28 February 2005

More Children's Books

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls- I loved this book (still do). The relationship between the two siblings alone make the book worth reading.

A Blue-Eyed Daisy by Cynthia Rylant- Good book, but not so different from a lot of the books being written today.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden- My mother loves this book so I've had it read to me several times. The title describes it nicely, but it is so much more. Worth reading. The other related books are good, but not as good as this one.

Flame-colored Taffeta by Rosemary Sutcliff- I liked this book. Quick and interesting.

The Great Good Thing by Robert Townley- This is a more recent book and is quite different. Hard to explain simply here, but definitely worth reading, if only because it has a creative way of looking at things.

Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman- The story of a boy who wants to climb the mountain his father died on. Recommended.

Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace- Good children's mystery. Recommended.

So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins- This is a good book, but not for younger children because of some of the violent and disturbing content- war is always violent and disturbing. It is about a young Japanese girl whose family is forced to leave Korea during WWII. Highly recommended.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White- I enjoy this book. Fun and quick to read. Good for children.

27 February 2005


I grew up next to the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. I never realized how lucky I was to live so close to the mountains till we moved away from them. There really aren't very many places in the US that have tall mountains right next to fairly large cities. I am glad we can see the Tetons from our house now, but they are still over an hour away and it's nothing like I had when I was growing up.

John Muir had a lot to say about mountains:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into
you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into
you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how
willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers' plates. No earthly chemicals
are so sensitive as those of the human soul.

I think that last one went a bit too far. How about a cartload of books in the mountains instead?

My two favorite mountains are Timpanogos and Cascade. This shot is pretty much (it's taken from too far south) what I would see every day from our kitchen. Here's one more, except we didn't have a tractor or geese. :)

Mountains- real mountains, make me feel at home. I love the ocean. I green rolling hills. I love the beautiful forests in the eastern US. But I need the mountains. Kyrgyzstan has 3 peaks over 20,000 feet. I think I would like it there.

One more from John Muir:
Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and
rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand
windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way
who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short
life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.

We had a mountain day today.

Great Comment

cooper described nearly exactly what I'd like to see in a women's blog:

"Most of the femblogs have an edgy side to them and I'd like to see if there isn't probably another edge to explore...Not cutesy, gushy, or how do you say - molly stuff - so much, but there is a gap between the two descriptives."

Another Collection of Books

Alicia: My Own Story- by Alicia Appleman-Jurman- This is a difficult and important book. It is the story of a Jewish girl from eastern Europe during the Holocaust. Her story of survival is amazing, and all she goes through is terrible. I don't agree with all her conclusions, but it is important for me to read about the sufferings of the Jews in the Holocaust. I get too caught up in the current strife.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- Yet another very good book. I can't tell you how many times I've read this. Excellent and definitely worth reading and rereading.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- I've read this one three or four times, and I can't decide if I like it. I do dislike it less each time. If you're going to just read one Bronte book, read Jane Eyre, but try this one if you enjoyed Jane Eyre.

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour- Another book well worth reading. It's about a Christian Palestinian who was living in Palestine in 1948 and his life since then. There is a reasonable amount of controversy surrounding this book. I still highly recommend it.

Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng- This is an excellent book. The story of a Chinese women who refuses to admit guilt to crimes she did not commit. Highly recommended.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin- Hard to describe. I found it dissatisfying- I don't think the solution to her crisis was the best one. But I do recommend it.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins- Mystery from about 150 years ago. I'm not a big mystery fan, but I liked this one, since it was just a little bit unusual.

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway- This is an excellent book. I got it when I was in high school and read it several times. It is an autobiography of an Australian woman. She grew up on a sheep station in the outback; she details the good times and the bad. She is an intelligent and ambitious woman who feels stifled by many aspects of Australian society. Highly recommended. I also tried her True North, but I didn't like it quite as much.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens- This was one of the few books I was required to read in high school. Usually we were able to choose what we wanted to read. Very good book. It got me interested enough to write a 20-page paper on the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Recommended.

26 February 2005

Joan W. Blos and Lynne Reid Banks

No relation between these two authors, but I put them together anyway. I love Blos' books and enjoy Banks'. I'd be interested in reading more by Joan Blos if there are others that are as good.

Brothers of the Heart- A pioneer boy with a lame foot runs away and learns how to make something of himself from an old Indian women. Very good.

A Gathering of Days- This is an excellent book. Written in diary form, it's the story of a young girl in 1830s New England. Her widowed father remarries, she and her friends help a slave, and she does a lot of growing up along the way. One of the few books that doesn't seem to have a 21st-century person transplanted to the 19th century.
The Indian in the Cupboard- I've always enjoyed this book. There's a lot to think about in it, and it is a good story. Recommended.

The Return of the Indian- I didn't like this one nearly as well as Indian in the Cupboard, but sequels are rarely as good. I think I've read other sequels to these, but I didn't enjoy them much either.

The Fairy Rebel- This one is quite different from the others. A couple who is not able to have child is helped by a fairy and they have a rather unusual daughter. Pretty good, but not amazing.

Felice Holman

I accidentally deleted the original post I had saved, so I don't have the links. Has anyone else read other books by this author? I would be interested in reading more.

The Wild Children- This is a very disturbing book. It is the story of a boy whose family is deported by Stalin (I think), but he is left behind and has to fend for himself among the street children. I definitely recommend prereading this book, but I think it is an important book about a time in history that is ignored.

Slake's Limbo- Not quite as impressive as The Wild Children, but still a good book. A boy who lives in the New York subway for a while. Recommended.

25 February 2005

Mormons in Syria

Are there any Mormons out there who've lived in a country where the Church was not established? I'm talking about places with no other Mormons except your family. I've only known one family who was in this situation when they lived in Syria for 8 years. I've picked her brain on the topic, but I'd like to hear others' experiences, if there are any.


Riding Trax today in Salt Lake City got me thinking about subways. I've not ridden any subway much, since I've never lived in a city with a subway, but I have ridden it in several different cities. Riding in Cairo was the best. The front car was a women's car. We'd usually ride up there and found many interesting women to chat with. I always wondered what they thought of us- a few American girls with passable Arabic riding in their subway car. I never saw another American on that car.

More Books

The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig- The story of a Jewish family from eastern Europe who is deported to Siberia (as I recall, to Kazakhstan). Very interesting. According to this book, deportation to Siberia isn't exactly what I imagined.

Quest for a Maid by Mary Frances Hendry- Historical fiction based on a Norwegian princess who was shipwrecked on her way to England. I like this one.

The Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter- Pretty good. Two children who have to defeat a mermaid to help the return of their father.

...and Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold- The story of a young boy from a sheepherding family who has to prove himself.

Good Night Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian- This is a very good book. It has many sad and disturbing parts, but so many wonderful things to make up for it. I suggest prereading it, since it includes child abuse.

The Seventeenth Swap by Eloise McGraw- A boy has to figure out a set of swaps to get what he wants. Good book.

By Wagon and by Flatboat by Enid Meadowcroft- This wasn't an amazing story, but it was good because it talked about pioneers just after the Revolutionary War. Most pioneer stories are set later in history.

