• Maeve Binchy, Quentins

  • Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

  • Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles

  • Sophie Kinsella, The Undomestic Goddess
Summer Holiday

Household Swap Shop is going on a summer holiday - we'll see you all in September!
Book Review - The Lady and the Unicorn

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

After reading Girl with a Pearl Earring by the same author, I was excited to read another book by Chevalier. It was a very quick read - I read it in about a week. Each chapter in the book is from a different character's point of view, which worked extremely well in telling the story and developing the characters.

This novel is again based on a real piece of Art - this time a 15th century set of tapestries detatiling a lady and a unicorn, that currently hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris. It is known, that the tapestries were probably created for Jean Le Viste, a Paris nobleman and probably weaved in Brussels. From the few fact known about these, Chevalier re-creates 15th century Europe with vivid descriptions, and the story is captivating - leaving me at the end of the novel, wanting more.

This confirmed for me my love of Chevaliers writing, and I look forward to a summer reading her other 2 novels!
Free directory assistance from cell phones

I have always hated calling 411 from my cell when I needed to as it is very expensive but I just found this number on fishingfor deals:
1-800-free-411
Potato Gnocci---a tasty and..dare I say..cheap? dinner

On Sunday I made this recipe from a great cookbook called "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone." I rarely make many things from this book because the instructions are usually complicated and it calls for a million ingredients that I can't afford. But, inspired by a horrorific view of Lane asking for french fries from McDonalds, I decided to crack open the book and mark several recipe's that I could do. This was one of the first, and I will make it many more times. It was delicious!!! I hope you enjoy it. I am going to give it to you by memory because the more I repeat, the easier it is to remember for me...I hate having to look at the cookbook every 2 min.

Baked Potato Gnocci

2 large russet potatoes (2 lbs)
1 1/4 c. flour
salt and pepper
1/4 c. shredded parmesean cheese
3 Tbsp. Butter

Bake your potatoes at 400 for 45 min-1 hour or until you can puncture them easily with a knife. Peel off the skins while they are still hot and place the potatoes in the bowl. The cookbook suggests putting the potatoes through a food mill, which I don't exactly know what that is, but the general idea seemed to be to make it light and fluffy. I did this with 2 knives cutting the potatoes quickly until they were all broken up and a light, fluffy consistency. After it is there, you wait 15 min. for the potatoes to cool. Then you dust the potatoes with the flour and mix it all together with your hands. This is your dough. Make sure not to overwork the dough, but knead it until it is a smooth, workable dough. I veered a little from the book here: it says to roll it into a rope and cut it. This seemed very difficult, and so I just rolled it into little balls, the size of large marbles. It should yeild 100 of these balls. Place them on a cookie sheet and put them in the fridge as you go. After they are finished, you can keep them in the fridge for later, or you can start boiling them right away.
Boil the gnocci 10-15 at a time until they bob up to the top of the water. Count to 10, then remove the gnocci. Place it into a greased gratin baking dish, or a smaller cake pan. When all has been boiled, shred the cold butter onto the top of the gnocci followed by a thick layer of the parmesean cheese. Bake this at 400 for 20 min, or until the cheese is bubbly and turning golden brown.
Serves 4-6.

I really recomend this recipe, because it really was good, but it looks and sounds impressive but is pennies to make! I love cheap recipes in our house, especially when they taste so good and are not that difficult to make. Good luck and let me know if you make it!
Speed Cleaning - Clean Faster

Clean one room at a time rather than dusting each room, then vacuuming each room etc.

Put all supplies in a laudary basket or bucket, to keep supplies together.

Keep Kitchen counters clear so you don't waster time romoving and cleaning around things left out.

Use both hands!! e.g. spray mirror with one hand and wipe with the other
Predict your child's height

I don't know how accurate it is but according to this my son will be 5.11 when he's 18.
http://parentcenter.babycenter.com/calculators/heightpredictor/index.jhtml?_requestid=144516#form
The Birth Order of Children

Your Clothes: 1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your OB/GYN confirms your pregnancy. 2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible. 3rd baby: Your maternity clothes ARE your regular clothes.

Preparing for the Birth: 1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously. 2nd baby: You don't bother because you remember that last time breathing didn't do a thing. 3rd baby: You ask for an epidural in your eighth month.

The Layette: 1st baby: You pre-wash newborn's clothes, color-coordinate them, and fold them neatly in the baby's little bureau. 2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and discard only the ones with the darkest stains. 3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can't they?

Worries: 1st baby: At the first sign of distress -a whimper or a frown- you pick up the baby. 2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your firstborn. 3rd baby: You teach your three-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

Pacifier: 1st baby: If the pacifier falls on the floor, you put it away until can go home and wash and boil it. 2nd baby: When the pacifier falls on the floor, you squirt it off with some juice from the baby's bottle. 3rd baby: You wipe it off on your shirt and pop it back in.

Diapering: 1st baby: You change your baby's diapers every hour, whether they need it or not. 2nd baby: You change their diaper every two to three hours, if needed. 3rd baby: You try to change their diaper before others start to complain about the smell or you see it sagging to their knees.

Activities: 1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and Baby Story Hour. 2nd baby: You take your infant to the park. 3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out: 1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call home five times. 2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached. 3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she sees blood.

At Home: 1st baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby. 2nd baby: You spend a bit of everyday watching to be sure your older child isn't squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby. 3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.

Swallowing Coins (a favorite): 1st child: When first child swallows a coin, you rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays. 2nd child: When second child swallows a coin, you carefully watch for the coin to pass. 3rd child: When third child swallows a coin you deduct it from his allowance!!