Monday, 21 December 2009

Wordle

Very cool wordle created from the words on this blog:

Never thought the word 'sentences' would be so large...

(created on wordle.net)

Thursday, 17 December 2009

How to improve your journaling skills

(A few years ago I was in a design team and, as a part of it, I had to write articles regularly. I saved all the articles I wrote then and never added them to my blog... until now! This one is particularly special as it tackles what is possibly my favorite part of scrapbooking: journaling. Enjoy!)

Journaling is the heart of your scrapbooks. Without it, the little details may be lost, the emotions forgotten and the moment incomplete. Some layouts only need a few written details, like names and dates, to be complete, but others demand a bit more attention.

You may have read fantastic journaling entries by other scrappers: stories that really grab the moment and make you wish you could write like that. How do they do it? Well, generally the follow some easy pointers that come from the world of journalistic writing. These pointers come from the legendary “Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr., which is required reading for anyone that wishes to write better, clearer and more efficient sentences - and you don't have to be a journalist to benefit!

Use simple sentences

It may sound fairly obvious but when journaling, keep your sentences simple. Long-winded, convoluted sentences only confuse the reader and make the message get lost among all the words. A rule of thumb is that each sentence should convey one thought. When you need to change to another thought, start another sentence!

Use plain English

The best way to achieve this is to write as you speak. Basically, it’s all about avoiding jargon and using language appropriate to the reader. It isn’t about over-simplifying words, only using short ones or talking down to your audience, but about making sentences readable. Why write “we had a discussion about the matter” when you can use: “we discussed the matter”.

Use the active voice

Now, don’t worry – I’m not about to launch into a grammar lesson! But we do need to talk about it a little so that this concept is clear. An example works best:

  • Passive: Our trip to Spain will always be remembered.
  • Active: We will always remember our trip to Spain.

It's easy to note that the active voice is more direct and forceful and also sounds less complicated than the passive voice. Passive sentences often make the sentence clumsier, more long-winded and weaker. Of course there are exceptions, when it is necessary or simply sounds better, but in the main, keep them active whenever you can!

Use short paragraphs

By now you know to use short sentences to keep things readable. The theory is that a paragraph is a series of related sentences, held together by a common thought. Whenever you change a thought, you should start a new paragraph. A good rule of thumb is that a paragraph should not be more than four or five sentences long.

The “Elements of Style” indicate that each paragraph must have a topic sentence (that is, a sentence that indicates the purpose of the paragraph) and the following sentences simply support that thought or summarize it for the reader. I don’t think it’s necessary to stick to these rules strictly when journaling in your scrapbooks, but it might be a helpful tool to use when organizing your writing.

Keep statements positive

In writing, as in life, things seem better if they are presented in a positive light. Negative sentences may also be clumsy, weak and non-committal, as can be seen here:

  • Negative: He was not often on time.
  • Positive: He was usually late.

The over-use of “not” can sometimes lead to using lots of words when one will do:

  • Not honest BUT dishonest
  • Did not remember BUT forgot
  • Did not pay any attention to BUT ignored

Omit needless words

I love the English language because it is precise and to the point, as opposed to Spanish which can be a bit long and flowery. So it always surprises me when people mess around with the simplicity of English and add unnecessary words to their writing. This is done maybe to seem cleverer but I find that it just adds clutter to the text and makes the reader’s job harder. Consider these examples:

  • he is a man who INSTEAD OF he
  • in a hasty manner INSTEAD OF hastily
  • this is a subject which INSTEAD OF this subject
  • His story is a strange one INSTEAD OF his story is strange
  • the fact that he had not succeeded INSTEAD OF his failure
  • the fact that I had arrived INSTEAD OF my arrival

When you adopt active writing over passive, you will find that a lot of these extra words will disappear, and leave you with clear, pure, meaningful text.

Use groups of threes

When scrapbooking, you may have noticed that using embellishments in groups of threes (often creating a triangle) is the most pleasing in terms of design. The text equivalent is to use groups of threes, especially when describing things. Your daughter might be beautiful and clever, but saying that she is beautiful, clever and adorable lends a certain rhythm to the words and makes them more pleasing. A wet and windy day is fine, but a wet, windy and dark day tells us more and sounds better.

