Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Advent Calendar Gifts for December 13th, 2020

Here’s my blogpost with links to four lists of Advent Calendars and 12 Days of Christmas Calendars, plus my “Top Ten” Calendars you should not miss in 2020!

OK I had a later than usual start today, so I do apologize for those of you who are relying on these daily blogposts to hit the ground running!

First up is today’s gift from Virtue, this eye-catching pink and white striped asymmetrical Vivien dress (the Virtue group is free to join):

Today’s skin gift from Wow Skins is this Kiara Bakes on Mesh skin, in the sandy skin tone. It is intended for Genus heads, but it also looks good on the recent group gift of the Chelsea head from LOGO (the Wow group costs L$199 to join):

Today’s skin tone for the Hope skin from 7 Deadly S[k]ins is taupe, which as you can see is quite attractive! The 7 Deadly S[k]ins group costs L$1,000 to join during the month of December, and you can purchase the previous days’ Advent calendar gifts from the store for only L$25 each

The present from Essenz are these light pink Toledo high-heeled sandals, which come in sizes to fit Maitreya, Belleza, and Meshbody Legacy feet. (The Essenz group costs L$350 to join, or if you just want to get this single pair of shoes, non group members can purchase them for only L$50. By the way, I have noticed that many of Essenz’s Advent calendar gifts this year do not come in sizes to fit Slink mesh feet.)

By the way, here’s a pro tip for you. Did you know that some Advent and 12 Days of Christmas calendars allow you to visit on the final day, and pick up all the free gifts at one time? This year, I noticed that the calendars at Altamura, Ari-Pari, Baby Monkey, and JUMO all fall into this category. So save yourself the time and hassle, and just pay one visit on December 24th or 25th, and vacuum up all the fabulous freebies at once! Here are the Dec. 12th and 13th gifts from JUMO, the vividly-patterned Vicky gown and Verena shoes:

Finally, I have a couple of freebies that are not Advent calendar gifts, but rather than make a separate blogpost, I thought I’d toss them into this one. Firestorm is giving away a free fatpack of the unisex Jamie hairstyle by Firelight Hair at this SLURL, but I don’t know for how long, so you might want to pop down there today. This lovely short hairstyle reminds me of nothing so much as Julie Andrew’s hair in the 1965 movie The Sound of Music!

But I saved the best gift for last! Teleport to the BUENO store, join their group for free, and pick up this pink Barbie 4×4! (I’d hurry down for this one too, before the Mattel legal department intervenes for copyright infringement!).

Simply rezz the 4×4, get in, and you’re all set for a road trip!

The included animations are great—you even look behind you when you hit reverse! Thanks to the Pure Eggs & Spam blog for the heads up.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free Bakes on Mesh Skins from LAQ

I wanted to alert my fellow freebie fashionistas in Second Life that the Bento head and skin maker LAQ is currently giving away four free group gifts of Bakes on Mesh skin (the LAQ group is free to join). Here’s the SLURL to take you directly to the gift wall at the store:

These are quite nice skins, so I wanted to show them to you here. The avatar I used is wearing the recent free group gift of the Chelsea Bento mesh head from LOGO, paired with the Juliet mesh body by Altamura (a free Valentine’s Day group gift from February 2019, which requires a separate, L$99 Omega system kit and a free Bakes on Mesh relay from the Altamura store in order to be compatible with BoM skins).

These LAQ skins come in a variety of skin tones (8 or 9), not just the ones shown in these pictures! As you can see, they are quite attractive.

LAQ Natasha skin
LAQ Camille skin
LAQ Ulrike skin (I quite like this one! You can make the eyebrows a bit thicker if you like.)
The beautiful freckled LAQ Tilde skin

The hair used in these picture is the Sugar spiral curl hairstyle, a recent Stay at Home Club gift from Miss Canning, which comes in a complete fatpack of colours. You can pick this hairstyle up for free from their in-world store (Warning: Adult sim!), or you can buy this hair for only L$1 on the SL Marketplace.

Pandemic Diary, December 13th, 2020: When Life Gives You Bananas, Make Banana Bread

It is officially Day 273 since I began working in self-isolation from my apartment for the University of Manitoba Libraries.

Here in Manitoba, we are seeing widespread community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The 5-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is stubbornly hovering around 13 to 14 percent, 25 days into a province-wide, code red pandemic lockdown. In the past couple of weeks, I have only left my apartment to throw out the garbage in the nearest dumpster (although I should put on a face mask and go for a few socially distanced walks in my neighbourhood near the University of Manitoba).

