Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Clothing Challenge, 1-5

Hello readers, I hope you're having a pleasant time of it. This past week was my mid-semester break at University, and I spent it traveling around the highlands with my dad. Unfortunately, this left me rather exhausted and unfit to write a proper post, so I decided to participate in the 30 Day Clothing Challenge. However, as I did with the 30 Day Goth Challenge, I will be chunking up the posts in groups of five and spacing them out whenever I feel less than inclined to write a proper article (it happens to the best of us, right? Right.) So, for now, I present to you the 30 Day Clothing Challenge, numbers one through five.

1. Your closet.

Since I'm in my dorm room, I don't have a picture of my "proper" closet at home...but I do have pictures of my closet here! The outside of it is this dark wood and it has a notice about fire safety on it...but I found it so boring. To remedy this, I cut out bats from dotted scrapbook paper and put them in a "flock" on my door. Yay! 

Inside of it I keep my actual clothing and, if you sneak a peak on the top shelf, my food as well. I didn't bring much clothing to Scotland, about five skirts, three pairs of pajama pants, eight tops, two jackets, and lots of pairs of tights, but I've been getting on just fine. Yay!

2. Your favorite shirt.

My favorite shirt is one from Fanplusfriend which I altered very recently to make more "me." The original shirt up on the website here has a kind of frilled collar to it, which was less-than flattering, so I removed it and kept the lower, straight part of the collar. The shirt has a lovely fit to it and is very comfortable, a rarity with this kind of blouse. Though you can't see it in the provided picture, it also has a kind of tail at the back, which is adorable. 

3. A piece of clothing or jewelry that was a gift.

This necklace was a present from my mother a few years ago and I adore it to pieces. It's by Alchemy Gothic and has a nice weight to it, plus the red moon has such depth. This is my go-to necklace whenever I need something somewhat fancier. Or just if I'm wearing red.

4. A shirt that you haven't worn yet.

Well, I don't have a shirt that I have not worn yet. At least, not here anyway, though I don't think I have one at home either. I tend to wear things fairly quickly. 

5. Your favorite pair of jeans.
Unfortunately, I don't have a favorite pair of jeans because I don't own or wear jeans.

Bonus picture: Have a picture of me this week in a ruined 13th century chapel! Can you make out the skull and crossbones motif in the stone?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Double Dead Tour

I haven't written a review post in a while, have I? I've been trying to keep away from them for a while now, but based on my own amazing experience this past weekend and on the rising percentage of UK readers that I seem to have, I felt it appropriate to make an exception. This week I'll be talking to you about Blackhart Entertainment's Double Dead Tour in Edinburgh, Scotland.

 Outside the meet-up spot there was a sign covered in some of the documentation of the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Just some. 

 Blackhart Entertainment is a tour company founded in 1999 which makes tours based on the works of J.A. Henderson, award winning historical novelist. They host many tours, from the Double Dead Tour that I went on to the Underground City of the Dead tour, the City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard, The Secret of Gilmerton Cove tour, the Burke and Hare Murder Tour, and Twisted Tales of St. Andrews Tour. They vary in length, times, and subject matter, but the entire company has rave reviews. Scarecon awarded the company their Britain's Best Ghost Tour award, they were shortlisted for Screamie Awards 2011, they made the top of Yahoo!Travel's Uk's Best Ghost Tours list, and topped Virgin Media's Best UK Ghost Tours list.That's an impressive pedigree, but even more impressive is that it was so well deserved.

 The Double Dead tour that my companion selected for us goes to two locales. Firstly, it goes to the Underground Southbridge vaults, then it goes to Greyfriars graveyard and into the Covenantor's prison there. The Underground Southbridge vaults was interesting because, if you're aware of a little bit about the city, you'll know that Edinburgh was built on seven hills. The hills had to be connected, so there were birgdes and then underground vaults for basically storing people. Yeah. Creepy as fuck. The South Bridge is supposed to be cursed and haunted and all sorts of other things. If you don't know much about the city, though, your tour guide will tell you and explain it much better than I could. The vaults themselves were creepy because standing in there, packed against other people on the tour, you really get a sense of how crowded they could get. Luckily, though, we were all washed. I'm very claustrophobic myself, but I had my friend's hand in mine and could squeeze it if I got too nervous. The only bits that were really bad were when the tour guide decided to spook me and make me scream (which I did, loudly) and when we were asked to turn off our flashlights in one of the smaller vaults and stand in silence as the tourguide told us a story. I could feel other people against me, I could hear their breath, the un-ending dark pressed in on my eyes. I escaped without being harassed by spirits and without having a panic attack, but yeah. It got to me.

