30 April 2007

Shadow of the Silk Road

Colin Thubron's newest book, Shadow of the Silk Road, traces his 2003 trip from Xi'an to Antioch through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey. I like this book quite a bit better than Thubron's older book about Central Asia, The Lost Heart of Asia. The chapter on Kyrgyzstan in the second is far, far better (no lumbering oafs here) although it's rather out of date already since Akaev is long gone.

Thubron goes to many places I've been, and to many more that I've only dreamed of going to. I like to read his travel books because he visits interesting places along the way instead of just writing about the bus and train rides and where to find a drink.

Thubron also doesn't put in so many unbelievably detailed discussions with various people who don't speak English. His Russian is admittedly limited and it was always a bit hard to swallow everything he wrote in The Lost Heart of Asia. Shadow of the Silk Road is much more believable.

I felt the book was strongest in the first half; I felt that it started moving faster and faster as the book progressed and there really wasn't time to soak in the last few countries. But since I was mostly reading for China and Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, it didn't bother me much.

All in all a good book. Recommended.

28 April 2007

The Persian Pickle Club

Sandra Dallas' The Persian Pickle Club is a fun little book to read. It's about a group of women in a small town in Oklahoma during the Depression who are part of a quilting group. Persian pickle is another name for paisley and Persian pickle was sort of the starting fabric for the group. There's also a murder mystery tossed in, but it ties in more with the friendship and loyalty in the group than as a who-done-it.

I did wonder about the other women in town who weren't invited to be part of the group, usually because they didn't quilt well enough. The Persian Pickles sounded quite clannish and I imagine that wouldn't have gone over well in a small town. But that wasn't the point here. What I wouldn't give though for a group of women to come quilt an entire top in an afternoon...

Altogether a pleasant book and recommended.

27 April 2007

Siberian Village

Siberian Village: Land and Life in the Sakha Republic by Bella Jordan and Terry Jordan-Bychkov was an interesting little book about a small village in Siberia, Djarkhan. Jordan-Bychkov, who died a few years ago, was a geography professor in Texas. Jordan, his wife, is a native of Djarkhan.

As the title states, Djarkhan is in Sakha in northern Siberia. I have been trying to find more information about the Sakhalar, so this was a nice find. It briefly covers the history of the Sakhalar in Siberia, but since the village was a creation of Soviet collectivization, its history really isn't very long. It also suffers from a slight tendency to glorify the later Soviet years, but, of course, that's a matter of opinion.

I could not see any system at all in the way the authors used the words Sakha, Yakutia, etc. Yakut is the Russia name for the Sakha and the more familiar one to the rest of the world because of Risk. Sometimes the authors used Sakha to refer to the republic, sometimes, Yakutia. Sometimes they referred to the Sakhalar, sometimes to the Yakuts. Sometimes they referred to the Sakha language, sometimes to the Yakut language. It bothered me throughout the book. There was no explanation of terms at the beginning of the book as I would have expected. I felt this was a major failing.

Overall though it's a good book and quick to read. Most people are totally unfamiliar with the people of Siberia and this is a painless way to learn a little more about them, especially since most people aren't going to care much about terminology.

26 April 2007

When the Emperor Was Divine

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is about a Japanese-American family in California who was sent to a detention camp in Utah during WWII. The father had already been detained and sent to Texas and stays there for four years; the rest of the family- the mother and two children- live in Utah for over 3 years at the Topaz Internment Camp.

It's not a very long book. You never know the names of any of the family members. About equal time is spent in Utah and California, both before and after the war. I've never been to Topaz, but I think we'll make a trip down there soon.

It's hard to imagine that this happened in the US, that fear could drive the US to lock up this many people who had done nothing wrong. But it shouldn't be. There are still plenty of people who don't want Muslims or Latinos or Africans and more to live in the US. They come up with plenty of excuses of why they should be deported or not allowed in the US at all. Maybe we haven't learned as much as we should have.

25 April 2007

A Prayer for the Dying

I'm not really sure if I'd recommend A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan. It is not at all a cheerful book; in fact, it rather horrific. It's set in Wisconsin after the Civil War in a town that faces diphtheria and fire. The main character, Jacob Hansen (although you almost feel like you're the main character, since the book's written in second person) isn't necessarily likable, although I don't know that I'd have made a lot significantly different decisions than he did. He wasn't left with a lot of choices, particularly since he was the constable, the undertaker, and the preacher in town. Not a happy combination.

