Birthday List 2016

Birthday List 2015

A birthday list is like a wish list of little presents to give yourself throughout the year. You know, those little things that you mean to do, but have trouble prioritizing. The details. The adventures. The context, that makes your year awesome. Last year I wrote my first birthday list, and I am proud to have completed every task. Wish me luck!

25 things to do before I turn 25

  1. read a book in French.
  2. run a new 10K.
  3. fly south for the winter.
  4. make bibimbap.
  5. find a favourite film critic.
  6. build a fort.
  7. acquire a winter cape.
  8. walk up Ben Nevis.
  9. attend a dance class.
  10. make homemade vegetable stock.
  11. have a tea cup cactus garden. or just a cactus garden.
  12. be able to identify a new constellation.
  13. learn a new signature dessert.
  14. visit a new country.
  15. climb in the Cairngorms.
  16. see a 5-star play.
  17. do a meditation course.
  18. have a favourite winter flower.
  19. have a movie marathon.
  20. eat at a vegetarian restaurant.
  21. celebrate midsummer.
  22. go to a rooftop bar.
  23. sing karaoke.
  24. celebrate halloween.
  25. finish reading the complete works of shakespeare.

your-assignment

When your birthday rolls around, why not write your own list? Leave ideas for little tasks in the comments!

xandra-signature

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes…

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

I believe in customizing every detail of your daily life.

As I spend many hours of my day online, I was psyched to find out that Chrome browsers are customizable!

I favour a Potter-esque Pixel Lightning theme myself – but what if the Disney princesses browsed the internet? Here are some themes particularly Fit for a Heroine – a Disney Heroine.

Rapunzel – Stitches

Adorable Chrome Browser Themes, Fit for a Heroine

Pocahontas – Jack Spade

Adorable Chrome Browser Themes, Fit for a Heroine

Aurora – Cath Kidston

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Ariel – Watercolor

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Vanellope – Pink Pixel Hearts

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Mulan – Pink Cherry Blossom Flowers

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Anna – Daydreamer

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Snow White – Ella Moss

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Belle – Whimsical Ivory Peach

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Tiana – Lily Pulitzer

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Merida – Isle of Skye Scotland

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Cinderella – CPDD Vintage

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Jasmine – Star Se7en

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

Elsa – Blue

If Disney Princesses had Customized Chrome Themes...

your-assignment

Which is your favourite? Do you have a custom Chrome browser theme? Let me know if there are any good ones I’ve missed!

xandra-signature

P.S. Have you requested your key to the Secret Garden yet? It’s free!

Gathering Fruit Like a Heroine

Gathering Fruit Like a Heroine

The plus side of Scotland’s mild breezy summers: Strawberries are still in season.

Nearly a year ago, on my birthday, I promised to go fruit picking. I hadn’t been since I was little, but like princess parties, why should fruit picking be just for children?

So Monkey and I scheduled a morning at Craigie’s farm, not too far outside Edinburgh, sipping fresh juice and picking berries and cherries.

Not only did our yummy fruit come straight off the branch – the price actually worked out cheaper than our local supermarket’s. All the more reason to return…

your-assignment

Do you have a bucket list? I prefer a birthday list, which has a more clear and less morbid deadline: my birthday! The experiences I vow to do throughout the year are my ongoing gift to myself. So tell me – what would be on your birthday list?

xandra-signature

P.S. more nature-ful adventures in Edinburgh

Sunday Sampling / Create Miracles

sunday-sampling

plus a sampling of micro-pleasures:

  • discovering unbreakable kimmy schmidt. baby-sitter’s club AND american girl references in the pilot, everyone.
  • pinning yummy recipes to try.
  • meeting a puppy whilst airbnb-ing.
  • already shopping for my rundisney half marathon outfit for next september.
  • finishing my pride and prejudice dream cast.
  • putting the jonathan adler astropillows on their appropriate desk chairs.
  • lighting the sleepytime candle.

xandra-signature

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

Have you ever seen the movie Fever Pitch? Even though I had never seen a baseball game when I first saw it, I knew that Ben was one of my kind: as a grown man his apartment is everything Red Sox: the bedding, the towels, the Yankees toilet paper…it reminded me of my childhood room, except replace the Red Sox with Harry Potter.

A couple of moves back and forth across the ocean – from Boston to England to Boston to Scotland – and I firmly identify as a “minimalist” [Full story in my book]. Part of this means that I live with only the essentials. The other, more important, part means that I live with only what I love, with what “sparks joy,” as Marie Kondo describes it.

So no, my piles of Harry Potter collectibles are not practical for everyday use – at first glance that is. With every visit home to Boston, I bring back a few more pieces, and infuse them into my adult life, finding ways to allow Harry to subtly and completely take over my flat.

First of all, the above banner, complete with collectible Hermione ornament, hangs in our dining room.

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

This Butterbeer mug from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park serves as a watering can. One day I hope to replant some herbs in it too.

