Winter at The Trace Too in Second Life

The Trace too; Inara Pey, December 2015, on Flickr The Trace Too (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Seasons change at The Trace Too – it’s one of the elements which keep Kylie Jaxxon’s homestead region so fresh and appealing, causing many of us to return there again and again through the year. This Christmas / New Year season is no different, and visitors dropping into the homestead region will find it snuggled under a blanket of snow, the surrounding mountains a salt and pepper mix of snowy folds and exposed rock.

While the rural look and feel to the region which came with the autumn season remains, the landscape and buildings scattered across it have changed somewhat. The landing point offers a choice of snowy paths to follow; which you take is entirely up to you. Closest to the landing point sits a row of cottages and houses, a short distance from the local church.

The Trace too; Inara Pey, December 2015, on Flickr The Trace Too (Flickr)

The houses lead the way to a stone bridge, deer foraging in the woods nearby as the path arches over the stonework of the bridge, crossing a frozen stream to turn back eastwards, taking the visitor to a beautiful appointed wood framed house. Further to the north sits a frozen lake with a little chalet on the shore, while to the north-east sits a cosy little group of shops offering more shelter from the cold.

Everywhere the show lies crisp and deep – if not necessarily even, having drifted into mounds here and there as more falls from a sky tinged with grey cloud. The snow has piled high on rooftops as well, and hugs an A-frame house in its grasp, making a particularly picturesque setting among the fir trees to the east of the region.

The Trace too; Inara Pey, December 2015, on Flickr The Trace Too (Flickr)

Kylie always makes great use of space within her region designs, and this winter offering is no exception. Houses, shops and cabins are positioned so that one can enjoy a good walk whilst exploring and gain the impression the region is bigger than expected. Options to simply sit and enjoy the landscape can also be found scattered around.

For those looking for a wintry location to enjoy that’s not crowded-out with bits and bobs, or who want to grab some more scenic and seasonal photographs, The Trace Too is a perfect destination.

The Trace too; Inara Pey, December 2015, on Flickr The Trace Too (Flickr)

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Winter at Asalia House in Second Life

Asalia House; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrAsalia House (Flickr) – click any image for full size

It’s been two years since my first visit to Asalia House, the homestead region primarily designed by Ryu  and Kyo Asalia. As two years is a very long time in Second Life, I was intrigued to see the region to still be in place, and headed over to take a look at what may have changed in the intervening time.

Back in 2013, the region was split into three islands, all of which offered something of a tropical look and feel. This island theme remains, but it is now very different – which is not to say any of the photogenic quality of the region has been lost. Not  at all.

Asalia House; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrAsalia House (Flickr)

The largest of the three island is a rocky affair, caught in the midst of winter; snow falls from above, covering the landscape in a growing white blanket. A road snakes along the north side of the island, although it doesn’t really go anywhere; at one end it faces the frigid waters of the sea, at the other, a set of steps bar further comfortable progress were you to be driving. It does, however provide a dramatic view out over the misty waters to the single finger of a lighthouse rising to the north-east.

Above the road, sitting on a flat plateau of rock into which a stepped path has been lain to provide access, sit two wood-panelled cabins, their tin roofs rusting slowly. A sign outside suggests these might be a motel – but it is deceptive, and merely part of the bric-a-brac to be found without and within the cabins.

Asalia House; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrAsalia House (Flickr)

There are not the only buildings on the island, further along the road sits a small studio cabin, whilst set over the cold sea, and reached by passing under a natural arch of rock from the road, sits a studio converted from an old shipping container.

Don’t let the apparent simplicity of the island fool you, however. There is much to be found, including motifs which help give it the feeling of being a place – such as the stone arches standing guard on either side of a small stone bridge, and at the edge of the snow-covered field standing beyond the bridge. These suggest this island was once the location for a much older building or buildings; a feeling increased by the ruin sitting just off the coats, and the old stone walls to be found alongside the road, and which form the outline of a structure next to one of the arches.

Asalia House; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrAsalia House (Flickr) – click any image for full size

After exploring the main island, should you find yourself feeling a little cold, look to the north-west and you might see a faint glow. This marks the location of a smaller, marshy isle, free from snow and the cold, where you can sit on a crescent moon and watch the world turn around you.

In introducing me to Asalia House in 2013, Eddie Haskill described it as “magical”. He wasn’t wrong then, and that description still applies today. It’s most certainly not a place to be missed by the discerning SL traveller.

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Winter Wonderland returns to Second Life

Winter Wonderland returns
Winter Wonderland returns

Linden Lab has announced the return of the popular Winter Wonderland to Second Life, ready for the holiday season – and it brings with it some new wrinkles and twists.

First opened at the start of 2015, Winter Wonderland covered four regions, offering snow-filled fun in the form of a snowball fight arena, ice skating, a snowboard / snowmobile race track, a winter village and a Ferris wheel.  All these are back – but now collectively cover five regions.