O'Nan is an excellent writer though. You can't help but keep reading. I did think his mortality rate was artificially high- the vast majority survive diphtheria and everyone who caught it in A Prayer for the Dying didn't survive (although some didn't die of the disease). But that's a common fault in books like these- making it all sound even worse than it would have been.

So read it if you love good writing and an engrossing story. But overall, I wouldn't recommend it to many people I know in real life.

Aurel Stein on the Silk Road

I stumbled on this nice little biography a few days ago, Aurel Stein on the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield and I loved it. Whitfield also wrote the excellent Life Along the Silk Road. Whitfield is well-versed in anything to do with the Silk Road and she writes and engaging and short biography of Aurel Stein, one of the most significant explorers and archaeologists of the Silk Road. She includes his expeditions to Iran also instead of only discussing his trips to China.

There is no hand-wringing over "foreign devils." Whitfield simply states what Stein did without any criticism or justification. And it's hard to completely condemn these European explorers in Asia and Africa. Unquestionably many treasures were saved because of their efforts, although many were also destroyed because they tried to take things that were too fragile to be moved, or because they were only looking for what they thought was valuable. But the Qing government in the early 1900s at the end of their empire and the new Republic of China after 1911 were in no position to care for these artifacts. There really was no good solution at the time.

The book is only 130 pages long and quick to read, especially since there are so many pictures. Whitfield writes as well in this book as she did in Life Along the Silk Road. Highly recommended, even for those who aren't fanatic about Central Asia. It's too bad it has a nasty review on Amazon. I think Whitfield is an excellent writer.

24 April 2007

Food Culture in Russia and Central Asia

Food Culture in Russia and Central Asia is a basic overview of food and anything to do with food in Russia and Central Asia. Russia and Central Asia are given equal time throughout the book which was refreshing. There really wasn't a lot that was new here for me, but I'd be inclined to get other books in the series since this one seems to be quite good. There were a few special occasion recipes at the back of the book. Recommended.

23 April 2007

Global Footprints

There are lots of different calculators online that measure your global impact. The first one I tried a year ago was this one, and the results sort of turned me off these kinds of calculators.

Since my particular country at the time wasn't a choice (Kyrgyzstan), I tried a couple of neighboring countries (China and Pakistan). I put in the exact same answers for both countries and came up with very different footprints- 7.6 in China and 1.7 in Pakistan. In the US it's 11 (whether I put in our Kyrgyzstan numbers or our current numbers), but I only need 2.5 planets here. A footprint of 7.6 in China required 4.6 planets.

I just don't think we'd have that much greater negative impact on the environment if we'd been living a couple of hundred miles away in China. Shouldn't the same amount of energy usage result in the same global impact whether you live in Kyrgyzstan or the US? I guess all those high-living expats in Pakistan don't need to worry about their global impact.

22 April 2007

Lonely Books

I checked out a whole stack of lonely books today that had never been checked out. Erica Marat's The Tulip Revolution, which I was pleasantly surprised to find, Colin Thurbron's new book on Central Asia, Shadow of the Silk Road, Food Culture in Russia and Central Asia that I've been looking for for a while, and 3 others. Now at least they all have one stamp.

But I always wonder about who read the books before me when there are just a few people who've ever checked them out, particularly when they're about Central Asia or Siberia. Who wrote the notes in Veiled Empire? Who was the only other person to check out Siberian Village a few months ago? And who in the world requested A Beginner's Guide to Tajiki so I had to return it early? I want to know. Anyone who requests that book has to be at least a little interesting. I should have left a note in the book!

One of the librarians told me a few weeks ago that they use those due date slips to decide whether they ought to replace a book.

21 April 2007

gDiapers and Dishwasher Detergent

It's been a while since I've done diapers- almost 4 years. I don't miss them, but I don't plan on having those diapers 4 years ago be the last diapers we ever have to deal with.

Those were disposable diapers though. There were lots of reasons that I chose disposable, but the main one was that cloth diapers really are fairly nasty to deal with (this idea was reconfirmed in the baby house). I love the idea of cloth diapers, but washing them and dealing with the smells from them doesn't sound like fun. But I don't think I can justify disposables anymore.

