The Enchanted Outlook


harry potter

Objects and Happiness: Time-Turners

time turner

A while back, I wrote a Creatures and Happiness Series, where I talked about magical creatures and what they can teach us about happiness. Now I would like to do the same with magical objects. This series will be a little different though; instead of simply talking about the metaphor behind the magic, I will be relating the magical object to a real-world equivalent. Hopefully, this can open our eyes to the wondrous things that are already all around us.

In the Harry Potter series, there is a device called a time turner. In the series, it is primarily used in such a way that the user gets some extra time in their day to accomplish things. Wouldn’t we all like a device like that? Alas, I have no magical time-giving necklace, but I do use a few apps and tools that, to me, are just as magical in terms of helping me use the time I do have more wisely. I’m not affiliated with any of these companies; I just wanted to share some nifty (free!) ways to give yourself a little more time.

1. Overdrive– Lately, I’ve had a hard time finding the time to sit down and read a book, but I do have plenty of time in the car or while exercising to listen to a book. The overdrive app allows you to get free audio-books on your phone through your local library. In addition to being fun, this is a great resource to learn something new. If your library is participating, all you need is a library card. Think of it like a free Ebooks are also available. Sometimes, you have to place a book on hold until it becomes available, but, I figure that I technically do the same thing with audible, as my subscription only allows me to check out one book a month. So, make sure to leave a little shopping time a couple of weeks prior to when you want to read your book, especially if it is very popular.

2. Headspace– I know this is a pretty common one, but I wanted to talk specifically about how Headspace helps me to save time. In addition to allowing you the benefits of meditation- including feeling more clear-headed and focused and therefore more productive, Headspace allows you to set a daily time in which to meditate. I set mine to 12:30 (around lunchtime) and right now it’s set to just five minutes a day. Headspace will send you a reminder when your scheduled time approaches. You can also opt for daily messages of encouragement. Where I would normally drag my feet in finding time to meditate, having a daily reminder and a brief meditation time helps me to make it a habit.

3. Drops– This is a language app that teaches you a language in just five minutes a day. It’s in the form of a game, and you can play it while waiting in line, while on your lunchbreak, or even in the bathroom if you are so inclined. Five minutes might not seem like much, but over time, you can learn a lot! And did I mention it’s beautiful?

4. Stay Focused– These apps go by different names but this is the one I use. This limits website time on certain sites. I have mine set for 20 minutes. Currently, it’s just on Facebook for me, but you can select any websites where you feel you are spending more time than you would like. I only wish you could customize the time for the website (such as 1.5 hours for Netflix, 30 minutes for Pinterest, 15 for Facebook, etc.) If anyone knows of an app that can do that, please let me know!

5. The Skimm-  I don’t have this as an app although I believe they have one (I’m just on their email list). They send you news highlights that can be read in about five minutes, along with links to longer news sources if you want to read more in depth, or verify the info. They are geared more towards millennial women and the writing style is very colloquial, so it may not be everyone’s thing. For me, it’s an easy way to get some quick highlights for those days when I don’t have time to read all of my traditional news sources. And bonus: they emphasize quick and easy-to-follow updates on international news, something I struggle to find with many American newspapers.

You may be asking though, what does all this have to do with happiness? While time management may not directly lead to happiness, it certainly leaves us with less stress and more time to prioritize happiness. The trick is to be intentional about using that extra time in our day to invest in things that truly bring us joy. So, while we may not be able to turn back time, we can set aside more time for happiness.

What is your favorite time management tip?

Failure J.K. Rowling

Review: Roanoke Harry Potter Festival

roanoke harry potter festival program

Whoops! I intended to post this a few weeks ago but got sidetracked. Better late than never? 

When I first heard of the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival, I had assumed that it was going to be a small, local festival with a few hundred people tops. Little did I know that over 9,000 tickets had been sold to the event and the city had capped tickets due to being at capacity.

Fortunately for me, after my meltdown during the Unicorn Frappuccino disaster of 2017, my husband was pretty darn determined to get tickets. He eventually was able to procure some, forever increasing his good-husband status in my book. After attending, I decided to write a review of the event.

Atmosphere. I would give the atmosphere of the event an 8/10. A lot of local stores and restaurants got in on the act and decorated. Each Hogwarts house had a “common room” that was decorated with the house colors. Street windows had Harry Potter signs and patronus cut-outs. They could have used more Harry Potter music; there was a ’90s cover band playing instead which my husband and I suspected was contracted with Roanoke City to play on Saturdays. A Harry Potter soundtrack would have really helped the atmosphere, though.

roanoke harry potter festival common room
Ravenclaw Common Room was dressed to the nines with flying keys, banners, and stars.

