Tuesday, August 9, 2011

review: the rhythm of the family

rhythm of the family

rhythm of the family

rhythm of the family

rhythm of the family

As you may know, I'm a huge Soulemama fan. Over the years, I've been so inspired by her blog. I especially love her style of quick and satisfying sewing projects and the way she brings so many personal elements into decorating her home. And her blog serves as a wonderful reminder to follow the seasons and celebrate home and family life.

I have Amanda's other books and eagerly pre-ordered this third book as soon as it became available in her shop. And on Saturday we came home from an outing and there it was in my mailbox: my own copy of Rhythm of the Family!

It's lovely. Amanda's style of photography is always inspiring--colorful and celebrating the home and seasons and the everyday beauty of family life. The book is full of her wonderful photography and is arranged by month. Each month has an essay by "mama", an essay by "papa", and a handful of projects to "make" and a handful of things to "do." You will be familiar with the style of writing here, and indeed with the style of the projects, if you are a regular reader of Soulemama's blog (and we all are, right?). Which is to say, having the book is like having a little piece of the blog "to go." You can throw it in your bag and head to the beach, pool, or woods and get Soulemama-inspiration wherever you may wander.

I love seasonal projects, and I love a simple project, as you know. Some examples of what you will find to "make" and "do" in the book: a recipe for potato soup, instructions for how to make a pillow, instructions for how to make a drawstring bag (to hold muffins), a recipe for muffins, the idea to make an "I wonder why" bulletin board, on which to pin all the questions the children might wonder about during the day (to look up later), a few recipes for natural remedies, having a "canning" party, and a recipe for green smoothies.

This is all exactly my type of thing. That said, nothing much is "new" here. Most of these projects and recipes have been mentioned or alluded to either on Soulemama's blog or others' blogs before. For example, I was happy to see an "everyday bread" recipe as I was flipping through the book, but disappointed to see that it is the same "WHO" bread that she has published previously on the blog. Some of the projects, like stamping on fabric, she has shown before but the instructions here in the book are a bit more detailed.

I'm very curious about the Soule's actual life. I think we all are a little. It all looks so picturesque and lovely from the outside. And how awesome would it be to be able to quit one's day job and sew and knit and cook, then blog about it, for a living? So when I heard that Soulemama and her husband (Soulepapa) were writing a book in "real time", over the course of a year, I hoped we might get a teensy glimpse into what real daily life looks like for them. Nothing personal about the children, most likely, but perhaps the adult perspective on things? I had an idea that it might be a little bit like The Happiness Project book. In her blog, Gretchin Rubin writes more generally on the subject of happiness, but in her book she writes really personally about her journey through a year of testing happiness theories. I think her wonderful "real"-ness and down-to-earthness is what has made that book an international bestseller (and one of my favorites). I had no real reason to think that this new Soulemama book would be like that, and indeed it is not. She has said before that she is just not inspired to write about the "dark underbelly" of parenting, but I did hope that we might get a bit more glimpse into their lives. Alas, it was not meant to be!

So should you buy the book? I wanted it and am glad to own it. It completes my set, and, having a hard copy, I'm more likely to get around to making some of these projects (trying the WHO bread recipe at last, for example, and making some postcard holders from tree branches). If you are on a tight budget and have her other two books, I think you could hold off on this. And if you are on a moderate budget, but have a bit set aside for mama-inspiration? I'd wait and see what the 3191 ladies come up with for their next print project or buy the paperback of The Happiness Project.

Do you have Rhythm of the Family? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your honest review. In the past I requested that our library buy Amanda's book but had already decided not to so for this newest book. Actually, I've stopped reading SouleMama blog b/c there's such a lack of reality there and also, I should say, the whole "farm scene" fails to charm me.

Kristin said...

Thanks for the review! I know what you mean- to be a fly on the wall at the Soule house- it would be very interesting. She is so inspiring, though, isn't she? You should definitely try the WHO bread- it is delish! I think I will buy the book- if only for the photography. I love the glimpses of their home.

I think it would be kind of fun to do a on-line book club with the Happiness Project-to go month by month and blog about out it. What do you think?

Meg said...

