Meet Mona! She’s this month’s Featured Fashionista and the incredibly talented lady behind the blog, “Curls & Cakes.” Mona is not only a skilled blogger, she is also a very gifted baker (and is even sharing a recipe in this post!), and she has an incredibly intriguing career as a cancer researcher.
I truly adore Mona’s blog, she is such a sweetheart and has such an adorable sense of style. And Mona isn’t afraid to also take on more serious topics on her blog. She is very passionate about Mental Health Awareness and Gender Equality. She always discusses these topics with the utmost respect and compassion – it’s truly inspiring! Mona has also started a new series on her blog called “The Cancer Series” where she helps shed some light on a disease that many people are affected by, but may not truly understand. It is very helpful to anyone who has, or who knows someone who has, dealt with cancer. But before I get too carried away, I’ll let you get to know Mona in her own words.
Tell me a little about yourself.
Mona: I’m a 24-year-old girl living in the town where I was born, Umeå, which is in northern Sweden, where we have long cold winters. I’m a working PhD student at the University of Umeå, at the department of medical biosciences. I’ve studied medical science for 7 years, and it is one of my big passions. Another big passion is cake! And all things sweet that you can eat, really. I started to bake seriously in 2011, and I came second in a nationwide baking competition, which spurred my interest for baking.
I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I’m a Ravenclaw, which really says it all. I love to read, and I especially enjoy fantasy and dystopian literature. I adore Doctor Who, and in 2013 I was at the official anniversary celebration expo in London. I like musicals (favorite is Wicked) and Disney films (favorite is Frozen), but my all time favorite film is neither a musical nor a Disney film. My favorite film is Amélie, I love how warm and quirky it is.
I obviously love pretty clothes and dresses and wanted at one point to become a clothing designer. I have also wanted to, like yourself Lindsey, become an Egyptologist, and one of the coolest moments in my life was seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum.
How would you describe your blog, “Curls & Cakes?”
Mona: I would say it is a style and lifestyle blog, where you get to take part of what goes on in my life and in my head. It’s a fairly new blog that I created in May of this year, so it is still trying to find its shape. I try to post a minimum of two posts a week, and I try to include all things that interest me, or that I am passionate about. Expect to see outfit posts, and recipe posts as well as posts where I discuss a topic of the more serious nature.
What inspired you to create Curls & Cakes? And is there a story behind the cute name?
Mona: A blog was something that I had thought about creating as a means of having a creative outlet for quite some time. For a long time I wanted to create a baking blog, but there are so many amazing baking and lifestyle blogs out there, so I was unsure if anyone would be interested in what I have to say. I procrastinated and kept saying I’ll do it later, when the time was right, but the thing is – the time is always right. I got a lot of support from my family and people on Instagram started asking me if I had a blog. What made me take a leap was an Instagram friend (@windramdesign) who managed to convince me, and then it just sort of started happening on its own.
I wanted a name that described me as best as it could, and since I basically only consist of curls and cake I thought it would be a fun, simple and memorable name to have. And I like that both words start with a C, it is visually appealing to me.
What do you hope the future holds for Curls & Cakes?
Mona: What the past and present has held for Curls & Cakes was and is way beyond any of my expectations. I still have a bit of trouble understanding why so many people read the blog, but I’m very happy that they do. What I like my blog to be is more of a community, what I like the best is that I’ve made connections and friendships through Curls & Cakes. So that is what I wish will be in my blog’s future. I want to connect with more people, make more friends in the world. I think the blogging community is amazing, and I never knew before I started myself how wonderful and kind everyone is. People are so supportive of each other in the blogging community, and that has been what I cherish the most with my blog. So, more of that please!
One of the reasons I love your blog is, while it is primarily a style blog, you also don’t shy away from serious topics. One that has come up is Mental Health Awareness. Could you explain why this is a topic that is particularly important to you?
