May 9, 2019

japanese tea garden box reveal


Ohhhhhhhh this box was so much fun to put together! I drew inspiration from a mini cherry blossom tea set that I've owned forrrrrrrrrrrever. My dream is to someday go see cherry blossoms in Japan. In the meantime, I entertained myself by putting together the Spring Japanese Tea Garden Box. Fun fact: I'm not sure anything I put together for this box was exactly about tea gardens? I just liked the name ha ha ha! But I DID put in things that REMINDED me of things one might encounter while sitting in a Japanese garden. In springtime. While drinking tea. Yay happy spring!


Usually a stationery item goes into most of my book surprise boxes. This time around, the stationery item was......the wrapping paper! The wrap for the books was SO gorgeous, and I used washi tape for taping, which removes cleanly without damaging the paper. I hope everyone who got one of these boxes finds a way to re-use the paper!


For this box, I partnered with fragrance guru Caroline Hayes from Arbor Lodge Candle Shop. She created a custom Japanese Cherry Blossom candle scent for me, and the mini travel candle tins were wrapped in pink tissue to resemble a cherry blossom. (I don't know why I just didn't call this box the Japanese Cherry Blossom Box.) The candle scents hit just the right notes of fragrance - a lot of candles I find to be too strong. I was so delighted with these that I promptly placed another order for a future box theme.


Also included were Japanese bath powder packets. I am WILD about Japanese bath powder - they turn the bath the most beautiful tints and they don't leave any residue behind.  Japanese bath powders are full of naturally occurring minerals that are great for easing stressed muscles and joints. The fragrance is delicate and your skin is left feeling velvety, and oh my goodness I can't rave about the bath experience with these enough. It's another dream of mine to visit a traditional Japanese onsen (hot springs) someday. If you want to see the bath powder in action, check out the video I put up on Instagram.


Hey look! I get so carried away chatting about the smaller gift and treat items, that I forget sometimes that HEY THERE'S A DELIGHTFUL BOOK headlining these boxes. I chose this book almost a half a year ago and basically planned the box around this book. Initially I thought I'd make an all cat themed box! (that sounds fun doesn't it?) 'The Travelling Cat Chronicles' by Hiro Arikawa is a beautiful story about a cat who travels around Japan with his owner, encountering old friends, and looking for a place to settle. (I'm being a bit vague because there are some plot points I don't want to spoil.) It's beautifully written, emotionally haunting, and reading the cat's thoughts and words is extremely entertaining. I thought this was a charming, unique read, and I ordered the books from England because I liked the U.K covers better than the U.S. version.

Let's play I Spy. Do you spy some darling heart shaped soaps in the photo below? Mini sized cherry blossom soaps from Willow Creek Craft Shop. These are vegan, and smell amazing! And so so pretty and dainty. Guess what the fragrance was. (CHERRY BLOSSOM.) 


And lastly, we can't forget about the tea and treats. For the tea offering, packets of Lavender Milk Tea were included - all you do is add hot water! Black tea, non-dairy creamer, sugar, and lavender flavoring - together this makes what my daughter calls "The Most Comforting Drink In The World." What's lovely about this tea is that the lavender is subtle and the sugar level is just right and not too cloyingly sweet. And for the treat, Japanese fruit candies in flavors of peach, lychee, strawberry, and watermelon all found their way into the mix.

So there you have it - the 2019 Springtime Seasonal Book Surprise Box. Next up is my Summer in France theme coming in July. A word of advice - my subscribers get boxes first before I do any further advertising on Instagram - and I'm already half full for the summer box just from subscribers. If you think you want one, NOW is the time to place an order! For more information regarding pricing and subscriptions (boxes can also be purchased as standalone boxes), please check out the 'Info' tab at the top of the blog. I'm also doing a very small batch of Country Kitchen boxes in June, as well as Anne of Green Gables boxes, and I create British Boxes and Cozy Boxes all year long except during the holidays.

It was such a blast doing the Japanese themed box though, that I've already begun planning next Spring's Japanese box. It's going to be less pastel, more mysterious, and I've already picked out the tea! I am SO EXCITED.

