Meetup Report: Cutie Mark Cookies

Meetup Report: Cutie Mark Cookies

Due to my interest in My Little Pony, particularly the new series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I got it into my head one day that I wanted to make sugar cookies decorated with Cutie Marks. (“Cutie Mark” is the term used by the brand for the symbol on a pony’s flank.) I had seen all sorts of adorable My Little Pony-related crafts, either from one of the message boards I frequent or featured on Equestria Daily, and it made me want to participate as well. I’m not a very craft-oriented person, generally, but I realized that decorated cookies–while certainly not something that would look professional–would be well within my capabilities. Decorating cookies is always more fun to do with a friend, so I invited a friend who likes the series as much as I do for a pony-tastic day in mid-June.

Before decorating cookies, we had lunch at one of my favourite cafés. I’ll take any excuse as a reason to go there, after all~ We enjoyed soup and a few tiny pastries, as usual. When the weather is warmer out, however, one of my favourite things to order at this café is Italian soda or flavoured iced tea. I doubt their soda fountain concoction is really Italian, but it is basically your choice of flavoured syrup combined with sparkling water. I usually opt for cherry, which is my favourite~ ♥

Summer Refreshments
My friend ordered citrus green tea, while I opted for a cherry soda~
We soon headed back and got to work. I had been up baking sugar cookies all morning, to ensure that they’d be cool enough to decorate and to try and let some of the heat dissipate from my home after using the oven. The weather hadn’t yet turned too warm, but things had been warming up. I was concerned that the heat from the oven would make things uncomfortable.

I also ran a few errands to gather decorating supplies. I wanted to keep things fairly simple–I bought tubes of decorating glitter gel. Icing or frosting would have been nice, too, but the gel was easier to use and required less cleanup. (I also really enjoy that it sparkles, obviously.) I had so much fun making these cookies that I’d definitely like to try again sometime, maybe for a party~ The one problem with decorating the cookies was that there were so many that even split between the two of us there were too many. In the days that followed I was eating sugar cookies until they were quite stale, haha~

Cutie Mark Cookies Setup
I set up the table with plates of cooled sugar cookies, the tubes of glitter gel, and we lined up ponies for reference and added cuteness!
We both took the decorating process very seriously, constantly referencing the right shape or placement from one of the ponies on the table, or contemplating the designs on pins. We tried to pay close attention so that we wouldn’t have to try to selectively “erase” icing from the cookies.

Honestly, though, we didn’t try to erase any of them. It worked out alright even if they weren’t perfect. I think I have made an error or two, but I’m pretty sure I just ate the offending cookie and thus removed the evidence entirely.

Cutie Mark Cookies
Even though they’re not perfect, we were both quite proud of the finished cookies!
We chose to do Cutie Marks for each of the six “mane cast” ponies, plus the princesses and a character who only appeared in one episode. The top row contains cookies based on Princess Luna, Princess Celestia, and Trixie. The second row has cookies decorated with the Cutie Marks of Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rarity. The bottom row cookies were made in the image of Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight Sparkle.

I enjoyed this so much that now I’d like to do something similar with another theme. Decorating sugar cookies with popular lolita prints, perhaps? Or brand logos and emblems? There are so many themes that would be perfect for this sort of thing. And maybe next time I won’t over-bake some of the cookies, whoops~

Meetup Report: Birthday Tea Time

Meetup Report: Birthday Tea Time

This isn’t really a true “meetup” report as much as a recap of an event that I attended where I wore lolita fashion with friends, but I’ve been known to use my “meetup” category loosely in the past and will continue to do so~ In late June I attended a friend’s birthday party at Russian Tea Time. We enjoyed tea in the restaurant before heading out to take some pictures in one of the gardens near the Art Institute.

There were quite a few lolita in attendance. Not too surprising, considering that the birthday girl is part of the community. However, it really wasn’t a lolita-only party even though it started at a tea house and involved many frilly people. I didn’t get many pictures of the non-frilly guests, however~ They seemed to, on the whole, prefer not to be part of the picture-taking ruckus.

Typical Poses
The picture-taking ruckus in action. This is inevitable.
The weather that day was very nice, particularly for pictures, so I tried to take as many as possible. I think it might have rained a bit off-and-on, but I can’t quite recall because there was so much rain during June. It got to the point where I just expected that all days had at least a bit of rain involved. I think I’m also getting confused because the time that I was at the same tea house just before the party it was raining. The weather was sill bright but slightly overcast, and that’s the sort of thing I hope for when I’m going to be spending time outside with a camera.

By the Fountain
Two lovely ladies sitting near the fountain. I think that fountains are usually a beautiful setting for pictures.
I really enjoyed getting to wander around and chat with the other guests, both in the restaurant and later on. Overall, it was very pleasant and relaxing.

After mingling outdoors, some people had to say their farewells and start heading home. The rest of the group continued to a lounge downtown with a fantastic view of the city. It was a place that I had never been to before, so it was interesting to take a look at something new.

Usakumya of a Darker Shade
One of the less-animated party attendees. I just love taking pictures of usakumya~
I couldn’t stay much longer after that, so I said my goodbyes and headed home. It was lots of fun, though, and I hope the birthday girl and the other guests had as much of a fun time as I did~

Meetup Report: Dolls and Flowers

Meetup Report: Dolls and Flowers

I own a few ball-jointed dolls, but as much as I enjoy them I’m not necessarily as involved as some other doll owners. I’ve only been to a handful of doll-related meetups, and oftentimes when I’ve contemplating attending one I discover that it conflicts with a lolita meetup–and that’s something I’d much rather attend. I don’t often talk about my dolls, but sometimes dolls come up as topics of conversation at lolita events and then I realize that my friends also own dolls.

