August 12, 2019

a simple french cake for summer


Hello Summer Warriors! I know many of you have kids back to school, but we still have a few weeks left. This summer went by at the speed of light, don't you think? I can't think of the last time I posted a recipe in this space. It's been so long, I had to go and check. It was this chocolate cake that I wrote about last February.


'Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes' by Elizabeth Bard -  is one of the books I had under consideration for my recent 'Summer in Paris' book surprise box. It didn't make the cut for a variety of reasons, mostly because I went FULL THROTTLE VINTAGE with the book I chose. But I'm actually considering buying this one. And I don't really buy that many books anymore. Because of the recipes. There are tons and tons of recipes and the ones I've tried have been fabulous, and the ones I haven't tried yet also look fabulous.



This cake. EVER SO NICE. It goes well with tea. It wouldn't be 'wrong' to eat it with breakfast. It's lovely for dessert. It's not too heavy. It would be a lovely idea to take it on a picnic. This cake can be for whatever occasion you want it to be! It bakes up like a pillowy, soft, apricot cloud. And you can make it even if it's not summer because you use a can of apricots. I have yet to eat an apricot out of hand that tastes like how I think apricots should taste. At this point, I've decided that, gasp - canned apricots are better than fresh.


And it's so simple to make. I actually didn't make it - my 13 year old daughter did! What's nice about the yogurt cake base is that any kind of fruit would work - fresh peaches or plums, raspberries or blackberries, pears in the fall - all of those options would work fabulously.


I think you should jump all over this one.

YOGURT CAKE

Ingredients:

1 cup whole milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
large pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 and 2/3 cups flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
zest of 1 lemon
one 15 or 16 oz can apricots, drained and quartered

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 10 inch round cake or pie pan and line it with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, sugar, salt, and vanilla - whisk until smooth. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking to combine. Add the eggs one by one, whisking to incorporate after each addition.

Sift together the flour, caking powder, and baking soda; add to yogurt mixture; whisk lightly to combine. Stir in lemon zest.

Transfer batter to cake pan; top with the chopped apricots. Bake on center rack of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and slightly risen. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean. 

Lift the cake by the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. This cake actually gets moister with age, so it tastes great the next day. Simply cover the fully cooled cake with foil (I cover cakes with a tea towel - foil is so awful for the environment) ; an airtight container or plastic bag will make it soggy. 

Makes one 10 inch cake. If using pears, mix with a bit of brown sugar. A streusel topping can be added as well!

Have you read this book? I've made the lentils with white wine, herbs, and tomatoes as well and that recipe is WONDERFUL. I'm going to go buy some gorgeous mushrooms I saw at a local Farmer's Market and make her mushroom turnovers next.

August 1, 2019

summer in paris box reveal


I've already done the full reveal of this box on Instagram, but I thought it would be nice to add all the photos in one place over here. This was one of my favorite boxes to put together! I really struggled with the book, in the sense that there are SO MANY books about Paris, and I wanted to have the right book for my vintage Parisian theme. After reading about ten books, I finally settled on 'The Ladies' Paradise' by Emile Zola. I had a fabulous experience watching the period drama 'The Paradise' a few years back and when I made the connection that the show was based on this book, I knew I had my winner! The show is set in a London department store, while the original book is based in Paris.

The story follows the dramas in the lives of the staff workers who live in and work at the largest department store in Paris, at a time when the notion of one giant store containing everything one might want to buy under one roof was a novel concept - one that disturbed and uprooted established  late 19th century independent shopkeepers. The heroine of the book is Denise, a young shop girl who starts in a lowly position and eventually rises in the ranks of the department store hierarchy.

It's VERY over the top and dramatic, and the book is basically an old fashioned baroque soap opera. I had loads of fun with it and hope others did as well! It was difficult keeping the cast of characters straight at first, but eventually I got it. I couldn't decide which cover art I liked best, so I did a half half split of the two editions you see above. SO pretty!


I also included various vintage-esque Parisian inspired notecards. I wanted this box to just be PRETTY. Everything had to be pretty! My inspiration was a Laduree macaron. Pretty, pastel, and vintage.


I talked a bit on Instagram about why I use wrapping paper on my books - 1) I use paperbacks and I have to protect them. Also, I like adjusting my tissue paper and wrapping paper depending on what theme I'm creating. And 2), I find wrapping to be as close to meditation as I will ever get to in this life.


Oh my goodness, these hankies! So you see the little black dog by the gate? I knew that including vintage style hankies in a variety of pastel hues was going to be so darling in this box, and that they would provide just the right touch of whimsy.



Also added to the mix were these beautiful floral porcelain favor boxes with lids. I squealed when I saw these in person. EACH BOX IS DIFFERENT. Aren't they fabulous? From one of my favorite online shops, Victorian Trading Company.


THESE COOKIES. French biscuits that are unlike anything I've ever tried before! Thick and buttery, with a slight hint of sea salt. These cookies are flipping incredible. Julia and I had them with hot chocolate one day and we just stared at each other, we couldn't believe how good they were. Grand Galettes from St. Michel. These are made in France, and don't be fooled by their unassuming and rather plain appearance. They are some of the best cookies I've ever had.

