February 14, 2018

happy valentine's day!

Happy Valentine's Day! I love love love LOVE Valentine's Day! I always have. For me, it has always been about the CHOCOLATE, and the PINK, and the pretty paper.

Up above is a photo sent to me by a friend, who ordered my very first book surprise box. I created an early Valentine's Day box for her, and she was kind enough to take a snap as she unboxed the package. I'm doing some orders for a few people now, and they are getting my "Please Let Winter Be Over Soon" box, or as I like to call it, Hygge-Lite.

And a huge THANK YOU to the lovelies who took the plunge and ordered a seasonal subscription for boxes throughout the year! I'll be doing spring, summer, fall, and holiday boxes. (There will be a discount for purchasing all four upfront.)

Speaking of hygge, all of the hygge boxes should have now wound up in their new homes, and that will probably be the last big batch of the same order until the Spring box, which will roll out in April. If you think you want to get in on the springtime box, it's never too early to let me know. I also have some boxes for kids coming up - if you don't already,  follow my Instagram, because I'll be be putting box news and updates over there more regularly.

So that's the news about that! Is it cold where you are? Winter came back to the Pacific Northwest, it got really cold again here (really cold as in low to mid 40's, which is chilly for here at this time of year. I heard a vague rumor about snow this weekend, but I have NO FAITH that such a forecast will come to pass.)

Can we chat about the flu for a moment? Are you in amazement about the flu season this year? I am, because I have a fascination and fear of both catastrophic weather and illnesses. I need to stop reading articles about the flu. Did you get flu shots? Did you not? We got shots, and knock on wood, so far have gone unscathed. Illnesses tend to hit our house more in the spring, when I look back through the years.

Back to book boxes for a minute - so a fun side effect of all my researching books and figuring out what might be appropriate for which box, how to be obscure enough so that my books will hopefully be new surprises, etc etc - anyway, now I have a reading list a mile long of things I want to read as well! I feel like that for all my talk of having a BOOK BASED BLOG, I haven't really plowed through that many books in the past few years, my husband has read probably quadruple the amount that I have. Part of the reason for that is that I get on Instagram when I'm in bed, and then I have 10 minutes left to read before bed, and I don't make a ton of progress that way. I've been trying to read the second Outlander book for months....but is it me? The print is so tiny! The Scottish brogue is so heavy! I. Just. Can't. Make. Headway. with this book. And it's such a big book! I think I need to stick to shorter books, better suited for my fruit fly sized attention span.

February 8, 2018

cool stuff i like

Hello friends! I love this illustration above, from a fairy tale book that I'll do a post on someday.

Ok so all those lovelies who ordered Hygge Book Boxes and Russian Winter Boxes from me - THANK YOU and I think you will LOVE them, and they've been mailed and should get to you in just a few days!

It took me a bit longer to get the Hygge boxes out, because the books had to get to me from England - they aren't available here in the U.S. at this time. So it took a bit of waiting. Please remember - I can do a British Cozy Box at any time. Any time.

Sometimes with boxes that I know a lot of people might love, like with the Hygge idea that folks here, on Instagram and on Facebook joined in on, I'll do them in bigger batches. But sometimes, I'll do boxes just for fun because I'm in love with an idea, and I might only make two or three. Or if I find something like I did the other day, a handful of beautiful items - I might grab them for a future box and then there won't be any more of that item, and that will impact how many boxes I make.

Bottom line - if you ever see me mention a box that you might like, MESSAGE ME IMMEDIATELY. A couple of people have gone ahead and ordered a seasonal subscription for quarterly boxes - super excited about that! And a handful of people have ordered their boxes as gifts for friends and relatives. SO AWESOME. I don't have auto online ordering although at some point I might, so message/email me at juliasbookbag (at) gmail (dot) com!

Online cool stuff sharing time:

Ok what's adorable here is the couple and their story. Love!

SERIOUSLY. January was a black hole. Can't say anything terribly different about the general dreariness of February either! And this is why you all need one of my book surprise boxes.

I just really like this blog so much.

Speaking of blogs, my darling friend Heather recently changed hers up a bit, and made it extra cozy-sized. It's delightful and so is she, go check it out.

Creamy Thai Carrot Sweet Potato Soup. ('orange slurries' as my husband calls them, are my family's favorite kind of soups, so we'll be trying this out for sure.)

A modern cottage.

Sprinkle Scones.

I always love to see Darcy's meal plans.

How to prep for the Lunar New Year, which is in one week.

I want to see the movie SO much, but I want to read the book also so much.

