7 December 2018

Fantastic Gifts and Where to Find Them #2

"Deck the halls with boughs of Harry, fa la la la la, la la la la. 
'Tis the season to choose Etsy. Fa la la la la, le vi o SA!" 

Of course, Hermione would argue that it's LeviOsa, not levioSA; however, as it's also the season of SAnta Claus, I'm going to give Ron the benefit of the doubt and sing Le vi o SA to my heart's content. For when it comes to Jo's Wizarding Wonderland , Christmas is the levitation charm that lifts her magic to another level. From flying baubles and dancing hippogriffs, to everlasting snow and Weasley Jumpers, Harry Potter and Christmas go together like  Dobby and socks!

So we have Wizards, we have Winter... what could possibly make this Wonderland even better? ACCIO WitchCrafting! Those familiar with my SPEW Crew will know that the Wizarding World has been an inexhaustible source of magic for my own maker life and, what's more, I am FAR from alone. Since launching Bumble and Be Makes in 2017, I have discovered so many magical makers on Etsy and they are simply too SPEWtacular to go unnoticed.

I love a Primark Pillow as much as the next Potterhead, but homemade gifts truly are a unique brand of magic. Not only are all the items in this post 100% cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, they are also 100% high-street free and 384% MUGGLE-FREE. So grab a cup of butter-brew and prepare for wit beyond measure, creativity beyond your wildest dreams and a brand of magic only Etsy can cast


If someone asked me to describe Harry Potter in one word, it would be ALWAYS. Beyond its significance for the series, it symbolises my enduring love for the Wizarding World and it appear that "magical minds think alike." If you search  "Harry Potter Always" on Etsy, you will discover more treasures than the whole of Gringotts and two particular gems caught my eye.
||  'Always' trinket box (£15.99) - The Book Corner   ||   Doe Pendant (£6.50) - WishKnotsJewellery  ||
 ||  Mrs Weasley Pin (£8) - Bookish & Bakewell    ||    Tea Potions (£3.50) - Literary Tea Company  || 
 ||   Patronus Candle (£8.95) - Midnight Flame Co   ||   Espresso Patronum Spoon (£12.50) - Hoarder&Maker   ||
||   'Department of Missing Socks' light jar (£26) - Grobblenots   ||   Espresso Patronum Mug (£9.94) - Miss Bohemia    || 

The first was an 'Always' decoupage box by LolaLovesPrimrose, which has already been earmarked for future adoption card storage! The second was this "Always" doe pendant from WishKnotsJewellerycomplete with a miniature doe charm. For the past few years, we've done 'fill-your-own' crackers and it's basically our version of secret santa. Mum knows me too well, because this tumbled out of mine two years ago and I can confirm that it is every bit as magical in real life.

Speaking of magical mothers, Bookish and Bakewell deserve 1000 house points for ingenuity with their "badass mother" pin and I could have included a dozen items from their store. I particularly love how they go for those less obvious moments, because that's all part of what makes small business - and Etsy - so wonderful! Another golden example of this is Grobblenots, whose "Department of Missing Socks" light up jar was, unsurprisingly, the SPEW Crew's chosen gift....

Just because a present is practical, doesn't mean it needs to be boring; by the same token, just because something is "fandom" doesnt mean it's frivolous! The reality is, if you're going to drink coffee, tea or butterbrew at home, you need a mug. If your chosen drink needs a spoonful of sugar - or felix felicis - you're going to need a spoon. So before you cast your eyes on the high-street, why not cast ESPRESSO PATRONUM with these two magical creations?

I also wanted to include some more understated options. Tea Potions and Patronus Candles are the perfect way to say "I ADumbledore You... but I'm also aware that, like Dumbledore, you've got style and might not appreciate a crochet Pygmy Puff."  I think the idea of a Patronus candle is wonderful, as it's literally your light in the darkness; as for the tea potions, I bought it as a gift this year and they genuinely look like actual potions; my friend can also confirm that they they taste just as good. 

