Year in Review.

2010 started very rough for me, personally, as I lost my grandmother on January 10th. She was my last remaining grandparent, and so her passing made even more of an impact on me. Her loss still weighs heavily on me today, nearly one year later. So January was definitely a tough month.

February brought me a much needed distraction in the form of the Vancouver Olympics. Figure Skating! Skiing! Curling! Other distractions that helped cheer me up included my new iPhone and the Planet Earth series, both of which were favorites of mine in February.

March was a busy, busy month for me. There were Brown Paper Packages gift exchanges with new bloggy friends, a brand new makeover for my blog, a new book series to get hooked on, and my very first time watching the Broadway hit "Wicked," which I absolutely adored.

April brought me my first Menchie's experience, a new blog series centered on confessions, and a rally with fellow teachers against Senate Bill 6, a bill that would have hurt both teachers AND students in the long run. Thankfully, Governor Christ would later decide to veto this bill.

May was all about tests for me, by which I mean my students' tests. I learned how my students performed on the FCAT Reading re-take (not good) and I helped prepare my AP English Language students  for their exam. The good news is that my AP students would end up performing quite well on this test, well above my expectations. In happier, less work-related news, May also brought us le boyf's birthday, which we celebrated with a few close friends.

June was the month I bid adieu to my 2009-2010 students. I was sad to see them go, especially my seniors, but eager to begin enjoying my summer vacation. Mind you, it would prove to be a pretty work-intensive vacation, as summers go, because I spent the last couple of school days moving from my old classroom to my new classroom -- in another building, no less. And my work didn't end there -- I was finally able to start working on my thesis again in earnest after finding a new major professor, one who would help me stay on track, and, most importantly, finish the darn thing. Even if it meant taking a (short) bloggy break.

When I wasn't busy thesis-ing in July, I was watching "Eclipse" and reading Hush, Hush, both of which were favorites of mine for that month. But I think my biggest favorite for July was the film "Inception." It made me rethink everything from the way I dream to the way I watch movies. Amazing, amazing film.

August had me falling for fall clothes (despite 90+ temperatures). Despite these horrid temperatures, we went to the Morikami Gardens for the first time during their Bon Festival. While it was hot and sticky and insecty as all heck, it was still a beautiful experience. Other significant events in August included one of my poems being published in a book for the very first time (yay!) and the start of a new school year (kinda yay!), one which would present me with a new teaching experience, namely teaching 9th graders for the very first time.

September found me writing incredibly short poems like this one, dreaming up birthday wish lists, and contemplating worth. September also gave me the impetus to give my closet a much-needed spring fall cleaning, which was nice.

October was one of my favorite months of 2010, not just because it's my birthday month, but because two very wonderful things happened in this month. First Ricky and I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the very first time, and it was just as magical as I hoped it would be. And then on October 19th I had my thesis defense, which I was able to pull off successfully (somehow). So yeah, pretty good month.

November was a very bookish month for me. First I read a lot of books (and talked about them here). Then I went crazy and decided to start writing my own book. I closed a chapter in my Twilight life by deciding to say goodbye to my long-standing Twilight blog. But that's okay, because "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 1" was there to keep me company. Finally, I bought an ereader at the end of November, which was quite possibly my favorite purchase of all 2010. Yes, even more than the iPhone. (Which is saying something.)

If I didn't blog a lot in December, it was because of my new ereader. I've read so many books in the past month alone! I've lost count, there's been so many. When I wasn't too busy reading this month, I was busy graduating from FIU with a Master's in English Literature (YAY!) and going on lovely road trips with Ricky to Orlando and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (again). And I was also spending time with my friends and family and just enjoying each other.

So 2010 may have started off on the wrong foot, but it ended up being a pretty good year all the same. Here's hoping 2011 is the best year yet! :-)

You can read my favorites post for December here. What was your favorite month of 2010 and why?


These are a few of my (current) favorite things...