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

This Gryffindor patch I picked up at Leaky Con is pasted on my Passion Planner, reminder of how I am a member of quite simply the best house at Hogwarts.

I brainstorm all my ideas for Blogwarts in the Hogwarts notebook on the left. I wrote two of my favourite Dumbledore-isms in the back as an invocation to read before each work day, an idea inspired by Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

Another Butterbeer tumbler, this one from the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London, holds my toothbrush.

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

Severus, my kindle, wears a Harry Potter sleeve (together they are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Get it?), and an old school Bertie Bott’s pouch holds my pills and medication. Perfect for travel too.

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

Anyone remember the Harry Potter Collector Stones? My lightning bolt-shaped Gryffindor stone sits nicely with my citrine and amethyst crystals.

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

When I led Dumbledore’s Army at Oxford Prep, we shared the burden of this evil object [purchased at Waterstones on Cornmarket Street], and the students agreed that I should keep it after the programme ended. So I sleep with the Horcrux locket safely tucked on my bedpost.  Sometimes the Monkey or I slip it on to tell the other that we’re feeling particularly grumpy.

How I Infuse My (Grown-Up) Life with Harry Potter Stuff

We picked up these house coasters at the Harry Potter shop at Kings Cross. The Hufflepuff one is usually on Monkey’s side.

your-assignment

Of course this stuff is made for children. But why on ear should that man that it does not belong in your grown-up living quarters? Take your favourite fandom stuff out of the closet or off the shelf and use it.

xandra-signature

P.S. How Harry Potter inspires minimalism

Project #TutuDay: A Challenge

I’d lasted almost a year in Edinburgh without my Betsey Johnson tutu dress. But we have been reunited at last, even if it took up a carry-on’s worth of packing space. Worth it? Absolutely. Wearing a tutu is awesome. It makes me happy, and I get smiles from friends and strangers alike.

To make up for lost time, and as a little happiness challenge, I decided that every week would include a #TutuDay. A day in which I dress up, for an occasion big or small.

Consider this the Tutu Diaries, Volume I. To be continued in live time over on Instagram (@heroinetraining).

#TutuDay 1 – Hard Rock Café Boston

Project #TutuDay: A ChallengeProject #TutuDay: A Challenge

To dress down a tutu with hard rock flair, just add a Sweeney Todd tee from Hot Topic. But then pile on an adorable collar necklace (present from Caroline!) to balance it out. Upon entering the restaurant I was greeted with shy excitement from a table of little princesses at a birthday party.

#TutuDay 2 – Girl With the Sunshine Tattoo London Launch

#TutuDay 2 - Girl With the Sunshine Tattoo London Launch

After pausing for a quick Hoxton selfie, I Tube-d off to The Hide Bar for Caroline’s launch of The Girl With the Sunshine Tattoo, a revamped blog to celebrate her new London life and adventures. The evening included many Galentines giggles and also, the challenge of sipping a Shokoko cocktail covered in powdered chocolate.

#TutuDay 2 - Girl With the Sunshine Tattoo London Launch

#TutuDay 2 - Girl With the Sunshine Tattoo London Launch#TutuDay 2 - Girl With the Sunshine Tattoo London Launch

Sarah executed the dress code prompt – “a sunny June day” with perfection.

#TutuDay 3 – Midsummer ritual for #ProjectPartyDress

#TutuDay 3 - Midsummer ritual for #ProjectPartyDress

Sarah has a similar project going called #ProjectPartyDress. Since she wanted to dress up for our Midsummer ritual the following day, I couldn’t say no to giving the tutu another day of wear. I wasn’t planning on wearing it for both of my days in London, so I had to improvise a bit, wearing a clean Ibex running shirt underneath, and – the ultimate go-to – a Crown & Glory flower crown on top.

#TutuDay 4 – tea and catch-ups at Lovecrumbs

#TutuDay 4 - tea and catch-ups at Lovecrumbs

Back from my travels, Lovecrumbs seemed like the perfect fit for debuting the tutu in Edinburgh. AC and I sat in the sunny window while sipping our tea and recounting our recent adventures. Dear tutu, thank you for being so versatile. And fun.

your-assignment

I want to know: what piece of clothing do you own that makes you instantly feel like a star? Maybe you should wear it every week too…

xandra-signature

How Taylor Swift Makes My Day Better

How Taylor Swift Makes My Day Better

For some reason, I was consistently happier around the end of last October. That reason is Taylor Swift. 1989 had just come out, and I sung through it every morning, lyric book in hand.

It feels physically great to sing. Singing makes me more conscious of my posture, breathing, and core.

Singing teaches me about how repetition improves memory: after a few renditions of a song I can piece most of the lyrics together. This was comforting when I had to memorize my TEDx talk.

Most importantly, singing makes me feel happy and strong, awake and alive. So I made it my June Challenge to Sing Every Day.

Some things I’ve noticed:

  • My voice is a muscle. The more I exercise it, the easier it is to transition into a tune.
  • When I sing in the morning I wake up faster.
  • When I sing a lot, I earn a little soundtrack of my favourite songs that play in my head all day.

