I don’t usually like to follow a photo set with another photo set, but I have many flower pictures that I’ve really wanted to share. I wish I had shared them several months earlier when I took them!
The camera that I’ve been borrowing isn’t just a basic camera body with the usually-included lens, it’s a camera owned by a friend who takes photography semi-seriously and has all sorts of gadgets and lenses. One of the lenses is a macro lens. To me, “macro lens” was like a magic word. Most of the things that I regularly like to take pictures of, like dolls, toys, and food, are well suited to macro lenses. My friend had told me that flowers were good practice as well, so I tried my best to take many, many flower pictures to try.
I’m not a fancy-schmancy photographer, but I had a lot of fun and wound up with a few pictures that I am very proud of~
I took so many pictures of flowers that I created an entire set on my Flickr: Botanic Garden Floral. I tried to weed out any that were particularly bad or unskilled, but I’m not yet at the point where I can critique my own attempts very accurately. I can only hope-hope-hope that I’ll get better with more practice!
During the meetup at the Chicago Botanic Garden I took many, many pictures using the borrowed DSLR. The sky was very overcast, but I wanted to make use of the gorgeous setting and lovely attendees as best I could. I took a lot of really terrible pictures that day, but I also took some that turned out fairly well~
I really like to take pictures of people in settings with lots of flowers or water features. Flowers and trees often provide a nice frame or general setting. They come in all sorts of colours, and greenery on its own often contrasts well with lolita outfits. Water features, like fountains and pools, seem soothing and relaxing. It’s so tranquil.
I hope that I have the opportunity to take more pictures like this on some other day–maybe before the approaching fall gets too chilly! (Although I do really want to take pictures in the snow, too. There are so many things I can take pictures of in any season!)
On a Saturday in mid-May, I went with a group to the Chicago Botanic Garden. I have always loved the gardens there–it’s a very large property with many beautiful flowers and plants. I’ve been there several times with my family, but not too frequently in recent years. When I saw that there would be a meetup at the garden I jumped at the chance to go even though it was difficult for me to get there. The garden is not terribly accessible by public transportation, unfortunately, but I was lucky enough to convince my mother to pick me up from the train station and drive me to the garden to meet my friends.
The day was very chilly and wet, but that didn’t dissuade me at all. I simply picked a dress that I thought would be less-likely to suffer any damage if I were caught in the rain (no prints that might bleed or fabric that might be water-stained) and wore my ugly black coat over it. My family hates my infamous ugly black coat, but it is decently warm and extremely waterproof, so I rely on it when the weather seems liable to downpour. As the day went on I was very glad to be wearing it, as I would have otherwise been fairly soaked from the constant mist.
The walled gardens are so lovely. They feel like they belong in a fairy tale!
After assembling in the entrance to the garden we headed out to look at the flowers. It was a nice time of year to go–most everything was blooming, but most flowers didn’t seem too wilted. We were too early for the rose garden, though~ I hope I’ll still get a chance to see it this year. ♥ Despite the chilliness, everyone was willing to soldier on and explore.
We investigated the indoor greenhouses first, because they were warmer. There were some really lovely cacti in the desert area. I always forget how pretty cacti can be. After that we looked at the beautiful bonsai displays, which are arranged in the courtyards outside of the greenhouse building. The bonsai at the garden are on rotating display, so I always see something new every time I visit.
The Japanese gardens have this little house which provides a view of the rock garden, which you are not allowed to enter.
The garden is arranged on islands, with most of the gardens on the large main island, but several surrounding islands with other gardens. We visited the Japanese garden, which was very picturesque even with the somewhat-gloomy weather. I love seeing some of the architectural elements in that garden–there are several small houses and many statues. There’s one house that overlooks the water, and it seems to be a place where demonstrations are sometimes held, but I’ve never seen any. I always hope that one of the times I go there I’ll see something happening in that house.
We wandered through the waterfall garden, another one of my favourites. Waterfalls are so interesting. It is connected to the dwarf conifer garden, which we continued through as we kept looking in the different gardens. Then we went to the walled gardens, which are my ultimate favourite~ I love the arrangement of the plants and walkways, and the use of walls and gates seems to make things more private and beautiful. I had lots of fun taking pictures of lolita in the beautiful setting. I brought the fancy DSLR that I have been borrowing, so they turned out much nicer than my point and shoot could have managed, particularly on such an overcast day.
