Thursday, March 31, 2011

April to August Reading List


As I've mentioned before I love to read. I'm rarely ever without a book, because who knows if you'll get caught in traffic or a waiting room or trapped in an elevator or stuck alongside the road because you forgot to put oil in the car? I took some time today (after I finished another good book, which you'll see on the sidebar to the right under my Recent Reading List) to look for more books to read. Now that I'm a member of a very large library (HAJLELUIAH), I have access to most books, without having to spend a small fortune over at Barnes and Noble.

As I scoped internet book reviews and lists, I found myself salivating and writing down titles and authors of interesting books. For about an hour my thoughts were mostly consumed by "Ooooo that looks good!", "I hope the library has this", "Mom would LOVE to read this!", "Ah, this looks good too", etc... etc... etc...

Furthermore, I've noticed that on average I read about 2 books/month. I say average because some books (i.e. Death to the Dictator) take awhile to digest, while others (i.e. trashy romance novels) I can get through those in 1 or 2 days. So I decided to try and finish 2 books a month for the months of April to August. If you are also a book nut, feel free to check out my book selection, some might interest you as well.

April:
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez (Done)
Hidden Iran: paradox and power of the Islamic Republic by Ray Takeyh (Done)

May:
Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran- A Journey Behind the Headlines by Scott Peterson
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: 5 Sisters, 1 Remarkable Family, and the Woman who Risked Everything to Keep them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (Done)

June:
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman (Done)
Why the West Rules--for now: The Patterns of History and what they Reveal about the Future by Ian Morris

July:
Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela (Done)
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in Northern Korea by Barbara Demick (Done)

August:
Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson
Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline by Lauren F. Winner

Depending on library availability I may deviate from this schedule, but hopefully I'll get them all read by the end of August. These 10 Books are only part of my list of 35. Perhaps later I will post the rest of my reading list, but I have a feeling by August, I'll be a bit overwhelmed by all the non-fiction and want to partake in a bit more light reading (hello... trashy romance novels and tween fiction about mythological creatures). If you are interested in any of these books, just click on the title to take you to a book review.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ABCs

Thanks to the brainwashing provided by Lena Horne on Sesame Street and Sophie's school... she loves to sing the ABC song. Still doesn't have all the right letters in the correct places... but she loves to sing it. And we encourage her to keep on singing it... even in the bathtub.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring at Fort Worth Botanica


This whole week has had beautiful weather, and the weekend forecast shows sunny skies with a high of 80. So on days like this how can you stay inside? So Sophie and I loaded up in the car and drove to Fort Worth Botanica Gardens.

It was beautiful, big, and best of all- free!

Sophie loved running around and all the water.

And I enjoyed seeing all the spring flowers in bloom.

I did manage to get some good pictures of Sophie (when she wasn't playing in the water), but next time I think I'm going to try and get the whole family out there and dressed up for Easter pictures.

For more information on Fort Worth Botanica Gardens, click HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

N is for NEBRASKA


Yesterday Sophie got her first homework assignment from Preschool. Her assignment... bring something for show-and-tell that starts with the letter N.

Well we had napkins, noodles, nickels, and necklaces... but they just didn't feel very exciting. Then I thought... Oh yeah... Nebraska starts with N! So in honor of Brian, Sophie got decked out in her Nebraska Cornhusker cheerleader outfit. And along with a bag of noodles, I added a note to the teacher telling her that Sophie was wearing an outfit with a Big Red N for the Nebraska Huskers.

Needless to say if Sophie were given a grade for her assignment... we think she should get an A++++++++

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saturday at the Zoo


Recently I purchased an annual family pass to the Dallas Zoo. Sophie and I decided to go this Saturday. It was perfect weather. The only issue was that everyone else thought so too and the zoo was crowded.

However we did get to see a lot of animals.

Elephants

Warthogs

Giraffes

Zebras and Ostriches

Exotic birds

Among other animals. They also had these metal animals, which made for great photo opportunities.

And at the Children's Zoo area they had an area where kids could cool down and play in the water. Sophie loved it and got thoroughly wet.

