Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 E-Book Challenge

I will be participating in E-book Challenge at The Ladybug Reads.  This is really a no brainer challenge for me as I am trying to use my nook more and more, only buying hard copy books at a discount or when a book is not available electronically.  I have signed up for the addicted level - 12 e-books during 2011.  I will probably read more than that, but I know my book budget will be much smaller this year than in years past, so I don't want to over-extend my available book funds.  I also plan on overlapping this challlenge with the others I have joined for the year.

Here are the details -
Challenge Guidelines:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
--Non-bloggers: Include your information in the comment section.

2. There are four levels:

-- Curious – Read 3 e-books.
-- Fascinated – Read 6 e-books.
-- Addicted – Read 12 e-books.
-- Obsessed – Read 20 e-books.

3. Any genre counts.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1, 2011 and lasts until December 31, 2011.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post about the E-Book Reading Challenge. Include the URL so that other participants can join in and read your reviews and post.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011 Global Reading Challenge

I am joining the 2011 Global Reading Challenge this year.  I am joining at the EASY level, which means 7 books, one from each continent.  As a geography teacher, this challenge is right up my alley. 

The Easy Challenge

Read one novel from each of these continents in the course of 2011:

North America
South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)
The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own ´seventh´ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it).

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.

I have already selected some of the books I want to read.
Africa - Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Asia - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Australasia -
Europe - The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
North America -
South America - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Seventh Continent -
To join this fun challenge visit 2011 Global Reading Challenge.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

School of Life Reading Challenge

I am the perpetual school nerd, a geek.  I would be happy to go to school forever, getting degree after degree.  What is stopping me?  A little thing called tuition. So, when I found the School of Life Reading Challenge,  I knew I was joining!   This is the perfect challenge to feed my nerdiness.  I am joining at the Summa Cum Laude level.  I will be reading 12 books, but I will be double majoring in Human Geography and European History.  I teach the Advanced Placement course for both of these subjects, so not only will I be in full geekdom, but I will also be accomplishing a great deal of research for my courses as well. 

Here is my initial list of books. 

Human Geography Books -
1.  Geography Matters by Harm de Blij
2.  The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
3.  Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman
4.  Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan

European History Books
1.  Sophie's World

2011 Reading Challenges

I am the first to admit I did not do very well with my 2010 Reading Challenges, but that is a topic for another post.  I am, as always, drawn to the newness of a new year and all the opportunity that abounds.  In this case, the opportunity to jump start my reading and blogging slump.  I plan on joining the following challenges, with high hopes of completing all of them.  The key to the challenges I chose this year is that many of them overlap, for example, most of the books for the 2011 Global Reading Challenge come from my TBR stack and will count for the Reading From My Shelves Project.  I am still looking for a Southern Reading Challenge to join, so if you know of one, please let me know. 

Challenge #1 -
School of Life Reading Challenge

Do you miss being a student? Did you major in English but you haven't read a classic in years? In this reading challenge you can pick and choose books that are assigned in classes related to your old major.

How To Participate
1. Decide which major or subject you would like to study
2. Visit your alma mater's website and see if they have class syllabi online. If they don't, check one of the hundreds of free online classes at Yale, MIT, or any other college
3. Pick a few classes in your major
4. Choose one or more books required in each class syllabus
5. You do not have to write reviews
6. You may keep in touch and leave links to your reviews below, if you choose to write them
7. You do not have to have a blog
8. The books you choose can be overlaps from other reading challenges
9. The challenge begins January 1 and ends December 31, 2011

Levels of Participation
cum laude: 6 books
magna cum laude: 8 books
summa cum laude: 12 books

I will be joining at the Summa Cum Laude Level.  I am going to do a "double major", reading 6 Human Geography books and 6 Euroepan History books - both courses I teach. 

Challenge #2 -
Reading From My Shelves Project

The Details -
Challenge runs from January 1 - December 31, 2011.

Read books from your own shelves, and then pass the books on to someone else: a friend, relative, the library, used book store, swap them, just as long as the book leaves your house once it has been read.

Decide on your goal (12 is the minimum - no maximum). Cross over books are allowed.

Grab the button and do a post about the challenge.

Keep a running list of the books you've read and passed on.

Leave a comment with a link to your post and you are entered (no Mr. Linky).

Have Fun and GOOD LUCK!
Reading Challenge #3 -
ebook Reading Challenge
Challenge Guidelines:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
--Non-bloggers: Include your information in the comment section.

2. There are four levels:

-- Curious – Read 3 e-books.
-- Fascinated – Read 6 e-books.
-- Addicted – Read 12 e-books.
-- Obsessed – Read 20 e-books.

3. Any genre counts.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1, 2011 and lasts until December 31, 2011.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post about the E-Book Reading Challenge. Include the URL so that other participants can join in and read your reviews and post.

I am going to join at the Addicted Level - 12 books.  Since my book budget will be smaller this year than ever before, I will be limited in the number of books I can add to my e-reader.  I am hoping for some Barnes and Noble gift cards for Mother's Day, Birthday, Anniversary....

Reading Challenge #4 -
2011 Global Reading Challenge

The Easy Challenge

Read one novel from each of these continents in the course of 2011:
North America
South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)
The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own ´seventh´ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it).

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.

The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2011:
North America
South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)
The Seventh Continent

Try to find novels from fourteen different countries or states.

The Expert Challenge
Read three novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
North America
South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)
The Seventh Continent

Select novels from twenty-one different countries or states if possible. (For Australasia, selecting a different state for your last book will be acceptable)

I am joining at the EASY level, commiting to one book for each continent.

I will be posting individual sign up posts for each challenge for each with a list of books for each.  To find the reading challenge that is right for you, visit A Novel Challenge. 

