Tag Archives: family

Wait, World Book Day was last week?!

Only kidding. I knew it was World Book Day, just about. I remembered the day before it when the a sign on the nursery door reminded me that children were meant to come in dressed up as their favourite book character. This post is late because I’m too tired to blog any more.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried talking to a toddler about who their favourite book character is, but even a relatively verbose twenty month old can be quite evasive on the subject. Throw in the need to cobble together at short notice a costume that won’t be torn off in a fit of pique and you face a challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Peter Rabbit… or at least, bunny ears and a blue jacket.

 

The costume is, admittedly, not great but I had to admire the spirit in which she wore it. She strutted into nursery and glared at anyone who dared to call her Phoebe. As soon as they called her Peter, she hopped quite happily around the room and settled down quite happily for a snack.

As for me, I’m joining the ranks of parents not quite sure why World Book Day seems to be about dressing up and not, say, reading a book.

Bedtime Reading for Baby Geniuses

Jane Austen Emma Cosy Classic

Emma by Jane Austen for “younger readers”

iconLast night I was browsing on Not On The High Street for some non-chocolate Easter eggs for my nieces and nephew and came across something that made me giggle in a really geeky bookworm way. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce classic literature adapted for babies, aka The Cosy Classics. They are described as a ” popular board book series that presents well-loved stories through twelve child friendly words and twelve needle felted illustrations.” I say- amazing.

My sister studied Emma as part of her AS Level in English Literature and hated it, so I feel that a Cosy Classic of this text would be an ideal gift for her daughter. Bedtime stories for baby geniuses, or their parents, the series includes such classics as Jane Eyre, Les Miserables, Moby DickOliver Twist and Pride and PrejudiceI might even buy myself War and Peace as it’s the only way I’m ever likely to read it!

A New Year Arrival

Happy New Year! You’ll notice that I’m a little bit late wishing you that, but my family has had busy start to this year as my little sister gave birth to my lovely niece Amelie on January 2nd after a long, traumatic labour. I feel so privileged to have been there when the little lady was born and to witness my sister’s patience and strength.

Everyone is very excited, especially her great-grandmother who has been planning a reading scheme during the pregnancy and has now ordered enough classic children’s books to last until just after her eighth birthday at a conservative estimate (seriously, she’s a former primary school teacher and inspired my love of stories).

If anyone can recommend more recent must have children’s books (The Gruffalo is already a favourite in our family, but there must be lots of others) let me know and I will pass along the suggestions.

Save Money on Books – Tips for Cheaper Reads

Untitled design
Let’s face it, books aren’t cheap and they can really hit your pocket if you buy a lot of them. A few years ago I posted some eco-cheap tips about how you could read more, spend less and save the world but given the current financial climate and some extra tips I’ve learned in the three years I’ve been blogging since I decided this didn’t go far enough. So if you consider books to be luxuries rather than essentials, here are my top money-saving tips for you.

 Borrow and Swap

1. Libraries

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- making use of your public, school or university library is probably the easiest way to get hold of the books you want for free. Sign up for a library card and you can rent a selection of books (and DVDs, and CDs) for weeks at a time, just make sure that you renew or return by the due date to avoid fines. My local library has a great community of readers around it and hosts storytelling, author talks and reading groups so it can work wonders for your social life as well. Bonus point of libraries- authors receive a royalty for books loaned through libraries, so even if you aren’t able to support your favourite author by buying their books, you are still supporting them by reading them.

 

2. Set Up a Swap Table

At work we have a swap table where you can leave your books when you’ve finished reading them and pick up a new book in exchange. This doesn’t even need to be limited to books. Our table is fairly book dominated because of the nature of the publishing industry, but I’ve also seen CDs, DVDs, cake and in the summer a glut of allotment fruit and vegetables. It has all the benefits of swapping with a friend of family member but with much greater variety, and you can spring clean your bookshelves and know that your unloved paperbacks are going to a good home.

