Saturday, October 21, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: Ending the Streak

Hello Everyone!

 As I'm sure many of you have noticed, I've been following with the Lolita 52 Challenge from F Yeay Lolita for a while now and thanks to it I was able to write a good number of posts. However, it's time for that to end. While I have yet to finish the challenge, I feel that I'm spending more time dreading writing posts based off of the prompts rather than having productive post writing sessions about a topic that interests me. In addition, I actually don't really identify as a Lolita as much as a pastel cutie or Fairy Kei girl anymore, so I end up having to change the topic of the week a lot (example: The Not Really post). Because of these two things, as well as just not being interested in a lot of the remaining prompts, I will not be writing any more Lolita 52 Challenge posts. (I might still use the prompts for some inspiration though.)

 So what does this mean for my blog? As I'm sure many of you have noticed, I've been posting very sporadically lately, in part due to the afore mentioned problems, but also just because I don't have as much inspiration or time to write anymore. I'm really sad I haven't been able to keep this blog as active as I once had it, but alas, life doesn't always go the way we like. I will still do my best to post somewhat frequently, but I'm not going to be able to stick to a regular schedule, at least for the time being. I hope you all understand and still continue to read my posts, both past and future~

Got any topics you'd like to see me write on or prompts to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: Not really

Hello everyone~! So today's Lolita 52 Challenge topic is Lolitafying things in my everyday life, buuuuuut I generally am more into Fairy Kei than Lolita in general anymore (though I still do love Sweet Lolita and have several OPs and JSKs), so instead I'll be talking about how I cutify things in my everyday life to fit my very specific pastel aesthetic~

#1: Spray Paint
 Soooo, I'm kinda lazy when it comes to painting furniture, but I like to thrift or otherwise rescue unwanted furniture while still having furniture that matches. So to fix that, I spray paint all of my furniture. I did paint a few pieces with regular furniture paint, but I had no idea what I was doing and ran out of paint extremely quickly compared to what I was lead to believe I would need and the particular paint I chose ended up scraping off waaaay too easily (Having a kitty using them as leaping pads didn't help either). So, rather than waste my time and money on painting things that weren't going to stay painted, I decided to just buy a ton of spray paint in various pastel colors and do that instead. And I do have to say, I think all of my shelves and other furniture that I painted this way turned out super cute and way more durable than the ones I tried to paint properly. Plus it's a lot easier for me to decide to change the colors on furniture or frames if all I have to do is lay some newspaper on my porch, put on a mask, and give it several coats over the course of an anime episode or some YouTube videos than all the work that goes into proper painting. (I literally bought and painted a cute little corner cupboard and shelf thing in a few hours one afternoon along with a couple other items earlier in the day. The only time I can't finish a project in an evening or a day is if I run out of the color of paint I need and am too lazy or broke at the moment to get more.)

#2: Stickers!
 So, I have a handful of stickers laying around that I'd never really found a use for, then I realized I could use them to make plain looking, single color items look waaaay cuter and more intricate! Plus it's less expensive than trying to get and attach wooden shapes to make it look like the piece has intricate craftsmanship rather than being rectangles of presswood nailed together. I especially like puffy stickers since they can give an item even more depth than just flat stickers.

#3: Cute and colorful thumbtacks
 So, like many people, I like to get prints and other art and apply them to my walls, so I use cute heart shaped thumbtacks as well as typical ones with colorful plastic heads to pin my artwork up. In addition to the pictures on my walls, I also have a cork board that I keep cute packaging, business cards, tags, and the like on using a fun mix of the thumbtacks I have!

#4: Collages~
 Like with my cork board, I like to turn things into little framed collages to put into spray painted frames. I posted a few pictures of meh ones I'd made previously in another post, but I have one with Pusheen blind box pieces (and another one planned), several with business cards and cute notes from sellers, and some other ones with cute packaging I didn't want to throw away.

#5: Lotsa lil' trinkets
 So one of the the main ways I cutify my apartment is with lots and lots of cute little things (and some bigger cuties). I have plushies invading every room (minus my bathroom because I don't have a place to put them) displayed on shelves, in my display cabinet and TV center, and on my couch. I have anime figures displayed in my living room and bedroom as well as some very nice quality weapon replicas of Sora's keyblade and Link's Hylian shield and Master Sword that a friend gave me. (I also have a little shine to my best girl from Love Live!, Eli Ayase, in my living room.) I have re-ment figures and some little outfits, that fit my Licca doll perfectly and also look super cute on my drawing mannequin, displayed in my kitchen and display cabinet. And I have a pretty phone styled to look like an antique rotary phone that I recently repainted to be pastel along with lots of other miscellaneous trinkets displayed around my apartment on any flat shelf-like surface that is relatively safe from my little kitty cat (who thinks everything is a toy).

#6: Display that merch!
 In a previous post where I talked about how I decorated my room at the time, I mentioned that I like to display my hair accessories on the wall. My collection has since grown a good deal, so instead of the one ribbon hanger thing I now have several, two of which I've made rather recently to hold all of the cute hair accessories and pins that'll fit on them. In addition to those, I have several decorative wall pegs meant for holding clothing or hats that I display my headbows and hair poms and such on so they're all easy to see and add to a coordinate. All of those are in my bedroom, and in addition to those I have a little coat rack and shelf with pegs on it that I display my favorite purses and my BTSSB parasol on for easy access and bragging rights along with some of my Pusheen items.

How do you like to decorate your room or apartment/house to fit with a Lolita aesthetic or your personal aesthetic? Let me know in the comments~

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: Bloomers or No Bloomers?

 Hello everyone! I'm here again with another Lolita 52 Challenge: Bloomers or no bloomers? Let me know your opinion on this in the comments below!

So I personally enjoy wearing bloomers under my Lolita coords for the most part, but it can be a bit frustrating at times too, so let me list some of the pros and cons I've found for wearing bloomers.

Pro Bloomers
 So one of the biggest pros of bloomers for me personally is chafing prevention. They're cute and go with the Lolita aesthetic and make it so I don't get a rash on my thighs just from walking, presuming they're longer. Even with shorter bloomers, it adds a feeling of cuteness to the look, just like wearing cute or matching undergarments can make you feel better about an outfit even though no one can see them. Plus, if you live somewhere windy or are prone to tripping or twirling a lot, bloomers help protect you from flashing your underwear unintentionally. Bloomers are also good to wear should you end up in a fashion show so you aren't giving everyone in the front rows an uncomfortable view up your skirt and instead a cute, ruffly view of bloomers and petticoats!

Bloomer Cons
 One of the biggest cons for bloomers can be their price point and sizing, especially for people with wider hips or that are plus sized. While it's possible to make one's own bloomers, having a good fabric, lace, and pattern to use can add up (especially lace) costing as much or more than a pre-made pair of bloomers. Also, even on nicer bloomers the lace can be somewhat irritating if no tights are worn under the bloomers. Bloomers also add an extra elastic waistband and layers to what can already be a somewhat uncomfortable fashion and make it even warmer too. Since a simple pair of pajama shorts or spandex can easily work the same as bloomers for modesty and chaffing reasons, many may opt to skip the pricier bloomers. Thanks to anti-chaffing products and lack of thigh rubbing in the first place, many people can get away with wearing only underpants with their Lolita and may want to, especially on hot days.

 So all in all, while I do enjoy the aesthetic of bloomers, for me personally they can be annoying or uncomfortable if I plan on wearing a Lolita outfit all day. In these cases I'll usually wear pajama shorts and anti-chaffing cream instead for better comfort without the worry of accidentally flashing someone. Do you like to wear bloomers? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Throwback: Cosplay Tips 1

Hello everyone! Today I'll be going back to one of my very early posts Cosplay Tips 1 and basically rewriting it since I've had a lot more experience with cosplay since then (I might have cosplayed twice at that point?) and since the availability and pricing on many cosplay items have since changed. I hope you all enjoy my more current advice as well as cringing slightly at my old post along with me. ;)

#1: Wigs and Hair
   As many of us may notice when looking for anime characters to cosplay, many of them have unnatural colors and gravity defying hair, or just a color or style that's not easily achievable for you (like going pink when you have to have a natural color for your job or magically growing your fade into flowing, manly locks in a week). While closet cosplays or simple cosplays based off of your current hair color and style (or lack of hair) can be fun for a low budget or last minute cosplay, trying to do more advanced cosplays with natural hair can be costly and difficult. For example, several years ago I read a post by a lady who used her natural hair for a Sailor Mercury cosplay (if memory serves me correctly). One of the biggest cons she noted was that any time she wanted to do that cosplay, she had to get a haircut so that her hair would be accurate. If you're getting a haircut for a cosplay every two to three weeks when you normally would get your hair cut maybe twice a year, that becomes really expensive. Even if you cut your hair yourself, it can be frustrating and time consuming. While this can be less of a problem if you have longer hair that easily works for the character, you may still want to consider the fact that that cosplay will need a wig should you decide to change your hair in the future.