The last time this happened someone suggested we should have a combination doll and lolita fashion meetup, so at the beginning of July those interested arranged a meetup. The original plans involved the Garfield Park Conservatory, because it’s a wonderful place for a leisurely and beautiful meetup. The greenhouses are filled with lovely plants, and there’s a hall with tables where you can sit and chat or enjoy a snack. The conservatory is very easily accessible via public transportation.

A View from the Monet Garden
I didn’t take many flower pictures, but this was a view out onto the Monet Garden. It was lovely to see so much in bloom.
And then, on June 30th, a catastrophic hailstorm destroyed most of the greenhouses. Nearly half of the glass panes in the conservatory were shattered. Trying to cope with the damage, the greenhouse was closed with no announced reopening date. I thought we’d have to reschedule to another location, but just before the meetup the conservatory announced that it would be open again–to a limited degree. Repairing the damage is a very time-consuming process. Shattered glass has to be carefully removed from the plants, hoping to salvage as many of them as possible. The conservatory contained some very important and old plants, and some perished during the storm, so keeping those that can be saved is taken very seriously.

The Fern Room, Show House, Desert House, and Aroid House were closed when we visited, and they still don’t have an announced reopen date. We met in the Horticulture Hall, which was open, but it was only accessible from the outside through the outdoor gardens, as it is connected to the closed Show House. Areas of the Bluestone Terrace and City Garden are also closed. We didn’t stray far from the Monet Garden and Horticulture Hall.

Hearing about the damage to the conservatory was shocking, but seeing it was even more heart-wrenching. The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of those things that I count on to be there. It provides a beautiful service to the city–a free place for people to experience lovely plants. I’ve tried to help out by donating what I can, and I’m hoping that others donate their time and money to restore the conservatory. It will take a long time, but hopefully not too long if people really care.

At the Fountain
Obviously I’m not in this picture because I was the one taking it, but I love this beautiful tiled fountain.
The meetup itself was fun and relaxing~ The Horticulture Hall was nearly empty, so there was plenty of table space and chairs for everyone. I really enjoyed getting to see my friends’ dolls and discussing related interests. There were quite a few ball-jointed dolls in attendance, but also several Blythes, which I find fascinating~ I think it’s so much fun to pull the cord and change her eye colours. Her overall design doesn’t quite appeal to me, but I still think she’s a neat type of doll.

Pile O'Blythe
All of these are one girl’s Blythes! And this is only a teeny-tiny piece of her total doll empire.
Even though there were only a few of us who brought ball-jointed dolls, there was quite a bit of variety. I brought my two, a Volks SD and Volks MSD. Another friend brought a tiny Pipos cat and two Rosette Doll girls. A tiny Leekeworld girl in an adorable dress joined soon, as well as a Dikadoll elf girl.

I was really thrilled to see Rosette Doll girls again~ I remember my first doll, a Violet, very fondly. ♥ Sometimes I’ve even pondered the possibility of someday owning another Violet; I truly think she’s a lovely doll. Seeing a friend’s Armeria and Camellia was lots of fun~ They’re both so sweet. I still adore the crazy proportions of the über-lanky Rosette bodies.

Mediocre Group Shot
A pile of dolls dominated one of the tables. I thought they all looked very cute together, even with differences in sizes and styles.
I really enjoyed getting together with my friends and their dolls, and I know there were other interested lolita who couldn’t join us on that day. I hope that we have more events like this so that everyone can have an opportunity to come. It’s always fun to see what hobbies and interests I share with my friends~

Meetup Report: Among the Stars

Meetup Report: Among the Stars

At the end of July I was fortunate enough to attend a wonderfully-arranged meetup at the Adler Planetarium~ I really like space and astronomy, but I had actually never been to the planetarium before even though I’ve lived in this area my entire life. When a meetup was proposed I was very excited by the idea, and I was thrilled that the day not only lived up to, but exceeded my expectations and hopes~

Luckily, I knew about the event early enough in advance that I was able to take the day off. My husband already had that day available, so we headed out together. The original plans for the gathering requested that everyone wear something space-themed. I don’t really own anything that really fits that description, so I opted for one of my favourites–Jewelry Jelly, because there are a few star-shaped jellies. I wore star-shaped jewelry and a fuzzy star hair accessory to emphasize the star theme a bit more.

Most of my friends had really lovely coordinations. It was evident that a lot of care and planning had gone into outfits that fit the day’s theme. Three girls even had the same star-covered Angelic Pretty jumperskirt, each in a different colourway and coordinated for a different look. It’s always fun to see how the same dress can look with different accessories~ ♥ Another friend of mine sewed a dress from nebula-printed fabric–it looked great and was definitely space-tastic!

By the Astrolabes
The lighting was very difficult–it’s a trend with museums, generally–but I still wanted to get some images that at least conveyed some of the impressions of being there with the group.
When we got to the planetarium I realized that I wasn’t sure where the group was meeting. It was easy to find out where, though–I simply asked the closest security guard if he had seen other people “dressed like this” and which way they had gone. I followed his instructions until I reached the next security guard, and continued from there. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of the fashion looking so unusual to others–group tracking! I spotted everyone else waiting in a classroom off one of the hallways. We sat and chatted for a while as we waited for other attendees to catch up; there had been particularly difficult traffic in certain areas, so quite a few people were running late.

When we had all assembled, we received our badges and started exploring the museum. I was fascinated, because it was all new to me, although most of the information wasn’t anything particularly shocking. There were a lot of neat interactive demonstrations or features, like a machine that made craters in a powdery surface that accompanied information about craters on the moon. Most of them were obviously geared towards children, but that didn’t make them less amusing.

