All posts in the Review category

Cute Bow Earrings

Published March 2, 2013 by kurolace

Hi Darlings! Today I wanted to show you the great new earrings I got this week! I’ve been looking for a while to find some little black bow earrings, and finally came across a pair I wanted to try out.

$10.50 + $2.50 shipping, available on Amazon from Accessories Forever

$10.50 + $2.50 shipping, available on Amazon from Accessories Forever

I originally thought I’d prefer some that are just metal, but then I saw these rhinestone ones on Amazon. They are  sold by Accessories Forever and cost me $13. I was a little bit nervous to buy them, since the picture on amazon made it difficult to tell what the size and quality would be. I thought they could either be really cute, or really cheese-y!

Luckily they turned out to be really cute! I actually received a complement on them the very first day I wore them. They are about 0.5″ x 0.5″, and the crystals really are of good quality.  Also, they arrived extremely quickly! Only about 2 days after I ordered them! (They shipped from CA, so if you live on the East Coast, its probably going to take longer.)

The same design is available in black, purple, red, blue, pink, silver, gold… and I think even teal. I’m seriously considering getting a pair of the purple ones! 🙂


Music I Heart: Azam Ali, Niyaz, Vas

Published September 21, 2012 by kurolace

I listen to a fairly wide range of music, and for a long time I’ve had an interest in middle eastern music. A few years ago I had the good fortune to stumble upon an album on iTunes by a Persian group called Niyaz. The self-titled album stayed in my car’s stereo for AGES because I loved it so much. It falls into the dance genre, I would think. (wikipedia says: “Niyaz’s music, described as “mystical music with a modern edge”, is primarily a blend of Sufi mysticism and trance electronica”)

Anyways… Niyaz’s female vocalist is Azam Ali, who also happens to have several solo albums as well as having been part of another group called Vas. Vas falls more into the “alternative world music” genre according to wikipedia, and the music usually features instruments like the tabla, goblet drum, dulcimer, and tambura (sorta like a sitar).

I found a video on YouTube with one of my favorite Vas songs, “The Reaper and the Flowers.”


And a Niyaz song from their first album:


I suppose it should come as no surprise that I used to take middle eastern dance classes… for about 2 years I was into it pretty heavily. Unfortunately there was a car accident, and a back injury, which took me a long time to get over. And since then I haven’t been able to get myself back into it…maybe someday in the future 🙂

Book Review: May Bird and the Ever After + sequels

Published September 14, 2012 by kurolace

May Bird and the Ever After

May Bird Among the Stars

May Bird, Warrior Princess

by Jodi Lynn Anderson


I actually should have posted this a few weeks ago, when I first finished the series… but oh well, :).

Little less than year ago, my mom had to finally make the decision to retire from her position as a 4th grade teacher. It was a hard one for her, as she wanted to last 1 final year, before retiring. There were both practical and personal reasons for this: she had already committed to the school year, and leaving mid year wasn’t a nice thing to do to anyone, students or principal… and also, she wanted to feel like she had control over this one thing. But cancer moved into her spinal cord and started causing immense amounts of pain, such that she couldn’t stand for long periods of time, let alone maintain control over 20-some 9 year olds.

While moving her stuff out of her classroom in December, a few books caught my eye, in particular the “May Bird” series. I finally got around to reading them last month, my mom had put them aside for me when sorting out books to be donated to various places.

First, I have to tell you, that these books are intended as children’s literature – at least in regards to ease of reading and style, etc. But I actually am fond of a good children’s book. They’re like “non-committal” books, and I never stopped picking them up to read whenever my mom had them in the house (which was ALWAYS, lol).  High school and college more or less killed my “personal” reading ambitions… I went from a kid who was always reading something, to someone who couldn’t even bear to pick up a book during winter vacation. Luckily it seems that over the last year since graduating, I’ve started to read again. Although I still avoid all the heavy sh*t out there, that people tend to praise as being mind blowing, awesome, insightful, revolutionary… bleh

Anyways, the May Bird books are children’s books, but they have a particular twist which appealed to me: Most of the story occurs in the After Life. And Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Ever After ain’t your typical Pearly Gates or Elysian Fields.

