Friday 4 October 2013

More Challenging Reading

I've decided to launch myself straight into another of Megan's Reading Challenges.  My mum is visiting for a little while, and it's been great fun to discuss the potential books I might read for each category with her. She's a librarian and avid reader herself, and she has always helped me to choose my books, so much so that I often get a little bewildered if I have to choose a book all by myself from the huge selection that's out there.

Again, I've additionally challenged myself to limit myself to what's on my bookshelves at the minute. There are some categories I can't do this for so I'll be treating myself  (on my Kindle most likely!) Chocolat by Joanne Harris will be a reread.  I don't often do these but I'm already looking forward to sampling that lovely book again.

Here are my ideas, though I'm not always good to sticking to a plan, so these may well change as we go along.

5: Read a book that does not have "the," "a" or "an" in the title. — Confinement, Katherine McMahon (368 pages)
10: Read a book that has been featured in Oprah's Book Club. — The Book of Ruth, Jane Hamilton (328 pages)
10: Read a book that takes place in the country where you currently live. — The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery (322 pages) (France)
15: Read an epistolary novel. — The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank (352 pages)
15: Read a book first published in 2013. — Life After Life, Kate Atkinson (480 pages)
15: Read a book with something spooky in the title. — Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, Chris Priestly (241 pages)
20: Read a book with "air," "water," "earth" or "fire" in the title.  Late Nights on Air, Elizabeth Hay (276 pages)
20: Read a book on which a television series has been based. — Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman (298 pages)
25: Read a fiction book that has someone’s first and last name in the title. — The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce, (338 pages)
30: Read two books by the same author. — White Nights and Red Bones, Ann Cleeves (412 and 406 pages)
35: Read a fiction and non-fiction book about the same topic. — Chocolat Joanne Harris (382 pages) and

The Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone with a Passion for ChocolateChloe Doutre-Roussel (224 pages)

This time there is the added incentive that if I am an early finisher, I get to choose a category for the next challenge.  Nothing spurs me on like a reward so I'm already reading every chance I get.  But in addition to this challenge, I'm attempting to knit my daughters a Christmas present, and trying to squeeze in some French lessons.  The hall is half stripped of wallpaper and I'm about to embark on an introductory course to landscape gardening.  My littlest is teething and not sleeping as a consequence.  Time is not something I feel I have to hand at the moment.  But reading is something I love to make time for so we'll see how I go.

Sunday 22 September 2013

I like big books and I cannot lie...

printable bookmarks available from I Should Be Mopping the Floor

That phrase always makes me titter.  I'm not sure why really.  Hmmn. Childish sense of humour maybe?  I'm still giggling out loud about the Agent Zoil joke in Paul which we watched a week ago.  Yup, a childish sense of humour probably explains it.

Anyways, I'm just popping in to say that I've finished the Semi-Charmed Summer 2013 Reading Challenge! Yay, me! In case you are wondering, the final books were:

15: Read a banned book. - The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky (244 pages)
20: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. If you have been to all 50 states, choose a book that takes place in a country you have never been in. Also do the latter option if you are not American. - Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Book Store, Robin Sloan, (304 pages)
25: Read a book with a main character who shares your first name. - Pedigree Mum, Fiona Gibson (400 pages)

And boy, have I enjoyed it!  I honestly never thought I'd finish but it seems that having a goal in mind really spurred me on.  I'm very grateful for Megan at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life for her book challenge and for giving me back my reading mojo.  I am determined not to stop, so I've jumped straight into another book recommended by my dad (The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant).  And all that kindling I did made me realise how nice it is to get straight to the right page, saving me from my more normal three-minute-faff-around-while-I -search-for-my-place-each-and-every-night, so I've printed some lovely bookmarks as a reward to myself. You can have some too if you follow that link up there.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

On Reading (and not taking photos...)

Poopity poop. I kind of lost track with the August Break (sorry, Susannah). I took a lot more photos, but some of the categories really stumped me.

I have been reading though and was surprised when I checked up this morning that I'd almost completed the Semi-Charmed Summer 2013 Reading Challenge. Woo hoo! Would you like to know what I've been reading?