May 2, 2019

cool stuff i like


Happy May! It's May! I love this month. It's always such a happy sounding month, and my lilac tree is blooming, which is seriously one of the highlights of my year. I'll take pictures of a bouquet I'll make out of my blooms, when they're ready. I'll never ever get over being amazed by lilacs. The smell is just everything.

So the book up above might look familiar - I used it in my Vintage Summer Box last year! I had some confusion when ordering the books - I wiped out Amazon's stock and had to order a shipment from England, and then a few more arrived because I miscounted. Anyway, I have six extra books that I've had on hand since last summer. Then a custom order came in for a Cooking themed box, and I'm sending it out in June. And I thought since I was making one, I might as well see if anyone else wanted 'A Country Kitchen' box! Another subscriber snagged a pre-order.

I now have FOUR spots left. I'm not looking to do a big batch of these, because I feel like I gave this book its due last summer, but I'm now using all new cooking themed gift/treat items to go with the book. So if you didn't get one of these last summer from me, or if you want one to give as a gift - you know the drill - EMAIL me and claim your box! Then I send along a PayPal invoice. Box details and pricing info can all be found here. This is one of my favorite reading books, and favorite cookbooks, OF ALL TIME. That said, if some of you are new readers/box lovers and are looking to get in on this box theme, I can order more materials to make a few more of these and have them ready to go out late May/early June.

Online finds this week:

I love every inch of this. An 'orangery'! I want one!

Interested in learning more about practical, everyday ways to save our environment? Check out Haley Boyd's Instagram Stories. She links to fantastic resources, and I'm so impressed by what she's sharing.

Like I needed a new obsession. Great.

Very intrigued by this idea. Do any of you do capsule wardrobes?

I don't like to re-use links from other blog posts, but this link from Cup of Jo I had to bring over here - I DO THIS! I DO THIS! Just lately! I can keep up with everything so much better.

Making this dinner, only with brown rice.

Sign me up.

HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS WEBSITE??


Cool Book of the Week: I follow Kate Young on Instagram, and I STILL don't have her cookbook yet - I've asked for it for Mother's Day - anyway she mentioned the other day that she adored 'Ghost Wall' by Sarah Moss, and that's enough endorsement for me! Also, the cover is....well I think we all know what I think of this cover, yes? I'm going to go ahead and scoop this up - the story sounds like something I'd be interested in, and THAT COVER. You know I buy books just because of the covers right? I judge ALL the books by their covers ha ha ha! Oh - this apparently is more of a novella rather than a novel - it's under 200 pages. And don't let the lovely cover fool you - this story about an Iron Age ritual reenactment sounds like.....things might not end well is the vibe I'm gleaning.


Tell me what you're reading, watching, and eating!! I always like to know. I'd tell you what I'm reading but I have to keep it a secret because I'm reading three books at the same time trying to figure out if certain books are good candidates for future book boxes. We've been on a Marvel movie binge - Julia had never seen most of the Avengers films, and Andrew and I had forgotten the plots of most of them, so we're getting all caught up together and then we can finally see 'Infinity War' and then get to see 'Endgame'! You know......I'm not obsessive about these movies. I loved the first 'Ironman'. I like the 'Thor' movies. And I really enjoyed 'Ant-man' and 'Ant-Man and the Wasp', but the actual Avengers movies are just ok for me, I'm not wild for them. We did like 'Captain Marvel' a lot. Oh and I actually really liked 'Dr. Strange' because......Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton in the same movie is yay! Ok never mind, I like Marvel movies.

~Melissa


April 2, 2019

cool stuff i like



Happy April! Here's a gift for you, because sharing is caring. You can find the recipe for some of the nicest oatmeal cookies you will ever ever eat right here. I'm so happy to be creating this post. March was madness, and not in a good way. Illness after illness, and then on the very last day of March I was rear ended, not terribly, but it scared me because I'm a nervous driver on the best of days. How I wish I could just ride a train everywhere! I was excited for March until I realized it was going to be a month of yuck. Now I'm excited for April, and hoping for less yuck.

