Friday, 31 December 2010

Thirds

I turned 39 this year.

(don't worry - this isn't an 'OMG I'm nearly 40 post... that will come another time!)

Shortly after my birthday I must have been bored or something because I realized that with that number I could neatly divide my life into thirds. What's more, the whole of the last third is my life in the UK, as I've been living here 13 years.

So surely there is a blog post in there, right?

I've been thinking about this for far longer than I care to admit so yes, I guess there is a blog post in this numerical curiosity...

So what about the other two thirds of my life? Well, the first one is probably what is considered the formative years: birth to 13 year old. The stuff that happened then is the usual growing up stuff, you know... it is still fairly impressive that in a relatively short time one goes from a helpless infant into a somewhat opinionated pre-teen but I can hardly be the only one! So let's say that those first years happened and quickly turn to the second third.

This is probably the interesting one - when I go from a fairly yucky teenager into a somewhat acceptable 26 year old young lady. This third is where EVERYTHING happened! I went to high school then university, I did all that theater stuff, I met most of my oldest friends, I developed my own personality and sense of style. I became more and more independent, I moved to the USA for a year and had the time of my life... let's say that this third is where I explored the options and made choices.

The last third is the one where I settled down. As I mentioned above, this covers the last 13 years when I've been in the UK but it also covers the 13 years I've been married. It covers my (more stable) jobs, the time when we've owned property and of course had our kids.

Gradually I suppose this last phase will outlast the other two and I would have spent a larger proportion of my life in this stable, steady, familiar stage. The perfectionist in me doesn't find that appealing: in order to keep the numbers even, I should be starting a NEW stage! But to do what?

It is of course pure nonsense to want to move on to new things purely based on a mathematical curiosity, not to mention the fact that I am happy where I am and I don't want things to change! But the thought is there, nagging at the back of my mind... that I should try and keep the symmetry going just for the sake of itself.

Maybe this is how a mid-life crisis starts...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Moving

Moving is indeed one of the most stressful things you can do - I think I was on the verge of tears at least 3 times on moving day even though our move was as smooth as one can get!

Once we had a definite move date we could start packing away a few things. We had decided to go for a packing service so there was no point in packing too many things but I did pack my most precious things myself: my scrapbooks, my Disney books and of course my personal items (including jewelery).

On the day of the move, our house looked so empty:



When we got to the new house, it looked empty only for a few minutes, eventually almost every room had at least a few boxes, some random furniture and other stuff in it. I really can't stand untidiness so this was breaking point for me:


Gradually we've worked our way around the rooms and we are about 80% there. Sure, there are still pictures to put up and the kitchen cupboards are not really sorted in any way that is functional but we can at least live there and I don't feel like having a nervous breakdown every time I walk in the house. The kids bedrooms in particular are nearly there:

The guest room, however, is another story:

But my scrapbooking things (including all my albums) have found a happy home!
So we are slowly getting there... I'll keep you updated in about a month or so when it should all look even better!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Bye-bye my lovely closet...

Some of you may know that we moved recently. It’s been a busy couple of weeks but things are starting to settle down and we are winning the war with all those boxes.

The new house is lovely and I’ll go into more detail on a future post, but I wanted to talk about the old house first… the one we left. Although it was starting to feel a little small for us, there is nothing absolutely wrong with that house and there are in fact bits about it that I will miss, like the enormous garage (with automatic doors!), the lovely windows and our gorgeous French Doors that lead to the garden.

All of those things we can eventually incorporate into our new house and are indeed already looking into replacement windows, but there is one thing that I had to sacrifice and will not be able to replace.

My walk-in closet.

Yes, in my old house I had a walk-in closet and it was a proper one, with lots of space for all my clothes and shelves for shoes, sheets, bags, and lots and lots of other things that haven’t quite yet found a home in our new house. For those that may not know, these closets are rare in houses in the UK - at best you would get what is called a 'dressing area' but it is often not as large as having a whole room for just clothes!

