31 Jul 2009

Guess what day today is...

This should help:


Anyone want to join our bbq and fiesta tonight? I make a great mojito! ;o)

Surprise on returning from London!

Well, I had been planning on getting a bit more writing done in here... but a "little" surprise my family had in store for me means I haven't actually been spending much time on the computer!

"what's that?" you ask... "what could be more important than sharing with us your wonderful London adventures and photos?!"

Well... this:

Confusing? I might have to explain a bit then... When my parents came to pick me up at the airport the other day, my dad had me take my suitcase to put it in the trunk of the car... which I couldn't do because the thing was already full! With a crazy Kiwi redhead!

In case you didn't know, Kiwis aren't just a fruit or a funky flightless bird with a pointy beak, they're also New Zealanders! And my sister (the one just after me) has been living there for 3 years now doing her PhD. She said she couldn't afford to come this summer, my parents hadn't been able to get the money together in time for an "inexpensive" ticket and yet there she was, in the trunk of the car!

You know those Mastercard "Priceless" ads? Well apparently my face when I opened the trunk would have made an excellent scene for one of them!

(this is the key moment, but wrong angle of camera to get a good view of my shocked face)

I'll get back to you with London stories... but I'll probably be a bit scarce over the next week while my favourite Kiwi is home! That and I learnt we'll all be together next weekend as the youngest is hopping on a flight home from London! All 5 crrrrazies in the same city?! Hasn't happened in 2 1/2 years!!! YAY!!! :o)

29 Jul 2009

Potter Wednesdays: Half-Blood Prince

It's time for the final Potter Wednesday! Until next year that is when I can start a countdown to Deathly Hallows! But that one will be with the books... :p

So I got to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince this weekend with my sister in London, which is a double YAY!!! for me! One because of the excellent company, and two because it wasn't dubbed and I got to hear Alan Rickman's voice!!! :o)

On to the movie...


Tears of laughter, tears of sadness.

A few quick thoughts:
  • Hormones in a rage.
  • Luna wearing Spectrespecs!
  • Ron on a broom (priceless!).
  • Lavender Brown... *shudder*
  • Harry and Ginny.
  • Poor Hermione!
  • Attack on the Burrow... new, unexpected and excellent!
  • Voldemort was creepy even as a child!

  • Draco Malfoy finally gets something to do!
  • Not impressed by Slughorn...

...how on earth are people who haven't read the books going to understand what happens next?! I mean, how is Harry supposed to know what objects to look for as horcruxes? They left out too many of the visits to Tom Riddle's past in the pensieve... visits that were what informed Dumbledore and Harry on the special nature of the objects Riddle chose as hosts for his horcruxes!

Ooops moment (will watch my words with this so as not to give away a major spoiler for next film, those who have read book 7 will understand):
  • That scene Astronomy tower (the encounter that never happened in the book) gives away waaaaay too much!!!

Negative points:
  • Not enough Ginny.
  • I really wanted to see the meeting between the Minister of Magic and the new British PM! :p
  • I understand the reasons for the lack of funeral and fight (I'm guessing budget) , but I really missed them!!! Particularly the fight between the members of the D.A. and the Death Eaters! grrr... A Weasly was supposed to get bitten by Fenrir!

All in all I really enjoyed the movie (my sister complained that I laughed too loud and quite often!) even if I think the ending kind of resulted in an overall drop in quality (would have been sooo much better with the battle!). Now I have to ponder on wether or not to re-read the book... might be frustrating but it will be nice to re-visit all those moments that were left out! :p

26 Jul 2009

Alicante Summers...

Here's one that I'm sure is a summer-time favourite across the globe!
I scream, you scream, we all scream for...


Alicante is one of the ice-cream making capitals of Spain. Alicante and the nearby town of Xixona. Both make ice-cream to sell in the summer and turrón (Spanish nougat) to sell in the winter.

I tend to prefer sherbet to ice cream, but among the latter my favourites are two local specialities: helado de turrón and helado de leche merengada. Yum! What are your favourites?

24 Jul 2009

On the road, in the air... guess where?

Perhaps a few photographic clues from my last visit (3 years ago) will help...

It's going to be a crazy 4 days thanks to a loving "little" sister who wants to me to visit her new place and celebrate my birthday (in advance). What a great idea she had! ;o)

23 Jul 2009

Obama "roasted" in Alicante, Spain

A bit late, I know, but other posts and "Real Life" (pesky thing isn't it?) kept getting in the way!