2010 Reading Challenges Wrap Up

I joined 4  - year long reading challenges this year and I was afraid to even think about evaluating my success on any of them.  I lost my reading mojo at the beginning of the summer and gave up on it around September.  I couldn't seem to finish a book and had about 8 laying around the house in various stages of "unreadness".  But, as my dear husband would say, I "manned up" and evaluated how little I had accomplished this year. 

I was most successful on the Take Another  Chance Challenge - I joined at the Small Gamble Level, requiring me to read 3 books out of my comfort zone.  I actually read 2 out of the 3.

The Historical Fiction Challenge was also fairly successful.  I signed on at the Obsessed level or 20 books.  I completed 14 out of the 20. 

I was really interested in the concept of the Social Justice Challenge, but once I lost my reading mojo, there was no hope of me focusing on the serious topics and heavier content of the books this challenge necessitated.  I hope another challenge like this comes my way at some point as I really want to complete the list of books and actions steps I had planned.  I did read books for Religious Freedom, Water, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse, and Child Soldiers and Children at War, so 4 out of 12 books. 

The Read the Book, See the Movie challenge was an epic fail for me.  I did not read one book, nor see one of the movies I put on my list.  This challenge however still interests me and I hope to read the books and see the movies from my original list in 2011. 

All in all, not as bad as I thougth it would be.  I read 35 books in 2010, 20 of which were for challenges.  This gives me hope for the challenges I am considering signing up for in 2011. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Writer's Workshop - 10 Reasons I'm Glad It's Fall

I stumbled across Mama's Losin' It and her Writer's Workshop today and it was truly what I needed to jumpstart my writing.  I am a descent academic writer,  but creatively and expressively I don't believe I write very well.  Most writing challenges are overwhelming and quite honestly scare me, but this one, with its variety of writing prompts made me feel comfortable.  I chose prompt #5, 10 Reasons I'm Glad It's Fall, mostly because for the first time, in Georgia it actually FEELS like fall.  Enjoy.

10 Reasons I'm Glad It's Fall

Pumpkins -
I love anything and everything about pumpkins, the color, the smell, the texture, the taste, basically everything.  My favorite family outing is our trip to the local pumpkin patch.  I have eleven years worth of wonderful pictures of my babies sitting amongst orange pumpkins, large and small. 

Fall Foods -
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all the fresh produce summer brings, but just as the weather starts to get cooler, I find myself anticipating our favorite fall foods.  Chicken Pot Pie, Chili, Chicken and Dumplings, Bacon and Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli Cheese Soup, BBQ, Pumpkin Bread and Muffins, Apple Crisp, all those wonderful comfort foods that just scream cool weather.

Again, my love of this holiday is steeped in family tradition.  Since my son's first Halloween we have hosted a Halloween Hayride through our neighborhood for trick or treat.  It is a coveted invitation.  As the kids have grown and siblings have been added, we have had a purchase a larger trailer not once, but twice.  As my son heads into middle school I am already dreading the day he says he doesn't want to do it anymore.  I think that will break my heart.

Cooler Temperatures -
After weeks and weeks of over 90 degree weather in Georgia, it feels so good to have a temperature break. 

Rec Football -
My son plays rec football and my daughter cheers.  My husband coaches and I am the team mom.  We spend alot of time at the ball park in the fall.  I wouldn't change it for anything.  This time we spend at the park together is so valuable and appreciated.  So what if the laundry doesn't get done, or we are up late doing a forgotten homework assignment.  The time is so well spent.

College Football -
We live and breathe college football at our house.  Saturday mornings are ripe with the cheers of "Game Day" which sends the dog scurrying to find his football.  Alabama and Kentucky are the two teams we follow closely since my husband played for both, but any good SEC game or BCS game will always be on our television each and every week. 

Colors -
Vibrant yellows, rich reds, subtle browns - I just adore the colors of fall.  Other than Christmas, fall is the only time I decorate my house.  I just can't wait to pull out all my lovely fall linens, centerpieces and florals to bring the beauty of fall indoors.

My Back Porch, a Cup of Coffee and a Quilt -
Without a doubt, my favorite "room" in my house is my back porch.  It is covered and runs the lenght of the house.  It is secluded from my neighbors by a variety of trees and it is a very peaceful place.  During the summer I drink my coffee there every morning until it gets just too hot to bear.  The best day however it the day I need to wrap up in a quilt to enjoy my porch in the mornings.

Routine -
Since I am a teacher, our summers tend to just go with the flow.  If we want to do it, we do.  If we desire a day of doing nothing, well, we do that too.  Fall brings back a much needed routine.  Schoool, homework, football, cheerleading, work, Book Club...  Eventhough we appreciate the freedom of summer, there is something to be said for the structure fall brings.

Horse Racing -
Growing up in Kentucky, fall always meant one very special thing -- the races.  Living 3 miles from one of the most beautiful race tracks in the United States was a dream.  We often skipped classes (both in high school and college) to catch the first race at Keeneland.  Watching those amazing animals race at such speeds around the track is truly magnificent.  Eventhough we don't get to go as often anymore, I still have fond memories of the first Saturday in October when the track would open and for 31 glorious days magic was made on the race track. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Book Week

This is Banned Book Week, so I did a bit of research on books that have been banned in the US.  I am always amazed at the books people tend to challenge or ban and their reasons behind those decisions.  A school system in Georgia several years ago had to fight a parent to keep the Harry Potter books on the shelves of their middle and high schools.  The fight went all the way to the school board, not once, not twice, but three times before it was finally defeated and the books were allowed to stay on the shelves.  I am all for censoring what my kids read, but should my opinions infringe upon the choices of others?  I don't believe so.  Do not deprive others of the choice to read a certain book based upon your values and beliefs, please allow me to do that for myself.  OK, off my soapbox now.....