Where the Broken Heart Still Beats by Carolyn Meyer- Another excellent book. An American girl is kidnapped and raised by Indians. Her Indian husband is killed and she is taken back to live with her relatives. Highly recommended.

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill- I love this book. The story of trucks trying to take over NYC, starting with the destruction of the pushcarts. I read this one over and over as a child.

24 February 2005

LDS Women's Group Blogs (skip this one to get to non-LDS stuff)

I enjoy many of the LDS group blogs out there. They're handy because they get lots of traffic and often have new posts. I think M* has an excellent chance of becoming my favorite if they continue with such interesting posts. It seems to be a friendly place. Still, it doesn't have many women posting or commenting.

There are a few group blogs with mostly women posting and commenting- Feminist Mormon Housewives and Various Stages of Mormondom are two I'm aware of. I'd love to read another group blog done by women- one that doesn't focus solely on women's issues or on the LDS Church. I'd like to read something that discusses a variety of issues from an LDS woman's perspective. VSOM does come closer to that, but it's more about the Church than what I'm looking for.

I've been thinking about who I'd like to see on a blog like this. (I'm not including anyone already on a group blog, even though it pains me to leave some of them out.) Here are some that I've come up with:

Peggy Snow Cahill
Melissa Madsen Fox
Mary Sevier
Heather P.

Would you like to see a blog like this? Who else would you add?

A Bit about Politics

It appears that Israel will finally be removing the settlements from the Gaza Strip. This is only in Israel's best interest. The cost to Israel to keep those settlements there is much higher than any benefits it gets. The historical ties to the Gaza Strip are nowhere near as strong as many other parts of the Holy Land.

However, I do not believe that Ariel Sharon is abandoning settlements in any way. This is clearly evidenced by Israel's move to annex more areas around Jerusalem- areas of Jewish settlement. It's a crafty move. While Israel is being praised for partially pulling out of Gaza, it takes land of significantly more value.

I have been in the Gaza Strip. The difference between the standard of living of the settlers and the refugees is stunning.

Ariel Sharon has said that Israel wants to be a democratic and Jewish state. This is difficult to do. The only way I can see for Israel to be democratic and Jewish is to establish a separate Palestinian state. Israel cannot be considered democratic when over half the population has severely limited rights; however, it cannot give the Palestinians rights without jeopardizing its status as a Jewish state.

Let me also say that I am not anti-Semitic. (The term always amuses me anyway, since Arabs are just as Semitic as Jews.) I am not happy with Israel's policies. I also am not impressed with the policies of many Muslim and Christian countries, but that doesn't make me anti-Muslim or anti-Christian. I believe that most people feel this way. Even though we hear so much about how many people hate America, I don't think regular Americans are generally hated.

Some Classics

If you're working through the Well-Educated Mind, you'll recognize many of these from its lists.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde- MFS recommended this one and I liked it very much. Like I said, I'm not very good at reviewing books, but I will say that I also recommend it.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad- I listened to this one on tape about a year ago. I thought it was a very good book.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- I've read this one several times, and I like it more each time. Definitely recommended.

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton- This was the first book by Edith Wharton I've read. I truly loved the book. Worth reading soon.

Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy- I loved this book. Highly recommended. I also tried Tess of the d'Ubervilles, but I didn't like it as much.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton- I didn't like this one as much as House of Mirth, probably because I didn't like the main characters quite as much. Still, it's good.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flavery- Good book. It has been nice to read classics and rediscover fiction. I'd never stopped reading fiction, but I have had a hard time finding good fiction. Classics truly are worth reading.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy- I wasn't as impressed with this book as many people are. It was too long (I don't have a problem with long books; this one simply seemed to run out of energy in the last 100 pages). However, it was certainly thought-provoking and worth reading.

Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag- I finally read this one all the way through a year or two ago. I had read parts of it before, but I decided to read the whole thing. I'm glad I did.

Susan Cooper and Julie Andrews Edwards

Again, not at all related. I enjoyed all of these.

Over Sea, Under Stone- The true beginning of the series, even though it is usually listed as The Dark is Rising series. Simon, Jane and Barney are all introduced. My sister especially enjoyed these books. She would quote the poems from them often.

The Dark is Rising- We meet Will in this book. Not my favorite of the series, but still good.

Greenwitch- I think this is my favorite book of the series. I loved the focus on the Greenwitch.

The Grey King- Bran makes his first appearance in his book. I loved the Welsh setting.

Silver on the Tree- Final book of the series. I thought the end where everyone had to make their individual decisions was the most powerful part of the series.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles- This is another beloved book from my childhood. Three siblings and an older professor go to Whangdoodleland. Recommended.

Mandy- The story of a young orphan who needs a place of her own. Recommended.

23 February 2005

More Children's Books by Various Authors

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin- Delightful mystery. Definitely recommended.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi- I read this one quite a few times as a child. Interesting and different, if rather unrealistic. I've also read Crispin and the Fighting Ground, but I didn't like them nearly as much.

Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop- Lovely and short book about children in France who hide some Jewish children from soldiers. Very good.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse- This is a very good book. I need to read it again. Quiet and thought-provoking.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink- Lighthearted book about a girl and her family living in Wisconsin in the 1800s.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park- This was a Newbery book a few years ago. Very good.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett- This is another one I read over and over. Like Laura said on her blog, it is magical when she wakes up to see her room completely changed.

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher- This is a very good book about a girl who leaves one side of her family to live with other relatives that have very different views on raising children.

Blue Willow by Doris Gates- This is an older book that I read in the last year or two. It is about a migrant family in California. Recommended.

Observations and a Few Good Blogs

Talking to someone who agrees with you is relaxing.

Few people have heard of Kyrgyzstan.

It is never fun to be corrected. It is even less fun to be corrected for something you didn't say and don't even believe.

It is a blessing to have a mother-in-law who loves you.

Ariel Sharon is not a "former" settlement promoter.

Books can save your sanity.

I know these are over on the sidebar, but I do like these blogs:

my own private idaho
Mental Multivitamin
Itinerary for: Marlette and Guisseppe
Quiet Life
Writing, Homeschooling, Living
Home Education and Other Stuff

22 February 2005

And Still More Books

These are a variety of books by a variety of authors.

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas- This one really is quite cheesy in some places, but I still enjoyed it. The story of the Roman soldier who won Jesus' robe at his crucifixion.

James Harriot books- These books are about the life of a country veterinarian in England. Delightful for some light reading.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo- I think I've read this twice. I like it, but it is not the most amazing book I've read.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo- I didn't much like this one, but it was thought-provoking and an important book. However, I am still annoyed that Disney took this book and made it into an animated children's movie. A children's book this is not.

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller- Helen Keller's short biography. It goes up to her years at Radcliffe. Definitely worth reading.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- Like many people, I love this book. In fact, this is one of the very few fiction books my husband has read it its entirety. Always worth reading or rereading.

Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord- This book is not very well known. As I recall, the back cover refers to it as a Chinese Gone with the Wind. I can't comment on that, since (horrors) I haven't read Gone with the Wind. I have read this books several times though. I especially enjoy the picture it gives of China. It is interesting to read this along with Life and Death in Shanghai.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham- This is a lovely autobiography of a female pilot in the early days of flying in Africa. Beautifully written (even if it might not actually have been written by Markham).

