Beautiful! Beautiful! I'm overjoyed. Something Pema Chodron first introduced to me, too--always read your dharma texts out loud. (if they are Sutra or Shastra--I.E. they were composed by enlightened beings, so their words are magic!) You will thereby benefit even the insects or animals or invisible beings around you. Another more scientific reason for this is that, whether we are strong readers or not, we absorb text better, slower, and more deliberately when we read aloud because we are using both auditory and visual stimulae.
Initially I have been just reading them through without trying too hard to analyse anything, just to get a feel for some of the concepts.
Once again, you're doing wise things already. You should analyze and scrutinize (after reading--via contemplation), but many teachings/texts that are the most profound are totally inaccessible the first twenty times we read them. We may think they are simple and straightforward, only to realize years later we had only the most cursory, superficial understanding of them. So to read them aloud with no particular agenda, just to marinate yourself in the teachings, this is hugely beneficial. Later, try to set aside specific times (car rides alone, walks, whatever) when you contemplate specific aspects of the text--not practice, but contemplation.
Visiting Chinese temples I find I am always coming back to the images of Shakyamuni and Guanyin. Once again, I don't really know why, it's just compelling.
Again, wonderful. Please please please think of Guanyin again and again. With a willow frond, with the vase of nectar, any form--whatever. Please find an image of him/her that you find particularly moving and put it somewhere high. These are my sincere requests--- they are not teachings or something--I'm not qualified to do that! I just know that, in my life, no other figure has been as pervasive and powerful. Here are some really cool forms of Guanyin : http://fodian.xinwenwuzhe.com/world/gwo ... agesa.html There are massive amounts of images but all my favorites are under the 33 forms. You may feel leery of this; most of us from the West are raised with a strong aversion to "idol worship" and superstition---but when you understand the motivation behind it--it makes total sense. And reverence for/keeping images of the Buddhas is an indispensable practice.
Read those treasured Sutras. Recite Tadyatha Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha whenever, all the time. It's totally appropriate. It's good for toothaches, bad dreams, car accidents, the time of death, orgasms, and earthquakes. It's in a sutra so you need no specific permission or empowerment to use it to full magnitude.
I feel like your Mom rushing you out the door with a million reminders "It's cold, wear a jacket!", "don't forget to tip well!" and "Always wear a rubber!" but seriously---its been really awesome to offer you the little that has helped me.
(Don't misunderstand my zeal for being a qualified teacher or something. I'm just really, really excited.)