November 21, 2017

Frank the Seven Legged Spider

Aaaaaah I've been sitting on this one for so long! I specifically did NOT want to show and tell it during the month of October, because I didn't want it getting misinterpreted as a 'Halloween' book or thrown under the Octobery bus. Because this darling is nothing but 100% sweetness, and it's just the best, any day of the year.

'Frank the Seven-Legged Spider' is the creation of my amazing pal Michaele Razi. And friends, she is AMAZING. Such a delightfully talented artist! Her work is fun, vibrant, and charmingly whimsical - and she's just come out with a picture book that she both wrote and illustrated.

Frank is a cutie pie of a little spider, who revels in creating marvelous and artistic webs. He loves pranking humans with his lacy creations, and heartily tee-hees when unsuspecting people plunge headlong into his webby designs. But his most favorite endeavors are jumping, wiggling, and best of all....SCURRYING. Frank is a big fan of having eight legs.

Until one day, he wakes up with one less leg. No one knows where it went. His friends aren't even sure if he's still an actual spider.


Frank decides to go off in search of his leg. He's a practical little fellow! He looks hither and yon, over and under things, and yet, he just can't locate his leg.


(One of the things I love most about Michaele is her sense of fun, and her wit. The most hilarious page of the story is when Frank ponders whether his leg might be in a "dark, warm cave" - which happens to be the nostril of a snoozing gentleman sitting on a park bench. Franks finds a nose hair and realizes that it most definitely is not his leg.)

Little Frank realizes (after searching everywhere and coming up leg-less) that all the things that make him spidery are still in place - he can wiggle, and jump, and scurry, and he can still make gorgeous webs. He can carry on with being his fun spider self, and he goes on doing his thing, and having a great time. And he's learned that his identity is not wrapped up with his new physical circumstances.

If you have a kiddo ages 3-7, this picture book is a delight that you're going to want to give as gifts. Michaele is a fresh breeze of an artistic talent, and the joy that is so much a part of her personality infuses all of her work. Cute, cute, and more cute.

November 13, 2017

cool stuff i like

Happy Monday! I'm not ready for it to be Monday, and yet here we are. I can already feel like it's going to a round-the-clock cup of tea kind of day. I'm starting to seriously think of Christmas. You know how I feel about T-day - it's just speed bump in the way between Halloween and Christmas. I'm going to try so very hard to knock out a ton of my Christmas list by early Dec. What are you all eating for T-day by the way? Here's my menu: a brined turkey that I bought from Trader Joe's. A cornbread, bacon, leek and pecan stuffing that's a Martha Stewart recipe from some years back. Brussels sprouts. Whole baked sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows (I'm doing this idea, and I have to heartily thank MFAMB for the link!)), rolls, and pumpkin pie made from actual pumpkin. And that's it. Oh and cranberry sauce. That's it. That's plenty right? (no mashed potatoes because my family hates them except for me) In case you're catching some uncertainty in my tone, it's because we're doing T-day at my home this year for the first time, and I've only cooked one turkey in my life and that was over 20 yrs ago. My plan is to have Martha Stewart's site and/or the Food Network open on my computer all day long. My other plan is to make the cranberry sauce, the cornbread (gonna freeze it) and the pie dough this week.

Things online to peek at:

Pumpkin muffins. (and a cute new-to-me blog!)

Gingerbread slime. (saving to show Julia) 

Aaaaaaah, I still need to finish Season 1!

1970's children's picture books.

I'm going to knock out at least half of my Christmas list shopping for family from Zenbunni.

The time is NOW to get set up for Advent book awesome - check out Danielle's list of 24 seasonally themed picture books and crafts!

18 dinners and lunches to get you through the holidays.

Have you heard of the Honey app? It sounds very useful!

Great roundup of the best pajama sets to buy for the holidays.

Cool Book of the Week 'Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms' by Katherine Rundell is a book Julia just finished, and I've just begun. I bought it about 6 months ago, and we're only now getting to it. First of all, the cover and title - COOL.  I wasn't really expecting Julia to be all that into the topic - I pretty much got it for myself because it's about a BRITISH BOARDING SCHOOL - you know how I love my boarding school books! A 12 year old girl named Wilhelmina (Will for short) has to move from her beloved home on the African plains to a London boarding school, and leave behind her best friend and everything she's ever known. I'm only the first chapter in, so I can't weigh in, but Julia LOVED it and tore through the whole thing in 2 or 3 days.

