March 24, 2020

cottagecore


Well hello friends. As I'm writing this, plans are probably afoot in my state for a shelter-in-place mandate to occur, the governor is due to have a televised speech tonight and all I can say is FINALLY. Last week, I read one comment after another and saw photo after photo on Facebook showing people out and about in DROVES. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. All I've done for a solid week is read one article after another - at this point, I honestly think I've read ALL THE NEWS about this virus and now I just need a little break. Maybe you do too. I tend to read myself into an anxious stupor, and I just need to back away from it for a little bit. So even though we're living in a real life dystopian novel, I'm going to show up here and try and show you some pretty things. Also, STAY HOME STAY HOME STAY HOME.

After I put the photos together for this post, I realized that maybe right at this moment is not the best time to be utilizing mail and delivery systems for non-essential items, but if you like what you see here, perhaps you can file it away for later or for when you or someone else might really need a treat.

So today I'm going to chat about about this newest form of cozy living I just happened across.

COTTAGECORE.

Except apparently it's not new. My daughter asked me if I had been living under a ROCK. Because she knew ALL ABOUT cottagecore. But if you, like me, remain in the dark about what it all entails, this is a great primer, as is this post HERE. Basically, it's all about a love for the idea of an enchanted and pastoral life lived in pretty, floral dresses, in a country cottage, while baking pies and frolicking with baby goats, in between foraging for wild mushrooms and maybe some fairies.

WHERE IN THE NAME OF ALL STARDUST IN THE UNIVERSE WAS THIS IDEA WHEN I WAS 17??????

I think I might have been trying to live the cottagecore life as a teen without even knowing about it. I kid you not, I was the only girl in my school who ever showed up wearing a PETTICOAT under her Laura Ashley dress. I swear to you that's a true story.

Apparently this aesthetic is very popular with teen girls, so my daughter and the internet tells me, but I think we can all enjoy the idea of pretty things that exist just for the sake of being pretty, and a longing for a return to a girlhood existence comprised of living like the heroine of whatever lovely movie caught your fancy and imagination in a tremendous way when one was young (er). For me, that movie was 'A Room With a View'.

UPDATE FROM MY DAUGHTER: After I showed Julia this post, she said that there is also a sub-category of this theme called GRANDMACORE, the hallmarks of which are chunky knit sweaters, baking cookies, gardening, and crocheting/knitting. I might skip cottagecore and go straight for this. I don't knit or sew though. I'll get back to you after I wrestle with this existential crisis of deciding in which camp I want to place myself.


I've made a little selection of bobbins that I think fit into the cottagecore realm of Aesthetically Pleasing Things. Aren't they all so sweet and springy?? I'm putting the notebook in my daughter's Easter basket. Just the thing in which to write poems about baby goats.

I happened across this set of 'Tea Shop Cozy Mysteries' by Katherine Hayton and thought they looked sweet. I've never read these, but they sound jolly and cute and non-stressful. Good grief, if someone tries to make me read anything heavier than a feather right now I would throw the book at their head. These appear to only be available on Amazon as a digital Kindle download, so that's convenient if you're trying to save space on your shelves. A lady running an herbal tea shop solves crimes in England. That's all you need to know! I'd read these even without the mystery element, I'm just there for the herbal tea shop.

If you or your teen daughter or whoever needs a pretty lip balm that smells amazing and works at really hydrating, let me assure you that the entire line of lip balms from Smith's is fantastic. How pretty is this Mocha Rose flavor??

Every cottage needs a darling teapot OF COURSE. I think this Fitz & Floyd English Garden teapot with the wee butterfly sitting on the top of the lid is perfect.


Last year, I put these socks into a spring things post I put together, and I remain extremely enchanted with these linen/cotton blend floral lovelies. I have a pair of these going into a custom Cozy Box order I'm sending out in late spring, and they are even prettier in person.

I got a pair of denim overalls from Amazon last fall and I wear them at least 3-4 times a week. They've become my uniform, and I think this pair of oversized floral denim overalls needs to be what I wear during the spring and summer months.


This darling magazine was something I picked up several weeks ago - it was one of The Last Outings I had with my daughter before everything became all-COVID19-all-the-time. Julia and I ran out to Barnes & Noble. It really wasn't that long ago, but it seems now like ages and ages.

I rediscovered 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' by Susannah Clarke, it was hidden away in my bookshelf. I've only read the first two stories and that was about 13 years ago. For some reason I just forgot about this book, even though I ADORED 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell'. I'm going to begin 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' all over again - I think this collection of fairy stories for grownups will be just the thing to read in May or June, when lilacs begin to bloom.

