Monday, 31 December 2007

My organization skills were not learned in a classroom

Yesterday we went to a pantomime. For those outside the UK this may bring images of non-speaking actors with white faces but it's nothing like that. Pantomimes are a very British Christmas tradition - they are fairy tale plays with music, lots of silliness and audience participation. Nearly every town has one and the bigger pantos sometimes have famous people in the cast. The scripts are totally silly, the costumes incredibly over the top (especially for the men that are dressed like women: the panto dames) and the whole thing is harmless fun for everyone but kids especially seem to love it.

We went to see Cinderella at our local theater and while it is put together by amateurs, the evening was very entertaining and I even got a little emotional when the Fairy Godmother turned a pumpkin into a sparkly coach and turned Cinderella's rags to a poofy ball gown. It was very, very sweet. I think Samuel even enjoyed some of it!

Another British Christmas tradition is holiday TV. There have been lots and lots of specials and other kinds of shows on TV - not all good but an awful lot of the ones I've been watching seem to include music from the musicals and other theater-related themes. For some reason I've also been listening to a lot of music from the musicals lately... and all of this has inevitably reminded me of those days, long ago, when I practically lived in a theater.

During High School and College whenever I wasn't in a classroom or at home I could normally be found in the theater. I was never really very good for the performance side of it (although I did get a couple of small roles and even danced in some musicals) but I was very, very happy to work backstage. I loved it all: the teamwork, the preparation, the rehearsals, the long nights of tech rehearsals and of course the buzz of show nights. I think I did nearly every job available backstage - from props to makeup, costume, lights and audio - and every single show taught me something.

I tended to help out mainly in musicals and revues but I also worked in some "straight" theater shows. All of these shows definitely taught me a thing or two about talent, about hard work and about working to a deadline. I also made some of my dearest friends in the theater and whenever we get together we have the most amazing amount of silly stories to remember from those days.

I guess I miss it but of course I've moved on and the theater has now become yet another of those things that is in my past and feels like a part of another life I lived a long time ago. But when I was sitting in that audience waiting for the panto to start, I could remember the buzz I used to get minutes before the show would start, I would remember all those crises that we had seconds to fix and all those friendships that started among cordless mikes and sequined gowns.

I guess you can take the girl out of the theater...

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Dear Diary...

I haven't done much scrapbooking lately.

I think that it's a combination of having too much on, not enough inspiration and, quite frankly, that I've been spending my time on other things (like running and messing around on Facebook). But I have been writing on my journal, which I hadn't really done in a good loooong time.

I often wonder if it's worth still keeping a journal when almost everything I do these days is documented in blogs, in scrapbook layouts and even in emails. If scrapbooking is about leaving a legacy, then I definitely have that covered! I like to believe that in some distant future someone will sit down and read all my journals and albums and be able to put together a great portrait of what I was like, what my life was like and what I was all about.

So yes, sometimes I think it's time to ditch the journal and move on to all the other media I have embraced. But then I take out the book, the pen and something happens... I open my soul to a blank page. Somehow I can't quite do this on my layouts or blog because there is something about ink and paper and my handwriting that brings out my deepest secrets.

Also, on a more practical level, my journal is truly private: for my eyes only. It has always been this way and even though others have read parts (and sometimes without my permission) I still consider those words to be between me and myself. So there's no point pretending and hiding things I want to be kept hidden but rather I use the paper to explore those ideas, describe my dreams and maybe even vent a little.

I know scrapbookers that write a lot of personal stuff on their layouts and I applaud them (especially as those layouts are often in magazines!) but I can't do that. I will open my soul a little and perhaps record a special thought or two, but some memories are best kept private or, even, secret.

So even though I don't journal as often as I used to, I have kept it going. It's good for me and I actually quite like it. Yes, it's also risky to have private thoughts on such an accessible format but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Do you remember last year's resolutions?

This year seems to be flying past and we’ve only got a few more days left before we change over to 2008 – and I inevitably mess up a few cheques because I’ll use the wrong year on them. As it’s traditional, this time of year people will make well-intentioned resolutions and I am no exception. I still don’t really know what I want to promise I’ll do but I have a few days yet to come up with something.

Before I do, though, I want to look back on last year’s resolution – it was only one and I only came up with it sometime in mid-January but it still counts. Amazingly, I can still remember what it was and even more impressively, I have pretty much kept it. I’m talking of course about my running and the marathon coming up in Jan 08.

I can still remember the moment when the light bulb went on in my head and I decided that this was something I wanted to do. I had little idea of how much work would go into it but I had tons of determination. If there is one thing that I am, that is stubborn and there is nothing like others’ lack of faith to propel me forward.

So this year has definitely been filled with those that thought I would quickly forget this and move on to the next idea, or those that thought that there was NO WAY I would continue training once the weather turned horrible. Well, even though summer was non-existent, I still logged my miles and kept going. Even after a pretty disastrous half-marathon and the pounding that my self-belief took, I carried on. There have been way too many days when getting on my kit and running out the door has been hard work but I did it. There also have been those days when it’s been a joy to be out there, running, walking or whatever and to know that every step I take takes me closer to my goal of completing the WDW marathon next January.

The race is about two weeks away now and although I am pretty nervous I am also quietly confident – I know I can do it. I may not be a pretty sight at the end but I can do this and I WILL get my Mickey medal and show it off for… well, the rest of my life I guess. If I have to crawl on my hands and knees I will get to that finish line and I will claim my place as an athlete and a marathon finisher.