Food. I would give food an 10/10. Lots of local restaurants had Harry Potter themed menus. There were also Harry Potter vendors selling Fish ‘n Chips, Butterbeer, Butterbeer ice cream and snow cones, and more. There were also local food trucks with non-Harry Potter fair like burgers and ice cream.
roanoke harry potter festival drink

Activities. Unfortunately I have to give this one a 3/10. There wasn’t much to do; my husband and I really stretched our time to even stay there three hours. There were some classes based around Harry Potter literature, psychology, and the like that seemed really, really, interesting, but they were all sold out. There was a performance of a Very Potter Musical that we saw a little snippet of, but unfortunately it took place behind a loud generator and the students were having to shout over that. We also saw a snippet of a quidditch match, but it would have been nice to have an announcer or a scoreboard for that, especially for people who didn’t know the rules of the game. I am hoping that next year there will be more to do and that the activities they had this year would be more accessible. Trivia in the Ravenclaw commonroom, maybe? A scavenger-hunt around the city? A school house relay competition? An owl raptor show? It would have also been helpful to have a more detailed brochure; we had to look up a lot of additional information online.

Shopping. I give this one a 6/10. There were, I would guess, 10-15 kiosks set up selling brooms, mugs, jewelry, and other fantasy-themed memorabilia. Living near that area though, I would have LOVED to have a tshirt, keychain or mug with the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival logo. The logo was super cute. I suspect that a specific Roanoke Harry Potter Festival kiosk would have been a HUGE hit.

The verdict: I wouldn’t have driven out of state for this festival, but since it was local, it was nice to spend an afternoon eating fish ‘n chips, watching a quidditch match, and trying butterbeer ice cream. I give it a 6/10 BUT with the hope that, since it’s the first year, they will have some kinks to work out before next year and will be better organized. I got the impression that this was intended to be a very small event that quickly got blown out of proportion. If there were more accessible activities next time, I would definitely go back.

I will also say that, while the big, well-funded Harry Potter tourist destinations are certainly magical, there was something particularly charming to me about how all the shop and restaurant owners in a small downtown area got in on the act and used their own creativity to transform their spaces into something magical. If that doesn’t represent an Enchanted Outlook, I don’t know what does.

Stacey and the Quest for the Unicorn Elixir


So here’s what happened. Last week, due to a to-do list of things I have been dreading that has been hanging over my head, I had decided to take a week of “No Magic Fixes” and tackle one difficult task every day. They were all tasks that I absolutely hate to do and for some of them there was some big emotional involvement as well. I started this project on Saturday and some of the tasks weren’t going so well, so by mid-week I was… stressed. Okay, I was a bundle of maxed out brain cells attached by a spinal chord to a full-speed train wreck.

Now, if you have followed my blog for a while now, you might have guessed that I might be the kind of person who likes unicorns.

In truth, I don’t like unicorns. I LOVE unicorns. I even wrote a blog post about them.

And so, when I heard that Starbucks was coming out with a Unicorn Frappuccino, I just had to try it.

I had been anticipating this beverage for quite some time. I thought it was cool that, true to the magic of the elusive unicorn, the drink would be only available to five days. And, even better, it would change color AND flavor as you drink it. I mean, come on, I had to have one. I thought it would be a great reprieve in the middle of a difficult week and thinking of it was really helping me to get my tough to-do list done.

Day One: Before I try the drink myself, I share a post of a negative review, hoping against hope to get some positive feedback from friends (“Au contraire Stacey, it’s the best magical potion I have placed in my mouth!”). This did not happen. I receive a barrage of (mostly negative) comments, some saying they didn’t like the taste, some criticizing the drink for how unhealthy it is and urging me not to drink it.

Now, to be clear about the health factor, I do eat a largely plant-based diet and I don’t drink alcohol, juice, or soda (with very rare exceptions). I also try to avoid added sugar, other than in a small dessert now and then. I don’t usually drink Starbucks other than a plain iced coffee now and again with a little cream. I generally try to be a healthy person, so I don’t like to consume things that I know are terrible for me.

It’s not that I don’t respect my body. I just respect unicorns MORE. Because magic.