While in an exhibit about historical astronomy and astronomical tools, I wandered away from the group a bit and discovered a representation of a medieval astronomy classroom, complete with robes for teachers and students. I quickly donned one and positioned myself in the professor’s chair, attempting to look like I was giving a lecture. When the rest of the group came around the corner they found the scene very amusing~ I love little things like that. There was also a display where you were an Assyrian king trying to make predictions about your potential for assassination based on the phases of the moon and positioning of Venus.

Astronomy Professor Alice
I was given instructions to “look stoic” and tried my best!
We wandered through nearly all of the exhibits before heading to the newly-rennovated Grainger Sky Theatre to see the show Deep Space Adventure. The show was at full capacity, so the staff seated our group first so that we’d be able to stay together. I appreciated that, as it might have otherwise been difficult to find everyone again afterward. The show was very beautiful, and the new theatre reminded me of seeing IMAX scientific shows on school field trips, something I always enjoyed.

When we regrouped after the show was over, it was time for tea. When the organizer had called about group information for the planetarium, she discovered that the location offered afternoon tea (mistakenly called “high tea” as nearly every place does…) for groups at a reasonable cost. When she asked the rest of the community about their interest in having tea at the planetarium, the majority of us said yes. As a whole, the lolita in my area seem to have a weakness for formal tea services. (I’m certainly not complaining, for I do, too!)

Teatime at the Planetarium (Savories)
The tray of sandwiches and baked goods that began the tea service was very nicely arranged on the small tables. I think tea trays can make almost anything look more elegant.
The tea service at the planetarium was fairly nice~ It wasn’t anything mind-blowing, but it was still fun and quite tasty. It began with an assortment of sandwiches, scones, and muffins. When that course was finished they brought out small desserts–squares of layered cookie bars and cookies. The tea was bagged tea from a decent company, with coffee as an option for those who didn’t care for tea. I think most of us were just happy to having something to eat while sitting in a room with a gorgeous view of the skyline.

The cafeteria area, where the tea was served in a roped-off section, jutted out into Lake Michigan and faced the skyline. The walls were glass, with shades that filtered out some of the light without interfering too much with the view. The day was very clear, so the effect was really lovely. There were even large stationary binoculars that you could use to get a closer look at the sights beyond the windows.

Before sitting down to tea we took some group pictures outside. The sun was too bright for me, so as soon as someone suggested it I donned my sunglasses. Everyone soon opted to salute–if only because it shielded your eyes from the glare! (It seems like this is becoming a local trend. I wasn’t at the large meetup this past weekend, but the pictures I’ve seen show lots of saluting even though everyone is indoors.)

Frilly Starry Spacey Group
It was amazing to have such nice turnout for this! I love getting to see everyone~
I can’t wait to see everyone again at the next event~ I always love things like this. Museums are pricey, so we don’t often opt to go to them, but I think I enjoy exploring them more this way–with frilly friends! ♥

Meetup Report: Formal Tea

Meetup Report: Formal Tea

Whoops! It’s been a while~ My school and my job appear to have been conspiring to keep me quite busy, and whenever I have some free time I cannot put down Pokémon White! (I’ve literally spent hours wandering around Route 6 trying to catch Emolga. I haven’t even seen one. My husband thought I was being overdramatic until he tried to help me. After fighting the tenth Audino, he exclaimed, “Alice, what have you done to piss off Emolga?!?!” I’ve logged seven more hours of gameplay than he has, most of those hunting for that flying electric squirrel.)

I’m sure it’s already very apparent that I looooooove tea. I don’t just like buying and drinking tea, but I also like going to other locations to partake of tea–particularly afternoon tea. (Afternoon tea is often called “high tea,” which is incorrect. High tea is an early dinner with meats, cheeses, and breads. Afternoon tea is an late snack with daintier fare and pastries.) I particularly enjoy afternoon tea at fancy hotels. They have such wonderful ambiance; I adore the beautiful settings and china. There are several hotels in the city that offer afternoon tea, all for roughly the same cost, and this time I opted for The Drake.

Flowers
The enormous bouquet at the hotel’s entrance was so beautiful that I thought it had to be fake until I saw someone water it and trim off a few wilting blossoms!

The lolita community in my area tends to prefer long meetups–rarely does anyone really want to say goodbye. The reservation was made for the earliest available time; it wasn’t a very “authentic” time for afternoon tea, but it gave us the most time to sit around, chit-chat, and enjoy each other’s company. (We probably would have stayed even longer if the hotel hadn’t needed that area for another large party.)

Everyone assembled right on time~ Several girls came into the city from suburbs or other more distant areas, so they were early thanks to the train schedule. I was quite happy that no-one was lost on their way to the hotel! I tried to arrive early, but I was actually one of the later guests to arrive. I didn’t even realize it until someone came and told me, as I had been waiting by the door so I could spot people coming in from outside, while those who were already there were waiting in the lobby.

One of the things I particularly enjoy about the Drake is that they have a large complimentary coat check situated conveniently near their Palm Court, where the tea is served. It was so much nicer to have everyone’s heavy winter things and large bags checked rather than piled up at the table with us. (Especially for me–I move around too much and I’m always knocking my coat off the back of my chair and onto the floor! It’s safer when kept out of my way.)

Teacups and More
I like the china at the Drake–the design is very classic.

Everyone ordered their tea individually, and thankfully the list of available teas was long enough to allow everyone a choice of something they’d prefer. I chose Pear Caramel, which I really enjoyed~ It had a strong pear taste with a smooth sweet note of the caramel, backed by a rich black tea blend. It thought it went quite nicely with scones and desserts, and it wasn’t overpowering with the savory sandwiches.

Food Service
I think tea-trays are so pretty and elegant! If I had more kitchen storage I would own one for my own use.