These are the best shoes in the history of shoes. Not only are they comfortable and cute, but for every pair of shoes you purchase, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. What could be more awesome than that? I own two pairs: Love is the New Black Navy Colorway and the Gilded Herringbone Women's Classics. With my Christmas money, I ordered two more pairs: Black Canvas Classics (for more every day use) and the Silver Morroco Women's Classics (because I can't get enough of the SPARKLE). I wore my navy TOMS at the theme parks Ricky and I visited last week after my beloved Converse low-tops made my heels blister, and I discovered that TOMS make the best theme park shoes. Seriously. They were such a comfort after the hellish Converse shoes. Even with two new pairs winging their way towards me, I am already thinking ahead to the pairs I want to buy in the future. So you know I've got it bad. If there was such a thing as TOMS Anonymous, I would sooo be a member. Yep.
Lego Harry Potter (Years 1-4).
Ricky (le boyf) got this video game for the PS3 and invited me to play along with him, as it is has a two-player mode. At first I was all like, what is this silly childish game. But after just a few levels, I found myself completely hooked. We finished it last night and now I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment, Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7. Can't wait!
Phyto Hair Products.
This past summer I noticed that my hair was beginning to thin, especially on the crown of my head. I became worried when clumps of my hair started falling out every time I shampooed my hair, and when my boyf noticed a bald spot on the top of my head, that's when I really became alarmed. I thought it was due to the Brazilian blow-out treatments I'd done in the past, since my scalp became very oily and I felt my hair's texture had changed permanently after doing three treatments. But after reading up on hair loss, I learned that it can also be a result of seasonal change, hormonal change, and even plain old stress. That calmed me down somewhat. Then I started researching hair products to help combat the hair loss and found that Phyto's haircare products had high reviews on Sephora, particularly for their products targeting hair loss.

I've always been a fan of Phyto's Phytodefrisant Botanical Hair Relaxing Balm (it's a must for frizzy hair), and I began using the Phytocyane Shampoo and Phytobaume Conditioner after reading some reviews that claimed these products helped women with thinning hair. While I like how clean the shampoo leaves my hair, I think the conditioner tends to leave my hair a little dry (it's formulated for thin hair so it won't weigh it down so much). My hair is a bit too thirsty for such a lightweight conditioner. In addition, I've also been using the Phytopolleine Universal Elixer - Scalp Stimulant, Phytocyane Revitalizing Serum, and Phytophanere Dietary Supplement.

These last three products, in my opinion, are what have helped my hair out the most. I've been using these products since October and already I'm starting to see results in the form of baby hair growing all over my scalp. I'm trying to wait more days in between shampooing my hair -- normally I wash it every other day, but now I've been waiting an extra day in between -- and I've also stopped using my straightening iron as much. Even my hair stylist has noticed a change in my hair. Here's hoping it keeps working!
This perfume by Viktor & Rolf is both sophisticated and subtle, perfect to wear by day or night. I tend to like perfumes with prominent floral notes, like Stella McCartney's Rose Absolute, and Flowerbomb is very similar to this scent, almost like an exotic older cousin. I say exotic because Flowerbomb also has some oriental notes in the background that give this perfume a little extra oomph. You know how most perfumes don't have much staying power? Well, this perfume is great in that it lasts all day. Plus it's a favorite of the boyf's, which is always a plus in my book.
Mr. Coffee.
I feel like such an adult -- I finally have my very own coffeemaker! Never mind that I ordered coffee beans from an online store and tried to brew them today ... without grinding them first. (Who knew you had to grind coffee beans to make coffee? *cue Goofy laugh*) For years I've relied on Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts to get my java fix. It's nice to know I can make my own coffee at home now. I ordered the Mr. Coffee 4-cup Programmable Coffeemaker from Amazon, which for $19.99 I consider a steal. I used it today for the first time (with a Starbucks sample I had lying around that was already ground, happily) and found that it worked very quickly and neatly. Now if I could only find a coffee grinder that works just as well...
The Art of Racing in the Rain.
I wrote about this book in a previous post. Why am I writing about it again? Because it is that good. Like every cliche of an amazing book, I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to immediately begin rereading it as soon as I finished it, I was that sad to have it end. What makes this book unique is that it is told from the perspective of a dog. That the author, Garth Stein, is able to do this in a manner that is both witty and heart-jerking is quite an achievement.

This is one of the best books I read in 2010, and I'm eager to read more from Stein -- I recently purchased Raven Stole the Moon, which I plan on starting after I finish the book I'm currently reading, Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. I became so interested in dogs after finishing The Art of Racing in the Rain that I decided to pick up Horowitz's book. I guess you can say I've become dog-obsessed!

Do yourself a favor and read The Art of Racing in the Rain  -- it will forever change the way you view dogs. You can buy the book from Amazon for just $5.86. Read it and then come back here and tell me what you thought of it!

What are your favorites this month?

P.S.) This post marks my TWO YEAR anniversary of favorite things posts. Crazy. You can check out more of my favorites here.