Mona: Mental Health Awareness is terribly important to me because I am a sufferer myself, and before I became a sufferer I didn’t know much about Mental Illness. I suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Anxiety and Depression and have suffered for some years now, even though I was only diagnosed a little more than a year ago. I want to raise awareness because I don’t want people to feel lost and hopeless. There is so much stigma around mental health, and we need to break this, so that mental illnesses are looked upon as any other physical illness. The understanding around mental illness needs to increase, and the best way is to talk about it, so I find that it is probably one of the most important things to talk about.
While mental illness is something that is no longer as taboo as it once was, there are still people who seem to think mental illness is a “choice.” And you can just “snap out of it.” What would you like to say to someone who thinks this? And how do you think we can help them to better understand mental illness?
Mona: First of all, I understand that it is difficult for someone who has not suffered from it to truly understand what mental illness is and what it feels like. It is very hard to explain, but I think the key to making those people understand is by educating them. Most often it is just ignorance, and luckily that can be amended. One thing that I like to point out is that mental illness is entirely biological and chemical. There are chemical imbalances in the brain that cause mental illness, how and why is not exactly known. But it is for sure chemical. And that is 100% known, because otherwise the drugs that are used against mental illnesses would not work, and there is countless amounts of research that has proved that the drugs are more effective than placebo. And then the illness is also biological, certain parts of the brain is more or less active in different mental illnesses, this has been seen with instruments that can measure brain activity. Once you know that mental illness is biological and chemical it is difficult to reason in that way, and say that you can “snap out of it”. It would be just as saying to a diabetic to snap out of it and start producing insulin. Well if the body cannot do that, it will not be able to no matter how much you want to do it. By talking about mental illness I believe we can educate people on the matter, and that is how we will help people that do not suffer to better understand mental illness.
What advice do you have for someone who is living with mental illness?
Mona: Don’t give up! It gets better. I’ve been at the dark places where nothing seems to be worth it anymore. When I was at my worst, my OCD had me housebound and my depression had me bedbound. Things can get better. I think it’s important to have someone to talk to about your feelings. Someone you can be completely honest with, and talk to without worry or shame. So then you can say: “No, I’m not fine,” when you’re not fine, and instead of worrying about what that person might think you can talk about your feelings.
*So, advice number 1: Talk.
*Advice number 2: Surround yourself with people that are loving and kind. I truly do not think I could have made it through my dark patches if it weren’t for my incredible sister and mother. When you have dark thoughts you don’t need more negativity around you, so decide to spend time with the people that are caring and do the things that bring you some joy.
*Advice number 3: Don’t be afraid/ashamed/worried/scared of getting professional help. This is a disease as any other. If you broke your arm seeking medical attention would be the obvious thing to do. This is the same! Get help.
*And finally advice 4 is for people who maybe are starting to come to terms with their illness: Remember that your illness is not you. You have a disease, try not to be ashamed of it (I know that’s really hard to do). It happened to you, people get sick all the time. Some get mental illnesses, others get physical illnesses. Unfortunately it happens, and there’s not much to do about that. C’est la vie. It does not have to define you.
Your post “Natural Self” (where you talked about a rude comment a man had left on Instagram about you wearing makeup) sparked quite the discussion on your blog! I personally was glad you had the courage to stand up for yourself in such a public way, and share your thoughts on feminism. What do you hope your readers took away from that post? And what advice do you have for someone who has experienced negative comments for being themselves, whether on the internet or in person? (If you would like to read Mona’s post “Natural Self” to better understand this question, click here.)
Mona: That was possibly one of those posts that I wrote before I really gave much thought about it. I didn’t really think about my readers when writing that post (sorry dear readers), I mostly thought of myself, and I had so many emotions that I thought I would burst if I wouldn’t get to write down my thoughts. So if anything, what my readers should take away from that is that it is okay to think about only yourself sometimes. Like I did, writing that post.
It did however, just as you said, spark a discussion, which I was very glad that it did. What was sad was that many people recognized the situation, and had been in that situation themselves. My advice for all those people that unfortunately experience this is to stand up for themselves. If a comment is out of place, make it known. If someone acts inappropriately, confront them. Women have for years been told to accept what is thrown their way, whether it’s good or bad, but we are just as important as men. We are equals! We deserve to be treated equally! So stand up for yourself and other women, let the commentators know that their behavior is not accepted. Fight for yourself! Don’t let anyone push you down with their words.