Have a wonderful start to your week! I've got some books I'm so excited to show you coming! Please give me turkey tips. Do you like the hot blaze and then a slower heat technique? Do you like a steady temp throughout? I'm reading up on it all. This article seems helpful! I kid you not, the last turkey I cooked, the power went out midway through and it sat in the oven without opening for 4 hours before the power came on.....and when I eventually cut into it, it was moist and delicious - it had basically been very slow cooked!


November 7, 2017

cozy new books I want

Hey cuties! I found a bunch of new and new-ish lifestyle and cooking books that I just can't wait to take a peek at with my own two little eyes. And perhaps you would also be interested? Let's go chat about all the awesome:

'Lagom - The Swedish Art of Balanced Living' by Linnea Dunne. Look at that cute cover! What's Lagom??? Is it like hygge?  I've have no clue, but I want to find out. It means "not too much, not too little, just right." It sounds like the spiritual or lifestyle equivalent of the Goldilocks fairy tale! It sounds like it takes on the idea of Hygge (being cozy) and expands upon it, broadening the concept to make it applicable to one's entire life, even down to your clothing.

Oh em gee - 'The Cottage Kitchen - Cozy Cooking in the English Countryside' by Marte Marie Forsberg. Are you kidding me???? I've gotta have it! Forsberg is Norwegian, writing about her move to England, her travels, and the foods she created that reflect both her Scandinavian past as well as comfort food from her adopted country. Just out this past October, it features seasonal chapters (including one on afternoon tea!) that detail recipes such as Orange Cinnamon Knots, Blackcurrant Porridge, Autumn Bruschetta with Chanterelles, Norwegian Trifle, and Lemon Curd Sponge Cake with Pistachios, just to name a few.

Now, for those of you who've grown bored with tidying up your home a la Marie Kondo-style, a new-to-me Japanese lifestyle idea has come to town - 'Ikigai - The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life'. Ikigai means 'reason for living'. Amazon describes it more fully: "....according to the residents of the Japanese village with the world’s longest-living people, finding it is the key to a happier and longer life. Having a strong sense of ikigai—the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect—means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning. It’s also the reason many Japanese never really retire (in fact there’s no word in Japanese that means retire in the sense it does in English): They remain active and work at what they enjoy, because they’ve found a real purpose in life—the happiness of always being busy"

Hmmm, I don't know about the always busy part, personally I love to sit and do nothing, but I'm very much wanting to read this book.

If you read my blog for any length of time, you'll see me ping ponging between my great love for Scandinavian and Japanese books and cultures and food, with a HEFTY portion of British tea party thrown into the mix. The next book I found that I really want to check out is 'North - How to Live Scandinavian' by Bronte Aurell (beautiful name!!). Now, I'm pretty sure I would make for a terrible Swede - I'm deathly afraid of cold weather and I'm not very outdoorsy, but I'm still fascinated with everything Scandinavian. So I want to read more about the lifestyle, the food, and the decorating that goes along with Scandinavian culture.

'Goodbye Things - The New Japanese Minimalism' by Fumio Sasaki has to have one of the greatest titles I've come across. GOODBYE THINGS! Goodbye! I came across a house tour not long ago, I've linked to it before, and my first thought was where's all their stuff??? And my next thought was, this is actually AMAZING. I'm always always always trying purge my crap, sometimes I purge something I regret, but I'm usually fighting a battle between wanting to surround myself with cozy clutter and pillows and blankies and tea cups and books, and wanting to give everything away. I'm much more inclined to keep all of my clutter, which is why I think I'm drawn to ideas like minimalism.

And lastly today, I leave you with 'Scandinavian Comfort Food' by Trine Hahnemann. The subtitle is 'Embracing the Art of Hygge'. Oh hygge, I embrace you! Oh how I embrace you! Out of all these Scandinavian, English, and Japanese lifestyle notions, it's hygge, the spiritual equivalent of being cozy, that most resonates with my soul. Fishcakes with Herb Sauce and Mint Fried Potatoes. Rye pancakes with blueberries and golden syrup. Easy morning spelt rolls. Marzipan coffee bread. Warm butternut squash with almonds and herbs. This book looks like one giant YES to me.

So what do you think? Don't they all look wonderful?? Which one looks the best to you? I want to read them ALL.