The full service consisted of scones and banana bread on the bottom tier, a selection of tea sandwiches on the middle, and an assortment of miniature desserts on the top. The sandwiches were very good–I particularly enjoyed the pear and watercress with bleu cheese mousse even though I normally dislike bleu cheese. I also rather like that the Drake doesn’t only serve scones, but also fruit bread. The miniature desserts were adorable–there were miniature tarts, cheesecakes, cakes, and (my favourite) cream puff swans~ ♥

There was plenty of food, which I was thankful for. Afternoon tea is supposed to prevent that “sinking feeling,” not make you wish you had something else to snack on. (Aaaaaand I was able to sneak a few more abandoned desserts and scones after everyone left the table to take pictures. Waste not want not, right?) One member of the party arrived after we had already been served, and our waiter re-appeared shortly with another plate of offerings so that she would have the full menu of options. I thought that was very good service.

The Crowd
I wish this hadn’t been so blurry, but my camera doesn’t respond well to low light. It’s very old and quite finicky.

As the tea came to a conclusion, most of the group went into the lobby to take pictures. I didn’t get to take many pictures of everyone at this point–I stayed at the table because I was paying the bill; I didn’t want the hotel to think I had disappeared. I did hop over after settling, but I was too distracted talking to people I hadn’t sat near to really be that interested in pictures.

Soon it was time to part ways. Several girls headed out to catch their trains back home or hurry off to meet other obligations. I originally planned to head home, but I was having a nice time with everyone. A group decided to go to a vintage fair in a different part of the city, and I was easily persuaded when I realized it was near an ice-cream shop that I adore. (I’m unable to resist the siren’s song of sweets…even if I’ve just had some. u_u)

Ghost of Lolita
I thought this picture was very neat–it’s a reflection in the train’s window.

So we hopped onto the bus (after giving brief directions to others who would be meeting us via car) and headed over. It’s always amusing to travel on public transportation with several lolita. Everyone on the bus was very confused, and everyone on the L was very suspicious. No-one was brave enough to talk to us on that trip, not even to ask if we were in a play or crack a “Little Bo Peep” comment.

At the Market
It was fun to browse through everything at the market, even though I don’t know much about vintage and wasn’t really looking for anything in particular.

The vintage fair was upstairs in a large area above a furniture store. It was filled with lots of different people selling clothing and accessories. One of my friends knows some of the sellers, so she had suggested that we stop by. Most of the sellers were in awe of seeing a bunch of girls all dressed up like we were, and lots of cameras were brandished and pictures snapped. It was fun~

I spent some time running up and down the stairs to try and find the others that were driving to the area. When I finally headed back upstairs with them and was looking around again, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder. She told me that she had seen me around and followed me “like the white rabbit” into the sale. I always think it is neat when random people comment that they have seen me elsewhere in the city. I’m sure it’s kinda confusing to see me once, but I wonder what they think when they notice that the girl in weird clothing wasn’t a one-time occurrence.

Science Ice Cream in Action
This is a shot of the mixers as they prepare the ice cream! The billowing fog is from the liquid nitrogen.

When we were done with the vintage sale, we headed over to iCream. It is an ice cream shop that makes your ice cream from scratch while you wait. When you order, you select the type of milk you want used, pick your flavour(s), colour, and any mix-ins or toppings. Then, the liquid mixture is added to a standing mixer that automatically dispenses a quantity of liquid nitrogen to insta-freeze the milk into ice cream. I like to call it “science ice cream,” and I think it is amazingly fun to watch!

Everyone who ordered chose a very interesting and personalized combination of flavours and colours. I’m predictable and unimaginative, so mine was pink cake ice cream topped with rainbow sprinkles~ ♥ It was wonderful. I’ve tried quite a few combinations at their shop, and I think some of the flavours are not very accurate,
but the cake flavour really does taste like cake. Mmm, cake~ ♥

Lolita Take Over iCream
The front of the shop was very full of lolita trying crazy ice cream. (There were other people behind the girl with my camera–there were maybe ten in our group, total.)

After that it was getting late and time to head home. I was really sleepy when I got back to my house, but I was also very happy to enjoy such a wonderful day. I’m hoping to organize another formal tea later in the year–maybe it will be even better!

Meetup Report: Hearts All Around

Meetup Report: Hearts All Around

The weekend after Valentine’s Day, I attended a themed party~ I was very excited about this, because I really love Valentine’s Day not just as a time for romance but as a reason to remind friends that you care. A friend of mine felt similarly, so she decided to host a meetup with that theme. I really wanted to attend, so I cleared my calendar and made travel plans.

Although generally I love being a city-dweller, this becomes an issue very quickly if I would like to actually leave my city. I don’t own a car or have one nearby to borrow. (And car-sharing services are not quite in my budget for meetups–most are $10 per hour on weekends or $80 for the entire day…a fee I’d rather avoid.) There are commuter trains that run to most suburbs, but the schedule is entirely dependent on which station you’re arriving at. I also have to travel to the downtown hub to take these trains, and that is sometimes a long trip in and of itself. Also, the stations are usually centered in the downtown area of the various suburbs, which are often not near where the meetup is actually going on–and it usually isn’t a walkable distance. This time it worked out well because my friend was kind enough to pick me up from the station.

Pink Candy Table
The table in the living room was originally decorated very carefully with candy, but soon was overrun with sweets, ponies, and magazines.

I arrived early, planning to help set up, but everything was almost perfect when I arrived! It was clear that the hostess was very excited and enthusiastic about her party. Everything in her home was decorated with hearts, red, pink, and candies. It didn’t take long for guests to start arriving, and soon the house will filled with cheerful lolita and the myriad of dishes they brought with them. We started to get creative to figure out where to put everything!

Table Filled with Treats
In my area, we are big fans of potluck-type events. It’s just so convenient!

