December 31, 2013

An End of a Year and an End of an Era

As you bid adieu to 2013, please include in your remembrances this study of Neo-Aristocratic lifestyle. This will be my last post in this blog.

It has been a long, fascinating journey of aesthetic, fashion, lifestyle, discovery, and writing, but it has come to an end. The world of alternative fashion no longer holds my same interest. I have no desire to return to creating and exploring my own aesthetic. Finally, this blog no longer holds the same joy it once did.

It is time for me to move onto new experiences and new writing projects.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my thoughts and comment. Thank you to the friends I have made through this experience. I will not forget you or your kind words.

I wish you the best in your writings and lives.

May 2014 be full of happiness and growth!


Evelyn Lynette

November 9, 2013

Thoughts for Autumn

This past week, autumn swept in with a vengeance.

I've always thought autumn has had a very dualistic personality; it travels between the extremes of soft and harsh. In September, the weather has a hint of chill- enough to pull out the sweaters and begin our now metaphorical gathering of foods to store. Soups become appetizing, apples need to be picked, squash and pumpkin fill the supermarkets, leaves change their colors.

But by late October or early November, the weather breaks. The chill transformers to a cold that leaves lips numb and- if you live up north with extreme seasons- it means reaching for that second layer of clothing. I think, temperature wise, it happens when the thermometer drops to the forties during the day.  The leaves are gone from the trees, the earth has stopped producing and the long cold nights of winter are clearly ahead.

When people say their favorite season is autumn, I doubt they mean this half.

In Chinese Medicine, the season of autumn is related to the element of metal. Metal is a hard element to understand. In the organ system, it relates to the Lung and Large Intestine. Emotionally, it corresponds to grief. In the cycle of our lives, it corresponds to old age and, eventually death.

The image I have been meditating on is metal corresponding to The Knife. A knife cuts away unnecessary things. It parrs the fat, rids us of the waste. In our hectic world where we define ourselves by what we do, I think it is easy to overload our schedule and lives with things that are not useful or are no longer useful.

It is hard to say no and to bring things to an end. There are fears of disappointing people, of burning bridges, of closing doors. But we are not beings of infinite energy- no matter what the advertising might say- and doors must close. Especially as winter comes and the cold sets in.

Winter is a dark, cold time and our natural energy ebbs during those months. Not that you would be able to tell by the constant schedules we keep. It is a time of endurance, of rest, of letting our energy collect for spring and new growth. Autumn is the time to cut back on our energy expenditures and prepare for the lesser energy.

This autumn I have been trying to do just that. There was an impulse upon returning to school to fill every bit of my schedule with new activities to meet new people, do new things, not be left to my own. But I sat with that impulse until it disappeared and have been very cautious about adding new responsibilities to my life or making demands on my time: job searching, meeting new people, living a full schedule.  The only things I keep to are my school work and my writing (though obviously not blog writing).

It is damned hard to live a simple life. I used to scoff at monks or people who lived in incredible simplicity until I learned just how hard it is to say no to things and remain interested and focused on the task at hand. It takes immense will power to continually look for the new and exciting in what you already have rather than to get your thrills from external novelties.  We have forgotten how to do that as a culture.

There are certainly essays that I wish to write and this blog is not dying by any means. But it will pass into a quieter state of hibernation as I conserve my energy for winter.

What do you do to conserve your energy? Do you notice changes of energy in the shift of the seasons?

September 27, 2013

RAC: A Closet for a Real Life

Well organized, massive closet with floor to ceiling accessories
Well organize, but unnecessarily large closet
I want a closet I can wear. More importantly, I want a closet that I do wear. Lets say you've looked through your look books, you've found your personal style, you've gone out and bought your personal style, you've got a coordinated closet of skirts, high heels, blouses and blazers. It's beautiful. It's perfect. But it remains untouched. Because you are a yoga instructor and are rarely required to wear office wear. 

Your closet should fit your actual daily life- not the daily life you want to have. 

If this seems obvious, it is. Does it still require a blog post? It does.

My closet feels like this sometiems

For instance: in the past year, I have not worn one pair of high heels. I can't bike in them. I can't walk the requisite mile and a half in them. And yet, half my shoe collection is comprised of unworn high heels because I like the idea of them. While my two pairs of flats and single pair of boots are worn down to almost nothing.

Or, I have three fancy winter coats perfect for going to the opera or the ballet. Yet, I never attended either the opera or the ballet once this past year despite loving the idea of it so much. 

These items fit my personal style certainly. They are beautiful, I love how I look in them, but they don't fit my lifestyle and so they go unworn. Does this mean to the donation bin for them? I'm not sure. If there comes a time in my life when I can wear high heels and afford the theater, I'll want these on hand. But in the mean time, one thing I can absolutely do is keep myself first, from buying things I won't wear and second, being on the lookout for things that I would wear on a daily basis. 

A closet full of pretty clothes, might not get worn

How to do this?

A lifestyle analysis. These are the steps I am taking to try and decide what I need to be on the look out at thrift stores and the like.

1. How do you actually spend your days?

This is a difficult question to answer since I feel as though I am in transition for so many things. For paid and regularly attended commitments, I have two: School and Krav Maga.  For the divisions of my days, I attend school, study, hang out with friends, and work on my desk. (As I continue to adjust to my new life, these activities will, hopefully, expand.)

2. What do these activities require in apparel?

Krav Maga: Basic workout clothes:  (clean tennis shoes, plain shorts, plain shirt, sports bra) X 2

School: my school is wonderful and allows me a wide variety of clothing for the basic classes. I can go from very casual jeans and a tee shirt, to my more elaborate daily wear.  However, the practical classes are a little more strict.

Normal Classes: whatever I want: (Skirt, blouse, shoes, jacket, tights, etc) X4

Practical classes: clothes that aren't restrictive and allow access to general musculature. (Tank top, shorts (or skirt), closed toe shoes, something to cover during the colder months.) X3

Study/ Hanging out/ Work at desk: slightly more casual, comfortable clothes. X 7

3. What other conditions should you take into consideration?

You can include anything you want, but for me this is transportation and weather.

Transportation: since I walk at least a mile every day, my shoes need to be practical. Since, I often bike, I can't wear many hats.

Weather: up north, the winters are bitter and the summers miserable. I need two distinct wardrobes. In the winter, an abundance of overcoats, gloves, hats, scarves, sweaters and tights. In the summer, things must be light and flowing.

4. How well does your actual closet fulfill these needs?


My entire wardrobe is geared towards Normal Classes with little regard to transportation though pretty flexible for the weather. I have just enough workout and practicals clothes to last a week, but doing laundry every week would just wear out those pieces too quickly.

5. What needs to go on the shopping list?

From a quick perusal:

~ One pair of black flats.

~ A pair of boots

~ 4-5 new tank tops.

I know it is possible to find all these items in my aesthetic. The tank tops don't have to be practical for work out- they can be richly colored and embellished with lacy details. The shoes can have quirky details. But these will become immediate and instant parts of my wardrobe- not need to be left waiting until I found the right outfit.

It's tempting to create a beautiful wardrobe full of fancy, well matched outfits but only be able to wear it for a fraction of your life. Now that I have a better idea of what my actual daily life requires, I can shift the focus of my wardrobe to have beautiful, matching pieces that I regularly use.

How well does your wardrobe match your lifestyle?

September 14, 2013

RAC: Pintrest and Lookbooks

In my current quest to remake my poor, broken wardrobe, I have engaged in an attack on two fronts: both culling what I don't wear from my wardrobe and creating a series of inspirational lookbooks. I have talked about the culling aspect in the past, but not the building of inspiration- which I think is really the more exciting option.