Today I read about gDiapers. Basically they're a washable outer layer and a flushable inner layer. Perfect. You can even compost the inner layer if it's just wet. This sounds like the best of both worlds- easy clean-up without the smell, but environmentally friendly. After poking around on the internet (there are lots of reviews now, I'm late on this one since I don't have any children in diapers, so I haven't read about diapers in a long time, and these sure weren't around in 1999-), and the reviews are generally positive. The fit and some leaking are the biggest problems, which doesn't really concern me since you just have to find a diaper that works for you and, whether it's cloth or disposable or flushable. If they work, they work. You can't know till you try them. I've never met a diaper than didn't leak sometimes.

They are reasonably expensive, certainly more than basic cloth diapers, but they are similar in price to disposables. I plan to try these if we ever need diapers again.

And I tried several different kinds of better-for-the-environment dishwasher detergents- all the kinds I could find in my less-than-environmentally-conscious town. The Wave detergent was AWFUL. It left all sorts of residue on the dishes and created so many suds that the dishwasher actually quit working at times. Seventh Generation was much better, but I like Ecover best. I'll continue buying this one (and trying new ones I can find).

Has anyone tried any of these?

19 April 2007

Stacks of Bread

All I've done the last few days is bake bread. All sorts of delicious bread. It's perfect for today, since it's 35 degrees outside and snowy. I've tried several more recipes from HomeBaking, all with perfect results. I'm so glad Shea mentioned it a few months ago or I might never have bought it. Have I ever mentioned how much I like her blog (click on Shea above for the link)? They adopted one of the babies I knew in Kyrgyzstan and I LOVE to see pictures of him. He looks wonderful now. I particularly like the picture of him asleep in the walker.

Anyway, I've made Robin's Bread (that's what the lower picture is) and the Country Baguettes again and today I'm baking the Portuguese Mountain Rye again (I'll have to take a picture of it; it's a neat-looking loaf- I did it and it's the top picture. Too bad you can't smell it.) and I've got the sponge for the Large-Batch Wheat Bread sponging. And I made my favorite naan from Flatbreads and Flavors since we're having salsa for dinner.

The trouble is I bake all day and by the time we get around to dinner, I don't want to make anything else. And I'm full from snacking on bread all day. The mountain rye is heavenly with a roasted garlic clove spread on top of it.

Do you ever make breakfast burritos? I just do simple ones with scrambled eggs and cheese and green onions. Younger son likes them a lot, but they're tricky for him to eat since the egg fall outs sometimes. So today I did the eggs more like an omelet for him and just rolled it up in a tortilla. It worked much better.

17 April 2007

A Homeschooling Post

Since I'm always writing about homeschooling. I'm choosing next year's books. It gets easier every year since you figure out what you like, but we're adding grammar and Latin next year, so there are some choices to make. What I really want is to sit down and look at some different options, but there aren't any homeschooling stores around. I'm leaning toward Growing with Grammar and Latin for Children. I want a Latin program that doesn't spell everything out for me (since I know enough Latin to be comfortable with teaching my children), but is also engaging for an 8-year-old. And not horribly expensive.

And we'll get more Miquon and Singapore math books and keep marching through Story of the World and start on chemistry. And drop the spelling books. They are torture for older son and younger son spends his days pretending he's in a spelling bee, so they're worthless for him. I'm thinking Spelling Time might be a better choice (and it's easy and free).

You're welcome to make any recommendations you like.

Selling Babies in Bishkek

The Kyrgyz Ministry of Education has finished their investigation into allegations of baby selling in Bishkek maternity hospitals. I don't think I wrote about it, but a few months ago several employees of a hospital were arrested for attempting to sell a newborn baby. The baby's mother had been told the baby had died.

I am glad to see the investigation was carried out quickly. They didn't find any evidence of organized baby selling, but plenty of evidence that it does happen. Babies that were supposed to go to the baby house but never made it, death certificates with no cause of death, and babies who were picked up at hospitals by people claiming to be relatives. Can you imagine?