(I already have Clarke's newest, 'Pirenesi', on pre-order. I've been waiting and waiting for her to create another book!!)

While on the topic of cottages, my husband and Julia will both tell you that I've been ready for cottage living since the beginning of time. I mention it pretty much every other day.

I've had dreams of living in dollhouses and cottages since I was tiny. I've been ready to downsize my entire adult life. When 'Escape to the Country' was available on Netflix my family and I watched it every weekend with great joy.

(WHY WHY WHY IS IT GONE ESPECIALLY NOW THAT WE ARE ALL SO STRESSED - WAIT. It appears to be available via Prime video on Amazon!!!) I think that maybe my husband might be a secret cottagecore devotee as well, only his cottage would be filled with video games.


Look at these cuties. Darling jam bookmarks, a charming floral tea cozy, and wee toadstool mushroom earrings. If you do a search on Etsy for cottagecore, you'll have a delightful time sifting through all the cute.


I really think that this particular edition from Vintage Classics of  'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith is pretty much the perfect embodiment of cottagecore, n'est-ce pas? And despite the fact that the heroine of the book, Cassandra Mortmain, lives in a castle - this book is TOTALLY a cottagecore story. A young girl, living in a dilapidated castle in the English countryside, trying to figure herself out while stomping through moors and fields, deciding which boys she likes and writing in a diary? This should be Cottagecore Reading 101.

So there you have it my lovelies. Are we all on board with some cottagecore? I know I am. If my daughter is really going to be away from regular school from now until next autumn, maybe I'll start Melissa's Cottagecore School for Young Ladies, and we'll drink tea, eat cake, and fight about who has the prettiest floral ensemble.

March 16, 2020

cool stuff i like


This is going to be a Very Long Post my friends. So much news. Where to start. First, I haven't blogged since January. I mentioned on Instagram that this was because my mother had a tremendous fall and suffered a head wound and had several weeks of recovery, and all of February was just crazy. Then the world exploded with coronavirus.

Let me be clear on one point - COVID19 is NOT cool stuff I like. But while we're staying put as much as we can, I hope to bring a little bit of cheer here if I'm able!

I've got a bit of Box News:

My Winter Hygge boxes went out in February. I had a batch of British Boxes that went out in March before the active quarantines began in earnest. Those all went out except for three boxes that were still waiting for their books to arrive from England. I'm not stepping foot in the post office right now, so those remaining boxes will have to wait until later in the Spring, when I'm hoping the restrictions ease up. Here's the plan (I hope):

Remaining Brit Boxes, Spring Boxes for subscribers only, and a few Custom box orders ALL WILL BE DELAYED until end of April. The Spring boxes weren't due to mail out until late April, early May so there's no real change there. If things remain crazy and locked down, I will push this schedule to late May, or June. I will use this time to get all the boxes that were slated to go out this spring prepped, wrapped, and ready to mail as soon as I can safely navigate the post office again!

I won't be taking new orders for seasonal spring boxes - I'll probably take new orders again for the Summer box, the Autumn box, Anne of Green Gables boxes, and British Boxes - later in the summer months.

Blog News:

I'm hoping to blog more!! I'll have more time now that I'm not driving hither and yon taking my daughter to all of her various activities. So I'm aiming to devote more time to this space. I have a couple of new posts I hope to get out really soon that I'm excited to create for you!

Cool Stuff News: an extra long list

My friend from Northanger Soapworks shared this bit of joy. If you, like me, were SO VERY SAD about not having seen the new 'Emma' movie yet, GOOD NEWS!!!

The family lockdown guide.

Please direct your attention here.

Coronavirus family menu plan.

Since many of us will be at home, might be time to dust off diaries, etc. I liked these thoughts on bullet journaling.

I will totally watch this.

Mo Willems is doing a weekly livestream doodle for kids.

Just found a very cool and interesting new-to-me blog: Messy Nessy.

What a darling picture book!

Fabulous list of cool things from my friend Jenny. OH MY WORD I'm making that strawberry cake as soon as I can get my hands on some strawberries.

And lastly......BABY PANDA DAYCARE.


Cool Book of the Week: 'House of Trelawney' by Hannah Rothschild is a book I saw in a bookstore last month, and I immediately took a photo of it and filed it away in my ever running, ever accumulating future book list. It's said to be very witty and it focuses on an eccentric aristocratic family and their dilapidated estate in Cornwall. Once a grand family, the modern day descendants are quirky (one aunt studies fleas professionally) and dysfunctional, and the story is supposed to be full of dry black humor. This type of thing sounds just like what I would like to be reading right now, paired with tea and some treacle tart.


I have many posts planned! I had friends suggest topics to me, for which I'm grateful. It's been so long since I've posted, I was sort of thinking oh my....what do I write about anymore??

