Review: Black Toothpaste (Tom’s of Maine and Hello)

Hello, readers,

Do you get a thrill out of making regular, boring, everyday things more *~aesthetic~* like I do? Well, I especially love spooky/gothic versions of normal stuff. The trouble is that these spooky things have to work just as well as their boring counterparts, for one simply cannot survive on kitsch alone!

Hence, I’m reviewing black toothpaste. It makes me so excited to squeeze out black ooze onto my toothbrush, but it actually wasn’t as much of a 1-for-1 exchange as I’d hoped.

* * *

Black Toothpaste, in General

Pros

  • Looks spooky on your toothbrush.
  • Claims to be whitening. I can’t say I’ve ever noticed any whitening toothpaste do something, but I my paranoia won’t let me switch to a non-whitening toothpaste.
  • In the US, I would say it has mainstream availability. I purchased both tubes I review below from my local Target.

Cons

  • Stains the sink much more noticeably than white/light colored toothpaste. If you aren’t in the habit of washing out your sink basin after each time you brush your teeth, your basin will look splattered in grey right away.
  • Unfortunately, looks like a grey wash over your teeth and mouth while you’re brushing instead of maintaining its inky blackness.

Tom’s of Main, Activated Charcoal Toothpaste

A tube of Tom's of Maine activate charcoal toothpaste.

Tom’s of Maine activate charcoal toothpaste

Pros

  • This one is really, really black.
  • Peppermint flavored.
  • Has both a fluoride and fluoride-free version, and my local Target had both versions on the shelf.
  • Contains no SLS.

Cons

  • While this toothpaste tasted just fine, I didn’t like the aftertaste it left.
  • The packaging/tube is still mostly white and boring.
  • This was the weirdest and grossest experience with toothpaste I’ve ever had. I would brush my teeth before work to my regular standards, and then I’d look at my teeth after work and see that the borders of my teeth next to my gum line were bright, neon orange. It was especially bad on the lower front teeth. (I do not eat while at work, so this could not have been grease stains on plaque or something like that.) Out of panic, I’d brush my teeth more thoroughly, but it didn’t make a difference. After some hours, my teeth would be lined in orange. If I forgot to brush my teeth twice a day, for whatever reason, the orange got even worse! It was horrible. I was so scared my teeth were somehow rotting.

Hello, Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste

A tube of Hello activated charcoal toothpaste.

Hello activated charcoal toothpaste

Pros

  • This one tastes like regular toothpaste, without any unexpected aftertaste.
  • Fresh mint flavored.
  • The packaging is black, and (bonus) it has a wide cap so I can store it vertically and save some space on my sink.
  • Has both a fluoride and fluoride-free version, although my local Target only carried the fluoride-free version.
  • Contains no SLS.
  • Acts like every other toothpaste I’ve used before — excluding Tom’s of Maine — and does not turn my teeth orange after some hours!

Cons

  • While you’d still have to call the color black, it’s lighter than the Tom’s of Maine. It’s sort of halfway between black and dark grey.

* * *

And there you go. A small review of a small product change. Even though the Tom’s of Maine seemed to be turning my teeth orange, my partner hasn’t noticed anything weird like that happening to him. I’m still not going to use it ever again. Even though it’s not as black as I’d like, I’ll keep on getting the Hello toothpaste for now, hopefully finding somewhere that carries the fluoride-containing version. As I said before, I’d much rather something work well than be pretty, and using a slightly lighter black toothpaste is still using black toothpaste.

Stay brushing,

Raven

100 Questions for Lolitas

Hello, readers,

Look at what some fellow oldschool lolitas found from the 2000s! I found and copied the list from Nefferinthia who got it from Naomi’s How to Become an Angel GeoCities site. Apparently these questions circulated on Japanese lolitas’ blogs in the 2000s. Let’s participate in this bit of oldschool lolita culture!

I’ll try and maintain some sort of link group at the bottom of this post for others’ answers, so make sure to either leave a comment below with your responses or link me in your post to make sure I don’t miss you!

* * *

1 Please tell us your name, birthday, and where you’re from.

We’re on the internet, and my name is Raven here. I was born on June 8, 1993, and I’m from the US.

2 What is your height, weight, clothes size and shoe size?

My height is 5 ft, 3 in (160 cm); my weight fluctuates around 175 lbs (79 kg); my clothes size is mens/unisex XL, womens XXXL, size 14 pants; my shoe size is US women’s 6.

3 Why did you start wearing Lolita Fashion?

The first time I saw it, I just fell completely in love. I’d seen manga/anime characters in lolita-inspired outfits before, but that didn’t make me think that these sorts of clothes even existed in the real world. I was feeling a lot of overt pressure to dress an present myself a certain way (don’t wear black, how about wearing some pink or other light colors, but all the other girls are wearing X, why don’t you, etc.). Lolita really seemed like everything I wanted but was told would make me ugly, and it made me realize that everything I was hearing was lies because the result was so beautiful. My public library also had some of the English Gothic & Lolita Bibles, so I had a resource to look at once I discovered the fashion’s name.

4 What’s your favourite genre (style) of Lolita?

I really love gothic and oldschool. I also enjoy classic quite a bit. I find I’m really attracted to classic designs, but in all black more than punk-influenced gothic. I used to be a sweet lolita dissenter (during the height of OTT sweet), but now I’m just happy to ignore it for the most part.

5 Express in your own words, the ideal of your above answer.

I like simple, solid-colored garments that rely on construction for their details, like pinktucks and ruffles. I like ribbons, bows, and lace to stay as the accent rather than the main focus. Nefferinthia said it best in her answer: “A bit doll-like, cute but slightly unreal.” The look would probably be all black/kuro lolita or else have a little bit of white lace.

6 Do you have any piercings, and if so how many?

I’ve had my ears pierced since I was one week old, so two piercings.

7 What is your favourite brand?

Antique BeasT! I haven’t really been keeping up with brands for a few years (you’ll probably see the answer why somewhere below), but I can always rely on Antique BeasT to still make me fall in love all over again with lolita. Their designs are my favorites, by far. I get their Mail Magazine sent to my email, and it makes me feel like I’m still in touch with some lolita things. I don’t own anything by them, but I hope to one day.