In the first book, May Bird (your stereotypical misfit) finds herself sucked up into the Ever After, despite being very much alive. Her naked cat, Somber Kitty, accompanies her, as does her disfigured/malformed “house ghost” Pumpkin. Being a “Live One” in the Ever After is Illegal, and being a Live Cat is even more illegal… We find out that the Ever After has recently been more or less taken over by a Dark Spirit named Bo Cleevil, and it seems that May Bird is destined to be the one who defeats him (according the Book of The Dead, no less). Her adventure includes meeting up with one of the beautiful and loving Grim Reapers, befriending a dead TB patient, Italian military officer, and Bee-Goblin Crossbreed, avoiding certain doom at the hands of the Bogey Man and his Shuck Dogs, and finally deciding to travel to meet with the mysterious “Lady of North Farm” who is the one who originally summoned May Bird to the Ever After.

In the second book, May Bird and her companions finally reach North Farm, but they are pursued by an evil black fuzzy kitty, who just so happens to be considered one of the most dangerous Dark Spirits to ever exist. (This is the sort of absurdity which keeps the books light-hearted enough to be meant for children – otherwise the razor-blade mouthed clowns might lead to trauma) The lady of North Farm turns out to be a sort of Gaia figure in a way…. she has “always existed” and spends a lot of her time disguised as stars in the sky, lines in the sand, or a face hidden behind leaves. She informs May Bird that her only way out of the Ever After is a portal in the Bogey Man’s bedroom. Consequently, she has to travel to the territory of Dark Spirits. Along the way she meets up with some other “Live Ones” who vow to help her, as they believe she is indeed the savior of the Ever After.  After entering the realm of dark spirits, May Bird has a chance to rescue one of her friends, who had been swallowed by the Black Water in the first book, and then she has a brief run-in with Bo Cleevil, but is forced to escape with Somber Kitty through the portal in the Bogey Man’s closet. The book ends with her being reunited with her mother in the world of the living.

The third and final book, May Bird, Warrior Princess, takes place several years later. May is now 13, and rather disenchanted with her life as a “normal” 13 year old. She has had the nasty shock of discovering no one believes her tale of adventure in the Ever After, not even her mother. On her birthday, she suddenly receives a mysterious phone call. She only hears one sentence: “We need you” and recognizes Pumpkin’s voice. Later, there is a black-out in the middle of her birthday party, and her insistence that “Its the ghosts!” send her guests away screaming. That night, determined that they are coming to take her back to the Ever After, May Bird puts on her “Warrior Princess” outfit, and goes up to the “Widows Walk” on top of her house with Somber Kitty…. We have to chalk up her lack of better judgement to her desperation, as it is the middle of a snow storm. Needless to say, she falls off the roof (so does Somber kitty), and dies (so does Somber kitty). Being dead doesn’t make things much easier for her in the Ever After, as she discovers that Bo Cleevil has successfully rounded up most of the inhabitants and imprisoned them in his fortress town to the North. Even North Farm has shriveled up and the Lady is missing. Fortunately May Bird is reunited with her previous companions (who haven’t given up the fight), and they make a final attempt to destroy Bo Cleevil. I’ll skip the details, so as not to spoil it for you,  but May Bird and Somber Kitty do make it back to the land of the living in the end  (hey, its a children’s book – not to mention that we hear the grim reaper in the first book tell May that she isn’t due for another 80 years).

If you can’t tell from my jumbled mess of a summary – the books are full of detours and details, but its not so much that you get confused. Things are nicely pieced together throughout the story and the details help give the characters their personalities.  The books seem big – but that’s because the print is larger than normal. These three books actually could be put together as 1 large book with three parts, and it probably wouldn’t be much bigger than one of the later harry potter books. I read the first two books in about 2 days each, and the 3rd book probably took more like 3 days.

You can get them on Kindle, or in paper back, but since the first book was published back in 2005, I’m not sure how available they are at your local book store. 🙂

Book Review: Crafty Superstar

Published May 5, 2012 by kurolace

Scan of the cover.

