Tag Archives: books

OT: Book offers wonderful glimpse into ‘Call the Midwife’



Jessica Raine as 5os-era midwife Jenny Lee holding a new arrival in the hit BBC/PBS series, “Call the Midwife.”

A new book by Heidi Thomas gives fans of the show Call the Midwife a wonderful glimpse behind the scenes of this surprise hit.  The book, The Life and Times of Call the Midwife: The Official Companion to Seasons 1 and 2, offers many color photos of the cast and locations, vintage photos and the story of how the series was created.

Just to connect the dots for the uninitiated:  Jennifer (Lee) Worth was a midwife assigned to work from a convent in the poorest section of the East End of London in the mid-1950s.  From a comfortable middle-class background, the young and sheltered Jenny Lee experiences a sort of culture shock as she sees the grinding poverty some of her patients live in. But she also discovers an indomitable spirit in many of these people, in spite and, perhaps, because of the daily struggles they face.

Call the Midwife

Lee (Raines) and fellow midwives cycling through the bumpy streets of Poplar.

You’ll discover stories along the way that are funny, touching and some could elicit a tear or two. You get to meet some of the real-life individuals who served as the basis of Jennifer Worth’s characters, shared in a series of best-selling memoirs about her years serving families in the East End. Those memoirs served as the foundation for the series. Worth, who has since lost a battle with cancer, served as a consultant as the series was being written.

There are chapters on Birth, Fashion, Beauty, Faith, Health, Homes, Food, Street Life, Men and Christmas, with profiles of each of the principal actors and Q & As with their characters.  It gives you a wonderful look at how production makeup artists, wardrobe designers, set designers and dressers and even CGI technicians use their skills and experience to take viewers back to the Poplar of more than 50 years ago (yes, even CTW requires a little digital wizardry to recreate the docks of the 1950s).

I highly recommend the book to anyone who is a Midwife fan or as a gift for a friend or family member who loves the show. I purchased the Kindle edition, which offered some beautiful reproductions of the book’s color photography.

If you missed the first season on the BBC or PBS, the series is now available on DVD, along with the delightful Christmas special.  A second season is set to air in 2013. And while the book is a companion to the first two series, don’t worry; there are no spoilers for S2.

"Chummy" (Miranda Hart) receives a kiss from PC Noakes (Ben Caplan). All photos from PBS.org

“Chummy” (Miranda Hart) receives a kiss from PC Noakes (Ben Caplan). All photos from PBS.org

OT: I love this “Logic”


 I don’t think I am quite out of estrogen yet, but I can empathize with the big kitty’s emotions.

I have always had favorite artists/illustrators. Many of the books I loved the most as a child were those that matched wonderful stories with evocative illustrations that captured my fancy.

A very talented lady named Jane Seabrook, who hails from Auckland, New Zealand, has a series of books I find completely delightful. Filled with whimsical and witty quotes paired with amazing watercolor paintings of animals, Jane’s Furry Logic books make a great gift idea.  There’s the original Furry Logic, and additional titles with themes revolving around love, parenthood, wildlife wisdom, laughter and more. They are the sort of thing perfect as a treat for yourself, too (if you haven’t spent it all on Hobbit merchandise, of course).

Purry Logic is a particular favorite of mine–as you might expect, it features our feline friends.  I ran across the book again the other day and proceeded to read it aloud to my husband, showing him the accompanying illustrations. He had a huge smile on his face.  Seemed he could relate . . .

Seabrook,  an independent designer and illustrator, shares her home with a husband, two children and a menagerie of critters, including three Birmans (a breed of long-haired cat with Siamese-type markings and blue eyes I dream of owning). She obviously has an affinity for the animal kingdom and human nature that shines through in her artwork, along with a great sense of humor. My kind of gal.

Most of Seabrook’s titles are available through Amazon. New copies of these wonderful little books are available for $10 to $12 and used, for much less. Perfect stocking stuffers, guaranteed to bring smiles.