So, I am reading all the negative comments and articles hating on the mythical unicorn beverage, and somehow, I can’t be quite sure how it happened, but somehow, I went into full meltdown mode. With tears. (Remember, I was in the middle of a “scary tasks” desert and unicorn magic was my only oasis. Or at least that’s what I told myself.)
So, yes, I was literally reduced to tears over a Starbucks drink. I don’t even usually DRINK Starbucks. It apparently wasn’t even a GOOD drink, according to the reviews. I decided to pull myself together, take a bubble bath, and leave the Unicorn Frappuccino for another day when I was more able to appreciate a magical elixir.

Day Two: I realize that a guest is coming into town and the house is a wreck. Frantic cleaning and errands ensue to get things somewhat passable. This guest works for another gourmet beverage company, and was very critical of the Unicorn Frappuccino. (I.E. proceed with caution). By the time I finish chores and errands, I realize I still haven’t gotten my unicorn goodness and it’s really late. Was Starbucks even still open? I decide to go in the morning before work.

After all, there was no rush aside from my own desire; it would be available for five days, right? Right?!?

Day Three: I find out that I need to meet with two clients today instead of the one I had planned. I don’t have time to stop and get my Frappuccino. I don’t consume sugary stuff on the job so as not to be a bad influence (I work in in-home care), so I decide to stop by after work.

Then I remember I also have other errands to run after work on the other side of town. I run those errands as quickly as possible and then FINALLY pull up in the Starbucks drive-through in eager anticipation.

ME: Yes, um…I would like a UNICORN…latte?

BARISTA: I’m sorry, we are all out of Unicorn Frappuccinos.

ME: Oh no! Um… uh… um… I’ll come back later. (Drive off slightly panicked and feeling somewhat dumb and guilty for not ordering another drink. Start calculating closest distance to next nearest Starbucks, which is 20 minutes away. Decide to go home and maybe coerce husband and guest to come with me, since I’m already late. Would guest come? He works for the enemy. Is this allowed?)

I get home, and my husband tells me that several Starbucks around town have run out of the drink. I decide to go in the morning, figuring they would re-stock by then.

Day 4: Okay, now it’s full-on panic mode. MUST find the mythical unicorn drink of goodness before it is gone!

I go by the other Starbucks, where I learn that the entire town is out of frappuccinos. The barista herself didn’t even get to try one. And they would not be re-stocking. I spiral into a tunnel of sadness. I might never get to try the mythical drink of my hopes and dreams. Guest is trying to console me by talking about the benefits of using real mango in drinks rather than fake mango flavoring and how mango leaves a certain sheen when blended that is not found in other fruits. Guest, it turns out, is a mango connoisseur. I sadly nod along, trying not to think of my terrible misfortune.

Day 5: I awake in a world that is still full of icky gross things to be done but devoid of magical unicorn drinks. I start to wonder if they ever truly existed. Were they just a myth? If they once existed, does that mean they still do? Or are they, like their counterparts, not actually real anymore? (And yes, if you are calculating, I am now on day eight of my week of no magic fixes and still not done.)

But then it occurred to me: I could make my own.

unicorn frappuccino

I decided to use it a reward for finishing my awful to-do list, which would be done on Monday. And I decided to make it out of some of my favorite things rather than follow an online mock recipe. I started with a base of Nutella. (Was it a statement about the dark sadness of my unicorn journey? Was it unicorn poo? Do I just really, really like Nutella? Hint: it was the latter.) Then I added a milkshake made with gourmet salted caramel ice cream and added a food coloring swirl. I topped it off with whipped cream, pink sugar, and a candy garnish. There was no coffee in it, but I heard the original didn’t have any either, so I was okay with it being basically a milkshake. After all, I figured if it was my own unicorn fantasy, I could make it however I wanted. It did kinda sorta change color from pink and blue to purple, but the flavor didn’t change.

drinking unicorn

I learned many life lessons this week. The early bird catches the worm. Don’t put all my eggs in one basket. Don’t procrastinate on the tough stuff. The biggest one, though, was one that Glinda taught Dorothy years ago; to paraphrase: I always had the power to make unicorn magical goodness; I just had to learn that for myself.

Once I finished all my difficult tasks, I slept easier than I had in months. Never again would I put off important things just because they were difficult or scary, and never again would I fall for some commercial marketing ploy, even if it played into my love of magic. Life’s magic, I realized, couldn’t be found in some external source; it must come from within.

But then today I found out Katy Perry is launching a limited edition MERMAID MAKEUP line!

Game on.

Is ‘Enchantment’ Anti-Intellectualist? 


Ho, this is a difficult one, and something I have been mulling over for several weeks. In one of my first posts on this blog, I defined enchantment as letting our perceptions control our reality. However, I recently came across a funny article by The Onion entitled Facebook User Verifies Truth Of Article By Carefully Checking It Against Own Preconcieved Opinions.