8 What is your favourite piece of clothing?

It feels like a betrayal that my first thought was a non-lolita item, but it is what it is. I’ve been loving a 12-yard skirt (the hem is 12 yards around the circumference) that actually touches the floor when I wear it without shoes. I’ve gotten it in black, maroon, and violet.

9 How many Lolita friends do you have?

I don’t really have any lolita friends? I’ve never managed to get past acquaintanceship with my local comm. I do have a friend from high school who’s interested in lolita (and now lives in San Fransisco!), but she’s in the “admiring but not wearing” stage.

10 What is the best thing about being a Lolita?

I feel like my true self, and also super cute.

11 On the contrary, what is the worst?

It takes a lot of effort, and I hate riding on pubic transportation wearing it because I’m so afraid I’ll get weird stains or be talked to by random strangers because I stick out.

12 What magazine(s) do you read?

I love the old Gothic & Lolita Bibles (you can find my Let’s Read posts for Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5 here on my blog), but I don’t really read the current Japanese ones. I found out recently that my library has a subscription to DOLLS Magazine, so I might start reading that.

13 Headdresses vs Bonnets vs Ribbons (Headbands)?

I love headdresses the most! But I think ribbons/headbands suit me best.

14 Do you wear bloomers?

If I’m wearing tights, no. Otherwise, yes.

15 Do you tie your headress in the front or the back?

Usually in the back. My face looks quite fat the other way!

16 Do you have a favourite music genre or band?

My answer to this question used to be really easy because metal was my favorite genre. I still like metal (symphonic and funeral doom), but recently I’ve also been drawn to female singers like Lana Del Rey and Florence + the Machine. I was in high school during the peak of emo, so that always brings a smile to my face when I hear it. I’ve become interested in gothic and gothic rock music, more, as well.

17 What is your phone ringtone?

My phone recently deleted all my preferences in an update, so it’s whatever the default one is. My ringtone when I call my boyfriend, though, is the Lavender Town theme from Pokemon Red/Blue.

18 Do you go to lives/concerts in Lolita?

I’ve discovered that I don’t really enjoy live music, so no.

19 For those that go to lives/concerts, do you headbang?

When I went, I definitely headbanged.

20 What colours do you like?

Black, mostly. I also like black accented with grey and/or white. I do like deep jewel tones, like violet, maroon, sapphire, etc.

21 What are your hobbies?

I really like picking up new hobbies, but I rarely stick with one for very long. Some current ones are learning to crochet (so I can make doilies!), picking up embroidery (so I can mend some clothes beautifully and feel like Momoko from Kamikaze girls), and painting miniatures for our huge Super Dungeon Explore game collection.

22 What is your favourite perfume?

I don’t actually have a sense of smell! At least I save money not buying perfume?

23 Being a Lolita, is there anything you are careful of?

I don’t know how or why it happens, but I always manage to spill or drop something when I’m eating. It happens at least once a meal, and it’s so embarrassing! I’m really, really careful when I’m eating in lolita to try and avoid looking like a fool and spilling something on my outfit.

24 Where do you usually hang out?

I’m really happiest at home.

25 How many times do you wear lolita a week?

Truthfully, never. I aspire to wear it once a week, but I’m just too chubby to wear most of my wardrobe right now.

26 Please tell us an embarrassing story you are guilty of from your early days of wearing lolita.

When I was 15 years old and first started to wear some of my handmade items out, I was at a preparation meeting for a trip I was taking to visit the UK and Ireland that following summer. We were listening to a cultural presentation from a British man, and he’d mentioned that the “trunk” of a car is called the “boot” of a car over there. During the Q&A, I asked what the “hood” of the car was, and he looked straight at my (totally ita) purple ribbon and black lace headdress I was wearing, blushed, and said “the bonnet” in the most embarrassed tone.

27 What is your hairstyle and hair colour now?

Long, dark brown ringlet curls with blunt bangs that should fall between my eyebrows and eyelashes. I’m too scared to experiment with my curly hair, so this is what it probably always will be.

28 How long is your lolita history?

Well, if my early days were when I was 15, then it’s been 11 years…

29 Do you have a dedicated place for storing lolita?

Our upstairs is a finished attic with two rooms. One is our bedroom, and the other one is supposed to be my dressing room. It’s mainly my closet, general storage, and very ugly. One day I’ll get around to making it cute. I want a chandelier in there for sure.

30 Up to now have you ever thought about quitting lolita?

Sort of? Not because of aesthetics, but I’ve become too chubby to fit in most of my wardrobe. It’s taken a big emotional toll on me, so most of my wardrobe is still hiding and hasn’t been unpacked since I moved. It’s one of my goals to get a bunch of blouses custom made for me so I can start with the most forgiving JSKs or at least make myself some skirts that will fit again.

31 What is your motto?

Be genuine and honest about the things, people, and places you love. Don’t ever fall into the trap of trying to be someone else for appearance’s sake.

32 What is your future dream?

I want to live in a super-cute home and travel the world frequently.

33 Is there any celebrity you think “This person definitely suits Lolita!”?

I don’t follow celebrities.

34 Please tell us about an item that is full of memories.

I wore one of my only brand dresses, the Juliette et Justine Robe du Dessus, for my undergrad department’s graduation ceremony, in which we walked across the stage.

35 What is the very first item you got?

I feel bad, but I don’t remember! My first items were ones I made myself, and I don’t know what the first thing I paid for was.

36 When having your photo taken, do you have a pose you always do?

I’m a bit camera shy, so I tend to spin or dance around so my skirt flares out and the photo is an action shot.

37 What is your bible? (Book, Magazine, CD etc)

I’m too mercurial to have one.

38 What is the height of the tallest shoes you wear?

My platform boots are 4.25 inches (10.8 cm).

39 Have you ever worn a tiara?

No.

40 Occasionally do you want to try Ouji?

Nope!

41 What kind of lace do you like?

Cotton lace is my favourite, especially with crown or cross motifs. I also like Millefleurs’ characteristic lace.