Try it – you will find this makes your writing more polished somehow. I’ve been using groups of threes when writing the article above, so look back now and see if you can spot some. I bet you didn’t notice them the first time, but did notice the pleasant rhythm created by the groups of threes. It’s an easy, simple and effective technique. See? A word of warning, though: don’t over-use it as it can become tiring. Keep it to when it will really make an impact and your writing will take off!

With these few guidelines and a bit of practice, you should be able to create journaling that is clearer, more effective and compelling. This will make your scrapbooks a truly cherished heirloom. Good luck!

Monday, 7 December 2009

sad day

It can now be said…

I nominated Milton Keynes to be Walt Disney World’s first twin town and, although I was shortlisted, in the end we lost out to Swindon. I am bummed because, deep down, I know that I was very, very close to winning this and I was really looking forward to it. I made a good case but of course it wasn't good enough to win. Maybe next time...

Sad day indeed! (but, I guess, happy for the folks in Swindon!)

Monday, 30 November 2009

Could Milton Keynes be Disney World's long lost twin?

I live in Milton Keynes. For a while, I also lived in Walt Disney World (yeah, really). I know these places inside out, backwards and forwards and can therefore say with some authority that they are twin towns. Let me present some evidence:

Milton Keynes was officially designated a new town in January of 1967, placed in the middle of England and with lofty ideals of modernist town planning in mind. A month later, a press conference was held in Winter Park, Florida that would announce to the world the creation of an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” in central Florida. In this conference the now-famous film of Walt describing his beloved Epcot was first shown publically.

As both towns were being built – out of nothing – more similarities emerged. Both towns have their fair share of manmade lakes and parks, as well as roads and other infrastructure required. New technologies were extensively used in the construction and both are glowing examples of the New Urbanism movement sweeping the world at the time.

Because both construction projects were literally breaking new ground, new governance structures had to be put in place to run them: WDW has the Reedy Creek Improvement District and Milton Keynes had the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (now English Partnerships) who oversaw these now massive projects.

Today these two towns are vibrant communities and visited by people the world over. Maybe Milton Keynes does not have the tourist numbers that WDW has, but it does get thousands of visitors coming to enjoy the many facilities in the town. Both towns are like no other place on Earth: WDW with its magical theme parks and attention to detail, MK with its unique architecture and almost magical feeling of being in a ‘city in the forest’. Both places appeal to families and have plenty of facilities to keep everyone of all ages more than happy.

Just like WDW has some iconic structures that are known around the world, MK isn’t that far behind its twin brother: just like Spaceship Earth’s unique geodesic dome MK has the unique pyramid of Bletchley Leisure Centre, The Point and the iconic Xscape building. Both towns even have fairytale castles: WDW’s Cinderella Castle and MK’s castle at Gulliver’s Land!

But it doesn’t stop there; in both places you can find pagodas, windmills and ultra modern buildings – as well as lots and lots of parking. In terms of transport links, both places have great roads, lots of buses, boats, trains and an airport not too far away. WDW of course has a monorail and guess what? There is even room for a monorail (or a tram) in Central Milton Keynes.

What about characters, you ask? Well, MK’s concrete cows may not be as famous as Mickey Mouse around the world, but they still delight children and have become a symbol of the town.

So are you with me? Do you agree that Milton Keynes and Walt Disney World are twin towns? I am sure that there are many more facts that I haven’t included here that make these two not just twins but identical twins. If you needed any more clues, notice that MK even shares its initials with the Magic Kingdom.

I am sure that if Walt were alive today and visited Milton Keynes, he would be happy knowing that the ideals that built Epcot are very much alive in places where he never would have imagined!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sometimes removing customer choice is a good business idea

Every week, on a Thursday, I get home and have a surprise waiting for me. It is a box of lovely organic veggies and it gets delivered while I’m at work. So I get home and it’s almost as if someone gave me a lovely gift.

I take my box inside and almost can’t wait to see what we got this week: lately it’s been yummy courgettes, sweet carrots, fantastic pumpkins and the best sweetcorn I’ve ever had. Sometimes I even get a vegetable I can’t identify and I have to use the included leaflets to learn what it is, how I store it and what to do with it. It is all terribly exciting.


The organic veggie box scheme is one of my weekly thrills, not the least because of the element of surprise. I have little choice of what goes in the box, other than basic decisions (what size? All veggies? Some veggies, some fruit? etc) the whole experience is one where I have very little control. And I wouldn’t want to change that.