Christy by Catherine Marshall- This book has been quite popular because of the television series. As usual, I like the book more. It's not amazing, but still a good book.

The Lacemaker by Janine Montupet- I've read this one many, many times. It gives a very interesting look at lacemaking in 17th-century France. Some parts are certainly unrealistic, but my biggest complaint is that the end is awful. No point, it doesn't fit the story, and it just drops you off. But I liked the rest.

Elizabeth George Speare and Cynthia Voigt

I had never noticed until I starting doing these posts that most of my favorite authors are women. Again, let me know if there are other good books by these two authors. There are many more by Cynthia Voigt.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond- This is a well-known book and deservedly so. I distinctly remember my mother reading this book to us. It is about a girl who was raised in the Caribbean who goes to Connecticut to live with her Puritan aunt and uncle after the death of her beloved grandfather. This is really worth reading (or reading again) if you haven't yet.

Calico Captive- I read this one over and over as a teenager. A colonial family is kidnapped by native Americans and sold to the French. A bit cheesy at times, but I still enjoy it very much.

Bronze Bow- I remember my mother reading us this book too. It is about a boy who lives at the time of Christ and struggles with forgiveness. This may be my mother's favorite book. Highly recommended.

The Sign of the Beaver- I enjoyed this book, but not as much as the other three. Still good and worth reading.
The Callender Papers- Mystery surrounding a young girl and her origins. Pretty good.

The Runner- I didn't like this one quite as much, but it was still good to read.

Jackaroo- This is another one I read often as a teenager. Good also.

On Fortune's Wheel- I didn't like this one as much as Jackaroo. Apparently there are two other books in the cycle.

21 February 2005

Lois Lowry

I hadn't realized I had read so many of her books till I searched Amazon. Some are definitely more worthwhile that others. There are also several more that I'd like to read. I didn't bother with the silly ones. As always, let me know if there are any more of her books you'd recommend.
The Giver- This is one of the best books I have read. Thought-provoking and insightful, it is not the typical government-controlling-everything story. The people choose to give up their freedoms in exchange for safety and security. Highly recommended.

Number the Stars- This is a good story about two Danish families during WWII. One is Jewish and one is Christian, and the Christian family helps the Jewish family escape when the Nazis try to round up the Jews. Very worthwhile to read, especially since all Europeans are often lumped together as being awful to the Jews during WWII. There are several books documenting the rescue of the Danish Jews. The only one I've read is A Conspiracy of Decency: The Rescue of the Danish Jews During World War II by Emmy E. Werner.

Gathering Blue- I didn't like this one quite as much as The Giver, but it was still very good.

Gooney Bird Greene- What a fun book. I say down and read this in the bookstore a year or two ago. I haven't read any of the others that follow it, but this one is a good one.

Biography and History

Biography, helpful as it may be in studying history, is not history itself. History is never about one person, however important; it is about people and their multiple interactions, people organized in groups, communities, nations, and states. (James Cracraft in The Revolution of Peter the Great).

My feelings exactly.

20 February 2005

Chaim Potok

I have loved Chaim Potok's books for many years. Here are all the ones I've read. If there are others of his you would recommend, please let me know.

The Chosen- The story of two intelligent Jewish boys who learn to make their own decisions. Recommended highly.

The Promise- Continuation of The Chosen. Very good.

My Name is Asher Lev- A Jewish boy from an Ultra-Orthodox family who becomes an artist. Highly recommended.

The Gift of Asher Lev- Continuation of My Name is Asher Lev. I might like this even better than the first one.

I Am the Clay- Very interesting and thought-provoking book about a Korean couple who take care of a boy in the aftermath of war. Recommended.

Wanderings- This is a very readable history of the Jews. I read this for an Ancient Near Easterns Studies course in Jerusalem and very much enjoyed it. Perfect? Of course not. No history book can be. But recommended.

Old Men at Midnight- I hate to admit it, but I can't remember this book very well. That means I didn't dislike it, but it wasn't amazing. I really should read it again, because I do recall that it made me think.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Natalie Babbit

The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case- I read this one years ago, but I didn't love it, so I didn't continue reading Snyder's books. It's about a group of siblings who are kidnapped in Italy. The story was a little contrived, I thought. Not really recommended.

The Egypt Game- I read this one a few years ago and loved it. It reminded my of E.L. Konigsburg a little. A group of children make up an interesting game about Egypt. I loved reading about their interactions. I did think the part about the murderer was a bit much. I thought it would have been an excellent story without it. I think that's why I like Konigsburg's writing. She doesn't have to put in these big suspenseful, unrealistic things to make an interesting story.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Tuck Everlasting- This one is fairly well known now because of the Disney version a few years ago. My mother read it to us when we were younger. She continued reading till we were teenagers. I enjoyed the movie, but this is really an excellent book. The movie doesn't quite catch the spirit of the book. Highly recommended.

The Search for Delicious- This is a wonderful book. An argument over the definition of the word "delicious" nearly starts a civil war and brings chaos to a kingdom. It is amusing and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

19 February 2005

E.L. Konigsburg

We're going to be having a book fest here for the rest of the month. I've been working on a lot of posts with short reviews of books I've read. I'm not particularly good at reviewing books, but I can at least tell you if I liked them and maybe a little bit about them. There will be a mix of children's books and adult books.

These are the books I've read and enjoyed by E.L. Konigsburg. I don't like all of them equally. I do like Konigsburg's style of writing. Her books are not like everyone else's. I haven't read some of her newest books yet.

The View from Saturday- This was a Newbery book a few years ago. It is the story of four very different children who work together to make good things happen. I suggested it for my book club in my last town and the women loved it. Highly recommended.

Throwing Shadows- Five short stories. All different, but somehow the same. Recommended.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler- Also a Newbery (an author who gets two Newbery awards clearly is worth looking into). A sister and brother who run away and "hide out in" the Met. Excellent. I read this one many times as a child.

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth- I also read this one many times as a child. Two girls who create an unusual friendship. Recommended.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place- Good book about an atypical girl with much less than typical relatives. Fun to read. Not quite as good as some of her others, but certainly worth reading.

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver- This isn't my favorite Konigsburg, but it is still good. Eleanor of Aquitaine is waiting in heaven to be judged and remembers her life.

Father's Arcane Daughter- I wouldn't necessarily recommend this one unless you love Konigsburg and want to read many of them. Still, it is quite interesting, and I have enjoyed rereading it. Again, it's different.

18 February 2005


I found an interesting site today: Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Here are some articles from it:

Minorities in Kyrgyzstan support current leader

Street children in Tajikistan

Wolves in Uzbekistan

Apathy and frustration among voters in Zimbabwe

Intelligent Mothers

There is an excellent article in the March Ensign on "staying smart" as a stay-at-home mother (I've never liked that particular term, but it doesn't confuse anyone). Even though the Ensign is an LDS Church publication, most of the suggestions in this article apply to any mother. It is entitled "My Stay-at-home Education" and it is by Katherine Padilla. She says that she decided when her first child was born that she was going to "stay at home and be smart;" she has been a mother for 21 years.

One of the first things the author recommends is to read good books. She says, "Finding time to read has not been difficult for me. I read while I'm watching my children play outside and when I need to unwind... [it] gives my mind something interesting to think about while I'm taking care of the more mundane tasks of life."