I know that some people are unfortunately missing from this group picture, but it’s still a good representation.
I did cause a bit of trouble at one point. There was a break for lunch, which I didn’t bring or plan for, so instead I snuck off to explore a bit away from the group. I probably should have told someone, because instead it was thought that I was missing or lost~ I am sometimes too good at causing mischief…
The carillon is one of my favourite parts of the garden. Somday I’d like to see one of the concerts~
I ought to have waited and then I would have had plenty of time to explore on my own! After everyone was done looking at the beautiful plants that the garden had to offer, they decided to head to a market for dinner. I didn’t have my own car, and I had made plans to be picked up at a certain time, so I couldn’t really try to stow away with anyone else or I would have inconvenienced my mother–and it was very nice of her to agree to ferry me back and forth in the first place.
Instead, I wandered around through the vegetable garden and orchard. There wasn’t a lot of produce to see at the time, but there were a few sprouts and some beautiful lettuces. It started to rain more intensely at that time–so much that I had to put the camera away so that I wouldn’t risk it getting soaked–but that was just in the nick of time~ My chariot arrived just when it was getting too inclement to stay outside. ♥
I hope that we’ll go back to the botanic garden again. When the seasons change, everything changes there! It’s almost like an entirely new place the next time you visit.
Over the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to borrow a friend’s DSLR and experiment with it. I’ve always liked taking pictures, but I haven’t really had a flair for photography, and I had been too frightened by the settings and dials on SLR cameras to want to give one a try. However, now that I’ve used one, I love it! ♥ I’m saving up for my own, but thankfully I’ve been allowed a lot of opportunities to use the borrowed camera.
I brought it with me on International Lolita Day, the first Saturday in June, and took pictures of the tea service at Russian Tea Time. I know that there are several flaws in my pictures, but I’ve really been trying. I have a habit of making everything underexposed that I really need to get better about! It was really rainy that day, but we were seated near the front window of the restaurant, so the natural light was very nice.
Darn, now I want to go to tea again~ Every time I see these pictures it reminds me how much I love scones, tiny sandwiches, and bite-sized desserts accompanied by hot tea. Maybe I’ll bake some scones at home on my next day off~ ♥
I really enjoy celebrating International Lolita Day, both the summer and the winter versions. The concept of the day was actually created by a friend of mine, but several years before I knew her well. The summer date is the first Saturday of June, and the winter date is the first Saturday of December. The reason it occurs twice a year was to provide opportunities for both warm- and cold-weather coordinates. ♥ For a hobby based around clothing, I think that is quite fitting! It also allows for people in different hemispheres to enjoy it both ways, as well~
This year the International Lolita Day celebration was relatively small. It was on June 4, and another meetup had already been planned for June 5. I know there were also other girls who had other obligations, so in the end it wasn’t a giant and crazy celebration. I like smaller meetups so that I can talk to everyone, so it all worked out~ I brought the borrowed DSLR with me, so I had a great time taking pictures. It rained while we were in the restaurant, but magically brightened up by the time we got outside!
There were only four lolita in attendance, but we still had a great time~
Near the Art Institute there are some really beautiful gardens, one on each side. The Gardens to the South are my favourite, and the sky was providing really lovely light, so I asked if the lolita present wouldn’t mind posing for me so that I could practice taking pictures of people. I was so happy that they were all brave enough to not mind the any dampness or puddles from the storms that had raged while we enjoyed tea inside.
I think I like being behind the camera much more than I like being in front of it! I had so much fun taking pictures of everyone~ I definitely have a ways to go, in terms of photography skills, but I’m trying my best. The level of control with a DSLR really enthralls me. It takes some getting used to, but now that I have a teeny-tiny bit of an idea of what I’m doing I want to learn and practice more! I feel very lucky that my friend was willing to let me borrow such a nice camera.
I am also very happy to celebrate International Lolita Day with friends! ♥ I hope that the December date is one where I can spend time with even more lolita. It’s fun to have another excuse to get together and do something frilly. I hope that everyone else had a wonderful International Lolita Day, regardless of how you were able to celebrate it~ ♥ I wish I had been keeping up with my posts so that I could have said such a thing on a date much closer to the actual event… Maybe I’ll be more prepared next year! (Or in December!)
