Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Children's book review - July

Welcome to July's children's book review!

This month, Ashleigh, Mitchell and I again raided the local library for some new (to us) reads. Here are our thoughts.


Not a Cloud in the Sky / Emma Quay

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Emma Quay's Rudie Nudie made it into our favourite family books list last year, so it's perhaps not surprising that we also love Not a Cloud in the Sky.

Bird is flying, and meets Cloud. But Cloud isn't a cloud today. Cloud is a... well, pretty much anything. Quay's wispy cloud illustrations of a dancing pig, a boiling kettle and a bunch of bananas riding a motorbike, to name but a few, are beautiful. And there's a fiery surprise at the end when the setting sun joins in.

The chitter-chatter between Bird and Cloud is lovely as well. This book's a winner all round.


Two Baby Elephants / Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

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I love a silly rhyming book! Two Baby Elephants is an absolute delight. When mum is away, elephants come over to play. They break things, make a mess, and sleep in mum's bed. But will they still be there when she gets home?

This book is reminiscent of The Cat in the Hat, with something of a surprise ending.


Everybody Was a Baby Once / Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman

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I've mentioned The Jolly Postman and Peepo! before; this is a collection of poems from the same author. We all love Everybody Was a Baby Once. Ashleigh loves rhymes of any description, and the different rhythms of the poems in this book fascinate her.

It's a good one to sit and read all the way through. And, when the whole pre-bedtime ritual is dragging on a little too long, it's also a good one to select just a few poems from. My favourite is When I Was Just a Little Child, which begins like this:

When I was just a little child
The world seemed wide to me.
My Mum was like a feather bed
My bath was like the sea.


Little Miss Lucky / Roger Hargreaves

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So... I don't like Little Miss and Mister Men books. Scandalous, I know. They just annoy me.

But Ashleigh LOVES them. And when she picked up Little Miss Lucky at the library, and turned her big brown pleading eyes at me, I couldn't say no again.

This book commits one of my usually unforgivable book crimes. But it's for children. And it doesn't commit any grammatical book crimes. It doesn't even commit any consistency book crimes (unlike Little Miss Magic, another favourite of Ashleigh's). And my daughter loves it. So, on balance, it gets a begrudging okay.


What books have you read with your children lately?

This post is the eleventh in a series of children's book review posts. Check out the others here:

Children's book review - reader recommendations (June)
Children's book review (May)
Children's book review (April)
Children's book review (March)
Children's book review (February)
Children's book review (January)
Children's book review (December)
Children's book review - family favourites (November)
Children's book review (October)
Once upon a book review (September)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The story that changed my life

I don't know what to write.

That doesn't often happen.

This is a Writers Reveal post, and the prompt this month is 'the story that changed my life'. I've thought about a few different ways to approach it.

I could talk about something that happened to me, or near me, or around me, or within me. Something that affected me so much that it changed my life.

I could talk about an actual story or book I've read that affected me so much that you could argue it's changed my life.

But I don't feel comfortable doing either of those things. I don't feel comfortable going into the detail of some of the major events in my life that have shaped it. I am fairly open on this blog, but there are some things that I want to keep just mine. Or just ours, depending on what it is.

And I can't write about a story or book that affected my life because I can't think of one. I can list those that moved me to tears. I can list those I've read more than once, with a shortlist of those that have reached double figures. But there is not a single book that I can point to and say, "If I hadn't read that book, my life would be different today." Not one.

I've been mulling over this writing prompt for a month. I even dug through my old school and uni papers and found an English folio piece that would suit the prompt perfectly. (Funny how sometimes you can write highly personal stories for an audience of one almost perfect stranger, but not share them with those you know.) I read it, and relived it. My head picked out the key lines, reshaped them, took some out, added more, and thought about posting the result.

But I can't. Not here. Perhaps not anywhere. Writers probably aren't supposed to say this, and I'm probably breaking all the rules. But sometimes, just sometimes, our stories have to stay our own.

I don't know what to write.

That doesn't often happen.


Each month, I receive a writing prompt as part of a link-up called Writers Reveal.

This (un-)post was (un)inspired by the prompt 'the story that changed my life' from J.C. Wolfe at the Wolfe's Den. Thanks for the great post, J.C., and sorry that I can't do it justice.

You can see what everyone else has done with the same prompt at:

Melissa Writes

the Wolfe's Den
Imagine! Create! Write!

