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

December 5, 2019

melissa's 2019 christmas wish list


Well helloooooooo poppets! Right before Thanksgiving, Julia and I saw a performance of 'Mrs. Doubtfire' at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater (Julia performed there last year in their holiday production of 'Annie') and it was INCREDIBLE, if you're in the area, it's a must-see if you love theater! The primary cast came in from New York, and the show is going to Broadway in the spring. Anyway the takeaway is that now I want to say "HELLOOOOOOOO POPPETS!" to everyone I see. See also calling everyone "dearie."

I've Very Helpfully put together a list of things that would delight MYSELF at Christmas time. Helpful in the sense that I keep sending random text messages to my husband Andrew, and I thought it might assist him in seeing All The Things in one spot.

If you have received one of my boxes, or read my blog for even half a minute's worth of time, you won't be terribly surprised at my list. I like the same things, year in, year out.

TEA.

JAM.

SOCKS.

COOKBOOKS.

FAIRY TALES.

COZY STUFF.

I tend to put various miniaturized versions of these things in my boxes, as you might be aware by now. And without further ado, please behold my Christmas Wish List:

So I was meandering my way through Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks ago, and I saw 'READING SOCKS.' I now really don't want to live life without my own pair of reading socks.

We have a wee marmalade obsession in this house, and I was quite delighted when I saw this variety of 'Old Times' orange marmalade from the British brand Tiptree. I'm going to classify my longing for this marmalade as a NEED, not a want.

During Cyber Monday I happened upon this loungewear ensemble from Uniqlo that was $10 off the regular price. I almost bought it for myself. Then I dithered. And dallied. And now it is no longer $10 off and I has a Big Sad. The selling point to this outfit is that you can wear it for being comfy at home AND wear it out and about, which I don't know why Uniqlo is selling this as some kind of novelty - that type of clothing equals 99.9% of my wardrobe. (Andrew took a peek at this and politely inquired "Oh. Would you like this in size frumpy or size extra frumpy?" HE'S ALL MINE LADIES, I'm proud to say.)

I've been meaning to read 'The Hazel Wood' by Melissa Albert for some time now. If you read any descriptions about it, you'll see why. This YA tale of a girl named Alice realizing that the fairy tales her grandmother wrote about are actually real and have had repercussions on Alice's family life is supposed to be a stunning read. I need to hurry up and get on this so I can be ready for the sequel coming next year, 'The Night Country'.


I'll be VERY SAD INDEED if the 'Little Library Year' cookbook does not show up at Christmas. It was/is the #1 thing I've requested. THE NUMBER ONE THING, ANDREW. I usually get a new cookbook every year at Christmas or for my birthday (or BOTH), and it delights me no end to open up a new cookbook and sit poring over recipes I'll never make. HA HA HA. Actually I make quite a lot of things from my cookbooks, but most importantly, my cookbooks give me great joy, and I read them over and over and over, like novels. I really do.

So this is a funny (?) story. Years ago. Years. Like, 4 years? Maybe more? Who's counting the slow march of time at this point? Either I gave Andrew, or he gave me, a variety of Kusmi tea (one of our favorite tea brands) called Tsarevna. We tried it, and although the ingredient list says it's a black tea flavored with orange peel, winter spices, vanilla and almond, we both agreed it was heavy on the licorice element, and.......

......THERE IT SAT, a huuuuuuuuuuuge tin of it, looking very pretty and VERY FULL, for years. Well I made a cup a few weeks ago, added a hefty slug of milk......and I LOVE IT. I've had it nearly every day? What's going on?? Did my taste buds change?? Andrew agrees that it is a totally different experience with the milk, which is funny because most Kusmi teas we find too subtle for milk, and that they are best enjoyed plain. So now....we're almost out of this tea and I'd like more. Maybe we can order another and it can sit there untouched for another four years lol. I also would like more of my beloved Green Tea with Almond Kusmi tea, it's my very very favorite.

I received a Susan Branch calendar last year, and this book, and although I have adored Susan Branch for years, I went through sort of a Susan Branch renaissance if you will, and I re-discovered how much I love everything she does. Her calendar sat on my table all year long last year and brought me immense joy. So I need the 2020 Susan Branch calendar, and for ALL THE YEARS forever. Oh and I accidentally put in the picture for the mini calendar, woops.

Recently I read an article that said that the best way to get a crisp bottom pie crust was to use a metal pie plate. I HAVE ONLY MADE PIES IN GLASS. Like, my whole life. So this was news. And the one metal pie pan I have is not very good, and is dented and I think used for Julia's playdough when she was a tiny tot. So I would very much like this pie pan, Andrew, and then I can make MORE PIE.

