Dolls Aren’t Just For Children

Dolls Aren’t Just For Children

On top of my dresser, in pride of place, is my dolls house. Painted onto the arch above the doorway is my family name, and purple flowers have been made to look like they are creeping up the side of the house. I was given this shruken-down world for Christmas 2014 to replace the beautiful but somewhat worse for wear house that my Nanny had passed down to me when I was about four. Over the years I had spent hours masterminding different scenarios for the family I’d created a home for; the same with my barbies – the box full of barbies and their clothes that we’d found in a charity store for only £2. Looking back, I realise how many of the situations I played out mirrored or exaggerated events and fears I was facing and discovering within my own life. Dolls were fundamental in how I learnt to process and understand the world; in a similar way, the stories I played out became the stories I wrote down which became my love of writing – essential to how I relate to, process and understand the world nowadays.

Currently I don’t play with my dolls house very often, but every now and then I’ll open up the doors and make sure everything is still nice and tidy. Sometimes I’ll pick up a figure and start to make it walk and talk. It’s never long, though, until I start to feel ridiculous, which in itself is ridiculous given that even if I was afraid of someone judging me for wanting to play with my dolls, it’s not like anyone is watching. The same nagging sense that I am being childish; that I’m too old for this; that I need to stop spending so much time inside my fantasy worlds comes sneaking up on me whenever I go up to the counter with my Star Wars action figures that I enjoy collecting. I enjoy collecting them because I like Star Wars, they are the perfect size to hold in your hand (there’s a really good documentary on Netflix about this called ‘The Toys That Made Us’), and they make fantastic geeky decorations for my bookshelf. Whenever that feeling comes knocking I can’t help but think when did I become too old for this? When did childishness and creativity become insults and why? Who decided that the best way to live was to be constantly immersed in reality and face all problems with logical, conscious thought? That’s not right.

Nevertheless, it’s one thing to decide something isn’t right and that you aren’t going to conform any more, but it’s quite another thing to actually follow that through. For me the solution came in the form of baby steps. Sometimes I believe it’s actually more beneficial to take giant leaps instead, but on this particular issue baby steps seemed the best option due mainly to the fact that – for me at least – this isn’t just about whether to indulge in my desire to collect action figures and maintain a dolls house, no, this is part of a wider issue of not caring what other people think and learning to be confident/comfortable with myself. So, baby step No.1: leave dolls house in full view when friends and family come to visit. This led to another unexpected step of holding conversations about said dolls house and my companions’ memories of their own experiences with dolls. On more than one occasion I have found that others are just like me, wanting to play with the house like they used to when they were younger. Sometimes this prompted us to opening the doors and having fun; there is no shame or embarrassment in this. Role-play can be beneficial to everyone plus it’s actually much more common that you’d think – take theatre for example. In an attempt to move away from role-play and other such childish indulgences, we continue to create the very same stories on a much larger for others to see live in a building for exactly that purpose. We all know how theatre can be cathartic, and I say so too is make believe.

Beyond my own experience as an imaginative child, dolls have played an important part in history over many centuries and in many different contexts. A doll buried in a child’s grave in the Itkol II burial ground in the Republic of Khakassia, in southern Siberia from 4,500 years ago may be one of the oldest dolls still surviving. It is made from Soapstone and suggests that the idea of a doll has been a part of many cultures, and that the comfort we get from such toys goes beyond the fact that we are taught to enjoy them as children. Puppets and dolls later became a central feature of the condemnation of ‘witches’, shown in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ for example. One of the most interesting uses of a doll was in Mamie and Kenneth Clark’s experiment in the 1940s, the conclusion of which later went on to be instrumental in overturning the ‘seperate-but-equal’ laws of segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. In the experiment African American children would be shown a white doll and a black doll (really a white doll painted brown since no appropriate dolls were manufactured at the time). The children were then asked questions such as which doll did they prefer, which one was good or bad, and which one looked like them. The overwhelming response was that the white doll was better, and upon being asked to identify which doll looked like them some children would start to cry. Through this experiment, Marie and Kenneth were able to reveal the devastating affects of segregation on an individual.

