Wednesday, 27 December 2006

A drastic approach to New Year's Resolutions

very year I make the same resolution and inevitably break it by about February (once I made it all the way to March!). I really do need to lose weight and it is really annoying me now. But how can I make sure that this time I go the distance and reach my goal?

By doing something drastic, like aiming to run a marathon in early 2008.

Yes, this is my novel way of sticking with it and keep focused on the task. In fact, you might have noticed that the goal isn’t directly to lose weight, but this should follow as a result of all the training I’ll have to do. So I can keep focused on the marathon training and the weight loss should follow.

Why a marathon? Why not, say, a half marathon? Or something less exhausting? Well, to be honest it is because I am a huge Disney fan and I really want to run in next year’s Disney marathon. It is in Florida and the course takes runners through all four Disney parks, which is motivating all on its own. Also, Florida is pretty flat and the weather is not humid in January so the conditions are ideal. In other words, it is an ideal beginner’s marathon and I would feel like I didn’t try hard enough if I simply went for the half.

So the last few days I’ve been starting my training. I am not a runner but a good walker and I can use that to launch my training. It does mean that I will have to spend a few more hours a week training and a few less hours a week scrapping but something’s gotta give somewhere, right?

Do you think I’ve gone nuts? Don’t worry, so do I. But this idea is so crazy that it must work. Besides the weight loss and improved fitness, I hope to have the satisfaction that, this time, I stuck with it – and I get a vacation out of it to boot!

Also, by blogging I’ve now told the world so I’ve doubly committed myself. It’s harder to keep resolutions if you don’t tell anyone. That way, if you fail, no one will know. But by making my resolution public it means that now I have to do it or else fail spectacularly and publicly. I certainly wouldn’t want that!

Wish me luck... I need all the encouragement I can get.

PS. I'll keep you informed in this blog as to my progress so keep checking back!

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Scrapping... with scraps

Now that my vacation is a long, distant memory I have spent a little while putting together a kit of sorts, with all the various bits that will be used to create the scrapbook. As this one’s a special holiday, it gets a scrapbook all to itself! I noticed that about 70% of what I put away in the box was paper: but we’re not talking patterned paper or even plain paper but more like literature. I had hundreds of bits of papers – tickets, maps, menus, hotel brochures, local paper, theme park guides, etc. I managed to fill an 18lt box with all sorts of random documentation. Thing is though, it is all important to me one way or another.

I have always been ruthless to throw things away and don’t tend to hoard anything except for when it comes to Florida vacations. I may grab things here and there on other vacations but when I’m in Florida (especially Disney) I take all I can. I always have. Eventually I had the problem of storage and when my box overflowed, I started cutting up bits and pieces of these papers and using them to decorate my photo albums of the trip. I also used them to decorate my school notebooks – to keep the memory of the vacation alive, I guess. In any case, you can see that this is pretty much a proper scrapbook: a book decorated with scraps.

In the years that this hobby has evolved, I have of course evolved along with it and started using more bought embellishments and less of the “found” stuff. It was just the way I saw it being done so I followed suit. My albums looked very nice!

Now that we have gone to Florida again, though, the old habits refuse to die and I’ve ended up with another boxful of literature. And I plan to use it – because these tidbits of paper all have some meaning to us. One menu reminds me of a lovely lunch, a ticket reminds me of a lovely day at some attraction, a map is a great reminder of our travels and the local paper gives context to our visit.

So even though I also plan to use lots and lots of lovely store-bought embellishments, I also can’t wait to plow through my box of papers and relive some wonderful memories while preserving them in my album. After all, one can’t scrapbook without scraps!

Monday, 27 November 2006

My desert island pick is ALWAYS a book. Actually, make that several books!

Just before I went on vacation, a dream store opened here in Milton Keynes: Borders!

Yes, the bookstore.

I really love this store mainly because it sells books and does this job beautifully. There are few bookstores that display books so well and make it so easy for me to have to buy another book. If I could, I think I’d love to work there and I would be in heaven, surrounded by books. I’ve already been like five times since it opened earlier in the month, and bearing in mind I’ve been on vacation for most of November, it isn’t a bad average.

I just love books. I love and love and love books. Books have been my friends for a long time, since I learned to read at the age of 4. Ever since I discovered the written word I have been pretty obsessed with books and have always been attracted to reading. It’s one of my favourite pastimes – sometimes even more adored than scrapbooking, I have to say. Reading is portable, easy to do and it fills my head with places, peoples and ideas that might make me a different person.

I remember one day, long long ago when I went to my school’s library and found a lovely book I wanted to read, but my recess wasn’t long enough. So the librarian gave me special permission to check it out and take it home – at the time, anyone younger than 2nd grade wasn’t allowed to check books out. Anyway, I took it home and I remember the guilty pleasure I felt in taking a book home that wasn’t mine. I was also terrified something might happen to it so I returned it promptly the next day. I can’t remember what book it was, though.

A few years later, when I was older and actually working in that very same library I stumbled across a magical book – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. I checked it out and read it in a day, I couldn’t put it down! I just didn’t know reading could be so magical, so amazing and so fantastic. I quickly read everything with Mr Dahl’s name on it and became a lifelong fan.

Another epic book was “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” which I read in 4th grade. I remember all the girls talking about it as if it was some dirty book (it deals with puberty, periods and all that stuff) so I placed my name on the waiting list, of course! When I finally got my hands on it, I remember it was almost disappointing but at the same time horribly fascinating. A few months later I had my own “womanhood” to talk about and I took pretty badly, actually.

Sometime in 9th grade I discovered Shakespeare – and read pretty much everything. I loved the Sonnets and poems, especially. I also found some of the plays confusing but with the help of my trusty Cliff’s notes I managed to plow on and read most of his stuff. I admit I didn’t really like the historical plays but love the more magical, lyrical stuff.

As I got older I read more and more, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I read a lot of Agatha Christie, a lot of young adult novels but started slowly drifting towards non-fiction. I just loved stories of actual people or (these days) companies and how they have succeeded. At about this time I was becoming very interested in the Disney company so I read “An American Original” which was the official bio on Walt Disney. I love this book and I still have it – it’s actually falling apart! His life inspired me and this led me to read the life of other, just as amazing people, and find inspiration in them.

These days I mainly read non-fiction but I occasionally read novels – especially when everyone’s talking about them (“The Da Vinci Code” comes to mind!) I prefer to read about real people and real companies and what made them successful. I also like finding out stuff I didn’t know before about my favourite products – I guess I’m just a trivia junkie. These days I also read a lot of parenting books, Disney books (about the company, not storybooks), books about where food comes from and, of course, scrapbooking books.

I must admit I went through a period when I just couldn’t find the time to read and slowly I realized how much I missed it. So I made time and now I am always carrying a book with me, because one never knows when you may get the odd 10 minutes to read. Also, if I am reading a book that is absolutely gripping me, I just can’t put it down! I read “Angels and Demons” over 3 days here at work over the last Christmas holiday, for example.

Reading is my absolutely favourite thing to do in the whole world and I am very much hoping that I pass this gift on to my little boy. Then the world is truly his to embrace!

It is nearly lunchtime here in the UK and I may just sneak off and visit Borders again... there’s a new book on Google and it's history that I simply must read.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

If GAP sold stash, I wouldn't have any problems!

t’s official – there is something wrong with me when it comes to shopping for stash.

I’ve just spent a lovely couple of weeks in the States and along with enjoying the sunshine and beaches of the Sunshine State, I had the chance to visit a few scrapbook shops (only a few, honestly, I was having too much fun to be inside). I visited a couple of the big chains and a couple of smaller, independent shops but the result in all of them was the same: I hardly bought anything.

I don’t know what it is about stash shopping but I seem unable to do it like everyone else does: with gusto. I relish the experience and like looking through the lovely shelves of merchandise but when it comes to committing some money, I become far too practical and choosy: it is all so lovely but do I really need it? The answer is usually no, so it stays on the shelf. Besides, I say to myself, where will I put it when I get home? I don’t have that much room anyway.

Nothing really grabbed me and shouted at me BUY ME. Sure, there are an awful lot of pretty things available but nothing that I saw and thought I MUST HAVE THIS NOW. I ended up buying an 8x8 album (because I knew I needed one for the photos of the trip) and the refills which can be a nightmare to get here in the UK. I got a few sticker sheets with vacation words, one pad of vellum sayings also on the vacation theme and a Christina Cole 8x8 pad which is the closest I got to buying something because it was soooo lush.

On another store I got a box set with an 8x8 album (another one!), matching papers and stickers which I got because it sort of matched the Christina Cole papers and because I felt that I ought to buy SOMETHING. Another store produced a sheet of chipboard letters from Scenic Route (that I’d been searching for here in the UK with no result) and the last store I came out with ONE SHEET of rubons.

That’s it.

I calculate I spent around $50USD in total (which is pretty good for me, actually) but I was almost disappointed in myself. I just can’t bring myself to buy these things! Here in the UK I do most of my shopping online so I thought that maybe that was the issue, not being able to touch the merchandise before purchase, but it seems I have the same problem with bricks and mortar stores! In one shop I felt there was too much choice, in another not enough. One store was a bit too messy and dark, the other was almost too tidy... so it seems I can’t be pleased. I’m sure the problem is me!