She also goes on to suggest developing meaningful hobbies. Another suggestion is to use community resources, such as college classes, book clubs, and correspondence courses. One of the final suggestions, relating specifically to religious women, is to study the scriptures.

These really are simple ideas. Anyone could think of them. Yet they have to be printed in a magazine. I hear many stay-at-home mothers complain that they are bored and all they do is change diapers all day. I would hate it too if all I did was sit around and wait for a diaper to change.

Don't wait. There is plenty of time between changing diapers, giving baths, making peanut butter sandwiches, and playing card games to read, to write, to learn, to think. Hobbies are fun, but choose ones that are worthwhile, ones you can learn from. Take classes. Discuss books with friends who read (they can be hard to find, but they're out there). Learn about something completely new and exciting (like geysers. :)). Don't talk about diapers and body hair or whatever Oprah said yesterday when you could talk about meaningful things. Don't miss out.

17 February 2005


There was an earthquake not far from us last night. And I didn't notice it. I'll have to take the boys to the college to see the seismographs.


IDF (the Israeli Army) to stop demolishing Palestinian homes

Chinese take on Tibet

Cyclone Olaf mostly misses Samoa

Boarding the Ark Today

Another cookbook that has worked for us is Boarding the Ark Today by Jane P. Merrill. (I'm not big on the title and the little hearts scattered throughout the book though.) It has lots of "normal" recipes for whole grains, beans, etc. It is very basic. My husband actually uses it more than I do. He is not a cook, but he can turn out good food from this book. If you're having trouble with food storage, or just want to eat healthier, this is a good book.

I don't recall the book promoting LDS doctrine anywhere, even though it it based on the LDS goal of a year's supply of food.


I know this has been kicking around the internet for a while, but just in case you haven't heard it, it's worth listening to. (It's a catchy little children's song in German about a crocodile.)


16 February 2005


Living in Bishkek

Wouldn't you want to live there too?


Jerusalem Post on Turkey joining the EU

Islam Karimov (President of Uzbekistan)

Interesting news site on human rights

International versus Domestic Adoption

Adoption is a topic that comes up a lot in a variety of different settings. I think I've mentioned before that we are looking into international adoption and have been for nearly two years.

We chose international adoption for a variety of reasons. In fact, we didn't even consider domestic adoption. We've had several very good friends who have adopted domestically, and we think that is a very good option too. One couple adopted from foster care and obviously made a huge difference in their daughter's life.

I agree that domestic adoption is a very good option. There are many children in the United States that need homes. However, I have never heard someone criticized for choosing to adopt domestically (instead of internationally) and I have heard (and we ourselves have experienced it) people say that it is wrong to go international when there are so many children here that need to be adopted.

I cannot understand this. I cannot see why it is better to adopt a child from foster care than from an orphanage.

In Kazakhstan, for example, children are generally well cared for as infants and young children. However, when they are teenagers, they are sent to different orphanages that have many problems. When they turn 18, they are given a small some of money (around $200) and sent off. They don't have much education or many skills. You can imagine the kind of life that is ahead of them. Many turn to prostitution and crime simply to survive.

Certainly children who spend their entire childhoods in foster care often have a difficult time surviving themselves. But still, the United States has other systems to help them after they are grown- welfare, student loans, Medicare. I cannot think that they are worse off than orphans living in foreign countries.

I have been in orphanages and refugee camps in the Middle East. I have been involved in foster care- my grandmother fostered several children and many of my friends and neighbors have fostered children. I know that foster care has many problems. But I don't think anyone could convince me that, overall, foster care is worse than an orphanage.

Can't we just be happy that a child- any child- has been adopted and is in a much better place?

15 February 2005



Lonely Planet on Kyrgyzstan

Eurasianet.org on Kyrgyzstan

Miserable Mothers

MFS often blogs about women who are over the top with motherhood. She links to a Newsweek article entitled "Mommy Madness." I have to admit that I could not relate to this article at all (there have been a lot of discussions about women recently that I cannot relate to).

All I can say is why? I cannot think of any good reason for these women to do this to themselves. I honestly don't think it is something that government can fix, even though the author has quite a few suggestions for the government. It wasn't until the last few paragraph that I thought she got into solutions that might work:
We are simply beating ourselves black and blue. So let's take a breather. Throw
out the schedules, turn off the cell phone, cancel the tutors (fire the OT!).
Let's spend some real quality time with our families, just talking, hanging out,
not doing anything for once. And let ourselves be.
Government can't do fix this. Religious belief can't. A supportive family won't. These can all help, but it really comes down to your choices. You get to choose. Choose a better way, one that works for you and your family. You can even choose to like being a mother, if you want to.


Palestinians in East Jerusalem from the Jerusalem Post- an interesting book related to this article is Separate and Unequal by Amir Cheshin

Slovak Spectator on Bush/Putin meeting next month

Editorial on Uganda from the Monitor

Anyone Been to Kyrgyzstan?

We're looking into going to Kyrgyzstan to have my husband teach for a semester. There are quite a few Fulbrights available for Central Asia since most people want to go to Europe. We're not most people, so Kyrgyzstan sounds great to us.

We know that there are LDS Church members, at least one branch, and missionaries in Kazakhstan. We know people who've been to Kazakhstan. We have several friends from Uzbekistan, both Russian and Uzbek. But we just don't know much about Kyrgyzstan, beyond what I've read. I know it's a long shot, but do any of you know anything about Kyrgyzstan beyond a textbook?

14 February 2005


Editorial on the Iraq election from the Times and one from the Gulf Times

Aftermath of coup in Togo from afrol News

Zambia has elections coming up

Government control of the media in Maldives

Islamic Culture from al-Jazeera

The Thai PM was re-elected this week; editorial on his poorer showing in the South


Alexandra: The Last Tsarina by Carolly Erickson- Again, this didn't quite interest me as much as I hoped. I really wanted to know more about the surrounding details. Alexandra wasn't altogether likeable either. I've always been frustrated with Tsar Nicholas- I would have liked more insight into his life. I know the book was specifically about Alexandra, but he was a very important part of her life. I felt like I learned more about her children than her husband.

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel- I just couldn't get into this one. I've also read Longitude by Sobel, but it was more about a certain event that just a biography. I like biographies generally, but I don't think they are me favorite type of literature. I think I need to read fewer than I've been reading recently. I prefer to learn more about each event than about each person.

The Perilous Frontier by Thomas J. Barfield- An interesting if somewhat dry history of the nomadic groups in Central Asia and China from 221 BC to AD 1757.

Glimpses of Lehi's Jerusalem edited by John W. Welch- This is a compilation of articles written by a variety of LDS scholars about Jerusalem in about 600 BC. Interesting.

Mormons, Islam, and Other Issues

There is a rather interesting discussion right now on the WTM boards about Mormons and Christians. Since I don't quite think that is the right forum for the discussion, and since Julie, as usual, got there first and said what I think quite clearly, I'll just write a little more about it here.

The biggest problem with discussions like these is that most of the participants are already convinced that they are right. I'm quite sure that I couldn't convince many of the ladies there that I am Christian (defined as a belief and worship of Christ as my Savior and my God), and they certainly won't make me think I'm not Christian.

