Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garden Window Decoration - Day of the Dead and Halloween

Hey There:

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, there is no gift-giving or family obligations, the only thing that is required is to be spooky and have fun.

I was raised in a border town in the North of Mexico, therefore I grew up knowing all about Halloween and going for "triki-triki" on the 31st. But in the rest of Mexico the ancient ritual of the Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.

I have several storage boxes full of Halloween decorations collected throughout the years, but this is the first year I make a Day of the Dead altar to celebrate my ancestors. But first let me show my Halloween decorations, unfortunately half of it is in storage with my Mom, but I least I got some stuff out.

halloween day of the dead

garden window

OK, now to the juicy part, my altar, on the first pic you may notice the bottom part of the garden window contains the altar, in the pics below I will explain each part of it. This ritual has been practiced in Mexico since the time of the Aztecs and it was one of those rituals that the Spanish could not eradicate so it was incorporated into Catholic rituals. This time of year people flock to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their relatives, they clean the gravestones, take flowers, have a nice afternoon picnic, take music and honor the dead.

This ritual exemplifies how we view death, not as an ending, but as the next step. Many cultures venerate their ancestors and believe they are with us to help, protect and guide. The Day of the Dead altars are very personal and usually very colorful, this is my first one, next year it will be better.

I'll explain my altar by parts, on the pic below we see several items:
  • The photograph features my Dad and his four brothers, of which three have passed away as well. It is one of the few photos of them together, so the altar also acknowledges my uncles.
  • The sugar skull represents people who have passed, this one is for my Aunt Mica who passed away earlier this year. The skull is made of hardened sugar decorated with icing, it is hard and can last for years as long as it does not get wet.
  • Next to the photo is a traditional bread baked only in this time of year. They are sold sweet sprinkled with sugar or savory with sesame seeds on top. These breads are edible and I bought one for me and one for the altar. It is tradition to have some of the deceased relatives favorite foods on the altar, I've been told that once the celebrations are over the foods from the altar have no taste, the spirits took it. I don't think I'll be sampling this bread on Nov 3rd.
  • The lady skull on the pink matchbox is known as La Calavera Catrina, a zinc etching by Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada done in 1910 and now a staple when it comes to the Day of the Dead decorations.
  • The purple votive holder just looked cool and it holds a flame-less tea light.

  • The cat in the photo is Simba, my first cat in the US, he was such a rascal!
  • The three small robed skeletons in red, black and white represent the cult of la Santa Muerte, there are several interpretations and ways of worshiping, but in themselves they are supposed to protect against harm.

  • That's my Dad, he passed away 3 1/2 years ago and this picture is from the early 70's in the apartment they lived in when I was born. I do have many more photos, but I liked this one.
  • The beer next to him is the Mexican beer Tecate, his favorite.
  • Wondering about the Brylcreem? It was the only hair grooming cream he used, since I can remember he's been using that brand. As the years went by it became more and more difficult to find it, as well as more expensive. I was lucky to find it and now it will be a staple in my altar.

And this is how my altar looks at night with the flame-less candles.

As I mentioned before, altars are very personal, colorful and full of meaning. Each year altars are placed in Chicano Park and Old Town in San Diego, CA. Last year I went to both events and took some video, one of the ladies from a museum gave a very good explanation about the meaning of the holiday.

And in case you didn't know, we have many haunted places in San Diego, back from the time this was the wild wild west. This is a video from a tour I took at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, very cool stories!

Friday, October 12, 2012

San Diego Public Library eCollection

Hey There:

I've had this conversation more than once, a friend and I will be discussing such and such book and me being a San Diego Public Library super fan will say:

"You can check out if its available in the Library and download it to your Kindle"

Blank stare.

"Yeah, you can download eBooks and eAudiobooks from the Public Library!"

And then the questions come.

Do you know about this? If not let me tell you more:

I believe everyone is familiar with the Public Library system. Residents of the city or county can request a Library card and be able to borrow books, movies, audiobooks, etc. for a certain amount of time at no charge.

Through the Library's website you can search for a book, see which branches have the book and request for it to be shipped to your nearest branch, receiving an e-mail notification when the book is ready for pick-up. You can also check on the status of your borrowed items and even renew them.

Now it gets even better because you can borrow from the eCollection and upload the eBooks, eAudiobooks and videos directly into your devices.


First things first, you will need a valid Library card in order to be able to register in the SDPL Digital Media Library.

One you are registered, you will need to download Overdrive Media Console and Adobe Digital Editions, both are free software, the links and instructions are available on the Library's site.

Supported Devices

You will be able to download files into Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iAnything, PC, tablets, MP3 players, etc. To view the very extensive list, click this link.

Digital Account

You may borrow up to 5 items at a time. If an item is available you can Add to Cart and download it, otherwise you can Place On Hold, when the title is available you will be notified by e-mail. They have over 150 titles "Always Available".

If you place a title On Hold you will be able to see where in the queue you are, in the example below, the Library has 2 copies and 17 people already on the waiting list.

The titles you borrow will be downloaded into the OverDrive Media Console, from here you can transfer to your compatible mobile device or play it on your own computer.


These can be borrowed for 21 days, at the end of this period you will no longer be able to access the book unless you borrow it again. If you finish the book in less time you cannot return it, you will need to wait until the 21 days are up.

As of the date of this blog post, the Library has 3,741 titles in its eCollection. This is a sample of how many titles the Library has to offer, with the collection growing constantly.

Sci-Fi & Fantasy - 466 titles
Mystery & Suspense - 964 titles
Biography & Autobiography - 243 titles
Business & Finance - 133 titles


These have flexibility, they can be borrowed for 7, 14 or 21 days. They can be downloaded into iPods or MP3 players until the borrowed time is up. As of the date of this blog post, the Library has 3,699 titles in its eCollection.

Romance - 289 titles
Juvenile Fiction - 321 titles
Classic Literature - 706 titles
Self-Improvement - 168 titles
Foreign Language Study - 88 titles


Videos also have the flexibility of 7, 14 or 21 days. They have more restrictions, for example I downloaded an Anthony Hopkins biography documentary and it can only be viewed on a PC but not on a Mac or any other devices. The quality on the video I watched was very good and I could see it as a small window like it is in the pic below, or have it full screen. As of the date of this blog post, the Library has 1,161 titles in its eCollection.

Drama - 48 titles
Horror - 10 titles
Travel - 80 titles

So there you have it, go forth and download...legally.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Garden Window Decoration - Between Holidays

Hey There:

I miss blogging so much! On the bright side, I haven't had a chance because I've been working with many authors on my eBook Formatting business, so in a way it's a good thing I'm busy...but I do miss blogging. I'll be organizing my time better and hopefully will be able to post more, I have a big list of topics!

This will be a short and sweet one. During the summer I had a beach theme on my garden window and the next big thing will be Halloween, so in between holidays I put up Mexican folk art that I've acquired over the years.

This time, my decor has had a new living addition to it. My cat found a way to get to the garden window and now its her favorite place to watch people and dogs come and go. It's been nice to come home and see her in her new spot!

cat in garden window

cat and mexican folk art