Archive for January, 2012

January 30, 2012

Odd food favourites and a bit of nostalgia.

Recently, I’ve been a bit off my food. I know, it’s clearly a first world kind of problem and I am very grateful that I have a fully stocked fridge. It’s just that I’ve spent the past few days unable to taste a bloody thing because of a rotten head cold and so unless I’ve had a really growling tummy, I’ve just not eaten with the same greed as usual! This is probably A Good Thing, but it’s making me a bit miserable. To summon up a bit of enthusiasm for eating (as my lovely husband thinks I need to eat so I have the energy to get better) I’ve been trying to think of my very favourite foods and have been amused at where this thought process has led me. I have some odd food favourites…

I mean, I’ve tried to like grown up food like olives. I really have. One of my favourite things to eat ever is good bread with olive oil and expensive, treacly, balsamic vinegar but I cannot bear olives. I even once had a picnic with an enforced olive tasting session, but it didn’t work. I’ve since realised that trying to train myself to like food that I don’t like is silly, when I am so fortunate to have so many other options. So, no more olives.

The truth is that I’m beginning to think that many of my favourite foods are not really food at all. I mean, beyond having some kind of calorific value, obviously. Take raw cake mix. It’s ace. I could quite happily eat half a cake’s worth on my own. One of the hardest things about baking when pregnant was not being able to eat raw cake mixture because of the eggs. Quite put me off the whole thing. I know that raw eggs aren’t exactly great for little kids either, but I’m not the kind of mum who isn’t going to let them lick the spoon…

Another of my favourite foods is pizza crust. Not the middle, lovely, oozy cheesy bit of pizza. The crust. The bit that half the pizza-eating world happily leave on their plate. If I’m out with people to eat pizza I have to remind myself that stealing the crusts from other people’s plates is not good manners. So it’s a good thing that these days I’m more likely to get take-away pizza ( I have no scruples about stealing from family) or making my own – take a look here for my recipe. I quite like burnt-on cheese too, which often happens when I make pizza at home. You know, that bit of cheese that oozes off the side, sticks to the baking tray and goes all bubbly and crispy. Mmm. You can make Parmesan crisps in the same way. Just grate some Parmesan cheese and then put it in little piles onto a baking tray. Cook in the oven until they do that bubbling, crisping up thing, and then take them out, leave them a bit to go hard and cold before taking off the baking tray and eating. Nice with a cold glass of prosecco.

My last favourite food that’s not really food is scraps. By which I mean those bits of fried batter that you get from the fish and chip shop. I’m sure they have lots of other names depending on which part of the country you’re from. Once of the reasons for this is nostalgia though. When I was younger I had a pony. ( I know!) I started horse riding when I was seven, after my mum took me to a local stables. I’m fairly sure she just thought I’d be interested for a bit then give it up, but it stuck. She always says it was the most expensive decision she ever made.  I went there every weekend and spent all day doing stable duties in return for a free lesson each week. Then, one day, they announced they were closing down. My lovely grandad had given me some money that had been put into savings and so I was allowed to use this to buy a pony, on the condition that I looked after her properly and worked as much as I could to keep her.

And so, I became the proud owner of Lisa (not named by me, I hasten to add), a Welsh Section D chestnut mare with a blaze and a flaxen mane and tail, and the rather less-than thrilled employee at both a local fish and chip shop and fruit and veg stall. I worked on Friday nights in the chip shop with another woman. We used to amuse ourselves when it was quiet by trying to fry the biggest scrap in history, which we then used to eat in a bread-cake. Seriously, my arteries are ruined. RUINED, I tell you.

Still, it was worth it. Look at how beautiful she was. Sadly she died when I was at agricultural college and it broke my heart. Still makes me cry now. As does looking at my hair in this rather vintage photograph…

January 27, 2012

Gorilla Perfumes

I realise, as I write this, that I could be accused of turning this blog into some kind of Lush Love-Fest. It’s my second post about the company in as many weeks. And no, I’m not getting anything out of it. I’m going to plough on regardless, because I spent a brilliant time in the company of a member of staff at the Lush Leeds store recently during an evening to promote their new Valentine’s Day collection. All of which is very cute, and I may well indulge in a couple of  bubble bars, but that’s not what I ended up spending the whole event playing with. I ended up with the perfumes…

I love perfume, there is no secret there. I’ve written before about it: herehere, here and here. I also worship my two copies of ‘Perfumes: The Guide’ (by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez) like they’re religious tomes. Even though I am happy to make my own opinions about perfume, all of those I already owned before I bought the book are highly rated by them, so perhaps we have similar tastes.

