Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thing of Interest: Yixing Clay Teapot

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I recently received a gift from one of my overseas coworkers: a Yixing clay teapot. I told her that while I was researching a green tea she sent me I discovered these pots. She went on to tell me plain ones can be obtained cheaply in Hong Kong and she would send one.

One day, in the mail I received a beautiful levered box and inside was my teapot. I still store it inside the box because it looks fantastic on my counter.

Yixing clay pots are unfinished and absorb tea throughout their lives. Eventually, the pot lends flavor back into the tea. Because of this, you should only brew one genre of tea in each pot. Mine is used for oolong. Some people have one of these small clay pots for each individual tea. I have yet to get to that point in my tea obsession.

Due to their unfinished nature these teapots require special preparation akin to an unseasoned cast iron pan. You can hear about the entire process of cleaning and curing your teapot from this guy:

...but I actually think he's kinda hard to watch (it's almost real time!) so here's a shorter break down:

1: Boil your pot and lid for about 10 minutes.

He explains the process from 1:00-5:25. Basically, use clean water, pot, and tongs, don't let the teapot and lid rattle because they'll break, be sure to fill the teapot with water, don't burn your hands, and let it air dry completely. You should see sediment from the teapot in your pot and the teapot will be shiny from the moisture and heat.
2: Season the pot with tea.
He explains this from 5:25-8:15 (he shows the end process at 9:30 if you want to skip his talk about how your pot will look as it ages). I would recommend using an unflavored favorite from the genre you're going to go with. This will seem like a waste, but it's worth it. You want the first thing the teapot absorbs to be something you really enjoy drinking because it's going to seep every bit of flavor out of the tea in this process. I used Iron Goddess for my pot brewed at double strength. This is the part of the video you really need to watch and follow. He explains it better than any other reference I saw when doing my research.
3: Drink that shit!
Your teapot is ready for use! You do not brew tea in a yixing teapot the same way it is brewed in European teapots. Skip to 10:40 to see the proper brewing method with these teapots. 
Do not skip the smelling steps. This is one of the most pleasing parts of the tea ceremony that is created with this brewing method. It allows you to pause, create some mindfulness, and really enjoy what you're doing on a deeper level. 
If you're thinking about purchasing one of these wonderful teapots, I recommend watching this video as well:

Here you can see the different styles of teapots and how to determine if a teapot is of good quality. Looks aren't everything; balance, size, and symmetry is much more important. This really helped me get a better grasp on my own teapot.

If you have any questions about my yixing clay teapot brewing experience, or want to see more posts about my interests in tea, please comments below.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Liquid Eyeliner

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No matter if you're just going for a simple winged cat eye or, you know, this, you need a great black liquid liner. I used to swear by Almay's potted liquid liner (as opposed to the new pen). I've used it without issue for more than 10 years. 

As with many other things, I have suddenly become unable to tolerate this formula as it burns the shit out of my eyes. So I had to find a new liquid liner. Now that the cat eye is very popular there are a lot of options out there, so I waited patiently until I heard something fantastic.

My first attempted purchase was Rimmel's Scandeleyes Liquid Liner Pen.

It had several good review on YouTube for a lower cost option, but honestly I think it's just shit. It didn't go on opaque, smudged, and the pen dried up after one use. I have since learned that drying out often happens as the cap does not close securely for a lot of people. To me, that's just poor design.

Perhaps you will have better results, but for my time, it wasn't worth the lower price tag.

Disappointed, I headed to Sephora were there was a huge display of liquid liners for me to pit against one another. I didn't want to spend a small fortune (especially since Almay's liner is only $7) so I just tried out three that were middle tier on price: Urban Decay, Makeup Forever, and Kat Von D.

I drew three lines on my hand and let them dry. Overall, Kat Von D was the darkest (and very matte), but it rubbed off easily, so it didn't win my vote. Both Makeup Forever and Urban Decay held up to the rub test, but Urban Decay got my dollar.

At first I really liked this eyeliner. It went on super dark and had a cool vinyl finish that was different that other liners. I didn't love the thin, long bristle brush, but that isn't why I returned it.