It will be pretty hard to come up with another New Year’s resolution that I can not only keep but even remember 12 months down the line… and no, I will not run the marathon next year. I need a break!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

I think I like this place!

After thinking about it for a while, I've finally moved my blog to here. It wasn't that I disliked the old place but, like often happens, I've outgrown it and need some more room to move about, store my junk and be able to relax a bit more.

So here I am now on Blogger - welcome to me.

Christmas is now over and I'm still taking some days off until the new year. It feels so weird to not be at work: I've never had Christmas off so I'm not actually sure what to do with myself! Samuel is off with his grandparents, David's working so I have the house all to myself and it's a weird experience. So instead of doing what I always do (scrapbook and clean the house) I decided to spend the time migrating my old blog posts to my new site, get it all clean and ready for the thousands (yeah right) of visitors that will be interested to read what I have to say.

So while I'm destined for unrivalled success in the blogosphere (yeah right AGAIN) I won't let it go to my head and I will always remember that this blog is always just about the words: not the graphics, photos or any other technological wizardries, but just about those things that I want to say.

I have said it before: I've always dreamed of being a writer. So I will write.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


Gosh – has it been nearly a month!?
As my three readers know, things have been a bit hectic lately but at least now my OU course is finished so that’s one less thing to worry about! I have, however, less than a month until the WDW marathon… yikes.
Training has been going well, at least until about two weeks ago. I had been managing to put in the 4 to 5 runs a week that I needed to do and my longer runs were getting longer and longer. Then a combination of poor weather-workload-life got in the way and I’m now lucky if I get in 3 runs a week.
But, I’ve been training diligently for nearly a year now so a few missed runs, in the grand scheme of things, are not a huge deal. Sure, I feel terrible because I ought to be trying my hardest to get these runs in but in reality I’ve done the bulk of the training and other than one very long run, I’m nearly at the taper.
There have been times when I question my sanity in running 42km, usually when I’m in the middle of a ridiculous 20k run in the rain, freezing cold. I must admit that there have been times when I didn’t think I could do it but deep down I have always known that I can do this: and I will.
I have even bought all my marathon scrapbooking embellishments for my album already so I gotta do the race now or else I won’t get to use them!
In a little over 3 weeks I will be joining 15,000 of my closest friends for some fun and frolics around the 4 Disney theme parks. I am still not sure what state I will be in when it’s all over (upright at least, I hope) but I do know that it will be an experience and in the end I will have learned something about myself.
Will I carry on running? Who knows. It does take time and effort, not to mention the right equipment and mental attitude. But in a small way I think I shall miss my little runs and my time alone.
Wish me luck!
Ps. There’s still time to sponsor me: or (US site)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

History doesn't have to be ancient

First of all – sorry for the “blog-neglect”. I am still alive and well, actually but it’s just that things have been a bit hectic lately!

Lately I’ve also been thinking about history, more specifically my own history. I have never been a heritage scrapbooker and don’t actually own any old photos – I’ve said before that my mom has her own enormous albums where she has all her memories and my grandmother has few old photos but they are up on her walls. So as far as I’m concerned my family history is well looked after and I don’t feel the need to mess with that.

The history I mean is my own past, the stories from when I was growing up and before I left Mexico. That part of my life sometimes feels like a distant dream to me, of living in a place where it was always hot or hotter, where I had lots of friends I could speak to any time, a time when I actually spoke more Spanish than English, a time when I seemed to have boyfriend after boyfriend. I am a prolific diary writer though and have kept a record of all those years from the time I was 11 years old, so it’s not all lost. I just don’t have any photos of any of it but it doesn’t matter: I have boxes and boxes of journals and even scrapbooks that document my past.

Thing is, that past has tended to stay, well, in the past. I guess because I moved away so far, it seems like the past is over and a new chapter is being written, with new characters, locations and stories. I never ever run into my old school friends at the supermarket or church or anything so their lives (for the most part) are a complete mystery to me. I still keep in touch with a lot of really good friends from High School and University but outside that circle, all those people that I was friends with have suddenly disappeared and rarely if ever pop up into this new chapter.

I guess I must be getting old but I find that some days I wonder whatever became of X who I was such good friends with in 6th grade. She wanted more than anything to be a dancer and I know that she even formed part of a moderately successful girl group but where is she now? Or what about Y who was my boyfriend for, like, EVER but we broke up in not so nice circumstances and lost touch. What is he up to these days? Does he still hate me? What about all those nice people I met while working in Disney and have now gone back to their countries?

Like these there are tons of stories from my past that tend to stay in the past mainly because I am so far from the places where these stories took place. If I was back home I could probably drive to my friend X’s parents’ house and they may still live in the same place and might be able to tell me how to get in touch. Being far away certainly doesn’t help.

About 5 months ago I discovered a very handy tool to help me overcome the distance and locate some of these people from the past: Facebook. Like a lot of people I thought that social networking was for “the kids” and MySpace quite frankly wasn’t my style. FB appealed to me as it feels more grown up while still allowing a certain element of personalization. Anyway, I quickly became a fan and have been having a lot of fun tracking down people from the past and getting up to speed with whatever became of their lives. It’s like attending a school reunion except that I don’t have to worry about what I look like (as long as I find a nice photo of me!). It’s been fantastic to be able to catch up not only with new friends but with some long-lost characters from my past – some of them halfway around the world!

I have also channelled this new-found interest in my past by putting together some pages for my BOM that talk about bringing my past into my present and bringing the world to my PC. I’ve also started to write in my diaries again – I never really stopped but the gap between entries was getting longer and longer. I realize now that these diaries and journals and even scrapbooks are an important part of my history that needs to be kept. For whom? I’m not sure yet but one thing I do know is that my ex-boyfriend Y doesn’t actually hate me. At least not anymore!