The ministry has reprimanded various hospitals, but more interestingly, has also set up adoption units at all maternity hospitals so babies can be adopted before being sent to the baby house. I think this is a good idea if it's handled well. Till now babies have been sent to the baby house if they were abandoned in the maternity hospitals or if the mothers wanted them sent there. But the longer they are at the baby house, the less likely they will be adopted domestically. A specific program set up in the hospitals to try to get these babies adopted quickly and domestically to good families is a very good idea.

The article also quotes an employee, Jamila, at the baby house I knew well (if you ever go there, you'll likely meet her because she's one of the few who speaks any English). She says that many of the children in the baby house have health problems and that makes it very unlikely they will be adopted. But as more international adoptions take place, hopefully more these children can be adopted soon.

I am very glad to see Kyrgyzstan becoming more open to and accommodating towards adoptions, especially domestic and also international. Adoption isn't perfect, but it's almost always much, much better than growing up in the orphanages and boarding schools of Kyrgyzstan before being turned out onto the streets with a bit of money at 18.

16 April 2007

Veiled Empire

I'm working my way through an excellent book on Uzbekistan in the early Soviet years, Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia by Douglas Northrop. It focuses on the 10-year Soviet effort to force women in Uzbekistan to unveil (the hujum). Similar moves were taking place throughout the Islamic world at about the same time and it's interesting to compare motives and methods, particularly in Turkey and Afghanistan.

This is unquestionably an important book. Northrop uses Russian and Uzbek sources and thoroughly outlines the hujum and its effects. He explores how the Soviets in part created the conflict in the first place, through using Uzbek women to define the correct way to be Uzbek, to the colonialist attitudes of the Soviets in trying to remake Central Asian society. It is pleasant to read and highly recommended for those interested in Central Asia, Islam, or women in general (the pictures alone are amazing-who can pass up a book with a cover like this?).

It's too bad the only review on Amazon is by the prolific and misguided Seth J. Frantzman. His criticism of Veiled Empire is no different- the Russians were imperialists in Central Asia and if he really thinks Central Asians are "mostly of ethnic Mongolian stock who had recently been converted to Islam" then he needs to go back and reread some of the other books on Central Asia he's reviewed. I don't think I'm the only one annoyed by him. Try searching for his name sometime.

14 April 2007

If You Don't Do Pie

And I don't, but I'm telling you that this is the easiest and one of the most delicious apple pies ever. And it's a darn sight better for you than most apple pies. It may not be the most beautiful-looking pie you've ever seen, but I'm not a perfectionist. Yours would probably look better. Here's the recipe again (with my very minor changes):

1 pound potatoes, peeled
2 T butter
About 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon sugar

2 or 3 apples, sliced thin
1/4 c sugar

Cut up the potatoes, bring to a boil in water and cook until tender. When they've cooked, preheat a baking stone in the oven to 400 degrees. Drain the potatoes, add the butter and immediately mash while hot, adding the salt, ginger, and 1 tablespoon sugar. When potatoes are smooth, add the flour and stir till you have a nice soft dough, then knead it a bit. Divide the dough and press one half into the bottom of a greased 8-inch pie plate till it lines the bottom. Put the apples on the dough and then sprinkle on the sugar and a bit of flour. Roll out the other piece of dough and cover the apples with it. Seal the edges and make a few cuts in the top with a knife. Bake the pie on the stone at 400 degrees for about an hour, or till golden brown. Let stand at least a couple of minutes before serving.

12 April 2007

They're Adopting My Babies

One of my favorite things is when I get emails from people who are adopting children I knew in the Bishkek baby house (that's what I always call it; the official name is the Specialized Children's Home or Specialized House of Children). I've heard from several now and it's wonderful. It makes me happy to know these children are going to good homes. They are well taken care of in the baby house, but they need families.

I just wish I knew what Arsyen is up to.

The Best Bread Ever

Hot bread always tastes best, but I just tried a new recipe straight from the oven that is wonderful (it's based on a recipe from HomeBaking):

Country Baguettes

1 c flour
1 c water
1/4 tsp yeast

Combine the above into a smooth batter, cover and let sit at least 6 hours, or overnight. Add the following:

1 1/2 c water
2 c whole wheat flour
2 T sesame seeds
2 T flax seeds
1 T salt

Mix well, then add enough white flour (maybe 2-4 cups) to make a nice dough. Knead well till the dough is smooth and elastic, cover, and let rise overnight, or at least 12 hours.