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~ ♥
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~
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.
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~
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.
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.
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.
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~
Lately, my interest in My Little Pony has been rekindled. I had somewhat fallen out of collecting and the communities after the G3 ponies became Core 7 and then G3.5. The reduction of characters for Core 7 meant there were less interesting pony toys to collect, although my favourite, Pinkie Pie, was still featured. When the designs changed to the large-headed G3.5 style, I stopped paying attention. It just didn’t quite appeal to me. I enjoyed the collection that I had, but without the thrill of the hunt for new ponies I stopped keeping up with news and other information.
That changed with the redesign of the toys and release of the new cartoon series, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
I was apprehensive at first. When I saw sketches of the new artwork style, designed by Lauren Faust, the only thing I noticed was how different it looked from the older artwork. It was angular and modern, not soft and dreamlike as the 80s artwork had been. In general, the My Little Pony community disliked it because it was so far from the vintage pony designs, but I couldn’t quite share their outrage. Although it lacked the charm of the old cartoon, it looked much more professional than the style of art used for the more recent My Little Pony packaging and films. My Little Pony: the Movie was one of my favourite childhood films and something I still watch, but the newer My Little Pony movies decreased in quality until the final “new” movie, Twinkle Wish Adventure, which was nearly unwatchable.
I also didn’t know what they were going to do to modernize the series. As much as I have nostalgic attachment to the My Little Pony cartoon, not every episode is great–some of them are filled with low-quality, glitchy animation, random unimpressive songs inserted in, and confusing or nonsense storylines. Even the less-impressive episodes have interesting moments, but the quality of writing had gotten substantially worse for the modern episodes and movies. More than wanting the new show to preserve the feeling of the vintage ponies, I wanted it to succeed. My Little Pony was getting dangerously close to dying out as brand altogether, and if they couldn’t revitalize it for this third recent attempt it was unlikely to continue.
So far, I’ve been thrilled with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I’ve gotten used to the new designs and don’t dislike them anymore–they have charm in their own way, even if it’s nothing like the vintage designs. The “slice of life” setup works well to keep the episodes connected. The season’s 2-part opening is amazing–very dramatic, with magic and a battle and all kinds of craziness. The rest of the show hasn’t followed that same direction, which is slightly unfortunate…but not too much, because the show as it stands is great. The writers are funny and the episode plots are interesting. The ponies have a refreshing depth of character–although they’re all good-natured and pure-hearted (they are, after all, little ponies), each have their own flaws or issues that they need to work through. They make a really cute little group of friends!
Just a few of the new toys–the smaller ponies are the “normal” size and the larger pony is a “fashion style” pony that came with clothes and accessories. I style their hair.
Enjoying the new show has caused me to also enjoy the new toys. They’re much tinier than the ponies I used to collect, and their big ears are kinda silly, but they’re still quite cute. I remember fondly that most of the toys I loved as a child were very small–if I could have several of them in one small bag or fit them in my pocket, that was very appealing. Once I got over the shock of “wow, these are tiny ponies,” I started to feel more like, “wow, I like these tiny ponies.”
I’m looking forward to seeing what new things they’ll come out with as season 2 starts up. It’s fun to have something that I can actively collect again…although I’m definitely going to start running out of room to keep all these ponies. I feel like I need a separate house just for them to live in, haha~
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.
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.
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.
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.
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~
Lately I’ve been obsessed with a dessert (or breakfast~) item that is a bit unusual for me–doughnuts. Until recently, I disliked doughnuts. I thought they were greasy, disliked the sticky, saccharine glaze that most doughnuts are drenched in, and didn’t care for the texture of the ring of dough itself. They were something I always passed up in the grocery stores, and doughnut shops didn’t interest me. The only exception to this was the St. Patrick’s Day special flavour at a small shop near my mother’s house–they produce a mint-chocolate doughnut only for part of March. I always liked that it didn’t remind me of a doughnut at all, but was instead more like a ring-shaped cupcake with sugar icing.
This all changed when a new shop opened up in the city: the Doughnut Vault.
