Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Casual Vacancy; A Review

Rowling Pictures, Images and Photos

Wednesday evening, January 23, 2013.

I just put down JKR's "The Casual Vacancy" (a requested Christmas gift)  not  5 minutes ago, after wiping tears from my eyes.  The last chapter killed me.  This book was such a weird read for me.  People were either liking this book or hating this book.  I took notes along the way, to remind me of little things that got me or things I disliked.

I need to preface this review for a sec with some background on me.  I am an Anglophile.  A Puerto Rican Anglophile, which fills my Scottish co-worker with laughter and praise.  He recently told me "Are you sure you're Puerto Rican?  No offense, but you'd fit right in in London."

Not that I put on phony accents and such (except when I want to embarrass the kids), but I enjoy British t.v., movies and novels.  I understand some (not all) of the slang and euphemisms and am usually the translator at work from British-English to Puerto-Rican English   (my co-workers are 3 Puerto Ricans, 1 Cuban and a Scotsman and no one can understand each other's English; it's hilarious really.) 

I'm saying this so you can understand why, although the book was slow and weird, I enjoyed reading it.  I enjoyed the slang, the attitudes, the tea, the smugness.  I enjoyed vacillating between hating and loving each of the characters, depending on the chapter.

JK Rowling can write.  The woman can write like a fiend.  She's brilliant.

If you're expecting Harry Potter loveliness, you've got the wrong book, mates.  If you don't like rude language, and sometimes it was a little much, this is not for you.  If you do not appreciate slow books with minutiae of every-day life, put it down.  I love slow books.   Let me rephrase it.  I love slow, good books.  They're not in a rush.  You take your time. It's about the details.

The book deals with a snap-shot in time of a group of residents in the small town of Pagford.  Beautiful, quaint Pagford.  The pride of many a resident.

We meet the rich residents, the down-and-out drug addicted residents in The Fields (the government housing area), the doctors, social workers, bored housewives, the man who can't make up his mind or commit, the man afraid of everything,  angsty and mean teens,  that all revolve around one man, Barry, whose death is the catalyst for the action.  We meet Barry for one chapter, but his life rippled across all of their lives.  He was a council member and his seat is open now.  We see the machinations and scheming of the council members' lives as they try to sway the  vote for or against rezoning The Fields to a neighboring town who shares the land but none of the upkeep or problems of the drug-riddled area.

There are so many characters that at first I was flipping back and forth to remember who they were.  Eventually, though, I got the hang of it.

I wanted so much for Simon Price's wife Ruth to get a backbone.  I cringed at Simon's beatings of her and her sons.  The verbal and physical abuse was painful to read.  I felt both sad for his sons Andrew and Paul, whom he called Pizza Face or Pansy respectively and beat the heck out of them, and then angry at Andrew for his mean thoughts about his mom who could not defend them.

I hated the bored wife who took pleasure in making people uncomfortable with her meanness because she was bored, and laughed when she ridiculously harbored a secret crush on a boy-band member and ended up kissing a local teen in her usual drunken state.  Stupid cow.

The love of gossip in this small town was crazy.  I thought a few times "Really?  Who acts like this?"

I saw the taunting, teasing, fighting, verbal abuse, downright evilness at the high school or around the teens and really did not fully understand.  Never having been the victim of that kind of hurt, nor my son during his high school years, those kinds of abuses seemed alien to me, but I know they exist out there.

To the city-folk out there, these little political problems might seem ridiculous, but only because we don't have the small-town mentality.

Seeing Krystal, the poor trashy girl from The Fields, struggle to live up to what Barry thought she could be, struggle with the loss of the one person on her side, struggle with a drug-addicted mother and trying to take care of her half-brother so he won't get taken away from them was heart-breaking, but at the same time, I was disgusted by her surroundings, her language and attitude.

JK's writing of Parminder and her daughter Sukhvinder was just a beautiful mix of emotions and raw, open nerves. She wrote these two so well.  I wanted Parminder to relax and let go.  Breathe.   I wanted love, peace, acceptance for Sukhvinder.

The last page, with Rhianna's song, tore me up.  "Umbrella" is used on the book several time, with special meanings in 2 funerals.  Opening with it was ok, but closing with it, once you know what it means, just sealed it.  It had me in tears.

It was a weird read.  It was a slow read.  It was a good read.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Adios Cable

After a little over a year of my asking and asking, we.....have cancelled cable tv.

