Wednesday 23 July 2014

Parenting 101: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

I think that the biggest shock for me after having Benji was how much of being a parent doesn't come naturally. Obviously the instinct to look after him, keep him washed/fed/in bed at a decent hour, play with him etc was there from day one, but personally I feel like it's taken me a while to adjust to the fact that parenting is a thing that I have to learn to do well, much as with any other skill. Yes, it's enough to just get through days and some days all you can do at the end of them is be grateful that you're all in one piece, but for the vast majority of days I prefer to have some ideas about creative activities we're going to do, places we're going to visit and groups to go to. Also I'm trying to develop an awareness of what I'm trying to achieve as a parent, rather than just scrabbling about on a day to day basis. Overall I'd like my kids to be happy, sociable, polite and confident little boys. A lot of the time I feel ill-equipped to deal with some of the more challenging behaviours exhibited by Benji, and so in pursuit of the knowledge that I hope will help me to shout less and actually resolve issues successfully more I've decided to read one parenting book a month. Because when I feel like I don't know how to do something I read about it, obviously. 

July's book was Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier Kids

I will admit that before starting this book I was incredibly sceptical. I thought it was going to be a 'sell all your stuff and live in a barn' kind of book, but actually it was brilliant. The basic idea behind it is that kids in our society today suffer from too much of pretty much everything - too many toys, too much information, too many activities, too much scheduling and definitely not enough free time. The book is broken into four parts: environment, rhythm, schedules and filtering out the adult world, and in each the author addresses aspects associated with the topic. 

In principal I totally agree with pretty much all the points he makes. My children have a silly amount of toys. When you can't see the bottom of the toy box or close the lid, it's time to get rid of some! Payne argues that when children have too much choice it causes them to become overwhelmed and actually makes them less able to focus and make decisions, which seems to make sense to me. While reading this book I did actually clear out at least half of the toys from our main toy box and put them in a box in the cupboard which immediately made me feel better because there was less clutter in the front room, and meant that Benji actually plays with quite a lot of what's there now. I may reduce it by half again this week because he still can't easily get to the bottom of the box! My thinking is that in six months time or whatever, I'll bring the toys I've stored out and swap them with the ones which are there at the moment. It will be like having new toys but without having to buy anything! 

The chapter on rhythm was really interesting for me. When I was a kid we always had set things happen on set days because my mum stayed home with us, so she mostly picked us up from school and then on certain days certain things happened, like on Wednesdays we had 'sweetie day' where we each got 50p to spend on penny sweets on the way home, and on Thursdays she had piano pupils so we went to my Grandma's house where we would always eat cheese on toast and apple pies. The argument here is that many kids today don't have this sense of structure and certainty in their weeks as their parents often both work long, unpredictable hours and/or have to travel unexpectedly or just a lot with their jobs so it can be difficult to plan ahead of time for things to be the same on a daily/weekly basis. This made me think about whether or not Benji has had this kind of rhythm and structure in his life so far. We have weekly activities we mostly go to, but generally I think we're only just starting to establish this. For example we finally accepted a few months ago that if we want him to have table manners we should probably eat together, sitting round the table, with the TV off as he's so easily distracted it's impossible to keep him interested in his dinner if anything else is happening. Since finishing Simplicity Parenting I've been trying to get him to eat and sleep at similar times each day (he's had an established bedtime routine since he was five weeks old, but nap times fluctuate) and set up a regular activity to go to at least three days a week. The rest of the time we go for walks or to the playground or either of the local attractions that we have annual memberships to, or swimming or whatever. 

There was a lot in the book about how adult information floods kids' worlds without us even realising it. In our house we don't often listen to or watch the news because it makes me infinitely depressed about the state of the world, and if I find it difficult to deal with how overwhelming must all that bad news be for small children? It really made me think about the topics Rhys and I discuss while Benji and Sam are around (but especially Ben, who understands way more than people think) and realise that we need to start adjusting our conversations and keeping certain topics for when the kids are in bed! 