When visited the third time, I brought a camera! The outside of the shop is really lovely.
I like to keep an eye on restaurants and food trends, and I started hearing rumors of this shop before they opened. They operate a Tumblr as their official website, posting entries with beautiful pictures of the doughnuts in all stages of creation. Before the shop was opened the site shared images of the construction-in-progress, with little hints about where the location might be. I was thrilled when they finally announced it would be located near the Merchandise Mart, which is fairly easy to get to. (I will travel far for delicious things, but if I don’t have to, that’s even better~)
It wasn’t easy to taste a doughnut from this shop. The Doughnut Vault opens at 8:30am (9:30am on Saturday) and closes when they run out of doughnuts. Even now that it’s been open for several months, there’s still a line that forms outside the small blue door before an employee finally opens it and starts letting small groups inside. If I’m going to go, I always aim to be there before the opening time, so that I can get a good spot in line and have full choice of the day’s menu. (Particularly because the doughnut I enjoy the most, the old-fashioned, sells out very quickly.)
Usually the wait in line isn’t terrible, although I have avoided the shop during the hottest days of the summer. Sweltering outside in line doesn’t sound quite worth it to me; I suppose I’m simply not hard-core enough. The shop itself is teeny-tiny. The “vault” in the shop’s name refers to the fact that it is built into an old bank vault. The portion that receives customers is what looks to have been a staging hallway for packages entering or leaving the vault before being loaded into awaiting vehicles outside. It’s a tiny, narrow space–you could barely fit two averagely-sized people shoulder-to-shoulder in the width, and less than 10 people can stand in the shop at one time. There are mirrors and windows to alleviate feels of claustrophobia, but it is not a place to hang out and relax–although there is a quaint patio area arranged on the sidewalk just outside the door.
The old-fashioned doughnuts are my favourite. They’re dense but still fluffy, with a nice balance of sweetness that isn’t overpowering.
The doughnuts are works of art. If all doughnuts tasted like this, I never would have disliked them in the first place. The shop offers cake doughnuts and yeast doughnuts. The old-fashioned and the gingerbread stack are cake doughnuts; these rings of dough are dense, crumbly, and textured. The old-fashioned have a slight tang of buttermilk, while the gingerbread are fragrant and spiced. The old-fashioned are coated in a glaze that is a nice accent to the crunchy exterior, but not overly sweet, while the gingerbread are rolled in cinnamon-sugar.
The yeast doughnuts are the glazed doughnuts. These giant treats are fluffy and light inside, with a slightly crispy exterior. The outside is then coated in a flavoured glaze. The shop opened with three flavours–chocolate, vanilla, and chestnut–and usually rotates a special flavour in and out of the selection at random. They’ve done pistachio, blueberry, and mocha, but I expect there will be even more new flavours as the shop continues. Special flavours and doughnut stock statuses are updated constantly on the shop’s Twitter, doughnutvault.
The glazed doughnuts are a bit larger than the old-fashioned doughnuts, but they’re all relatively huge if you’re comparing them to “standard” doughnuts.
Now on my days off, if my schedule allows it, I try to sneak over the Doughnut Vault to acquire an old-fashioned or two. Most people enjoy doughnuts with coffee, but I like mine with tea. The doughnuts’ sweetness pairs will with unsweetened teas–but if you really like sugary things, a fruity or sweeter tea would definitely amplify that. I tend to drink Earl Grey with mine–otherwise Ceylon, Assam, or Darjeeling–and like to dunk the doughnut into the tea.
Now that I’ve found a place with such delicious doughnuts, I want to try my hand at making them myself. I know that I don’t have the skills to make anything nearly as wonderful as the practiced and mysterious chef François at the Doughnut Vault, but homemade treats are always fun~ ♥ (Plus, it’s easy to forgive most flaws in the final product if you know you’ve put a lot of effort and heart into trying your best.) And, if it doesn’t turn out well, I can drown my sorrows in a well-made doughnut the next time I have a chance~ ♥
This blog expresses the opinions of one girl. Neither she nor this blog is affiliated with any companies listed. Content may not be reposted elsewhere unless by the author herself. The term "lolita" in this blog refers to the fashion style and not any sexual activities or fetishes.