My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Interview: Kate B. On Baking!

Hello readers! This is my first interview on this blog, and it is with Kate B. Kate B. is a long time friend of mine, Goth, and the lady who introduced me to my partner, and one of the people who got me back into baking. As may be apparent, this is quite a crafty blog, and with a name like Domesticated, there will be home-crafts as well as DIY fashion and art.

So, here's the interview, it was conducted over Skype, as Kate lives in Wales and I live in Scotland. My text is in bold, hers in regular formatting. I typed up this transcript as we were talking - a little difficult with some of the longer paragraphs. If you want to imagine our voices, I have a rather "proper" English accent with a twinge of French, Bristol and the Southern counties, having been put through elocution lessons at boarding school, but refusing to have every last trace of being "rustic" eradicated, and Kate is originally from the Welsh Valleys and has a very lilting Welsh accent. In response to feedback, I've edited this post shorter.

Question the first! How shall introduce you on my blog? Oh call me whatever you want! Ok, I shall call you Kate B! I am going to introduce you - and I'm typing as I speak- as one of the poeple who got me back into baking. For how long have you been baking?
Ah, since I have been knee high!
Were you introduced to baking and cooking by your family or your school?
Family, definitely family. I remember cooking with my mother and both of my grandmothers - cooking is definitely something we do in this family. *indicates shoulders* We don't raise little people in this family!
So, home cookery and baking for you is definitely about sharing food?
Oh definitely, I prefer to share what I've made than to eat it myself!

This is actually going fairly well! I need to type fairly quickly, but I can do that so this is going fairly well! Those typing lessons I took at school are actually coming in useful.

What do you like about baking over other forms of cooking?
It's not that I don't like cooking and making main meals, I think that it's you have an affinity to what you like to make, and I like making sweets!
You make especially good cupcakes. Some of your cupcake ingredients are rather unusual!
Ah you mean like the lavender ones?
Yep indeed!
I don't think lavender is that unusual, I've always known it was edible, but I didn't use them until I read this one recipe where I found out that I didn't need to put the flowers into the actual mixture, just soak them.
And I ate the sparkly cupcake! The one with edible glitter.
You did eat the sparkly cupcake, a lavender one, I believe it was.
And I didn't turn into Edward Cullen!
*facepalms and laughs*
You use alchoholic beverages...
*laughs* Yes, yes I do! I'm very careful and do say this is not meant for children! I am aware that alcohol burns off during cooking, but just incase - I don't want someone saying their toddler got drunk on a cake - I don't need that. I've got one that's very popular that I've made - and I've seen both people in my family and my other half's family go gaga for them, and that's my Pina Colada cakes with coconut topping.
You've also used Green Tea in a cupcake.What inspired you to use green tea in a cupcake?
Actually, I read the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, and I thought I'd try that and it turned out really well!
Other than cupcakes, what do you like to bake?
Cheesecake has a reputation for being a bit gloopy - how do you avoid that?
I don't know; I think I'm just good at it. I follow the recipe properly the first time and then if there's something I need to change, I work from there. I think one thing that's important in baking sweets is to experiment all the time.

Yesterday, I don't think I announced it on Facebook, but I made iced buns! These are lemon ones!Yay!
I gave one of them to my Dad to try out, and he said that's nice and everything but it should have a cherry on top. I said that I think that's a Belgian bun, not an iced bun.

Have you ever thought of going into professional baking?
I keep being told I should open a shop, but it sounds like a really big undertaking for the moment. I'd have to sort premises and rent, and I'm not entirely sure that if I create a demand that I'd be able to supply it. In this economy I'm not sure that this "little cake shop that I run" would survive - not to get too deep and political.

I like this quoute from Ratatouille: "You must be imaginative and strong hearted, you must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true: anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great."