One thing that nearly made me stop reading was the bit where it says that children should only have - I forget if it was six or twelve - books. For all the same reasons - overwhelm, inability to make choices etc, but still,  part of me was immediately like 'step away from the book!', but then I thought about it and despite the fact that I'm never going to agree that a child should only have six books at a time, probably it actually is quite overwhelming for Ben to have a floor to ceiling bookcase packed absolutely to bursting with books. I'm thinking about swapping his bookcase for a smaller one and doing a similar thing to what I've done with the toys.

Overall this was a really interesting read and I feel like I took a lot away from it which will help me to feel more in control and hopefully make the kids calmer. I might even try to buy a copy,as this copy was from the library. 

Thursday 17 July 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Today alone I've seen at least four reviews of Rainbow Rowell's newest novel, Landline, so just to prove once again how behind the times I am, I thought I'd get around to writing up some of my thoughts about Fangirl. 

We could keep it really short and sweet; basically I loved it. I read it pretty much straight through. I found myself bringing it with me in the car and completely zoning out in the middle of conversations so I could read another paragraph, and after I'd finished I felt slightly sick and eye-achingly unable to contemplate reading a book which wasn't by Rainbow Rowell. 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
I would say that this is probably my third favourite of the three Rainbow Rowell books I've read so far. Note I don't say that it's my least favourite because they're kiiiiiind of all on the same level, but I really really adored Eleanor and Park and Attachments is just the cutest, but then I feel like when I reread Fangirl I'm going to be annoyed with myself for saying I liked it less than Attachments. Once again, I really adored the characters, especially Cath and Levi but also the whole supporting cast - Wren, Reagan (Cath's roommate), Cath's Dad - all of them were really well built characters and they all felt like people you could know in reality. The thing I love the most about all of Rainbow Rowell's characters is how human they all are. Every single one of them has personality quirks and insecurities and problems which I can relate to; I feel like I've known a lot of people who are similar to her characters and I can see myself a little in all of her protagonists. 

I don't know that there's too much else I can (or want to) say except that really everybody should be reading Rainbow Rowell, especially people who think they don't like love stories. In my opinion you'll have a hard time finding sweeter, quirkier or more real relationships in fiction. Read Fangirl. Read it now. 

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Cook It Up - A Cookbook Challenge

