31 January 2008

Rosetta Stone Farsi

Here's my first review of RS for Farsi (click on "Rosetta Stone" at the bottom of this post for other posts about RS Farsi).

We've had it for about a month now. We had to return it the first time they sent it because we'd ordered the homeschool version because we wanted the extra tests and worksheets, but they didn't tell us that most of the homeschool versions don't come with tests and worksheets. Only languages like Spanish, French, and German have the tests, so the homeschool version really is a waste of money unless you get one of those languages. The only benefit to the homeschool version is that it can automatically keep track of multiple users, but for $40, we can figure that out ourselves.

So we returned the homeschool version and got the personal version instead. It's going fine. I feel like I'm learning, but I really haven't gotten very far yet. It doesn't take a lot of time. I would imagine though that if you want to learn Farsi that it would be wise to learn the alphabet before you start RS; it seems to just drop you into it. We were pleased that they paid for the return of the homeschool version, although it would have been more convenient if they had pointed out that Farsi doesn't have the extra materials. So as of right now, RS Farsi is 4 out of 5 stars.

This has nothing to do with RS, but can I just say that it appears we've finally found a language that is fairly easy to learn? Farsi is refreshingly easy after Arabic, Russian, and some Uzbek and Kyrgyz. The grammar makes sense, lots of the vocab is borrowed from Arabic, or it makes sense since Farsi is an Indo-European language. The alphabet is no problem, and it's just plain easier to feel like we're getting somewhere with Farsi. Finally.

The Kite Runner

So, I finally read The Kite Runner. I've been meaning to for a long time, but it always had a zillion holds at the library and it never seemed like it would to get to me before we moved to a new library. But it's been out long enough now and I didn't have to wait very long to get it this time.

I've heard enough about this book to know that I didn't really care to read some parts, and they were all very short, so I skipped them. And since I didn't want to be manipulated I read some of the end first (I'd never before thought of reading the end of a book before you finished it as avoiding being manipulated).

And then I very much liked the rest of the book. I thought it was excellent. It felt like something that could really happen (which is sad, since so many awful things happen; you can only hope things improve in Afghanistan someday). And it was nice that the Persian was simple enough that I could understand all of it.

I look forward to reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. If there aren't too many holds on it.

Benefits of DSL

For me? The Yellowstone webcam

For my mother? Pictures of the baby

For the boys? I get off the computer a lot quicker. Except for that webcam.
Babushka, make sure to click on the St. Petersburg link on the sidebar.

28 January 2008

It was an eventful sort of weekend here, with President Hinckley's death and a trip to Idaho to see the new Rexburg temple (we ran into some friends from there who told us about all the time the members in the area have put in to make the open house possible).

For me, going to a new temple was exactly what I would have chosen to remember President Hinckley, if I'd known he was going to die this weekend. When I was listening to the radio last night, one of the announcers mentioned that President Hinckley was a builder. And in so many ways, that's exactly what he was.

The temple was beautiful, of course. I particularly liked the artwork, especially the murals in the ordinance rooms and the landscapes from eastern Idaho. It was good to be in Rexburg again. Maybe we really are Idahoans at heart.

25 January 2008

A Meme, Because I'm Lazy

I think I've run out of brain cells for the week, so I was glad to see Melissa did a meme today.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Gone with the Wind, I guess. Although I have a suspicion that the only reason you only hear people raving about this book is because the types who wouldn't rave stay as far away from it as possible. Although all the comments at Melissa's are making me nervous because The Kite Runner is the next book on my list...

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Well, I'm not exactly a socializing kind of gal, so I think I'd prefer to have all of them stay safely in their books, and I'll just take lots of books on my world cruise. Since the good fairy below made it easy for me to transport books.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
Don Quixote? Moby Dick? Ulysses? There are lots more to add to this list.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
War and Peace. I listened to a dramatized version instead when I couldn't find an unabridged audiobook. I might look again.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?
I don't think that's ever happened to me.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)
To Kill a Mockingbird. Probably because that's the only literature I've ever been able to get my husband to read. He's a non-fiction type.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
This one is tricky. I'd choose a Turkic language, but there's not quite as much available in any of those languages. Arabic or Persian maybe? But I'd probably choose Russian right now, since so much about Central Asia is written in Russian.

A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
Like Melissa, Persuasion.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?
I guess a new appreciation for a good library. I used to rely on books I owned, but that's become much too expensive with all the great suggestions I've found online.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.
I don't care what edition, or if they're hardback or paperback, but it would have everything I want, particularly those hard-to-find books about Central Asia (and plenty of audiobooks for older son). And it would magically load and unload itself whenever we decided to move into or from boxes that seemed weightless (or that shrink so you can fit them all in your carryon) even when loaded with coffee table books. That sounds perfect.

24 January 2008

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

I can't say I was very impressed with this book. It's got a good title and there is a need for more books like this, but overall it's not a book I'd really recommend, unless you're in need of a youth fiction book about the Cultural Revolution.