As you can see, dolls have played an important role in our history and I believe they can play an important role in our development. Never be ashamed of your interests, they are yours and they matter.

Keep Smiling. X

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Board not Bored

Board not Bored

‘Board not Bored’ was the name of my primary school’s board game/ tabletop game club. Secretly I always wanted to join said club, but it was seen as seriously uncool; while I’m not one to shy away from what I enjoy just because of how it is received, I was already part of three other clubs in the ‘seriously uncool’ category so I decided it was best to avoid joining yet another. The bullies already had enough reasons to mount their attack against me, but that’s not the point. The point is that even though the children that attended the ‘Board not Bored’ club were excluded by the majority in my school, they seemed some of the happiest and friendliest towards and around each other. Something about the games they played connected them and allowed them to lose themselves for a while. That sounded very appealing to me.

Fast forward a few years to January 2018, and I came across my first ever board game cafe in Rochester, Kent called ‘Playopolis’. I fell in love. The idea is simple: you pay a small fee to sit in the cafe and any food/drinks is on top of that. In the back room are stacked hundred of games which you can choose from to play. It’s brilliant. The range of games that are out there is simply astonishing. There’s games with tactics, without tactics, word games, number games, team games, 10 minute games, 10 hour games – the list goes on and on. Whatever your interests there is a tabletop game to suit.

I’ve been trying to uncover more ways and strategies to help myself find calm and balance through things I love recently. Like many over the Christmas period, I played some more board games than I usually would (steering clear away from classic monopoly – we all know that never ends well). Along with my family I rediscovered how easily time can be passed and lost when you are enveloped in the logistics of war or battling it out for the highest score. I’ve missed that communal connection and involvement on such an intense level, so I have decided to reintroduce games back into my life as a regular occurrence. As long as things don’t get too competitive, it’s a great way to de-stress and reconnect with those around you. One of my strongest friendships has also been forged entirely over board games.

A common misconception is that tabletop games are only for children. This is simply not the case. There are so many games to cater for people of all ages and abilities. There are also games for different time investments and depending on the atmosphere you wish to create. For example, cards against humanity would be a great game for teenagers and adults alike looking for a social evening, but battleships – while enjoyable for everyone in my opinion – might be better suited for a quick yet serious 20 minute session with a younger person. My suggestion for anyone looking to rediscover the joy in board games would be to look and see if there’s a board game cafe in your area. They’re becoming more and more common, and they are a great way to get you up to speed with the wide variety of games available. If there isn’t a board game cafe near you, never fear – google to the rescue. I’d research some games relating to topics you might like, and then plan an evening of fun. Setting aside the time to gather with family or friends to play these games allows you to really get into the flow and maybe try out a few games at once to see which ones you like best for future reference.

Humans have been using games as a way to connect for thousands of years, so my love of board games is unsurprising. During a recent visit to a Roman museum we had the opportunity to have a go at a game that records suggest was played in early Roman Britain. It was called Latrunculi, and as far as I remember the rules are as follows:

A board would be made out of wood, marble, stone, or silver and be split into squares of 8×8. Much like a draughts setup, black and white pieces fill the first two rows at opposite ends of the board. Pieces move vertically or horizontally, not diagonally, moving as far as up the board as the player wishes before reaching another piece (you can’t jump over another piece or change direction midway). The aim is to sandwich another players piece between two of your own either horizontally or vertically. When only one piece of either colour remains the game is over and the player with the most pieces collected has won.

