santa's toy shop


December 6, 2016

Hello merry elves! Are you feeling merry? Or tired? I shot out of the Christmas gate like a cannon and now I'm feeling like I got overly ambitious. Christmas decoration is officially done, and now we're moving on to the cooking (cookie) phase of the holiday. I'll show you all a very simple cookie recipe next week. I'm all about very simple. And I'm all about very simple and yet charming vintage classics, like 'Walt Disney's Santa's Toy Shop' from Little Golden Books. I love anything that has to do with Santa's workshop, I've had a strange obsession since I was little.

 This sweet little happy book basically just shows Santa kickin' it with his elves, making toys and dancing around while Mrs. Claus makes gingerbread cookies. They make dolls, trains, games, building la la happy happy happy.....Santa shows his elves the best way to paint on a SMILE. How cute is that??

 "Oh jumping jacks!" says Santa when he's busy and running late - um, this is now going to be my new catchphrase when I'm frustrated. OH JUMPING JACKS.

 All Santa really wants to do is to play with the toys he's made, but he's oh so busy sending letters, making toys, delivering the goods, and he even finishes decorating the Christmas tree in one house. He sits down at one stop to "have a bite of lunch" - cookies and milk. It's so precious, you guys.

Finally Santa gets to play with the toys, as he delivers them at the various house. I used to be huge Santa watcher. I would wait and wait to hear jingle bells. I was the truest of true believers. I would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night. I truly thought of Christmas as the most magical night of the entire year and this book....I'm telling you, it gives you that feeling. Santa's toyshop is the coolest place in the world.

I decorated the book with some vintage wooden ornaments that are so! tiny! They're only about inch tall, if that. I've no idea where they came from, I've had them since I was a teen. I think. I honestly can't recall where they came from, I've just had them for ages and ages. Julia has a little fake tree that we set up in her room and I let her decorate her tree with these little cuties.

There are MILLION and a million more holiday books out there. But I think this one is so sweet - I love Golden Classics books. The art is so vintage darling and every page is a delight.

cool stuff i like


December 2, 2016

Happy Friday! It's December. Doesn't it seem like it was just December? I remember last holiday season so vividly. It seems impossible that a year has gone by. The intervening months seem both like they whizzed by at the speed of light and also like they moved at a snail's pace. What a strange, sad year it's been. I want to light candles and eat cookies, and watch lots of holiday movies. That's my seasonal plan in a nutshell. I'm pleased with how early I jumped on a lot of things - most of my presents are taken care of (for the most part) - our tree is in our living room - photobooks have been ordered. I found some presents way back in the summer and autumn. I didn't make as many as I wanted to - actually I didn't make any at all - maybe one needs to start really really early for that! I was going to make tea sachets and bath soaks. Next year's Christmas plan is going to be seeing how many gifts I can make with my own two hands. I'll never really be able to get on board with that plan very well though because, *cough* BOOKS. I think Christmas should just be one big book exchange!

Online inspiration I found this week:

How to reduce inflammation. (hey, i thought it was interesting, as we move into the next month of all sugar-all-the-time)

A Scandinavian-inspired brunch.

Delightful looking fairytale DVD collection! With bonus Hayley Mills!


Darcy always has such fun ideas for Things To Do at holiday time.


Amazing sounding book and such a beautifully written blog post. 

Looking to get or receive some new cookbooks this year? This is the mother of all cookbook gift guides!

Love this holiday decorating idea.

Cute gift guide for older kids.

Cool Book of the Week: 'The Star Tree' by Catherine Hyde took my breath when I saw it the other day. I read it while standing in a shop, and despite the fact that the story takes place on Midsummer Night's Eve, I thought this looked perfect for this time of year. MAGICAL. Just pure magic from beginning to end. A little girl makes a wish on her rocking horse, after her nightlight has gone out. And then she travels through the night, meeting assorted enchanted animals as she goes, until she makes her way to the Tree of Constellations. Let THAT sink in, why don't you. It's as beautiful as it sounds! The little girl takes one tiny star from the tree to lead her home. This picture book is so amazingly beautiful it took my breath away.