Author: Grace Dobush, 2009

Publisher: North Lights Books (Cincinnati)

ISBN-13: 987-1-60061-320-3

This book was an unexpected discovery I made one day while browsing the arts & crafts section at my local used/new book store.  I was actually looking for stitching patterns or crochet books, when I saw this book laying out in the book shelf’s “display” section. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about setting up an Etsy shop, or maybe doing some consignment arrangement, in order to sell a few of the many crafts that I’ve made. It was a used copy, and marked down 50% of its “new” price, so I went ahead and bought it.

While I haven’t read straight through it, cover-to-cover, I have browsed it extensively. Its a very useful and practical guide to setting up a small craft business. I particularly found the parts about branding, copyrighting, and pricing to be useful (although, for copyrighting, the book basically says “get a lawyer”, lol). The book is peppered with various “case-study” type examples collected from successful artisans. Additionally, there are multiple appendices filled with lots of useful links and information at the end of the book.

Here’s a brief summary of each chapter:

Chapter 1: Do you DIY?

This chapter discusses the handmade / indie trend’s history and popularity, as well as suggesting that you do some serious thinking regarding your expectations and motivations for getting into selling.

Chapter 2: Biz Basics

This chapter is focused on all of the small and big things that you need to take into consideration when naming, organizing, and running a small business. Topics include pricing, boosting production, organizing a workspace, and keeping track of income/expenses and legal issues like taxes and copyright.

Chapter 3: Selling Out

This chapter includes information about different ways to sell your products. For instance: online sites like Etsy vs craft shows vs consignment shops. It also talks about building a website and customer service, and even bartering your crafts for services and goods!

Chapter 4: Indie Craft Shows

This entire chapter is devoted to the notion of selling at craft shows, which, despite the rise of the digital era, is still probably one of the most popular and most utilized methods of selling crafts. The chapter talks about things like applying for shows, prepping products, creating displays, networking while at the show, and hosting your own show.

Chapter 5: Get Noticed

This chapter is all about marketing your business and building up a customer base. There are some suggestions about getting coverage in magazine and blogs.

Chapter 6: Finding Balance

This final chapter is about balancing your day job, family, and craft job, as well as maintaining your inventory. It has a few recommendations regarding either reducing your crafting business, or increasing it to a full time gig.

There’s also a brief Epilogue, and then the following appendixes:

  • Appendix A: Forms and Templates
  • Appendix B: Craft Communities
  • Appendix C: Awesome Craft Blogs
  • Appendix D: Craft-Friendly Publications
  • Appendix E: Small Business Resources
  • Appendix F: Reading List
  • Appendix G: Online Consignment Shops
  • Appendix H: Samples
  • Appendix I: Major North American Indie Craft Shows

In A Nutshell: I am happy with is book and it was totally worth the $18 original price (I paid $9 – so, double yay!). Sure, you can find similar information and suggestions online, probably for free – but I appreciate having it all together in one place. Its sorta like having check list to work on item-by-item. If you are considering selling your crafts and want to do something more than just a one-time craft show, then I think this book and a worthwhile investment. 🙂

Review: Unquiet Grave (The Ultimate Goth Collection)

Published February 19, 2012 by kurolace

I have a lot of crafting and DIY posts I want to write, but I haven’t had a chance to get some pictures taken… so in the meantime I’d like to write a brief review for one of my best purchases ever!

Now, I’m not exactly a scene kid, mind you, and my musical taste is rather eclectic. I pretty much never listen to the radio and I don’t really go clubbing… so I discover most of my music via random searching on iTunes.



About 8 months ago I was on iTunes, trying to find some new music to listen to. I decided to go ahead and just type “goth” into the search bar to see what would show up. There were a few results, but the one that caught my eye was “Unquiet Grave.” Apparently this collection was originally released on several separate discs… but iTunes offers the entire collection for just $16! And its 131 songs! I pretty much thought that given how many songs there were, I was guaranteed to like a least a few of them. So I went ahead and bought the album / collection… it took awhile to download, but as soon as it finished I put it on my iPod and started listening…

I was really thrilled to discover how many of the songs I liked. I recognized some of the artists, but other than Abney Park, I hadn’t really listen to any of them. There were a few songs which I immediately loved:

“Dark Romantics” by The Awakening

“Breathe” by Flowers & Machines

“Vision in Black” by Advent Sleep

“Love Lies Bleeding (Part Two)” by Black Atmosphere

“Funeral Night” by Bella Morte

“Vote for Love” by Tiamat

And a handful of others….