I have noticed that there seems to be a rise in the amount of “no choice” schemes available lately, and they cover various areas in my life. Another lovely parcel I always anticipate is my scrapbooking kit from Sarah’s Cards. Again, I have little choice into what comes in the box but I haven’t failed to be delighted every time I open the pizza box. I get the usual favorites, some fashionable items and some things that I would probably have never chosen or, more likely, haven’t even heard of. And it’s great!


My latest parcel in the series of “no choice” parcels is a graze box. The same principles apply here: I get a regular delivery of yummy nibbles that I have little control over and is a complete surprise when I get them. There is of course a mechanism where you can tell the supplier your preferences in terms of content (for example, I hate cherries so have told them never to send me anything with cherries) but the actual contents are a total surprise.


Examples like these I’m sure are many and you probably have a couple in mind right now (Lovefilm springs to mind). They all operate on the same principles of regular deliveries of items where you may have little to no control over. One would think that this lack of control sounds horrendous and goes against the mantra of “I want what I want” that we seem to have adopted in these consumerist times. Yet these schemes are doing very well.


What is it about this apparent “no choice” that makes these propositions so appealing? In my personal case, not only is the lack of control a small price to pay for convenience (I get the veggies delivered and don’t have to worry about going out to buy them) but actually I like the surprise element. It is like getting a gift and the excitement is sometimes as much! Okay, so I don’t necessarily skip around the kitchen or anything, but I do love the anticipation of looking through my box and finding what we got this week. Or looking through my scrapbooking kit and finding the gorgeous papers and embellishments I got this time.


Relinquishing control also means I have discovered new things, effortlessly. I had never heard of a romanesco until one turned up in my veggie box. Now it is one of my favorite vegetables (and one of the prettiest!) I had similarly never used any Cosmo Cricket paper until some turned up in my kit and now I wonder how I scrapped without it. I had no idea brazil nuts mixed with dark chocolate and cranberries could be so delicious, until I had some in my graze box. And so on.


Could it be that these “no choice” schemes are a great antidote to our lives, already filled with too much choioce, too little time? I always wanted to try new vegetables, for example, but whenever I was grocery shopping I would just get what I always got, being too rushed to try and work out which of the other, untested, vegetables would be nice to try. Now someone else tells me what to try! I may not always like them, but at least I can say I’ve tried it.


I love having no choice. Not only do I get convenience, but I also get variety and delight in opening parcels that I have no idea what they contain. I didn’t think it could be possible but it certainly works for me.


What do you think: wave of the future or passing fad?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Frugal scrapbooking

(A few years ago I was in a design team and, as a part of it, I had to write articles regularly. I saved all the articles I wrote then and never added them to my blog... until now! Here is the first one of those - enjoy)


Happy New Year scrappers! I hope your holidays were filled with great times, memorable moments and great gifts. Now that it is all over (at least for another year) many of us find that the finances are a bit tight. To help us all along, I’ve compiled this short list of tips that can help us all save a bit of money while still enabling us to create memorable pages.


1. Use what you have

I know that a lot of scrappers have huge stashes so what best way to save money but to actually USE what you have already? You may not remember exactly what you own, so spend some time organizing your stash and you may find that you have quite a few things you’d forgotten about. Try to create pages using only what you have – think of it as a design challenge and you may be surprised by how creative you become!


2. Keep pages simple

Simple doesn’t have to mean boring but the careful design of pages that consist of little more than paper, cardstock and pen makes them elegantly pleasing to the eye. Ali Edwards and Lisa Brown Caveney are high-profile examples of scrappers that create simple yet beautiful pages.


3. Use patterned paper as embellishment and use more cardstock

This follows on from the previous tip a little. Patterned paper is almost always more expensive than cardstock so if you use less of it you will spend less money and the patterned paper will go further. So save all your scraps and USE them!


4. Use your handwriting more

Besides the fact that it should be an important part of your scrapbooks, handwriting means that you don’t need to resort to pre-made letters, which can be expensive. Besides, using your handwriting on your layouts (even for titles!) means that no one will have the same “font” as you do, you can complete your pages faster and it fits in perfectly with the freestyle trend that is all the rage. If you must use pre-made letters, try using stamps instead as these can be used indefinitely. Or use your chipboard letters as templates so they go further.