Winter Wonderland village
Winter Wonderland village

Announcing the return of winter Wonderland alongside the latest Premium discount offer, the Lab had this to say:

Winter Wonderland is filled with lights, delights, and snowball fights! You’ll want to stop by one of the portal parks, follow the trail to the Winter Wonderland teleport, and prepare to be transported to a magical place.

Your journey begins in the Village of Lights – a whimsical icy village at the foot of all the other fun to be had in Winter Wonderland. In the heart of this sparkling village are giant gift boxes with some fun gifts for everyone! Once an hour, the village is blanketed in a spectacular fireworks show you don’t want to miss!

Winter wonderland: the expanded snowball fight arena
Winter Wonderland: the expanded snowball fight arena

The gifts can be found at large gift-wrapped boxes scattered around the place. Premium account holders are also able to pick-up a Premium badge at a  Premium Kiosk which, when worn, offers “upgrades” to the gifts and equipment on offer in Winter Wonderland.

However, it is liable to be the enlarged snowball fight arena which is liable to be the focus of attention. As the Lab notes, this has been completely revamped, and offers a far larger playing area – complete with one or two surprises for anyone engaged in playing there!

The big question is, however – will there be a residents vs Linden Lab snowball fight this year?

Winter Wonderland: the snowball fight arena includes a snowball-pelting monster...
Winter Wonderland: the snowball fight arena includes a snowball-pelting monster…

The Premium membership discount applies to the first quarter of the Quarterly Billing plan, which sees it reduced to US $11.25; the remaining quarters all billed at the full price of US $22.50 per quarter. The offer runs from now through until 08:00 SLT on Monday, January 4, 2016. As noted above, the membership gift this time around is a badge offering upgrades to the gifts and equipment offered in Winter Wonderland, and free access to voice morphing, with free packs available at the Premium Voice Morphing island.

As usual, if you are considering the move up from Basic, might I offer some thoughts (as long in the tooth as they might be) as someone who has bounced from Premium to Basic and back again?

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A winter’s Whispering Wind in Second Life

Whispering Wind; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrWhispering Wind (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Whispering Wind is a region I’ve visited on a semi-regular basis over the years. I was first drawn to it far back in 2012, when it was in the midst of winter. Since then, I’ve tended to hop back as the mood takes, although I confess that it dropped off my itinerary of “regular” visits this year  – at least until now.

Back during my early visits, the region was the home of Tab Tatham’s Tatty Soup and Lindini2 Lane’s L2 Studio stores. Tab moved on in 2013, leaving Lindini2 on her own, continuing the tradition of a beautifully landscaped region which offers so much more than simply being the location for a store. Truth be told, unless you were aware of the L2 Studio brand of low-cost, low-impact houses and buildings, you’d probably not even be aware this was a store location on first arrival; rather it looks more like a region designed for  photography or as a residential island.

Whispering Wind; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrWhispering Wind (Flickr)

I was drawn back to Whispering Wind because it has always offered some marvellous winter scenes, and I wanted to see what Lindini2 has come up with for 2015. “Well, I am changing some things,” Lindini2 told me as I arrived and enquired after things, “but it’s pretty much always open, even with the mess!”

“Mess” isn’t a word I’d use to describe things; what we have here is a region resembling a remote coastal area, the low-lying (for the most part) formed around a large natural inlet, with smaller bays scattered around. Snow covers most of the land,  although sandy beaches hug the shoreline in places, having escaped the worst of the snow, the water lapping against them looking frigid enough to discourage swimming.

Whispering Wind; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrWhispering Wind (Flickr)

For those brave enough to risk getting wet, rowing boats can be found at various points along the way, offering floating cuddle spots, while there are also little sitting area nestled here and there close to the waters.

Where you roam after arrival is entirely up to you. There are some paved footpaths to follow, but for the most part it’s a case of setting off across the snow. L2 Studio itself is located somewhat towards the centre of the region, facing a boat house across one of the smaller bays. I particularly found myself drawn to the causeway running along the west side of the region, leading to a semi-rugged headland which does much to give the large inlet cutting into the region the feel of being a naturally formed harbour, and which offers excellent views back across the region to the south and to the east.

Whispering Wind (Flickr)

The delight of Whispering Wind lies within the simplicity of Lindini2’s approach, which clearly takes it cue from nature, and offers a perfectly natural environment in which her building designs are admirably displayed. There is much to delight the SL photographer here as well, the region naturally lending itself to a range of windlight settings.

Whether you’re looking for a new house, or a place to explore (with a great little store), Whispering Wind offers a suitably seasonal welcome.

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A winter Kaleidoscope in Second Life

Kaleidoscope; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrKaleidoscope (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Kaleidoscope is the name of Krys Vita’s delightful homestead region, which invites visitors to Explore the peaceful tranquillity of both country and nature. visit the two homes, cuddle under the stars. visit the beautiful church or just relax and let magical feel of the sim lift your spirits. And when I say a visit will make you want to do precisely that, I’m not exaggerating.

