June 5, 2020

cool stuff i like


A month has gone by without blogging, but I think you would have been camping in outer space not to realize that there's been a lot going on. And I think most of you know that we're living through some pretty outrageous historical moments, in real time.

There is so much insightful and powerful writing about the Black Lives Matter (LOTS OF RESOURCES THERE IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START) issues at hand and the continuing racism problem in our country. I don't find it useful at all to add to that conversation at this time other than to outline things that I intend to deal with here on the blog and my social media. I need to take the time to listen to voices like this and to further educate myself.

In my personal life, there is literally a lifetime's amount of work to actively (keyword - active) combat racism that needs to take place, but I specifically want to discuss Julia's Bookbag. I've realized that while I will always enjoy tea parties, fairy tales, and pretty vintage books, my focus here has become more narrow than I would like it to be. It's become more narrow than it should be.

This blog began when my daughter was 5 and I focused on children's books for years and years. As she grew older, I moved away from blogging about her life, and moved more into my own interests, and then when I began creating book surprise boxes, my emphasis shifted more to that. Now that I'm pulling back from seasonal boxes, I feel like my focus needs to shift again.

There have not been very many books written by or focusing on people of color included here. That will change. It's unfortunate that it took the events of the past few weeks to make me realize why that's unacceptable. The niche I immersed myself in here has become too constrictive.

 There is no rightful place for racism, hatred, or inequality in our world. And yet here we are in 2020 and very little has occurred to diminish its prevalence in our society. I think our current administration is a joke and downright evil, but I've done next to nothing to address any social injustices in my personal life, or here, long before the current president came to office. And I'm more than disappointed in my apathy when it involved issues of systemic racism in this country and various social issues in general. I didn't spend much time thinking about these topics, because I didn't have to.  My growing up life in Hawaii with varying ethnic groups made me think that I was embracing in my views towards people who didn't look like me, and that living life as a person just thinking inside my head that I'm against racial inequality was enough. It. is. not. even. close. to. being. enough.


Things of online interest this week:

BELLE DA COSTA GREENE. This is an INCREDIBLE read. Never heard of her. I want to see a movie about her life! I want to read a book about her! Divine Goddess of Libraries!!!

Why 'The Secret History' never became a movie. (one of my all time favorite books) Did I already post this last year? I feel like maybe I did. Oh well. I just recently found my copy that I thought I'd lost, so it was in my brain.

Black owned independent bookstores. You can order online! Does Amazon really need more of our money? I think we all know the answer to this.

Fabulous 'she-shed'! (and bitch-barn! love it)

Hill House Vintage is the most delightful Instagram account. I discovered her feed a few months ago and I've been enthralled ever since. Her clothes! Her house! Obsessed.

I've made this soup twice during quarantine -- using 4 cups stock plus 2 cups water, only 1 cup lentils, a bit more corn, and half a lemon. It was still WONDERFUL.

Living in a turret.

Rachel Cargle's #revolution reading list.

Confetti Cinnamon Rolls.

Black YA fiction novels for your TBR pile.

A new post from Lobster & Swan! I kid you not, on May 29th I thought to myself, I wonder if Jeska has posted lately? Went to check and THAT DAY she had a new post up, first since February. I am magically in tune with the universe, it appears. Speaking of magic, did you catch my post from last month about magical books?


Cool Book of the Week: 150% OBSESSED - are you watching the show??? Are you reading the book? 'Normal People' by Sally Rooney had been on my radar for months and months - just never got around to it. Then the show dropped on Hulu, and I was a bit bummed to watch before reading the book but I went with it and I'm probably going to immediately begin watching the show again when I finish it. The acting performances have knocked me speechless; I'm stopping and rewinding scenes to watch the cinematography and certain facial expressions over again - and that is something I've never done with a show before.

But we're talking about the book now, and I just started it, and it's as quietly moving as the show. If you're not familiar, the best way I can describe it is that 'Normal People' examines how two individuals can be completely known to each other in a relationship, even if they don't know themselves. If you were wondering what all the hype is about, both the show and the book - let me tell you, I GET IT NOW. If you've heard rumors about all the sex, yes there's a lot of it shown and discussed in the both the book and the show. But that's not the takeaway. This type of intense romantic fascination that seems particularly acute in young adulthood has never been more sensitively expressed, in my opinion.


My friends, please stay safe and be well.

XOXO,
Melissa

May 4, 2020

magical things


Ok lovelies, at this point I am ready to return to my 1996 self and go ALL IN on some crystals, candles, smudge sticks, and herbal tinctures to banish all of this whatever-the-flip is going on with the year 2020. NOW KILLER HORNETS ARE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. I'm ready to attempt magic, spell cast, and actualize/manifest reality into something that DOES NOT RESEMBLE A HORROR NOVEL. I'm ready to light ALL THE CANDLES. All of them.

So let me share with you a little magical rabbit hole I went down the other day after seeing an amazing looking book that a friend posted about on Facebook - isn't it gorgeous??? That beauty packs a punch at 774 pages!

How darling does the 'Wellness Witch' book up above, by Nikki Van De Car and illustrated by Anisa Makhoul, look?! Magical self-care!! I need some of that. There's things like a recipe for lemon chamomile cupcakes. There's a moon manifestation ritual - I don't know what that is, but I'm here for it. There's a healing bath ritual with a recipe for DIY relaxing bath salts. Doesn't that all sound so nice? I need plenty of soothing spells right now! I'm finding that my enormous box of Cadbury chocolate isn't cutting it, sadly.