After just three hours, this eyeliner began to flake. This was three hours of being at the house doing nothing. This wasn't three hours dancing at a night club or sweating in Florida heat. That eyeliner shouldn't have gone anywhere, but it did. It flaked right into my eyes where my contacts live. It sucked and I was really disappointed.

Determined to find my perfect match, I went with the less pigmented version from Makeup Forever. It has the usual matte finish and dries nice and dark. I had to shake it a lot to keep it opaque, but it does have the felt tipped brush that I prefer.

Because it is waterproof, this eyeliner still flakes when it is removed - that's just the nature of the beast. BUT, it stays on all day without flaking or smudging. I tried it on the weekend first. In the 8 hours of both indoor and outdoor wear, it didn't budge. Then I used it in a makeup look I did for a work party (coming soon!) and the same deal, 12 hours, no budge.

I think I'm in love. I can't wait to buy colors 7 and 10 as well.

Do you have a favorite liquid liner or think I'm just dead wrong in my opinions? Let me know!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Crone: Tabletop Roleplaying Game

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For me, life is all about adventure. I look for it everywhere. Weird food? I’ll eat that. Goofy hat? I’ll wear that. Butcher my own food? Bring it on! It is probably this same spirit of adventure that drives my love for all things make-believe. And sure, video games, board games, they sorta scratch that escapism itch, but I don’t get to be too creative. On the other hand, table top roleplaying games let you be anyone.

This past weekend, I got to try out a new roleplaying game being developed called Crone. In this game, you play the role of an old witch. Here's the whole game (it's about 2.5 hours long):

I  had a lot of fun and would recommend Crone to everyone for several reasons:

  • Rules Light
When you aren't in combat this game is very loosey-goosey. Some people call it “hippy” gaming. You narrate what your character does and there is no roll. For instance, when I wanted to be an elk, I didn’t have to check my sheet to see if I had any Wild Shape transformations left (like D&D). I just was an elk. I narrated what it looked like, and if I wanted candles in my antlers, I got it. DONE. If something had a chance to fail that would affect the game, a 3d6+modifier roll was made. It was easy to figure out which ability and skill to pick for the modifier because my character sheet fit on the front of a 3x5 card. That’s right, not two sheets, a single 3x5 card.
  • Fast Combat
You have a hand of cards that represent what you can do. You can play as many per combat round as add up to your initiative. Super simple and everyone decides at once after talking it through. So a combat round is this: 1. GM plays their cards face down. 2. Players discuss and then play their cards face down. Everyone flips everything over. The round is talked through based on what you see on the table. Everything happens at once. Sounds like chaos, but it wasn’t. Check out the video in the last hour for examples.
  • 'Dems Old Ladies!
Ok, I’m bias. I live in Florida and get to see all kinds of old lady troupes. It was so fun to act out a crotchety old shapeshifter who has a good heart. And because the witches are old ladies, the game wants you to assume you’re ultra powerful. If you want to shapeshift into a dragon, you can do that. You don’t have to start out being a mouse and work up to awesome. This makes the game great for one shot adventures (like a convention game). The Crone team has also posted Actual Plays for a campaign on Youtube that I can't wait to see.
  • Great for new players
Sometimes it's hard to explain to people what roleplaying is without them getting caught up in all the rules. Because this game doesn't have as many rules, or tables, or lots to read, or weird dice, it's a lot more accessible to people.

Check out the video, then once you see how bitchin’ the game is, go to Kickstarter and throw your money at them. I especially like that I can contribute just $25 and get access to Print On Demand all the cards later at cost.

Got questions about my experience with the game? Think that being an invisible wolf covered in raining blood isn't metal? Feel free to share all that below.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Non-traditional Relationships

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I wanted to talk about this first in a really basic way since it’ll come up as we go.

Hello, my name is Jess and I’m a bisexual chick who is in a polyamorous relationship. This means I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend. And my boyfriend and girlfriend are boyfriend and girlfriend. Here’s a diagram. -->

So very scandalous! Nah, our relationship seems really normal to me. Overall, been with Viking boyfriend for just about 13 years and then all together for about 4 years. We have lived all together for most of that with a brief space in the middle where sharktastic girlfriend lived in a different city. So. Much. Driving.