This happens often with Islam. People are often quite surprised when I say that I like and respect Islam. Many have an idea of Islam of being an oppressive, violent religion. Certainly there are passages in the Qur'an that could be interpreted violently- there are plenty of similar passages in the Bible. The book of Joshua is not a shining example of turning the other cheek.

Many of the problems people have with Islam stem from cultural traditions, not religions doctrine. The Qur'an does not require than women wear the veil. It does not require than women have to ask their husbands before they leave the house. Millions of Muslims don't believe that. But that's the type of Islam that is often presented.

The same thing happens with the LDS Church. There are plenty of statements that have been made by members of the Church that do not represent Church doctrine, but they are sometimes presented as Church doctrine. I amuses me when someone says to me "Mormons believe such-and-such," when no Mormon I know actually believes that particular thing. It is also amusing when I read that Mormons don't know what they believe. I know exactly what I believe. :)

ASK someone of a particular religion before you make any judgments. Ask more than one person if you can- there will be differences among the members of any religion. I cannot tell you how many Muslims I've talked to. It has been invaluable, and I know it has enriched my religious experience.

13 February 2005


Aftershocks in Aceh Province

India to Become a Superpower?

Several interesting articles from Turkmenistan

More about Food

A commenter asked for our grocery list and a week's menu. A week's menu would be very similar to the recipes I posted already, along with a pasta dish each week (usually some type of spaghetti) and a potato dish each week. We often have pancakes one night a week. The problem is that I don't shop for the week's worth of meals, since we use our food storage so much. This turned into a post about food storage. I hope you don't mind.

I could sing the praises of food storage (the LDS Church encourages its members to keep a year's supply of food on hand) for a long time, but I'll spare you. I'll just say that it works very well for our family.

I really think the biggest problem people have with food storage is that they don't know what to do with it. There are plenty of nasty things to make with beans and wheat. It takes a long time to find recipes that your family likes. Of course, you can just store what your family usually eats, but it's probably not as healthy, it doesn't last as long, and it's usually far more expensive than "traditional" food storage stuff.

It did require an investment to start our food storage, so we used money from Christmas one year, and we also budgeted for it that year. I would say we spent less than $1000 over nine months to get our year's supply. Now it doesn't require much money, since we just slowly eat through it and replace one or two things at a time.

We eat oatmeal or homemade bread bread for breakfast and pasta or leftovers for lunch. So, if in a week we had navajo tacos, chilaquiles, red lentil soup, mashed potatoes and biscuits, chicken-garlic spaghetti, and pancakes (I don't cook on Saturdays :)), I would spend about $15 (a typical week in the winter) to buy 3 gallons of milk, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, potatoes, onions and one or two tomatoes.

Then about every fifth or sixth week I go to Winco instead (inexpensive, but too far to drive to every week) and spend about $90 on cheese, butter, bulk stuff (to replenish the food storage), and canned tomatoes. It averages out to $30/week.

Stuff we store: red lentils, brown lentils, white beans, black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, wheat, barley, oats, rye, oatmeal, powdered milk, white sugar, brown sugar, honey, white rice, brown rice, white flour, popcorn, chocolate chips (I would hate to run out of these), dehydrated potatoes, bulgur, chicken bouillon, olive oil, vegetable oil, couscous, salt, cornmeal, sunflower seeds, baking soda, baking powder, herbs and spices, dried fruit, pasta, and gluten.

The freezer is stuffed with frozen fruits and vegetables cooked meat and beans, corn tortillas, flax seeds, and some components of the dinners I make. I don't like canned goods generally. They're heavy, hard to move, often less healthy, and usually more expensive than making it yourself or buying the dried version. I only buy canned tomatoes and sometimes pumpkin.

That's it. Aren't you glad you survived this post? :)

11 February 2005


One more note- I almost exclusively read the editorials, so that's what I'll usually be linking to.

Jerusalem Post on Abbas

Daoud Kuttab on needed element for success in Palestine/Israel (Jordan Times)

The Times on Iraq

Multi-grain Bread

I think this is the last one. Let me know if there is anything I missed.

Multi-grain Bread

3 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp yeast (or two packets)
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1/4 c oil
1/4 -1/2 c gluten (use more gluten if using a lot of the optional things)
About 8-9 cups flour (I use 2 c barley, 2 c oat, 2 c rye, and the rest whole wheat, adding as much as needed at the end)

Optional additions:
1/2 c wheat germ
1/2 c cracked grain (I use oat groats)
1/2 c sunflower seeds
3/4 c ground flax seeds

Combine everything and knead 10 minutes, let rise, form into loaves, let rise in pans, and bake 35-45 minutes at 350. This is our basic bread recipe that we use for everything.

Bulgur Pilaf with Tomatoes, Onions, and Yogurt

Bulgur Pilaf with Tomatoes, Onions, and Yogurt

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 Roma tomatoes, grated, or 8 oz crushed tomatoes
2 cups bulgur
3 cups boiling chicken broth
1 tsp salt
Plain yogurt

Heat oil in frying pan and saute onion till soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes (less time if they were canned tomatoes). Add bulgur and salt, stir well, then add boiling broth. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes, till bulgur is soft. Remove from heat, stir well, and let sit 5-10 more minutes before serving with yogurt. This is also from Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert.



6-9 corn tortillas, torn into bite-sized pieces, and fried in a bit of oil till golden (set aside)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
Crushed red pepper to taste
2 cups cooked black beans
1 tsp salt
Plain yogurt

Heat oil in a frying pan (cast-iron is good), then add onion and saute till soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, oregano, and about 1/2 c water (add more if needed). Simmer 3-8 minutes (longer if your tomatoes were fresh). Add beans, salt, and fried tortilla bits. Heat through and serve warm, topped with yogurt. It shouldn't be dry, so add more water as needed. Serves 4. Based on a recipe from Flatbreads and Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

Bulgur and Rice Pilafs

Bulgur Pilaf

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cups broken spaghetti (one-inch pieces)
2 cups bulgur
1 tsp salt
3 cups boiling chicken broth

Heat oil over medium high heat in a medium pot. Add spaghetti and saute till golden. Add bulgur and salt and stir well. Pour in the boiling broth and boil 3 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

To make rice pilaf, use 3/4 c spaghetti, 1 1/2 cups rice instead of the bulgur, and boil for 1 minute before simmering for 18 minutes.

These are both from Paula Wolfert's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Spinachy Rice with Feta

Spinachy Rice

2 lbs spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil Feta
1/2 c tomato puree boiled down to 3 Tbsp (I do this in the microwave)
1 c rice
1 Tbsp dried dill, or 3-4 Tbsp fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the spinach, place in a colander, sprinkle on some salt, and mix well. Let sit for 15-30 minutes till the spinach has wilted. Rinse very well and shred, squeezing out extra moisture (this reduces the bulk of the spinach so it will fit in your pan). Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add onion. Saute 10 minutes till soft, then add 2 c water, tomato puree, and rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Spread spinach and dill over top, cover and cook 10 more minutes till rice is cooked. Season with salt and pepper and serve with feta. Serves 4. This is based on a recipe called "Greek-style Rice with Spinach, Feta, and Black Olives" from Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert.

