31 December 2009

Best of 2009

Sweetness in the Belly  Camilla Gibb
The Language Instinct  Steve Pinker
The Year My Son and I Were Born  Kathyrn Lynard Soper
Invisible China  Colin Legerton and and Jacob Rawson
China Road  Rob Gifford
Garlic and Sapphires  Ruth Reichl
Pomegranate Soup   Marsha Mehran
Driving over Lemons   Chris Stewart
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper  Fuchsia Dunlop

There could be more here, but this looks like a pretty good list. It looks like I read about 90 books this year, not including most rereads.  It was a good reading year (and a lot of the thanks for that goes to Melissa's challenge- I'm excited for next year's!).

What's Happened in the 2000s

In no particular order:

Moved 10 times
Lived in Kyrgyzstan for a year
Had two more children, including bedrest with one of those pregnancies
Built a beautiful house and sold it two years later
Learned a lot of Russian
Forgot a lot of Russian
Survived 18 months of  husband's major health problems
Survived husband being laid off
Started homeschooling
Learned a lot about Central Asia
Blogged half the time
Had 4 miscarriages
Stopped driving and started walking
Quilted, spun, crocheted
Learned I love geysers
Really learned to cook
Learned that life is better when my husband likes what he's doing, no matter what we're getting paid


I wish I could have said that I'd lived overseas more than just one year out of those ten and that I'd learned and not forgotten several languages.  There were also a few challenges I didn't handle very well.  At all.  Mostly those relating to my husband's health problems.  That's one thing I never, ever wish to deal with again, at least not on that scale.  And he could have been a lot worse.

But mostly, I've enjoyed my family, read a lot, and I am excited for the next ten years. I hope they're as good as the last 10.

30 December 2009

First Lines Meme

I thought I'd try the first lines meme I saw on Kate's blog.  I don't exactly do great first lines, do I?  And where did my spell check go? 

January
I very much enjoyed this book. (The Goose Girl)

February
I'm debating why I can't say that I loved this book. (March)

March
This was a light, page-turner sort of book. (The Lace Reader)

April
I've been rereading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and To Kill a Mockingbird this week for three different book groups.

May
I have to admit that the Kindle gets more tempting every time I look at it. (It's no coincidence this was posted on my birthday.)

June
I probably read this when it was new and have been meaning to reread Patricia Wrede's dragon books.  (Dealing with Dragons)

July
I checked this one out a year or two ago, but never really got into it. (Empires of the Word)

August
I poked through both of these books on language a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed both, even if I didn't sit down and read them completely.(Spoken Here and Stuff of Thought)


September
I reread this one because I love it, and to decide for sure if I want to do it for a book group. (The Chosen)

October
I'm still learning to figure out what I'm seeing, but here are a few of my neighborhood birds. (The only non-book post of the year.)

November
This was one of those books that ended up being pretty good, but that you hoped would have been great after reading the first chapter. (Abou and the Angel Cohen)

December
There's plenty of reading going on here, but it's all old issues of NatGeo and Smithsonian that a friend gave us this week.

The Help

The HelpI liked this book more than it deserved, probably because I read it while we were moving and didn't really give it a lot of thought.  So the stereotypical characters didn't bother me (even Hilly), nor did the African American English (although that was only because I read the afterward first where the author wrote about her decision to use AAE (but if I wasn't annoyed by that decision, I was annoyed that all the white characters were written in standard English, which isn't exactly accurate for Mississippi- the black characters sounded black, but the white characters didn't sound southern)).  There were lots of other things that would have bothered me in a normal week.

So I can only recommend it if you don't think about it too much.  It's a fun read in a lot of ways, and definitely interesting to learn a little about life in Mississippi in the early 1960s.

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest LessonThis wasn't a reread, because I didn't read it 10 years ago when it was so popular.  But I figure that a book that's still getting talked about more than 10 years later might be worth reading.  And it was pretty good.  There was lots of good advice, none of it earthshaking (a lot of it is what I hear at church every week), and it really felt almost like a self-help book.  Which is all perfectly fine, but if it had been much longer, I probably wouldn't have finished.  The message of the book could have been summed up in a much shorted space.
I suppose it's time to start posting again. The week or two around Christmas is always a little busy here with an anniversary and two birthdays in addition to Christmas, but moving pretty much sucked up all my energy. I'd rather not move 4 days before Christmas again, especially on 10 days' notice. It was fun to decorate the tree twice though. I'm very glad we got an artifical tree for the first time in 12 years. That was lucky.

We still have to move again, sometime in the next few weeks. Isn't that lucky too? Guess which lucky was sincere.

17 December 2009

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

The Street of a Thousand BlossomsI'm not quite finished with this one, but I wanted to try out the new, easy way to post book covers here.  It really was easy. 

Anyway, I've really liked reading this one.  I'm not flying through it, but I'm simply enjoying it.  I've particularly liked reading about WWII from the Japanese perspective, and learning more about sumo wrestling.  Even if I still can't get a positive image of sumo wrestling in my head.

13 December 2009

Happy Birthday Blog and 2-Year-Old

It's the little one's birthday today. We're lucky to have such a happy two-year-old. It's been so fun to enjoy him on his own. There are definite advantages to having children close together, but we've all loved getting to know the littlest one on his own.

But today is also this blog's 5-year anniversary. When I started this, I wouldn't have guessed that five years down that road I'd be sitting in a little (moldy) student housing apartment while my husband was working on a PhD, but I'm happy were here. Because instead I can say I'm sitting in a perfectly-sized-for-us apartment near lots of friends in an interesting city while both my husband and I are learning a lot more about Central Asia and getting ready to go back.