Although there are really too many to choose from, some of my suggestions for a gaming night are as follows:

– Timeline is an interesting, but not too long game that requires just enough brain power to get everyone in the mood and thinking

– Bananagrams is a quiet game with fierce concentration, suitable for ages 7 up. Perhaps this would be a good idea to calm everyone down again should things get a bit too loud and competitive at any point

– Card Against Humanity is hilarious; a perfect game while you’re eating. However, it’s definitely not suitable for younger children

– Monopoly Empire takes less time than normal monopoly and, in my experience, fills the monopoly shaped hole in your gaming life without the friendship-destroying arguments. The monopoly card game, likewise, is a good alternative

– Feeling ambitious? Why not try to orchestrate a DnD group and learn how to be dungeon master for your own campaign? It’s super creative, but do make sure to set aside enough time and get everyone’s characters sorted out before hand

– Chess, draughts, battleships and the other classics can be useful as most people already know the rules. Setting up a tournament is also a great idea, so long as you have willing participants

– Twister isn’t exactly a table top game (although there’s nothing to say you couldn’t make it so) but after hours of sitting down to play, a physical game can a relief and provide some hilarity to the situation

– Talisman is such a good game to play time and time again, and with so many extension packs available it never gets old. If it’s your first time playing, set aside enough time to familiarise yourself with the rules

– The Would I Lie to You board game is best for a social evening and always proves to be a laugh

– Looterz is my go to wind-down game. It’s classic dice rolling, card/coin collecting fun and is super simple once you get your head round the basics

The selection included above really are just a handful of my favourite games and a sprinkling of the vast variety out there. This post is a bit all over the place, but my basic point is this: connection is an essential part of human existence. Playing board games provide a way to relax, connect and challenge the mind all at once; it is healing to have a time consuming, face to face interaction with those you love every now and again. I encourage all my readers to sit down for a few hours with those they love and find a game you really relish. You could even create your own!

Sorry for the late and slight messy post – let me know your thoughts and favourite games down in the comments below.

Keep Smiling. X

Recipe: Gluten-free, Egg Free Avocado and Chai latte Cupcakes

Recipe: Gluten-free, Egg Free Avocado and Chai latte Cupcakes

It’s been a day full of studying in my house (save the pity, it’s only because I left all my school work to the last possible opportunity). In order to avoid going completely insane I’ve been punctuating work with things I enjoy, such as baking and writing a blog post about it! I tried to make these yesterday and while they were ok, I knew I could improve the recipe further. So with a different method and a bit less baking powder, here’s my recipe for the odd sounding but delicious tasting avocado and chai latte cupcakes:

Notes: These cupcakes can burn quite easily so make sure to keep an eye on them while cooking. Agave Nectar can be substituted for honey, and the semi-skimmed milk can be substituted for any fat content depending on desired outcome or almond milk for vegans. I used a store bought chai latte powder by Drink Me Chai, but if you’d like to make your own I recommend using this recipe.

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 small-medium avocado
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 120 grams plain gluten-free flour
  • (just under) 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 170ml milk (approx.)
  • 50 grams chai latte powder
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar

Method:

  1. Line a tray with cupcake cases and preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
  2. Peel avocado and mash in a bowl with a fork
  3. Sift sugar into bowl and cream together with whisk (I recommend using an electric whisk if possible)
  4. Add agave nectar and continue to whisk
  5. Sift flour, baking powder and xanthan gum into bowl and fold into mixture, slowly adding milk. The mixture will become quite runny, but don’t worry, as long as the milk is completely incorporated it will be ok
  6. Sift chai latte powder into bowl and fold in roughly before whisking mixture
  7. Separate into cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes until you can stick a kebab stick into cake and it comes out clean. They will be very soft before cooling
  8. Serve with a cup of tea and enjoy!

I was very pleased to post my first ever recipe on Friday and it gave me some confidence to be a bit more experimental with my baking, which I would definitely recommend. I hope you give making these cupcakes a go and let me know in the comments what you thought/ any recipe requests or suggestions. I will be posting again on Friday as usual.

Keep Smiling. X


Recipe: Chocolate Brownies!

Recipe: Chocolate Brownies!