That done, we were ushered from the Underground Vaults up to the Graveyard by another tour guide with a pentagram-encrusted umbrella, where even more fun began. The tour went into the Graveyard and we got a brief history of it. While Greyfriars is a very small place, it i home to thousands of corpses buried under the ground, most of them unmarked. If you want to go there, it's open to the public. Except for one part. The Covenantor's Prison, which has a padlock on the gate to keep you out. Well, if you're not on a tour, anyway. Our guide unlocked the gate and we went inside.

Basically, for the unaware, the Covenantor's prison was a kind of concentration camp for the very poor. No one made it out alive, so it's filled with spirits, surprise surprise. The most haunted area is the Black Mausoleum, where the Mackenzie Poltergeist is said to reside. Of course, we went inside. Nobody in our group vomited or fainted or got injured to my knowledge, but hearing about the history of the place was fascinating and terrifying.

After leaving the Black Mausoleum, the tour guide told us the story of Greyfriar's Bobby, which you may or may not be familiar with. He also disclaimed it, leaving the night on a fairly light note. Then, the tour guide bid us goodnight and left about six of us who wanted to see the Harry Potter stones with the ushering-tour guide who walked us between the two attractions. He was knowledgeable too, and very nice in answering our questions as we paused at the Snape, Potter, Moody, and other stones with Harry Potter names. As I was looking at the one for MacGonagle, I felt something on my shoulder and turned to see a face. I shrieked and jumped to see the first tour guide, sans leather coat, with his chin on my shoulder. Creepy bastard. He finished the tour of the Harry Potter graves, told me I had a lovely scream, then bid us goodnight for real at a little past midnight.

Overall, if you can't tell, I had an amazing time. I love creepy history, and honestly if I were living in Edinburgh I'd go on every single tour they offer and then make being a tour guide there my ultimate career goal. It was fun and spooky, and certainly would have induced nightmares if I hadn't slept like a log that night from exhaustion. The tour guide was wonderful and intelligent, fun to talk to, and the attractions were creepy. Luckily I escaped unscathed, and with a sort-of crush on the tour guide. I know he's not the only tour guide for the company, so let me say a bit about the guides. Many of the comments on the Facebook page for the tours make reference to how great the guides were, and I can assure you that they absolutely make the experience. According to my guide, he was a Shakespearean actor and then opera singer, which made him good at improvising stories and maintaining a creepy atmosphere the whole night. I believe him. He never faulted in his stories, and it could have been all lies for all I know, but it was amazing. He was also very friendly and linked arms with me to skip off into the graveyard ahead of the entire group as we were chatting. So yeah. Make friends with your tour guide. They're cool people. Since he made it his mission to terrifying the living hell out of me, he said he wanted me to have a picture that accurately represented my night. I think he got it spot on.

I have a couple boring but necessary disclaimer points about the tours: The underground city and vaults are not wheelchair accessible. Tours are probably not suited for people with extreme claustrophobia, fear of the dark, or fear of the paranormal. The guides will walk very, very quickly from one location to the other, so wear grippy shoes (the cobblestones in Edinburgh are very slippery when wet--which is all the time.) One of the spirits in the underground vault, named "the imp" has been known to steal things, so keep your bag on you at all times. The spirit in the Covenantor's Prison, the Mackenzie Poltergeist, is a well-documented violent spirit. People (and especially women) may come out of the tour with bite marks, bruises, cuts, burns, or other unexplained injuries. Enter at your own risk.

If you're still tempted, you can purchase tickets on the company's website here or on their contact page here. If Edinburgh is too far away or the tours don't seem like your thing, look into the books that inspired them by visiting this link. On the other hand, if you're interested in what else I've been up to on my trip, again I urge you to look at my Study Abroad blog on Students Gone Global. Happy haunting!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Halloween in a Dorm Room

As my readers are no doubt very much aware, Halloween is creeping up on us Goths fairly quickly. It's already  mid-October and now I have to make plans for what to do with mine. Of course, this will be my first Halloween away from home, and my first in a dorm room. Dorm life isn't really conducive to big parties (especially since I have classes the next day) or intricate decor, but I'll be damned if that means that I plan on letting my favorite holiday slip by uncelebrated. So, my first order of business is prepping my tiny dorm room for the holiday festivities. But how does one do that on a budget and with the constraints of dorm life? Here are my thoughts.

My local Tesco

The first order of business is to assess what you are allowed to do to your dorm room or residence halls. This means both that you need to consult your school for their regulations (this should be somewhere on the Residential Life page on their website) and what your roommate (if applicable, I'm in a single) is comfortable with. Common restrictions such as the banning of candles, damage to provided furnishings/walls, or door decorations could hinder your abilities to decorate for the Halloween season. Do try to stay within those rules unless you have a very, very good reason (Under "very, very good reason" I would count religious obligations, but still do try not to set off the fire alarm if you must light candles.)

