Tuesday, 29 March 2011

My Next New Obsession...Digital Scrapbooking

It all started with this...

I wanted to have a special "front" page for my photo book and it frustrated me that I was not able to create anything that worked using the photo book software. I also had a problem of not being to fit in everything that I wanted to capture from our trip. I then remembered the concept of digital scrapbooking and decided to look into it in greater detail. Unfortunately, I became obsessed! I now knew what I wanted and had to learn how to do it. It was rather fortunate that we had purchased ourselves Photoshop CS5 before the trip...A crash course it was. I had one week to utilise the awesome discount being offered for the photo book and I wasn't going to miss it! I downloaded freebies online, bought some digital scrapbooking kits myself, set to work and the page above was born.

I couldn't stop there...I discovered an amazing site called mousescrappers dedicated to scrapbooking all things Disney! I was in heaven. I now have the solution to capturing those special moments at Walt Disney World in a way that I was not able to in my photo book. I was motivated to create a scrapbook of our first trip to WDW as a family. I purchased a voucher for a 12 x 12 photobook that was 40% off (Yes I know... Many things in my life are driven by discounts.) I have until the end of August to complete my new project. But it doesn't end there! I have now scrapbooked Lara's Birthday invite, an announcement for mother's group at church as well as other "precious" moments. There is no stopping this new scrapbooking machine!!!

Next I need to learn how to credit people correctly for their bits and pieces...

My recent announcement at church for Mother's Group

The invite for Lara's Birthday. One of my very first layouts.

The likely front cover for our WDW scrapbook, inspired by a layout posted on Mousescrappers

Some other pages that I've started

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Life After A Big Disney Trip

The few weeks after our big trip were particularly difficult. I had multiple tasks to complete whilst combating the post Disney blues. The biggest one, which was completing my trip report, has been achieved! I have also completed our photo book. However, the photo sorting and culling continues...I am grateful that we have already purchased tickets for our trip to Hong Kong in May, for otherwise I fear that the hum-drum of everyday life would have killed me. Not that I give myself a good chance of leading a hum-drum life.

Not content with my already long list of to-dos, I decided that I want to be able to make my own clothes. I was inspired by the creations of a fellow cruiser. She had sewn amazing outfits with Disney themed materials for her children. How hard can it be?!?!? So I impulsively purchased a book with gorgeous designs for little girls (from the US of course) and settled on making a matching top and pants set for Lara. I then encountered my first problem. I had no equipment and zero know how. Mother came to the rescue! We went shopping together to pick out some material and she promised to assist me with my project. I went home and read my new sewing book. I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

My new book
The pretty (but expensive!) materials

I was feeling overwhelmed and I hadn't even started yet. On my third weekend as an on-call widow, I bit the bullet and decided to finish my project come what may. I had cut out the patterns and washed the material. It was time to put it together. I gathered the children and headed over to Mother's. She had all the equipment...The child minding came in the form of Father.
The pattern

Tracing and cutting
I devoted every spare moment on that rainy weekend to sewing. Progress was slow but I was intent on completing my task. My patience and skills were sorely tested with the use of elastic threads and multiple gathers that were involved. On Saturday night, it had got to the point where I had sewed the same line twice unsatisfactorily. It was 1 am and I had to call it quits. The children found it amusing that I too had a "sleepover" at Oma's.

Halfway through...or so I thought!

I didn't realise how tired I was on Saturday until I sewed on Sunday. Everything seemed so much easier! I was in good spirits as the end was in sight. I finally finished just after lunch. With great excitement, I called upon my model for a fitting. It fit! Hurray!!!! I was very happy with my first effort. However, I am not sure that I could ever sew at home with the multiple distractions. It would also mean an investment in a whole lot of equipment. Hmmm...


My flower power girl!
I now have more things on my list to purchase from the US

What Happens When Daddy Has The Afternoon Off...