42 Do you have dolls? If you do please tell us about her!

Yes! I love dolls. I have three Pullip dolls: a Lunatic Queen (2010 release), a Seila (2012 release), and a Regeneration Fanatica (2012 release). They’re all so beautiful. I modified my Seila and Regeneration Fanatica with custom eyechips, but Lunatic Queen’s eyechips are all black with red heart pupils. I do have some red iris eyechips saved for her in case I ever do decide to change them.

43 What’s inside your Lolita bag?

I don’t really have cute bags. My normal purse has my wallet, house key, chap stick, and my bus pass.

44 What’s your favourite flower?

Lily of the Valley.

45 What is your favourite accessory right now?

I’m very bad with accessories. I really enjoy rose hair clips, though.

46 What is your favourite or recommended cosmetics?

I really like blush. My favorite blushes are Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in the shade Captivating and Milani Rose Powder Blush in the shade Romantic Rose. (I can’t be the only lolita that does a double take when I see the Milani brand name, right?)

47 Big and beautiful eyes are the proof of a doll! So, do you wear false eyelashes? Also if you have any tips for application please tell us.

I’ve always been curious, but I’m too afraid that the glue will rip my real eyelashes out. I just use mascara.

48 Please tell us your eye make up fixation.

I want to get better at doing eye looks. I think I end up skipping eye shadow most times I wear lolita, though, because I don’t want to be covered in fallout.

49 Is your lipstick red? Blue? Black? Pink?

As much as I love black lips, I don’t have a black that really suits me. My favorite shade of lips is a maroon color. I might have 10 lip products in that color that are only ever so slightly different from one another!

50 What colour do you use often for your manicures?

My taste in nails is quite plain, but I think that a simple French manicure looks great with lolita. It’s either that or black nails for me.

51 Have you ever stealthily changed into your clothes in a train (or public) toilet?

No.

52 Have you ever done a twinning coord? A triplet coord? What are your thoughts?

Not yet, but I really love twinning in lolita fashion is something to aspire to, not avoid. I’d love to do a shiro and kuro twinning.

53 What do you do to keep your figure? Any recommendations?

Ha! I know this is a general question for everyone taking this survey, but I can’t answer this as someone who struggles with her figure/weight.

54 Wearing lolita alone. Are you okay with it?

Perfectly fine with it, but I don’t wear it if I’m just going to be in the house all day.

55 How much do you spend a month on clothes and accessories?

It’s been years since I purchased lolita. Anyway, I tend to do lots of purchases at once and then buy nothing for another six months when it comes to clothes.

56 Was there a considerable time difference between when you found out about Lolita and when you started wearing it?

Lolita filtered into my life pretty soon after I found out about it, but I’d say I wore my first attempts at a proper coord in college/at 18 years old.

57 What is the most expensive thing you’ve bought up to now?

My JetJ Robe du Dessus was $180 secondhand, and I think it’s been the most expensive single item.

58 Lolita is really expensive. How to get money for it?

I’m pretty frugal in daily life because I like big, nice things. For me that was lolita when I was wearing it regularly and travel money. I still put aside money for travel, and I hope to make lolita a priority again.

59 Just between the two of us, generally how much have you spent on Lolita altogether up until now?

Certainly over $1,000, but not too much more.

60 What shop do you want close to you?

As a plus-sized lolita, any shop would only be good for accessories for me. So, Closet Child to have the most variety.

61 Just between the two of us, are there are any shops you think are a total ripoff?

I don’t pay enough attention since I mostly buy brand secondhand or else pay retail for indie.

62 Do you use online shops? If you have what are the good and bad points about it? If you haven’t, please tell us why.

I do shop online. I like that most brands list the measurements of who will fit in a garment so I don’t get my hopes up like I would in a real shop. I dislike paying for shipping.

63 Is there a secret person/shop that you have ordered a dress solely for you from?

I ordered a made-to-measure JSK from Surface Spell (Taobao). It was way to big around my shoulders when I got it.

64 I definitely won’t get it! But I really really want it! Do you have a certain something from a certain brand that you want?

I’m in love with the grey colorway of the Angelic Pretty print Cinema Doll. I’ll never get it, but I do love it.

65 What do you do with pieces you get bored of?

I’ll try and sell them online, although that’s much more work than letting them languish in my closet.

66 What is the last thing you bought (even outside of Lolita)?

I bought a pair baggy harem/yoga pants. They’re black with a white elephant print. I wish I could find them in all black. They’re so comfortable! It’s all the advantages in comfort and movement of wearing a skirt, PLUS all the advantages of of wearing bifurcated pants with elastic ankles.

67 Is there something you’ll probably never have it again, but you can’t forget about?

I don’t think so.

68 What do you think of people that wear lolita only to lives/concerts?

It’s fine. I’ll assume this question also applies to people who only wear lolita to meets or conventions. I aspire to be a daily/everyday lolita, but I don’t mind if people don’t share that goal.

69 What do you think of people that don’t wear makeup with lolita fashion?

I don’t wear lots of makeup in or out of lolita, so I obviously don’t mind others like me.

70 There’s a Lolita wearing the same coord as you! What do you think?

Accidental twinning for the win!

71 From what age until what age do you think is forgivable to wear Lolita?

There’s so many different variations in silhouette and hem-length that I think you could look good in something identifiable as lolita no matter how old you get. For the young end of the spectrum, I think I’m more conservative. Lolita’s an expensive lifestyle choice, and I think young people should start out with either entirely handmade or little lolita touches rather than full coords until they’ve established some form of independent lifestyle. With something aesthetic than can be as expensive as lolita or goth, I think it’s best to grow up practicing creative ways to get the look on a limited budget than grow up in the habit of blowing all your money on it (which is fine if you’re otherwise financially supported) and run into financial problems later when you have so many bills to pay.

72 In what situation do you think you would have to stop wearing Lolita?

Well, I’ve stopped wearing lolita currently because I got too fat for my wardrobe (and I hate squeezing into things that don’t fit). With the addition of more staples like blouses that fit me, I will be happy to wear lolita again.

73 Do you have any “Stop doing this!” warnings?

I’m copying Nefferinthia’s answer here, because it’s what I apply to myself as well. “Stop wearing things that don’t fit! Just because something can technically fit over your body does not mean it actually looks nice.”