I was also excited to include Lavender Lemonade lollipops from Leccare Lollipops. This Etsy shop is delightful, and the amount of flavors available are dizzying. I knew this flavor profile was just right for the Paris box. I love supporting small business owners who create unique wares!


OK THE TEA. Basically I created this entire box theme as a showcase not for the book ha ha ha, but so that I could finally put Marie Antoinette Tea from Nina's Paris into the boxes. HOW PRETTY IS THIS TEA. And let me tell you, as pretty as these look, the taste is even better. A black Ceylon tea blend flavored with apples and rose. My daughter requests this tea as often as we're willing to make it for her. It's so, SO good, and I can't say enough good things about it. One of my very favorite teas in the world, and my big dream is to sometime visit the actual Nina's tea shop in Paris.

Books, cards, hankies, tea, floral favor boxes, cookies and candy - this box was like a perfumed breeze that wafts in and sweetly kisses you on the cheek. I love putting all of my boxes together, but this one really was special! Thank you so much to all who ordered. One client emailed me and used my favorite word to describe it - "Enchanting!" (I love getting emails from happy box recipients!)

I have only a small handful of spots left for my Autumn box coming in late September - in case you missed the news, the theme is 'A Forgotten Fairytale' and books and treats are already planned and arriving. This is going to be a gloriously cool box. To order, check out the 'Info' tab at my blog header. The books have to be ordered from England, so I need to allow about 2-3 weeks for them to arrive to me. I'm taking orders now in August, so the boxes can be ready for September mailing. A bientot, ma petites!

July 25, 2019

cool stuff i like


Let's talk about box news right off the bat! Behold - the official theme for Autumn boxes: Back of the Attic 2: A Forgotten Fairytale. Yes, that's a mouthful. Yes, kind of ridiculous. And YES I LOVE IT. I've already planned out this entire box, and it's going to be so much fun. I ADORED the book I'm using, and I think the accompanying treats and gifts are going to make for a very whimsical and charming experience. BUT MELISSA. It's JULY. Why announce this now?

Because as per usual, the books are coming to me from the U.K. and I need a long runway to allow them to get to me, and then pack the boxes and mail them. I have some family commitments in the first half of October, so I'm planning on mailing these in late September. So I'll be cutting off orders for this by the 3rd week of August.

So the time is NOW to pre-order this box, is what I'm saying! Last year my Autumn theme sold out in less than a day.

Now, if this doesn't float your boat, I will also be sending out some British Boxes in September as well. I'll be doing a post soon showing the Anatomy of a British Box. They're super fun! I'm taking orders for that as well.

DETAILS MELISSA PLEASE and PRICES and HOW TO ORDER?! See the 'Info' tab up above by my blog header? It's all there!

So today is Thursday and all this week I've been confused about which day it actually was. I thought today was Wednesday. Made plans, having conversations with people....all totally confused about what day I was planning for and what day it actually was. I've never really done that before! It was like I lost an entire 24 hours to alien time loss or something. Speaking of which, my husband and I have gone way back to Season 1, Episode 1 of  'The X-Files' to watch with Julia, which I think I mentioned last week, but we're still going with it, and I was the biggest 'X-Files' lover of all time (ALL TIME) and I'm just seriously filled with joy over watching it again with my kiddo.

Online coolness lately:

This sounds like something I need to watch.

Just discovered this VERY COOL meal prep Instagram account.

YA fiction summer reading for teens.

Well this looks bonkers. I'm ALL IN.

The latest post from The Goddess Susan Branch.

Very interested in checking out this book.

Well this is horrifying. Sorry, it can't always be all fairies and bubbles around here.

These sound amazing.

My kiddo has gotten into wax melts. Or the idea of wax melts. We're thinking of getting this warmer.

Cool Book of the Week: My daughter got a teen magazine the other day and there was an advert for this book and when I saw the title, I was like,' What is that? What is that?' as my kid is flipping pages and I'm like WHAT WAS THAT IT SAID FAIRY. Anyway, it's this book, 'The Legend of the Fairy Stones' by Kelly Anne White and it looks totally weird. Which means I love it already. Just came out this past spring. I took a peek inside the preview on Amazon, and it has a wonderful collection of fairy art and now I'll be spending the rest of the summer looking for fairy stones. Thanks random teen magazine.


I'll be back with several posts I want to show you before summer ends - the full Summer in Paris book box reveal, a post on French books that I almost chose for the Summer box but didn't (but you still might want to read them!), a post on children's boxes I'm making, and a show and tell about British Boxes. If you're in a heat wave right now, STAY COOL PLEASE.

xo,
Melissa

July 12, 2019

cool stuff i like


Hello friends! How's your summer going? It's been off and on rainy and not too hot and I'm LOVING this summer weather this year. The past few years have been so blazing hot and smoky. Usually it seems like we have one or two weeks of 75 degree weather and then the rest of the summer is just Too Hot, and I'm like why can't the whole summer just fluctuate between 70 and 75 degrees? Well we're getting just that this year, and I. am. thrilled. 

