May 15, 2017

cool stuff i like

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a lovely Mother's Day! It was a day of movies for us, which made it a great day in my book. We saw the new 'Guardians of the Galaxy' movie with my mom, and then later in the evening Andrew's mom mentioned that she had never seen 'Frozen' and I couldn't let her go another second in that state of affairs, so right after dinner, we watched it, and that was glorious. I'm an unapologetic 'Frozen' lover. It's one of my top 5 movie favorites I think. I got the new Domino decorating book that I asked for, which made me happy, and ate waffles and rhubarb upside down cake and popcorn. I'll be drinking a lot of green tea today, and I feel kind of sick, but it was all WORTH IT.


Cool Stuff to start off your week, since I didn't get it together last Friday:

My friend sent me the link to this Folklore Coffee Pot and it's the CUTEST.

Great article with some great advice. Should kids go to college? 

7 Big Summer Books.

What a beautiful food blog!

Very cool interview with Erin Morgenstern ('The Night Circus' author, aka my favorite book). She has been working on another book!

While I was looking up the link to 'The Night Circus' I happened across 'The Paper Magician' and I think I'll give it a whirl.

This is turning into a book heavy Cool Stuff list -  I was gonna get a certain book for Andrew for his birthday this year, but I had a feeling he had already read most of the material, so I asked him about it and yes he has. He's a spoiler of birthdays. But some of you might like to know about this Ursula K. Le Guin collection?

Crockpot summer recipes.

Great tips on photographing your kids.

So sweet! Books to prepare your kids for a new baby.


Cool Book of the Week: 'Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded' by Sage Blackwood is one I happened across recently, and thought, um hi there book-for-Melissa. I like when people write books-for-Melissa. This just came out spring 2017, and I LOVE the cover, which is always a big seller for me ha ha ha - and I'm loving the sound of a tale that features a heroine trying to find her way fitting in a school for 'magical maidens'. Boarding school and magic? Sign me up. You already know how I feel about boarding school books!

So......as I leave you today - let's make a plan to check back in and have a lengthy conversation about the new 'Anne with an E' series. Many, many thoughts running through my head. Not ALL of them are bad. But....we need to talk. I almost feel like we need to have a live Twitter conversation or on Facebook. If you all want to jump over there on FB, we can chat more!

~Melissa

May 8, 2017

apple brown betty

Hello friends! I've got the easiest sweet treat (it's fairly easy - the only hard part is apple peeling) and it's from a DARLING book called 'Mary Poppins in the Kitchen' and I'll show it off more completely in a different post. But I made one of the recipes and it was so nice! In the book, it was called 'Apple Brown Betty or Apple Charlotte'. I can tell you that I'm fairly certain that this is in fact apple brown betty, which is a dessert that calls for layering apples with sweetened bread crumbs, as opposed to apple charlotte, which I believe is a molded dessert consisting of apples baked in a sort of soft bready crust affair. I might be wrong, so if you are really up on your Betty vs. Charlotte lore, please be kind and tell me so that I can put my ignorance behind me.

I can't fully express how adorable this book is ~ apparently there are lots and lots of food scenes and food prep scenes and food eating scenes in the various Mary Poppins stories. So much so that there were enough to collect many of the kitchen and food parts of the books and weave them together in a collection with full color illustrations by Mary Shepard. (fun fact: i've never actually read all the way through the original Mary Poppins! are you shocked?) After the snippets of Mary Poppins food stories, there is a set of the most delightful recipes, and I'm looking forward to working our way through them.

Roast Chicken and Bread Sauce. Zodiac Cake (a sort of chocolate nut cake decorated with silver stars). Yorkshire Pudding. Lemon souffle. Lancashire Hot Pot! I can't wait to try them all.

I was so surprised by how much I liked the apple brown betty. I'm going with betty rather than charlotte. I wasn't too hopeful about a bunch of apples with breadcrumbs and brown sugar, but the whole thing was so...light. Pie is my favorite thing in the whole world, but sometimes it can be HEAVY. This was not heavy, and despite the amount of butter and brown sugar called for, it tasted....wholesome. It was like sweetened, crunchy-fied, buttery applesauce. It almost tasted like apple PUDDING. Not pudding like the British use it (meaning a dessert) but pudding as in American pudding, creamy and airy.