When I first get a CD, I click through all the songs and pick out the ones that catch my attention. Later I’ll listen to the whole album while I’ve working or crafting, and then I discover a second set of great songs. So, for Unquiet Grave, the second set of songs that I fell in love with tended to be some of the slightly slower / softer songs, such as:

“The Sky is Blushing” by Jennifer Hope

“This, My Melancholic Masquerade” by Autumn Tears

“Bell, Book & Candle” by Stare

“Doganch” by October Hill

“Raining in Kyoto” by Adenosine Tri Phosphate

“Fireworks” by Ocean 8

“At Mortlake” by Peter Ulrich

“Dragon Song” by Corpus Delicti

“myphilosophy” by Inner

“Desert Snow” by October Hill

And other…

The collection has a pretty wide range of music types.. from industrial, to IDM, to rock, to “ambiance” types… One thing you’ll notice is that none of the stereotypical, old-school goth artists are present (Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, etc)… but in my opinion that is a good thing, because we’ve all heard of those artists anyways!

The only disappointment came when I decided to get back on iTunes to check out some of the artists that I had liked songs from… Either I couldn’t find them on iTunes (I guess they aren’t popular / current enough), or I didn’t like what I did find. Of course, as we all know, sometimes it can be hard to decide if you like a song just by listening to the sample snippet on iTunes, but I also don’t want to buy an entire album just because I happened to like a single song by that artist. (So I guess what I need to do is go to Barnes & Nobles and see if I can listen to some longer samples.) I also am guessing that perhaps some of the artists featured in the collection were sort of “one-hit-wonders,” at least in regards to goth-y music, or that their usual style isn’t properly represented by the single song included in the Unquiet grave collection.

That being said, I highly recommend this collection of music. Especially if you are new to goth music or are looking to sample a larger selection of artists. I mean, come on, its only $16! Which is like $0.12 / song! I’m sure that you’ll find at least a few songs you like, and perhaps a lot more than that!

Cute Craft Kit: Fuwa Fuwa Fun

Published February 10, 2012 by kurolace

Boxed kits and a package of refill clay.

About a year ago I discovered some cute clay modelling kits from Japan, called “Fuwa Fuwa.” (In Japanese “fuwa fuwa” means something like “very soft.”) They follow in the tradition of cute miniature foods… which can be used in “deco-ing.” The kits include some clay, molds, glue, and rhinestones & other embellishments. The clay in these kits is something like paper / foam clay, which is extremely lightweight and air dried. While the clay is still moist, it smells a tiny bit, but that goes away once it dries. Some of the kits come with a special “mousse” clay which is very soft and can actually be pipped just like frosting. If you use up all the clay that comes in the kit, you can also buy extra clay (the normal bricks or the mousse clay). It comes in a several different colors, including pastels colors, “chocolate” colors, white, and even some “sparkly” colors.

The kits have different themes like: chocolates, doughnuts, deli, ice cream, etc… The first kit I bought was for making miniature sweets to use as charms / cabs. It included the eyepins, charm loops, and even a ball chain necklace. It even included a bonus antique key plastic charm. Although the instructions are in Japanese, there are illustrations – not to mention that its pretty easy to figure out how to use the kits in general: put clay in mold, remove excess, carefully take out of mold, arrange pieces and glue together, allow to dry, and voila! – you have a cute mini doughnut, cookie, or whatever. The only annoying part was that the molds often leave seams – although you can work these out if you are willing to take the time to do it (in the picture below, you can see that I did NOT take the time to do this with all of the charms in the first batch I made, lol).

After having used up all the clay in my first kit, I thought it might be fun to get another couple of kits to make different things. I mistakenly assumed that all the kits made charm-sized items – which is not true at all. In fact, the last time I looked at etsy (which is where I bought my kits – in the “supplies” section), most of the fuwa fuwa kits make larger items. So please pay close attention when you’re choosing a kit.

I suppose that its fairly obvious that these kits are aimed at a younger audience, but I like them because they are so easy. Sitting and playing with the clay – pressing it into the mold, putting the pieces together – these are great stress relieving activities, in my opinion. Perfect for a day when I want to make something, but I’m feeling a little too tired to be super creative. I played with these a lot while I was studying for my comprehensive exams last spring! Also these kits might be a good starting point for someone who wants to get into making mini-foods – later you can graduate to making them without molds!