Do you think that home cooking should see a revival in the face of people eating out more and eating many pre-packaged meals?
Yeah I do, and not only because eating out is expensive!
Do you think that cooking together as a family a good way for families to connect with each other and be more of a unit?
I remember Sunday Roasts when I was little, everyone around the table - me and my Mother and my Dad and my younger brother and both my grandparents on my Mum's side, plus anybody else in the family they'd want to invite - usually my uncle and my cousins - and I know it may be a bit of an idealised view now, but that's how I remember it.
If you ever have children, will you get them involved in cookery and baking?
I think would get them involved - and this is going to sound in-depth - but I think this will get them involved with their food. I've heard of this group in Swansea, but it could be any city, and you ask them where do you think chips come from? "Tescos" where do you think potatoes come from "Tescos". I do think it's important that kids know where their food comes from and what is going into it.
It's fun as well!
Yeah, I think it's fun - as I said, I enjoy cooking.
I have got one thing that is really, really, precious andI would never part with it ever... It was a recipe book my gran wrote down in one of my Dad's old school exercise books, it has recipes for coconut cake - which is my younger brother's favorite and I've made it for his Birthday a few times - and there's also her recipe for coffee and walnut cake and the recipe for what she calls her "simple" cheese cake, as well as her mincemeat recipe.
Will you add to the recipe collection and pass it down?
If the book survives and it's falling apart, and this may sound selfish, but I don't want to share Nana's recipes with the world.
No, that's understandable. Do you plan on passing it down in the generations of your family?
*nods* Yes, I do! If I have kids and if they show an interest, they can have it when I pass on. This may sound really mean, but I had to wait until she passed on to get it. When she passed on, it was the only thing I really wanted from her.
Do you keep your own recipe book?
No, a lot of my recipes are in my head - I should probably write them down
I'm having trouble writing recipes down for my blog because I tend to tweak them each time, so there's no definitive version...
I tried to write a few down, and when it comes to the method I try and write it as if I'm actually talking someone through it rather than being scientific and methodical about it.
What are your favourite published recipe books?
*laughs* I actually tend to work from the Weight Watcher's one, as my Mum and I both diet, despite our tendencies towards roast dinners.
Raven's making midweek roast dinner tonight. I'll be able to get another two or three meals at least from the carcass.
A lot of people seem to forget you can boil up the carcass to make stock, or grind up the bones. You know me, I love cawl, I'm Welsh! (Cawl is a type of Welsh lamb broth).Raven and I will eat the breast meat on the chicken tonight, have the wings and drumsticks tomorrow, strip the rest of the meat from the carcass for curry, and then boil the remains for chicken soup. I don't like wasting anything. Do you think food waste is a big issue in the UK?
I do, I think a lot of people throw out things that are perfectly edible. If it's not actively rotting I'll cook with it, and I've been known to cut the squishy bits off red peppers - I like to put red peppers in Bolognaise sauce.

How does cooking fit in with being a goth?
How does cooking fit in with being a goth? I don't think they're mutually exclusive.
What do you think of themed foods?
Like what?
For example the broken glass cupcakes where the glass is sugar-craft.
I'm not adverse to themed stuff, and sugar craft that's out there - it's quite amazing what they can do!
Out of the major celebrations, what do you like cooking/baking for best?
That was a rather emphatic "Halloween"
That's 'cause it's my favourite time of year! And I love to cook pumpkin pie! It's one of the first desserts I cooked for the "in laws" (In quote marks, Kate's not married, but in a long term relationship). My boyfriend's mother said "I don't know, I'm not normally into pumpkin" but apparently she ate the last piece that night!

