17/06/2015

A Trip To Disneyland Paris...& A Disney Merchandise Haul

Hello everyone!

I recently came back from a mini break to Disneyland Paris (DLP) and I wanted to share with you a quick run down of the third Disney park that I've been to, as well as a couple of my pics. I'd been looking to visit DLP for a good number of years now (as far back as 2012 I believe) after I came back from WDW in Florida and decided to make it my mission in life to experience every Disney Park property on the planet. I've now achieved half of my goal, having been to Disneyland Hong Kong in 2008 and WDW twice in 2007 and 2012, and now DLP in 2015. There's only Shanghai, California and Tokyo to go! 

I scoured the internet looking for the best price to book my DLP package, from the DLP Disney website, to using tour operators like Thomas Cook, before I decided I would go it alone and book the components of the holiday separately. I got return Eurostar tickets for £66pp, a hotel in London for £27pp, return coach tickets to London for £25pp, 3 nights in the Explorers Hotel at DLP for £150pp and then 3 days of park tickets for the price of 2 at £97pp. All in all, my friend Catherine and I paid just over £350 each for our 5 day, 4 night adventure. Which, if you ask me, is a bargain - I've seen some people pay the same amount of money to go to DLP as they have to WDW!

We embarked on a journey to London via the coach from the South West and arrived just before midday into Hammersmith. I gave a quick wave to Disney HQ before boarding the tube to Aldgate East, Whitechapel to make our way to our Ibis hotel. I'm not one for negativity much here on Confetti Letters so I'll leave my review short and sweet: I won't be staying there again. That is all.

The next day our experience of the Eurostar was effortless at 0530am, the RER slightly confusing once in Paris, but the welcome sight of Disney at the end of the train line at Marne-la-Vallee was amazing. We boarded a (free!) bus to our hotel, The Explorers at Disneyland Paris and was told that although our room wasn't ready yet, we were welcome to leave our luggage (also free!) in a safe room at the hotel and hot foot it into the parks. We did so, and we in Disneyland Park by midday!


Fast forward 10 hours and we'd visited all of the attractions in the entire park, from It's A Small World, to Big Thunder Mountain, to Pirates of the Caribbean and Snow White, eaten a Casey's Corner hotdog and sampled an all you can eat buffet at Plaza Gardens, and watched Disney Magic on Parade. I was in complete awe throughout the day, soaking up the pixie dust and just being incredibly, genuinely happy to be back home in a Disney Park. <3

I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet the park was for a Friday, our longest wait time was 45 minutes for Big Thunder, which pales in comparison to a WDW queue! The whole park seemed much less rushed too, people were ambling around, no-one was pushing through to get somewhere fast, there were hardly any queues that used the overflow lines for the attractions and people were just generally enjoying the slower pace of Disney life. I definitely also welcomed the later park times, where Disneyland Park opened at 10am and closed after the culmination of Dreams at 1130pm, and Walt Disney Studios park opened at 10am and closed as early as 7pm!

On day two we ventured next door to the Studios park, arriving just after 10am. As it was Saturday we were expecting huge queues, but again our longest wait time was just under 60 minutes for the Ratatouille experience (definitely a must-do!). Again we also managed to complete the whole park in one day, and instead of taking a break back to the hotel as planned we went right through to midnight and watched the nighttime spectacle, Dreams at Disneyland Park after Studios closed. My highlights from this park of course included the Rock & Rollercoaster, screaming on Tower of Terror and meeting the boss, Mickey Mouse. What I didn't enjoy so much was riding Crush's Coaster backwards (I fully expected a calm experience type attraction, akin to Peter Pan's Flight or something, but this was before I read the ride description properly and realised that there would be darkness, drops and spinning!!), the fact that no smoking rules are completely ignored and not enforced, and the amount of rubbish that littered the parks. These latter two aspects tarnished the seamless Disney experience for me that I know and love if I'm honest. You just shouldn't see a lost Coke bottle on the Indiana Jones set because someone's been too bone idled to put it in the bin - it made me sad!

That said, I had an amazing time at Studios park, and so for our third day we went back to Disneyland Park to meet Princess Ariel, have lunch at Pizza Planet and ride Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Blast. We inevitably had to say goodbye to the parks, and did so after watching the parade for the second time, and meandering around Disney Village before heading back to pack up our hotel room. I would honestly go back to DLP in a heart beat, and I'm happy to report that I don't have too bad of a Post Disney Depression this time round because I know that my WDW CRP begins in 18 weeks (4 months!!), but I will definitely plan to go back to DLP in the future. I'd also definitely recommend the Explorers hotel, and would probably choose to stay there again above a Disney owned hotel as it has a lovely breakfast included in the price, very comfortable rooms and free wi-fi. It also has a pool, and big soft-play areas for kids, as well as some lovely restaurants and seating areas. The free bus service was also reliable, well run, and very easily accessible. All in all, a fantastic trip!

I also managed to make a like a good blogger and do a little shopping whilst in Disney. If you're from a country where Euros aren't you home currency like I am, then you'll probably have fewer qualms about handing over lots of money for Disney merchandise and Disney food just because you can't work out the exchange rate fast enough in your head before you pay (I am speaking directly from experience). For example, upon reflection, I was handing over £2.50 for bottles of water, paid nearly £30 for a set menu meal, and was going to buy a tank top before I calculated that the 45 euro price was the equivalent to £32. Disney isn't cheap...roll on my Cast Member discount! However, as you can see I did pick up lots of little keepsakes to add to my Disney merch collection, including a musical jewellery box, a gorgeous pink Disney Princess scarf, some Tsum Tsums, stationary, sweets, chocolate, popcorn, pins and more. I was in Disney merch heaven, and can't wait to get some bigger items in Florida in October.

So that was a little snippet into my DLP mini break. Of course I still wish I was in Paris, tearing up over Dreams and celebrating the magic but I must come back to reality with a bump and return to work...*sad face*.

Have you ever been to a Disney Park? Or DLP?
What's your favourite Disney film?

10/05/2015

A Sephora Wish List

I wouldn't be a proper #bblogger if I didn't have a list as long as my arm detailing bits and pieces I'd love to buy from Sephora - that sacred, hallowed ground of beauty goodness. Given my imminent move across the pond I feel that it's only fitting to scour the Sephora website and pick out some goodies to watch out for come October...so what have I chosen?


Haircare
I haven't chosen much haircare as it's not really an area of my particular interest, but I did spot DryBar's Happy Hour shampoo which caught my eye. It's a similar concept to Bumble & Bumble's Sunday shampoo in that it's designed as an all in one hair cleanser to be used once or twice a week in between regular hair washes in order to remove product build up and deeply cleanse the hair. This will be perfect for me as I just know I'll be caught out by the humidity, and I'll definitely be in the pool before work.
The other haircare item I like the look of is the Show Beauty Premiere Dry Shampoo, a lightweight dry shampoo that absorbs oils and adds volume. It's a bit on the pricy side at $47, but I'm in love with the jewel encrusted cap!