My monthly challenges are simple and achievable, and I let go of them at the end of the month. My main incentive for holding myself accountable is feeling great. Because of this, the habit sticks with the more organic incentive of joy rather than because I have a task to complete as part of a personal challenge.

Sometimes I sing through my monthly playlists, hooked up to my little Kate Spade bluetooth speaker, or learn a new Disney song on my guitar.

your-assignment

Fancy a try at your own monthly challenge? I have a free lesson and worksheet waiting for you in the Secret Garden!

xandra-signature

P.S. I’ve been doing this monthly challenges for yearshere’s a throwback :)

3 Personality Tests that are Fun AND Useful

3 Personality Tests that are Fun AND UsefulDid you ever take those “which Disney princess are you?” or “which Lord of the Rings character are you?” quizzes, where you’d be given HTML code to paste your result on your myspace or whatever? Or maybe more recently you’ve tried Buzzfeed’s “which Rory Gilmore are you?” quiz.

Basically, if you, like I, enjoy a good personality test, here’s a list of some that are both fun and insightful. Check em out!

Discover your Archetype

Personality Tests that are Actually Useful

The ultimate heroine training test determines your top three archetypes. After you take it, compare your results with the Disney princess archetypes – which princess are you?

Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz: The Four Tendancies

Personality Tests that are Actually Useful

How do you deal with commitments and expectations? Understanding your personality type in this context can help you stick to the habits you want to build.

The Five Love Languages

Personality Tests that are Actually Useful

The five love languages are “words of affirmation”, “acts of service”, “receiving gifts”, “quality time”, and “physical touch”. How do you prioritize them? what means love to you?

your-assignment

Go on! Try one of these quizzes right now and share your insights. Any other useful quizzes I should know about?

xandra-signature

P.S. Which two Disney characters are you? I want to know!

Magical Midsummer Ritual

Magical Midsummer Ritual

Midsummer brought me magic just when I needed it, both last year and the year before. So of course, “celebrate Midsummer” became a goal on this year’s birthday list.

I happened to be in London for the launch of Caroline’s newest project, The Girl with the Sunshine Tattoo [warning: addictive], so for Midsummer Sunday, Sarah Starrs and I met for a Diner lunch and crystal shopping before performing a summer solstice ritual in a secret garden, which happens to be called the Phoenix Garden (!).

Magical Midsummer Ritual

We found little benches for laying out the summer solstice tarot spreads we found on LouiseAndrolia.com, studied our results, and decorated with flowers and petals from the garden. Funny how we both got messages we needed to hear at that moment.

The ritual concluded with writing wishes on gold paper, a little tradition I learnt from Paige last year and since we had no matches, we buried them.

your-assignment

Honour a day that is special to you and your geekiness by setting aside time to acknowledge it. Here are some ideas…let’s add to the list in the comments below!

  • Bake a pi pie on Pi Day (March 14)
  • Recite a sonnet on Shakespeare’s birthday (23 April)
  • Carry a towel to celebrate Douglas Adams (25 May)
  • Sing through the entire Phantom of the Opera soundtrack on the musical’s birthday (9 October)
  • Read the first chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone aloud on Harry Potter Day (1 November)

xandra-signature

P.S. Are you following me on Instagram? I documented my Midsummer ritual in real time!

How did you spend your free time as a child?

How did you spend your free time as a child?

When people ask me how many times I’ve read the Harry Potter books [for some reason, I get this question a lot], I honestly have no idea, because rather than a number of cycles, they were the soundtrack of my life.

As a kid I spent my free time tidying my room and listening to Jim Dale read the Harry Potter books to me on CD. Sometimes at exciting bits I dumped out drawers just so I could piece their contents back together while I kept listening. At night I would listen until I fell asleep. This method still works when I can’t sleep.

My yellow boom box got me through a childhood’s worth of Harry Potter, and I still recall the sound it made as the CD spun to a stop when its tracks were through. But one day the boom box broke, and listening became a faff. Gone was the simplicity of the CD system, where I had to press only two buttons to get it started. Now I have to weed through my iTunes library, and right now my computer doesn’t even have enough space for all the books. Less stuff doesn’t always mean more simplicity.

A lot of friends fondly recall listening to the audiobooks on road trips, but this was never the case for me, because my whole family had to agree to the pastime, and frankly I don’t blame them for choosing against listening to someone else read them Harry Potter for hours at a time, let alone having to live with me talking about it during all those other hours.

But I found a new method for playing CDs, and a way to enjoy them on the road: by playing them in Monkey’s car! We spun through half of Deathly Hallows on the road there-and-back-again, brushing up on Harry history, and passing the time with a gripping story. Plus, we both like camping, and there’s a lot of it in that book.

your-assignment

So I want to know – what did you do in your childhood downtime? Do you still enjoy it to this day? Please share in the comments!

xandra-signature