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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring has sprung

Well I don't know about the rest of the world but we have had an extremely mild winter and are looking at a rather warm springtime already.
So with the lovely weather I started to pile off the jumpers and suddenly realised that summer and bikini time will be just around the corner. This and the fact that we have booked ourselves a wee holiday to Jamaica made me step back and look at myself in the mirror. It is all very well blaming the flabby and loose bits on just having a baby but when that "baby" is now a walking, talking eighteen month old, it becomes a rather lame excuse.
So what to do. Well, as most of you know, the first step to everything is to read a book. I don't do diets (I have never really had to in the past when I was fairly naturally thin) so I wanted a book that was not a preachy diet book but rather just helped me to re-learn the common sense eating habits that used to come naturally to me.
Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting

So I chose this book - Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel. She is 'famous' from reality tv shows 'The Real Housewives of New York City' (which I have never seen) and 'Bethenny Ever After' (which I quite like to do the ironing to). She comes across as fairly likeable and full of common sense so I thought this book might be worth a read.
I was right, it is worth a read. You are not going to learn how to suddenly be thin but it gives you ten common sense rules to bear in mind when making food choices. Nothing you didn't already know either but sometimes it is good to be reminded of them.

Here are the ten rules in summary:

1) Your diet is a bank account

You have to balance your food choices. Try and make smart investments in what you choose to eat but if you have a splurge then just balance it with a save on your next choice.

2) You can have it all, just not a once.

Similar to rule 1 as you can eat anything you want but just balance it out. So have the pasta just not the garlic bread or have the garlic bread but with a salad instead of the pasta.

3) Taste everything, eat nothing

This sounds worse than what she actually means. I interpreted it as meaning just have smaller portions of each thing you want rather than tucking into one huge portion of something. In Italian Mangia poco ma bene "Eat little, but well".

4)Pay Attention

Always pay attention to what and when you are eating. I do tend to do this although it has become harder with a toddler eating along side of me. I very rarely eat standing up and usually always at a proper table, so this one is not to hard for me. One part of this rule I do have to work on is slowing down when I eat. I tend to scoff my food down so eat more before my body can tell me I am already full. Again, difficult with a toddler in tow!

5)Downsize now

Eat smaller portions. Sounds easy and it is when I eat at home but in this country the portion sizes when you eat out are ridiculous. So what I do now is automatically get a To Go box with my meal and put a good portion of it away to bring home and have for lunch the next day. This has been working so far and is saving money as I am getting 3 meals out of one portion size (I said they had big portions here!!!).

6) Cancel your membership in the clean plate club

I was always taught that you had to eat everything that was on your plate. So now I just put less on my plate or apply rule 5) if I am out. If I eat everything on my plate it is not going to affect the poor starving children in Africa, or anywhere else for that matter!

7)Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Not one of the rules that I really need to bother about as I never tended to binge eat in the way she describes. This rule is just to stop binging and she goes into a lot of detail about how people place an emotional value on food. Again, not something I have ever done but I am sure a lot of people will relate to this part.

8) Know Thyself

Just get to know what works for you and when you are actually hungry. It also relates to knowing your triggers and what will make you overeat and then addressing those. I don't have any special dietary restrictions but I know that I do need to snack regularly or I get a headache and get grumpy as my blood sugar level falls. I then tend to overeat or make bad food choices to get an instant fix to the sugar low.

9)Get Real

Eat real food and not processed food. I usually apply this rule anyway 99% of the time. I have started to buy slightly better quality fresh food as the book suggests you buy the best real food you can afford. One thing I need to get better at is eating In Season and Local food when I can. That is easy in the area I live with all the fresh food markets and farmers markets around here.

10) Good for you

I felt this rule was inserted just to stretch the concept out into a rounded ten rules but it does make some sense. It just points out how you are in control of your life and body so make choices that are Good for you. Not rocket science, right!

One point that was made that was not a rule in it's own right, but which I think is highly relevant, is to differentiate between your Food Noise and your Food Voice. Food Noise is your negative inner food dialogue, commenting on and criticising everything you eat or think about eating, or don't eat. Food Voice is your body's organic sense of itself and tells you what makes you feel good and is nice to you. Separating these two thoughts has helped me over the last couple of weeks and has caused me to make some better choices.

Another point, that is also worth mentioning is called The Differential. This is the differential between two choices and whether or not that difference is worthwhile. If something is really worth the extra fat and calories to you then go ahead and eat it but if the lower fat alternative could be nearly as satisfying then have that instead. My own example of this is that I now use Turkey pepperoni when I make my pizza instead of the higher fat regular pepperoni - simple choice and tastes no different but saves lots of fat and calories, easy!