{all pictures credit of Google images}

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! (Or, as my friends above would say, Merry Catmas! Get it? Get it? ;D)

Hello! I've been spending a relaxing Christmas with my family, which is just what the doctor ordered. I came back last evening absolutely wrecked from my road trip. Even today my legs and feet still hurt from all that walking. But despite the discomfort, it was one of the best road trips Ricky and I have ever taken. EVER. You can expect pictures soon.

What are you doing to celebrate the holidays? In a little bit, I'm jumping in the shower so I can get ready to visit Ricky and his family. We'll probably watch the Heat-Lakers basketball game and have a relaxing dinner. I had wanted to see "Black Swan" tonight but apparently basketball trumps all else. Who knew? Guess we'll be watching it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours a very happy holiday! xoxo


This is where we're going...

This year Ricky and I decided to forgo traditional Christmas gifts in favor of something a little different. Instead of giving each other material gifts, we're giving each other a trip! Tomorrow we leave to Orlando, where we'll be visiting the following theme parks:

 We'll be staying in Orlando until Friday, at which point we'll drive back down to spend Christmas Eve with our families. I'll be sure to take lots and lots of pictures and share them with you when I come back! :D

What I'm reading now...

What I just finished reading...
So ever since I got my e-reader, I've been gulping down books like there's no tomorrow. I went on a Maureen Johnson tear, reading Suite Scarlett, Scarlett Fever, Girl at Sea (my favorite of the bunch), and The Key to the Golden Firebird. I really like her style. She's funny and sweet and sarcastic all at once, but without being overbearing, like so many YA novelists can be.

Speaking of YA, I've also gone on a John Green tear, starting with An Abundance of Katherines after one of my students recommended it. It was good, good enough to convince me to get Paper Towns next, and then follow that up with Looking for Alaska, which is arguably John Green's most famous book. And its fame is very well deserved -- it's one of the best YA books I've ever read. John Green reminds me a lot of Maureen Johnson; he's almost like the male version of her, but even more sarcastic. Oh, and he likes to throw around four-letter words like mad, so if that bothers you, steer clear. Otherwise, he's a great read.

When I wasn't reading Maureen Johnson and John Green, I was reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which was recommended by my school's librarian. It's about racial tensions in the South during the 1950's-1960's in America, which I appreciate, but I'm still not sure how I feel about the fact that it was written by a privileged white woman, especially since a large portion of the narrative is told from the perspective of black women. The story itself is amazing, but sometimes the narrative feels a bit condescending towards black people. However, its message is a noble one, enough to make me forgive Stockett's shortcomings.

Next I read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, which is told from the perspective of a family dog who is convinced he will be reincarnated as a human being in his next life. It may sound silly, but let me tell you, this is one of the best books I've read in the past year my life. I laughed, I cried, I rooted for Enzo, I even sacrificed sleep just to finish reading it. Go and buy it today -- don't hesitate. It's simply amazing.

The last book I finished reading was Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Any book that follows The Art of Racing in the Rain runs the risk of being compared unfavorably, but happily, it did not disappoint. Anna and the French Kiss may be a YA novel, but it is also one of the best romance novels I've ever read. It's chock full of enough ups and downs to make any roller coaster jealous, and its whirlwind conclusion is one of the most satisfying endings I've read for any novel. Also-also, it made me want to go back to Paris. Bad. I first heard about this book thanks to Maureen Johnson's and John Green's tweets, and I'm ever so glad I did, because it's become one of my favorite books. I can't wait to reread it!

What I'm reading now...
I'm currently reading Unbroken by  Laura Hillenbrand. It's the selection that was chosen for this month for the teacher book club I belong to at school, and while I wasn't sure I would like it at first, as of today, I'm up to 69 pages into the book and absolutely loving it so far. It's based on a true story, that of Louie Zamperini, who began life as a reckless juvenile delinquent who turned his life around when he discovered running. From breaking into his neighbors' houses, he turned his interests to the Olympics, and later, to World War II as a pilot for the U.S. Army. During the war, he was captured as a prisoner of war and supposedly overcame unbelievable obstacles -- at least, that's what I hear. I haven't gotten to that point in the novel yet. But at the rate I've been reading, I should get there soon. Though the novel is nonfiction, it is quite the page-turner. I guess it proves that old adage true: sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

What I want to read next...
I want to read some more Maureen Johnson next! I've got both Devilish and The Bermudez Triangle lined up, and I can't wait. I think it will make for some perfect light reading over the Winter Break. :)

What are you reading now?


The best Christmas movie is...

