15 February 2019

From St Valentine to Roald DAHLentine: How and Why I Prioritised Self-Love

After sharing this post on Instagram last night, I decided that I wanted to talk a bit more about the notion of "Galentines", "Palentines" and various other takes on this lovestruck holiday. This is a blog for anyone else who, like me, doesn’t have a “valentines”... or a “galentines”! 

It can be hard enough to negatively compare with the loved-up couples on 14th February, which is perhaps why the concept of "Galentines Day" has proven so popular. Originating from a Parks and Recreation episode in 2010, it replaces the image of a wine-drinking, ballad-belting Bridget Jones with pamper nights and girlie brunches, featuring waffles and waffling messages of friend-love.

A recent survey by florist Bloom and Wild showed the rise in female-to-female gifting: "We found that Valentine's Day can be a time that is quite lonely, in particular for women not in relationships." However, what if the individual also doesn't have a gaggle of 'girlfriends' to go brunch with? What if we're more Eleanor Oliphant than #SquadGoals Taylor Swift? The remarkable popularity of Gail Honeyman's  book last year suggests that far more of us can relate to Eleanor than the Blair Waldorfs and Carrie Bradshaws of the world...

Perhaps, for some of us, the image of "Galentines" can be more isolating than its romantic namesake. So while many people chose "hoes before Bros" this week, I took inspiration from the motto of "Exeter University's ""English  Society" Tee and said "Prose before bros"... and hoes! I added the final two words, as I'm about as much of a "hoe" as Hermione Granger. As for the Prose, it was very much the beating heart of my Valentine's evening. Accompanied by a secondhand copy of Matilda, a pot of Modge Podge and some wooden hearts, I poured a cup of creativiTEA and "Dahlentine's Day" was born...
Meet my latest craft love - decoupage Book Page Badges! This also signals my first venture away from the Wizarding World on Etsy, which is definitely daunting and riddled with self-doubt. Nevertheless, as a girl who spent months writing an 8,000 word dissertation on Mr Dahl, it's safe to say that his stories hold a very special place in my heart. I've actually found making these such a cathartic process, as it's allowed me to revisit the stories outside of the Academia bubble and give them a second life.

What's more, these are the actual books that I used during my studies, so it seemed the perfect way to give them a second life. As the girl in Oxfam said, after noticing the book badge on my shirt: "you can literally wear your heart on your sleeve!" So yes, that's exactly what I did last Thursday. I chose book-tales over late-night cocktails and that's okay, Rather than compare negatively to the loved-up couples and girlie gatherings, I decided to spend time away from social media and stick to Sophie, because shouldn't that be the point of Valentines?

 "I  poured a cup of creativitea  and chose 
book-tales  over cocktails.  I switched off
 social media and switched my focus to Sophie."

This isn't to say that 14th February was spent entirely alone, but it was fancy-free and all about those little life joys. After dinner, mum surprised me with a *rock salt lamp and packet of Dark Chocolate Hearts, which was all about meaning over materialism. The lamp was something I mentioned months ago and thought may help my evening routine - in other words, encourage me to actually establish one, as I've been using my iPhone as a lamp and don't recommend!) Rock salt is meant to promote a calmer environment and, while it isn't "scientifically verified", I'm trusting the evidence of EXPERIENCE.

Even just a few days in, I can see a difference, mainly that my phone has been swapped for the pages of a book. Reading is something that - no surprises - I adore; however, this is the very reason reason why it can prove more difficult in recent years. Once I got to University, I spent so much time reading for my degree and very little reading "just for me." Thanks to Mama Bear and Mr Rock Salt, I've read every night since 14th February and it's the loveliest feeling. It's something to help me help myself - be kinder to myself, so very much supports the "self-love first" outlook.
As for the chocolate, I shocked myself by spontaneously eating one just after opening, thinking back to Advent and how much I loved my after-dinner chocolate. Mum and dad were having theirs, so why couldn't I? I wanted to live in the moment and say "yes Mind Muggles, that IS allowed!" I will not deprive myself or criticise myself, negatively comparing to what others may be doing in the outside world. I'll be honest, it isn't like I have a phonebook of people ready to ring up and say "Be my Galentine." However, what I do have is a wonderful family and a select few friends I am thankful for 365 days of the year.

Just last night, I finished wrapping surprise care packages for three of them, knowing how much those things have meant to me in the past. I didn't do it to mark "the month of love", or any other hasthagable occasion; I saw/made these things for than individual alone. As Nicole wrote so beautifully at the end of last year, "there is a special place in my heart for the ‘I saw this and thought of you’ type of things"... it makes me feel like, because I like the gift, I almost like myself - or at least a small part of myself that shined through to my loved ones." I hope my care packages can do likewise! (Ps: three guesses who one of them might be for?)

So in the moment, I will not dwell on the dinners I wasn't invited to at University, or the Romeo Newt Scamander I am yet  to find. I will try to be content with me like Luna Lovegood would be, because that is the advice I would give anyone else - why don’t I deserve the same? Others may have had  the cocktails, the brunches and the bouquet of roses, but don't feel ashamed if you didn't. A diamond may be another girl's best friend, but don't worry if it wasn't yours. Don't feel like you've done something "wrong" if, like me, Valentine's wasn't #Instaready or "Squad Goals." You are enough just as you are.


5 February 2019

My Harry Potter Charity Project #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek

19 years later... my POTTER PUFF CHARITY PROJECT is officially FREE, raising money and awareness for Young MindsBookTrustScotty's Little Soldiers and The Prince's Trust. In honour of Children's Mental Health Week, all four causes are connected to young people and are also causes that I am deeply passionate about. As Albus Dumbledore says:

 "It matters not what someone is 
Born, but what they grow to be!"
- Albus Dumbledore || Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 

Every child deserves to be free, irregardless of where they come from or what obstacles stand in their way. There has been a lot of conversation lately about the darkness of social media, namely platforms such as Youtube and Instagram, so I hope my video can cast a glimmer of light. These four charities are proof that muggle-made magic exists, as long as we choose to believe in that better world. 