Way back during the Hogueras (so a month ago) I dropped a line at the White House webpage asking if they would be interested in seeing some pictures of the POTUS in Alicante, no answer! I also wrote up a (rather lengthy) note about President Obama's presence in the Hogueras de San Juan in Alicante and sent it to the Washington Post in case they might be interested (hard to find an e-mail address to send stuff to!)... but never got an answer so I'll just adapt it and post it here! But perhaps with a few more photos! Be sure to click on them if you want to get a closer look! ;o)

Every year for the past century the inhabitants of the city of Alicante, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, have greeted the arrival of the summer solstice with the construction of large wood and paper sculptures called Hogueras or Fogueres. Composed of larger than life figures and smaller “ninots”, these images are often the equivalent of an editorial cartoon brought to life. Amongst figures representing the “average Juan” trying to get through daily life (or survive the current economic crisis), more “saucy” representations of famous persons abound: politicians, athletes, actors and other celebrities from the tabloids, of both national and international origin. Anyone is fair game. They populate the streets of the city for 5 days and then on the night of “San Juan”, June 24th, they get burnt to the ground amidst the noise of firecrackers and fireworks and the cheers of the crowds.

With the effects of the 2008 US elections having such an international impact, there was no way President Obama wasn’t going to find himself a part of this summer madness. Indeed, he appeared in 3 of the biggest Hogueras.

In the Hoguera Hernán Cortés he was present as a chess piece, placed on a white square, representing “el Rei Negre en una casella blanca” which is to say “the black king in the White House” (casella is a square on a chess board, but it’s also the diminutive for house).

Each figure is accompanied by a note, usually adding a bit more depth to the representation. One of the notes accompanying President Obama says:

"When Obama moves a piece
the world is engrossed

since the play is called

short castling of the King."

In the Hoguera del Puerto, floating in Alicante’s harbour, President Obama is represented as a cowboy atop a raging bull, placed next to Buzz “George W. Bush” Lightyear.

And finally, in the Hoguera Polígono de San Blas, the U.S. president has been placed with the Spanish and French Presidents Zapatero and Sarkozy.

The three form a marching band (Obama plays the drum, the others a trumpet and saxophone) trying to awaken the world from the global economic crisis.

As the sign says (click on photo to read the Spanish):

"A percussion awakens the whole world
It's Obama with a musical air

(charanga would be a festive marching band of wind instruments)
A trumpeteer joins the rhythm
They awaken the economy against the money problems."

They dig a bit into Zapatero:

"In the Americas and in Paris they're improving the jobs
We have our dear Zapatero

And even though the news talks about swine flu

With this president my salary isn't even enough for swine."

President Obama has been honoured in a distinctive manner, unique to the Valencian Community in Spain.
And in the "just to prove I was there" category, I made sure to get my photo taken with the 44th President of the U.S. of A! :o)

I wish we could have gotten a glimpse of Obama engulfed in flames (for more about the cremà read this post), but as you can see below we had a bad angle (he's just to the left of zebra, right behind that bush!).

So which one's your favourite Obama? The chess piece? The cowboy? Or the musician? I think by the number of photos you can probably guess mine... ;o)

22 Jul 2009

Potter Wednesdays: Order of the Phoenix

Ahhh, the final Potter movie on dvd! This must mean I'm about to see the new one on the big screen! And my sources tell me it will be in a spiffy London cinema on Friday night, YAY!!!

But for right now, back to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix... i.e. Dumbledore's Army vs. an excess of pink! :p

New characters!
  • Loony Luna :o) great casting choice there, that girl really pulls it off!
  • Dolores Umbridge... scary! That voice, that character... and all that pink! *shudder* I think she may be the scariest of the villains we've faced so far in part because her evilness is hidden under layers of "what's proper" and doing things for "the greater good"... in other words a fanatic! Very dangerous...
  • Bellatrix Lestrange - Sirius' absolutely insane and evil cousin, marvellous Helena Bonham Carter!

Fun moments:
  • Oh look, the Dursleys are back! I missed them in the last movie! Did they change actors for Dudley? But wait a minute! Isn't Petunia supposed to receive a letter from Dumbledore right about now? Weren't we supposed to finally understand why Harry's been staying with them instead of a friendlier wizard family (like the Weasleys)?
  • I love flying! And that ride up the Thames although short was excellent! (almost makes up for the lack of quidditch)
  • Sirius' house.... spooky! And Kreacher is the worst! Pity we didn't get to spend much time there... but at least the reunion with Sirius was heartwarming (and heartbreaking when you think about the outcome).
  • Welcome to the ministry of magic! Nice to see it after all this time!
  • Ahhh... the famous "first kiss"! but even more than that I loved Hermione's translation of the female point of view for the guys (and Cho's "feelings") and their incredulous reaction! :p
  • Anything and everything to do with the DA! (Dumbledore's Army) particularly Neville's progress and being able to see how powerful Ginny is! About time that girl got something to do! :o)
  • We finally get more Snape thx to the Occlumency lessons!
  • I loved Fred and George's farewell to Hogwarts (but I still don't think they got enough screen time and wish I could have seen the swamp), take that Umbridge!