5 points: Freebie! Read any book you'd like. - Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (448 pages)
5: Read a book that is less than 150 pages long. - A Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes (150 pages)
10: Read a book with a color in the title. - The Red Queen, Phillipa Gregory (432 pages)
10: Read a book that is not the first in its series. - Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins, (480 pages)
15: Read a book it seems everyone but you has read! - The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (484 pages)
15: Read a banned book.
20: Read a book written by a celebrity. - Is It Just Me?, Miranda Hart (336 pages)
20: Read a non-fiction book that is not a memoir. It can be pure non-fiction or narrative non-fiction. – Attention All Shipping (A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast), Charlie Connelly (373 pages).
20: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. If you have been to all 50 states, choose a book that takes place in a country you have never been in. Also do the latter option if you are not American.
25: Read a book that is at least 400 pages long. Gillespie and I, Jane Harris (624 pages)
25: Read a book with a main character who shares your first name.
30: Read a book written by an author who was born in or died in your birth year. - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer (368 pages)

So, that gives me 140 points and three books to read by the end of the month.  I've started Pedigree Mum by Fiona Gibson which features a main character called Kerry and am thoroughly enjoying my divergence into 'chick lit'!  I've long been a fan of Fiona Gibson's musings in her columns about family life, which I used to read in The Herald of a Sunday.

Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Book Shop by Robin Sloan is set in San Francisco, so that will fit the 'country I've never been to' category.  It's downloaded onto my Kindle already.  (Did I mention that I am currently LOVING my Kindle?  We've not always been friends, but we're getting on well at the minute.)

I don't know what to read for my banned book. I was hoping to read The Great Gatsby but I've unpacked the final box of books from our house move (three years ago) and can't find it.  The Kite Runner is on my shelf, but I saw the film and don't relish the thought of reading it.  I suppose I could change the category for The Hunger Games, but I can't readily think of a book that everyone has read but me.

I won't worry about it at the minute since so many books have practically fallen at my feet to be included in this challenge. For example, I stumbled across Fiona Gibson's book with my name in it from a random non-book related Google search.  And I had planned to read Jonathan Safran Coer's novel, which I'd never heard of until I found it in a charity shop recently, only because it takes place in America.  It was as I was randomly flicking through the bits at the back (not true.  I'm actually stalker like in my search for information about authors...) that I realised he was the same age as me.  Like the character of Chloe in Sarah Addison Allen's The Sugar Queen, I'll trust that the right book will find me when I'm in need of it most.

Sunday 11 August 2013


Even play needs to be taken seriously sometimes!


This is a drill bit which my husband bought to drill a hole to let water into our new water butts.  I don't normally get excited about machinery and tools, not in the way he does, but I love the colours on this.  And it did drill a very nice hole.  We must be the only people in France hoping for rain now to see how the water butts perform!


One thing I love about summers in France is the fact that you can buy large quantities of delicious seasonal fruit at very reasonable prices. We came back from the supermarket with this box of peaches this week. Elsie couldn't resist and grabbed one on the way back to the car. Angus and I ate most of the rest.


When I look at this photo I see freckles, potential skin problems in the future for my sun-exposed d├ęcolletage, crazy hair in desperate need of a cut, held back by not one, but two, pairs of sunglasses and a T-shirt the same colour as my filofax.  Ah, I do so love my new filofax...

I'd never have been able to publish this photo if I hadn't take Susannah Conway's Unravelling course way back in the beginning of the year.  It helped put a lot of things in perspective and I'm still feeling the benefits today.

Oh, and I'm seriously hoping a selfie is in fact a self portrait.


I borrowed this image from my husband.  My eldest spotted the rainbow from her bedroom and came rushing downstairs to tell me. We tried to take a photo, but our cameras were out of charge.

Saturday 10 August 2013


A rare sight in our house - bookshelves with enough room for a slump.

Monday 5 August 2013

Close Up

My new filofax.  This photo could equally as well have fitted in the love category.


