31 December 2010

Best Books of 2010

I really should have read more than 100 books this year, but I've been a serious slacker the last few months and ended up with 97.  Some people speed up when they're stressed.  I slow down.  Anyway, there were some excellent books this year.  They're in two bunches- the first group is the very best and the second has very, very good ones.


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Understanding the Book of Mormon
Red Odyssey
Guests of the Sheik (reread)
Stones into Schools
Crossing to Safety
Cry, the Beloved Country


Half the Sky
Mormon Country
Left to Tell
Nothing to Envy
Olive Kitteridge
When Everything Changed 
Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament

30 December 2010

2010 Flops and Not

So, 2010 didn't exactly go the way I'd planned when the year started.  I'll blame Uzbekistan and one of our grants for that.  But thanks to Kyrgyzstan's much more reasonable visas regulations, I'm hoping that this year's 10 things list will be a little closer to reality:

Live in Kyrgyzstan most of the year
Move to another city in Central Asia at the end of the year
Learn to cook naan in a tandur
Learn Uzbek
Refresh Russian
CBT Kyrgyzstan
Watch the boys learn Uzbek and Russian
Don't run out of money (which implies getting another grant)
Bone games, of course
Read a lot


And a couple that are unreasonable to hope for, but I still do hope:

Visit Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
Church recognized in Kyrgyzstan


Some things did go better this year than I'd hoped.  The massive books-into-ebooks project was a stunning success, and we have many, many fewer boxes of stuff to store. I read lots of great books too (although the end of the year went out with a whimper, but I have a good excuse). And I'm looking forward to a good 2011.  I'm glad to see 2010 go, but it still was a good year.

18 December 2010

Dulce de Leche and the Crock Pot

People were talking about sweetened condensed milk, so I needed dulce de leche.  Usually I just poke a hole in the lid of a can of sweetened condensed milk and boil it for a few hours, but I've started using the crock pot for things that boil over or away.  And I always worried about the can exploding even though I poked that hole in.  And I never knew if it was really done.

Anyway, this time I dumped the milk into a pint jar (actually, I did two cans in two jars) and covered it with foil and stuck it in the crock pot.  Then I filled the pot with water till it came above the level of the milk in the jars, but below the level of the top of the jars.  It took 6 hours on high and the glass jars made it easy to see when it was ready. 

I've said before that I've never done much with my crock pot, but when I finally started using for things like this, my stove got a lot cleaner.  I don't think I've ever forgotten something and boiled away all the water and had it burn, but I always, always have things boil over when I'm cooking stock or beans or milk for yogurt.  The crock pot is perfect for things like that and I'm finally using the thing more than once a month.

16 December 2010

Guests of the Sheik

Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi VillageThis was a reread for a book group after reading it a few years ago.  I think I enjoyed it even more this time- definitely one of my favorite books.  Highly recommended.

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being EarnestI've loved this play for a long time, but somehow missed this film version.  It was excellent and I wish I'd found it sooner. 

07 December 2010

Hurramabad

HurramabadI picked up this collection of short stories and novellas at the suggestion of Christian Bleur on Registan. I enjoyed it very much, with the exception of the longest novella that I ended up skipping because it just wasn't my thing.

All the stories are set in Tajikistan and are mostly about Russians living there during the early 1990s during the civil war. The book is very Russian, very realist, very vivid. It's obviously not cheerful (how could it be?), but Andrei Volos creates a Hurramabad that draws in the reader even as you know that things aren't going to turn out well.

I was particularly taken with "A Local Man" about a Russian who moved to Tajikistan because he was completely sucked in by the place.  But even though he marries a Tajik, learns the language, and loves the place, he knows he will never fit it.