 

3. Ask a friend for their book

If you see a friend reading an interesting looking book, don’t be afraid to ask to borrow it. It’s always nice to see what you’re friends think of a book that you’ve loved (or hated) and it will help you bond over a shared interest. I love lending my friends my books as I know they always pass on something exciting in return.

 

4. Book Mooch

If you aren’t able to set up a swap table in work and your friends aren’t big readers, then there are great websites like BookMooch that allow you to swap with readers all over the world for the cost of postage. Though you do have to be patient while you wait for the book you want to appear, there is an immense sense of satisfaction in hunting down that little gem. It is especially good for classics such as The Great Gatsby or set study texts and you can decide where you’re willing to send the books, though you do get more points if you’re willing to agree to international swaps.

 

Beg

5. Make the most of wishlists for Christmas and Birthdays

If you’re a reader on a budget and you aren’t making use of some kind of wishlist for birthdays and Christmas then you need to start, pronto. My boyfriend always asks for a wishlist for my birthday and Christmas (they’re exactly a fortnight apart and he panics) so I always stick a few books on my list and he’ll pick a selection of them. You still get a surprise because you don’t know what you’re getting, and they have reduced pressure. There are tools for this on Amazon, Play etc. but I find it just as easy to send a polite email or text when someone asks what I would like to receive.

6. Ask for national book tokens or gift vouchers for your favourite bookshops

If you’re not sure what books you want when a big occasion is coming up, you could also ask very nicely for book tokens. I often give these to readers (my father especially) for Christmas with a stocking filler because I know he’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of a book, but I’m never sure that he hasn’t already read the book I’m picking out for him.

Buy or Acquire (for a fraction of list price)

7. Charity Shops

As well as clothes that don’t suit or fit me, I take books that I’ve read to my local charity shop to make room for replacements on my shelves. I have pretty regular clear outs (because my boyfriend complains that the house is overrun with books) and not only do I get the exercise benefits of lugging along some pretty weighty tomes on the way there, but I invariably end up finding something I haven’t read but want to. My local charity shops sell paperbacks for about 30p and hardbacks for 50p-£1 so I sometimes end up coming away with more than I’ve left.

8. Second Hand Bookshops

As with Charity Shops, second hand bookshops are a great place to search for hidden gems surrounded by likeminded people, but be warned, this can become addictive, especially if you start scouring places like Hay-on-Wye for beautiful antique books. This happened to me when I started collecting Wuthering Heights books. It may end up costing you more than you save!

9. Green Metropolis

If you are searching for a particular book but want to avoid Amazon (for whatever reason, now’s not the time for a soapbox) then Green Metropolis is a great site which allows people to sell their old books for a flat fee of £3.75 and at least 5p from each sale goes to The Woodland Trust so it boosts your eco-credentials at the same time. Green Metropolis also lets you list your old books for sale, and while you’re not going to make a huge profit when the cost of postage is deducted, you can earn a few pennies towards a new book or to cash in for real world money.

 

10. Sign up for the Newsletter

If you sign up for newsletters from your favourite publishers, they will not only send you information about new releases, but very often special offers and whopping discounts. One of my favourites is the Penguin newsletter which pretty much offers a 25% off discount code every month which I can use to treat myself or buy something nice for other readers in my life.

 

11. Make friends with your local bookshop

My local bookshop runs a loyalty scheme where I get my card stamped for every ten pounds I spend. Once I fill up my card, I get to pick a new book for free. It is addictive and I do have dreams of one day owning a gold loyalty card. It’s not just indie bookshops who do this (though obviously, it’s good to support them if you can) high street chains like Waterstones have a points based reward system which lets you spend points instead of pennies.

 

12. Electronic versions

If a book is out of copyright (usually 70 years after the death of the author, but it varies depending on international law and publishing history) then you can often find it LEGALLY free through websites like Bibliomania or Google Books. If you want to buy an eBook version of an out of copyright book, then these can often be found for nothing or next to nothing through major online bookshops, though please remember you should only do this with books that are out of copyright.