I found the article to be hilarious, but it did make me doubt myself. In an era of misinformation and fake news where discerning facts seems to be more confusing by the day, was it really responsible of me to promote the idea that our own personal perceptions can control our reality?

To clarify this issue, I would like to bring to the forefront two terms absolutely vital to distinguishing my concept of “Enchantment” from the anti-intellectualism movement: wandering and transcendence.

Wander (vb): to stray from a path, place, companions, etc.; to deviate in conduct, belief, etc.; err; go astray

Transcendence (n): the state of excelling or surpassing or going beyond usual limits; a state of being or existence above and beyond the limits of material experience

The big difference, to me, between someone who has an Enchanted Outlook and someone who is anti-intellectualist is the willingness to wander, even away from one’s own preconceived notions, even when it is scary to do so. It is a willingness to examine different points of view. A willingness, if you will, to accept a call to adventure. To go down the rabbit hole. To learn. To grow. But perhaps Bilbo Baggins said it best:


To wander is at the heart of living an enchanted life. To live an enchanted life is not to live a life with eyes more closed, but rather, to live a life with eyes more open. To explore. To let your curiosity guide you. To find greater truths. To never stop questioning until you have gotten to the very bottom of things, to the heart of the issue. And then to keep asking more questions.

In doing this, we also open ourselves inevitably to truths that are difficult and sad as well as wonderful and beautiful. We must therefore learn how to process those difficult things. We must learn to rise above them, in other words, to transcend. We find ways to see the beauty in things even when they are at their ugliest, their scariest, or even their most mundane. We can be better than the things that surround us. This is what I meant by letting perceptions control reality.


To live an enchanted life, then, is not to live a life of denial of fact, but a life of optimism even in the light of difficult facts. To hope for the extraordinary. To find things to be grateful for. To seek greater truths. To embody those qualities we so admire in characters our favorite magical tales. Above all, to live an enchanted life is to aspire to do the most difficult thing of all: to look into the cold, hard truths of the world, and to still find plenty of reasons to smile. That is truly a life enchanted.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about anti-intellectualism and the fake news movement, but I’m curious to know what you think; let me know in the comments below.

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I dressed up in my Harry Potter tshirt, necklace, and socks last night like a true nerd to arrive at a nearly empty theater. I was stunned. Did other people know something I didn’t? Was I clinging onto some nostalgia for a bygone age by seeing a lukewarm prequel?

I was not disappointed. From the get-go, the look and feel of the film was incredibly compelling. Soundtrack and costumes launched me into a very well-imagined and fascinating world. An air of mystery which held some dramatic irony for Harry Potter fans lead fairly quickly into a scene in a bank which, without giving too much away, had me in stitches.

Characters were good, particularly “no-mag” Jacob, but I think the most compelling relationships were between Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and his creatures. Scamander has an awkwardness about him coupled with a very palpable tenderness and adoration for his creatures, who all have personalities of their own.

I have to comment on the plotting and pacing; had I not been so invested in picking up all the little Harry Potter Easter eggs sprinkled all over the film, it definitely would have dragged. My husband described it as “one long filler episode.” Some scenes and characters felt irrelevant. There was also no strong antagonist (yet) to act as a true foil for Scamander. When I think of the way Delores Umbridge brought out the best and worst qualities of Harry in Order of the Phoenix, well, let’s just say we haven’t gotten there yet, and consequently the film had a decided lack of tension. I am going to assume the film works better to set the stage for the rest of the series than as a standalone.

All in all, I give it four stars. Don’t expect a whirlwind plot, but you can be confident in all the enchantment you can expect from Rowling, all the pizzazz of 1920s New York, and all the cuteness of your favorite Internet cat videos. And yet, the film was good in its own right, and stood on its own two legs, or, should I say, four legs.

Today’s Inspiration


This is one of my favorite quotes and I keep it close to my heart. It’s not always easy to follow sometimes, but it is oh so important to remember.

Creatures and Happiness: Dementors


The dementor is a creature of J.K. Rowling’s invention. Cloaked in a dark hood, the dementor feeds off happy thoughts and leaves victims with a sense of hopelessness. The dementor also has the ability to give a “kiss” that sucks the soul out of the body.

How did such creatures come to be imagined?  In an interview with Oprah, Rowling explained that she based dementors off of her own experience with depression. She said, “It’s not sadness; sadness is- I know sadness; sadness is not a bad thing, you know, to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling, that really hollowed out feeling; that’s what the dementors are.”