Thank you for the review. I would also love to be a fly on the wall at the Soule house--I know she likes to accentuate the positive, but I'd also like to know how she copes on those days that we all have--when everyone is out of kilter!

I'll probably put this on my Christmas list.

Herbal Tonya here said...

I cannot wait to read this book!! This time of year is all about the harvest....fruit: peaches, plums as well as herbs.....as an herbalist....beebalm, elderberries, lemon balm, spilanthes,,,,all about preparing the nourishment and medicine for the year ahead!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the honest review. I will interlibrary loan this book as I do love the photography and the papa notes. I had thought about preordering the book and decided to wait. But I do want to see it!

Erin said...

What a great review, thank you! I have not checked out the Happiness Project but I intend to now. Thanks again!

Andrea said...

Thanks for this honest assessment! I can't help myself from going to SM's blog every day, but it really mostly makes me feel inadequate (while at the same time inspiring me to try something I otherwise wouldn't). I think of it as "Another Perfectly Perfect Day for the Perfect Family." I know...sour grapes. I have to admit Gretchen Rubin got on my nerves too (her book--I haven't read her blog). I found myself thinking, "Of course anyone could be happy if they had a book deal that made it their full-time work to make themselves happy!!" Hmph, maybe I'm just cranky? I love your blog, though, because although you share all of the lovely projects and pictures of your life, you also don't hold back on the down side, either.

Anonymous said...

personally I believe that it could be about anything and women would flock to buy it just because of who wrote it. I read her comments once in awhile and find that there are women who plain and simply idolize Amanda Soule. imo

Tammie said...

i have to admit, when i saw that you were reviewing this book i expected another glowing review by a woman bowing at the feet of the great amanda soule. thank you for you totally and completely honest review.

at times i find soulemama inspiring. other times, all the 'pretty' and 'perfect' is just too much for me. i still may read the book, but i doubt i'll buy it. this is what libraries are for.

thanks again for the fair and honest review.

Family of 4.... said...

I found Soulemama's blog through your blog (I can't remember how I found yours, though). I like to see what SM is up to, and follow their farming endeavors, but I find myself reading your blog because you are honest about your struggles, you have recipes I have made before, and I like the book reviews you post (some of our tastes in books are similar, I bought Apples To Jam and really like it, one Nigella cookbook so far), etc. I have often wondered how SM copes now with 5 children, etc. It would be nice to see an honest post of what it's like to parent 5 and the struggles of parenting, but I could see where her blog mainly focuses on her creative outlets.

I did wonder about the book but I don't think I'll buy it. If you make the WHO bread, let us know how it comes out.

Thanks for posting your review of her book.


A Home In The Highlands said...

What a great honest review, thank you!

Sarah said...

now I know to just loan it from the library, but I have to be honest I've just borrowed all of her books from the library - once you see the projects they're pretty simple to reproduce without any real detailed instructions (imho). A few years ago I was a big follower of her blog, then it became a big deal over there and I felt like a bit of authenticity was lost since then I haven't really gone back. I completely prefer to feel a bit of a connection, more of that underbelly of who people are in order to really want to read their blog. Anyhow, thanks for the honest review. I still am ever so thankful for learning about "The Happiness Project" from you on here.

Rain said...

Your review is spot on! I just received the book yesterday and agree. There are definitely things in it I will use, but it's nothing that I haven't already seen or done before.
SM is great for inspiring but I think when we try to copy her it can be discouraging because we only "see" the unbalanced SM life of all good all the time. I certainly feel like a failure at times when I compare myself to that. me: She knit how many sweaters in one month? and painted her kitchen and started a farm from scratch while pregnant and her house still looks like that? I can't even...(fill in the blanks).
I also really appreciate your blog because you inspire and show the other side of the coin which is REAL!

Carrie said...

I also appreciate the honest review. I used to read Amanda's blog also, but I don't anymore. She writes beautifully, but really, there are so many ways of doing natural parenting and hers is just one. For example, to me, your blog is just as inspiring as hers is. I often cry now looking at her blog because she raises animals for slaughter that her children have named liked pets. I can't help that, I am a very sensitive person and a vegan who cannot read about things such as that.

Shelley said...