Cool Book of the Week'A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice' by Jane Austen (duh) and Alex Goodwin and Tess Gammell. ALLLLLLLLLLL I'm going to say about this is.....if you all knew that there was an ENTIRE LINE of guinea pig books based on classic literature.....and didn't tell me......well, that would have been very very naughty of you. I JUST FOUND OUT and I'm letting you know, thus proving my worth as A Very Good Friend Indeed.

Have a lovely weekend! Are you watching the Olympics? Are you getting ready and prepping for Valentine's Day? Chinese New Year? Children's birthdays? I'm checking the box YES on all of those things.


February 4, 2018

the sunday night book

Hello friends! Aren't we just hating on this winter with the passion of 1000 suns? Just me? I don't think it's just me.

'The Sunday Night Supper' book by Rosie Sykes was a Christmas present TO MYSELF from MYSELF. Yes, I'm getting around to discussing what books came our way during the holidays.

I thought the sound of this one seemed so cool - 'The Sunday Night Book' ! How cute is that? Ways to celebrate the weekend! There's a whole chapter devoted to things on toast. THAT'S COOL.

Now.....I think this book was originally meant for a British audience. Some of the ingredients surprised me. They were good surprises, but I was surprised - there are at least three recipes that call for some kind of anchovy preparation on toast. And one recipe that calls for sardines.

And before you decide to leave this post and amble on your way, let me just tell you something. Over the holidays, my brother in law brought over some smoked kippers, and I looked him right in the eye and was like, 'THAT'S GROSS, MAN.' But then I tried them, and THEY WERE SO DELICIOUS I couldn't believe it. Now I want to try all the salty tinned fishes, like mackerel, herring (is that the same as the kippers??) and anchovies.

I think you should try them too. Don't be afraid.

I'll tell you something else - I made the macaroni cauliflower cheese and it was ridiculously delicious. We all, even the child, seriously could not stop eating it. Absolutely fantastic. I've also made the 'comforting bowl of dhal' recipe, and that was also very nice. But the macaroni cauliflower cheese -- oh my word.

Next on my list of things to try from the book is a spiced rice and lentil dish that looks amazing, and I'm going to serve it with some chicken and mango chutney. There's also an upside down pizza recipe that I want to try, as well as the Coddled Egg Ivanhoe, the pork and cashew stir fry, the spinach and goat cheese souffle omelette, the ham and macaroni soup, and the Catalan angel-hair pasta with seafood.

See? The recipes aren't quite what I expected. There's a lot more spice and ingredient pairings that I have never thought of. Because I'm not over burdened with culinary imagination.

A chapter called 'Onesies'!

And at the very end, a mini chapter of interesting and easy to make cocktails and snacks. I want to make the drink that's called 'What the Dickens?!'. And the one called 'Trainwreck', which is how I felt all December and January, ha ha ha.

It's really a darling little book, and while I would have purchased this one no matter what, because of the cover - I was pleasantly surprised by what a unique and cool little cookbook it turned out to be. A great many of the recipes call for pantry items that might already be in one's home.

What do you think, does it look intriguing to you? Have there been any cookbooks that are breathing wind into your winter sails this season? If yes, please recall that sharing is caring.

January 22, 2018

cool stuff i like

Happy Tuesday! So did you all see my big news last week? I've been busily assembling surprise book boxes! I'm so so so happy to be doing this. And I think lovely people out there will be happy to receive them! OH - if you're interested in a box....I've already moved on from the Russian Winter theme - a friend suggested doing a Hygge inspired box, and that's what I'm doing for the rest of the month. So if you want one, let me know! I'll also open the query up to Instagram - I need at least 5 requests to come in before I can get going on ordering materials. I'm REALLY excited to put together some boxes for kids, I've got a million ideas going, and I'll show and tell one of them next week.


Also interesting!

Just heard about this company, and saw a video about it, and I will be including their socks in some boxes as soon as I can!


This post will make you happy.

Yay for this news! Did you read the book? It was AWESOME.

Ridiculously easy buttermilk biscuits.

Decor inspiration for dark January days.

Really want to see this movie.

  "I am not sure where the line is between hygge (Danish coziness that’s having a moment) and sloth (this sleep-deprived mom of two in old sweats), but I planned to exist solely on it that day."

Cool Book of the Week: 'The Little Library Cafe Cookbook' by Kate Young. I've mentioned her blog before here - food recipes inspired by literature! I adore her site and her cookbook is at the top of my I-don't-need-another-cookbook-but-I-really-want-it list. It's due to be released this spring, and it's going to be requested by me for Mother's Day.