PS. if anyone out there is also on FB, check me out!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

No one can accuse me of doing nothing!

I have a lot going on at the moment.

My OU course is going well and I’ve managed to not only keep up but stay a bit ahead which is good. This way, if I have any unexpected delays in the next few weeks it won’t be a tragedy and I should still be able to keep up. The course itself is really interesting as it’s dealing mainly with design principles for the web – although a lot of this learning can also be applied to scrapbook pages! In fact, my scrapbooking experience has helped a lot in this course as lots of the principles presented (like color wheels, golden ratio and rule of threes) I’d encountered them before in my pages. So I’m doing well on the course but I am still worried about the time it will take to put together a fully functioning website for my final exam.

The running is still very much happening and I’m aware that the marathon is less than 3 months away. My long runs are getting longer and while that in itself is a challenge, I find that I worry more about fitting them in. I am so slow, a 16k run takes me around two hours and that is before any warm up, cool down, showering afterwards, etc. I’ve managed to work around it so far but the weather has been a big help. It’s much easier to get out there when the sun is shinning and the sky is blue but I’m aware that as time goes on my long runs will get even longer and the weather will get colder and wetter. This means I may have to do some long runs on a treadmill (how boring) or outside (how cold). The things I do for a vacation!

To add a bit of cross-training to my plan I’ve also joined some of my marketing colleagues in a touch rugby league. We play every week for around 20 minutes of very, very fast running and it is certainly tiring. For those that don’t know, touch rugby is the ‘low contact’ version of rugby which in itself is similar to American football. There are lots and lots of rules but the main one is that we’re only allowed to throw backwards which means that there is a lot of sprinting and changing direction during play.

Another thing that’s kept me a little busy is that this weekend is my little boy’s birthday party. We’re having it at a local gym and the kids get two hours of trampolines, foam pits and other tiring activities. We had Samuel’s party there last year too and the kids loved it, plus it was so easy as they provide food as well! All we have to take is party bags and cake and of course I couldn’t just throw some candy in a plastic bag, could I? I had to do better and although I made my life simple and chose a simple solution, it’s still meant a couple of evenings of putting things together, not to mention a few days creating images and printing them at work.

Speaking of work, I am of course still working and very hard. We’ve had a lot of work in the past few weeks and I don’t see that changing until maybe Christmas. I am still very much enjoying it and the good thing is that most of the things I do are fun and there are only a few that are a bit boring so I guess I’m lucky. T

his all means that scrapbooking time has been very limited! I do manage the occasional page or two (and I’ve fully completed my All About Me album) but these days I mainly get things done at crops and rarely at home. Also, because I’m kept so busy at work and stuff I don’t visit scrapbooking forums as often as I used to or have much time for scrapbooking blogs and the like. This in turn has meant that I haven’t bought anything for a good long time and I quite like that! As I’m not visiting the usual channels that promote stash I feel quite liberated from the marketing onslaught and don’t feel like I NEED anything new. I am happily creating with the stuff I already have and this is lovely.

Hopefully I can keep this up once the OU course is completed, once the marathon has been done, the rugby league finished and Samuel’s party wrapped up. It will be nice to go back to scrapbooking a bit more and using up the supplies I’ve already invested in. Besides, when all these things are done I will have so many memories to scrap!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Disneyland Paris - trains, taxis and 'tapis volants'

Yeah, I know it's been a while but I've been busily preparing for our mini-break to Disneyland Paris and since I've come back I've been swamped at work... but to make up for it here is a super long post with info all about our vacation!

Photos to follow as soon as I sort them out - promise.

Day 1 (Thursday) It had been a long time since my husband and I went to DLRP and our son had never been so we made the most of the offers at the moment and booked our trip a few months ago. Finally the day came when we could start our adventure and we were all excited!

We couldn’t get tickets on the direct Eurostar to DLRP so we had booked a later train with a connection in Lille. We decided to take the train from Milton Keynes to London, cross the city in a taxi instead of the underground (easier with luggage) and then arrive in time for our check-in at Waterloo. It all worked quite well as we were away from the morning rush hour and after a great taxi ride through London, we made it to the terminal.

Check in was very easy and before we knew it we were boarding a very quiet train to Lille. Our little boy – nearly four – really, really enjoyed the train journey and didn’t mind the tunnel one bit as that meant that we could go faster! We had a quick connection in Lille and when our TGV arrived we were thrilled to note that we had seats on the upper floor of a double-decker train. Our little boy couldn’t have been happier and was almost sorry when we got to DLRP and had to leave the train.

We arrived at the resort and were initially confused as to which way to go: we knew where the hotel was but somehow we got a bit disorientated as we hadn’t been there in such a long time. But we made our way to the Sequoia Lodge pretty quickly and after a very efficient check-in, we were in our room, grabbed our stuff and ran out to enjoy Disneyland Park before it closed in an hour. We got on a few rides and then went to the castle to watch Candleabration – which was actually a big disappointment. It was a pretty cute song and dance show with Disney characters but the ‘big’ finale was actually rather dull. Nevertheless, we headed out of the park and looked for somewhere to eat.

We settled on the fixed price menu at Billy Bob’s saloon and after a bit of a rush to try and find a table, we ordered our dinner and got it very quickly. We both had baked potatoes with chilli and the portions were generous. We finished our dinner and headed back to our hotel for a very welcome rest. It had been a long day but at last we were on holiday!