Kichree (Iraqi Red Lentils and Rice)

4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seed
1 cup rice
1 cup red lentils
1 tsp salt
Crushed red pepper (or black)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp butter

In a frying pan, saute garlic in oil just till you can smell the garlic (don't let it brown), then add cumin, tomato paste, rice, and lentils. Stir over low heat till coated with oil. Cover with 4 cups boiling water, add salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, adding water if necessary. Stir in butter, let melt, and serve with plain yogurt. Serves four. This comes from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden.

Couscous and Garbanzos with Spicy Garlic Sauce

Couscous and Garbanzos with Spicy Garlic Sauce

1 onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup couscous
Chicken broth
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp garlic
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 cups cooked garbanzos

Saute onion in 2 T olive oil. Steam couscous over chicken broth (or prepare according to package instructions, or just boil it in some chicken broth till done). While the couscous is cooking, combine 1/4 c oil (use more oil if desired) and garlic and spices. Combine warm garbanzos, onions, couscous, and sauce. I like this with plain yogurt. Serves 4.

Edited to add that I usually don't bother with the garlic sauce now. Instead, I saute the onion in the olive oil, then add the garbanzos and lots of minced garlic. Then I add salt and the prepared couscous and at least 1/2 tsp of cayenne. It's a quick and easy meal.

Pasta with Beans

Pasta with Beans

2 cups cooked white beans
2 Tbsp butter
6 or 7 handfuls pasta (any variety)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Cook pasta till tender, then add beans, butter, and cheese. Reheat if necessary. Serves 4.

Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 c beef broth
2 c red lentils
16 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Combine everything in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40-50 minutes, adding more beef broth if needed. Serve with plain yogurt, if desired. This is nearly universally liked, even by people who are unfamiliar with Middle Eastern flavors. Serves 6. The recipe is from the first edition of The Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Greene (link to new, updated edition).

White Chili

White Chili

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 (4 oz) cans chopped green chilies
2 cups cooked white beans (drained)
About 3 cups chicken broth
1-2 cups Jack cheese

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, chilies, cumin, oregano, and cayenne; sauté 2 min. Add beans and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add cheese, and stir until it melts. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt. Serves 4. I often double it since it freezes very well and my family loves it.

Healthy Eating

Where did we get the idea that "healthy" eating has to be expensive? I see this over and over in all sorts of places. Is it just a convenient justification- "Oh, it's just too expensive to eat healthy foods, so I don't"? Or have we really been convinced that we have to fork out piles of money simply to feed our families good, healthy food?

I completely disagree with the idea. First, though, I don't consider "organic" to be essential to healthy eating. If you do, then we're not going to agree and you're probably going to have to spend a lot of money to feed your family well (of course, a garden goes a very long way here). To me, healthy eating consists of eating a wide variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, along with a few other things in moderation.

I believe that my family eats healthy foods. We also spend less than nearly everyone I have ever known on our food. 30 dollars a week is comfortable for us. We went down to $10/week for fresh fruits and vegetables when my husband was laid off.

To me, healthy eating requires more skill than money. It takes time to learn how to cook new foods. It's not something that we learn at home anymore. Many people don't know how to bake whole grain bread, cook dried beans, to make lentils taste good (my mother definitely did not know how to do the lentils).

It's taken about 6 years to get to the point where I can get a healthy meal put together every night without it taking too much work. I've tested recipes, learned new techniques, and gotten very frustrated at times. But it's paid off.
Added note: I had this post ready to go before the conversation about inexpensive meals came up at WTM. This post actually had nothing to do with that and is certainly not aimed at anyone. I'll be posting a few of my favorite inexpensive recipes this morning.
Since I'm trying to check more newspapers each day, I'm going to mention one or two that I thought were interesting each day.

Article on Zionism in Haaretz

10 February 2005

Terrorists Under Every Bush?

After September 11th, I am sure that I felt the way that many of you did. It's hard to describe the shock and horror that I felt. Those feelings have largely disappeared, but I still remember them clearly. It didn't help that my husband and I have some strong feelings about Islam, and we saw Islam attacked often in the following days- and it still hasn't stopped. I have been appalled at some of the things I have read concerning people's attitudes about Islam.

But if I felt that way, I know that Muslims had to have felt much worse. We were attending law school at the time and there happened to be a relatively large number of Muslims at the university, mostly from Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Some of them packed up and went home in the days after September 11th. Others stayed, but were frightened to leave their houses. Some tried to just go on with their lives as they had been before September 11th. And finally, some tried to educate others about Islam and do what they could to help.

Sami al-Hussayen was one that tried to educate and to help. He donated blood. He tried to tell people about Islam. He participated in peace rallies. He had been the president of the Muslim Student Association and was a leader among the Muslims on campus. We had met him about 6 months before when my husband brought in a speaker from Uzbekistan to talk about Islam and international law. We invited the Muslim Student Association to the lecture, so we got to know Sami a bit. He was moderate in his views and it was clear that Islam is a peaceful religion to him.
We were shocked when it was reported that Sami had been arrested and accused of a variety of terrorist activities. We weren't living in Moscow anymore when it happened, but we still had many friends there. We saw quite a few people we knew interviewed on the news, and all were amazed at the charges. It was difficult to believe the charges since we knew Sami.

But it wasn't difficult for the Robert Hoover, president of the university, and Dirk Kempthorne, the governor of Idaho, to believe. Hoover said, "I think all of us at the University of Idaho feel betrayed about how our institution was used." I can promise that not all of us felt that way! Kempthorne said the charges justified the increased security at the capital that he implemented in 2002 and that the case was proof that there are "terrorists hiding in the heartland."

Sami was able to hire a good lawyer who defended him well. The judge ruled that Sami could be released on bail, but the NIS got involved and made sure he stayed in jail till his trial. Sami was in jail for nearly 2 years. Since the state was worried about his security, he had to be held in a high security cell in a different county. It was an hour and a half round trip for his attorney, and he could only meet with Sami for one hour a day. Not an easy way to prepare for a high-profile terrorism case. Sami's family was only able to see him for that short time each day too. He is married with several children. They did return to Saudi Arabia while he was waiting for his trial.
The trial finally began after a variety of delays- some caused by his own attorney because of the difficulty in communicating with Sami and because of the government's refusal to turn over certain documents. The government presented its case over quite a few days, calling a variety of witnesses. The defense, interestingly, did not present a case, since it felt that the government's case was not strong.

Sami was tried on terrorism charges and visa fraud. The jury was split on some of the visa fraud issues, but they were united in acquitting Sami on the terrorism charges- remember, the defense hadn't even called a witness.

There are many interesting issues involved in this case. It was the first case to be tried under the new laws passed after September 11th, and it certainly didn't go well for the government. There are many questions whether the Patriot Act goes too far. This is an important case that has not received that attention that it should have. This article has more about the charges and how the government was able to keep Sami in jail for so long. This article discusses what happened to Sami afterwards. Here are more details from the trial.

09 February 2005

Sidebar Stuff

I sorted out the links on the sidebar in the last few days. They're generally divided between books, homeschooling, LDS, science stuff, and newspapers. I've added a few blogs recently, including Another Classical Homeschooler, Explorations, Aimee's Blog (a native of my hometown), Peggy Speaks Up, Book Moot, Well-Educated Minds, Bookworm, Wordlust, Lisa's Ramblings, Simple Faith, The Road to Zion, and Millennial Star.