Part of the Valentine’s Day collection at Lush is a new perfume called 25:43. Although I can tell it’s going to be popular, it’s not really me – too sweet. When I said that to the member of staff, she took me over to the table where the Gorilla perfumes were displayed and we spent a good long while playing with these:

The brilliance of this is that there are no names, no fancy packaging, just the scent. So you cannot be influenced by anything other than your nose. So, there are no assumptions on hearing the name of a fragrance such as ‘Dirty’ – which actually has a strong minty top note…

Some of these perfumes originally started out with the B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful part of the company, which no longer exists as a separate business. Thankfully, the perfumes moved across to be part of the Lush business and are available online or in larger stores.

In this blind perfume testing, there were three standout fragrances: Breath of God, The Smell of Weather Turning (which has an incredible minty note alongside oak and grassy smells)  and the Smell of Freedom. These are complex,multi-layered perfumes, unlike anything I’ve smelled anywhere else. I bought Breath of God and have worn it every day since. It still catches me out as it dries down. Amazing. It has an incredible five star review in the Turin & Sanchez book too.

‘Wearing it, I feel a sense of wonder that so late in the perfume game there can still be such a profound invention’ Tania Sanchez.

What I utterly love about the Gorilla perfumes (aside from the lack of fancy packaging showing me great perfume is not about the bottle) is that you can buy different parts. So, Breath of God can be bought as Inhale and Exhale – which you can wear individually or together.  Even more exciting is the triptych of perfumes making up The Smell of Freedom. This is really a perfume journey like nothing you can get in mass market department stores, no matter how much budget you have.

The Smell of Freedom can be bought as one perfume, or as:

Part One: Fire Tree, a warm and woody herbal perfume, with Australian influences from lemon myrtle and fir tree oil. This part is inspired by an Australian Aboriginal artist.

Part Two: Old Delhi Station, again a warm perfume but with a spiciness to it and a feeling of incense. Inspired by a journey made across India to meet an exhiled Tibetan Monk, this contains sandalwood, jasmine, black pepper and patchouli.

Part Three: Oudh Heart, my favourite of the three individual parts, this is inspired by a remarkable man called Sami, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay without trial, he was freed as a result of work by Reprieve and Lush. This part is full of oudh (one of my favourite ingredients) sandalwood, cedar and orris root.

Again, the three can each be worn individually or layered together. It’s the closest many of us will come to really getting a glimpse into the art of perfumery as well as the inspiration behind a fragrance. Lots more about the story behind these perfumes can be found on the Lush website. I am enchanted by them and I really do urge you to go to your nearest (large) branch of Lush and try them for yourself.

January 25, 2012

Career Books for Girls…

I’ve been part of More Than a Mum’s (@More_Than_A) Twitter book club since it started and our online chats have been a really fun way to talk books with people. It’s been one of the highlights of my time on Twitter, and I love that it’s hosted by a pair of women who feel very much the same way as I do about women who are mothers retaining a sense of themselves, rather than just being consumed by ‘mummying’. They’re currently moving their on-line home, but take a look here for links to their Facebook page to be kept updated with their move – and if you’re in London, take a look at their More than a Mum course!

Last month’s book choice was ‘How to Be A Woman’ by Caitlin Moran, which spurred a brilliant and thought provoking discussion about modern feminism. On this very tenuous thread, I’m going to share yet another of my book collections with you. You’re beginning to see why my little house is heaving with books now, aren’t you?

Published by The Bodley Head in 1955, these books are part of a series of Career Books for Girls. Although they are novels, they are also designed to publicise a series of career options thought suitable for girls at that period. These two are ‘Clare in Television’ and ‘Sarah joins the WRAF’. Other titles in the series include ‘Air Hostess Ann’, ‘Pan Stevens: Secretary’ and ‘Molly Hilton: Library Assistant’.

