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At the height of my movie-going experience, I was going to the movies every weekend. Sometimes, I would have the good fortune to see two movies in a weekend. When I was a film reviewer, I would see at least 3 films a week, some of which never made it past a 1-week run at the theatre.
The movie-going experience has changed immensely over the years. At their very humble beginnings, the Nickelodeon movie theatre was the first type of indoor space dedicated to showing projected motion pictures. These small, independent, simple theaters charged five cents for admission and flourished from about 1905 to 1915. As the movie industry began to flourish, the rush was on to build lavish, enormous, elaborate theatres, also known as movie palaces. The multi- and mega-plexes started to appear in the 1950′s and that is the format we are most familiar with today.
MOVIE FACT YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW: Canada was the first country in the world to have a two-screen theater. The Elgin Theatre in Ottawa became the first venue to offer two film programs on different screens in 1957.
People often complain about the price of going to the movies. For a family of four, like mine, a trip to the theatre sets us back around $100, once you factor in tickets and snacks. With movies coming to DVD faster than ever, it seems hard to justify a trip to the multiplex, when $100 will cover a 1-year subscription to Netflix. But we still love going to the movies and we do. In fact, this weekend, we saw two movies and had snacks for less than $80. For two films. And snacks.
How is this possible?
The independent movie theatre. We have come full circle.
When we lived in BC, we frequently headed to the Hollywood 3 theatre in Surrey, BC, a.k.a the cheap theatre. It was a little run down, and sometimes a seat was broken, but the owner was almost always there and had built a solid reputation as a good samaritan. Here in Calgary, this family goes to Canyon Meadows Cinemas. The movies are second run (meaning they’ve run their course at the major cinemas), and because it is independently owned, the owners can decide what movies to show and for how long. (This Remembrance Day weekend there were 5 family-friendly movies available to choose from).
So if you have a large family, don’t write off the affordability of a night, or afternoon, at the movies. Find a local, independently owned theatre and sit back and enjoy the show.
As a parent of two very creative boys, I am always on the hunt for interesting and affordable art lessons. I have a painter (aged 8) and an illustrator/animator (aged 9) so finding classes that can interest them both is always a challenge. The painter has very little interest in anything technical; the animator refuses to pick up a paintbrush (despite my efforts to show him how Disney cells are created and probably because he saw this video).
When I finally do find something great, I have to share it and I have to be involved. I was a final signature away from owning my own 4Cats franchise, but other commitments got in my way, and then we moved from Ontario. Fortunately, there are 4Cats studios all over Canada – one of my favourites is right here in Calgary’s Inglewood.
I recently had the good fortune to meet Janet Pliszka-Hughes, an extraordinary photographer and the owner of Visual Hues Photography. Janet, and her co-photographer Amy Braithwaite are an amazing team. Their efforts and skill brought out the best in me, and I am proud to share my headshot with the world.
From that photo shoot emerged a great working relationship. At the time, ChicFlicks was just starting to emerge, and I was already having discussions with prospective clients about how I could fulfill their video needs. Janet was one of those discussions. After months of work and planning, an amazing video shoot, and a great deal of careful editing, I am thrilled to finally be able to share another artistic program I am excited about.
The Kids Photography Academy (KPA) is a series of online classes that teaches kids the art, science and fun of photography. I was thrilled when Janet hired ChicFlicks to not only shoot the KickStarter video, but also as the contracted videographer for all the lessons. From what I have learned during the shoots, I can tell you with complete honesty that these lessons are going to be great fun for any child. KPA has already started issuing challenges to kids over on their Facebook page, and my children are delighted to grab the camera and run outside to capture an appropriate image (bad mommy has yet to upload them all).
The really nice thing about the online courses that KPA is offering is the freedom to complete the lessons on your own terms. I know in my household, the boys will be gung-ho at the start and once the initial excitement wears off, I can park the lessons until a day comes when the kids are complaining about being bored. The first round of lessons should be ready by December, just in time to gift them to friends and to gift your own mini-photographer with a camera.
If you are interested, visit the Kickstarter page where a pledge of $35 will earn you the first three FUNdamentals video lessons.
I recently received a call from a high school friend who wanted a video for her brother’s birthday. It was the first birthday he would be celebrating without both parents and she wanted to present a one-of-a-kind tribute to her family.
As the photos stared coming in, I saw the family story emerge, and even though I’ve known the woman (who I’ll call Diana) for almost 30 years, I was experiencing the history of her life between high school and adulthood. It’s the most gratifying part of my job – being able to see what other people cannot see within their own circles, seeing the love, the closeness, the laughter that is continuous in every family’s history despite the arguments or the geography or the expansions.
What hit me right here was the audio clip Diana sent of a message her father left on her voicemail, wishing her a happy birthday in the unique style he reserved for his children. Since no child was named in the message, we are using it to open the video for her brother’s birthday.