Or is it? Because when I go into the Gap, I can happily spend, spend, spend, without thinking about storage or even if I will use something. I happily buy one t-shirt in every color just because I like it. I get three pairs of jeans because... well, just because. So shopping isn't the issue - only when it comes to stash do I become Ms Practicality.

How does everyone else do it? How can you happily commit money to buying things that you don’t know if you’ll use? How do you know what all of this is even for? How do you store it all?

What are your best shopping tips?

Friday, 27 October 2006

Continuing on in my (unintentional) series about Disney...

I have of course very fond memories of my time as a Disney Cast Member. I loved spending time alone in the parks, when off-duty. It may sound a bit sad but it is very hard to feel lonely when surrounded by happy families on vacation and all enjoying the warm sunshine and the blue skies, while making memories that will last forever.

My favourite thing to do in the parks was to sit and eat a hot dog while watching the Fountain of Nations in Epcot while it performed it’s explosive and watery shows. Seriously, I loved to do this (plus, I really love hot dogs and it’s the one thing I miss now that I’m veggie!) and I sometimes would hang around so that I could catch two or more shows. I loved it.

Thinking about it now, I think what I really liked about this was that it was a chance for Disney music to shine. I am talking about all that background music that you can hear everywhere on property as well as the music from the rides. I have always found it interesting that these pieces of music – produced by hundreds of people – are so ephemeral. Once we leave the park or the ride, poof! It’s gone... sometimes people don’t even notice the music because it’s only in the background, but it is there, contributing to the overall mood of the place.

I was thinking about this the other day when I stumbled across a tribute website for Horizons, that ride that has now been demolished to make way for Mission: Space. I always thought Horizons had the best music of any ride and when it went, it took it’s music with it... or so I thought! This loving website had tracks for everything – from the background entrance music to recordings of the ride with all the dialogue. I spent many happy hours working with the beautiful sounds in my headphones. I must admit I even got a lump in my throat when I heard the familiar sounds and bits of dialogue from this now-gone show.

This made me hungry for more and I searched and found lots and lots of sites where I could listen to all this wonderful music. I found music from the rides, background music and even recorded announcements from the parks! Listening to the announcement that invites you into Epcot after opening really took me back to the old days and made me even a bit weepy.

But my favourite site is one where I found the music for the Fountain of Nations. So as I am writing this I am listening to the Air Battle excerpt from Surprise in the Skies, which now plays in the fountain during the day. Although I am sitting in a run-of-the-mill office building somewhere in the middle of England, my mind feels it is sitting by the Fountain of Nations, listening to some glorious music while surrounded by happy people and bathed in warm sunshine.

Not bad for some background music, huh?

Friday, 20 October 2006

Having a Disney Day

I have a confession to make – I’m a big Disney fan. A huge Disney fan. I’m practically a Disney maniac. I’d have Mickey everywhere in the house if I could, not to mention all the DVDs and CDs and books...

I try to keep this under restraint, though. Especially now that I live in the UK, the land of the restrained. For example, my little boy does not have a Disney-themed bedroom because I purposely chose quite a neutral d├ęcor. He does have a Sorcerer Mickey plush (which is actually mine) and a Mickey blanket, but that gets rotated so it’s only on the bed one week out of four. The other three weeks there is a plain blanket on the bed. Plus, the only reason I have a Mickey blanket is because someone gave it to me when he was born!

Like any addict I’ve tried to control the obsession: I do have a few earrings and necklaces with Mickeys on them, but they are pretty discrete. All my Disney books are on one bookshelf and not very obvious. I have a normal telephone even though I would really, really love a Mickey one. The only Disney picture that I have on display is a complete property map (circa 1995) from the Eyes and Ears, and you have to look closely to realize it is a Disney map and not just a map.

I don’t know what it is about Disney that is so attractive. My mom thinks it’s all her fault, as I had a very Disney-themed bedroom when I was little! But I don’t think that was it, but rather, all those magical vacations in Disney theme parks. Almost every year we’d take the long drive to Orlando (3 days each way) to spend a couple of weeks with Mickey. One fantastic year we even went twice: during the summer and at Christmas! I loved it all – the park itself, the attention to detail, the music, the smiley cast members, the merchandise... loved it all. We did visit Disneyland a few times but my true love was (and always has been) Walt Disney World in Florida. Back at my parents house I still have a huge box filled with all the souvenir maps that I collected from those years and I’d use bits of those to decorate my schoolbooks, in an attempt to keep the Disney magic with me at all times.

As I grew up I became more and more obsessed with Disney and I bought every Disney book I could find. It is interesting to note that my Disney collecting has nearly always involved paper: I keep books, maps, tickets, that sort of thing. I only have a few actual figurines or anything like that – they take up too much room! So anyway, my Disney knowledge was growing and almost dangerous in its scope: if Disney had anything to do with it, I knew it. I used this knowledge when writing one of my most important University papers: Disney and the Synergy, which got me top marks and I was often asked to present.

Eventually, I decided I should work for Disney, applied for the International Program and the rest was history. I loved my time there, learned even more about my favourite company, met my husband and enjoyed the best perk of the job: a free pass to any park, any time! I loved exploring the parks, riding the rides or just sitting down to enjoy the views. Even though I worked at the parks I always had a thrill when I could just walk into a park and enjoy myself just like any tourist. I was finally a part of the company I loved.

The visa expired and I had to leave Disney, which was undoubtedly the saddest day of my life so far. Things then moved on and ended with me living in the UK with a very non-Disney freak husband (well, he is but only a very little bit) and thousands of miles away from my favourite theme parks. I have been do Disneyland Paris and love it, as well as Tokyo Disneyland but none are as dear to my heart as WDW.

In a couple of weeks we will be flying to Orlando and I’m hoping that we can visit at least one theme park. Or at the very least a Disney shop, where I can stock up on more paper, books, CDs, maps and even the occasional piece of jewellery, all Disney themed of course. I can share space with people that also love the park and the company and aren’t afraid to show it. I can once more wonder at the magic in the place and I’m sure I’ll wish I could still be a part of it all. It’s been about four years since our last visit and that is the longest time in my entire life between visits to a Disney theme park. Far too long for a Disney maniac like me.

Monday, 16 October 2006

What is home?

I know some people out there will sympathize with this thought: is it possible to ever go back home?

Of course we can all physically return to the place we consider home, but what I mean is, there are so many other things that make a place “home”, not just the physical, and often these things are so transitory that they aren’t there ever anymore. But the people that stayed behind, as it were, evolved slowly with these changes so they don’t notice anymore – but those of us that didn’t participate in these changes will of course notice and of course not like them. Because that means it isn’t “home” anymore.

For example, I’ve been living in the UK nearly 10 years and all those things that one does as an adult (bank accounts, mortgages, home maintenance, etc) I’ve only done in the UK. I don't know how any of these things work back in Mexico. For instance, when I go back it always strikes me that people don’t have access to online banking, yet it’s something I just couldn’t live without, and it’s fairly common here in the UK. But of course my friends just don’t know what they’re missing as they’re doing what they’ve always done.

Also, when I go home I find the city has grown immensely and in ways that I don’t always like. A lot of the main roads have changed so much that I find it difficult to get around – something that makes me feel more like a tourist than a local and it makes me sad. I used to love driving around the city, now it almost scares me because I get lost so easily. I of course don’t watch any of the TV shows over there, nor do I listen to the same music, so conversations about pop culture don’t go very far. Half the newspaper doesn’t make sense to me because they talk about issues I don’t know or people I’ve never heard of.

I always look forward to going home because I can see my friends. But can I? Before I left, most of us had only just started working or were still in college so of course we had lots of free time. Now, they all work so hard and leave the office so late that it is almost impossible to organize anything except on weekends.

One of my favorite pastimes back home used to be clothes shopping. But now, when I go home, I don’t like any of the clothes – my style has changed and I find that I love the clothes I can buy here in the UK. Besides, the climates are so different, that I really shouldn’t buy clothes outside of the UK because I’ll never use them! It’s hard to find good winter coats in Mexico, just as it’s hard to buy thin summer dresses in the UK (especially this time of year).

I can’t even buy scrapbooking supplies because they are practically non-existent in Mexico!

So when I go home, all I do is eat. That is one thing that hasn’t changed much – the food. So I spend two weeks eating and trying to figure out what the newspaper is talking about, which means that I come back fatter and frustrated. Going home is really not possible for me – home doesn’t exist physically for me anymore. So when I yearn of “home” I’m not even sure why I bother because I can never go back.

I’m sure that if someday I left the UK the same would happen: I would miss lots of things that I can get here that I can’t elsewhere. I'd miss my online banking, my Smart car, my 6 weeks vacation entitlement per year. I am caught between two countries and I’m fairly sure that I would never be totally happy in either. They are so different and that is probably the main issue – I can’t compare. I will never totally settle in the UK because I’m always thinking of leaving, yet I know that if I left to go back to Mexico I wouldn’t settle either because I’d be thinking of how things are different in the UK. I’m neither here nor there (incidentally the title of a great book!) and for some reason this is bothering me today.