To quote one of my sisters' horror-filled text message: "WHO lives without cable?"

Um, lots of people actually.  Seriously, with the amount of technology out there, who needs cable is the question one should be asking.

We would get these bills and I would just CHOKE on my disgust over them.  Five HUNDRED channels and we watch SEVEN that I can think of.  SEVEN.  I complained and griped.  And complained and griped.  The hubby was not having it.

Finally, though, when my son and I explained that every single show that we watch can be watched on-line for less than 30% of the monthly cost of cable, he had to give. Hulu Plus, which we don't have yet,  is $8 a month.   We already have Netflix at $22 or so a month anyway, so we're adding $8 a month and taking away $120!  Cable tv was costing over $120 a month!  For six shows we watch and 4 or 5 shows Isabel watches.

Grey's Anatomy

and Cartoon Network shows for Isabel and Jake.   Isabel & I will miss Cartoon Network, but she has hundreds upon hundreds of shows and movies to choose from on Netflix and Hulu.

We're not spending $1,440 a year now!  That's crazy!  I'd have gotten rid of it a year ago.  Thankfully, finally, David agreed.  With a kid in college (still jobless too,) it cannot hurt at all to save where we can too.

The company was so funny, trying desperately to keep us.  "Well what if we give you six months of blah blah blah free?  What if you just keep basic cable for $68 a month? (which means $80+ by the time you add all the stupid regulatory and misc. made up fees they tack on.) You know if you change your mind, we'll have to charge you a $200 re-activation fee."  David calmly declined each and every offer.

Now I have to go to any UPS Store location with the equipment and a prepaid label (because AT&T Uverse has no storefronts anywhere! One of the many things I disliked about customer service with them; if you had to exchange equipment, which we did twice, they'd mail you one and you'd have to print labels & spend your lunch break going to a random UPS Store, hoping the employees there know what they are doing, and waste 45 minutes returning their stuff.  True story.)

WHO lives without cable?

We do.

Snoopy Happy Dance Pictures, Images and Photos

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Latch Hook Lassie

Ahh, latch hook.  I remember doing this craft as a youth.  My bff Kelli did this craft as a youth.  My husband did this craft as a youth.  It was so much fun.  Sadly, I can't tell you where any of my crafts went.  Mom was not a hoarder and I'm sure they got thrown away when I was not looking.

David wanted to buy Isabel a kit for Christmas, but he could not wait.  Impatient to see her reaction, he gave it to her in...early to mid November, I think.

The first attempt was difficult.  She got frustrated because she could not immediately do it and started crying.  Patience on daddy's end (he took charge) and more practice lead to her LOVING it.

I took a picture of her project when it was half-way done and ended up deleting it from my phone.

She diligently did 1-2 rows every day after homework.  On weekends, she'd do one or 2 rows a day.   Here she is, with about 3 rows left to go.  It's a cute puppy and kitty.  :)

When she finished last week, I sewed the back down and she was SOO excited.  She took the word "rug" in "latch hook rug" literally, and could not wait to display her artwork.  On the floor.  Cause it's a rug.

I love her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dean's List

Dean's List at Stetson?
Yea. He's on it.

My boy

Congrats Jake on making the Dean's List with your straight A's and 3.905 GPA.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Color Run Orlando 2013

We're back from the 2013 Orlando Color Run.  HOLY COW am I tired.  I just got up from an hour nap, with a headache, of course.  I don't know why I nap; never works.

On Saturday the 12th, we headed down to the southern point of Orlando to pick up our runners' packets at The Sports Authority on Sand Lake Road.  Took us about an hour to get there.  It was well organized and we had our packets in about 15 minutes.

Picking up our Packets, The day before the run, we went down to Orlando to get our packets.  Here's Iz.

Jake looks thrilled

We ate lunch at Panera and walked around the CRAZY Florida Mall.  Isabel's never been and Jake was 5 the last time we went there.  Why so long?  Because it's HUGE and full of tourists!  

So here's our loot.

The loot, T-shirt & bib #, sweatband, glasses, packet of color, wrist band and temp tattoos.
We each got a T-shirt and numbered bib, head band, color packet, wrist band and temp tattoos.
I purchased $5 Color Run sunglasses for Isabel and me, as we did not have any cheap ones to wear.

Sunday Morning, we got up at 6:30 a.m. and got ready to head out at 7:30 a.m.