There are several lists of banned books to be found online.  I randomly selected this one from Adler Books.  Upon reading the list, I found several of my favorite and most memorable books on the list (*books are books I was assigned to read for school assignments)-

To Kill a Mockingbird*
The Grapes of Wrath*
The Bastard
Prince of Tides*
100 Years of Solitude
How to Eat Fried Worms
Fahrenheit 451
A Wrinkle in Time
Flowers for Algernon*
Bridge to Terabithia

What banned books have you read?

Fall Into Reading Challenge 2010

I LOVE Katrina's Reading Challenges at Callipidder Days.  I am so glad to be joining the Fall Into Reading Challenge again.  I failed miserably with the Spring Challenge and I hope I am being more realistic with my goals this time around.  I can always depend on these challenges to jumpstart my reading.  Here is my list of books I hope to read between September 22nd and December 20th. You can find the information to join here and the post to link you list to here

Little Bee by Chris Cleeve
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged) by Alexandre Dumas
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Next by Stieg Larsson
Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Book Club pick for November
Book Club pick for December

I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali
The Know It All by A. J. Jacobs

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meme of Reading Questions

Found this gem while perusing all the Booking Through Thursdays I have missed on my unintentional book blogging hiatus.  Couldn't resist!

1. Favorite childhood book? My Brother Sam is Dead.

2. What are you reading right now? The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Know It All by AJ Jacobs, The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Steig Larsson

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
none, I owe too much money in fines to use the library!

4. Bad book habit? I fold down the corners of my pages if I don't have a bookmark.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?  nothing, see  #3

6. Do you have an e-reader?  Yes, a Nook, LOVE IT!

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?  I read several books at once.  Usually my book club book, a book for school and one just for me.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?  I choose from a more eclectic list and I HAVE to have a book the day it comes out because everyone has already read an advance copy and I feel left out!

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)  Sacred Hearts

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?  The Help

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? not often.  Usually if it is a book club pick or a student recommends it so highly and so often, I have to read it to get them off my back

12. What is your reading comfort zone?  Historical fiction, biographies, chick lit, mysteries, true crime

13. Can you read on the bus? Only if I want to throw up on the person sitting next to me.

14. Favorite place to read? My back porch or my bed - depends on the time of day and the weather.

15. What is your policy on book lending?  The saddest thing is a book unread.  I loan most of my books, if they don't come back, I just hope someone is reading them somewhere.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?  Yes

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?  All the time, especially if I am reading for research for school or for my book club.

18. Not even with text books? I write more in my textbooks than the author did.

19. What is your favorite language to read in? English

20. What makes you love a book?  an engrossing story with great characters.  If I can empathize the characters I am hooked.  Historical accuracy - as a history teacher, gross errors really turn me off.  If I can't stop thinking about the characters and what happens next after I finish the book, it goes into my list of favorites.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? a great story, especially if there is a strong female character.  I like my students to read about strong, intelligent women.

22. Favorite genre? Historical fiction, by far

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?) Fantasy

24. Favorite biography?  The Six Wives of Henry VIII

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? Yes

26. Favorite cookbook? The Southern Living Ultimate Cookbook

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

28. Favorite reading snack? M & Ms or a glass of good pinot grigio

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.  Harry Potter

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? not often

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?  I will give a negative review based upon my experience with the book only.  I try really hard NOT to attack the author, just tell why it did not work for me.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose? French

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? Atlas Shrugged - had it on my shelf for 2 years now.  Took me 10 just to buy it.  Guess I'm making progress....

35. Favorite Poet? Langston Hughes

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? None, see #3

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread? All the time

38. Favorite fictional character? Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind

39. Favorite fictional villain?

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? Historical Fiction or Crime/Suspense/Thrillers

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading. 3 - 4 months of reading for pleasure.  I am always reading something for school

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish. Atonement and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? TV

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

45. Most disappointing film adaptation? Twilight

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?  Can't answer, my husband just might stumble upon this post....

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? Maybe once, if at all

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?  A story I can't get into or characters that are really unbelievable to me.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?  I try....

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? I keep them until someone wants to read them or I run out of space.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?  The Hunger Games, not sure why.... want to read them, but just can't....

52. Name a book that made you angry.  My Sister's Keeper.  Threw it across the room when I finished it!

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?  The Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) and The Red Tent

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?  Sacred Hearts by Sarah Durant

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?  Mystery/Crime/Suspense formula books.  Jonathan Kellerman, Lisa Gardner, etc.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I'm Still Here...

Wow, I have neglected not only my blogging, but my reading as well.  The end of April and all of May are just crazy in the world of a teacher.  I have managed to read a couple of books, but finding the time to write a thought out review has just not materialized.  However, my AP exams are over!  My students took the last one on Friday afternoon, my grading is caught up and I only have my final exams to write, final projects to grade and my room to pack up.  Trust me that is a piece of cake compared to what I have had going on the past couple of weeks. 

The best news I have had all week is that I have a job for next year and a full schedule of classes.  Whew!!!  With all the budget cuts in education in Georgia none of us felt safe until we had a contract in our hands.  Mine is signed and delivered and I can rest a bit easier now. 

I will be getting some reviews up soon. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Salon - April 2010

Wow, I didn't realize how little I read this month until planning this post. Hopefully I will find more reading time soon.