 

13. Special Occasions

Keep an eye out for special events in the reading character, like world book day or world book night. School children will be given tokens for a free book on world book day, and publishers give away millions of adult’s books for free as part of World Book Night. You can even sign up to spread the joy and hand out copies of your favourite books.

Win

14. National Book Token Competitions

Remember the National Book Tokens I was talking about earlier? Well they often run competitions in which you can win tokens to buy whatever book you fancy. Sign up to their newsletter and details will be emailed to you whenever they run a competition.

 

15. Blog Giveaways

If you follow book blogs, you’ll see that many reviewers will offer giveaways of books they’ve reviewed if they have been given an extra copy by the publisher. I sometimes run such giveaways myself and I occasionally buy books to giveaway for the occasional competition. You’ve got a better chance of winning if you know about the competitions, so keep reading those blogs!

 

16. Publisher Giveaways

As with the discounts, if you follow publishers on twitter or subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll get to hear about the competitions they are running to promote their new releases and will be in with a better chance of winning.

 

17. Foyle’s Book Game

If you’re really clever, you might be able to win the Foyle’s book game run by the London bookshop from their Twitter account each Friday, but competition is fierce and the real reward is a well-crafted book  pun.

 

Is there anything I’ve missed? What are your tips for saving money on books?

 

 

Image adapted from original by @Doug88888 under the terms of the Creative Commons License

Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Book?

After our visit to Cotswold Wildlife Park today (amazing, go if you can) we popped in to visit my boyfriend’s sister and I read Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Book by Lauren Child with my four and a half year old niece. It’s a great story for children, which sees a young boy called Herb fall into a story book that he has defaced and have encounters with fairy tale characters, including a very bratty Goldilocks. My favourite character was the queen he had drawn a moustache on some time ago.

It’s a beautiful book with a great plot, and while it’s not ideal for young readers who are just building up their confidence because of occasional backwards letters and upside down words, it’s a really fun book to read together. I hope it teaches children to look after their books properly!

I would recommend it to anyone who thought that Goldilocks was a naughty little girl and didn’t understand why she didn’t get into trouble when they were small.

Welsh Cakes for St Dwynwen’s Day

Sweet treats for your cariad?

Sweet treats for your cariad?

It’s Dydd Santes Dwyenwen/St Dwynwen’s Day tomorrow (a bit like a Welsh Valentine’s Day) so how better to show some love than by baking someone some Welsh cakes, or pice ar y maen. It’s a traditional recipe which couldn’t be easier to make but which always goes down a treat in my house. I’ve made some to take into work with me tomorrow- along with a ginger cake which I just fancied trying out- because we’re holding a joint celebration with Burns’ Night.

To make Welsh cakes you need a heavy, flat griddle (I use one which belonged to my great-grandmother) though a bakestone will do the same job. The you also need the following ingredients:

225g self-raising flour

110g butter (some go half butter and half lard but I save my lard for birds)

85g caster sugar

A handful of raisins (more or less according to taste)

1 medium egg

Milk

Extra butter for greasing

In a mixing bowl, rub together the flour and fat until you have something that looks like crumbs with no lumps of fat showing then stir in the sugar and raisins. Beat your egg then mix it with the dry ingredients to form dough. At this stage, my dough isn’t usually doughy enough, so I add in a tiny bit of milk at a time until I can bind it into a dough that I can roll and work with.

Roll your dough out on a floured surface until it’s about half a centimetre thick and then cut circles out using a cutter. Welsh cakes normally have a frilly edge and though I normally use a cutter which is about  4inches in diameter, this time I will be using one which is 3 1/16th inch (sorry, I can’t type fractions!) because you can make extra cakes that way which is good if you have lots of people eating them and you only have one egg left! Made with a normal sized cutter this recipe makes about 8 cakes.

When your dough is made and your cakes are cut, grease your griddle and fry each cake for two or three minutes on each side until they are golden brown, though they taste fine if they go a little darker.

