how to be cozy in winter

9

January 17, 2017

Here's what is a funny thing about this list. This is a real list. Real as in, this was actually a wish list of things I sent off to my husband at Christmas time. And yet, I received none of these things for Christmas. So this list has now become my birthday wish list. And if that fairy tale book doesn't show up for my birthday, so help me.....

But I shan't complain. It struck me that my Christmas-slash-birthday wish list also functions nicely as a cozy compendium of sorts, don't you think? Am I using the word 'compendium' in totally the wrong way? Never mind. The essentials of getting-through-winter are all here. Tea, a very cool book, a treat, and something for the bath. All you need to do extra is BYOB. (Bring your own blanket. What did you think I was spelling?)

First on my cozy wish list are Cardamom marshmallows from Whimsy & Spice. I've ordered cookie boxes a couple of times from them for Andrew's birthday and for Father's Day, and their products are amazing. Amaaaaaaazing. With very cool and unusual flavorings to many of their offered treats. I've had another flavor of their marshmallows before, and the subtle flavors in the marshmallow froth added to hot chocolate is out of this world. How fantastic would the cardamom be in a hot chocolate, made with almond or coconut milk? PRETTY FANTASTIC.

Next up, tea. If you've been following me on Instagram, you might have seen me rave about this wintertime tea. But I'm also giving loving wishful glances towards this winter set of teas from Bellocq. That White Wolf tea, did you see that? Did you see? Love.

While we're hanging out on the Bellocq site, (I was indeed hanging out there at Christmas time, imagining all the things I would like to have) I'd like to point out to you (and my husband) that they offer these miniature sized, Japanese-inspired teapots that are so beautiful. There are two that I think are especially stunning. The Wainscott teapot and the Nara teapot. So cute, right?

Moving onto the bath. I'm very partial to Epsom salt baths. I use them all the time, using regular epsom salt from the drugstore. Epsom salt is fantastic, but it's not very....special. You don't feel like you're having A BATH EXPERIENCE. For that you need to go up a notch, and try something like Japanese hot springs bath powder. I've used them before, and they are so cool. They turn the bath the most beautiful pale milky pastel shades, and leave your skin very lightly fragrant. Very subtle. I LOVE Japanese bath soak packets, but for some reason I haven't laid my hands on any in over a decade. No idea why. I've been asking for some as a present for years, but clearly I just need to get it myself. This set got great reviews and seems like the hot spring bath soaks that I used to use.

Lastly, a book. Everyone needs a special book to get them through winter. Or....a lot of special books. For me, the ultimate fairy tale lover, I need a special fairy tale book from time to time, to add to my collection. My last special fairy tale book was this one. I sit down with each new acquisition and I pet it. NO I'M NOT JOKING. My daughter will tell you. I hug and pet my books. I asked for 'D'Aulaire's Book of Norwegian Folk Tales' for Christmas and it did not materialize. I was so aghast, I did the rudest thing. I actually brought it up in this manner - "OMG WHERE IS MY NORWEGIAN FAIRY TALE BOOK? DO I NEED TO ORDER IT MYSELF??" My husband told me to take a chill and wait and see what happens on my birthday.

Well, my birthday is TOMORROW and all I can say is, I really hope I am blogging about this book in one week's time or there's going to be some 'upheaval' in my attitude. And by that I mean, I will take out my Amazon ordering finger, because I've been waiting nearly a year for this one. Book problems, AMIRIGHT? I disgust myself. (But really I would very much like this book)

So there you go lovelies! Anything else you think should be on my Getting Through Winter hygge-style list? For those who would suggest alcohol, yeah I hear you, and I'd like to tell you about a Christmas present that DID materialize. The cutest half-bottle of sherry. We've already gone through most of it, and now both my husband and I like to pretend to be 80-year old British people sipping our sherry.

~Marshmallow photo taken by Jenna Park of Whimsy & Spice.




cool stuff i like

2

January 13, 2017

 Happy Friday! There's a really fun new post up on 5 Hours 'til Bedtime, if you'd like to go check it out. I'm happy to report that the last remnants of My Worst Cold of All Time (MWCoAT) have finally vanished. This week I looked around and realized that what with Christmas and MWCoAT, I basically hadn't cleaned my house in a month and half. So I've spent pretty much every spare moment this week cleaning something or putting something away. That's been....not fun, but it has been satisfying. I've been doing a ton of reading from this cookbook, which I got as a Christmas present. The whole vibe is to cook weekly dinners on the weekend and you can then mix them and match them in different ways. I'm not sure how well I'm actually going to accomplish this idea, but I'm going to give it a whirl; I'll let you know how it goes. The recipes in the book look AMAZING.


This week's Cool Stuff is heavily winter themed, if you can't tell:

Winter chapter books to read aloud.