74 Do you have any thoughts about what a Lolita should be like?

A lolita should be herself, both in and out of lolita. The clothes can be beautiful armor, but I don’t like when people treat them like costumes and have a character they play only while wearing lolita.

75 Excluding Q.73, is there anything you don’t want a Lolita to do?

I dislike when lolitas in a meet block walking traffic by moving as a big, inseparable group. Petticoats are wide, but let’s not make things worse for anyone else sharing the sidewalks that day.

76 What do you think of boys wearing Lolita?

I don’t mind at all if they’re going after the same sorts of cute/doll/feminine aesthetics as lolita fashion in general. I don’t like when boys wear it like a joke, showing hairy legs, and pits, and beards. If I don’t shave, I cover my legs up!

77 Since wearing Lolita has anything about changed from before?

It’s been so long, that I’m not sure. There’s things I want to change, like being more comfortable wearing wigs so I can wear them out of lolita when my hair isn’t behaving but I want to feel pretty.

78 What do the people around you say about you wearing Lolita?

People seem to like it. I honestly don’t pay attention. I will not wear it around my mom, though, to avoid fighting with her. She thinks that my fashion choices as more costume than clothes, but we live in different states now so I don’t see a reason to bring tension home with me when I visit her.

79 In the midsummer heat what kind of Lolita do you wear?

I hate the heat. I try and avoid going outside as much as I can when it’s hot.

80 Do you wear Lolita to school/your workplace?

Once, my workplace hosting a mini anime/pop culture convention for teens on a day I worked, so I wore lolita to work then. I would feel fine wearing simple or casual coordinates at my job, though.

81 What are your regular style of clothes?

Outside of lolita, my ideal aesthetic is “goth hippie,” followed by romantigoth. I love big skirts, all black everything, and subtle details. I have boring clothes I only wear for work, because I don’t find it worth the cost of replacing fucntional work clothes with aesthetic work clothes. I’m stuck at work either way. I aim to wear primarily skirts and dresses (or those hippie pants I recently bought), but I tend to wear pants for my twice-a-week manual labor shift.

82 Are you opposed to second hand clothing?

I prefer it, usually!

83 Do you have a partner? And do they understand Lolita?

I do. He is very supportive, and loves when I get all fancy/fluffy and dressed up. He sometimes helps point out when something isn’t working, too. He also reads this blog when I have a new post, which is lovely.

84 Please tell us the image of your ideal guy

Kind, supportive, excited to share experiences with me, kills all spiders that enter our home.

85 Is there a Lolita that has left a big impression on you?

I find kuro lolita Obsixwi’s coords on Tumblr highly inspirational (and aspirational).

86 Have you ever made your own clothes? If so what kind?

Yes. I’ve made a few skirts that I really like, but I’m too intimidated to try a JSK or OP. I would like to make more skirts, though!

87 Have you ever made your own accessories? If so what?

No, outside of my early days. I do have plans to make my own ribbon headdress, though.

88 Is there an item you’ve made that you think “It’s a great success!”?

Yes. It was a half-elastic waist skirt.

89 If you have an ideal coord, please talk about it.

I really love kuro lolita best, or oldschool black with white ribbon lace. As much as I love creatively combined coords, something about wearing a full set just gets to me. I think it’s the most doll-like.

90 Is there someone you admire? What kind of person are they?

I don’t have someone I admire in lolita, no.

91 For one day you can go on a date with that special person. They will also be wearing their favourite clothes. So who is it, what are you wearing and where is the date?

It’s with my boyfriend. His favorite clothes to wear are a funny T-shirt and shorts, lol. I’d be wearing my BtSSB oldschool JSK with the big white bustle in the back. Hopefully we’d have a lovely night seeing or doing something new, ending with us just talking and being with each other under the moonlight.

92 If you could open a shop in the future, what kind would it be?

I hope to launch an Etsy shop at some point here. I’d be selling crafts.

93 Unconsciously, this catches your eye! Which motif is it?

I really love Alice in Wonderland things.

94 Would you also want your child(ren) to wear Lolita?

I want no children.

95 How much do you spend on each piece of clothing?

That’s varies.

96 This is a Lolita! If you think there’s a gesture like that please tell us.

What?

97 Even if it’s only one time I wanna wear it! Is there something you want to wear other than Lolita?

I really like the look of some dolly kei, especially when they look like they tumbled out of an old attic wearing curtain tassles and velvet.

98 Looking at your Lolita, if you could use one word to represent it, what would it be?

N/a. It’s missing too many staples right now to be a functioning wardrobe.

99 What is your image of an ideal Lolita?

She looks like she she’s a magical doll come to life, with her own mysterious motivations.

100 大変お疲れ様でした! Please share your thoughts on taking this questionnaire.

Trying to find the answers made me log into Livejournal, Lace Market, and Tumblr for the first time in at least three years! That’s pretty cool. I certainly feel all nostalgic and more inspired than ever to get back to wearing lolita.

* * *

Here are other lolitas’ answers to this questionnaire!

Nefferinthia * Naomi on How to Become an Angel * Raven Snow

Josine Maaike

Lolita Board and Card Games (For People Who Don’t Play Many or Are Newbies)

Hello, readers,

Playing board games is something my boyfriend and I love to do together. We have a pretty large collection of them, and you can see the always-current list here on Boardgamegeek.com. (Set filters to Own = Yes, or you’ll see a lot of games I’ve played, but don’t own). I actually did a similar post to this back in 2016, but I’ve played a lot more games and learned a lot about my tastes since. I featured a few handmade or otherwise custom lolified versions of games in that post — so it may still be worth a read to you — but the recommendations here will be better.

Here are seven of my recommendation for people looking for lolita lifestyle-esque tabletop games. The “for new people” part of this post refers to the language I’ll be using (i.e., no jargon, the only comparisons will be to extremely popular party games and will be avoided when possible) here, rather than what I judge your capabilities to be. When the “for experiences gamers” post goes up, please feel free to look at those games as well. Likewise, if you are a serious gamer, take a look at these suggestions. Hopefully you find something you hadn’t heard of before.

Game links will be to Boardgamegeek.com, my favorite comprehensive website for board games. “How to play” or “rules overview” videos will be included, if I can find them.