 Wigs nowadays are generally easy to find at reasonable prices and in good quality, so I highly recommend getting a wig if possible. Not only are wigs generally easier to maintain than natural hair, it gives a cosplay that extra something to make you more recognizable. (Granted if you cosplay horribly obscure characters like I tend to do, it won't help much outside of the accuracy department.) I've gotten several wigs off of sites like Amazon and Storenvy that are very nice quality that I use for J-fashion and my cosplays. However, when ordering wigs online, be cautious of wigs without reviews or ones that look like party wigs and thoroughly check reviews to make sure there's no complaints of the wig being poorly made or thin. Unless you know the seller is a reputable wig seller, I wouldn't recommend buying any wigs that don't have reviews unless you're willing to take a chance. There are also many reputable wig sellers aimed at cosplayers, such as Epic Cosplay and Arda Wigs, that have a variety of wig colors and styles available.

 One of the main disadvantages of getting a wig is that you have to style it for your character and while in my old post I had recommended World of Wigcraft, it seemed to have disappeared completely, but it seems to be available again: World of Wigcraft. Unfortunately it is rather expensive, but if you plan on doing more advanced techniques or complicated wigs, I'd advise getting it. Fortunately, there's a wide array of character specific wigs available as well as pre-styled ones, so many times trimming the bangs to the right shape is all that's necessary. For bang cutting tutorials, I highly recommend looking up tutorials on Youtube or ask a hairstylist friend to show you how (or do it for you) if you can. Remember, it's always better to cut less off than you think you need to and always use nice, sharp scissors so you don't maul your wig.

 Wigs also require different maintenance than natural hair since the fibers don't grow back when they're pulled out of the wig cap. Usually a brand new wig will have some shedding when it's first combed through, but normally you shouldn't be getting a lot of fibers with every comb-through. For typical wig maintenance, I recommend getting a styrofoam wig head and a pin or pins to hold the wig on it, some sort of stand for said head (I've been using my camera tripod recently), a wide tooth shower comb, and Motions At Home Oil Sheen Spray. (You can easily get the spray from Amazon or Sally's Beauty Supply.) After putting the wig on the styrofoam head and a stand, pin it in place so that it won't slide around while you comb it. I usually just put an obvious pin in the center top so I can easily find the pin again. You can also secure at the back and the temples of the wig if you so choose. Spray the entire wig with a coat or two of the oil sheen spray, both outside and inside of the wig and let it sit for a minute. Comb it gently in sections, working from the ends of the wig upwards and starting a new section if a tangle goes across a larger area than yous section. If the wig has curls, you may want to comb them separately to avoid them frizzing out or otherwise losing their shape or you can wash the wig after in cold water to help the curls resettle. Work on the top and bottom sides of the wig to make sure you get as many tangles out as possible. If you find that two of the fibers have tied themselves into a knot, take a sharp pair of scissors to cut as close to the knot as you can. I highly recommend gently combing your wigs out using this method after every wear, but be careful not to overdo it as you don't want to damage your wig by over combing it as it could damage the fibers.

What do you guys do about your hair when you cosplay? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Shibajuku Girl Dolls Review

Hello everyone! I'm back and today I'll be doing a review of one of the new Shibajuku Girl doll I got not too long ago. Unfortunately I don't have a Pullip doll to compare it to, so I'll be giving my opinion based on the doll's quality, design, and price. Let me know in the comments if you have one of these dolls or are considering getting one!

 Shibajuku Girl dolls are made from a hard plastic, with rooted hair, inset eyes, a moveable head, and articulated joints at the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, and knees. The entire doll is made from a hard plastic with no mobility outside of the joints. The hair fibers feel nice, but had some glue or styling product on them when I first opened the doll. While not especially thin, I feel there could be more hair since her scalp can show at times if her hair isn't placed right. While looking at the painted on makeup, I noticed it was a little sloppy in places and there appeared to be a spot of misplaced paint on her face as well. While posing my Shibajuku Girl, I noticed that it's very easy for her limbs to twist the wrong direction, which could easily lead to damage or breakage if I'm not careful to make sure they're turned correctly when trying to flex her joints. Other than that, her joints move well. My first impression of the Shibajuku Girl I have is that, for the price, she's pretty good quality, but she's definitely not top quality.

 So, the first thing I noted about the Shibajuku Girl dolls is how much they resemble a Pullip doll (number 1 reason I wanted to get one). I couldn't say for sure how much inspiration was drawn from Pullips since I don't personally have one, but I have a feeling that Shibajuku Girl's design was heavily based off of the Pullip's. Judging from the recent influx I've seen of certain Japanese trends (usually ones that have been around for a while), I'd say this is another instance of that. The dolls all have the same base design with slight differences in hair and eye colors and hair and makeup designs. Each doll has its own style of clothing as well. Overall, I'd say the dolls could use a bit more variation on their base looks, but they're still all a cute design.

 As I mentioned before while discussing the quality of the Shibajuku Girl dolls, there are some problems with joints moving out of place when moving them. Outside of that, the dolls have fairly good poseability due to the joints in their limbs. However, due to the size and weight of the doll's head in comparison to their bodies, it's very difficult to get them to stand on their own, if not impossible. The Shibajuku Girls unfortunately do not come with stands, making it difficult to have much posing variety on their own. Overall, I'd say they have pretty decent poseability, but could have better with a stand.

Clothing Variety
 If you're like me, you like dolls not just for aesthetics and like to dress them up in different outfits too. The Shibajuku Girls all have very cute base outfits that come with them and they're all different J-fashion inspired looks, so it's not too difficult to get one that matches your aesthetic. There are a handful of outfit packs available as well which usually come with a hair accessory and a top and bottom or dress. Unfortunately, there are currently no available extra shoe or sock options specifically made for the Shibajuku Girl dolls. After doing a bit of research, it looks like there are some other doll styles that have compatible clothing, but many come with clothing on the doll only. It appears some Pullip clothing and shoes may also work for them, but I don't have any to try out.

Final Rating: 3/5
 While the Shibajuku Girl dolls are pretty cute, they're still lacking the variety I'd like to see in a fashion doll, like Barbie and Licca have. I also am a little disappointed in the quality level, but it's understandable based on the target market (young children) and the price point. While I do regret buying her a little bit, I do still enjoy my Shibajuku Girl, but don't anticipate getting any more unless their quality improves.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: Purses that I Love

Hello everyone! So today's topic is purses that I love. I only really have one specifically Lolita purse, so for the most part these will be purses I want to eventually get or that I appreciate the aesthetics of. Be sure to let me know which ones you also like or your favorite Lolita purse in the comments!

All pictures are sourced from Lolibrary unless otherwise noted.

#1: Old school heart purses
 My number one favorite style of purse (and coincidentally the only one on this list I have one of) is the old school heart purses with round metal handles, lace around the border, and a big ribbon in the center. I really fell in love with them after watching Kamikaze Girls and seeing Momoko carrying them around with her. Unfortunately the one I have is only a design replica, but I love it all the same and am less concerned about it being used heavily.

#2: Angelic Pretty Candy bag
I'm a huge fan of sweets inspired pieces, so naturally I adore Angelic Pretty's Candy Stripe Bag. I'm hoping to get one eventually, but I'm focusing more on main pieces for the moment, so I'll have to wait on buying it.

#3: Book shaped bags
 While they don't generally fit my personal style, I really love the look of bags that look like books! I think they look very elegant and are a fun idea while still being a practical shape, unlike the previous two bags I've listed. (Trying to set down a heart shaped purse without having it dump half it's contents out is a bit of a challenge.)

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: How I get out of a Wardrobe Slump

Hello everyone! Today I'll be talking about another Lolita 52 Challenge topic: How I get out of a wardrobe slump.

