26 Jan 2012

Meet Canada's most recent astronaut!

Have you heard the one about the guy who floated up into Space thanks to a helium balloon? Hard to believe? How 'bout if I told you he was only an inch or so high... believe me now? Here's the proof!

Crazy fun!!! A couple of Canadian teenagers put together a capsule with some cameras on it, a cell phone with GPS (so they could track it on landing) and that little Lego guy with his Canadian flag. They attached it to a helium balloon and then... up, up and AWAAAAAAAY!  97 minutes later, and 27 km up the balloon exploded and the contraption started falling... safely thanks to a parachute they made and were smart enough to include! :o)

I read about this on a Belgian news site, but you can find a complete article here (Canadian news channel).

How cool is that?! :D

19 Jan 2012

The Crazy Awesomeness of Skeleton Sea

So in my previous post (Playing with Trash) I said I was going to share some of Skeleton Sea's art with you. They had several statues/creations (I don't quite know what to call them!) on display at the entrance to the Volvo Ocean Race Village here in Alicante (plus two more in the VIP area which I didn't get to see). It's amazing at how creative these three guys are, how they can look at all this trash, and find a way to turn it into an art project! It's all a part of their passion for the ocean (all three are surfers), and you can hear it in their voices when you talk with them about previous projects and the crazy things they've found on beaches around the world... Anyhow, without further ado, I give you the Art of Skeleton Sea! (the name of each is linked to their website, where you can find more info on each project, the texts come from the panels accompanying each piece)

by João Parrinha, Xandi Kreuzeder
Made of plastic beach sandals and mixed media (size 170x120x120 cm)

"The Msambweni Ark is rising in the sky, saving the last African wildlife from the great pollution on earth and in the water."

14 Jan 2012

Playing with Trash to Keep the Oceans Clean!

You remember me talking about that beach clean I helped organise here in Alicante, as a part of an environmental initiative hosted by the Volvo Ocean Race (story about the Volvo in Alicante here)? I hinted at there being another reason behind the trash collection than just cleaning up the beach... that the trash had a "higher purpose"! Well, it's time (way past it if you ask me! :p) to reveal said purpose: ART!

"Huh? ART??? In the same sentence as TRASH???  Whaaaaaaat???"

I hear you! But let me explain! There's this group of crazy artist surfer dudes who wanted to do something more for the marine environment that is pretty much their home, so they travel around the world collecting trash that the ocean has dumped back on our beaches (or directly abandoned there by man). With this trash they put together some pretty amazing sculptures (which I will share with you in another post) and show them in exhibits in the hopes of raising awareness for the problem of all that damn trash that's floating around in our oceans. Their name: Skeleton Sea. And they're collaborating with the Volvo Ocean Race this year on a project called Keep The Oceans Clean! At each race stopover port they'll organise a beach clean, then with the trash collected (and more "quality" rubbish previously collect elsewhere) they'll organise a series of workshops during which they will create a sculpture with the help of the local population. And Alicante was their first spot! It's a good thing they did bring all that extra beach rubbish with them, because although we picked up a lot of junk during our beach clean up, most of it wasn't "quality" trash, not of much use for the sculpture...

Not much you can do with cigarette butts and lollipop sticks, huh?

11 Jan 2012

Marine Debris and Seal Entanglement

Before I bring back to life series of posts like Fishy Fridays, Page vs Screen, or Come Dive With Me, I've got to finish up with a couple of posts I had prepared just before the holidays and which I didn't have time to work on because of all the Christmas blogging and holiday activities! :p

I'm hoping you remember a few posts I wrote back in October (so long ago, how time flies!) about cleaning up local beaches, particularly the one organized by the Volvo Ocean Race and Skeleton Sea which was to be linked with a workshop centered on creating art from the marine debris... The second part of that post is coming soon (playing with trash!), but first I wanted to share this video with you about how marine debris can inflict harm on Stellar Sea Lions in Alaska. I hope you have 10' to watch it. It's interesting, sadly quite informative about this problem and does offer a few simple suggestions of things we can do to help, even if we don't live on the coast! (for example cutting loops... soft drink / beer six packs anyone?)

And let me launch the first reminder: World Oceans Day is only 5 months away!!! (June 8th) ;o)

10 Jan 2012

Wrapping up Christmas

The lights and the stockings were unstrung with care, the decorations packed away, 

and finally the figurines for both Beléns all wrapped up. 