5. Use everyday materials as embellishments

This one can be quite controversial if you are a 100% acid-free scrapper but it can save you money anyway. Try buying buttons from haberdashery shops rather than scrapping ones, which can be cheaper. Use ticket stubs and leaflets to embellish your vacation layouts (using an acid neutralizing spray if you’re concerned or keeping them away from photos). Or use plates and cups as circle templates. My favourite is using the ribbons that come on the inside of tops and dresses and are meant to be used for hanging the garment – I never use these ribbons so cut them off and use them for scrapbooking! If you start looking around, the possibilities are endless.


6. Buy quality tools

It may seem counter-intuitive but the more you spend in tools often means that you spend less money overall. My personal experience has been with trimmers: I started out with a very cheap one that didn’t last very long. I now have a more expensive trimmer but, as it’s the last trimmer I need to buy, it will eventually save me money. Another way to save money on tools is to buy only those that do more than one job, tools that you know you will actually use and to share tools with your fellow scrappers.


7. Buy only what you know you will use

How many of us have bought papers because they are gorgeous? Embellishments because they are so cute? Storage because it looks cool? And then we are afraid to use these things because we will run out or “spoil” it somehow? Buying pretty things to look at is nice every once in a while but will not help your finances. Buying only those things that you know you will use makes better financial sense.


8. Buy in bulk

Cardstock and adhesives are the bread and butter of our craft. Sometimes buying these things in bulk can save you money – but only do it if you know you will use them up. Or what about buying cardstock packs with friends and splitting them? Or spools of ribbons or bottles of flowers? We don’t always need the thousands of flowers or brads that come in one pack, so split them amongst your fellow scrappers and share the cost. That way everyone gets pretty things but splits the cost.


9. Take advantage of sales

If you absolutely must have that paper collection, then why not wait for the sale? This time of year everyone is discounting prices so you can grab a bargain if you are a savvy shopper. Shop around and use the power of the Internet to your advantage by comparing prices (don’t forget to include the P&P) and maximising the sales. Just don’t be tempted to buy too much that you don’t need!


10. Lay off the shopping

Simple but true – the easiest way to save money is to stop shopping. It isn’t always easy with all the lovely stash available to buy but think of all the money you’ll save!


I hope these tips help you in becoming a more frugal scrapper. Remember – you don’t have to spend a fortune to create meaningful pages and sometimes the simple pages with heartfelt (and handwritten!) journaling are the ones that mean the most to your family.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Design Thinking


I don’t often intersect my blog and my work so allow me the indulgence – because it really is worth it!

There is a great new course at the OU that is so good not only am I considering signing up myself but I think everyone that likes design, creativity or thinking in new ways should. Really. I don’t think the OU has ever offered such a cool course and I just want to shout it to the world!

The course is U101 Design Thinking and starts in February. It is a Level 1 course (60 points) and looks like seriously good fun, as well as fascinating and engaging. From my point of view, the best part of the course is the course materials offered.

If you are at all familiar with the OU you will know that the courses are conducted over distance (“supported open learning” in OU parlance) and all materials are included. For most courses this means a good supply of books, CDs, DVDs and even quirkier things like lab supplies. However, no other course has course materials like U101. They must be seen to be adored!


I don’t want to say too much about the course materials (called The Welcome Pack) themselves, because part of the course is discovering what they are and what you can make out of them, but I will say that they are unlike anything the OU has ever done. It is fitting that a design course has materials that have been carefully designed. The Welcome Pack is part fun, part education and is something tangible that will certainly impress students with its quality. In a way I wish I didn’t know so much about it, because I won’t be as giddy with surprise as registered students will be when they get their yummy box in the post.

The course itself is also fantastic and promises to change the way you think about the world around you. It is all about creativity, problem solving and interacting with other students. Basically, it is all fantastic and I’ll let you learn more about it. Maybe you’ll even want to sign up!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Travels around the World (Showcase) - Norway

(This is probably going to be the longest-ever blog series in ANYTHING at the rate I’m writing it!)


As we travel around the virtual World Showcase we have already stopped in Italy, Japan and France. Today it is the turn of Norway – one of the newest pavilions and one that inexplicably hosts Princesses these days.


Norway is probably one of the most unusual countries for the average US tourist. It doesn’t have the heavy cultural weight of somewhere like China, isn’t accessible to them like Mexico or Canada and doesn’t have the effect on the imagination of France or Italy. It probably doesn’t figure on most US citizens’ “must visit” list and they probably know very little about it.


