Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Devolving, Darwin and evolution

We've been busy these past few weeks trying to get the Darwin Open University site up and running and it is now live and ready to share!

The best bit is the section where you can upload a photo of yourself and then 'devolve' it to see what you would have looked like a few thousand (or million) years ago. This is me as a rather attractive Homo erectus:

Cool huh?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Journaling basics

If you know anything about me, you know that I think journaling is what differentiates scrapbooking from photo albums. It’s not the pretty papers or the title or even the embellishments: it’s the journaling that tells others why these photos are special or how they make you feel.

Journaling is what takes your place when you can’t be around and tell the story in person.

I’m glad to see that so many manufacturers are bringing out more and more products that should make journaling easier (I particularly like those little labels that you can journal on and then simply stick onto a layout) but sometimes it seems that journaling is taking a further step back in scrapbookers’ minds.

Wherever I look, I find layouts that have absolutely no journaling on them at all. Sure, they look very nice but I am none the wiser as to who is in the photo, why, what they are doing, anything at all! I also think this is more of a British thing as people from this side of the world find it harder to share their feelings… but not ALL journaling is about emotion either. Sometimes it’s just about the main questions: Who, when, where, what, why.

A lot of the journaling in magazines (mainly those from the USA) have journaling that is more about emotions and while that is great, I think it sometimes puts off the more restrained Brits and, because they think that this is what journaling is about, it makes them uncomfortable and just don’t do it at all.

Maybe it’s time we went back to basics: there is nothing wrong with recording the main facts about an event or a photo and recording those! Sometimes even just having the date on a layout would be enough and a lot of people don’t even do that.

Like much else in the world of scrapbooking (and the world in general), people aspire to the glossy images on pages of magazines and then feel inadequate if their layout doesn’t look as perfect as those do, with carefully crafted words worthy of an expensive copywriter and with photos just like the ones the professionals take. So much perfectionism can put people off, which is really sad.

So let’s not forget the basics – and get those journaling pens out!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Too much of a good thing?

I did something this week that I hadn’t done in a very, very long time – I logged on to a scrapbooking website and bought something! Not only have I not purchased anything from a scrapbook shop (online) in a good long time, I hadn’t even gone on to any sites just to browse. I just didn’t feel the need to!

What prompted this purchase was also real need – I am going to a scrapbooking retreat this weekend and I was nearly out of adhesive so I had to order some online. Sure, while I was there I had a little look at the shop but ended up buying some more, practical, things like post extenders (which I also need) and a cardstock pack for a specific project I’ll be working on.

It’s been about two years since I decided to stop buying scrapbooking stuff ‘just because it’s there’ and focused more on using what I have. It was a little hard at first (although I have always struggled to spend hundreds in stash at one time) but now it’s become second nature, so much that I don’t even visit scrapbooking sites anymore. I am also very lucky that at our monthly all-day crop we have a lovely shop so I can always browse there – even though I rarely buy anything.

Once I was in the shop site and found my adhesive, I thought I’d have a little look around to see what was new and pretty, what would catch my eye, what would make a nice, indulgent treat. I found nothing. It’s not the shop’s fault because they have fantastic selection (and shipped my order really, really quickly so I had it in time for the weekend) so it must be me. Lots of things looked very pretty but not my style or too messy or too expensive or too fiddly or just too weird. Who comes up with these things? Are they designed to look pretty in the package so that you buy them, but then unusable?

I’ve said this before – scrapbooking is more about commerce and marketing these days and some of the ranges available are just gorgeous to look at but not really practical or usable or fit in with my personal style. I guess my style is now not fashionable and I must work around with what’s available.

Besides, I don’t actually NEED all that stuff! I shop once a year, stocking up on patterned paper and a few embellishments and then spend the rest of the year trying to use it up. It works for me, for my economy and for my sanity – I would go crazy trying to store all that stuff in the very limited space I have!

I still very, very much enjoy scrapbooking (as long as I’m not in the photos these days, ugh) and am really looking forward to the weekend when I can scrap to my heart’s content, chat with my friends, enjoy some lovely meals and some ME time (including a nice brisk walk in my new running skirt) and hopefully come back with a couple of finished projects. I have enough stuff to more than cover my needs for the weekend so I don’t need to buy anything else!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

I feel like a house

Can we talk? Really, really talk?