Be well and safe, xoxo
Melissa

January 23, 2020

cool stuff i like


Hello duckies! I've been a bit scarce - been getting all the materials and books ready for The Cozy Winter book boxes that are mailing out this week and next week - this theme is SOLD OUT, thank you to all who ordered! If you missed my news about boxes, please visit this post, as some changes are taking place. The next box theme I'll be sending out will be British boxes in March! It was my birthday recently, and I received several lovely books - I'll show and tell about them on Instagram SOON.


Online things of interest:

I just bought this puzzle for myself. Is this not the most hygge thing you've ever seen??

Orange Marmalade Cake. We're a family of marmalade lovers to such a degree that we could give Paddington a run for his money! So I'm making this asap.

LOVE this IKEA hack of making a spice rack from a dollhouse.

Very fun home tour of David Harbour's NYC apartment.

Next step for us is getting my husband to curb his dairy.

My dream!

The costumes of 'Little Women'.

I would love to see this movie.

Pockets, shawl collar, AND buttons? Is this the perfect cardigan?? I got the ivory ombre color and it was half price.

Sharing for the people not on Facebook. Absolutely delightful! Florence Pugh eating British food.


Cool Book of the Week: 'The Imaginaries' by the most magical, luminous magician of an artist and writer, Emily Winfield Martin. OH HOW I ADORE HER. Her Instagram account alone is worth the price of admission into her enchanting world. I will seriously buy every book she creates until the end of time. This one is a collection of her art, along with a mysterious caption for each picture, prompting you to tumble further into a reverie of imagination. This will be released this February and is available for pre-order now! I can't wait.


Have a lovely rest of your week! Any plans for the Lunar New Year? I think we'll be having dumplings and noodles, and stringing up red lanterns for luck.

~Melissa

January 6, 2020

2020 Book Boxes


Oh sweet friends!! Please let me thank you for your patience at the outset of this post for the nonsensical ramble about to ensue. I've been struggling with a few issues surrounding the book boxes, and now is the time to air those issues and let you know my intentions going forward. (SPOILER ALERT: if you have been wavering and lurking, wondering if you should get a box, YES YOU SHOULD because the likelihood is very very high that this is the last year I'll be doing my seasonally themed boxes.)

First of all, this was always intended as a bit of a lark. A creative pursuit I wanted to do. And I've been amazed that I've sold ANY boxes ha ha! The internet is a BIG BIG place, if you didn't know. And I am but one small person. From the very first box, my first Russian Winter box, the boxes have been received with enthusiasm, and I've been so happy and fortunate to receive email letter after email letter ("MOM YOU GET FAN MAIL", says my sweet daughter) thanking me for my boxes.

I was even more fortunate to receive a subscription order from the magical Alicia Paulson, as well as a lovely and kind shout out on her blog, Posie Gets Cozy. Orders began pouring in after she mentioned me, and she basically single-handedly jump started my book box business. (say those last 3 words very very fast for a fun game)

Me being me, I immediately freaked out, and stopped taking orders after a certain amount, because I was worried about getting enough books for that particular box (A Vintage Summer). And it turns out I was correct to worry - I exhausted both Amazon's and Book Depository's stock of the book, which can be hard to find.

Which leads me to my main problem - because I'm not working directly with publishers, I have to walk a really fine tightrope finding the books - they have to be right for the theme, and also at the correct price point because I'm paying retail for them. I frequently purchase in bulk from England because I like the book covers better and the pricing is often more competitive. I'm missing out including some really perfect books for my boxes because they are simply too expensive and would eat up my treat & tea budget. I have to raise my prices to get around this issue.

There's also this problem: I'm not making a singular item. I'm putting together a combination of items, procuring the items from other vendors, packing them, wrapping them, mailing them,  and it takes a LOT of time and effort. My husband cheerfully offers to tell me what my hourly wage rate is, and I just wave him off because I know how bad it is, and I don't want to hear it. I've made enough to keep the enterprise running, but that's about it. Perhaps if I had a partner, it would take some of the burden off of me, but I don't.

Put another way - there's far far too much work involved in these for what they yield financially.

Anyway - that's the biggest problem - to make the boxes financially feasible, I try as much as possible to order gift items in sets or bulk orders - but I don't know ahead of time how many orders I might get for any given box theme, and the whole endeavor involves some risk and some math, and it's just a bit too much for me!

Yet another issue is time and logistics - because I'm not using new releases (many other book boxes are sent new releases from publishers), I'm finding that I have to sometimes read and wade through 10 books to find the 'right' book. That sounds awesome in theory, but that's time I'm not paid for, and it's time that I don't have.