* * *

Easy to Find

Parade

A starting lineup in Parade.

Designer: Naoki Homma

Artist: Philippe Guérin, Chris Quilliams

US publisher: Z-Man Games

Players: 2-6

Specifically included for: gorgeous Alice in Wonderland art/theme

This is one of the games I recommended back in 2016, and I wholeheartedly still think it’s one of the best lolita games out there. Even forgetting the “lolita filter,” this is one of my favorite games that I own.

The art is beautiful. There are six colors/suits in the game, and each one features a different character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. Represented are Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Dodo, and Humpty Dumpty. The original Japanese printing was also Alice in Wonderland themed, but the art is obviously quite different. The cards also feel quite nice to hold. This is not a game that will require large amounts of shuffling, but the card quality makes the game experience feel elevated.

My boyfriend and I have had enormous success both teaching this game to other people and playing with people who don’t really play games much. Not everyone has liked it as much as we have, but everyone has been able to play it with us, and that’s what really counts.

The video below is quite a comprehensive explanation of the rules, even though the cards don’t look as beautiful as they should under the lighting conditions.

Tokaido

A picture of the board game Tokaido, mid-game.

Image courtesy of Henk Rolleman on BGG.

Designer: Antoine Bauza

Artist: Xavier Gueniffey Durin

US publisher: Funforge

Players: 2-5

Specifically included for: relaxing 19th century Japan vibes

One of my favorite art styles is ukiyo-e, a Japanese art form that was prolific in the 17th-19th centuries. You know The Great Wave Off Kanagawa? That is a woodblock print by 19th century ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. It was part of his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, by Hokusai

A contemporary to Hokusai (I promise I’m going somewhere with this), Andō Hiroshige, created the series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō. From Wikipedia,

The Tōkaidō road, linking the shōguns capital, Edo, to the imperial one, Kyōto, was the main travel and transport artery of old Japan. It is also the most important of the “Five Roads” (Gokaidō)—the five major roads of Japan created or developed during the Edo period to further strengthen the control of the central shogunate administration over the whole country.

Essentially, this was an extremely well-traveled road with 53 “rest stops” along the way. The Hiroshige prints depict something visible at each one of the 53 stations. That’s the theme of the board game Tokaido! (See, I told you I was going somewhere with this.) One of the travelers you can be is even “Hiroshige, the Artist” as a nod to the print series that inspired the game.

Each player is a traveler along this incredibly famous path, and the stops you make along the way determine your experience on your journey. You are essentially competing to see who has the best vacation rather than racing to see who gets to the end of the road first. The art is gorgeous, the actions you do in the game are evocative, and the whole experience is quite satisfying.

For pleasant 19th-century, pre-Meiji Restoration vibes, I don’t think it gets much better than Tokaido in board game form. Tokaido: Crossroads is the expansion I’d recommend getting eventually if you want to shake things up along your journey or right away if you’re already used to playing modern board games. It turns every space along the path into two choices, rather than just one.

Sushi Go! or Sushi Go Party!

A selection of cards and menu tiles from Sushi Go Party!

Image courtesy of delija66 from BGG.

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Artist: Nan Rangsima

US publisher: Gamewright

Players: 2-5 or 2-8

Specifically included for: Japanese food theme

These are basically the same game. Sushi Go! is the original. Sushi Go Party! came out later, and it has all the cards to be able to play with the original Sushi Go! set. If you think it’s likely you’ll want to play games with more than five people, or you like the idea of customizing your menu each game, get Sushi Go Party! If neither of those things appeals, go ahead and get Sushi Go!, which is cheaper and comes in a smaller tin.

In this game, you’re all diners at a sushi-go-round restaurant, and you’re picking up individual dishes to have the best meal possible. The theme is a little silly, but it works to explain the game, and the art features the cutest little sushis I’ve ever seen.

Sushi Go! (either version) is a quick game because everyone is making their decisions at the same time. There are a couple of combos that the cards can do, and it’s so satisfying to pull them off, especially when everyone who saw the cards before you had the power to stop it from happening. This sort of game is called a drafting game, and I have some friends who call it a pick-and-pass game. It’s a bit difficult to convey the pace of the action using just one human, but this video was the shortest rules explanation I could find.

The worst part of Sushi Go! is that I want to eat all the sushi at the end because it all looks so scrumptious! When I went to Japan, eating at a sushi-go-round restaurant was one of the highlights of the trip. There was a Japanese man there named Yoshi who spoke English. We had a lovely conversation, and he helped me navigate the different options I hadn’t seen before, so this game reminds me of warm, fuzzy memories.

Gloom

A family in Gloom, part-way through a game.

Designer: Keith Baker

Artist: Michelle Nephew, J. Scott Reeves

US publisher: Atlas Games

Players: 2-4, but I’d suggest 3-4

Specifically included for: Edward Gorey-esque art; the game’s delight in the macabre

Alright, I admit that this game is far more goth than gothic lolita, but it’s the closest game I could come up with to fit that vibe… my vibe. Plus, look at the delightful Edward Gorey-inspired art! I needed to include this game. I personally struggle to find retail games that are dark, morbid, or spooky without being overly gory, intentionally revolting “big, epic games” that are abomination-based or Cthulhu-themed. We all have our quirks, yes? One of mine is “there is such a thing as too much.”

So much of Gloom is visual and atmospheric, so explaining the rules in text doesn’t give a good sense of what the game is about. Essentially, each player has an unfortunate, cursed family in front of them, but the players are manipulating the fates of all the characters around the table. You want your family to become as miserable as they possibly can before you give them the sweet release of an “untimely death.” To keep other players from achieving their goals, you can play good, happy cards onto their family members. The cards are transparent, so the positive and negative events visually stack up on the characters. When the game ends, the winner is the person with the most visible negative points on all their family members who died during the course of the game.

This game has a lot of intangibles to it. While not required, you’re encouraged to tell the stories of what’s happening to these characters as they go through their miserable, sometimes hopeful, lives. The players have two actions each turn, and how aggressive they want to be towards impeding others instead of advancing their own goals is up to them (and sometimes the luck of the draw). In these ways, your experience with this game will depend on the group with which you play. My biggest complaint is actually about the cool transparent cards; they work best in good lighting on top of a white field, so I can’t play this game in a dark room lit by candles.