Bookstore v. Library

Update: MFS reminded me of this post about the joy of having books around. If I ever start to think libraries are the only way to go, I'll just have to pop over to the un-blog and get my priorities back in line.
I've seen discussions in several places on the merits of bookstores and libraries. Usually the discussants have definite opinions on which is better. I used to be a bookstore lover. I'd rarely check books out. Then we went to law school. Law school meant no money and a small apartment. But it did mean that I could check books out from the university library for a semester at a time. I started to check out stacks of books and load the stroller with them (I'd like to point out that I had a just-turned-three-year-old and a one-year-old when we graduated, so don't whine at me about not having enough time to read).

Anyway, we moved to Boise after law school. We had more space and more money, but the public library system turned out to be surprisingly good. Who would have thought Boise would be great? I could request books from 10 libraries all over the valley, and they'd deliver them to my local branch. I did start buying more books, but I checked out far more.

Then we moved here. Back to a small house and little money, but I can get any book I want through ILL. I do still spend every extra penny on books, but I've lost some of my desire to buy books- the library has become good enough. I can't decide if I'm happy with this (my husband certainly is), but I think it works for now.

I still love to buy books. I love to have a good book on hand if I need it. But right now, despite the many bookcases in our house (including the kitchen), there just isn't space. Far more than half my books are languishing and lonely in the garage. There is a post I've been wanting to write, but I can't since the book I need is boxed up in the garage and that book is also checked out from the university library.

I love that I can preread a book before I spend money on it. I love owning good books. MFS had a lovely post about why she loves to own books. Someday, we will have space and bookcases for a library like this. There are so many good things about bookstores and libraries. I guess I'm mostly glad that there are two good options- the library for the cheapos like me and the bookstore for all you extravagant ones- and I can get the benefits of both.

"Outcast" Star Flung from Galaxy

Check this story out.

The Red Tent

I finished The Red Tent by Anita Diamant today, as recommended by Melissa (again). It is a fictionalized account of Dinah, Jacob's (of the twelve tribe fame) daughter. I liked it, mostly because it was realistic. I personally don't think that this story fits with what actually happened (probably the account in the Bible isn't too accurate either), but Dinah seemed like a real person who really could have lived then. She doesn't read, she spins. It honestly discussed the realities of women's lives. I didn't like the last part quite as much, but still I thought that overall this was a good book. Diamant also started out with a bit more knowledge than many fiction writers do when they attempt historical fiction.

08 February 2005


What newspapers do you like to read? Really, I want to know. I'm open to anything.

I don't get around to reading online newspapers often enough. I like to read a variety because they present different points of view, but it just takes time. I need to make a list of the good ones to stop by each morning to at least glance over.

I read the Jerusalem Post every morning when I was in Jerusalem. I would also read al-Quds, but my newspaper Arabic is a little rusty right now. Haaretz is another good Israeli newspaper. I do read the Deseret News most days, since I was raised on it. I've not been reading the Idaho Statesman since we moved from Boise. The New York Post, New York Times, and the Washington Post (as I recall, you can't get the Wall Street Journal free online) are all worthwhile. I used to have a list of Middle Eastern newspapers to read, but that was several computers ago.

I think it's especially important to read foreign newspapers, and I haven't been. I'll ask it again: What newspapers do you like to read?
Chinese New Year (and Korean and Vietnamese and Mongolian and...) begins tomorrow.

07 February 2005


The Ka'bah: Rhythms of Culture, Faith, and Physiology by Beverly White Spicer- This was not what I expected. I was hoping for something more about the Ka'bah itself, but it was more about Islam and philosophy. My husband would like it better.

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove by Laura Schenone- This is an interesting concept. The subtitle is A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances, and that's exactly what it is. But it tried to cover far too much. Each chapter could have made an interesting book. It just skimmed over the surface of too many topics, and I couldn't get into it.

The Science of Cooking by Peter Barnham and On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee- These both were recommended by Concierge Services (here and here), and they were both good. We haven't gotten to chemistry yet, but I think this is a great approach to learning chemistry (if I can ever leave earth science behind). Barnham's book is much short and more "readable," but I'd like to have both of these around when we do chemistry.

A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind- I talked about this book some yesterday. It documents Cedric's last few years of high school and his first year of college. I was most interested in his high school years and how he dealt with the challenges. It was interesting to see how his classmates dealt with things in different ways. As all college freshmen discover, his first year is not what he thought it would be. Like Julie mentioned, I hated parts of it, since I hate that there so few options for so many people. It happens in Washington DC, Trenton, Palestine, so many places, and I hate that, and that there really is very little I can do about it.

06 February 2005

Entire Cities are Getting Left Behind

I've been reading A Hope in the Unseen, as recommended by Melissa. I'm not quite finished with it, and I'll do a review of the book later, but I wanted to write about some of the issues brought up in this book. It is about Cedric Jennings, an urban black teenager who is able to go to an Ivy League University.

There were several things that hit close to home for me with this book. First Cedric is my age. We were doing the same things at the same time- but in totally different settings. Cedric was recruited by the university I went to. It has been interesting to compare our experiences.

The second thing was that I've lived in Trenton, New Jersey. Cedric was raised in Washington DC, but so many of the things he experienced are the same. The drugs, the awful schools, the absolute lack of opportunity for these kids are all in Trenton. There was nothing for most of those kids. There were basically two choices- work in some menial, low-paying job for the rest of your life, or start dealing drugs and make some decent money. No wonder drugs were such a problem. My husband was assigned to home teach more than one person in jail. It is not easy to visit teach someone who's on drugs.

To me, the root problem goes down to education. If you're poor, you're almost certainly going to end up in a bad school. There is no way to get out of that school- the only two alternatives are private schools or homeschooling, and the parents can't afford either. It's a cycle of low wages and low education and no opportunities.

Why don't we have vouchers? Many of the parents pushing for vouchers are not people who want their kids to go to religious schools. What they want is for their kids to go to a decent school- one where they can learn the things they need to.

I don't think vouchers are the only way to help. We have got to change the system- the current one is clearly not working for many kids. When Cedric got to Brown, he didn't know who Freud was. He didn't know what Ellis Island is. He didn't know anything about Winston Churchill. He hadn't even heard of them.

This book was published 7 years ago, while we were living in Trenton. I doubt there have been any big changes there. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the kids we knew in Trenton are just repeating what has been going on there for years- nothing.

Tsagaan Sar

We had a lovely time today celebrating the Mongolian New Year and the Korean New Year. I think that's about as diverse as this little town gets. There are 8 Mongolian students here and a reasonable number of Koreans.

Mongolian New Year is called White Moon or Tsagaan Sar. It is celebrated two lunar months after the first new moon after the winter solstice. It often coincides with Chinese New Year, but not always. Tsagaan Sar was not celebrated for a few decades after WWII because of Soviet influence, but has been celebrated again for 10 or 20 years. It has lost a lot of its shamanistic connections (Mongolia is an interesting mix of shamanism, Buddhism, and some Islam).

