Sunday, 31 May 2015

Disneyland Paris

I've been back just over a week from my trip to Disneyland Paris and I thought I would share some of my photos and best bits with you all. It was so much fun (and very tiring!) but I loved it all. The attention to detail is amazing, everything from the staff who work there to the bins in each area, are themed!

Main street in the Magic Kingdom
The closer you get the more magical it is! Inside it amazing too!
Prettiest ride of them all....

It's a small world.

The parade! So amazing when the characters acknowledged the kids!

Mickey and Minnie <3
All of these photos were from the first day when we went to Disneyland Park. I'm trying to pinpoint my favourite bit and I think it was the Fantasy Land area which has the smaller rides but it's all based on fairy tales and stories such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Jack and the Beanstalk. The decoration everywhere was brilliant! I mentioned at the top of the post about the little details and it really is true.

The one thing I didn't like was that they didn't really have characters walking around. I don't know if I'm getting Paris and Florida mixed up from when I was a child but I seem to remember just being able to walk up to a lot of characters. I think we saw 3 out and about and they couldn't really stop to take pictures with people which some of the kids wanted. As far as I could work out you had to book to see the Mickey and Minnie and the Princesses but people were still queueing too. We couldn't do that with 41 children! My hopes of a picture with Minnie were dashed but that's my only criticism!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Travel guide and wishlist: When in Paris......

I'm off to Paris tomorrow on a school trip and I can't wait! Most of the kids have never been to Paris and many have never been abroad so it's going to be great to experience it with them and show them some sights. I first went to Paris when I was 21 and loved it so I thought I would put together a little guide of things that you MUST have which will make any trip easier! 

1. A travel guide and map
So, I was quite naive when I first went to Paris and thought the instructions to find the hotel were simple when it said on their website 'go straight out of the station door, turn left and follow the road'. What I didn't realise was that there were 5 exits at the train station and many crossroads in the area! A map is essential to have in your pocket and helps you plan what you want to see while you're there. The guides also have lots of tips and things you can easily miss otherwise.

2.  Travel Document Wallet
When I travel, I need to know that all of my important documents are there. There's nothing worse that getting to customs or needing your ticket and you have to root around in your huge bag to find the tiny bit of paper. A travel document wallet usually has little sections for your passport, currency, tickets and booking confirmations. They are like large purses and are easy to spot so you can keep everything organised. Perfect!

3. A good bag
You need a good sturdy bag for travelling. Firstly, to put all of your things in while you travel to your destination. Secondly, while you're there you have your map, various cameras, bottle of water etc and you need it to hold all of your essentials. Of course it helps if it looks nice! I love these vintage canvas backpacks that have come back in fashion. I always feel that backpacks can be quite bulky and I'm quite small but these ones fit everything in, are super comfy on the shoulders and they look cute too!

4. Comfy shoes! 
This ones  pretty obvious but you need a good pair of comfy shoes. I have learnt the hard way by wearing shoes that look nice but in fact have left me with blistered, sore feet. Not what you want from your first day out and about. If you are off on a city break, especially somewhere like Paris. you are going to do a lot of walking. Converse are the perfect answer if you aren't a fan of proper trainers and they still can be worn with shorts and skirts too. Win win.

5. A Notebook
This might not be everyones cup of tea but if you like scrapbooking or keeping your memories then you definitely need a little notebook. There have been so many times when I have got home and started to scrapbook and I have no idea what the hotel, restaurant, street was called or which day we went where. You don't to keep a full on diary but it's always handy to have some writing material with you.

6. A Camera
 This is an obvious one. Whether it's a Polaroid like this one, an SLR, a compact or just your phone, I can't stress how important I think a camera is. I love photos anyway and there have been holidays where I have had up to 4 cameras on me (don't judge, they are all different in some way!) If you experience these things and want to remember them then make sure you invest in a good camera. Saying that, there have been times when I've been having such a good time that I have forgotten to take any pictures and that's OK too!

