Book Haul: October 2018

I currently have a lot of books in my reading pile:

Tombland by CJ Sansom

I’m a huge fan of the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom. The lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, lives and works in one of the most tumultuous – and exciting – periods in British history: the Tudor era. Having previously worked for Cromwell, Henry VIII and Queen Catherine Parr, this latest novel is set during the short reign of King Edward VI. Shardlake now works for the Lady Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I) and is asked to solve the murder of her distant relative. The case takes him to Norwich and he becomes involved in one of the largest people’s uprisings of that period: the 1549 rebellion under the leadership of Robert Kett. Sansom’s attention to detail and descriptions really draw you into the era. The author has recently recovered from cancer and it’s a delight to be reading a new Shardlake novel.

The Read Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie

I’ve been wanting to get this book for ages – even before it was published.  Sarah MacKenzie is founder of the Read Aloud Revival, which emphasises the importance of families reading together. She believes that reading to, and with, your children is key not just to their academic success, but also to the emotional well-being of all.

I have always enjoyed reading with my children and have been feeling sad that, as they get older, books have become less a part of their lives 😦 My 16 year old – who used to devour every Jacqueline Wilson novel – barely reads now, and even my 12 year old hasn’t picked up a book for ages. I know that screens have replaced books, which makes me feel very sad, but I’m determined to keep reading going with my 12 and 10 year olds. Sarah’s book is full of lots of tips of how and when and what to read with your children and I hope to use some of them.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I loved The Hunger Games the first time I read the series. Although the films are enjoyable, the books reveal more and provide a deeper understanding of the life of Katniss Everdene and the Dystopian country of Panem.

I am currently reading this aloud with my 10 and 12 year olds and we are really enjoying it, especially the 12 year old who, as I mentioned above, rarely reads now. Although classed as Young Adult, by reading to the girls I can choose to edit any scenes that are too grown up. So far this hasn’t happened and, in fact, we’ve had some great conversations about the plot, characters and themes.

I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell

This is my current book group read and I was pleased to find it in the local library. Although Maggie O’Farrell is known as a novelist, this is actually autobiographical and it recounts her ’17 brushes with death’. Each chapter details a near-death experience, from plunging turbulence on a flight to complications in childbirth, and a chilling close encounter with a murderer. The chapters can be read in any order, rather like reading a collection of short stories (although you have to catch your breath after reading some of them!)

A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates

I found this novel by chance at the local library and the tale immediately grabbed me. However, due to the arrival of the other books in my pile, it has taken a back seat. So far, the novel tells of the murder of a doctor working in an abortion clinic in the US. The opening pages are quite shocking and I expect this to be a timely read on a subject which is a controversial one in the US.

Raising your Spirited Child by  Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

I managed to get this book second-hand via Amazon and, already, I have covered it with scribbled notes and post its. I have a daughter who is clever, funny, loyal but with big emotions which sometimes swamp her (and us as a family). So far this book has shown me that we are not alone in parenting a strong-willed, emotional and sensitive child and has provided some really useful strategies to engage with her and help to create a more harmonious family life.

What are you currently reading? Do you find that the darker evening s make you want to snuggle in bed and read a good book? My reading pile definitely increases in the winter months!

 

Thrifty Finds: third week in October 2018

It’s been all about books this past week and my reading pile seems to have grown significantly:

 

1. I borrowed a book from the library, which we are reading for Book Group: ‘I am, I am, I am’ by Maggie O’Farrell. I always prefer to borrow, rather than buy, for my Book Group as I’m never sure if I’ll like it.

2. My husband bought me the brand new CJ Sansom book. I love the Shardlake series (detective novels set in the Tudor era) and have been waiting eagerly for the new one, ‘Tombland’. I’m currently reading it and can barely put it down!

3. I also ordered a parenting book secondhand from Amazon which arrived this week.

4. On other news, I’ve decided to stop drinking alcohol. It’s just for the moment and may only last until the end of the month – I haven’t quite decided. So I’ve been researching some non alcoholic alternatives. Buying drinks like no alcohol ‘G&T’ and low alcohol beer is so much cheaper- and I feel better for it.

5. The warm weather means I’m still harvesting tomatoes from the garden 🙂

Hope you are having a good week!

Thrifty Finds: second week in October 2018

 

It’s been fairly quiet here this past week. As I’m on a ‘no spending on clothes’ month I have avoided the charity shops on my lunch break, which may have saved some money…

  1. I turned the large gift of tomatoes into some delicious roast tomato and garlic soup, and took it to work.

2. I was gifted two butternut squashes from a friend. As they keep for quite a long time I haven’t worked out whether to turn them into soup or something else.

3. I borrowed a book from the library.

4. I had a good look at our budgets and started some forward planning for next year. In 2019 we have (potentially) two large financial decisions to make and I want to be sure we can afford them both. I also want to start saving towards having three months’ expenses put away in case of job loss or any other emergency. This is rather ambitious as it will take quite a while to do this but I fell happier having a ‘safety net’. Last year our car was written off and having savings really helped – ‘rainy days’ do really happen!