Skincare
I have three skincare items on my wish list. The first is to try a Glamglow product, and the one I have pictured above is Thirstymud. I also love the sound of Ole Henriksen's Walnut Complexion Scrub to get rid of dead cells - I've not tried anything by Ole Henriksen before. My final skincare wish is actually one of Sephora's bestselling concepts, a box of their bestsellers, or favourites. The one I have chosen here is The Great Cleanse, a 12 piece set of cleansing products put together to help you choose the right cleanser without having to purchase full sized products. I love a good cleanser, washing my face is one part of my skincare regime that I love doing, so this is a perfect way to try new brands and products!

Make-Up 
There are some cult favourites highlighted on my Sephora make-up wish list, namely Fresh Sugar Lip Balm, Too Faced's Better Than Sex Mascara (two products I know to have rave reviews), and Tarte's Amazonian Clay Blusher - again a blush game changer and a HG product for many. I'd also really love to try Makeup Forever's HD Foundation (a favourite of Kim K, so I've read!) and of course get my hands on some much coveted Marc Jacobs beauty items, including a Kiss Pop Color Stick and a gorgeous eye shadow palette set.

Miscellaneous
Do we have make-up remover filled cotton buds in the UK? If so point me in their direction please. I'd love to try them, which is why I've put Sephora's Targeted Eye Remover Swabs in my virtual basket. They'd be perfect to remove mascara residue.
I've also popped two rollerball perfumes onto my wish list because I think they're a really neat way to try new scents and perfect for travelling...and we don't have a lot of them freely available in the UK. I know that I'll definitely be keeping fragrances in my work bag...I'll be wanting to smell fresh in the heat!
The other two miscellaneous beauty bits are two make-up bags, Sephora's Beauty On The Fly is a TSA approved clear plastic travel bag, perfect for carrying liquids airborne...and perfect for taking to Disneyland California (should I have the fortune to go!), and The Voyager is a Sephora branded make up bag that reminds me of gorgeous mermaid scales.

Do you have any Sephora product recommendations? I'd love to hear them :)

02/05/2015

Moving to Florida | Disney CRP 6 Months To Go Checklist!

Good morning :)

I've hit the 6 months to go mark. Well, in fact it's actually 5 months and 24 days to go now until I move to Orlando for the year, so I thought I'd write this blog post as a visual reminder for myself of the things that I need to complete, and for you to peek into the process of what it takes, post acceptance, for you to physically haul your life across the ocean...

Yummy Jobs set me up with a Cultural Representative Programme step-by-step guide / cheat sheet kind of document that will help the British CRPs get everything in order, which I have found incredibly useful.

So what do I need to be doing? (This list is not set in stone, you could, I guess, complete these steps no matter how close or far you are to your programme start date, providing they're all done before you step onto the plane!)
  • Accept job offer and pay initial fee - complete @ 02/04/15
  • Pay CRB check fee - complete @ 13/04/15
  • Receive CRB paperwork in the post and send back to YJ
  • Book a flight - complete @ 03/04/15
  • Arrange a hotel at the airport
  • Arrange a hotel in Orlando - complete @ 30/04/15
  • Upload all necessary documents to Disney's DOC
  • Research and pay for medical insurance
  • Scan CRB and email to YJ
  • Email flight information to YJ
  • Await 1 month before departure to arrive before commencing visa application
So that's a little update of where I'm at with my formal planning. I'm currently having a huge mare with my medical insurance because it's just so confusing and it's making me really appreciate the NHS! 

So my question for you is, what's one British home comfort that you think I need to pack in my suitcase that I'll miss while I'm away? (I'm thinking food related!) Let me know in the comments below!


15/04/2015

Working At Walt Disney World| How To Apply Stage 3: The UK Face-To-Face Interview

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Hello :)

This is part three of my posts detailing the UK application for the Disney Cultural Representative Program (CRP) and will cover my experience of day of the final interview, or the face-to-face interview as it's also known, which took place on March 19th, 2015. Again, as I have said before, this post talks about my personal experience and as such your application experience may differ slightly. Click on my CRP page in the bar above to find my other posts about my CRP journey.

Through to the final round! 
So, 48 hours after my pre-screen interview I was at work and checked my emails to see that I'd been invited to the final round of the application, a visit to Disney HQ in Hammersmith, London! For me this was to be the most exciting part of the application process as I'd have the chance to see a little bit of the inside of Disney HQ, something that many people will never have the chance to do.

In order to prepare for this interview I made sure to join the new Facebook group to help me connect with the people that could potentially become my new work colleagues, decide what to wear, and plan out some answers to potential questions in my new Mickey Mouse notebook. I was also sent an email from Disney asking me to fill out my role preferences (I put Merchandise as my preferred interest because I wanted to try something new, and then Food & Beverage. Unfortunately the UK only has these two job roles available as we don't have any attractions in the UK Pavillion!), and to select my interview date and time. I was also invited via email to upload my CV, emergency contact details and other such important documents to Disney's online hub, DOC, which I did in anticipation that it would save me some time if I was given the job (update: it did!).

The final interview was set for approximately 2 weeks after the pre-screen event so I didn't have much time to plan a trip to London. The email will ask for you to be at Disney HQ for 09:00 on the morning of your interview so I knew that I would have to include an overnight stay this time which arrived in the form of my friend Hannah from Saudi, who graciously let me stay at her flat for the night.


The Day Itself
On the day of my interview (which was the 19th of March, the second of the two available dates) I caught an overcrowded train and tube during morning rush hour to meet with my fellow interviewees outside of McDonald's in Hammersmith Bus Station. We made our way to Disney HQ and received our security passes before waiting patiently in the lobby beside a giant Swarovski Micky Mouse to be called upstairs to check in with Yummy Jobs. My passport was checked and then we were all ushered into Disney's full sized movie theatre for a presentation from two Disney representatives, Chuck (the general manager of EPCOT Theme Park!) and Sue (an international recruiter for Disney).

The presentation was much like the one at the pre-screen, where Sue talked us through some important information like the job roles, the wages, housing, and cast member benefits, only this time it came with added videos that made me want to cry with happiness, and really hit home just how much I actually really wanted to make it onto the program. The video I've linked above really sums everything up for me, and I actually shared this to the Facebook group prior to us arriving for our final interviews and everyone agreed that it's a tear-jerker!