Yesterday evening, my four Pymgy Puffs bumbled along to Etsy and were all adopted in under five minutes! Subsequently, they each donated £10 to their chosen charity and hope to raise further awearensss through the power of Youtube SPEWtube! As Musical Matilda sings, "even if you're little you can do a lot", which also couldn't be more fitting for the causes they're championing. Youth can do it

Disclaimer: This video was very nearly put in the "recycle bin", along with 90% of the footage I film. Why? Long story short, technology was the boggart to end all boggarts last week.

I filmed the video no less than THREE times, with problems ranging from audio - aka there not being any - to the file simply being too big to transfer. My mum lovingly lent me her iPhone 8 to record with, as it was better quality, only for my Mac to decide it was "incompatible"... nice one Apple. To quote the Grinch: "you reject your own nose!" Once I finally had footage that was both audible and transferable, I got to work editing and lived to tell the tale. 

So surely, as the epilogue says, “all was well”? Life isn’t that simple with the Mind Muggles! I don’t have a fancy vlogging camera, lighting or external microphone. I've done my best with editing, but the raw footage - lighting/audio - wasn't ideal and any attempts to "denoise" left me sounding like an extra from iRobot (are they working for Apple too?) Suffice to say, all these technology issues together  felt like a sign that it just "wasn't meant to be." I was resolved to list my House Puffs on Etsy - come what may - but was RIDDLEd with doubts over posting the video. 

As this is a charity project, I’m want to give these charities the recognition they deserve. That‘s where Messrs Anxiety & Perfectionism got the better of me. However, thanks to some magical humans on instagram, I concluded that there were "far more important things" than looks and filters. Namely, fighting for a cause I truly believe in: young people's mental health.

27 January 2019

Forget Goal-Setting... Try SOUL-Setting

After writing my last post, I began to reflect on how I could take active steps beyond my comfort zone, without jumping into the 'New Year Resolution' bandwagon and losing myself altogether (see this post for my real thoughts on the "new year, new me" mantra!) So I revisited what I wrote last week and it was the final line that stayed with me: "Let's try something new and see what happens, even if I only manage bumbling, baby steps. After all, they can sometimes become the greatest leaps of all." 

 "A comfort zone is a beautiful place,

But nothing ever grows there."
Growing means changing. Growing envolves seeing things from a different perspective. Growing requires letting go of the footsteps you've made before, allowing the tide to come in and starting over. In light of this, I decided to write down some positive changes I can take to set myself free from the comfort zone constrictions. It isn't "goal setting", because there won't be any rulebooks, checklists or  societal expectations. The word 'failure' will not be allowed, because this isn't about targets.

This is about Sophie. This is about creating possibility for SOPHIE, or Sandy, or Sarah, or whatever name your magical self possesses. Think of the things that could enrich your soul, no matter how small or inconsequential they may sound. If they matter to you, that's all the validation they need.

     SOUL SETTING  2019   

1. Starting my "7 Smiles Sunday" series: now only will this help me to find those "silver linings"  all year round - not just on the 365th day! I am not going to force myself to post it here every week, but I am going to put it in writing for me to look back on. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking, especially on the stormier days. Goodness knows the world could do with more sunshine. 

2. Trying New Foods: the Stegasauruses would be proud, because Herbivore-life has never bean so colourful! As a lactose-intolerant veggie, it's amazing to see how many plant-based options are on offer and it's also pushing me to step out anorexia's comfort crap zone. There, I said it, anorexia is a crap cook and has the tastebuds of a... turnip? Sorry turnip fans, but it's all I could think of and I can't say I get the hype! That being said, if you want to talk about a bandwagon I AM on board with...

M&S PLANT KITCHEN. As I began typing this, my Jackfruit Pizza was in the oven and was definitely a "road less travelled". Fast-forward two hours and I can report that pizza was both eaten and enjoyed and I now understand the Jackfruit hype too! To be honest, I'm still quite shocked I bought it, let alone ate it on the day of purchase, but I tried to see it as just another possibility. Like the brownie I mentioned in my last post, it may not be a road you'll travel again... but you don't know until you try. 
3. Ditching the "Preview" App. In truth, this one petrifies me. It would also be easy to hide behind the "blogger/business" profile and call it a necessity. The reality? I could have as many followers as Kylie Jenner, but if it's not benefitting my mental health, it's going in the (Kar)trash can. Okay, now you actually have to do it Sophie... Sophie... SOPHIE! 

*19 years later* It's done... and breathe.

4. Continuing Studio Vlogs: as of Wednesday, SPEWtube is back in business and I even opened my vlog with a message to the Mind Muggles. I also rewrote the lyrics to Do You Want to Build a Snowman for Instagram, which some may see as slightly left-field, but as I often tell myself: you're just as sane as Luna. In a world of conformity, be more like Luna! 

5. Posting more Selfies: As I said in #6 of my 2018 Silver Linings, Sophie endorsing the selfie is like Corbyn calling for no-deal brexit. It just doesn't happen! However, when I saw this post by Nicole, I realised that 2019 could do with a bit more selfie-love. In the last year, I could probably count the number of Sophie-photos on one hand... and the majority are face-bombed by Millie. I'm not about to go all-out duck-pout - unless I decide the SPEW Crew needs a  crochet Donald and Daisy - but you might be seeing more of this smile, gap-tooth and all.
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