Cook it up Challenge

I've been meaning to write this post for about a week and haven't got around to it. I'm still settling into the first few days of taking care of two boys on my own, but now I finally have thirty seconds to myself so I can actually sit down and write about this awesome challenge being hosted by Trish of Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity. Here's what she says about the challenge:
What: Pull those cookbooks off the shelves–you know, the ones with pages you can turn–and use them! You can outline how you’d like to proceed–one cookbook a month? Or three recipes a month from any cookbook? Or even check out new cookbooks from the library. You make the rules!
When: I will put up a linky on the first Saturday of the month (I meant for this post to publish last Saturday…). Write your post whenever you’d like (and if you’d like), but don’t forget to come link up.
Where/How: Presumably your blogs but no worries if you’d rather just post on twitter or instagram (Tag me! @TriniCapini). Or just come back here at the beginning of the month and comment. I think you’ll have better luck if you blog but I also don’t want anyone to stress.
Why: Because if you’re like me, you have a giant stack of cookbooks that are collecting dust. I’m bad about searching the internet for a specific recipe rather than looking at my own cookbooks. Let’s put our cookbooks to use!
I've decided on one book per month as a starting point, given that I'm still trying to work out how the whole 21 month old plus newborn plus cooking dinner thing is going to work! I have a really silly amount of cookbooks (like, over fifty...) but I've tried to pick the ones I've either never cooked from or would like to cook from much more regularly. Here's what I've got!
I feel like British food has a bad name and I don't think it's necessarily deserved, so I've collected over the years a few books focusing on the food of our little island. The Great British Food Revival is the book which goes with the series that was on TV a few years back, where well -known chefs pick their favourite British ingredient and then put together a few recipes based around it. I bought it brand new in our local independent bookshop years ago but have yet to actually cook from it. This will be my motivation! The Hairy Bikers' Food Tour of Britain is also the companion to a TV series, and I also have yet to cook from it, but considering that it's divided into sections according to geography, with recipes focusing on the produce of each region, and there is a whole chapter devoted to Kent and its' produce, I really have no excuse not to be cooking from this book more often. 
To counteract the British I picked my next two books. The Book of Jewish Food I got for Christmas and haven't cooked from at all yet. Jewish food has always fascinated me - I have no idea why - and this book is great as it has loads of background information to all the recipes. I'm excited to step outside of my culinary comfort zone a little with this one! Miss Masala I picked up in a charity shop primarily because it was pretty, and also because during a discussion about Rick Stein's Indian cookbook, Rhys had mentioned that it might be nice to try to get some cookbooks on the food of different countries which were actually written by a person from that country, and so voila! I've been flipping through this book for ages now as it reads more like a textbook/memoir than a cookbook, and I really like that it has a lot less of the generic things you would associate with Indian cooking, and a lot more things that actual Indian people eat. 
Finally there's The River Cottage Cookbook. Hugh Fearnley - Whittingstall, despite his ridiculously hyphenated surname, is pretty much my favourite TV chef. I love how committed he is to growing his own and using local produce and foraging! Because of him I no longer blink an eyelid when I walk past the butcher's van and see half a pig hanging in it. We have The River Cottage Family Cookbook and I cook from it all the time, but I've not made very much from the original cookbook upon which he made his name, so I will be rectifying that! While I'm not a massive Nigella fan, I do like her books, mostly because most of her recipes involve stupid things that nobody ever has in their house and I find it amusing to try to find them in the supermarket/work out what on earth they are so I can think up a similar substitution! How to Eat has been on my shelf since I worked in an Oxfam bookshop six years ago, and I think I've cooked from it maybe twice? I feel like I should discover if there's anything great in it. 
So that's the six. One a month, but I may well make more than one thing from the one I'm cooking from that month, depending on the kind of month I'm having! I'll probably be starting with The River Cottage Cookbook and will tie my posts in with the weekend cooking meme :-) 
Additionally I have these two kids cookbooks which were recently given to us that I plan to use on a weekly basis to find things which I can involve Benji in the making of. They don't really count because the recipes are incredibly simple and the kind of thing I'd be making anyway, but they provide inspiration, and there may well be some new cool stuff I'll put into a post, so I've put them in!

So that's my lot! Anybody else taking part or cooked from any of my books? Any recipe recommendations?

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Top Ten TV Shows

I haven't participated in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish for a while now, but it's a good way for me to feel like I've been posting while not actually having to find the mental capacity to write reviews, so here it is! It helps that this weeks' topic is amazing. 

I don't talk much on the blog about my obsession with boxsets of TV shows and movies, but they are my other love. I don't have as many DVDs as I do books, but we do definitely have a lot and it's been a long time since I've really thought about the series that I love, so this will be fun! Here are my top ten TV series!

10 - Scrubs

I have to admit I've not watched this for years, but I do still own the first 8 seasons of it and frequently walk around humming songs from the musical episode. There's a lot that annoys me about it, but equally a lot to love, and Dr. Cox is one of my all-time favourite characters. Plus there are still certain episodes which make me tear up every time I watch them. Although I haven't watched it for ages I doubt I'll ever bring myself to get rid of my box sets!

9. Mr. Selfridge

I only started watching this because it had ladies wearing pretty dresses and men wearing top hats and then it turned out to be really interesting and have some awesome people in it. Love the mixture of history, glamour and scandal and the plot twists they keep throwing in. I also love Jeremy Piven as Mr. Selfridge despite his tendency to be a douchebag. He balances it with so much social responsibility and being an awesome boss I just can't help loving him. 

8. Once Upon a Time

I still haven't seen the last few episodes of Season One of this as Lovefilm kept inexplicably not sending us the sixth disc, so I'm keeping my eyes open for the box set so I can finally get to Season Two! There are things about this series that are a bit cliche and over the top, but it's a series based entirely on fairytales and fairytale characters so there was pretty much no way I wasn't going to love it. Rhys and I have been pondering for a while why it is that we can't hate Rumplestiltskin...