Whist (Traditional Card Game)

Mary Ellen Best (1809–1891), Johann Anton Sarg and Three Friends Playing Whist by Candlelight. Public domain.

Designer: Lost to time

Artist: N/A

US publisher: N/A

Players: exactly 4

Specifically included for: being actually played in Victorian Britain

All you need to play whist is a 52 card deck with four suits and no jokers. (You could play with a baraja española, but you might have ties if both teams win 6 of the rounds, since the cards would only allow for 12 rounds in a hand.) If you have a set of ~*aesthetic*~ cards, go ahead and use them! According to the  Wikipedia article on the game, whist “takes its name from the 17th Century whist (or wist) meaning quietsilentattentive, which is the root of the modern wistful.” Does anyone else find that delightfully dreamy?

Whist is a very old game, first played in the early 1700s in England. There are two teams, with two partners each, and you’re trying to win on behalf of your team. By 1890, a variant emerged that would eventually become bridge. I’ve never played bridge, but I figured I would mention that connection in case you are familiar with that game.

I heard about whist constantly in the 19th century novels and short stories I was reading, and I finally looked into how to play. There are so many whist tropes I’m familiar with because of my reading, and it makes me gleeful to play the same card game as those characters. The main trope I’ve found is managing to convince someone (often wealthier, of a higher social standing, or deliciously marriageable)  to spend an evening with you and your scheming friends because “you need a fourth” and they’re too polite to refuse. The other important function of whist in these stories (and I’ll assume in real life) was to get two characters who were in love or romantically interested in one another time to actually get to know one another in a more intimate setting within an approved social activity; they’d get to subversively flirt and play footsie while gambling and talking the night away.

Whist is a very simple game to play, but it is incredibly fun if you allow yourself to get into it. I play with my boyfriend, his brother, and his brother’s wife, and we find that “winning” is high enough stakes for us to keep the game tense, but whist is a game that classically has money on the table to be taken home by the winning team, if that’s your thing.

Oh, dear. I think I’m making it sound terribly boring. I promise, it’s tons of fun! Whist is a trick taking game, and those games have all sorts of specialized vocabulary that I’m trying to avoid using. Perhaps a video explanation would be better? Below is the one I from which I learned how to play. They’re 18th century reenactors, but this game is Victorian, too.

Harder to Find, but Definitely Worth It

Piece o’ Cake/… aber Bitte mit Sahne

An example of a divided offering in Piece o' Cake.

I split, now you choose.

Designer: Jeffrey D. Allers

Artist: Harald Lieske

US Publisher: Rio Grande Games; the version available in the US is the pizza-themed New York Slice from Bézier Games

Players: 2-5

Specifically included for: sweets/dessert theme

Depending on where in the world you are, this game might not be hard to find. In the US, it was impossible to get my hands on the old cake/pie version, and I wanted nothing to do with the pizza version of this game. My boyfriend and I ended up importing a copy from Germany so we could have the one I wanted. Between the English and German names, you have essentially what this game is about: you are collecting pieces of cake, but you want them with whipped cream.

This game is very simple to play, but the decisions it gives you are brutal. The dealer flips the pie-shaped pieces face-up and assembles a complete dessert made of all the different flavors in the game you’re trying to collect. They are not allowed to rearrange the pieces into a different order. The dealer has to divide the cake up into as many pieces as there are players, and then everyone chooses which wedge they’d like. However, the dealer picks their wedge last, so they have to make sure that each wedge is good enough for the other players so that they’ll leave something worthwhile for the dealer until the end. That wait is agonizing! There is a new dealer for the next pie, so your order of choosing changes throughout the game. The whipped cream dollops on the pieces allow you to get points for flavors you didn’t want, but that’s a bit trickier to explain.

This rules overview is in Italian, but it does a great job showing how the game is played.

Bring Your Own Book

A comparison of two versions of Brind Your Own Book, with sand timers, cards, and boxes displayed.

The retail (Gamewright) edition is on the left. The “first printing” (Kickstarter) edition is on the right. Image courtesy of Ironmaus on BGG.

Designer: Matthew Moore

Artist: Luke Nalker (I don’t know if he did all versions or just some.)

US publisher: It’s complicated

Players: 3-8

Specifically included for: the potential for custom, book-themed gatherings

This game is amazing, and I want absolutely everyone to play it.

The idea is that one person will draw a card and provide a prompt for the other players, and then everyone else searches through real books that they’ve brought to find a phrase, passage, or couple of words that best fits the prompt. It works like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, except you have to flip through books and scan for things that would be great if taken out of context. The physical searching makes for a slower experience than those games made entirely of pre-printed cards, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This is probably the best lolita game on this list because you can customize it entirely to what your version of the lolita lifestyle is. Gothic novels! Greco-Roman classics! Historical fiction and historical romances! Romantic era poets! I can personally attest to the fact that books of fairy tales and fables do gangbusters in this game.

There are three or four versions of this game.

  1. There is a print-and-play (digital files that allow you to print the game components out and DIY a playable version) released during the Kickstarter campaign as a demo, which you can still get by signing up for their newsletter on http://www.bringyourownbook.com/. I don’t know if the content is different or just reduced from the retail releases. It has a two-toned, gothic aesthetic.
  2. There is the version published by Gamewright that I thought was really garish and horribly colored, and which Gamewright says is out of print.
  3. There is a “slightly modified for younger audiences” printing from Scholastic that is available exclusively through Scholastic’s Book Club program. It is also quite colorful.
  4. Lastly, there is the remaining stock from the Kickstarter printing that’s being sold on the http://www.bringyourownbook.com/ website for $16, plus shipping. I love this version. It looks so sophisticated, and I would describe its look as literary gothic. Plus, I’m a sucker for a book-shaped box.

I’ve had the print-and-play for years, and I adore it. I never bought the game because I couldn’t stand the change in look from the more gothic original design to the colorful, playful tone of the retail release. When writing this post, I saw that they still had some stock of the glorious “1st printing” and immediately ordered it.

They’re using the print-and-play/demo cards in this video.