I guess that there are so many stories about the Cultural Revolution that need to be told that a fiction book seems unnecessary, even though this was based on the memories of the author. But somehow, it just didn't seem to quite catch and describe the insanity of the Cultural Revolution.

22 January 2008

Yellow Star

I always stop by the books they have on display in the children's section at the library while the boys are looking for their books and I picked up Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy last week. Yes, it's another book about the Holocaust, but I thought this one was excellent.

It's based on the experiences of Roy's aunt who was one of the few children to survive the Lodz ghetto. Roy wrote the book in free verse which was the perfect choice for the memories of a child. It sounds like a child's experiences and it's certainly a book children can relate to.

Obviously it's a hard book to read, but since it's geared towards children, it's not quite as awful as it could be. But still, since the children of the ghetto were a primary target, it may be difficult for children to read this book. But what can you expect from a book on this topic?

Highly recommended.

21 January 2008

HomeBaking

These are all the recipes I've made from HomeBaking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. 3 stars means that it's one of the best around (so I make it again and again), 2 is for good recipes, but I don't make them on a regular basis, and 1 is for ones I probably won't bother with again. Here are the other posts I've done on their other cookbooks: Flatbreads and Flavors, Seductions of Rice, and Hot Sour Salty Sweet. If you've made anything from this or any of these other cookbooks, I'd love it if you left a comment about it.

3 Stars
Free-form fruit galette page 21
Country apple pie in a potato crust page 32
Large-batch whole wheat pan loaves page 156
Country baguettes page 184
Naomi's any-day skillet cake page 349 (Raspberries are best for the topping, but peaches and apples are very good too)



2 Stars
Simplest apple pie page 18
Quick pastry page 20
Dried apple compote page 40
Kazakh dried fruit pastries page 42
Golden mixed-greens pie page 96
Potato pletzel page 74 (my boys loved this one)
Momos (Himalayan steamed dumplings) page 101
Robin's bread page 150
Potato bread page 152
Portuguese mountain rye page 182
Beirut tahini swirls page 244
Russian apple pancakes page 276
New year's pear cake page 342 (I usually use apples)
Brazilian bolo page 352
Uzbek layered walnut confection page 362
Breton butter cake page 363


1 Star
Irish curd pie page 69 (I liked it, but the rest of the family didn't, so I wouldn't make it again)
Easy cheese and bean rounds page 84 (but I want to try this one again)

17 January 2008

Flatbreads and Flavors: My Definitive Post

I post about this cookbook by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid all the time (even on the day I started this blog) so here are all the recipes I've tried from it with links if I've posted more about them. The last three that I didn't like so much aren't necessarily bad, I just didn't much like them. \

(Update in 2012) This book is getting a little outdated.  Maybe of the best recipes are updated in some of their other cookbooks. I don't rely on it as much as I used to.

Staples or Recipes I Wouldn’t Be Without
Uighur naan with cumin and onions page 31 (this is a great basic recipe for stamped Central Asian-style flatbreads with a rim)
Oasis peppers page 34 (this is my standard stir-fried peppers recipe)
Afghan Home-style Naan page 38 (I've loved this for a long time, but I think the Home-style Tajik Nan in Beyond the Great Wall is actually a better version)
Chicken Street Kebabs page 44
Batia roti page 130
Paneer page 148
Khubs/baladi page 181
Yogurt and tahini sauce page 226
Chilaquiles page 383


Very good
Spicy cumin kebabs page 35
Snowshow naan page 40 
Mint and yogurt sauce page 43
Apple turnovers page 45
Pitti page 47 
Hushva naan page 55
Barley skillet bread page 71
Spicy peanut sauce page 82
Baobing page 85
Nuoc cham page 109 (I usually use the version from Hot Sour Salty Sweet)
Chapatti page 123
Ghee page 129
Puri page 142
Fatteh djaj page 187
Hot chile bread page 201
Khubs zatar page 207 
Sesame bread rings page 209
Tunisian oasis breads page 263
Lavash page 283
Pizza with rosemary and garlic page 333
Tortilla soup page 382
Chicken enchiladas page 388


Not Quite Favorites
Besan roti page 147
Sorghum breads page 189
Injeera page 269

16 January 2008

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie

I love chicken pot pie, but using a flaky crust results in a dinner that really isn't all that good for you (even though a buttery flaky crust is heavenly). So I haven't made these for a lot time until I got the idea to use the potato crust from the apple pie I love. We tried it last night and it was delicious (the son who turns down everything approved of the crust).

Use whatever filling you like for chicken pot pies. Last night I didn't have a lot of broth in mine because I made one large pie instead of individual pies; it can be soupier if they're individual. I just cut up potatoes and carrots and onions and added some shredded chicken and herbs and garlic and cooked it all down, then filled the crust below.