5. Following the UN Climate Change Report last week my husband and I have been talking about a couple of things we can do. We only own one car (which is a challenge in a small village – see here) and the girls and I use a bus or walk to school/work. I’d like to think our carbon footprint is fairly low as only my husband flies for work (usually once a year). But there is so much more we could be doing. I’ve been talking for ages about switching to a green energy supplier, but have failed to do something about it. We could also reduce our meat consumption. One of our children is vegetarian and we already eat a few meat free meals, but we could make more of an effort to switch to a plant-based diet.

second hand books, charity shop books

The author Mark Lynas will be talking at the North Wiltshire Sustainability Day in Chippenham this Saturday 20th)

Second-hand book haul and ‘Les Parisiennes’ book review: June 2018

[note: I really thought I had posted this a few months ago but it’s actually been in my ‘Drafts’!]

 

If you have been reading my recent posts you will know that I picked up a few books while on a trip around the charity shops in Marlborough, Wiltshire.

It’s only been a week but I’ve already devoured the first book, Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba.

This had been on my wish list for about a year and I was delighted to spot it in the Oxfam Bookshop. Anne Sebba writes a balanced and very readable account of what it was like to be a woman living in wartime Paris. Her careful research has identified scores of Parisiennes, from very different backgrounds, who chose to either get on with life (as much as was possible), resist the invasion, or collaborate with the German occupiers and Vichy government.

Sebba writes about those women who chose to resist the occupying forces through simple acts (refusing to socialise with German soldiers) or violent and clandestine actions (often leading to arrest, torture and internment at a concentration camp). She also attempts to write sympathetically about those women who, through naivety or a sheltered life, or out of desperation, chose to collaborate with the Germans, or supported the puppet French government of Petain.

The author also examines the post war legacy of women who were affected by World War Two. She calls out the immediate post war treatment of those women accused of ‘collaboration horizontale’ i.e. sleeping with the enemy. Approximately 20,000 women were publicly humiliated, sometimes on the basis of flimsy evidence. She also talks about the length of time it has taken for France to recognise the heroic actions of those women who resisted (because they were not ‘soldiers’ in the traditional sense), and the disparity in the post war treatment between Jewish survivors of concentration camps and those from the Resistance.

Les Parisiennes, is such a well written, researched and enthralling read. By focusing on women in Paris in the Second World War, it allows a new voice to be heard and, as a female reader, makes me ask the question “what would I have done?”

This question is asked again in ‘Resistance’, another book from my recent haul. I have read this book before, based on an alternative history where the Germans did invade Britain during World War Two. The author, Owen Sheers, is also a poet and what struck me at the time was how beautiful his writing was. It is quite a few years since I read it- and saw the film-so I’m looking forward to discovering it again.

Finally, I picked up another Nancy Mitford novel, ‘Love in a Cold Climate’. Last year I found ‘The Pursuit of Love‘ at a charity stall and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up.

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What’s in your reading pile at the moment? Have you got a summer reading list?

This Week’s Thrifty Finds: Week Four, June 2018

thrifty finds2

How was your week? The weather here has just got hotter and hotter 🙂

This past week my Thrifty Finds have included:

  1. I used a money-off voucher to buy my favourite brand of eco spray cleaner.
  2. I quickly devoured the book, ‘Les Parisiennes’ which I had bought from a charity shop last weekend. It’s so great when you lose yourself in a book and all you want to do is find some time to read it. In fact I was enjoying it so much that I spent half an hour in a coffee shop last Wednesday morning before starting work!
  3. Last Saturday my husband and I spent a lovely morning by ourselves browsing the shops in our nearby town. He had walked the five miles there (!) and I drove the car to meet him. We had a coffee and explored some charity shops (he bought a book – I was tempted by six Babycham glasses but they were £20 so resisted).
  4. I also managed to do some plastic free food shopping. For the first time I bought some meat and used my Tupperware boxes to put them in. The butcher didn’t blink an eye when I asked for the burgers and sausages to be put in the boxes. Apart from the wax paper for the burgers, there was no waste 🙂

5. Tonight is my daughter’s prom. A while back we bought a simple evening dress from Debenhams and asked a local seamstress to alter it for a very reasonable rate (she hopes to get it shortened again after prom to wear as a party dress). She has a very low key prom in that she is just going with one friend and I am driving them there in our Vauxhall Zafira (!). She’s not going to an after party and, instead, is having a sleepover with her friend. I quite like the simple approach has taken to Prom as these events can become very expensive and hyped up.

Hope you have a good – and Thrifty – week and take care in this heat 🙂

This Week’s Thrifty Finds: Week Three, June 2018

 

 

 

 

Last week we celebrated the end of my daughter’s GCSE exams with a camping trip 🙂 We meet up once a year with my school friends and, what has grown from five of us plus partners, is now a total of 20! It’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up, eat lots of food and enjoy the outdoors. The children all get along really well and it’s lovely to see them away from screens and climbing trees and having adventures.

