Sunday, December 30, 2012

Slummy Mummy

It was my younger daughter's fourth birthday. I was about to
pop a cake in the oven when I got a call from the school nurse
explaining that head lice had gone viral in my older daughter's
classroom. Parents were being called to claim their children. Unable
to drive, I had to walk Katie and her fresh-from-the-hospital baby
brother over a mile in frigid weather, realizing that trips to the
laundromat, bagging stuffed animals, extensive additional vacuuming,
and intensive child hair care were about to be added to my already
packed (I also ran a home typing service to supplement the hubby's
income) and totally sleep deprived life style.
If you have memories like that, whether from years ago or last
week, you will love Fiona Neill's Slummy Mummy. Lucy is the mother
and primary caretaker of three young sons. The chores are never
ending. Emergencies big and small crop up with alarming frequency.
Even when she plans carefully, a small unexpected glitch such as milk
spilled on a school uniform can throw her system into pandemonium.
Lucy can't understand why her life has devolved into near
chaos. As she muses in the first chapter, "It is utterly baffling to
me that I used to be able to put together the lead package on
Newsnight in less than an hour but am so singularly unable to meet the
challenge of getting my children ready for school each morning. It
seems unbelievable that I could persuade cabinet ministers to come to
the studio late at night to be grilled by Jeremy Paxman but cannot
convince my toddler to keep on his clothes." Sound familiar to anyone
beside me?
Her husband is clueless, unable to see why she doesn't have life
reduced to a formula or why the element of chaos appeals to her,
adding excitement to her life. At her children's school the other
mothers seem in a whole different league, especially Yummy Mummy
Number 1 and Alpha Mom. Sexy Domesticated Dad could be a candidate
for an extramarital affair. Only she isn't sure if she's interested
in what he may or may not be offering.
Neill had me hooked from the first page where Lucy is without
contact lenses because she left them soaking in a coffee mug and her
hubby has drunk them. Again. The book is funny at times, poignant at
times, never boring. You don't have to be a parent to enjoy it.
After I finish this review I'm passing it on to my teen age daughter.
Of course I'll insist that my book club include it in our line up.
On a personal note, after a brown Christmas central Maine has been hit
with two snow storms in a row. This is gonna make for GOOD SLEDDING!
A great big shout out goes out to all the other moms who, like Lucy
and me, don't run picture perfect households.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, December 14, 2012

More sweets

For the most part I'm good about nutrition. I've been a
vegetarian almost six years. I have a great fondness for local fruits
and veggies, a preference for bread from artisans who bake small
batches over mass produced bland stuff, and a vehement distrust of
convenience foods with ingredient lists a fourth grader can't read. I
do, however, have my Achiles heel. I'm sure, dear Reader, you know
what it is by now: sweets.
Very few of us can totally resist sweets. If we're going to
enjoy them, far better to go the DIY route than trust Big Food! For
the precious people in our lives, baking can be an act of love. This
is especially true of our peeps with food allergies or sensitivities.
Creating treats they can enjoy is very special indeed!
If you're a fan of scrumptious desserts take a look through
Trish Boyle's The Cake Book. Even the cover picture--a perfect slice
of chocolate cake--bespeaks elegance. The recipes are grouped by
type. Fruit based cakes is the category that caught my eye right
away. I love the idea of a rum based fruitcake for Christmas. There
are even exotic chapters like mousse and ice cream cakes. A really
nice touch is the quotes scattered through the book, ranging from
Isiah to Oscar Wilde.
Looking for a slightly smaller treat? Better Homes and Gardens
The Ultimate Cookie Book boasts over 500 recipes. Oh my! Just the
dozen delights pictured on the cover had visions dancing in my head.
Many of the confections inside come with tempting photographs. Even
though my attempts would never look anywhere near as perfect I'm
inspired. The scope and variety are amazing. There are eleven kinds
of biscotti alone. The cherry rum looks tasty with its drizzle of
icing. There's a whole chapter for Christmas followed by one on
candy. The candy-box caramels would be so much fun to create as a
Enough already! I can't begin to do this book justice. You
just have to check it out yourself!
On a personal note, I can't imagine how anyone could shoot little
A great big shout out goes out to all our loved ones. May we take
every opportunity to show them they are cherished, not just when
tragedy raises this awareness, but every day we are privileged to have
them in our lives. Like maybe baking a treat for them now and then.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Sock knitting

I see them plying their craft--even on a moving bus! They use
ultra thin needles--sometimes three or four at a time, fine yarn,
intricate patterns. They're creating socks. They make it look easy.
It's anything but. As a much more primitive fiber artist with no more
ambition than turning out scarves from random yarns, I respect them
highly and harbor no desire whatsoever to follow in their elegantly
clad footsteps.
If you are one of them you will enjoy Ann Budd's Sock Knitting
Master Class. The seventeen featured patterns are astounding.
Bulgarian blooms have flowers knit right in. Rose ribs are light and
airy. Thigh-high stripes are eclectic creations worthy of Pippi
Longstocking. Budd had fifteen top designers assist her with this
collection. It is truly impressive.
Pictures are beautiful. A DVD is included. I'm sure those
talented enough to number themselves in the master class of sock
knitters will find this volume inspirational and indispensable.
On a personal note, I made matching holiday scarves out of red and
green varigated eyelash yarn for the Kindred Spirits girlz (Darcie,
Paula, Christine, Leah, and me). How cool is that?
A great big shout out goes out to our Leah who has become a crocheter
extraordinaire. That girl has a Midas touch. Any time she gets her
hands on yarn she comes up with a work of beauty.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

American Girls encore

One of my vices as a library volunteer is checking for juvenile
wing new books. I stick little pieces of paper in interesting
acquisitions, reserving my chance to read them first after they are
catelogued. I was very lucky to catch three new American Girls
mysteries. They came in very handy when an inner ear virus had me on
bed rest.
In The Crystal Ball by Jacqueline Green, Rebecca (whom I have
introduced you to in an earlier review) must find out if she and her
neighbors are just having bad luck or if something more sinister is
afoot. People's treasured possessions disappear. An unusually
colored pigeon is found in a friend's cage. Her beloved cousin is
seen frequenting a pawn shop where stolen objects turn up. How can
she prove his innocence and find out what's really going on?
In The Cameo Necklace (Evelyn Coleman) and The Hidden Gold
(Sarah Buckey) best friends growing up in 1854 New Orleans must search
for lost objects against great odds.
Cecile has lost a beloved cameo necklace. It was her aunt's
last gift from her dead husband. Cecile has borrowed it without
permission to wear it to a circus. Now anyone could have it. Two of
the suspects live in a hidden colony in the alligator infested swamps.
Marie-Grace is travelling with her father on the Mississippi
River. A girl, Wilhemina, who has just lost her father (a prospector)
becomes a passenger. The girls must find Willhemina's father's gold
so she can be reunited with her little brothers. They may not be the
only ones seeking the treasure. Time is running out.
These three volumes are must reads for youngsters who enjoy good
On a personal note, I survived the inner ear virus. A doctor tried to
get me to take a corticosteroid (really!) to surpress symptoms so I
could keep going even though she had no idea how my body would react
to it. I chose instead bed rest. No long list of side effects plus I
knew how my body would react. Very nicely thank you.
A great big out shout out goes out to Karen and Shelley and the other
school nurses who work dilligently to meet the health needs of
students and families.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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