Now, I have about a thousand inspirational pictures stored on my computer- they comprise most of my alternative aesthetic inspiration. But the documents page is unwieldy to use as an inspiration board: the pictures are too small, when you get them the right size you can only see one at a time, deletion is difficult, etc. So, I have finally turned to embrace what people have been using for ages: pintrest.

Pintrest has grown on me. I used to be a little disdainful of the hype and people who collect pictures of what others are doing rather than doing it themselves, but I've fallen fully into the fold. And though it seems like a great deal of the fashion tends towards the mainstream, hipster look- there does seem to be enough of a variety that I don't feel my aesthetics are being influenced by what is available when I create my lookbooks.

What is a lookbook?

For me, a lookbook is my inspiration or mood board. It is a collection of outfits, accessories and style pieces that strike a chord within me. From these pictures I'll be able to discern what I really like and what is just a passing fancy. I'll be able to pick up trends in interests and begin to create a list of what to look for for my wardrobe.

Like with most things I undertake, I have a process: I browse through pintrest searching for certain terms that resonate: vintage, street style, steampunk, elegant, sophisticated, sweater and skirt, etc. I go through the page and pin everything I like to my Lookbook 1. Everything and anything that catches my eye. Once I have reached 100 pins in my first look book, I create my Look Book 2 and continue the process. As of this moment, I am on my fourth lookbook and have found 328 pictures that I like.

However, just finding what you like isn't enough- as evident with my closet. Many different aesthetics appeal to me. Everything from steampunk to coquette. From edgy, leather Goth to modest, feminine styles. Were I to rebuild my wardrobe from this massive collection of pictures, I would end up with something even more ungainly than I had before.

So, every day for the past week, I've been deleting five pictures from each completed lookbook (completed = 100 pictures in it.) This way, I can whittle down what was a passing fancy, any thing that has the right idea but is just filler, and anything that I wouldn't wear.

This last point is very important for me. Usually my tastes in inspiration drift towards the grand, impressive and flamboyant. The clothes you might wear to a convention but not to get groceries. However a wardrobe needs to reflect your lifestyle and if all my inspiration is for once in a lifetime events- no wonder I don't know what to get at the store or feel like I have anything to wear!

This time I've been working very hard at only choosing only clothes that I would legitimately wear to school (my most common outing.) This means ignoring the over the top advertisements or statement pieces and focusing on street wear.

A few trends and ideas have emerged in the process:

~ I am very much a skirt person. I think there may be about 20 out of 320 pictures that tickled my fancy that were pants or shorts based. Lucky for my style, I usually wear skirts anyways!

~ I like a deep red, jewel blues and purples. These colors continue to be repeated in the pictures as accents or statement pieces. I have a closet of mostly black- it sounds like it's time to add some richer colors.

~ Sweaters belted with thin leather belts is apparently an attractive look for me.

~ If I ever got into Instagram, the super saturated filter would be my favorite. At least that is what my pictures are telling me.

~ My aesthetic was honed by pictures 101-200. It is much harder to cull out photos from that lookbook than the first (where I was still learning what I liked) and the second two (where pickings begin to get slimmer as major search categories are exhausted and I begin to get bored and adventuresome.

~ I had to create a "High Fashion" look book to place the extravagant pieces I liked. Just because I wouldn't wear them every day doesn't mean I cant gain valuable analysis from those pieces.

~ It is hard to look at a piece and ask myself if I really like it or if it is just pretty. Same problem with the culling of pieces from my closet I imagine.

My current goal is to whittle down each of my 100 photo look books into a mere 40 each, combine them into a greater file and then whittle those down to 50. At which point I think I will have a pretty solid core of themes and outfits I really enjoy. That should be ready in a couple of weeks.

September 12, 2013

On Polyamorous Relationships

Naturally, I've been thinking a lot about relationships lately and one of the considerations has been the number of people in a relationship: a polyamorous vs. a monogamous relationship.

To define the terms: a monogamous relationship is one where you are in a committed relationship with one person (cheating on your significant other in a monogamous relationship does not make it a polyamorous one- just makes you a cad.) A polyamorous relationship is one where you are in a committed relationship to two to many people, each partner is free to have other partners, and each partner is aware of that there are other partners. (Again, deciding that you are now going to be in a polyamorous relationship without informing both partners doesn't make it so- again, it just makes you a cad.)

 Now, as you can guess, I am a little biased against the idea of polyamorous relationships (so read this post with a grain of salt) but I can't deny them as a viable method of living outright. After all, there was a time when I wanted a polyamorous relationship. During our four years in college, the Law Student and I had an "open" relationship- though neither of us felt compelled to act on it and if we had it might have closed a bit faster. (We did eventually close it when we went our separate ways to grad schools. Or at least I did.)

I thought I understood the appeal of an open relationship. Think of the possibilities in bed! Think of the gifts you could receive from not one but two people! Think of the love and comfort and warm fuzzies that you would get from having two loves!

Then I realized relationships were hard. You have bad days. They have bad days. You need to forgive and shrug off little annoyances. Accept bad habits and different ways of thinking. You have to change yourself (and yes, every relationship requires this- the health of one just depends on how much you do.) It's not easy to love someone. It requires a lot of work on both parties part and I am still learning how to do that properly. If it was this hard to keep a relationship alive and going with one person, how hard would it be with two? Or more?

But! I can't say a polyamorous relationship is immoral or impossible. I think it would take a lot more work. And so while I don't have any tips or guidelines to offer, having never been in one myself, these are some thoughts I've had:

~ Understand your reasons for going into a polyamorous relationship. If, like me, you want multiple loves for the benefits it gives you, that won't work. Even in a monogamous relationship, if you are just using your partner as a tool to make you happy, it's not healthy. I can only imagine this is amplified in a polyamorous one.

~ Understand that you won't have the force of culture behind you. Whether right or wrong, we live in a monogamous culture (though it is swiftly becoming a serially monogamous culture). There aren't the institutions or social support in place to help you when you enter a polyamorous relationship. There aren't books written about what to do when one partner is jealous of the other or how to negotiate the tricky waters of multiple relationships. There are probably support groups of other people who  have chosen this lifestyle and they can offer advice and comfort. But you aren't going to find that in the larger country. If things go wrong, you'll hopefully be met with genuine concern, but I think there will be a tinge of "I told you so" in a lot of people. (After all, you've just confirmed the rightness of their own more normal behavior.)  Again, this doesn't preclude a polyamorous relationship, it just makes it more difficult.

~ Communication becomes even more essential. Jealousy is a normal response in our culture. If you've managed to truly free yourself from the concepts of possession, then that is wonderful and I'd love to hear how. But that takes a level of self-awareness and a understanding that I don't, and I imagine most people, don't have.

~ Don't start a new relationship when you are in a Long Distance Relationship with one or multiple people. New relationships cause new changes in people- as they should. And willingly changing to that degree while you have someone waiting isn't fair to either of you if you are committed to your relationship.

~ All the rules of being in a single relationship still apply.  I'd worry that I would forget this. That when things aren't going well with one person, I just start concentrating on the other rather than work it out with the first. Though, again, this could just be why I am not suited for a polyamorous relationship.

~ Make sure all your partners know that you are interested in a polyamorous relationship from the beginning. If they agree to try it- make sure they are really committed and not just agreeing out of fear of losing you or something else.

My final thoughts are that polyamorous relationships are a lot like communism. They sound great on paper, but in practice a host of human weaknesses come to light and the thing collapses. Of course, some people can thrive in a communal living situation and I have heard of polyamorous relationships that work wonderfully for everyone involved. It's just that the benefits of both lifestyles are only achieved through more hard work and personal changes of thought and feelings than I think most people who embark on them are aware.

