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Archive for October, 2012

And as promised: My son and I sat together on Youtube and he compiled his list. It is all in Hebrew, including Fireman Sam, the Smurfs, and Bugs Bunny. Enjoy!

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For kid & computer safety, my kids already have a separate account with a password (our account is also password protected). On this account I used Microsoft Family Safety to limit web sites and programs. So far, so good.

I’m trying to find a way that my kids can see youtube without my being behind their shoulder all the time. You wouldn’t believe the weird videos you can get to from bugs bunny or Dora the explorer. There are options for safe mode in youtube, but from my experience it’s not sufficient. I read that you can embed a playlist in a separate web page, and in the embedded playlist only the playlist is shown. There is still an option to open youtube, but Family Safety web filters should take care of that.

So let’s test this with my playlist on youtube. This is simply a collection of good songs, classical, Israeli, pop, some alternative… feel free to listen if you like!

Good Music Rules!

If this works, I’ll do another post with my approved children’s playlist 🙂

Adding after posting:

It works! I can allow this particular web page in Family Safety web filters, and my kids can see the playlist, choose their video, and watch to their hearts content (well… for their allotted computer time, anyway).

Family Safety prevents the children from pressing on the “Watch in YouTube” button so I have no fear my kids will end up watching an overdubbing of Dora into sex and drugs (it actually exists :? )

I’ll sit with the kids and make a kids’ playlist soon, and I’ll post it. As it will probably end up being extensive, I’ll probably split into a number of playlists – smurfs, loony tunes, lazytown, Hebrew/English… The sky’s the limit!

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In the Circle Trilogy, Nora Roberts attempts to take on the supernatural and even epic battle between good and evil. Evil here is represented by vampires and their 2 millennia old queen, Lilith. Good here is represented by the Goddess Morrigan, who appoints Hoyt the 12th century sorcerer to gather a circle of six: himself, “the witch, the warrior, the scholar, the one of many shapes, and the one you lost”. They have three months to gather, train and beat the vampires in a pitched battle in the Valley of Silence in the mystic land of Geall (connected somehow to King Arthur). The first month is for gathering (Morrigan’s Cross), the second month for learning (Dance of the Gods) and the third to know (Valley of Silence).

After reading this summary, you might be getting the wrong idea, and think this is an epic world-building trilogy. If you start reading this expecting Nora Roberts’ theory of multiple worlds to make sense, learn about vampires, get detailed explanations of magic and warcraft, you will be sorely disappointed. It a romance trilogy. The point of the novels is to introduce you to two characters who will love each other, and give you the feel of doing so on the backdrop of a major war. That said, Nora Roberts does explain training, and tactics, and weapons passably well (especially from my point of view, as I have no knowledge of any of this).

Morrigan's Cross (Circle Trilogy, #1)

In Morrigan’s Cross, Hoyt gathers the circle. Some need convincing  but most come willingly as they feel the change and the danger. The main characters are Hoyt, Cian his brother turned vampire (“the one you lost”), and Glenna “the witch”. The rest are introduced but little more. Also, time travel mixes things up a bit (it takes place in the 20th century, while Hoyt is from the 12th and Cian is nine hundred years old). I liked this book. Watching the reunion of Hoyt and Cian, seeing Hoyt loosen up little by little, watching Glenna… it was a joy to see. 4.5 stars.

 

 

Dance of the Gods (Circle Trilogy, #2)

In Dance of the Gods, all the characters are filled out as the circle learns about fighting, training, the arts of war, and themselves. The main characters here are different, but I won’t name them as that would be a kind of spoiler. This is actually the weakest book from my point of view, as the love story was pretty predictable. The war effort is progressing though, as they learn more and more. They win a few battles. In the second half of the book, they move their base of operations to Geall, where the scholar, Moira, is the queen-to be. There is a mythical quality to this part of the book, as Geall is similar to the 12th century that Hoyt and Cian come from. At this point also the romance fills out and the book improves considerably. All in all a good book. 4 stars.

Valley of Silence (Circle Trilogy, #3)

The Valley of Silence is the climax, both of the romance and the war. On the romance side, this is the ultimate good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy story. You can’t get better than Moira, the queen of Geall, and you can’t get worse than Cian the 9 centuries old vampire. And then Nora Roberts twists things around and you really see inside Cian, and you really see inside Moira, and they mesh together like very few romances do. However, they have only a short time until the war. And after the war, Cian is still a vampire. He cannot marry Moira or offer her any kind of life with him. How will this be resolved? In the meantime, the war efforts are not ignored and descriptions and battles abound. This keeps the suspense much better than other Nora Roberts suspense novels. This is one of the best romance novels I have ever read. I loved it. 5 stars.

Romance/suspense: This is primarily a romance trilogy. There are some descriptions of violence, but not in great detail. No skipping necessary. however, suspense remains strong.

Overall: 5 stars.

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92 Pacific Boulevard

This is the second book my MIL gave me of Debbie Macomber. 92 Pacific Boulevard is part of a series of books on the town of Cedar Cove.

I hated it.

This book had four problems for me:

1. The number of point-of-view characters. I think there were 8. I lost count at some point, so it could be more. It was very difficult to remember who everyone was.

2. This is part of a series. It is completely NOT a stand alone book. Though there are numerous flashbacks and explanations of previous books, it was very difficult to keep straight.