I must admit I was the same. I knew nearly nothing about Norway other than it was probably very cold, it was somewhere up north and had Vikings in its history. I could probably only name Leif Ericsson but no other famous Norwegians. I had no idea about the culture, industry, architecture or food from there.

As soon as I arrived in WDW as a cultural representative I had a crash course in Norwegian culture: it may seem odd but Norwegians and Mexicans are generally very good friends in the International Program – the pavilions are together and cast members from both countries share a cafeteria so that is probably why. As a consequence people from both countries become fast friends and there have been more than a few Mexico-Norway couples that have gone on to get married, have kids, etc.


But anyway, the thing is I suddenly knew more about Norway than I ever thought possible and not only because of my fellow cast members (and my incredibly gorgeous Norwegian roommate) but also because of the pavilion itself. I, like countless other Epcot visitors, can suddenly learn all about this country in the pavilion. We can discover their knits, their trolls, their industry and that beautiful stave church. They have some of the yummiest pastries in World Showcase and one of the few dark rides in the park, including probably the highest number of hidden Mickeys. The film presented is a bit dated and weird but it is also quite informative – especially to those of us that knew nothing about Norway!


Being one of the newest pavilions also means that it has a very nice layout, well thought of design and arguably the most gorgeous cast member costume in the park. It also had – until those Princesses took over – the most exotic restaurant experience in all of World Showcase. Where else do you know that does Norwegian food? And you know what? It was delicious!


A few years ago we had the chance to go to Oslo for a few days, to visit one of those Mexican-Norwegian couples I mentioned before. We had a great time – and great weather! – and it was nice to once again have the chance to compare the real country to its Epcot counterpart. So how do they compare?


As always, the Norwegian pavilion doesn’t really manage to convey the beautiful scenery that is prevalent in the country but it does a great job, I think, in portraying what the country feels like. Not just the architecture but the costumes and the goods in the shops all can give visitors a glimpse into what Norway is all about. I do think the film is very dated but it does go someway to show the landscape that Norway is famous for, and is very difficult to recreate under the humid Florida sunshine.

This pavilion is one of my favorites now, not just because of the ride and the yummy pastries but because of the way it ‘feels’. I think that most visitors to the pavilion have no real preconceived ideas of what Norway is like and in this case the pavilion works well. As always, Norwegians think that it is too full of stereotypes and inconsistencies but that is a feeling that all natives felt about their own pavilions.

The definite best part of the Norway pavilion was its food and I can not write a post without saying that I think it is a travesty that the native fare has been replaced with more ‘theme park’ stuff and filled with Princess character dining. It really doesn’t fit (which Princess exactly is from Norway?) and detracts from the authentic experience that World Showcase is trying to create. But I understand that the more typical Norwegian food is still available, just not all the time so if that is the case, I guess it’s better than nothing.


Overall, I think the Norwegian pavilion is the perfect example of one that is truly a ‘commercial’ for the country it represents. It really made me want to go and visit there someday and see all these amazing places, as well as enjoy the warm hospitality of the people. I am glad we went and hope to visit there again someday.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Of roundabouts and 4-way stops

When I first moved to the UK (almost 13 years ago) I had to learn a lot of things all over again. One of the most useful was to ‘learn’ to drive UK-style.

As you probably already know, the UK driving is on the left – and of course I learned to drive on the right. It’s not just a case of sitting on the other side of the car and going though, think about it: all the controls are in the ‘wrong’ place and the mirrors too! Thankfully the foot pedals are the same but things are different enough that I really did have to take lessons and stuff.

I had been driving for more than 10 years when I had to do all of this. The actual mechanics of driving were the easiest part – the challenge was learning the new rules and driving decently, at least during the test. (Those that know me will agree that I drive like a lunatic with lots of bad habits. I drive pretty decently now, until I get back home and then all those bad habits and lunacies make an appearance!)

Anyway, one thing that was different was roundabouts. In Mexico these are treated like any junction so one road will have the right of way over the other. But here, the rules are different and we give way always to the right (so to those cars that are already in the roundabout). The whole thing felt very weird to me, but thankfully at about that time we were already thinking of moving to Milton Keynes – possibly the world capital of roundabouts. So on our frequent house-searching expeditions, I got a lot of roundabout practice.

The thing about roundabouts though is that they may seem a bit complex but once you grasp the basic rule – give way to the right – they are simple to navigate. There is a clear rule, so the issue of who goes and who stops is non-debatable. It is binary: you either go or you don’t.

