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.







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."


"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."


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!!


November 26, 2019

i have thoughts about christmas

Hello my holiday warriors. I didn't really have any photos to accompany this post, so behold the Paris Opera House! One of our absolute favorite places we saw during our recent Paris trip.

I'm writing this post two days before Thanksgiving, which is a holiday that delighted me when I was 5 years old and was watching 'Charlie Brown Thanksgiving', and then it also delighted me in high school when we got pumpkin pie at lunch time at my school. But it honestly hasn't really delighted me since. I have always, always viewed it as an annoying speed bump between Halloween and Christmas. Also, I'll not get too far afield into politics, but I have a really hard time with what Thanksgiving represents for Native Americans.

ANYWAY. I was remarking on Instagram the other day that I had completed most of my Christmas decorating, aside from the tree, and for the first time IN MY ADULT LIFE, I've completed 99.9% of my holiday gift accumulation. A friend asked me, "PLEASE DESCRIBE IN DETAIL how you did this."

I have a few thoughts to pass on, but I'll say right now, I can't really say anything better than what's been said in this post, and also in this one.

In the past few years, it dawned on me more and more that holidays are almost, from what I can see, nearly 100% in the mom figure's wheelhouse/responsibility. Working mom, stay at home working mom, any kind of mom, pretend mom, just a lady person in general -- holiday stress/work/management/making it all happen - happens to the mom person.

I was starting to dread and hate December, and the seemingly impossible workload. Make all the food. Make the regular food AND the holiday food. Do all the normal living tasks AND do all the holiday stuff. Have 25 small children on your holiday list? (yes this happened to us one year) It was me who had to figure all of that out. I felt like Christmas was a cosmic test of endurance at which I was receiving a failing grade each year. Send out holiday cards! Decorate the house! Undecorate the house! Wrap! Clean! Make! Do! Socialize! DO ALL THE THINGS!

My nervous system, which is like a small hummingbird, just couldn't handle it.

Now the thing is, I LOVE Christmas. I like all the Christmassy things. The day I don't have some sort of Christmas tree is the day that I am no longer alive on this earth. But I didn't like all the stress, and I didn't want to mimic what I saw my mother do - she would often make one enormous holiday meal on Christmas Eve, then another on Christmas Day, and then ANOTHER a week later on New Year's Eve. It was insanity.

So each year, I try to streamline and do a little less. Last year we actually did a LOT less, because my daughter was in a professional theater production of 'Annie' in Seattle, and our entire holiday season was spent driving to and from FORTY TWO SHOWS.

This year, I decorated the house the week before Thanksgiving, and my husband made some 'why' noises, and my daughter sort of grumbled, but then they were all very happy when the house began looking festive. And what I wasn't planning on, was the UTTER RELIEF I felt at having that part done.

Because of our trip to Paris, I knew I had to be a BOOK BOX WARRIOR and get the boxes done before December 1, and I just sort of had that mindset about Christmas as well - I began Christmas gift shopping in October, because I had jet lag at 4am, and hung out on Amazon.

The other thing that just magically happened, I wasn't looking for it, was that I just got lucky, and I seriously found some darling things that would work for multiple people, so I bought the same items in triplicate, or quadruplicate, and basically I'm giving people various mixups of tea, socks, soap, chocolate, and candles. That's what I like to give, (funny those things frequently appear in my boxes too lol) and the only people who are getting something different are my kid and my husband. Pharmaca, Trader Joe's, and Cost Plus, are all my go-to holiday shopping arenas, and Trader Joe's in particular really came through for me this year - they had darling felt ball trivets, and I got them for seriously everyone.

I aggressively gave thought to gifts in November, and lo and behold - I'm basically done, and now I can watch holiday movies and bake, which is what I really like doing during holiday time.

Also - I'm not sending holiday cards. I'm just giving myself a pass, and I'm just not doing it.

I have a few more things to order on Cyber Monday (I love Cyber Monday so much), and a trip to the camera store to get some photos printed, and then I'm seriously done with gifts. I'll tell you what to avoid. CALENDARS. Omg, I've done them in the past, and they are the biggest trips to insanity-ville. Several years in a row I made them for the grandparents. NO MORE CALENDARS. Wayyyyyy too much work.

So this was a whole lot of ramble, and I just want to let you all know - give yourself the gift of mental health this holiday season, in whatever healthy and happy form that entails. Life is too short and no one is keeping a score card. You deserve to have a fun time.

Kisses. Hugs.

November 15, 2019

cool stuff i like

Helloooooooo poppets!! How ARE you? I've emerged from the depths of my jumbo sized, all the extras included Parisian cold virus. (photos from our trip, including which books I brought home with me, are going on my Instagram!) Actually, I was better over a week ago, but then my wee teen came down with some kind of mini flu (we did get flu shots!) or something, and she was down for several days. Anyway, we're finally all better now, and I'm in a constant state of outrage that because Thanksgiving is so late this year, I have to be in overdrive mode NOW for the holidays (or at least I feel like I do) and I'm trying hard to get most of my holiday gift organization accomplished before Thanksgiving. First world fortunate problems.

Box news! UPDATE: LITTLE WOMEN BOXES ARE SOLD OUT.  I have TWO (2) boxes left available for the Little Women theme. THANK YOU to all who ordered!! This is a darling, charming box and.....unlike the Anne of Green Gables box, which I will continue to create all year round except Christmas - I will be discontinuing Little Women after these last boxes are sold. There's a TON of stuff in this box, and it's been one of my most labor intensive projects.