Maybe it’s the weather or the weekend spent with the in-laws, but I’m in a weird mood today. I wish I could pack up and leave the UK but, at the same time, have no idea where I’d go because I can no longer call anyplace “home”. So where do I go when I feel like I want to go home? I don’t know.

I have the same problem when shopping for shoes

It’s not a complaint heard often but I’ve discovered I really don’t know how to shop for embellishments. I love going to scrapbook shops and looking through all the lovely things available, touching them and seeing all the beautiful colors... but when it comes to commit and pay some money, I always find myself saying “what do I need this for?”

I’m ok buying cardstock and of course adhesives. Those are good old practical essentials and I have no problems there (although at the moment I haven’t bought any cardstock for ages because I know I have plenty). But I really struggle when it comes to paper but can sort of do it. But embellishments – I am hopeless there. Unless it is something really simple and useful like brads, I just can’t buy the stuff.

I went to one of the loveliest shops in the UK last weekend (IMHO) and spent a lovely time looking through all the stash for sale there and almost forced myself to buy something – and then it only was something I knew I needed and would use. Why can’t I shop like everyone else? I want to be able to throw caution to the wind and buy the latest whatever just because it is the latest AND is cute. I am just too practical and do not deserve to be called a true scrapper because I don’t buy stash to stroke. I actually buy it to use it – and if I know I won’t use it I won’t buy it. Too practical.

Perhaps this is because I’ve been doing it too long. When I started the range of goods was so limited that I became very good at “making do” with whatever was available or I’d improvise. Time has moved on and the ranges are amazing but I still think that I could do better (and cheaper) if I did it myself.

Is it time to let go of my inner practicalities and embrace the laissez-faire attitude to stash shopping?

Friday, 13 October 2006

Ramblings on a beautiful day...

Yesterday was such a beautiful day – and it was my day off so what good timing, hey! Even though it’s mid-October and the weather is certainly cooler now, the sun shone, the sky was blue and the colors of everything were just amazing. I went for a long walk along some of our local linear parks and was just struck by how pretty everything looked.

But I didn’t take my camera!

To be honest, I did think about it before I left the house but I just wanted to walk and enjoy being outside, rather than concentrating on taking photos. I felt that my walk would become almost a chore, having to compose photos and then print them out to place on a layout. I did have a lovely walk, it was certainly memorable and deserved a special place in my scrapbook but I just thought that somehow recording it would make it less special... does this make any sense?

In any case, I do think I should take some photos of Milton Keynes soon. It is such an unusual place here in the UK – a planned city that is successful – and so much more modern than nearly everywhere else, I am quite proud of it. It certainly feels like home while I’m here in the UK and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I love the fact that almost everything is pretty new – around 40 years old – which reminds me greatly of my home continent. There are of course older buildings to be found in the New City, but they add to the charm of the place.

On a beautiful day such as yesterday, MK looked amazing: the parks are of course beautiful and so green, thanks to the constant rains. The trees have started to change color and looked just amazing against the blue skies. The more modern buildings in the center shone with the reflected light from the sun and were beautifully framed by trees in vivid reds and oranges. The water on the lakes was calm and still and reflected the sun perfectly, broken only by the wake left behind by ducks and swans. It really was a beautiful day.

I wish I could explain to everyone just how weird and special Milton Keynes is for me. I know a lot of Brits think that the place is just a concrete jungle but it so isn’t. This is a lovely city and, at least while I live in the UK, it’s home. So I will take my camera out on my next walk and take some photos – let’s just hope it’s sunny then too!

Friday, 6 October 2006

Let's all clash together

As many of you know, I’ve recently joined the design team at www.willowtreecrafts.co.uk and although I’d already completed this month’s project, I had enough paper left over to try and do something else with. The kit was mainly shades of pink and some Doodlebug text paper with love words all over it... now, I don’t have many photos that scream LOVE to me, and neither do they necessarily require pink, so it took some thinking but in the end I’ve managed to create two things so can’t be bad!

The first was a mini album – it was easy to put together and a joy to decorate with the gorgeous sheets of matching Chatterbox papers I got. I had some old photos of David and I while we lived in Florida, so this was a great place to put them, so the little book had the theme of love all over it, based on the Doodlebug paper. In the end I didn’t actually USE that paper but I managed to convey the love thing through the colors and embellishments.

So last night I sat staring at this unused Doodlebug paper and felt it was almost a crime that it lay there, unused. So I went and searched my old photos again and found one of David and me that I really, really like. Again, it was taken in our Florida days (so we are both nicely tanned!) and we are both wearing shades of blue... but the paper is pink. Bright, girly, in-your-face pink. Can I use it on a mainly blue toned photo?

I thought about this for a long time (about 2 minutes, which is ages for me) and decided to go for it. I mean the whole point of the page (besides using the paper) was to record a moment, a memory and a feeling. The text paper supported these things beautifully, so what if the colors don’t actually match?

I softened the transition by matting the photo in a wide grey mat and then laying this on top of the text paper and other patterned papers that match the Doodlebug one (I’ll upload a photo as soon as I can, I promise!) but all in all I think it looks great and doesn’t matter that the whole thing isn’t color coordinated.

Which got me thinking: WHY does it all have to match? Life is full of clashes and I use scrapbooking to record life, so aren’t the clashes just another part of it? I mean, let’s face it, we don’t always dress in coordinating colors when we take everyday photos so why do I need to spend ages trying to make things match “just so”?

Of course there has to be some design decision to be made, otherwise the page isn’t pleasing to look at but my general idea on that is that if the page elements match among themselves (papers, embellishments, cardstock) then it doesn’t really, really matter if the photos don’t exactly match. Besides, the clash might actually make the photos stand out more and isn’t that the whole point? I like to think that people are looking at the photos first, not the pretty things all over the page.

This also takes me to my old argument of time: I want to get my memories recorded and rather spend time completing projects rather than making endless design decisions and getting nowhere. This is of course a personal choice due to my own goals for the hobby and I talk about this all the time so moving on...

I actually love the resulting page. I love the way that all the elements unify the story being told and I love the way the photo stands out from the page, as it should. I love that I was able to scrap this photo that is very special (mainly because we both look great in those tans) and that I wrote a few words about it. I love also that it is completed and that I can move on.

I challenge you to clash, to get out of this whole coordinated look and to create pages that are true to life, complete with all the imperfections that it brings. You’ll feel liberated!

Thursday, 5 October 2006

I do love to read idea books

I really like patterned paper and am truly not afraid to use it – I think that buying pretty paper for it to sit unused for ages in a cupboard is a crime! So whenever I get the chance, I will cut, sand, tear, rip, wrinkle and otherwise destroy perfectly good pieces of patterned paper to create embellishments for my pages and you know what? I LOVE IT!

I love layering patterned papers and sometimes even think I use this technique too much. But it is very effective, easy and infinitely variable. It suits almost any kind of layout and also enables me to use my precious scraps. One quick look at my gallery and you’ll find lots of examples of my layouts with this technique – I can’t stop using it.

So I thought I was pretty good at using patterned papers until someone told me to read Ali Edwards’s book “Designer’s Eye for Scrapbooking with Patterned Paper”. Oh my goodness – this is one good book. Not only does it have some amazing layouts, it has completely usable ideas that I am definitely going to use. I really like this book.

I am not one that buys every new idea book out there simply because it’s out there. I used to, in the early days when there were about five books available to buy! These days there are closer to hundreds and more come out every week. I gave up trying to keep up a while ago and actually stopped buying idea books – there simply were too many of them. I even sold a few that I had bought that, while good books, didn’t really inspire me with anything. At the moment I have the grand total of FOUR idea books in my library and every single one does what it should: gives me ideas.

I’m glad that there are so many books out there, though. When this wasn’t the case, I always kind of resented the fact that books thought all scrappers were the same, using the same techniques and with the same style. This of course was out of necessity but now that there are so many titles available, they’ve had to specialize and this is just fantastic. No matter what kind of niche scrapper you are, there is bound to be a book that speaks just to you. Some of course are more universally praised than others and cover wider spectrums in this hobby, but generally books now cover one kind of style or one set of techniques.

So while I really appreciate the great variety, it has made me a lazy shopper. I’ve had to depend on others to let me know when a great book comes out that suits my style! So thank you Sue for letting me know about this book – it is just perfect for me!

PS. In case you were wondering, my four books are: Love your Handwriting (Heidi Swapp), My Creative Companion (Becky Higgins), Step up your Scrapbooking (Lisa Brown Caveney) and the patterned paper one of course!

Friday, 29 September 2006

Sometimes it feels like part of another life I had, in a dream, long ago...

Tomorrow is my best friend’s birthday. The date also reminds me of High School (HS) as this is where we met and his birthday was only a few months after we’d started our first term in 1987 so this means that we’ve known each other for nearly 20 years! Did I really start HS nearly TWENTY years ago? But it seems so long ago... and surely I don’t look that old, right?

But seriously – I loved HS and would do it all over again if I could – but of course it would never be the same. Other than loving it because that’s the place I met lots of my best friends (including Jose whose birthday is tomorrow. For the record: Happy Birthday!) I really loved the whole learning experience in those two years.