After the interviews everyone had to leave Disney HQ and then come back 15 minutes before their allotted interview time. As mine was at half past 3 that afternoon I ended up having 5 hours to spare before I was called into the interview room. In the interim time myself, and some new Disney friends (Hi Peter, Leanne and Matthew!), decided to go to the Disney Cafe in Harrods which was an excellent choice as we ate the most delicious lunch and spent about 3 hours there in total (see my blog post here about it). It was so great chatting to some fellow 'Disnerds'!
Disney HQ Reception
In The Interview
So 3:30pm rolled around and I felt myself getting a little nervous as I made my way back to HQ to wait to be called back upstairs. I ended up having to sit for another hour to be called into the interview room because my last name begins with a W, which was nerve wracking because I got to see how everyone felt on their way out of the interview room, but no-one was giving anything away! It was nice chatting to Katie from Yummy Jobs, and fellow CRP hopefuls but all too soon my time came around and Chuck came to the door and called my name - I was to be interviewed by the general manager of my soon-to-be-new-home theme park!

Now I'm going to be completely honest here and say that I truly can't really remember the ins and outs of what my interview actually consisted of because it all went by in a complete blur, and I honestly thought I'd fluffed it. I know that it lasted about 10 minutes, and I managed to make Chuck laugh a lot, but I don't really remember what my main answers consisted of.

What I do remember is that I sat down and Chuck asked me what I'd done with my time in between the presentation and my interview slot and I told him about going to the Disney Cafe for a toastie. He asked me what a toastie was and I immediately answered saying that it was akin to a grilled cheese (one point to me for cultural exchange!). The interview then bounced between being a really informal chat and a proper interview, which completely took me by surprise. Chuck asked me questions like:
  1. Why Disney?
  2. How would you cope with the heat?
  3. What would be the hardest part of your program?
  4. Do you have any experience with handling money?
  5. How would you deal with a guest who had a complaint?
  6. Have you any experience of manual / heavy lifting?
  7. Which airport would you fly from?
  8. Do you have any tattoos?
  9. What is your availability?
A lot to get through in 10 minutes, eh?! I remember that I did do lots of talking and also made a point to translate every time I said something very British into an American alternative so that I could demonstrate that I could talk about anything to just about anyone (for example I converted how much I'd normally cash up in the Drive-Thru till from ££ to $$ so that he'd have a greater understanding of the scale of my cash handling), and looking back I think this worked in my favour. We also talked about my experiences of international living, and my current job with McDonald's, where Chuck told me that I was the first person with McDonald's he'd interviewed in this intake in the UK, as in the US he speaks to many people with a McJob. (I believe that he also said that he began in McDonald's once upon a time, so hey, don't you ever knock us hard working McWorkers!)

All too soon my interview was over, like I said it went by so fast and there I was thanking Chuck for his time, shaking his hand and collecting my luggage ready to catch the coach from Hammersmith back to the West Country. 

My Top Tips
  1. Your interview will only last 10-15 minutes and may take place in a room with one other person and another interviewer (although strangely you cannot hear what they are saying and I don't remember the other girl leaving). Keep your answers short and succinct, be prepared to physically sell yourself in a professional setting and really try not to ramble. 
  2. Do lots of smiling. The interviewers may seem intimidating (purely because their jobs roles and personal CVs are so great!) but smile loads and showcase your personality through your answers and you'll naturally relax. 
  3. Ensure that you meet the Disney Look guidelines when choosing your interview outfit. If you google the guidelines you'll find lots of information about Disney's preferred look for it's cast members and this was really helpful for me as I wanted to look and feel a part of the company right away to get me in the right mindset. In all honesty I wore exactly the same outfit to my final interview as I did my pre-screen but this was purely because I work in a uniform and therefore only own one set of proper business clothes. I made sure to wrap my bun in my Minnie Mouse style bun wrap and changed my shoes into neat flats instead of boots to feel more professional. 
  4. Get to HQ early on in the morning, leaving plenty of time to make sure you're at the correct entrance (you need the one without the life sized storm troopers!) and enough time to mingle with your fellow potential colleagues. It's much nicer putting a face to a name from the Facebook group and having some people to hang out with in between the presentation and your interview slot. 
  5. Take some time to drink in the Disney details. Some of us had to give in to nature when collecting our ID cards and ended up being shown a toilet behind a concealed door in the wall. Magic. There are hidden mickeys all up the stairs, art work and movie posters on display and lots of merchandise in display cabinets along the walls. It's pretty damn cool!
So there you have my experience of the final interview with Walt Disney Recruitment for the CRP 2015 Winter intake, if you have any questions, please let me know!

Have a magical day!

09/04/2015

Working At Walt Disney World | How To Apply: Stage Two - The UK Pre-Screen Event

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Hello :)
I'm back with the second part of my three part mini series detailing the application process I undertook at the beginning of this year to help me get my new job at Disney World. If you've not read stage one then please click here to do so. 

Stage two incorporates a selection process with Yummy Jobs, called the pre-screen. This replaced the telephone interviews that they used to do previously following your successful online application form, and in my opinion is much more fun and informative that simply chatting to someone over the phone. Remember that I can only speak of the 2015 application process so keep that in mind when reading.
E-Mail Inviting Me To The Pre-Screen Event
So How Do You Get To Pre-Screen? 
A couple of days after the applications closed in January I was sitting at home after a long day of work and saw the above email. I was so excited that I called my Mum straight away and she helped me to prepare mentally for the possibility of actually doing this, like, now that I was through the online application page, then a job at Disney World could actually happen!

The interview event was scheduled for just over 2 weeks away from the original email being sent, so I quickly rearranged my shift cover at work, booked a train to London and then the train to Stanstead Airport. For the first time (since I've been doing my research anyway) the pre-screen was held just outside London, at the Radisson Blu Hotel near to the main airport terminal building. If I'm honest it was quite a faff to get to, considering I had to get the train to Waterloo, then a tube to Tottenham Hale, and then another train from Tottenham Hale to Stanstead. It was worth the 6am early start though, and, because my registration event was scheduled for in the afternoon, I was happy to see that I could do all travelling in a day, whereas some people who interviewed in the morning had to pay for accommodation.

You must dress the part for this event as it is an interview. I went for a nice black dress, with my hair up in a bun and subtle Disney details like Mickey ear earrings, and a red bandana with white polka dots around my bun to make me stand out a bit. Nothing too in your face Disney, but still professional and fun all the same. I also took a lovely black leather handbag and wore flats for maximum comfort. I would also recommend taking a notebook, some water, a pen and some mints just in case. YJ will also ask you to print off your YJ passport from their website to take with you. This is vitally important as you must affix a passport picture of yourself to the page and hand this in to your interviewer. This is where they'll make notes about you during your interview.