7. A Padlock
OK. So this is exclusively for Paris trips and it's not essential as such but I love the idea! The Pont de l'Archeveche  bridge, also known as the Love Locks Bridge is a highlight for any couple or romance lover. The tradition is that you attach a padlock to the bridge with you and your lovers initials on them and then throw the key into the river, sealing your love forever. Romantic ay? It would be a fun thing for any couple but I'm not sure how good it is for the environment or the bridge itself anymore....

8. An Umbrella (waterproofs!)
The weather can be totally unpredictable and despite your best efforts to keep up to date with the weather forecast, it can often be wrong. When I went to Paris for the first time it was the middle of July so I pictured myself waltzing around the streets in pretty dresses and sandals. I couldn't be more wrong and more unprepared. I have never seen rain to heavy on the first day and I spent the rest of the trip cold and trying to look casual, not frozen, in all of my photos.  An umbrella or a waterproof coat is always a good idea to have in your bag (another reason for a good bag!)

I hope you have found my travel essentials useful! Some may be obvious but I'm speaking from experience of sometimes getting it really wrong and finding myself stuck in a foreign country. 

Happy Travelling Mon Ami!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Q&A with Claireabellemakes: Talking Creativity, Crafts and Cambridge

Following National Stationery week and with the Just a Card campaign still playing on my mind, I wanted to talk to a crafter and blogger who I admire about what they do and why. The first person who sprung to mind was Claire from Claireabellemakes who makes Cambridge and Scrabble
inspired cards, jewellery and artwork. Here's what Claire has to tell us about her business, her shop and the need to constantly make lists.

Congratulations on recently celebrating your 3 year blog birthday! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you started your blog?

Thanks Sally! Well, my name is Claire and I run the creative brand Claireabellemakes. I joined the blogging world because I really loved reading blogs and I felt as though I wanted to be part of the community. Now I can’t imagine life without my blog and business and I wonder what I did with my time before it!! I live in Cambridge in the UK which is my dream city and I pootle around on my bicycle most days visiting the yarn shop or grabbing frozen yoghurt. Well that’s about once a month if I manage to have a day off! Mostly I spend time in my home studio which is usually a mess, despite what you see on Instagram (the mess is all on the floor!!). It’s here I write my blog posts and work on projects for book and magazine publishers.  My Persian cat Tammy is usually curled up with me and causing trouble with my beads and yarn.

You also run a successful Etsy shop and Cambridge Craft Parties. For people who aren’t familiar with your Etsy shop and products, tell us a little bit about what you make and where you get your inspiration from.

My Etsy store is a mix of all things that inspire me about my city. I make bicycle themed accessories and Scrabble inspired gifts and jewellery. One of my most popular items is the Scrabble inspired wall art pieces. The backgrounds are made with custom fabrics which makes them a little different.  I’ve recently added stationery products to my range too as I’m a massive paper geek and I love creating cards and postcards.
Cambridge Craft Parties is another part of my business where I get to share my love of crafts with others.  It’s a workshop with a party feel where attendees work on a project to take home at the end of the day. The next workshop I am doing is exclusively for bloggers and we will be working on flower crowns and marbling projects. I can’t wait!

Custom Scrabble Artwork - Etsy
Have you always wanted to run your own handmade business?

Actually no. I wanted to be a dancer, so I trained for years and years and even worked as a performer for a while. I soon realised the money wasn’t all that great and it was a competitive industry to work in. Although tons of fun!! It wasn’t until I completed a Masters in Arts Management in 2011 that I really discovered my entrepreneurial spirit and love for handmade. This led to a blog which in turn led to the shop, and then came the craft parties and freelance writing work. Now I’m doing this I feel like I’ve found my THING and this is exactly what I was meant to do. 

What was it like setting up your own blog and business? Did you have to learn any new skills?
IT WAS HARD WORK. I am someone who always works as hard as I possibly can. Everything I have learnt through setting up a blog and business has been through trial and error. I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend who works with computers, so he has shown me some basic coding for my website, but has largely left me to it and guided me along with huge levels of support and encouragement. I researched a lot of creative business advice and prior to my launch and made an effort to immerse myself in the creative community.  I had to learn bookkeeping skills which I still find really boring and not the most fun part of running your own business.

