The More Than Toast Book Club

 

Books have always been a really important part of my life. When I was a kid I was a total bookworm and you’d always find me with my nose in a book: at the supermarket with my mum, in the library at school lunchtime, up late at night under the covers with a torch (yep, I was that kid). I love how you can completely lose yourself in a good story, no matter what’s happening in your life at that time.

I’ve found one of the down sides of becoming a parent is the lack of time, space and available light to read. If anyone out there knows the best way to spend half an hour with a book at 10pm without waking your lightly sleeping 5 month old then please come forward now: I’ve taken to reading on my Kindle iPhone app and really easy books at that (Cheryl Cole’s autobiography, ahem). And in all honesty, this is probably one of the reasons why I find my brain is turning to mush. That and the little person hanging off my ankle screeching “mummy, mummy, mummy, FART” ten thousand times a day.

When I made my Life List I thought that my love of literature should be a part of it. This is why I included the goal to read my way through a ‘Top 100′ list of books. And that’s one thing I’ve wanted to start accomplishing (the 5 month old will soon become six months old and will be ceremoniously moved to his own room). However, when it came to selecting the perfect top 100 list I became a bit stumped. The last list officially compiled by a newspaper over 4 years ago, and I want to include in my list more modern works. So I’ve decided to come up with my own.

Using a few ‘Top 100′ lists I found via Google (this one by The Telegraph, this one from the Guardian, The BBC’s Big Read and World Library’s Top 100) I have compiled the below books, but I want your help. I have 35 spaces left to fill and I need you to fill them! So what are your favourite, most thought changing and seminal books?

1. The DaVinci Code Dan Brown
2. Sarah J. T. LeRoy (thanks Charlotte!)
3. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
4. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
5. Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier
6. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
7. The Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling
8. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernieres
9. Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden (my all-time favourite)
10. Trainspotting Irvine Welsh
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
12. Emma Jane Austen
13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
14. Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian
15. The Railway Children E. Nesbit
16. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini 
17. Animal Farm George Orwell
18. The Catcher In The Rye J. D. Salinger
19. Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
20. The BFG Roald Dahl 
21. Black Beauty Anna Sewell
22. Bridget Jones’s Diary Helen Fielding
23. On The Road Jack Kerouac
24. A Brave New World Aldous Huxley (Obviously have to have this one!)
25. The Princess Diaries Meg Cabot
26. 1984 George Orwell
27. Lolita Vladimir Nobokov
28. Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez
29. Lady Chatterly’s Lover John Worthen
30. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
31. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
32. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
33. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
34. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
35. Anna Karenina L.N. Tolstoy
36. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
37. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
38. Shantaram Gregory David Roberts (Will’s all-time favourite)
39. The Twilight saga Stephenie Meyer
40. To The Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
41. Les Liasons Dangereuses Choderlos de Laclos and Helen Constantine
42. Dr Zhivago Boris Pasternak
43. Winnie-The-Pooh A. A. Milne
44. Murder on the Orient Express Agatha Christie
45. A Child Called It Dave Pelzer
46. A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
47. The Hobbit J. R. R. Tolkein
48. Moby Dick Herman Melville
49. The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger
50. The Life of Pi Yann Martel
51. Fight Club Chuck Palahnniuk
52. Middlemarch George Eliot
53. The Bell Jar Silvia Plath
54. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
55. Atonement Ian McEwan
56. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Mark Haddon
57. The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
58. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
59. The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank
60. Birdsong Sebastian Faulks
61. Prozac Nation Elizabeth Wurtzel 
62. The Notebook Nicholas Sparks
63. One Day David Nicholls
64. Junk Melvin Burgess
65. London Fields Martin Amis
66. Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides (via Myra)
67. The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck (via Dorky Mum
68. The Secret History Donna Tartt (via Dorky Mum/Sarah Palmer)
69. The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera (via Claire White/Ismay Ozga)
70. The Book Thief Marcus Zusak
71. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey (via Ismay Ozga)
72. The English Patient Michael Ondaatje (via Ismay Ozga)
73. The Corrections Johnathan Frazon (via Anna Morrison)
74. Good Omens Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (via Alexandra Roumbas Goldstein)
75. Wild Swans Jung Chang (via Hannah and Deepa)
76. The Beach Alex Garland (via Deepa)
77. The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams (via Deepa)
78. Goethe’s Faust Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (via Carolin)
79. Sophie’s World Jostein Gaarder (via Claire, Lauren, Katie and Ciara)
80. The End of Mr Y Scarlett Thomas (via Suzy
81. PS. I Love You Cecelia Ahern (via Lyra Bailey-Barnes)
82. The Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis (via Lyra Bailey-Barnes)
83. A Fine Balance Rohan Mistry (via Camilla)
84. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (via Lauren)
85. House of Leaves Mark Z Danielewski (via Jasper)
86. A  Million Little Pieces James Frey (via Katie)
87. Enduring Love Ian McEwan (via Katie, Sarah and Sarah)
88. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver (via Chloe)
89. The Trumpet Major Thomas Harding (via Sarah)
90. The End of the Affair Graham Greene (via Kate)
91. Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton (via Kate)
92. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers (via Jackie McDonnell)
93. The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman (via Michelle)
94. Cloud Atlas David Mitchell (via Michelle)
95. Her Fearful Symmetry Audrey Niffenegger (via Mrs B)
96. Be The Worst You Can Be Charles Saachi (via Blane Chapman)
97. High Fidelity Nick Hornby (via polagem)
98. Past Mortem Ben Elton (via Katy Wayne)
99. 19 Minutes Jodi Picoult (via Lizzi)
100. When God Was A Rabbit Sarah Winman (via Binslie)