Day 2 (Friday)

We awoke very, very early as we had breakfast booked at 7.45 (plus we are travelling with a toddler that likes to wake up at the crack of dawn) and after getting ready we went down for our breakfast. It wasn’t too busy but we could see that it got busier and busier as it got later. We had our fill and headed out to play in the parks.

We walked to the Studios, taking in the beautiful surroundings: the weather was foggy and a bit cold but with a promise of a clearer day later. It did clear up, but before it did it was actually colder than we expected and were glad when the sun finally came out. The trees all looked so lovely with their russet leaves against the foggy skies.

We got to the Studios but as it wouldn’t open for an hour decided to spend it in Disneyland instead. We got on a few rides (including Pirates) and finally left for the Studios shortly after they opened. We actually had never been to this park as it was a big hole in the ground last time we visited so it was all new to us. We noticed that it wasn’t huge and didn’t have that many rides so we decided to make sure we saw all the shows and parades. We managed all of this quite easily because even though the park was busy it didn’t seem THAT busy. The one exception seemed to be the Crush coaster that constantly had waits of 60 minutes plus and we just didn’t want to wait that long.

Lunch was at the Backlot Express and that was pretty good. After lunchtime we continued our visit to the park and quickly ran out of things to see as we’d done them all! We somehow managed to see all 5 presentations of the High School Musical show, but without planning it. It was a good show and our son enjoyed it, though.

His favourite ride was definitely the Flying Carpets (Tapis Volants). We did it over and over as it had a very short queue and every time he wanted to go higher and higher. When we finally managed to convince him to leave we went back to our hotel. I went for a run while the boys went for a swim and, fully refreshed, we went out in search of dinner. We decided on burgers and fries at Annette’s and although we had to wait a little while we enjoyed our dinner. Service, on the other hand, was just about good enough but could definitely do much, much better.

Another day ends and after our great walk back to the hotel, we finally got in bed for some well-earned rest.

Day 3 (Saturday)

We knew Saturday would be crazy busy so we made arrangements to have breakfast in Fantasyland. It worked out very well, better than we thought, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the choice was basically the same as it would have been back at the hotel. This of course also got us in the park early and we started our explorations.

We also noticed that the park was celebrating the first day of the Halloween celebrations and the decorations everywhere were quite amazing! We spent a good while taking it all in before heading off to Phantom Manor and the start of a busy, busy day.

We took a very calm approach and knew that we just wouldn’t manage to do it all so if any ride had a wait that was too long we just didn’t bother. We also spent a long time in Adventure Isle playing on the slides and climbing frames while enjoying the gorgeous sunshine and clear blue skies. The weather was certainly much, much better than expected!

We caught a few Halloween shows, did lots of rides and enjoyed being together. We were disappointed to learn that The Legend of the Lion King wasn’t being performed which was a real shame as that is SUCH an amazing show but we did manage to get fantastic seats to watch the parade. This parade has got to be one of the best quality parades I’ve ever seen at Disney (Florida, USA or Japan) and I took tons of photos. Even the music was magical.

Speaking of music, my one shock was the special song that was being played because of Halloween. It is some awful song called Happy Halloween or something like that and it GRATED. It is probably the single most awful song ever produced by Disney for anything and it sounds like some awful parody of a song. I am a huge fan of Disney music, especially park music and I’ve never heard anything so irritating. The single was available for sale and as I collect park music I debated whether I wanted to add this hideous piece of music to my collection and decided it wasn’t worth the 5 euros. I never want to hear that song again!

After spending hours in the parks the boys decided to head off early to go swimming and I stayed behind for another hour, doing a bit of shopping (only a bit as it was crazy busy) and taking photos of the park at dusk. We then met back at the hotel and went to dinner at the Santa Fe Tex-Mex buffet. The food here was pretty good and the price not too bad so we enjoyed our dinner. We also had some entertainment for the children in the form of yet another High School Musical pep rally – which the children really seemed to enjoy!

The park was incredibly busy and it meant that there were queues everywhere. It didn’t really spoil our time because we didn’t expect to get on everything but the crowding does take some of the pleasure away. All in all we did well and I couldn’t wait to get back in bed for some welcome rest.

Day 4 (Sunday)

Sunday was always a day that we weren’t sure what we would do. We did talk about heading to Paris but quickly decided that with the stroller it probably wasn’t such a pleasant adventure. Besides, we have travelled to Paris before and we just couldn’t think of what to actually DO once we got there so decided instead to spend the day in the resort.

I headed out shortly after breakfast to do a 2 hour run while the boys went to the parks and we arranged a time and place to meet. It all worked well and after my run (which was great and actually quite reviving, even though I’d walked and walked for days) I caught up with the boys in Disneyland. Apparently they’d just been on the flying carpets YET AGAIN and my little boy had just as much fun as before. We had lunch in the park and spent the rest of the day wondering around, getting on rides occasionally and just generally soaking up the atmosphere. The weather again was gorgeous with a bright blue sky and bright sunshine so we took lots of good photos.

We decided to leave the park relatively early so that we could beat the rush for dinner and went back to Annette’s as we liked it so much. Dinner yet again was good but with service that could do with some improvement. After eating we actually then spent some time in the Village watching the entertainment and checking out the shops before walking back to our hotel. Once there we went to the bar for some drinks (and a welcome seat next to the fire as it was chilly once the sun set) and then off to bed.