* * *

Since lolita is primarily a fashion — and I don’t know of any loliable dress up games — here are the assumptions I used about the broader lifestyles or themes that would appeal to those who like the fashion when making this list.

  • English Victorian and French Rococo styles and themes are relevant.
  • Japanese themes are relevant.
  • Old-fashioned is a plus. (I strongly prefer games that can be played during a power outage.)
  • Aesthetics are important; ugliness is to be avoided, no matter how good the underlying game is.
  • Nothing infantile. I’m assuming you would be bored by games designed for young children. If you would enjoy playing Candyland or Unicorn Glitterluck: A Party for Rosalie with your friends, then go ahead, but I won’t suggest games like that.

Stay playful,

Raven

Theaters and Show Venues (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

Hello, readers,

This is a post meant more for me than you, but feel welcome to scan for information if you’re ever in Pittsburgh, PA. My goal is to continually update this post with details about each venue based on my experiences, mostly to help me keep track of which are worth visiting again and which ones have bad seats.

I don’t expect this post to ever look finished, but I do hope to add pictures and better notes as time goes by.

* * *

Traditional Venues

Byham Theater

    • Eddie Izzard, Force Majeure tour [stand-up comedy] (May 2014)
    • Kaiju Big Battel [kaiju comedy + professional wrestling] (Jun 29, 2019)

Benedum Center

    • Orphée [opera] (Apr/May 2014)
    • Otello [opera] (Nov 2014)
    • The Nutcracker [ballet] (Dec 2014)

Heinz Hall (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

  • Cheap seats are great! Excellent views and sound.
  • Seats assigned at purchase. Staff allows/encourages relocation at intermission.
    • Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions [orchestra] (Jan 24, 2016)
    • The Magical Music of Harry Potter [orchestra] (July 16, 2016)
    • Beethoven by Blomstedt [orchestra] (Feb, 2019)
    • Thorgy and the Thorchestra [drag + orchestra] (Jun 27, 2019)

Carnegie Music Hall

    • Neil Gaiman & An Evening of Stardust (Nov 14, 2012)

Stage AE

Liberty Magic

Greer Cabaret Theater

O’Reilly Theater

Bricolage

Kelly Strayhorn Theater

Pittsburgh Public Theater

City Theatre

Arcade Comedy Theater

Steel City Improv Theater

New Hazlett Theater

* * *

College/University Theaters

Pittsburgh Playhouse (Point Park University)

Genesius Theatre (Duquesne University)

  • Stage is on the floor area, seating is elevated on edges of the room
  • No assigned seats
  • All seats pretty equal
    • Heathers: The Musical [musical] (July/Aug 2018)

Studio Theatre in the Basement of the Cathedral of Learning (University of Pittsburgh)

  • Stage is on the floor area, seating is elevated on edges of the room
  • No assigned seats
  • All seats pretty equal
    • Avenue Q [puppets + musical] (Nov 2014)

Charity Randall Theatre (University of Pittsburgh)

    • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street [musical + orchestra] (Nov 2011)
    • Dog in the Manger [play] (Feb 2015)
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream [play] (Nov 2015)

Purnell Center For The Arts (Carnegie Mellon University)

* * *

Unconventional Shows

(Producers) Quantum Theatre, Chatham Baroque, Attack Theatre

  • 10th floor of the Union Trust Building, downtown
    • Originally designed as a private theater for Henry Clay Frick
    • Very cool experience
    • All seats pretty equal
      • The Winter’s Tale [opera + dance] (Sept/Oct 2015)

(Company) Shakespeare in the Park

  • Arsenal Park
    • Performed in a flat clearing near some trees, not in the amphitheater
    • Bring lawn chairs next time
      • King Lear [play] (Sept 2015)

* * *

Interesting Movie Theaters

Row House Cinema

    • Mary Poppins (1964)

Harris Theater

Manor Theater

Dependable Drive In Theater

* * *

Stay entertained,

Raven

Let’s Read the English Gothic & Lolita Bibles: Volume 5

Hello, readers,

Welcome to the very last “let’s read” of the English language Gothic & Lolita Bibles. (The original “let’s read” posts for volumes 1 and 2 were on someone’s blog who has made everything private, so we’ll see if I get motivated to create my own versions for those volumes later.)

This mook is not only the last in the series, but Spring 2009 is the skinniest, too. You can even see that they didn’t put in a lot of stuff from the fact that a big portion of the contents pages is devoted to a picture of a cake.

The first couple of pages are the normal letters from the editor and readers. One of the entries is rather noteworthy, though. A G&LB reader shares pictures from her October 2008 wedding. She had a civil ceremony followed by a lolita/Victorian themed reception. Apparently she also wore lolita for her actual wedding ceremony, but the pictures included in the mook are all from the reception. It seems like it was a really relaxed celebration, and the bride looks really happy. Also, the couple is from the Cleveland, OH area. That’s my hometown!

Page 8: Another “Needs More Lace!” I really wish there were more of these.

IMG_093

Here’s an example of how far lolita has come. Nowadays, brands occasionally sell dresses that are meant to be worn off the shoulder. Some lolitas will still wear a blouse underneath those sorts of dresses and treat them like JSKs, but there is a tiny bit of wiggle room depending on the coord now. Showing your shoulders used to be a cardinal sin with no exceptions. This comic may be a little corny, but I so adore it.

Page 9: Cover art inspired photography.

IMG_094

I know I just gushed about how much I love these sorts of things last issue, but I really don’t like this one. The bride looks really angry, and the groom’s outfit hardly matches the illustration at all. Plus, the icky loin cloth thing was a terrible idea. It looks filthy. Gross.

Pages 10-25: Gothic Weddings, Lolita Weddings

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really felt drawn to weddings or the idea of getting married. Mostly, I just skim these pages. In addition, they’re filled with poetry and weird little snippets about the scenes… and I just find it all a little hard to follow.

Pages 18-19, 24-25: The patterns.

IMG_095

Remember how I said earlier that showing bare shoulders was a sin against lolita fashion? Look at this lovely oldschool rulebreaker, Misako, on the right.