We ate the whole thing up in about a day and a half, and I wish I could impress upon you how old fashioned and tea time-ish it tastes.

The next time I make it - cream is going to be drizzled on top. And eaten for breakfast. I'm so sorry for what I'm about to say but....YOLO.

Here's the recipe:
Apple Brown Betty ~ 'Mary Poppins in the Kitchen'
2 pounds tart apples
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
2 cups fresh white bread crumbs
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
deep pie dish or souffle pan that will hold at least 1 quart

"Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peek and core apples as thin as you can. Butter the pie dish, using a little of the 1/2 cup butter.  Sprinkle with some bread crumbs. They will stick to the butter and make a comfortable bed for the apples. Lay a thick layer of sliced apples on the bread crumbs and scatter some brown sugar on top. Dot all over with little pieces of butter. Start all over again with a layer of apples, bread crumbs, sugar, and butter and continue the layers until the dish is full. Make the last layer of bread crumbs. Pile it high. The apples shrink as they cook. Bake for 1 hour. Mary Poppins serves this pudding lukewarm with whipped cream."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Try this out my lovelies! Despite the fall time seeming nature of this dessert, it's good any season. The crunchy bits of buttery, brown sugared breadcrumbs are truly wonderful. Oh -- I recently mentioned this blog before, but I'm totally obsessed with every new post from The Little Library Cafe - if you love food and food references in books, or if you read books and imagine what kinds of foods should be in them, you have to see this blog.

May 1, 2017

cool stuff i like

Well it isn't Friday! It's a long time since I've blogged, is what it is. There's been a lot going on, trying to make a new look for Julia's Bookbag. And trying to just live life. It's actually been great not being online very much. But I am excited to get back to books and showing you Cool Stuff and interesting books and yummy treats. Happy May! It's May! I love May. It sounds pretty, and I'm feeling sooooooooo confident that the weeks and months of nonstop rain will start to recede into memory. A few weeks ago, I said it had rained more this winter/spring since 1961. That factoid has now been revised: the Pacific Northwest has now had the rainiest winter/spring since weather has been written down and recorded in this area. How about them apples.

The pic up above is from when we went to Seabrook, Washington, which is the cutest little coastal town - we went there with some friends for spring break. PSA - you might want to avoid cute little coastal towns in April! This little patch of sun was all we saw, for a couple hours on our first day. Then it didn't just rain...it STORMED. As in a huge wind and rain storm that swept all over Western Washington. We lost power in our rental, but surprisingly, not for very long, and it was much more fun being in a storm on our vacation, then being at home. The kids had a grand time and we played games and watched movies and we made several trips to the candy store. So all in all, maybe you do want to visit little coastal towns in April, when the weather is bad?


I've got some two week old Cool Stuff for you today:

How to purge 80% of your closet.

And continuing on the above theme, I really want to see this documentary.

Making this dinner asap.

I re-read this book. It was as amazing and gut-wrenching as the first time.

FANTASTIC.

Darling home tour.

A Mother's Day gift guide from Food 52.

The cast of Broadway's 'Frozen' has been announced.

Great thoughts and ideas HERE.

A new line of tea for kids!


Cool Book of the Week: 'Rain' by Sam Usher. This brand-new-this-spring picturebook seemed OH so timely right about now. And it's the cutest. I just loved it! A little boy and his grandpa are spending the day together, but it's rain rain rain all day. Grandpa isn't really feeling the rain, so he says they'll stay inside, have cocoa, and be cozy while waiting out the rainstorm. Grandpa sounds like my kind of guy. The little boy amuses himself inside, dreaming up all sorts of rainy, watery imaginings. When the rain finally stops and he's allowed to go outside, the little boy sees that the wait was worthwhile. He has a glorious time in the puddle filled landscape of his neighborhood - made more magical by the time he spent pondering what a rainy day outside would be like amidst raindrops and reflections and imaginary sea monsters.

 I'll see you later in the week with a recipe! I'll leave you with my eating/reading/watching list: this (it's become a family favorite), this (I've got a stack of middle grade fiction books to go through) and this (fantastic).

