Feel Good Friday #20

What was your favourite book when you were younger? I think the Harry Potter books, anything Jacqueline Wilson and the Noughts & Crosses series jostled for the top spot on my bookshelves. I didn't limit myself to my favourites though: with an overflowing bookshelf in my bedroom, a straining bookcase in the hallway, and a pass for our local library, I was never short of a stack of books to disappear into. 

Now imagine growing up without any books. No adventures to discover inside the pages, or lands to travel to, or characters to fall in love with. 

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Matthew Flores is a 12 year old boy from a Salt Lake City suburb who, until recently, read junk mail for a lack of anything better. When he asked his postman, Ron Lynch, if he had any extra junk mail last Friday, curious Ron asked why. 'He told me his wish is to have books to read. I told him the library had many, but he said they don't have a car, and couldn't afford the bus', Ron said. As an avid reader himself, Ron took to Facebook to urge his friends to help '... get this 12 year old some books! Let's help him. I was given many books as a child, and it's time to help someone else! He's counting on me, so I'm counting on you!' 

As if that wasn't already nice enough, the post has now been shared more than 6,000 times, with responses pouring in from around the world. Ron has been contacted by book lovers from the UK, Australia and India - who all want to help Matthew build up his own book collection.

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With book donations piling up at his home and local post office, it doesn't seem likely Matthew will have to make do with reading advertisements and newsletters any time soon. Some well-wishers have even hand delivered books to Matthew. 'I thought they were mistaken', said Matthew of the gifts, 'But they were for me'.

Of the surprise campaign, Ron said, 'I deserve little credit... It's all of you who cared enough to do something about it that are the true heroes of this story. Bless you all, and thank you all so much!' 

A book worm after my own heart, Matthew promises to read every book, and share them with other kids. 'I'm just super happy', he said.

If you'd like to send Matthew a book, please post it to:

Mathew Flores 
c/o Sandy Post Office
8850 S 700 E
Sandy, UT 84070

The Disneyland Paris tag




























The lovely Danielle over at Underland to Wonderland tagged me in her Disneyland Paris tag post way back in May. I'm really sorry for the delay, Danielle, but, better late than never, here we go! 

1. What year did you first visit DLP and how old were you?

1999 and I was ten years old. My mum and dad treated me and my best friend to a trip there to celebrate my first birthday with double digits. I felt so grown up at the time! 

2. Which of the Disney hotels have you stayed in, if any, and do you have a favourite?

I haven't stayed in any of the Disney hotels in Paris but I have stayed in the partner hotel, Algonquin’s Explorers Hotel. While not a fully fledged Disney hotel, this hotel has plenty of nods to Disney, including a Disney Store in the hotel lobby and is only 10 minutes from the park by a free shuttle bus.

If you're trying to book Disneyland Paris on a budget then I really recommend the partner hotels. I'm going back next month(!!) and I'm staying in the Vienna International Dream Castle Hotel - a beautiful partner hotel I fell in love with the last time I was in Paris. 

Maybe one day I'll make it to the Disneyland Hotel!

3. Let us in on where the best places to eat within both parks and the Disney Village are.

To be honest I haven't eaten in many sit down places in Disneyland Paris - I remember eating way too many late night fast food dinners in Downtown Disney instead! I did really love Colonel Hathi's Pizza Outpost for the chance to tuck into fresh pizza and salad in the shade though (and the design of the restaurant is pretty special too) and, of course, Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Planet Restaurant, because who wouldn't want to feel like they're in Toy Story?! I'm really looking forward to trying Annette's Diner next month too.







4. Where is your first port of call when entering the Disneyland Park?

After taking a ridiculous amount of photographs of Sleeping Beauty Castle, it has to be a spin on the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups. It was the first Disneyland Paris ride which Sam tried on our first trip together, so it's become something of a tradition to always ride them first.

5. Do you have a favorite 'land'? If so why?

Fantasyland! It's so beautiful, iconic and quintessentially Disney. When I think of Disneyland Paris, I think of Fantasyland.

6. Which ride could you ride over and over and never tire of?

While I might love the beauty of Fantasyland, when it comes to rides I love the roller coasters. Special mentions go to Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril - I might have a bit of a jiggly brain after, but I could ride these in a loop for hours.































7. Disneyland Park or Walt Disney Studios Park?

Disneyland Park. I do love Walt Disney Studios Park though and would recommend anyone visiting to make time for both parks. I particularly love the Art of Disney Animation attraction which gives you a beautiful insight into the development of Disney animation since the days of Walt Disney himself. 