So for the first post of 2019 I have decided to write a new type of post: a recipe! Please note I am not a chef or an expert in cooking and/or baking, I just like messing around with the ingredients I find in my kitchen. Tonight I decided to try making brownies. I have only ever made brownies from a packet that requires you to add oil and put the mixture in the oven – it’s not particularly difficult (although that doesn’t stop me from messing it up, it’s a talent I have). This was different; I made the brownies from scratch without a recipe. While I am sure that I could perfect the recipe further, I am pleased to announce that the brownies are edible and – dare I say – quite tasty!

So here is the recipe for my awesome, gluten-free chocolate brownies:

Notes: All of my tablespoons were flat, not heaped. The coconut oil measurements are extremely vague, so I would say use no less than 3 tablespoons and no more than 5 1/2 tablespoons. The tray I used was quite shallow so if you would prefer bigger brownies then double the values below. 

Serves 4 – 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • approx. 4 tbsp coconut oil (solid)
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 10 tbsp sweetened hot chocolate mix (I used Twinings Swiss chocolate drink)
  • 50 grams dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp of chocolate peanut butter powder mixed with water. This could be substituted with approx. 2 1/2 tablespoons of Nutella or some crushed dates if you have a nut allergy.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  2. In a bowl whisk together egg yolks and chocolate peanut butter, gradually adding 5 tbsp sweetened chocolate mix
  1. Put coconut oil, golden syrup and sugar in a separate pan over moderate heat. When entirely melted, take off heat and pour into bowl with the other ingredients
  1. Melt dark chocolate over a pan of boiling water or using a microwave
  2. Add dark chocolate to other ingredients and whisk
  3. Slowly add the last 5 tbsp of sweetened chocolate mix and continue whisking until consistent texture throughout
  4. Line tray with baking paper and pour mixture into it, ensuring a smooth surface. I like using a circular dish so I can cut the brownies into triangles. Dust the surface with hot chocolate mix
  5. Bake for a 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven when you can stick knife into the mixture and it comes out clean

For a fancy dessert, top with vanilla ice cream and raspberries, or enjoy as a delicious snack. Although for many the New Year is synonymous with the start of a new diet, please remember that being ‘healthy’ does not mean denying yourself of all the treats you enjoy. That is actually unhealthy. It’s important to enjoy things in moderation and listen to your body’s needs, so if you want a brownie by all means treat yourself. (Also I could really do with some feedback on the recipe!).

I hope your New Year got off to a good start, and if not then maybe this recipe will help brighten up your day – I enjoy losing myself in some baking.

Keep Smiling. X

Reviewing 2018

Reviewing 2018

I’ve heard that one should always write for themselves, because then the act of writing is never a chore and remains an enjoyable process. In this spirit, I would overjoyed if my words resonate with someone else – that’s why I am making them publicly available – but most importantly, they resonate with me; they mean something to me and help me to order my thoughts. This post is more for me than for anyone else. It allows me to keep a public record of my progression in life, as does all of this blog. If, in addition, it is relatable to someone else then that is a much-appreciated bonus.

There are negative things I could say about 2018, as there are negative things I could say about almost everything. While I believe it is important that we don’t neglect to address negative thoughts and feelings, I also think it is important for my sanity to centre this post majorly around the positive aspects of this year and all the good things it has brought me. Expressing the negatives does not serve a purpose here, and so I won’t. Another thing I will not do is compare this year to any other year. The circumstances of this year were unique; they will never be replicated. Similarly, I will never be the same again, so comparing is simply not possible. Again, it serves no purpose so I won’t do it.