Punch the dough down and shape into loaves. If you want small baguettes, divide the dough into 6 pieces. If you want bigger loaves, divide into two. If you want some of each, divide the dough in half then divide one portion of the dough into three pieces so you have one big loaf and 3 small loaves. Flatten the smaller loaves into rectangles 6x12 inches (the bigger loaves should be flatten into rectangles about 6x18) and then roll them up the long way so you have nice round loaves about 12-14 inches long. Let them rise for at least 2 hours on a towel as shown in the picture, covered with plastic. My house was rather cold this morning, so it took longer than 2 hours to rise.

Preheat a baking stone to 425. This means the stone need to be in the over for 10-20 minutes at 425 before you bake the bread.

Just before baking, slash the loaves and spray with water. Use a peel or just slide the loaves onto the stone and bake for 15-20 minutes. It doesn't get very brown (as seen in the first picture).

11 April 2007

The Last Nail in the Log Cabin

The quilt's done! If I'd known the silly thing would take less than three more weeks to finish, I would have done it a long time ago. But it's done now. Too bad we don't have a queen size bed anymore. It'll have to rotate with the quilts on the stand since it doesn't fit well on a king size bed.

This is a traditional log cabin design. This particular set is usually called Straight Furrows. I started it about 6 years ago, give or take a year and it is untouched by the sewing machine. Since I HATE sewing machines. I wanted to do a more traditional design since the other quilts I've made have been based on my husband's designs. Maybe I'll take pictures of those sometime.

I'm so pleased. :)

Protests in Bishkek

Since I'm not actually in Bishkek, I'm not writing much about the protests. I'm linking to posts about the protests on the sidebar, so click away.

09 April 2007

They're Coming to Get All of Us...

I get so tired of the fear-mongering that goes on about Islam, especially when Christians/Americans say they are just being honest and trying to engage Islam's problems head on. It doesn't fix anything.

For over 1000 years Christianity was used to justify war, violence towards women and children, political manipulation, and lots of other things we accuse Islam of now. But our interpretations changed. Why? Certainly not because Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus or anyone else told us we were wrong (even though we were busily colonizing them or invading them and they had real reason to be threatened by us). No, we changed because Christians themselves changed. Moderate Christians pushed for change over hundreds of years.

Islam has evolved a great deal in the last 1400 years just as Christianity has. Personally, I'm happier with some of the advances Christianity has made (the political power of Christianity is significantly less than it used to be, violence is generally not as accepted), but we're still not perfect. Islam will continue to make changes, but it will be because of Muslims pushing for change, not because of anything Christians do. Our criticism and discussion of Islam really doesn't make a difference. You can't fix other people's problems.

Instead, it's far wiser to support the vast majority of Muslims who are not interested in following shari'a law. To support political leaders in Muslim countries who are opposed to radical Islam (and most are since they rightly see radical Islam as a threat to their own power- this has to be done carefully though since many of said political leaders aren't exactly reformers themselves). To support educational institutions that don't promote radical Islam and make sure Muslim students have the means to get a liberal education. And to overhaul US foreign policy- really, from a Muslim perspective is it unreasonable to think that the US is rather negative about Islam?

Fear-mongering is as bad as burying your head in the sand. Probably a lot worse. It comes across as hyperbolic and persecuting and either makes you look stupid or menacing.

08 April 2007

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Happy Easter!

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!
King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Maundy Thursday 2006, 2005

Mournful Friday 2006, 2006

And one of my favorite Easter stories. I like to think of the two as being Mary and her husband Cleophas:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

06 April 2007

Headscarves and Nancy Pelosi

So, there's been some uproar over Nancy Pelosi covering her head on a recent trip to the Middle East. I either have no problem with this or a very big problem with this since it all depends on where she wore the headscarves. I can't find any real confirmation that she wore a headscarf in an inappropriate place.

Of course she should cover her head in a mosque if she is asked to. We have plenty of pictures of male presidents donning certain attire to enter religious sites. And I am glad she was smart enough to bring a few scarves of her own along. I was always a lot more comfortable when I could wear my own scarf that I had chosen (and that I knew was clean). I also at times wore a headscarf on the streets of Cairo because harassment is a problem there and I was far less harassed with a headscarf on. But if I had been traveling in an official entourage as Pelosi was, I doubt I would have worn one on the street. This letter from little green footballs is the closest thing I can find to a confirmation that she wore a scarf on the streets. Bad idea, Ms. Pelosi. You can go too far in cultural understanding.