April Review

The Reluctant Suitor by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoffis

Reviews Written

Monique and the Mango Rains
Day After Night

Currently Reading

To Hold the Crown by Jean Plaidy
The Know It All by A J Jacobs

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Booking Through Thursday 4/22/10

It’s Earth Day … what are you reading? Are your reading habits changing for the sake of the environment? What are you doing for the sake of the planet today?

I am currently reading The Know It All by A. J. Jacobs, a satire written by a journalist about his experience reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. I am thoroughly enjoying it.
My reading habits have changed
  • I recycle all magazines and newspapers
  • Share my books with neighbors, colleagues, family and students
  • Purchased an e-reader
What am I doing for the sake of the planet today? The past year has been one of change in our household as we become more and more aware of how our individual actions affect our planet. Here is a list of the small things we do in our household to "make our world a better place" (a quote from 6 yo Boo Boo last weekend when she saw some kids planting flowers at their school).
  • Use reusable shopping bags wherever we shop, not just the grocery store. Most of them are made of recycled materials.
  • Switching out all lightbulbs to more energy efficient ones
  • Grow our own produce - we started a rather large suburban garden last year and I did not have to purchase much produce last summer and fall. We expanded this year to blueberries, strawberries, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Installed a water barrel to use to water vegetables, fruits and flowers
  • Turn off lights when we leave the room (we are still working on this one!)
  • Recycle as much as possible
  • Use BPA free reusable water bottles
  • Cook at home as much as possible

We have a long way to go, but I believe our family has made some positive changes in the past year. How about you? What are you doing to "make your world a better place"?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Book List - Three Favorite Eras to Read About

For Lost in Books meme, The Book List - a short and fun meme that lets you make and share lists of books.
This week's topic is - Three Favorite Eras to Read About

1. Tudor England - this is by far my favorite era to read about. From Catherine of Aragon to Jane Parr, I am and always have been intrigued by everything revolving around Henry VIII and his many wives. As I have read more and more about this era, I have developed a deep respect for the literary and political advances of the time. His marital woes aside, Henry VIII was an innovative king and his dabbling in humanist ideas and the encouragement he offered men such as Sir Thomas More set the stage for the changes to come in Europe and the world.

Favorite books from the Tudor Era - The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett

2. World War II - During my high school history classes this was always a favorite topic of mine. I was devasted in college when I could never fit the WWII History class into my schedule. As an AP European History teacher, I probably spend way too much time on this subject (but the students don't mind!). The sacrifices, the heart wrenching stories and the ultimate triumph of determination and spirit make this era one I cannot resist.

Favorite books from the World War II Era - Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Dairy of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

3. Modern Day Middle East - this is a new era of interest for me, sparked of course by the influx of Middle Eastern literature due to the recent conflicts in the area. Most of the fascination comes from how radically different the cultural norms are from our everyday existence. Another pull to this era is how women are treated.

Favorite books from the Modern Day Middle East - A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra, Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

4. Civil War Era - I know, I know, I am only supposed to list 3, but the Civil War was the very first era I was interested in, going all the way back to reading Across Five Aprils in 3rd grade. This era developed my intense love of historical fiction as well as establishing my love of history which led to me chosen profession. My father being a member of the local Civil War Roundtable, just sealed the deal.

Favorite books from the Civil War Era - North and South by John Jakes, In the Season of the Wild Rose by Clara Rising, and the classic, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Booking Through Thursday 4/15

This week's Booking Through Thursday Question -

In general, do you prefer the beginnings of stories? Or the ends?

I love a good beginning, it grabs your interests, pulls you in and keeps you going to discover the wonderful characters, plots, twists and turns of the book. For me, if the beginning doesn't get me, I probably won't finish the book. Now, I do love a good ending as well, but many, many times, I hate to see a book end because it means I have to say goodbye to a time, place and people that I have grown attached to. The end is where my emotions take over. This is where I cry (The Friday Night Knitting Club, Death Be Not Proud), get angry and throw the book across the room(My Sister's Keeper), sign with longing (Gone With the Wind), smile with hope (A Thousand Splendid Suns) and a million other emotions. I think it would be fair to say I enjoy the entire reading process. After all, isn't that why we read?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monique and the Mango Rains - Two Years with a Midwife in Mali

by Kris Holloway

Monique and the Mango Rains is a memoir following the friendship of a Peace Corps volunteer and an overworked midwife in Mali It is an honest and heart tugging view of life, especially for women in a lesser developed country.

In the developed world we, as women, take for granted so many things -- the ability to choose our own spouse, clean drinking water and an indoor bathroom, to use birth control or not, being in control of our own finances, giving birth in a safe, clean environment, access to health care and medicines for our children and seeing our children survive childhood. In many countries in the developing world, all of these are considered luxuries -- in Mali, to achieve even one of these is a miracle.

As Monique Dembele's midwife's assistant, Kris Holloway experiences first hand some of the most horrifying statistics in Africa. She weighs a 2 year old child who weighs only 5 kg (11 pounds). She treats the wounds of a woman beaten by her husband because she gave birth to a girl. She attended horrible births only to watch both mother and child die. She watched as Monique's salary was given to her husband who spent it on motorcycles and leather jackets. She helps Monique struggle to aid the women of the village against a lack of education, a lack of resoures and the oppression of a strict patriarchical society.

Yet, for all these differences there are also many similarities - somen depend on each other for support. Just like we go to lunch with our girlfriends to share our joys and frustrations, Malian women meet in the fields or at the well to share the news of the village. Women share the joys and sorrows of marriage, birth and death together. And in Mali, women are also the force behind change and innovation. Monique's determination to bring modern birth control methods and post-natal care to her village are just as radical as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony's crusade for the women's right to vote.