3. This is not a book. This was a series of episodes of a soap opera. Every chapter had a different point; every chapter ended at a cliffhanger that was completely ignored in the next chapters (very like a soap opera, that an episode ends with someone shooting another and the next episode everyone is friends and it’s never mentioned again). The “main” story arc was of the sheriff, but many other stories were worked in, and they weren’t solved or ended or anything. Probably they will be the focal point of the next instalments in the series. However, I found it annoying as it seemed completely disconnected with the “main” story.

4. I hated at least 50% of the characters. Well, it varied from mild dislike (you told the woman you love to get out of your life. Why are you surprised that she is out of life? Idiot) to outright hate (one character explains in detail all the manipulations he’s planning to get a woman into a relationship with him. He is a serial adulterer. Ick).

I had no interest whatsoever in reading until the end. At some point I resorted to skimming, hoping that something in the book what prompt me to keep reading. Nope. Sorry – this series is simply not for me. 0 stars.

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Jingo-2.jpg

Originally, I didn’t like Terry Pratchett. My first try was Pyramids, which was mediocre. I thought I didn’t like Terry Pratchett and that was that. Then I read Good Omens, with Neil Gaiman. That is one excellent book! Funny, witty, interesting, and satisfying. I doubted that everything was due to Neil Gaiman (though he is an exceptional author). Then the Light Fantastic and The Colour of Magic fell into my hands and they were good (They are the 1st and 2nd books of the discworld series). At that point I started reading everything I could lay my hands on. At the time I was a member of the British Council Library, so I had a lot of choice 🙂 And I discovered that while Pyramids is indeed mediocre, many of his other books are incredible.

Terry Pratchett invented the discworld – a large disc carried on the back of four giant elephants crawling through space on the back of a turtle. It is a world where gods interfere in the affairs of men, where magic is more reliable than science, where there are trolls and dwarfs, gnomes and werewolves, zombies and vampires – each of them with a twist on the stereotype. And he puts a curved mirror on our own world, by taking things we take for granted and making us see them in a different light.

While I loved this book, this shouldn’t be your first book in the series – it would be better to read at least one more of the Night Watch books (Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Night Watch) first. Jingo captures perfectly the absurdities of war, while at the same time mourning war’s inevitability. Jingo makes you think about politics and war in a different way than you did before. Jingo also looks at racism and preconceived ideas about different cultures. And Pratchett achieves this while making you laugh. In my opinion, this is one of his best books. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

Note: After reading Terry Pratchett books, I love to go on the net, read the annotations, and see if there were any jokes I missed. Always a pleasure.

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In addition to the lemon chicken, I also made a beef stew. As the weather turns cooler, I find that this beef stew really hits the spot. The secret to this beef stew is good meat and good wine.

One of the things that I don’t like about stews is usually the meat. Removing gobs of fat from meat while eating always turned me off. I get my meat in one particular shop, always. It’s more expensive than the regular supermarkets, but they know what and how to cut. When you ask for a schnitzel, you get it without the little annoying bits. When you ask to remove the fat, it’s removed. I haven’t found a better place yet. I asked for cubed meat for a stew, and they gave me excellent meat with almost no fat at all. When paired with a bottle of medium priced red wine (regular price: 50 NIS. I bought it on sale at 3 for 100 NIS) , it practically melted in the mouth.

To reheat, I added more wine so that the meat was covered and boiled until the alcohol evaporated. It was as good reheated as fresh.

Ingredients

1 Kg beef for stew, cut in chunks
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying
1 large onion, cubed
3 carrots, cubed
4 stalks celery, sliced
bunch parsley (optional)
1 bottle red wine, good enough to drink but not expensive
5 tbsp brandy
2 bay leaves

Heat oil in a heavy pot. Fry the beef cubes in batches so that they are browned on all sides, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the pot and set aside. Put the onions and carrots in the same pot, along with the brandy. Sauté for a few minutes until translucent. Return the beef to the pot. Add the other ingredients, making sure all the beef is covered in wine. Cook on medium heat for 2-3 hours, until meat is cooked through. Check occasionally to make sure there are enough liquids. If necessary, water or more wine can be added. Serve over rice or burgul.

Steaming Beef Stew

Bon Apetit!

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Montana Sky

And back to Roberts again 🙂 . I tried Montana Sky after receiving recommendations from reading7mandy and Lori Erokan. And it was…not so good. Sorry, guys.

For starters – waay too violent. Seriously, TMI. If I wanted to get in the head of a serial killer, I’d read Perfume. Next, stuffing three romances into one book sells them all short. Everything happens too fast, and too prettily wrapped up. Very little emotion for a Nora Roberts book (the makes-me-cry criterion), and none with the supposedly main romance. Also, this is another Nora Roberts book where the hero is too domineering for my taste. I don’t need all the heroes to be moonlight and flowers, but almost raping the heroine is NOT romantic. And I can say the same for the heroine. Kicking your man and punching him is NOT cool (this happens at a different time than the almost rape). I also found the damsel in distress scenes annoying. In many NR books, the heroine saves herself before the hero comes along. In this case, damsel-in-distress happens twice and while they fight back, they most definitely wait for the hero. It’s embarrassing, especially for a book about strong female characters. And the heroes are very one dimensional.

In short, there are some nice scenes here, there are some funny stories, there are some heartbreaking moments. But all in all? Meh. 2 stars. 

Romance/Suspense: Suspense. Some romance. Very detailed violence, I skipped even more than Naked in Death.

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