Have a lovely weekend! We're going to decorate our Christmas tree - I can't believe we got it so early this year! I hope it's not a crispy critter by the end of the month. Usually we get our tree up somewhere around December 5th. It will be nice to have it up and ready by the weekend so we can have it for the whole of Christmas season though. 2016 has been a hard year for me personally. I want to spend the last bit of it just staring at our tree......


cozy christmas books


November 29, 2016

 Well SKIP HOWDY if I haven't found myself another fab blog to follow! I have to give full credit for my latest rabbit hole o' awesome to a very cool blog and Instagram account - A Bookish Baker. I found her IG account, which uses what is going to become my new favorite hashtag: #bookishhygge. How cool is THAT? Anyway, I saw a few of the books listed here on Helen's blog, and down the rabbit hole I went on Amazon and found these other lovelies. Cozy winter reads for grownups AND hey you cozy mystery fans - cozy Christmas mysteries!! I'm so excited to try and track these down for some wintertime reading. Let's take a gander:

'High Rising' and 'Christmas at High Rising' by Angela Thirkell have the coolest retro vintage covers! Don't you think? Adore adore adore. Both books take place during the holiday season, and the comic plot follows a lady novelist, a Laura Morland, who bobs and weaves her way through the upper crust society ins and outs of a tucked away British village. The stories are set pre-World War II, and are considered to be true vintage treasures. (they were first published in the 1930's and '40's.) These are going on my Christmas wish list!

'Christmas Days' by Jeanette Winterson just looks gorgeous. Again, the cover art has knocked it out of the park. Do you know that I buy wine, (when I buy wine, which is maybe twice a year) based solely on 1) is it under $12? and 2) how pretty is the label? And I'm often the same with my books. Show me a fab cover and I'll show you my wallet. This one contains "12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days". COOL. The tales are supposed to convey the spookier side of Christmas, featuring stories about a tinsel baby (what?) and a haunted house and HELLO there are fairies! I'm just going to go ahead and buy this for myself. But I have to wait a teensy bit! It comes out this December 16th.

Mysteries! I love the idea of ghost stories and mysteries set during the holiday season. I've been obsessed with the mother of all Christmas ghost stories, 'A Christmas Carol' for as far back as I can remember. 'Mystery in White' by J. Jefferon Farjeon is billed as a 'A Christmas Crime Story', and although I'm new to the whole cozy mystery gig, I love love love period mystery pieces involving trains. By the way, there's a TON of other books from this publisher, British Library Crime Classics. I'm very exited about this tale of passengers who must spend Christmas in a snowbound train. This was first published in 1937, and it involves the snow storm-beset train, AND an abandoned country house that has a table mysteriously laid out for tea, (apparently the characters don't just sit in the stalled train, they get out and walk around and find stuff.) and the assorted cast of characters features a psychic and a chorus girl. I'M ALL IN. I'm totally totally getting this.

'Silent Nights' is an anthology of holiday mysteries. Country house settings and puzzles feature in many of the tales, which were were written in the 'Golden Age' of mystery writing (1930's and 40's), and one is a Sherlock Holmes story, 'The Blue Carbuncle.' Seriously, how fun right? I feel like all I need is some tea and gingerbread and holiday music very quietly playing in the background and A BLANKY and I might have the perfect evening of all time planned out.

'The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories' (cool) by P.D. James has an awesome cover - ok I really want to leave these books strewn about as Christmas decor! There are four stories in this one, written by the woman that many consider to be the "grand dame of of British crime literature". Sounds great, I'm throwing this onto my pile of Want-To-Reads.

Sooooooo, which of these sounds fun to you? Any of them? All of them? I think the only thing that sounds more fun than my blanky and gingerbread idea is if it were to actually SNOW while I was reading one of these. I can hope, mais oui?

~this post contains affiliate links

cool stuff i like


November 25, 2016

 Happy Friday!!! I hope those of you celebrating Thanksgiving ate entirely too much pie. I had a pie crust snafu - I tried using 'healthy' shortening for my pie crust instead of Crisco, and um I don't know but it tasted totally bizarre. So off I went to the store again, got the Crisco I should have grabbed in the first place, and made a whole new piecrust. I use a mix of butter and shortening and oh my....I'm all for healthier substitutions but I swear the first stuff tasted rancid. And, I was starting to get out some ornaments the other day, as you can see.....too soon??  I kinda forgot that T-day is on the earlier end this year, I got all excited and was like wooo Christmas - not quite realizing that we've got about another week of November....oh and hey! thank you for all the lovely comments about my dare-to-be-grey hair post!

Some cool stuff to take a gander at while you eat MORE PIE:

The deepest, darkest gingerbread.

A fog bow? Cool.

Mail order mysteries for kids. What a cool gift this would be!

I recently discovered The Little Library Cafe. I am in HEAVEN. And there's a cookbook coming!

This is a very cool idea for a journal.

I just purchased this online Advent guide! Super excited. I adore all things advent and solstice related.

Christmas crafts for kids.

A paperwhite bulb grow guide.

Love this idea for shelves! I have nowhere to do this though.

