Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BlytheCon Vancouver 2015


As most of you know by now I am one of the four organizers for the first ever Canadian BlytheCon to be held in Vancouver at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel on Sunday August 9, 2015. We are all extremely excited to welcome all of you to our beautiful city. Here's a video of our venue:



Our theme will be "Always The Bridesmaid Never The Bride" and we have lots of surprises, workshops, contests and giveaways planned to make of your visit a truly unforgettable one. Let's just say that a little bird told me that we have over twenty custom dolls to give away the day of the event - and we are not talking about unknown customisers either - we are talking about some of the most respected customisers in the industry.

Our featured doll will be Nicky Lad (RBL) and you can see her featured as our ‘main girl’ in our illustrations made by the amazingly talented Chun Fu (puppy52). We’re very excited to invite everyone to bring their Nicky Lads to BlytheCon Vancouver for a contest/photo shoot.

Nicky Lad

Our official website is www.blytheconvan.com and we also have a Facebook Page, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest (can you tell I love social media yet?).

Charity

Our event is non-profit and all of the proceeds will be donated to the Orphaned Wildlife Association (O.W.L.) located in Delta, BC.  (www.owlcanada.org).  O.W.L.’s volunteers are dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and orphaned birds of prey. We chose O.W.L. to be our event’s beneficiary because we strongly believe in their cause of helping British Columbia’s beautiful birds of prey in their time of need. Check out their official Facebook page for beautiful pictures and updates. 

Tickets

Tickets became available today via Brown Paper Tickets - get yours as soon as possible as we have a maximum number of attendees and tickets are selling really fast. If you'd like to vend at BlytheCon Vancouver make sure to fill out the application form found on our website. We have also worked with the Sheraton Wall Center to provide discounted room rates for attendees. Book yours now.
  • General admission tickets will be $60 each. This option includes a goodie bag and lunch. 
  • For children 12 and under, admission tickets are $35. This option includes lunch (kid’s meal), and does not include a goodie bag. There will be a limited number of child admission tickets for the event. For children 2 and under, admission tickets are free. This option does not include a kid’s meal or goodie bag. There will be a limited number of free children 2 and under admission tickets for the event. All children (12 and under) must be accompanied by an adult with a general admission ticket. 
NOTE: If you have purchased a ticket and are unable to attend, you may transfer your ticket to another person. Please email blytheconvan@gmail.com with your name and the name of the person you are transferring your ticket to.

Vendors 

We will be accepting applications for vendors from October 1 2014 to January 31 2015. Vendor fees will be $60 per space. Each vendor space will be 30″ x 36″ (half of a 6′ x 30″ table). There will be a maximum of 48 spaces available. Visit the vendors page for more details.

So what do you do if you have bought your tickets, have your Nicky Lad dressed in her finest and you cannot contain your excitement any longer? You can share the following images to spread the word about our event and to let your friends know you are attending!



Instagram Square Version:


If you have any questions or if you'd like to learn more about Blythe and about me check this article out.

We  cannot wait to show you what the world renown Canadian hospitality is all about!

Please share this article with your friends to help us spread the word.

Lots of love and light

Angel

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Spotify Vs Deezer - Which One Will Win My Ears?

I am HUGE music fan. I have been one all my life. I own approximately 750 CDs and last time I checked I had over 5000 mp3s. You get the drift. I used to buy a lot of music instead of streaming it as services like Songza weren't really available until a few years ago. Since Spotify and Pandora were not able to operate in Canada due to copyright constraints, I first started streaming through Last.FM and I made the switch to Deezer's Premium+ Plan ($4.99 per month) a few months back. If you are interested in trying Deezer now is the time to do it. You can either choose to join with their free "discovery" mode (ads are present) or to get the Premium+ plan at 50% off which is quite a bargain compared to their competitors' prices. Another advantage of choosing the premium plan is that you get access to higher quality audio and unlimited streaming on your web browser and mobile.


If you haven't streamed music before I recommend that you give it a try as it will enable you to listen to countless hours of ear pleasing beats while allowing you to discover new artists and sounds you would have otherwise never been exposed to. Most streaming services these days also allow you to create your own radio stations based on a specific song or artist and to even sort music by your current mood or by the activity you are engaging in. As you can see the options are endless.