September 10, 2013

RAC: What to do with Old Clothes

A sort of stunning picture

The zipper doesn't work.

There is a hole in the material.

There is a permanent stain down the front.

The cloth is all but worn through.

Two buttons are missing.

It happens. Clothes, just like everything, have an end date. Maybe not as soon as garment industries would like us to believe, but there comes a point when you need to say goodbye to a piece of clothing. For real.

I found a sweater like this. The poor thing has been with me for 10 years now. I received it in my freshman year of highschool and it has been a staple of my closet  ever since then. But after countless wearings and laundry loads, it has lost it's shape, its warmth, it's texture. It is old, raggidy and shiny around the collars. Even my higher tolerance with wear and tear can't support it- so I'm throwing it away.

Yep, throwing something away feels even stranger than giving it away. But often times the thrift store isn't the option with a piece of clothing too far past it's use. No matter how nice it would be to think that everything has value to someone else. If you wouldn't pick it up in a thrift store, don't assume someone else will.

So what to do?

First, harvest all the hardware. Snip buttons, take out zippers, unstitch trimmings- if there. If you sew, upcycle these items into other projects. If you don't, from personal experience I can assure you that zippers and buttons are a great find at a thrift store.

Second, if the material is 100% something and you have a compost bin, try slicing it up into strips and composting it. I've heard this from a few other sites- not sure how the dye would affect anything, but it's what the Victorians did with their materials.

Third, if neither of those apply, throw it away and don't feel guilty. Cloth still decomposes faster than plastic bags. (But this is another excellent reason to only buy natural fibers.)

What do you do with clothes that are too old to be donated?

September 9, 2013

Remaking an Aristocrat's Closet: Lessons from Rarity

Yes, that Rarity.

Like many of my generation, I am a fan of My Little Pony. I like the expansion in variety of female archetypes for girls. I approve of the lessons of the show for the most part. I appreciate the integrity of the aesthetic. It is a fun, pretty show with a good host of characters and a great thing to watch before bed.

Rarity is, by far, my favorite. Does that really come as a surprise to anyone? She is elegant, passionate, intelligent and mature. It is possible, she proves, to possess both femininity and strength. She also represents the element of generosity.

The more I think on elegance and nobility, which I do think Rarity possesses, the more accurate her element appears. Elegance is inherently generous. It operates from a position of abundance because a mark of beauty is that it is enough. Beauty exists when nothing else can be removed.

Generosity is a quality that I with which I.... could use some improvement. I have a tendency to hoard on the chance of a "what if." I like to accumulate clothing, books, pretty trinkets and then guard them jealously. Even if I don't use them. Even if they just sit there collecting dust. At least I know they are there.

The things I have, I don't like to share. Not snacks. Not books. God forbid you want to borrow some clothes. But more than my things, I am jealous of my time and energy. There are several times I fall into the unfortunate mindset that everyone else is out to drain my precious minutes of alone down time which I hoard with all the powers of my Introvertedness to.... read webcomics? But that is a discussion for another day.

The mental shift I am trying to engender with Rarity's lessons of generosity is this: the clothes which are sitting in my closet and being admired but not worn could be used instead to make someone else very happy.

Now, to satisfy the Randian in me which is balking at that statement, this is not to say that I should give away my favorite pieces that I do wear just because they might make someone happy. Rather those pieces which have the right color, but not the right cut; have the right style but don't quite fit; have more sentimental value than use; that might be used one day for a cosplay of something- those are the pieces which need to move on.

And they are the hard ones to move on- because they are the just ifs. If I just lose a little weight. If I just find the right skirt. If I just remembered it existed. They have sentimental value. They have aesthetic value. But they are still taking up valuable space in your closet.

I just cleared out two paper bags worth of such items and I have to keep myself from going back to them and hanging the items up- because of those just ifs. But I look in my closet and it feels healthier without the dead weight. Looks slimmer and fuller of potential. And yet I want to go hang up that Lolita shirt (I decided that it would be easier to thrift the shirts) or the silk shirt from Thailand that is wrong color and has slits up to my bra straps but that my mum bought for me years ago.

So rather than thinking of these clothes as a loss from my life, I am trying to think of them as a gift into other people's lives.

It's helping a little.

September 8, 2013

Remaking an Aristocrats Closet: Goodbye Lolita

Ever since the beginning, Lolita has been one of my inspirations for creating the Neo-Aristocrat look.  I fell in love with the strange silhouette, the delicate details, the care and attention of the enthusiasts, and the general aesthetic. It was so different than what I had experienced before. Petticoats, ruffles, learning the difference between a OP and a JSK and a cutsew. Learning to identify favorite style, favorite brands and then- the purchase of my first dress. It was a Lolita Blog that inspired me to begin blogging. Lolita is the only alternative aesthetic I've actually purchased clothing from.

And yet, it is time to say goodbye. 

This is not to say that I shall shun Lolita. Delete all my lolita bloggers. Or even keep from looking at various brands for their new designs. Because the aesthetic is still immensely appealing. 

Just not for me anymore. 

One of the hallmarks of Lolita is the delicacy of the outfits and, by extension the maidens who wear it. When I look at the outfits, I am filled with admiration, but also a sense of ungainliness. I'm a relatively short person, but when I consider Lolita I feel too tall and lumbering. Like I wouldn't know what to do with my hands, the ruffles, the frills and lace. The clothing, even classic, just seems young and suited for a lifestyle I don't share. 

And frankly, that's not what you want out of a style. Even one as beautiful and appealing as Lolita. Fashion should make you feel elegant and confident. It should bring out your best qualities, not make you feel lesser. For some people, Lolita does this. For me, it doesn't. Since I am now in a place where I want to start defining my style- being able to cross of Lolita from my list is a relief rather than sad. 

Currently, I have two lolita blouses, two lolita dresses and a petticoat. I'm not sure what to do with them since they reside in the part of the closet that I adore but never wear. Perhaps I'll see if I can sell them or try to incorporate them into my new wardrobe. If not, maybe they can inspire some other girl in a thrift shop. 

It feels like the end of an era, but also good. I can now cross off a particular aesthetic from my list rather than leave it open as a possibility. Hopefully, as I do this, I'll slowly whittle down my vast interests into something that is genuinely me. 

Remaking an Aristocrats Closet: Introduction

Dear readers, I have a confession to make: my closet is a mess.

Not your normal mess. Not a mess that can be fixed by a few more hangers or better arranged shoes. No. The mess that my closet is is far, far deeper.  An utterly flawed, unmatched, disconnected, chaotic mess that leaves me wondering how so many nice clothes can lead to so few good outfits. Perhaps you know the feeling.

How did this happen?

My philosophy for clothing has always been: if I like it, I buy it. Does it matter that it isn't quite the right fit? No! I'll tailor it in my copious spare time. Does it matter that I don't attend enough black tie events to warrant another party dress? No! It's pretty! Does it matter that this top matches none of my skirts or pants? Absolutely not! I'll just find something for it later.  After all, it's thrifted, of natural fibers, and I like it. What other requirements does my closet need?

A lot apparently. Because if you follow this philosophy, what do you have?

10 of 15 skirts that just need to be taken in a bit at the waist or hemmed just a tad or are being saved for a special steampunk occasion. A fraction of shirts that I feel comfortable wearing to class because the rest are too frilly, too fancy, too brown for my black skirts,  or too bright to wear. A beautiful collection of high heel shoes- except I only ever walk or bike 1.5 miles to school and you can't do that in heels. An extensive array of lacy bras and mismatched underwear- and none of them neutral colored. A dozen various necklaces, bracelets and rings which don't quite go with anything. A box of headbands, bows, and flowers which are collecting dust. Five hats which don't match my coats. Seven various coats of which I wear two. Six pairs of gloves and I wear none of them. And no basics.