So this book has been useful and worth a read for anyone struggling to lose weight or maintain their weight without having to go on a measure out everything type diet.

Will it work, well I have lost some of the pounds I needed to and time will tell on the rest.

Stay tuned for the report on our dream holiday in Jamaica.

Bon Appetit Xx

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

High society by Ben Elton

book cover of   High Society   by  Ben Elton

The war on drugs has been lost. The simple fact is that the whole world is rapidly becoming one vast criminal network. From pop stars and royal princes to crack whores and street kids, from the Groucho Club toilets to the poppy fields of Afghanistan, we are all partners in crime.

High Society is a story about Britain today, a criminal nation in which everybody is either breaking the law or knows people who do. It takes the reader on a hilarious, heartbreaking and terrifying journey through the kaleidoscope world that the law has created and from which the law offers no protection.

I always like Ben Elton's writing style and comedic take on quite serious matters. I am the polar opposite to him in political views but still can appreciate his viewpoints and funny stories.
This is not his best book but an easy, funny read that raises some interesting political points while also ridiculing politicians and other members of British society.
Give him a try as an author if you haven't already tried him, you may be pleasantly surprised.

My favourite of his is Blind Faith which is his comedy take on 1984 except it is the polar opposite where everything is public. This is a good one to start with for this author especially if you have read 1984 (and who hasn't) and was laugh out loud for me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

50 books to own before you're five

Well it has been quite a
while since I have blogged anything. The
main reasons are that I reckoned that no-one would be interested in the
everyday, normal life that we are living and I just have not got around to
writing anything down. I keep coming up
with ideas to blog and write them in my head but somehow they just don’t make
it onto the computer.
I received a lovely card
and article from Susan (MrsMac) which has inspired me to make the time to write
something. Susan has been very kind and
sent Hannah quite a number of unique books from her own collection and her
cards always make me feel smiley!
The article was from the
The Telegraph and was by their Deputy Literary Editor, Lorna Bradbury.
It is her recommendations
for classic books that every child should own.
Read the article, it is quite interesting. I have copied and pasted her list of 50 with
her comments. I have added some of my
own comments (in bold) where I felt it necessary. If I haven’t commented I have, generally, not
read and don’t possess the book.
At first the list did
make me feel like I was depriving Hannah as she has barely any of the books but
I then realised that we still have another 3.5 years to rectify this. At the rate I tend to gather books this is
extremely achievable.
I would love to hear your
own comments on this list. There are
many other books I would add if I were to compile my own list but lets stick to
these 50 for now.

Picture Books
1 Curious George
by Margret Rey and HA Rey (Houghton Mifflin). The first book of seven, from
1941, about a monkey who is kidnapped by the man in the yellow hat.
I must admit to having
never read any of these books in my lifetime and we have none in the house, so
I will need to seek some out and see what the appeal is

2 Where the Wild Things
Are by Maurice Sendak (Red Fox). One of my favourites as a child, this
has gone on to inspire a generation of illustrators – and a very poor film.
This was made into a
movie a couple of years ago but, again, I have not had the pleasure of either
the book or the movie

3 Father Christmas
by Raymond Briggs (Puffin). The best book about Christmas by some margin,
featuring an extremely grumpy Santa. Narrowly beat The Snowman for a place on
this list.

4 Gorilla by
Anthony Browne (Walker). A beautifully drawn story from the former children’s
laureate about a lonely girl who finds company in a gorilla.

5 The Mick Inkpen
Collection (Hodder). This edition contains seven stories, including my
son’s favourite, Billy’s Beetle. You have to find the beetle hiding somewhere
on each spread.

6 There Was an Old Lady
Who Swallowed a Fly illustrated by Pam Adams (Child’s Play). This
edition has holes.

7 The Babar Collection
by Jean de Brunhoff (Egmont). Here are five of the classic French stories,
including the first, The Story of Babar, from 1931.

8 Jim by Hilaire
Belloc, illustrated by Mini Grey (Jonathan Cape). The poem is reproduced at
picture book length with Grey’s striking illustrations and paper engineering.
You could go, if you prefer, for a collection of Belloc, such as Cautionary
Verses (Red Fox).

9 Polar Bear, Polar Bear,
What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle (Puffin). This charming verse story
about how different animals behave is less well known than The Very Hungry
Caterpillar, but more fun.
We have 3 Eric Carle
books but not this one. As he is a
favourite already of Hannah, I will need to look this one up

10 What Do People Do All
Day? by Richard Scarry (HarperCollins). Scarry’s immensely detailed
books about everyday life can lead to some good conversations, and are great
for children who need to know how things work (more or less all of them).