...is OWL POST. While nothing will ever compare to the letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, that doesn't mean you have to settle for the Dursley's idea of a Christmas Card... otherwise known as the dullest thing since non-moving staircases. I'll be honest, I've always been  cynical of Christmas Cards; how many people panic-buy half a dozen multipacks at the start of December, write the same message in each one and write names they would otherwise never think of?
||   'All I want for Christmas' Owl Card (£2.75) - Kyte Co   ||    Professor Sprout Card (£2.75) - CharliTaitIllustrations   ||
 || Wizard Animal stickers  (£3) - Naomi Lord Art   ||   'Socks Again' card (£2.75) - Charli Tait Illustrations || 

Accio ETSY and, quite simply, a few of my favourite things: Harry Potter, Puns and the Pursuit of #SmallBiz happiness. Put them together and what have you got? Babbity, rabbity... SPEW. Yes, that's right, Charli Tait Illustrations has created a SPEW-friendly FREE ELF Christmas Card and it is every big as magical as it sounds! Not only is she one of my new favourite artists, she lives in Bristol and is selling her cards at the newly-opened Card Shack, so I've made it my mission to get there next week.. 

My two other top-picks for Potterific Post are KyteCo and Naomi Lord Art. The first was a new discovery for me and I just adore the silhouette concept of her designs - it's the kind of thing I'd refuse to take down post-christmas! Naomi was the first Harry Potter illustrator I ever discovered on Etsy and these wizarding animal stickers would be perfect for envelopes, cards, journals or even little stocking fillers. They also come in print versions, one of which may have spontaneously entered my shopping cart! As for which one, I'll give you a clue: one can never have enough Pygmy Puffs...

Cue Crimes of Grindelwald SPOILERS - that being said, if you’ve made it this far and you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend sorting out your priorities and then returning. As mother of The SPEW Crew, it should come as no surprise that I’ve dedicated an entire section to my BFFs - Beast friends for life - and this includes their newest member: the Phoenix!
||   Magic Owl Pin (£9.70) - Studio Pins and Paper   ||   Niffler Book Painting (£4.99) - BritishBookArt   ||
 ||   Tree Dweller Wand (£41.76) - Splatter Palette   ||   Demiguise Earrings (£11.09) - In The Dungeons   || 
 ||   Felted Bowtruckle (£49) - Waggledance Art   ||  Phoenix Tears Bottle (£10.95) - Ruby Alice and Me   ||   
||   Phoenix Enamel Pin (£8) - Hannah Hitchman   ||   Norton the Niffler (£28) - Bumble and Be   ||

The wing-detail on Hannah Hitchman’s enamel pin is incredible and, if you’re still determined to #ProtectTheSecrets, Holly Wands and Tail Feathers are the perfect alibi. The same goes for this Phoenix Tears bottle by Ruby, Alice and Me, although it would make a magical addition to any Fantastic shelf/ shelfie, especially if you’re a fan of apothecary-style decor.

Back the OBs (original beasties) and obviously I couldn’t miss out my beloved Dougal. I didn't think anything could be better than one demmguise, until I bumbled upon InTheDungeons and saw DEMIGUISE EARRINGS. Aka Double Demiguise and - oh my GODric - I can’t get over how cute they are! Just imagine if you found these inside a Christmas Cracker? That's the dream.

If you’re looking for items under the £10 mark, BritishBookArt and StudioPinsandPaper have enough treasures for a whole litter of Baby Nifflers. Enamel pins are the new (sirius) black and it's hard to know where to start. However, I spied this snowy owl on Instagram and immediately fell in love with the detail - not do the books include miniature titles, she's wearing a little gryffindor scarf!

Scarves are clearly the way to my heart, as BritishBookArt’s Niffler is wearing his Scamander Scarf with pride and, again, what really struck me was the detail; she's used the book page from Goblet of Fire that mentions Nifflers and after writing this, I may have spontaneously ordered it as a present for... Sophie - aka me - because self-care is a spell worth casting. Always.*

Finally, we can't be forgetting Newt’s chosen sidekick and these two creations will blow(truckle) your mind. Waggledance Art and Splatter Palette were two of the first Witchcrafters I followed on Instagram and their creations are living proof  that "maker magic" exists. if you’re shopping for a truly special someone, these are the kind of gifts that you treasure for always.