Because the zoo was so packed we only stayed a few hours. But it was fun while it lasted. And now that we have a membership, I'm sure we'll have a lot more opportunities to discover the zoo together.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Banning the Binky

After several attempts of trying to get rid of the pacifier, we've finally done it. We've banned the binky. We at first started once Sophie's preschool started, mostly because they didn't allow it. But I caved and let her have it for bedtime and naptime. Now, Sophie has gone ONE WEEK without the binky (even without it for naptime and bedtime).

Anyway, small accomplishment!

Weeding & Reading


As most people know I love to read. I always have a book in my purse. In fact, when I purchase a purse, one of the things I look for is... can I fit a book in here?

Something that fewer people know is that I HATE weeding. In fact, I detest weeding. When we were kids and we'd get in trouble (which actually happened quite a lot in my family), our punishment in the summer would be weeding the flower beds. Everyone in the family hated that task (except my mom.... weird right?).

Anyway, recently I picked up the following book from the library: Death to the Dictator: A Young Man Casts a Vote in Iran's 2009 Election and Pays a Devastating Price by Afsaneh Moqadam. This work of non-fiction had me putting the book down several times because I just couldn't bear to read more about the barbarity and inhumane treatment that is going on a few years ago and even today to people in the Middle East. When watching a Holocaust film its so easy to brush that off and say "We've learned since then. We (the US) wouldn't let that happen to anyone again. If I were alive then, I would have done something about it". But the thing about this book is that the government is oppressing their own people and denying them their human rights. And it's happening not just a few years ago, but even now as you've probably noticed if you ever turn on the news- (aka- Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Tunisa). And as we look back and watch on our tv sets... we sympathize with these people and cheer for the thousands and perhaps millions dangerously opposing the government, but we aren't DOING anything.

Yes I understand diplomacy and issues... I get it. But Japan had an earthquake a few weeks ago (and yes its' devastating and horrible), but the people in the US and the government itself are sending supplies and money to help them. But we aren't doing anything for the people in the Middle East. And I'm not asking the US government to step in and control the government like we did in Iraq, but why can't we find ways to help the rebels? Or at least have the UN do something about it... I mean... isn't that part of their job?

Anyway, I finally finished the book, but before I did I found that I needed to take several breaks from the book because it was just so "heavy". So one day while Sophie was playing, I just started weeding the backyard. No thoughts necessary... just good old manual labor. And it helped relieve my mind about everything I was reading and understanding about the Middle East, Iran in particular. Since then over 3/4ths of my yard is rid of weeds. And while I couldn't get rid of all the Basijis who hurt the author and countless other innocent lives, I could get rid of the weeds in my yard.

So I'm appealing to those who are able, to find some time... and read this book.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Feckin' Fun Irish Facts


In honor of the upcoming St. Paddy's Day, I thought I'd share a few fun facts from a book I just finished reading called: The Feckin' Book of Irish History. Each of these fun facts will be as directly quoted from the book as possible, because this book is "feckin'" hilarious.