I had brought tea, but didn’t realize until I was at her house that she didn’t own a teapot bigger than a one-person serving, so the tea-making had to be done on a case-by-case basis. I was thankful that most people were in the mood for water or soda instead~

The hostess had invited a photographer to the event. He was interested in photographing lolita fashion and wanted to know more about it, so he arranged with my friend to take pictures for free to learn more. He set up his equipment outside, and during the course of the party guests had the opportunity to have their picture taken. It was kinda fun, but the reflector was blindingly bright! I make a terrible model–I never know how to pose and I blink constantly–but he took some really lovely photos of my friends.

More Sweet Outfits
Everyone tried to have at least a little bit of pink or red in her outfit, to keep with the theme!

I really love meetups of any kind where I have plenty of opportunity to talk to everyone~ I get very excited to see my friends, and I love to meet new girls as well! There always seems to be someone who has just gathered the courage to attend their first meetup or recently discovered the fashion and didn’t even know there was a local community until just now!

Party in Progress
These two girls were very sweet! I enjoyed meeting so many new faces~

I cannot stress enough how much I love my local community. I know that not every lolita feels the same about the other lolita in her area, but I really enjoy spending time with everyone that I’ve met here. ♥ They’re all very sweet people.

COLOURING
Sometimes I think there must be something slightly irresistable about crayon fumes, because even people who start off saying, “Pssh, colouring? No way!” wind up taking a chance at proving their crayon-based artistry.

We mostly talked and got to know each other at the party. There were quite a few people who didn’t know each other. I felt particularly out of the loop because there were several girls who lived in the suburbs and only attend meetups in the suburbs, so I hadn’t met them before because I rarely get the chance to leave the city. I hope that I can make it to more meetups where I will see them again~ (And maybe they’ll come to the city once in a while!)

Unicorn Bonding Time
This is my half-crazed “OH MY GOODNESS IT’S A CUDDLY UNICORN” face.

Besides meeting other lolita, I also met the prince of my dreams–Bubbles the unicorn. He belongs to a friend, and ever since I saw the unicorn in pictures I knew that I wanted to love it and cuddle it and keep it forever. I can’t obviously do that, because it doesn’t belong to me, but she was kind enough to bring him to the party and let me carry her plush purse around. I could not get enough of that unicorn–probably pretty obvious, since I keep talking about it. Unicorn of awesomeness.

Eventually everyone started playing Rock Band and decided to order pizza, but I couldn’t stay quite that long–the trains back into the city only ran every two hours. (I worked the next day, so I didn’t want to be out very late.) Although I did miss out on some of the fun, I’m sure, I really enjoyed the time that I spent with everyone!

Quality Plush Time
I love taking pictures of plush animals–they’re so cute~

In fact, my usakumya friend, Rose, had so much fun that she stayed at the party without me! Too bad she couldn’t catch the train home on her own!

Meetup Report: Parade in Chinatown

Meetup Report: Parade in Chinatown

I’ve made an effort to attend the Chinese New Year parade for several years now. It’s always bone-chillingly cold, most of the floats are sponsored by various political representatives, and the crowds can be overwhelming, but I still really like it. When another lolita posted about arranging a meetup for the parade, I was very excited! Plans were made to gather in Chinatown, watch the parade, head to a restaurant, and maybe do some shopping in the area.

We started gathering together about a half-hour or so before the parade. I arrived as early as I could manage, so that I could spot anyone who might be lost. On my way to the meeting spot, a car that was waiting in line to park in one of the lots rolled down the windows, and the passengers waved and called out to me. Normally that sort of behaviour is the sort of thing I ignore, but I noticed that although I didn’t recognize the occupants it seemed that at least one of them was wearing a headdress. I wound up meeting both of those girls later, when they finally found the group after parking their car.

First Arrivals
I was glad that I asked the photographer to take a picture for me–he really got a nice and clear image, even though my camera isn’t the best.

I stood in the snow for a while, and found out that I can actually knit while wearing gloves if I am determined enough. I put that aside when the first attendees arrived. While we talked, a gentleman with an unusual camera came over and started to take pictures, sprawling himself into all sorts of crazy poses and making comments like, “Beautiful, girls–fantastic!” as if he were conducting a photoshoot. He was nice enough to take a picture using my camera, too. (I think that’s only fair, considering that we let him take pictures of us.)

Slowly more and more lolita arrived. The original organizer was unable to make it to the event, so I kept track of everyone on a checklist. A surprising number of people braved the cold to watch the parade! It made me very happy–sometimes I’ve been the only person willing to stick it out, while everyone else seeks shelter in a warmer shop or café.

Pink & Black Together
I had to have someone take a picture of me with one of my favourite-est people ever! 😀

I tried to get pictures of everyone, but as the time for the parade to begin drew closer and closer the sidewalk became more and more crowded. It wasn’t worth it to lose our viewing space right at the front.

J-Squared
Two lovely ladies looking warm and stylish!

One of the things that I particularly enjoy about outdoor winter meetups is seeing how everyone has coordinated themselves. It’s one thing to put together a nice outfit, but another thing to then make that same outfit suitable for several hours standing in the snow. Not everyone owns a specifically “lolita” coat, but everyone still wants to look her best. It was clear that everyone attempted to match accessories, boots, and more without sacrificing utility. Being pretty can be lots of fun, but frostbite is not.

Parade Intenseness
I tried to snap a few pictures of everyone in-between floats and marchers.

Even with all of the layers, coats, thick socks, scarves, boots, and hats, we were very chilly. After a while even the feet of those with the thickest socks and warmest boots were cold enough to be painful, and everyone joked about how what a relief it would be when our feet finally went numb and we wouldn’t notice anymore. Even though it was a joke, it was also very true.

