Monday, September 26, 2011

Halloween Pumpkin-Decorating Project

I’ve been working on some Halloween crafts pretty early this year, so I wanted to start blogging about Halloween crafts and decorating ideas.  To start with, I am posting photos of 3 miniature pumpkins I decorated last year with black pens and Sharpies.

I liked this project a lot because:
-  there was no mess and therefore no clean-up required
-  since the pumpkins were drawn on and not carved, they lasted much longer than a traditional carved Jack-O’-Lantern, which would begin to rot after only a few days.
-  due to their durability it was not necessary to finish the project quickly, which meant that I could  work on a single pumpkin a little bit every day
-  the small pumpkins were very light, took up very little room and did not require a large working space, making it easy to complete this project in front of the television
 -  the completed project worked really well as an indoor Halloween decoration either grouped together or placed individually next to other decorations such as potion bottles
-  they could also be used as seasonal centrepieces for dinner tables during the season


-  For the 3 pumpkins shown here, I drew on the pumpkins with a pencil very lightly, as I found it difficult to erase any mistakes if the pencil was too dark.  When happy with the design, I traced over it in black marker. 

-  For 2 pumpkins, I drew elaborate vines, which I thought was appropriate given that pumpkins grow on vines.

-  To draw the vine stencils can be used, but I found it much easier to copy the stencils or just improvise my own design rather than using stencils to trace a design on the pumpkin.  You can also use a pattern or design you already like as a guide and attempt to copy it.

-  On the last white pumpkin I drew a spider-web pattern, drawing the vertical lines inside the pumpkin’s natural grooves, and then gently drawing curved horizontal lines connecting them, each spaced further from the last.

Last but not least, I also drew on this Butternut Squash in the black marker, to make it look like a ghost.  This was extremely simple, as I simply drew 3 elongated, tear-like ovals. 

Further Suggestions

-  Instead of using just a black marker try using glitter-glue as a substitute, or create a design in black marker and embellish it with glitter-glue.

-  Instead of drawing on miniature pumpkins, try doing this with large pumpkins as a substitute for the traditional carved Jack-O’-Lantern.

-  Try drawing on something besides pumpkins, such as various squashes and gourds.

-  Try painting the small pumpkins different shades of orange, white, or even black!  You can even use several different colours on one pumpkin!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ExerBeat for Wii Fit by Namco Bandai

I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been extremely fatigued. My goal for this summer was to make over my bedroom, but my fatigue has made this impossible. I hadn’t even celebrated my 26th birthday in July because I was never feeling well enough. In fact, I opened my presents on Sunday night – September 4!

Though I haven’t had a chance to use all of my presents yet, I was able to test out the gift that I wanted the most – ExerBeat by Namco Bandai.

According to my Rheumatologist, the only proven treatment for Fibromyalgia is frequent aerobic exercise, and that I can start very slowly at 5 minutes aerobics per day. It was my 2011 New Year’s Resolution to make daily aerobics my top priority, and with my Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus I became very close to reaching my goal. I felt that I was really improving, that my pain was more manageable, and that my energy had improved. Of course, I did incorporate other activities into my aerobics such as taking a trip to the mall as an opportunity to walk around some afternoon, or going on walks outside in the summer. However, Wii Fit made it possible for me to complete some aerobic exercise when stores were closed or when the weather was either too hot or too cold to go on walks. This is why I made it a priority when making my birthday list to ask for another exercise game for the Nintendo Wii.

Since I only had 2 opportunities since opening the gift to test out the game, I cannot give an in-depth review here today, but I can say that I am very happy with it. If I can write a better review at a later date, I certainly will.

Users of Wii Fit or Wii Fit Plus will probably find ExerBeat easy to adjust to, as there are many similarities. For example:

1. With Wii Fit’s instructions appear on the screen in a speech bubble spoken from an avatar of the Wii Balance Board. Similarly, ExerBeat’s instructions appear in a speech bubble spoken from a music note by the name of Rhythm. Rhythm recommends a short tutorial. I watched this the night I got it and would recommend it.

2. With both Wii Fit and ExerBeat, activities are presented in a similar layout and not all activities are available to users from the beginning. With both games only certain activities in each category are available and the rest must be earned or “unlocked” by completing the activities that are already available. I like this feature of both games because it gives users a sense of achievement, rewarding them for their completion of various exercises.

3. Both Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus, and ExerBeat incorporate humourous and creative exercises into their menus. My favourite Wii Fit game is Penguin Slide, in which my avatar or Mii is dressed in a penguin costume, standing on an iceberg and surrounded by an audience of penguins who seem to be cheering me on as I try to catch as many fish as possible. Similarly, there are funny and creative games on ExerBeat that involve twirling pizzas and fending off pirates!

4. Both Wii Fit Plus and ExerBeat measure the approximate amount of calories burned and measure the intensity of the exercises in METS. They also both have charts or graphs to measure how much time users spend working out each day, the option to set personal goals, and a calendar that can be stamped so that users can keep track of their progress.

5. The Wii Fit and ExerBeat menus are very similarly organized. The Training menu of Wii Fit lists activities in the following categories:

Yoga -------------------------(15 activities)
Strength Training ----------(15 activities)
Aerobics ---------------------(9 activities)
Balance Games -------------(9 activities)

Wii Fit Plus provides 15 additional activities, as well as 3 additional Yoga activities and 3 additional Strength Training Activities.

Similarly, the Exercise menu of ExerBeat lists activities in the following categories:

. Dance Exercise
. Martial Arts
. Body Conditioning
. Party Fitness

Unlike Wii Fit however, the first 3 categories branch out into further, more specific categories from which you must choose:

. Dance Exercise ---------> Aerobics / Hip Hop / Latin Dance

. Martial Arts ------------> Boxercising / Karate / Karate Forms

. Body Conditioning ----> Stretching / Yoga and Pilates

This means that, while Wii Fit might provide 15 different activities each in Yoga and Strength Training, ExerBeat provides about 15 activities in all 8 sub-categories! So if I am correct, this is the breakdown of what Exerbeat offers:

. Dance Exercise

- Aerobics ----------> 20 activities
- Hip Hop ----------> 20 activities
- Latin Dance ------> 20 activities

. Martial Arts

- Boxercising ------> 20 activities
- Karate ------------> 20 activities
- Karate Forms ----> 10 activities

. Body Conditioning

- Yoga / Pilates ----> 10 yoga, 10 pilates = 20 activities
- Stretching --------> 10 activities

. Party Fitness ------> 5 activities

Now, I must stress that I am not criticising Wii Fit or Wii Fit Plus for lack of variety. I intend to use both Wii Fit Plus and ExerBeat together. I am simply praising ExerBeat for its variety for my particular needs, and for my Fibromyalgia, variety of aerobic exercise is a major need! I also think that my familiarity with Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus has allowed me to begin using ExerBeat without much difficulty. For example, I am somewhat used to having to follow certain visual cues with the Wii Remote in order for the game to register the accuracy of my movements.

I hope to use ExerBeat to complete some aerobic exercise a little bit every day, and hopefully build stamina little by little, and decrease pain and fatigue in the long run. I’ll write about any progress I make whether with the Wii game or without, and as usual I welcome any comments or recommendations for similar games.