I am really struggling to come to terms with my changing shape. I am having trouble looking at myself in the mirror, hate the fact that most of my ‘normal’ clothes no longer fit and I am certainly not taking any photos of myself for posterity. I’m practically running away from cameras now, which explains why my scrapbooking output is seriously diminished.

The last time I was pregnant I remember feeling the same way, but I always thought that there would come a point when I would feel better and be happy with my growing body. That point never came and now, second time around, I know better. I also know that I will get much, much bigger and be even more uncomfortable, look more like a helium balloon and that the feeling goes on for a few months even after the birth.

I know that there are some girls out there that love being pregnant, I even know some personally. I totally don’t get this because this isn’t something that I enjoyed in the past or am enjoying now. I could even use strong words and say I’m hating it. And perhaps I’m also a bit jealous of those that can embrace their blooming body and be totally happy with it.

I get a lot of advice of course, to focus on the positives, the end result, the goal. And I do try. But then I happen to catch a glimpse of myself sideways and all those good thoughts come crashing down. I have even shed tears at the sight of myself in those silly clothes and that gigantic lump in front of me.

Thing is though, no one seems to talk about this. Everywhere I read about pregnancy and body image it seems to be people gushing about how amazing they look and feel. Yes, I do appreciate that it is possible to be so positive but where are the other people, people like me? Am I the only one? Or am I the only one talking about it?

This reminds me of a show I saw on TV a while ago, about mothers that, while they loved their children very much, did not especially love being moms. It just wasn’t the ‘be all and end all’ that was promised. I remember watching this and knowing exactly how they felt, because it was something I’d felt before but was of course NEVER going to admit out loud. I admired these women for their bravery and thank them for making me feel like I wasn’t the only woman in the world that felt things in an unconventional way.

So I know that there must be others like me out there. It’s not fashionable these days to express these thoughts but I also know that keeping them bottled inside isn’t healthy. I also know that these are issues that I will have to work out by myself but in the meantime – where are all the girls that do not love being pregnant??

Saturday, 4 October 2008

What is a political post doing here?

Let me get this out of the way - I like Sarah Palin. She seems to be a hardworking mom, easy on the eye and generally no worse than the average person. I could say I identify with her, after all I am also a working mom juggling family life and work. But do I think she is a good choice for Vice-President of the US? No.

Last night we sat and watched some of the debate between Palin and Biden and one thing quickly became obvious: a lot of time, effort and resource has been spent in making Sarah Palin sound like she knows what she's talking about. But I still felt that she really, really doesn't. I know that she's done a relatively okay job as Mayor and then Governor of Alaska, but let's get real. This is not good enough experience for the next-to-top job in the USA.

I obviously can't vote in the US elections and you could say that whatever US citizens decide doesn't really affect me but I, like thousands of people around the world (maybe even millions), find the whole US election thing fascinating. Like some sort of incredibly expensive reality TV show or one of those TV soaps that have their ups and downs. I also think that the leaders of the USA, for better or for worse, affect much more than just US citizens so of course I'm interested. I also find the whole media coverage thing hilarious and am really, really enjoying The Daily Show right now (so what if we get it in the UK two days later?)

So anyway, I've been following Sarah Palin's rising star and it is an interesting saga. Yes, there was the fact that barely anyone knew her, then she's of course a WOMAN and not only that but a mom, she's also quite attractive. Then the whole thing about the pregnant daughter came out, her lack of foreign policy experience and her belief in creationism and all that winking. Let's face it, she's certainly spiced up what could have been a rather bland show.

I have nothing personally against her but I don't think she's got enough experience for the job, that's all. Especially in foreign policy, where it matters most to me personally. If living next to Russia is all the experience she's got, well then in that case I'm a better candidate. After all, I am also a working mom but I have had a passport since I was a baby, have lived in three countries and have visited a bunch of others. That already makes ME have better 'foreign policy' experience than Palin. But I wouldn't want me to be running for office and I don't think she should be either. And not just because she's prettier than me.

I hope that US voters look past the fact that they may identify with Palin and realize that simply liking someone doesn't make them good at the job of running a country. I know that out here in Europe a lot of people think that people in the US are 'simple' enough to fall for the 'she's one of us' tactic but I know that is a gross generalization. There are all kinds of people and I just hope that the 'simple' ones are outnumbered.

I really do like Sarah Palin - honest! I like her enough to hope that she saves herself further humilliation and media scrutiny and she decides instead to spend more time with her family, as they need her. After all, she will be a grandmother soon.


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