Friday, September 28, 2012

Making a Tea Journal

Despite being currently located in a nation of primarily tea-drinkers, I can't say I've drunk that much tea while I'm here, and certainly less than I did at home. I tend to be out and about more often than not, so a cup of tea in the morning as I'm trying to wake up is pretty much it. However, puzzling over this has got me started on thinking about tea and the various paraphernalia of it, and I was reminded of a specific topic I'd mentioned on my Tumblr some time back: tea journals!

Boring little school mug and tea from Tesco. With 160 bags I honestly doubt I'll need to buy another box before my time here ends!

If you're familiar with wine-snobs (ahem, connoisseurs) you might be familiar with the concept of a wine-journal. Essentially, if you drink enough wine, you might forget which ones you like, which ones pair favorably with which foods, and so on. The solution to this is to have a book wholly devoted to your wines, in which you can record what you think of different types of wine. Some people make them themselves, but they are relatively easy to buy. Barnes and Nobles has one, for example, here. Now, wine snobs have them, but what about tea drinkers? Why less common?

I'm not entirely sure, but that doesn't mean that it wouldn't make a fun DIY adventure! Here is my mock-up on how I would make such a journal:



As you can see, it has a place for the name, price, location of purchase, flavor, type of tea, brewing time, how you took it, and other notes on taste and such. Then, at the right side, it has a place for you to affix some sort of visual aid, such as the tag from the end of the tea bag, the outer tea bag itself (NOT the tea bag that actually holds the tea leaves, please, that will just make a mess) or even the face of the tea box. Filled out, it looks like this:



There are plenty of websites you can use to make a small book like this, or you could make it by hand if you're particularly crafty. I think I might invest in one in the future, because I can often find myself trying to remember if I liked a particular tea or not. On my Tumblr it was suggested that such a concept could be turned into a blog, if you're more inclined to do so, but I feel that this has a certain charm to it that would be lost on the internet...that's probably just me, though.

So, readers, what do you think of a tea journal? Do you have one? Have you seen them out there? Or are they rather frivolous and silly?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ten Unusual Goth Meet-Up Ideas

I'm back into the blogging groove! For the past few weeks, I've been mulling around in my mind a few options for future Goth Meet-up ideas, and I thought I'd post ten of my favorites! I tried to include ones for all budgets, so hopefully there is something in there for everyone!

I was so tempted to go...
  1. Paint Your Own Pottery - If you aren't familiar with them, Paint Your Own Pottery shops are basically shops where you buy an unpainted porcelain or ceramic object (everything from knick-knacks to plates to vases and all sorts of other things), paint them using supplied paints, then the shop fires them in a kiln for you and you take home your finished object. If you aren't very artsy-inclined, don't worry about it! Use the opportunity to paint lyrics from your favorite Goth songs (honestly, when is the next chance you're going to get to own a plate with the lyrics to "Some Kind of Stranger" on it?) 
  2. Volunteer at an animal shelter - Many animal shelters offer open-volunteering for people who want to come in and socialize the animals before they are adopted. Usually this involves either playing with and cuddling the animals or taking them out for walks. Make sure people don't wear anything too fancy, those animals can be a bit messy! (Also, important, some of the animals may shy away from someone who makes noise when they move, so avoid anything that will "clink" like layers of bracelets or chain-covered trousers.) 
  3. Thrifting - Okay. Okay. I know it's a cliche. But, this will be a great time to stock up on your own wardrobe (cheaply!) and find more thrift stores to explore later. You can decide on which thrift store to go to democratically or whoever is hosting the meet-up might have one in mind already. The bonus to this is that you get to ask the opinions of your fellow Goths (something that, while shopping, I often wish I could do.) If possible, try to find a bigger thrift store, so that you all aren't fighting over the one black lacey blouse in the shop.
  4. Laser tag - Put away your platforms and corsetry, laser tag is a ridiculously fun game in which you and your team face off against another team with fake guns. Don't worry, you don't need to be a Halo champion to play; I placed third in my game (in a group of thirty+) the first time playing, and it's fun even if you aren't very good at it. Unfortunately, the lasers might trigger reactions in Goths with conditions like epilepsy, so make sure everyone is aware what they're signing up for (there should be a waiver required to play, make sure everyone reads it!) 
  5. Cake decorating class - Many local craft stores have cake decorating classes for a small fee, and though some of them are rather cutesy, around Halloween time (or if hosted by a particularly cool craft store) there are some more interesting options. If there are people with dietary restrictions in the group, look for specialty classes which cater to gluten-free or vegan cakes/cake decorating. Have fun! 
  6. Have a reading night - A nice way to spend an evening might be to go to either a poetry reading in your town and participate, or hold one in the home of one person in the group. Don't worry if you're not very good at it, this is for fun! If you struggle to find something to write about, have someone pick a theme for the group to write about (silly or serious.) Be encouraging of your fellow Goths, be respectful if the poem is "heavy", and have fun! 
  7. Head to a Museum - Take a tip from us! Museums are a great place to explore with your fellow spooklings! Look for ones which have exhibits relevant to Goths (vintage fashion, medical, "dark" historical, dark art, music, etc.) and be sure to either look for freebie days or group discounts! 
  8.  Ghost hunting - Not everywhere has spooky lore in it...but most definitely do! If you need ideas, check out some travel guides and poke around for lore around your area. Then, go visit. Alternatively, type in the name of a town into your favorite search engine and tack "spooky", "haunted" or "creepy" onto the end and search away! Be sure not to go onto private property or otherwise trespass. The last thing you need is for a meet-up to end in jail time. 
  9. Craft nights in - Find someone in the local community to host the event and ask everyone to bring any DIY supplies that have been lurking around with no projects for them. Start a pool in the middle of a table/on the floor/in the bath tub/etc. and let everyone have at them for some fun crafting times. If you have something that you've been meaning to work on, be sure to bring that along. Then you can have some fun gossipy times while you craft to your heart's content. If you like, this can be prefaced by a trip to a local craft store if someone can drive or if it is in walking distance. 
  10. Go to a book talk - Every so often, when our favorite authors come out with a new book, they will tour to give talks about their books, answer questions, and diatribe. Depending on the author, they can be illuminating, amusing, fun, or anything else. If there is a particularly spooky author coming to a city near you, why not ask some fellow Goths who might like that author to come with you? Tickets tend to be cheap and it can be a wonderful experience.
 So, there you have it! My list of ten unusual (and hopefully fun) ideas for Goth Meet-Ups. I hope you find at least one of these useful for planning something in the future. OH! Look what I bought on campus (for really cheap) yesterday!