Arriving On The Day
I arrived alone just after 1pm (I think!) and had plenty of time to spare. I realised that I hadn't actually eaten anything due to nerves so I entered the main terminal building and bought a sandwich from M&S before entering out onto what I thought was the main concourse to go to the hotel. Turns out that I could see the hotel, but couldn't physically get to it, so I ended up having to ask for directions!

Once inside the hotel I noticed that there were a lot of neatly dressed people milling around in the bar area and on the chairs, and according to the Facebook group I had become part of, these people were also waiting for the 2pm registration, so I joined them and chatted merrily for half an hour or so before we were called in to register.

Registration & Presentation
The first thing we had to do was wear a Yummy Jobs sticker to help identify us as part of the YJ group. We then signed our names in and were assigned an interview time slot and group name (I was in the first interview slot at 3:30pm, and part of Team Cruella DeVil!), before making our way into a room where YJ was going to talk though a presentation about the job and do a mini quiz.

If you're like me and good at planning and researching then the information YJ gives you during the presentation shouldn't really be anything new, it should just reconfirm to you how bloomin' exciting it would be to have a job at Disney, and provide some information about the housing arrangements. I've been following the Disney IP YouTube channel for a while now and each of the videos they showed are available on there should you wish to have a look and get inspired.

In a nutshell the presentation covered:

  • Walt Disney World 
  • What the Cultural Representative Program is about 
  • A look at Food & Beverage and Merchandise roles
  • A look at Disney Housing
  • Living, Earning and Learning
  • A Day In The Life of a UK CRP Participant
  • Costs you'll have to pay if offered a job
  • Potential earning salary when working
  • A look into the next steps of the recruitment process

After the presentation my interview group didn't have long to gather our thoughts before we were off into the interview room (but I did have chance to quickly Google how to make bubble & squeak as I'd heard YJ would quiz us on British dishes!)

The Interview
The interview lasts approximately 1 hour and will consist of 6-8 people sat in a semi circle around the interviewer who is behind a table in front of you. I was happy to see that my group was all girls, and that none of us had ever done a Disney program before (there were lots of people who had done the college program at the pre-screen).

We entered into the room, and said hello to our interviewer and she took our YJ Passports from us while we sat down. I felt like I was quite lucky to be in the middle of the semi-circle because I was right in front of our interviewer, and was able to talk to the girls on both sides of me quite easily. The questions asked of us were:

  1. Choose 2-4 Starburst and depending on what colours you chose you had to give answers to an icebreaker type set of questions. I had to name two of my favourite places in the world (I said a library and aside from my bed, the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney / Disney Springs), and also what I like to do in my spare time. 
  2. Why do you want to do this programme?
  3. What would you find difficult living with other people?
  4. How would you organise getting to work?  

(I'm sure there was one or two more questions but I can't remember!) There are also two activities you have to complete in your interview which are designed to showcase your personality and your knowledge about British culture. The first is to bring an item that best represents your hometown or the UK. This was extremely difficult for me because I don't have a home town (see previous post here) so I took a tiny set of Beatrix Potter books that I have had since I was born to help me illustrate my passion for reading and represent all of the great literary geniuses that have come from the UK that have helped provide the stories for so many Disney films. (In hindsight, my friend Hannah says that I should have taken a globe!)

The second task is to 'sell' a British item or food dish to the group and the interviewer. We were each given a piece of paper with a picture of our product and they ranged from scotch eggs to the Queen to whiskey to cottage pie and so on. I was given a One Direction t-shirt to sell so I decided to have a bit of fun with it, pretending I was an X Factor voice over introducing them on the stage - something along the lines of 'you little sister wants to marry one, your mum loves their songs and your boyfriend thinks their hair is great, so come and buy this t-shirt and be part of the directioner family'. (I'm not a 1D listener so this was definitely quick thinking!)

All that was left to do once the interview was over, and believe me when I say that it flew by, was thank our interviewer (I shook her hand although lots of the other girls didn't) and make my way back home (via the Disney store on Oxford Street...).
Bought myself Cinderella to read on the train home :)
Top 5 Tips

  1. Make conversation with those around you while you're waiting. If any of those people get put in your interview time slot / group then you'll really thank yourself because you'll already be at ease! 
  2. Don't panic. The interview is like have one big discussion about how you'd fit into the program, and although there are interview questions and activities designed to make you think on your feet, it's quite a relaxed atmosphere and the YJ team are incredibly friendly! 
  3. Showcase your personality. Disney is all about personality, they're not looking for mountains of experience (although of course that will help you), but someone that is friendly, loud and proud to say that they're British with an appetite to learn and succeed. If you say nothing during your interview then you're really not what they're looking for. Be respectful, let others have their turn, but don't be afraid to showcase yourself. 
  4. The primary purpose of the pre-screen is to see what you're like in a social situation, so wear something professional yet comfortable that will allow you to breathe and act like you would do normally. Try not to let nerves overcome you, stay calm and focus on your answers. 
  5. Don't prepare answers so far in advance that you sound like a robot reading from your mental auto-cue. Sure, think about possible answers and have key words that you want to mention to help you talk but please don't sound like you're reading from your notebook, it will really show, and it's really not what Disney are looking for. 
So that was stage two, the YJ pre-screen event. They told us that we'd wait no longer than 48 hours to see if we got through to the final face-to-face interview stage, so watch out for part 3 of my application round up coming soon! 

Any questions or comments please leave them below or email me: louisekwilliams@googlemail.com 

Have a magical day! 

08/04/2015

Working At Walt Disney World | How To Apply: Stage One - The UK Online Application Process

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Today marks 200 days until my boss changes from a clown to a mouse. Bye, bye burgers, hello happiness!

But let's rewind a little and think back to January 2015, when I decided to put in my application to work for Disney, through Yummy Jobs (YJ) in the UK. There are a couple of ways in which a British person can work at Walt Disney World, including summer exchanges and programmes whilst at university, but I don't know enough about them to give you any concrete advice, so I'm only going to write here about The Cultural Representative Programme (CRP).

I initially heard about the CRP whilst attending a function with The Royal Navy. My father was a serving officer when he passed away in 2009, and every year since we have attended a prize giving ceremony at HMS Raleigh in Devon, where we have a prize in his name. Whilst I was at one of the ceremonies I met an officer who told me about his daughter doing a Disney college program and I thought it sounded amazing. Like so many other people I've grown up with Disney. From wearing a Pocahontas two piece legging and jacket set as seven year old, to colouring in Disney Princesses, and now to using an iPhone encased in a Minnie Mouse cover and blasting out The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack as I get ready for a night out. The world may change exponentially, but the Disney magic of films old and new will never tire. In 2015 I decided then that I was going to put my all into my application, but not to expect too much due to the popularity of the CRP. I applied on a whim, for the very first time, and I've gone all the way. Now that I've had my experience with the recruitment process, and been successful, I feel it fated to share my experience in the hopes that someone else in the future may achieve their Disney dreams.