The relationship that develops between Monique and Kris is beautiful. Never, at any time is it an unequal relationship -- both women have so much to teach and offer each other. There is never pity or envy, complaining or preaching, just two women who bring out the very best in each other. Monique and Kris remain close long after Kris's Peace Corp assignment is over. Monique even visits the United States.

In a book that could have been so sad, depressing and hopeless, there was so much love and hope. This book will stay with me for a long time.

Rating - A

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day After Night

by Anita Diamant

After loving The Red Tent, I was excited to pick up Day After Night by Anita Diamant. The book tells the migration story of a group of young women who join the Zionisht movement to Israel after World War II and the Balfour Declaration. This was a new topic for me and I learned a great deal about the settling of modern Israel. For example, when first arriving in Israel the girls were all put in camps run by the British. This seems a rather ludicrous idea after many of the settlers had just been released from German concentration camps. The camps however were clean, there was plenty of food and many educational opportunities from learning Hebrew to organizing political events.

The bulk of the story follows 4 young women as they try to settle in Israel. Their reasons and goals for coming to Israel are just as varied as their backgrounds. Diamant develops these characters so well, that you can visualize not only the physical characteristics of each girl, but also the psychological scars each bears.

The reasons people came to settle Israel were so varied. There were many staunch Zionists -- many who had fought for a Jewish homeland long before World War II. There were many who were non-religious and viewed Israel as an ethnic country rather than a religious one. There were also many who came because they had no where else to go -- they had lost everything and everyone to the Germans, so they came to Israel to start over.

This was a quick, light read, which I was not expecting given the subject. I expected more emotion and depth to the total story, but it was truly rather passive, almost as if they story, like the Jewish suriviors of the war, was tired. The story also mimics the holding pattern the settlers are in once they arrive. They wait in the camps until someone sponsors them or the British/Israeli government assigns them to the kibbutz.

This book fascinated me. I learned so much about the settlement of modern day Israel, how the settlers were treated, their reasons for coming and how the British were overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees coming to the new country. This is a great book to read if, especially like me, you love World War II novels.

Rating - B

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Book List - Books I Should Love, But Actually Hate

For Lost in Books meme, The Book List - a short and fun meme that lets you make and share lists of books.
This week's topic is - Books You Should Love, But Actually Hate
1. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling- not just The Sorcerer's Stone, but all of them, I just could not get into these. My husband and son have both devoured them as have numerous students, they are just not for me. Not a big fan of the movies either, so that has nothing to do with it.

2. The Shack by William Paul Young- This book is nothing at all like my personal perception and relationship with God,
I had a hard time believing it at all. I know others just loved it, but not me.

3. Atonement by Ian McEwan - I was the only on in my book club that did not like this
selection. In fact, it was one of the few books I have never finished. I could not connect with any of the characters and the plotline just left me cold. I was disappointed, because I really like Ian McEwan and have read (and liked) many of his other books, especially Amsterday. Again, didn't see the movie either.

To join the fun, like up to The Book List at Lost in Books!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Water - Social Justice Challenge

This is my very belated wrap up for the Social Justice Challenge February Topic -- Water. I addressed the initial questions for this topic here.

I wanted to read Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway but I had a difficult time locating a copy of the book, so I adjusted my reading to online articles. I chose to focus on dams. In my AP Human Geograpy class we were studying development and one of the first pieces of infrastructure that can contribute to the development of an area is a dam. I created a lesson comparing and contrasting the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and the Three Gorges Dam in China. We looked at the economic, political, cultural and environmental impact of each dam. Students then had to decide if each dam was a positive or negative force on the area and support their decision with specific data. Overwhelmingly they addressed the environmental and cultural concerns of the Three Gorges Dam, while admitting that the dam did control flooding and helped prevent drought in parts of China. This brought about many excellent discussion points on development, flooding, agriculture, preservation of culture and environmental concerns and the impossible situation governments face trying to satisfy all points of view. Living in a community where a dam and the lake it creates permeates many parts of their life, it was an eye opening lesson for many of them.

** I did finally find a copy of Monique and the Mango Rains. A review is coming very soon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Salon - March 2010

March Review Edition

This month I read (linked to reviews)

The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Day After Night by Anita Diamant
Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway
Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge

Our Book Club met tonight and we discussed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
We also will be reading Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff for our April selection.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sex with Kings

by Eleanor Herman

I picked up this book in hopes of finding some interesting facts and tidbits to use in my AP European History class. From the title alone, I was sure I would find something to spark the interest of a class of 17 - 18 year olds.... well, not really.

First of all the book is not written chronologically or by country, but by topics. Topics like Beyond the Bed -- The Art of Pleasing the King, Public Opinion and the Mistress as well as The Fruits of Sin -- Royal Bastards made it difficult to organize and use the information for my class. Looking for information on the political power of Madame de Pompadour proved difficult.

It ws next to impossible to keep up with all the kings and the countries they were from -- do you know how many Charles there are in England, not to mention France? At least 12, but I might have missed one or two.

I did pull afew interesting, classroom appropriate tidbits..

"Courtiers aped the king's treatment of the Queen. If he treated her with respect, so did they. If the queeen was to remain a significant pressence at court, she required her husband's support."


"Frederick III, the elector of Brandenburg, an uxorious prince who despised infidelity , appointed a beautiful court lady as his official mistress and loaded her down with jewels, even though he never touched her -- his wife would have killed him."

For the purpose I read the book -- to gather historical background and facts to add to my European History lectures -- it just did not measure up. I probably won't read other books by this author.

Rating - C

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday asks
"Do you take breaks while reading a book? Or read it straight through? (by taking breaks I don't mean eating, sleeeping, going to work; I mean putting it aside and reading something else.)