SO. I am committed for the remainder of this year to my subscribers for 2020 boxes, and I have some really darling themes I'm super excited about; we're going to have some FUN this year! But beyond that I don't know that I will continue. If I do, I might operate more as a pop-up shop when I put together a really fun theme, or I might shift to making literary themed boxes like I do/did with the Anne of Green Gables and the Little Women boxes. I'm dying to create a Jane Austen box!

Or I might make year round themes available like British Boxes, Mystery Boxes, Hygge Boxes, Back of the Attic boxes, and only create those custom if/when people request them. And the likelihood is that I will then price each custom box similarly to the Anne of Green Gables and Little Women boxes, between $45 and $50 plus shipping, so I can really curate and put in the specialty items I'd like to without so many of the purchasing-in-sets constraints.

I won't create any more children's boxes - with the possible exception of Stargazer Boxes and of course, Anne of Green Gables. (Teen Summer Romance, British Boarding School, and Vintage Children's Subscriptions went nowhere LOL, as did every other single children's box - only my adult box themes have been popular!)

Also - I love books. I love talking about books. But I've felt more and more like I had to stifle my voice and what I put on Instagram or the blog, because I felt like I had to hoard every good book I came across as a potential contender for a future book box. And I hate always being in SELL mode. I just want to talk about the books, without always having to make a sales pitch!

Also #2 - trying to build any sort of enterprise based on the whims of what Instagram decides to show and tell on any particular day - NO THANKS. Hard pass on that. It's like standing at the edge of the ocean and trying to yell to someone on the other side.

The smart people out there are out hustling others to give them money, so they can tell you how you might be able to game the system, and I am really not keen on any of that merry-go-round. Fun fact: from the minute I created my Instagram account, I steadily gained a following, slowly over time. The SECOND I switched to a business account, my followers count basically froze. I've gained maybe 20 followers in the past 6 months?? I was gaining 20 followers a WEEK before I switched from a personal to a biz account. That's just crazy. I'm switching back. Insanity, thy name is Instagram!

Got all that? I've had the best time packing these boxes for people, and I'll try to continue it in some fashion or another. I do think I have a talent for gift and book curation in general, and I'm firmly committed to sharing and talking about books for the rest of my life. And who knows? I change my mind every two minutes, so I might just keep on trucking along with the book club parcel enterprise.

December 19, 2019

cool stuff i like


This will probably be my last post before the Winter Solstice, Christmas and Hanukkah, so let me take this opportunity to wish you all a big hugs for happy Hygge times! I have a few more bits to wrap, and then I'm all on top of the wrapping. I love wrapping, actually, and I've become more proficient from all of my book box wrapping.

SPEAKING OF.....I'm OFFICIALLY taking orders for 'A Cozy Winter' book box! I'm half full already my friends - if you want one, email me! juliasbookbag (at) gmail (dot) com

All the ordering details are up in the 'Info' tab by my blog header. This box is available as a standalone box, or as part of a 3 or 6 month subscription. I only make small batches of book surprise boxes, so to avoid disappointment, it's never too early to get on my list! The Cozy Winter box will have so many goodies in it to hopefully make for a perfect wintertime reading experience. Last year I actually did two Winter boxes - my Hygge/Fika box, and a Russian Folktale box. This year I'm only doing one batch, and I'm busily prepping materials for it. It's going to be super fun!

Online goodness this week:

Cranberry Orange Rolls.

How to reclaim and savor the holidays. Beautiful post.

I don't know what this is all about BUT I AM HERE FOR IT. Thanks to Heather for putting this on my radar!

A vintage inspired Danish home at Christmas. SO darling!

Apparently giant sized Swedish paper stars are all the rage online right now - I'm going to set my paper snowflake making genius husband on this project asap.

Classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake sounds refreshing right now.

I WANT TO BE A BOOK FAIRY.

I CAN'T WAIT.

Cool Book of the Week: If you're still wandering around in the gift-giving wilderness looking for possible presents, you might want to consider 'First We Eat' by Eva Kosmas Flores. I've been following her blog, Adventures in Cooking, for years, and I don't know which is more stunning - Eva's recipes or her photography. She creates incredible and unique things to eat, and showcases them with some of the most stunning food photography I have EVER seen. So what's nice about this gift worthy cookbook is that she pairs her creations with gasp inducing pictures, making this something to display and flip through, as opposed to stuffing it away in a shelf. Eva has a seasonal take on cooking, which I always appreciate. If you're a foodie and haven't yet stumbled upon her work, oh my are you in for a treat! Eva is an incredible talent.


Have a lovely Solstice weekend - stay cozy on the longest day of the year!

~Melissa