 So we've all been there: We go to put together an outfit and either everything's dirty or we just don't want to wear anything we have because we wear it so often we're tired of it. I can't tell you how many times I've stared at my wardrobe until I give up and just throw on a T-shirt and some jeans or a tried and tested outfit I've worn some variation of for the past week. My wardrobe's still fairly limited, so I have a lot of wardrobe slumps. So what do I do to get out of these slumps? Well outside of checking to make sure the slumps not just due to weight gain, here's some of the things I do.

#1: Why aren't you wearing what you have?
 One of the first things I do when I'm in a wardrobe slump is figure out what I haven't been wearing and why. Does it still suit my style? Does it still fit and is it flattering? What would it go with? If I can't find a way to wear a piece, I'll usually figure out what I need to wear it or get rid of it if it's something that doesn't work with my wardrobe. If it doesn't fit properly or look good, I'll get rid of it as well.
#2: Try new combinations
 After going through lesser worn pieces, I'll usually start trying to make new coordinates. I'll take a piece, put it on my dress form or lay it on my bed, and start holding up other pieces next to it to see what would go with it. Sometimes I'll start building an outfit, then change out the piece I started with to make a more congruent look. Don't be afraid to try different things. Once you have an outfit you like the look of, try it on and make sure it still looks good on you and change a few pieces as needed.

#3: Determine what you need
 One of the advantages of getting rid of pieces is that you can add new pieces instead. If you find yourself saying things like "If only I had [ ]" or "This would look so much better with [ ]" keep track of what those items are so you can decide if you want to add them to your wardrobe later on. Also, if you're finding a piece is just getting too old and worn looking, make a note of it and start looking for its replacement. Feel free to try something in a different style or color when replacing an item if it's not a staple item (such as a white blouse in a Lolita wardrobe).

#4: Catalog
 Once you've put together some outfits that work, take pictures! Having a reference to go back to really helps when you don't know what to wear. This also gives you an opportunity to decide if it really was something you'd wear or just a mess that looked good in the moment. You can also look back on those outfits for inspiration when putting together a new outfit, similar to a street snap on Pinterest, except with your own wardrobe!

What do you do when you're in a wardrobe slump? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Worst Places to Wear Lolita

Hello everyone! Going off of last week's post, I wanted to do a list of the worst places to wear Lolita. This is going to be a bit more humourous of a post needless to say, so I hope you enjoy!

#1: Hiking
 Ima be honest here, while I haven't been hiking in Lolita, I did go hiking in Fairy Kei a few times and boy was that a mistake.... And Lolita is even less versatile than Fairy Kei. Fancy shoes now caked in mud and dirt, wig and petticoat snagging on stray bushes, headbow constantly being knocked off by branches... All in all, Lolita would be very impractical and frustrating to hike in, plus you're more likely to overheat from all the layers!
#2: Swimming
 While there are swimsuits available from various Lolita brands, jumping in the pool in your AP dress would be a very bad idea. Not only would you have to worry about the print running, the chlorine or salt water (if you jump in the ocean) would likely bleach or damage your dress. Plus those pettis would be a lot more weighing down than floofy and fun after hitting the water.
#3: Running from the authorities
 While running from the authorities generally isn't a good idea in the first place, doing so in Lolita would be even worse. As many of us know, Lolita can be quite constricting around the chest, which would lead to getting winded sooner and climbing a chain link fence would be near impossible, especially if you're wearing platform style shoes. Not only that, but can you imagine trying to hide or blend in with a crowd in Lolita?
#4: The jungle
 Let's face it: It doesn't matter what jungle you're in, it's gonna be hot and humid, there's probably going to be bugs trying to eat your headbow, and chances are the footing won't be the best. Not to mention snakes, monkeys (we all saw what Jane had to deal with in Disney's Tarzan), big cats, and who knows what else. If you were lucky, you'd probably get away with a shoe lost in quicksand at the very least.

Where do you think would be a terrible place to wear Lolita? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: Best places to Wear Lolita

Hello everyone! Today I'm going to go over what I feel are the best places to wear Lolita. For this list, I'll be excluding meetups and conventions since you're generally expected to wear Lolita or something similar to this type of event. (Obviously you can cosplay or just go in jeans and a nerdy tee to conventions, but generally if you aren't cosplaying and you're into J-fashion, you'd want to wear Lolita or another J-fashion style at a convention, so that's why I'm not including them in this list.)

#1: Special events and shows
 Generally it's fun to dress up when you're going out, so having a special excuse can make it even more fun. Whether you're going out for Easter brunch, watching an opera, or screaming your full head off at a One Direction show, there's plenty of events you can wear Lolita to. I would not, however, recommend moshing in Lolita. Fellow metal heads might be very confused when attacked by petticoats.

#2: Hanging out with friends
 I'm sure we all have friends we adore, but just can't hang out with too often because of distance or merely time constraints. So needless to say when we do get to hang out with those friends, it's also normal to want to dress up and go do things together. (Granted there's nothing wrong with hiding out and playing video games in jammies together.) Though you may want to tone down your look if your friend doesn't wear alternative styles and is uncomfortable with people staring at you, it's still possible to have fun and look frilly as well.
#3: Bakeries and tea houses
 Since bakery sweets and tea are generally a staple in a Lolita's lifestyle, going out for some cake or tea in Lolita is a great idea! Many Lolitas do meetups at local bakeries and teahouses, so there's no reason you couldn't dress up in Lolita and go by yourself or with a few friends. Plus you'll fit right in with all the cute tea sets and cakes. Just make sure to put a napkin on your lap if you're a messy eater like me!

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: What's in my Makeup Bag

Hello everyone! Since I'm struggling a bit with coming up with my own prompts, I'll be continuing to use Lolita 52 Challenge topics for a while. This week's topic: What's in my makeup bag? Since I don't really have a makeup bag, per se, I'll just be going over what I typically use in the way of makeup.

Let's start with base makeup: foundations, concealer, etc. For my foundation I usually use a Maybeline BB cream under a matte foundation with SPF from the same brand followed by cream stick concealers from Covergirl (one green, one skin toned), and then set with either a Rimmel London or Essence powder. For contour/highlight and blush I also use Essence cosmetics. After applying my base makeup, I fill in my eyebrows with a pencil from ...Maybeline? and start adding color to my eyelids. I've recently started using Urban Decay's Primer Potion and it makes a pretty good base for colors. Before that I used either a white Nyx pencil (which I still use on my waterlines) or an E.L.F. shimmery primer and both worked well, but I like the Primer Potion's texture better. For colors, I typically use a generic colorful pallet I have, but I've recently picked up Kat Von D's Pastel Goth pallet and I use the colors heavily mixed with white for pastel looks. I also add glitter with a cheap shimmery white eye shadow I got at the dollar tree or my Urban Decay Moonlight? pallet for more intense looks. I also do simpler eye shadow looks with the Essence Bright Eyes pallet. For eyeliner, I don't really have a preference on brand, but I generally prefer felt tipped liquid liners that are waterproof. I like black volumizing mascaras and I vary between a few different ones depending on the look I'm going for. I especially like two part mascaras with a clear base coat and a black top coat right now. For lips I'll usually do a pink lip gloss or a red lip tint if I remember. I don't generally wear false eyelashes or face crystals on a regular basis and I generally forget to wear lipsticks, though I do own a lot of those...

What sort of makeup do you guys usually wear? And do you have a makeup bag you tote around for touchups? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The End of Kera and the Gothic & Lolita Bible

Hello Everyone! Today I'll be giving my thoughts on a very sad topic: The ending of Kera's print edition and the suspension of the Gothic & Lolita Bible (G&LB). I considered making a video on this topic, but since I don't currently have any editing software and I know there will be a lot of crying, I decided it would be best to stick to writing a blog article.

 As many of us in the J-Fashion world have learned over the last few days, Kera and the Gothic & Lolita Bible will no longer be releasing printed magazines. After learning about Fruits magazine's cancelation earlier this month, this is coming as a very hard blow to many of us who have loved and collected these magazines over the years. While I only recently started to collect Kera and have one copy of G&LB, my original love for Lolita was due to a friend introducing me and my sister to the fashion and lending us copies of the English edition of G&LB to look through. I would never have gotten into Fairy Kei when I did if it hadn't been for my interest in Sweet Lolita and finding a more wearable option for day-to-day. Even though my introduction to Kera was within the past couple of years, it quickly became my favorite magazine and I was looking forward to getting more and more copies in the future. However, due to it's cancelation I won't be able to get any more after the last print issue comes out this month. I personally like having a physical copy to flip through when it comes to fashion magazines, though I can understand their decision to switch to a digital only copy due to the decrease in popularity of print media in general. I'm going to miss being able to collect new issues of Kera, though I will treasure the ones I have (especially the one with a street snap of Mana-sama).