Box news: Japanese Tea Garden boxes will be going out later this month - this theme is closed and only going to my subscribers, but I'll show and tell the contents and maybe that will inspire some of you to sign up for my Summer Box! A batch of British Boxes went out at the end of March, and I'll be sending out more this month, and also in May. I'm taking orders for more May orders, if you're so inclined, and I have some new items for my Anne of Green Gables boxes. I'm sending those boxes out in May and June. The Anne boxes are SO charming! If you'd like one of those for someone you love or yourself, email me with your request and mailing information, so I can send an invoice. See the 'Info' tab at my blog header for more info and details.


These little lemon cakes are just right for spring.

This online country kitchen cooking class sounds amazing, and I saw on Heather's Instagram that a Spring version is coming soon.

Fabulous Julie from Latherati has created new packaging that looks like beautiful book endpaper for her literary based fragrances - you must see!

This book series sounds right up my inner 9 year old alley, maybe for you or your kiddos as well?

Very pretty spring candy from Terrain - carrot cake marshmallows??? NEED.

Overnight cinnamon rolls.

And strawberry buns. OH MY. (i'm totally making these and...I'm just going to use ready made strawberry cream cheese. yep.)

Seasons on other planets. COOL.

Adored this house tour. And this one.

I adore this Instagram feed.


Cool Book of the Week: OH MY OH MY another Chirri & Chirra book is coming!! I'm obsessed with these books, and I still don't have the winter book yet, but I MUST get it and then when 'Chirri & Chirra Underground' comes out, I'll have to get this one so that my set is complete. Here is a post I did on the second book awhile back. So pretty right? These books are touched with fairy magic. Each one is SO beautiful and so gentle and sweet - about two darling bobbins who have enchanted expeditions in various aspects of the natural world. I can't WAIT for this! Gift worthy, unique, and absolutely delightful. OH MY WORD just saw that there's a 5th book coming THIS AUTUMN wherein the kiddos go explore a little town! I just gasped and squealed.


Have a lovely rest of your week! I'd love to know what you're watching, eating, and reading! Springtime is often audition season for my theater loving daughter, so I'm not really watching much of anything, nor am I reading as much as I'd like, and we're eating far too much take out. I'm trying to get into weekend batch cooking - it seems so smart and such a good way to take the pressure off of school-week cooking.

March 20, 2019

hello spring


And hello friends! I've really missed blogging. And taking pictures. And talking about books. It's been a very long winter, it seems like. Spring has become my favorite season, even more so than fall. I've been teeter-tottering between the two seasons, trying to decide which one is my favorite, and I'm just going to go ahead and take a side. I LOVE SPRING SO MUCH. I LOVE YOU SPRING. Even when spring is late, even when it's cold, even when it's actually Mud Season, or Second Winter, or False Spring - I'm sorry but I'm just so happy to see 1) light and 2) cherry blossoms.....yep. SPRING.

If you missed my last post, let me share again my news that my Spring Box sold out before I had a chance to advertise it. I'm SO sorry! I do these boxes basically as a lark, and I'm just one human, and I can't pack too many boxes on my own. Or let's put it this way lol - I sure don't want to. So I keep my numbers for each theme very small. I feel badly about it, so I put together this post to give you a wonderful spring feeling and hopefully provide some spring treats inspiration for you to seek out on your own.

LOOK AT THESE DARLING LINEN SOCKS. Aren't they so beautiful?? I'd love to put some like this in one of my boxes, but they are pricey-ish for one pair of socks. They'd blow my box budget.  Anyway, these come in various colors - I'm very torn about whether I like the china blue ones I've shown above, or the navy and orange colorway better.

And isn't this corduroy tote bag so cute? I loooooove the sweater as well, but I have no info on it. The tote comes from Notebook Therapy, which has so many adorable things. I got this planner from them!


Some of you might not know that I'm a part-time photographer - I took the photo above of newly emerging cherry blossoms and I've decided to make it available as a print. If you're interested, email me at juliasbookbag (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know what sizing you're looking for, and I can tell you about pricing.

Julia's favorite lip balm in the whole world is Smith's Rosebud lip balm, and they come in so many varieties and the lip trio set is a great way to try several out at once. I used the Mandarin Orange balm in last year's Russian Winter surprise boxes.