And of course, this post isn’t completely off-topic. Mr. Armitage did spend quite a lot of time in Jane’s beautiful native land making a certain movie we all seem to eagerly anticipate . . .

OT: The Charms of Susan Branch



I got my latest e-newsletter from author/illustrator Susan Branch today (the link to her blog is above).  I love her books. The beautiful writing you see inside them is not a computer font but Branch’s actual handwriting and all the illustrations are largely self-taught artist Branch’s own charming watercolors.

Branch has written a variety of books and calendars over the past 20-plus years celebrating holidays, seasons, friendships and girlfriends. I  am happy to say that I own a number of them.

She has a lot of great recipes, but, as an editorial review on Amazon says, “the true theme of the books is family, love, friends and the celebration of life.”

Author/illustrator Susan Branch, a personal favorite. (photo courtesy of simplearts.com)

When did my cat Thumper pose for Susan?

A page from one of Branch’s delightful calendars.

This book makes a great gift idea for best buddies and sisters. It’s a lot of fun.

Branch’s website also offers a variety of notecards,  kitchen  and household items and personal accessories for purchase. But you can enjoy all the goodness of her website and e-newsletters without spending a dime.  That’s a bargain!

Mr. Grey is not MY dream man. Here’s why.


I wasn’t going to post again about the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. However, judging by the more than 13,000 people in the past few days alone who read my previous reviews coupled with the obvious fact the 50 SoG mania isn’t going away nearly as quickly as I might have wished, well–here I go again.  I feel the need to stand up for the good guys of this world–guys like my husband and my fav actor–who exemplify what being a man really should be about.  If you love 50 SoG, you probably don’t want to read any further . . . you’re not gonna like it.

When one considers the runaway success of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and millions of women’s obsession with its kinky billionaire “hero,” Christian Grey, I feel like something of a rebel for stating I am just not into Mr. Grey, his good looks and obscene wealth notwithstanding. I mean, what’s wrong with me? I’m a respectable middle-aged woman who leads a quiet life. I am supposed to be panting for this stuff!!

But no.

I am attracted to mature, well-adjusted, intelligent males. To men who are strong enough to display a tender and nurturing side whilst showing a quiet self-confidence to the world. To classy gentlemen who don’t constantly feel they have to prove their manliness. To men who don’t feel the need to beat the hell out of innocent young women with a belt. I’m just funny that way, I guess.

I married a man like that, the love of my life. I crush on another one, the talented actor and, I believe, thoroughly top-drawer human being to which this site is primarily dedicated.

My kinda guy.

And then there’s Mr. Grey.

Let me count just a few of the ways why Mr. Grey is NOT my dream man . . .

Give me a proper, mature grown-up, not a bratty, mercurial, hormonally-maddened teenager in a man’s body. I don’t care how hot you’re supposed to look with the top button of your jeans undone.  I don’t want a boy.

I’m not a spring chicken anymore, and even when I was, being involved with someone who would have me on a perpetual emotional roller coaster never appealed.  I’m not a drama queen, and I don’t wish to be involved with a drama king.

Nowadays, in my middling years, I’m a person dealing with a chronic health issue, one exacerbated by stress. That same health issue, FMS, also causes me a considerable amount of pain. I’m highly appreciative of peace and harmony and reasonable freedom from pain whenever possible.

Life with someone like you, Mr. Grey, would hardly offer that.

Space. Give me space.

I grew up the youngest by several years in my family, so I am a bit like an only child in certain ways. I like having some time to myself.  My hubby—coincidentally, also a youngest child by several years– and I love spending time together. There truly is no one else with whom I would rather share my life.  But–we also respect the fact that we each need our private time.

The idea of someone insisting on knowing everything I do and everywhere I go 24/7, someone who attempts to orchestrate my very life for me is not romantic; it’s– stifling. It’s creepy.

“Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you” was not meant to be a love song. Just ask Sting. It’s about an obsessive stalker.