~Melissa

April 18, 2017

boarding school books for kids

Hi! REALLY sorry to be so scarce. Been working on the redesign, and we're so close to being done! Just a few issues to work through. So - before we dive into the books, let's just get this off the table. The Harry Potter set of books and 'A Little Princess'. If you or your kiddos haven't yet tackled these most fabulous examples of boarding school books, why are we even chatting today? Go get on it!

Alright so let's chat about this topic, which is near and dear to my heart, as some of you might recall me mentioning just a few THOUSAND TIMES. For some reason, I've always been obsessed, since the time I was pretty wee, with the British Isles, and with boarding schools. OH HOW I LOVED THE IDEA OF BOARDING SCHOOL. Don't even get me started about my extra special love for East Coast New England-type boarding school. Why? No idea. I have a theory that being stuck on an island in the middle of the Pacific during my childhood years just made the idea So Very Exotic to me, and it seemed so mysterious and out of reach - that it just cemented the notion as utterly interesting and fabulous to a girl growing up across the street from a pineapple field.

A British boarding school, or any type really, just seemed MAGICAL. Then I read 'Jane Eyre' as a teen. Boarding school seemed slightly less magical. But I still loved the idea. And judging by the amount of books, for kids, for teens, for grownups - I think a lot of others have the mystique of boarding school, and especially, BRITISH boarding school, firmly etched into their imaginations.

Let's start with 'And Both Were Young' by grand master Madeleine L'Engle. I can't tell you how many times I read, and re-read this book. I love it with every fiber of my being. Now here's a funny thing - this one is about a SWISS boarding school which seems even more enchanting than a British boarding school. Oh this story. It will make you feel every feel that ever there was. Flip, the heroine of the book, is sent to boarding school while her father is traveling (her mother has died), and hates the whole experience. She doesn't fit in, she doesn't have friends, and she's awkward and not athletic and just miserable. But then she makes friends with a local French boy, and and their friendship, which turns into the sweetest romance you ever did see, gives her the confidence to assert herself at school and OH THIS BOOK. It's so darling and makes you understand the thrill of just holding someone's hand for the first time. For ages 12 and up.

I took a leap of faith and ordered the entire SET of Enid Blyton's St. Clare's School series. These, and her Malory Towers books, are supposed to be THE quintessential British boarding school books. I'll be reading them as soon as they get here, along with Julia. When you think of boarding schools, do you think of midnight feasts, sassy girls jockeying for position in the school hierarchy, field hockey and eccentric teachers? Those are all in these books. Some people have said they like the St. Clare's books better than Malory Towers. I'll report back in a bit on these. Supposed to be perfect for ages 8-12.

'Charlotte Sometimes' by Penelope Farmer is one I've had my eye on for awhile. I'm going to see if my library has it, but honestly, it looks totally like a book that should be in my permanent collection. This one's about time travel! Charlotte, at a new boarding school, suddenly finds herself 40 years in the past in 1918, also at boarding school, only everyone is referring to her as 'Clare'. It turns out that Charlotte has gone into the past and Clare has gone into the future, and the girls communicate via diary. As she spends more and more time in the past, Charlotte finds it harder to remember who she really is. I MUST HAVE THIS ONE.

Alrighty. Moving on to the 'Chalet School' series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. And by series, I mean that there are SIXTY BOOKS. Um, I'm not going to be collecting this set. But I will get a few more. I have the first one, just read it recently after stumbling across these online, and realizing that I absolutely positively had to read at least the first one and see what this was all about. It was a ton of fun, and such old timey British language you can't believe. A lot of "I say" and "We'll have a ripping good time!" and "Don't you worry, my chicken!" I'm not making any of this up.

The gist is that a young woman in her twenties decides to open up a school in the Tyrolean Mountains in Austria as a way of earning a living. Her little sister comes along and is one of the students. (their parents have died) The school instantly is a success and attracts an international group of students.

The rest of the book is basically about the friendships and fights among the girls, the day to day running of the school, who gets to be a prefect, who gets scolded by the headmistress, who puts Vaseline all over the blackboards, and the big drama is when one girl runs away and climbs part of the mountain, and another girl comes to find her and then that second girl nearly dies, and oh another drama is when a new student is basically abandoned at the school by her parents. She's dumped off and then the parents write a letter saying 'She's all yours!' and then the parents are killed so the girl really is part and parcel of the school.