So what is the Cultural Representative Programme?
The CRP is a year long contract of employment as either a Food & Beverage or Merchandise Cast Member working in the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT theme park, Walt Disney World. The roles are both very different and each offers the Cast Member an opportunity to hone skills, learn new ones and interact with guests of all ages from all around the world. The emphasis of the CRP is cultural interaction, and, as a CRP participant, you're expected to be able to confidently and proudly share your British heritage with guests, answer their questions about the UK and demonstrate British culture. The pavilion sells traditional food and drinks of the UK, as well as lots of home comforts in the shops, including Dairy Milk chocolate, Twinnings tea and football shirts. Coming from a food and beverage background I really hoped that Disney would allow me to transfer into something new and my lucky stars were shining over me as I'm actually going to be a Merchandise Cast Member...!
Click here to learn more about the CRP. 

If you're a national of any of the eleven countries EPCOT houses in its world showcase then you can apply, via Disney, through your in country recruitment process, but here in the UK the application consists of three stages, 1) An online application to YummyJobs which opens twice a year, usually in August and January, 2) A group interview somewhere in or near London, and 3) a personal face-to-face interview with a Disney International Recruiter at The Walt Disney Company HQ in Hammersmith, London. I am going to talk about the first stage in this post, and the latter two in upcoming blog posts. Please bear in mind that this is information about the 2015 application process and may differ slightly with each intake session.

YJ Website 
The Online Application
In my opinion this is the most difficult of all three stages, simply due the fact that you've really got to make your application stand out from the other thousands of people who have also applied during your intake session. I believe I am quite fortunate to have lived the life I have up until now and this was what my Unique Selling Point (USP) consisted of - my background. I grew up in many different locations throughout the UK (including Scotland), I also grew up in Moscow, Russia and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I'm half Welsh, half English, I went to boarding school in Suffolk and I'm quite well travelled for a early 20 something (including Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Dubai and the Eastern Seaboard of the USA). In my opinion this is what makes me unique, and I wrote a lot about that. Find your USP and centre your application around it - whether it be some experience, a talent, what you do for a living or anything that really makes you and your personality stand out. 

The Form Itself
The first part of the application is generic personal and contact information. You know the type, name, address, next of kin etc. Then comes education where I listed my educational achievements in order from most recently achieved. Here I included my degree, A Levels, and GCSEs, and also qualifications I've achieved though work, like my shift management diplomas, and first aid. Next is entitled 'Work Experience' where I wrote about having been employed with McDonald's for the past five years and noted my main responsibilities, and my official job title.

The second part of the application process is the most important, it incorporates 'additional questions' that are designed to make you think on your feet. The first is 'Why do you value cultural exchange and interaction?' and here it's asking you to think about why it is important to you that we connect with people from all over the world to share information and why you would personally enjoy sharing Britain with the rest of the world. I focussed here on living in cultures that contrast to my own, and living in a globalised world, and how it's important for our growth both individually and as the wider human race to appease our natural curiosity for things new and exciting by exchanging cultural information with different people from across the world. 

The next questions is ambiguously titled 'Final Comments'. I was very unsure of what to write here, but I used it as further space to showcase my USP, and focussed on the individual traits that I thought would make me a perfect fit to become a CRP Participant. I touched upon extra curricular activities I did at school and university, how international living made me adaptable and independent at boarding school and in my university college at Durham, as well as how I enjoyed being part of the literary and debating societies at school. I then mentioned how I thought my background and life experience thus far has enabled me to be comfortable and confident in new situations, as well as how to adapt in unfamiliar surrounding - skills that allowed me to enter into my senior management role at work, and skills that I can definitely bring to EPCOT. 

YJ will then ask you to upload some documents including a passport style photograph of yourself, as well as a recent CV, cover letter and copy of your passport's information page. It also asks for a previous visa if you have one before offering you the chance to input your Passport details (I didn't do this as I felt that a photocopy of my actual passport page was sufficient, but you can choose to manually enter your details if you wish). 

The last part of the application form is the killer question, the make or break between you being a valued Disney enthusiast without taking you further, and a possible future Cast Member. The question is 'What is your motivation for the programme?' and it requires a good answer. Up until now the application for has allowed YJ to get a feel for you as a person, your background, what your current job involves and why you think it's important to perform cross-cultural exchange, but without you displaying your own motivation to go out and perform this exchange then you fall short of the Disney requirements. I made a point to emphasise how my current job as a hospitality ambassador for a fellow multi-billion dollar has really helped with my motivation for customer service. Couple that with my adulation for the Walt Disney brand and there I had a lot of motivation to succeed as a CRP Participant. This really is a personal question, and relies upon you knowing why you really want to do the programme and how to word it well. 

My Top 5 Tips
1) Write in good coherent English, if necessary get someone to check your application for you. This is your one shot to stand out from 2000+ people to get through to the next stage so really take the time to perfect your application as much as you can. Draft out your answers on Word or Pages (or equivalent) and think about how they would sound to a potential recruiter. 

2)Be professional. Ok, so you're putting your all into working for the number one entertainment brand on the planet but you still need to be professional, both in your answers and on your CV. I'm talking no colloquialisms, Mickey images on your CV, or silly WordArt. You can of course have some fun with your words, I used a lot of the Disney language like 'guest' not 'customer', and 'cast member' not 'employee' to make my application more Disney. I also slipped in phrases into my answers like 'It might be a small world after all...' and 'there must be more than this provincial life...' to inject a bit of my personality and into the monochrome pages of the online form. Fundamentally you're still looking for employment, it just so happens that that employment comes from Disney and at the end of the day they're really looking for professional people that will uphold the Disney Values. 

3) Write a Cover Letter. I'd not really written a cover letter before so I googled how to do it and took it to be an extra amount of space to sell myself. YJ and Disney are essentially looking for hardworking individuals who have lots of energy and personality so your Cover Letter is definitely one place to showcase this. In mine, amongst other things, I wrote about how I once ate over 30 Kinder Eggs just so that I could collect the Disney Princess toy collection. If that doesn't show brand loyalty then I don't know what will! 

4) Don't lie. This may seem like a given, but if you write something on your application and then get offered a pre-screen interview then YJ may ask you about your 'love of impersonations' or 'interest in wine' or whatever it is that you've put.  I've read stories of people who say they've been asked, in depth, about something they'd written so don't lie to make yourself look better - it'll only come back to bite you later if you can't answer truthfully! 