Cool Book of the Week: Like I said, I'm slightly obsessed with Advent calendars. One year, I had four going at the same time. Too much? Probably so. But this cutie I have to show you now so that if you love it, you can get it before December 1! The 'Cookie Advent Cookbook with 24 Festive Recipes' by Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt is adorable. Seriously. I love this idea - a new cookie recipe each day leading up Christmas! It's a darling book, I looked all through it the other day. I was in scattered rush, so I didn't have time to stand in line to get it, and now I'm sad. You lift a flap on the cover every day to see the hidden cookie, and then you flip to a page in the book to get the recipe. There are fun cookies, traditional cookies, around-the-world recipes, not-too-hard recipes and the whole thing is really a lot of fun. This is such a cute concept!

Have a lovely weekend! We're going to go see 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' - finally! It's here! Can't wait.


grey hair don't care


November 21, 2016

So this is going to be a funny (and LONG) post, because as you can see from the title, I'm talking about grey hair. But the pictures I'm showing do not display my grey hair - I'm showing pix from our family photo session that we did early this past summer with the magical Catherine Abegg, a film photographer in the Pacific Northwest area - she's amaaaaaazing and I'm thrilled beyond belief that she did our family session for us.

I include these photos though, because I'm so happy that we had our very first proper set of photos done - there had been basically no pictures of me and my husband since we got married, and there were hardly any pictures of Julia and I together. (mamas, I KNOW it's hard, but And I also include them because they might be the last photos taken of me with my dark hair. Not long after we had these photos taken, I decided that I was Done. No more coloring my hair.

So, the country is pretty much going crazy and the polar ice cap is 36 degrees warmer than it usually is or something like that, but hey let's talk about grey hair!! Fun yes? A little hair history from me - I found my first grey hair when I was 19. By the time I was 26, I began greying in earnest and I started coloring. Because.....I thought - that's what women did, right? You go grey and you color! That's just What People Do. Correction - that's particularly what women do. I don't think it ever even occurred to me not to color. And let me tell you, grey hair really stands out when your hair is super dark. I was also very wedded to my own personal narrative about myself - Melissa with the Almost-Black Hair. It was a huge part of my identity. I can't really point to a lot of things on the surface of myself that I'm super keen on (self criticism much?), but I was always proud of my hair.

So I began with semi-permanent color and then a few years in, I made the move to permanent color. I never, from Day 1, enjoyed the process like some folks do. I hated the time it took. I hated the chemicals. I hated the expense. And I hated that over time, my poor scalp (which has always been sensitive skinned like the rest of me) was just unhappy most of the time. But by gum, I kept coloring.

Over the years, I felt like the natural texture of my hair, (the pix up above? Blown out. My hair doesn't usually look calm that way.) which is kind of 'fluffy' and naturally wavy, was getting lost most of the time - coloring made my hair kind of coarse and bushy feeling/looking and when I was overdue to color, the frizz really kicked in. Then I'd color and coat my hair, and the frizz would be better. I could see a bit of a vicious cycle kicking in....

I also began seeing some noticeable thinning along my part line and at my right temple - I started calling it 'my fragile area' and I would tell my color/haircut person to try and avoid coating that area with too much color. I was so worried I was literally killing off my hair follicles, because those areas around my face were the most grey and the part line was always where we really concentrated on applying the most color.

Flash forward to this summer. By now, I had been coloring FOR TWENTY YEARS. Let's look at that number again. 20! Years! My beloved stepfather had recently died. I felt like it was very much a time of taking stock and cutting out things that just did not belong in my life anymore. And pretty much at the top of that list was Coloring My Hair.

I had tried telling my colorist for several years that I really hated coloring, but she told me that I shouldn't stop coloring until I was a grandmother. And I had mentioned to an acquaintance that I ran into at the grocery store that I was thinking of quitting coloring and I'm here to tell you - a look of abject HORROR crossed her face and I'll never ever forget - she gasped out "Oh no. That would be so AGING." It was like I had announced that I was about commit some kind of CRIME. I tried feeling out some other people and friends, and the reception was lukewarm at best. I told another lady that I was thinking of stopping and she sort of looked me over and said..."I would keep coloring."

But despite that, after looking up a ton of grey hair blogs, especially this one, and seeing more mention of #grannyhair and grey hair as a kind of fashion statement, and reading stories about people like Sarah Harris, the fashion features editor of British Vogue, I made up my mind. Especially after my very last color appointment, wherein my color literally did not take at all on my most resistant grey spots, and SEVEN DAYS LATER - I had roots. Seven days! (My hair grows pretty quickly.) That was the kicker for me, and I decided right then and there that I was cold turkey done. I might as well have taken the money I spent on my last color appointment and lit it on fire for all the good it did!