In this post I will review two of the services which became recently available in Canada: Deezer and Spotify. As I mentioned earlier, I joined Deezer as soon as it became available in Canada as I was eager to find a service that would allow me to stream music both online and through my smartphone. Deezer's interface is very user friendly and it's dashboard is strictly operated through their website and Android/iPhone apps. I wish they would release a native Mac OS client but so far they have not. I listen to a lot of Spanish music and I was glad to see that Deezer could find even the most obscure songs I'd be searching for. I also enjoyed a function known as "flow" in which Deezer will just play music based on your previous choices and favourite artists. Flow is a nice feature when you are unsure of what to play or when you'd like to discover something new.

Deezer's Flow Feature
Another thing I like about Deezer's interface is that it is quite intuitive - it is very easy to heart a song or to share it with another Deezer friend or through social media sites. 

Deezer's Dashboard
Deezer also offers offline mode in case you will be travelling or unable to reach an internet connection. It is easy to discover new music on Deezer as they have professional music curators who create playlists and they also feature users' playlists on their landing page. 

Overall, I was satisfied with my Deezer membership until I checked my inbox one day to find an invite from Spotify to join their pre-launch in Canada. I immediately stopped what I was doing and used my invite code. Please note that if you have a Spotify account with a U.S. address and you'd like to use their services in Canada you may need to contact +SpotifyCares in order to get them to switch your primary country. Alternatively you could just delete your old account and start from scratch. I chose the former option in order to preserve my playlists, followers, etc. I contacted SpotifyCares via Twitter and I got help extremely quickly - bonus points for them! 

The first thing that impressed me about Spotify was the fact that it prompted me right away to download a native Mac OS software. This is a feature I had been wanting from Deezer but it never became available. Not only did Spotify have a mac version, it is also very sleek and user-friendly (for the most part - you'll see why).

Spotify's Mac Software

Something I enjoy about my Spotify experience is that a lot of my friends are already using their service (I think only two or three were on Deezer). Spotify integrates seamlessly with Facebook (only if you want it to - which I did being the social media addict I am) and it allows you to see what your friends have been listening to and to therefore discover new music you may like. I also like how instead of "faveing" an artist like you do in Deezer (kind of impersonal), you actually "follow" artists on Spotify so that you can keep up with their posts and new releases as they happen. 


Spotify's software also has the ability to add "apps" - in other words you can incorporate services like your Last.FM scrobbling account right on the navigation bar. My personal favourite app is called PartiQ through which you can collaboratively create a playlist while being at or hosting a party. I recently did this at one of my events and my guests seemed to really enjoy the ability to add a few songs to the party's playlist. 

Spotify can also keep up with my love for 90's music, synth-pop and Spanish hits. Overall, I am very satisfied with Spotify except for a few things. In a recent release they substituted their "starred tracks" feature with a "+" sign. The "+" sign is a button which allows you to add songs to your library. The starred tracks were basically your favourite tracks on Spotify. This seems a bit redundant (since both features achieve the same result) but the newer "+" feature seems a lot less intuitive for new users. It also seems that on the Android app the starred tracks playlist is available but I cannot seem to find a way to access the songs I "plused" - hopefully that's a feature they are working on - UPDATE: I have now found that "plused" songs can be found under "My Music" in the Android app.  

Notice the + sign at the bottom left?
It would also be great to be able to airplay Spotify to my remote speakers directly through their client (see update below) - I am using Airfoil as a workaround at the moment. My last concern about Spotify versus Deezer is the price. Deezer is currently offering new users a $4.99 monthly package whereas Spotify is still charging $9.99 per month for their upgraded plan without ads. I personally hope they will offer a student discount in Canada like they do in the U.S. and that they'll have some sort of introductory price offer for new Canadian users in order to gain momentum and new accounts.

UPDATE: Here's how to stream from Spotify using Airplay


Overall, my decision has been to cancel my Deezer Premium+ plan for now and give Spotify's 30-day trial a go. My decision may change in the future depending on price and new features. Which streaming service do you prefer and why?

Leave a comment below if you are in Canada and would like an invite to Spotify's pre-launch. I may be able to give you one. 

Thanks for stopping by and happy listening!~



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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Blythe Dolls 101 - An Introduction To True Love

When you come across something really special you feel the need to shout about it at the top of your lungs so the rest of the world can also know about it - that's exactly how I feel about Blythe dolls. Most of you have probably come across one of these dolls without even realizing it as they have been featured in several major advertisement campaigns.