I just wouldn't be meeeeeeee if I didn't throw a tea item at you to consider. I recently came across this spring tea blend called 'Blossom' from Wedgwood. It's a Sencha green tea flavored with umeshu kishu plums and pink cornflowers. It sounds so delicately wonderful, and how about that packaging?? Gorgeous. Oh if you want to see some major tea time eye candy, check out more on the Wedgwood site - oh my word. The tea cups! The tea packaging! I'm probably giving the bags of tea to everyone on my holiday list next year. SO PRETTY.


Please take a moment to imagine the gasping that went on when I first glimpsed this floral edition of 'Pride and Prejudice', from Tar & Feather Classics. There's charming and then there's this. Check out the floral 'Emma' edition as well!

And lastly, I was very pleased when I came across this 'Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle' card deck. I love Oracle decks - I have a fairy oracle deck illustrated by Sulamith Wulfing that is truly enchanting, and sadly out of print. It's delightful to pull a random card with an affirmation to think about for the day. I love that in this botanical deck, the focus is on herb and plant lore, with the history and meanings of the botanicals included in the accompanying guide book.

Happy spring time thoughts to all!

March 14, 2019

Hygge Surprise Box Reveal


It's STILL winter, so I haven't totally missed the mark in trotting out this very extremely late post - I'm so heartily sorry to be so behind in putting together this full reveal over here. Sometimes, #LIFE.

This was such a fun box to put together, and I hope that those who got one of these had a great time opening it and discovering that my Hygge box had a bit of a twist - it was actually a Fika theme! If you're not up on your Scandinavian lingo, fika means 'coffee and snack break' in Swedish, but it actually signifies more than that - it has a cultural meaning as well. Fika is a ritual, and a state of mind - the idea of slowing down and recharging - not just once in awhile - but EVERYDAY.

A dear friend of mine has been throwing Fika parties in early December the past few years, and I think it's the most genius idea ever.

So as you can see, the book I used was 'The Little Book of Fika' by Lynda Balslev, and it's the cutest thing ever. It's daintily mini sized, but still large on content. Fika and its place in Scandinavian society is fully explained, and the entire back half of the book consists of recipes, treats, and drinks. It's just the sweetest pint sized book. And when I got the idea to wrap them up into cheery red and white tea towels, well friends, I gave myself a hearty inner pat on the back. I tied the bundles with twine and just look at how darling they are!


The vibe I was going for was festive, happy, winter picnic. I wanted the colors to be bright, cheerful, and something to really brighten up a gloomy winter's day!

To that end, I used some really lovely teas from Pukka - they came in fun primary colors, and the flavors are fantastic - Chamomile, vanilla and manuka honey, a turmeric blend, and a black tea variety that has warming cinnamon and cardamom.

I also included pencils from Marimekko, which you can see below. Marimekko is known for their bright, colorful Scandi designs, and every time I tucked a pencil into a box, I sighed because I really wanted to keep them for myself.




What really made these boxes special, in my humble opinion, were the knitted mug cozies. Aren't they so cute? I was going for the whole Fika experience - cozy drink and treats! Ok so the treats - my husband looked incredulously at me when we were at IKEA and I saw these candy bars. He was like, are you really putting in candy from IKEA and I was like, OH YES I AM, these are fabulous. And they are. I was very impressed with the flavors - dark chocolate with orange, caramel and almonds, milk chocolate with lingonberries and wild blueberries, and chocolate with a coffee crunch.

And Swedish gingersnaps. Those went in as well. Cookies and chocolate! I honestly think this was one of my best boxes so far. I'm STILL not charging enough for these boxes. Sigh - I'm long on creativity, short on business sense.


The last fun item that went in were these Fika cards, showing off various Swedish tea time treats. So darling right?

So there you have it! Hygge Box 2019. My next theme will be Japanese Tea Garden in April. And friends I have some sad news. It sold out, before I even got a chance to advertise it. My subscribers jumped all over that one! If you're hankering for something later in the spring, I'm doing a batch of British Boxes, and I have new Anne of Green Gables boxes with some special items that I haven't used before.

Right now I'm pondering on the Summer box - I think I know what I want to do, but if you have some ideas, shout them out! The only reason I got started with Hygge is because a dear blog reader suggested the idea to me.