In my humble opinion, I think the best Christmas movie is "A Christmas Story." It's just a classic. It's got humor, heart, and everything that a feel-good Christmas movie should have. Sure, it's relentlessly sarcastic at times, but just like the hard outer shell of a candy cane contains a sugary sweetness inside, this film has an undeniable charm.

You can watch the trailer below:

What's your favorite Christmas movie? Let me know in the comments! :)


What leads you to me...

My bloggy/writing buddy Jackerbie was telling me what search terms internet users type in to find his blog, which got me thinking, so I decided to check my own. And this is what I found (click to enlarge):

I guess these are the most recent search results? Hm, not sure. One thing's for sure, though -- the internet comes to me for Lolcats and fake things. What in the what... Oh well, at least they come to me.

If you want to see the search terms for your blog, just to your blog's dashboard, click on stats, and then click on traffic sources. Let me know your favorite search terms in the comments! :)


The Quest for the Sony Reader Touch


If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've been all about The Quest for the Sony Reader Touch. Well, I finally found it on Saturday in Aventura Mall. And it was on sale. And I bought it. And I may or may not have squeed. (Loudly.)

My boyf encouraged me not to open it until Cyber Monday, in case it was discounted even further. I was distraught at first at the thought of not being able to open my precious, but he made good sense, so I agreed. Cyber Monday came and went, there was no additional discount, and so the Reader was opened with much fanfare and joy. Oh, and more squeeing, too.

So why did I choose the Sony Reader Touch? What made me choose the Sony Reader over the Kindle and the Nook was the fact that the device and the Reader Store are not restricted, and you can even check out e-books from libraries that offer the service. I already have a library nearby where I can check out the e-books online FOR FREE for as many as 21 days. Which is amazing. In addition, the Sony Reader lets you download any Google ebook, most of which are FREE. Good stuff. (Note: They are free because many of them contain copyrights whose licenses have expired. For example, I was able to download The Awakening by Kate Chopin for free.)

My first purchased ebooks were Girl at Sea and Scarlett Fever by Mauren Johnson. (I'm on a Maureen Johnson kick lately, what can I say). And now I want to hear from you -- which ebooks should I download? Give me your recs in the comments!


Lolcat of the Week

Happy Monday! Actually, today is more like Stressful Monday -- I was visited by district personnel today in my classroom THREE SEPARATE TIMES. The last group even stayed watching me teach for thirty minutes. I was a sweaty bundle of nerves by the time they left. I just wanted to collapse. (I'm surprised I didn't collapse!)

Here's hoping the visit went well for my school. *fingers crossed* At least the cat above is adorable. I chose him because it was an instant cheer-me-up. Hope it cheers up your day, too! :)


These are a few of my (current) favorite things...

harry potter & the deathly hallows, part 1.
If you read my recent review of this film, then you know how much I loved it. Expectations were high for this film adaptation -- it's such an important book, but such a sprawling, momentous book as well. It seemed inevitable that they'd mess it up. At least, that's what I kept telling myself up to the very moment I took my seat in the theater on its opening day. But lo and behold, it not only met my expectations, it surpassed them.

This is the first movie that doesn't take place in the comfort of Hogwarts. There is no Dumbledore to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron. This time around, they are on their own out in the "real" world." The film is great because it handles this with the right balance of gravitas and levity. Despite what you might think, it's not all gloom and doom -- there are some lovely moments of lightness that carry the movie through some of its darker patches.

But here I am, giving you yet another review when you can just read the original.

cut the rope.
To be honest, the iPhone has lost some of its sparkly appeal for me. In the first few months when I owned it, it was like a shiny new toy. Much to my boyf's grief, it barely even left my hands. And woe betide anyone who tried to pry it from my death-grip. There was no app I wouldn't download, no game I wouldn't try. I had it bad.

But in the last few months, I kind of gave it a rest. New apps came and went. I didn't care. I stopped obsessively playing Words with Friends (which if you know me at all, is a real feat). But then a friend casually mentioned this new iPhone game she's been playing, something called Cut the Rope. She warned it was quite addictive. This was enough to prick my ears.

Curious, I decided to give it a try. And it is quite addictive! My iPhone is my shiny new toy again, thanks to this brand new game. Like most addictive apps on the iPhone, Cut the Rope is incredibly silly, but also incredibly fun. Best of all, it's incredibly cheap -- only .99 on iTunes.

caramel brulée latte.
I first tried the wonder that is Starbuck's caramel brulée latte last year. I was despondent when they stopped carrying it after Christmas. The months passed and I forgot about it, but then I pulled into Starbucks last week and saw it listed in their menu. And I swear to you it was like a chorus of angels began singing Hallelujah. This, my friends, is heaven in a cup. Get it today -- you won't be sorry.

tousle me softly haircare line.
I have naturally wavy hair that I can coax into curls or tame straight. It has the tendency to frizz in high humidity, which is what led me to do the Brazilian straightening treatment, otherwise known as keratin, two years ago. While it removed the frizz and made my hair easier to straighten, it wasn't without its negative side effects -- I did the treatment a few times but then stopped when I noticed my scalp and face had gotten much greasier, leading to bad breakouts in both areas. In addition, I began losing a lot of hair.

