Sunday, 21 February 2010

Objects I love (as posted to U101)

As part of my Design Thinking course, I had to take photos of objects I like and then submit them to the Online Design Studio. They are intended to act as practice for taking and uploading photos which I already have lots of experience on… but I still took a while to do it. Why? I just couldn’t decide on only 3 objects to photograph!

In the end the three things I chose probably say a lot about me, so I thought it would be fun to share them with you and explain my choices further.

The first object that I chose was a Smart car. I chose this pretty quickly because it is something that has always made me smile. I used to own one and even though I have nothing against the car I have now, if I could I would go back to my Smart in a second.

The second object took a bit longer to pick. I was looking around the kitchen for inspiration and considered my blender (which I love but not THAT much), my slow cooker (which is great but let’s not get carried away) and finally settled on my Beaba Babycook.

I first got one when I had my first baby (of course) and quickly found out that this was probably the best way to make quick, healthy and cheap baby food. The little gadget steams, chops and defrosts vegetables so that you can quickly make baby food. It is also small, can fit in the cupboard, it’s easy to clean, it looks cute and is incredibly easy to use. Anyway, the gadget is amazing and even though it is expensive, it is well worth it. In fact, we carried on using the steamer even though the ‘baby’ was now a little boy as it was so useful for things like asparagus or small portions of veggies. Now with the new baby in the house it has once again come into use and once again I can rave about this useful little gadget.

The last item was proving difficult. As the course is all about design I wanted to choose an item that has made my life easier somehow because of the way it is designed. I thought of the obvious electronic gadgets (mobile, camera, MP3 player) but they weren’t exciting enough for me to ‘love’ them. I wanted something relatively simple but that has really made a difference to my life… and as I wandered around the house trying to get ideas I suddenly got inspired. Of course – a running skirt!

I have of course gone on and on about these things but they are truly objects that I love and that have changed my life. In my life before discovering these, I used to wear running clothes that were functional but didn’t make me look or feel good. Sure, some of the tops were cute but in general I didn’t love wearing any of that stuff. When I discovered running skirts I finally found an item that was still functional and had all the technical stuff for running but also made me feel pretty. Which meant I wanted to wear them a lot so I started running more. Which meant I got fitter and my life started to really improve. So when I say running skirts changed my life, they really did! But skirts aren’t only cute and functional – they are practical. Skirts usually have one (or two) pockets which are great for carrying the MP3 player, spare gels, keys and all those other little things that make running and life easier.

Once I uploaded my photos and thought about the choices I made, I realized that two out of these three items I’d already blogged extensively about so that validated my choices. It may seem superficial, it may seem a little materialistic but these three things are things I love, things that are well designed and things that bring a smile to my face.

What three things do YOU love?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Travels around the (World) Showcase - Canada

It’s been a little while, so shall we continue our travels around World Showcase? We’ve already visited Italy, Japan, France and Norway. In honor of the upcoming Winter Olympics, today our little tour will stop in our neighbor to the North – Canada.


When I was living in Florida I had a US work permit and part of the rules of that permit were that after 6 months I had to leave the US and get it renewed. Most of my fellow cast members would take that opportunity to go home for a few days back to Mexico, get the required stamp and return to work. But there was a little group of us that thought that was a bit predictable so we decided to go to Canada instead.

We took 4 days off work and flew off to chilly Quebec. Chilly? Actually, it was more than chilly but actually literally freezing. We had the bright idea to fly there at the end of January – possibly the coldest time to go. Bearing in mind that at the time I was living in sunny Florida, the weather was an absolute shock to the system.

So much of the trip was determined by the weather, something new to me (but sadly something that has now become a part of my life since I moved to the UK). None of us were used to having the weather determine everything and as such, the trip to Canada will alwaysbe remembered as ‘that time when I was freezing cold ALL the time.” For real.

But we did venture out a bit. We walked a bit around Montreal – or make that under Montreal. We were so impressed with all the underground tunnels and shops! We even emerged every once in a while and would have a look at all the nice buildings and stuff but sadly I can’t remember their names or anything. We barely stood still for long outside, as we were so, so cold. We spent a lot of time indoors as a result: in our hotel room drinking and chatting, in restaurants, in shops trying to warm up. And of course we visited the US consulate, which I’m sure is everyone’s ‘favorite’ stop when visiting Montreal!

We also took a bus to Quebec City and it was enchanting, surreal, covered in snow and ice and incredibly cold. But it was nice to sit inside the bus and look out at it. Besides, for most of us snow and ridiculous cold was a totally new experience. Other than experiencing it when skiing, I’d never really been out and about in such conditions.

So sadly I can’t really report on much actual sightseeing when we were in Canada. But I do remember one thing very clearly: the people in Canada are amazing. EVERYONE is so nice, so funny, so friendly. Canadians really and truly do rock and since that trip I have only had this belief reinforced as I have yet to meet a grumpy or impolite Canadian.

I think that the Canada pavilion in Epcot is a bit like my experience of the country: few people may remember the names of the shops or much detail about the buildings presented but the sunny disposition and friendly manner of the cast members is what makes this pavilion shine. It could be so easy to walk past Canada and miss it all, but there always seems to be some cast member either at the carts or doing crowd control that is always friendly and engaging. I will even go out on a limb and say that Canada has the nicest people – whether that is the pavilion or the country, my experience has never been anything but positive.

I hope to go back to Canada someday and this time, actually give the country some respect and do things properly: pay attention to what I’m looking at and maybe even learn something. But the main reason I want to go to Canada is because Canadians are such amazing people, I want to be in a place where there are lots of them. With such welcoming and friendly citizens, I am not surprised that the Winter Olympics are being held there. I am sure that all who visit will have the time of their lives!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"Her name was Lola..."

Remember that course that I blogged about a while ago? Well, I signed up. I am now the proud owner of my very own U101 box and am on the initial part of what I hope is a journey of discovery. Already I am very impressed with the way the course is presented, the use of technologies like videos and podcasts, and the cool software we can download to share our work with other students.

The forums are already buzzing and officially the course hasn't even started! The course materials box has caused quite a stir among the students and there are even reports of some students going out and buying some of the items in the box (like masking tape, metal ruler, pencil, etc) so that they don't have to use the ones provided as they are so pretty... I bet some of those students are also scrapbookers and want to have some U101 stash to stroke :)

It's quite exciting to be on a course for its first presentation and I will try and blog about my experiences as I progress. My only worry right now is the fact that this course is so cool and could take up so much of my free time, that I'll end up struggling to juggle that and training for that half-marathon in September... I shall have to become the very image of multi-tasking!

PS. the title? It's a sort of in-joke among students of U101, can you tell why?

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