See the problem? Really, the only thing I've done right is have a single pair of jeans.

My closet isn't full of junk. The clothes are made of good material, are high quality. Nothing from Forever 21, H&M, or other cheap manufacturers. I genuinely like everything I have in my closet and thought that personal preference would be enough to create a cohesive wardrobe.

It isn't. Not even close.

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know by now that I find fashion to be essential to defining our aesthetic and, thus, who we are. As I am at a crossroads in my life, it is time to really take stock of who I am and who I want to be. What better way to help me on my journey than by remaking my closet into a real wardrobe?

What is a wardrobe?

A collection of clothes, shoes and accessories that display a cohesive, integrated whole. Everything matches. Nothing exists for that far off someday. The pieces are well made, of high quality, and fit beautifully. They reflect my personal style but fit my actual lifestyle. Every peice makes me feel elegant, beautiful and well dressed- even if I just grabbed what I could in five minutes.

This is going to be a long project. Especially since I'm going to try to thrift or make as many of the items as possible. I don't want to throw out everything and begin again, but rather learn how to weed out the things that don't fit and to create a beautiful collection.

As a guide for this journey, I've chosen Into Mind's 10 Step Wardrobe Revamp. I just found her this past week and have been devouring her website for inspiration. If you like this blog, you'll probably like hers. She has a wildly different aesthetic, but I really appreciate the thought and care she put into writing out each of the steps.

Hopefully this will be a fun journey, so expect a greater increase in fashion posts.

September 7, 2013

Long Distance Relationships

In short, don't.

If you are not in a hurry, here is the longer version:

The Law Student and myself attended the same undergrad, and many of the same classes, together. It was a rare day that we did not see each other. However, our choices for grad school drew us to opposite poles of the country. We both wanted the best possible schooling, since we both valued education so. My best school was up North and, even though he was accepted into schools in the same city, his best school was in the South where he eventually was accepted and attended.

I do not know if this was a mistake. It is impossible to know or guess how things might have unfolded had we been together. Which is better: the personal development the pain of being on my own in a strange city forced or the sweet joys of companionship and stability?

But I do know that the distance contributed to the sudden shattering of my relationship.

It was a ten hour bus ride between our cities and we were both full time, busy students. Seeing each other for a week became nothing short of a miracle as we usually had to fit our reunion of a month at a time into the space of two- three days.  Sometimes it seemed easier to just to not see him, rather than say goodbye again. There were so many times that I made the long treck back to my house, fighting back tears.

During our times apart, we talked on the phone or on the computer, but when our days were focused on learning the very nuances of two very different professions, there was precious little common ground to fall back on. After all, we hadn't the day to day experiences to discuss and we hadn't the energy or time to discuss the arts or philosophies we both enjoyed. Our conversations revolved around old memories and plans for the future. They ended quickly and lacked a certain spark.

It became easier when we did see each other to share media, rather than talk. We nocticed that it took time to warm up and become used to eachother and it was harder the longer we were apart. Also, the weekends were our precious down time for both of us. We were both introverts. At the end of the week, there wasn't quite the energy or drive to go out and explore. So we played computer games. I have seen most all of Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space 9 in the course of a handful of weekends and breaks this past year.  We weren't making new memories. The Law Student, already a devoted Trekie, wasn't even seeing anything new.

Of course, in our own personal lives, we were continuing to develop and evolve. School, new locations, meeting new people- these are were forcing us to change. Only, we were no longer meeting the same people, reading the same books, going to the same places. Instead, we were developing in different directions under different influences in such subtle ways that- for all our introspection- we didn't discuss. After all, there were no discussions over dinner or in bed to bring us up on those fleeting revelations of the day.

As a final flourish to these dilemmas, we didn't have a good method to discuss our personal problems for as good at discussion as we were. Our fights in five years could be counted on three fingers and were a such a strange and alien discussion that any anthropologist would be confused.  We discussed the thoughts of the mind and, not speaking for him, I never wanted to discuss my fears and confusions with him for fear of not being rational enough.

Retrospect ties up experiences into neat lessons and reveals flaws indiscernible in the moment. But I can't say that I didn't have some worries about these problems. There were a handful of times I tried to address them and was met with incredulity. Or else fixes were tried but never maintained and we fell back on the same habits. It's only now that I realize how toxic those little worries were.

But the problem is, I don't know what we could have done to prevent these. The circumstances (our Introvertedness, school, the long distance, etc) couldn't be changed. Or else, if they were changed, it would be incredibly drastic: moving schools, the time and money to visit every other weekend, forcing past our exhaustion to go do "things," etc. As with environmental change, drastic steps seem out of proportion until a disaster.

These are problems that I think would plague most long distance relationships, even if the circumstances aren't exactly like ours. However, if you are in or are thinking about being in, these are a few of my thoughts:

~ When you are together, make an effort to make memories. Plan ahead for dinners, hikes, events or whatever interests you share. Make each meeting cherished and a building block to being closer. Don't rely on memories or future plans to keep you going.

~ Be of a less impressionable age. I know the threshold for the end of adolescence keeps being pushed further and further back, but make sure both you and your significant other are done with the major life defining shifts before you part. I think this is just age, but it might be experience. This way, you won't change too drastically while you're apart.

~ Find something you could do together that is new and exciting for you both. A common ground that you can discuss and explore together. Maybe its a book, maybe its a new activity. But you need something to discuss and share in common.

~ Make every effort as possible to see each other. Yes, it might mean missing out on some opportunities in your current situation, but its worth it for the relationship.

~ Be honest about your feelings and try to talk about them as much as possible.

~ Finally, and most importantly, when you are separated- don't look at other people. Don't entertain thoughts of them. Don't try to get to know them better if you are interested. It's not fair for anyone involved.

I wouldn't do a long distance relationship again. Ever. Much less for three years. I'd much rather relocate or not go than have the pain of being apart for all that time. Because, and I might have glossed over this, but these relationships hurt. It's lonely, miserable and fraught with problems.

This is an example of the more personal posts I may sometimes be indulging in. It really does help with retrospection now, even if I go back to delete it later.

September 4, 2013

Une Petite Pensee: Books in Bags

Victorian Clutch Found Here

Now possessing a bag that can hold more than a wallet and a phone, I have the delightful option to carry books and notebooks with me where ever I go. When putting books in bags, put them spine facing up. Small items are less likely to be lost in the pages or the pages themselves to be crushed.

September 3, 2013

On Journaling

I've been journaling since I was 13. Over the last ten years, I've filled up six journals of varying thickness and with varying consistency. Or rather, startlingly regular inconsistency. I'll start, write every day for about two weeks and then forget about the journal for two months.

Still, even though my consistency leaves much to be desired (yet one more point for blogging: there is that slight pressure to keep writing) when I do journal I reap wonderful benefit. Really, I count as journalling any time you put pen to paper to help sort out the tangle of your mental confusion. Thus, your journal need not be concentrated in one book (though it is convenient). I probably have three times the amount of writing found in my bound journals spread out over moleskins, school note books, random scraps of paper, backs of receipts.

But I really think the value of journaling is less in having a perfect record of your past years and more for the insight it allows the workings of your mind. My mind scatters and scrambles and flits from point to point like a berserk butterfly. I can't sit down and really think through an issue. But when a pen is forcing me to focus my thoughts, I can reach much deeper levels of comprehension because I don't get distracted by my nails, or what I'll wear tomorrow, or how so-and-so brushed me off, etc. Conclusions I couldn't have reached on my own can be found in journaling. And, if you're more consistent than me, trends longer than the memory can hold can be found. Reading back through past entries over the years, I realized that there was a certain two week period in the fall when I felt horribly down, depressed and exhausted. Now, rather than assuming this was because of classes or relationships, I know that it is just something that happens.