And that is the message I want you to hear – but from your own grandparents/parents/cherished family members. My grandparents died long before smartphone video made recording life a commonplace habit. We have no video or audio recordings of the people who helped raise me, who entertained me every Shabbat (Friday) after school. I have memories of watching the Price is Right with my grandfather and watching The Overcooking of Steak with my grandmother (not a skilled cook, but I loved her!). But it would be so nice to be able to to hear their voices, or to see a video clip of me and my grandfather yelling out prices at the contestants on TV.
After my grandmother passed and I started cleaning out her condo, I came across some surprising photos that were atypical of the woman I knew. I also found photos that instantly threw me back to when I was 10 years old and hanging out in my grandparent’s variety store.
We now have the technology to preserve those voices, places and actions forever. Even if your relative is camera shy, capture that. I recently had the opportunity to record my children baking with their grandmother, and I know it’s a video they will cherish forever. There are many clips of their grandparents and lately I find myself stepping in front of the camera knowing that one day, they will watch these videos. When that day comes, it won’t matter how my hair looked or what I weighed or if I was in my pj’s . It will only matter that they can see and hear their mom.
I could almost hear the collective sigh as kids across the country returned to school. While I am sure there were also a lot of tears, I know there were a lot of excited faces and eager beavers. The kids were into it too.
Around here, summer is not over until the photo book is done.
With more than 800 photos from our Alaskan cruise, I knew it would not be an easy task to cull the best photos to create our summer vacation photo book. It was something I had to schedule in order to make sure I completed it. I took a few hours to select my photos, started the upload to the photo site I chose and walked away from it for the rest of the day.
The next day, I gave myself two hours to put the book together. Around here, with two boys who sometimes want my attention, two hours is generally spread out over the course of the whole day. For my work ethic, just having it on my weekly planner is enough of a nudge to complete my task.
When it was finally done, I had a 111-page photo book with almost 400 photos. It was a long, but wonderful process. I added captions and moved photos around. I deleted some photos, uploaded some others. When you’re trying to capture the best of your holiday, you have to be picky and you have to have patience. There are two online photo book creators that I use: one is a simple drag and drop; the other is fully customizable. For this project, I purposely chose the drag and drop (with the option to move photos around) because I was limited in my time. For my client projects, I always use the program that enables me to build each page individually.
I’ve been creating photo books for 5 years for myself and my clients. My favorite photo book was a recipe cookbook I created for a family whose Scottish matriarch took the time to write down her recipes in a coiled steno pad. I scanned the recipes, and integrated the recipe pages with old photos of the family. The client was stunned into silence when I presented her with a book filled with stained recipes and restored photos.
The client thanked me, paid me and walked away. My first thought was that she was unhappy with the book, but later that day, I received the following email: Dana, my apologies for leaving so quickly. I truly lost control of my emotions and I hope you did not see me crying in my car. I cannot express what a gift you have given me and my family and a wonderful tribute to my grandmother. Thanks again for all your work in crafting the recipe photobook! I just love how it turned out. It far exceeded my expectations!
Photo books are the perfect complement to the digital age. If you are not a scrapbooker, then a photo book is a wonderful way to create something special in a very short time period.
Here are 5 steps to help you create your Summer 2013 photo book.
1) Choose your platform. The two big players are Shutterfly and Blurb, but ElePhoto is a 100% Canadian company and they are producing some quality work. You have to first decide which platform will suit your needs: do you want to drag and drop or do you want a little more control over how the pages work?
2) Schedule your time to select your photos. If you can’t block off a large chunk of time and you have volumes of photos to sift through, plan to tackle a little every day.
3) Be ruthless in your selection. If it’s a little out of focus, dump it if there are others that are better. If you always have to point out that the tiny dots in the water are seals, then forget about including it in your book.
4) Speak to your audience. When you are writing your captions, think of some of the things that your audience would like to know. When I am captioning the book, I keep my kids in mind, so I like to add my thoughts and write with my voice. My hope is that when they look at these books long after I’m gone, they really will hear me speaking.
5) Change it up. Try turning some photos on an angle or creating a mirror image on an opposite page – a great way to fill a page instead of sifting through all your photos again.
Have fun with the project. When it feels like work, walk away from it until you are ready to try again. The nice thing about online photo book software is that you can save your project and come back to it later.
This is one project it’s okay to procrastinate about, since I truly believe that summer ain’t over ’til the photo book’s done.
Our third day on the Disney Wonder found us winding our way through the Stephens Passage on our way to Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer glaciers. The ride was smooth, but every time I looked up from my book, it seemed like we were taking another turn through scenery more gorgeous than the last corner. I’m going to let the photos tell the story, but I want to share a couple of key occurrences.