I wrote a text to my colorist, ha ha ha, explaining my decision. I felt like I basically had to apologize for not wanting to color anymore! And I told a few other friends who WERE gloriously supportive. (Thank you Laura and Michaele!) My husband was like, whatever you want to do is great. (he just wants me to stop talking about it 24/7) and my daughter was like, oh I hope you won't look like a little old man! Wait, what?

And once I made the real deal decision in my mind.....I can't tell you....the FREEDOM. I didn't realize how much the whole hair coloring thing was weighing me down until I stopped. I felt like I had been released from hair prison! Aside from marrying my husband and having my child, I kid you not - this has been my 3rd best decision! I wish wish wish I could go back and tell my 26 year old self - just rock it at a young age! Don't do it!

 For me, even it ends up aging me 10 years, even it ends up looking like crap....for me, still so WORTH IT not to be shackled to my hair color appointments. I would schedule appointments around holidays. I once went on a trip and was between color appointments and I forgot my root touchup - and I felt so freaked out by it that I went in and bought some mascara to touch up my roots while I was on my vacation. I was a hamster on a wheel that never ever stopped spinning.

Coloring was never fun or a form of self expression for me. It was a punishment for my hair having the AUDACITY to go grey at an early age. And the more I read about going grey (I started referring to my greys as silver all the time but my hilarious husband informed me that was trying too hard), the more I realized certain things that coloring says about our roles as women and about our society and about youth vs. age.

I had never honestly given much thought to the fact that there is an entire color industry built primarily for and around women's hair color. Women apparently are 'not allowed' to age in the same way men are. Can someone explain that to me? And youth, or the illusion of it, is something to be prized and chased after - even if it no longer is reality.

I realized that no one had ever showed me another way or another choice - my mother actively encouraged me for years to color and was the first to point out when I was overdue for a color appointment. It isn't hard to figure out what psychology was at work there. And it took 20 years of me bumbling around on my own to finally figure out what I wanted to do and make the commitment to do it.

One thing I want my daughter to know is that she has choices. If she greys early, she doesn't have to color if she doesn't want to. Or she can. If she wants neon pink hair, she can have it. Or whatever she wants to do that makes her feel great about herself, she can do. And that it's not just about what makes her feel great about the way she looks, but how she feels all the way inside. I don't want her to feel like coloring her hair is something she has to do simply because she's a woman, and That's What Women Are Supposed Do.

So I'm about 12-13 weeks away from my last color appointment. Every day I'm so excited to see how much more silver (I still like saying silver better than grey) is showing! As opposed to looking and sighing, oh time to get in for another appointment. It's amazing how a shift in perspective changes things! I'm a little less excited for the 'transition' phase, which I'm doing cold turkey and I'm also not chopping off my hair to facilitate things - so when I have 7 inches of grow out on my head, things are gonna be a little wild, but I'm actually fine with that too. It's going to be reverse ombre! I've also realized that the back of my head is still pretty dark and most of my silvers are around the front of my face.  But it is what it is. I've never felt so free in my whole life, and my scalp is SO happy, and most interesting of all - there's a small forest of new sprouting hairs along my part line and 'fragile area', seriously it's craaaaaaaazy, thus confirming what I had suspected - coloring on my sensitive scalp was damaging my follicles.

My child and husband are so over hearing me process my way through this, but really, it's been one of the biggest changes in my life, the decision to stop coloring. I'm happy for people to do whatever makes them feel happy about themselves, color no color, whatever color - but for me, stopping the color wagon is the right choice and I just wish I had made the decision sooner. I told my husband that I'm hoping that I look like a little frost fairy. I figure, if I can't be my natural black anymore, I'd rather embrace a whole new deal. My colorist was making my hair lighter so the greys wouldn't show as readily. My natural color at one point was actually much darker than how it looks in these photos! And at some point, when I'm all transitioned - sounds like I'll be a new alien life form - I'm going to dip the ends lavender, or make some streaks, which I've ALWAYS wanted to do! But nothing that touches my scalp, nope nope nope. Never again.

Would love love LOVE to hear thoughts from you all on this. I think it's fascinating topic, the whole what women-do-in-the-name-of-beauty issue.....and P.S. - my kiddo came in to me before bed the other night and told me that she thought my burgeoning grey streak in the front was really pretty and that she was so glad that my greys are very silvery and don't look like "moldy mustard'. WHAT. I laughed and laughed and laughed. She's the best!!!

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