In short, you should journal. Journaling is good. Allows yourself insight. Lets you vent some emotion on paper. Gives you a record to look back on. And here are some tips I've found for journaling:

~ Don't assume that you need an hour. You can get through a lot in ten minutes- or even five. Take a bit each night before bed if you can.

~ Don't write for an audience. Swear. Say bad things about other people. Give vent for your true feelings. Don't worry about your future self reading it or how it will look to historians. This is about you. Right now.

~ Write what is on your mind and in your heart right then. Too often I feel compelled to catch myself up to how I'm feeling and spend a page describing all the past events. When I finally do get to the point I really want to journal, I'm bored of it. So skip the context and the pretext- just write what is on your mind.

~ Journal dreams when you wake up. They are great to analyze later.

~ Make references to conversations you had with other people. You can chart friendships or relationships and it's great to see the first time you mentioned someone and your initial reactions.

~ Make sure you like the medium you're writing with and what you're writing on. I need a broad expanse of page and if my pen skips it annoys me to pieces.

Do you journal? What tips or guidelines do you follow?

September 2, 2013

New Beginnings and a New Direction

September has always marked the New Year for me.  Although the seasons were winding down the slow decline to winter, I was just gearing up for the new school year. New classes, new books, new clothes, new possibilities- each september promised a reinvention of myself. What more could you ask from a New Year?

Time and age have diminished the excitement of the beginning of the school year, as they do so many things, but this year I am faced with- what I am trying desperately to see as- a chance at a total new beginning. What better time to have it than now in September?

While this blog has discussed my personal experiences as I try to apply my aesthetic of Neo-Aristocracy to my life, there has been a level of abstraction. I've presented situations and scenarios that, while personal, have already been thought through until that nugget of knowledge or inspiration could be found. However, I'm going to need this blog for something more personal.

Two weeks ago, my fiance, The Law Student, cheated on and then broke up with me. It would have been five years this month.

We had met the first year of undergrad and spent four of our most formative- or so I thought- years in uncanny harmony. That time culminated in 6 weeks spent travelling Europe with no love lost despite the continual presence. It was in Europe that we agreed to be married after school. But Gradschool pulled us to opposite ends of the country. I went up North for Acupuncture; he went south for law school.  I now have some very strong thoughts about long distant relationships.

Then this summer, he met someone. What started as a dismissible crush turned into all night conversations and declarations of mutual love, before he told me everything that happened. I wanted to rebuild our relationship; he wanted a polyamorous one among other things. After a weeks discussion and reflection, he finally made a decision and broke up with me.

There is a lot to process about this break up. A lot of the details were very ugly and poorly handled- especially on his part. It has raised so many more questions about the nature of relationships and difficult situations and given me a few revelations about life. So much of what I thought I knew about how the world and the human mind worked is gone.

As I'll probably explain later, having this blog has helped me in so many ways than I thought possible- but also as an avenue for self-exploration. Journaling is essential and important, but sometimes the extra push of knowing others will be reading your thoughts is needed.

Some degree of distance is essential for a blog- after all, my readers- though dear- are not family or friends and a blog is public for all. So there will be no furious rants or heartfelt sobs. Yet, this is too important a change to not mention.

How will this blog change? I can't say for certain. I'll analyze certain parts of this experience and try to draw greater lessons from them. I'll certainly be putting some more thoughts about romance, relationships, and love. A lot of reflection about what I now want from my life. I'd love to hear your thoughts on them too. But I'll still want to discuss clothing, aesthetics, food and the principles of Neo-Aristocracy, but there will be this more personal tinge as well.

It has been a very busy and life changing August and this next year will offer many opportunities for growth and change. What changes will you be going through?

August 10, 2013

Unintended Benefits: Blogging and Blogilates

It is unfortunate that when we think of unintended consequences, they are generally bad. You wanted to hold the door open for the woman behind you and end up either being yelled at for assuming she's helpless or holding up traffic. You send an e-card to your grandchild and it opens a virus when they download it. And so forth.

But I've recently had two chances to reap positive unintended benefits from two regular- if not daily- activities.

First, as you might all guess, I blog more or less regularly.  In the past season, it's been a rare week when I don't set down two or three of my thoughts into the blog format. Normally, if someone asks my why I blog, I'll answer something along the  lines of "to develop my personal philosophy and sense of aesthetics." But so much writing has had another benefit.

On the last day of my manditory intro to Psych class, we had a paper do. I, in one of the flaws that I am in constant struggle with, procrastinated up until the last weekend. But, when I sat down to actually hammer something out, the words flowed much, much easier than they ever had before. I could express myself much more clearly. My sentences flowed more easily. I didn't become distracted by the siren call of the internet nearly as much. And I think this is all a result of blogging so often.

The practice of sitting down regularly and trying to make my jumbled thoughts somewhat orderly and understandable has translated into a greater skill when writing ten page papers as well as a blog post. I certainly never sat down to blog with the intention of improving my writing (if I did, nothing would be posted for fear of judgement) but the sheer volume that I have done has reaped tangible if not expected rewards.

The other unitended benefit is from my Blogilates work outs (which were going fine until finals week). I live on the top of a hill which makes biking to school each day a breeze, but when I find myself starting the long trek back home and reach the first incline, I'm as likely to hop off my bike and walk it up as I am to bike it. If I did bike it, I would end up a sweating, huffy mess by the top of the hill (yes, you can still be a Neo-Aristocrat when you're a sweating, huffy mess).

However, this past week I've been able to bike up the hill every day. Oh, it is still  more fun to go down hill. And yes, I do have to tell myself "exercising my will, I'm exercising my will," as I pedal up. But I finish it. And I end up being less of a sweaty, huffy mess than usual- even after not stopping at any of the lights. This is a nice benefit of the Blogilates (and after only two weeks too!)

What unitended benefits have you had from regular practice?

Scheduling note: I'll be traveling for the rest of the month and won't be able to post or answer comments. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your month.

August 2, 2013

A Daily Dose of Your Aesthetic

Edwardian Street Fashion depicts a woman reading as she walks down the street.
Edwardian Street Fashion

Today, I made an effort and dressed up. I had a simple errand to run: a quick trip to the mall to upgrade my old, faltering phone to something new and less likely to give out of battery in an hour or send random texts to random contacts while in my bag.  My first instinct was to just throw on a basic skirt and matching top- after all, it was only the mall. As long as I looked decent, right?

The siren call of "The Efficient" or "The Good Enough" is a powerful one. Many times, it is wise to heed her call- when we are stressed, busy, or tired there is no use adding guilt to exhaustion by wracking our brains to think of a way to do this- in that vague word- better.  After all, an act of beauty should only ever be an indulgence- not a duty.

However, there are often times when you do have the energy, mental clarity, and time to imbue your life activities with an extra bit of effort and consideration. Everything from slowing down to sit and eat your breakfast at the table, writing a message with a nicer pen, to dressing up to go to the mall. It is important to take these little efforts, even if they seem pointless in the mean time. There is a lot of inertia, especially when you've already put on one outfit, think you're going to be late, or need to jot down the note in a hurry. 

Except that any lifestyle is the sum of your daily choices. If you want to live as a Neo-Aristocrat- or in any lifestyle besides the mainstream cult of Efficiency and Busyness- you'll have to imbue each of these small daily choices with aspects of that aesthetic. 

It's work. It's not always the natural thing to do. It sometimes requires forethought and planning or an abrupt change mid-activity. But it is, I think, one of the essential aspects to deliberately cultivating your personal aesthetic.

What do you do to add a touch of your aesthetic to your daily life?

