A Lady's Primer on Iced Tea

"Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

As I sit here it is fully 90 degrees outside, yet I am still expected to go to work (were the air-conditioning is most egregiously on the fritz) and class and absolutely no one has offered to draw me cool baths periodically throughout the day, add my apartment's shocking lack of a claw-foot tub and you begin to see the terrible cross I am forced to bear.  What's an extravagantly southern* girl to do in these times of trial?
"As God as my witness, there had better be a glass of sweet tea waiting for me when I am done picking these stupid turnips or heads will roll."
Iced tea is really the only solution.  It has mystical powers of cooling far beyond that of ordinary cold beverages.  I couldn't survive my mile-long walking commute without it.  Should you find yourself in a restaurant in the south, iced tea is categorically unsweet, "sweet tea" is sweetened -- usually quite overly -- iced tea.

How to Make Perfect Sweet Tea

In coding as in life: garbage in, garbage out.  First you need good quality tea, bagged tea is okay if from a quality producer but under no circumstances should "instant" or "cold brew" tea be regarded as anything but the abominations that they are.  Unless you are buying Imperial first-flush lung jing (which if you make into iced tea I will personally come over and punch you in the face), tea is an affordable luxury, much cheaper per serving than soda, go ahead and buy top quality. See below for some recommendations on specifics.  You also need a brewing mechanism that allows the tea leaves enough room to expand and to be removed from the tea the very moment brewing is done.  I favor this, or just a small pot with a good sized fine mesh brewing basket, for individual or double servings and this for making a pitcher.

  1. Set freshly drawn water to boil
  2. In your brewing mechanism put twice as much tea leaves as necessary to make the amount of tea you are brewing (unless you are making a pitcher, in which case use the normal amount of leaves)
  3. Add sugar to taste to the pot, before adding water (even though I take hot tea completely unsweetened, since cold dampens taste I find I want a little sugar, maybe 1 tsp per cup of finished tea)
  4. When the water has reached the correct temperature for type (boiling for black and just simmering for green or herbals) pour it over leaves and sugar.
  5. Leave to brew for the correct amount of time, slightly longer than you would for hot tea (about 5 minutes for black, 2 for green, and 7+ for herbals)
  6. If making 1-2 servings: immediately pour over ice, diluting it by half.  If making a pitcher: leave the pitcher to cool completely (that's why you didn't make it double strength), then refrigerate.  This will keep most teas from clouding, but some varieties of black are especially prone.  Clouding doesn't actually alter taste so don't get your bloomers in a bunch about it in any case.
  7.  If serving a party I suggest making the tea unsweetened and providing simple syrup adjacent, as people's tastes very significantly.  The entire American South seems to think tea ought to be syrupy sweet.  I disagree.
Also, try not to go crazy with the garnishes
Suggested Teas for Icing

A good basic Ceylon or Keemun: These are the varieties of black tea least given to clouding and thus the best for iced tea.  I do not believe non-black teas ever cloud.  I keep a combination as my basic sweet tea, or as a base for chai.

Lady Grey: This is probably my favorite.  It is delicately aromatic and citrus-y, refreshing and light.  It's flavor holds up well in iced tea and needs just a hint of sugar.

Orange Spice: When you are in more of a "go big or go home" sort of mood this is just the thing.

Greens & Whites
Jasmine: Yummy, aromatic, and delicately floral tasting, a quality version can be picked up at any good Asian food market.  Note that jasmine can be made from green tea or oolong, and in my opinion the green version is much superior for iced tea.  This is also lovely with dried rose petals.

Spiced Green: This is a nice, lightly spiced green blend, which I especially like (and find especially cooling) with a bit of peppermint thrown in.

Snow Geisha White: Ohmigosh this is my very favorite iced tea.  It is white mixed with dried cherries and rose petals , mixed with a little pure cane sugar it is perfect, a little pricey so I save it for special occasions.

Christmas Eve: This is sort of an herbal version of Orange Spice, but it has the addition of some subtle peppermint.  I am a big fan of peppermint with spice.

I'll admit to being not that much of an herbal tea person, but if you are, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for sourcing, and for some good blends.
Peppermint: This is sort of a classic childhood taste for me, but with honey is amazingly refreshing on the very hottest days.

Midsummer Night: I invented this one for a midsummer picnic a few years back: equal parts spearmint, lemon balm, and lavender

 Iced Chai

  • 1qt water
  • 1/2 C basic black tea
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 tsp cloves 
  • 1/4 tsp. each: ground cinnamon and ground ginger
  • 1/2-1 cup sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Boil water, place all ingredients but coconut milk and vanilla in a large teapot, pour boiling water over and brew 5-7 minutes.  Remove tea, etc and let cool to room temp, add coconut milk and vanilla, serve over ice.