Before, Isabel's ready to go in her tutu.
Isabel's "before" picture
The day was cool and the drive clear.  I had mapped out where I was going to park but I needn't have bothered. We were directed exactly where they wanted us to park.  Okey doke.

The run was held at downtown Orlando by the Citrus Bowl.  Ok, you out-of-towners: this is not Disney.  This is downtown Orlando.  We were walking through not-the-best areas of the city, but it was still a fun time.

The Start line, 2013 Orlando Color Run start line at Church Street by the Citrus Bowl.
The Starting Gate
The chute, It kept going, and going and going.
Down the Start Chute
Hello, My before shot.
She's Ready, she's ready!
In the middle of the chute, The let us go in waves.  It took us maybe a half an hour to eventually start.
We're waaaaay back here.

After they let about.....6 groups go, we were off.  We had to wait about 1/2 an hour, but it was fun.

First kilometer was pink!

Through the pink
Through the pink.
Yellow time!
Someone's having fun!
Unicorn Man, Um....

The blue zone was by far the craziest.

The blue zone
Can you see him?, Jake's in there.
Jake's in here
Paint Angels
Making Paint Angels

Orange Zone
Orange Zone
Orange Man

The Finish Line!!

The Finish!, Here were are at the end!

End Zone Party!
End party

Pretty purple.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Dad's 15 Minutes of Fame

Ok, it's more like 4-6 seconds.  And it's in the 1970's, which is AWESOME.

Dad used to work for Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, and for some reason ended up in one of their commercials for their bank.

I remember seeing this on film (like on a reel to reel) when I was little.  Thanks to the wonders of technology and YouTube, it clicked in my head today to search for it, and I found it again.

Now, he's not a main singer, so I clipped some pictures.  He's only at the beginning and only for like 4 seconds.

And in all it's 1970's glory....the video!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

And Also, Birthdays!

December is a CRAzy month for me.  It fills me with both happiness and dread.  It's both a blessing...and a curse. (Hello Mr. Monk.)

Not only is it Christmas time, the time we celebrate the birth of our Lord, but it has my son's birthday on December 21 and my husband's on December 25.



December 21 was a Friday and also THE END OF THE WORLD, so we had a small party.  He invited some close friends over, we had pizza, ate cake (store-bought, I was tired) and played games.

David did not want to open birthday presents on Christmas Day, because we had family over and we wanted to focus on Christmas.  He asked if he could open his on Christmas Eve day.

 Meanwhile, Isabel warms her hands by the "fire."

50-some-odd minutes of a log fire burning.  Man, I love Netflix.

No cake for him!  He did not want any. We still had Jacob's cake, about 3 dozen cookies left from my Christmas baking, a cheesecake and two ice cream mud pies.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Color Run is Coming!

The kids and I are participating in the Orlando Color Run!!!

We are very excited to have gotten in before it sold out.  When David was asked back in October if he wanted to do it with us, he said no.  Now, as the week approaches, he's regretting the decision and can't even go because they sold out.

We have to wear white shirts.  I decided to head to Goodwill to purchase some white shirts rather than the mall or even Walmart,  because they will get messy and I don't feel like spending good money on shirts that may get ruined.  I spent $5.48 total on three white shirts!  Woo Hoo!  (side note: I work with someone who would literally faint if they knew I bought clothes that other people may have worn!!!!  It cracks me up.  Actually, Jake's shirt was brand new at $1.89.  Isabel and mine were used, but I don't care.  A good washing with detergent and bleach, a little fabric softener and BAM! Good as new.  I am NOT too good for used clothing.  Get over it.)

We are walking it.  It's a 5k (3.1 miles) and at every kilometer, we get pelted with non-toxic color.  We'll be sporting shades and my car will definitely have plastic garbage bags over the seats.

Oooooh!  Can't wait!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Loot

BEHOLD.....Ze loot.


Not pictured: Two $25 gift cards to Michael's Arts & Crafts, a box of gourmet English muffins from an aunt & uncle as a family gift,  money from my mom and LOTS of money from my mother-in-law!

From my nephew and his girlfriend, who were over for Christmas: Photobucket
Book 3 of the Buffy Season 8 hardcover edition.  (He got me books 1 and 2 already earlier in the year.)

The Book of Spells Wonderbook/Move Bundle!!!  LOVE!   (this was a joint gift for Isabel and me.)

A desk Nintendo calendar.

Buffy, the Making of the Slayer.  This awesome.  Let me show you something.