August 1, 2013

What an Aristocrat Should Know: Part III

What is she waiting for?

1. An Aristocrat should have a reading list and be updating it constantly.

2. An Aristocrat should acknowledge these two scientific theories:

2.1. Climate Change is currently ongoing.

2.2. Evolution does govern existence.

3. An Aristocrat should be able to distinguish between black, green, white and herbal teas, even if she doesn't partake of them herself.

4. An Aristocrat should know how to hard boil, scramble and fry eggs.

5. An Aristocrat should know when to rest and do nothing if it gives her a chance to recuperate.

July 31, 2013

What an Aristocrat Should Know: Part II

Isn't this a lovely gazebo?
I am tired of people being nervous to commit to a set body of knowledge which everyone should know. These are a list of things that a Neo-Aristocrat should know:

1. An Aristocrat (of all genders) should know how to iron a shirt.

2. An Aristocrat should know the quadratic equation.

3. An Aristocrat should know how to recognize at least three bird calls.

4. An Aristocrat should know, even if you don't agree with, the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Kant.

5. An Aristocrat should know how to stand with proper posture.

July 30, 2013

What an Aristocrat Should Know: Part I

Clearly, she has more important things to consider
As I enter the two weeks of finals for my school, I don't want to give up on blogging, but I do need to scale back the thought that goes into my posts. This seems the perfect time to work on a series that I have been thinking about for a while: Things an Aristocrat Should Know.

Yes, I just finished saying a Neo-Aristocrat makes her own goals, but I am also tired of seeing so many vague insistence that there aren't any standards of knowledge for an alternative aesthetic. These will be my standards. If you want to be a Neo-Aristocrat, you ought to know these or be in the process of learning them. Why? Because they are cool.

Without further ado, the next two weeks of posts will comprise of five point lists that, in no particular order, outline some general knowledge necessary:

1. An Aristocrat should be able to locate three constellations in the winter and summer skies.

2. An Aristocrat should know how to find a book in the library using the dewey decimal system.

3. An Aristocrat should know how to change a bike tire.

4. An Aristocrat should know how to properly address an envelope.

5. An Aristocrat should know how to play chess- even if she doesn't care for it.

July 28, 2013

Aesthetic Analysis: Mieljolie's Steampunk Bustle Bar

The Bustle Bar worn

Friends, this is steampunk done correctly.

Mieljolie from the blog All Things Crafty has posted another wonderful demonstration of her creative designs. I highly recommend that you take a look through this blog and some of her tutorials. They could be adapted pretty easily into most aesthetics I think. But today I am focusing on the Bustle Bar- a steampunk accessory that not only looks amazing, but is incredibly practical and useful.

As I have said before, my biggest problem with steampunk is that it is an aesthetic for a fantasy world, not the one we live in. I see this reflected in the way most of the people I have met embody steampunk. They create characters that live in a steampunk world and elaborate outfits that those characters would wear and that they can wear to festivals and conventions. The outfits themselves, I have little problem with. But most of the elaborate and often times exquisite accessories that they carry around (mechanical arms, fantastical ray guns) are just props. Granted, often times superbly crafted works of art, but serving no practical purpose.

The Bustle Bar is the first example of a practical, useful and aesthetically pleasing design that I have seen. Read the post to really appreciate the craftsmanship of the work. But this is why I think the project embodies Steampunk so well:

First, they realized there was a problem: they became thirsty during their outings.

Second, they realized that the normal solution wouldn't work for them: lugging around normal water carriers would detract from their costumes.

Third, they saw this as an opportunity not to take the easy or conventional approach: no modded water bottles or safari canteens for them!

Fourth, they built, rather than bought, a contraption: I'm sure there is someone, somewhere selling steampunk camel packs or the sort.

Fifth, using science and incredible ingenuity, they created a device that was both practical (it did dispense liquid), whimsical (hidden under the bustle of the skirt), maybe not the most efficient (see previous), but definitely more fun (see all of the above.)

Sixth, it used low tech science: I'm not sure how one would make a computer chip/robotic under bustle drink dispenser, but the science and mechanics behind the device is intuitive and easily grasped.

Seventh, they didn't skimp on aesthetic: it could have been easy to make this look very industrial and unpolished, but care was given to the presentation of the tubes leading from the containers and the holster for the pump. There was also the conscious decision to make the working parts of the device part of the aesthetic, rather than hiding them away.

If steampunk could exist in our world, I think it would encompass these seven aspects: a recognition of a problem, the decision to fix it yourself with innovative, creative, low tech and whimsical designs that you make yourself rather than buy and that looks beautiful in the process. As you can probably tell, it made me really happy to find this piece. If more of steampunk embodied this rational, I would be a far more steampunk than I already am.  Thanks to Mieljolie for writing about this!

July 27, 2013

The Importance of Diverse Feeds

"Study, at a Reading Desk" Leighton Lord Frederick"

I, like most people probably reading this blog, read a lot of blogs. Until about a week ago, my feed list was a pretty even split between webcomics and alternative fashion blogs. After all, webcomics are amazing and, writing a blog that deals at least tangentially with alternative lifestyle, I like the inspiration from everyone else.

However, I've realized- more with the alternative than the webcomics- we share many of the same first principles. Or else, nothing I read, I strongly disagree with. Granted, since most of the posts I see are either DIY projects or outfit posts, it's hard to have a strong, visceral reaction. After all, you have your aesthetic. I have mine. Even though I might not have created the same project, chosen those materials, or wear the same outfits, the law of tolerance rules the day.

Even the alternative essays on fashion, lifestyle, etc, if I disagree at all, it is about subtle points that engage my intellectual curiosity, not the emotional one. In summary, for a blog list dedicated to alternative and counter cultural fashion, it is a pretty homogenous group.

"Portrait of a Reading Girl" Thomas Sully

Then in this past week, I've started looking into blogs dealing with homemaking and femininity.  Let me tell you, my dear readers, there is a world outside of my modern, liberal, egalitarian WASP-y world and I am so excited to find it.  It is the world or Christian home-making, child-rearing, and wife-being and it is a very different fare than I have enjoyed thus far. 

Now, I'm still debating if this deserves a post of it's own, but I am all but an atheist. While I respect the church and religions - to a point- the Bible, to me, is about on the level of "Philosophical Investigations" or "Thus Spake Zarathustra" i.e a very interesting, confusing, contradictory work of philosophy. In that sense, I am glad there is a fraction of people who are devoting them selves to daily explorations of philosophy in the form of bible study. On the other hand, I cringe every time someone calls it the absolute truth.

But a lot of these blogs are dealing with questions that I find interesting. Everything from the practical, "How does one run a household," to the philosophical, "What does it mean to be a woman." However, these people come from WILDLY different first principles.  Some of their conclusions resonate quite deeply. On the other hand, reading through some of the descriptions of femininity leave me with such a shock of revulsion I am nearly breathless.  Which is great.

The things that disgust or horrify us define us as much as the things that enrapture us. It is, in fact, much easier to define ourselves by what we aren't than what we are.  While this can lead to some very nasty habits of xenophobia and racism, it also does help put your preferences into clearer focus. Just remember the essential premise that because you like something doesn't make it absolute.

So I encourage everyone to diversify their blog feeds. Not just with blogs about similar subjects but different view points, but if you like gothic fashion, have a blog or two devoted to perfume, to cooking, to foreign affair analysis. Look for blogs that actively challenge your views. Just because you write in a niche doesn't mean that you have to read exclusively in that niche.

The corollary to this is that just because a blog differs in content or viewpoint from your interests, you don't automatically have to include it. Obviously, you have to enjoy the content or at least find it well written and compelling. There are plenty of Christian Housekeeping blogs that I have skipped past because every other post was in praise to the Lord. I don't mind a dose of theology if it comes with a large helping of decent information or thoughtful reflection on life. Nor do I find a preteen's (baby bat?) blog referencing various bands, actors or artists I don't recognize to be my cup of tea.