‘What happens if you want to marry? asked Sarah. “You can still stay in the service, and I’ve known cases where it works very well. 

‘More than anything she wanted to have a job in television. It was the newest, most exciting and powerful of all mediums, reaching closely into the homes of the people, bringing them entertainment and information, bringing friendliness to the fireside of the old and the lonely’

Although these stories are focussed on the career choices of the main character, in both cases there is a romantic thread running through them too. Clare in her television career, ends up engaged to her producer whereas Sarah in the WRAF chooses to take up her posting in Singapore rather than get married.

Another series published by The Bodley Head during this period follows a similar path. The series is described as being the story of ‘the life of Sue Barton as a student nurse to her eventual marriage’…which probably explains the alternative title for this whole genre of books as ‘career romance’ novels.

I find them a fascinating record of that period. On the one hand there are signs of new career opportunities opening up in the decade after so many women worked while the men were away at war. On the other hand, there is still the assumption that a woman only worked until she got married, settled down and presumably had children.

Whatever the statement they are trying to make, I am very fond of them. Even more so because of my recent discovery, which is that although I paid £4 each for these first editions, they are now being listed on Amazon and Abebooks (best book website EVER) for between £25 and £50 each…proof that sometimes my curiosity and insatiable book-collecting habits pay off!

January 23, 2012

Energy In, Energy Out.

So, running again yesterday. It was hard. Much harder than last week, which lulled me into some false sense of security. Today, the wind was blowing a gale, all the frozen ground had turned into a good few inches of mud and it was really difficult. I had to stop and walk in places, because it was so slippery I couldn’t get a grip, and given that I’m only just recovering from one injury, I didn’t want to end up with another. So, I spent quite a bit of the time, walking, swearing and watching my much-fitter husband disappearing into the distance.

See what I mean?

In the summer of 2010, I was the slimmest and fittest I’ve ever been, if you discount the year when I was 19 and working full time in a riding stables. I even fitted into a pair of size eight jeans. For about half an hour. Although I am fine about being bigger ( I don’t think I’m ever really destined to be a size 8 again) I am less happy about my level of fitness dropping so much and truthfully, I don’t want to let myself get any bigger than I am now. A combination of injury, greed and laziness has resulted in me putting on quite a bit of weight and losing muscle tone and although I’m still fitter than I was at my lowest point in 2006/7, I am still unhappy about it.

So, time for a plan. As well as the weekly outdoor run, I will make a better effort to get to the gym for two mixed cardio and weight sessions a week and also try to find something that will help my ever-decreasing flexibility.  Although my body is far better suited to cycling than it is to running, the reality is that running gets me fitter, faster. I simply don’t have the time on a regular basis to put in the miles of cycling. So that will have to be for occasional fun, with completing Cycletta being the highlight of my cycling year.

The simple truth about losing weight and getting fitter is this: Energy In vs. Energy Out. That’s it. Although there are a million ways (all complete with a best-selling diet book) of doing it, they all rely on that one fact. Granted, there are better and worse ways of obtaining that energy, but I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not going to try to describe them. Suffice to say, more of what you eat should be in the form of vegetables than Mars Bars. But that’s it. If you put more energy into your body in the form of calories, than you expend through living, breathing and exercising, that energy will be stored by your body. Use up more energy than you put in, and your body will use up those stores of energy. The bonus is that muscle uses up more energy than fat, even at rest, so you continue to benefit from the exercise even when you’re not actually in the middle of it.

Of course, what this doesn’t take into account is our emotional relationship with food. If I tell myself I’m not going to eat cake for a week, there is barely a second goes by without me thinking of cake. So, the deal I am making with myself is this – a bit less cake, a bit more exercise. Just enough to tip the Energy In vs. Energy Out balance. We’ll see how I get on.

January 20, 2012

Sprinkles: why it’s time for serious skincare.

I went for a run the other day. The first one in months, and of course, the day we decided to venture out, it was minus 4 degrees. Covered up in as many layers I could practically manage whilst still retaining full mobility, with a pink Buff secured over my ears, I looked great. By which, I clearly mean, a bit rubbish. The run itself went really well. It was bloody cold, but the fact I am pretty unfit meant I was soon warm and running through the woods, jumping over fallen branches and avoiding frozen puddles was as much fun as I remembered it being before my stupid foot injury, so I was really pleased. At the end, I was steaming like an out-of-condition racehorse, so the weather wasn’t so much of a problem.