Glad to know there is really nothing new here. I will barrow it from the library instead. I fell in love with blogs because I came across Amanda's blog years ago after Ali Edwards mentioned her. After reading her blog I was so inspired to make things and from her blog and I started looking for similar blogs with homemade goodness, recipes etc. and that is how I have found others like yours. But I have to say I do not enjoy her blog as much any more for many of the same reasons others here have mentioned. i still take a look but I don't feel as inspired by her as I used to. It's hard to always see the awesomeness when my days are sometimes good and sometimes well, they just stink. Having children and being a SAHM is not always sunshine and roses. Thank you for always being inspiring. I enjoy your blog very much.

~Heather said...

Along with so many others, I appreciate the honest review.

Certainly not negative, but not overly gushing (as I feel too many reviewers tend to automatically lean).

I enjoyed her 1st book, was so-so on the 2nd (there was something about the font in the 2nd book that drove me nuts!) and will likely check out the 3rd from the library (if I don't win it somewhere online).

Can't wait to try The Happiness Project! Thanks for the recommendation.

Susan said...

Great review! I was wondering about the book and you answered my very questions. I'll hold off on it. I have the 3191 stuff that is published, and I'll always be glad to add to that collection!

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I definitely had an a haa moment reading you're review Nd others comments. Thanks so much. I love your blog for the exact same reasons others mentioned.

The Wool Fairy said...

Hi! I'm waiting for my copy in the mail as I pre-ordered it awhile back. I do like just having a hard copy of something to snuggle up on the couch or in bed with instead of reading articles and blogs on the computer. I appreciate your honesty.

As others have mentioned, I too find inspiration in your blog and the "realness" of it. I too have two young boys so I like to see what you are up to with them. Your food posts are always faves of mine.

I think we all have different writing styles. I tend to only feel like bloggin when I'm in a good mood so my posts tend to focus on the positive...when I'm absent for awhile it usually means I have the crankies (:

Take care and thanks again for your constant inspiration .


Woodspritemama said...

Thank you for the fair review ~ it must have felt a bit like sticking your neck out there in the blogging world - folks ready to bite from both sides ;) I see the SM blog as a cultural phenom...so much pressure on moms to be perfect...so much searching. It seems now that it is a product being sold rather than something lived...
Love your blog here ~ think I will dive back into blogging on our family days. It was always a trick for me to find a balance between keeping some of my kids' privacy and sharing...ahem ~ 'scuse my novel here! ;) xoxo

Karen said...

I don't have this book ... so I'm glad for your review, MB. I read SouleMama's blog daily for a little dose of cheeriness, but I find that if I get too involved with it it makes me a bit depressed, ironically - i guess because how in tarnation can their life just be so perfect each and every day? I don't mean this as a criticism. I dearly enjoy reading her blog. However I also feel that because each post gets over 200 comments that she'd never see one of mine personally. I like blogs where i can really feel a connection/kinship to the author! I do have Handmade Home and like to leaf through it for again, the cheeriness and inspiration. just my two cents!

Karen said...

also, how in heaven does she possibly get all that knitting done with all those children? i don't get it, i don't!! stamps feet

Mary Beth said...

Hey everybody. Thanks so much for your kind replies! You're all so sweet and I so agree with most of what's been said here. And Karen, I have no idea how she manages all those kids, a farm, and knits a sweater every month!

Kristin--sure, I'm up for a Happiness book club. I'll e-mail you.

Andrea--I too cannot seem to look away! I don't feel the same about Gretchin Rubin. She has a very lucky and cushy life, but what I love is that she is so down to earth with us about her challenges. I love that.

Meg--oh yes, to be a fly on the wall. Exactly! I honestly think they must both be really good parents--I think I'd pick up some tips!

Tammie--you are welcome. I had strong feelings about this book and really just wanted to put them out there. I honestly don't dislike Soulemama--I really like her--but her blog (and books) is getting a little stale.

Molly--yes, I'll post my review if I make the WHO bread. I've always wanted to try it.

Sarah--I so agree, "some of the authenticity was lost." That is a nice way of putting it. If you read the archives, she is so much more "alive" engaging, and really quite funny. I miss those old style posts.

Rain--yes! All that AND her husband was recovering from major surgery!!!