Anyway, if people actually start to follow this and get all confused and questiony, like, “UGH! I’M SO CONFUSED ABOUT WHETHER YOU HAVE A BOYFRIEND OR A GIRLFRIEND!!!” The answer is both. We’re out to most people. There are a couple exceptions that include my parents (which may change soon) and the insurance company. ‘Cause if they knew, Viking boyfriend wouldn't be able to be a domestic partner on my insurance. Technically, I had to sign a piece of paper saying we’re monogamous for him to be a domestic partner – because insurance companies are all up in yo’ shit giving you a hard time based on outdated morality.

Whenever people find this out about me they have some pretty funny questions that aren't all that risqué. So, preemptively, I’m going to answer them:

  1. So, how exactly did that end up happening?
    My boyfriend and I had a semi-open relationship before meeting our girlfriend. She started by hanging out with the boyfriend. When he realized he liked spending time with her in a more-than-friends way, we talked about how I felt about it. We didn't do everything the best way possible, but after awhile we got it all figured out. Her and I knew about each other from the beginning, so there was no sneakiness. 
  2. Where does everyone sleep?
    We used to switch around cause all we had were two queen beds. Now we have a king sized bed! It’s awesome! We all fit in one bed and there’s still plenty of space. We switch the assortment up, but I’m never in the middle because I get too hot. 
  3. Do you go on dates?
    Yep. All together and in pairs. We really do our best to maintain “couple time” between each other.
  4. How do you sit at restaurants? What about the car?
    99.9% of the time, the girls sit together. We talk more, so that makes it easier. We almost always sit in the front of the car together, too, with boyfriend in the back so he can read with fewer distractions.
  5. How is closet space divided? There are two girls…
    I wish I could say we split it all even, but that would be the biggest lie EVER. I have WAAAAAAAY more clothes. Right now I have the entire guest room closet and half of the master bedroom closet. Boyfriend and girlfriend split the other half of the closet for their work clothes. They also share a dresser… which is much smaller than my dresser… that I fill completely on my own. And that’s after I recently got rid of about a third of my clothing. I love clothes. The bathroom space is not as bad… but almost. I have my own drawer full of jewelry, makeup, hair product, and bath stuff. But it’s not as bad as the closet situation. 
  6. Do you have shared bank accounts?
    NOSEY! Nope, we have separate accounts but share the expenses based on what everyone makes. It’s all totally fair and no one gets butt hurt if someone spends money on themselves.
  7. When do you get alone time?!
    Boyfriend is an introvert who needs lots of alone time, so we try out best to make sure he gets it. Girlfriend spends all her free time studying (still in college right now) so she has no time to herself that isn’t in a science book. Me? I try to squeeze it in where I can. I knit and take baths at night so that’s a good chunk of time for just me. I also often spend time with my family without the posse and play Skyrim all by myself. That’s pretty much all I need cause I’m REALLY extroverted so usually I’m begging for together time more often than alone time.
  8. Are people shitty to you?
    Eh, sometimes. Most of the time it’s passive. It is rare that someone can even tell we’re all together in that way and when they do, they just get really awkward. They’ll refuse to call them my boyfriend and girlfriend (they get called “friends” or “roommates”) or they’ll say “It’s going to be all separate checks, right?” No one has ever called us degenerates to our face, but hearing people compare multipartner relationships to bestiality on TV really sucks. It’s very hurtful. Even lots of people in the LGBT community hate on multipartner relationships. One day we’ll get rights, but I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime.
Hopefully. If you have any other, PG questions that don’t make you sound like a stalker, feel free to ask.

Monday, February 24, 2014

No, for real this time...

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So life! Yeah, I was doing stuff at places with things and haven’t even wanted to do anything like blogging or selling awesome clothes. So, I stopped. Now I might do it some more. I’m hoping it will get me back into wanting to look cool. Because right now, I look boring 75% of the time.

The reason for this? Work, obviously. It sucks because I see people in other departments dressing with the awesome, but my department is more conservative. Also I've been trying to get a promotion, so I've been more conservative than usual. This sucks ‘cause I've started looking super boring on the weekends, too! Why? Laziness and lack of practice.