Parade Watching Lolita
The parasol actually came in handy, which we found very amusing. She was significantly less snow-covered and wet than the rest of us!

I took so many pictures of the parade itself that it would be overwhelming just to pick a few to share here. I have a whole set on Flickr featuring the parade. There were floats from local businesses, groups representing current politicians and political hopefuls, several groups of adorable small children from nearby schools, a few marching bands, and even the the Shannon Rovers, despite there being nothing Irish about the parade. (I’m not complaining, though–I love bagpipes!)

When the parade was ended, we slipped in behind the final group and headed towards the St. Alps Teahouse. Some onlookers believed that we were part of the parade! A few girls, unable to withstand the cold, had headed to the café ahead of the rest of us. They had already gotten a table for a large group, but more lolita had joined us during the course of the parade. It was a bit confusing to get a seat for everyone–particularly because more girls kept arriving once we had reached our destination. The teahouse was very accommodating, but I think that if we go back as a group, I’ll make a reservation. It took a little while to get everyone’s orders and figure out how the checks would be drawn up.

Good Luck Dragon Visit
At first some of the members of our group thought the lion was going to use the restroom.

I was very excited when the restaurant was visited by a lion! After the parade, the lions visit the businesses in Chinatown. Each business feeds the lion oranges and lettuce, which it accepts and then throws the greens around the shop. (They’re supposed to be arranged in the shape of an auspicious character, but I haven’t really seen that level of detail.) This is supposed to bring good luck to the business for the upcoming year~ It’s lots of fun to watch–drummers signal the arrival of the lion, it dances around until it is led to the offerings, and then everyone cheers when it accepts them. I have called these beasts dragons, but I know it’s actually a lion–I just can’t shake the impression of it being a dragon!

When we finally parted ways after bubble teas, milk teas, and other fancy beverages were had. (I also ordered “classic toast,” which I love. It’s essentially a very thick piece of toast that is buttered and topped with condensed milk. They offer many types of this toast, but I prefer the condensed milk.) I stopped at a bakery to bring home some cake. My husband had to work and was unable to attend the parade with us, and I thought that delicious cake might be a nice gesture.

Winter Wonderland
Everything looked so beautiful that evening. A fresh layer of snow makes everything prettier~

When I arrived at home the snow had stopped and the sun was setting. After having such a fun time with friends and new friends-to-be, everything seemed very peaceful and lovely~ ♥

Meetup Report: Gingerbread Time

Meetup Report: Gingerbread Time

In early December I hosted a meetup at my house–a gingerbread cookie party! I did this last year and had so much fun that I couldn’t wait to do it again! I’m hoping to make this a yearly tradition~ I really adore Christmastime–the coloured lights, the carols, the snow, all the decorations. Most of all, I like spending quality time with my friends and family. Decorating together, baking together, watching holiday movies–these holiday activities seem more fulfilling than things I normally do with loved ones. (I suspect that maybe everyone makes more of an effort during this time of year.) A gingerbread party is a nice way to enjoy the holiday cheer with my friends.

To prepare for the party I mixed up two batches of gingerbread dough. My recipe is from Baking Illustrated. (I LOVE America’s Test Kitchen, in general, so I jumped on the chance to buy their baking cookbook when I spotted it at a local bookstore a few years ago. Every recipe is accompanied by a small essay that warns of common mistakes and details the process of writing the recipe. I love the way it’s set up!)

As people arrived we filled the kitchen table with cookie cutters and decorating supplies. I provided the gingerbread and tea, as outlined in my original event invitation, but I asked guests to bring frosting, sprinkles, or other treats to use for the cookies. It worked out wonderfully–we had such an amazing variety, just because we all live near different stores. A few friends even ran a quick errand to buy more when they remembered something they had hoped to bring. (It’s a good thing I live near a craft store and several grocery stores~)

Decorationating
For decorating, I lifted the parchment paper off the cookie sheet and laid it on the kitchen table. There wasn’t much space, but we all made the best of it!

I was very amused to see that we all brought aerosol frosting. I purchased some because I think it’s easier to use the cans of decorating frosting with the screw-on fancy tips than it is to manage several pastry bags of frosting. They stand upright, they don’t drip, and changing the tip is fairly simple. The flavor is also pretty good–not the best frosting ever but still quite good.

I started some tea (as that’s a staple of anything I organize) and we got to work cutting out the first few batches of dough. There were lots of shapes to choose from, and we all worked carefully to fit as many cookies on each sheet as we possibly could. The only gingerbread man cookie cutter that I have is unfortunately large, so we made mostly other holiday shapes like snowflakes or rocking horses. As the day went on, however, we started making more and more gingerbread men–they use up more dough! It was a good move when everyone started winding down and there weren’t as many people vying for a spot to decorate.

Frostinating
We had lots and lots of frosting and sprinkles! There was so much to choose from! I liked seeing everyone’s designs~ (And making a few of my own, of course.)

When the party started, most guests expressed concerns about their decorating ability…but one of the nicest parts of a party like this is that it isn’t a contest. It doesn’t matter who has “the best cookie” or “the best skills.” No one pokes fun at another person’s cookie design. When you’re no longer a small child, there can be lots of pressures to have “the best one” or assumptions that getting older magically makes you better at activities you don’t do often. Cookie decorating is something that only gets better with practice. If you don’t do it well, the only way to improve is to keep trying!

Besides, even cookies with frosting that might have looked lopsided or lumpy tasted just as delicious as the most perfectly-decorated treat~

Cookie Aftermath
Finished cookies were lined up to be eaten by others. At first people were afraid to eat others’ designs, but after a while it became clear that the decorators didn’t mind.