Buuz (and another recipe for it here) are very traditional for Tsagaan Sar. They are steamed meat dumplings (they tasted very much like the manti we've eaten with Uzbeks). Families may make hundreds of them to feed guests during the holiday. One Mongolian girl today said that Tsagaan Sar is like a big family reunion. Here is a bread recipe (this looks like one I've made from northern China).

Everyone is supposed to great the oldest person in the house by stretching her or his arms out toward him or her and bowing slightly. The older person stretches out his or her arms over the younger person's.

We also played a variety of games with shagai (sheep anklebones). They looked a bit like the little peanut things they used to fill packages with. They are all a little different, but do have four sides that are basically the same, so they can be used as four-sided dice. Hopefully I can get the students to get some for me when they're in Mongolia next. Our boys had a great time with them and there are many games you can play with them.

One more interesting thing about the day was that one of the students from Mongolia is actually Kazakh. His family and many other Kazakhs have been living in Mongolia for over 50 years. Most of them live in the western part of Mongolia (the only part of the country with no missionaries) and are Muslim. But this student's family moved to northern Mongolia where there are few Muslims. They aren't very observant Muslims, and he joined the Church about 8 years ago. We chanted the Fatiha with him- we'd never done that with another Mormon who hadn't studied Arabic. :)

05 February 2005

Mongolian New Year

The Mongolians also celebrate the new year this week. We're going to a Mongolian New Year celebration today, so I'll write more about it later today.

04 February 2005

Muhammad and Prophets

Peggy Cahill brought up Muhammad's role as a "prophet" in a comment below. Her concerns are similar to those I've heard many times from members of the Church. In fact, when I am discussing Islam with someone and we get beyond basic beliefs, the conversation nearly always turns to Muhammad and they say something like, "Since Muslims don't believe in Jesus Christ, how could Muhammad have been sent by God/a prophet?" (or something to that effect)

I'm no expert in either Islam or Mormonism. I don't claim to be. But I do have opinions.

I have no problem with the idea that Muhammad was sent by God, even as a "prophet" or "messenger" ("messenger" is a better translation for rasuul, the word used to describe Muhammad in the Shahada). What is a prophet anyway? One who prophesies? Someone who leads a new religious movement? Someone sent by God to teach people? Someone who teaches of Jesus Christ? As members of the Church, we believe that a prophet must be called by God. But how do we determine if past "prophets" were called by God?

There have only been a few prophets (that we know of) who opened a new dispensation- men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph Smith. Of course Muhammad was not a prophet like these men were- Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah weren't either. But we still call those three men, and many more (and even some women), prophets.

None of the prophets in the OT taught anything like the fulness of the gospel. They may have had much greater knowledge than they taught the people (Abraham obviously did, and Moses), but all we really know is what has been recorded in the OT. The First Presidency taught that these Hebrew prophets in the OT prepared the way for Jesus Christ even though they were only teaching a limited version of the gospel. Those prophets did prophesy of a coming Messiah, but most of their teaching had to be on a simpler lever, because that's where the people were

Why can't Muhammad's role be similar? We really don't know what Muhammad knew. Even if the Qur'an is the words of Muhammad with no changes, we do not know what Muhammad knew. I certainly think Joseph Smith knew far more than he ever taught. I would hate to limit Joseph Smith to only his words- or words that have been attributed to him. But even if Muhammad taught everything he knew and had no extra knowledge, I do not see that necessarily makes Islam "wrong."

Muhammad's role was not to bring the fulness of the gospel- his role was "to enlighten [a nation] and bring a higher level of understanding to individuals." What if Muhammad had not started a new religion? Most Arabs had already chosen not to accept Christianity or Judaism. There is no doubt that Islam brings people closer to the gospel than paganism does. Their practice of various rituals, a belief in one God, and general message of peace all bring Muslims closer to the gospel. (In no way do I believe that Muslims are "almost Mormons," as I have heard some people say. There are many serious doctrinal and theological differences between us).

When I say I think Muhammad was a messenger of God, or even possibly a prophet, it does not raise Islam any higher in my view than OT Judaism was. I don't think it matters if Gabriel was involved (I am inclined to think he was- or another angel. In fact it makes more sense to me to have an angel acting as an intermediary in this case). Despite major differences between the Islam and OT Judaism, both point towards greater things to come. I have no doubt that Islam has been a blessing to many people, and I hope it will continue to be a blessing.
I'm trying a new title. We'll see if I like this one.

03 February 2005

First Presidency Statement

This is the full text of the First Presidency Statement from 15 February 1978. I found it in Spencer Palmer's The Expanding Church. Bits and pieces are quoted all over and this book has been the only place I've seen the full text. This is the entire statement all together, quoted in its entirety.

Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from common mortal progenitors, but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.

The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.

The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel.

Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.

We also declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to his Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness and a fulness of joy forever. For those who have not received this gospel, the opportunity will come to them in the life hereafter if not in this life.

Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are the sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father.


I posted a day too soon about Kilauea. Lava is going into the ocean now. This is something I have longed to see for myself. Or an underwater volcano erupting. A black smoker would be good too.

Islam and the Church

I've been working on finding quotes about Islam and the LDS Church. There are many places to find them; a handy book is Abraham Divided by Dan Peterson. I read it for the first time probably 8 or 10 years ago. Dan Peterson is an Arabic professor at BYU (I never had him, but my husband did); he also oversees the Islamic Translation Series with FARMS.

The first statement that anyone should know about in relation to Islam, and world religions in general, is the First Presidency Statement from 1978:

The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. (First Presidency message, 15 Feb 1978)

Many very positive statements about Islam came in the early days of the Church. In 1855 George A. Smith stated

...this Mahometan [Muslim] race, this dominant power of the 7th and 8th centuries, were the descendants of Abraham, which Mahometan records show in a straight-forward genealogy, from the family of Mahomet [Muhammad] direct to that of Abraham, through the loins of Ishmael, the son of Abraham; and in this dominion there certainly was a recognition of the dominion of the sons of Abraham. (Journal of Discourses 3:34)

It is also worth noting that in Genesis 21:13 Abraham was promised that Ishmael would also be made a great nation.

Howard W. Hunter said, "The Church has an interest in all of Abraham's descendants, and we should remember that the history of the Arabs goes back to Abraham through his son Ishmael." ("All Are Alike unto God," 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year, Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1980, pp. 35-36).

George A. Smith also said

...there was nothing in [Muhammad's] religion to license iniquity or corruption; he preached the moral doctrines which the Savior taught; viz., to do as they would be done by; and not to do violence to any man, nor to render evil for evil; and to worship one God. (Journal of Discourses :31)

Parley P. Pratt stated in the same conference in 1855:

Though Mahometan institutions are corrupt enough, and need reforming by the gospel, I am inclined to think, upon the whole, leaving out the corruptions of men in high places among them, that they have better morals and better institutions than many Christian nations; and in many localities there have been high standards of morals. (Journal of Discourses 3:41)

There are many more statements about Islam and the Church. Of course we do not believe that Islam has the fulness of the gospel, but to believe that Islam is completely wrong is also a mistake. There are major doctrinal differences, but I think more tolerance and openness are in order- there are enough people criticizing Islam without us adding to the chorus.

If you are specifically interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict and LDS views on it, see this Ensign article.