Tomorrow I will post outfits appropriate for sipping tea on the veranda, possibly during a Junior League meeting.

*My Momma-and-them are from Alabama and Northern Florida and my Daddy's people are from East Texas/Louisiana, and I am named, by tradition, after the first lady of the Confederacy (who it turns out was actually kind of cool.  Apparently after the war and as soon as her husband kicked she scandalized everyone by moving to New York City and becoming, like total bff with Ulysses S. Grant's daughter).

It's a Nice Day for a White Petti

This is my new Malco Modes petticoat. It is the single funnest piece of clothing ever!

It is my considered opinion that the single most important item in the lolita wardrobe is a good petticoat, because without this you will not have good poof, and it's really all about the poof.  I made a petticoat not long ago.  It was a disaster.  It has only mild-moderate poof, is extremely scratchy, sticks together in weird ways on humid days (and really I only barely put up with that from my hair, so I am really not okay with it in underwear), and has a very unfortunate tendency to bunch up between my thighs making it look very convincingly like I was wearing a diaper.  It turns out this is because tulle is a really crappy fabric.  A good petticoat is all chiffon (or organza, that's okay too).  A lot of chiffon.  That right up there is about 45 yards of chiffon.  Now, I could buy 45 yards of nylon chiffon, gather it up into multiple tiers and multiple layers, then sew it all together.  I could also stab myself repeatedly in the eye.  I could do a lot of things.

What I actually did was buy this, it's a Malco Modes, model 582.  Model 580 is also all chiffon and has lace trim instead of a bottom ruffle, making it slightly less poofy but more naturally bell-shaped.  This was also a legendary ebay find, but had I paid 61$ including shipping (the cheapest price I found online) it would have been worth every hot cent.  It is the stay-puft petticoat and will not deflate under any circumstance, it is also soft and comfortable all day.  It is also the funnest!

I defy you to shimmy and twirl around your apartment to the strains of Goth Rock, collapsing into a giant pile of chiffon ruffles and tell me its not a good time.*   It has an independent momentum that is just plain entertaining.
Okay, now that's over with, back to the serious review, on sizing: It comes in a wide range of sizes including a good range of lengths.  I bought the large size which is 23" long and has a listed waist range of 27-50".  My waist is 46" at last check and it fit, but it was really uncomfortably tight.  I added a few inches of elastic to the band (that's why it is black and white, I only had black) and that fixed it completely.  It's usually a good rule of thumb that if a petticoat has an elastic waist and a wide size range listed you should probably not get it if your measurements are close to the end of the range; it will be uncomfortable and the more it is stretched the less poof you get.  In this case I suspect the large and the extra-large to be the same thing, with the XL having a longer elastic band.  Even after adding elastic there was still a lot of room in the casing.  The length can easily be adjusted by putting the elastic waistband into a different casing (it can be made shorter, not longer).  I will report back after I have saved up for another one in black (because I obviously need it in black too).

As far as the shape and poof.  Out of the box it is very A-shaped and somewhat flared.  I think this is okay sometimes.  A-lines tend to look better with empire-waist dresses, and that's not just me saying that, but beyond that it is crazy easy to modify this to get the bell-shape.  The petti has two layers, so pull the top layer up in about three places, swag-style tuck it over the waist, then safety pin it down.

I drastically increased the contrast in photo editing to make it clearer, but the petti is not so blindingly white in real life.

It looks like this under a dress after modification:

Contrasted with the dress with no petti.

*It does occur to me that this may be more of a window into my soul than I should put up on the interwebs.

Hello World!

I am Sabayon and I will be your guide to the exciting world of being a big fat lolita and loving it.  I am a grad student in Library Science in the lovely city of Pittsburgh (and no I don't mean that sarcastically.  Pittsburgh has beautiful architecture, a great, affordable arts scene, and a friendly populace).  I am 25, which practically makes me an elder of the tribe in lolita, and I will say that some aspects of the fashion belong on the Murtaugh list as far as I am concerned.  I am, for instance, too old for this stuff*. I mostly identify with the classic aesthetic, but have a darkly and decadently tinged sort of outlook that makes me leak towards the gothy, and I love, LOVE creepy-cute.  I am also pretty new on the lolita scene, although I have long been a devotee of things frilly.  Some may think to question then, can I really call myself that or is this a passing phase.  My answer is, yes! to both! When I was not so very much younger (I'm thinking median 19) I thought I was supposed to be finding myself, the one true thing I am "supposed" to be, or "really am".  I thought I was supposed to be, as Joseph Campbell used to say "finding my bliss".  It never occurred to me that such a thing might be an unending quest, and the point is to just follow it.  Your Beluga Best Friend said it better than I can think how to.  In other words, I am really passionate about this thing right now so I am going to think about it, talk about, and write about and just generally be fully engaged because right now I find it terribly fun.  Should I change in a month or year or ten, tant pis, it was fun in the meanwhile.  However, I don't expect it to be ever-so passing.  I am enjoying myself way too much for that.