Previously my educational experience was of course Primary and Secondary school, which I also loved – I guess I just love learning. But we mainly stayed in one classroom, had very strict rules about everything and the school day was tightly regimented. HS changed all that – we had different classrooms for different subjects, there were free periods during the day, I sometimes had to stay and have lunch there, I had more independence. I loved having bigger papers to work on with longer deadlines, which meant that I had to be more organized and responsible (and has turned me into the responsible and organized adult I am now).

Since moving to the UK I have newfound respect for my HS education – it all works very differently here and I think that I like my way best. Kids here in the UK specialize quite early on and take only a few subjects whereas HS education is more global. For example, I had to take biology, chemistry and physics – subjects that I would definitely NOT have chosen but I actually enjoyed and learned quite a bit from. The same goes for subjects like ethics, enterprise, advanced math and computer science.

My favourite subject, however, is no surprise if you’ve read this blog before: English Literature. Oh how I loved reading all those books, having intelligent discussions and writing my daily journal! I loved it SO much that once I actually wrote a paper for Jose, who then presented it as his own. He got caught but the teacher never knew that it was I, star student, who had written the paper! I didn’t mind doing it for him as I quite enjoyed the process and was not-so-secretly infatuated with him (he never felt the same for me, I’m sorry to say) but of course it was for nothing as he got caught.

Anyway, HS holds a very special place in my heart and I have many happy memories of it all. I made most of my dearest friends there, had lots of new and exciting experiences and gained a well-rounded education. The best thing, though, is that if I ever want to remember what I was thinking and feeling at the time, all I have to do is read my old journals. Or call my old friend and wish him a happy birthday and reminisce about the good old days!

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

The land of the rising sun

Just over four years ago I went on the best holiday I have ever had. It has long been a dream of mine (and, curiously enough, of my husband’s too) to travel to Japan and after a few years of thinking about it, we just went ahead and booked it. It was just after 9/11, airfares were cheap and we shamelessly took advantage of this to get on a plane to the Far East.

I have been fascinated with Japan for as long as I can remember. My great aunt is a fan and her house is totally decorated in Japanese style and I always loved looking at all those beautiful things. Also, I love the food – and in Mexico it’s been available far, far longer than it has here in the UK – and sometime in the late 90s I read “Memoirs of a Geisha” which actually fuelled my desire to see this amazing country.

We are very lucky in that we have Japanese friends living in Japan, so they were very helpful in organizing our itinerary and also as a place to stay. We were there just under 3 weeks and we saw so much, a lot of it thanks to our local friends. Not many tourists get to stay in a Tokyo family home, a city center mini-apartment or a sprawling traditional style home in the foot of Mt Fuji!

The whole trip was one amazing experience after another: the food, the people, the architecture, the history, the landscape, the shopping, the music, the cities, the service, the technology, the language, the vending machines, the menus, the public transport... there was nothing that I wasn’t amazed by and even something so mundane as visiting a public restroom in McDonalds was worth of note (three words: heated toilet seat!).

The country is a land of contrasts: extremely high tech gadgets living alongside traditional rituals, cutting edge architecture next to ancient buildings (and looking good!), the newest gadgets along with the most old-fashioned manners. I had some of the best meals of my life here, some of the most impressive service and without a doubt, the best souvenirs I’ve ever brought back from anywhere. I saw places of extreme beauty and museums that showed the raw horror of the Atomic bomb. I met some of the most polite and friendly people I know and rode on the most punctual trains in the world. I saw ancient temples built entirely out of wood with no nails and some of the most modern skyscrapers designed to withstand earthquakes.

And yes – we even saw Tokyo Disneyland! We ran out of time to visit the Hello Kitty theme park, though. I was truly gutted.

I always hate coming home from a vacation but this time I was really, really sorry to leave. I knew that there was so much more to see and felt sorry that I couldn’t. I then got home and spent about 6 months working on the scrapbook album I’m most proud of and which gives me great pleasure when I look at it again.

Whenever conversations turn to “where would you go if you won the lottery”, others say a world cruise, the Caribbean, Australia or South America. Not me – I would definitely go back to Japan and immerse myself in this most fascinating and amazing of places again.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

What is it about brads?

When I first started my stash accumulation (which actually came many years after the start of my actual scrapbooking!) I wanted to get a good selection of embellishments that I could use time and time again and quickly got hooked on brads. They look really cute when sorted in boxes, come in many colors and sizes and don’t require specialist tools to set – so they seemed ideal.

For the record I also got lots of eyelets at the time but because they require hammering, I don’t use them too often at crops. But I do have a lot of eyelets too, although not as many as brads.

Anyway, back to the story. I really loved brads and started buying them any chance I got. Thankfully I never got into “shaped” brads and concentrated on round and square ones (a few stars and flowers too) in mainly metallic colors. This has proved to be a good decision as I can always find a use for them – reindeer shaped red brads don’t have that versatility, I find. ; )

The thing about brads is that they come in huuuuuuge packs – and as much as I love my round copper brads, I don’t think I’ll use 100 of them in a hurry. But I get to the store, see packs of square silver brads and think, “Hmm, those are nice” and end up buying another 100. And so it goes on: huge golden brads, tiny pewter flowers, small round ones in bright colors... So my brad collection is a bit enormous!

I am always happy to share and I can happily report that my pack of 100 pastel colored round brads is nearly gone. Yet I have thousands of the little blighters and I never seem to have the one that is just perfect for whatever it is I’m doing right now. So I set out to buy more and more and end up with tons of brads and not one is right. ARGH! Or I buy a different brand and find that they are nearly impossible to split, or that the prongs are too long or too short or too stiff...

But I love them. They are perfect for sticking vellum or transparencies, great grouped together as accents, unsurpassable as flower centers. They don’t take that much room in my stash, are easy to use and transport and add a little bit of texture to my otherwise flat layouts. They come in lots of colors and sizes – from itsy bitsy to those huge brads which look ever so funky. So I will keep buying them, keep using them and keep loving them. If you haven’t already discovered brads, go and buy some today!

Friday, 22 September 2006

It's only a little thing but it really annoys me!

Something that really, really irritates me is the way clerks here in the UK throw all your change, receipt, cards and anything else back to you in one disorganized pile which they place in one of your hands. I then have to spend a few seconds checking the change myself (because they never ever count it back!!), placing the receipt in the bag with the shopping, the plastic card in its place in my wallet and the change in a separate place. It’s particularly irritating when they hang on to the card even when they don’t need it anymore, just to make sure that it all is returned to you in one huge, messy pile. ARGH!

I love the way Americans do it: count the change back, place the receipt in the bag for you and give you back the plastic cards separately, making sure you have enough time to put it all back away. This means that I actually spend less time at their desk because I have time to sort it all out before I walk away.

Is it THAT difficult for UK businesses to implement this? It is SO ANNOYING!!!!

Thursday, 21 September 2006

If my life was a movie, it would have wall-to-wall music

I hate silence. As I sit here in my office writing this, I am really aware of how quiet it all seems – just the soft sounds of keyboards tapping, a few quiet conversations, footsteps along the corridor... and it is distracting. I just can’t concentrate on anything when there is no music on!

Let me go and grab my MP3 player... ah that’s better!

Now with my head full of music (Barry Manilow, since you asked) I can concentrate better, focus and feel the creative juices flowing for this entry. Silence, for me, is loud and really distracts me. Music, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.

So whenever I can, I scrap to music. I find that I actually produce better work when I do it to music. It isn’t always possible as it isn’t very sociable at crops to wear my earplugs and sometimes at home I’m in the dinning room scrapping and my husband might be watching TV or something, so we keep that on instead. But scrapping to music, in the words of Mr Manilow, could be magic.

As I have said before, my music tastes ARE quite cheesy, just in case you hadn’t noticed. I just love anything pop, anything commercial and anything that’s on the radio. I also just adore 80s pop and grew up on a steady diet of Duran Duran, Wham, Miami Sound Machine, The Police, Michael Jackson and a few Latin groups like Timbiriche, Mecano and Nacha Pop. I love music I can dance to and music I can sing to – even if I’m actually quite a bad singer (really. No, really)

I also like really embarrassing stuff like the ubiquitous Mr Manilow, S Club 7, and my top favourite: music from Disney movies. All of that eclectic mix is what lives in my MP3 player and it is quite a good job that no one else can listen in as it is quite shameful sometimes the stuff I listen to!

I do also seriously like classical music and movie scores, I have a real soft spot for R&B and grew up listening to Opera which I also love. I guess I just love music, but music that feels “musical” not just random noises (a bit like House or Garage which I really don’t get, perhaps I’m showing my age). One of my first “dates” with my now-husband revolved around us listening to the entire Michael Jackson “History” album: all 2 CDs of it. Twice. We sat and chatted and listened to the music... and that whole album has great memories for us since.

I’ve been having quite a busy week and it’s not until Friday evening when I will have the chance to sit down and scrap. I’m looking forward to it already: an evening of playing with my lovely stash, getting a few pages done and singing along to Copacabana: bliss!

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

I'm no evangelist, more like an altar girl!

Have you ever tried to explain scrapbooking to someone that doesn’t? It always ends up sounding like quite a strange thing to do: stick photos and bits of paper in an album, along with some writing... or perhaps I don’t describe it very well.