Currently caught in the grip of winter, the region offers a rural setting on which snow is falling, the sky leaden with clouds, the trees raising bared branches towards it. From the landing point, a country track leads inland, border on either side by fence-bound fields. The trees lining the track are frosted white, and have lights hanging from their boughs. Walk between them and you’ll come to a fork in the track. Here sits a little cottage, Santa’s throne outside, the track sweeping left and right around it.

Kaleidoscope; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrKaleidoscope (Flickr)

Go left, and the track will take you past a barn where horses munch on the grass poking up through the snow, then onwards to the steep banks of a watery channel separating a small island and chapel from the rest of the region, a single wooden bridge offering access to them.

Take the track to the right and it will lead you past a frozen pond on one side, the bulk of a house looming through the snow mist on the other. Further along, and across the long grass,  sits a large wooden gazebo offering a place to dance and  / or play the piano and cello. further on, the track sweeps back towards the chapel island before arriving back at the little cottage once more.

Kaleidoscope; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrKaleidoscope (Flickr)

Livestock are much in evidence here, furthering the feel of this being a distant farm hidden from the world by the winter snow. As well as the horses, sheep and cattle graze peacefully, while elsewhere rabbits might be found and geese fly overhead.

Throughout the region there are places to sit and contemplate, or if you are with someone special, enjoy a cuddle. For the more active, a wooden deck over the frozen pond has a sign offering ice skates, although you might have to get close to it to click it through the snow (or you can click CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-2 to temporarily turn the latter off – although a few other things might vanish with it). You may need to join the region group, tho, to have rezzing right to unpack them – and this may well go for throwing the snowballs on offer from buckets as well.

Kaleidoscope; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrKaleidoscope (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Kaleidoscope is a region which is beautiful in both its design and simplicity, offering a charming winter’s break for those wishing to enjoy snow, wanders and cuddles. Both the house and the cottage on the region are open to all, so there is no risk of trespassing. Photogenic and peaceful, and currently full of good cheer for the season,

Kaleidoscope also has a Flickr pool for those wishing to add their pictures. and if you do visit, please consider a donation at the landing point to help towards keeping the region available for everyone to enjoy.

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A Calas White Christmas in Second Life

Calas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrCalas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015 (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith, owners of the marvellous Calas Galadhon park lands, have once again brought something very special to Second Life in the form of their season Christmas region. And this year taking the theme of White Christmas, it is something very special, even by Ty and Truck’s remarkable standards.

As suggested by the name, the land is blanketed in white, a rich carpet of snow which also clings to the trees and bushes even as more falls from the darkening skies overhead. Sleighs await visitors arriving in the region, offering a ground-level tour – and Caitlyn and I thoroughly recommend taking one to start your explorations.  The sleighs will take you around the region at a gentle pace, following snow-covered track around and through the island before depositing you at the Christmas Pavilion.

Calas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrCalas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015 (Flickr)

But that’s not the end of things; the Pavilion is open to visitors, and offers a comfortable room in which to sit before a roaring fire, while the Christmas tree awaits across the hall. Outside, and down the slope, a frozen lake and ice-skating await, while the paths and tracks offer plenty of opportunities to wander on foot and to find little spots to sit and watch.

And that’s not the end of things either. A short distance away from the pavilion sits a balloon ride. This will take visitor up, up, and away into the cold winter skies, all the way to the North Pole, by way of mountain passes and snow filled valleys, all the way to Santa’s HQ. Here, reindeer wander the fields below the village or keep an eye on visitors while Santa and his little helpers take a bit of a break between making toys and gifts and starting on their 24-hour delivery round.

Calas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrCalas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015 (Flickr)

While Santa and Co may be absent, that doesn’t stop people peeking inside the workshop, dormitory, local hostelry and Santa’s house, or from visiting the launch point for the sleigh of sleighs, and from even sneaking a little cuddle while sitting in it.  And once a visit is done, a nearby teleport stone will provide the way back to the pavilion.

In fact, for those in a hurry, teleport stones are scattered around White Christmas to help make getting around easier – but I would venture to suggest it’s better to avoid them and make your way on foot or via the balloon (in the case of getting to the North Pole), because there is so much to see and plenty of Ty and Truck’s wonderful touches and little visual jokes. And of course, there’s also the reindeer tour – and don’t forget to put the festive audio stream on as well when visiting. Specially put together by Truck and Ty, it is the perfect backing for a visit!

Calas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrCalas Galadhon White Cristmas 2015 (Flickr)

I could say more – but the joy of the Calas Galadhon seasonal regions is visiting and exploring them, so I’ll let you do that for yourselves, and instead leave you with a little video after the links.

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Cybele Moon (aka the dune mouse) has also produced a short video filmed at the Calas winter region – please take a look!