I like my cakes pretty much straight off the griddle with a cup of tea while they are still hot and buttery, but they will last a few days in an airtight tin. In university, my housemate’s Mamgu made us enough to fill a 5kg cake tin and we lived off those for weeks. They got a little stale but they were fine washed down with tea!

My Grandmother and Beryl Cook’s Fat Ladies

I think she likes it

I think she likes it

A few years ago, my grandmother gave her copy of a book by her favourite artist to her friend while she was in hospital to cheer her up. Sadly, her friend then died. My grandmother always talks about how much she loved the book and how much the pictures used to make her laugh, so for Christmas, despite knowing very little about art, I resolved to track down a copy for her.

It was surprisingly easy. I just did a quick search for “artists who paint fat ladies” and Beryl Cook’s name came up along with some very familiar looking paintings of fat ladies.

It was great to see how much my grandmother enjoyed looking at those paintings again. And an added bonus came when she was looking at the book with my very prudish boyfriend and a picture of a chubby lady in suspenders brandishing a whip turned up. I only wish I’d managed to capture the look on his face when she turned to him, with an innocent smile and asked, “Do you like being whipped, Jon?”

Old ladies, they think they can get away with anything!

 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Passed from foster home to foster home her entire life, eighteen year old Victoria finds it difficult to connect with people. As a coping mechanism, she uses the Victorian language of flowers to tell people how she really feels about them while keeping them at a distance. But one day she meets a young man who speaks her secret language, forcing her to confront a past she is keen to forget.

As Victoria makes bouquets that fix her clients lives and gain her a cult following, she struggles with feelings of inadequacy, a legacy of the repeated rejection she experienced as a small child. In Victoria, Diffenbaugh has created a heroine who is vulnerable without being Dickensian, so though the novel highlights the plight of children growing up in care and young adults leaving the system, it never feels excessively like a sermon. Many of the minor characters are similarly engaging and well outlined, though at times, customers in the shop and other cast members felt a little like devices for advancing the plot.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh reads like a hybrid of White Oleander and Like Water for Chocolate- A young woman shaped by her life in the system, and a young woman who has grown up without expresses her feelings by making things which physically or mentally affect others. This isn’t to say that this is derivative, I don’t think it is, but if you liked either of these, you may well enjoy reading this title.

This is a nice gentle read, and the story is pretty engaging. It also comes with a handy dictionary of flower meanings at the back of the book, so if you want to fill your house or garden with secret messages, it’s a handy starting point.

You might be interested to know that Vanessa Diffenbaugh has founded The Camellia Network to support young people aging out of foster care. The meaning of camellia in the language of flowers? My destiny is in your hands.

Everything Oz Review and Book Giveaway

I know that when I went to see Wicked I mentioned that I had a slight obsession with The Wizard of Oz when I was growing up. This may have been something of an understatement.

As well as naming my rabbit and guinea pig Dorothy and Scarecrow, walking around quacking songs from the musical (I might even share footage of this one day) and watching the film on repeat until it wore out, I insisted upon having Wizard of Oz themed birthday parties and for a while would only wear red shoes. For Halloween I dressed up as a witch, every year. I wouldn’t let my little sister dress as anything else either. My grandfather taught in a secondary school that had a production of The Wizard of Oz when I was about two and I went along to watch and meet the cast. It may have been the best moment of my life ever, though I was terrified of the cowardly lion. It’s one thing to have a lion on the TV, but to meet one in person? Terrifying.

Terrifying

Though I have overcome my initial fear of people dressed up as lions, I haven’t really grown out of my Wizard of Oz obsession. I have a Wizard of Oz tray, glasses and mugs. When I had my operation in November, a friend from work bought me a sing-a-long Wizard of Oz DVD. I have been banned from watching this when my boyfriend is at home.

In light of this, you can probably imagine how excited I was when my favourite craft authors  Christine Leech and Hannah Read-Baldrey who wrote Everything Alice (and unwittingly led to my house being overrun with lavender-scented dormice…) brought out their new craft book Everything Oz: The Wizard Book of Makes & Bakes. I’ve been feeling rubbish all week with some kind of evil tonsil virus, but when my copy of Everything Oz landed on my doorstep it lit my little world up. It is better than I ever hoped for. I am so excited to start on some of the crafts in there- they will be perfect for making the house and garden very much me. And everything will go beautifully with the “There’s no place like home” print my boyfriend’s sister Laura got me.