11 The Story of the
Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth
and Wolf Erlbruch (Chrysalis). This may not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s
no escaping the lavatory when it comes to children’s humour, and this book
manages to be educational too.

12 Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr Seuss (HarperCollins). Or another of the vast number of books Dr Seuss
wrote from the Forties onwards. Excellent fun in verse, and great for learning to
read too.
We do not own any Dr
Seuss books. I just cannot see the
appeal of them as I find them rather annoying

13 Lost and Found
by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins). First published in 2006, this is already a
modern classic.

14 The Adventures of Mrs
Pepperpot by Alf Proysen, illustrated by Hilda Offen (Red Fox). This
edition contains two abridged versions of these well-loved Norwegian stories
about the woman who shrinks.
I loved these stories
as a child and had forgotten about them

15 The Gruffalo
by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Macmillan). It may now be
over-familiar, but it’s hard to imagine a library without one of Donaldson’s
catchy rhyming tales.
A favourite in this
house and a lot of fun to read aloud with all the voices of the characters

16 Monkey and Me
by Emily Gravett (Macmillan). Or anything by Gravett, really: an exceptional
new(ish) writer and illustrator.

17 Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (Macmillan). A perfectly soporific
bedtime story. Ditto the following.
We received a couple of
copies of this when Hannah was born. I
had never heard of it before then and at first read I did not see the appeal
but Hannah seems to love it and regularly picks it for her bedtime story

18 Time for Bed by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer (Houghton Mifflin). You’ll read these books so many
times, it’s important to have more than one.

19 Operation Alphabet
by Al MacCuish and Luciano Lozano (Thames & Hudson). My favourite book
about the alphabet.

20 Hippos Go Berserk
by Sandra Boynton (Simon & Schuster). A jolly counting book that goes down
as well as up.
Sandra Boynton is a
genius. We have 3 of her books and they are
all very entertaining for child and adult alike

Classic novels
21 Beatrix Potter: the
Complete Tales (Warne). You can’t have a library without Beatrix
Potter, and there’s no messing about with this edition which contains all 23
We are receiving a
lovely set of these books, 2 at a time from Bob and Linda Watson (along with
knitted characters). Such lovely tales
and the versions we have are beautiful and will be a collectors item for Hannah
to pass onto her own children

22 The Adventures of
Tintin by Hergé (Egmont). The collected edition seems to be out of
print, but why not go for one of the various volumes which collect several
stories at a time?

23 Alice’s Adventures in
Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by Yayoi Kusama
(Penguin). This beautiful new cloth-bound edition is a must-have.

24 The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer (HarperCollins). Alice’s
American cousin, this is a story about a boy who is transported to the Kingdom
of Wisdom via a magic tollbooth.

25 The Wonderful Wizard
of Oz by L Frank Baum, with art by Robert Sabuda (Simon &
Schuster). This is a classy pop-up edition, based on an abridged version of the
text. For the complete text, try the edition by OUP.

26 The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, tr by Katherine Woods (Egmont). A lovely edition,
with Saint-Exupéry’s original illustrations.

27 The Winnie-the-Pooh
Collection by AA Milne, illustrated by EH Shepard (Egmont). This boxed
set contains all four books.
I have this set which I
picked up in Troon before we moved to America.
I started reading them to Hannah when she was just an itty bitty

28 Pippi Longstocking
by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child (OUP). These new illustrations
by the author of Charlie and Lola provide a contemporary twist on the Swedish
classic. (Lindgren’s books about Karlsson and Emil are also very good.)

29 Swallows and Amazons
by Arthur Ransome (Red Fox). The first in a series set between the wars at a
time when children mucked about in boats and built camps by themselves – or at
least we like to think they did.

30 Five on a Treasure
Island by Enid Blyton (Hodder). It was a close run thing between the
Famous Five and Malory Towers, but I’ve opted for the adventures of George and
co. This is the first book in the series. Make sure you get the edition from
1997 with Eileen A Soper’s illustrations, rather than the newer edition in
which the text has been modernised.
I have just finished
gathering the full set of Famous Five books from various online swap sites and
charity shops. I had them as a child but
must have given them away years and years ago.
I have re-read the first 8 and am planning to work my way through the
rest. I will pass them onto Hannah when
she is old enough to read them her self.
I also have the complete Malory towers set and Faraway Tree books. Anything by Enid Blyton is loved by me and I
hope to gather them all, in time, to pass to Hannah

31 Jo of the Chalet
School by Elinor M Brent-Dyer (Girls Gone By). I adored the Chalet
School books as a girl – and, thrillingly for children who like to stick with a
series they know and like, there are nearly 60 books. Some of them have now
fallen out of print, but this one, the second, is as good a place as any to

32 The Railway Children
by E Nesbit (Puffin). No childhood is complete without this novel from 1905,
immortalised by the 1970 film starring Jenny Agutter.

