27 November 2008

My Very Bad Habit

We've moved so often that apparently my brain doesn't bother remembering if I've met someone before. There are a few people, like my neighbors, that I manage to remember, but it seems that just about anyone else I meet falls right into short-term memory. So the next time I see them, when they start talking to me, I ask all sorts of stupid questions that I'm already supposed to have asked. I clue in when the conversation ends quickly and they leave. It's getting embarrassing.

26 November 2008

Things That Don't Bother Me

Christmas decor after Halloween. I think Thanksgiving and Christmas go together so perfectly that I don't care what decor I see at this time of the year. I love October, November, and December.

Having Thanksgiving dinner without lots of people. I think it'll just be our family this year, and that's the way I like it. Except my husband bought a big turkey. He will be cooking it.

Libraries that have lots of different types of media. I think it's reasonable that libraries provide access to all sorts of media.

Ringing phones. I can ignore them quite happily . That bothers middle son, though.

My neighbors. We have great neighbors.

My mother-in-law. I was just lucky there. Note that I did not mention my step-mother-in-law, but how could that combination possibly be lucky? And really, I can't complain much even there.

My stuff. We have what we need.

Grammatical errors and misspellings. I'm not quite over this one yet, but I don't cringe too very much when someone misplaces an apostrophe.

24 November 2008

The Far Traveler

This is the non-fiction version of The Sea Road and I liked it, although I enjoyed The Sea Road more. The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman isn't really a biography; instead, it's more about the sagas themselves, and the Vikings and the ways we can learn about them. As I said, I liked it, although with the topic and such, I would have expected to love it. But it felt slow. And, as usual, I'd rather read about history and science from historians and scientists, not writers.

Both are recommended.

20 November 2008

The Sparrow

Zowie. The Sparrow is a great book. I read this one for a book group, the one I don't get to go to anymore, and I wish I could be there for the discussion.

I'm generally not a fan of science fiction- it's usually too technical and often dorky. But this wasn't at all. Not for a second. I've got the sequel on hold.

19 November 2008

The Namesake

I rather enjoyed The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I'd like to read Interpreter of Maladies now.

Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, and The Woman in White

We've watched all three of these in the last few weeks. The Austens were the new BBC versions, and The Women in White was the 1997 one. Sense and Sensibility was excellent and the others were terribly disappointing.

First, The Woman in White was a sorry adaption. I don't require movies to follow their books strictly, but any changes should be for the better, and the myriad changes in this one were awful. So much of the mystery and interest of the book was lost. Not at all recommended even though the actress playing Marian Halcombe was great.

And Persuasion! I was looking forward to this one because I love Persuasion. I also love the 1995 version; that is the best Austen adaption out there, I think. But this version was awful. Again, the changes weren't for the better. And I was not at all impressed with the actress playing Anne (or anyone else, really). Anne was almost reduced to a Fanny Price, and Anne is not Fanny. Not at all recommended.

But Sense and Sensibility was excellent. Not perfect (Elinor was a bit bug-eyed too often), but so good to watch. I loved the setting for the cottage, and I liked that the actresses were younger. And that Colonel Brandon wasn't so old (I'm comparing to the Emma Thomson version). Recommended.

17 November 2008

Three Cups of Tea, the good parts version

So, I made it clear a few months ago that I didn't like the book Three Cups of Tea. I did like what Greg Mortenson is doing, and today I came across a couple of videos from Outside Magazine about Mortenson and his schools. There's about 10 minutes worth of videos. If you haven't read the book, just watch these videos. They're much better.

12 November 2008

Founding Mothers and Tales from the Expat Harem

I'm doing these together because I didn't finish either. Cokie Roberts' comments and asides throughout Founding Mothers drove me nuts, so I ended up skimming it after reading half of the book. And honestly, I'm much more interested in pre- and post-revolutionary America than in the actual Revolution (not that Roberts spent all her time on the Revolution, but I got bogged down there). I also don't necessarily like reading popular non-fiction by journalists. They usually write well, since they're trained to produce popular stuff, but I always have reservations about the accuracy of what I'm reading. I'd rather read denser non-fiction by scholars that also happen to write well.

I liked Tales from the Expat Harem at first, but I got bogged down in that one too. There was too much about personal lives and not enough about Turkey, although several of the essays were very good. But there were enough I wasn't interested in that it wasn't worth my time to find the good ones. A Woman's Asia was much better for overseas experiences of women.