A cool thing on Instagram went on last week - go check out the #12daysofannestagram tag - a super fun challenge I participated in celebrating all things Anne of Green Gables.

Box news: All of the 'Summer in Paris' book surprise boxes have been mailed out, and I'll start with the reveals on Instagram, and then I'll get together a reveal post here on the blog as well. That box was SUPER fun to put together, and I was super delighted with it, and that's always my goal - TO DELIGHT MYSELF ha ha ha - if others like it as well, so much the better! I'll be advertising for the Autumn box early this year; I'll start talking about it in earlyAugust because the books are coming from England and due to some family commitments taking up most of October, I'll be mailing all of the Autumn boxes in late September this year. So I'll be only taking orders until mid to late August for the Autumn box!

How do you like them strawberries. They were so red, some of them were seriously ruby scarlet - the juiciest strawberries I've ever had. I don't know why I even make an attempt at buying them at any other time of year. My daughter is in rehearsals for a summer theater production, so we haven't really been doing anything super exciting around here other than driving a lot, but we did just start introducing our teen to 'The X-Files', which.....I've been waiting years and years for this day to arrive! She loves it.


Online cool stuff this week:

Summer in the French countryside.

Fascinating. Read this. We just had a mild earthquake in the Pacific NW at 3am. We woke up and immediately began running around the house like chickens, trying to find clothes and shoes etc., which was the wrong thing to do.

YES. SO MUCH YES.

Alicia Paulson's new studio makeover is a cool breeze of awesome.

Going to IKEA soon. I want to check out this bag, and this bag, and this pillow. (not totally sure on the pillow, need to see it in person.) And these bowls.

This is just too over the top fabulous. I can't wait for the inevitable HBO show.

Removable wallpapers selected by MFAMB.

Just ordered the shampoo bar. I've been haunted by the thought of so many plastic bottles of everything. I've been looking for something like this to try!

Getting caught up with everything on this gorgeous blog.


Cool Book of the Week: 'The Summer Country' by Lauren Willig, just out this past June. Ok so if you've been hanging out with me here for awhile, you know that I 100% choose books by their covers. Show me a fabulous cover, and I'll show you my money. Now, that hasn't always worked out for me - I've definitely purchased books based on covers only to discover I WAS BEING FOOLED and the book was not for me. But. This one has a great looking cover AND I'm keen to find it and read it because it kind of sounds like storylines from my old school Victoria Holt books. (yes I will someday devote a post to my beloved Victoria Holts, I was OBSESSED.) A Victorian epic set in a possibly haunted and deserted plantation in Barbados? Yeah, I'm gonna give this one a whirl.


Have a lovely weekend! I'm still slowly reading through this book, and I just love it.

xoxo,
Melissa

July 4, 2019

new madeleine l'engle books


Well this title is a bit of a cheat, because there aren't actually any new Madeleine L'Engle books (ARE THERE???) but there are some lovely new covers out there that I hadn't seen before and I think they're absolutely breathtaking.

So I've mentioned many times throughout the years about my love for all things Madeleine L'Engle. And as much as I adore 'A Wrinkle in Time', I spent years reading and re-reading the Austin series. As I just mentioned recently in this Instagram post about literary boyfriends, I had a HUGE crush on Adam Eddington from 'The Arm of the Starfish' and 'A Ring of Endless Light' and 'Troubling a Star'. I loved 'Camilla' and I was OBSESSED with 'And Both Were Young'. I pretty much read every Madeleine L'Engle book I could get my hands on.

And as I got older, I began reading her books for adults, like 'A Severed Wasp', 'The Small Rain' and 'A Winter's Love'.

The thing that always gets me about Madeleine's books is how in nearly each story - by the end, you feel like you intimately KNOW the characters, in a way I find lacking in so many other books. I'm not religious at all, like, AT ALL - but I very much appreciate how L'Engle's personal spirituality finds expression in her themes and ideas about life. Her books are cosmic, in the best sense.

Anyway, I was pretty bowled over to discover that there are still more of L'Engle's adult novels that I've yet to read! Apparently 'Ilsa' was out of print for nearly 60 years and is darker in tone than a lot of her works, dealing with unrequited love and romantic fixation in a Southern town.

And I'm dying to read 'The Other Side of the Sun' about a British bride who comes to live in the American South after the Civil War. (um, THAT must have been interesting.)

I'm fascinated that she wrote some novels set in the South, because nearly everything else I've read of hers is set on the East Coast, or European locales. She has a very East Coast sensibility that comes through in her writing due to her college years in Massachusetts and her years living in NYC as an actress on Broadway. I knew that she went to boarding school in Europe, but I didn't realize that she also went another boarding school in South Carolina.

What do you think? Have you read her adult novels? OH - check this out - there are these GORGEOUS sets for the 'A Wrinkle in Time' series and also a set that includes the books featuring Meg Murray's daughter Polly. Very cool.