What's the strangest thing you've made?
That would be sweet potato cheesecake.
*blink blink*
Yes, you heard me right, sweet potatoes.
That's rather an unusual ingredient for cheese cake!
I thought so as well, but then I tried it, because I figured if I didn't try it I couldn't "yay" or "nay" if it's a good recipe.
Where did you get the idea for sweet potato cheese cake from?
I remember from when I was a pre-teen, quite a while ago now, and I think it's Creole, - I'm not entirely sure on that - but that they use sweet potato in apple pie, and it's just stuck with me. As I've been off work recently, I've been cooking more as I've got time to experiement, so I looked up recipes for sweet potato, but with UK measurements - I've tried following American measurements, but I just can't, sorry - and it was a list of starters, main meals, and interestingly desserts that could be made with sweet potatoes. I saw cheesecake and part of me went "yeugh" and part of me went "I've got to try that".
Do you think you're quite adventurous with your baking?
I'm probably adventurous for the area I live in, but I'm sure there are people more adventurous than me in the world
What do think of the importance of trying new things?It's quite improtant, and it's like when you're little - just try it once, and you never have to have it again, but I will draw the line at eating insects.
I could eat insects, like ants or locusts, but not squids, octopi, molluscs... 

What is your favourite non-sweet baked good?Non-sweet? I like stake and ale pie. I'm sorry to all vegetarians out there, but it's how I was raised - I like bacon sandwiches too. What new experiments would you like to do?
Chocolate and cherry cupcakes.
Would that be a bit like miniature black forest gateaux?
Do you know, I've never thought of it that way.

Have you ever tried making Japanese sweet treats?
No actually. I was going to make sushi, and I've made miso soup from a packet, but I've never tried making Japanese sweets
I only ask because Raven has been wanting to make teiyaki bean paste stuff... I'm not entirely sure what it's like!
I actually looked up how to make a sweet steamed bun, which is something that seems to be a popular thing from anime and manga, but I've never found a recipe with a method that I understand, so I think I'll try and find someone to show me how to do it in person so I don't try teaching myself from a website and fouling it up. It's interesting about him wanting to make teiyaki bean paste, because that's what goes into the sweet bun.

My baking's actually expected; my cousin thinks I go everywhere with a box of cake! It's also expected in my gaming group - the night when I go to role-play, they expect me to bring something I've baked.
That's because your baking's so delicious.

Are there any famous chefs or cooks you admire?
I do know another cook I like - cooks I should say.
I like the Hairy Bikers!
I like that they wear S.O.P.H.I.E bracelets! What do you like about the Hairy Bikers?
I like how they actually like the food they cook, and you actually see them eat the food they cook.They're down to earth about cooking.
They are, erm, it's nice to see - and I'm not have a dig at Nigella or Deliah, but you don't see them eat it. The Bikers, you see them taste and eat everything, and that appeals to me because that's the kind of cook I am.

That is all for today on the interview front. I'm working on a recipe post on how to make triangular sushi rolls. There will be more updates on Gothic topics too, and craft projects. I hope you enjoyed this post. Please comment about your own cookery! Also recipe suggestions (as in suggestions for things to post, and also for things to try) are welcome.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Gothic & Lolita, Globalisation of Culture, and Femininity

I've just read a really interesting article/essay on Gothic & Lolita internationally. It is part of a peer-reviewed journal published by the Japan Foundation, and as such is a bit academic, but it points out a lot of interesting things that people in the Lolita subculture probably already know, but those who are interested in it but have an external point of view may find interesting. It is ::here::  It's mostly from a perspective about the flow of culture globally, and how the view of 'Amercian-based culture taking over everything' is not always true, but it makes interesting points about how Lolita fits a niche in the West, and it is a subculture where femininity is not taken from the patriarchal perspective - cuteness and demureness aren't a symbol of weakness and inferiority and as the mainstream see cuteness as reserved for children, whereas in Japan the concept of kawaii is apparently more of an all-ages thing, although I'm not sure Japan is the idyl of tolerance a lot of Western Lolitas dream it is, although personally I think this is because it is still ridiculed and marginalised by the mainstream, and believing that 'somewhere it's better than it is here' gives a glimmer of hope. Anyway, if you have time to read it, I think it is interesting. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Piracy, Internet Security and Censorship

I am against internet piracy - I do not illegally download music, I do not share or download shows or movies, and I get very upset when people steal art and images on the internet and post them around as if those pictures are their own work or try and make a profit. I am not against legislation that effectively deals with these forms of piracy. If you like a band enough to want to download their music, pay for it so money goes back to the band. Yes, a lot of money goes to middle-men such as retailers and record companies, but fight for a fairer record industry where artists get their due instead of steal. As an artist and musician, I'd rather like a world where the majority of profit on record and MP3 sales went straight to the musician, after all it is they who created it!

