December 12, 2017

cool stuff i like


Happy day merry elves! I ordered a gift for someone from Harney & Sons, and I got some samples thrown in with my order, including a packet of their Holiday tea blend. I tried it, and it was awesome. And then I realized that buried in my tea pantry was a whole TIN of their holiday tea that had just become lost under the mountain of Too Much Tea we have going on in our house. So I pulled it out and set it on the counter, so that it wouldn't be forgotten again. What's new - I'm still having a lot of woe about the Nigel Slater Christmas book. It's only available in the UK (and Canada!) with metric measurements for the recipes. A U.S. release date has not yet been announced. It's supposed to be WONDERFUL. But unless I want to laboriously translate a lot of metric recipes (I DO NOT), I have to be patient and wait for the U.S. version to be published. Too bad, so sad yeah? I've begun wrapping presents. I try to do a little as stuff comes in, so as not to be swallowed by wrapping at the end. Do you chip away at wrapping a little at a time? Or do you do a big push all in one go right before Christmas? If I want to sit and do nothing but watch holiday films and eat cookies, I have to wrap early.


Lots of Christmas coolness to check out HERE. Thanks to Jenny for putting all of this on my radar.

Vanilla Bean blog's kitchen favorites holiday 2017 gift list is up.

Dinner A Love Story's gift guide is up. (she always finds incredible things and I just ordered something from her list!)

WHOA - super amazing cute kid clothing boutique Pink Chicken has a line at Target.

Classic cookie salad. Also, Molly is the most darling girl that ever there was.

Really cute kid book gift guide - look at the one with the wooden dolls!!!!!

A cozy Christmas mystery to read during winter season.

I want to teleport into this room.

3 fun holiday projects.

A whole lot of winter pretty going on here.


Cool Book of the Week: a friend wrote to me, and asked if I knew about the new Gregory Maguire book, 'Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker'. NO, I replied, and took out my ordering finger and clicked. I've actually never read any of his books before. Not even 'Wicked', which I bloody OWN. But when I heard that he had put his dark-fairy-tales-for-adults-spin on the backstory of the Nutcracker story - from the viewpoint of Herr Drosselmeier, borrowing from the world of the Brothers Grimm and German fairy tale forests......this had 'read me Melissa' written all over it. Did you see how long that sentence was? I'm about two chapters in, and it's great. The reviews are all over the place, but I'm enjoying the weird vibe so far.


AND, harkening back to my BOLD CLAIM the other day that Christmas Is Mysterious....doesn't this book look mysterious? The Nutcracker is a very mysterious tale. Drosselmeier - what's his deal? Apparently I'm going to find out in this story.

P.S. If Amazon and World Market didn't exist....I wouldn't survive Christmas. I don't know how old fashioned people did it.

~Melissa

December 8, 2017

christmas is mysterious


Please don't laugh at me like my husband has been doing, every time I mention this idea......

I've been telling Andrew all this season how CHRISTMAS IS MYSTERIOUS, and he thinks that's the weirdest thing ever. Behold:

Andrew: "If someone asked me to define Christmas, 'mysterious' is the last word I would choose."

Me: "But PRESENTS. Little mysteries in a box!"

Andrew: 'guffaws heartily' "Not for you, because you keep buying presents for yourself."

(He does have a small point there.)

I've ALWAYS thought Christmas was mysterious. What is more mysterious than trying to feel your presents in the dark when you're 8 years old, only to discover that your dad slept under the tree, trying to discourage you from getting into your presents, and hearing him snore, and then spending at least 45 minutes trying to slowly back crawl out of the room so as not to awaken him?????

Actually that was more of a nightmare than a mystery.

I am telling you. For me, who at age 47, still totally believes in fairies, and magic, and is scared of the dark, and is convinced that if I arrange my furniture in just the right way, I'll totally nail that whole Feng Shui thing -- Christmas for me is about magic, ghosts, wrapping paper that looks like it might be found in an old attic, and MINCEMEAT. (omg once I discovered mince pies at age 28, I realized I had discovered mystery as a FLAVOR. It makes you think you've time traveled to Victorian England. And bless her little heart, my daughter shares my deep passion for mincemeat tarts as well.)

The Solstice? Mysterious.
Advent everything? Mysterious.
Yule logs and old winter rituals? Mysterious!

'A Christmas Carol'?? My favorite story OF ALL TIME. In any season. GHOSTS. Ghosts are mysterious!!

The secrecy, the hiding of presents, the lights in the dark, stockings filling themselves....I don't know why my husband keeps laughing at me. Christmas is full of mystery. My version of Christmas anyway. Another yearly mystery - will I, or will I not get super amazingly sick? That's always a fun one.

So I have put together a wee little list of things that lend themselves to my Mysterious Christmas Theory. Let's talk about them:

Anthropologie has these Starry Night Incense Kits right now. Normally I'm not a fan of incense. Believe me, growing up in Hawaii, I smelled A LOT OF INCENSE. But I'm very intrigued by the Black Balsam scent and maybe the Fireside?? (a review said it smelled like a smoky barbecue. No thanks.) But look at the packaging! Gorgeous!