Why Do I Love These People

Why Do I Love These People? Honest and Amazing Stories of Real FamiliesI read this one for a book group. And, no, I didn't expect to like it and I didn't really. It wasn't worth the time. It's really almost a self-help book, although a step above that. But I do read books if the book group chooses them, and I've been assured that this group read a variety of books. And I prefer a book group to get to know people in our student housing neighborhood instead of playgroups or craft groups or exercise groups or whatever.

Anyway, this is a bunch of stories about different families and their troubles. It's not always cheery, but there is definitely an upbeat and encouraging feel to the book, I thought. I did like that part of Po Bronson's message is that families in general are doing okay- we don't need to fear for them or to start them.

I skipped or skimmed most of Bronson's analysis of what you were supposed to learn from each family. Generally, it was pretty obvious. So I'd generally read the first half of each chapter and gloss over the rest. I got enough out of it to be polite at the next group.

I can see why lots of people love this book. But it's not for me (nor should it be for a book group in general, because it leads to a boring discussing, or, worse, people telling about their own families' problems).

11 November 2008

Nu Ahong and Yogurt

Saudi Aramco World has a short article about Muslim women spiritual leaders in China.

And one about yogurt in all its various forms.

On that note, I made a yogurt curry the other day with mustard seeds, turmeric, cumin and lots of yogurt. We ate it over basmati and it was delicious.

07 November 2008

How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their AccentsI read this one for a book group. I'd considered it and passed it over before (for Melissa's challenge last year- she's doing another this year), but I read it this time since I read the selected book if I'm part of the group.

Anyway, I liked it. I didn't find it it be amazing, but it was a good book. The story was believable and told in an interesting way. I didn't think it was confusing that it switched narrators often and from first person to third person. I also liked that it was told in reverse chronological order. And I always like books about families that only have daughters.

05 November 2008

How Things Can Change

If you had told me a couple of years ago that we would elect an African-American with Muslim ties and a middle name of Hussein, of all things, as President of the United States, I would have laughed and said it wouldn't happen anytime soon.

But it happened yesterday. What an amazing day.

I had to post this here, since I didn't get a sticker with my mail-in ballot.

04 November 2008

Halloween and Samhain

Before my children were born, and when they were little, I though Halloween wasn't a great holiday. Not that I thought it was evil or anything like that, but I did think it was pointless and silly. But now I love it.

It's a community holiday. Can you celebrate Halloween at home with just your family? Not really. Halloween is all about getting out on the streets, meeting your neighbors, and having a great time. We've lost that in most parts of the US.

It's fun and exciting to dress up and go out in the dark, especially when you're a kid. You don't get to do that very often.

Candy. Yum.

And this year, after a discussion on my homeschooling boards about Samhain, I learned more about the history of Halloween and I found it fascinating. We tried a couple of new things this year to celebrate Samhain too.

Mangoes and Curry Leaves

I’d avoided buying Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels through the Great Subcontinent for a long time because I’d never much liked Indian food. It may be awful to say, but I don’t like garam masala. Not that garam masala is in everything Indian, but it is in a lot of Indian food and called for in a lot of cookbooks available in the US. And I did use good garam masala- I made it myself. I have tried and liked some Indian dishes, but not enough, I thought, to make the purchase of an Indian cookbook worth it.

But because I like all things Alford and Duguid, and because I’d read more about Indian cooking and learned that garam masala is regional, I finally checked M&CL out of the library in hopes of trying a wider variety of Indian food. I looked through, made a couple of things, returned it to the library, and bought my own copy because I was convinced that this is finally the Indian cookbook for me.

I haven’t tried as many recipes from this one as other Alford and Duguid books, but everything we’ve had has been a winner and added to our standard menu, except the chicken and feta dishes, which are more expensive. So these are all excellent:

Grilled fish steaks with black pepper rub page 210
Stir-fried greens, Bangla style page 165 (the fish and the greens are excellent together)
Darjeeling market Tibetan breads page 136
Dal with coconut milk page 191 (the breads and the dal are really good together too)
Mango drink page 308
Zinet’s chicken with tomato and greens page 245
Chile-hot Bhutanese cheese curry page 173
Bangla-flavored fried zucchini
Buttermilk curry
Pakistani garbanzo pilau