Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Book swaps

My recent library posting got me in a very bookish frame of mind... so I've embarked on an experiment I've been meaning to try for a while: book swapping. I've plucked a name from the google soup and signed up to ReaditSwapit.com but there are many many options out there. Groups of wannabe swappers range from local to international networks, some meeting in person to discuss and handover their wares, others setting up swaps electronically and leaving the rest to the postman. I've gone for the appealingly anonymous and less time consuming online option. The Guardian compiled a list of bookswap sites last year and received some interesting feedback from both fans and phobes.

The books in my life that I couldn't bear to part with were safely boxed up in our cellar three years ago, to make way for Ginger's invasion of our home - Eric Carle and Mr Bump now jostle for space where Jeffrey Eugenides, Vikram Seth and Louis De Bernieres once announced my literary leanings. My modest collection of grown up books acquired (rather than borrowed) since then have now been split into Keep and Swap piles and the Swaps offered up to all at ReaditSwapit. The best bit is compiling a Wishlist of books you'd like to trade for, then using the search function to request swaps with users who have one of these on offer.

I'm a convert! I've recovered from the knockbacks my rash of initial swap requests generated and learned to check out people's profiles and reading tastes before suggesting a trade. By having some bestsellers on my list I've even had people competing for my books, leaving me in the great position of perusing all of their book lists to see who I'd rather swap with. If nothing takes your fancy you can always say no thanks and hang on until a better offer comes along. I've only been a member for a fortnight but already I've bagged myself four books I can't wait to read - each for the price of posting a paperback - and there is something so nice about receiving parcels through the good old snail mail. If you have a ReaditSwapit account or feel inspired to sign up, check out my ReaditSwapit Profile and perhaps we can do thrify business :)

So far I've seen little online action on the children's book swap front, but here's an inspiring tale from Slate.com... This thrifty mum (or 'Spartan Mom' in this case) has replaced the dreaded gift and goody-bag culture at her son's birthday parties with a book swap scheme. We haven't yet reached the stage where we're expected to invite all of Ginger's classmates over on his birthday - and presumably reciprocate, bearing gifts, for each of these 25 close friends - but I'm warned it can't be put off forever. Since we had to buy a cupboard taller than me to house the trappings of his 2nd birthday this scheme sounds very appealing. Now we just have to convert each of those classmates' parents to our frugle, oh-so-practical ways...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Root Ginger : a study of red hair

Since this blog is all about raising Ginger – our flame-haired son – I can’t resist highlighting what looks like a stunning photography exhibition, due to open in London on 17 Feb 2009 at the Idea Generation Gallery. Root Ginger: a study of red hair is a collection of photographs of redheads accompanied by a book and film that delve into the life experiences of red clan members. Photographer and writer Jenny Wicks also explores the genetic lottery that decides our most visible, yet superficial traits - like hair colour - and our hidden depths, like whether we inherit life-shortening health conditions like Cystic Fibrosis.

As an ex-scientist I wasn't astonished that I (mousy haired with some bottle blonde for good measure) and my equally mousey husband produced a red haired baby, but Not-naturally-thrifty Husband has certainly found it a) surprising, b) counterintuitive and c) the cause of endless 'so, who's the father?' wisecracks. There's a great, accessible explanation in Glenn Murphy's book 'Why do fart's smell?', if you can bear to buy or even borrow a book of this title!

The exhibition has triggered some interesting comment in the Guardian - 'is Gingerism the last acceptable prejudice?' and an interview with Jenny Wicks on Spoonfed. In my wanderings around this subject I have also discovered a blog dedicated entirely to Gingerism. I haven't delved too deep - perhaps I don't want to hear the horrors of prejudice life could hold in store for my Ginger boy. I'd rather hold on to the reassuring words of his splendidly ginger uncle, who reports having suffered no more than the next slightly shy school boy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Learning to love my library

Below street level at the foot of a windswept 60's tower block lurks our local library. Despite my thrifty nature I have to admit I'd deliberately given it a wide berth until I was pregnant - preferring the guilty pleasure of splurging on 3-for-2 offers at the big chain book stores.

Why the change of heart? Indecision. My natural response to any new challenge in life is to research, research, research. I always start online but ultimately I need reference tomes on my bookshelves. Which ones would see me through this baby-rearing business? Would I be a regimented routine Gina Ford-style mother or a go-with-the-flow Baby Whisperer? Rather than buy up the entire baby section at Borders I finally crossed my library threshold and came home with the full spectrum of options to browse.

As I've said in an earlier post, the winner for us was Baby Secrets, which I now thrust upon any new mum-to-be who shows half an interest. Here are a selection of other great baby-raising books we discovered at the library and have since invested in.

As I swelled into a waddling whale, the once shunned library became an essential pit stop when running (ok, trudging) local errands. And once I'd exhausted the shelves of new clues to what parenthood held in store, I discovered a nice line in parenting magazines to leaf through - full of yet more money saving tips and fairly terrifying labour stories.

Fast forward another few months and my life with tiny baby Ginger involved seemingly endless hours of breastfeeding. None of the guidebooks prepared me for just how much it dominated our days (and nights). In low moments I felt my existence was reduced to that of giant milking machine, but the breakthrough came when I learned to balance a book on the guzzling Ginger and enjoy endless novels through all those hours on the sofa. I've never read so much in all my life!

I'm building my own collection of Thrifty Mum book tips on Listmania - watch this space for new additions.

I'll end this library love-in with a tip from my good friend Legal Mum. She scours the weekend papers for new book reviews to whet her appetite then, rather than fork out she goes online and requests her library order a copy in for her. Not a bad way to keep up with the latest releases without spending a penny...

And - hot off the press - here's the Guardian's list of 1000 novels everyone must read, which should keep me going for a while.