That's all the intro to moi I can think of.

What will be in this blog

  • Reviews of plus-sized lolita clothes
  • Essays on fat-acceptance and fatshion
  • Articles on lolita and feminism
  • Outfit co-ords and polyvore based fantasy dressing
  • Random book and movie recomendations
  • Etc, related to the above
What you won't see here
  • Any items that are not available in at least a US women's dress size 12.  That is fully half my own dress size, but is plus-sized in lolita-land.  I am not going to faun over some brand dress when said label flat refuses to even approach catering to me.  Life's too damn short.
  • Diet talk, and that extends to the comments, any comments about dieting will be deleted.**
  • Wire Hangers.  Ever!

Now to my anticipated FAQ

What's with the title?  I hope it evokes the old anarcho-feminist slogan "Riots not Diets".  I'm not really the rioting type, and much prefer having the audacity to be fat, visible, and be-ruffled in a world that urges me to endeavor to be as invisible as possible.  I also considered "Fat Princess" in homage to the awful PS3 game which evokes a certain fat-lolita-y-ness.  However: a) that game really was awful and I wouldn't want to seem to endorse it to the casual observer, b) I'm not really a princess-y sort of person.  I  am basically the sort of person who would rather be the dragon slayer or evil queen any day of the the week.

What is "lolita"? A Japanese street fashion that emerged during the Girl movement of the 1980's and features a bell-shaped silhouette, a very modest dress code, highly feminine and frilly motifs, and draws inspiration from the Victorian and Rococo periods...sort of, you know Rococo as interpreted by Japanese teen girls.  It has no relationship to the Nabokov novel.  The label was applied from outside the sub-culture and most Japanese ladies were not familiar enough with the work to have punched people in the face when such people first started calling them that.  It's not about appealing to pedophiles, as it turns out they know the difference between a small girl and a grown woman in a kitty-print dress; in fact it's really not about appealing to men at all.  A good primer to the style can be found at lolitafashion.org

What is Fat Acceptance? Well this is a pretty large (pun intended!) topic, so I will be posting an FA-101 reading list in the coming weeks, probably sooner than later.  To condense down what is actually a fairly complex philosophy and an incredibly difficult thing to fully wrap your mind around if you have been socialized in mainstream America: some people are fat, some people are skinny, get over it.

Okay, but why do you need to use the f-word?  Well sometimes when you stub your toe really hard or get passed over at the bus stop when you are already running late there is just nothing else that quite expresses your true feelings.
Okay, seriously now: there is a large vocabulary in the english-speaking world devoted to not calling someone fat (voluptuous, curvy, plus-sized, zaftig, overweight, etc), and indeed used as an epithet or as short-hand for "ugly and unlovable" it is obviously rude, but otherwise I view "fat" as simply descriptive and value-neutral.  My dress may be plus-sized, but I am not a dress.  Overweight implies that there is a weight I ought to be, and which I am over, which I reject.  Being cello-shaped, I am only somewhat curvy and voluptuous  but not all fat ladies are, and plenty of curvyvoluptuous women are not fat.  Zaftig is a term of admiration, and it's probably what I would prefer a lover call me, but I don't expect admiration from the whole world.  Big ladies are not everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine, there's nothing wrong with having a type as long as you don't act like someone who you don't find attractive couldn't possibly be attractive to anyone.  I think "fat" is a good neutral term for someone who, well has a good amount of fat on them, and avoiding using it implies that fat is some sort of horrifying unspeakable thing.

I also maintain a blog about crafting, mostly sewing and knitting, but occasional other diy-type stuff as well.  A lot of my stuff, obviously, is lolita but not all, feel free to check it out.

*Not that I would criticize or even snicker privately about someone who felt differently.  One's Murtaugh list is a deeply personal thing, and age-based dressing requirements are BS.
**Not sure if I should write any more of a comment policy.  Okay here goes: No diet-talk or self-hating comments, no homophobic, transphobic, racist or otherwise asshole-ish comments.  Be excellent to each other.
Category: 6 comments