Monday, February 28, 2011

Book of the Week: This is the Farmer

A library find, and a variation of the rhyme "this is the house that Jack built."

It has endearing pictures of farm life, with clear, simple outlines and bold colours. There's only a few words on each page and the text is much larger than I have seen in any other book - it's great for babies and I suspect it would also be good for beginner-readers.

It ticked all of Little E's boxes as it has multiple pictures of cats and dogs, as well as other animals she recognises.

There's a good sneak peak of a number of the pages on the Harper Collins website.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Today I am grateful for ... saving and swimming
This morning we meant to go to the pool but didn't quite get there. Instead we went to the Baby & Kids Market and Little E scored a handful of new toys plus a couple of books for cheap, very cheap!

We saved the pool for after lunch, by which time we were all feeling a bit flat and hot and not knowing what to do with ourselves. It was worth the hassle of wrangling bathers and suncream onto all of us and venturing out into the heat, all of which prior to going felt like far too much effort. It wasn't a long outing - a splash in the baby pool, a swim in the big pool, a snack for everyone, and home - but it chased away the grumps and we are all revitalised.

And grateful. Check out Maxabella's Grateful Saturday to see who else is feeling thankful this weekend.

T-shirt image from

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Suburban Sunset

Taken with fancy new phone and fancy new photo app!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book of the Week: Old Favourites

 Eli's book of the moment is anything that has flaps to turn, and there are so many of them that it's not worth writing about any one in particular. She is so enamoured with lifting the flap that she now looks for flaps on every book she comes across and seems surprised that not all books have them!

My mention of re-reading in a post last week made me think I should write about the books I re-read the most. I do go through phases where I like some more than others, but here are the main culprits:

1. Anything by Tamora Pierce. I discovered the "Alanna" (officially "The Song of the Lioness") quartet when I was about 10 or 11, at which point she had only written that series and part of the next. She has now published nearly 30 books. She is one of the few authors whose books I will buy without having read them first. They were the first "fantasy" books I read and I still enjoy the genre today. Her slight quirk on the genre is that almost all her protagonists are female. If interested, see - there is a description of each series as well as scene samples.

2. Kate Forsyth's The Witches of Eileanan series. More female driven fantasy, but extremely well written. It draws on myths of medieval witch burning as well as other aspects of the medieval world. When you put it like that it sounds like every other fantasy series around but I promise this one is different!

3. The Harry Potters. Enough said.

4. Enid Blyton. More irregularly these days, but I do still drag them out occasionally. Only really the Famous Fives, as they were what I read as a child. As an adult I've discovered others, including the Adventure series, but haven't enjoyed them as much. Has anyone else discovered that? As a child I knew that the likelihood of a four children winding up on the wrong aeroplane, then in a valley in some random European country, that had some convenient caves for them to sleep in, that just happened to contain long-lost Nazi-stolen treasure, which of course they would help recover was .... remote. But as a child it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book. Now, sadly, it does.

5. Nick Earls, particularly Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses and Perfect Skin. Australian realist, comedic drama.

6. The Babysitters Club. My not-so-secret, guilty pleasure. They are so trashy and even as a child I knew they were not well written. But I still like them enough that, despite having sold the 30 or so I originally owned during a moment of poverty ridden student angst, I recently re-started the collection courtesy of eBay and now own nearly, ahem, 100.

7. David Eddings. The original people-on-horses-trotting-around-medievalish-world-looking-for-magic-stone.

8. The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. I was stoked to discover a year or so ago that there was a new one I didn't know about as a child. And the "Anastasia" series by Lois Lowry who I think of as the poor cousins to the Ramonas.

10. Laura Ingalls Wilder. When I was in Year 4 our teacher asked for a suggestion for a read-aloud book and I recommended The Long Winter. The rest of the class hated it so much that it was abandoned after a few chapters. I still love them.

11. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Akin to Kate Forsyth in that they bridge the gap between fantasy/realism, are beautifully written and unlike any other fantasy out there.