8. Tell us about your favourite character meeting ever at DLP.

On my first ever trip to Disneyland Paris, I had a massive pink lollipop which I was happily wandering around Fantasyland with - until Tweedledee and Tweedledum came bowling over and tried to wrestle it from my hands. They attracted quite a crowd with their over the top theatrics and my mum was busy snapping away on her camera. While I usually hate being the centre of attention, this was so silly and fun, I couldn't help but laugh - and it's still one of my favourite ever memories of visiting any Disney park.

9. What is a parade/show from any year that is most memorable to you?

Disney Magic on Parade!, the 20th anniversary parade is my favourite. I love the colours, characters and styling of the floats. I honestly can't even look at the photographs from the parade without starting to hum the theme tune...








10. You can only ride one - Mad Hatter's Teacups or Dumbo the Flying Elephant?

It has to be Mad Hatter's Teacups for me!

11. What do you think is the best attraction in the Walt Disney Studios park?

While my favourite is the Art of Disney Animation, I've ready mentioned that, so I'll say CinéMagique, Crush's Coaster and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster - I know that's technically cheating, but with a theatre show, family ride and a big roller coaster, I think it shows the park offers something to every visitor. 

12. Describe your happiest Disneyland Paris memory of all time.

Oh, I really don't think I could pick just one! I can only narrow it down to three trips: visiting for the first time with my mum and dad and childhood best friend to celebrate my tenth birthday; visiting eleven years later with Sam to celebrate my twenty-first birthday (it's funny to see my tastes haven't changed much since I was little!); and going back with Sam for the park's 20th birthday celebrations - clearly, when it comes to Disney, add a birthday to the mix and it's perfection! 





























Have you ever been to Disneyland Paris? If you've blogged about it (or a trip to any Disney park), please leave a link in the comments below - Disney posts are my favourite posts!

Feel Good Friday #19

If you're an animal lover, I really hope this week's Feel Good Friday will put a smile on your face!

Trigueros Del Valle, a Spanish town with approximately 300 inhabitants, this week voted overwhelmingly to approve a declaration to define dogs and cats as 'non-human residents', giving them rights similar to men and women. This makes the town the first place in the world to give human rights to animals.

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'Dogs and cats have been living among us for over a 1,000 years,' said Pedro Pérez Espinosa, the town’s mayor. 'And the mayor must represent not just the human residents but must also be here for the others.'

The declaration is an attempt to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, as well as acknowledging their importance to the town and its residents. It also means the town hall will take responsibility for any abandoned dogs and cats and it will reprimand any owners who mistreat their animals.

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The Renedo Declaration consists of 13 articles, including 'all residents are born equal and have the same right to existence' and 'a resident, whether human or non-human, is entitled to respect'

This is particularly significant in a country which still celebrates the cruel "sport" of bullfighting in some areas. With articles such as 'no non-human resident should be exploited for the pleasure or recreation of man' and forbids 'any action that causes the mutilation or death of a non-human resident', the Renedo Declaration will clearly prohibit any form of bullfighting in Trigueros Del Valle.

While some may argue that a declaration which gives human rights to animals "goes too far", I support an act which provides protection to some of our most vulnerable citizens - human or not. As Rescate 1, a group that campaigns for animal rights, said of the decision, 'Today, we are closer as species and we are now more human thanks to the sensitivity and intelligence shown by the people of Trigueros del Valle... This is a great day for humans and non-human citizens alike.'

Eight lessons we can all learn from Clueless

Happy birthday, Clueless! With the film turning 20 years old this week (that's right, twenty!), I thought it would be fun to take a look at what we can learn from our favourite valley girl and her best friends.

A good outfit can make or break your day
























Okay, so it might seem shallow, but clothes do make a difference. I bet most of us can sympathise with Cher when she stresses 'Where's my white collarless shirt from Fred Segal? It's my most capable-looking outfit!' on the morning of her driving test - whether it's for an important meeting or a big date, wearing the right outfit can help you exude confidence (even if you're still secretly panicking inside).

Mirrors lie






















Speaking of clothes, I can't be the only one who has thought something looks great in the changing room mirror, only to look washed out or be confronted with man shoulders when I pose for a selfie?! I feel a little better about taking photographs of myself in the Topshop changing rooms when I remember Cher has recommended 'always taking Polaroids' since 1995. 