7. How I Met Your Mother

Disclaimer: I haven't yet seen the last season and I'm fully aware that the final episode will probably destroy any remaining respect I had for the show's writers. That said, the first four (and a bit of season 5) seasons pulled me out of my post-Friends slump and I love love love Marshall and Lily. Since we got rid of our TV licence over a year ago, I'm well behind and need to do some catch up watching from season 6 onwards, but who knows if I'll ever actually bother to watch the final episode? 

6. Doctor Who

I never thought I'd be into Doctor Who. I seriously resisted watching it when it was first reincarnated, but then was forced to while babysitting and fell in love. Then I met Rhys, who is pretty into it, and so I inherited a set of box sets which we've since watched over and over, and then I decided that Karen Gillan was the most awesome thing ever so I started watching it regularly and haven't looked back. There's so much to love. I'm still not sure how I feel about Peter Capaldi....

5. Black Books

"If you live in a council house,next to a river, but are not blind..." enough said really. If you haven't ever watched this series, please please do. One, it's set in a book shop. Two, Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey have probably never been funnier, and I say that having seen Dylan Moran live. Three, the piano episode!! 4, doing your tax return really is exactly like it is in that episode where he does his own taxes. 


I have no words to describe my love for Sherlock, and it's only slightly dependent on my love for Benedict Cumberbatch and his amazing coat. So well written, such awesome actors, such brilliant twists on the original stories. I wait for every season with ridiculous amounts of excitement and anticipation, and then, three episodes and it's over and back to the waiting! I am beyond excited for season 4. 

3. The Big Bang Theory

Mostly I love The Big Bang Theory for how many kids I've met who are no longer afraid to say they love science (and maths, computing, and even English and other such geeky subjects!) because of this show. My little brother freely admits that Sheldon is his role model, which does more than slightly worry me, but I'm sure there are worse role models to have in today's society! The main characters in this are far and away the most relatable of any show I've probably ever watched - I know somebody like almost all of them. Again, I'm really behind on it since we don't have a TV licence and can only run BBC iPlayer through the TV without a massive faff and loads of cables I can never find, but I'm planning on buying all the seasons ever pretty soon!

2. Gilmore Girls 

My sister got me into Gilmore Girls years ago and everybody else in our family hates it, so it's like our secret love and the other week we were actually having a conversation about the characters as if they were real people. I think I probably love it so much because it really feels like they are, though. I feel like if Rory Gilmore and I met in real life we'd probably be really good friends, because of all the reading and stuff. People like to tell me that the series is really 'girly' and 'silly' and 'unrealistic' but actually if you pay attention, they reference a lot of obscure things from literature, music, theatre and various other paths of life, and actually you have to be pretty smart to fully appreciate the humour most of the time, so there all my other siblings, it's not mind-melting rubbish! Also I don't know a fan of the show who doesn't want to live in Stars Hollow, and it always, without fail makes me want to eat junk food, read books, and go back to school...


I've owned all ten seasons since before it ended, and I can give you a Friends quote for almost every situation. I totally understand all the things people dislike about it as a series but I love it in spite of all its' flaws. It's the sitcom I grew up with and I don't think anything else will ever be quite the same for me :-) I think I've probably watched every episode more than ten times and I often laugh preemptively. Because I'm the coolest, and there's nothing you can say to make me ashamed of it!

Friday 11 July 2014

Birthday, Baby, and Other books

As you may have noticed, June was not only the month of the Ninja Book Swap, but also the month including my birthday and the day that I gave birth. When you have awesome friends and family who know how important books are to you, this equals a vast amount of incoming books, and because I really love writing posts full of pictures of books and lists, here's what's come into the house in the last month! My Ninja Book Swap haul I've already blogged about so as to stop you all from being entirely buried under my pile of books. You're welcome.

Ok, so firstly I got a couple of books for review this month, which I haven't been doing for a while but these both look awesome so I had to really. Firstly, Myriad sent me a copy of Alarm Girl by Hannah Vincent which sounds really awesome and it's pretty short so hopefully I'll be able to get through it fairly quickly! In a normal month that would have been the highlight, but then this morning this turned up on my doorstep:

and it's signed! I was invited to the pre-publication event but couldn't go because of having just had a baby, so I'd contacted Headline to say that I wasn't going to be able to make it and then this turned up, which is exciting not just because books for review are always exciting, but also because I was totally quoted in the reviews in the inside of Shadow of Night. I'm going to be starting The Book of Life next and I'm really quite excited! 