Bottega Veneta window displays featuring life-size Blythe dolls

Target campaign featuring Blythe dolls
The dolls themselves are of course special but the story behind them is even more so. Take a look at the interview below with Allison Katzman - the toy designer who originally conceived Blythe. Junko Wong is the person who was responsible for bringing Blythe back almost thirty years later - a truly unbelievable story.


As I have mentioned in my previous article, my love for dolls is not recent. I have always admired their beauty and since I have a strong passion for fashion (rhyme is coincidental I swear!) I love being able to dress them up and come up with different combinations to create magical outfits. I was not familiar with Blythe dolls until about four years ago when I stumbled across a picture of one of them while searching for vinyl toys online. Blythe's beauty was captivating and what appealed to me the most was the fact that these dolls were being posed like mini super models in high fashion editorials. In other words, the artistic quality of the photographs and the dolls themselves made them extremely unique to me.

This Is Blythe - Collection of original photographs by Gina Caran

At the time I didn't know their name was Blythe - I just held on to a couple of pictures I came across through my online searches. It wasn't until I was visiting one of my co-worker's desk that I noticed she had a box of greeting cards picturing about fourty different Blythe dolls. At that point I was formally introduced to Blythe and my heart and I have not been able to look back.

I knew I had to own my first Blythe but how? I had never seen them at a retail location and nobody else seemed to know about them. I went on my computer and Googled "Vancouver Blythe Dolls" and that's how I came across a Flickr group local to Vancouver (now a Facebook group known as Vancouver Blythe Bunch). I messaged one of the admins of the group and within a month or so I was invited to my first ever "Blythe meet" in Richmond. I had actually not seen a Blythe doll in person until that day. Words can simply not describe my happiness and excitement. I didn't even realize at the time that their eyes changed colours and directions - it was a whole new world. What was also special was the fact that all the Blythe fans that I met were just as excited and passionate about Blythe as I was and that a very strong sense of community was evident amongst them - needless to say I was beyond hooked. Here's a picture of me holding a few Blythe dolls for the first time ever.


My husband and I were leaving for a European Cruise about two months after my first Blythe meet and I knew it would be fantastic to be able to take a Blythe doll with me in order to take fashion pictures with her all over Europe. I wanted a doll but I truly had no idea of where to start my hunt. My new "dolly friends" as we call each other were incredible helpful and pointed me in the right direction.


There are a lot of fake or "factory" dolls out there - especially on eBay - and therefore knowing more about Blythe models and how to distinguish a real doll from a fake one is crucial. There are lots of tutorials online on how to do this - here's one I really like. By the way, I'm not saying that "factory dolls" are not beautiful - on the contrary, they can be quite special - but there needs to be full disclosure of what you are buying without any misrepresentation as the prices for dolls can be quite high. My personal recommendation for finding a doll to "adopt" is to join a Facebook group known as Dolly Adoption where you will find an infinite number of dolls (both new and used) at various price points. If you already own a doll and you are looking for clothes and outfits for her there are tons of beautiful shops on Etsy or via a Facebook group called Dolly Duds and Sundries For Sale.

You will also soon realize that a doll that is "stock" and comes in her original box looks quite different from the ones you may find on Flickr or Pinterest - the reason for that is because Blythes are often customized by artists from all over the world in order to make each doll a one of a kind. Customization is a very interesting topic and that would require an article on its own but what it means in a nutshell is an alteration of the facial expressions (through a technique known as "carving"), make-up, eyelashes, hair, and/or body parts to create a doll that would otherwise not be available. Customized dolls are the most expensive and for that reason it is important to become familiar with different customizers and the type of doll you are looking for before jumping in. It is also important to be aware of the "stock" model the customized doll was based on - in other words customs made on a "factory mold" can be cheaper than customs made on an original Blythe release (e.g., Sunshine Holiday). My personal preference when it comes to adopting a Blythe is to adopt ones that have been customized on an original Blythe/Takara release as their value will often increase over time. If you have any questions about specific customizers or how to find a good one please drop me a line or leave a comment below.