Have a great rest of your week! I've been drinking tons of chamomile tea with lavender, still watching 'The Crown' (season 2), and I've been reading this book.


January 16, 2018

Mystery Boxes

HELLO lovely friends! So, settle in, because I have quite a ramble for you today. Over the weekend on Instagram, I did quite a bit of rambling over there as well.

Here's the deal. I get bored. Do you get bored? I do. And I like to do different things sometimes. I'm B-O-R-E-D with the state of my blogging right now. And for a long time, my Cool Stuff posts have been my most popular posts. Also for a long time, I have really wanted to somehow lift Julia's Bookbag off the page and into the world of tangible reality. A store front. Or a book truck. Or something. I realized that a step I can take right now is to start creating Julia's Book Boxes! (you guys know I'm Melissa right? ha ha. I thought I'd keep going with the name confusion and continue with the Julia theme.)

I looked around online at some of the book box ordering offerings out there right now and thought....I'd like to do something like this. I'm very good at finding Cool Stuff. I've been online for nearly a decade now, and I know where to find cool and and unusual things, and fun books.

So I'm going to start making some mystery book box creations, priced around the $30 range, plus shipping etc. I realized over the weekend that's what most of the other book boxes sell for, and also I simply can't go lower, and still have the quality of the tea and treat items I want to put into the boxes, and have it be worth my time and energy. If you want something insanely awesome and custom, that will need to be priced higher. But generally I'm aiming for that $30 region.

My idea is to have themed and seasonal boxes, with a BOOK ha ha, a tea or hot chocolate sample offering (not an entire box!), a TREAT, and other bits and bobs put in - some stationary, or a bath item, an item that fits the theme, or some combination of all of the above. Boxes for children, and boxes for YOU, because, and I really feel strongly about this - WE NEED MORE CARE PACKAGES IN OUR LIVES. YOU deserve it. Your FRIENDS deserve it. Do you need a gift for someone? No time to get one? Order a box from me.

Do you just really need some tea and interesting chocolate? I CAN MAKE THAT HAPPEN.


Want me to custom make you a box? I would love to! (but -- don't ask me for a sugar free box. i mean, you can ask, but that doesn't mean that I'll listen.)

Now here's something, remember all my 'mysterious' talk last December? Christmas is mysterious and all that jazz, ha ha? Well MYSTERY BOXES ARE MYSTERIOUS. And while I'm show and telling what my winter box might look like today, to get this idea launched....

My boxes will be a SURPRISE. That's the fun of them. I will announce box themes and people can either order, and I'll make a box or.....not order! I won't reveal book titles beforehand. After a box is retired, I'll take a photo and show what it was on Instagram.

By now, if you've read even 5 posts on my blog - my brand is identifiable. You guys know what I'm into around here. I love vintage and pretty things. I like tea. I like chocolate. I like England, Scandinavia, and Japan. I like a bit of whimsy and magic. I like cozy reading. I like things that will make me feel better and not worse. And if you hang out here, I'd wager that you tend to enjoy the same type of things that I do!

So if you order a box from me, basically you're joining in on my own version of an online book, tea, & treat club. I will be sending out books I want to read, and dearly loved favorites.

What if you've already read the book I've sent? Andrew (the husband) said my return policy should be this: "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." HA HA HA. But basically you can either return the whole box on your dime, and get a credit on a future box, or...give the book box to a friend!

I mentioned on Instagram stories a couple of days ago....A British Boarding School box? You can bet your bottom dollar that's happening, even if I only make one for myself!

OH - I should mention that while I'll have themes - I can ALWAYS make a British box. Always.

I'll be learning about box measurements and shipping as I go ha ha. For now, how it will work is you say, I want a box please! And then you'll email me your city and postal code, and I'll invoice you via PayPal or Venmo. And then I create your box and mail it! Might take a week to 10 days or so for me to assemble it, and then what the post office fairies do is up to them. I don't have auto online ordering at this time or anything like that. Right now we're like a little secret club ha ha. I hope you want to be in my club! And right now I'm doing this on a box by box basis - I'm not doing 3 or 6 month subscriptions, yet. Maybe when I figure out the tech stuff with Andrew, I can do something like that. But for now, you only buy a box (or boxes) when you want to!

So what do you think? I'm very excited. I'll probably think of more details later, but for now, that's the gist of it! Are you interested??? - NOTE: have had several requests for a Hygge Box, so if you want in on that, let me know ASAP!

(P.S. at this time, I believe that shipping needs to be contained to the U.S. and Canada. Shipping worldwide or to the UK would cost as much as the box itself, which seems silly. Sorry friends.)
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