Melissa, J.C., Becky, Ashley and I would love to invite more writers to participate in our monthly prompts. If you are interested, please leave your email address or send it to me via the contact page, and I'll be in touch with next month's topic.

What story changed your life?

Monday, July 14, 2014

An open letter to Mr Cadbury

Dear Mr Cadbury,
Life's been a bit unspectacular lately. And I do mean a bit, and I'm not writing to you to complain about life.

I'm writing to you to complain about you.


See, I love your products. Love, adore, worship, idolise - pick your term of affection. They all apply. And I buy your products all the time, regardless of price.

But lately, you've been on sale. Anywhere. Everywhere. Half price. Less than half price.

My willpower is generally low when it comes to chocolate anyway, but lately, it's hit the floor. Combine my non-existent willpower with your super low prices and my bargain-hunting brain, and my purchasing of you has increased to ridiculous levels.

Much like my waistline.

Please, Mr Cadbury, I ask just one thing of you. Just one, tiny thing:

This $6.00 haul was supposed to last a week.
I was back at the supermarket the next day.
Just stop. I promise to buy you anyway. I really do. I will spend the same amount of money, but get less chocolate. You get more margin; I get less chocolate. It sounds terrible for me, but seriously, it's fine. I will cope. I will cope much better than I am currently coping.


Thanks in advance,

Are you a chocolate nut like me? How do you avoid the temptation to buy five (hundred) blocks when they're on sale? And to eat all five (hundred) blocks that evening?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Renovating: what I'd do differently next time

You may have noticed that I haven't had a post-renovation reveal post for a while. Not because I don't have more rooms to reveal, but because they all have two or three finishing touches that just don't seem to get done.

When you've lived in a renovation zone for four years, and then you get to live in your proper house, with more than three rooms, and storage, and S P A C E, suddenly that last coat of paint doesn't seem so important. That hole where the electrical point was put through in the wrong place will get fixed one day, and who really cares if you don't have a toilet roll holder?

Okay, okay, I care. I care enough not to show the photos on my blog, anyway. And, of course, the front yard, backyard and garage are still months from being started finished.
So while we're in this renovation lull, I thought I'd share some of the things I've learnt from renovating.
Specifically, the things I would do differently if we ever renovated again.
  • Seriously. Never renovate. Just don't do it.
  • Failing that, don't take five years (plus).
  • Failing that, don't live in the house while renovating. Both because it's unfun to do, and because paying rent and/or losing a rental income would (theoretically) motivate you to go faster.
  • Allow lots time for the comedy of errors that having a glass splashback installed can be.
  • Don't use the highest grade of concrete available for a polished concrete floor you're intending to grind down to reveal stones.
  • Whatever grade of concrete you use, don't allow four months to pass before attempting to grind it.
  • Ensure stairs align with walls and banisters so that baby gates can be installed properly.
  • Don't put air conditioners on opposite sides of the same wall.
  • Test drawers before selecting them for your kitchen. (In ours, the handle-lessness looks fantastic, but it means that the drawers are too shallow to be used for their original intended purpose.)
  • Choose a rangehood that covers the entire stovetop, even it if means ruining the super-smooth white look of your kitchen.
  • Take more 'before' photos.
  • Take more 'during' photos.

And to show the experience hasn't been all bad, here is what I'd do the same:

  • Trust most big decisions to builder hubby who knows what works (and what's so hot right now).
  • Have wonderfully fantastically awesome family and friends who support you while you're doing it.
  • Go back to the designers as many times as it takes until the kitchen is exactly what you want. Even with the slight drawer and rangehood imperfections I mentioned above, I LOVE our kitchen.
  • Have a ducted vacuum cleaner.
  • Have four bathrooms. They're annoying to clean, but in a three-level house, it's the best option. I wouldn't like to ask people to go up and/or down the stairs just to use the toilet, and I wouldn't want our bedroom becoming a thoroughfare.
  • Renovate rather than build. I know that I said I didn't want to renovate again, but in all honesty I'd rather have an older house with character.
Have you renovated? What would you do differently next time? And what would you do exactly the same?
This post is the sixth in a series of posts about our (almost) completed renovation. Other posts include:

A space to play
A kitchen I (almost) don't mind cooking in
Living, dining, future reclining

Step into my office (a.k.a. the laundry)