To begin, I have compiled a list of ‘The Music of 2018’. Music is a fundamental part of how I relate to the world and it’s importance throughout history is fascinating. Below are between 1-3 songs I listened to an excessive amount of times in each month that are not seasonal (i.e. not Christmas songs):

  • January: Main Title (Star Wars) – John Williams and London Symphony Orchestra
  • February: Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen; Killer Queen – Queen
  • March: You Don’t Mess Around with Jim – Jim Croce
  • April: Rapper’s delight – The Sugarhill Gang; Symphony No.7 in A major, Op.92:IL. Allegretto – By Ludwig van Beethoven, New York Philharmonic orchestra
  • May: You’ve Got a Friend – James Taylor; I’ll Be There for You – The Rembrants; Sky Full of Song – Florence and the Machine
  • June: Tilted – Christine and the Queens; Dancing in the Street – David Bowie and Mick Jagger
  • July: Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley; Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel; Vitamin C – Clean Cut Kid
  • August: Remember the Name – Fort Minor; Whatever Happens – Track Dogs
  • September: Clearly – Grace VanderWaal, Superstition – Stevie Wonder
  • October: Thank You For the Music – ABBA; 5 Dollars – Christine and the Queens
  • November: Vienna – Billy Joel; The Sound of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel
  • December: Control – Halsey; Fallen Angel – Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons; What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Next on the review of 2018 is books. Originally I was going to list all the books I had read in 2018, but that task proved slightly more challenging than I had anticipated. Instead, here are some of the most recent/ standout books that I know I definitely read in 2018:
The Hate U Give (THUG), By Angie Thomas: Simply amazing. Very few words could give justice to this novel. It captures the natural flow of a teen’s inner monologue with precision, and perfectly encapsulates an all-too-important subject matter. Throughout this novel I had a clear image of the events inside my head, and became deeply attached to the characters involved. I am yet to see the movie adaptation that came out in October, but hope it lives up to its written counterpart. I would recommend to everyone, although some discretion may be advised for younger readers.

Timeout’s Guide to New York: Unfortunately, this book came out a bit worse for wear after its extensive use, but I can confirm that a water damaged guide book still suffices. I’m not a massive fan of certain guide books, but – as usual – this guide by Timeout served incredibly useful in planning the trip and was very easy to use. My copy, no doubt, will soon be outdated, but it will always hold a very special place in my heart.

The Bible: I’m not going to pretend I’ve read the whole thing, because I haven’t, nor do I always turn to it in times of need (in fact I very rarely do). However, I have found comforting wisdom in its pages throughout the year. Here are some of my favourite passages – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’.2 Corinthians 8-9, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’. Psalms 23:1, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing’. To be really honest, writing about the bible terrifies me because I am exposing my faith. However, I am respectful of all faiths here, so I hope I can receive the same treatment from my readers

Go Set a Watchman, By Harper Lee: ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is one of my favourite books of all time, but as many will know ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was actually written first. I enjoyed reading Lee’s unique tone once again, and was clearly able to see why she had been asked to write the prequel due to all the anecdotes sprinkled throughout the chapters. However, the novel felt very rushed – it felt as if the whole book was leading up to an event that only really took place in the last few pages, before finishing abruptly without any real conclusion. Perhaps this was intentional for effect, but I couldn’t help feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Nevertheless, it was still an interesting extension of the story in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

Onward, with the reflection on 2018 to some of my achievements this year (both big and small). I partook in three drama performances and, as a result, consider myself to have grown as an actor and come to love the subject even more; I developed/solidified some amazing friendships (although I can be a bit doubtful, I am grateful beyond words); I started a blog – this one(!); I started learning French again; I did my first ever sparkler; became a vegetarian; helped charities with bake sales and bike rides etc; secured my first ‘proper’ job; travelled out of Europe for the first time; and last but not least, I discovered that I am double jointed in my left shoulder. In addition there are many things I did not do, which could also be counted as achievements: I did not burn the house down, nor did I drown – despite my friend’s best efforts in the Summer. I did not break any bones, nor did I lose a limb, but most importantly I did not cause anyone else to break a bone or lose a limb. My achievements this year are plentiful, evidently.