I’m going to be blogging about life instead of Razor Grade(my company is on sleepytime right now). Outfits that awesome people can wear to work, my personal craftiness (including some clothing), makeup tips/review, music/movie/show commentary, etc. Maybe some stuff about gaming, too. Especially “table setting” for gaming food since everyone seems really impressed with the crap Alex and I throw out there for eating and drinking.

I’ll probably also have an occasional post about general life topics (kinda like the Art of Manliness, CHECK IT OUT!). Probably the first one will be about replanting purchased herbs from the grocery store and aloe pups… ‘cause I need to do both of those things… and have for weeks and I've been lazy.

I’ll try to include lots of pictures. If my opinion matters to you, great. If not, if no one gives a shit, who cares, right? I’ll have a “diary” of things I've loved throughout the year.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm back, bitches!

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So... I've been going whirlwind crazy since my last post here (which feels like an eternity ago). I have a job now and I'm moving this weekend. That being said, I'm super excited about being able to set up my work room in the second bedroom at our new place. I've been doing a ton of sketches for stuff I want to make... plus I've pretty much been told that as far as my massive dragon horde of fabric goes I must "use it or lose it."

Because I was poor for so fucking long, I haven't been buying albums or really listening to music (that whole depressed thing). NOW I've been listening to TONS of death & black metal and have become super inspired. I'm going to throw some pictures in here to give you an idea about my thought process and a playlist at the end to get you into my groove. For starters, all the stuff is going to be a one-off. Then, I'll grade the patterns if and when someone else wants to buy something. This will mean a longer lead time when you buy, but will also mean I can pump out more quantity for you all to look at... which has been the main problem in the past. I'll probably be selling on Etsy (a site I'm learning to use) and also advertising the styles on MySpace.

Lately I've been really drawn to the rough and powerful female archetype. The take no shit, couldn't give a fuck attitude and image of people like Angela Gossow, Jillian Michaels, and Josh and I's roommate, Alex. It isn't really their look, but their "walk against the wind with your shoulders back and head high" attitude and self confidence that's inspiring me. I think everyone can use a bit more of that in their lives. Going with the usual feel of my casual collections this one is easy to wear with surprising details... but I'm withholding the sketches just to get you excited (but think stuff like the example to the right).

I'm chomping at the bit to get fist deep in some fabric and thread. I feel like all the creativity that was abounding when I was in college is all coming pouring back into me now that my mood is lifted. Perhaps you'll even see actual updates here again once I'm settled into the new place. So. Fucking. Excited.

P.S. Yes, I still plan to do the line of customizables. They're going to be called D.I.Y.F.S. (Do it your-fucking-self). The first few styles are going to be gauze and will be out before the collection I just designed. Then more styles will come out, probably in poplin, tweed, or denim to go with what I'm working on now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Corset Project

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Due to the fact that I do not have a lot of space to work... yet... I've decided to put off my lofty reaching projects like the Lovecraft and steampunk costumes until I have proper draping and drafting space to make them fantastic.

Instead I've decided to work on a corset for myself. I'm very short in almost every dimension. So, since no patterned corset fits me right, I'm going to make myself a kickass custom from the left over corset material I have. It'll be that awesome neovictorian look so that I can wear it on wilder days at work if I want. But, I'm going to keep the palette pretty pale. If you take a look at Victorian crazy quilting, stuff by Bonzie, and stuff like is pictured to the left, you'll get an idea of what I mean. Lots of surface embellishment, hand dying, painting, studs, patches, beading, all of it!

I'm basically taking all the skills I picked up doing the Tomb costume and the stuff I've learned during my research since school to pull together something cool enough for an Emilie Autumn concert but also for tea parties... and be worn with this purse... which I might have to make a copy of... because it is Alexander McQueen.

So it should turn out to be pretty awesome. As I find stuff to become a part of it, I'll update with pictures and such. First step will be to sew up the base in coutil and then dying. This time I'm going to for a french grey color so I'm thinking about using thinned out india ink to dye it... testing for colors soon to come...