Two records from Siouxsie and the Banshees and one from The Cure.

Adam and the Ants album! 

EEE!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Life Update: Scotland!


I'll try to keep this brief and Goth-relevant since I know many of you follow me for that reason, but here is the short of it: Scotland! Yay! Finally! I've been bouncing off the walls about this trip for so long and I'm glad it's finally come to pass. As of today, I've been in Scotland for a week, and what a week it's been! Here's a brief bit about my life now and what I've done thus far:


Campus!

The campus is basically the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Really. We're tucked away between some beautiful hills and a crag with the Wallace Monument on it. Around campus is a wonderful amount of wildlife, from big black crows (or ravens, I'm no biologist) to seagulls to rabbits and squirrels. There's even rumors of a badger somewhere on campus, but I've yet to investigate that. The loch that separates the main buildings from the residence halls is a gorgeous dark green and filled with swans and ducks (and probably a few merpeople, too.) It's just stunning.

Also of note, the campus bookstore sells Alchemy Gothic Jewelry. Oh god my wallet why.

My dorm room!

I live on the top floor of my hall and, though that does mean looong flights of stairs, it also means that I get an amazing view. So I'm pleased, and the second day I was there I made it my goal to decorate my dorm so it doesn't feel so lonely. Since I don't have any crafting supplies with me, I wasn't able to delve into the wonderful world of DIY dorm decor, so that will have to wait until I'm at Mount Holyoke this January. I just solved my problem by bringing my photo wall from home and adding a poster I bought from the poster sale they were having as an orientation activity. Anyway, here it is:

The view out my window.

Dunblane Cathedral!

On Wednesday, international students were offered a free bus tour of Stirling and the surrounding area, which I readily accepted. We went to Stirling Castle, the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, and Dunblane Cathedral. Dunblane Cathedral is beautiful, predominately Gothic in design but with elements of other styles. I took a stroll around their cemetery as well as inside to offer you all some idea of just how lovely it was.


Classes!

My classes only just began this Thursday in the form of introductory lectures about the course and sign-up for the practical portion of my Psychology course. However, next week I have to attend the seminars as well as the lectures. You see, at Stirling Uni all of our classes are divided into two segments. The first are large lectures, which are for one hour and two or three times a week. The second portion are seminars/practicals. Seminars are smaller groups of students who come together once a week for about an hour and actually participate in round-table discussion of the course material. Practicals are where you run lab experiments based on the topics you're covering in lectures, so they're for the science disciplines. So, I have seminars for my English and History classes, but a practical for my Psychology class. It's going to be fun.

Oh, and P.S. : we're watching and analyzing Pirates of the Caribbean in my English class. I'm excited.

Bones!

In the building where my Psychology class is (that is informally dedicated to the sciences and also a huge maze) there is a hallway that has several display cases filled with bones. Personally, I found them fascinating, as I have a budding bone collection at home. Here are some of the highlights.

That's all I have that is somewhat Goth related or at least important. I could also mention the new friends I've made, the awesome rock night on campus (more metal and rock, really, but awesome fun), or the absolutely huge amount of classwork I have already, but that's not for this blog. If you want a more detailed account of my days, you can always check out my study abroad blog on the Students Gone Global network, and don't worry, I have a proper post for this blog ready for next week. I hope you all have been enjoying your September!