Anyone who wasn’t in the kitchen around the table sat in the other room near the tree. I tried to keep a constant supply of tea, but sometimes it was a bit too crowded from cookie-ing for me to start up a new pot the moment we ran out. The morning of the party I paid a stop to one of my favourite tea shops and bought some new varieties to serve. We tried a warm cinnamon-almond blend of rooibos, a blend of black and green teas that smells like apple pie, an elderflower white tea, and tea that both promised to taste like a banana-chocolate crêpe and actually tasted like one! It gave me a wonderful excuse to purchase all sorts of new teas that don’t fit into my poor tea drawer and have to live on in a bag on the counter until I can make more space.

Cookie Collage!
My husband kept taking pictures of individual cookies, to better highlight the talents of our friends, so I tried to combine them into a collage. Everything was very colourful!

By the time the sun was setting only a few undecorated cookies remained. We relaxed in the other room, talking about the holidays under the very, very bright glow of my LED-lit Christmas tree. I’ve been doing quite a bit of knitting lately, so I had suggested to my friends that they could bring knitting projects as well. It’s fun to knit with others when there’s plenty of tea and good conversation. When I originally started knitting I never could have imagined that I’d make friends who would also knit–it’s hard to shake the thoughts of knitting being “for old ladies.” (Then again, most of the things I like are “for old ladies.” I must be getting lots of practice in for when I’m honestly old.)

It was a lovely way to spend the day~ I was sad to see everyone go even though it was quite late when we finally saw everyone off. I didn’t even mind that I had gingerbread to eat for a week afterward, despite sending everyone home with some cookies! I’m very excited to do this again next year~ ♥

Meetup Report: Pony Overload

Meetup Report: Pony Overload

In mid-August, I arranged for a friend who was developing an interest in My Little Pony to visit my mother’s house and see my collection. I have many ponies–it isn’t an exaggeration. However, I know there are collectors with collections even more vast–particularly because there were hundreds, if not thousands, of unique ponies produced in the first generation of toys. I only collect the third generation, which is much more condensed. She also focuses on that generation, so I was very excited to be able to share my madness with someone who didn’t think it was quite so crazy.

We planned for having tea, baking something sweet, watching My Little Pony: the Movie and perhaps some of the more recent films, picking up lunch, working on some pony-related craft projects, and shuffling through my collection. We didn’t quite get as much done as we originally expected because we had to run an important errand–picking up the guinea pig from the vet post-operation. The receptionist and other owners certainly didn’t know what to make of the two fluffy pink girls in their waiting room!

Post-Operation Pig
I already used this picture, but nothing better expresses his disagreement with whatever happened to him in the unfamiliar place. He was very glad to be at home with hay, pellets, basil, and treats instead of force-fed critical care.

After we collected our disgruntled charge and set him up to relax at home, we headed out for lunch. We stopped at the Japanese market and selected some sushi to take home. I really love sushi of all varieties, and growing up near a Japanese market with relatively inexpensive sushi really spoiled me! Now that I live in the city and can’t go to that market on a regular basis, I buy sushi elsewhere (usually for much higher prices) and expect it to be as good. I’m usually disappointed–so whenever I’m in town I always want to stop in.

We also peeked around in the bookstore. When I attended Bon festival in early August, the bookstore had just gotten a Rilakkuma-themed scratchcard game. Each scratchcard was $5, and every card was guaranteed a prize–at least a set of wash
cloths. Two giant plush were the grand prizes–one Rilakkuma and one Korilakkuma. I won a set of wash cloths and a pink mug that first day. When I visited with my friend, she bought us each scratch tickets–and I won another mug, this time in green! I’ve had to keep away from the bookstore since then because the scratch game is addicting. I’m not even hoping for the grand prize, but I do like mugs~

Ponies Ponies Ponies
I keep the ponies on two bookcases side-by-side, and a narrow bookcase between the closet doors. This isn’t enough room for every pony–there are more tucked away in storage bins.

Back from our adventure, we set up a picnic on the floor of the living room (the only room with a VHS player) and watched My Little Pony: the Movie. This was one of my favorite movies when I was a child, and the VHS I own is the one I always watched! The story is as can be expected from the My Little Pony brand–Ponyland is threatened by something and various ponies (plus Megan, Danny, and Molly) have to try and save it. The animation isn’t fantastic, but it’s very nostalgic! (Besides, I really like the little songs, even the terrible ones!)

Styling Times Again
Some of my favourite ponies are the very large “Styling” ponies. They’re mega-sized ponies, which I find fascinating! I wish they’d release more of these huge ponies~

After the movie, which thankfully isn’t very long, we headed upstairs. I’m sure my family would prefer to put the room to better use now that I no longer live at home, but currently the bedroom that was mine is still a shrine to all things pink, cheerful, glittery, and frilly. Until I am able to bring my pony collection to where I currently live I don’t really have any other option! It’s not necessarily the easiest thing to store.

It was a lot of fun to look through the different ponies on display. We even started sorting through the closets, which contain even more ponies–some in storage bins and some still in the original packaging. I rarely do anything halfway–if I’m passionate about something, I’m completely devoted to the cause. These piles of brightly-coloured vinyl horses are a testament to that! (And, in a similar way, so is my closet filled with ruffles and lace!)

Pinkie Pie Army
Regardless of generation, I collect Pinkie Pie. I try to keep those ponies clustered together, partially because I like seeing that much pink all in one space and partially because otherwise I tend to forget which ones I don’t have yet and buy duplicates!

By the end of the day we were going through negotiations–the room was like a stock exchange, if stocks were instead small toys. Loose ponies, boxed ponies, multi-packaged ponies–everywhere! It was absolutely ridiculous, but also so much fun~ ★ I’m really glad to know someone I can share my excitement with. I have many friends that share my interest in lolita fashion, some that enjoy the same sort of music that I do, others who are also fond of baking, yet more who like ball-jointed dolls, and still more who enjoy other little things that I’m fascinated with–but until very recently, I didn’t have a friend who was also interested in My Little Pony. I’m thrilled that I do now!