I'd love to think the same of my SPEW CREW, because they offer something no high-street store can: the gift of being one-of-a-kind. 
If the popularity of House Pride posts on Instagram are anything to go by, you’ve officially entered the Room of Requirement ! I'm the first to say that ‘likes’ don’t mean everything - as Hermione says , there are far more important things - but people seemed to love my Ravenclaw bookmark by Kristin Askland and hopefully it shows they love her artwork too!

I cannot recommend her shop enough and the same goes for Katie Abey. She is possibly punniest potterhead I’ve ever seen and, if anyone’s cared to notice, I am partial to a pun or twenty-two. As a recent customer of her shop, I solemnly swear that you will not regret placing an order… one word: DUMBLEBEE. Just be careful that your Niffler doesn't find it first!
 ||  'House Wands' print (£7) - Dwaal & Park    ||    Gryffindor light-up jar (£22.90) - Grobblenots      ||
  ||   House Bath Bomb (£3) - Little Shop of Lathers   ||   Hufflepug coaster (£3.50) - Katie Abey Design || 
 ||   House Candle (£10) - Reading Room Candle Co.   ||   Sorting candle (£8.95) - Happy Piranha   ||
||    Luna 'Ravenclaw' Necklace (£8) - The Book Corner   ||    House Pride bookmarks (£2.87 each) - Kristen Askland    ||

Anyone familiar with the Potterhead and Bookstagram communities on IG will be aware of book-themed candles and this treasure ticks all the boxes: bee-autiful packaging, vegan friendly and a scent I’d actually want to smell! I know this sounds obvious, but I’m always amazed by how people collect candles, and don't use them - well I’m in the latter camp and need Amortentia, not Polyjuice… 

Another item to hit the “style and substance” mark is this ‘house wand’ print; I’ve never seen anything like it before and it’s a magical concept. While I do love the actual wands, my gringotts vault begs to differ and this is the perfect solution - four for the price of a wand handle!

If the weather outside is frightful and your "pine fresh" password no longer works, I’ve found the next best thing - House bath bombs and a Sorting Hat candle! Not only are they realistic alternatives to a talking mermaid, both are 100% bunny-friendly - I was devastated to see that the Boots range was "tested in china". I love new Wizarding World items as much as the next Potterhead, but cruelty-free priorities will ALWAYS come first and I know that Luna/Evanna would agree. 

Speaking of Ms Lovegood, as her long-lost Ravenclaw twin I was enchanted by this pendant from The Book Corner. Like BritishBookArt, it uses book pages to ensure you are never far from the original magic! I love crafts that incorporate book pages (secondhand, obviously) and book page flowers are definitely on my horizon for 2019. 

Last but most definitely not least, Grobblenots make a second appearence with their house-themed light up jars! This shop is siriusly the magic that keeps on… magicking? Is that a word? There’s no red squiggle, but my Ravenclaw-mind is a-quivering… with the mugglemade “gift that keeps on giving.” It truly is, trust me.
Christmas is traditionally all about meaning and  I like to remember this when choosing gifts; rather than pick the shiniest 'pickbait' gift box from a highstreet shelf, why not put the PERSoN back in PRESenT? For me and *hopefully* some of you lovely muggles, the high street can keep their shoe, because nothing says YOU quite like U-No-Poo...

Shop small and the world is your Oyster Salamander. On that note, I solemnly swear that, one day, I will have my eyes compared to a salamander and it will be every bit as magical as NewTina.

*this does include affiliate links, but product picks and potterific puns are entirely my own. ALWAYS.*

15 November 2018

Pumpkin Patches, Spontaneous Smiles and Squashing Self-Consciousness

Another year, another pumpkin patch ramble... only this time my Millie moo was replaced by Millie MooSE. How cute is her Moose jumper? Last Autumn, we discovered that "style and substance" is surprisingly prescriptive on the Doggy High-street - I refuse to be one of those people who treats their dog like a doll -  but thankfully Pets at Home came to the rescue! Most importantly, Millie loves putting it on and when she starts running with her moose ears it is, quite simply, adumbledorable.