My answer - sometimes. But, I only put it aside if I have lost interest in the book. Sometimes I will start reading a book and it is just not the right time for me to read it. So, I put it on my night stand, read something else and eventually go back to it. Most of the time, I fall in love with the book and finish it quickly. If I don't get into it this time, I usually stop reading it altogether.

That begin said, I usually have at least 2 books going at a time. I have my "reading" book and my "studying" book. For example, I am "reading" Hope's Boy now. I am also "studying" How to Read Literture Like a Professor. Usually my "studying" books are related to the classes I am teaching at school and take me much longer to finish. I also have a 3rd book going on my Nook. Since getting my e-reader I find that I also keep a book going on it to read on the go. This will probably be the norm until I switch over totally to ebooks.
To join in the fun visit Booking Through Thursday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand 3/23/2010

It has been forever since I participated in What's On Your Nightstand. It always sneaks up on me. I am just lucky today that I thought about it or I would have missed it again..... To join in the fun visit 5 Minutes for Books.

Read this month -

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Day After Night by Anita Diamant
Currently Reading -

Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway
The Reluctant Suitor by Kathleen Woodiweiss
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell

Up Next -

The Know It All by A. J. Jacobs for my high school book club April selection
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for the Social Justice Challenge April Topic - Hunger
My Book Club's April pick - whatever we pick on Sunday

The Book List - Three Books You Loved As A Child

Rebecca at Lost in Books hosts the Book List - a quick meme that lets you share lists of books. This week's topic - 3 Books You Loved As a Child

1. Dr. Suess's ABC Book

My dad read it to me so many times we can still quote it to each other.

2. Twas the Night Before Christmas

My grandmother always tried to skip parts and I caught her every time! I think if I tried really hard I could still quote the entire poem.
3. Trixie Belden - The Secret of the Mansion

This book put two of my favorite childhood obsessions together - mysteries and horses. I so wanted to be Trixie!

The Friday Night Knitting Club and Knit Two

by Kate Jacobs

I am reviewing these together because you really can't read one without the other because one truly is only half the story.

The Friday Night Knitting Club was a good, solid story. One online review compared it to a warm blanket on a cold night, which is an accurate description -- it really is comfortable. The premis is a knitting club made up of multigenerational women forms at a knitting shop run by single mother Georgia Walker. As they women get to know each other, they also come to depend on one another even though they come from such different places, backgrounds and experiences. It reminded me a lot of my Bunco group. I did not know any of the girls well at first, but we have battled divorce, unemployment, breast cancer, loss of parents, homeschooling, ADHD diagnosis and a million other life events. There are my "go to girls."

I thought there were some great characters in the book, especially Cat. Cat is a high school friend of Georgia's who reappears as a damaged, spoiled socialite on the verge of divorce from a neglectful husband. Watching Cat's journey (and it is a LONG one) to self-confident, independent, successful business woman was quite a ride. She is my favorite character precisely because her journey was so rough and for her to come out in one piece was a triumph.

The second book, Knit Two picks up where The Friday Night Knitting Club leaves off, but it follows Georgia's bi-racial daughter, Dakota as she struggles to find her own path in the world. For me, I needed to "finish" the story and I enjoyed this book. However, I did feel the plot veered off in some unrealistic directions, had a few dead end events and the author tried to hard to wrap it up into a neat package at the end.

Both books were entertaining and enjoyable reads, but I liked the characters more than I liked the author. I probably won't seek out other books by Kate Jacobs, but I did dust off my old knitting needles and began knitting again!

Rating - B for both books

Monday, March 22, 2010

Everything Bad is Good For You

by Steven Johnson

I read this book on the recommendation of Stephanie at Stark Raving Bibliophile ( you can read her review here). I actually read this book almost a year ago and have recommened it to so many people (our 2009 Salutitorian quoted it in his speech!) I can't believe I have not reviewed it yet.

The premise of the book is that TV, video games and movies of current pop culture are not as bad for us as some people make them out to be. Johnson argues that pop culture grows more sophisticated each year and congnitively challenges our brains, ultimately making us smarter.

"Popular culture has been growing increasingly complex over the past few decades, exercising our minds in new and powerful ways."

Video Games -
The video games of today are much more difficult that in years past -- Pong, Pacman, Space Invaders - all these were reflex games - mash the buttons and something happens. There were no complicated tricks, tips or cheats necessary. Contrast that with Grand Theft Auto, EverQuest and Ultima that require a 200 page guidebook just to be successful, not to mention the hours of trial and error needed to figure out how to advance. Also, newer games force participants to make, build or maintain something. Civilization, Zoo Tycoon and all the Sims games revolve around the building and responsible upkeep of either a civiliation, city or amusement park with animals. The problem solving skills and creativity required rival anything teachers can create in a classroom, not to mention the variety of decision-making skills required.

"No other pop cultural form directly engages the brain's decision making apparatus in the same way"

Even television has gotten smarter. Beginning with Hill Street Blues in 1981 - television shows introduce more characters, multiple plot lines and references to current and historical events. West Wing, Lost, Seinfeld, ER, the Sopranos, even the Simpsons stretch our thinking much more than Dragnet, Mary Tyler Moore or Three's Company ever did. In order to understand and "get" all the references in current television shows, the viewer must process hidden clues, make inferences, plot line leaps, current events, historical figures, past episodes and literary references. Call me crazy, but these are the same strategies my high school AP English teacher taught me to use when trying to read "real" literature.

