Tuesday 9 December 2014

Bad Reader

(image from etsy - available here)

Oh, I've been bad. Really bad. Bad at reading.

I had high hopes of crossing a large number of books off my list for the Semi Charmed Winter Book Challenge, but I only managed two. And some people have finished the whole bleeding book challenge! Most annoyingly of all, I am way behind my sister. That really grates, especially since it was me who suggested she sign herself up for the challenge. What was I thinking?!? I'm hoping the Christmas break will give me a chance to catch up, but in all honesty, I'm probably deluding myself.

So what did I manage to read?

1.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley (374 pages) which I would rate 3.5 stars. Yes, I'd recommend it.  In fact I did, to my father in law, who has taken in home with him. This earns me 10 points as a book with a food in the title.

2.  Dinner at Mine - Chris Smyth (352 pages) which I would rate 2 stars. It was entertaining enough, but lacking in substance. Would I recommend it? If you were in dire need of something to read. As this was one half on my two books with different meals in the title, I can't even count it towards my total points!

So, these two tomes bring my total to 10 points. I'm not impressed at myself. Let's see what next month brings, heh?

Monday 3 November 2014

nose in a book

It's Day 3.  And I'm still in the middle of The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels.  There's nothing wrong with it, it's a beautifully written book and all, it's just not on the list I've supposed to have started for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge.  And boy, I really want to start some of those books!

Sunday 26 October 2014

like a kid in a book shop?

The Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge is about to commence!  I'm very excited, since I didn't manage to participate in the summer one and I really missed it.  This challenge seems to be the main motivator for me to keep reading (although I have recently joined a lovely book group so that's been helping too).  Since the challenge was announced, I've been scouring the internet to find contenders for the categories that I didn't already have on my bookshelf.  Here are my ideas, although I can't promise that these decisions are final!

5 points: Freebie! — I’m leaving this one open at the moment, since I’m hoping to read one of my book group books for it, and we haven’t chosen the next selection of books yet!

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books. — The Steep Approach to Garbadale, Iain Banks (390 pages)

10 points: Read a book of short stories. — Echoes From The Macabre, Daphne Du Maurier (319 pages)

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title. — The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley (363 pages) 

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you. — The Maze Runner, James Dashner (384 pages) or, and I’m slightly ashamed to admit this, Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery (280 pages).  My eldest daughter has just finished reading this and is adamant that I should read it too.

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language. — Grotesque, Natsuo Kirino (467 pages).  If anyone else is looking for ideas for this category I highly recommend Blindness by 
Jose Saramago (320 pages)

15 points: Read a book written by a local author. — The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, Katherine Pancol (447pages) (She's French.  And this was a hard topic to find a book for.  Yet another reason to move back to Scotland, methinks).

20 points: Read a "bookish book." — The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly (321 pages)

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title. — 
South of the Border, West of the Sun, Haruki Murakami (224pages)

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don't usually read. — Stalin Ate My Homework, Alexei Sayle (321 pages) – autobiography

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title. — Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro (304 pages) after Never Let Me Go by Florence and the Machine

 30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title. — Campari for Breakfast, Sara Crowe (304 pages) and Dinner at Mine, Chris Smyth (295 pages)

Monday 30 June 2014

The Rituals of Elsie

When I started thinking about my daily rituals this week, I immediately thought I didn't have any.  I spend so much time actively looking after my kids - cooking for them, clearing up after them, helping with homework, finding pieces of LEGO and Playmobil, taking them to and from school and activities - that I would honestly have said that there was no time for a daily ritual of my own.  Well, I do insist on a morning cup of coffee, but even that is gulped between spreading Nutella on toast and making the snacks for school.

Then, last Friday, I took the time to take some photos of me and my littlest spending our day together.  I realised that our day together has a lot of structure and that these "rituals" are very important to my littlest girl.  This is our typical Friday.  Let me talk you through it.

1.  I go get Elsie from her bed.  I am greeted with a big smile and often we have the following conversation - "Where's Elsie?"  - silence - "Oh there she is!"  (giggling) followed by, "Hello, Mummy!"  "Are you feeling cheeky today?"  (grabbing her cheek) "Leth!"

2.  Elsie has a cup of milk every morning.  It has to go in the "round and round" and she has to be picked up to watch it do its round and round thing.  When it pings, she opens the door, takes the cup out, places it out of the way, then closes the door.  She picks the cup up, I put her on the floor.  I ask, "What do you have to do?"  She answers, "Close it, shake it, open it, drink it."

3.  Before we go anywhere she gets her sandals and while I'm putting on the first one, she grabs the second and hides it behind her back.  It's brought out with a flourish and much giggling.  And an explanation for me ("Sandal, hiding, back, mummy!"), in case I thought it was real magic.

4.  She always gets a croissant to eat as we go around the supermarket.

5.  When we get back to the house in the car, by the time I get to her door to get her out, her eyes are squeezed tight shut.  In case I am in any doubt she tells me she is "sleeping" and stays that way, big grin on her face until I tickle her.

6.  We walk to playgroup together.  She holds my hand.

7.  Until she gets to the ditch.  Then she has to walk in the ditch.  Right to the end.

8.  She stops to look at the water in the barrier.  In each and every individual section of the barrier, I should mention.