Day 5 (Monday)

Our last day. After breakfast (which was pretty chaotic actually but by then we’d got used to the crowds and the bedlam) we checked out of our hotel and left our bags so that we could go out and play before our train at 3pm.

As our son had enjoyed the ‘Tapis volants’ so much we decided to head off to the studios and we must have done this about 5 times! We also managed to get onto the Crush coaster with little queuing thanks to a secret scam… by then we felt that we’d pretty much ‘done’ the parks but as we had time to kill we mainly walked around and caught shows or rides that looked quiet. We then had lunch and all too quickly the time came to get back to our hotel, grab our bags and head to the train station.

Yet again we didn’t have a direct train so we got on our TGV back to Lille (no double-decker this time, much to our son’s disappointment) and then the Eurostar to London. Before we knew it we were back in England and catching another taxi back to Euston. Our son was in very good spirits and really enjoyed this taxi ride – he even thanked the driver as he got off! Pretty soon we were on a train back home and our adventure was finished.

We had a great time and did everything we wanted to but there would have been no chance to do it all had we wanted to. The size of the crowds meant that the queues were just far too long and in some ways, there isn’t enough to do in the parks after a while. The Studios in particular could do with some new attractions (Hollywood Tower is due to be completed in Jan 08 and will add a welcome ride) and even some more places to eat as it feels like it’s a very small park. But we really did enjoy it and the weather played a big part as it was beautiful most of the time.

Our one big regret is that we didn’t book the half-board option before we went as we didn’t know if it was worth it but it turns out it is. Now we know for next time!

Since we came back I've asked my little boy what his favorite part was? Well, apparently it was the trains, the taxis and the flying carpets!!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Best laid plans and all that

Friday was just not a good day for me.

It all started so well: the sun was shinning and it felt like a beautiful day. I had a morning meeting in London which meant I didn’t have to take a train until nearer 10am and that – along with the fact that my little boy was away for the week with grandparents – let to a lovely lie-in. When I got to the station I found out that my colleague wouldn’t be able to come to London for the meeting so it was me on my own, which wasn’t a tragedy. The morning and the meeting went well and since I’d blocked the rest of the day as a ‘working from home’ day, there was no rush to return.

I decided to do a little shopping in London and then head home. The plan was to have some lunch on the train (or at the station), get home at about 2pm then drive to they gym. I would have a nice and relaxing run followed by a quick dip in the pool and a spot of sunbathing. I wasn’t expecting my husband to return home until about 6pm or so (he’d gone to get DS from grandparents, about 90 minutes’ drive away) so I could enjoy a very relaxing afternoon and make the most of the weather.

When I got back to Milton Keynes train station and got back to my car, however, all my plans were destroyed: the car went crazy on me: lights flashed on and off uncontrollably, locking mechanism wouldn’t work, remote locking wasn’t responding. I soon discovered that it was okay to drive though so I went home where I replaced the battery in my key, thinking this could be the problem.

Of course it wasn’t. So I spent the entire afternoon driving to the dealer, sitting and waiting and then getting a quote to fix the electrics that was about the same price as flying the family to Disneyworld in first class.

When I picked myself up from the floor and made a few desperate phone calls to my husband (who was by now in another nightmarish scenario stuck in horrible traffic outside London and getting nowhere) I then drove my car to another garage to get a second opinion. In the end they managed to tell me how to fix the problem temporarily by pulling out bits from the fuse box, but that I wouldn’t be able to lock it. Monday they could then have a better look and try to figure out what was wrong.

So I had no choice but to drive home, in a very grumpy mood, get my car in the locked garage and stay there. By then I knew the boys wouldn’t be back home before 9pm due to the horrible traffic so there I was – an afternoon of freedom and without the means to go anywhere! I tried going for a run but I was so grumpy I soon stopped that. I pottered around the house in a terrible mood, both dreading the cost of fixing the car and hating it for breaking down today, of all days.

When the boys finally made it home (after 10.30pm) I was in an awful mood but I must say I was very glad to see them. I felt like the whole day had been wasted as I had had such lovely plans and did none of that, but also I am now facing a rather large bill to get my car working.

Today (Monday) the car is in the garage but I haven’t yet heard what the cost of repairs will be. I’m dreading it but at least my mood is better… I really hate it when things don’t go according to plan and when that means I have to miss out on things that give me so much pleasure. Don’t you?

Monday, 6 August 2007

Who am I, anyway?

My name is Claudia, I’m 36 years old and live in the UK, in a lovely city called Milton Keynes. I’ve only been in the UK ten years though, because I was born and raised in Mexico and in fact most of my family and friends are still over there. I moved to the UK because I met a Brit while working in the USA about 12 years ago so as you can see it wasn’t the weather OR the food that brought me to these foggy shores!

I’ve been married for 10 years now and have a little boy who will be 4 in October. I also work full time as an Online Marketing Manager for a distance learning university here in Milton Keynes and although I haven’t been doing that for long, I do love my job. Previously I worked in marketing for a large retail bank headquartered here in Milton Keynes and although I made many great friends there, I really wasn’t enjoying the work I was doing, especially the last few years. So I’m glad I’ve changed jobs as I am happy again.

I am one of those very annoyingly organized people and although my house isn’t as tidy as I would like it to be, I think it probably looks very tidy to others. I just can’t live with stuff everywhere out of place and can’t relax until it’s all back in place – so sometimes I can’t sit down and scrap in peace knowing that there is a floor that needs to be swept, washing that needs folding or toys to be tidied.