5) Keep to the point and don't waffle. You don't get a lot of space to write out your answers, only a limited number of characters, so you have to be prepared to cut down what you've written to make your words really pack a punch. Although I love to write, I can have a tendency to ramble and so I had to edit my answers a lot to get them into the word limit. Ensure you're only putting relevant information in your answers, and ensure that this information is going to sell you as a person. 

So there you have my experience of the online application process, the first stage of recruitment. Do your research, watch lots of vlogs on YouTube, read other people's blogs for their experiences,and read about the International Programs on Disney's website and you'll be well on your way to realising your dreams!

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below or feel free to email me: louisekwilliams@googlemail.com.

Have a magical day! 

05/04/2015

New Job | I'm Moving to Orlando, Florida, With The Walt Disney Company!

Disney IP Banner
I can't actually believe I'm about to embark on writing this post! It truly doesn't feel real to me yet, but I can assure you that what you've read from the title is no April Fool. In 204 days time I'll be flying out to Orlando. The Walt Disney Company have deemed me worthy enough to employ as a Merchandise Cast Member, and I am truly floating on cloud 9...!

Back in January, after much longing and dreaming I finally got the courage to send off my application to Yummy Jobs, the in-house UK recruitment team in charge of supplying Disney wish fresh talent to interview for employment on the International Cultural Representative Programme. I had actually penned the beginning of an application in 2013, however something told me to wait, to carry on up the career ladder with McDonald's (which paid off as I'm now an Assistant Store Manager), and see where my McJob could take me.

I'm a big believer in the notion that a person is exactly where they're supposed to be at that moment in time, and although I sent my finished application off on a whim in January 2015, I had every fibre in my body crossed to get through to the next stage (I'll write separate blog posts on the recruitment process soon). See, I don't think I was meant to apply in 2013. If I'm truly honest having my McJob has definitely helped me in a huge way to get my job at Disney, and the fact that I followed my niggling feeling back then has really paid off now - note to self, listen to gut feeling! I feel like the Disney magic has been sprinkled in my favour because I've now got a whole year in Orlando to look forward to, and believe me when I tell you that the planning has begun in earnest already!
My Congratulations Email / The Disney IP /
My ID For Visiting Disney HQ in London / Welcome To The Team!
So what will I be doing? Forgive me if you're familiar with EPCOT theme park, but to explain it simply, EPCOT is one of 4 theme parks located at the Walt DisneyWorld Resort in Orlando, Florida. Inside EPCOT is an area called World Showcase which houses pavilions from 11 countries around the world, including Mexico, France, Norway, Japan and UK to name but a few. Inside each pavilion you'll find an authentic representation of that country, from the architecture, food, and merchandise, to the very people that work there. Yes, Disney travel the world annually to scout out talented people who go through a recruitment process with the ultimate goal to become a Cultural Representative of their country and, for a whole year, live, earn and learn on Disney property in Orlando, central Florida. This is the programme I will be doing beginning in October 2015, where I will be earning my ears as I train in the Disney art of Merchantainment.

I am planning to blog as much as possible, and I definitely feel like I have so many fresh ideas to share with you about my journey. So far I've booked my flight, a hotel in Orlando for the night before Disney check-in, and paid my program fee to reserve my apartment, but there's still so much to do and plan! I'm in the middle of planning my bucket list, a Sephora shopping spree, a trip to WalMart and what American goodies to stock up in the pantry for my first week.

So if you're like me, and Disney is not only your 'thing' but also consumes all aspects of your life, then please join me on my journey to becoming a Walt Disney World Cast Member :)

 - Instagram: louisekwilliams

31/03/2015

Where I Went | The Disney Cafe by Harrods

I recently went to London for what I'm going to call a 'work trip' - all to be revealed shortly. During my stay I met up with a friend I'd not seen for nearly 2 years (hi Hannah!) and combed through the drawers of Victoria's Secret at Westfield Stratford looking for pastel pink delights (which I found, check out my Instagram: louisekwilliams). I also treated myself to a fabulous larger Longchamp 'Le Pliage' from Selfridges, and drank a gorgeous peach flavoured cocktail in TGI Fridays. But were any of those activities the highlight of my trip? No, The Disney Cafe by Harrods was.

As you may be well aware I'm a out and proud Disnerd. Aside from just watching the films, Disney is a way of life for me. I use Disney character toiletries, select a morning banana from my Mickey fruit bowl, wear Minnie Mouse pjs to bed, and swoon over my Tsum Tsum collection as I get ready in front of my mirror for work every morning to go out into grown-up world. Yes I'm 24, and no I'm not planning to become a fully fledged adult any time soon.

Imagine my delight, then, when I learned that I would have an ample amount of time to have lunch in the Disney Cafe located on the 4th Floor of Harrods in Knightsbridge, London! Truth be told this ample time extended to a 3 hour lunch affair, with both a main course and dessert being consumed whilst new friendships were made and sing alongs were sung to the new Cinderella film soundtrack. *Insert Disney Princess squeal here.*

Right from the entrance I just knew I was going to have the best time ever in this Cafe. The Disney details were everywhere, the walls painted a gorgeous royal blue colour with character murals and sparkles, TVs playing many Disney film clips and shows, a giant working Big Ben clock from Peter Pan in the centre of the room, and the tables had cute Mickey Ears affixed to the back of the chairs. Every where you look your eyes are filled with Disney magic! It was perfect.
The menus were already laid out on the tables, doubling up as placemats with fun colouring in and puzzles to keep *ahem* everyone entertained. The servers were busy bustling around the restaurant handing out Princess crowns to the younger guests and gifting them a Cinderella storybook to keep them entertained until the food was brought out. My new friends and I spent ages pouring over the 'spot the difference' puzzles (which, by the way, were incredibly difficult!) and choosing our lunch from the adult menu. I opted for a ham and cheese toastie with a side salad, and after becoming sad when told they had no Mickey waffles, I opted for a brownie for dessert. When both were presented I was so excited to find that they were Mickey shaped!

The food was absolutely delicious, and although it's not a cheap meal, (my main, dessert and two drinks came to £30) I believe it's worth it for the quality and fulfilled the Disney standard that I have come to know and love. Our servers were so friendly and even took the time to help us with our puzzles and answer any questions. We were actually the first visitors of the day as the cafe opens at 11am, and could have sat there well on into the afternoon if we hadn't had to go to our meeting!

If you're a Disney fan in any shape or form I'd fully recommend you paying a visit to the Disney Cafe  by Harrods, even if it's just for a coffee, or an afternoon tea, or a full meal like we did. You're guaranteed not to be disappointed! Children are more than welcomed, and adults too, because as Walt would say, '...adults are only kids grown up, anyway!'

Have you ever been to The Disney Cafe by Harrods?
What's your favourite Disney film?