9.  At playgroup we count the stairs as we walk up them together.  There are three sections of 6 stairs each.  We have been doing this for nigh on a year.  Today she said, "No.  My count them.  Three, six, three, six."

10.  Every Friday night since she could sit in her high chair she has made her own pizza for pizza night with her siblings.  More often than not, this involves eating as much topping as she can get away with before it goes on the pizza.

These little rituals sometimes take a lot of patience.  I would not like to calculate how much time we have spent going through the rigmarole of heating up her milk.  I'd probably find it quite depressing.  But the fact that these rituals are so important to her makes them worth doing.  If we have to miss one, maybe because we're in a rush to be somewhere, I can't stand to see her brave but disappointed face.  And like other rituals that seemed so all consuming (singing Incy Wincy Spider 400 times a day, for example) I'm aware that these too are fleeting, to be replaced by others and then forgotten by her, remaining important in my own mind only, when she was my littlest girl, and these things were everything to her.

Monday 31 March 2014


A rare opportunity came our way and led to my husband and I spending last weekend alone, without children, in a posh hotel in Geneva.  This is the first night that we've spent without at least one of our children for nearly 8 years.  We did all sorts of things we had forgotten were possible.  We dined on curry after getting tipsy on fizzy wine before going out, we strolled around a flea market without buying a thing, we visited (but failed to understand) a modern art gallery, we drank hot chocolate in a posh Geneva chocolaterie and even managed to sneak in a beer at a pub in the afternoon.

But the highlight of my weekend was simply enjoying Channel 4's Sunday Brunch from the comfort of my bed while sipping a complimentary Nespresso or two.  I know technically I live in a hotel, but it doesn't quite compete somehow.

Anyhoo, yellow was my photographic theme of the week so here are some yellow things we came across as we tramped our way around the city.

Saturday 22 March 2014


For those of you who don't know me, nearly four years ago my husband and I bought what we thought was the house of our dreams.  A big, old, rambling former hotel, it was a fixer-upper.  The roof leaked, the hot water boiler gave out on us during the first six months and half the house had neither heating nor electricity.  We soon discovered the windows let the rain in when the wind blew in a certain direction, which happened to be the direction that always brought rain.  

But something drew us to this old house.  There have been many moments over the past years when I have lost sight of what that something may have been.  These have included moments such as when we had to set the sprinkler up in the garden to have our first shower in a week, due to the inside shower leaking through the hall roof whenever it was used. Moments like the time I phoned the council in tears because for six weeks I had been bathing my children in a baby bath filled from the kettle and a national strike meant that our mains gas couldn't be connected.  Moments like the night the ancient and decrepit swimming pool burst and drained down the hill into the neighbours' garage.

It's nice to be reminded of the things we liked about the house because it is fair to say that this old house has caused us more infighting and stress than anything else we've gone through yet.  Bringing up small people, and doing up the inside of the house so that we have somewhere to do the bringing up of said small people is horribly time and energy consuming.  That's why the small insightful moments, when they come, are delightful. For instance, this week I was reminded how excited we were by the potential that the garden offered us.  

I spent a morning photographing what was going on in the garden and I think it's fair to say that spring is here.  But the best thing is that these signs of spring have not come from any kind of intentional gardening - they are things that have sprung up from what was here already, growing wild.  And they are beautiful.  Taking the time to seek them out has inspired me this week.  If my garden can contain such beautiful snippets without me trying, what can it be capable of showing us when I actually get round to getting it under control?  Maybe this year is the year for that.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Winter Colours

It was such a beautiful afternoon, I made the time to take a short walk (in between ballet lesson drop off and pick up) to record the winter colours in our village.

I should mention that my assistant posed for each and every one of these photos, even though she wasn't always in shot!  

Sunday 19 January 2014

The Year in Books: January

If you have happened to stumble on this little blog, you may have noticed that when I do get round to writing something (an infrequent occurrence I am sorry to say) that most recently it has been about books. If you have delved slightly further into my older posts you may have discovered that at one point in my life I loved to read. But then life kind of took over and I failed to find the time.

Last summer I came across a reading challenge and thought it looked like fun, so I signed up. And to cut a long story short, it seems to have given me back my reading mojo. And I also discovered that when I have a book on the go, I begin to feel a bit more like myself, like the genuine me and I am all the better for that.

Sadly, the reading challenge is having a bit of a break until summer. When I discovered this I panicked. Without some sort of goal would I still manage to make time for books? The answer is probably yes but to keep me from speculating I've decided to join in with The Year in Books over at Circle of Pine Trees, if Laura will be kind enough to have me. This means I will be posting my book choice at the start of each month, and aiming to read it before said month is out.

My January choice is Amy Sackville's Orkney chosen because it is about a couple who met at university honeymooning on one of the Orkney islands. Well, my husband and I met while both working for our university in Orkney and we returned to spend our honeymoon there a few years later. I can't let a good coincidence like that pass me by! I shall be back in February to let you know how I got on.

By the way, that's our new wood burner in the background.  It's been a dream to get one installed for quite some years and so far we are absolutely loving it.