Film -
Like television shows, films have gotten more complex, forcing viewers to think in order to follow and understand the plot lines. Johnson compares Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings has 3 times as many characters with signficant plot lines than Star Wars. It requires the viewer, on the fly, to follow many more narrative threads and background information. The biggest change is among children's films. Compare Bambi and Finding Nemo and you will see Nemo requires children to keep up with over 20 characters and their plot lines in several locations.

"Where the child's mind is concerned, each viewing is training him or her to hold those multiple threads in consciousness, a kind of mental calisthenics."

A new genre of film has developed-- the mind-bender, a film designed specifically to disorient the viewer, mess with their heads. Think Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, The Matrix and Magnolia. Each of these films mentally challenges the viewer in some way.

Does this mean all pop culture is good for us? NO -- there is still plenty of mind-numbing junk out there. There is still the question of violence, sex and morality in general. There is still the question of how much TV, movies and video games is too much. What Everything Bad is Good For You is trying to point out is that pop culture can (and is) making us smarter than it has in the past.

"The first test screening of the Hill Street Blues pilot in May 1980 brought complaints from the viewers that the show was too complicated... Fast forward 20 years... audiences happily embrace that complexity."

Is this just a way of making us feel better about letting our kids watch TV and play video games for hours? I don't think so. My son is a much better basketball player after playing NCAA Hoops on XBox 360. He understands the game and what is allowed and what is not. I believe most of what he learned he could not learn by playing in the driveway. Watching both my kids discuss the open-ended ending to a movie and discussing the various ways the plot could have ended proves to me that they are interacting more with a children's movie that we did at their age. I think Johnson is on to something and everything bad just might be good for us (in moderation).

Rating - A

People of the Book

by Geraldine Brooks

Hannah Heath arrives in Sarajevo to restore the Sarajevo Haggadah - an ancient Jewish volume rescued during the Bosnian War. She finds several items in the book - an insect wing, wine stains, salt crystals. As she investigates each item, she discovers the mysteries of the book and how it came to be protected and preserved over the centuries.

But, there is so much more to the book. There are many, many layers to the story
  • There is the modern story of the Haggadah
  • The history and protection of the Haggadah
  • Hannah's journey of self-discovery
  • Hannah's mother's secrets
  • The story of Sarajevo itself
  • Ozren's story of redemption and Werner's destruction

Each layer is woven together to create a beautiful story, alternating from present to past in an effort to fully develop not only the story, but the characters as well. The journey of the Sarajevo Haggadah gives you faith in people, faith in survival and most importantly, faith in peace.

Over time, the book is protected not just by Jews, but by Christians and Muslims as well. It is hidden in a mosque -

"Serif and the khoja took the haggadah into the library of the mosque. They found a narrow place on a high shelf, pressed between voloumes of Islamic law. The last place anyone would think of looking"

It is saved from the Inquisition by a Catholic priest.

"Suddenly, the pen was in his injured hand. He flipped the pages until he found the place. He wrote: Giovanni Dom. Vistorini. That is who I am, in this Year of Our Lord 1609."

It is even hidden in an Israeli Holocaust museum.

"But in the end, the one who looked like a soldier understood me. He smiled at me, very kindly. Then he turned to the others and said, Well, why not? The entire story of this book, its survival until today has been a set of miracles. So why not just one more?"

Excellently written about a new and interesting topic, at least for me, People of the Book drew me in and has kept popping up in my mind long after I finished it.

Rating - A

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Reading Challenge 2010

This is my favorite challenge by far. I think I like the freedom I have to choose my books or to change them if necessary. I also almost always finish it! The Spring Reading Challenge is hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days. Visit her to learn more. The challenge runs from March 20 - June 20, 2010.

My list....

Non-fiction -
The Know It All by A. J. Jacobs (for my high school book club - April)
Flawless - Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell
Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge (for The Social Justice Challenge - March)
Fiction -
The Reluctant Suitor by Kathleen Woodiwiss
The Help by Kathrym Stockett
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (for my high school book club - May)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (for The Social Justice Challenge - April)

Neighborhood Book Club selections for April, May and June (we have not selected these yet)
April -
May -
June -


If I finish these, I also would like to read
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged) by Alexandre Dumas
Globalization by Manfred Steger
International Relations by Paul Wilkinson

Monday, March 8, 2010

Southern Vampire Series

OK, I did it, I couldn't help myself. I read all 8 of the Sookie Stackhouse books. I know I said I wouldn't, but I did.

I have an excuse... it was easy to do. I bought all 8 books as a package deal for my nook. Instead of being separate books, they were loaded one after the other, so when I finished one, I just kept on going to the next one, then the next one, then the next one, until I had read all 8 of them.

I'm still not convinced they are great books, some of the characters are flat, there are storylines that never go anywhere, there is foreshadowing that foreshadows nothing. But, I am so caught up in the drama! I have to know who Sookie ends up with!!! It had better not be Bill or Alcide, or even Sam. I was sad when she broke up with Quinn and I still hold out a bit of hope for him, but my money is on Eric. I do like Sookie more now than I did after the first book. She has developed some depth and I like how she has a conscience and sticks to her values.

I also really like how Charlaine Harris used the existence of supes to explain some real life events -- Elvis sightings, missing persons, Hurricane Katrina, etc. It is a very entertaining and creative approach.

While I'm not signing up for the fan club, I will read the other books as they become available.

Rating - B

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Booking Through Thursday - Encouragement

What a great question on encouraging non-readers at Booking Through Thursday.

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?
In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”

Luckily both my children are "readers". Bubba, my 10 yo son just devours books. His favorite gift is a gift card to Barnes and Noble, in fact we are on a first name basis there. Boo-Boo, my kindergartener is learning to read so fast and just can't get enough of it. How did I accomplish this? I read the them in utero, as soon as they were born, and all the time after. They own hundreds of books and our home is full of them. They read for 30 minutes each night before going to sleep. I didn't really give them much of a chance!