That said, I oppose internet censorship brought in on the grounds of being tougher on internet piracy. The internet should not be in the control of governments or corporations - the internet belongs to its users. As such I oppose the poorly-drafted SOPA and PIPA, as they do not effectively target pirates, and leave the internet open to censorship. I am not in America, and not under American legislation, but am concerned for the international repercussions of such legislation coming to pass. Yes, I've written in black, on dark grey.

This IS an internet blackout, after all!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Goth, Sub-Genres and Boundaries

I don't think Goth should be cliquish, or that it is at all wrong to use 'Goth' as a label if you like things that are outside the scope of the original 1980's subculture as well as things that are. If you're into commonly overlapping groups like Cyber/EBM, Japanese fashion, Metal, etc. or into completely not-usually-associated-with-goth hobbies like rambling, cookery, various sports, etc. it does not mean you should suddenly have your ability to call yourself 'Goth' revoked, after all, if someone is trying to fit themselves in a narrow box by avoiding all activities outside it as well as actively doing all those things within it, they are not being themselves at all, and being yourself is far more important than being Goth or not being Goth. 

Nobody should try to be Goth, they either like that sort of thing, or they don't, and that is all that should be to it. A lot of people get pressure from outside the Gothic community to try and be "normal" and the last thing they need is to get pressure from inside the Gothic community trying to force them down someone else's definition of Goth. Nobody has the right to dictate another person's taste, regardless of decades in the subculture. Also, anyone who has been in the subculture since the 1980's should have the emotional maturity becoming to their age and know better than to mock people for liking bands or fashion outside their tastes, and even if they don't think it truly Goth, they should approach the subject in a positive way (e.g encouraging people to listen to Sisters of Mercy or Bauhaus) instead of a judgemental way. This is common politeness, and no matter how Punk you are, there is a place for it. 

Goth has changed over the last 30-ish years, and it has changed a lot, and become an umbrella term for a lot of darker forms of self-expression, and it has mingled with other subcultures, like Visual Kei/J-Rock, and Lolita, and Metal, and while all these groups are different subcultures in their own right, and always will be, they have had an impact on Goth, and personally, I think it is this diversity that is keeping the subculture alive. Goth has gone from being the fans of a small group of bands from the 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's and become a broad, vibrant movement, an umbrella under which people can be their own dark selves, and find avenues to explore. Goth has grown, and this is no bad thing - an influx of new music that doesn't sound like the Post-Punk or Deathrock of the 1980s does not mean that people will stop listening to the original bands, it just means that they'll listen to other things too. These new bands are not calling themselves Goth (not that the original bands called themselves that); they are calling themselves Gothic Metal, or Dark Cabaret or Industrial or EBM, and are making no claims on the original subculture. What they are, though, is influenced by the original subculture and influencing the current subculture as it grows. 

Goth, after all, is a mere label that summarises a person's tastes, fashion and lifestyle, it is a name for a broad subculture that is as diverse as its members, and it has never, and will never, be a line in the sand on one side of which is Goth and on the other side of which is everything else. The boundaries of what is and isn't Goth are different for every single Goth, and while there are some that are approximately agreed on, those areas are fuzzy and indistinct. 