Spice and sparkle for the depths of winter.

I want to live in this pretty townhouse.

2017 YA fiction books for Harry Potter fans.

Winter art projects for kids.

'Beauty and the Beast' nail polish.

Beautifying winter drinks.

A peanut butter cup in breakfast form.

Kids can now wear their own drawings!


Cool Book of the Week: Continuing on with the magical circus theme I began last week, I have 'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber to show you. An amazing blog reader wrote to me about it. It comes out at the end of this month, and I've already pre-ordered it. This one looks like a YA fiction version of 'The Night Circus' with a little splash of 'The Hunger Games' thrown in. I heartily apologize to these authors, whose works I keep comparing to 'The Night Circus', but friends - that's the bar by which I will judge every book about circuses forever, and that's just the way it is. Want to impress me? Be better than and/or as fine as 'The Night Circus'. This one follows two sisters who are swept up in the far away world of Caraval - a once yearly show wherein the audience is allowed to participate. Is it a game? Is it a show? Is it real? One reviewer described it as 'stepping into a living dream.' I'm very excited!

Have a lovely weekend! Is it snowy where you are? I have friends who live in Portland and they are buried in snow. The Seattle area has received zilch. The white you see in the above photo was from about a month ago, and we got about 2 inches. Whyyyyyyyy does Portland get all the snow? Why Portland why? I'm hoping for another blast of cold in February or March, but my snow hopes are dwindling.....

~Melissa




cool stuff i like

9

January 6, 2017

Happy Friday! Always at this time of year, we go on a major citrus bender. Oranges with every meal, marmalade on everything. We've emptied bowl after bowl. I've been buying clementines, but can anyone explain to me what exactly is the difference between those, and mandarins, and satsumas??? I got the Christmas tree down and had a big sadness about it. I really think Christmas should last for two months - the lead up to Christmas and the wind-down from Christmas. I've moved into Phase 2 of my winter decorating - the tree is down but now the snowflakes go up, along with another of my beloved IKEA star light strands. Those might have been one of my best purchases ever in my life. I loved my first one so much, I went and bought another one, a few years ago. Now currently I have one hanging in my kitchen, and another in my front living room. They are the BEST. Hanging lights everywhere is really the only thing that gets me through winter. If you have other fantastic hygge-inspired winter coping strategies, I'm all ears....in the meantime, here are some tips for hygge-ing your way into the new year!


First cool stuff list of 2017:

Gingerbread brownies. I can't wait to try these.

I LOVED THIS SHOW. I'm in. 

Did you know there was such a thing as a narwhal nightlight?

Put this up on Instagram - such a beauty of a book!

These treats would be so cute to do at a birthday party.

LOVED this house tour, and I got inspiration for my winter decorating - COLOR snowflakes instead of white!

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake.

I posted this on Facebook but it bears repeating. Beautiful post about wishes for the new year.

You have to see this darling little dollhouse.


Cool Book of the Week: 'Circus Mirandus' by Cassie Beasley is a book that is on its way to me as we speak. I ordered it promptly after a dear friend wrote to me just to rave to me about it, and to make sure that I knew about it. My friend and I are both ardent lovers of 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern, and my pal said that this book here is sort of like 'The Night Circus' - the junior version. That right there was enough for me to hit 'order' on my Amazon cart! For kids aged 9-12, this one follows a boy named Micah, as he learns that the magical tales spun by his ailing grandfather about a mysterious circus are actually real. I can't WAIT.

Have a lovely weekend! It's been cold cold cold here -- but no snow. I'm so disappointed! It always seems to pass us by! Where we live in the Pacific Northwest, when it's cold enough to snow, it's always clear and dry, and then when we have some moisture moving in, it warms up too quickly for the precipitation to fall as snow. Le sigh. Stay cozy, wherever you are....

~Melissa




cinnamon stars

9

January 1, 2017

Didn't I say I'd be here on Boxing Day? I think I said that. Well here's how my holiday went: I was sick through the entire Christmas holiday. And lest you think that I am being dramatical for the sake of entertaining reading, oh no no ma petites. I got a roaring sore throat the night of December 23. On Christmas Eve, I realized I felt like someone had chewed up the insides of my head and not-so-neatly-rearranged them. (doesn't this sound so nice, these beautiful words to go along with my lovely cookies???)

I also realized after the nose blowing and sneezing and extreme eye watering began, that I was producing way too much bodily fluid to present myself at our annual extended family Christmas Eve gathering, so I sent along Andrew and Julia, and I stayed home, mucous running EVERYWHERE, and eating soup and watching holiday romance movies on Netflix.

(sidenote: I watched a few holiday romance movies and I'll be back next holiday season with some reviews because....there's a lot of hilarity to be mined from them, my friends.)