 So with the end of three of the most iconic J-Fashion magazines, what does that mean for Harajuku fashion? I at first presumed that their closures were merely due to printed media being less popular nowadays due to the internet allowing easy access to so many things, but I might have been wrong. After finding out about the end of the magazines, I saw a video by one of my favorite YouTubers, Cathy Cat, a German Lolita living and working in Japan, where she expressed her feelings on the matter. To summarize what she said in her video, the generation of Harajuku kids and Lolitas that started and promulgated many of the crazy, over-the-top styles that Harajuku is known for are getting older and changing to more demure styles that suit them better or completely giving up J-fashion to fit in better with the general populace. Because of that, those fashions are not as present in Harajuku as they once were because the younger generation aren't wearing them. Cathy Cat goes to Harajuku a lot for her and Kawaii Pateen's videos, so she gets to see what's going on there regularly and she said that she's seeing less and less bold fashion present in Harajuku. She ends her video stating that in order for these fashions to survive, the older J-fashion generations need to bring the younger generations into our fashions and stop discriminating based on experience in a style.

 So, from what I've seen, I've gathered that Harajuku fashion isn't so much dying as changing. In the Keras I have as well as street snaps I see online, styles are getting more toned down and changing to more muted pallets instead of brighter colors like Decora or OTT Sweet Lolita tend to use. In the G&LB I got recently, I noticed almost everything in it was Gothic or Classic Lolita and seeing as how many of the original Lolitas I know of are getting along in age, OTT Sweet may not suit them as well as when they were younger. Even outside of Lolita, styles such as Cult Party Kei with more muted color pallets are getting more popular. Softer pastels are more in than bright colors as are black pieces and detailing. As to the end of Fruits, cancelation of Kera's print edition, and GL&B's suspension, these are most likely due to the drop in popularity of print media and could also be affected by the change in popular J-fashion present in Harajuku.

What do you guys think? What are your thoughts on the end of many J-fashion magazines and the style shift in Harajuku? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: What Influences my Lolita Style

Hello everyone! Today we have another Lolita 52 Challenge topic: What influences my Lolita style. I'll be doing this in a bullet style to list my influences. Let's go!

#1: Bakery goods and sweets
 As I mentioned in my 5 keywords Lolita 52 challenge post, I have a bit of a foodie theme to my wardrobe. The main reason for this is that I really love the look of cakes and candies and such. I love how delicate frosting roses are, how delicious a spongy jelly roll looks, how jewel-like, yet sweet candies are, and many other aspects of sweets that definitely translate into the general theme of my wardrobe. Additionally, due to its white base color, frosting more often than not turns out pastel even with stronger gel food dyes, and the aesthetic of that is clearly translated in my Sweet Lolita wardrobe.

#2: Trends that I never got to try
 While there's still a lot I want to try out, I find that both current and outdated popular trends can influence my Lolita style a fair amount. Some aspects of my wardrobe and aesthetic are more oldschool Lolita since that's the era I discovered Lolita during and I have plans to add some more oldschool pieces like rocking horse shoes to my wardrobe. Additionally, I'm kinda catching up with Sweet Lolita trends I missed when I wasn't able to afford Lolita clothing.

#3: Fashion Icons
 Lolitas and other J-Fashion enthusiasts I follow on Youtube and Facebook have a HUGE influence on my wardrobe since secretly I kinda wish I was them to some extent. For example, I got a blue/pink mixed wig because Lawl Factory (Now Anna Drake) wore one in a couple of her videos. Additionally, I decided to add a yellow JSK and a pink blouse to my wardrobe because of Lovely Lor's coordinate for Japan Festival Houston. The people I follow are big inspirations to me, so I copy trends and looks they do as much as I can, but I also don't try to force myself to try a look that wouldn't suit me just because someone else looks good in it. Like I tried Decora out since Mahou Prince is such a big inspiration to me, but I learned pretty quickly I don't like it on me as much, so I focused more on styles I do like on me.

#4: Dolls
 I've always really loved the outfits you see on porcelain dolls as well as just dolls in general, so they were kinda the underlying influence that made Lolita such a perfect fir for me. I've always loved dressing up dolls in pretty clothing and having porcelain dolls dressed in elegant fashions, so being able to dress myself up in similar styles is a lot of fun.

What influences your guys's wardrobes? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: How I Accessorize

Hello everyone! Today I'm back with another Lolita 52 challenge topic: How I accessorize. This has changed a little bit as I've gotten more accessories of different types and it also varies depending on the event and my energy. I'll also be covering how I accessorize with Fairy Kei, my main style outside of Lolita.

 So with both Lolita and Fairy Kei I generally have some type of hair bow, a necklace or two, some bracelets, and rings or earrings if I remember them. For Lolita hair accessories, I usually wear a bow or two in a coordinating color or a large matching bow on the back of my head for more toned down looks. For one of my recent coordinates that I wore at a convention, I used the second detachable bow from my JSK as a headbow by slipping it onto a headband and added a giant resin star clip on one side and three smaller pink and purple bow clips on the other side. Generally my hair accessories for Fairy Kei are a bow or two that go with my outfit or the giant resin star clip and some bows. For necklaces, I generally do a choker and a longer necklace for Fairy Kei and just a longer necklace for Lolita coordinates. Generally my longer necklaces have a large statement pendant, like a big plastic heart or plastic lettering saying "mahou shoujo." For bracelets I generally use my wrist cuffs and pastel arm kandi or pearl bracelets, but I will occasionally wear a simple metal bracelet or a half pearl, half charm bracelet. For the most part though, I put on as many bracelets as possible! Rings and earrings are typically forgotten when I do everyday cords, but I generally wear two to four rings on each hand and a pair of pastel earrings when I do remember them. I'm trying to get better at changing my earrings to match my outfit so I'm not just wearing the simple fake pearl earrings I generally wear day to day since my job doesn't allow flashy earrings. I'm also looking at different ways to display my rings and my smaller hair clips so I'm more likely to actually wear them instead of forgetting they're in a small jewelry storage box. Other than jewelry and hair accessories, I'll occasionally put a decorative pin of some sort on my outfits as well, and that's pretty much the extent of my accessorizing.

 What sort of accessories do you guys wear? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: Plan for a Trip!

Hello everyone! Today I'm back with another Lolita 52 Challenge topic: Plan for a trip! A week's worth of Lolita outfits I can fit in a small suitcase. I'll be going over this from the perspective of what I own as well as a more generalized perspective. For both I'll be planning a Spring-time trip, so temperate weather with no heavy coats needed.

 First up, how would I pack for a week with my current wardrobe. Since I only really have three Lolita dresses and a couple skirts, I would begin by laying them all out on my bed to decide on tops and accessories. Since I generally travel somewhere with access to a washer and dryer, I'd be able to get away with bringing my one blouse as well as camisoles for underneath, a nightgown, and my two cardigans and sweater as tops. Then I'd just alternate which days I'd have to wear a blouse with days I can wear a cardigan or my OP. For petticoats, I'd bring my two hand-made ones as well as a couple of the longer party store ones I have. Shoes, I would bring my tea parties, a pair of white heels, and my white boots (in case it rains). If weather was expected to be especially sunny or I planned on going to a beach, I would pack my white sandals instead of boots. I'd bring my white heart-shaped purse and pastel Ita bag as well. For accessories, I'd bring socks or tights as needed, my bloomers and spandex shorts, wristcuffs, and any necklaces, bracelets, and earrings I decided on for each coordinate. Most of my pieces come with a detachable bow or matching headbow, so hair accessories are simple, but I would bring some small pastel bows too if I didn't feel like wearing a larger bow that day. I'd also bring a colorful umbrella in case it rains or I need to shield myself from the sun.