Mum was a bit hesitant about putting her in it so far away from christmas; however, as I reasoned, "Moose, Penguins and Polar Bears aren't extinct 364 days of the year!"I also used the same argument for my Polar Bear duvet last month, although it turns out I'm the conservative one in our family... The other night, I heard "Let it Snow" coming from our living room, only to discover that dad was 'watching' the CHRISTMAS HITS channel. Given that he's typically the strictest of anyone, when it comes to premature festiveness, I was as confounded as Cormac McClaggen on a Quidditch Pitch - given that Hermione is sitting in the stands! 

Doing a complete 180, I realise that I'm boarding the Halloween Train rather late. However, I couldn't find the Ford Anglia and, even if I could, isn't there ALWAYS a time for the things that make you smile? Ever since I read Nicole's pumpkin patch blog in 2015, I resolved to visit one myself. Fast forward three years, here I am on my THIRD annual trip to  Farrington Gurney's Pumpkin Farm! You can see my 2016 and 2017 trips here and here, but 2018 may just be the chosen one.
To put it in context, I very nearly didn't go. My blood sugars had been wobbly the day before and, when I woke up Sunday morning, I was ready to say "no". Right before lunchtime, I was still at that point. Nonetheless, after a little talk with mum and a lot of tail-wagging from Millie, we were on our way by 2pm and all I can say is... thank goodness! Thank goodness for paws, parental wisdom and, last but not least, the person typing this now. Not so long ago, I wouldn't have been able to change that "no" into yes", so it's in these moments that I am reminded what "recovery" truly means.

Yes, I've still "gotta get that bowl of cereal" with a degree of mechanicalness. Yes, I've got to pause before I instinctively order an americano, or say no to yet another social event; however, it's moments like this that show me what recovery enables. The ability to change, to live and, even more simply than that, to BEI realise that I do use the "be" word rather a lot on this blog, but there's a reason for this... When you've spent far too many days in your life merely "existing", the ability to BE is never taken for granted. Those moments where I can just smile freely, laugh spontaneously and think positively without effort - those are the moments I treasure most.

My 2018 Pumpkin Patch trip was one of those moments, not least of all because Millie was on top "Dora the explorer" form and I love seeing how genuinely excited she gets! I was probably a bit too lenient when it came to the squashed pumpkins, as she was hoovering around like noo-noo from the Teletubbies (cue 90s nostalgia trip)! Another silver lining from that afternoon was bringing along Benjamin Bow-ton and Sir Bumble... who in Godric's name are they, you ask? Only my Etsy CEO - Chief Elf Operator - and the latest bowtruckle to fly free on Etsy! This was actually the reason I decided to bring two of my SPEW Crew along. 
After seeing Ellis' pictures from her own Pumpkin Patch trip, I had this vision of a Pumpkin Pickett and couldn't resist bringing it to life! A year ago, I had similar thoughts of bringing Bumble and Be Makes to the Pumpkin Farm with me; however, the idea of whipping out my crochet creatures in front of complete strangers, risking strange looks and possibly comments, stopped that idea in its tracks. So what did I do when the same thoughts popped up this year? I found an example of when it's good to say NO! It wasn't a case of being any less self-conscious. It was the realisation that saying NO to anxiety meant saying YES to life.

In case I needed anymore convincing, my SPEW Crew were ready with a failsafe mantra. When in doubt, ask yourself: what would Luna do? Answer: she would wear those dirigible plum earrings, pop on those spectre specs and most definitely NOT let any mind muggles get her down! On a more sirius  note, it helped to think of it as part of being a business - or Bees-kness, as I like to call it. If Subway can dress people up as giant Sandwiches and talking MeerKats can become national icons, why can't I Pick(ett) a Pumpkin or two? On a practical level, it was #magicmanaged. Benjamin Bowtruckleton is now on Etsy and his Pumpkin photo takes pride of place. 