 

What I’m Wearing For Winter

It is surprising how, once you give birth, your attitude to so many things changes. I was adamant this wouldn’t happen to me but it’s completely inevitable and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Since I have had my babies I feel hugely different about travel, working, family, keeping fit, food, friendships… so many things. And one of the things that has thrown me for a loop mostly is how I feel different about clothes.

That might sound a little shallow but clothing is one thing that I feel has defined me and a lot of my life and experiences. From school times when non-uniform day was the number one event of the whole term and took weeks of planning (the day my mum bought me a pair of Kickers was one of the highlights of my childhood. Ditto the day I saved up enough to buy a canvas Body Shop bag) to my working life, when I had to dress smartly in suits and heels through to working in the more casual media industry. My clothes are who I am.

Deciding what I wore to work or on a night out used to be A Big Deal, and if I didn’t like what I was wearing I would feel uncomfortable and a bit miserable. It’s sad but true that my outfit choices are directly correlated to my emotions. I have always loved to shop for clothes and there really is no better feeling than a new outfit that makes you sparkle.

Pre-kids I liked to think I was into clothes that made a bit of a statement. Vintage, sequins, silk jackets, crazy tshirts (my favourite was this NSFW Virgins ’08 one but I haven’t seen it since we moved house)… but my sense of style has taken a serious bashing since I gave birth and moved to the countryside. There’s no need for heels or sequins, anything in silk means an expensive dry cleaning bill and I’ve noticed that I really, really like to be comfy.

One advantage when buying clothes as a stay at home mum is my lack of budget (bear with me here). Before when I was earning a decent salary I would splash out indiscriminately on items that perhaps didn’t suit me, just because I could. But as I now have to save and plan for my purchases I really research what items will suit me for a particular season and do my best to buy them at the best price. I save photos I come across and like on Fashion blogs to my ‘inspiration’ file on my computer or Pin them. The things I want for our impending winter are items that I’ve thought long and hard about, and because I’ve saved all my pennies it makes buying them all the more sweeter.

One thing I will be striving for this winter is to go for classics: items that will last me through the season into next spring and summer, and even next winter. For this reason I am no fan of the peplum or pyjama suit (though I do own a pretty amazing pair of red Zara printed silk trousers, last worn September 2011) and am trying to prioritise comfort over look. Jersey and lycra, I’m yours.

I’d be really interested to hear what your winter wardrobe staples are: I’m always on the hunt for the perfect flannel shirt and flat black ankle boots. It’s tough being me.

 

 

1. Leather Jacket, £139, Barney’s Originals. 2. Studded Necklace, £8, ASOS. 3. Dalmatian Jumper, £69.95, Joules. 4. Flannel Shirt, £19.90, Uniqlo. 5. Knitted Necklace Jumper, £45, TopShop. 6. Spotted Oxford Shirt, £29.95, GAP. 7. Spotted Jumper, £19.99, GAP. 8. Leopard Print Leggings, £9, ASOS. 9. Galaxy Leggings, £9.99, Missguided. 10. Crystal Cascade Necklace, £25.99, Zara. 11. Neon Trainers, £37.99, Nike. 12. Blue Skinny Jeans, £28, ASOS. 13. Black Leather Ankle Boots, £45, TopShop.