In any case, I don’t often talk about scrapbooking with non-scrappers – maybe because I have such a hard time trying to make it sound not-lame, maybe because I just like to keep some things to myself, maybe because I don’t need to. Also, I’m not a scrapbook evangelist at all. My work colleagues, for example, love looking through all the mini books and cards I make and somehow telling them how it all came together feels like I’m telling them all the secret tricks and it won’t seem so amazing any more. Besides, there are a lot of people out there that don’t get it and it is quite heartbreaking when they just can’t understand. So perhaps my biggest reason to keep quiet is the good ol’ fear of rejection.

BUT, occasionally someone will come and ask me a question about paper crafts: perhaps they are thinking about making their own wedding cards or whatnot. Thing is, somehow I get a person that is interested, asking me questions and I’m AWAY!! I gladly share all about adhesives, trimmers, different materials, and die cutters, whatever. I guess that in this case I have someone that is already interested and needs advice – and I love to give it.

I do not set out to actively convert people but I do really like to encourage newbies into the hobby. I think the whole industry is now so complex and people are faced with almost impossible choices, so it’s nice to give a helping hand. I know that I do like to get help when I’m stuck so it’s do unto others...

I do love showing my scrapbooks to anyone that doesn’t scrapbook, though. In this case the results speak for themselves and inevitably I find that people are impressed and say “now how did you do that? Where did you get these things?” and so on. I love it! I also make lots of books for my family because they are ideal presents for those that don’t live near me and they are always very well received.

It was these books that may have led to my one and only creation of a new scrapper: my sister in law. She is good at all crafts and, when she saw my mini books, went ahead and copied them and made her own. She has no idea that she is now a scrapper though! She just likes what she sees and is good at recreating it. I have now sent her lots of mags and materials and she is amazed to find that scrapbooking is an actual industry – there is nothing like that available back in Mexico where she lives.

So I’m not very good at explaining the hobby, certainly rubbish at bringing new members but I do like to think that I am great at supporting the newcomers and helping them learn the ropes. I don’t know everything but if I can ever help – just ask!

Monday, 11 September 2006

Pollyanna? Well, yes, maybe I am!

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. “(Carlos Castaneda)

I found this quote a few years ago, can’t remember how, and it immediately stuck a chord with me. I think that this aptly describes how I go about with my life and what I think of myself.

I am always the person saying, “What is the worst that could happen?” whenever things get stressful at work or at home. I also like to remind myself and others that I do not work for an emergency service so, if the customers get their renewal letters a few days late, it really isn’t the end of the world! Stress should only be saved for truly stressful moments, not for every day “minor crises”!

At the moment I am facing unemployment but, instead of being miserable about it all, I am using this as an opportunity to maybe get on to something new or to take some time off to think about it all and decide what direction to follow. I’m almost excited about this opportunity I’ve been given! Other people have taken this harder (and some do have personal reasons to be worried) but I look at it all as a chance to change. After all, I have my health and my family, so it really isn’t “the end of the world.”

I haven’t been sitting down to scrap for a little while now, other priorities have taken it’s place but, instead of moaning about it, I hope to make a little time for scrapping tonight. I have so many layout plans in my head at the moment I’m sure I can work on at least two very quickly! So, instead of wasting my energy wishing I had more time to scrap, I’m thinking about it whenever I can so that when I get a moment, whoosh! It all comes together!

Call me an optimist but I find life is easier to live if you don’t spend all of it complaining about how miserable you are.

Friday, 8 September 2006

My elements of style

Last weekend my little boy was a bit restless to go out and we had to entertain him for a few minutes while my DH was getting ready, so I grabbed one of my 12x12 albums and sat down with him while we looked through the photos. This kept him amused enough and gave me a chance to see one of my old albums again (I don’t do this often enough!). This particular album is nearly 3 years old and I had been scrapping “properly” for about 2 years at this point. Supplies were a little harder to get a hold of here in the UK at that point and all of that showed in my album: pages were simple, clean and using mainly stickers as embellishments.

Later that evening, my curiosity aroused, I took out ALL my albums and looked at them again: as I scrap my photos in order, the pages were also in the order they were scrapped and besides providing a linear story of my family, they also do a very good job of showing what embellishments I was using at the time! For example, I found the first layout I did using eyelets and after that followed another 10 or 12 pages that had eyelets somewhere. Slowly these got replaced with brads. Then I moved on to buttons, then ribbon, then flowers, then all three. I discovered my stapler somewhere about now, and you can tell. All along stickers feature on a lot of my layouts, especially word and letter ones. And so on.

Not only could I tell what embellishments I was excited about at the time, but also what techniques I was trying out. I started out very basically but quickly moved on to color-blocked layouts. Then I used a lot of transparencies (that I printed myself!), which then gave way to pre-printed vellum quotes on layers of patterned paper, to hide the adhesive. I quickly realized that I quite liked the layered paper so I began to use that a lot, along with rounded corners and inking. I tried chalking but quickly moved on, as I didn’t like it. I also tried collage style layouts and wasn’t impressed with my results. I tried sanding and distressing and liked it quite a lot, so there are a few pages with these techniques. These days I have been trying patterned papers as accents, with a few successful pages but mainly I haven’t’ quite got it.

All in all, though, my style has remained fairly consistent: I like clean pages with lots of photos and handwritten journaling. I still use color blocking a lot along with corner rounders and inked edges. I don’t use eyelets as often as I used to, mainly because I like hammering but others in crops don’t always enjoy the banging. I still use stickers and I love them. I also make conscious efforts in using ribbons and flowers, because I have so many of them.

Generally I think that anyone that knows my work would be able to spot one of my layouts straight away. Does this mean that my layouts are all the same? I don’t think so but, just like my wardrobe, certain colors and accessories always feature, mixed in various ways, and these are the elements of my style. I feel comfortable in my style and, while I sometimes wish I could change it a bit more, I like having a “style”.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

It's time now to talk about all that is good about scrapbooking!

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about scrapbooking and how that has made my life better. For one, it means that I spend evenings now actually “doing” something as opposed to just sitting on my butt and watching TV. I mean, I still sit on my butt but there is something tangible at the end of the session (and not just a bigger butt, for those clever people out there!) It also gives me the creative outlet that I’d been missing from my life: even though I work in marketing, I rarely get the chance to create anything so this is a lovely change from my day-to-day life.

Scrapbooking has also helped me meet many wonderful people: from the ladies I crop with to the ladies I chat to online both here and in the rest of the world, I have made some great friendships. When I moved to the UK I didn’t really know anyone apart from my husband and his friends, so getting my own has certainly helped make my life better. Life with no friends is not worth living, in my book!

Earlier in the year I travelled to Holland for Scrap-a-ganza and it was the ultimate indulgence: an entire weekend of scrapbooking and chatting and workshops and with no family to intrude, it was bliss! I had such a great time that I’m already planning to go next year. There is another event later this year but sadly I can’t make it as I’m on vacation at the time... otherwise I would SO be there! So I have scrapbooking to thank for this wonderful trip.

In a very small way, this hobby has helped me out in my professional work. Although my job is not at all about ads and pitches, I have certainly made use of design principles that come from scrapbooking in my work. I also find that as my scrapbook journaling gets better, so do the briefs I produce for work. I am also hoping that this hobby helps me get a new job – I have an interview for a job that requires more creative skills than I use now and I feel confident that I can do it, all thanks to scrapbooking.

Last but not least, scrapbooking has helped me make lots of people happy: from my parents who get a steady stream of mini-albums with their grandson on them, to all those people that have received a mini-book or album as a gift from me, to my own family as we have all these wonderful memories that will forever be kept. Most of all, it makes ME happy and that certainly makes my life better.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Come and share my dream...

Most kids here in the UK went back to school this week, the trees are turning orange and I need the heating on in the house: must be the fall. While I really do like those fall days when the sky is blue and the air is brisk, there is always a part of me that knows that I won’t really be feeling any warmth for the next 9 or 10 months and it makes me sad. I am a heat-loving, sun freak and have found it hard to cope with these never-ending UK winters.

I guess the main reason is that I’m not used to this: back in Monterrey we have 4 seasons: the warm one, the hot one, the changeable one and the cool one. Sure, it does get cold in the winter (and can even get snow in the higher areas) but this only lasts a couple of months, max. By march at the latest we’re all back in t-shirts. I really, really miss the hot days, those endless days when the sun shines all the time, when you really feel like you’re melting in the 40-plus degree heat and when I can just sit and soak it all in.

It goes without saying that UK weather just isn’t the same as what I’m used to and this is the number one reason I’d leave the country: I hate the long, cold, dark, damp, miserable winters. Some years we seem to skip fall altogether and head straight into winter, which then seems to last for ages! I end up hating all my winter clothes, the way my skin is so dry, my hair frizzy, my hands numb and my legs white. I hate having to spend about 10 minutes wrapping up before I head outside. I hate being wet all the time. I hate it all.