What diversity of blogs do you follow?

July 25, 2013

How to Nip a Whim in the Bud

I want to move to the country.

I want to breath in lungfuls of fresh air each morning. I want to be able to step out my back door and walk for miles along beautiful paths to glorious views. I want to be alone- not a soul around for miles. I want to know the ways and lives of the animals and birds. I want to be re-acquainted with the faces of the moon. I want to feel the rainstorm crash through my bones and the sun entangle in my hair.  I want to live in quiet serenity and awe of the huge trees in the forest, the slow dance of the seasons, and the webs that bind us to each other.

I am two breaths from calling up my Best Beloved and suggesting we move to somewhere in the midwest where the land is cheap (relatively) and the people are sparse.

But I won't.

The country as I am imagining it is a collage of scenes from romantic movies, gothic books, and pictures from the turn of the century. Images where the young noble woman spends hours drifting through the woods, a book in her hand and no destination in her feet. Where she returns home to the manor to set a simple table, or have her maids do it. Where family and friends are a mile or two stroll through meadows, farms and hills.

Unfortunately, if I move to the country with my Best Beloved, our lives won't be like that. For one thing, we would need to live in town considering our potential jobs and our grad school debts. The isolation I crave would be impossible or else require a very long commute into work each day. If so a commute, then groceries, supplies and other necessities would also be far away.

Entertainment would not be so varied or available as it is in a larger city. There would not be, from my handful of experiences, the same people with varied and unique interests. Yes, there would be outdoors, but they would not be the vast forests I have imagined of England and I would probably not have hours to walk through them every day.

In short, the sudden passion for the simple, outdoor life brought on by being caught in rain storms for two successive days is just a whim.

Everyday, my mind is filled with half filled plans that are more passion than thought. They can verge from the dramatic- quitting school to devote myself to writing- to the simple - picking up a free, metal shelving unit for my closet without measuring. Does the same happen to you?

I indulge in these whims too often. My sewing box overflows with half started projects that seemed like a brilliant idea for the first few hours. There are a number of books bought on impulse and never read on my bookshelf. My relationships with friends and family are littered with excited plans to do things that were backed out of at the last moment. I do have a large metal shelf that is too large for my closet looming at the foot of my bed.

Usually, these impulses are not overly damaging. Eventually, I'll finish the projects, read the books, do things with my family and figure out what the heck to do with this shelf. The disappointments are worn away with time and other activities.

Luckily, I've avoided committing myself to any big or life changing plans on a whim like moving to Israel, joining the army, giving away all my possessions, moving to a hermitage, taking random jobs, etc. (Yes, these have all been thoughts at one point or another.) But there is a lot of energy put into the initial stages and planning of a project. To see it abandoned as the whim fades, is painful and makes me wonder if I will ever be able to see anything through to completion. These disappointments are not worn away so easily. So while whims may seem, well, whimsical, indulging often in them is not.

There are four steps that I have found to nipping a whim in the bud before you can tack on any energy, time or money into indulging it.

1. Identify that this is a whim. Realize what was the origin of this new whim. Was it a book you just read? A movie? Were you listening to a certain type of conversation? Or music?

2. Think deeply about this whim. What exactly do you want to do? As I showed at the beginning of this post, my idea of moving to the country was more than just a simple move to a less populated part of the country. Often times, this will reveal the unrealistic expectations behind the whim.

3. Rationally think about the consequences of the whim. A good imagination is just as good as coming up with downsides as it is with coming up with the pro's of a whim if given the right motivation. A move to the country does not just entail a deeper- possible- connection with nature. It also means leaving the culture that I enjoy surrounding myself with and separating further from friends and family. Once the good and bad sides of a whim are revealed, it generally loses the immediate, passionate appeal.

4. See if you can incorporate some part of the real whim into your every day life. I am clearly missing a connection with nature- so I can take a walk this weekend and enjoy the outdoors a bit more. This may cut down on further whims and further indulgences later.

Whims can add joyful spontaneity in life. Obviously, the answer isn't to cut them out completely. However, you should be able to choose which whims to indulge in- not be victim to every passing one.

What whims have you had? Do you regret any?

Seven Elegant Lessons: July

Don't wait for a fairy godmother to fix your problems

Elegance is the hallmark of an Aristocrat. It pervades every moment, every word, every gesture. But in the hustle of our day to day lives, it is easy to forget that we must have elegance in the little things as well as the large.

There is nothing elegant about the hassle of preventable disasters. Just as a stitch in time, saves nine; so does a bit of forward planning prevent foreseeable waste of time, energy and money. Here are seven applications of the idea of forward thinking in various aspects of a life. Think about where else it can apply to yours.

~ Create a meal plan for the upcoming week. Write out what you will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep in mind time commitments, when you can make a whole batch of something to eat for several days, and any special occasions. Create a grocery list based on this menu and only this menu. Benefit: healthier meals are planned when not staring blankly into the cupboard or refrigerator. Money is saved by not purchasing unnecessary thing.

~ If you are a student, print out monthly calendars for your semester. Input the dates of tests, quizzes, and projects from your classes syllabi. As you plan out vacations and activities with friends, you can see at a glance when you'll need to schedule time for study.

~ As you begin to run out of shampoo, conditioner, etc, put it on a to-buy list. Don't wait until the bottle is empty to buy more. Benefit: Not having to forgo your product because you don't have time to go to the store.

~ If you know you will have big expenses in the future, set aside as much money now as possible, rather than pay it lumpsum at the time. Benefit: There won't be such a sizable blow to your bank account.

~ If a button falls off of your shirt, or a hemline drops on your skirt, repair it now. Too many times I have just hung the piece of clothing in my closet and then wondered later why I have nothing to wear because all my clothes were falling apart. Benefit: avoid embarrassment and lack of clothes, by repairing things now.

~ Another for students, start preparing for finals two or three weeks ahead, especially for classes that require a lot of memorization. Plan out what you need to know, do a little bit each day for two weeks before. Benefit: Not cramming for the final.

What forward thinking planning do you do to prevent future problems?

July 24, 2013

Challenge Update #3: Good Goth Keeping, Summer Reading, and Health

Good Goth Keeping

Rather than focus on these in order, I'll post as complete a list as I have complied and annotate each of them.

1. Assess your physical baggage and the psychological will follow.

My room is nearing the point of sustainable cleanliness. Most of the messy points have been organized to some sort of order and it feels pleasant to be in my room rather than overwhelming.  I have solved my shoe dilemma by taking out my most popular pairs of shoes and lining those up along a wall of my room rather than in a jumble at the bottom of my closet. The biggest thing was to organize my bookshelf though.

However, in addition to physical clutter and baggage, I have also spent some time this month going through my electronic baggage. I've gone through my phone and deleted all the contacts who I don't recognize, gone through my bookmarks on the computer to categorize, remove, and rediscover some great sites. Electronic clutter can be just as frustrating as anything else.

2. Write something everyday

My letter writing plan is going well insofar as though I have not reduced the number of letters in my basket, I have kept them growing larger. Newly sent letters have been given a quick turn about and I am nearly caught up with emails. I'm working on turning a few things into daily practices and letter writing will continue to be part of that.

3. Self-forgiveness

4. Read your label.

Having just finished a week of posts about refocusing on what a Neo-Aristocrat is, I have realized that it is sometimes helpful to not just go through, analyze and possibly discard your labels, but it is also important to add some of your own.