While we do have a great big built-in wardrobe in our new bedroom, it just isn’t the same as a walk-in. We are also struggling with space a little bit as I have a LOT of clothes. It is a case of getting a carpenter to make some adjustments to the rails so it isn’t all bad news (and when we bought the house I was aware that we had some challenges there) but BOY do I envy the people that now live in my house, who own my lovely closet.

I loved making this place functional and organized: all my clothes are sorted by color (can you tell?) and the rails were placed so that my clothes would fit and not hit the floor but still be low enough for me to reach. I had even some space for longer dresses, which was a great foresight as maxi dresses suddenly came back and I had the perfect place to hang them. I also bought quite a lot of boxes so that things on the shelves would not just remain dust-free but would look much tidier. There was a mirror in there that was where I would make sure that the day's look was working and I even had some really useful hooks where I could hang the outfit for the next day.

The whole room was bright and sunny and although sometimes I wished the window was smaller (hence giving me a bit more wall space to hang stuff from) it kept the room feeling spacious and airy. We also wallpapered one wall (the one behind the clothes) and I would get glimpses of this great paper when I was looking through my clothes. This wall suddenly looked very obvious when the room was empty:

Ah, yes... I miss my walk in closet. I do love my new house but this closet will probably never be beaten.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Incredible - a scrapbooking post!

Yes, it's been a little while since I posted about scrapbooking... thing is, so many other things have been going on (races, courses, life) that I was not spending a lot of time with my photos and pretty papers and things. Other than my monthly crop I wasn't really doing much more than trying to keep up!

That changed when I went to my annual scrapbooking retreat with the lovely MK Scrappers - a whole weekend doing nothing more than scrapping, chatting and laughing with friends. These are some of the layouts I made that weekend:





I do love it when two of my 'worlds' collide and a great example are some of my layouts documenting my most recent race: the Disneyland 1/2 marathon in September:







I still have much work to do to complete the Disneyland album but now that I've started it, I feel like I've got momentum and will eventually complete it (much like I felt in the actual race!) I plan to also scrapbook photos about the rest of my trip to Disneyland and to include the vast amount of ephemera I brought back with me... I've also been given a lot of embellishments and papers from generous friends back in the USA (you know who you are!) and I am loving them! It's so nice to be able to produce such a Disney-fied album for a change, with all the Mickey cutouts, papers and lovely borders. Thanks guys - you are so kind and I am very, very grateful.

At the end of the second day, I'd produced quite a few layouts. When we are done, we put them up in boards around the room and I must say I was taking over one of them, as you can see here:

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Thoughts on Disneyland

The last time I went to Walt Disney World was in January, 2008. Before that, it was November 2007 and before that, November 2006. I can go back in a similar vein for over two decades, when I’ve been to WDW on average every other year, and if I look at even further back in time, I probably hit those parks around once a year. I’m not even counting the time when I spent a whole year there!

I’m telling you this not because I’m showing off, but because every one of those visits is burned into my memory and I can recall almost to the day what we saw, where we went and what we did.

However, when it comes to Disneyland – I can barely remember anything. I know I’ve been before but other than vague memories about being there as a small child (one or two years old) maybe once more when I was a teen (or twice?) and a visit to Disney’s California Adventure around 12 years ago, I can barely recall details. Even for my latest visit I can’t even remember what hotel we were in, how long we stayed in Anaheim or anything! I do remember the park though, but the visit itself is pretty fuzzy in my mind.

So when I arrived in LAX last September and got on the bus that took me to Disneyland, it was pretty much a brand-new visit for me. I knew that the likelihood of returning to the Disneyland resort was pretty slim, so I wanted to make sure that I made the most of the time I had and planned to spend all my downtime (when not racing or with friends) inside a park. I spent 5 days visiting the parks and it was a wise decision.