Julia looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity and said, Mama I love you but you are disgusting. Christmas Day, I coasted along pretty well with the help of Bendryl to dry up my nose a bit. I had made our side dishes for dinner earlier in the week, so all we had to do for dinner was open up the oven and put them in, along with the ham. Easy peasy. Then the day after Christmas I got even sicker, and spent the next 2 days on our sofa with several blankets and all of the pets.

Twasn't the flu. But twas the WORST COLD I EVER HAVE HAD IN MY LIFE and I've had some lovely and juicy colds in my day. And here we are, New Years Day I'm writing this, and I'm better but still hacking up bits of phlegm.

Let's move from phlegm to cookies.

So yes, I do realize that Christmas is now over, but if you are like me, you maybe didn't get to all the holiday baking you might have wanted to do. Today for example, I made gingerbread, which I had meant to do two weeks ago. But here's the thing - IT'S OK to make these cookies now, because they are perfect for wintertime. I would argue that these cookies are actually maybe too rustic and plain for the Christmas-time ball, and that they are actually more suited to be eaten with a blanket in front of a fire, or with a cup of tea and a book.


They are light. They won't make your tummy feel sad. They are crisp. (I used to hate crisp cookies. I only wanted soft, chewy cookies. But there's something about big chewy cookies that sometimes make me feel like I need to gasp for air, they can be so rich and heavy.)

And it's a good thing they are so light and crisp, because you will want to eat several at a time, several times a day. These cookies just FLEW into my mouth.

They come from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, the 'Crabtree & Evelyn Cookbook', which I have mentioned many many many times on the blog. It's got loads of darling photos and really interesting recipes and I just adore it. If you love beautiful cookbooks that you like flipping through over and over, this is the one for you. I've had it since my mid-twenties and I love it as much now as I did the day I bought it.


I hope you have some time this winter to make these little stars and that they brighten your day as much as they did ours. They are such.....nice little cookies.

CINNAMON STARS - via 'Crabtree & Evelyn Cookbook'

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions:

Whisk flour, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add egg yolk and beat until light. Add flour mixture and blend well. Cover and chill cookie dough in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch star shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place them 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet (or a sheet lined with parchment paper). Roll out second half of dough and arrange on baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with granulated sugar.

Bake in the center of hot oven for 7-8 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Store in a tightly covered container.

~Makes about 30 cookies.

 HAPPY NEW YEAR my lovely friends! I must mention again how these go so well with tea, or as an afternoon pick-me-up.




cool stuff i like

2

December 19, 2016

Happy.....Monday! We're on holiday schedule, folks. I'm eating marzipan straight from the tube and wrapping presents to myself from myself. Wooooo! Up in the photo you can see that I decided to holiday bedazzle my kiddo's bed. And her boookcase. The look on her face when she saw it -- that right there was my Christmas present. I'm good. Last week was nutty - car wrecks all over the road, colder than I've ever known it to be around here in years and years, and errand after errand after errand. I really need to clean the house. But instead, I'm just going to keep eating plain marzipan and that there is my Christmas Plan. Oh hey - all new and festive 5 Hours 'til Bedtime post is up and running, go see!


Some last minute holiday bits to throw out this week:

Beautiful gift wrapping.

My friend Amelie told me that the film 'Journey to the Christmas Star' is on Netflix right now and that it's filled to the brim with Scandinavian Christmas goodness. I can't WAIT to see it! 

#cookiegoals.

 GREAT gift guide. (anyone still in need of gifts?)

I showed this Unicorn Hot Chocolate to Julia and her jaw dropped open, literally.

Looove this Christmas tree alternative!

Photo wall stickers. Very cool idea.

Icelandic folk tales? I NEED ONE OF THESE.

A little Victorian table-top Christmas tree.


Cool Book(s) of the Week: 'The Snow Queen' and 'The Fir Tree' by Hans Christian Andersen, and oh so gorgeously re-imagined through the art of Finnish illustrator, Sanna Annukka. Both of these became available in the U.S this past autumn. I'm slightly obsessed with all things Snow Queen related, more on that topic coming after Christmas. So I'm always happy to see any version of it! I'm knocked out by the geometric art style of Annukka's work - it's bold, strong and vibrant. The books have cloth bound covers and are representative of Scandinavian folk art. 'The Fir Tree' is not the happiest fairytale, but it's one you never forget. I think Andersen's fairy tales are soul punchers, a lot of them ('The Little Match Girl' anyone??), but so so so hauntingly beautiful.

 Have a lovely day, and hey Winter Solstice on Wednesday! I'll be back before Christmas (I hope) with a simple Christmas cookie recipe. If not, I'll hit you with it on Boxing Day!

~Melissa




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