1 pound potatoes, peeled
2 T butter
About 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for surfaces
Salt, onion powder, and/or garlic powder to taste

Dice the potatoes and boil till soft, drain. Mash with the butter then add the rest of the ingredients and knead till smooth, adding flour as needed (or kneaded, hee hee). Divide into two parts. Roll out one for the bottom crust and lay in a greased 8- or 9-inch pie plate. Fill and top with the other section. Bake at 400 for about 50 minutes till nicely browned.

15 January 2008

Whale Rider

I really quite liked Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera. This is a pretty popular book because of the movie (although from reading a summary of the movie, it's fairly different). The author writes that he wanted to tell this story because his daughters wanted a story with a strong female character, and you have that here, but it's interesting he chose to tell the story almost entirely from that character's uncle's point of few. There are only a few paragraphs where Kahu's voice comes through at all.

I don't usually do summaries of books when I write about them; I'll just stick with saying this is a YA book set in New Zealand and is very short.

I've never seen the movie although I know it's well-liked; some have even told me the movie is better. But for right now, I really liked the book. Recommended.

Istanbul

I started this book by Orhan Pamuk in November but got bogged down for reasons listed below. Since it's due soon, I picked it back up and finished it this week. So it's my first book for Melissa's challenge.

It's a rather good book, but it's not at all cheerful. Pamuk writes about melancholy throughout the book- his and the city's- and really, it's almost depressing in many places. Meandering through it slowly wasn't for me, so I finished it fairly quickly and enjoyed it more.

I've only been in Istanbul's airport and only know a few Turks from Turkey and most aren't from Istanbul, so I don't have much, if any, connection to Istanbul. If a book like this had been written about a city I'd lived in, I'd probably have had stronger feelings about it.

I enjoyed Snow more and would recommend that over Istanbul if you're looking to read something by Pamuk.

10 January 2008

Sunlight at Midnight

I read W. Bruce Lincoln's Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia this week and enjoyed it very much. It's more than just a history of St. Petersburg and discusses a variety of topics, especially Petersburg's architecture and culture. The chapter on the siege of Leningrad was particularly good. Recommended.

09 January 2008

I'm slowly coming back to the world of functioning brains and clean houses which feels really good. The baby is settling into life and the older boys are settling into their new lives too. This blog hasn't quite recovered yet since it's still pretty boring, but hopefully that will change over the next few weeks too.

Before the baby was born, several mothers of 3 small children (all younger that 5 or 6) warned me how hard it was going to be after he was born because of my two other children. I don't think I managed to convince any of them that a 7- and an 8-year-old are a world apart from 2- and a 4-year-old.

And they really are. The older boys clean bathrooms, can make their own meals, and do most of their schoolwork fairly independently. While they love to play games and read with me, they've also realized that a napping mother leaves them free to do whatever they want. And this morning, they played with the baby for an hour while I slept. They've made life a lot easier these last few weeks. You should consider renting some children this age when your first child is born. :)

It has been a shock though to spend so much time on taking care of a baby again. It's been over 4 years since I'd changed a diaper, and about 3 since I buckled anyone into a carseat. I haven't fed anyone or dressed anyone in years. I'm used to going when and where I want and sleeping when I want to. But all that's changed. Good thing the baby is so sweet. And he really is. I think they get sweeter every time. And I'll figure out a new system. No matter how much people complain, babies really don't take up every second, especially after the first few months. Unless of course, you have triplets.

05 January 2008

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

I rather enjoyed Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's new book. It's not really anything new or amazing, but it was interesting and worth reading. Her discussion at the beginning of the book of what this phrase means to different people was quite interesting. It's not a very long book and pretty quick to read.

At the end of the book Ulrich writes something to the effect that well-behaved women can make history when they do the unexpected, if they keep records, and if we in future generations care. I think that whether we care or not is the most important thing. As Elizabeth Barber shows in her books, even women who don't do the unexpected and unknowingly (historically speaking) create records that happen to be preserved (like textiles) can still make history if we choose to find it.

03 January 2008

Fruit Galette

I found this recipe for a simple tart in HomeBaking and tried it last night with delicious results. I should have taken a picture but we didn't even wait to let it cool much less pose it.

Roll out some pastry dough (I used half of the recipe below) into an oval about 9x12 and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle about 3 Tbsp bread crumbs or finely chopped nuts in the middle, leaving a 2 or 3 inch rim. Sprinkle on some sugar, then mound on 1 1/2 c of chopped fruit (I used a mix of peaches and raspberries, and it was too juicy, but still delicious- you can try plums or apricots or other berries or whatever floats your boat). Sprinkle on a bit more sugar, then fold the pastry over the fruit, leaving a 3 inch hole at the top. You can sprinkle on some more sugar if you like. Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes till it's golden and let it cool for 20 minutes if you can. If you're feeding more than 3 or 4 people, make another one.


1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
4-7 Tbsp cold water