 For a non-specific wardrobe, we're going to assume that all of the pieces are either all in the same style or two different styles that can interchange basic accessories (like a simple white blouse). I would recommend packing two versatile JSKs and two skirts along with two or three blouses and two cardigans that work for all of the pieces and a cutsew that goes with one of the skirts. I'm also going to assume all of these pieces have similar lengths for the sake of this example, so two to four petticoats that can be easily packed down depending on the level of poof your skirts allow. (As an example, I generally only require two since I have larger hips and don't want a large amount of poof due to shorter skirts. However, someone with smaller hips or longer, classical skirts might need four to have a proper silhouette for their style.) In addition to these, two pairs of Lolita shoes that can work for two or more of the main pieces each and a weather specific pair of shoes (like boots or sandals) if needed. Otherwise three pairs of typical Lolita shoes, like teaparties, in colors that work with the main pieces. For accessories, I'd do the same as for my example, matching or coordinating headbows and/or smaller hair accessories, and necklaces and other pieces that work for each coordinate. In addition to those, any bloomers, shorts, camisoles, etc. needed for the wearer's comfort and a compact parasol or umbrella as needed.

What would you pack from your wardrobe for a week-long trip? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Developing your Wardrobe

Hello everyone! Going off of last week's post, I decided to do an article on developing a basic wardrobe to a more complete wardrobe. This article is intended to help someone who already has a defined style, but may not have all of the pieces they want for an everyday wardrobe. If you want advice on starting to build an alternative style wardrobe, check out my Building a Wardrobe series (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Otherwise, you're in the right place!

 So before we get into the steps, let's start with a definition of what a basic wardrobe is, mainly in reference to J-Fashion, but this can also be applied to other styles too. I consider a basic wardrobe to be one that you are able to make enough unique outfits for a week or mix and match the pieces you have to make a two week's worth of similarish outfits (like using the same tee and shoes with a different bottom and outer piece).

#1: Assess what you need
 Once you have a basic wardrobe, you'll likely have a fairly good idea of what your style is, so you should be able to assess what your wardrobe is lacking or what it doesn't need. Take some time to go through your wardrobe and pick out pieces that you don't wear and decide if you don't wear them because you need new pieces to go with them or because you don't like them as much as you thought you did. Take some time to determine what you would need to wear the pieces you haven't been wearing and write them down. Once you've done this assessment, go through the pieces you do wear regularly and determine if the pieces you would need for your unworn or less worn pieces would work with what you already have. In addition to those, write down any other items you would like to add to your wardrobe such as weather specific items as well as anything you need to replace due to wear or fit issues.

#2: Prioritize
 Once you've made a list of what you'd like to add to your wardrobe you can prioritize which pieces to buy first based on what works with the most pieces or what needs to be replaced. You can either rewrite your list in order of most needed/wanted or just write ranking numbers next to the items or something similar. A good way to decide on priority is to think what items you need sooner rather than later, like if it's getting cold out and you need a good coat and boots, you'd want to put those higher on your list than a light Summer blouse. Also, you can prioritize based on rarity of an item or how many items in your wardrobe it'll work with.

#3: Research and buy
 Once you know what you want and what order you want it in, you can start to research which items specifically you want as well as start looking for auctions and sales with what you need. I highly recommend researching prices for specific items you want by looking through sold listings. For example, when I decided I wanted to buy Jewelry Jelly, I looked it up on Lolibrary to decide which style I'd prefer (JSK or OP) and make sure the measurements would fit me. After that, I pulled up sold listings for it on Lacemarket and compared the prices based on colorway, style, and what was included (matching headbow, socks, etc). From that I was able to get an average price to expect and was later able to buy the OP with matching headbow second-hand from Storenvy! Great places to look for used J-fashion are Lacemarket and its spinoffs (Kei market, etc, linked at the top of the page), Facebook groups (usually searching the style and sales works well for finding them), and eBay or Storenvy (just be careful and check their feedback). You can also check in local Lolita and J-fashion groups to see if there will be a swapmeet or if anyone is selling anything and willing to do a local trade/sale.

Do you guys have any plans for your wardrobes? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: How Satisfied I am with my Current Wardrobe

Hello everyone! Today I'm back with another topic from the Lolita 52 Challenge: How satisfied I am with my current wardrobe. Let's get started!

 So I kinda waited to write this until a few weeks prior to it posting to make sure I wouldn't have to entirely rewrite it a few months down the road. So you can reasonably assume that this post is up to date for the time being as I have zero money to spend on wardrobe additions right now... Currently, I feel like I have a pretty good base wardrobe in Lolita and J-fashion. I have enough pieces I could probably put together a different Lolita outfit for every day of the week and still have each one be somewhat unique (a challenge I've considered to be a good goal for a basic Lolita wardrobe). As for J-fashion, I've been able to put together two weeks worth of outfits in the past and I know that I could easily do the same now as well. So for workability, I feel my wardrobe's in pretty good shape.

 In terms of items I don't know how to coordinate and pieces that don't suit my style anymore, I did a bit of a closet cleanout several months ago with my Gothic clothing and realized I didn't want to wear the majority of it anymore. I still have some pieces I'm dithering over and some I've yet to reassess for both J-fashion and other styles. I also have a lot of fabric and half-made pieces lying around my crafting area waiting for me to get back to sewing that I need to assess if they're still something I want to make and own.

 I still have a plan of items I wish to add to my wardrobe, but I feel like I have a fairly decent basic wardrobe that's lacking a little bit in cold weather items such as gloves and tights. I would like to add more to my Lolita and Fairy Kei wardrobes so I can have more variety to work with and have less similar looking outfits or having to change clothing plans because both of my cutsews are in the hamper all the time. So I'm generally happy with my current wardrobe, but still want to add a lot more pieces to it.

Do you feel satisfied with where your wardrobe, J-fashion or otherwise, is at? Or is it a huge mess that you can't wear any of? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Game Reviews: Age of Ishtaria

Hello everyone! As promised, now it's time for a review of Age of Ishtaria! If you haven't already, be sure to check out my side-by-side comparison of Spirit Stones and Ishtaria as well as last week's review of Spirit Stones.

 As with last week, I'll be giving an overview of the game so you don't have to read through the massive comparison post to know what the game's like. Age of Ishtaria is a card-collecting battle game with a fantasy based storyline. You have two different types of stamina that limit gameplay as well as different types of currency to improve your gameplay, one of which can be bought with real world money. The main aspects of the game are events (of which there are multiple types), battles, quests, and card powering-up and trading. Every week there is a new event and there is a main storyline series of quests as well as event quests and harder quests for big prizes. Since I want to focus more on reviewing the game as opposed to the in-depth details, I'll leave game description at this and we'll move onto what I like about Ishtaria.

 One of my favorite aspects of Age of Ishtaria is collecting all of the cards I can, all of which have beautiful artwork. There are plenty of ways to get cards in the game that don't involve spending real world money, so I have a fairly good sized collection so far, which makes me really happy. Gameplay itself is also very nice and has lovely graphics throughout all aspects, from quests to battles, events to Nightmare Rift, etc. One of the things I like the most about Age of Ishtaria is how responsive and communicative their staff are. While I haven't had to personally contact them, I regularly see posts notifying when updates will be made (usually once a week when the event changes) as well as after detailing what was updated. I also regularly see notifications about typos or glitches that were corrected as well as that an apology gift is being sent out to all players who log in within a certain timeframe, whether they were affected by the problem or not. I really like seeing that so much effort is being put into this game and I love seeing the new cards and events that come out every week (even if it does mean I have even more cards to collect to have a complete collection).

 For dislikes about Ishtaria, I don't really have any. Obviously there are aspects that frustrate me (like a boss that's extremely difficult to defeat or skills not activating as often as wanted), but these are all a part of the game that makes it more challenging and unique. Just like you wouldn't expect GLaDOS to give you cake after the first level, I don't expect every quest in Ishtaria to be super easy (though I do like it when all the stars align and I get a 300% bonus rating). If I had to criticize anything about Age of Ishtaria, it would be that there aren't more details about unions in their in-game FAQ. I'm still figuring out what exactly unions are for as I go along as well as how to obtain the currency that allows you to upgrade the design of your union. Also, I am not a huge fan of everything downloading as you go to use it instead of when the game is first downloaded and installed, but I don't mind it too much as it helps reduce the amount of time to download the game and allows you to choose what you want to download and when, so you can wait to play or view certain aspects until you're connected to Wi-Fi (although it's hard waiting sometimes).