A lot of people who from the outside are clearly Goth renounce the name, and I think it is partly from this pressure from certain sections of the Goth community to adhere to certain criteria. If you stop calling yourself Goth, you're free to like all the Goth things you previously enjoyed, and yet are at liberty to enjoy anything else too, as you are no longer under pressure to stay within the bounds of Goth. This situation, though, should not arise. Goth should not be a limiting pigeon-hole, it should be an accepting community of dark outsiders, individuals who are outside the mainstream and drawn towards more morbid and unusual artistic expression, especially music and fashion. 

There is also an external pressure on professionally Goth members of the subculture - Goth has been identified as a target market, a demographic to sell to, and therefore it is in the commercial interest to pander to an interpretation of that market (and it is only an interpretation because it is coming from outside) and so, as a professionally Goth person or group, for example a band, get more popular, they will come under pressure from those financially involved to stick to a certain brand (or band) image that they assume will be popular and keep fans loyal.  Unfortunately this can very easily lead to either selling out or becoming bland and thus being totally counter-productive, or switching target audience to babybats. 

What motivates people to be militant about the boundaries of the subculture mystifies me. Received wisdom is that it is fuelled by their own insecurities as regards their subcultural identities, but I'm not sure  this really true. I don't think that the arguments over what is and isn't Goth and the judgement of people as their status of Goth or Not Goth is that simple. I think some of it is to do with how broad the subculture has got, and how a lot of people who are very different indeed from the original subculture (e.g cybergoths) identify as Goth, and this isn't something that people who have big hair and danced to strains of The Sisters of Mercy in the '80s do not recognise as part of what they know as their subculture. One thing that should be noted when it comes to these less traditional manifestations of the subculture is that someone who is dressed up as a Cybergoth and dancing to T3RR0R 3RR0R might also be fond of back-combing their hair and dancing to Siouxsie and The Banshees - they are not mutually exclusive. 

One very important, and probably obvious point that I shouldn't have to mention but sadly do, is that just because someone doesn't like a band, brand, shop, item of clothing, etc. that does not impact whether or not it is "Goth" or whether or not someone else should like it or think it is good. Opinions are not absolute truth. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

30 Day Goth Challenge, Day 4

I'm usually mostly out and about after dark. That is partly because I've moved North, and the days here at least feel considerably shorter than they were, but I think that this is partly because I am ringed by mountains, so the sun has set behind the mountains long before it would set behind a flat horizon. This is also because my partner works until quite late, he often finishes work at gone 19:00 and then has a 45 minute commute home, so if we want to do anything together, including mundane shared chores like food shopping, it is usually done after 20:00. I am up and awake long before then, and do get up at a sensible time, but with the weather having turned for the worse, there's less conservation work for me to do, and I am less inclined than usual to walk into town, especially as I know I'll be walking home alone in the dark if I do that. Also, if it gets dark before 16:00 and light after 09:00, there's not that much of the day when itisn'tdark here in Winter :P I'm also a sucker for not going to bed until I've done a task - for example last night I stayed up working on a Doodle or Die drawing of a Samurai, in great detail, until it crashed at 03:30. If I start something, unless something really distracting happens, I'm usually locked off from the world until I've completed it.

Pale As Death
I'm naturally rather pale, though pale with a reddish tinge, and I tend to do my makeup not to make me actively paler, as I'm pale enough anyway, even for the Gothic look, but simply to make my skin less pink. I am often asked if I'm feeling ill, or what the matter with me is, but the truth is I'm fine, this is my natural, normal skin-tone. I've also got poor circulation, so my hands and feet are often very cold. As you can imagine, this means I end up the butt of corpse-jokes, but that's fine by me. I've found a lot of Goths are naturally pale people, maybe it's because Goth provides a style alternative for people who are never going to pull off the sun-kissed blonde look but can do pale and interesting quite well.