Ok. Sigh. Let's talk about the NEW NIGEL SLATER CHRISTMAS BOOK. Friends who read my blog a lot know that Nigel is my cookbook boyfriend, even though I believe he's happily settled with his partner James. IT MATTERS NOT. Oh how I love my Nigel. I read, and re-read, his books nearly every day of my life. I'm not joking. Nigel's way with words evokes mystery, and all the cozy vibes I associate with how I like to cook, and his stories....I just LOVE NIGEL'S BOOKS SO MUCH, and.....

He just came out with a Christmas book. 'The Christmas Chronicles.' A winter book. Full of recipes and stories. His idea of Christmas and winter is exactly how I think it should be: "reading ghost stories with a glass of sloe gin" (make mine a sherry) "the scent of fir and spruce", "beeswax candles with shadows dancing on the ceiling."

Amazon says it's packed with "feasts, folktales, myths and memoir" and how he's written about everything you need to enjoy through the winter months. Friends - I FREAKED OUT when I saw this book was out. It's the ONLY thing I want for Christmas. THE ONLY THING.

And guess what? It hasn't been released in the U.S. yet! Only the U.K. version with metric measurements is available! I AM DEVASTATED. So Andrew and I are trying to decide - do I wait until the U.S. release?? Whenever that might be?? Or do I ask/demand that Andrew get it for me, with a kitchen scale and metric measuring spoons to go along with the book? Andrew thinks that's a lot of work for a book. But I kinda need a kitchen scale anyway. OH NIGEL YOU BREAK MY HEART.

Moving onto candy. I recently tried this Reber dark chocolate and marzipan candy from World Market, and it is indeed mysterious and wonderful, and I'm going to buy myself an entire box. FABULOUS. There's a version with pistachio cream filling that I've yet to try, and I really want that too.

Just bought myself  Harney & Sons Victorian London Fog tea. (are you laughing Andrew? I am always delighted with my gifts, even when I buy them for myself) - I had to get one extra thing to get a special deal on an order I was getting for my aunt OK? Anyway, doesn't that sound mysterious? I've always wanted to try a London Fog tea drink - Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and lavender. The tea is earl grey black tea and oolong and vanilla and  lavender. I'm so excited to try.

This candle from Terrain looks pretty and smells like sage and cedar. It also comes in a rosewood and berry fragrance. Candles are mysterious. Most smell like crap, but sometimes you happen upon something lovely and subtle.

One last thing and then I'll leave you to cry some more about the Nigel Slater book. 'Round the Christmas Fire - Festive Stories' by a variety of authors, just looks so delightful and charming! Christmas mystery dosn't always have to be dark - it can also be festive and fun. There are scary stories, stories of feasts and food, funny stories about wacky relatives, and thoughts on gift giving and the Christmas season. I would love love love to read this with a cozy blanket on me and a slice of gingerbread. GINGERBREAD IS MYSTERIOUS TOO!

Byeeeeeee. This might be the longest post I've ever written.

December 4, 2017

Holiday Books for Kids

I've got a new holiday book roundup for you! I think I missed last year putting together a collection - I was busy showing off standalone posts of Christmas books. Might have missed the year before as well. But be sure and check out the seasonal tab in my 'Topics' sidebar, or type in 'Christmas' in the search window, and all of my Christmas posts should jump into view. Have a party! I totes had a party writing them.


Look at these BEAUTIES. Aren't they lovely?? Let's talk about 'Ghosts of Greenglass House' by Kate Milford. Julia and I read 'Greenglass House' last year, and we both loved it. There's such a cool VIBE to that book. Milford did an amazing job of sucking you totally into her world of a snowbound smuggler's inn, with secretive visitors, and a mystery (there's a very very cool twist) that unfolds during Christmas. It's cozy reading for the middle grades, and I'm so excited to read the sequel! Ghosts at Christmas time is pretty much all I can ask for from a book. To say 'A Christmas Carol' is my favorite story of all time is kind of like asking me if I enjoy gingerbread.

'Last Stop on the Reindeer Express' stopped me in my tracks when I saw it on my friend Michelle's Instagram. If you're not following Michelle on her blog, Avery and Augustine, and on her super incredible IG feed, well you're missing the work of a true book finding wizard. She featured this GORGEOUS picture book recently, and I started hyperventilating. I'm not really looking to add new Christmas picture books into my household at this point, I'm trying to DOWNSIZE - but this one...oh em gee. Karl Mountford and Maudie Powell-Tuck's story of a girl's magical journey atop a journeying reindeer looks incredible. What a gift this would be! Go go!

Last year, Julia read 'A Boy Called Christmas' by Matt Haig, the first in a trio of holiday themed adventures aimed at middle to upper elementary kids, and loved how it detailed the story of Nicholas, a boy who eventually becomes Father Christmas. There's also 'The Girl Who Saved Christmas' and the newest story, 'Father Christmas and Me' -  about a kiddo who has to deal with being a human going to Elf School, and all the various woes and misadventures of growing up with Father Christmas as your DAD.