I was going to restrict the list to 10, but didn't quite get there. Here are the almost-made-its in no particular order:

* Anne of Green Gables etc
* Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy et al. Haven't read these in quite some time, but for a while in high school I thought they were the smartest, funniest thing ever written.
* Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn series. I have been reading these as a child and there is still one to come!
* John Marsden's Tomorrow series. This possibly should have made the main list. I realised how well I knew them when the movie came out and I could tell which dialogue had been altered and a lot of the time say the original line.
* Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman family books
* Madeleine L'Engle's Austin family and Murry family books. Now I'm thinking about it both these, as well as the Cynthia Voigts should probably be on the main list too, if practically being able to recite parts of them is one of the criteria.

And just to show that I do re-read things other than trash, here are my slightly more literary re-reads:

* Goldengrove Unleaving, Jill Paton Walsh
* Grand Days and Dark Palace, Frank Moorhouse
* Hunting and Gathering, Anna Gavalda
* Captain Correlli's Mandolin, Louis De Bernieres
* The Harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange, Ruth Park

The main photo is of "my" bookshelf. When D and I moved in together we did somewhat integrate our books, but so many of them are mine that I still feel that the bookshelf pictured is mine rather than "ours." We joke that now that we live in the suburbs, we have a "library" ...

... complete with little helper, whose latest favourite game is pulling everything off the bottom shelf and ripping into it! One day we will get floor to ceiling bookshelves.

Do you have read read and read again favourites? I would love to hear about them!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Belated Book of the Week: Decision Points

Oooh, an actual grown-up book! We haven't come across any children's books we've enjoyed as much as the first four, so here is one for those over two! 

And a real surprise it was. I will start by saying that it was D's purchase, not mine. Prior to reading this, everything I knew about George W., I disliked. Chronically disliked. I thought that he was an ignorant, inarticulate, lying, redneck buffoon. I knew D felt similarly about him and so was surprised he wanted to read this, although I've always known he's more open minded than me, so perhaps I shouldn't have been! Admittedly this book is an autobiography, so you'd hope that Bush would manage to portray himself favourably, but I was still really surprised, for a number of reasons:

1. The man is not (at least not academically) stupid. He has an undergraduate degree from Yale and a MBA from Harvard. This alone was a revelation to me, given how dumb he often sounded in the media.

2. Many of his domestic policies were ones: a) I had never heard a word about and b) I actually found appealing. He made really significant changes to America's Medicare system by enlarging it to cover prescription drugs. He tried to reform immigration laws so that the millions of people who enter America illegally could apply for temporary visas to work on specific jobs for set lengths of time (the Bill did not pass the Senate).

3. Prior to reading the book, I was very opposed to Bush's approach to stem cell research.  The main thing I knew was that my aunty, an emminent molecular biologist, was appointed to Bush's bioethics council. In 2004, after publicly criticising his policies on stem cell research, he failed to reappoint her, in what the media reported as a political move. It is clear the issue of stem cell research was a very difficult one for Bush. Even if he did later turf my aunty from his committee, (seemingly a few years after deciding on his policy) I was impressed by his discussion of opposing views and the number of opinions he sought before deciding on the policy.

4. I wound up believing him about Iraq. Prior to reading the book I thought that he had used the claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons as an excuse to topple a regime of which America disapproved. However, he was convincing:
"I had been receiving intelligence briefings on Iraq for nearly two years. The conclusion that Saddam had WMD was nearly a universal consensus. My predecessor believed it. Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill believed it. Intelligence agencies in Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, China and Egypt believed it. ... If Saddam doesn't actually have WMD, I asked myself, why on earth would he subject himself to a war he will almost certainly lose?"
He also sought a wide variety of opinions: aside from those which came from official sources he spoke to "scholars, Iraqi dissidents in exile, and others outside the administration." Ultimately it was his description of his reaction upon realising that Iraq did not in fact have WMD:

"Members of the previous administration, John Kerry, John Edwards , and the vast majority of Congress had all read the same intelligence that I had and concluded that Iraq had WMD. So had intelligence agencies around the world. Nobody was lying. We were all wrong. ... No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."
So, an adult book. Non-fiction at that, and something I hadn't already read dozens of times. I'm still not sure I would have voted for Bush had I known this stuff beforehand. But a pleasant and interesting and clearly and persuasively written surprise. I urge it on Bush supporters and haters alike.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today I am (belatedly) grateful for ... the beach and books

1. We live a 5 minute drive from the beach. We don't got as often as we should. This morning we went (to Swanbourne rather than our local beach) and had a lovely walk along the path to North Cottesloe. On the way back I realised Little E had fallen asleep in the pram which is quite unusual these days. It was a weird time of day for her to sleep as she'd only been up for about two hours, but was I complaining? Not when there was a lovely new cafe, the Naked Fig, to provide a cup of tea and a newspaper! Eonly slept for about 30 minutes but woke up happy, and despite not having brought bathers for either of us I decided it was such a beautiful day (and that given E had had such a strangely timed sleep that she should get completely tired out) that we would have a swim. So we sat in the shallows and played with water and sand and were both very happy. The weather lately has been such that if we get out at about 7:30 or 8:00 we have an hour or more before it gets too hot, so my resolution for the week is that we need to get to the beach more often.

2. Books. I couldn't survive without them. I mainly read fiction, although since I no longer work I do enjoy non-fiction more. I re-read my favourites compulsively, particularly childhood favourites. I can't really figure out why I do this, as there must be several dozen books that I have read literally hundreds if not thousands of times each. All I can say is that I find the process relaxing; the familiarity of the plot and characters allows my mind to switch off, wind down and go elsewhere. When I pick up a book I've read before I don't always read it from cover to cover, I often just dip into it and re-read bits I particularly liked, or sometimes just open it and randomly read chunks. I do also read new things, but they're certainly outweighed by the old.

This post is a late entry to Maxabella's Grateful Saturday, which I didn't get around to writing on the weekend.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The little things aka a happy morning

We had a series of crummy days last week so were well overdue for a good one. It didn't start very promisingly, with E deciding wake-up time was 5:25, however, we were able to string her out until a bit after 6:00 without too much grizzling. D hooned off to work, deciding to eschew the home breakfast options in favour of breakfast in town. I'm not convinced this actually saves him much time (although I know when I was working that getting out the door sooner always felt like it did) but it is more interesting than a bowl of muesli.

"I feel like pancakes" I announced as he whizzed out the door. And then, as the laundry door rattled shut, said to E "well, why shouldn't we have pancakes?"

So we did. We did some whizzing of our own down to Floreat beach, where I discovered we were a bit early for the cafe. While we waited for it to open we had a walk along the boardwalk between Floreat and City Beach beaches. It was glorious: sunny but cool enough to walk in comfort, a very slight breeze, a few hopeful surfers, an otherwise deserted beach.

By the time we got back to the cafe it was open and we were both ready for breakfast. E consented to sit in a highchair and eat her porridge from a plastic tub without smearing it all over her face or hair; the fascination of the nearby volleyball players was such that she was happy just to stare and open her mouth when required. We were both especially happy when the pancakes arrived: a floppy three tiered stack covered in berries and berry juice. Fortunately E had largely finished her porridge as it was immediately abandoned in favour of berries doled out on the porridge-tub lid. She also chomped on a bit of pancake but decided it was more fun to mush it to bits than eat it (probably a good thing as I'm sure it was full of sugar).

In between handing over berries and delivering sips of water I got to read most of a newspaper and had an extremely good cup of tea. It has inspired me to add "leaf tea" to the shopping list as something about it makes such a better cup of tea than a teabag.

We then came home for a few quick stories, a crawl around the floor, and a brief tormentation of the cat. She is now having her morning nap (perfectly timed I might add - straight into bed with almost no crying). We have mothers' group to look forward to at lunch time, our first session at Wembley playgroup.

None of these things are anything major on their own but it's so much nicer to feel like this than how I felt last week. Little things.

(For a version of this post with video, see my other blog).

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