Back home we are more familiar with 4-way stops. These junctions work differently – the apparent rule is that whoever gets to the junction first has the right of way. But more commonly, the drivers will actually make some sort of gesture to indicate their preference: usually letting the other car go first. It’s an effective way to negotiate a junction, I think. But the rule isn’t as black or white as it is for roundabouts: some human contact is required to make a decision. I like 4-way stops.

Whenever we are back home and my husband is driving, he trembles with fear at the thought of a 4-way stop. Thing is, he says, he never is sure what to do: who goes first? How does it all work? Why is it always different? I tell him that it’s a matter of simply looking at the other driver and establishing contact. He finds it all very amusing and rather scary.

Roundabouts and 4-way stops are good metaphors for the cultural differences between the UK and America (and I mean this in its correct, Continental sense). Brits like things to be clear and not ambiguous; they will follow rules and do so gladly. Roundabouts are all about rules and clarity. Whereas Americans are more comfortable with human relationships and a bit of confusion, so 4-way stops are perfect for them.

In my case, after much practice I got really good at roundabouts. I like them a lot actually, and embrace the fact that Milton Keynes is famous for its roundabouts. But I am also very capable of navigating through any 4-way stop with ease, and in a way prefer them to roundabouts as they involve human contact, which is always nice.

Does this mean I am a perfect cultural blend? At ease both in the UK and in America? Or does it simply mean that I am a better driver than I used to be?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The haircut that changed my life

I hadn’t even intended to get my hair cut that day.

I did, however, have an appointment to get my hair styled for my friend’s wedding. This was back in Mexico, where one simply does not attend a wedding; much less a good friend’s wedding, without spending a couple of hours and some money getting our hair professionally done.

So there I was, in the salon on a Saturday afternoon, along lots of other girls who were there doing the same thing I was. The place was buzzing and full of the smell of hairspray, the sound of happy chatter and hair dryers. I was being prepared and suddenly my stylist breezed in, took one look at my hair and said:

“I can’t work with this.”

She was dead serious. But instead of being offended, I actually agreed with her. I couldn’t remember the last time I had my hair cut, other than some trims here and there. I am always so disappointed with haircuts here in the UK – they are expensive and hardly ever do I feel that they helped. I feel that I have to tell the stylist every little thing, when all I want is for someone to use their experience and expertise and tell ME what I need to do with my very thick, very dark, kinda curly hair.

So anyway, this stylist then asked if it would be okay to cut my hair. I agreed – after all, she couldn’t “work” with the mess in front of her. So off she went (presumably to work on someone else) while I waited for the roaming haircut lady. She was with me soon and without asking me what I wanted done, simply said that my hair was in need of layers and without missing a beat she started chopping most of my hair off. Very quickly she was done, then she blow dried it straight and already I could see that she had worked magic. My hair looked amazing!

The stylist then returned and did some amazing things with my hair. It was kind of half up, half down, curly and messy and looked fantastic. I enjoyed the wedding very much and had a great time.

However, it wasn’t until the next morning that I actually realized just how GOOD the haircut was. I washed my hair, dried it as usual and WOW. I had been given the best haircut EVER. The layers were just right that they make my hair still long, but removed all the weight and even enhanced the curl, making my hair much curlier and much less wavy. I loved it.

This haircut really has changed my life. For once I am happy with my hair and I can wash it and not even dry it, and it looks good. I can leave it down and it looks great. I can pile it on my head and it looks pretty. I can play with the curls, making them ringlets or just sexy waves. I can even go to sleep with damp hair and have to do very little to my hair in the morning before I go out. In short, I finally have the hair I always dreamed of – and it turns out I always did, I just hadn’t had the right haircut!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

It's all about personal style

As a scrapbooker, I am generally very restrained. I don’t shop for new stash very often, I don’t get seduced by the latest thing and I make the best of the stuff I already have. I have gone for as long as a year without buying anything new, except basics like adhesive and cardstock when they ran out. Yet my pages are, if I may say so myself, pretty acceptable and in some cases, actually very nice.

Why can’t I be the same way when it comes to clothes?

I am almost the complete opposite when it comes to clothes shopping: I am always buying something new, love getting the latest thing (if it suits) and sometimes do not make the most of what I already have. I have a lot of very pretty things hanging in my closet but, because there are so many things in there, I miss them and never wear them!

How can I convert my scrapbooking resourcefulness into the fashion world? What strategies can I learn from one to apply into the other?