While I am hunkered down in my messy man cave, I am routinely horrified by local news reports and social media. Local Winnipeg news website shared the following video via Twitter, showing the crowds lined up at the Regent Avenue Costco on Friday:

Sweet minty Jesus, Winnipeg is doomed!! We’re not going to see the test positivity rate go down if people keep doing stuff like this. And what the hell happened to the one-person-per-Costco-card rule they were supposed to be enforcing? I see a lot of families here.

I haven’t set foot in a Costco (or for that matter, any retail establishment, except my local drug store to get my flu shot) since mid-March. Shoppers Drug Mart delivers my prescription medications for free, and I recently learned from a coworker in a Zoom meeting that they will now deliver non-prescription items as well.

I shop online for my groceries on the Walmart website, then book an appointment for grocery pickup. Wearing a face mask, I drive into one of the designated parking spots at the back of the store, get out of my car, and stand a safe distance away while a sales associate loads up my car, then drive away, liberally applying hand sanitizer just in case I picked anything nasty up.

I indicated in my most recent Walmart order that I would consider substitutions for items which were out of stock. Most of the time, these substitutions are pretty minor: one brand of chicken rice soup for another, canned pineapple rings instead of crushed pineapple (which I mix with plain, fat-free yogurt for a Weight Watchers-approved snack, even though my dieting went completely out the window when the pandemic started).

But the last time I picked up my grocery order from Walmart, they were out of strawberries, so I received…two bunches of bananas. Now, bananas are not my favourite fruit, but I ate a few, and sliced up a couple to mix with my bran flakes.

But I now still have one bunch of overly ripe bananas, so I am Googling banana bread recipes (I had stocked up on flour, sugar, and other baking ingredients in my pandemic shopping before I began working from home for my university library system on March 16th, 2020). To rephrase the popular saying, when life gives you bananas, make banana bread.

When life gives you bananas, make banana bread…

So, how am I doing? I still struggle with anxiety and depression, but I do have supports in place (antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication, biweekly cellphone chats with my psychiatrist, weekly sessions with Kira). I am also beta-testing a social VR group therapy platform*, so instead of getting into my car, I slip on my VR headset and talk about my problems with other people in a small group. I have found it to be just as effective as a real-life therapy session. Lack of physical exercise aside, I am taking pretty good care of myself, and coping as best I can.

I have to keep reminding myself that these are not normal circumstances, and that it’s OK to feel anxious, depressed, sad, upset and angry at times. I am currently going through the worst bout of insomnia I have ever experienced in my life. After three nights of fitful sleep, I was such a wreck that I actually took a sick day from work last week, and spent the day in bed, trying to catch up on some Z’s.

I am currently struggling with the worst insomnia in my life, and every morning I wake up feeling tired (photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash)

Most mornings, I start my day by writing up a blogpost (like this one). It does give me a small sense of accomplishment, and its helps get my neurons firing again after a restless night’s sleep. I just brew a big pot of black coffee, plunk myself down in front of my computer, open up WordPress, and start typing away!

And yes, I know that I have been neglecting other social VR platforms and virtual worlds, and writing almost exclusively about Second Life lately. I make no apologies for that; SL is one of the things that is helping me stay sane during the pandemic. To a large extent, socializing in social VR and virtual worlds has replaced potentially life-threating socializing in the real world.

And, during an unseasonably warm and unusually snow-free December here in Winnipeg, I am truly appreciating my visits to the various Christmas sims in Second Life, such as the beautiful, peaceful ‘Tis The Season sim (SLURL), complete with gently falling snow and tiny, twinkling lights on the trees:

‘Tis The Season Christmas sim in Second Life

Bray’s Place has become my community of choice in Second Life, and recently, I actually gave up my Linden Home (well, OK, one of my Linden Homes**… 😉 ) and moved into a rented home on the Bray’s Place sim, something I thought I would never do. But Bray’s has become an important community to me, and I intend to support Bray Preston-Rising and her work as much as I can, in any way that I can.

Bray’s Place Blues Club in Second Life

Stay safe, and stay healthy!

*Because this is a closed, invitation-only beta test, I am not allowed to name the platform or talk about it in any way other than in the most general terms. Those of you who are social VR aficionados may be able to make an educated guess, which I unfortunately will be unable to confirm or deny. When they are ready, and give me permission, I will blog about it.

**I have three Premium Second Life accounts at present and (until last week), a Linden Home for each. I used to have only two, but I upgraded one account from Basic to Premium to change that avatar’s name, and to snap up one of the lovely new Victorian Linden Homes, which I have yet to decorate! I’m saving that particular task as one of my Christmas projects. After setting up my newly rented house on the Bray’s Place sim, I have discovered a hitherto hidden talent for virtual home decorating! It makes a refreshing change from my usual passion of shopping for fabulous freebies and styling my small army of alts.