 Overall, I would highly recommend Age of Ishtaria to anyone who likes fantasy or collecting games as well as anime-themed graphics.

Have you played Age of Ishtaria before? Are you thinking of playing it now? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Game Reviews: Spirit Stones

Hello everyone! As promised in last week's post, I'm going to be reviewing Spirit Stones and Age of Ishtaria. This week, Spirit Stones.

 Since last week's article is verrrrry long, I'm going to do a quick rundown of what Spirit Stones is for anyone who doesn't want to know all of the details. Spirit Stones is a turn-based, card collecting puzzle game with a fantasy based storyline. You collect and power-up cards to fight monsters and complete quests to progress the storyline. It limits how much you can play with different types of stamina and offers more difficult dungeons, big bosses that everyone fights against, and a player versus player system. I would recommend referencing the different sections of last week's post for more details if anything in this one is confusing. Everything there is broken down into aspects of the games for easier reference.

 For starters, I'm going to talk about what I liked about Spirit Stones before getting into the aspects that could have been done better as well as the ones that ultimately led to the game's end. One of my favorite parts of Spirit Stones was collecting cards. They had a wide range of very nicely done artwork on them and it was fun seeing the changes as I evolved them. The puzzle aspect of the game was a lot of fun, albeit difficult at times, because it added a level of difficulty and helped me to become better at strategizing while playing. I enjoyed trying to power my decks up and beat stronger and stronger opponents. Overall, I really enjoyed the game and spent quite a few hours playing it.

 One of my main frustrations with Spirit Stones was the overly difficult player vs player battles. More often than not I ended up having to fight a very high leveled player instead of someone closer to my own level. Additionally, occasionally I would randomly be unable to do battles and I had no idea why because the explanation was vague and I couldn't find any further information on it. Another one of my gripes is that many of the levels were overly difficult, giving objectives that could only be fulfilled if all of the stars aligned and it was also your lucky day. While I enjoyed powering up my cards, it was a bit difficult and quite expensive game-currency-wise to collect enough of the same card to evolve it completely, then try to remember what combinations of fully evolved cards made a new card, and so on. (I eventually looked up the wiki towards the end so I wouldn't be wasting my in-game currency evolving cards I didn't need.)

 Overall, I enjoyed Spirit Stones quite a bit despite my frustrations with it and I was really sad to see it go away. However, after reading other's comments on the "We're discontinuing the game" post that was made, I could see that the development team had neglected quite a few bugs that essentially broke the game. I hadn't taken any part in the team gameplay, which is where the bugs were, so I never saw that aspect of the game, but I had noticed that there wasn't ever a new event or much in the way of updates to the game. I would give Spirit Stones a 4/5 from what I played in it and had recommended it to friends prior to its discontinuation.

Have you ever played Spirit Stones? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Spirit Stones and Age of Ishtaria: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Hello everyone! Today I'm going to be talking about two of my favorite phone games: Spirit Stones and Age of Ishtaria. Unfortunately, Spirit Stones was cancelled a few months ago and is no longer able to be played, which is why I discovered Age of Ishtaria. So in case any of you played Spirit Stones or are just looking for a new game to play, I would recommend you check out Age of Ishtaria! Due to the number of details each game has, this is going to be a very long, descriptive post. Tune in over the next couple weeks for my reviews of the games. So let's get started with the comparison!

#1: Game premise
 Both games have a fairly similar premise and gameplay. Basically, there's a disaster facing the world you're in and you, a summoner, have been asked to help fight. You're able to summon heroes from cards to fight for you against monsters. You progress through levels that each have different monsters you have to defeat in groups. You strengthen your heroes by combining them to make a stronger hero or by fusing them with items. And you fight big bosses to get more rewards to make or find stronger still heroes.

#2: Card Collecting
 Spirit Stones and Ishtaria both have a strong card collection element to them. In both games there are different types and strengths of cards available and you collect cards through completing quests or random summons that you pay for with in-game currencies. Both games have a summoner aspect in that you summon the heros in the cards to fight battles and quests for you. Both games have very lovely artwork on their cards. Spirit Stones had a somewhat varied style on their cards while Ishtaria has a more consistent anime style on all the cards. In Spirit Stones cards were summoned using one of the two in-game currencies while Ishtaria makes use of summoning tickets as well as one in-game currency. Both games have an album that allows you to see all of the different cards you have collected, though Ishtaria has all of the details for each card as well. Additionally, different cards have different costs, limiting how many can be used in a deck at the same time.

#3: Stamina
 Both games have a limiting factor to how much you can play the game at a time, essentially stamina. Spirit Stones had three different types: Battle, Hell, and Battle stamina. Age of Ishtaria only makes use of two types: Action and Battle points. Spirit stones has an ever increasing number of stamina points for each type while Ishtaria only has a maximum of five points for each. There is a corresponding power-up that you can use to refill each stamina type for each game. In Spirit Stones you had wine which refilled all stats (as best as I could tell) as well as hell and battle wines to refill the corresponding stamina. Ishtaria makes use of AP and BP potions in small sizes that only fill up one point at a time or large ones that completely refill the corresponding stamina.

#4: In-game currencies and power-ups
 Both games have two types of in-game currencies as well as power-ups that refill your different stats. One in-game currency is mainly bought with real world money and the other is easily won by completing tasks in the game in both games. This is where things are a bit different with the currencies though: In Ishtaria, crowns, the money bought currency, are easily obtainable, albeit in somewhat limited amounts, by completing a quest for the first time, leveling up, consecutive success in the daily log-in game, and completing challenges. For Spirit Stones, the equivalent currency, gems, were obtained in very small amounts occasionally upon completing quests, and for completing certain daily challenges. It's a lot easier to earn crowns in Ishtaria than it was to get gems in Spirit Stones, in my experience. Both games have a second currency that is only available through completing tasks in-game. For Ishtaria, you get gimmel for completing quests mainly. In Spirit Stones the equivalent was gold and it was earned by completing quests and challenges. Both games have relatively equal chances of getting power-ups to refill staminas.

#5: Powering up cards
 Both games allow you to power up your cards to make them stronger. Both make use of leveling up cards by sacrificing weaker or unwanted cards. Additionally, you can combine two of the same card to make a stronger version in both games. The main difference for that is that in Spirit Stones you had to have two of the same strength to do this while in Ishtaria you merely need another of the same card, even if they're different levels. Also, Ishtaria also has what's called "breaking" a card where you can use spirit gems to boost a card's attack and defense after a certain point.

#6: Decks
 Both games make use of decks, one for quests and one for battles. In Spirit Stones you have to make your decks yourself and in Ishtaria they are automatically made for you using the highest powered heroes available, but you can make your own decks if you want to as well. Spirit Stones allowed a maximum of four heroes for the quest deck, generally one of each type was best, and a total of eight for the battle deck, though you could have fewer depending on the cost of the cards you used. Ishtaria has a maximum of five cards for the quest deck, generally one pound type and two of each of the other attack types. The battle decks can have a maximum of 15 cards in teams of three. You start out with only one team, but unlock more as you level. The maximum cost of the cards you can use goes up whenever you level for both games.

#7: Quests
 Both games have quests you can complete to progress a storyline as well as earn rewards. As I mentioned in #1, both have a similar layout to their quests. A few monsters are presented for you to defeat, once defeated you're presented with a few more, and so on until you clear all of the stages in the level. The attacks are turn based, allowing you to attack, then giving the monsters a chance to attack, then going back to you, and so on, like many popular JRPGs. The monster's attack rates vary depending on the monster and the level, so they might attack you every round, or once every three rounds. If your health runs out, you fail the quest and have to start again. Spirit stones gives you the option to pay gems, the real-world currency, to continue playing while Ishtaria doesn't give you that option. (I may be wrong here since I've only failed maybe one or two levels when I was first starting to play Ishtaria, so I'm not positive on this.) Both game's quests require a certain amount of stamina to be played, for Spirit stones an ever increasing amount of Battle stamina and for Ishtaria one to two AP. Additionally, in Ishtaria you have the option to spend all of your AP or go "all out" to increase rewards at the end of the level. This option is nice for if you don't have a lot of time to play or just need to move through levels slower so you can power up more to make them easier. I believe you can only use the "all out" option after level 30.