As the series goes along, I believe that the school changes location a few times - from Austria (World War II breaks out and hello Nazis) to Wales, to another part of England, and then finally to Switzerland.

The first book was breezy fun to read and I loved it, but the language is so period and something you'd see from 'Downton Abbey' -- I'm curious as to what my daughter would think. Or if it would just be too old fashioned for her. I think a 12-14 year old crowd would be the best audience.

QUESTION - if someone can find a copy of the books that have the amazing covers shown here, please let me know the source! I have the first book, 'The School at the Chalet' and my cover looks nothing like any of the ones shown above. If I could get the first 10 books and they looked like these fabulous art deco style, I totally would. I can't even find now where I saw the covers I've shown here, they seem to have disappeared from Amazon!

(oh and how's this for hilarity - there's one called 'Redheads at the Chalet School'. What??)

OK I HAVE TO STOP NOW. I don't think anybody cares about boarding schools this much! But I had to show you these, in case you have An Obsession like I do. What do you think? Are you way into boarding school books? Will you seek any of these out? Did I totally waste my time here? Or are you intrigued?

April 11, 2017

the whispering rabbit

Howdy hey! A million apologies for not getting this book before your eyes a little earlier in the month, but let me tell you - although it features a bunny, this is a not an Easter book, and it deserves to be read all spring long, and in fact, it's not even a spring book per se, and it's SO CHARMING, you'll want this for your permanent bookshelf collection, like I did, and you will LOVE LOVE LOVE it all year long, because It. Is. Amazing.

Annnnnnnd let's pause a moment and take a look back at that paragraph and marvel. I swear with each passing blog post, I set the bar just a wee bit higher for myself to see how many run-on sentences I can string together.

'Margaret Wise Brown's The Whispering Rabbit' is such a treasure, and I'm stupefied that I've never seen it before, never read it before, never knew it existed. I saw it in a bookstore recently, and picked it up, flipped the pages and then went directly to pay for it at the checkout counter. Annie Won's illustrations have put this newly reissued vintage delight into a new realm of enchanting. This, and other classic tales, are part of Little Golden Books 75th anniversary set. (Um, so if you're looking for a really special gift for someone......go, go, go!) I found this as a standalone, but I would have gone for the set if I had seen it in the bookstore.

This sweet, darling, ADORABLE little fable tells of a tiny bunny who forgets to cover his mouth when he yawns and oh no! He swallows a little bumblebee by accident. He tries and tries to get it out, but oh no again! The bumblebee has fallen asleep.

The bunny is advised that he needs to wake up the bee with a little noise, not a big noise, because bumblebees don't pay attention to big noises. So the rabbit starts making all kinds of 'little noises'. Even a whisper is too loud.


He makes sounds like a bug breathing. Too loud. A sound like snow melting. Nope. A fly sneezing noise. Still too much. He finally thinks to make the sound of a bee swallowing some honey from an APPLE BLOSSOM, and that does the trick. SWALLOWING HONEY FROM AN APPLE BLOSSOM.

And loooooooook at that picturrrrrrrrrre up above!


Then the bee wakes up and flies away. And the little bunny can finally take his own nap.

So, Margaret Wise Brown. I'm so wanting to read this biography about her - it just came out this past winter and it sounds so interesting - did you know that she wasn't all that fond of children?? Not sure if you worship at her shrine, like I do. I love and appreciate 'The Runaway Bunny' and  'Goodnight Moon' as much as the next person, but the book that really cements her status in my mind as a true legend is 'The Little Fur Family', which I think is one of the few absolutely perfect picture books in existence. Her works paired with Garth William's art is the stuff dreams are made of.

Anyway....this book is utterly, crazy fantastic, and if I had had this one when Julia was 3 or 4 years old, it would have been on auto-repeat every day.

I've just realized that I need to go get all my Margaret Wise Brown's together on the same shelf. One of my #bookgoals is to have all of her books. Or most of them. Do you have a favorite? I think after 'The Little Fur Family', my other great favorite is 'The Color Kittens'. I also really need to get 'Wait Till The Moon Is Full'. (Another one she did with my knight in shining armor, Garth Williams)

In other news, I'm totally running out of bookshelf space. #bookproblems
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