The children get to make fresh wontons for dinner! Malcolm made the stock from scratch with pork bones and cooked fresh blue swimmer crabs for the wonton filling. Delicious!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Jan 21 - Disney To Delta, A Rough Landing

It was a rather uneasy sleep overnight as I knew that when I woke up it would be time to go home...I did not want to leave the ship. The past 14 nights have been so magical and it was hard to believe that it went by so quickly. All 10 large pieces of luggage were already tagged with Daisy Duck labels and placed outside our stateroom overnight. All we had to take to breakfast were our five carry ons and the stroller. I was glad to be able to say a last goodbye to Sonia, our warm and lovely stateroom hostess from Jamaica.

And so it was, that all 20 of us had our last breakfast together as a group at Animator's Palate. We donned our Simba disembarkation stickers and waited at Studio Sea for our cue to be able to walk off the ship. The non-US citizen line was relatively empty at the port of LA. This was fortunate as immigration, though very friendly , took a LONG time. However, it took close to no time to pick up our luggage. Customs, thankfully, was also a walk through. We parted ways and said our goodbyes to Sharon, Samuel and the Parsons.

We were relieved to find our shuttles already waiting for us outside. They took us to the Travelodge at LAX where we had booked ourselves some day rooms with free wi-fi. At $49 per room it was a bargain. The shuttle drivers very extremely helpful and friendly, and we didn't hesitate to use them for our outing to come.

A view of LA at dawn

Trying to work out where to go

Our minivans

We made the trip to scenic Santa Monica to spend the afternoon. We were blessed with superb weather. We started at Third St Promenade. Our first priority was lunch, which was at Barney Bean's. After browsing through our newspaper menu (which took us a while to find and figure out), we settled for a chilli burger, Texas chilli with Spanish rice and clam chowder in sourdough bread. Yummmm!!! As we made our way to the pier, we took the opportunity to stroll through the shops for some last minute shopping. We visited Zara, Crocs, and of course, the Disney Store!
At the Pier, we indulged in some ice-cream whilst people watching. All in all, it was a lovely way to spend our last day in the US. The pick up time for our shuttle came around too quickly.

Third Street Promenade
Reading the newspaper...er menu

We headed back to the Travelodge for some re-packing, a quick shower and dinner at Denny's. We wanted to the make the most of unhealthy dinners, something we would have to stop doing as soon as we got home! Besides, I had to have those yummy American fries one last time
We caught the free shuttle provided by Travelodge to LAX. We made it there in 1 shuttle which was handy and this was when our horrible experience began.

Check in at the self check in booths was a disaster. It wouldn't work on many counts. The Delta staff were completely unhelpful. There was one particularly rude lady whose only obsession was to stand at the start of the line directing people where to go. There were NO other staff nearby to ask for assistance!

After a painful saga of going to multiple places and speaking to various staff, we eventually managed to get our boarding passes. We then had to go through the usual security which happened relatively smoothly. After that, we were back into the drab and sparse terminal where we entered the country over 6 weeks ago.

As we sat and waited to board our flight, we reminisced about the memorable experiences we've had over the past 45 days. It was hard to believe that our wonderful adventure had come to and end. We have truly been blessed to have been given such an amazing opportunity to see the world with family and friends. I was torn with mixed emotions. On one hand , I was eager to see family back home but on the other, I wished our trip didn't have to end. My one consoling thought was that our next Disney trip has already been booked.

Hong Kong Disneyland here we come!

We made it home in one piece!

Jan 20 - Our Last Day At Sea

Malcolm and I moped about the whole day today. We were depressed. We don't do the end of holidays too well. Today was our last day at sea. Tomorrow we head home. As we closed in on Los Angeles, the weather had turned cold. This necessitated jeans which I discovered had become a rather snug fit...I made the most of our last buffet breakfast and savoured the ability to have breakfast without having to make it myself. I am going to miss Triton's and BBB immensely.