Is there a particular moment or achievement that stands out for you as the proudest?
I think the first time my work was published in a book was pretty special to me. It was a bit surreal to see my crafts and name in print. Another fun moment was when a Sewing Bee contestant wore one of my Scrabble Inspired pins on the TV and I didn’t know until she popped up on the screen. I made the bf pause the TV so I could take a photo. It was very exciting.

Wooden Scrabble Inspired Brooch - Etsy
You have a series on your blog called Productivity for busy people. What are your 3 tips for being productive and staying organised?
I actually work a full-time job alongside Claireabellemakes so my life is currently filled with around 80 hours a week working time. Hence I need to be super organised with my life or else I’d never wash my hair, have a date night or see my friends! My top 3 life hacks for keeping organised are –  1) Gmail canned responses; if you’re sending the same email responses out all the time, set up canned responses to save time. 2) Get a slow cooker if time is short, batch cooking is perfect for busy people and I’ve always got a tasty stew in the freezer for my working evenings. 3) Get a planner! If your life involves lots of different things like business, work, childcare etc, get a filofax and divide your life. Each Sunday I plan for my week and use bullet journaling as a task list for being productive. My goals for 2015 were to be positive and productive. These 3 things are the main ways I keep on top of those goals. 

What are your can’t-live-without craft-room essentials?
My glue gun, my single hole punch (once you have one it is surprising how much you use it!), my SLR camera, hand cream on the desk, slippers, blankets and good lighting. Oh and a bit of Taylor Swift cos everyone needs a dance party break every now and again.

Have there ever been any negatives of running your own handmade business?
Exhaustion. It takes a lot of dedication to really make it in the handmade world and sometimes that means working really hard. I still strive for a better work life balance and many of my self employed friends say the same. Because you love your work it can be hard to switch off from it sometimes. I burned out after Christmas and it was tough to recover from. I had my busiest month ever for the store though!

Bronze Bicycle Necklace - Etsy

In a society where cheap mass produced items are available at the click of a button, why do you think it’s important for people to buy handmade?

To me handmade items are often an expression of someone’s personality. When I make something, I am choosing a style or colour that appeals to me, I am creating an item that speaks to my humour or I am making and remaking until it is perfect.  Sharing that with someone and having a customer part with money for my handmade item is a truly special feeling. Knowing where your item came from often makes you want to take care of it more. A cheap disposable item which can be easily replaced is not always treasured in the same way. I truly believe you are buying a story or a feeling when you buy handmade. I guess it’s about value and collecting useful and beautiful things that have meaning. 

What have you learnt about yourself throughout this whole process?
I have learnt that I love learning. That I am determined. That I love lists. That I need my monthly dinner with girlfriends to remind me to keep a balanced life. I have definitely learnt to dream big.

Lots of people, myself included, find you and your blog inspiring. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering starting their own handmade business, what would it be?
Thank you so much! My best advice is to connect with those people who inspire you. I receive weekly emails from people who tell me they have inspired to start their own blogs and I can’t tell you how amazing and proud that makes me feel!  It’s great to hear that our community is growing. We are privileged to have a free voice through blogging, and sharing that with other people who relate to you is a special thing. I definitely think embracing the creative industry and the people who drive it is one of the most rewarding and motivating things you can do. Without people supporting me, my business wouldn’t exist so I appreciate and enjoy that every single day. 

Scrablle inspired postcards - Etsy
Do you have anything exciting coming up that you could tell us about?
I’m super excited to be a vendor at the BUST Summer Craftacular in London on 17 May. My friend Kate and I will be heading to Bethnal Green to sell Claireabellemakes goodies and we can’t wait. I know I’ll have a few fan girl moments with other vendors and will be spending way too much of my pocket money if I get a chance to speed shop.

Unrelated to my business – I’m also off to Disney later this year. Expect Mickey Mouse related vlogs on my You Tube channel! 

Be sure to check out Claire's Blog and her Etsy shop for  all of the products listed and much more! You can also find her on all of the usual social media sites so do go and say hello!