Jen--I am the same. I tend to take a bit of a blog break when I'm feeling extra grumpy. I do try to 'keep it real' in general though.

Susan--I agree, I will happily add to my 3191 collection if those ladies decide to continue.

Wool Fairy/Jen--I too just enjoy having a hard copy to relax on the couch with.

Woodspritemama--yeah, I felt I was taking some risk of being "shunned" by the blogging community! But in truth, I really like Amanda, just am disappointed that the blog/books have stagnated. Thanks so much for your kind words.

Thank you, everyone!

Sarah said...

How interesting to read the comments here. I don't really read those "big" bloggers blogs anymore because after awhile it was all "I AM WRITING A BOOK!" and I got tired of hearing that.

Certainly there are two kinds of blogs - shiny happy and nitty gritty. Having been more of a nitty gritty blogger myself for more than 6 years now that's what I find myself drawn to when I want to read blogs.

And seeing that there are others here who feel the same? Well, I am off to check out all of their blogs now.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog. I was hoping that the new SM book would have more depth to it as well. I felt the second one resembled the first a bit. When I see a bloggers sidebar growing ads I tend to get wary and realize that I am about to start reading a blog magazine. I so appreciate the beauty and the bad being represented because with out the bad how can you really appreciate the beauty and that is what makes bloggers like yourself the real macoy.

flying tortilla said...

Thanks for your honest review. I pre-ordered the book for my birthday and was disappointed that there weren't more details about the ins and outs of how each day unfolds to create the weeks and months. That said, I think the book wasn't novel or new to me because I've been a long time reader. If I was just being introduced to the Soules and their lifestyle and the way the show their life, than I think I would appreciate the book a bit more. I've learned a lot from the SM blog and there's more I can incorporate into my daily life from the book, but I didn't find it to be as inspiring as I had hoped.

Sheila D. said...


I think you are one of the first blogs that I started reading and must've found SM via YOU!

My hubby actually FORCES me to stop reading her blog for ALL of the reasons mentioned (particularly when I'm feeling down and grumpy!).

I struggled with buying a copy and, of course decided to do it anyway...I feel the same. Nothing new.

I've started/stopped blogging many times and have finally decided that I was trying to hard to "live up" to a standard. I can't imagine how much time has to be spent taking pictures, uploading pictures, writing, editing, etc. all in between the farm, cooking, educating, writing books, etc. Now I just live! ;)

You officially became my favorite blog when you acknowledge staying ad free!

I have some other "big blog" quips but...I'll save 'em for another time!

Kelly said...

Hmmm, not to drag the conversation on and on but, I was rereading my comment earlier after reading your responses and realized that my statement could easily be seen as directed at SM - which it is not. I do think SM is dragged into he cultural phenom of the pressure to be perfect and since we are sold this as a commodity through toys, books (fill in the blank)it would fall also that her blog may add to that. Would love to have a conversation about this somewhere..sometime :) I too have great respect for what she does and like to think of it as a personality thing..call it type A or whatever but we are all wired differently - and that's a good thing! ;) Thanks for sharing this space to open up compassionate dialogue ~ xoxo

Scarlet said...

I haven't read any of the books, but I have dipped into SM's blog very infrequently - it's not one that makes me want to return to it on a regular basis. I read blogs that make me want to know more about the writer, that make me care about what they are doing. I suppose it's a bit like developing a relationship with the characters in a novel - I studied English at degree level and having to read books where I didn't care about the characters left me cold. Reading blogs is the same for me, and yours is one that I return to again and again. Thanks for being honest in your book review.

mammafelice said...


Eva said...

I love her blog and her books. Beautiful eye candy and inspiration. She is like the Martha Stewart of blog land, and some days I feel inadequate, and other days I feel inspired, and I agree I would love to know a little more, but it is what it is...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Molly. MaryBeth you are much better than all three books of Amanda Soule together. You share with us your true you, your life and your believes. We know who you are and we know you are human like us. SM is like good brand: everybody likes to look at it, but leaves you feeling empty.
I like reading you because you are open and warm person. SM is cold and impersonal. Good for her that she made living out of nothing (she is basically "just" mother, never done anything) I've had such a blog since 2000, before even "blog culture" started..