Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Dream of Miele

Living in a small space requires appliances that are meant for hobbits. My dream of owning a Kitchen Aid, even if we could afford it, is tempered by the fact that there just isn't anywhere in our kitchen to put it. As it is, our turbo broiler needs a stepladder to access it on top of the kitchen cupboards when it is to be used.

As far as laundry goes, I would love a washing machine that can fit all my sheets (Super King-sized duvet cover, flat sheet and 8 pillowcases) in one load, but that would likely entail a top-loading machine that we just don't have room for. My washer and dryer are stacked one on top of the other, but the machine just can't seem to handle man-sized clothes. My clothes and my son's are no problem, but when Big A's come into the picture I need to add more soap and 3 more rinse cycles just to get them properly clean.

When I wash the bathmats the machine goes mad, "doing a Transformers" as my husband calls it, launching itself all around the tiny utility room like a demented bronco and requiring at least 2 people to hold it in place. I had to stop it mid-cycle last time and the au pair and I had to take the mats out and rinse and wring them by hand. No easy feat.

Real Stepford wives never have laundry problems, as part of their abilities include washing, wringing and probably spinning the clothes dry with their bare hands and then ironing them perfectly, something I can only dream of doing passably well. I heart that the au pair can do what the twice a week laundry and ironing girl used to as ironing is my one failing as a good housekeeper.

So, add to my list of wishes when we win the lottery - a Miele.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Better Late Than Never

I am usually a stickler for deadlines. That said, I missed the one on this reading challenge by well over a week. It has hung over my head constantly, since I have read the books but not found time to post my reviews, so following my tried-and-tested formula of sleeping less and doing more, I am finally catching up.

My reasons for not being able to post on time are valid - the new business, Little A's speech delay issues and my day girl's sudden disappearance from my household just before the New Year. (What was meant to be a week-long holiday with her family turned out to be a lifetime of motherhood as she discovered she was pregnant by her boyfriend.)

Still, better late than never, so here are my World War II books read (or re-read) in 2009:

1. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky - I loved this book. Not only did she believably capture the day-to-day lives of civilians during the war, the appendices at the end of the book were far more moving than the fiction as they told, though letters between herself, her husband, her publisher and others, how Nemirovsky herself became a vicitim of Nazi persecution and eventually perished in a concentration camp.

2. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry - written by one of my all-time favourite children's authors, this book tells from a child's point of view how confusing and important it is to keep a secret at a time when people close to you could suffer otherwise. A poignant story (based on facts) of courage and friendship written in Lowry's beautiful prose.

3. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr - barely 65 pages long and published in large print, this simple story of a lively 11-year old who never walked and only ran until she was diagnosed with the "Atom Bomb disease" made my hair stand by the end of it. Another touching story of courage and friendship from a different perspective than the traditional European one.

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - ranked on many a best-books list since its publication in 2006, this telling, from the perspective of Death, makes for an interesting read, particularly since it features a young girl who, as the title claims, steals books.

5. Dancing with Eva by Alan Judd - an interesting story of Eva Braun's fictional secretary and a high-ranking Nazi official who meet many years later and recollect the end of the war.

6. Fatherland by Robert Harris - an inventive, imaginative tale of the Third Reich as it would have been had the Nazis succeeded in achieving their goals. But even in the Fuhrer's ideal world, nothing is perfect.

Two of the books I wanted to re-read but refused to rush through just to make the deadline were Kazuro Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day and Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. On my best books list since I first read them many years ago, both are on my list of rereads for this year.

Reading challenges are fun. I hope to find the time to join more of them in 2010.