Autumn Thoughts.

Here are a few of my favourite things, in no particular order: the smell of sun cream, the heat of the sun, the beach, miniskirts, being warm, long evenings, bbqs. So you can imagine how autumn might not be my favourite time of year.

I usually get a pang of sadness in that first week when you can feel the chill in the air. It was a bit different this year; for starters the chill arrived sometime in June and a few external factors have got me digging in a big black hole of bleakness. The sleepless thing hasn’t been helping – there have been nights when I’m up once an hour, every hour and wake up thinking how pointless going to bed was – but I think I’m coming to the end of that few weeks of torture. Seriously, there have been times I’ve felt so irrational, slow-minded and hopeless that I’ve wondered if my lack of sleep is leading to me going a little bit nuts, but I just pull up my pyjamas and eat another chocolate bar and everything is fine.

NB; I worked out the other day that I haven’t had a full nights sleep since April. APRIL.

When the end of October is on the horizon I start to perk up. The trees are beautiful, my face is used to the cold and so tells my nose to stop running, we move from wearing shoes to boots and there’s the small matter of Halloween and Bonfire night. There’s something lovely about carving pumpkins, making squash soup and sitting by the fire as the nights draw in. Bonfire night, despite the cold, is one of my favourite times of year. The air smells a certain way and takes me back to nights spent as kids at our local golf club’s firework display: a huge bonfire that warns your face, contraband sparklers (warnings on Blue Peter to WEAR YOUR GLOVES!) and toffee apples. Happy times when there was nothing to worry about. Not council tax, no dodgy boilers, no grown-up issues… just the fireworks and a good pork bap.

Then of course we’re at free fall into Christmas, and everybody loves a good family Christmas. We’re hosting this year and I can’t wait to have so many people we love under one roof.

Memories. That’s what this season is all about.

A Night Out

Every time I journey the thirty minutes in to London on the train for a night out I feel so many things. Stressed: because sometimes I wonder if preparing the kids for a night away from me is worth the hassle (it takes at least 4 hours). Smug: I’m on my own! Guilt: both kids are a handful, i hope they aren’t too bad for my mother-in-law. Confusion: what do I do on my own on a train for half an hour (play iPad solitaire). Excitement: I’m going OUT!

This Saturday I had one of those journeys When I arrived at Euston I got on the tube down to Southwark, a novelty in itself with not having to research the most pram-friendly route which usually results in me getting completely fed up (i.e. getting a cab). Arriving at the hotel in good time was another shock without having any kids in tow and I had another hour to kill. So I did my hair. Ahhh the life of an escaped mother!

The night began at my sister-in-law’s flat in Dalston with wine and Take Me Out, a classic combination. We entertained the idea of getting the bus to our dinner but a taxi careered past so really, it would’ve been rude not to. We had a host of cocktails and a small amount of delicious food at Hawksmoor (Dirty Martini, French Martini, White Russian: done) followed by another cab back down to Southwark to my husband’s warehouse party.

 

Yep, a warehouse party. That’s music, in a warehouse, wearing suede heels.

I’m always immensely proud every time I go to one of his parties. Somehow he and his 2 business partners (one of whom is called Alice… concidence? i think not) manage to erect staging, get sound, lighting and video effects going, set up bars, security, loos and cloakrooms, then book super famous djs to come and play some records and entice 2,500 people to come. Hardly an easy task on a miserable rainy October evening How he can do all this yet still not manage to hang damp towels up after a shower beats me…

 

Admittedly, it’s really not my thing. I prefer the old days of when he worked for a club and there were VIP rooms and champagne. Cold disused carparks and vodka in plastic cups is not quite the same, but I like to see what he does for work once in a while. And a hotel stay is always nice.

I must remember, however, that 5am is a ideal time for getting up with babies, not collapsing into bed. Luckily my hangover was almost non-existent thanks to lots of water throughout the night but that sort of mess-up to your sleep routine takes DAYS to recover from. I was too tired for Homeland Sundays, for crying out loud! Situation critical. Even now my eyes are still a little scratchy and I’m enjoying my hoodie more than normal. I’m getting too old for this.