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Reality Check

This post alternatively titled: Mary Tries to Comes to Terms with Practical Fashion.

Readers, my wardrobe overhaul has been consuming my mind lately (packing did not help with that at all, trust me) and I have to come to a conclusion: my ideal wardrobe as I described it in this post and this one just wasn't realistic for me. Well, one part of it in particular. I know, the horror, right? To be precise, I'm talking about the fancy, high-necked and button-up "Victorian" blouses that I talked about. To be honest (and this sounds weird coming out of my mouth, trust me) it was just too fussy. Fancy all the time sounds great, but I don't think I can commit to it. It takes more effort, they're not great for mobility, they feel slightly stuffy, and a whole host of other reasons. (I'm not so self-disciplined that I could make myself deal with those just for some pretty clothes.)



So, what's a girl to do? Currently, my plan is to stock up on Victorian blouses for fancy wear but also on spookily-designed (and mostly black) t-shirts for daily wear. These are my staple nowadays, along with my tights/socks and knee-length fluffy skirts. They're comfortable, cute, versatile, and a much better fit to my lifestyle. I can indulge in fanciness and such on other days, should I chose to, but I don't want to build up a wardrobe of just fancy clothes and not have anything to wear when just running to the market or to class.

I know (or at least hope) that I shouldn't feel bad about this reassessment of my wardrobe needs, but somehow it bugs me. Am I giving up too soon? Am I just taking the easy-way out instead of going for something that I really want? The more I dwell on it, the more easily my answer comes to me: No. No, you're not giving up. This whole wardrobe overhaul was intended to help you reassess your closet and your needs as far as clothing goes, and you're doing just that. You're just being realistic, as hard as that may be to realize.

So, now I suppose I feel a bit better. Being practical and realistic isn't going to be so hard now, is it? And it opens up a whole new world of interesting choices for my wardrobe: printed t-shirts! I don't want to limit myself yet to the designs I'll pick, but in general I want to avoid logo-ed shirts and just stick to ones with a pretty graphic design or saying on them. These kinds of shirts can be found quite easily. Even Hot Topic has cool ones every once in a while, and any online "geek" store has even more. If I chose to design my own shirts, that's also an option, and will fit in quite nicely. Plus, these kinds of shirts are much cheaper than the fancy blouses I previously described, so I'll have more money to toss at lots of ruffly skirts (which I should be doing more of anyway...I really don't have enough skirts for a workable wardrobe.)

My one stipulation for these t-shirts is that I would prefer to limit the ones that have just "clever" words and phrases on them. Even the most clever of t-shirts becomes just silly and annoying if you wear it enough. Of course, this doesn't apply to all t-shirts, I'll just have to use my judgement. Like my t-shirt with the Grim Reaper sitting in a tea cup that is captioned "Death In A Tea Cup" is still cute to me whenever I look at it. Same with my "Despair & Cupcakes" shirt. But I have a feeling I'd grow tired of just wearing a shirt that says "YOU READ MY T-SHIRT, THAT'S ENOUGH SOCIAL INTERACTION FOR THE DAY." No offense meant if you happen to own or really like that shirt, of course. It's just not for me.


However, printed t-shirts are just the beginning. Plain ones in my wardrobe colors will probably be required, but there are also ones with lace overlay, appliques, patterned yokes, beadwork, ruching, bows, and many other design details. Finding those in the colors I love shouldn't be hard, and they'll make an interesting switch from just plain t-shirts without being as fussy as a fancy blouse.

I'm not sure if I'm going to try many DIY efforts with these shirts. I could try to add lace around the sleeves or bottom, or I could try to lower the neckline, but I'm not confident in my sewing skills to do so yet. I already ruined one t-shirt doing it (sadness, I know) and I can't find a replacement. I'll see where my sewing skills are later and perhaps try to alter them then. In non-DIY land (but still personal and customized) I can also get custom-printed t-shirts. I have a few ideas, but I need to borrow an artsy friend to help me really make them come to life.

Of course, to this collection of t-shirts and knee-length skirts would be added vests, jackets, corsets, cardigans, bustles, boleros, over skirts, and other items of clothing to vary things up. While some might think that a casual t-shirt looks odd when paired with a fancy skirt and cover-up, I think with the right balance it can be quite becoming. Take the example below: It has a relatively fancy skirt and bolero combination with added Hot Topic t-shirt (A Misfits band shirt, actually, though the logo is on the upper back and therefore covered by the bolero.) The use of pretty but plain-er shoes, non-ornate tights, and more casual hair accessory keeps the outfit balanced. Or, the second example above, where the lace print of the t-shirt is tied in to the lace of the skirt.




So, followers, have you ever had a change of heart or needed a reality check when trying to plan your closet? How did you resolve it?

Note: This post was prewritten and scheduled, as I knew I'd be busy. I'm currently on my way to get "settled" in my dorm room in Scotland and to get ready for a whole host of Orientation activities. I'll be sure to respond to any and all comments when I have a spare moment. I hope you all are having a great weekend!