So what about goals for 2019? Well, I’m trying not to set any absolute goals that must start on the first of January and be finished by the thirty first of December because in my experience they don’t tend to work and only add to a sense of failure. Besides, if I really want to do something I start it immediately, rather than waiting for a specific date to begin or starting something I’m not totally passionate just because I needed a goal. Leaving a bit of flexibility often leads to wonderful things in life that come from the unexpected. Instead, I have come up with a few goals that I would like to achieve some day or that aren’t necessarily physical things you can fit within a time frame:

  1. Become a member of the National Youth Theatre. To do this you have to audition and be accepted. I’ve taken my first steps by booking my audition to take place in February, and then the dream is to get accepted into the residential course in August. I have no doubt that I will get there eventually, because I’m not going to give up, it just might not be 2019. We’ll see. I will certainly try to keep acting during the year.
  2. Write more on my blog, and practice writing more about things that I find more difficult to express. I can’t wait for this one! Within the short space of time I’ve been uploading, this blog has become a great comfort to me.
  3. Become more involved in charity work. As a member of my school council and after finally having found a really interesting volunteering position that is suitable for me – more on that soon! – this one is definitely achievable.
  4. Do more things that make me afraid. I want to make it a habit to face my fears, trying my first sparkler inspired me to go further, and I’m sure that challenging the boundaries of my comfort zone will lead me to amazing places.
  5. Run a mud run and a half marathon. The furthest I’ve ever run is 10k, and as I have fallen in love with running again, I know these are the next steps I want to take – all for charity of course!
  6. Love more. Myself, my family, my friends, the world. I want to take more time to express my love and gratitude.
  7. More of an immediate goal, but with returning to school in the New Year comes the inevitable question of ‘did you get anything nice for Christmas?’. This year, instead of replying with the usual drivel, I intend to weird people out as much as possible by replying with ‘yeah – I got some shrimp eggs, onions and a chicken’. This is not untrue – I did get shrimp eggs and (part of) some onions in order to inspect under my new microscope, and I did get a chicken to be given to a family that needs it in order to build a business. However, I will not explain any of this without being prompted, and look forward to seeing their faces as they attempt not to react.

As usual, on New Year’s Eve I will fill a jar with hopes and wishes for 2019; I will open the jar from last year for the first time since 31st December 2017, and then I will make them into bunting for my room. I’ve done this since I was 10 and it is charming to look back on how my aspirations have evolved. Continuing, I will write a letter to myself to be opened in exactly 10 years. Sometimes I will also write a letter to be opened at a particular, non date specific time – such as on the day you move out of home or when you are really angry. It’s kind of cheesy, but it’s also good fun and quite therapeutic, so I do it anyway. To end the night, I will get together with my loved ones, be it in person or not, and start the New Year as I intend to go on – surrounded by the people that matter most to me.

I wish you all a wonderful 2019 and I look forward to continuing to write next year!

Keep Smiling. X

The Little Things

The Little Things

Considering I’ve posted my Friday post on Saturday for the last three weeks, perhaps I should just change my schedule so I plan to post on Saturdays. Knowing myself though I expect if I did that my posts wouldn’t appear until Sunday, and then Monday, and before you know it we’d be back round to Friday again. No, I shall keep it as it is. This way we can all be pleasantly surprised when I do actually upload on a Friday.

Last night I was listening to my playlist on shuffle. I had skipped through several songs that simply weren’t doing it for me when Louis Armstrong’s raspy tones began to play through my earphones. What a Wonderful World – one of the greatest songs in the history of ever. Its wise lyrics speak poignantly of the beauty to be found in life and in the small things. Immediately after ‘What a Wonderful World’ had finished, ‘My Favourite Things’ from ‘The Sound of Music’ began to play. I felt as if my playlist had decided I needed to be directed towards some positive thinking. In response I decided to list some of my favourite things – some of the little things – that never fail to bring me joy (or at the very least, don’t make my mood any worse). The activity was extremely therapeutic; it helped me fall asleep, which is an added bonus. I would encourage everyone to try and come up with a list of their own, even if its just one or two things.