As I said in my Etsy Packaging video, nature is a huge part of the Bumble and Be story and this includes visual storytelling! I'm really happy with how the photos turned out and I have no regrets. What's more, I decided to use my mini market squashes to create my own set at home...
Mr Elijah loved his little Wood and, yes, his name is a nod to Frodo's screen counterpart. I take inspiration from the most random places, but I like to think that's part of its magic! 
On reflection, there were many moments when I stepped outside that comfort zone this halloween, all of which can be seen in my latest video (Note to self: Self-promotion is not shameful!). When I picked my pumpkin design, the temptation was there to repeat last year's successful carving, but after spying a "Free Elf" template on Pinterest, I instinctively chose a new root... Like taking a Plushie to a Pumpkin Patch, this may look trivial on paper, but on a personal level it was about squashing self-consciousness.

Fact one: Anxiety thrives off rigidity and routine. 

Fact two: Sophie is an outside-the-box thinker. 

Fact three: fact one has a scary way of squish-squashing fact two. In recent weeks, it's dawned on me how many of my decisions are dictated by four, narrow walls and, subsequently, I'm realising how important it is to do the unexpected. Of course, as with many things in recovery, intent and action are not the same thing. That being said, I do believe that my Halloween was a holiday of "make it happen", rather than "what happened?" 

My steps may have been small, but they were steps forward and therefore steps worth counting (unlike the steps app, which I'd love to squash under an actual squash) In that moment at Farrington Farm, I wasn't a crazy-elf-lady - or if I was, I certainly wasn't ashamed of it! I was simply a girl - with a crochet creature or two - saying "squash it" to anxiety. I was a girl  in recovery, saying "okay, people may look, but so what?" So. What. Sir Bumble put it perfectly on the car journey home: "So what, I'm still a Sock Star, I've got my Sock Moves and I don't need YOU Mr Mind Muggle." 

Okay... I think I just out-cheesed myself, so maybe this is a good place to  end? Goodness knows I've rambled enough - as ever -  but I also always say: If just one person can resonate, or feel less alone   through my words, than they were worth writing. Moving forward, I hope this post can remind me to keep stepping outside my comfort zone; to take that road less travelled by; to stop seeing spontaneity as a risk and, instead, see it as a spell to keep casting. Perhaps then, given time, it won't even seem like a spell. It will simply be my way of being. 

3 November 2018

How I package my Etsy Orders #WitchCraftingWizardry

Background to this video: everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong! The Digital Dementors kept telling me that "iCloud storage was full"... fast forward several hours, I'd deleted 93.4% of my photos and the MAC Barrier STILL wouldn't let me through... Dear Mr Apple, what did I ever do to you!? Besides spending a small fortune on your products. In fairness, the majority of the time I wouldn't dream of trading in Mr Mac for Messrs P and C, but it was just one of those days!

Along with photos, I had to refilm and rerecord several parts of this video, hence the reason my voice suddenly sounds like a different person. I've also had to retake the majority of photos of my next Etsy SPEW listings, which was riddikulusly frustrating! However, in the name of being "imperfectly perfect" I will practice self-compassion and say "it's okay." It's okay if there's elements of this video that are a little rough around the edges, because that's part of life.

It's also part of having a small business! Not every crochet creation goes to plan. I can't count the number of times I've run out of niffler yarn, mysteriously lost half my crochet hooks, glued my fingers together attempting book-page flowers, or opened my craft-eye box the wrong way... less than 24 hours after I'd arranged them all into colour-coded compartments. I admit, there were tears! 
Nonetheless, I ALWAYS live to tell the tale and remember my "light in the darkest of times": the inexhaustible magic of WitchCrafting Wizardry: The self-worth that comes from receiving a lovely review, or the smile that lights up my face when I see one of my SPEW Crew Creatures on my Instagram Feed. So I've decided to cast some of the Bumble and Be Makes Magic onto youtube, starting with a 'behind-the-scene's look at how I package my Etsy Orders. From writing poems on the back of my business cards, to building their own "burrow in a box",  I love packaging my crochet creatures nearly as much as I love making them!

Whether it be the customising the adoption card message, or including surprise little extras, I want to create an experience and give each parcel a true personality - just like the beastie inside. Every time you buy from a small business, you are casting a spell to keep a Maker's dream alive, so I want to give as much magic back as I possibly can. I hope this can be the first of many more "Studio Vlogs," but we'll see what happens! Who knows? It may get 100 views, or it may get 10, but if it can make just one person smile I will see it as #MagicManaged.

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