Only when I got home and went into the bathroom for a shower did I notice the skin on my face. I’m blessed with that ‘lovely’ pink skin. You know, the kind that turns red at the hint of the sun, rarely tans, just gets more freckles, and in my case, turns bright purple after exercise and stays that way for hours… So, naturally, it was purple at that moment. It was also really sore though and it still is.

My skin appears to hate the cold. Which is weird really, because it hates hot weather too. So basically, my skin is against ‘weather’ in general. That’s helpful.

Alongside this revelation is my lovely son’s obsession with my ‘sprinkles’. I must have spent most of my life being in a state of shock because I always seem to raise my eyebrows. Always. Which means that although I’m not massively wrinkly on the rest of my face, I do have lines across my forehead, deep furrows like perfectly ploughed field. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but they are there. And my son is very concerned about them. The other day, he gave me a little cuddle, then ran his hand across my forehead, talking about my ‘sprinkles’. Then he frowned with all his might, and pointed to the teeny tiny furrows between his eyes.

This is why I forgive him…

Adorable though it was, I have now started spending a lot more time in front of a mirror peering at them, pulling at the sides of my face to see what I might look like if I had a facelift and imagining a perfectly-Botoxed and therefore furrow-free forehead. Not that I’m going in for surgery. The mere idea of voluntarily injecting myself with any form of Botulism purely out of vanity makes me shudder – although each to their own and I know lots of people do.

What I am going to do, though, is invest a bit more in my skin care. I need a serum, decent moisturiser, face masks. Whatever it takes to make me feel a bit better about it, and stop my face feeling so sore. At the moment I am hacking off the tops of off my lotions and potions to make them last until pay day. Once it arrives though, I am planning to spend a bit of money on saving my face. First up is an emergency treatment to take away the soreness, then I’ll look for a serum and moisturiser to help me deal with my sprinkles…

Here are my favourite emergency skin-saving remedies:

Eve Lom TLC cream – rich, designed for more mature skin and great for taking away the tightness of dry and sensitive skin and the soreness of my wind-chapped cheeks.

Neals Yard Remedies Wild Rose Beauty Balm. I use this lots-  as a creamy cleanser and exfoliator (when used with the muslin cloth it comes with) or, more often as a rich, use anywhere, moisturiser. It smells wonderful, and although it has quite a greasy texture, it sinks in well. I really recommend this for things like chapped lips too.

Darphin Aromatic Renewing Balm. This works really well as an overnight balm on dry and sensitive skin and the combination of essential oils makes it smell amazing. Great as protection against environmental conditions.

I admit that they’re all pretty expensive but they do last me for months and months.

I’ve also heard very good things about the following two creams. Although I haven’t tried them yet, I intend to soon:

Lush Skin Drink – Designed for dry and sensitive skins and great at helping you to winter-proof your skin. Plus this one is quite a lot cheaper than the others, so  could use loads if I needed it!

Lush Skin’s Shangri La – Described as being great for winter, and leaving you cheeks that are soft to the kiss!

So, that’s my chapped cheeks dealt with. Next is the search for a great moisturiser and extra treatments to save my face in the longer term!

My sprinkly face…

January 18, 2012

Grow what you like…

It’s the time of year when I rarely make it to the allotment and instead spend far too much time planning what I will be growing in the Spring. The mild weather we’ve been having has forced me out of the house on a few occasions this winter, but now it’s colder, the ground has frozen. At the moment, all I have in the ground is some over-wintering onions and garlic, which have started to grow but will now lie dormant until the weather warms up again.

Instead of going outside and freezing, I spend lots of time in the winter looking through seed catalogues and marking the varieties I fancy growing this year. Generally, I get far too carried away and end up with enough seeds for a small farm, but this year I’m going to be more organised about it. The main problem, I’ve realised, is that I’ve been growing the wrong things.