Every relationship should have a song

















Whether it's Coolio with a new crush, Beyoncé with your girl friends, or something soppy when you're loved up, you should have a song which instantly transports you back to a special evening or messy night out. I say soppy for relationships, but if you're anything like me and my boyfriend, 'your song' is more of a compilation of Taylor Swift, The Drums and Young Money (don't ask!).

We all doubt ourselves sometimes





















Even if you're beautiful high school royalty, you are going to have days when you feel like you can't do anything right and all of your good intentions go awry. Whether it's a problem at work or a bust up with a friend, take a deep breath, a step back from the situation, and try to think of a solution from someone else's point of view. If a friend came to you with this problem, how would you recommend she fix things? And, just as importantly, would you think badly of her for messing up? Probably not, so stop doing it to yourself. 

Move on from your mistakes






















Because, yes, you messed up, but looking back and obsessing over what you could have done differently isn't going to change a single thing. You should learn from it, but you also need to get over it. 

Wear what you want




























Would Dionne shy away from a crop top because a magazine told her it wouldn't suit her body shape? As if! If the nineties taught us anything, it's to throw away the fashion rulebook and wear what we love - even if what we love is an outrageous hat or head to toe yellow plaid. It might be the reason we all have embarrassing nineties photographs squirrelled away in a drawer somewhere, but it's still so much more fun taking risks with what we wear.

When a boy comes over, you should always have something in the oven






















Or, you know, order in. Cher couldn't cook and Paul Rudd still fell in love with her.

It's okay to be fussy about who you date























I'm definitely from the Cher school of thought that it's better to be alone than with the wrong person. This is especially important when you're giving them more than just your time. 'You have to clean them and feed them and they're just like these nervous creatures that jump and slobber all over you' might be how she describes high school boys, but it can still be tough to find someone you like after graduation - but remember, like Cher, you're 'not a prude, just highly selective'.

Song of the Sea

I found out about new animated film Song of the Sea by chance when a review from The Skinny popped up on my Twitter timeline last week. I hadn't heard of Irish animator Tomm Moore, or his Kilkenny based studio, Cartoon Saloon, before, but the beautiful image used to illustrate the review, as well as the description of the film as 'folkloric storytelling on a lavish canvas' hooked me in instantly. I decided in the moments it took me to read the review to go see it that weekend - and that was even before I got home and watched the stunning, atmospheric trailer.

























The film opens on a family: lighthouse-keeper, Conor; his pregnant wife, Bronagh; and their young son, Ben. The lighthouse cottage has an air of wonder and excitement - the nursery walls are half-painted with a mural from a fairytale, while Bronagh sings Ben softly to sleep with a rendition of Irish lullaby, Amhrán Na Farraige. However, when Bronagh suddenly rushes from their home into the night, the tranquillity of family life is shattered. Ben wakes to a bereft father cradling his newborn sister, Saoirse, and no explanation as to the whereabouts of his mother. 

As the years pass, bad feelings settle around the lighthouse like dark storm clouds - Conor struggles with depression, while Ben resents the little sister he associates with the loss of his mother. The arrival of the children's grandmother - a steely Irish woman convinced she knows what's best for her grandchildren - tips their lives further upside down when she convinces her reluctant son to let her take his children home to her house in Dublin. 

Determined Ben escapes his grandmother's spare bedroom on their first night, desperate to get home to his father and his best friend, sheepdog Cú. Saoirse tags along - much to Ben's annoyance - and the pair set out to make their way across Ireland back to the coast. However, the arrival of faeries, witches and selkies make their journey even more difficult than either expected.






While the story on its own is captivating, the allusions to Celtic mythology add rich layers to the film. Accompanied by an Irish soundtrack, it's impossible not to feel enthralled by the scenes which feature legends such as Macha, Mac Lir, and the passage to Tír na nÓg. Of course I have to mention the animation, which, as you can see from the stills above, is absolutely breathtaking. Every scene could be framed and hung on your wall. There were moments - particularly scenes focused around the lighthouse as the rain lashed down - when I couldn't help but silently exclaim 'Wow!' at how gorgeous the animation is. With soft, ethereal brush strokes, and otherworldly scenes, this 2014 animated film looks like something which has leaked out of a fairytale.  

As a relatively small film, Song of the Sea hasn't been released in as many cinemas as I would like, but, if it's showing somewhere near you, please go see it. I promise this magical story will captive you.