So, if I had a fairy godmother and she asked me for one wish, that would be to move away from this cold and damp and back to where the sun shines: Florida. AH, I bet you didn’t see that one coming! Sure, I love Mexico but I would definitely want magical help to move back to the USA – and that would be the only way, I’m sure, what with all their immigration red tape and the fact that Mexican citizens aren’t that high on the wanted scale. I can always move back to Mexico quite easily if I wanted (perhaps to retire?)

Yes, I would love to live in Florida again – but preferably not where all the tourists are but somewhere full of real people. I always joke with my husband that my ideal job would be pushing an ice-cream cart around some quiet but pretty beach: this way I would be both out in the sun and making people happy, what more could I want? But my other ideal job is working in a scrapbook shop, somewhere small enough where everyone would know each other, where the customers are loyal and lovely and where we would all nip out to get ice-cream in the afternoons... ah! What a dream!

I know the reality would be tougher, much tougher, but that doesn’t stop me: after all, I’ve lived and worked there so know what it’s like! But I would much rather work 6 days a week and have only 2 weeks holiday a year than live here and feel like I’m living in Tupperware for 10 months of the year because I don’t see the sun. I would of course miss all my UK friends, my Smart car and Indian food but it would be a small price to pay for wall-to-wall sunshine in my life once again. That, as they say, is priceless.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

If I won the lottery, these 10 manufacturers would certainly benefit!

I love lists and I have them everywhere – on the fridge, on my desk at work, in my wallet, in my diary... basically, I don’t feel that I’m organized until I write a list! So when I saw a thread on UKS about doing a book of me filled with lists, I immediately pounced on the idea and will certainly be using it on my BOM.

One list, however, seemed fun but not quite suitable for what I want in my BOM; but it was too good an idea to pass up so I decided to include it here in my blog for all to see. So, ladies and gentlemen, here is my list of 10 favorite scrapbook manufacturers!

1. SEI
Not at all surprising if you’ve seen my gallery –it’s SEI-dominated. I really, really like their older, color blocked papers but I also quite like the newer things. When I started out in this hobby, the SEI Simple Sets were my lifesaver and, I believe, have in a way influenced my scrapping style with their simple lines and modern look.

2. Die Cuts With a View (DCWV)
Again, shouldn’t be surprising if you know me at all – I love this stuff. I discovered this brand relatively recently, after my SIL sent me one of the huge 12x12 paper packs from the USA and I was almost immediately hooked. The papers are so usable, excellent value for money and come in so many different sizes and designs that there is always something for me. I have also used other products from them: mainly the alphabet sticker packs, the vellum quotes, the cardstock packs (I absolutely love this cardstock: textured and white cored so what more could you ask for?) and so many collections that I think I may have it all!

3. Chatterbox
This is another one I’ve come to recently. I’d heard of the paper long before I bought any, but one look at the lovely textured sheets and I knew it was love. A very good friend then gave me a mountain of Chatterbox and the fling turned into something serious! I have since bought quite a few of the embellishments as I love the colors and are always suitable for more boyish pages – the journaling prompts are second to none, too.

4. Doodlebug
I didn’t realize that I liked this so much until I noticed that I had quite a few items from them in my stash! The bright, happy colors really suit my style and their embellishments are pretty cool too.

5. Me and My Big Ideas
I have so much affection for this brand: it’s my first love, really. When I started out scrapbooking so many years ago, MAMBI was out there with cute stuff that I just adored – and one of the few manufacturers of “word” embellishments, way back then. I must admit that some of the later products were not quite my style (I do love the MAMBI kids and still use them on pages!) and I was never a huge fan of their papers but the latest range is totally fabulous and I’ve already bought (and used!) some of these flowery beauties.

6. Heidi Swapp
This one is a strange one. I have tons of HS in my stash but mainly because I have received so much in kits and also bought an enormous embellishment collection recently. I completely love the ghost shapes and letters but find myself keeping them for “special” occasions, which means I don’t use them much (or ever!). Besides, the range is a bit girly for my “manly” layouts. But I’ve started to plan my BOM and it will be made using only HS items – can’t wait to start!

7. Scenic Route
When I went to Scrap-a-ganza in Holland earlier in the year, I met a new manufacturer: Scenic Route. I’d heard of it but not enough, obviously, because as soon as I saw their products I knew they would be perfect for me. The colors are so suitable for my work; I find myself stockpiling SR papers whenever I find them! I also really, really love the chipboard letters and need to get some more as I’m nearly out!

8. Making Memories
Without a doubt, this is the best manufacturer of tools for me. I love the packaging, the ease of use and the versatility of the tools. I am now waiting with bated breath for the new 12x12 trimmer to be available, as I really, really want one of these. The rubons are the best I’ve ever used and I have never used any other albums other than MM. I also really like the embellishments, as they are so neutral and work with a variety of themes. I consider MM to be like the Chanel of the scrapbooking world: very elegant and timeless.

9. Pebbles Inc
I have a lot of Pebbles in my stash but I must admit not being a great fan of the latest stuff. I really liked their older, vintagey stickers and of course a lot of the I-kandee embellishments. The latest batch of products somehow lacks some WOW factor from me, but I will definitely keep an eye out.

10. American Crafts
I’ve come across these products very recently and it was almost love at first sight. I’d heard about how wonderful the ribbon was – and I agreed – but why had no one told me about how amazing their patterned papers are? I have bought a few already and I can tell that this is going to be a lasting relationship as I am really, really impressed with the quality and the clean, stylish look to their range.

So, there you have it – my top 10 manufacturers. Notice any obvious omissions? No, I didn't forget Basic Grey - it's just that I have never really loved it like everyone else in the scrapping world does!

Friday, 1 September 2006

All about color!

It was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and red and …

Recognize it? Of course – it’s from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and one of my favourite musicals. I remember watching it for the first time and wishing I could also have a coat of many colors! I have always loved color – full on, in your face, wow that’s bright, colors. I normally dress in shades of blue and pink (like I said on previous blog) but I don’t just wear the pastels and I absolutely LOVE bright, hot pink!

When I was about 15 my then-boyfriend’s grandma died and I had to go to the funeral. This was the first one I went to and had a mad panic as I didn’t have anything black to wear – not a thing. This is when I realized that I am quite happy with color and rarely, if ever, wear black. Well, except for black pants (trousers for you brits) on those fat days or the occasional outing of my LBD when I want to look a bit more, ehem, sophisticated.

So it’s no wonder that my layouts are the same – full of color. I do find that I tend to use shades of blues and browns quite a bit, mainly because I do a lot of “boy” stuff and also these two colors together are quite neutral without being boring (if I had the time and money, my house would be decorated almost completely in shades of these two, for example). Occasionally I indulge my passion for pink but mainly in CJs or my BOM.

I do use more color on my layouts than I do on my clothes though – and I find that green and red and purple (my fave, by the way) and orange are used liberally throughout my pages. One color I really don’t like to wear is yellow: there is a well-known Spanish saying that more or less says that those who wear yellow have to make sure they are worth looking at, so I was never confident enough to wear it. I also don’t think it suits me, so I could say that is my least favourite. I don’t use it enough on layouts, either – perhaps it still makes me uncomfortable.

Color has also made me think one of those deep thoughts that I sometimes get: does everyone see color the same? I mean, I know blue is blue but how can I be sure that what I call blue is perhaps what you call red? How would you know otherwise, if you’ve never known any different? I would love to be able to “see” through others’ eyes and perhaps confirm or deny the theory! I sometimes find myself wondering what the world would look like to others if this was true: perhaps other see the sky in what I call pink and the sand in what I call blue and the grass in what I call red… how cool is that?

Color is a big part of my life and I like it that way. You can say I live my life in shades of red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate…

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Things I'm curious about...

I wish I could listen in on product development meetings and scrapbook manufacturers when they decide what their next season’s lines will look like. How do they decide that red is in and blue is out (for example)? How do they set about to plan what a line will look like – will it be plaids or paisley or flowers? Graphic or distressed? Will they have coordinating plastic or metal embellishments – or both? How do they decide on pricing? What about the marketing, how is it planned? How do they decide which lines should no longer be produced – is it based on demand or because they are deemed to be too old?

I wish I could listen in on scrapbook magazine planning meetings. How do they really choose new faces? Do they really sit around and discuss which are the best products (in their opinion) or are the decisions made on a commercial basis? To what extent to they actually follow the trends that come from the “troops” (like doodling) or how much do they try to create new and hot trends? Are lots of decisions based on how much their advertisers are spending on each issue? How much freedom do they really have? What do they really say about reader submissions – are some so awful that they can’t help but laugh at them? Are some so awesome that they readily admit that this is a new scrapping star in the making?

I wish I could be a fly on the wall in the house of scrapbooking celebrities. Do they really have the lives that they show on their scrapbook pages or are those for “show”? What are their personal scrapbooks really like? Do they actually have to spend any money on their pages or are most of their products samples and donations? Do they really take all those photos? Do they secretly get sick of scrapbooking every once in a while, or at least get the occasional case of scrapper’s block? Do they still actually go to local crops or is it all just a job these days?

I wonder if anyone would be able to answer these questions frankly?

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Allow me a moment to vent my opinion

I really love scrapbooking and, since I discovered it, I’ve loved every aspect of it. Recently, though, I’ve noticed that there are a few things are bothering me about this hobby. Remember as you read: this is only my opinion and I have a right to it! (ie, don’t flame me for having an opinion...)