This is an absolute must have for any fan of Dorothy and Oz. Since I want to make absolutely everything in the book, I’ve been trying to narrow down my favourites to decide which to start with (I will obviously end up making myself the ruby slippers, but I will need to build up to these). It hasn’t been easy, I’ve even roped my boyfriend in to help me make the final selection, but here goes:

Dress up Dorothy and Toto from Everything Oz, published by Quadrille Press

1. Dress-Up Dorothy and Toto

This doll is unbelievably cute, especially when dressed in her little lion mask on page 13 of the book. I would have loved a doll like this when I was little. As it is I’ve been looking for some nice book ends for my dining room bookshelf for a while now and haven’t been able to find any that I’ve really loved, so when I make this little lady I will fill her with rice or lentils to give her a bit of weight and let her do the job. I will let you see her when she’s done. I think she’ll do a great job.

2. Toto Cushion

Not only does this look incredibly snuggly and cute, but it is the perfect way to recycle the many, many jumpers and cardigans my boyfriend has shrunk recently. He’ll also make a great Christmas present for my mother who has a Scottie and is very slightly bats about them, and my older sister who will appreciate the Radley look (while my bank account appreciates the break).

3. The Decorated Dog House

If my enthusiasm for all things Oz hasn’t made you doubt my sanity, the next thing I’m about to say will. I have an imaginary corgi called Mr Whiffles. So far, so bonkers. But fear not dear readers, I remain in possession of most of my wits- I know that I don’t really have a corgi called Mr Whiffles. I just talk to my boyfriend as though I do in the hope that he will let me have a corgi in a desperate attempt to stop his friends thinking I’m madder than a hatter… a cunning plan I assure you. Anyway, when I have Mr Whiffles, you can rest assured that I will make him this absolutely gorgeous dog house to sleep in. If it transpires that I will not be allowed a Mr Whiffles any time soon, I’ll make one for my rabbit and train her as a dog. Creative solutions, that’s what we’re about here.

4. The Cowardly Lion Hand Puppet

He is so cool, and really makes me wonder how I could ever have been scared of the poor cowardly lion. I think he’d make a great toy for amusing a baby, and I’m pretty sure that my niece who is nearly four would have a great time with him. I have a soft spot for Wizard of Oz themed puppets. After I was run over I had to spend an entire summer in hospital, and my Dad (who is incredibly crafty and a great artist) made me a marionette wicked witch. She’s probably at home in Wales still. I’ll have to dig her out. In addition to the cowardly lion puppet, there are some really simple cut out and split pin puppets which would make a lovely rainy afternoon project for little crafters.

5. The Oz Apothecary

After all of this crafting I intend to do, I am going to have to make everything in the Everything Oz bath time section to chill me out that little bit more than I already am. There’s a great range of lovely looking things including Put a Brave Face on It Skin Tonic which will be good for my dry skin and allow me to make use of the glut of roses in my garden. I also fancy the delightfully named Sleepy-Time Salt Scrub with Lavender but the thing I’m really excited about is the Face Mask of Eternal Youth which looks like it will make something similar to an overpriced product I buy too often in Lush. The savings start here!

Quadrille have very kindly supplied me with a copy of this book to give away to a lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning it, send an email with the subject header Everything Oz Competition to bookandbiscuit(atsign)hotmail.co.uk replacing the (atsign text) with an @ to outwit those pesky spammers by July 16th 2012.

The Gruffalo Child

We received this picture of our niece the other day. We bought her the Gruffalo outfit for her third birthday in December (we’re a little bit obsessed with The Gruffalo books) but she was far too excited by her guests, cake and presents to keep still for photos at the time!

Her mother Laura, Jon’s sister, sent us the picture and blogs here.