I tend to like Blythe dolls that are on either the high fashion or kawaii (means cute in Japanese) styles and for that reason here are my favourite customizers:


I own four Blythe dolls now and they are all custom dolls. It has been an extremely rewarding journey. My latest girl Misha was specifically created for me by Kamii Chu from K-Dolls Heaven and she will arrive in two weeks from now. I wanted a very glamourous tan girl with platinum blonde hair and that's how Misha was born. When it comes to customs I also seem to gravitate towards "alpaca reroots" (a reroot is the process of changing the synthetic stock hair and replacing it with a natural fiber one for a more natural or luxurious look) and for that reason I decided to give Misha an alpaca reroot with straight bangs. Here are some pictures of my inspiration board for Misha my dream doll:



As I mentioned earlier an extremely gratifying aspect of becoming a Blythe fan is being able to join a community of loving and extremely artistic people - literally everyone I've met or chatted with online has been incredibly helpful and giving. Most recently I attended my first ever "BlytheCon" in Seattle. BlytheCons are held once per year in the U.S. and also in Europe and Australia. I can tell you that attending the BlytheCon was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I have never been in a room filled with so many creative and talented individuals and above all we all had something in common - it was truly magical. Like they say - pictures are worth a thousand words so take a peek at my BlytheCon experience here:


If you are interested in attending a BlytheCon to meet other fans and customizers/artists I am happy to tell you that I'll actually be one of the hosts for BlytheCon Vancouver 2015 - the first ever BlytheCon to be held in Canada. My fellow organizers and I would love to meet you in person and answer any of your questions. The date for BlytheCon Vancouver is Sunday August 9 2015. Here is our official website and Facebook group.

EVENT DETAILS
DATE: August 9 2015
VENUE: Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre
1088 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC



Thank you for stopping by! If you'd like to enjoy more Blythe pictures please feel free to visit my Flickr or browse through my Pinterest board below. 

Follow Angel's board Blythe on Pinterest.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Noseless Bicycle Saddles - What You Need To Know


Those who know me in person know that I really enjoy riding my cruiser bike around the Vancouver seawall and the downtown core - our city is filled with beauty and it is truly designed for the ultimate comfort of bicycle fanatics like me. Riding brings back memories of the freedom I  used to experience in my childhood while exploring my neighbourhood in my bike along with my friends. We live in a society in which we spend progressively less time communing with nature and biking is a great alternative to let go of our tech filled lives (besides the occasional Instagram post as we ride of course) - plus, can you think of a better feeling than the warm ocean breeze caressing your face?

As we grow older we need to be aware of the benefits but also of the potential side effects any activity we choose to engage in so we can protect our bodies. Biking is no exception. I have a very small testicular cyst and as such riding had been uncomfortable for me over the last couple of years. Riding would lead to swelling, epididymitis and sometimes even prostatitis. At first I thought it was all attributed to the pressure of the saddle on my cyst but after doing more research I came to understand that I was not alone and that in fact anyone (cyst or no cyst) can be affected by the negative effects of a traditional "nose" saddle.

These videos are great at explaining why it is so important to look at other saddle alternatives in order to protect our reproductive organs:







Now that you understand the importance of the issue at hand I would like to leave you with what I have discovered while researching this problem. First of all, there are a TON of noseless saddle designs and companies who produce them. Finding one for you can become truly overwhelming. Here is a website that lists all of the most popular noseless saddles along with links of where you can purchase them:


After reviewing the available noseless saddle options I would encourage you to take a look at some YouTube videos of the actual saddle you are considering in order to see it in action. Amazon.com is also a great resource for finding the saddle you want to buy at a cheaper price and to look at actual consumer reviews of the product. 

After much research and consideration I narrowed down my search to a single manufacturer and to two specific bike seats. The company is ISM - a manufacturer of high-end bike saddles used by athletes all over the world. Their seats are also used by police officers who spend most of their day on a bicycle. Something I really enjoyed about ISM's website was their Saddle Selector tool - an online tool that helps you choose a saddle based on your activity level and bike type. 

The two saddles I was considering were the ISM Sport and the ISM Touring. Both seats are meant to be used by casual riders like me. 



Another factor that impressed me about ISM was their customer service. Since I couldn't decide between the two seats (very similar seats except for firmness and gel versus foam filling) I contacted ISM's customer service department via email. Within two hours I had a very friendly response from one of their rep's - Dave. The rep was extremely friendly and helpful and he asked me further questions to narrow down my seat choice even further. Since I prefer to have a softer seat and because I ride less than 75 miles per week Dave recommended for me to purchase the Touring model. 

I have just ordered my ISM Touring seat through Amazon and I will post an update to this article once I receive it and have ridden on it. 

Were you aware of the health issues a traditional bike saddle can create? Are you a female rider?

Feel free to leave a comment with your questions. 

Happy riding! Happy SAFE riding!

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