In this issue, there are patterns for a veil headdress, legwarmers, and a mini hat. There’s instructions for making rose combs, a rose brooch, and a corsage to be added to elbow length gloves. I like the idea of the rose combs, but the instructions seem a little hard to follow. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Youtube tutorials and now just find text craft instructions confusing. Anyway, I know it’s a really easy project, and I like having the materials list in print, but I’ll probably be on my own for assembling the actual combs.

Did anyone else feel like there’s not a lot of applicable accessories for a wedding here, despite the theme? The rose combs, rose brooch, and long gloves with a corsage seem like good candidates, but I don’t know what those legwarmers are doing here.

Pages 26-27: Here Comes the Bride

“As it so happens, two of our favorite American Lolita designers,” Samantha of Blasphemina’s Closet and Megan of Megan Maude, “are engaged to be married. In addition to giving us the inside scoop on a few of their dream wedding plans, [they] answered a few of the same questions Japanese celebrities addressed on pages 33-35 — but from a very different cultural perspective!”

I think that this was indeed a pretty happy coincidence for this issue, and it’s nice to see the English language team able to add to the content the Japanese edition had. Out of the entire wedding ritual, my favorite part is definitely the honeymoon trip. Samantha wanted to go to “Japan, England, or Ireland — someplace with history, art, and great shopping and food!” Megan wanted to go to Canada, specifically Prince Edward Island, where she’s always “wanted to go… ever since I read Anne of Green Gables when I was a kid.” How sweet is that?

Pages 28-32: Altar Angels photoshoot.

IMG_097

The mook calls this photoshoot “hauntingly beautiful,” but I really don’t like how it turned out at all. (Although I think the girl-on-the-right’s boots are stellar.) All of the models look sick in at least one of the photos, and the starkness of the images is really off-putting. I know that shiro lolita can easily be darling and sweet or amazingly creepy depending on how it’s styled, but this spread looks like it’s trying to be both extremes. The happy, colorful, sparkly, glam rose border in the picture above really makes me feel that this photoshoot is accidentally creepy when it was meant to be sweet and lovely. That, and there was already a gothic wedding spread, so “creepy lolita wedding” seems like doubling up. Also, there is some major petticoat peeking going on in a couple of the images. All in all, this photoshoot still weirds me out, even so many years after this mook came out.

Pages 33-35: Someday, My Prince Will Come… Romantic Wedding

The text for these pages is so, so small. I couldn’t get a picture to be legible, so you’ll have to search out some better scans if you don’t have the mook in front of you. Here are the questions designers, models, and musicians answered.

  • When would be the ideal time for you to marry?
  • Where would you like to get married?
  • What kind of rings would you want?
  • What kind of dress would you like to wear as a bride?/What kind of dress would you like your bride to wear?
  • What music would you play at the ceremony?
  • What is your ideal wedding reception?
  • Who would you invite?
  • What kind of person would you like to marry?
  • Which celebrity would you like to marry?
  • Whose relationship would you like to mimic?
  • What would your ideal proposal be?
  • What wedding gift would you like?
  • Where would you like to honeymoon?
  • What pre-marriage prep would you want?
  • If you were to change your name, what would you like it to become?
  • What does “marriage” mean to you?

Pages 36-37: Pattern instructions.

IMG_098

Pages 44-47: Special Occasion Looks for Different Ethnicities

On the one hand, I am so happy to see this feature in the international edition of the G&LB for “Caucasian, Latina, and African American facial structures and skin tones.” On the other hand… the glare/flashback present in the black model’s pictures has always turned me off. I never understood why she looked so silvery when the other two girls weren’t. According this this, my “Latin features wear dramatic looks well,” and that seems like a pretty high compliment to me.

Pages 38-39: Royal Styles for Royal Weddings

I was actually interested in reading this — and drawn in by the dress illustrations — but then I read the first two sentences about Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowden. “Princess Margaret was welcomed into the world of royalty upon her birth in 1930. The daughter of Prince Albert and Queen Elizabeth I of England, Margaret was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England. (emphasis added)” UMMMMMMM. Prince Albert died in 1861, and he was married to Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, and she’s one of the most famous monarchs in history! Someone should have noticed something was amiss with that sentence before they went to print. I couldn’t read anything more of the article after seeing that. How can you mess up on facts that badly? For the record, Princess Margaret was the younger daughter of King George VI and his wife (the Queen consort of the United Kingdom), Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Pages 51-57: Brand advertisements for Angelic Pretty, Atelier Boz, BABY, THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT, Alice and the Pirates, Black Peace Now, h. NAOTO, Innocent World, and PUTOMAYO.

Pages 60-63: Handmade Lolita Club, First Session (more patterns!)

Oh, how my heart breaks that there were never any more of these handmade lolita club sessions. The theme for this one was “first year accessories” from Angelic Pretty, meaning “easy handmade items for the new Lolitas in school.” I really like this idea, and these curated projects got me much more excited than the weak offerings in this mook’s normal pattern section. Of course, pairing the item with models mimicking maki’s illustrations was always going to get me. Life imitating art and all that.

Pages 64-65: Romantic Hair Fascinators

The step-by-step picture here really help. Unlike the instructions for the rose combs (which is a very similar project), I feel like I can follow these.

IMG_108

Pages 66-87: Street Snaps, Event Snaps, Readers’ Snaps, and Event Reports

There isn’t any one image that I love here, but I love these features so much. This time, there are lolitas from Japan, the US, France, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Canada, Germany, and Australia represented. Doesn’t it make you feel part of something wonderful when you see how widespread lolita fashion was back in 2009? A decade ago!

Pages 88-91: Reader Spotlight

Instead of one reader, they highlighted a group of four lolitas from Brasil. The Q&A gets a little hard to follow sometimes with four people answering (and with the text sometimes not being on the right part of the layout), but it’s interesting to see how they answer questions differently. I wonder, do you think any of these girls are still in to lolita?

Pages 92-93: Salon Kitty chat corner

Pages 94-95: Wedding Favors photo story

There’s a kitty in this photo shoot! The credits say there are two, Ming and Severus, but I can only find one cat who made the final cut.

Page 96: Wedding Dreams comic

IMG_110

That’s the end of the English run of the Gothic & Lolita Bibles. I hope you enjoyed reading them along with me.

IMG_111

Stay romantic,

Raven