslie (AKA Lemoness):

“Minit:
A snappy, fun pixel adventure where, thanks to a cursed sword, you have only 60 seconds at a time to run around the world, accomplish tasks, and solve puzzles. I thought this game handled its unique constraint in a very clever way.

Gorogoa:
A beautiful, contemplative, wordless game that uses unique perspectives to drive its thoughtful puzzles as you slowly unfold the plot. Dream-like and fascinating, this mobile game has become one of my recent favorites.

Guildlings (Beta Testing):
Technically this comes out in the summer, but I enjoyed the build that I tested enough to mention it! Fun character banter, great art, and an enjoyable “wizards and wifi” premise… but I probably shouldn’t say too much about it yet. I will note that I particularly loved Syb the Upstart and her various “startups” — a word that has a slightly different meaning in the fantasy world of Guildlings… ;)”

Beth (AKA Beffymaroo):

“Like many out there, I’m playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch right now. I’m shamefully behind and haven’t had a chance to play in a while, so I definitely need to get back to it! It’s a beautiful game with a gorgeous landscape and soundtrack, and I love all the many many things to do and explore. As far as I’m concerned it lives up to the hype!

On mobile, I’m playing Flutter: Starlight (available on iOS and Android). It’s a moth collecting game, pretty much. I love lepidopterans generally, and I chose the “Starlight” moth version over the original with butterflies because I find the color scheme and music more soothing. I also love learning more about all the beautiful and strange moths out there! Vicky is also playing and we like to compare notes on our strategies for collecting moths during their special events.”

Keith (AKA TheHollidayInn):

Final Fantasy 14 – my default stress relief. I’m a big Final Fantasy fan and this game has been create since the release of A Realm Reborn

Monster Hunter World – A very nice sequel to the ongoing franchise. My friends pushed me to get in to this grind with them, but it is pretty great.

Mafia III – I’m just starting this game because it is on my Humble Bundle Monthly (which I highly recommend getting). So far so good!”

Tressley (AKA Apollo):

Alien: Isolation
A dark, stealthy survival horror game based on the Alien film series. The game’s plot is set 15 years after the events of the original Alien film. You play Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, while you try to investigate the disappearance of your mother. I’ve really been enjoying this installment in the Alien game series as the stealth/survival horror aspect evokes the original 1979 film’s feeling and tone.

Golf It
A fun mini-golf game focused primarily on the multiplayer experience. The map editor makes for some frustrating, but exciting games with friends. Best paired with a fun group on Discord.”

Sabe (AKA SabreCat):

“Current game: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Isometric RPG from the early 00’s with a fantasy-steampunk milieu. Has a lot of variety in how you can build a character, from gunslingers to necromancers to diplomats!

Also using Tabletop Simulator to play the dungeon-fantasy campaign board game Gloomhaven. Explore the world, level up, fulfill your personal quests, opening sealed envelopes and boxes as you unlock new characters and expand the town!”

Nikki (AKA shanaqui):

“I’m usually playing too many casual games at once, while neglecting a plotty behemoth I should be keeping track of. Right now I’m ignoring my replay of Final Fantasy XIII — I love the whole FF series, but this is not a fave! I do really enjoy strategising with the different class combinations, but I haven’t got to that stage in my replay yet. Casually, I’m playing Kingdom Rush Frontiers, which is a tower defence game with fun Easter eggs now and then. Perpetually, I’m playing Faster Than Light, which I’ve played nearly 200 hours of and won only eight times. I enjoy the mix of luck and strategy, though, and I have some fun mods which make things even more strategic.

Huh, apparently I’m into strategising and tactics? Good to know…”

Sara (AKA piyorii):

“I’m playing Nier: Automata. The game has an existential, calm post-apocalyptic atmosphere to it that I really enjoy exploring. Its one of those games that sticks with you after you turn it off, and I find myself talking with friends about our interpretations. It also has a very in-depth combat and upgrade system that has you learning slick combos and new strategies long into the game. I’m on my third playthrough, but unlike most games, each playthrough is like a sequel built into intended experience of the game as a whole. the first time you beat it, you don’t get all the story! I’m having a lot of fun exploring the world and uncovering all the secrets it’s hiding, and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes third person action RPGs.”

What games are you playing right now? We’d love to hear your recommendations! Feel free to share them in the comments, or pop into the Tavern chat to discuss there! ❤

Behind the Scenes: Habitica Staff Podcast Picks!

phone_peek_podcast
Illustration by Jessica Chase and Beffymaroo

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 month’s edition of Behind the Scenes, we’re talking podcasts! If you’re not already on the podcast train, we highly recommend hopping on. Podcasts are a great way to learn, laugh, and be entertained when your media choices are limited to audio options. We love to listen to them while commuting, doing chores around the house, exercising, and more!

Beffymaroo, AKA Beth:

“I listen to TONS of podcasts. A lot of them are true-crime podcasts, because that’s a subject I’m very interested in. A pick I think might be more relevant to Habiticans (and easier for Tavern discussion, haha) is Stuff You Missed in History Class. It’s a really fun show from HowStuffWorks where the hosts discuss interesting off-the-beaten path corners of world history, or more obscure facts about well-known events and people. It’s always fascinating and often gives me a good laugh, too!”

SabreCat, AKA Sabe:

The Fastcast is ‘a podcast for nerds with short attention spans.’ It’s a discussion ‘cast covering pop culture and media, with an emphasis on niche games, each episode edited down to around 20 minutes. I like it because I tend not to be able to concentrate if I have a podcast running while I do other things, so the short runtime is good to sit with, listen to in its entirety, and move on!”

Redphoenix, AKA Vicky:

Planet Money: One of the great NPR podcasts (next to This American Life, which goes without saying). Covers topics about finance and economics in a really accessible and often entertaining way. Not at all as dry as you would expect given the subject matter.

Martini Shot: roughly four minutes per episode on the foibles of the entertainment industry, but often generally applicable to other contexts. Rob Long, the host, strikes an excellent balance between being respectful but not indulgent of the craziness of show business.

Writing Excuses: This Hugo award-winning podcast takes fifteen minutes to break down a particular aspect of the writing craft. Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and Mary Robinette Kowal bring a variety of writing styles and philosophies to the table and are often joined by additional writer friends. A mini lecture series taught by the who’s who of science fiction and fantasy writers.”

Vicky also recommends this link from How-To Geek if you need help getting started with podcasts.

staff_updatedFeb2017

Paglias, AKA Matteo:

Matteo recommends The Indie Hackers Podcast: “It’s a series of conversations with founders of small internet business , how they got the ideas, the customers, the problems they had, etc.”  Sounds like a great fit for Habiticans interested in the start-up world or internet-based business!

TheHollidayInn, AKA Keith:

“I definitely recommend Ologies – it has a great host who interviews all different types of -ologists. Then Stuff To Blow Your Mind with two host who delve into interesting facts of life and discuss the research behind it. And finally I recommend Pod Save America because politics can be fun and it’s important 🙂 ”

Viirus, AKA Phillip:

“Currently I like to listen to Under the Radar, which is a 30 minute podcast about iOS development and working as an independent developer and Fragmented, which is about Android development. For non-tech podcasts I also like the Invisibilia podcast, that explores various topics about how humans are shaped by “invisible” influences.”

Lemoness, AKA Leslie:

“I actually spend all my listening time on audiobooks instead! I check them out of the library for free using the Overdrive app. It’s a great way to read books while doing chores.”

What podcasts are you loving right now? We’d love to hear your recommendations! Feel free to share them in the comments, or pop into the Tavern chat to discuss there! ❤