Images sourced from here, here and here

Vintage sketches auction

If you've ever been to any of the Disney parks then you may have spotted the Disney sketches which are for sale inside the animation studio attractions. In case you haven't been, these are The Magic of Disney Animation in Florida, Animation Academy in California and Art of Disney Animation in Paris. These attractions let you see concept sketches from classic Disney films (you should see what the seven dwarfs were originally going to look like!), as well as development boards which show - through concept sketches, original artwork and film cells - how some of our favourite Disney classics grew from pencil to pixel. There's also the opportunity to get hands on experience of sketching your own character - if you fancy yourself as a budding Disney animator! - and a Disney artist who works onsite to demonstrate how Disney characters are brought to life on the page. You can actually buy some of the sketches which the Disney artist creates, which is a wonderful opportunity to take home an original piece of Disney magic.






I'm reading Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas at the moment, which has only intensified my adoration for Disney animation. This wonderful book tells the story of how The Walt Disney Company came to be be: from Walt's early drawings for his high school newspaper, bankruptcy as a struggling film maker in Kansas City, and the loss of his beloved Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, to a leader in the American animation industry, which pushed the boundaries of art and technology, created a little character called Mickey Mouse, and changed the face of animation and American culture forever.

While I've always loved the beautiful completed Disney films, visiting some of the animation studio attractions and reading Walt Disney: An American Original has really made me appreciate how much imagination and hard work goes into every layer of these animated classics. While it would be easy to take Disney films for granted, having grown up with them, it is incredible to think how close they came to never existing - did you know, for instance, that the budget for Snow White ballooned from $250,000 to $1.5 million, forcing Walt to mortgage his house, and earned the film the nickname 'Walt's Folly', as Hollywood was so convinced it would fail and destroy the company?






If, like me, you're an out and proud Disney nerd, then you may be interested to know that there's a way to get your hands on some original Disney sketches which doesn't require a plane ride to Florida, California or Paris: on Tuesday July 14th, there will be an online vintage Disney animation auction, which will give you the opportunity to call an original Disney sketch your own. These sketches were created in graphite on studio animation paper at Walt Disney Studios circa 1930's. With the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, these sketches were created at a particularly significant time in the history of The Walt Disney Company. It's funny to think that some of these scrappy little drawings bloomed into the Technicolor motion pictures which we know and love.

While I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a Cinderella sketch the next time I'm in a Disney park, which Disney fan out there wouldn't love an original Mickey Mouse sketch from the Walt Disney Studios framed on their wall?!

While I was contacted by Invaluable, the online auction marketplace, regarding this auction, I've not been paid to write this post - I decided to because I genuinely think some of my Disney loving blog readers will find it interesting! All images sourced from the Invaluable website. 

Please note that while the Invaluable Terms of Use state they 'endeavour to use commercially reasonable efforts to confirm the authenticity of the goods it receives and posts for auction via its websites', these sketches are not sold with a certificate of authenticity. As with all websites, please be careful when shopping online!

Feel Good Friday #18

Camden Eubank from Virginia wanted to celebrate his 10th birthday by throwing 'an ultimate water balloon fight party with 2,000 balloons and lots of kids'. However, with apraxia of speech, which can make it difficult for Camden to articulate, his parents decided to homeschool him, which unfortunately means Camden doesn't have many opportunities to socialise with other children.

With a birthday wish of an enormous party full of his children his own age, Camden's mum, Traci worried that, other than his sister and cousins, his party would only be attended by adults. She posted her worries on the Cherab Foundation Facebook page, where the organisation's president, Lisa Geng, encouraged Traci to reach out online to find party guests outside of Camden's usual circle.

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Camden's 10th Birthday Party - An Open Invitation was shared on Facebook and Reddit, with Traci writing 'I am extending an open invitation to anyone with kids that wants to come throw some water balloons with one awesome little boy'. The post quickly went viral, with more than 5,000 'liking' the Facebook event page in just a couple of days.

According to the local news station, WDBJ7, more than 300 people turned up to Camden's birthday party on Monday, with many driving for hours across the state to be there. Von Lester, a man who travelled more than four hours to attend, said 'I saw this on Reddit and I just thought it would be a good time to come out and show Camden just because he does have that speech delay, it doesn't mean people aren't going to like him'.

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As well as hundreds of new friends, Troutville Fire Department showed up to soak people with their fire truck, and a GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost of the party, which was held in a local park, has raised more than $1,000. The incredible birthday cake in the top photograph was a gift from baker Aarika Farris and was just one of the many cakes given to the party - not to mention the 6,000 water balloons brought as ammo! 

As the party ran into the evening, Traci said 'He is happy, the happiest I've seen him in a long time because he has people to play with'. Wayne added 'It makes any pains you've got go away, it's a medicine in that sense, this feeling'.
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