33 The Magician’s Nephew
by C S Lewis (HarperCollins), the first in his Chronicles of Narnia series.

34 The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Templar or Puffin). Choose between two new
editions, the Templar one illustrated by Robert Ingpen and the Puffin one by
Lauren Child.
I have a beautiful red
leather bound edition of this that I earned for perfect attendance at Sunday
School!! Yes really

35 The Wind in the
Willows by Kenneth Grahame (Templar or Egmont). Both of these editions
are lovely, the former illustrated again by Robert Ingpen and the latter
preserving the illustrations by E H Shepard.

36 The Story of Doctor
Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (Red Fox). This is the first story about the
man who can talk to animals, from 1920. The longer sequel, The Voyages of
Doctor Dolittle, which won the Newbery Medal, is trickier to get hold of,
especially if you’re after a pretty edition.

37 The BFG by
Roald Dahl and Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl (both Puffin, and both
illustrated by Quentin Blake). I am sneaking in two here – my favourite novel
and my favourite of his silly rhymes.

38 Fattypuffs and
Thinifers by André Maurois (Jane Nissen Books). The French classic
about a fat brother and a thin brother – and the battle that ensues between two
warring nations. This edition is illustrated by Raymond Briggs.

39 Anne of Green Gables
by LM Montgomery (Puffin). This is the first in the captivating series about
the red-headed orphan, published originally in 1908, and the one that covers her
early childhood.

40 Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott (Puffin). Again, the first book in the series, about the
four sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. It was originally published in the United
States in 1868. The sequels are also published by Puffin.
I also have lovely old
copies of the complete set of this series that I plan to pass to Hannah. There is something about reading this type of
book in a beautiful old binding rather than buying a new paperback
version. The feel and the smell of it
adds to the experience

41 Charlotte’s Web
by EB White (Puffin). Another American novel, this one is about a pig who is
rescued by a spider called Charlotte. I’ve gone for this over Dick King-Smith’s
animal tales.
A beautiful and sad
tale every child should read

42 The Summer Book
by Tove Jansson (Sort Of Books). The Finnish novelist is best known for her
series about the Moomins, but I have selected instead a novel for older
children about a girl and her grandmother, and the summer they spend together
on a remote island.

43 The Greengage Summer
or The Peacock Spring by Rumer Godden (Pan). Also for when
your granddaughter is in her teens, two coming-of-age stories, the first set in
France and the second in India.
Collections and Histories

44 The Oxford Nursery
Rhyme Book, edited by Iona and Peter Opie with illustrations by Joan
Hassall (OUP). This chunky volume containing every nursery rhyme you can
possibly think of is charmingly old fashioned, reproduced in a format that
harks back to its first publication in 1955.

45 The Hutchinson
Treasury of Children’s Literature, edited by Alison Sage (Hutchinson).
Every child’s book shelf needs the breadth of an anthology, and this one
contains nearly 100 extracts from nursery rhymes, fairy tales and all kinds of

46 Tales of Hans
Christian Andersen, translated by Naomi Lewis and illustrated by Joel
Stewart (Walker). Andrew Lang’s collections of fairy tales are great, but I’ve
gone for this collection by Hans Christian Andersen as a starter.
We just bought a lovely
book of Fairy Tales which includes a number of these tales along with the
Brothers Grimm and many more. Both my
husband and I have sweet memories of reading or being read these as a child and
want to enjoy the same moments with Hannah

47 The Complete Nonsense
of Edward Lear (Faber). There are beautiful editions of individual
poems, such as “The Quangle Wangle’s Hat” (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury,
Mammoth), but why not opt for the collected works?

48 Tales from Shakespeare
by Charles and Mary Lamb (Puffin or, in an edition illustrated by Joelle
Jolivet, Harry N Abrams). These retellings of the plays are literary works in
their own right.

49 Our Island Story: a
History of Britain for Boys and Girls from the Romans to Queen Victoria
by HE Marshall (Galore Park). An excellent single-volume history of Britain,
first published in 1905.

50 A Little History of
the World by Ernst Gombrich (Yale). A sophisticated narrative by the
art historian which runs up to the First World War, written in language any
child can understand.
This one has been
personally recommended by MrsMac so what better reason to seek it out