It contains a hard cover book PLUS  a folder containing paper goodness from various episodes throughout its 7 year history.


I was pretty much Ga-Ga when I saw this inside the envelope.

Why yes, that IS the shadowcaster from season 7's "Get It Done."


J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" from my bff Kelli.

A linen cloth from Grandma GG (along with some candies and cookies mailed and already eaten earlier as a family gift. Thanks Grandma GG!).

"Just Dance 4 for the Wii from the kids, a candle ornament from Isabel, a big candle from David (and one each $25 Michael's card from each of the kids.)



Footie Pajamas from David. :)

Loving my loot!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Books Read 2012

Wow. 2012 STUNK for me, reading-wise.

While I read 75 books in 2011, I read a dismal 60 in 2012.


  • The Miracle at Speedy Motors (Book 9 of the 'No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' series) - Alexander McCall Smith
  • First Among Sequels (Book 5 of the 'Thursday Next' series) - Jasper Fforde
  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (Book10 of the 'No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' series)  - Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Double Comfort Safari Club (Book 11 of the 'No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' series) - Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Down (Book 2 of the 'Yada Yada Prayer Group' series) - Neta Jackson
  • Storm Front (Book 1 of the Dresden Files) - Jim Butcher
  • The Big Over Easy (Book 1 of the Nursery Crimes series) - Jasper Fforde
  • Three to Get Deadly (Book 3 of the Stephanie Plum series) - Janet Evanovich
  • Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
  • Mr. Darcy's Diary - Amanda Grange
  • The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - Stephenie Meyer
  • Fool Moon - Jim Butcher (Dresden Files, Book 2)
  • Four to Score - Janet Evanovich (Stephenie Plum Series, Book 4)
  • Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven book 2) by Brandon Mull
  • The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer*
  • The Magician (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel book 2) by Michael Scott
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
  • High Five (Stephanie Plum book 5) by Janet Evanovitch
  • Grave Peril (Dresden Files book 3) by Jim Butcher
  • Out of Oz (The Wicked Years book 4) by Gregory Maguire
  • Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (Sunday Philosophy Club book 2) - Alexander McCall Smith.
  • La's Orchestra Saves the World - Alexander McCall Smith
  • Deja Dead (Temperance Brennan Book 1) - Kathy Reichs
  • The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (#1 Ladies' Detective Agency book 12) - Alexander McCall Smith.
  • Death Du Jour   (Temperance Brennan Book 2) - Kathy Reichs
  • Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron - Jasper Fforde (NO, NOT "50 Shades of Grey.")
  • Hot Six by Janet Evanovich (book 6 of the Stephanie Plum series.)
  • Summer Knight"by Jim Butcher (book 4 of The Dresden Files series.)
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo*
  • Seven Up by Janet Evanovich   (book 7 of the Stephanie Plum series.)

  • Death Masks  (Dresden Files series book 5) by Jim Butcher
  • The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Real (Yada Yada book 3) by Neta Jackson.
  • Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  • The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

  • The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Tough, (Yada Yada book 4) by Neta Jackson
  • The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief book 2) by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
  • Blood Rites, (Dresden Files series book 6) by Jim Butcher
  • Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro
  • Jane Austen Ruined My Life -  Beth Patillo
  • Everlost -  Neil Shusterman
  • Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoe - Joyce Meyer
  • The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory
  • Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
  • The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught by Neta Jackson
  • The Wee Free Men by Terri Pratchett
  • Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
  • The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Rolling by Neta Jackson
  • A Heart Full of Diamonds by A.M. Jenner
  • City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
  • Coraline (Graphic Novel), by Neil Gaiman
  • The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Decked Out by Neta Jackson
  • Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
  • Little Men By Louisa May Alcott*
  • The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
  • Undead and Unwelcome by MaryJanice Dickinson
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terri Prachett

I tended to read a lot of series this year.  Alexander McCall Smith's "#1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, Neta Jackson's "Yada Yada" Series, Janet Evanovich's "Stephanie Plum" Series, Jim Butcher's "Dresden" series.   All good or I would not keep reading them.

Nothing really stands out.  I mean, I loved the Yada Yada series, I continue to love Precious Ramotswe, and Stephanie Plum is my guilty pleasure, but really the only book that made me go "yay!" was Paolini's "Inheritance" because it was long-awaited and also very good.

What book in 2012 made you say "Yay?"  Tell me about your favorite.  I might add it to my ever-growing list.