If you look at a ‘traditional’ allotment, you will see rows and row of vegetables, lined up with some kind of precision, unlike mine. Lots of brassicas – cabbages, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, as well as climbing runner beans. There is a pretty standard crop rotation too, which means you move everything round every year, depending on what group the vegetable belongs to – roots, brassicas, legumes, onions. Potatoes often fall outside of this, and I pretty much put them anywhere, especially in places where the ground needs work, as they do a lovely job of breaking up the soil for me!

What I’ve come to realise is that this crop rotation just doesn’t work for me. I’ve been growing things because I think I should, because they fall into the crop rotation and because, in truth, an allotment just doesn’t look finished without a teepee of beans scrambling up it.

No more – this year I’m only going to grow what I LOVE to eat – loads more French beans and no runner beans. More sweetcorn and fewer cabbages. And if I want a teepee of climbers, they’ll be sweet peas instead of runner beans. I will grow more of the kids favourites too – peas, raspberries, strawberries, carrots. My new crop rotation plan, therefore, goes something along the lines of: if it wasn’t grown there last year, it’ll be fine to grow it there this year. Which might produce some interesting results, but I’m hoping that by concentrating on our favourite foods, we’ll end up eating more of what we grow. Or, in the case of the sweet peas, bringing more of them home to fill the house with scent and colour alongside all the dahlias

So, now all I have to do is choose what varieties to grow! I’ll share them with you once I’ve made up my mind.

January 13, 2012

We Love Lush.

Last summer, I took my lovely mum out for the day in Leeds for her birthday. We ended up in Lush. To be honest, I’d not been in the store for ages. Which, I see now, was a big mistake.

We had a potter around and I came across a shower scrub called Rub, Rub, Rub. Like a large proportion of the population, I have those little red bumps on my upper arms (keratosis pilaris) and it’s been something I’ve been self conscious about for as long as I can remember. Something that my mum knows all too well. So, she was queueing up with a pot of this for me to try and some bath goodies for herself, when I mentioned to the staff that it was her birthday. Which resulted in a loud and enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” and a free pot of shower scrub each…hurrah! Rub, Rub, Rub turned out to be the BEST scrub I have ever used on my arms and so I’ve found myself buying replacements for that first, free pot on a regular basis. I do think that the staff in the Lush Leeds store are amazing. It might be the result of being surrounded by essential oils all day, but they are unfailingly kind, helpful and a pleasure to spend time with. No wonder people go back time and again.

Like many girls, my daughter is fascinated with beauty products. We’ve even had that clichéd moment where she tried out all of my make-up in secret, emerging triumphantly from the bathroom looking rather clown-like and smelling horrifically of the half-bottle of perfume she’d doused herself with. I’ve wanted to indulge her a little bit, whilst at the same time holding her back from the worst elements; products that are clearly too grown up for her or full of nasty chemicals. I remember buying products from Cosmetics to Go when I was younger, and receiving the most exciting parcels through the post from them, and I knew that the new incarnation of that company would produce a similar amount of excitement for Eve. So I went back to Lush and came out of the store with a bag full of goodies including Creamy Candy and Pop in the Bath bubble bars and Snow Fairy shower gel. All of which have gone down a storm. As did the Ickle Baby Bot bath bomb I bought, which is filled with lavender and chamomile, so it even helps get both of the kids snoozy for bed! Our new favourite treat is to go to Lush together and choose a new bubble bar or bath bomb and it’s such a lovely thing to do and a great way of moving away from the idea that all treats have to come as chocolate.

The truth is that there is no smell sweeter to me than the top of my children’s heads (which sounds odd if you’re not a parent, and completely understandable if you are) but the second sweetest smell in the world is probably the products from Lush.

My next plan is to go back and find perfume and industrial quantities of wrinkle-filling face moisturiser. Which will be a story for another post.

PS – If you’re in Leeds on 20th January, they’re unveiling their Valentine’s Day selection, with demonstrations and nibbles. Mmm, nibbles…

From 5pm onwards.

January 11, 2012

The Year of the Dahlia.

So, I  realise that 2012 is going to be the year in which lots of things happen. The London Olympics, the end of the world (if you believe the long-dead Mayans) and more importantly than that, my first trip to Rome. Did I mention that I’m going to Rome? I did? Sorry. I’ll stop. For a while, anyway.

