24 April 2008

Rosetta Stone Farsi

I've finished Unit 1 in Rosetta Stone Farsi. There are currently 2 units available.

Pros to Rosetta Stone:
It's easy to sit down and spend a few minutes every day studying your language
You get lots of listening practice
It's simple to use, even for children

It's limited in what you can practice, and there's not much opportunity to create
EXPENSIVE- I think it's unreasonably expensive

The first 8 lessons covered pretty much what my Persian books covers- present tense, comparatives, adjectives, etc, and a lot of the same vocabulary. I do think RS is useful when it's used with other resources, but when you have to spend this much, I don't know if I can recommend it, especially if only one person will be using it.

As for Persian books, we have An Introduction to Persian and Teach Yourself Modern Persian. I like the first, my husband likes the second. And I think he would really dislike the first and I definitely dislike the second. Thackston is pretty technical with its grammatical terms, but TYMP isn't at all useful for grammar, and it's nice sometimes to be able to just see the conjugations. There really isn't a generally useful book for Persian.

For other posts about RS, click on the Rosetta Stone link below.

17 April 2008

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford has just been released and my copy arrived yesterday. It focuses on the non-Han areas of China like Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan, and Inner Mongolia. And it's excellent. I haven't tried any recipes yet, since we haven't eaten dinner yet, but I've high hope since these authors have never let me down before.

This book is a little different from their other cookbooks (HomeBaking, Seductions of Rice, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Flatbreads and Flavors, and Mangoes and Curry Leaves)- it's a touch more personal, and rather more political. They also mark whom the essays are by. In previous books, you didn't know if Duguid or Alford wrote them. As in their more recent books, the recipes are organized by type of food instead of by country or region. The index seems to be pretty good though, so you can find all the Kazakh recipes, for example, by looking there.

And the essays are a pleasure to read. Duguid's meeting with Ella Maillart is priceless, they write about the various ethnic groups of China, good books are recommended (like Life along the Silk Road) and people are described (I thought the essay about Jenny did a nice job of showing how much China has changed). There are also some pictures to explain techniques, like making Kazkah noodles. As usual, there are not pictures of every dish which I know bothers some people, but I'd much rather have photos of people and places instead of just food.

Flatbreads and Flavors will probably always be my favorite (it feels a little more like recipes gathered while traveling, instead of recipes gathered for a cookbook, even though there's not much difference), but I think Beyond the Great Wall will rate as on of the best of the bunch. Highly recommended.

And a note about preordering from Amazon. I'd preordered this back in January I think, and it was scheduled to arrive in May. But since it was released earlier than Amazon's original date and the preorder date wasn't changed, I cancelled the preorder and just ordered the book again. I don't know if this is common with preorders since I'd never tried it before, but it doesn't make me want to try it again.

Sarah's Quilt

This is a sequel to Nancy Turner's These Is My Words. And it's a pretty good book, especially for a sequel. I reread These Is My Words last week too and enjoyed it again.

Sarah's Quilt is afflicted with the same problem that TIMW is- too many disasters. Turner manages to work Sarah through fire, drought, earthquake, and tornado, not to mention every conceivable human disaster possible too. It's too much in both books.

But both books are very well written and a pleasure to read. Recommended.

15 April 2008

Book Club Suggestions

No book reviews because I'm rereading books for a book club a friend of mine just started. I'm in charge next month and trying to decide on a book. I've been looking over what I've read for the last few years, and the book I wished I could have discussed with a group, especially with a group like the one I'm with now, is Ancestor Stones. But I'm not sure. There are so many good books.

Any other recommendations? This is a fairly liberal group. And I'd love to read something new.
I think the thing that bothers me about living a life that's a little different from the mainstream is always being questioned about my choices. You homeschool? Why do you move so often? You eat that? You still rent? You lived where? and so on. I don't intentionally bring these things up, but they come up in polite conversation. Sometimes I want to type up a little FAQ card that I can just hand to people.

Of course, most of the people who are asking the questions don't really care about the answers. I just need to think up more creative answers. Maybe I can say that we homeschool because I don't believe in chalkboards (or dry erase boards). Or that we move a lot because I'm trying to determine if the world is really round. That would make it a lot more interesting for both sides.

Myopic Motherhood

I've been going to a playgroup in with some other mothers in our neighborhood recently. I hadn't been to that sort of thing for about 4 years and it's been nearly that long since I've spent much time with mothers with only small children. I'm noticing how much my day-to-day life has changed in those years.

A lot of those mothers tell me they could never homeschool, and I tell them that when my older boys were 1 and 2, I couldn't imagine homeschooling then either. Just getting through the day was enough for all of us.

When my older boys were little, I'd read that things would get easier when they were older, and I suppose I believed it, but it was hard to imagine. And now that they are a little older and things are a lot easier, I forget those first few years when both boys were little and how limited my focus was.

My life still generally revolves around my children, but they don't consume me in the same way they used to. Nor does the new baby overwhelm me, even though life is very different now than it was a few months ago. And it seems that that happens to a lot of mothers. Those were good years, but I'm glad I got past them.

09 April 2008

Fried Eggs with Chopsticks

Finally, an enjoyable travel book about China. Polly Evans' book about her travels in China a few years ago is lots of fun. She isn't trying to do or be anything like so many other mediocre travel books, but just trying to see China. She doesn't whine too much, nor get into too much detail about buses and trains (although she barely stays out of this trap) and she is funny.

Someday I'm going to make a living traveling around Asia with children and writing books about it. With recipes.

07 April 2008

Inspired Audiobooks

Some books are even better as audiobooks. And every so often you get an audiobook has the perfect reader. Graeme Malcolm reading The Tale of Despereaux is one of those audiobooks.

Cherry Jones reading The Little House on the Prairie series is another.

If you've heard any others, let me know. And did you know there is now an Odyssey Award for audiobooks? Here are this year's winners.

03 April 2008

Swallowing Clouds

This book is by A. Zee and is a little introduction to Chinese food and etymology. Zee is a witty sort of writer and this book was a lot of fun to read. And I learned a lot too. Recommended.

02 April 2008

Expanding Horizons Challenge

I thoroughly enjoyed Melissa's challenge. This was the first challenge I've ever really participated in (I've made lists for others, but not finished them or visited the host blog) and it was great. Here's what I read:

The Blue Sky
A Dream in Polar Fog
Fire from the Andes
A Long Way Gone
Climbing the Mango Trees

Thanks, Melissa