Some lovely picture books! Incredible art. 'Pick a Pine Tree' I've been seeing everywhere online lately. And look at it. I haven't seen the other two in person, but I've seen this one, and it's so lovely, and I'm OBSESSED with Christmas trees. Picking out a tree, and a mince pie, and my gingerbread, and that's Christmas for me. Love and kindness? Well ok, if you say so. I could be 99.9 years old, and I'll still be decorating a Christmas tree, even if it's a stick. I'm ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS TREES.

The other two just jumped out at me and look so sweet. 'The Little Reindeer' by Nicola Killen - loooooook at that arrrrrrrrrt. All black and white with flashes of red, the story follows a little girl helping a lost reindeer, as they travel on a magical adventure. And 'Finding Christmas' by Lezlie Evans and Yee Von Chan....little forest animals give up their presents to help a swallow found sick in the snow. It looks so cozy! Adorable.

Hope I've helped to give some direction in the realm of holiday books - there's only twenty GAMILLION holiday books - usually I'm just vintage vintage vintage - but there's darling new books coming out to give the classics a run for their money as well. Cheerio!!

December 1, 2017

cool stuff i like


Happy December, to all you winter elves out there!!!! This is going to be an extra long intro. Aaaah, it's been awhile. Here's why it's been awhile. Some of you might know that I'm a non-practicing lawyer - well, I've kept up my bar association membership instead of moving my status to inactive - anyway that means that every three years I have to report in with a certain amount of continuing legal education hours. You get 3 years to get all your hours in. EVERY TIME, I wait until the last month to get my CLE hours in. Because there is something wrong with me, it's like I ENJOY the pain. Anyway, this year is my year to report, and I have a gazillion hours to get in before Dec 31. Merry Christmas to meeeee!!!!

Also - I just took a very part-time job as a preschool and kinder aged drama teacher. Because I act like an over stimulated toddler, someone thought it would be a good idea to let me be in charge of a group of kids for a few hours a week. Maybe I'll get fired after the first month?? Who knows? I'll keep you updated! So anyway, I've been training for that. AND - yup I'm still taking photos and I just finished up a super fun in-home family session - it was so great and the family was SO darling.....so to add onto the pile is a lot of work editing photos for me. SO IN SUMMARY - the computer and I are basically one entity right now. I'm doing my legal classes and my photo editing at the same time. It's joyous. Guess what I'm doing in January? Sleeping and watching all of 'Poldark' Season 2. I missed it last year, so I have to catch up.

Guess what I'm NOT doing this year? Making photo holiday cards. Just can't manage it. And there are so many darling holiday cards, I wanted to make use of just some regular cute cards. As much as I enjoy seeing friends and family photo cards, I'm so excited when I just get a beautiful holiday card with an illustration of some kind on it. I got the ones up above at World Market, aren't they so cute? (no, I don't artfully arrange my fruits on the counter - that was just for your benefit. blog and Instagram photos, say it with me....ARE NOT REAL LIFE.)

What else. Our tree goes up next week! So many people got theirs up the day after Thanksgiving, and I felt so behind the other day, and then realized that it wasn't EVEN DECEMBER YET. The good news is that I have the majority of my holiday gift giving either done or figured out. I know people hate the idea of Black Friday, and I do too - my kiddo wanted to go out and "experience Black Friday" and I was like "No thanks, I've already stood on my feet a million hours during Thanksgiving week". BUT - I do love love love Cyber Monday. So I did avail myself of that. Looooove Cyber Monday!


Ok I've found some fun things to usher in December:

LOVE these simple holiday lantern looks.

I just discovered a new blog!!! How to Hygge the British Way. Christmas came early!

And while we're on the subject.....I told Andrew that this book better find its way into my stocking or else.

Beautiful and simple gifts for tiny tots.

My Christmas Pinterest board!

Cornish pasties anyone?

Absolutely LOVE these ornaments.

OMIGOSH THIS MANTEL! It's perfect in every way. I adore decorating holiday mantels. Alicia's mantel, when I saw it, seriously made me gasp and squeal.


Cool Book of the Week: Speaking of gasp & squeal, when I happened across 'The Boy Who Lived in Pudding Lane' by Sarah Addington and illustrated by American artist Gertrude Kay, I freaked out. I have to have this. This is a 2017 reissue of story written in 1921! About the 'true account' of Santa - the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The story follows Santa as he spends his childhood living in Pudding Lane. PUDDING LANE!!! I kind of stopped buying Christmas books once Julia got past her early elementary years, but this one, I've got to have it.


Have a lovely weekend! Will you be watching any holiday movies? I'm so wanting to sit on my sofa one evening, and start eating gingerbread cake. I guess I have to make it first. Let the gingerbreading begin! 'Gingerbreading' is totally a verb. Do you have a Must Have treat during the holidays? For me, it's gingerbread. For my husband, it's panettone from World Market. For my daughter, it's iced gingerbread cookies from World Market. Actually for me, it's marzipan chocolate candies from World Market. It's basically our holiday store. PLEASE SPONSOR ME WORLD MARKET, WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

~Melissa

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.

OH NO.




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.

I HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS.

(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.
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