I tried to start packing with little success. My heart was just not in it. I decided to finalise our photo purchases instead. Having completed this, I went back to the stateroom for my second attempt at packing. I was saved by my need to pick up Jonah for some lunch. This short interlude was much appreciated before I had to pack some more. We took another breack and watched the children do their little show on stage. Even though we had seen the same show on the Magic, it was still so special to see the excitement and joy on the children's faces to be up on stage. We packed some more and then had dinner. Our servers had saved us the menu from the Panama Canal crossing and had written little messages on it for us. It was so sweet! We took the opportunity to give them our tips. We finalised our accounts, filled in our comment cards and let Elliot swap a pin with a cast member. And then it was straight back to the room to complete the task. Yes we had a lot to pack! Being spread across two cabins and having sleeping toddlers didn't make the job any easier. The deed was finally done and we could go to bed.

Our last sunset...

Monday, 14 March 2011

Jan 19 - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We woke up to the most beautiful view of Cabo San Lucas! Along with the Parsons and the Kohs, we made it in time to board the first tender off the ship. As we pulled into the marina and walked off the tender, we were confronted with an endless number of tour operators spruiking their services. We bargained our way to our glass-bottomed boat for our morning expedition to the famous Land's end. Daniel was our guide for the morning. The view looking out of the boat towards Land's End was spectacular... sea lions, rock formations, uninhabited beaches... but the kids were transfixed by the semiopaque "glass" bottom of the boat which revealed the occasional white fish. It was only when the barking of an entire sea lion colony and the squarking of all the pelicans started to compete with their volume that they looked up and finally became excited about that too. The real excitement, however, was yet to come.

A view of Land's End from our balcony at dawn

Wake up sleepy heads, we have a tender to catch!
The tender process
The Statendam, also moored at Cabo San Lucas for the day
Looking back at the Wonder
Views coming into the marina
On the glass bottom boat...oh so sunny!
Enjoying their life vests
Spectacular rock formations
Secluded beaches
Abundant wildlife

Daniel dropped us off at Medano Beach, a haven of beach side activities, busy cafes and luxurious beach front resorts. Eight Albanys and Kohs bravely donned life jackets, handed over valuables and excess offspring and jumped on a slippery inflatable banana. We managed to communicate to the speedboat driver that thumbs up meant go faster and thumbs down meant slow down. The boys and girls had very different ideas about what they should be doing with their hands. The speed and spray had us all squealing but a little too dry for the driver's liking. With an evil grin he hung it to the left with venom and tipped us all in to the frigidly cold waters to be eaten by sea lions. Just as we were all about to be submerged we heard the familiar warcry from the Koh boy, "Awesome!". The girls watched us from the back of the speedboat for the rest of the trip.

Give me one of those!!!

Medano Beach, you can just see our afternoon hang out on the left
We spent the rest of the morning at "The Office", a restaurant made up of a multitude of umbrellas set up so close together by the beach front that they formed a "roof" and provided the much needed shade. We indulged ourselves with smoothies, and corn chips with salsa and guacamole. Daniel picked us up right on time and too us back to the marina. We wondered around the shops at the port. With the Statendam at port as well, it was busy and full of atmosphere. We decided to head back to the ship for lunch. We showered the sand and salt water off everyone and dropped the children at the kids club. It was bliss to be able to enjoy ice-cream on pool deck and watched the ship sail away from the port.

As we went for dinner, I realised that I had left my camera up on dec! Doh. I frantically went back up to search in vain. My faith in human kind and Disney magic was rewareded with the appearance of my camera at Guest services before the end of dinner! All decked out for our last formal night, we took up our seats at the Walt Disney Theatres for the much anticipated award winning show, Disney Dreams. It was awesome! As always, the music, the set changes, the costumes, the details were all phenomenal. It was a show I could watch over and over again. I took the opportunity to some last minute shopping and went to bed feeling very happy. What a wonderful day!

The girls never fail to love dressing up
The poor child pushed to exhaustion again...
The award winning Disney Dreams

Cinderella about to be transformed!
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo!
The Little Mermaid singing Part Of Your World with the most beautiful harmony I've ever heard
Look at her gorgeous gown!