If your dorm allows it, make or buy a "Happy Halloween" sign for the outside of your dorm door or, if you want to get really creative, split a roll of butcher's paper with your friends and decorate the entire door! Online you can find tons of inspiration, particularly from Residential Adviser websites, to turn your door into a scene from the Nightmare Before Christmas or something similar. Hang a Halloween wreath on the inside, if you like, there are plenty of tutorials for that even in my "DIY dorm decor" post or on any craft site. The good thing is that Halloween trends have been moving away from twee and more towards glamorous and quirky, so there's sure to be something you like.

Your window is another place where you can add decorations, provided your roommate is okay with it. From window clings to silhouettes and other kinds of Halloween signs, there is tons you can do for that. It's a generally accepted courtesy that you shouldn't put a silhouette of someone hanging themselves (someone will call ResLife and someone [read: you] will get in trouble for it, or at least be asked to take them down) but there's no reason to avoid other silhouettes on your windows. If you're stuck, visit Halloween sites such as PartyCity and check their decorations for windows, then buy or DIY those yourself. 

If you want a pumpkin, you have several routes you can go in. If you must get a Jack-O-Lantern, be sure to fill it with fake tea-light candles to avoid fire hazards. For an interesting twist on a traditional Jack-O-Lantern, after you hollow out the pumpkin poke small holes through it and fill it with string lights. Those ideas can be done with fake or real pumpkins, depending on your preference. If you've made any friends that are interested in it, you can go pumpkin picking to find the perfect one or you can just stop by a craft store and buy one of styrofoam/plastic. Just remember that if you buy a traditional pumpkin to take it out of the room and throw it away when it starts to rot. Another idea is to use pumpkins crafted from paper. You can find all sorts of inspiration for this, anywhere from origami pumpkins to ones made of paper strips.

But what to do on Halloween itself? Some residence halls will have Halloween celebrations, which you may or may not want to attend (depends how much you really want to see a bunch of drunken University students with horrible face paint and lots of skin showing. Not my cup of tea, personally, but it depends on you.) However, you can always have your own! You can have a movie night with someone's laptop or the television room (if applicable), showing anything from Tim Burton movies to horror flicks. How about a costume contest, or organizing a trick-or-treat event on the floor? The opportunities are endless. Ask everyone to chip in somehow, either by getting the films out or by chipping in to buy food for the event.

Speaking of food, there are plenty of recipes you can make for Halloween in your dorm room. If you don't have access to an oven, look for Microwavable recipes (popcorn, some chocolates, cakes, etc.) or raw ones (an aside: the recent "revolution" of raw foods, often associated with vegan or very healthy recipes, is a boon for university students without oven access, and some of it tastes really good, too! Check it out if you are stuck for what to make!). It might be worthwhile finding someone with either an apartment or access to a home kitchen if you want to whip up anything fancy, though. Or, of course, you can buy store-bought food if pressed for time/kitchen space. Keep a Halloween bowl of candy in your dorm room for yourself, your roommate, or any guests.

Do you all have plans for Halloween this year? What will you be doing if you're in halls--or not?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Halloween Clothing Without Costumes

Happy October, darling followers! I hope the month has been treating you well? Personally, it's been very kind to me, which I'm thankful for. There are people on the floor of my dorm who want to celebrate Halloween, so it's been consuming my mind lately! Mostly we'll just bake tons of things, decorate the hall, watch movies, and of course wear costumes! I'll be going as a vampire again this year, because of how easy it is, but I know people who are dressing as everything from french maids to werewolves. But what if you aren't the type to slather yourself in fake blood or craft an elaborate costume for the day but don't want to let the holiday be passed unobserved? Here's my take on how to dress for the season without wearing a costume.

The first way to add a little bit of Halloween fun to your everyday outfit is to sprinkle it with Halloween motifs, which you might have in your arsenal already! Just pile it on (don't be afraid to be a bit tacky, that's half the fun.) Bats, spiders (or their webs), ghosts, witches, and anything else you can think of will make great additions to your outfit. A bonus to this is that these can be used, more sparingly of course, in your everyday wardrobe depending on your personal style and the quality of the pieces. 

The second way to represent our favorite holiday is to deck yourself in Halloween colors. The most obvious choice, of course, is orange. The perfect orange tone is hard to find, but look for something bright that isn't too yellow or pink-ish (I've made the mistake of buying something labeled orange only to find that it was actually a kind of salmon color. Ick!) However, when paired with black, you have more options than just orange. Neon greens and purples also work wonderfully, as well as blood reds.


If none of these ideas appeal to you, why not just get fancy? And I mean really fancy. Dress to the nines for no reason at all. All of your jewelry, fancy accessories, cravats and corsetry or combat boots and customized leather jackets. Take just one day, or several, to do up your hair in a way that you can't usually be bothered to do. Do your makeup in a really suitably dramatic way, maybe experimenting with color or exaggerated winged eyeliner.

If you're not wearing a costume for Halloween, what will you be wearing?