I enjoy coming to work and actually found my maternity break difficult: the first few months of course I was very busy learning to be a mom and trying to function on a few hours’ sleep but after a while the mothering thing got easier and I got very bored. I felt the lack of mental stimulation depressing and literally started counting down the days when I could go back to work. This has meant of course that my little boy has been in full time nursery since he was 9 months old but he loves it and the experience has been great for both of us: I get a break from being a mom and he gets a break from being around only me all day!

When I’m not working or scrapbooking you can find me with my nose in a book (usually non-fiction but I do love Harry Potter), messing around on the Internet (mainly scrapping sites and Facebook these days) or what I call running but others would call waddling. I am still training for a marathon in January, even though I had a disastrous experience with a local half-marathon in late July. I can’t say I truly enjoy the running but it has sort of become a habit so I stick with it even though I am patently no good at it at all: I haven’t even lost weight from it.

I have been scrapbooking for far too long, can I say around 12 years? Of course what I did all those years ago isn’t much to do with the stuff I produce these days but the basics are there: photos, cardstock and journaling. As a result I don’t have a huge backlog of photos because I started when I didn’t actually own that many and have been able to keep up since. I am a strict chronological scrapper and although I occasionally break this rule, in general I find that this is my more efficient way to scrap. Also, because I started scrapping years ago when supplies were hard to find, I think I learned to make do with what I have and actually have a small stash considering I’ve been doing it for so long. It is also because of my tidy nature – if I had too much stash I would have nowhere to put it and that would drive me crazy.

Scrapbooking has helped me to meet lots of wonderful people both here in Milton Keynes and around the country and the world thanks to various online forums. I find scrappers are generous, talented and admirable and I am proud to count myself on that group. I think nearly everyone does much, much better work than I do but I like my pages so that’s all that matters, right? I also enjoy having a creative outlet and a way to keep my photos that is more interesting than simply placing them in an album – or box.

Thank you for reading this very indulgent piece. I hope it helps to understand more of who I am and why I do what I do.

Monday, 23 July 2007

If you see me walking funny today, this is why!

I haven’t been writing in my blog recently – as you’ve noticed. I also haven’t really been scrapping or beading or doing anything much other than focusing on the Milton Keynes half marathon.

Well, the race was yesterday (Sunday) and while I was looking forward to it, it was more of a disaster. I did finish but just barely and felt very under-trained, even though I’ve been running 4 times a week since January. I did the lot in just over 3 hours and that last mile felt like the longest mile I have EVER walked. But I was determined and completed, although in a very sorry state.

Anyway, the time has come to assess: can I really do a full marathon in January or am I deluding myself?

I still don’t have the answer to the question, if I’m honest. But I’ll carry on training (once I can move my legs again) and will also do some scrapping. This week, at least, I have to rest and what better thing to do sat down than scrapping??

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Warning: there is walking involved

Yesterday – 4 July – was not only a holiday for all Americans out there, but was also a milestone for me. It marked 6 months since the day I thought I should start running to prepare for the WDW marathon in 2008. Six months of running on average 4 times a week, for a total of 16km a week or nearly 400km since that day. Running when I don’t feel like it, running when I actually nearly enjoy it, running indoors, running outside, and running in Milton Keynes, in Florida, in Holland.

How much weight have I lost? Not one gram.

Seriously, my weight is exactly the same as it was back in January when I hadn’t run a single meter. It fluctuates up and down as normal but in the main it’s exactly the same. I’ve lost inches, you say? Well, not really – maybe a couple here and there but nothing that can be noticeable to the naked eye. So just HOW much running do I need to do, then, to lose a few kilos?

I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to my sessions, either. I can do them perhaps a bit easier but I can’t really tell because my sessions get harder every time so I never really get the chance to compare how much better I’m getting at running, say, 5k. It is always hard, and sometimes it’s really hard. I suppose that the best part is that I am still doing it, seeing as the results aren’t exactly motivating so far.

When I started I thought that at the 6 month point I would have noticed a change: either some significant weight loss or some significant increase in fitness but I don’t feel that neither has been achieved. I have ramped up my training quite a lot in the last couple of months because I have a half-marathon to run at the end of July, so that will be another good time to stop and take stock. I guess that if I finish it without wanting to die it’s a good sign!

I am kinda hoping that the half-marathon gives me some good motivation – that participating in a race and doing well gives me the will to keep going, seeing as other motivating factors aren’t there. I must admit that I am getting a bit despondent with my training and sometimes I just wish I could forget it all and give up.

But then I remember – there is a special edition Mickey medal in it for me if I complete the WDW marathon. It’s the main reason I’m putting myself through this!

So I plod on. I am neither a graceful runner nor a happy one – I simply go out, put in the distance and then feel pleased that I completed it. Every single step is taken consciously as I feel that I am unable to “tune out” and just run (how do others do that, by the way?) Whenever I run outside I think that it will be this great liberating experience but generally it is a constant worry that it is about to rain, that I will slip on the muddy path or that I am cold. The horrible weather we’ve been having lately isn’t helping my training either – I have the choice of running inside where it’s dry but boring or outside where it is cold but a bit more entertaining. If only the sun shone, at least I would get a tan!

In a burst of efficiency I bought some marathon themed embellishments on our last trip to the States and these too, help keep me going: I’ve bought them now so I must use them to embellish marathon-themed pages! They have lots of inspirational quotes and stuff on them, they are pretty nice. One of them says something like “the training is the work and the race is the reward” and at this point I believe it to be true.

I really need some motivation to keep going, some great quotes so if anyone out there has any suggestions: let me have them!