Scenes I didn't like so much (or missing from the book that I wished were there):
  • Harry's outrage (when he walks in on Ron and Hermione in Sirius' house) at having no news all summer long doesn't come across that well. In fact I found the acting by the main trio to be little bit less convincing this time, a bit forced, particularly those first reunion scenes (it got better later). And wasn't this the episode were Ron and Hermione got made prefects and Harry didn't (adding to the rage)?
  • I wanted to visit the magical hospital (whose name I can't remember now, St Mungo's?) to see Mr Weasley after the snake attack, visit Neville's parents (and finally meet his scary grandma) and catch a glimpse of poor Gilderoy Lockhart who still can't remember anything (from movie 2!) sigh!
  • Also seriously missing was Angelina's turn as Quidditch captain and the funny Keeper tryouts! grrrr....
  • I don't like the way Umbridge found out about the DA (loved the classes), and Cho wasn't supposed to be the traitor!!! Changing the story there people! tsk! tsk!

Great lines:
  • Umbridge in DADA class:
"Theory is enough to get you through your examinations, which after all is what school is all about"
HA! It's sad that some educational systems are actually about that! Passing tests doesn't mean being educated! Just 'cause you can memorize a bunch of factoids doesn't mean you know how to use them properly when the time comes!

  • Ron when Hermione talks about forming the DA and breaking the rules:
"Who are you and what have you done with Hermione Granger?!"

  • And Hermione in the Forest:
"Grawp! PUT ME DOWN! NOW!"

Anyhow, as much fun as freaky Umbridge is, I think the end of the movie is the best part An excellent final half hour with all the Ministry of Magic battle... and that death is just as sudden and shocking as when I read it the first time! Tears and shock. It takes a while to sink in what with everything else that's still happening. And we finally get to see the (one and only) confrontation between Dumbledore and Voldemort! :o)

(hmmm... they don't seem so confrontational in this shot do they?)

I checked out the extra scenes on the dvd hoping for some juicy stuff, but there's nothing big, they just add a few tidbits to Neville and add some creepiness to Umbridge (extra scene in the forest, talking about "the ends justify the means"), and a definitely better scene between Umbridge and Trelawney. But no swamp from the twins, no quidditch tryouts with Ron flailing try to stop the quaffle from entering the goals...

And now I'm looking forward to the Half-Blood Prince where we get more Snape! Farewell to Hogwarts! (but didn't book 7 end there, onsight at Hogwarts? must re-read to double-check)

Check back in next week for the final chapter of Potter Wednesdays!

19 Jul 2009

Alicante Summers...

An absolute must for surviving the Alicante summer:


Think partially frozen lemonade... like a slushie perhaps? Is one of the few things my cousin in Virginia remembers from the summer she spent here with us when we were both 10! ;o)

17 Jul 2009

A Mediterranean Oven and the travelling Sahara...

Huh? Travelling Sahara?! Yup! I'll bet you guys didn't know deserts like to travel, eh? ;o)

(photo from National Geographic)

See, they have this nice fine element called SAND (and the sand from the Sahara is a very fine grain) that just loves to get picked up on the wind heading north and go visit other places around the Mediterranean. When it reaches us we call this wind by one of two names: Sirocco or Lebeche. The Sirocco comes in as a southeast wind (from the coast of Algeria for example), very strong, usually ripping it's way across the Mediterranean so charged with humidity and lots of sand (you should see the state of cars parked in the street once it's over!). The Lebeche on the other hand hits Alicante as a southwest wind (there's a better definition on the Spanish wikipedia page). It also starts off in the Sahara (but let's say from Morrocco), but makes its way across the Peninsula, leaving any moisture it may have had stuck behind the mountain ranges it crosses in the form of rain. By the time it reaches us it's hot and very DRY! (this is known as the Foehn effect)

Let me tell you about the weather today. It's hot, damn HOT! So hot I'm having trouble breathing! It's barely past noon and I've already drunk a litre of water!

Here's what the internet says:
35ºC (is 32ºC in the house)
15% humidity
That's what, about 95ºF? Just so you know, the temperature rarely goes over 32ºC here and the humidity in summer is almost always above 70%...

There's a lovely breeze blowing through the apartment, but somehow it just makes things worse!

and then there's this:

the view from the balcony.

Lovely, right? Well the horizon is only supposed to be this crisp in winter! When the humidity is lower than summer. I can't remember the last time I didn't see a hazy horizon in summer!

The wind is coming in from the southwest... so I'm wondering of the Lebeche is paying us a visit... GO AWAY!!! I want to be able to breathe again!

And to think I need to make my way into town this morning to pick up a few things... if it's this hot out here at the Cabo, the center is really going to be a furnace! I'm imagining 40ºC in the parking garage where I'm going to leave the car. Yikes! I think I'll high-tail it to my parents place with some material to work on in a lovely air-conditioned environment! :p