A man can adore you without wanting to own you. Just ask Mr. Thornton or Harry Kennedy.

You can’t buy everything you want and need in life. Buy your wife the company she works for, buy the services of your submissives, buy—love and respect and trust. You have to earn those things, Mr. Grey. I know you had a lousy time of it as a kid, and I am truly sorry.

I don’t wish abuse—physical, mental, emotional, sexual—on anyone.

But learn from the horrors of past; others have. Treat fellow human beings as fellow human beings, not mergers and acquisitions and pieces of meat to feed your particular physical appetites. Money really isn’t everything.

Ultimately, for me, Mr. Grey, you’re far more sad  and creepy than deliciously sexy. And you have serious issues that giving an inexperienced girl great orgasms with a handcuffs and a ball gag or two  isn’t going to fix for either of you.  I don’t buy your sugar-coated “happily ever after.”  I hope the women who devour these books  do realize you’re only a pale imitation of what a real man is supposed to, and indeed, can be.

Oh, and by the way: nice, well-adjusted guys can also have a naughty side and enjoy some steam and spice. I speak from experience . . . just sayin.’

Richard, Harry and I have something in common.


    Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.  Lemony Snicket

     Books are uniquely portable magic. Stephen King

Whether it's "Far from the Madding Crowd" or "Jill's Gymkana," Harry--like his Creator--enjoys a good book.

One of the things I really relate to in terms of Richard Armitage and the character said to be most like him, Harry Kennedy, is their fondness for books. When I was a little girl, one rarely saw me without a volume of some sort in my hand. It might be a book of fairy tales or one of our World Book Encyclopedias. I loved books–always have, always will. There’s a reason why my spectacles kept getting thicker and thicker over the years.

I was addicted to a good read before I ever made it to the first grade.

My older sisters used to read to me at bedtime. One of my favorite stories was Miss Suzy, about a kind-hearted grey squirrel and the doll house she lived in. I don’t know how many times those poor girls had to read it. I am certain at times they wanted to build a bonfire and cheerfully toss that volume on top of it. Another one I loved was Miss Twiggley’s Tree.  Apparently something about eccentric females-human and otherwise–who lived in trees captured my fancy. I am thrilled to see both of these books are still in print and drawing high ratings at Amazon.

The eccentric Miss Twiggley was scoffed at by the townspeople, but when a flood came, they were glad to join her in her cozy treehouse.

The book I knew by heart after my sisters read it to me countless times. A kind squirrel and a group of gallant toy soldiers become good friends and make a home in a doll house after Suzy is chased out of her home by some mean red squirrels.

Being read to as a child by two older sisters who loved to read, in a house where I was surrounded by books,  in an era when there was no satellite television, no home computers or video games, it seemed pretty natural that I would become a bookworm. I was the youngest and spent more time alone, so I learned to amuse myself. And taking these wonderful flights of fancy with these stories–to other countries, other cultures, other times and even other planets–kept me from ever being bored.  So many books–so little time, indeed.

A good book. A cozy cat. Toss in a cup of coffee or glass of sweet tea and I am a happy camper.

Some people today would pity me a childhood without all the bells and whistles found today. And be assured, I would miss all this modern technology–e-mail, search engines, this very blog, a jillion channels on the satellite and that handy-dandy DVR feature–but in many ways I am glad I didn’t have exposure to all of that. Instead, I used my imagination. I made mud pies and rode my bike and my red Radio Flyer wagon, I played with my Barbies (that’s a whole ‘nother post), took grand adventures on my bouncing toy “pony” and made a tent between the twin beds and “camped out.” I sketched and I crafted and occasionally practiced the piano.  And I read. A lot.

I have so very many books that I have loved from childhood–Little Women, King of the Wind, The Snowstorm, A Walk in the Woods, to name just a few. I am sure you have your own favorites. It seems to me Richard’s fans are, by and large, readers, part of that greater sister and brotherhood of those who know the “uniquely portable magic” that is a good read.