My husband told me on Sunday morning that there are enough diamonds in the world to give every man, woman and child on the planet a cupful.  But I wouldn't swap a cupful of diamonds for mine. I've been wearing it on and off for 10 years now and I love it (and the man who gave it to me) even more now than I did when he slipped it onto my finger.

Semi Charmed Book Challenge

In my younger years I loved to read.  I'd read before I got up, between showering and getting dressed, while cooking and in bed of an evening.  Once I read two books in one day (we'd just moved to Switzerland and I had a LOT of time on my hands).  When I had my first baby I read while she fed.  Then she started to grab the book, and failed to sleep and the times for reading slipped away.  Add three more children to the mix and I've read hardly anything for nearly a decade.

But I've been thinking recently about me, and who I truly am, and I realised that I'm not me without a book on the go.  So I decided to read.  It was hard to get back into it and I started a lot of books that I just didn't finish.  And it was especially hard to read fiction.  I think I felt guilty taking time for pure pleasure instead of reading to learn a skill, or something I could place some, albeit arbitrary, value on.  I read a lot of books about religion without meaning to.  I read a lot of self help books.  I read a book about how to write a book. I read a book about how to carry out art fraud. I probably won't, by the way.  I decided I needed to get back into fiction.

So I read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell.  It perhaps wasn't the easiest choice but it was a good mix of fact and fiction and I read it slowly over a couple of months.  And I loved it.  Thomas Cromwell was quite a guy it turns out.  I think I maybe even developed a crush on him.  But after my time with Thomas, I found it hard to find another character who caught my attention.

I often work well to a deadline, so I searched around the internet to see if a reading challenge might be the way back into books.  Nothing really jumped out, but I subscribed to a blog which collects reading challenges.  And then, coupled with a chance visit of a friend who inspired me by mentioning he'd set himself a challenge to read a book a week, I stumbled across The Semi-Charmed Book Challenge.  And the book I'd started on the 5th of July fitted not one, but two categories!  I took it as a sign and am now working my way through each of the categories, with the further proviso that, where possible, the book has to come from my book shelves and not be purchased.  (Although I didn't have time to read, I certainly had time to buy a lot of books!)

I doubt I'll win. I doubt I'll even complete it in time. But I am having more fun with reading than I have in a long time.

Saturday 3 August 2013


We polished off the day with some Japanese Slippers.

To make your own, mix equal quantities of midori, triple sec and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with a pile of ice cubes.  Strain and enjoy.  We reckon they tasted just like soor plooms.


This is day 1 of the August Break challenge (please note that I've even managed to put a little button over there), and is a little late in coming!  This was my breakfast this morning, made all the more special in that two of my children had a long lie, the other two were happy to eat their toast in front of the television and that I was joined on my sunny balcony by my most loving cat, Meg.  I think she's gorgeous and goes particularly well with my favourite skirt!

My breakfast this morning consisted of muesli, orange juice and green tea.  I'm trying to count my calories at the minute so the orange juice was a treat.  I've recently given up coffee and am thoroughly embracing the change to tea.  I managed an early morning cycle today and was looking forward to this tea like you wouldn't believe!  It did not disappoint.

Friday 2 August 2013


I think I'm going to take part in Susannah Conway's August Break (although I'm late in starting because her first photo prompt is breakfast and for the last two days I've been so hungry I ate it before I could take a photo of it.  I shall endeavour to remember tomorrow.)

Here's my circles photo - some hula hoops me and the kids made this week.  Some are made from scratch (and still need to be decorated), and others are up-cycled using electrical tape and old dirty hoops we found lying in the garden.

My eldest has inspired me to have a go at hulaing (or hooping?) - she's so good at it - and, guess what! With my large, heavy, home-made hoop I can do it!  For at least a minute at a time!  I even have the bruises to prove it...  And it's good for you too.  My interweb research suggests it can burn 100 calories in 10 minutes and firm up mummy-tummy.  But for the moment, we're just having fun in the sun.

If you fancy having a go at making your own giant hoop, I recommend this tutorial which we loosely followed.  I chose it over others because she has a happy sounding blog.  And I didn't knowingly copy her photo idea, honest!