Smart Car Love
I had so much fun posing for this picture. I love my mother’s SMART. Whenever I’m visiting I drive it as much as possible.

When we finally parted ways it was quite late, but I think we were both in high spirits. I’m looking forward to having more fun in the future–particularly with the new television show debuting on October 10th! We’ve been joking about having a season premiere party, and maybe we will. If only the 10th wasn’t a Sunday!

Meetup Report: Mega-Meetup

Meetup Report: Mega-Meetup

On July 24th, I attended had a massive picnic meetup in the heart of the city. It was heavily advertised in the Chicago-area communities and those of Wisconsin, so the turnout was really amazing! So many people were there; it was astounding! I saw lots of friends, including some I hadn’t seen in quite a while, and saw a few new faces, too~ ♥ I spent quite a bit of time fending off public park officials who seemed certain that we were some kind of group likely to start performing or somehow otherwise disobeying park rules just because there were so many girls dressed oddly gathered in one place.

We met at Millennium Park, near the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka: the bean), where we briefly introduced each other with our names and locations. After assessing that most of the group had arrived, we then headed across the street to a more secluded area for the actual picnic. It was nice to be out of the sun, as that weekend was one of the hottest weekends of the summer, and even nicer to be away from prying eyes. Everyone spread out their picnic blankets on the grass like a giant quilt, then started to arrange everyone’s dishes.

picnic
There were so many people, it was like looking at a see of fluff and colour!

I had a lot of fun wandering around and trying to talk to everyone. There were brief introductions before heading to the picnic area, but I didn’t really managed to remember most of it. I’m really terrible with names, so I knew I’d never learn over thirty people’s names just from hearing it once. It was almost overwhelming to see so many people, though! I couldn’t keep track! I know there are at least a few people that I didn’t talk to for at least a few minutes, but I tried.

I was really surprised to talk to a very sweet young lady who recognized me from my blog! XD That was incredibly amusing–I never expect anyone to actually read this, particularly not those I don’t know personally. It was a very pleasant surprise! (And I hope to see her again at more meetups, too! ♥)

picnic
Near the picnic blankets some girls stood and talked, enjoying the shade of the trees.

I was very excited to reconnect with some lolita I hadn’t seen in a while. Meetup times and locations don’t always work for absolutely everyone in the area (and I think this meetup showed that there are really quite a lot of people interested in the fashion in the area!), so sometimes it will be months at a time before schedules mesh correctly again. (It also doesn’t help that I miss all of the Sunday events! Le sigh…)

However, there were also a few girls from Wisconsin, Michigan, and I think even Indiana who took the time to travel. Having an opportunity to spend some time with long-distance friends is always exciting. I don’t ever get the chance to do much traveling myself, so I have to wait for people to maybe-perhaps head towards me and hope they have some time to spare.

Journey to the Milky Planet
Helena (of 黒ピンク) is always the most elaborately-dressed person I know. Everyone wanted to “ooh” and “aah” over her beautiful Milky★Planet jumperskirt.

The only unpleasant part of the picnic involved some rude photographers. A large group of them came upon our picnic and began taking pictures without speaking to anyone or asking anyone’s permission. I only noticed one picture-taker at first, and initially thought that he was invited by someone at the meetup, but soon there was a swarm. It made everyone very uncomfortable. It felt very dehumanizing. It isn’t legally necessary for photographers to ask for permission when in public places, but honestly it’s simply rude. I wish I knew what group it was, because I’d certainly like to chide their behavior.

Beyond the uninvited camera-toting group, there was an “officially sanctioned” videographer at the event. I spent some time talking to the camera crew that attended the meetup. I had thought at first that they might be from a local newspaper, but I thought one of the girls looked very familiar. It turns out that she worked on a documentary on lolita for a school assignment (“Lolita in Translation“) that I helped out with a little over a year ago. They’re working on a follow-up and/or expanded documentary, this time not on the tight schedule and requirements of an assignment. It was neat to see them again and talk about what they’re working on now. They’re very talented, and I love the way they shape their projects. None of the people who worked on and produced the documentary had any interest in lolita fashion other than “what is this anyway?” and I think their views as outsiders helped create something that is very accessible and not heavily biased. I’m looking forward to future projects, lolita-related or not!

so much pink
Afterwards, we briefly enjoyed the air conditioning in the cultural center.

After a few rounds of lolita-themed bingo, the sky started to look a bit stormy. There had been reports that the weather might get inclement, so we headed towards shelter. The cultural center is always a nice place to take a group, as there is no admission or other fees. It’s a quiet, beautiful building…and it has air conditioning! When you’ve spent so much time in the heat and humidity, air conditioning is a beautiful, glorious thing.

At that point the group started to splinter. Some people needed to get home soon; others were making plans for dinner or other activities after the meetup. When the cultural center started to close, we headed outside and started to go separate ways. I wound up at the Melting Pot (the only place downtown that could seat a large quantity of frilly girls on a very short notice) after an ill-fated attempt to visit the Rainbow Room.

Cowbellion Rebels
I could not resist climbing up on this large cow statue! I was not the only one who felt that way.

By the time I finally got home, I was utterly exhausted–but it was so much fun! I still prefer smaller meetups, as this one was a bit overwhelming at times, but there’s something amazing about witnessing proof that so many people so close to you have the same hobby and interest. Hopefully I’ll see many of these girls, particularly those I met for the first time, at meetups that have yet to be! Otherwise, maybe they’ll come next year! The goal is to make this “mega-meetup” an annual event.

Special thanks to Jordana of Qylaar for the use of some of her pictures!