 The main difference between Spirit Stones and Ishtaria's quests is in how you do attacks. With Spirit Stones, you have to connect colored orbs and powerups to determine how much damage each hero does. Each hero has a class that corresponds with the orb's colors: Red for warrior, blue for magic user, yellow for assassin, and green for ranged. This means your attacks are limited to whatever color orbs you have in groups of three or more, so generally you can only attack with one hero each turn unless a wild card, a rainbow orb, is used to let you change color orbs, or a powerup is linked in your combo. In Ishtaria, you have a set attack for each hero, with their attacks being more or less effective based on the monster's stats. Similar to Spirit Stones, there's different attack types as well as each hero has an element. There are three attack types, pound, flurry, and slice, and four different elements, fire, water, earth, and null. Each hero can have a different combination, so, for example, you can have a flurry null or a pound null type. To attack in Ishtaria, you usually can only attack with each hero once and you have to choose the order of the attacks based on how many monsters there are and their power level. In addition to regular attacks, there are assists and burst attacks. Assists are unlocked as you level up up to a total of three, one for each attack type, and allow you to borrow a hero from a union member's deck to attack once per level. Burst attacks are unlimited, but to use them you have to fill up the burst meter by attacking monsters. Once the burst meter has been filled, you can use eight different attacks in any combination you want. This is the only attack where you can attack with a hero more than once in a round.

#8: Battles
 Both games have a battle element that lets you put your team up against another player's team. In Spirit stones, you use Battle stamina to fight other players and are given a completely random player's team to fight against. Battle play is similar to quest play in that you connect orbs and powerups to attack your opponent, then your opponent (being played by the computer), does the same to attack you. Whoever runs out of health first loses. Ishtaria's battle system is completely automated, so it's really a matter of choosing an opponent you can beat more than skill or luck. Ishtaria also has different ranks based on how powerful your deck is and gives you two options for your current deck rank as well as the option to try and beat higher or lower ranked decks.

#9: Boss Fights
 Both games have powerful bosses you can go up against periodically. Spirit Stones had Hell Bosses and Hell Gates, high powered monsters that everyone had the opportunity to fight and do damage to. Both used Hell stamina and your battle deck. Due to their high hit points, or HP, Hell Bosses generally took several hours to defeat with everyone in the game having the opportunity to fight them and receiving rewards based on how much damage they did. Hell Gates were significantly weaker monsters, but still more powerful than typical monsters. Usually Hell Gate monsters started out weaker, then ramped up in difficulty each time one is defeated. Hell Gate monsters also have a time limit you have to defeat them in. You have a chance to fight a Hell Boss after a certain point in time every week, if memory serves me correctly, and Hell Gates have a chance to open after quest battles. In Age of Ishtaria, you have Raid Bosses that you fight using Battle Points, or BP, and your battle deck. Raid Bosses are similar to Hell Gate monsters in that you have a time limit to defeat them in and they are significantly stronger than typical monsters. Raid bosses are usually unlocked by completing event quests and vary in level depending on what the level of the last raid boss you had was and whether you defeated it or not. Once you defeat a raid boss, there's a chance for the boss to go "wild," essentially changing to a more powerful form of the monster or character. When fighting the raid bosses, you're given the chance to spend your BP one at a time or go "all out" and do more damage based on how many BP points you're spending. For example, if your BP is at the max of five, you can get x6 damage.

#10: Special Dungeons
 Both games have a form of special, more difficult dungeons and quests you can try. Spirit Stones had the Devil's Castle (I might be remembering that wrong) where you could play for free once per day, otherwise you needed a ticket specifically for the dungeon. (Side note, I may have some details on this wrong as I only played it a few times due to it being difficult and also a bit obscured in the menu. There's also some points I can't be sure about due to not having played enough to figure it out.) The Devil's Castle is a series of increasingly more challenging stages and floors you have to complete. The further in the dungeon you get, the better the prizes you get. You're given the choice between easy, medium, hard, and a super hard stage to fight your way through using your quest deck. The main kicker: Your health doesn't always refill to max at the end of a stage. I'm unsure of what the determining factor is, but you were occasionally rewarded with a full health bar and oftentimes you had the same health that you ended the last stage with. I don't think I ever finished the dungeon, but there were a lot of floors, each with several stages. I think if you complete the dungeon you have a chance of getting a rare card.

 In Ishtaria, there are Nightmare Rifts, which I also have fairly limited experience with. Nightmare Rifts are very similar to Spirit Stone's Devil Castle. You have to fight through multiple levels with a variety of monsters until you reach the boss. Unlike in Spirit Stones, you use AP to fight Rifts, usually using 3-5 AP per level, and you can battle in as many levels as you have AP for with full health and bonuses for each one. However, unlike with regular quests, you're unable to use items such as potions to recover your heroes's health when you're fighting in a Rift. There are a number of different bosses you can fight, but they only appear for a few hours at certain times of the day or week, as best as I can tell. You also can only choose from two of the bosses that are chosen at random every time there's a Rift. You earn runes from defeating Rifts that, once you collect enough, you can redeem for prizes such as AP and BP potions, extra card storage, and rare cards. You can also collect "spirit points" (I'm not sure what the actual name is) for defeating a boss that, once you've beaten that boss enough times, you can redeem said points to obtain a card for that character.

#11: Events
 Spirit Stones and Ishtaria both have events, but by the time I joined Spirit Stones, it was well on its way to being shut down and only had one event that never changed. The event I saw for Spirit Stones was relatively simple: Visit various pages in the game to collect "keys" and get a reward. Its main point seemed to be to get players to explore the different parts of the game a bit with an incentive. Age of Ishtaria has a different event every week, occasionally two or more different ones at a time. I'm going to break things down a little for simplicity's sake. In Ishtaria, there are three different types of events: Main events, Raid Boss events, and bonus events. Generally there is only one main event at a time with a raid boss or bonus event running at the same time, but I've seen two main events running at the same time once in the past. Bonus events are the simplest type of event, basically giving a bonus when you power up your cards. Raid Boss events cause more frequent raid boss appearances, generally of characters in theme with a quest based main event. Main events are the most varied event type with several different kinds of main events. The main ones I've seen are gift based, collecting based, quest based, union battle based, and giant monster based.
 Gift based events revolve around trading gifts with union members and other players that you're following. The more gifts you trade, the more and better rewards you get. There's always two types of gifts, a regular type and a special type. The regular gifts are easily obtained by completing quests and sometimes the special ones can be obtained this way too, but at a much lower drop rate that varies for each event. The main way to obtain special gifts is by buying special card packs that include them as well as a chance to get special themed units and other items. Collection events cause special monsters to spawn during quests that drop event items you collect then trade in for potions, card pack tickets, crowns, and other items. Quest based events have a special storyline you can play through and are generally the same format as typical non-event quests. It's also common for a Raid Boss event to happen in conjunction with a quest based event. Union battle events pit unions against each other in special battle grounds. (I'll explain unions more in the next section, so don't worry if you don't know what they are.) There are only battles at certain points during the day and how much damage you do to the other union's team determines how many points you get both as an individual and as a team. After the event ends, prizes are determined based on personal points and your union's rank compared to other unions, which is based off of total points scored by your team. Every union member gets the prizes for their union's rank, while personal prizes are only earned if you participated and scored points. Giant monster events revolve around fighting, you guessed it, giant monsters. With this type of event you get to fight super powerful monsters, usually flanked by some weaker ones, with your quest deck along with a team of other players. You either summon a monster with your BP or jump in on another fight with open slots and do as much damage to the giant monster as you can, working with other players to defeat it. Once the monsters are all defeated, you get points and prizes based on how much damage you did and other factors such as finder or last attack. At the end of the event, you get ranked on how many points you scored and receive a prize based on your rank.

#12: Teams
Both Spirit Stones and Age of Ishtaria have teams of some sort. I know very little about the teams in Spirit Stones since I decided to be introverted and avoid any contact with other players, but as I was reading the comments on the forum post stating the close of the game, I noticed many players stating the team battles were very easy to abuse and one of the factors to the game's closure since it was never updated to avoid abuse. In Ishtaria, there are unions that you get assigned to when you start the game, then you can change unions if you so choose. There are two types of unions: Open unions and closed unions. Anyone can join an open union and the leader is determined by player's union ranking which, I believe, is determined by how well you do in raid boss events. (I just recently discovered this feature when I realized I'd become leader for my union, so I'm still learning my way around a lot of things.) Closed unions require the union's creator and leader to accept requests from other players to join. The leader stays the same unless they transfer ownership of the union to another member. As far as I can tell, the main use for unions is for union based or gift based events.