First of all, I should stop the shopping. Just like my stash, my wardrobe shouldn’t grow every day. I should only buy things when I really need them or when I really, really love it. Ideally that item would also complement what I already have and it doesn’t lead into further shopping because I need shoes to go with it or whatever.

I should also do a full inventory of what I already have and what works together. Just like my scrapbooking papers, I should focus on trying to find what works with what and what outfits I could put together with what I already have. When I’m scrapbooking I take great pride in those pages that I managed to pull together from scraps, and this normally works because almost all my papers go together because I only buy things that suit my scrapping style. So in the same way, I should be able to find some fantastic outfits that can be pulled together with what I already have.

After the inventory I may well end up with garments that I definitely do not need – either because they don’t fit, are worn or simply were a mistake from day one. These items should be given away or donated, to reduce the number of pieces I have and make room for the outfits I definitely wear. This is exactly what I do with my stash: I don’t buy too much because I find that this makes choices much harder.

Can I go a whole year without buying any new clothes? I am not sure but I guess it’s worth a try. Limitation may make me even more creative and, who knows, I might end up looking pretty amazing too.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

"Meet the Reader"...

I have been a subscriber to Scrapbook Inspirations since it launched and while I think the magazine is not as good as others, I still subscribe and read every issue I get.

In terms of actual scrapbooking inspiration, well I don’t actually get that many great ideas from the magazine (so much for the title!) but there is one little section that I always read and enjoy. It’s called “Meet the Reader” and it features questions and answers to one of the magazine’s readers. I don’t know how they are chosen and I would love to be in this section. However, I think my chances are slim so as a complete indulgence – and because this is MY blog – I am going to make my own “Meet the Reader” slot right here!

How long have you been scrapbooking?

I actually don’t remember ever starting to scrapbook so in a way I have always done it. I remember way back in the early 90s I started purchasing some supplies specifically designed for scrapbooking and I also remember when paper piecing was THE big thing. So yes, I’ve been doing it forever. And I have the layouts to prove it - in over 25 albums!

What’s your most frequent scrap subject?

My son Samuel, but he is quickly being overtaken by his baby sister Jessica! I also scrap a lot of our holidays and days out.

How much time do you get to scrap?

Not as much as I’d like. I used to do it two or three evenings a week but when I started running I just couldn’t keep up this schedule. Also, the arrival of a baby didn’t help so these days I’m lucky if I get an evening a week. I work full time so evenings are the only available time for me. This means that I have to be an efficient scrapper so that I can make the most of my time. This means I keep my layout simple, use lots of photos and journaling and don't dwell on the little decisions - stick it down and on to the next one!

Do you do any sociable scrapping?

Oh yes! We have an all-day Sunday crop once a month and also meet one evening during the week, also once a month. We also have a retreat once a year when we do nothing but scrap all weekend, away from home and it’s coming up very soon so I can’t wait...

What camera do you use?

I use a Minolta 8 megapixel digital camera which I use the most. I have toyed with the idea of getting an SLR digital but I am not actually sure I would use it much, as the Minolta is so handy and small.

What do you most love about scrapping?

The creative outlet it provides. I like making things and making them look pretty and scrapbooking is one of the things I do to get this ‘out of my system’. I also like the way I can record memories and use my photos creatively, rather than just leave them on a PC or a photo album. I also really enjoy meeting people through crops and sharing our hobby.

Which tool or gadget couldn’t you live without?

I have very, very few tools and gadgets as I’ve been scrapping for a long time and always managed without all the fancy gear! I do love my MM trimmer though and I definitely can’t live without my Zig pens, which I use all the time to journal. And of course my adhesives - can't do much without them.

What technique haven’t you given a go yet?

Anything to do with stitching, fabric or getting my hands dirty. I also don’t use my PC much for scrapbooking, I guess it’s because I’m all about getting pages done quickly and simply and these techniques just take too much time and extra equipment.

Have you tried digital or hybrid scrapping?

I had a little dabble and while it does appeal – especially because I do spend a lot of time with my PC – I think I’m just too attached to the real thing. Besides, I have got too much stash and I need to use it! Maybe I will give digital a try again a bit further down the line but I don't think it is for me.

Tell us a scrapping secret!

I am probably the only scrapper in the world that still attaches eyelets with a hammer! I just can’t justify getting myself a new gadget when my old tools still work just fine...

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