1) Naturalist Cindy, who was narrating from the bridge as we navigated through the passage, has been living in Alaska for 20 years and HAD NEVER SEEN A CLEAR DAY like the one we had that day. Alaska is normally cloudy and rainy and the views are usually obscured. She frequently had to stop her narration because she too was in awe.
2) If we needed further proof that we were having an unusual day, we only had to look around the deck. The ship’s staff were emerging from everywhere eagerly taking pictures of the Sawyer glaciers and very excited about what they were seeing.
NOTE: CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO SEE THEM IN THEIR FULL GLORY!
UP NEXT: In Juneau, no one will hear you scream.
The first sleep on the ship was a surprise: we all slept like babies being gently rocked all night, but we felt no motion at all. When the boys woke the next morning, they quickly realized that we were out on the open seas and all three grabbed their binoculars and tried to find whales outside the porthole.
Shortly after breakfast, the boys were begging to investigate the Oceaneer’s Lab and the Oceaneer’s Club. We already knew about the glory of the clubs, having been brought to tears when we watched the DVD in 2007. The Oceaneer’s Club & Lab are for kids aged 3-10. I won’t bore you with the amazing activities that happen there every single day, but I will tell you what you, as a parent, really need know.
YOU CAN TAKE YOUR KIDS THERE AND LEAVE. UNTIL THEY WANT YOU TO COME GET THEM. WHICH IS NEVER.
(It’s okay to cry now)
At 7 and 8, our boys could check themselves in, and our eldest could check himself out. He met an awesome kid from Australia and together, the two of them went swimming, had ice cream for lunch and panini for dessert and popped into the ship’s movie theatre to watch the Avengers in 3D.
Don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute we spent with our boys. We had tons of fun just checking out the ship or swimming in the pool. But they had the freedom to do what they wanted and so did we. My husband and I enjoyed some brilliant adult time, just chatting and enjoying the ride.
Having some time away from the kids meant we could recharge our batteries and really let loose when they decided to grace us with their presence.
The views as we made our way north to Tracey Arm were absolutely stunning. Something went weird with my camera and I have some mysterious dark spots on some of these images, but you can see the spectacular scenery.
We capped off our first full day at sea with the formal dinner. On an 8-night cruise, you can expect at least one formal evening. Some people wore tuxedos and gowns, others wore suits and summer dresses. The boys were thrilled when we told them that yes, we packed their suits and ties and they too could dress for dinner. Our servers – Quacey and Sergio – were with us every night. They knew what we liked to drink and where we liked to sit. Most impressive of all, they knew exactly how to make this whole family smile.
Next time: The mind-blowing glacier and the naturalist whose mind was blown.
I lost my cruising virginity last week. I was really nervous about whether or not I was ready, if I had chosen the right time and place, if it was going to be as good as everyone says it is. I had my nails done, purchased a special dress and was carrying protection. I took all the necessary steps to prepare.
Would I wake up the next morning with regrets?
After 7 nights aboard the Disney Wonder, I can say with absolute certainty that I am deeply in love all over again. I have found the perfect mode of travel.
After speaking to seasoned cruisers, I now know that choosing Disney for my first has spoiled me for all other cruise lines.
I cannot gush enough about the superior service, the ongoing maintenance on the ship, the gourmet quality foods and the amazing port adventures. I’ll be breaking it all down for you over the next 7 blogs posts (maybe more).
From the minute we boarded the Disney Wonder, to our last step off the gangway, we were treated like I imagine the extremely wealthy are treated.
Our arrival on board was announced and we were applauded as we walked through the atrium toward the elevators.
We came to our stateroom and our luggage was already waiting for us. We set out to investigate the ship and discovered what would be our breakfast spot: the outside deck of the Beach Blanket Buffet. Even in port, the views were stunning.
On our journey of ship reconnaisance, we stopped to take the obligatory photo in front of the funnel. As my husband and kids were getting into position for the photo, a crew member came out of nowhere and offered to take a family photo. That happens everywhere on the ship – the crew just act before you even recognize your need.
As the final preparations were being made to set sail, we headed up to Deck 9, where the Adventures Away party started. After the party, my kids wasted no time changing into swimsuits and hitting one of the two family pools. It was surreal watching the Vancouver skyline fade away as we sipped beverages and watched the boys.
Sailing with Disney Cruise Lines is a not-to-be-missed experience. There are very good reasons why a Disney cruise costs more than most other lines, and it has nothing to do with merchandising and characters. I’ll be explaining everything over the course of this blog series.
Next time: Our first full day at sea and highly cherished “adults only” time.
This post started off as a Facebook status update. When I had to scroll up to see what I typed, I decided to transfer this into a blog post.