1. The message from the media that one must be constantly buying things in order to do this hobby “well”. Much like fashion, papers are in one minute, out the next and if anyone even thinks of using their “old” papers they are sometimes made to feel inadequate. “Spend, spend, spend!” is the constant mantra and I don’t think this is right. Some people create beautiful albums with few supplies or with (gasp!) older papers.

2. Magazines that dictate styles. I know that magazines speak of “find your own style” but in reality they perpetuate the one-photo, tons of embellishments look that is not easy or desirable for everyone to achieve. Where are the layouts with lots of photos? Where are the layouts with few embellishments? Granted, these kinds of layouts sometimes feature but they are few and far between. The pressure to conform is sometimes too great for comfort.

3. The technique glut. Sure, we all like to try new and wonderful things but sometimes these techniques require the purchase of specialist equipment (more shopping) not to mention an entire evening spent making an embellishment. Simply not realistic and, while I do agree that some people out there love doing arty work like this, I would guess that many of us don’t scrap full-time so need to keep things simple.

4. The continuous competition among scrappers. YES, this is a sad truth to face: more and more scrappers are drawn to this hobby because they want to be the best at it, not simply because they want to preserve memories. This is all fine but they don’t have to enter EVERY competition and be on EVERY design team to prove it! This leaves us mere mortals with a very limited gallery to be inspired by and brings us back to point 2. Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition but this can sometimes go too far (you know what I mean!). A message for those very talented people: it would be very big of you to occasionally step back and let others win the competitions and share in their happiness.

5. There is too much to choose from. I may just be a grumpy old woman about this but I really don’t know how newbies manage to get started in scrapbooking – there is too much around! When I started all we had were the basics and stickers so it made things easy and I’ve picked up new things as they have appeared. But now, those new to the hobby must feel so overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of papers, embellishments, techniques and tools - it’s too much. Add to that the pressure of making sure they choose the “right” papers (see point 1), then to get their pages looking “just right” (see point 2), using all the latest techniques (point 3) and all the time trying to make their pages stand out so that they can be picked as design team members (point 4) and I wonder why they don’t quit in the first few months!

Call me grumpy or grouchy or whatever you like but these are my pet hates in scrapbooking. I love the hobby too much and it makes me sad that it sometimes seems to have been overtaken by commercial interests and the whole point is forgotten! Why do I scrapbook? Because it’s an artistic way to record my family’s memories and I love it.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

In a small way I am still a journalist - mainly in this blog!

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I love words and writing and reading. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was little and I also have an entire book of poems that I wrote mainly in my teens (and some are not bad, actually!) These poems I lovingly entered in my book with colored pens and doodling, so the book itself is precious but the act of writing poetry meant that I wanted to do that for a living.

However, even when I was 10 I knew that poets didn’t make much money and that didn’t sound very appealing. So when I saw the film Superman (the original!) I knew immediately what I wanted to do with myself: I wanted to be a journalist like Lois Lane. It just felt so glamorous – working with words, reporting the stories, maybe even changing the world.

This sort of stayed with me for the rest of my growing up years so when the time came to choose a degree I went for journalism, what else? OH! How I loved those first few months in my studies when I was crafting stories, learning about good writing and generally having a great time. Unfortunately, the degree was scrapped and my university moved me into something considered similar: Communication sciences.

In the end it was probably a good idea as this covers many areas: journalism of course, but also marketing, PR, corporate image, media, etc. I feel like I learned many things that are useful (like photography!) and many that probably aren’t as much. But it definitely made me into the well-rounded individual that I am and for that I’m thankful. If it wasn’t for my degree, I wouldn’t have discovered the internet as early as I did – in 1995 when you had to know Unix to send email!

My love of words hasn’t subsided though, and now I feel that I satisfy my creative urges with scrapbooking and the journaling that goes with it. I am once again working with words, telling the stories and, in a small way, changing my family’s world.

Monday, 7 August 2006

It probably is the perfect synergy

What is it about scrappers and Disney? At least here in the UK it seems that most scrappers want to go to a Disney park, have just returned from a Disney vacation or are happily planning one in the future – that is, if they are not all just Disney mad anyway! Why? What is it about Disney that appeals to scrappers or vice versa? Is it the Orlando shopping, the cheap prices, the way to record a memorable family vacation? Is it the cuteness, the family-orientation or the multitudes of characters available? What is it?

My own Disney connection is deeper than scrapping (I like to think) as I’ve been going to the Orlando and California parks since I was a baby. In fact, my mom likes to think I was conceived while they were on their Disneyland honeymoon! My nursery was decorated with Mickeys and I used to read books with Disney characters on them.

My first “proper” trip to the theme parks was at the age of 2 and of course I remember nothing. But nearly every year after that we’d go to Orlando – and some years we went twice. I love the whole experience and loved it so much that I eventually applied for a part in their international program. I spent 18 months working at WDW and can safely say that these were the best times of my life. I was completely immersed in Disney culture, Disney merchandise and a Disney life and couldn’t ask for more. If I could have kept that job forever I would have done.

My scrapbooking developed very much in parallel but has little to do with Disney – I did do some to keep my photos from my time in the international program but mainly my scrapping is about every day life. So my two worlds rarely meet but it’s not because I don’t want them to, it’s because they just don’t.

It’s not because I don’t like Disney anymore – quite the opposite, I love it. I collect all the soundtracks and even have most of the songs in my MP3 player, so I can listen to them all the time. I love watching the movies. I even used to subscribe to the Disney magazine until it disappeared last year. I have lots of Mickey earrings and necklaces and such and even wear them. I buy almost every Disney book that comes out, whether it is about business or travel or secrets. In short, I still very much love all things Disney but this love is kept apart from my scrapbooking for some reason.

I keep these two aspects of my life apart so much (unconsciously) that when we booked our trip to Florida for later in the year, I hadn’t really thought about stash shopping or anything like that until someone mentioned it to me. I’d been concentrating more on the chance to catch up with old friends, to visit the old haunts and, if I’m honest, to introduce my little boy to Mickey Mouse in the hope that he too will become a Disney fan!

When we return from that holiday no doubt I will have bought some stash. I will also have tons of photos that will need a special place. So perhaps I too will join the ranks of all those Disney-addicted scrappers and finally work out what the connection is!

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Restraint

Following on from my entry yesterday AND my crop last night, I’ve noticed I do have a lot of restraint when it comes to shopping – in general, but of course stash shopping in specific.

I loooove shopping and have so many clothes that they nearly don’t fit in my wardrobe. Notice I say nearly – in order to try and limit myself, I have always had this unwritten rule with myself that ALL my clothes must fit in the available space. If a new item doesn’t, then an old one must go. I have a limited number of hangers, hardly ever get new ones (and that is to replace busted ones, mainly) so my clothes must fit my hangers. I also have limited space in my drawers, etc so my stuff must fit in.

I’ve always been like this, but I must admit it was hard when I moved from my spacious walk-in closet back home to my teensy-weensy little house in the UK – I couldn’t fit anything! A big help was that almost none of my clothes were suitable for the UK climate so I did have to replace a lot of stuff and as long as it fit into my available space, I was happy. We’ve also always changed our clothes around depending on season, which means my winter clothes are happily sitting in the loft now, clearing space for my blouses and skirts.

We treat our fridge in the same way – if it doesn’t fit we don’t buy it. We probably could do now with a larger fridge, to be honest, but the rule seems to work okay most of the time (except when we have 20+ people round for a BBQ!). My little boy’s closet is the same – if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t get bought. We did get lots and lots and LOTS of gifts when he was born and luckily we could store some of the items he was too little for, to use later, but the rule applied all the time, and still does!

So it’s no surprise that I am the same way about my little scrap cupboard – if it doesn’t fit I don’t buy it. I tend to stick to this even more strictly than I do other areas of life, don’t know why. I guess that with scrapping I realize that in the main, it’s a hobby and not a contest to see who has the most stuff. I of course love looking through all the lovely things but also am able quite easily to say, “I don’t need it” or “it just doesn’t fit”.

Last time I was in the States I went into Michaels and spent a happy hour there, looking through all their lovely things and being amazed at the low prices when compared to the UK. I saw gorgeous things that I hadn’t seen before and really had a good old browse. What did I buy? I bought about 5 sheets of vellum stickers, some letter stickers and that was it! I spent under $10 but I loved the time I spent there. If I wasn’t so practical I would have spent a lot, lot more... but for all the lovely things I saw I would think that I didn’t need it, it wouldn’t fit in my cupboard or I just wouldn’t use it. I’m practical and I don’t regret it!

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Following up from a thread on UKS about scrapping spaces, I suddenly realized that the way I keep my stash very much dictates my scrapping style. I don’t mean that I’m tidy and therefore my style is very clean – it’s more complex than that.

For example, because I don’t have too much stash I tend to know by heart what I have. This means that I am very good at using both new and old stash on my pages. There is nothing lurking out there that I’ve forgotten about. I still use my MAMBI kids on pages, if they suit the theme! I also have lots of borders and they too have seen the light of day recently. This gives my pages a slightly quirky look.