Interestingly, the more horrors in a person’s past, the greater the effect the dementors have. How, then, does one fight a dementor? By focusing on a positive, happy memory. This memory creates a light force, called a patronus, which chases off the dementor.

Now, it may be a vast oversimplification to say that depression can be fought with “happy thoughts” and it would be irresponsible of me to suggest that as the only solution; in fact, there are times when we need to acknowledge and validate our “negative” feelings. However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a popular method of treating depression, does focus on correcting unhealthy thought patterns, such as the distorted negative thoughts that depression, like a dementor, can bring about. Harry Potter’s “patronus training” in book three of the series reminds me in a way of the structured nature of CBT therapy.

I think the important thing to note about fighting dementors is that the wizard has a toolbox of happy memories prepared in his arsenal ahead of time and has trained and prepared for the dementor’s appearance.  They are able to recognize why they are feeling hopeless and they know what helps to put themselves in a better frame of mind. In that way, they regain control over their feelings of hopelessness.

Whether you have full-blown Major Depressive Disorder, dysthymia, or just get into a funk from time to time, I do think it is a good idea to have a toolbox of coping mechanisms available to help during your worst days in addition to traditional treatments. Maybe you have a happy memory, or a Pinterest board of things that make you smile, or a favorite go-to chocolate, someone you call on the phone, or a “comfort” box of your favorite things. Be proactive: think of this ahead of time, because you certainly won’t feel like it in a dark moment. Let this toolbox be your own real-life patronus. It may make a difficult day just a little bit better.

Is there a creature you would like to see me cover in the Creatures and Happiness series? Let me know in the comments below.

source: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

When Life is Not Enchanting

Generally speaking, writing about life’s enchanting moments is easy. Just about anything qualifies. Got a head cold? Sure, I can work that in. Going on a trip? Easy. Had a stressful work week? Piece of cake. Enchantment is all about perception. If we change the way we interpret situations, we can live a more enchanted life.

Some weeks, though, writing about enchantment is hard. This was one of those weeks. Sometimes life is not enchanting and no little tweak in how we view things will change that. Sometimes life is brutal and gory and traumatizing and anger-inducing.

I was just in Orlando a month and a half ago at the start of our honeymoon. I may have seen the staff person who was killed last week when I rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that a city that is normally all about finding life’s magic is suddenly about finding much darker things. Finding family members who are missing. Finding bodies or parts of bodies. Finding out the worst. Finding monsters. Finding a way to make it through the night. Finding courage to keep going. Finding out that yet another tragedy has struck.

But, more than finding things, we are ALL searching for things that we can’t find. We are searching for answers. We are searching for meaning, or understanding. We are searching for a consensus that can’t be reached. We are searching for truth in a web of memes and twitter statuses and rumors and opinions and misinformation and corruption and hatred. We are all playing riddles in the dark. We are all running in a giant Caucus-Race.

There are, really, two outcomes of this race. The first is that we will continue to get nowhere. In this case, we can throw our hands up, stop running and give in. The second is that we WILL get somewhere. This will involve scary words like compromise, understanding, empathy, and courage. It will involve us really, truly, looking at things from someone else’s perspective. YES, that means the person whose opinions you don’t like, even if their opinions are full of judgement or fear or misinformation. YES, when I say “us,” I mean YOU. It also will involve taking ACTION in any way that you can, even something small like signing a petition or making a small donation.

I like to think that we will get somewhere. Just look at all the other times we have gotten somewhere. My voice, a woman’s voice, wouldn’t be heard like this if we hadn’t gotten somewhere. I wouldn’t have been able to marry my husband if we hadn’t gotten somewhere. It’s the getting there that makes these horrific moments our generation’s personal journey of overcoming. And it’s a shame that we have to go through these moments, particularly for those whose lives were lost and for their family and friends. It would be so much easier if we could just start with love and compassion, wouldn’t it? Certainly it isn’t fair that we go through these pains again and again.

Still, every magical tale contains darkness and monsters of some form. Every magical tale has its own story of overcoming. Every magical tale ALSO has heroes and friendship and love and so many wonderful things that make the tale worth telling. This may not be a tale that we will ever, ever want to tell. But the heroes who are standing up for what is right, who are working hard to reach a consensus, who are responding to cries of distress, who are doing anything and everything they can, make the tale one that will need telling. We all have the choice as to whether or not to embody those heroic traits like love, courage, and compassion in these situations. That, I think, is how we find enchantment in the world’s dark moments: by being that lightness, by being that love and compassion.

Remember: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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