In the meantime I’ll keep doing what I do and hope that by some miracle I start seeing some weight loss at least. I have a big run this weekend (19k) and I know I’ll feel really proud when I have completed it. Fingers crossed it won’t rain.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Natural light

I’ve finished my Florida album and I think it looks great – it has lots of wonderful memories in it, as well as mementoes and lovely photos. I am well pleased with it and look forward to showing it off – I will even endeavour to take some pictures of it to post here and show it off! I am waiting for the rain to stop, you see, so that I can use nice natural light to take the photos.

What’s the big deal with all this rain, by the way? I thought this summer was supposedly going to be the warmest ever, blah, blah, blah but so far nothing. It’s not even been that warm – just soggy, cloudy and miserable. It’s nearly July and so far I have barely used my summer clothes. If it wasn’t for our trip to Florida, I wouldn’t have seen the sun at all this year!

People always ask me if I’m getting used to the UK weather and the answer is never simple. I am used to the fact that it will nearly always be unpleasant but that doesn’t mean I don’t suffer. I don’t mind the cold in the winter (after all, that is the point of winter) but I do very much mind it when it’s still winter in June. I still don’t get the fact that Brits like going for long walks regardless of the weather: if you have to dress head-to-toe in plastic, why are you out in the first place? I also don’t subscribe to the turn-the-heating-off-because-it’s-April mentality: if it’s cold in June, the heating goes on, end of story.

I guess I’m a sunny and warm person and so I need to be in sunny and warm climates. I often tease my husband that he’s got a desert flower and as so, she should be kept in suitable circumstances or she’ll wilt.

The worst part of these wet and dark days is that it’s difficult to take good photos! The natural light isn’t very good and I don’t like using my flash if I don’t have to so my photo taking has gone down quite a bit, mainly because of the weather.

Come on sunshine, make us a visit here in England and chase all this rain away!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

What does "deserving" mean?

I’ve recently had a good old clearout of stash that I know I won’t use. A lot of it has come to me in kits and magazines (as freebies) and while it looked great when I first got it, on second look I admitted to myself that it isn’t my style and I won’t be using it.

As I hate having useless things lying around, I gathered all these things together in one big bag and decided to give it to whoever most deserves it. So I posted a message on a UK scrapping forum and told people to write to me and tell me why they deserve this stash. The messages soon flooded in!

I have now a very difficult task – choosing a winner. I decided that the kit isn’t worth splitting (it is large but not quite THAT large) so there can only be one winner, or else there would be several slightly disappointed people rather than one very delighted one. This of course makes my job harder as I have to decide which of these people deserve it the most.

I have received the most heart warming stories from different people: stories of teachers that struggle to get money to fund their crafty projects yet the kids love them, of women that run craft clubs for underprivileged people and could do with some help, of scrappers that generously nominated not themselves but a needy friend or family member. How on EARTH can I choose? I feel like going on a massive shopping spree now and giving something to everyone!

But I can’t really do that – the point of the exercise was to get rid of the “dead weight” in my stash and give it to someone that really deserves it for whatever reason. I now have a list of candidates longer than I expected and need to start the painful process of ranking them – but how can I meaningfully rank people’s needs? How can I arbitrarily decide that a needy child is more “deserving” than a needy adult?

I’ve got myself into a right pickle, haven’t I?!

I need to somehow pick the one message that touched me more than most and decide that this person is the “winner”. That sounds like a relatively easy part – the hardest part is to then have to let the others know that they didn’t “win”. I have to do it in a way that doesn’t belittle their needs or problems… THAT is the bit I am not sure how to do.

I am starting to feel like a small-scale Oprah – I have the power to change someone’s life (if only a little bit) and this power should not be used lightly. I feel like I have a huge responsibility and it’s making me the tiniest bit nervous. I hope that a greater power will take over and guide my heart into making the right choice.

All I wanted was some more room in my stash cupboard and ended up with a moral debate with myself!!

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Chronological scrapping or stand-alone projects? Hmmmm... I don't know!

Last night my husband was out with some friends (he went to see Derren Brown, which those of you in the UK will recognize as the famous magician-mentalist-psychologist-illusionist. It was a fab show, apparently). I took the chance and sat down and scrapped and scrapped and scrapped: for 3 hours! I had fallen behind, not only in my Florida album, but in my ER episodes so last night I caught up with both: I scrapped while I watched all the goings-on in this TV show.

I can’t believe how much has happened in ER! I’m sure the season finale will be an explosive one…

But anyway, I got on with the scrapping really well too. I completed 9 layouts (NINE) and some were simple while others were very simple. I am absolutely adoring those PDQ Bisous papers – and I’m sure I’ve said that before. They have allowed me to progress with this album very quickly as I don’t have to make so many design decisions and giving me more time to journal and embellish (or not). As the papers are double-sided and I’m using both sides – not easy – it also keeps the overall weight of my album down.

Anyway, I am very pleased with how the album is turning out and is a big difference from the other Florida album I did late last year which was harder work, although I do love the finished article. Thing is, I have SO many photos still left over, not scrapped! I would normally just keep the 200 best ones in a normal photo album and get rid of the rest but when I was in Florida I *did* buy a summer 8x8 album which would be ideal for the leftover photos… but that would bring me back to my earlier issue with smaller formats which seem to take a lot longer. However, as I have already scrapped the MAIN memories in the 12x12, maybe using the 8x8 for the rest of the photos would be relatively quick… OH, I don’t know what to do!

I guess I will first of all finish the large album, catch up with a few other projects that I still have to complete (like the All about me album from Scrap-a-ganza which I MUST finish as I pinkie-promised Lisa I would) and then decide.