I am not a good hoarder so this means I have no problems using up my stash on pages. While I understand why most scrappers struggle to use their prettiest things, I find that the best way to show off my prettiest things is by using them! There is nothing too precious to use on my pages and I think it shows. Add this to the fact that I know what I own and this explains my clean style: if something is worth showing, it’s worth showing to its full effect and so I would use this one embellishment on its own, rather than with lots of others.

I store all my embellishments together but by types – so one box has metal, another chipboard, yet another inks and stamps and so on. This has meant that in order to minimize the amount of stash I carry to the table, I only grab one or two boxes. This streamlines my pages and means that I only use one or two types of embellishments on a page. True, I do sometimes go and get another box for another page but generally I’m too lazy and end up with three or four layouts made one after another that include mainly the same type of embellishments.

Another thing is that I don’t have a craft room and work on the dining room table. I of course have to clear up after myself every single time, because I just wouldn’t fancy eating off my photos, so this has meant that I just can’t leave layouts unfinished. I have a “thing” about unfinished business also, but mainly it’s a practical issue – I have nowhere to leave an unfinished page! So every one of my sessions ends with completed pages and, thanks to this, I’ve developed a clean and simple style that allows me to finish jobs.

I’d never really noticed but indeed, my storage style has influenced my scrapping style in more than one way!

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

CHA releases to die for?

It’s that time of year again when the manufacturers bring out all their new stuff and try to make us part with even more money: yup, it’s CHA time!

I must admit that the only reason I noticed is that online scrapping forums are full of links to blogs and such that mention some of the new goodies that will be available for us scrapbookers to buy.

Perhaps because I work in marketing, perhaps because I’m a tightwad or perhaps because I’ve been scrapping too long but... none of these things are making me terribly excited or even mildly interested. They mainly look like gadgets and gizmos designed more to part me from my money than to solve a problem or design issue. Or, they are the same old thing as is already available except that it’s in a different color. Nothing that is making my heart beat faster or anything. Even the designs and color schemes don’t seem that new anymore.

My purely personal opinion is that manufacturers are becoming more complacent and business focussed and less creative. It’s all about the money and how they can make the same old look like something new so that scrappers buy it. And let me tell you – I’m usually a marketers’ dream and will buy something just because it’s got a cool box! So for these new things to leave me cold is unusual and symptomatic of something deeper going on.

So I’m kind of pleased – I don’t feel that I want to buy anything and, as I have plenty of stash already, I probably don’t need to anyway.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

It's not often that I get to apply my marketing skills to scrapbooking!

It is sad but true – quite a few of the more established UK scrapping shops have closed their doors recently. Some of these closures came as a shock to me, others not quite so but it has generated a lot of discussion on some UK boards. Some fear the demise of the craft, others think that it’s the wholesalers that are the evil ones, others blame “mainstream” stores for getting into the craft and lowering prices, etc.

I think it’s about time I presented my theory: and as it’s my blog I can do whatever I want!

As a marketeer, I think that what is going on is a combination of things. The first one and easiest to explain is the “boom and bust” theory. Mainly, an industry faces incredible growth but at some tipping point this growth becomes unsustainable and there are casualties. It’s a bit like what’s happened with the Internet bubble when it burst: lots of ambitious plans were abandoned but the industry as a whole is clearly still around. The bubble bursting just slowed down growth to more sustainable levels as well as adding a bit of maturity to a very young medium.

The other thing that is going on, I believe, is that most of the scrapbooking shops don’t have a very well defined “personality” (for want of a better word). I think that shops need to differentiate themselves from everyone else and the key to that is to decide if they want to be a specialist (say someone that sells an excellent variety of albums or everything that Scenic Route makes or every single color Bazzill or whatever) or a one-stop shop. Most shops in the UK fall between these two ends of the spectrum and do neither thing well. It’s amazing how many shops I’ve visited that sell lots of albums but not the refills or only four types of glue or a handful of patterned papers.

I realize that being a one-stop shop is difficult and involves a huge supply challenge so it’s actually easier (perhaps) to pick ONE thing they can be really good at (like sell every adhesive available) and work on that. Market on that strength, but of course be flexible enough that the shop can respond to changing trends.

This is probably a good time to mention that I am generally talking about online or online-only shops – B&M (bricks & mortar) shops have one advantage: they allow people to touch and see before they buy and also have the limited benefit of location. They are also more expensive to run, etc etc etc so they should be a separate case.

In very broad terms this is what I think. There are a few other things going on there (some shops could use a course in customer satisfaction, for example, and others price themselves out of the market entirely) but generally the problem with shops is the same as the problem with the magazines: too much of the same. This inevitably means that some shops survive and others don’t because of the market trend downwards and the fact that all the shops are the same anyway doesn’t help.

I predict that even more shops will close but that, like the internet bust bubble, should in the long run make for a stronger industry, with more defined marketing plans and more maturity. I don’t think these shop closures are the sign of a doomed end but rather the beginning of another phase in the development of the industry.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

In the beginning... (long one!)

How did I start scrapbooking? Well, it’s more of a case of WHEN have I not scrapbooked!

I remember being about nine or ten when I thought I should start a diary. So I got a nice notebook and wrote letters to an imaginary friend (a technique which makes journaling easier, by the way, and that I still use today!), first in Spanish and then in English. The latter felt more comfortable so that’s what I’ve used since.

I wrote all about me, my dreams, my plans, my ideas, my activities, everything. For years I carried on journaling, and occasionally I would also include a photo or, most often, a drawing that would help illustrate what I was writing about. Also, these journals were always full of color – using differently colored pens for each paragraph or line or (once only) every word! I would also include colorful doodles along the edges (what a trend setter I was!). I think I spent more time journaling than doing almost anything else in those days!

Eventually I got busier so I couldn’t sit down and write everyday. I was in High School by then and things were moving but I still had to sit and write my thoughts out at least three times a week. I also started adding a few more photos of friends and fun activities I was doing.

Gradually these photos became too much for my journals and I started storing them separately – my first “scrapbook” is a few sheets of that awful self-sticky stuff tied together with yarn. Not very professional but I sure enjoyed putting it together. I included some photos of me, of my friends and a few bits of memorabilia. I kept it for ages until it got lost – and that awful sticky stuff is probably corroding the photos as we speak, anyway.

I then moved on to sticking photos and bits of paper on to notebooks, just plain old Mead notebooks. I would maybe include doodles, some journaling and photos. So that’s a scrapbook, right? At the time I also included lots and lots of newspaper cutouts – I would always find interesting stuff to keep so that’s where it would go. Why, I don’t know. But it may well be the reason I have always been interested in journalism and writing – I love words.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in Florida, nearly at the end of my Disney stint. I had of course taken hundreds of photos during my work experience there and needed somewhere nice to keep and display them. At the same time, I had been working on my “leaving book”. This is a Disney tradition for those of us in the International Program: it’s basically a book where everyone that’s leaving does a page for you. Some people only give you a few words, a photo and their address. Others go nuts and do whole pages for you, with lots of writing and words and stickers and such.

So I put these two together and thought: why not make a leaving book for me? I could use one of the same books (generally a journal or some other hardbound blank book) and put all my photos and bits of paper together in it. I could write down dates and include different sections like “first week”, “friends”, “trips” and so on. This project helped me keep my sanity in the horrible days when I went back home after living in Florida for a while. This book is a valued keepsake in the house now – it doesn’t shut but it does include lots of detail about life in Disney and Vista Way in 1995-1996.

A few years later I moved to the UK and once again I was having adventures and had photos that needed a home. So I bought a “traditional” photo album (not self-adhesive) and set out to record my memories of the first months in the UK. This is much closer to a scrapbook as we know it except that it doesn’t use any patterned paper but it does have lots of stickers and colored doodles. I made a few of these for my first years in the UK.

For some reason that I can no longer remember, I stumbled upon scrapbooking as an industry at this point. I remember doing a Google search for something or other which took me to a page about scrapbooking. I remember being absolutely amazed at the pages I saw – one in particular was about Brighton Pier and the creator had made a little pier made out of bits of paper: WOW.

I read more and more until I felt that I could have a go at this “scrapbooking” thing so I bought one of the Bitty albums so popular then. I got some paper and stickers (all proudly acid-free now that I knew better) and set out to create my first “proper” project: a book with the story of my husband and I, how we met and what we’d done in our first years of marriage. This was our 5th anniversary present and he loved it!

After that, well, the rest is history as they say. I haven’t looked back since – both literally and figuratively. I do have a ragtag collection of weird scrapbooks but I will not re-create the ones I’ve made already. They may not be very pretty or even acid-free but they remind me of a particular place and time where I was and that, on it’s own, is worth preserving. Some of the papers in my first “proper” scrapbooks are not very nice or even fashionable now but who cares?

I remember the excitement when I first discovered that it wasn’t only me doing these things but a whole group of people out there: all of them incredibly talented. I remember the thrill of discovering a new retailer here in the UK, of buying my first set of tools, of completing my first album. But even though I’ve been doing this for a while, the buzz is still there and I love it!

PS. I still keep a separate journal... I have about 13 of the notebooks, all carefully boxed and kept in the loft. It's nearly 30 years worth of journaling in there!

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