OK and so now, onto my amazing birthday and baby presents! This bit is quite overwhelming really. Since moving to Kent and having babies I've sort of lost touch with a lot of the friends I'd had for years - either we have nothing in common anymore, or they've just stopped calling/texting/coming to see me EVER and I've got sick of making all the effort. Obviously there are some lovely ones who have stuck around, and one of my best friends who's in Australia but still manages to keep in touch more than some people who live down the road, but for the most part the people who have cared the most in the past two years have been the ones I've met online. These are people that I no longer consider 'online friends' but just friends. Because they do things like read my blog posts and send me cards so I know that they've noticed I'm feeling down and they care about it - thank you Charlotte :-). And find copies of Peter Duck in shops and post them to me because they know I'm looking for it. Katie, you're awesome. And when I have birthdays and babies they overwhelm me with cards and parcels and lots and lots of Waterstone's giftcards, and it's awesome. I didn't take pictures of all of the cards/giftcards, but I've been taking pictures of the stuff I've got with my birthday money and some of that will be in this post. Today I bought Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed from Waterstone's online but obviously I have no pictures as they've not arrived. 

Anyway! There was a day when we came home to an epic amount of parcels. If you want to see a picture of how my face looked, read my Ninja Book Swap post. Three of the parcels were from Hanna and one from Laura and they were all amazing. This is the combined total - it barely fit on my table!

One of the parcels from Hanna contained my birthday presents - Teapigs Chocolate Tea which is pretty much the most relaxing tea I've ever drunk and just thinking about it makes me want some *toddles off to make chocolate tea*... Birthday Cake flavoured M&Ms which are seriously amazing, and a Waterstone's giftcard which I have yet to spent :-) Pretty much the perfect presents for me! Then there was a parcel for Benji, which was Ten Wriggly Wiggly Caterpillars which he absolutely adores! He already has Ten Tiny Tadpoles by the same author and is obsessed with it, but I don't think Hanna even knew that so she must be psychic! Finally there was a massive box-shaped parcel. When Benji was born Hanna totally surprised us (and made me cry a little) by sending a shoebox full of gifts for him, all of which were amazing and so thoughtful (and the parenting book she sent, Politically Incorrect Parenting by Nigel Latta, pretty much saved my life in the first few weeks, as well as being responsible for Benji sleeping at night), so I suspected she'd done the same for Sam and I was right! This is how the box looked before I unpacked it:

And when unpacked it contained the buggy book and rattly wrist animals you can see on the top, and a lovely card plus board book copies of When the World Was Waiting for You, The Odd Egg and That's Not My Prince. I've already read the first two to Sam while feeding him at stupid o'clock, and the That's Not My book is being hugely enjoyed by Benjamin who is a massive fan of the series. 

Then once we were done opening Hanna's parcels we opened this lovely one from Laura, who had already sent me a Waterstone's giftcard for my birthday, and who I knew was sending some books she'd bought for the kids but I didn't know what (apart from a back-up copy of The Gruffalo for when the one we have - which she also bought us - gets destroyed!). What was in the parcel was a super-cool card which is also a height chart and is currently on Benji's wall, and The Gruffalo plus an awesome book called Books Always, Everywhere! for Sam, and three Moomin books for Benji which are absolutely beautiful. 

Yesterday I was sat at home feeding Sam (pretty much all I do at the moment is feed Sam) and another big parcel was delivered. This one was from Ellie and because I knew it was coming I didn't even manage to get a picture of it all wrapped up before I went mental. She'd colour coded the wrapping paper - silver paper for the baby presents, purple paper for my birthday presents - and sent awesome cards which I really love both of. Her gifts were also so thoughtful. It really is amazing how well people you've only met a handful (or in Ellie & my case, once) of times can know you! Here's what I got:

So firstly a Very Hungry Caterpillar card because that's the book she sent Benji when he was born (and because we both relate to the Caterpillar a lot), and then some amazing smelling Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate which I cannot wait to try (I'm literally waiting for Rhys to get back from work so we can have some), two face masks which you can't imagine how excited I am about, some lovely smelling fruity lip gloss aaaaaaaaand The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt!! I squealed a little bit when I opened it because I really loved The Secret History and I'm so excited to read this! 
This is what the boys got:
Wrist and ankle animal rattles (which it totally doesn't matter that Hanna also got because now he has variety!), the board book of Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson & Axel Schefler (who are firm favourites in our house) and a gorgeous DVD called The Angel and the Soldier Boy which I'd never heard of before but which Ellie loved as a child and she is right, it's like The Snowman without the crying. I think it will become a favourite here and I so love that she's passed on something that she and her family love so that our family can love it too :-) 

Finally I was given some money by my Grandma and my father-in-law, and I spent a bit of it when we were in Waterstone's in Bluewater the other day. This is what I got:

As you can see, they were both on the 'Buy One Get One Half Price' offer and I read The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer and really enjoyed it, and also read and loved Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson so that's pretty much the reasoning behind both of those. That and the fact that I was trying to shop off-wishlist because Ellie's parcel hadn't arrived yet and I didn't want to duplicate!

Sorry that was so long, but like I said, it's been a busy month and I have awesome friends! Thank you so so much to all of you, and to anyone who's actually got all the way through this post! :-) 

Have you read any of my books? Where should I start?

Monday 7 July 2014

What I've Been Reading

Since Sam was born I've been reading like a demon, mostly because there's very little else I can do at 3am while he decides to feed for 2 hours (other than play Kingdoms and Lords on my phone...) and I've been meaning to get around to writing full reviews for everything but it's been two weeks and increasingly it seems like it's unlikely to happen, so I've given up and am just going to write little mini reviews of all of them in one post. Here goes! 

 First up, Mr Penumbra's 24 -Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane. I was reading this at my last clinic appointment before having Sam. Usually clinic is quite prompt so I'd only brought this one fairly small book which I was pretty far through and lo and behold, this was the day they were inexplicably running an hour late. Having finished the book after fifteen minutes I had nothing to do but sit there watching the incredibly disturbing videos they like to show expectant mothers about why you should never leave your child unattended in the bath and the importance of rear-facing car seats... Not the funnest trip ever, but I did really enjoy the book, which I'm glad about as opinion was divided when I started it! Clay Jannon starts working as the night clerk of a 24 hour bookstore after losing his job as a designer for a bagel company, and pretty soon he realises that it's not just an ordinary bookstore. Things progress from there and it reminded me a little bit of Scarlett Thomas's writing in The End of Mr Y and a little bit of The Historian and lots of other good things. Overall I enjoyed it, although I wasn't quite as blown away by it as I'd expected to be and to be honest I did find the ending a little bit of a letdown, but I really loved all of the characters and generally the plot was really well paced and pretty gripping. If you're planning on reading it already, I would definitely say go ahead :-) 

I was actually reading Using the Plot by Paul Merrett while sitting around the induction bay at the hospital, as a way of distracting myself from all the mindless crap they show on ITV in the daytime. I honestly think I went into labour just to avoid having to watch any more Jeremy Kyle or Loose Women. Urgh. Anyway, the book is really interesting. Lots of you will know about my adoration of shopping local, growing your own and the overall idea of self-sufficiency and the premise of this book is that Merret (who is a Michelin star awarded chef) and his family will have an allotment and live solely from the produce of the allotment, without visiting any supermarkets at all, for a year. Mostly, it's about how that fails, but it's an interesting look at the realities of maintaining an allotment, especially with kids who mostly don't want to be there and wife who is varyingly supportive, and the difficulties of actually being fully self-sufficient, especially with the British weather being as unpredictable as it is. It also has the massive appeal of being half recipe book, which was a major draw for me. Not as good as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but interesting if you're interested in this kind of thing, and particularly if your parents happen to live in Ealing, up the road from where Merrett has his allotment!

