28 July 2008

What Should I Do With All This Trash?

I know, I'll glue it all together and call it folk art.

The Galleria hosted the annual Red Bull Art of Can exhibit where the primary materials used needed to be Red Bull cans. People were quite creative.

LaQuina has been in town with a horde of teenagers this month but was able to escape Saturday for an afternoon of Houston's lesser known beauties.

First Stop: The Beer Can House
John Milkovisch did not enjoy mowing his lawn. As a result for this distaste, he paved his yard with an assortment of items, including beer cans, marbles, etc. From there, he began covering the outside of his home with what came to be over 50,000 beer cans in the form of wallpaper, curtains, and various home decor items. Oddly enough, this home is in a nice area, surrounded by condos and very presentable houses.

The creator of this inspiring establishment.
Please take note of the bottom button on his shirt.
"Some people say this is sculpture but I didn't go to no expensive school to get these crazy notions." --John Milkovisch, Beer Can House Extraordinaire

Second Stop: The Art Car Museum
Each May, Houston holds an art car parade where vehicles like the following are decorated with a particular theme and driven through the city. During the year, a couple of the cars are housed in the museum.

This car was made mostly with pieces of tile.
A close-up of the handiwork.

So hardcore

More close-ups.
Can you spot the dentures?

Thousands of shells, some with fake pearls glued inside

Third Stop: The Orange Show
The strangest, creepiest visit was the Orange Show Monument. Housed in Houston's "lovely" Third Ward is a man's tribute to his favorite fruit--the orange. It took about 20 years for him to build and was full of orange memorabilia, unnerving circus items (complete with a mini stadium), and an assortment of misspellings.

Not to be mistaken with Confucius.

Final Stop: We enjoyed Amy's Ice-Cream--a Texas original

We loved having you here LaQuina!

Book Review: Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Historical Fiction
Book Level: 5.3
5 Stars

Set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, a 15-year-old girl copes with the loss of her mother and the use of her hands during an extremely desolate time. The author writes in beautiful (non-rhyming) poetry where the rhythm captures just how desperate the era was. It was so well-written that it makes me want to have another go at The Grapes of Wrath...

24 July 2008

Book Reviews

Jonas insists on being held for a large portion of the day, which has afforded me the opportunity to sit down in a rocking chair and read (when I am not catching up on Project Runway and Shear Genius--embarrassing, I know). I love to hear about good books from other people, so I decided to pay it forward and offer my two cents about what I've been reading since the birth of our son. This is also a way for me to keep track of what I have read and what I liked/disliked about each story. Warning: I have 10 boxes full of a 5th graders classroom library and my literature selections reflect that. Currently I prefer these easy reads where I can take away a message if I want to, but I can just read it for enjoyment if I choose to do so.

Flour Babies by Anne Fine; Realistic Fiction; Book Level 5.2; 5 stars
Summary: The low-achieving high school class is assigned to take care of 6 pound sacks of flour (pretending they are babies) for a science project. Simon Martin comes to terms with his potential, with his father leaving him, and with the strength of his own mother as she raises him. The condescending teacher and other typical staff are subtly entertaining. Great voice.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman; Fantasy Fiction; Book Level 7.1; 3rd person; 4 stars
Summary: 11-year-old Lyra travels with a group of gyptians to free children who have been taken by Gobblers, while being hunted by the Gobblers herself. She uses a truth instrument to guide her dealings and is also unknowingly an instrument in a greater fate. Well-written, though starts off extremely slow (I'm glad I persevered--the beginning was so boring but it picked up later). Suspenseful throughout, details are in order, and enjoyable. Disappointing ending--sets up for a sequel instead of wrapping up the story. And if you've seen the movie...the book is far better and ends in a different, more surprising manner.

Walking to the Bus Rider Blues by Harriette Gillem Robinet; Historical Fiction; Book Level 4.1; 1st person; 4 stars
Summary: Follows Alfa (male) and his sister Zinnia in segregated Montgomery during the bus boycott. The story addresses prejudice, especially as the family worries about being able to pay the rent since they are both experiencing theft and being accused of theft as well. Strong vernacular. Easy to understand; message is still strong.

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston; Non-Fiction; Book Level 6.7; 1st Person; 3 stars
An account of Jeanne's experience in a Japanese internment camp called Manzanar during WWII. Interesting; shows camps were not like concentration camps, but were not a walk in the park either. Houston reflects on her proud father (without painting a "golden" image of her family). Not condemning--just an account of what happened, how it affected her family, and her subsequent coming to terms with the experience at a later age. Very honest; as a minority, certain aspects of apologetically fitting into American culture resonated with me.

Shredderman 1: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen; Realistic Fiction; Book Level 3.3; 1st person; 3 stars
Summary: 5th grader Nolan Byrd finds a way to creatively stand up for himself against the school bully by creating a secret internet identity and helps others do the same. Fun, easy read.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (unabridged) by Lewis Carroll; Fantasy Fiction; Book Level 7.4; 3 stars
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll; Fantasy Fiction; Book Level 7.6; 3 stars
These two books can go together. They are very imaginative and were forerunners to children's literature written for adult entertainment. Feels like a 7-year-old's stream of consciousness. Details are limited so it is difficult to create mental images and the conversation is very abrupt.

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech; Realistic Fiction; Book Level 5.0; 1st person; 2 stars
Summary: 13 year old Zinnia taylor copes with the loss of her Aunt Jessie by clearing 20 miles of a recently discovered trail between two towns. Struggles with being the "unknown" child in a large family and is suspicious of the intentions of pursuer J Jake. Poor character development, but interesting insight into the grieving process.

All is Well by Kristin Embry Litchman; Historical Fiction; Book Level 4.2; written in 3rd person; 2 stars
Summary: Follows daughter Emmy who is part of a Mormon polygamist family and her relationship with a "Gentile" neighbor in Salt Lake City during the 1800s. Her father must go into hiding due to the persecution of polygamist families. The book has simple language and is easy to understand. The dialogue is not particularly well written, but it does give interesting insight into why polygamy was practiced and how families could live that way.

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
Worked wonders in silencing Jonas' screams in mere seconds.

On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo
Interesting ideas about feeding and getting babies to sleep through the night. For me personally, it's more appropriate for a baby who is about 3 months (although he suggests to start the process at birth). Helped me learn not to nurse the baby to sleep and we've reaped the benefits of doing so.

The Breastfeeding Answer Book by La Leche League International
Saved. My. Life.

What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
I've read through three months of age. It's a helpful guide. I wish I would have read all the newborn stuff before Jonas was born.

Heading Home with your Newborn: From Birth to Reality by Laura Jana and Jana Shu
Written by two pediatrician mothers and helped me understand some of the finer aspects of babies that had me worried--fevers, umbilical cord care, etc.