Fuwa Fuwa Charms

Review: Gothic & Lolita Bible – American Version

Published February 5, 2012 by kurolace
American / English Version

The 5 English language Gothic & Lolita Bible issues

Back in 2008 & 2009, TokyoPop published 5 English / American Gothic & Lolita Bible issues. The “mook” (magazine + book) was a quarterly publication, and based on the Japanese original. Each issue was full color and featured tons of pictures of Lolita fashions, new releases from Japanese designers, DIY projects, patterns and more. Sadly TokyoPop only published 5 issues before apparently abandoning the project. For a long time I had hoped that it would be picked up again, but then Tokyo Pop closed its North American publishing office. So I doubt that anymore of these Gothic & Lolita magazines will be published, and if they were, it would be done by a different company.

Here’s a run down of what’s in each issue:

Volume 1 (Feb 2008) – The cover of this issue is the same image that was used on the very first issue of the Japanese Gothic & Lolita magazine. The artists name is Mitsukazu Mihara, and has  done a number of cover illustrations in Japan. A few of the features in the issue are:

  • street fashion (Japan)
  • photo features (“Mana (Moi Dix Mois) Moi-Meme-Moitie – Demigod,” “Snow White (AYA)”, “The King, the Prince, and the Frog Princess,”  “The Other Me Inside Myself (Jui of Vidoll and Aki of SID)”, and “Angel Stripped Bare by Her Devil (Novala Takemoto)”),
  • introduction to most of the major Japanese designers including: h.NAOTO, Black Peace Now, A+LIDEL, Putumayo, MA & MAM, Union Jack, Excentrique, Atelier Boz, Atelier~Pierrot, Na+H, Miho Matsuda, elements, Kikirara Shoten, Baby Doll, Stigmata by Sexy Dynamite London, Algonquins, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Mary Magdalene, Angelic Pretty, Victorian Maiden, Innocent World, metamorphose temps de fille, Visible, Fairy Wish, Shot gun Wedding, and Chocochip Cookie.
  • interview with musician Nana Kitade
  • interview with an American designer (Vivien Hoffpauir of Violet Candy)
  • patterns and instructions to make a wolf hat & gloves, a bunny ear cape, cat ear headgear, Alice head bow, and Alice tote bag.

There are a few other articles, and at the very back of the magazine there is a short manga called “Till Dawn” by Asumiko Nakamura.

Volume 2 (Summer 2008) – “The Flower Issue.” This issue featured the usual sections of new releases from Japanese designers and Japanese street fashion. There’s also:

  • Reader Spotlight (Ashlee Foster)
  • Various flower special articles including the meaning of flowers and how to make ribbon roses
  • Shop review for NEKO (Brazilian company)
  • Photo features: Mana: Melody of the Rose, Hakuei (Penicillin): The price of Roses, A Gift from the Winds: Fairies in the Forest of Flowers, The Other Me Inside Myself (BAN)
  • Interview with designers Megan Maude (of Megan Maude) and Victoria Michel (La Dauphine)
  • Event Photos from New York Anime Festival, Winter Chocolate Festival (Portland), Tea Time in Texas, and Pacific Media Expo 2007
  • Reader photos
  • Patterns: flowered skirt with musical print, puffed-sleeve blouse with balloon collar, and a polka-dot skirt

There are several other articles as well, and another manga at the back: “Perfect World.”

Volume 3 (Autumn 2008) – This third issue includes “Halloween hair, makeup, recipes, books, quizzes, and more.” Once again there are photo features, street photos, new designs from Japanese designers, as well as:

  • “Je Desire” – a collection of products from various websites.
  • Patterns: ruffle blouse, knickerboxers, 3-tier ruffle one-piece, georgette blouse, bat mini hat, double-ruffle lace headdress, and wrapped rose corsage
  • Designer Spotlight: Samantha Rei of Blasphemina’s Closet
  • Interview with Mana
  • Event Snaps: Gothic & Lolita Bible Launch Party (LA), Michael Grecco Photoshoot, Sakuracon Lolita Fashion Show, New York Comic Convention, Greeting Spring in Stockholm, and Grand Calena Getaway
  • Interview with BLOOD
  • Asumiko Nakamura’s manga “Looks Like a Teaspoon Part I”