2012 is also the year in which I am going to plant more dahlias on the allotment. Lots and lots of dahlias. Which, incidentally, are pronounced like Roald Dahl, rather than ‘day-lia’ because they’re named after a Swedish botanist who also had the name Dahl.

I still pronounce them ‘day-lia’ because that’s how my Grandma says it, and I know better than to argue with her. She is, after all, my dahlia inspiration. Every year, Grandma enters the local show with her flowers and every year she comes away with prizes. Given that she’s a superb knitter too, she’s like the family version of Kirstie Allsopp. This year, although I won’t be entering any shows, I want to be able to go to my allotment and pick great big dramatically bold and beautiful bunches of flowers for my house.

The cutting bed last year.

The lovely dahlias have suffered in the past for being exactly that – a bit too bold and bright, especially those with pompom or spider-like shapes too. Like 1980’s style, they went out of fashion when everyone suddenly decided that minimalism was chic and that bright and blowsy was just a bit common. However, those of us who like a bit of colour never wavered in our love for them. Now, thankfully, they’re back and in a big way.

The main place I look every year at dahlia tubers is the beautiful and inspiring Sarah Raven catalogue. The variety of types, sizes and colours available there is second to none. If this goes anything like my vegetable seed buying from there turns out every year, I am going to struggle to narrow it down to a few varieties and will end up ordering half the catalogue and then spending the rest of the year frantically trying to grow everything. The good thing about the dahlias though, is that they will not end up in seed trays all over the house, like my vegetables…

January 10, 2012

Vintage Threads

Mother Venting wants to know the stories behind our oldest items of clothing and the tag has come to me twice now – from  A Hell of a Woman and From Fun to Mum – which is lovely because it makes me feel all popular, but also that I’d better get on and write something!

I’d love to share a piece of beautiful vintage couture with you, or perhaps something that has been handed down by my mum, from when she was at the Isle of Wight Festival watching Jimi Hendrix. Alas, I have neither. I do, however, have the programme for that festival, but that’s another story.

My oldest, most favourite item of clothing is actually footwear. I can have footwear, right? Good.

I present to you the oldest hightops in town…

Best Shoes Ever.

I bought this pair of Converse nearly twenty years ago. These days I have to wear them rather sparingly. They’re falling apart for one reason, and also, to be honest, they’re really bad for my poor plantar fasciitis suffering feet. But I LOVE them. I love them so much that I cannot buy another, replacement pair because then I would be betraying these ones. Which I admit is a little potty, and doesn’t stop me buying other shoes. Just not Converse high-tops…
They’ve been with me round the world and shared many of my adventures, from wandering around Paris,my favourite city in the world, to being chased by a macaque monkey out of the Batu Caves in Malaysia. Now, I’m a big fan of monkeys and apes. They are after all, our closest relatives, and for family, we treat them prettily shoddily. Don’t even get me started on the poor Orangutan (my favourite ape, and one on the utter verge of extinction) Despite this, it is safe to say that this particular macaque is not on my Christmas card list. The bloody thing was HUGE and was staring at me for ages before running at me with bared teeth. Macaque monkeys have BIG teeth. The reason for this, I found out, having reversed at speed down what amounted to a cliff edge, was that well-meaning (read: idiotic) tourists, had been turning up with loads of food in their bags to feed to the monkeys. Who, considering that they ate all the food offerings left at the Temple, really, really didn’t need half a loaf of bread too, and had taken to attacking people, thinking that they were carrying goodies. Thank goodness my trusty Converse saved me from the sugar-crazed monkey. Even if I looked like an idiot doing a runner. I’m exaggerating about the cliff edge by the way. There were steps. It’s the embarrassment…

Not this actual monkey...his GIANT brother

My podiatrist and physiotherapist do not love my Converse, and I see them shaking their heads when I turn up for appointments wearing them, so much so, that these days I wear my trail-running trainers instead to get the doctor brownie points. However, I will not be throwing them away, even if I cannot wear them as much these days. It’d be like throwing away an old friend and it ain’t gonna happen. Once they’ve finally collapsed, I will let them live with me in retirement forever…
I’m going to tag Minibreak Mummy for this now, because she’s a bit of a magpie so I think she’ll have something great to share. Plus, I love her writing.
PS – If you want to help save the Orang-Utan, please visit The Orangutan Foundation. I realise that this started off with shoes and ended up with primates, but there you go. I cannot help the way my brain works…
January 9, 2012