November 3, 2017

cool stuff i like

Happy Friday and Happy November! I've never been so happy to see an October go away. It was just all too too much. But we ended the month in a fine way, with a lovely Halloween that was seriously so perfect in the weather department. Not too warm, not too cold, with piles of crispy leaves on the sidewalks. My favorite moment was when the tiny tot daughter of a friend announced after the first round of trick or treating - "I'm all done, will someone go trick or treating for me?". Julia dressed up as Pusheen the cat. She already had pink jeans and some Pusheen stuffies, which we attached to little bracelets on her wrists. We found a pastel blue-lilac and pink wig on Amazon, and a Pusheen sweatshirt, and a silver sequined kitty cat ear headband - added sparkly makeup and her grey cross body mini purse and away she went! You can see a little snap of her on this week's 5 Hours 'til Bedtime.

Cool Stuff this week:

Masala chai chocolate chip cookies.

Loved this house tour.

I had NO IDEA about any of this, did you??

Making this pasta as fast as I can.

The most beautiful candle tapers in autumn colors.

A trick for staying present.

November vibes.

Top 10 Instagram accounts for home decor inspiration.

Ok Uniqlo. I purchased several things for Julia there this fall, and I'm blown away by the quality and the price! Thick, sturdy, and well made - and she adored everything I got from them.

Cool Book of the Week: 'The Mermaid' by Jan Brett. Oh Jan, you wizard you. I just adore her works to bits. Her books have brought such joy to our reading life over the years! Was totally amazed when I saw this newest creation - a take on the 'Goldilocks' theme, set in an underwater world with a mermaid as the protagonist! It's brilliant, and Brett's vibrant art, as always, is enchanting. And when I saw that she had constructed the tale to reflect Japanese influences, I did a happy stomp. THAT'S RIGHT. Happy stomp! Inspired by the seas off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, the story follows Kiniro, a little mermaid, as she curiously explores the coral and seashell home of an Octopus family. There's a baby octopus! Everything Jan Brett creates is magical, and this is no exception. Holiday gift alert....

Have a lovely weekend! It suddenly turned very cold today. Some places got a little dusting of snow! Julia and I are reading this together, and she and Andrew are reading 'The Silver Chair'. And Julia asked if we could make a cake together (of course, child. you don't need to ask twice!) and I think we're going for this one. What are you guys eating and reading? #nosy


October 31, 2017

the little witch

Happy Halloween, my spookies! Let me tell you about October. Let's just say that my husband Andrew and I are REALLY looking forward to November. It was so so so busy. And we really hate being busy, ha ha ha. Julia started a new school this fall, was in a new play, had fall soccer going on, and we had two sets of house guests who came to stay. But on the plus side, the weather has been gorgeous and the prettiest leaves EVER that I've seen in our area of the Pacific Northwest. Don't believe me? Go check out this photo on my Instagram.

I have a book for you and please don't be thinking these thoughts:

Great Melissa, thanks for showing me a book about a witch ON Halloween. TOO LATE. No no no no. If you or your kids are anything like I was when I was little - witches are cool and welcome ALL THE TIME.

Especially when the book is 'The Little Witch', by Otfried Preussler.

First of all, if you ever see any re-issued vintage classics from The New York Review Children's Collection, jump on these beauties! They are so gorgeous, with beautiful fabric bindings, and creamy ivory pages. Just lovely. I'm slowly trying to collect them.

'The Little Witch' is a delight, and so so cute. The story details the adventures of a little girl witch - who is ONLY 127 years old. A wee one. She's too young and too small to be invited to go the annual witches dance on Walpurgis Night - so she sneaks in anyway. But gets caught, OH NO! She's reprimanded, and her broom is destroyed and she has to walk home and learn how to practice being a good witch. She spends the next year trying to figure out exactly all what that entails.

Little Witch decides that it means learning to cast weather spells, helping people pick up firewood, teaching mean people a lesson in civility, and assisting a number of various townsfolk and children with various vexing problems.

The head witches think that none of this proves her worth as a witch, especially when they learn that she also cast spells ON A FRIDAY. They believe that only by being a BAD witch, does that make one a GOOD witch.

So the little witch decides to get the last laugh, and she creates a magic bonfire that burns up all the bad witches broomsticks and takes away all of their magic. YAY THE END.

It's a whimsical lark of a fairy tale with the most darling black and white rustic illustrations. Just enough adventure and fun to be sprightly, without the spooks! First published in 1957, this one's great for kids ages 5-10. SUPER charming. Sweet, fun, old fashioned books like this just endlessly delight me.

Have a wonderful Halloween! I'm hoping to be able to get in some 'Stranger Things 2' action after the trick or treating is done tonight.
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