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!

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