It's now been almost two years since I last did a keratin treatment and my hair still hasn't regained its curl completely. But then I tried some new products last week and it was like greeting an old friend -- the curls are back! And it's all thanks to Herbal Essences "tousle me softly" haircare line. I have used expensive products like Ouidad in the hopes of bringing the curls back, but nothing has worked except for this. I apply both the mousse and the spray gel on towel dried hair then dry on low heat, "scrunching" the curls between my fingers all the while. I'm left with bouncy, defined curls that are both shiny and soft.

I probably won't ever stop straightening my hair, especially on the weekend and for events, but it's nice to know I have another styling option now.

the national.
I have my boyf Ricky to thank for introducing me to this band, as is the case with most of the amazing music I love today. (The boy's got taste, he does. ;D)

The National is an indie rock band from Brooklyn. The lead singer has a voice like molasses -- it's that deep and sweet. They have the tendency to layer their songs with multiple instruments, everything from guitar to violins. It gives their music an otherworldly feel, something I appreciate in other bands like Grizzly Bear and Wolf Parade.

Here is the video for my favorite song from The National, "Anyone's Ghost" from their album High Violet. Also-also, has their album High Violet on sale today for $1.99. Which is a steal.

I first met Tricia Heighway, author of the book Paddytum, on the collaborative writing site Protagonize. It thrills me to no end that I know an actual, published author! Well, I know her over the Internet, which I suppose isn't the same... but still. I think it's cool. :)

One of her first pieces I remember reading on Protagonize was Paddytum. It's the story of an unemployed middle-aged man still living at home with his mother. One day while he is in his bedroom doing nothing productive (as usual), he hears a voice coming from his teddy bear, Paddytum. And that is just the beginning of the strange and wonderful things that you can expect from this book.

Intrigued? Here is a brief synopsis:
At one thirty-three in the afternoon, on the second Wednesday in May, something happened which was to change Robert Handle's life forever. At the time, he did not realise it would be a change for the better. Rob is man who has reached his forties without achieving anything at all. To his mother's dismay, he has dug himself into a rut so deep it will take more than a shovel to dig him out. It will take someone...or something, very special. Paddytum is the funny, poignant and heartwarming story of one man and his bear.
Tricia's writing reminds me of both Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl, in its blithe acceptance of the fantastical. But her sense of humor is entirely her own -- it's both tongue-in-cheek and bittersweet, and utterly captivating. This is one of the best books I've read in the last year and I highly recommend it.

You can learn more about Paddytum and also purchase it directly from Hirst Publishing.

What are your favorites this month?

P.S.) I'm just 3 itty bitty people away from 100 "Likes" on my bloggy Facebook page. When the "Likes" reach 100, I will do a giveaway. So what's not to "Like"? ;)

{all pictures credit of Google images}


O Christmas Tree...

Hello bloggy readers!

How was your Thanksgiving? I spent mine with Ricky and his family. There was turkey and ham and apple pie, and a spectacular green bean casserole that I'm still dreaming about today.

Did you take part in any Black Friday sales? I sure did... from the comfort of my home. Ricky is far braver than me -- he went to Walmart at midnight and stayed up late scouring different sales from Walmart to Target and even the (shudder) mall. He got some pretty good deals, but there was no way I could've done that. I'm a bit of an oddball for a girl in that I prefer online shopping to Real Life shopping. *shrug*

Now that the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten and the sales bins have been emptied, what's next? I'll tell you what's next: CHRISTMAS! (Can you tell I'm a wee bit excited about this?) I can't wait to set up my Christmas tree in my classroom (I can't put up a tree at home, alas -- unless I want my cats to serve as decorations) and start mailing out Christmas cards. I've even been playing Christmas music all day. Yes, I know -- I'm cheesy like that.

Speaking of Christmas cards, if you would like to receive one from little ole me, just send me your mailing address:



Happy Thanksgiving!

In case I don't get the chance to go online tomorrow, I wanted to wish you a very happy and restful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving! :-)