Disneyland is an interesting park for me – not so much for the attractions themselves (as almost all of them exist in a slightly better version in another Disney park somewhere) but for the history it has. Disneyland is after all the world’s first theme park, the first Disney Park and the only one that Walt actually visited. So as much as I think Disneyland Paris is beautiful, Tokyo Disneyland is unique and Walt Disney World is amazing – Disneyland is like no other.

But when I had visited Disneyland in the past, I was totally unaware of any of this and merely walked around it like it was any other Disney park, merrily ignoring the layer of historical significance I was to find so amazing a few decades later. It is fair to say that in my last visit I fell in love with Disneyland and all that it means.

When Disneyland was being built, there was no template to draw from and the Imagineers wrote the rule book as they went along. They didn’t know the huge numbers of guests that would need to be accommodated so the walkways are narrow, twisty and very charming. Disneyland is full of nooks and crannies, every one with its own personality and a joy to discover. Main St is almost my favourite place, because it just feels like a real place, somehow, because these shops have been here for such a long time and they have that slightly cramped feeling that is very ‘real’.

Disneyland also gave to the world some classic attractions that aren’t really based on anything the studio was working on at the time, which is a drastic difference from what happens now. There was no Haunted Mansion movie, no Jungle Cruise show, no It’s a Small World tie-in. The attractions are all great, and not because they included characters that people already knew (hint, hint). Going into the Disneyland Tiki Room, for example, is a totally different experience than it would be in WDW, simply because these Tiki Birds were the First Ones. I got chills down my spine with the thought that Walt possibly sat in this very same room and sang “like the birdies do”. These Tiki Birds are the originals – all the others are copies.

I could say the same for so many other attractions, especially Pirates of the Caribbean. This ride has gained in popularity thanks to the movies but when the ride opened in Disneyland, no one knew these pirates and loved the ride nevertheless. I love the fact that all subsequent Pirates rides in other parks also include the drops: but in Disneyland, the drops are an essential part of the ride layout, as it allows for the boats to drop below the berm and onto the enormous show building on the other side.

I had the luxury of time (and being on my own) so I spent a lot of time just wandering the park, absorbing its atmosphere and history, taking hundreds of photos and taking it all in. I saw every show I could, saw every parade, cried at the fireworks show (complete with pirouetting Tinker Bell!), was amazed by Fantasmic (even sans Dragon) and generally spent time committing every square meter of the park to memory. I tried to eat in different places every time (although the Mahi Mahi wrap in Tomorrowland Terrace was hard to beat!) and I just enjoyed being there.

Disneyland’s Tomorrowland feels smaller than it’s twins in other parks, but somehow this creates a sort of kinetic energy that works very well. Everywhere you look in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland you see something moving: rockets, boats, cars and the occasional monorail (HOW I loved those monorails!!) If the TTA was re-instated it would be even better as it would be yet another thing that is moving around this land. I also love the retro-futuristic architecture and the knowledge that on Opening Day in 1955, Tomorrowland was barely there and yet now it is more than complete. This is probably the place that has changed the most since then but it still retains that air of history.

But by far my favourite place was The Disney Gallery, which was FULL of amazing drawings, sketches, paintings and images by various artists, all interpreting the classic Disneyland attractions in their own style. I literally spent hours looking at all the art, the models, and the displays, reading every single word and wishing I had more money so that I could buy some of these works of art. I felt like this place truly encompassed what Disneyland is for me – a living museum full of treasure.

After spending all this time in Disneyland it was almost like rediscovering an old friend that you’d sort of forgotten and taken for granted. Disneyland is a quaint and charming place holding some of the most valuable Disneyana artifacts around, including what are in my opinion the coolest of the Disney monorails. It is a living museum of pop art, a literal monument to what happens when people work hard to make their dreams come true, and a place no true Disney fan should miss. It really does feel like a place where Walt walked and 'plussed' constantly and I think his spirit is still felt in this park more than any of the others.