  • The Book of Kells... "possibly the most valuable book in the world"..."It was made from the skins of about 200 cows and the ink was a mixture of apple juice and soot! By the time they were finished, the monks were pretty sick of steaks and apple pie".
  • "...in 1171 [King Henry II] became the first English king to set foot on Irish soil, his first step going directly into fresh cowshit (wishful thinking)".
  • "Richard II would make 2 trips to Ireland in his lifetime (and become the last English King to visit for over 300 years, thank Christ!".
  • "Many of today's British Conservative Party might be disturbed to know that their nickname "Tories", originated in Ireland in the mid-sixteenth century, deriving from the Gaelic word 'toraidhe', which meant plunderer, robber, thief, barbarian, and general yobbo".
  • Over the coming years they [the English Parliament] enacted a series of Penal Laws designated to leave the Catholic majority penniless, powerless, and extremely pissed off. Under these laws, Catholics couldn't hold public office, marry a Protestant, own a firearm, get a foreign education, join the army, enter parliament, vote, become a lawyer or judge, build a church from stone, enter Trinity College, own a horse worth more than a fiver, adopt an orphan, educate their young, etc., etc., etc. " "One ultimate goal- to make Catholics' lives so miserable that they'd simply fade away, leaving one great big Protestant paradise. What they didn't realize was that Catholics' bleedin' thrive on being miserable".
  • "... a group of Choctaw indians decided to raise funds for famine relief in Ireland. Sixteen years previously they had faced starvation themselves during the forcible relocation from Mississippi to Oklahoma" "This impoverished people managed to raise a staggering $710- which would be the equivalent of around a million dollars today". [Stacey sidenote- the English contributed nothing to relief the Irish famine]
  • "Young Irelander Thomas Francis Meagher visited Paris... inspired by the French red, white and blue tricolor [flag]. So, that in March in Waterford, he unfurled what was to become the Irish national flag- vertical green, white, and orange- from the window of a house. Green represents Catholics; Orange represents Protestants; and white represents the peace between them".
  • "Butt Bridge is the only stone bridge across the Liffey that was actually named after the person for whom it was intended (in 1879, when Isaac Butt died)".
  • "When Captain Charles Boycott, the land agent for the absentee landlord Earl Erne, refused to lower his rents, Parnell encouraged the community to ostracize him. Work stopped in his fields, shopkeepers wouldn't sell his goods, his mail didn't arrive and , worst of all, the pub wouldn't sell him any drink. Eventually the British supplied a force of a thousand soldiers to protect 50 Orangemen who were brought in to harvest the crops. This cost 25xs the value of the crop so it wasn't exactly a great investment. And he was still treated like an outcast when they'd done. Within a year, he was gone too".
  • "The only good Irishman is a dead Irish man- 'If a police barracks is burned or if the barracks already occupied is not suitable, then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there- the more the merrier. Should the order ('Hands Up') not be immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the person approaching (a patrol) carry their hands in their pockets or in any way suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties at some time. The more you shoot the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get in trouble for shooting any man' - Lt. Col. Smyth, British Army Officer in a speech to the RIC in June 1920. It may come as a surprise, but Lt. Col. Smyth was assassinated by the IRA about a month later.
  • "In most regards the 1937 Constitution was grand, guaranteeing freedom, equality before law, right to education, etc., etc. The problem was that it gave the Catholic Church a 'special position' in the state. The bishops and priests took this to mean 'absolute power' and set about screwing up the country sexually for generations and denying everyone basic rights like access to contraception, divorce, and Playboy magazines. For Christ's sake, the guy who Dev had approve the Constitution- Archbishop John Charles McQuaid- was such a nutter he actually banned tampons because he thought they might get women excited!"
Anyway, hopefully everyone enjoyed these humorous bits of Irish history and have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day

"St. Patrick... one of the few saints whose feast day presents the opportunity to get determinedly whacked and make a fool of oneself, all under the guise of acting Irish".
- Charles M. Madigan

Monday, March 14, 2011

Irish Festival - 2011


During our weekend in San Antonio, we did participate in some early St. Paddy's day craic ('fun' in Gaelic). The San Antonio Harp and Shamrock society had an Irish festival along the river walk featuring parades, dancers, musicians, and a shite-load of dye to make their river green.

You can tell the difference in the water. Before with the ducks...

And then afterwards.

Sophie enjoyed watching the dancers and swaying to the music.

Here is a video of the dancers so you too can enjoy a bit of the Irish experience.

Mexican Mercado in S.A.


Around lunch time one day we ventured into San Antonio's Market Square or Mercado. It features stores, wares, and food from Mexico. And while many of the items for sale I saw from my few trips to Mexico were the same, you could honestly tell the difference between the Mercado and a mercado en Mexico. For example, there was way too much space between each of the booths and stores. And the merchants were not as exuberant trying to get customers into their domain.

However, we enjoyed the atmosphere.

And Brian and Sophie enjoyed the authentic mexican food we ate there.