What makes the decision harder is that I am a die-hard chronological scrapper and having so many stand-alone projects sort of breaks that “rule”. I know that the magazines always say it’s okay to scrap non-chronologically but I actually find it difficult to DO. It is after all the way I organize myself and when I’m not organized I feel a bit weird.

I’m sure that when the time comes I will figure something out. At least I can rest assured that my extremely simple style comes up trumps when I have to quickly catch up. After all, I did manage to complete NINE layouts last night!

PS. Last weekend I unexpectedly came across some tickets which meant we could go see George Michael opening Wembley stadium on Sunday. It took some logistics and coordination but we managed to find a babysitter and go to see George. WHAT A MAN! I loved the concert, I love all his songs and loved the fact that I can now say I’ve seen him live. First concert at the new Wembley as well, so it’s all a part of history. Needless to say I took a few photos and kept the tickets ready for scrapbooking!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Fitting it all in

A couple of days ago I went to my Monday evening crop and made a start on my new Disney album. Once again I return from a lovely trip with over 400 photos and I have all these big plans… but this time it’s different!

I will not be repeating the mistake I made the last time when I worked on an 8x8 album: this time I’ve gone for a gorgeous 12x12 and I’m using the PDQ Bisous papers so little embellishment is needed. I’ve also become a lot more selective on photos and didn’t pick up tons of souvenir papers while away so I don’t need to fit in hundreds of menus, tickets, maps, etc.

I spent an evening about 2 weeks ago sorting through it all, getting all the papers, the embellishments (some leftover from last album!), the photos themselves and all the souvenir stuff I collected. It all looks massive once together but it means that I can just grab the one bag and know that it is all there and I’m ready to go.

So during the Monday crop I made 10 layouts. Ten in 3 hours – it’s good isn’t it? I am pleased with the album so far and, while I do love the finished article, this time I made better choices than for last trip’s 8x8 album.

I reckon that I can finish this in about a month, assuming I have the time to actually work on it. Because now I also have to fit in my training runs (which are going well, by the way. I’ve signed up for a half marathon in July as prep for the full in January so let’s see how that goes) and all the rest of my life. So the fact that this album will come together quickly is great news as it means I can finish it and get the memories on paper soon rather than spending ages on it and not being able to share it with anyone yet.

While I was in JoAnn’s in Florida (on a lovely visit on my own as the boys stayed behind in the hotel pool) I spent a good long time looking through all the nice things on sale there. I love browsing in American shops, so many interesting things to look at… anyway; I was wandering about the aisles of this huge store when the beads caught my eye. I’ve never really been anything other than a paper crafter but I love chunky, sparkly jewelry so the display caught my eye because it looked so pretty. I ended up buying a few strings and a beginner’s beading kit.

Since we’ve been home I’ve made the 3 bracelets that came in the kit along with a few others from my new beads and I’ve started buying more beads… oh no! I can feel the interest growing to a fevered pitch, just like scrapbooking did.

The question is: will I have time to do it all? Even with my super-quick album pages, my perfectly organized running schedule and my limited bead supply (not to mention my full-time job and my family) is there room in my life for another hobby??

On the plus side, I have so many pretty, sparkly things to wear!

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Having it all

Why is it that scrappers feel that they must “have it all”? Not only do I mean “all” as in career, kids, etc but more like everything that is out there and available for sale in stash-land. You know, the papers, the embellishments, the tools, the bags, the cardstock…

I know I keep talking about this but I just can’t bring myself to shop, shop, shop like nearly everyone else seems to. For one, I sometimes feel that scrapping stuff is quite over-priced (especially in the UK) so I have to really, really justify the purchase to myself before I commit. And I’m talking about justifying the purchase of a set of brads – not even something more expensive!

The other thing is that I know that I won’t use some things. I don’t buy stash specifically for pages (that would be TOO organized) but I do know my style well enough to know that I will never really have any use for any die cutting machines. Or those enormous chipboard embellishments that are everywhere at the moment – gorgeous as they indeed are – they are just not my style. So why buy them if I know that I actually won’t use them?

Paper and cardstock are special cases. I of course use quite a lot of them but I rarely buy them these days. If I do it’s a case of SERIOUS love or I have specific plans for the papers. I know that I have an Artbin full of cardstock so surely one of those sheets will be suitable for my project, whatever it is? Why do I need to buy more? I don’t feel that things have to totally match so if I need a shade of red, for example, I make do with the red that I already have – just like it was in the old days when hundreds of cardstock shades just simply didn’t exist.

Using embellishments is another challenge – I am terrible at buying them because I can never imagine how to use them. When I do end up buying something I either forget I have it until it’s too late or I go on a ribbon-binge (for example) and use lots of it until I’m sick of the sight of it. Then I don’t use it for months, until I pick the box up again and go nuts all over again…

So there. I’m terrible at buying stash. I used to subscribe to a kit which gave me only embellishments and that was great. I actually stopped it because I ended up with far too many embellies, and now I need to use the things! All of this means that I find that I don’t need to buy anything, that I’m happy with the stash I have and that I don’t need anything more. I have enough stash, bags and tools to keep me going for years! I even take pleasure in using papers that have been in my stash for years - all those SEI papers, for example. I loved them when I bought them and I still love them, so why not use them? Only because new ranges are out there doesn't mean that I can't hang on to my trusted "classic" papers.

So why do other scrappers feel that they have to own it all? Do they really use it all on layouts or is it simply for stroking?


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