Of everything I've read, Tell the Wolves I'm Home is the one which deserves its' own review. I've tried - there's a paragraph sitting in my drafts which has been there for nearly two weeks - and I've reached the conclusion that it's just not going to happen. Much as there is loads I could say about this book, I can't make it form a coherent review, so here we are. A lot of people told me I would love this book and that I would cry, and they were right. I nearly got away without crying, but then something happened right at the end and it got me. Anyway, it's set in 1987 which is, coincidentally, the year I was born, and is pretty much a story about AIDS, but it's incredibly beautifully written. The relationships between the characters are really well thought out and pretty intense and within the novel so much hurt and damage is caused by people who don't understand and won't talk openly about the subject because it's so taboo. The importance of telling kids the truth and discussing difficult subjects with them is one I've been thinking about a lot recently and Tell the Wolves I'm Home really brought home the importance of communication as well as the complexity of love. Seriously amazing, everybody should read it. 

And finally, I got Little Beach Street Bakery in my Ninja Book Swap parcel from Kelly of Paper Obsessed and read it in two days. I've read and loved both of Jenny Colgan's Cupcake Cafe books as well as both the Rosie Hopkins books and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, so it was a pretty good bet that I was going to enjoy the latest of her food -orientated 'woman finds herself alone, decides to make the most of it and start a business venture, thus finding talent and strength she didn't know she had' books. Although Little Beach Street Bakery was pretty predictable in terms of storyline, there was a little twist I wasn't expecting, and the writing was as engrossing and enjoyable as always. All in all it was exactly what I was expecting it to be, and the perfect read for recovering from childbirth! 

So that's everything I've been reading lately. I also started reading Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon, which is what Outlander is published as in the UK, but I found it quite difficult to get into and then I realised I'd run up another huge library fine, so it's gone back for the time being but I'm sure I'll give it another go at some point!

What's everyone else been up to while I've been absent? 

Saturday 5 July 2014

This Week I Have Been Ninja'd...

Ok so maybe ninjad isn't a word, but it should be! This month has been a bit awesome for the acquisition of books, so much so that it needed to be split into two posts. There is another upcoming post revolving around the books I got for my birthday/the birth of Sam, but I thought I'd do this one first mostly because I still have quite a few pounds of Waterstone's vouchers to spend from my birthday! 

This week both of my parcels for the Summer Ninja Book Swap arrived and they were both amazing, I'm feeling incredibly lucky. In case you're new to the blog and have no idea what the Ninja Book Swap is, it's basically like a bookish secret santa for bloggers but runs at Valentines, Summer and Halloween rather than just Christmas. You can find out more details here and if you're interested in receiving a reminder email with the sign up info once sign up opens for the next one, just email us at ninjabookswap(at)outlook(dot)com and we'll put you on the list!

So anyway, onto the goodies! My first parcel showed up the day we arrived home after a day out to find this lot waiting for us:


As you can tell, I was a little bit excited! Apologies for how rough I look, Sam was about a week old :-p 

Here's parcel number one, from the lovely Kelly of Paper Obsessed:

gorgeous wrapping!

I have to admit I did actually, physically squeal when I opened it to discover Stitch n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker, because I borrowed it from the library a while back but really learning to crochet from a borrowed library book isn't the greatest and I'm super excited to attempt to teach myself again now that I own it! It has some gorgeous patterns in it, because I need more projects, obviously! As well as that the parcel also contained Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan which I've already finished and which has been perfect reading for the 3am feeds with Sam, a lovely notecard which I will probably use in a future swap parcel, a 'Whooo's been reading my book' owl bookmark and a little badge saying 'so many books,so little time' as well as a lovely little note. Thank you so much Kelly, I loved everything in my parcel!

I had a few days to calm down from that one before my second parcel arrived. This one was sent by Leanne (@_BookClub) and everything was inside this super awesome bag:
a bag with books on!

I've been so lucky with my parcels, once again. This parcel contained an awesome book card, an Alice in Wonderland fridge magnet which was perfect due to my love of both Alice and keeping everything on the fridge,  Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt and The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac which has the honour of being the book which started my wishlist years ago so it's amazing that I finally have it! And also a little book called Sew and Save which is a collection of reproductions of the government issued booklets on clothing during the Second World War and it's great! 

Both my parcels were amazing and once again I've had an amazing Ninja Swap experience! Thanks to both my lovely swap ninjas, you've made me feel very spoiled! :-)