  • The smell of freshly baked bread
  • The names given to different shades of hair dye – a personal favourite would be ‘raspberry rebel’. I like to imagine that once you use the dye, your personality changes. You can’t help but eat raspberries all day and ride around on your pink/red motorbike, terrorising the neighbourhood by spreading raspberry scented perfume from the exhaust pipe
  • Cold water – really cold water – on a hot day
  • Breathing fresh air on a cold evening when I’ve been stuck indoors all day
  • The top of the mayonnaise/ ice cream etc. before any has been taken out
  • Putting my feet into new socks for the first time
  • The smell (and feel) of new books. The atmosphere of a bookstore. The smell of an old bookstore. Books in general
  • When you put a penny into one of those things that collects money for charity and it spirals perfectly
Image result for penny spiral for charity
Like this! Not my image, found on http://www.collectionbox.com.au/product/rac/
  • The smell after it has rained – apparently this is called petrichor. If you didn’t know that already, have a fancy new word for your vocabulary
  • Being warm and cosy inside while there is a storm outside
  • Just managing to catch the earlier train/bus
  • Blank notebooks
  • The feeling when scissors glide through the wrapping paper
  • Melting syrup, butter and sugar over the stove. Melting chocolate or marshmallows is also highly satisfying
  • Squishing Blu Tack
  • Laughing so hard that my stomach hurts
  • Making eye contact with my friends and not being able to resist laughing, or making eye contact and knowing exactly what they’re thinking
  • The crunch snow makes when I step on it
  • Underfloor heating
  • Late night shopping
  • Late night conversations
  • Having in-jokes

Do you agree with any of these? I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, but if not remember that’s ok too!

Keep Smiling. X


It’s OK not to be OK this Christmas

It’s OK not to be OK this Christmas

Scrolling through Instagram this past week, an advert popped up for international anti-bullying organisation, Ditch The Label. Emblazoned on a Christmas decoration were the words ‘It’s okay not to be okay’. And it’s true. It is OK not to be OK, even at Christmas.

This year, I haven’t felt the usual buzz of the season. Sure, there were moments, and it has been a great relief for me to lose myself in the planning of presents (one of my favourite activities), but in the main there’s been a whole heap of nothing. I’ve felt unchanged by the festivities surrounding me. For a while it frustrated me – I kept reminding myself that I love Christmas, which is true. Why then was I not feeling this love? Above why, there was a looming sense that I should be enjoying myself. There are so many that would give anything to be in my position and anytime I thought of that I felt selfish for not appreciating it, if not for me, at least for them.

Perhaps this Christmas simply isn’t going to be the best there ever was, but it doesn’t have to be. I stood back and I realised that I was willing this Christmas to be better than the last and the one before, and next Christmas to be better still. Then I realised that there is no rule book saying it has to be and even if there was, we’ve all heard that rules are made to be broken. Perhaps this year just isn’t your year. Perhaps no Christmas is your Christmas, but comparing ourselves to others won’t change that. Whether it’s feeling guilty because you know – you know – how lucky you are, or it’s looking at all the people relishing the season and wanting to do that aswell. There is no point feeling jealous or selfish. If anything they are both wonderful things to be rejoyced about: you are so lucky (!) and they are so happy! You don’t need to constantly emerge yourself in these facts and the emotions that come with them for them to be true.

There’s a poem I read this week that I feel may be suitable, because I’m really not sure I’m getting my point across quite right:

You Are on the Floor Crying

And you have been on the floor crying for days.

And this is you being brave.

That is you getting through this as best you know how.

No one else gets to tell you

what your tough looks like.

From ‘Dream Girl’ collection of poems by Clementine von Radic

In short, I’m trying to say you are valid, as am I and so is everyone else. The date on the calendar does not define what we should or shouldn’t feel. In addition, if it makes you feel any better, since Jesus is actually suspected to have been born sometime in March or even May, check back then and see if you feel improved. If not, remember not every year is everyone’s year.

Keep Smiling. X