But what she didn't do was wear a scarf when she met with any heads of state. If she had, all the uproar would have been worth it.

(I do have some other concerns regarding Pelosi's visit to the Middle East. You can make a good case for foreign policy not being entirely the realm of the executive, but if it isn't, this isn't the best way for Congress to go about asserting its role. There are some good reasons why foreign policy is traditionally in the hands of the president. Of course, when the president has made such a mess of it as Bush has, there are good reasons for someone else to step in.)

Laghman Revisited

So, I made laghman tonight, this time paying attention to the ingredients. You can add other vegetables if you like, like carrots or potatoes, but then it's not so much like the laghman I ate in Kyrgyzstan. This is enough for 4.

Lots of oil (I use olive, I don't care what you use)
1 large onion, sliced
4 sweet peppers, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 T tomato paste
Crushed red pepper

Prepare and boil the noodles, then stir-fry them over almost high heat in a wok till they start to get crispy. Put the noodles onto a plate. Add more oil to the wok and heat it almost to high again, then add the onions and cook for a few minutes, then add the peppers and the garlic. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes, then add the tomato paste and some salt and crushed red pepper. Cook a minute or two more, then add the noodles and stir-fry for one more minute. Serve hot.

04 April 2007

Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is one of the most beautifully written novels I've read. Not beautiful like Suite Francaise, but like To Kill A Mockingbird. You can't help but be reminded of Atticus and Scout when you read about Jeremiah Land and Swede in Peace Like a River.

It's a book of miracles, but it isn't a happy book. Too many tragic things happen to the land family. But despite all that tragedy, the plot doesn't revolve around the bad things that happen. Instead, it's a book about faith and miracles.

I read this book for a book club, but sadly, a few people objected to it (usually I can at least understand- not agree with- why someone would object enough to a book that in addition to them not reading it, they want to stop others from discussing it, but I cannot fathom what anyone would have a problem with in this book) so we won't be discussing it at our book club. I would have loved to though.

A History of the Peoples of Siberia

A History of the Peoples of Siberia by James Forsyth is the best book I've read yet about Siberia as a whole that covers all parts of Siberia (the best one of all is The Reindeer People, but that's only about the Ewen). Forsyth discusses the history of each group of people and how Russia and Soviet Union affected them. This one is going on the wishlist because it's definitely worth owning. Highly recommended.

Holy Week- Monday, Tuesday

We're still enjoying Holy Week. These three days- Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are less tied up with tradition, but we still observe each day. We talked about the parables on Monday, with special emphasis on the 10 bridesmaids or virgins (we usually just call them 10 women). Today we talked for quite some time about Jesus' anointing which has long been one of my favorite stories (see here for more than you ever wanted to know about this passage).

I've not decided on the perfect hymn to sing on either of these days.

02 April 2007


Falafel are a delicious street food in the Middle East. Israel has claimed them pretty thoroughly, but they are Middle Eastern, not Jewish. There are lots of different versions depending on what part of the Middle East you're in. This one is made with dry garbanzos.

1 c garbanzos
1/3 c bulgur
3 T lemon juice
2 large eggs
3 T water
4 garlic cloves
1/2 T cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 T parsley
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup-1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Soak and cook the garbanzos till they are mostly cooked, but not at all mushy. They should still have a little bite to them.

Soak the bulgur in warm water till it's soft (not mushy, just soft) for about 20 minutes. Drain it well.

Put the garbanzos into a food processor with the lemon juice, eggs, water, and garlic and pulse till the beans are finely chopped but not pureed at all. Add the herbs and spices and the drained bulgur and mix well. Add enough bread crumbs so the mixture holds together well. Cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes to get firmer.

Shape the mixture into small balls and then fry (deep-frying is best, but I usually just put then in a shallow layer of oil and turn them). I'm going to try baking them though. I think that will turn out well.

01 April 2007

Palm Sunday

I've written about Palm Sunday other years, so I'll just link to one of the old Palm Sunday posts. But I don't think I've written about Dominus Flevit, the church that commemorates when Jesus wept over Jerusalem on this same Sunday. This church is my favorite on the Mount of Olives.