The holidays finally finished this weekend! I'll miss the ambiance, but not the over-eating! Last Friday I joined my parents on a little trip up north to Valencia to spend Three Kings Day (final day of Christmas) with my Grandmother and Aunts and cousins, and my Aunt asked my dad to make another turkey! Well in this case two small turkeys... aaaaaaaaah!!! :p

They were as usual delicious, but I'm glad we left those leftovers there. My parents still have a 3 kg turkey breast (about the size of an American football!) in the freezer and ditto a half of a 6 kg roast beef from the Christmas feasts. I'm sure I'll be called in a couple of times this week to help eat those! ;o)

But now it's back to fitting into a daily routine of preparing classes, teaching them, getting some kind of exercise, and trying to find the will to unpack those final boxes from the move plus looking for a regular job. Here's where my two "words" for 2012 come in: discipline (because I know what I have to do, just need to get my ass out of bed or away from the computer and DO IT), and letting go (because much of what is in those boxes are old papers and class notes that I don't really need but have always held on to out of nostalgia and a "what if" factor).

It's been fun sharing my Christmas with you guys and reading about yours on your blogs, let's do it again next year! :o)  And if you still want a taste of Christmas, how about a mug of glühwein?

German mulled wine / hot spiced wine, typical from the Christmas markets up north. I wrote about collecting those mugs in the markets I've visited in Belgium, Holland and Germany on my travel blog. I'd like to go visit another market next December... is it too soon to start planning a weekend getaway? ;o)

Oh! And I never got to show myself off in the red dress on New Year's! 

How do I look? I had dinner with my parents and some neighbours, then after eating my twelve grapes on the twelve strokes of midnight and drinking a bit of cava, I headed out for San Vicente (next town over) to join my friends in a night of dancing... until 6 a.m.! A pretty normal Spanish New Year's. ;o)

5 Jan 2012

Ready for the Kings?

I think the biggest difference between Christmas in most Northern European / American countries and Christmas in Spain / Latin America resides in one night: Twelfth Night. Tonight. La Noche de Reyes or La Vispera de Reyes. The night before the Epiphany, the night before "Kings' Day". The night before January 6th. 

Tonight (Jan 5) and tomorrow (Jan 6) marks the end of the Christmas holidays. Tonight man families are having another Christmas dinner and exchanging gifts. Either tonight or tomorrow people will be eating a "Roscón de Reyes" (typical sweetbread, click on the name for more info) and whoever finds the bean in their slice will be crowned King or Queen. I can't find a photo of my own of a Roscón, but a quick Google image search turns up many candidates:

Tonight children all over Spain and Latin American will be putting out their shoes and hoping they've been good enough for the Three Kings to leave them a present instead of a lump of coal. This evening the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men, your preference!) have made a grand entry into many Spanish cities, either by boat, helicopter, camel, horse or on a parade float. They've paraded around the cities cheered on by the children watching them and they've handed out sweets and small toys and they've visited local hospitals giving presents to sick children there. I wrote a post two years ago about the Cabalgata de Reyes ("The Kings' Ride") here in Alicante. I didn't have time today to go see the parade, so I'll just have to refer you back to that post.

3 Jan 2012

Monthly Movies: Dec'11

Not much time for movies in December (2 were seen in the same week)... unsurprising considering how busy it gets during that month! A period courtroom film, a holiday-themed rom-com and an action piece: quite diverse! :p

2 Jan 2012

Page vs Screen: The Dark is Rising vs. The Seeker

The things I do for this Blog... like watching a movie I swore to myself I would never see again! I couldn't remember the details of why, but I did remember that I definitely did NOT like the movie version of one of my favourite young adult books: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. Well. I guess writing this post will help me remember in the future why I disliked it so much... (other than the fact that it was just, well, a bad movie!).

Thing is, I've been wanting to write another Page vs Screen post for a while, plus I wanted something in a Christmas vein, and a family member mentioned on Facebook that she was about to embark on one of her yearly traditions, reading The Dark Is Rising at Christmas. It made me realise I haven't read it in years, and it does seem the perfect time of year to read it since the story takes place between the Winter Solstice and 12th Night (night before the Epiphany or Three Kings Day). So I pulled the book off its shelf and got hold of The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (which by the way makes no mention of the significance of the dates Midwinter, Twelfth Night etc.). And here we are!