13/03/2015

My 24th - London & Birthday Haul

Oh hello blogosphere :')

What a hectic world we live in, eh? One minute I'm counting down the days until my birthday and the next it's the day after and it's all over for another year. Madness. I thought I'd share some pictures with you from my lovely little day out to London with my Mama and J, as well as the beautiful pressies I was incredibly lucky to unwrap and pick out in the shops for my 24th birthday. (Wow, I'm getting on!)
Cinderella / Laduree Stationary
We got the coach from Somerset (where I live) to Hammersmith bus station and waved to Disney HQ as we boarded the tube to take up to Knightsbridge for a run around Harrods. I adore visiting Harrods, if the outside window displays are anything to go by, this shop is heaven. I squealed with delight when I saw that the windows all along the main street were filled with beautiful Cinderella scenes from the forthcoming film, my inner Disney Princess was in awe!
Cake Face :P / Five Guys
Two hours later we meandered back on the tube to Covent Garden and went to Five Guys for lunch where I feasted on copious amounts of cherry vanilla Coke and strawberry lemonade (as well as my burger!) before making our way back to Covent Garden market via Cybercandy and The Disney Store. I purchased macarons at Laduree (naturally!) and my Mama treated us to some Godiva chocolate covered strawberries for dessert from lunch. Yum!
Birthday Breakfast / Presents / Cake / Light-up Disney Balloons
I'm fortunate to know London quite well, so the three of us then walked down to Trafalgar Square, before winding our way up to Picadilly Circus and then walking the whole length of Regent Street and Oxford Street right up to Selfridges. J has never really been to London before so it was really lovely to take him around and show him some of the sights. He particularly enjoyed the Harrods food hall, and ended up coming away from there with some sausages for his Mum for mother's day (don't ask!).

We caught the coach back to the West Country at around 6pm and while we waited we played 'spot the Disney / Pixar characters in the Disney HQ windows' and ate Pret a Manger baguettes (my new favourite spot for food on the go!).
Lovely bargain bag from Primark for £10! / Laduree Macarons & Truffles
Disney Store Presents from J / Macaron kitchen timer, Frozen bubbles & £20 note tissues from my Mama, Bunny ring holder from J.
Allure, DHC makeup remover wipes and gorgeous makeup bag from J / Bumble & Bumble and Penhaligon's goodies from my Nana / Too Faced Palette from my Mama / Lulu Guinness for Tangle Teezer from J
It was such a lovely little day, although long, because we literally never stopped walking all day and London was really busy, as expected. I got some beautiful things too. J got paid on my birthday so he let me pick out some bits and pieces when were were walking around London, my Mama gave me some pennies to pay for my Disneyland Paris ticket in June, as well as some bits and bobs I've shared above, and I got various other money gifts and presents from my Nana.

What a perfect way to turn 24!

What's your favourite shopping spot in London?

22/01/2015

Brand Spotlight | Yves Rocher

I always feel incredibly honoured when a brand or PR agency reaches out to me to see if I'd be interested in some of their products to try out, and was recently contacted by Baobella with the chance to try some Yves Rocher skincare products in exchange for a post about them. I'm not at all familiar with Yves Rocher, save for a lovely brown eyeshadow I recently received in a subscription box (it pairs well with my blue eyes!) and so I held out hope that their skincare products would be just as lovely. Yves Rocher has been voted the number one favourite beauty brand in France, and boasts a plethora of products from sun care, to haircare, makeup and fragrance to name just a few categories.

After a mishap with the postman, a little brown box finally appeared in my hand containing a body lotion, Silky Cream which contains organic oats (RRP £13.50), a leg and foot cream, Anti-Fatigue Iced Gel (RRP £5.00), a botanical hand cream (RRP £3.90) and also a gorgeously scented coconut bath fizzer (RRP £1.50). I've had a chance to try out all of the products (apart from the bath fizzer - more on that in a minute) and on first impressions they're all incredibly lovely to use.
My favourite product of the selection I was sent is the long-lasting moisturising botanical hand cream. As someone who works hands on with food day in day out keeping my hands in good condition is incredibly important to be or else they'd be very weathered from constant hand washing and food preparation. This hand creams applied very well, absorbed quickly and left my hands feeling pampered.
Silky Cream comes in a hefty 200ml jar so there's plenty of product for your money and I know that this will last me for a long time yet! It's an all over body moisturiser that's fragranced with organic oats, which are not strictly to my taste (I much prefer sweet and fruity scents) but it's not too powerful. The lotion absorbs quickly into the skin leaving your limbs feeling soft and pampered. I can definitely see myself buying one of these for my Mum for her birthday, she'd love the scent!
The final two products are particularly apt for my current life situation. At the beginning of this week I had to go into hospital to have surgery on my foot. I'm currently propped up on a pillow at home and feeling a bit sorry for myself, but mostly because I have to wear sandals and flip flops everywhere until my foot heals (summer shoes in January are not the one!). I've been using the Anti-Fatigue Iced Gel on my feet around my bandages to help, literally, take the weight off them and give my poor feet a bit of TLC following the anaesthetic and the procedure. It contains peppermint for a refreshing feeling, as well as lavender to promoted general foot comfort and well-being. That said, the coconut bath fizzer is something I desperately want to try (I love baths and coconut!) but I'm not actually allowed to get my foot wet for another 4-6 weeks, *sad face*. I therefore cannot give you an actual review on that, but I promise you it smells divine and the Yves Rocher site promises immense relaxation with its use so I'm excited for that!

Have you ever tried any Yves Rocher products?

06/01/2015

5 Things I've Been Loving Lately

Hello :)

Just a quick little post to show case five little things I've been loving lately...and I've only just noticed that they're nearly all chocolate related!

  1. St Ives. I fell in love with St Ives in Cornwall when I went for Christmas down to my Mum's house. It's the cutest little seaside town I've ever been too, full of pokey shops, cobbled streets and adorable fishermen's cottages all sitting atop one another. I went to all 5 beaches, saw the Tate St Ives, played on the amusements arcade and did a small bit of shopping. If you ever have the chance to holiday in Cornwall then St Ives is a must see. 
  2. I popped into town to do a bit of last minute sales shopping the other day and decided to stop in Starbucks. I played my 3DS while I sipped on a caramel hot chocolate and munched a delightful slice of chocolate cake. Oh so indulgent, but oh so naughty!
  3. When I was in St Ives we ate in a bar / restaurant on the seafront called Hub. It's going down as my favourite place to eat in St Ives, as we went there twice and I had the same thing both times, pulled pork nachos - yummy! On both occasions I also got an American style chocolate milkshake made with Cornish ice-cream which was both huge and incredibly tasty. My brother and J also got themselves a beer flight each, which went down rather well I'm told!
  4. Continuing on the milkshake theme, I've been loving chocolate almond milk in my cutesy little milk bottle couple with some pineapple and mango for breakfast - yummy. 
  5. Finally, my beloved Chocomania Body Shop range has been discontinued! Queue the tiny violins! I first posted about this range back in 2012 here and instantly fell in love with it. I went into the Body Shop just before Christmas to see if I could find any of the range and it'd all gone. It's back in the sale to shift the last stock, so if you love this range then get stockpiling just like I've recently done! 
What have you been loving lately?