  1. For camping food I took a lot of what we already at home: in the store cupboard and the freezer. I made some hummus from scratch using some chickpeas I’d had for a while. I also managed to buy some unwrapped fruit and veg (for the carrot saga take a look at my Instagram posts!)

2. We also borrowed a camping table from a friend, rather than buy a new one for the trip.

3. While camping we browsed the local charity shops (charity shops in Marlborough, Wiltshire, are packed with some real goodies – post to come soon!). I picked up three books from the Oxfam shop – one of which had been on my wishlist for a while:

 

4. My youngest daughter also picked up a book for 10p from the Dog’s Trust shop.

5. I was also proud that we managed to use just our glass milk bottles on the camping trip. I had searched for a screw top lid for the milk bottle as the foil one doesn’t stop the milk from spilling once opened. But no luck. Then I remembered I had a glass bottle left over from a free sample of orange juice, that did have a screw top lid. So I was able to take two pints and just decant an opened pint into the glass bottle with the lid. Problem solved and no need to buy any new gadget!

Do you have any thrifty camping tips to share? Or any ideas for camping with less plastic? I’d love to hear them!

Book review: Fashion on the Ration

A couple of years ago the Imperial War Museum in London ran an exhibition on wartime fashion. I had the best intentions to visit Fashion on the Ration but it never quite happened. So I was delighted to come across the accompanying book in my local library.

Written by Julie Summers, it chronicles how women’s fashion in the UK changed during the Second World War. She discusses services’ uniforms, the use of coupons and clothes rationing as well as ‘make do and mend’ and the immediate post war era of Dior’s ‘New Look’.

Fashion on the Ration is a fascinating study of a period in British fashion when everyone dressed equally. Once clothes rationing was introduced in 1941 the entire population was restricted by what they could buy, regardless of income. Even Princess Elizabeth had to save up her coupons for her wedding dress in 1947.

By 1942 the number of clothing coupons allocated each year was just 48 as material shortages and labour redeployment became more desperate. With a woman’s winter coat costing 14 coupons this wasn’t much to work with. In 1942 the Utility Scheme was introduced which worked to restrict the amount of fabric used and reduce workers’ time (after all factory labour was needed for war essential work).

Under the Utility Scheme the government dictated the number of pleats in a skirt, buttons on coats and jackets, length of men’s socks and prohibited the trouser turn-up, among other things. It seems remarkable, nowadays, that the population accepted these dictates, although sometimes there were grumbles and even defiance (Montgomery carried on wearing his army trousers with turn-ups).

But, as with food and fuel rationing, and so much more, clothes restrictions were seen as the right thing to do to save labour and finite resources.  Even removing 2″ from the bottom of men’s shirts and getting rid of double cuffs could save four million square yards of cotton each year, as well as 1,000 clothes labourers. Utility Clothing was also well-made, originally from designer patterns, and price controlled, meaning nearly every woman could now afford a designer item.

Rationing and ‘making do’ was seen as patriotic and Fashion on the Ration discusses how women weren’t supposed to admit if they were wearing something new. Ingenuity and resourcefulness dominated the war period. With the men away on active service, wives and daughters would re-work male outfits so that they could now wear them. Materials that weren’t rationed, such as blackout cloth, muslin, cheesecloth and curtain net, were used as clothing fabrics. Even old blankets were turned into coats and jackets, and these coats could then be turned into jackets and then into dressing gowns etc. etc.

Wartime Fashion on display at Fashion Museum Bath l-r: wartime wedding dress, evening dress partially made from blackout material and Jaeger tweed suit produced under the Utility design scheme of 1941

 

The WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) and WI ran ‘make do and mend’ classes (at one point it was considered that these should be made compulsory), and produced a booklet on how to mend cuffs and collars, darn socks etc. There were even pop up booths that could fix stockings.

Social attitudes towards clothing and appearance also changed during this period. It became more acceptable for women to go bare legged and they were no longer required to wear hats in church. However by the end of the war, with rationing still continuing, women became increasingly fed up with this “tiresome necessity”. No wonder they looked to the Paris collections of the post war years and yearned for the glamour of Dior’s ‘New Look’.

Dior’s New Look, Fashion Museum Bath

Dress worn by Princess Margaret, late 1940s, on display at Fashion Museum Bath. Created by Norman Hartnell the cotton dress was designed to promote the domestic cotton market after World War Two.

Yet the introduction of mass manufactured clothing at reasonable prices sounds something we are familiar with today. What was created due to wartime necessity is now something we expect on the High Street. However the outfits we buy now are only expected to last a season – if that – and their cheap price tags mean we no longer need ingenuity or the skills of ‘make do and mend’ to make them stretch much further.