I hope to return someday and, when I do, I will definitely remember what I did the last time and how fantastic the experience was.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Disneyland half marathon photos

The last time I did a Disney race, I took a disposable camera. This means I got a limited number of photos from race and while I love those photos, I always thought I should have carried my digital camera instead.

For the Disneyland half marathon I learned from experience and took my digital camera, which means I have literall hundreds of photos from the races! It has been a real challenge to narrow them down to these, which tell the story of my race and are quite fun too. Hope you enjoy reliving the memories with me!

The start was early and it was a foggy morning, which made for a lot of blurry photos. When we were eventually allowed to start, I took this photo of the start line and the palm trees in the fog.


Pretty soon we were getting into California Adventure and these guys were there to welcome us:


I just HAD to stop for the photo op with the kids from the High School Musical show!

The money shot in any Disney race is a photo with the castle. This race was no exception and here I am with my two running buddies Crystal and Dana. Don't you love how we color-coordinated our outfits?

Princess Tiana and her posse were out, looking very appropriate in New Orleans Square.

The Roundup Gang! I just love Toy Story so just had to make the most of this photo op!

Wicked Stepsisters and Stepmother going round and round on the carousel. They are in for a long ride, as it must have taken hours for all the runners to go past!

Into Tomorrowland and here comes a Stormtrooper...

Even the monorail was out to cheer on us! I think Disneyland has the coolest monorails, I love them so of course had to take a photo.

Little Einsteins! This one was for the kids... (but where's Quincy?)

Going backstage is another mild thrill I get from Disney races. I just love how reality is completely blocked by fantasy, as this shot reveals.

We left the parks and out into Anaheim city streets. They weren't very exciting but at least we had some entertainment, like these kids in Mexican costumes.

We also had Hawaiian dancers...

Eventually we got a bit bored of the course and started playing the game "what were you thinking?" and took photos of outfits that were... well... not a good idea, shall we say? Here is our first contestant:

We went through 4 miles of pretty much nothing to look at, when we eventually made it to the area near the Honda Center. The course took us through the back and probably the worst running terrain ever: small gravel. I did a lot of running on this stuff in France so I know I hate it, and I know other runners had trouble with falls, slips and even blisters from the gravel that got into their shoes. Not a great section of the course.

How very exciting - an overpass. If you look carefully, you can see the homeless asleep in there...

Finally something to look forward to: Angel Stadium. There were hundreds of kids lining up the entrance and I thought these guys were making a great effort.

Running through the stadium was fun - but a bit crowded and with very little room to stop. I managed only a quick photo before I had to move on...

After Angel Stadium we had 3 miles to go, most of that on boring city streets again. So while on the lookout for stuff to photograph, I just had to take this photo of an empty freeway. How often does THAT happen?!

We were fairly tired by now, so that's probably why I found this sign funny/inspiring:

We haven't forgotten the "what were you thinking?" competition and here is another worthy competitor:

Not quite LAPD but a gang control vehicle is a good reminder that we are NOT in Disneyland yet!

Ah! In the distance we can see the Tower of Terror... nearly there... and the sun also wants to come out...

Ladies and gentlemen: the winner of the "what were you thinking?" competition:
Where the HELL is the finish line?! It's just around the corner, apparently... I loved the music these kids were playing but I did miss the choir that we get at the WDW races. Nearly there!

The finish line!! And look - the sun is coming out at last!
My official finishing time was 3.18 which is pretty good considering all the times we stopped for photos and also a couple of bathroom breaks and even a chat with friends at mile 6.5. I was pleased with my time and, as I've always said, I like to get the most out of these races so I like to stay on the course as long as I'm allowed, to maximize the cost per hour :)

I am now the proud owner of a Mickey medal and have another set of great memories (not to mention great photos!)

PS. You can still sponsor me on http://www.justgiving.com/claudiadoesdisney

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