01/01/2015

On The Bookshelf - January

It's only right, as I start writing my chapter 2015, that I carry on into the year reading somebody else's words. There are too many unread books on my shelves and so my literary resolution to myself is to stop buying more books until the ones on my bookshelf have been read.My four books for January are a mixture of girlie glamour, science / dystopian fiction, crime, drama and history...can you tell that I'd read just about anything?

Beneath The Glitter - Elle & Blair Fowler
There's such a massive hype at the moment surrounding YouTube personalities having their own books in print, and despite any controversy I enjoyed Zoella's book for a light read when it was published last month. I decided to pick up Beneath The Glitter because it's loosely based around the lives of the Fowler sisters, the protagonists are sisters who make online videos who then move to L.A and find themselves in a world of glitz, glamour, betrayal and vicious gossip. It sounds like a nice fluffy, easy read. One for the bath!

Dangerous Boys - Abigail Haas
Has anyone read Dangerous Girls by the same author? I honestly don't want to spoil that for you but the book both enraged and completely amazed me. It was unlike anything I'd ever read before, full of passion, crime, betrayal and the biggest plot twist I didn't see coming. I was completely emotionally invested in that book and so I am hoping that Ms Haas has pulled it out of the bag again with Dangerous Boys. The blurb notes that this is about three teenagers who venture into an abandoned lake house one night but a couple of hours later only two emerge from the burning wreckage, one boy and one girl. Another boy was left in the flames but was his death murder, or a tragic accident? I'm incredibly excited for this one.

The Infinite Sea - Rick Yancey
This is the sequel to The Fifth Wave, a book I picked up a while ago, but was only half curious about the story because it contained aliens, and ended up being hooked on the dystopian element of the novel. I'm currently part way through this book and once again am enjoying picking up the story where the first novel left off. The main gist of the trilogy is that aliens have been watching Earth for some time, and have successfully managed to exterminate humans in five different waves of destruction, in order to claim Earth as their own. Cassie Sullivan is a human girl trying to survive and the story follows her and a number of other characters trying to fight for the last of humanity.

The Wolf Princess - Cathryn Constable
I picked this up in the Waterstones 3 for 2 offer just before Christmas. It's a children's book so will be another easy read, but I wanted to buy it because it's set in Russia, and I used to live in Moscow as a child. The main story centres around three school friends who are on a school trip to Russia when they find themselves abandoned on a train. They are rescued by a glamorous Princess who takes them away to her palace where she tells of her tragic past.  The friends discover more that just a Princess in the castle walls when night falls and wolves begin to prowl. I'm definitely eager to read this one!

So, those are my literary picks for January. What's on your reading list?

My 2015 Erin Condren Life Planner - Platinum Foil Bubblegum Edition

Good morning & Happy New Year!

I hope that however you spent welcoming in the New Year was a lot of fun for you...I spent mine at work, cashing up tills and serving countless people our new promotional burgers. I couldn't indulge in any kind of bubbles as I was running the restaurant, so instead we got the fireworks in London up on someone's phone and counted down in the kitchen.
Celebrations aside, as it's officially 2015 now, I wanted to share with you my diary for this year as it's something I'm rather fond of, having had it for a month already and having been using it every day. I decided to go for the Erin Condren life planner this year and ordered it back at the end of October. It made its way over to Somerset from sunny California in just under a week, having taken a week to produce with the company because it's personalised. A little warning though, if you're wanting to order one of these, the shipping will be extortionate (£30 with FedEx priority shipping *gulp*) and the diary itself doesn't come cheap either. I'd been lusting after an EC Life Planner for absolutely ages, having watched countless planner organiser videos on YouTube to satisfy the inner organiser in me so I decided to go for it...and I've not looked back!

My life planner is the 2015 foil platinum edition in bubblegum which appeals to my inner magpie for shiny silver things, and I absolutely adore the baby pink colour of the cover. EC Life Planners come with a variety of different cover designs and colours to choose from (the covers are even interchangeable) and each cover is personalised with the text of your choice. I've seen people have their blog/website name on the cover, but I simply went for my name because my planner isn't blog exclusive.
The inside features a number of fancy things that I find useful that other diaries were lacking for me. There's a removable perpetual calendar at the back that houses all of my important birthdays and anniversaries, a clear plastic ziploc pocket to keep important paper and pens, removable stickers to mark off important days and things to do (again sticker sheets are customisable), plain and lined sheets of paper for notes and random doodles, as well as cute little inspirational messages to perk up your day.
The diary itself is laid out month by month, each month is accessible by a different tab, and within each month section there's a two page monthly calendar and then each week thereafter is given two pages. I am using the month on two pages to plan out my blog posts for 2015 and I've already got lots of ideas in the pipeline for things I want to write about and photograph to properly get back into writing again...I used to post every day or every other day and I'm working my way back into a routine of doing that.
The weekly pages are definitely my favourite part of this planner because of the way they're laid out, they completely appeal to my inner organiser! Each day is split into three parts, Morning, Day and Night and allows you to not be completely time bound with what you have to do as long as what you need to do gets done in the day part you've scheduled it for. The pages allow me to visualise an entire day and work around what I need to do at home versus what I need to do for work and so on.

Each week also has a section for goals and notes down the left hand side of the left page where I like to write big things I want to get done that week, for example picking up a parcel from the Royal Mail depot, or sending a birthday card. I haven't quite decided what to use the lined space underneath each day for yet, perhaps meal planning or a mini food diary.
When I used to use my Filofax I would decorate each page with washi tape and stickers, bits of card and fancy decorative craft pieces, a bit like a scrap book. I've still decided to decorate my planner in a similar sort of way, but only using stickers and washi tape in order to keep it useable. I don't want to deal with craft pieces falling out when I'm trying to write any more! I don't keep any sort of theme running all month, just decorate the pages as I want and ensure I get maximum usage out of the planner. The week pictured above just so happens to be my birthday week where I know I'll be off work, so I made it all fancy with a cake and disney theme ready for March to roll around.

So that's my planner for this year. Are you an organiser like me and keep a diary / life planner?
How do you like the look of the Erin Condren life planner?