Luckily I’m not my husband and don’t have to do this every weekend (can you imagine?). Instead I’m happy to watch the X Factor in my dressing gown every Saturday night for the foreseeable future, though I suppose New Year’s Eve will have to involve another late night. I’d better start preparing now.

Elfie at 2 Years and 3 Months

 

Once more I am down in the rabbit hole of Parental Guilt as it’s taken me almost three months to write one monthly update about Elfie, yet she is changing at an alarming rate. Each day we have a new word, a new idiosyncrasy  a new look… she delights us constantly. Apart from the times she is a bit of a monkey and on those times she delights us from the naughty step.

I know I’m very much biased but Elfie really is the most delightful human being. She’s easy-going, happy and is developing a wicked sense of humour. She is always chattering and loves to talk about her favourite people: mummy, daddy, bubby, Rowrow (grannie Harold) Gagi (grannie J-T) and Papa (grandpa). The first thing she asks to see when she wakes up in the morning is her little brother and she just loves to cuddle him and give him all her toys. And then take them back (sharing: we are learning it) .

 

 

She’s still a great eater but is like me: she will eat when she’s hungry but when she isn’t she won’t. She loves porridge for breakfast, ‘nanies’ (bananas), lasagne, stew, peas, carrots, ham, fish, potatoes (CHIPS!), cake… basically anything. Her favourite food in the whole world is yoghurt and she asks for it after every. single. meal. She manages to smear it everywhere, all over her face, down her trousers, on the floor. There’s constantly yoghurt mess to clean up in our house.

 

 

We like to think that Elfie’s a bit of a clever clogs. She can count to ten, she misses out 7 and 8 but still gets there. And that’s what counts, right?! Every time we get dressed in the morning she lists off the person who bought her each item of clothing: Gagi, Papa, Rowrow – her memory is amazing. She also loves to draw and stickers are literally THE BEST thing (you’ll find them on our floors, windows, in the shower…). She’s also been doing a bit of ‘creative play’ that we’ve noticed recently, feeding her teddies and dolls, putting them on the potty and chatting to them.

 

 

Her biggest obsession at the moment is probably with bubbles. She delights in baths and showers, and goes absolutely nuts at the blow-bubbles you can buy in toy shops for 99p. She’s also always asking to go on a walk and loves to be outside (I don’t know who she gets this from, it ain’t me) and if you throw a swing into the mix you are GOLDEN. She also loves Jigsaws, books (preferably about tractors or buses – no gender stereotyping in this house!),  the drawing app on my iPhone and bloody Peppa Pig.

Her health has been amazing for the last few months which I am so thankful for, save this weekend when she had a tummy bug. This has been her first bug as a toddler rather than a baby and it’s really knocked her (and I) for six. She’s hated throwing up, though managed to use mummy’s sick bowl after a nasty incident involving the sofa, and has been very aware of being hot and bothered. Fingers crossed she’s back to her normal lively self soon, it’s horrible to see her in so much discomfort.

 

 

The last couple of weeks have been quite big for us as we’ve switched from a cot to a big girl’s bed and got rid of the dummies. More on this at a later date, but suffice to say my eyebags are huge. The next on our Great Parenting List is the dreaded potty training, something I was hoping to get done this summer but it’s pretty hard when she shrieks every time you approach her with the potty. She’s a lot more amenable to the mini seat that is placed on the toilet and will actually sit on the potty now fully dressed… it’s a start. I am so looking forward to having only one bum to wipe.

There is one downside to being two and that is the word ‘NO’. She knows what it means as is not afraid to use it, and this is when the naughty step comes into play. I love that she is so bloody minded but boy do my negotiation skills now rival the UN’s. It’s all the more frustrating when I ask her to do something completely insignificant, she gives me the big N-O and then I have to follow through with making her do it. Which can take fooooorever.

Nevertheless, I would not change this little monkey for the world. In fact she and her much quieter little brother are my world. We love you, Elf.

 

 

Your Newborn Essentials

When reading the comments on my Newborn Essentials post from last week I was amazed at how  many things I had forgotten. Though in all honesty, if we remembered every single part of the ‘special’ newborn time we would all be one-child families, am I right? In a nutshell it’s a nipple issues, vomit, paper pants and sleep deprivation.

I had so many great suggestions, links and tips that I wanted to post them all up here for future reference. So if you have a newborn on the way, enjoy:

(Part one can be found here, and my comments are in Italics…)

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