Happy birthday blog. I hope that the next five years take us to Samarqand and lots of other interesting places.

12 December 2009

City of Light

City of Light
I read this one on Julie's recommendation and enjoyed it. It was different and interesting to read about Buffalo, New York at the turn of the 19th century, and I really liked the main character/narrator.

My only complaint was that there was a little too much of too many things- too many pages, too many characters, too many minor plotlines, too many actual historical characters and events to work in. But it was only a little too much. Worth reading.

10 December 2009

Homeschooling on a E-reader

So, it looks like we're going to spend the next school year bouncing around Central Asia. If we do that, we'll be able to take about 200 pounds of stuff with us. Total. For all 5 of us. That's not very much, especially I remember we took 300 pounds of books to Kyrgyzstan last time and it was nowhere near enough.

That's where e-readers are going to have to come in. The trouble is, children's books aren't exactly the most common books available on e-readers. Especially children's non-fiction about world history from 500-1500, or astronomy, or world music.

Maybe it's just all an excuse to get a couple of e-readers. But they do seem like the perfect option for a family who reads a lot and moves a lot.

09 December 2009

December Happenings

December has been going well, at least the Christmas part of it. We made a list of ideas that we could choose from, so we're doing something for Christmas each day. It's always seemed like, since I was little, that we decorated for Christmas at the beginning of the month, and then you did a few things here and there, but you sort of forgot about Christmas by the middle of the month. Our list is pretty simple, but I think the boys have been having fun. And I made popcorn strings for the first time. They're cooler that I thought they'd be.

The December part that hasn't been quite as good was finding out we have a major roof leak and will have to move to another apartment next week. We couldn't quite make it through an entire year without a move. At least I feel vindicated for reporting mold and water dripping from the ceiling since last Christmas.

It's not every Christmas that you get to decorate twice. We're all actually a little excited at the prospect of trying out a new apartment. Maybe we've moved a little too often?

Northern Pintails and Trumpeter Swans

Yes, I'm still out looking at birds most everyday. Today I saw three Trumpeter Swans on the lake. They've been around for few days, so I hope to get a better look at them soon, since I only saw them from a distance today. They really are big birds. And I'm pretty sure I saw a Northern Pintail last week. It took me a long time to find something that matched what I saw, but the Pintail seems to fit. I can't think of anything else very unusual.

07 December 2009

Fiesta Bowl Disappointment

Count me as one of the people who's disappointed in the Boise State-TCU bowl matchup. I was pleased to see two non-BCS teams go undefeated, but it would have been better to have just one if they're going to be matched against each other.

If you're going to complain about weak schedules in the Mountain West and the WAC (and that's a legitimate complaint), then don't take away one of the few chances for those teams to play a team with a good schedule. Or does the BCS just not want to see a repeat of Utah-Alabama or Boise State-Oklahoma?

It'll be meaningless, whichever team wins. And I don't think I've ever watched a bowl game where I very much wanted both teams to win.

I imagine this will be the only football-related post of the year. Back to our regular programming.

06 December 2009

Some of Us Even Like December

I think there's just one thing I don't like about December (and I'm contributing to it by not liking it). I don't like the complaining about December- that there's too much to do, that people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas, that you can't say Merry Christmas, whatever. It's always a little sad to hear people complaining about this time of the year.

Because I love it. I don't get quite as excited about it as I did when I was little, but I look forward to December. I don't get worked up if it's not appropriate to say Merry Christmas, or if someone wishes me Happy Holidays. I'm a pretty simple person, so we're not overwhelmed with traditions expectations. We move a lot so I only keep decorations I truly love, and I love decorating for Christmas and see the ornaments and nativities. My husband is in school, so there are no work parties to suffer through (that is one thing I haven't liked other years), and my children homeschool so we have no Christmas programs or whatever to do to.

Shopping also used to be a problem, but it isn't anymore with the internet. It's also been lots of fun to live right next to a nice mall, since traffic is never my favorite thing. But yesterday I just walked to all the places where I needed to do some Christmas shopping. We also live very close to one of the major city attractions (it's not big, but it's popular, so it's nice to be able to walk to it, and it's not overdone), and I don't really feel a need to go to anything else at night, except to drive around to look at lights.

I'm sure a lot of the difference is just a personality thing- there are lots of people who are going feel required to do too much for Christmas so they don't disappoint anyone. And a lot of that responsibility falls on women, who seem more like to feel like they have to create a perfect Christmas. But I don't think it's unreasonable to sit down with your family and find out what's important to your family, and figure out a way to make that happen.

03 December 2009

Christmas Traditions

I want tamales for Christmas dinner. And I can even say it's a tradition. Unfortunately, I've never made tamales, so we might have to experiment a few times before Christmas Eve.

We're not going to be travelling this year for Christmas, not near any family. I was thinking the other day that those two things haven't happened to us often. We ended up flying last year to be with extended family because of a major event happening two days after Christmas, and the two years before that we lived very close to extended family. It does happen every few years- the year in Bishkek, the year middle son was born, one year in Boise, the year in New Jersey. But I can't imagine I made any sort of interesting meal the year we were waiting for the baby to be born, and we probably got a roasted chicken in Bishkek, or went out to eat.

But here's where the tamale tradition part comes in. The year we stayed home in Boise, our neighbors invited us over for tamales on Christmas Eve, and they were delicious. I can handle a completely traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but when the rest of the family is willing to branch out for Christmas, we'll do it. I don't think I'd convince them to go Asian though.

We're trying some other new Christmas things this year too, and I'm liking it.

Still Lazily Reading

There's plenty of reading going on here, but it's all old issues of NatGeo and Smithsonian that a friend gave us this week. And the never-ending language book and history book.