Oh one last thing:


So I'm a huge lover of Epsom Salts baths. Huge. And I just became aware of Ancient Minerals, which are magnesium chloride bath flakes. There is apparently an important distinction between this product and regular epsom salts, which are made from magnesium sulfate. The magnesium chloride is more suited for topical application and apparently more readily absorbed. I've been wanting to try! So um, I BOUGHT IT FOR MYSELF, Andrew if you're reading, you can cross this off lol because I took care of it.

So that's my list, more or less! I don't think I'll ever tire of getting jam and tea for Christmas. Nope, not ever.

December 2, 2019

cool stuff i like


Hello HOLIDAY WARRIORS!! Yes, we are all indeed warriors lunging forth trying to keep it together through the holiday season. Happy December! Please please remember to take some time for yourself. My daughter and husband had Things to Do the evening during Thanksgiving weekend, and I was home alone watching this movie (so cute!) and making a holiday fabric ribbon garland, which I'll write a separate blog post about later in the week or early next week.

The book you see above, 'Christmas Pudding', I talk more about here. It's a charming British comedy of manners about upper class fancy folk staying in a country manor house at Christmas time. Have you read it?

Also, I'm going to keep mentioning the upcoming 2020 Winter Hygge Box that is mailing out next February! I'm nearing half full capacity for this theme, and if you recall last year I only sent it to subscribers because I was tired lol. The Hygge box is one of my most popular, and the book I want to use is coming to me from England (they have prettier cover editions than U.S. editions, I find), so now's the time! I'm officially taking orders, I'm very excited about this one, and this theme will sell out! Remember, I'm only one small human boxes making cute book parcels, so I only take on a limited number of orders for each box theme! See up above, the 'Info' tab to get ordering details.

AND - I will be raising my pricing by a couple of dollars per box in 2020. SO much work and time goes into these parcels! You might want to buy a 3 or 6 month subscription, or the Winter Hygge box NOW to get the 2019 pricing.


Let's get to the COOL STUFF that has floated across my radar lately:

I'm definitely making this mac and cheese recipe during the winter months. This is very very similar to the recipe that I use, but I usually just stick to sharp cheddar - I HEARTILY applaud the inclusion of Gruyere and Gouda. I was so excited about this recipe, I talked about it one morning to my husband Andrew, whose bon mots on this blog have been missing for FAR TOO LONG:

On mac and cheese: "I feel like people spend too much time trying to make mac and cheese something more than 'pedestrian fare' - when it's really unfit for discerning palates."

And:

"Like, people who put LOBSTER in their mac and cheese - why you gotta waste good lobster on mac and cheese? It's like putting LIPSTICK ON A PIG."

CUE MY EYEBROWS SHOOTING UP PAST MY HAIRLINE LOL LOL LOL.

Norwegian Cardamom Christmas Bread.

Healthy Hot Chocolate.

Picked up these snowflake coasters as a gift for a family member and I can't believe how darling they are - just gorgeous, heavy, and beautiful - and that price - Wow.

A FABULOUS gift guide for teen girls. I was toying with the idea of doing one, but Julia often reads my blog, so go read Jenny's gift guide instead! And this is a FABULOUS gift guide for all teens.

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread.

If you haven't seen this yet, YOU'RE WELCOME, and I accept all cash donations for my services rendered.

I've been toying with this idea for years. Do you do this??

The Northstar Tabletop.

Lots and lots and LOTS of holiday decorating ideas.


Cool Book of the Week: I'm super excited about this. Madeleine l'Engle has a 'new' book coming out next spring, 'The Moment of Tenderness' - a collection of short stories and memoir type writings that were discovered by her granddaughter. Can you imagine?? Madeleine had a strong Christian faith going on which often found expression in her books - and I am NOT a Christian (I'm a devout believer in fairies and trees and whatnot, but I've been reading her books since I was 11 and I've never once felt turned off or imposed upon by any mentions of her faith in her writing.) I've always felt her expressions of faith to be more 'spiritual', rather than ascribing to any one particular way of living in this world. Which I very much appreciate.

I mention it only because I think in some of the memoir writings, she talks about some of her real life spirituality questions informing her fiction novels. Anyway, if Madeleine wrote it, I'm wanting to read it.Apparently according to Amazon, there are stories that run the gamut between "realism to science-fiction to fantasy".


Do you have your tree? We're getting ours in the next couple of days, and then decorating it this next weekend. It seems like everyone I know put their tree up Thanksgiving weekend because TDay was so late, but we like to keep out tree up well into the first week of January, so if it goes up to soon, it won't last until then. Don't forget to order your Hygge Box!!

~Melissa