All Black Everything
Black is not my favourite colour, but it is one of them. I do tend to pick the black option even when buying items with little inherent Goth potential, not just because I don't want my cleaning stuff to clash with my clothes, but simply because I like the colour black. My four favourite colours are purple, green, black and blue - in that order. This said, I have, and this list is not exhaustive, the following: black coat-hangers, black-handled cutlery (and that actually IS deliberately Goth), black serviettes, black bedding (also Goth), a black "Gothmas" tree, square black crockery, a black electric-guitar-shaped grater, black towels, black coffee mugs, black tissue-box, black sushi plates, black plastic cooking utensils, black-handled scissors, black photo-frames (also fairly Goth) etc. etc. My wardrobe is a black-lined pit of black clothes and black shoes. Sometimes I wear a bit of green, blue, or purple, but it's mostly black on black. I get teased by friends who, when I buy something totally not goth-related and it turns out to be black, say "Oh! What a surprise! It's pink! Wait, no, it's black." Even my socks are at least mostly black.

Skulls Are Beautiful
I collect animal skulls, collect skull-shaped items, wear skull jewellery, and generally love skulls. I even paint and draw them. I also like Reapers, and bones, and other stereotypically skeletal things. I want to get a biology model skeleton to hang on my wall because I think they're aesthetically pleasing as well as educational. All my animal skulls are found pre-deceased (and mostly picked clean) on walks. I do boil them thoroughly and wash them thoroughly before displaying them. I like deer skulls the best, but have the skulls of other wildlife. I want a raven skull. My favourite art pieces are Memento Mori and Vanitas paintings.

Caught In An Explosion In A Lace Factory
I think this is as much a Lolita/Aristo stereotype as it is a Gothic one, but it's often true for me. I'll wear shirts with triple-lace cuffs, a lace trimmed skirt over petticoats, a lace jabot, lace head-gear and lace as cuff-bracelets and then tie another bit of lace in a loop under my collar and over my jabot, probably in contrasting black, and then carry a lace parasol. Trim my lace with more lace! Lace is a favourite material of mine, I love its intricacy and delicacy and the beautiful patterns it is made in. If I liked pastels and suited them, I'd probably be a Sweet Lolita cliche. I always feel very elegant when I'm wearing lots of lace.

Breathing Is Unimportant!
I lace my corsets tight and wear them pretty much constantly. I'll wear leather studded corsets with buckles, and I'll wear fancy brocade corsets over lacy tops. I like underbust, I like overbust, I like anything as long as it is mostly black, has proper steel boning and pulls me right in like an hour glass. I like white and ivory corsets to wear under period-inspired clothes, I like fancy PVC outerwear corsets to wear as a futuristic cyber-goth. I really, really, really, like corsets. In fact, I think I'm in love with them. They make me look skinnier, bustier and better proportioned. They're warm in winter. They're sexy. They're classy. They're everything I could wish for in one garment.

Bleak-eyed Writer
I wrote my fair share of angst-ridden poetry and bleak, dark fantasy fiction as a teen. Now I'm writing an apocalyptic novel set in a world where civilisation has collapsed and humanity is tearing itself apart, the environment is ruined and a lot of people die. I guess it's gone from Gothic to Rivethead literature, but hey, it doesn't depress me to write it. That said, I'm writing this novel as a warning, not an instruction manual for annihilation nor as a morbid adrenaline-junky's holiday brochure. I also like black humour, and write things that are funny-yet-morbid. I still write poetry, though it is more in the vein of admiring the beauty (and dark beauty) of the universe than in complaining about how awful my life is in poorly-written verse. My poetry abilities have also improved since I was a teen, mostly because writing poetry is one of those things I do quite frequently, for example when bored, on trains, while waiting for public transport, on long journeys, or anywhere else I get 5 or more minutes of sitting-down time. I have also learnt that angsty ramblings are not good subject matter and that good poetry requires more than just rhyme and raiding the thesaurus.

These are the main ones, but I also love ravens, magpies, crows and other corvids, do Siouxsie Sioux style eye makeup or draw curlicues, tend to go out everywhere pretty darn goth, read lots of vampire stories and hang around in graveyards. Yep, I'm a cliche, but I'm having fun being a cliche, so I don't care.