Volume 4 (Winter 2009)– This issue includes all the regular stuff, plus:

Cover of the Winter 2009 issue (Vol 4)

  • Interview with Arika Takarano of ALI PROJECT
  • Interview with designer Lynleigh Sato of Sweet Rococo (American brand)
  • Hair styling guide
  • Event Snaps: Summer Darkness (Netherlands), G&LB V2 Release, Anime Expo, Kakkoicon, and G&LB V3 Release
  • “Tips & Tricks for Tall and Curvy Girls”
  • Patterns: flower brooch, flower mittens, round headdress, bear-head belt, odekare chocolate-chan knit muffler, angel rose skirt, knit ribbon headband, fur mini cape, fur muff, ribbon corsage, and knit plush skully
  • “Looks like a Teaspoon Part II”

Volume 5 (Spring 2009) – “The Wedding Issue”  This fifth issue features plenty of articles on, you guessed it, weddings. Included:

  • patterns/tutorials for making rose comb, rose brooch, gloves with corsage, angelic princess hat, veil headdress, leg warmers, bunny cell phone case, candy-style purse, candy tote bag, candy polka dot pouch, and feathered fascinators
  • Interview with musician Kaya
  • Event Snaps: Rococo Rendezvous (LA), Dances of Vice (NYC), Wonder Party (Brisbane), and Texas Holiday

The fifth issue doesn’t give any indications of it being the last one and even asks for reader submissions and all that stuff. So obviously the decision to cancel the project must have come after the publication of this last issue.

I seem to recall reading some critism of the English G&LB issues, along the lines of “not being like the Japanese ones.” Since I haven’t actually had the chance to look through a Japanese G&LB, I’m not exactly sure what that critism was about exactly… BUT I’m willing to guess that it might have been that the English version was too “dumbed down.” Of course, one should take into consideration that while the Japanese G&LB magazine has a wide, established reader base, the English version did not – therefore part of the purpose of the magazine was to introduce people to Gothic & Lolita style.

Overall, if you have a chance to get a hold of these English G&LB issues, I would recommend doing so. If only for the patterns, tutorials, and lists of  Western designers.

Review: Gothic & Lolita by Yoshinaga

Published February 3, 2012 by kurolace

Review: Gothic & Lolita (book)

Cover of the book.

Masayuki Yoshinaga – Phaidon Press Inc. – 2007- 200+ pages

ISBN 978 0 7148 4785 6  –  Amazon: $22.83 (at time of review)

I bought this book about 3 years ago, so it’s not exactly a new product. However I figured it didn’t hurt to add a review for it here!

To start out with, this is a photography book, so it’s not like it provides a lot of actual information on gothic lolita fashion or street fashion. That being said, the photographs are great and beautiful to look at.

One important thing to note about this book is that the photographs are not limited to people in Gothic Lolita fashion. There are quite a few photographs of people in other types of alternative fashion – cyber/club wear, western goth, and a few real oddballs. However a majority of the pictures are of girls in some kind of lolita fashion (mostly “gothic” but also a few sweet, classic, wa, etc.). This fit my needs well, as I was primarily looking for a collection of good lolita photographs so that I could practice drawing lolita style dresses.

On each page there is a photograph of either one or two people. The model’s name and age are written vertically on the side of the photo, and there is a small bit of text toward the bottom of each photo which I’d call a “stats box.” This text includes things like: current obsession, clothing brands, and “point of fashion”.  These bits of info vary from person to person and convey a bit about the model’s personality and preferences.

While I wish the book had a little bit more actual “Gothic Lolita” and Lolita subtypes pictured, and less western goth / club goth outfits, overall I really enjoy this book. I get it out from time to time to do a quick sketch or two in order to practice drawing, and also just to look at the pictures. Since this is Gothic Lolita / Goth that we are talking about, each person has a unique and interesting outfit on, so looking at the pictures never gets old.

While $22 might be a bit pricey for some strangelings’ wallets, I think its worth it, and I would certainly purchase this book again!