Here’s a funny story: I was solicited by a major brand to test and blog about their product. After some emails and a really engaging phone conversation, I was feeling great energy. The rep said I was easy to talk to and had a really good grasp of the product and clearly was familiar with how to use the product.
I provided them with my numbers.
Follow up email states that my numbers are too low for their parameters. Thank you for your interest.
Ummm…what? You reached out to me. Shouldn’t I be thanking you?
So I asked the question: Is being a fan, a supporter, a cheerleader, and persuasive about your product trumped by your focus on the numbers?
If I like your product, I will tell everyone I know who I think could use it. In my immediate circles of PEOPLE I SEE IN REAL LIFE, that could translate into 50 sales. When the 50 are happy, they tell their friends. Another 50 sales. And so on, and so on.
Think that has more reach than the 10,000 unique visitors I will never meet and who will still only trust the people in their circles when it comes time to purchase?
I have had a lot of careers since I finished university. I was a reporter who critically analyzed the numbers. I was a film critic who was known for honest reviews. I was a human resources manager whose payroll was never late. I was a retail manager who could convince a customer to not only buy the knife she came in for, but to buy an entire new set of pots and pans, flatware and dishes.
I know all about numbers and persuasion. I know exactly which one has the most potential to earn a company sales.
I think it is foolish to discount a potential source of advertising simply because the unique visitor count does not measure up to the 10,000 someone arbitrarily picked. I think it is bad marketing and bad customer relations.
Here’s what you did: you got me excited about working with you. I invested my time and my energy to convince you that I know and already love your product. I was feeling great about a potential relationship. Then you stuck a big, pointy, auditing pencil in my balloon and burst my bubble.
Marketing people take note: even though we are in the digital age, marketing cannot happen only via social media and blogging. It’s time to review your Marketing 101 material and remember two valuable lessons.
1) A satisfied customer will tell 3 friends; angry customers will tell 10.
2) Selling is about persuasion and emotion, neither of which can be achieved only through a screen.
So the next time you reach out to a small business that already supports you, please put the numbers away and focus on the real person and their true reach.
Clearing your smartphone on a regular basis is a smart move. In fact, it’s a necessary task for our digital lives. Not only are you making your phone much more efficient, you are saving all your contacts, photos and videos from accidental loss or destruction.
I get the emails all the time: I dropped my phone in the sink/toilet/lake/pool. Can you retrieve my photos?
Or: My toddler decided to use a toy dump truck/baseball bat/water table to bury/smack down/attempt to float my smartphone. Can we get the photos off of it now?
In most scenarios, once the phone is damaged, there is very little that can be done to retrieve your data. If you were saving your photos to an SD card installed in your smartphone, your chances are better.
Here is my guide for backing up, cleaning up and speeding up your smartphone (or tablet).
First task on my list is backing up all your information. Most smartphones work seamlessly with cloud storage. In my case, I recently re-installed (see more on that below) the Dropbox application to my iPhone and was surprised by the automatic back-up that started to happen. The default setting in the Dropbox app is to create a folder and upload your photos there on a regular basis. You can adjust the settings for frequency, and you can select what items you want Dropbox to backup. If you are using a different cloud service, check with their website to determine if there is an application that can automatically backup your iPhone.
If you’ve backed up and uploaded all your memory-hogging photos and videos to your cloud or your computer, now you are safe to remove them from your smartphone. You should also check for movies and TV shows that are being stored locally on your device and clear those off too. Edit your music collection too (as much as my husband protested, it was time to dump The Wiggles and accept that our 9-year-old prefers Maroon 5).
All the games you downloaded for your kids (who may have their own devices by now), the apps you thought were neat but never really use and the outdated apps should all be removed. You can re-install these apps at a later date if you need to. Now is a good time to create folders on your home screen to group similar apps together so you are not scrolling through endless apps looking for the one you need.
Update or re-install stale apps – the ones you use every now and then, or the ones that just stopped working for some reason (usually the result of missing an update or two). Clear your application and browser cache – ironically, the cache is there to speed things up, but you can have too much of a good thing in this case.
Taking some time to clean and backup your smartphone is well worth the effort it takes. Have a go and see how much space you can set free.
- Summer Scenes
- Sprinkler Shots
- Funny Faces
- Water Wars
- Camp Capers
- Best Bevvies
Who doesn’t love summer?
The bright sun, the longer days, the barbecues, the smell of suncreen and bug spray. Summer is just filled with happiness.
I want to see your best summer pics. I’ll be creating a Best of Summer video and for every photo you send in, you’ll earn an entry into a draw for a $25 gift certificate for Staples (in order to help you prepare for that other most wonderful time of the year).
Show Me Your Best:
Anything that has to do with your summer, I want you to share it!
You can email the photos to Digital Shoebox. Each photo you send earns you one entry. Contest closes September 1, 2013.
I’m looking forward to seeing your summery best!
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