Switching gears a bit now, you also just started talking about your career as a Cancer Researcher on your blog. I find this incredibly fascinating! What does your job entail? And what does a normal day “at the office” look like for you?
Mona: Oh my wonderful job really is great! As I mentioned before I’m doing my PhD, but here in Sweden it’s more like a job, where you get paid and all that. So I work on a project that is aiming to map genetic changes to different parameters of cancer of the large intestine (cancer of the colon and rectum, called colorectal cancer). A normal day consists of a lot of reading and keeping updated with the research that is going on, as well as doing lab work. Because I work with genes I work with the DNA out of cancer cells from colorectal cancers. With different methods I view the DNA to find genetic changes i.e. mutations and then I try to find patterns of mutations in colorectal cancer patients of a certain type.
How did you decide to get into your specific area of cancer research?
Mona: When I started studying medical science I very quickly became interested in cancer research. I’m curious to understand how and why a cancer forms and what that means to the patient, so genetics is very much involved in that. Which is why my main focus is on the genetic changes in cancer. The reason for it being specifically colorectal cancer is because it is one of the most common cancer types in the Western world, so it has a large impact on people’s lives.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Mona: I love being able to create knowledge. The results I find is something that only I have found and until it is published it is not knowledge, but just my results. I like that my results can become knowledge in the world. And I love that in research every question you answer results in about ten new questions, so it is this constant search for more knowledge.
Now, this Q&A would not be complete unless I asked you about your personal style! 🙂 How would you describe your personal style? And why do you say your blog is a style blog and not a fashion blog?
Mona: I would say that my personal style is vintage-inspired, cute, feminine, quirky and eclectic. I like small details and unique prints. Very often I want there to be something cozy or fairytale-esque in my outfit, and I prefer my style to have a dreamy softness to it.
The reason I call my blog a style blog is because I feel like style is the opposite of fashion. Fashion is about trends and it dictates what we should wear without there being any room for individuality. Style however is about your personality shining through your choice of clothing. It lends itself to quirkiness and originality, while fashion does not, in my opinion.
What is your favorite outfit? And if you had to pick, what would you say your favorite clothing store is?
Mona: No! What an unfair question. This was the only question I struggled with, because it is so hard to just choose one favorite outfit. But typically for me it tends to be that the latest thing I buy becomes my favorite and then it is my favorite until I get something new. So following that pattern, my lovely dress with northern lights print from Book of Deer is a favorite to build an outfit around at this moment.
I only really shop online anymore, and I have a few favorites but the first shop that came to mind is Book of Deer, which has the most unique and dreamlike pieces with hand drawn prints. I also like Miss Patina, Larmoni, Mod Dolly and Poppy England very much. And ModCloth of course!
Before I end this Q&A, I have to ask…because you are always sharing such scrumptious looking photos of the baked goods you create… What is your favorite baking recipe?
Mona: That’s such a difficult question, but I think I’m going to go with the recipe for my favorite comfort food: The Brownie.
120 grams of chocolate, chopped into pieces
115 grams butter, in pieces
200 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 grams flour
Preheat oven to 165 degrees C.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of heated water. Remove from heat when completely melted. Add the sugar and vanilla. Then whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Finally stir in the flour.
Pour into a 20 cm pan. Bake for about 25 minutes.
I usually add a chocolate ganache on top of the brownie for extra chocolatey-ness.
100 g chocolate, chopped into pieces
100 ml heavy cream
Heat the heavy cream until just before it starts boiling and then pour it over the chocolate. Stir until even. Let it cool to room temperature before spreading over the brownie.
And last but not least, what advice do you have for someone looking to start a blog of their own?
Mona: Be yourself and just do it! If you create the content that you like it doesn’t matter how many readers you have, but you will be doing something that you enjoy. So be true to yourself, and the second part is to just go for it! There’s nothing holding you back! I thought long and hard on whether I should start a blog or not, and when I finally did, I didn’t understand what I had been fussing about. It is more fun than anything! So take the leap!