I'm ready to move on, and I created these in the spirit of being very excited about the new movie. (LOVE this interview with Saoirse Ronan and the photos of her!) The candle included is ENORMOUS and BEAUTIFUL, and if you have a Little Women lover in your house (or you perhaps?), you really do want one of these boxes. See here for the original post, and see HERE for more details on the Youth version of these parcels! And please see my 'Info' tab up above my the blog header for ordering details.

ALSO - my list is beginning to fill for 2020 Hygge Winter boxes, coming in February. If you fancy one, or wish to purchase a 3 or 6 month subscription, it's the perfect way to treat yourself or someone else, just sayin'. Each box I make I utter out loud to my husband, I WISH I COULD GET MY OWN BOX, lol.

Cool online things for you:

in my last post, I promised more mysterious fall time reading suggestions. this one, and this one (a YA version of one of my favorite fairytales!).

pumpkin maple muffins.

I AM HERE FOR THIS. (this is totally my new favorite blog)

lots of hygge happening here.

I completely forgot this happened lol. (spoilers)

Japanese laundry items roundup from Remodelista.

I posted this on Facebook, but if you missed it, you REALLY need to see this darling home tour.

these little DIY tiny houses are adorable!

cozy fall soups.

conscientious holiday shopping.

yes yes yes. capsule wardrobe. i've been working on this. my vice has always been 'oh look at that pretty floral printed shirt'. i now own a million floral or striped shirts and nothing else. my go-to shop to wean myself away from this has been Uniqlo. i will only be purchasing basics, and staying away from SO. MANY. PRINTS. i just want a uniform. last week i wore the same black tee and these overalls 3x. it was glorious! (and I'm so worried about something happening to these amazing overalls, I just ordered another pair.)

Cool Book of the Week: 'A Bitter Feast' by Deborah Crombie. Apparently this is BOOK 18 in her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel series, but it is supposed to work quite well as a standalone. What grabbed me was the descriptor of this as a "cozy village mystery". COZY VILLAGE, YES PLEASE. Not only that, it's a cozy COTSWOLDS village. There are many descriptions of food, from what I hear. One reviewer wrote "Food, death and murder, detectives of every type, children, dogs, and wonderfully welcoming friendly people in Cotswold." WELL OK. Sounds grand and fun!

Have a lovely weekend!! I'll be wrapping the books for my Holiday boxes (which is only available as part of a 6 month subscription package!), and watching as many cheery things as I can, and also getting out for a WALK. In Paris, we walked about 4-5 miles a day and basically zero since we've been back and my body is like WHY ARE YOU NOT WALKING?? I'd love to know what you're reading, watching, and eating. Also I'm determined to see this, despite (or maybe because of) the dismal reviews.

October 28, 2019

spooky season reading

Has it really been nearly a month since my last blog post? I am full of remorse! I have an excellent excuse. My family and I decided that since my 50th birthday is coming up next winter, we would SEIZE THE DAY, and since last summer, plans to take a trip abroad have been in the works. We all decided as a family that we'd like to go to PARIS, and by gum that's what we did. This was an enormous endeavor for us, because we are the ultimate homebodies, and I mean ULTIMATE. Anyway, if you follow me on Instagram, I'm showing and telling some photos from our trip, which we took in mid October for 9 days! If I really get it together, I'll put a few photos together to make a blog post here, but probably I won't have that energy.

As fabulous as it was to see Paris in the fall time, we were a bit sad to miss out on our favorite season of the year, and we're now trying to cram in as much spooky season as we can this week, sort of. I stumbled across the books of Kiran Millwood Hargrave the other day, and wondered why I haven't seen her books before, and well, I want to read ALL OF HER BOOKS NOW. Let's take a peek.

The first book I've picked is definitely spooky season material, while the rest seem very well suited for the fall and winter seasons in general.

'The Deathless Girls' is something I want in my hands RIGHT NOW. This book just came out this year in September, and is her YA debut novel. And it's about the backstory of the BRIDES OF DRACULA. Go take a look at the photos on Amazon - the end papers are gorgeous, the cover is gorgeous, everything is gorgeous, and I want to read this Very Extremely A Great Deal.

'The Girl of Ink and Stars' is a children's novel, won a ton of awards, including Children's Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, and with this story, Kiran's work has been compared to Neil Gaiman and Phillip Pullman. Maps, songbirds, a mysterious island, and a story that finds inspiration from the folklore of the Canary Islands - this one sounds ENCHANTING.

I just ordered 'The Way Past Winter' for myself - this is the book I came across that led me down the rabbit hole. You know me and gorgeous covers! I saw this and went YES PLEASE, and fairytale stories of frozen Scandinavian-esque north locales are an instant draw for me. A trio of sisters travel to rescue their brother from a land of eternal winter. I adore books like this!

'The Mercies' doesn't come out until February 2020, but I'm already planning to get this one, and I'm having an internal debate as to whether I should get the U.S. edition or the U.K. edition. I think I have to go with the U.K. I'm super intrigued by this - the remote Norwegian island of Vardo loses its population of male fishermen on Christmas Eve 1617, during a horrendous storm at sea. Several years later, a Scottish man arrives, bent on taming and controlling both the island and the women left remaining. The Vardo storm and the Vardo witch trials of 1621 were actual events that inspired the story, and I am getting my pre-order in NOW.

GUESS WHAT I HAVE MORE. I'll get another post up with more mysterious fall time reading in very soon!