#13: Storyline
 Compared to Ishtaria, Spirit Stones had a very vague storyline. To sum it up, a kingdom is in being threatened by this evil dragon and you're the summoner chosen by the princess who must protect the kingdom. Each boss has a short phrase or sentence they say before you fight them and then one they screams upon defeat ("I'll get you next time," "GWARG *fades into mist*,"You will not defeat me, puny mortal," etc.). And that's about it until you get to the end and get victorious story, yay! And then some other dragon's attacking another land, so guess who gets to go fight more monsters? Yup, you. Who'da guessed?

Age of Ishtaria has a similar setup, basically you meet two caracters, Salix and Meru, who are fighting against a thing called Storm that's causing monsters to become crazy and vicious. To combat Storm, they are purifying God Stones in various areas after defeating monsters. They found you unconscious and tended to you, then asked you to join them in their quest since you lost your memory and are a summoner, someone able to call heros from cards to fight. Every few levels, you get more storyline telling you more about the characters you're with, their quest, and the world you're in. I don't want to give any storyline away should any of you decide to play, but you have a much vaster storyline in Ishtaria's quests than in Spirit Stones, and on top of that you also have more storyline in quest based events. I'm nowhere close to finishing the first storyline and I know there's even more still after that. I haven't been playing long enough to see if the quest based events repeat with the same story every year or anything, so there may or may not be new storyline coming out consistently.

#14: Game Development
 The number one reason Spirit Stones died was due to lack of game development and new material from the creators. I only made it through the first storyline, some of the second storyline, and had just gotten strong enough to start making it farther through the Devil's gate, so I can't speak from my own experience, but almost everyone who commented on the game closing forum post was saying something about lack of new content and lack of updates to improve already available content. I personally had a lot more to explore in the game, but for players who'd been playing regularly for several years, there was nothing new and exciting coming out to really keep them coming back. And apparently the game developers ignored players suggestions for improvements or bugs on the forums as well.
 Age of Ishtaria is constantly growing and improving. While the general interface stays the same, there's always new content coming out, quests update regularly, and the development team listens to the players. Sometimes I log in after a maintenance is performed to see a notification stating there was a bug or a description was unclear, so a free mini BP or AP potion or something similar is being sent out as an apology gift to everyone who logs in within a certain time window. And 10/10 times I never even saw the error or bug that they're apologizing for in the first place. Also, every week when the events are about to change over, a notice is sent out stating when the maintenance will be taking place and what content is ending and starting, then once the maintenance is over another notice is sent out saying what started and ended and if the maintenance was extended it apologizes and states what apology gift is being sent out. I've never personally had to send in a bug report or anything, but the staff seems to be very responsive to everyone.

So, that's pretty much all of the game aspects Spirit Stones and Age of  Ishtaria have. I'm really glad I found and tried out Age of Ishtaria after Spirit Stones was closed since it's very similar and a lot better maintained. TL;DR Spirit Stones and Ishtaria are very similar games, but in general Age of Ishtaria is a lot better made than Spirit Stones was.

Have any of you guys played either of these games or something similar? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Why Don't I Cosplay More?

Hello everyone! Today I decided to do a twist on one of the Lolita 52 Challenge topics I did: Why don't I wear Lolita more? Instead of Lolita, I'll be talking about why I don't cosplay more since that was supposed to be one of the main points for my Facebook page. So let's go!

#1: Time and money
 In case you haven't already noticed, time and money are big limiting factors in my life. I work full time which gives me a steady paycheck, but then by the time I get home from work I have chores and errands to run as well as procrastination to do which takes up a fairly large portion of my time. And then between bills and miscellaneous expenses *cough*impulse buys and thrift store raids*cough* I don't have a lot of extra money to put towards buying pre-made cosplays or materials for handmade ones.

#2: Procrastinaaaatioooooon!
 I procrastinate a lot when it comes to starting or working on sewing projects, even simple ones, because I hate cleaning up my floor, ironing fabric, and laying out and cutting the pattern pieces. I don't mind the sewing that much, but y'know, my machine's kinda buried and oh hey distraction.

#3: Venues
 I don't get the opportunity to go to conventions or meetups very often, so I don't really have a ton of places to wear my cosplays to outside of the grocery store or Target and let's face it: I get asked what my costume's for when I'm in J-fashion enough as it is. I'm not really confident enough to have professional pictures taken of most of my cosplays since they're rather simple or unfinished, so I don't have opportunities to wear them outside of cons either.

#4: Number of cosplays
 To be perfectly honest, I only really have a handful of cosplays. And I don't have all of the pieces for some of them such as wigs or base pieces. And some are still just piles of fabric and patterns sitting in my room waiting to be turned into a cosplay. So I really only have two cosplays I can wear, and those still have some work to be done on them.

Do you guys cosplay? What stops you from cosplaying more or at all if you want to, but don't? Let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: Trends I Love and Hate

Hey everyone! Today I'll be talking about two Lolita 52 challenge topics at once: Trends I thought I would never get into, but I now love and trends I thought I loved, but now I'm not too keen on.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't really followed a lot of trends in Lolita as I generally to avoid spending too much time in online groups due to drama. Because of this, I'm combining both of these topics together so they're longer than one sentence each...

So for a trend I never thought I would get into but I now love, I have to say prints. While I'm still not a huge fan of prints and miss the simplicity and elegance of dresses relying on details in design rather than a different print on the same basic dress, I definitely appreciate and wear prints a lot more than when I first got into Lolita. I used to absolutely loathe the whole idea of prints, but secretly I've kinda always liked them, as evidenced by my first brand made dream dress being Angelic Pretty's Jewelry Jelly. As for a trend I used to love but now hate, the only thing that really comes to mind is super chunky or blocky shoes. I'm not saying rocking horse shoes or shoes with thick heels, I'm talking Demonia platform boots or shoes with platforms that are bulkier than the shoe itself combined with Lolita. I used to love this look in my ita days as I didn't know better and since it was more "in" back then, but now I feel it just looks ridiculous having super bulky shoes with an elegant outfit.

Are there any trends you used to like that you now hate or vice versa? Lolita or otherwise, let me know in the comments below!

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lolita 52 Challenge: My First Meetup

Hello everyone! Today I'm going to be talking about my first meetup. I thought I'd already written a post on this, but I must have lost inspiration and never finished it... So without any further ado, here's my experience from my first Lolita meetup!

 So, while I've been into Lolita fashion for quite a few years now, I didn't go to an official Lolita meetup until fairly recently. I was living in a different area from where I grew up and hadn't really met any Lolitas in 'the wild' or at cons. Fortunately I'd managed to find the local Lolita communities on Facebook, so I was able to find out when meetups were happening. After about a month, I finally found a meetup that I wasn't working during and that I could drive to. Since I was unfamiliar with the area, I didn't realize that the meetup was in the city and only had my GPS to rely on to get to the meetup. I was fortunate that even though I was kinda late to the meetup, I was easily able to find everyone else at the tea shop we were meeting at and was just in time to look through the menu and decide what I wanted to order. I'm not really a fan of tea, so I decided to try what the waitress recommended since I haven't really tried a lot of different varieties before. I kinda wish I had ordered something iced, because I ended up having a pot of tea I didn't really drink much of until it cooled down a bit. Everything else was wonderful though! We all got the same set that came with a few little deserts, some sandwiches, and a scone. Everyone was really nice too. I wasn't too talkative since I had just met everyone, but I still made friends and had a fun time. After tea, we all took coord pictures and then headed off to a paint your own pottery place. I accidentally went to the wrong one first, but the people there were able to direct me to the correct place and everyone else was already there, thankfully! I hadn't gotten anyone's number at that point and didn't have data on my phone, so I wouldn't have been able to contact anyone if I'd gotten lost. We all had fun choosing and painting our own pottery pieces, after which we all said goodbye and went our separate ways. I really had a lot of fun meeting everyone and keep in contact with them through Facebook as well as occasionally see them at events, so I'm really glad I decided to go!

Have you ever been to a Lolita meetup? Was it at a convention, or did a friend bring you along? What was your first experience meeting other Lolitas in an organized event? Let me know in the comments!

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