5. Ask for Help

No major revelations in this department, unfortunately. I've been thinking a bit about the flip side of asking for help which is giving help when asked. Perhaps it is because we are all so hesitant to ask for help, but I can't think of the last time someone asked me for help. So, while I would love to help my fellow people, I am bad at actually seeing a need without being directed towards it and thus end up not being a very helpful person. Can you think of any ways to change this?

6. Go and do something

I've recently had the urge to cross stitch after being reunited with my embroidery floss. I've purchased enough of a linen-esque cloth to make a small tablecloth with a swedish inspired border. It's been fun deciding on a project and seeing the steps so clearly that I need to take to complete it. 

7. Sleep, Eat, Rest

Stress has not damaged my ability to do any of these things! Huzzah!

Alas, I must report another month of not living up to my challenge. Though a great deal has been read (my library book total is finally down to a mere 11!) and my best beloved and I have begun to re-read "Atlas Shrugged" again, actual reading has continued to decrease, especially as school has taken a turn from learning to reviewing. Still, August hangs like a beacon of hope on the horizon for long, lazy days filled with reading.

 An Aristocrat's Health

At first, with the help of Beeminder, this challenge was going beautifully. The pounds were being slowly shed, my diet was improving, and I was trying to add little bits of exercise to each day (climbing the stairs instead of the elevator, etc).

Then the fourth of July break came and destroyed my progress.  Between sitting in the car for days on end, eating junk food and then the delicious platters of food at my family's, all the weight has come straight back. Alas, I need to improve my self control over holidays. An important thing to remember when at a fancy meal or with friends, is not to have the mental idea "oh, this only happens once, so I better enjoy." This just leads to rampant over eating of unhealthy foods. 

I'm back to working it off slowly and to help myself along the way, I've dedicated myself to doing Blogilates 4 week beginner pilates workout.

Is the instructor ridiculously upbeat, preppy, and cheerful? Yes.

Is the feel and aesthetics of everything from the music, to the encouragement, to workout names grating to a darker and more reserved Neo-Aristocrat as myself? Oh yes.

Is it nice to have a schedule that I don't have to plan and that has already taken into account a rotating work out routine and provides all the necessary videos? Yes.

Do the workouts leave me sore, but not exhausted? Energized while still feeling like I accomplished something? Yes.

The two final questions trump the previous and so for the past three mornings,  I have laid down my folded blanket and cue the chirpy voice of the instructor.  What will be interesting to watch is when in this cycle, my initial interest begins to fade. So as I chart the ease with which I complete roll ups and burpees (I mean, no one could think of a better name?) I'll also be looking for the point where my interest flags and I have to dig into my resolve to keep going.

July 23, 2013

Aristocrat in the Kitchen: Cookies from a Wood Burning Stove

Over the weekend, I had a fun adventure with a recipe from another century. The Country Handmaiden, who does reenactments on the weekends, baked these cookies first and posted them on her website. (Yes, as all-but-an-atheist, I do enjoy reading Christian Homemaking blogs. But the importance of being regularly exposed to ideas with which you disagree must wait for a later post.)

The recipe is as follows (emphasis mine):

Ginger Snaps (1890)

2 eggs well beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp soda
Enough flour

Mix in order given.  Turn out on a floured surface; cut into shapes.  Bake in a quick oven.

Luckily, Miss Elizabeth does a quick bit of translating to make the recipe more recognizable for us who are used to modern cookbooks where all the steps and ingredients are given.  I like ginger snaps, I had a jar of molasses in my pantry, I thought it would be fun to make an old fashioned cookie, so I gave it a go.

Now a word about molasses: it is amazing. Sweet, but also a hint savory, it is one of the better sweeteners you can use by taste. But it also has amazing mineral properties giving you an excellent source of manganese, copper, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Your body depends on these minerals for a wide variety of biochemical reactions, but our diets and our food these days don't provide much by way of minerals. So unless you are taking a multivitamin- which you should be- you could be mineral deficient. (Obviously, don't take my word for it. Do you own research or consult with your nutritionist.) 

Full of excitement and delight, I mix up the ingredients and begin adding flour. Now, maybe it was the heat (edging into the 100's that day) or maybe I just miscalculated something, but I added A LOT of flour before the dough wouldn't stick to the counter as I tried to roll it out. The cookies came out of the oven (after only 7 minutes) rather puffy and cakey.

The cookies were less of ginger snaps and more of travel rations. Thick, heavy - not bad tasting- but not like any cookie I've had before. You could eat two for a meal and be just about fine.  Now, I'm not sure if it was my fault for adding too much flour and being incapable of rolling out cookie dough, or if cookies have evolved since the 19th century. Maybe they were heartier and less delicate now. Fewer dainty macaroons that you see popping up everywhere and more of the breakfast cookie you can buy in coffee shops. It was a fun experience, even if I'll be sending most of them to my boyo.

Have you ever experimented with recipes from another era or century?

July 22, 2013

Francis Bacon and the Neo-Aristocrat

Nature to be commanded must be obeyed
- Francis Bacon

This quote may be the most concise explanation of the Neo-Aristocrat's philosophy on life that I have seen yet. For those who don't know, Francis Bacon was a scientific philosopher born in London in the 1500's. His book, Novum Organum Scientiarum (a new method for science), outline the beginnings of the process known as the scientific method which is the foundation for modern science. Opposed to the ancient methods where truth about the world was believed to be reached through careful thought an consideration, the Novum Organum emphasized a focus on the physical world and the importance of experimentation and experience. I would recommend at least reading his introduction, if not the whole book. It is a really fascinating read.

The above quote is one of his most favorite and is extremely applicable to today's reality of climate change. It is a little confusing to parse on the first read through because it appears, at first, like another paradox (yay!). How can you command something if you must obey it first?

There are certain laws in the universe which exist: gravity, the conservation of momentum, the feed back cycle, the interchange of yin and yang, etc. Or, for the Neo-Aristocrat, the realization that certain external factor influence your perception of reality, personality, and day to day life. If you are studying in school and working a job, this will make you tired. If you are alone, listening to sad, wispy music and the sky is overcast, you will end up feeling lost and forlorn. Granted, the effects differ between people. A certain set of factors may have little effect on one person but a huge effect on another. But the fact is, our environments and activities have effects on ourselves. 

But if we ignore these laws- if I decide to attend a party after a long week of school rather than sleep, or if a child jumps from the roof attempting to mimic the birds- we will suffer necessary consequences. The introvert will end up more drained rather than refreshed and the child will suffer broken bones and bruised skin. We must obey these laws of nature.

However, man does fly in airplanes. He may not be able to overcome gravity through the force of his will alone, but he can observe the other animals who are not constrained to land. He can study wingspan, aerodynamics  lift and propulsion and- still obeying, still using the laws of nature- build himself an airplane to take to the sky.

In the same way, the Neo-Aristocrat can use the laws of how the environment to affect her personality and world view in a conscious, deliberate way. If, at the end of a long week, she is exhausted, she knows to go to bed rather than a party. If she realizes her soul has taken a twist for the melancholy, she knows not to indulge in activities, such as lying in bed and sighing soulfully at the ceiling, that will entrench rather than fight the mood.  The laws of her personality are still obeyed. At no time is she trying to will herself out of the state. Instead, she is in control, commanding her nature rather than being a victim of it. 

The first step to this ability to command is the recognition that these laws can not be ignored, but first must be obeyed. Then comes the long and never ending study into the delicate interplay between personality, worldview and environment. This study will never end, so begin employing the laws you learn as soon as you learn them. Also, be careful in the application. In psychology, even more so than biology, too much of a good thing can be deadly. 

The Neo-Aristocrat looks clearly upon the laws of the world, but is not cowed by them. Instead, she realizes the power she has to control them and her situation and uses that to improve and better herself.