My dear husband is the only non-reader in our home. He had reading difficulties in school and never developed a love of reading. I just could not accept that! How can you not love to read?? I became determined to "fix" him. I started out slowly, always making sure there was a Sunday newspaper around, them I started subscribing to Time, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine for him, hitting on all his interests. He read them all from cover to cover. I also read to him. Yes, you read that right, I read aloud to my wonderful, non-reader husband - every night before we went to sleep. We read all the John Grisham books and several Tom Clancy's (try reading those long military, spy tomes aloud! Whew!) This got him hooked on the stories and the authors. When the children came along, reading aloud just didn't fit into our schedule anymore, so I tried audiobooks. He would listen to them in the car until finally that was not enough and we picked up a new John Grisham BOOK at Costco and he read it cover to cover! I was so proud of him. He branched out into Jack Higgins and W.E.B. Griffin and a reader was born. This year, so far he has finished 4 books and has discovered 2 new authors - Tom Grace and Stephen Coonts. I know he will never be the avid reader the rest of us are, but I feel we have succeeded in conquering his fear and dislike of reading. It is a happy day, when you can look around our family room and the TV is off because all 4 of us are involved in our own book world. I truly believe it is never too late to encourage and develop a love of reading in someone.

Dead Until Dark

by Charlaine Harris

I read this book for the Take Another Chance Challenge -- Challenge 6 - Genre Switch Up: Read a genre you have not read before.

I don't read vampire books -- I just don't, not my thing. I did read the Twilight series, but I don't consider them true vampire book (but that is a topic for another post!) Everyone is just so over the top about Sookie Stackhouse, that I decided to try one out. When I discovered I could download all 8 books onto my nook for $3.5o/book, I decided to go for it.

This was a very quick read. I read it in 1/2 a day while home with a sick child. I liked some things about the book and disliked many others. I kept expecting it to go somewhere and I just never did for me.

What I did not like - First, I have a problem with the name Sookie Stackhouse - it just does not fit the character for me. My BFF growing up had a cleaning lady named Suki - in my mind, I picture a very short Asian woman using broken English, not a tall blonde cocktail waitress with a Louisiana accent. It is just a strange name for me, just as it seems strange for Bill the vampire to be named Bill, it is just too common a name for a vampire. Secondly, I think most of the characters lack depth. Bill is just plain ole boring, Sookie's brother is a pain and Sam, the bar owner/shapeshifter is not very believable at all. Finally, there is way too much sex for me. Now, don't get me wrong, I like my trashy, rip the bodice romance as well as the next guy (gal), but I felt the sex scenes received much more emphasis than the plot line.

What did I like? I liked all the references to Southern culture; food, class structure, the glorification of the Confederacy, burial rituals and good old Southern hospitality. I like that Sookie is a telepath, but her powers are limited in some ways. I really liked the concept of vampires living out in the open. I thought the author did a great job of including prejudices against vampires in the book. I see parallels between discrimination against blacks in the South. But, by far my favorite part of the book is the way Charlaine Harris includes Elvis and Elvis sightings in the story. Brilliant!!

Since I do not have much experience with the vampire genre, I can't really say whether Dead Until Dark is a good representation of the genre. For me this was an entertaining read, something we all need from time to time. I will probably finish the other 7 books in the series eventually -- more than likely while sitting by the pool this summer.

Rating - C+

Monday, February 8, 2010

Social Justice Challenge - WATER

This month's topic for the Social Justice Challenge is Water. Several questions were presented to us related to the topic --

1. What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of water as a social justice issue?

I think of women in Africa that must walk for miles every day just to get water for their families. I think of men, women and children living in Bangladesh who drown because of inadequate infrastructure to deal with monsoon floods. I think of those dependent on water sources contaminated with chemicals, sewage, etc. I think the people who suffer from water issues, whether it be too little or too much, are those with the least economic resources.

2. What exposure, if any, have you personally had to a water shortage?

I live in the community surrounding Lake Lanier, a WPA project of the 1930s designed to dam the Chattahoochee River to create a hydroelectric power plant, a steady water supply for Atlanta and North Georgia and a recreational lake.

The summer of 2007 brought a severe drought to the Southern US and Georgia was particularly hard hit. Lake Lanier, already low from years of sub-average rainfall and the over release of water through the dam, became dangerously low -- at one point, holding only a 30 supply of water with no rain in sight. We had been on water restrictions before, but now they became more strict and more important than ever before. In a community built on revenue from the recreational activities of the lake, the economic impact was severe as well. Our restaurant was hit hard - we depended on people picking up food to take to the lake every weekend. That business virtually stopped as did my husband's paycheck. With lower water levels, came lower power levels as well. We experienced more that afew "brown outs" and were advised to stagger high electricity usage throughout the day. Water was being pulled from the very bottom of the lake and the water coming into our home was nasty - full of Georgia red clay, we had to boil it at one point. The clothes I washed were tinged red. We installed a filter system where the water comes into the house and had to change the filter weekly. We truly began to appreciate clean and reliable water.

This in no way compares with the water issues other countries face, but it is my story and it really made me look at water in a different way.

3. What potential action steps can you think of that relate to this month's theme of WATER?

Since the drought we have taken many steps to conserve water. I NEVER run the dishwasher or washing machine unless there is a full load. We bought a rain barrel last summer to use to water potted flowers and the vegetable garden. We will probably buy another one this summer. I only water the garden at night so more water will be absorbed and not evaporated. I am looking for more suggestions to help conserve more water.