3 Books

The wonderful Emily at A Mummy Too wrote a post recently about 3 Books – a favourite book from childhood, a favourite adulthood book and finally a favourite parenthood book. I thought it was such a great idea. Finding the time and head space to read anything these days is a challenge, although one that I am doing my best to address. I am presently a member of three book clubs in various guises for a start…which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m reading more books, but I am chatting to people a lot more about the potential to read more books!

Finding only three books is a challenge, and if you asked me again next year I might give you a completely different set of answers but for now, here goes.

Childhood: My childhood book choice is an Enid Blyton one. Considering how popular she is, it’s something of a foregone conclusion. However, my book is the lesser known ‘The Children of Cherry Tree Farm”, one of a series of books following the lives of four children, Benjy, Rory, Sheila and Penny, who are sent to live on a farm with their aunt and uncle to recover from illness. They meet a hermit called Tammylan who knows all about the natural environment and he teaches them what he knows.

This series of books is far slower than the more adventurous of Blyton’s novels and really seem to exist to extole the virtues of country life, rather than having any major plot. Through ‘The Children of Cherry Tree Farm’ is a description of the British countryside  through the seasons, with many wonderful things and the occasional nasty truth (usually the conflict between nature and farming) to make sure that the image of the countryside isn’t always idyllic.

However, despite the lack of gripping adventurous plot,  it is because of them that I became obsessed with self-sufficiency legend John Seymour. It’s because of them that I have always wanted to keep chickens, and have a list of breeds I would choose. It is because of them that I have an allotment and my own little fruit orchard. It is because of them that I know so many things; bats don’t get stuck in your hair, a hare will jump sideways to stop its scent being found by a predator, the difference between a stoat and a weasel. It may even be because of these books that I ended up where I am today, working for an environmental organisation.

So, although I will read many different Enid Blyton books with my children as they grow older, I do hope that these become a favourite with them too. They made such a big impression on me that I’ve never forgotten as I’ve got older.

Adulthood: I struggled a bit with my second book. Those of you who read this blog regularly, will know that I have two favourite novels – ‘I Capture The Castle’ and ‘War and Peace’. For the sheer reason that I re-read it when I am glum and it comforts me like a cashmere blanket, I am choosing Dodi Smith’s ‘I Capture The Castle’ here. It is a beautifully written and bittersweet coming-of-age story that I adore. The subjects of unrequited love, growing up with eccentric and difficult family members, struggling for money, the desire for beautiful things and the bloody difficulty of being in that moment, no longer a girl but not quite a woman either, bind together with poignancy and the odd moment of sheer comedy. I know every time I turn to it and read the opening line: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink‘ that I will fall in love all over again.

The difficulty with choosing an adulthood book is that these are my favourites so far. Although they have both been long-standing choices, the beauty of literature is that you never know what you might read next!

Parenthood: This one is even more difficult! My kids love books and I mean LOVE books. It’s like Junior Waterstones at our house and we could probably set up a library. Even though they have so many, we often find ourselves reading the same ones over and over again, something that will be  familiar to those of you with kids. There are many that I can recite without being anywhere near the book itself. Mostly Julia Donaldson ones…

Anyway, the book that I am choosing for this is “My Naughty Little Sister’ by Dorothy Edwards. Although written in 1952 and therefore relatively dated (which means I take the liberty of changing a word or two) I have chosen this book is because it was the first book that we read to Eve that wasn’t a picture book. Originally we were lent an old copy, which we took thinking that she wouldn’t be interested, and she proved us completely wrong by wanting to read the whole thing and we now have the full series. I love that she completely surprised me by being so much more grown up than I’d thought and that she (along with her little brother) shares my love of books.  We still do read lots of picture books, alongside more grown up stories like these, but my husband is already counting down the days until he can introduce them to The Hobbit…

Now it’s your turn. Choose your #3Books and add them to the linky at A Mummy Too !