Judika Illes' books (I linked up above to her 'Encyclopedia of Spirits' book) are just SO beautiful looking, and I'm going to buy 'The Big Book of Practical Spells'. Seriously THAT COVER. You guys know my motto by now - show me a truly beautiful cover and I'll show you a sale. The book apparently shows you how to protect yourself from malevolent powers, among other things. Oh my stars can we all do this to shield the entire country from Voldemort 2.0?

I'm super keen to look at the lineup of books from Arin Murphy-Hiscock - and I have her 'House Witch' book already ordered, coming to me from England, because I like the UK cover better. I often prefer the UK covers to the US editions. I'm so excited for the 'House Witch' book because it covers rituals and spells for hearth and home. I don't have a hearth but I can pretend. It sounds like magic-in-the-kitchen, which sounds fun to me. And how pretty is her 'The Witch's Book of Self-Care: Magical Ways to Pamper, Soothe, and Care for Your Body and Spirit'?? This one offers advice to "help you to keep healthy, soothe stress, relinquish sadness, channel joy, and embrace your strength." Is there chocolate involved in this, I wonder?? I don't see how ANYTHING from that list can be achieved without chocolate, but I'm game to give it a whirl.


Aren't these oracle cards pretty? I don't know how to do Tarot, but Julia wants to learn. I have some angel affirmation cards that I've had since high school, and I just love them. I've seen the Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle cards before, and I think I actually linked to them in another post a few years back.

I like the idea of oracle cards, or affirmation cards, more so than Tarot because they seem nice and uplifting no matter which card you draw. I don't need ANY MORE BAD NEWS, which is why I've always been a little hesitant about Tarot. I just want a happy thought for the day, thanks. The Enchanted Blossoms Empowerment Oracle cards are GORGEOUS, and I super love the depth of the colors and vintage Victorian style.


How charming are these lovelies from 1803 Candles?? I think they come in smaller sizes on the 1803 Candles website. I might investigate the wholesale offerings with them, because next year I'm probably moving away from seasonal surprise box themes and instead offering Cozy Boxes and British Boxes and maybe a couple of others, and doing them on a standalone, custom basis. These totally fit the right vibe for a Cozy Box!! I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to hold out much longer on willpower - I've been dithering on whether I should get the Grandma's Kitchen candle or not - (the correct answer is YES, I know) - I wish I could smell it first. I might get the smaller size on the website. I LOVE the names!! There's Biscuits & Honey, Cabin on the Hill, Nutmeg and Ginger, Apple Butter House, to name a few. AAAAAAH someone clearly knew how to market towards my brain.

I think these candles need to go along with some tea, biscuits, and some kitchen magic, oui?


I really wish you could have seen the LOOK on my husband's face when I told him last summer that we needed to get rid of "old energy" in the corners of our home. According to Feng Shui principles, energy can become 'stuck' in areas of the home, particularly corners. Clearing these problem areas out can lead to a more efficient flow of energy in the home. I asked him to find some smudge sticks (I think I was sick so I didn't go myself) and to his credit, he dutifully went out to a local health store pharmacy and came home instead with some incense for me that I DID NOT LIKE, lol. I wanted sage and he came home with CEDAR. Or pine. I can't recall. The cheek of the man! Andrew said "the only smudge stick I saw looked like a dog biscuit, so I got the incense instead."

When I asked him what he thought about all of the stuck energy in the corners, he said incredulously "THE WHAT? Like, dust? Or cobwebs? Does the energy get stuck in the cobwebs?" Then he said many words in a row that might be offensive to my audience. Use your imagination!

Bottom line to this tale of smudging, I didn't get the actual smudge sticks I was asking for, and I think this Aura and Chakra Smudge Kit looks Very Nice, with the abalone sea shell basin and the quartz crystals. And SAGE smudge sticks! I think you are supposed to light the smudge stick and fan the smoke with a feather. LEGAL DISCLAIMER: If you try this product, please DO NOT burn your house down! I only show the stuff. I don't MAKE you BUY the stuff. Or use it improperly.


This trio of books by one of the masters of magical realism, Alice Hoffman, caught my eye the other day. There's a bit of confusion here (for me) with this edition of 'Green Heart' - it's a YA fiction story set (about a a magical girl who has to Figure Out Her Life) that apparently contains both 'Green Angel' and the sequel, 'Green Witch'. But you can also get both books as standalones, and I think the cover of 'Green Witch' is so lovely! But I really love the first cover too, and you get both stories....sooooo I really can't help you here if you're trying to decide what to do. None of that made a lick of sense, I apologize.

I'm also very much wanting to check out 'The Red Garden', which is a collection of interwoven stories and characters that all take place in the same enchanted town in Massachusetts and involve a magical garden. And this fall, Hoffman's prequel to 'Practical Magic' arrives - 'Magic Lessons', and I'll be standing in line with my ordering pinky at the ready when it's available in paperback.

Ok so all of my jokes aside - I think there's something really lovely about lighting a candle, visualizing positive hopes and wishes, and strengthening one's connection to the natural world, while nurturing our frazzled bodies and minds. Whether you call it meditation, praying, or tree bathing - I know I personally need a LOT more practice in the art of doing calming things to quiet all the racing thoughts. When I get my UK copy of the 'House Witch' book, I'll show and tell about it on Instagram.

Stay well and be safe!

April 9, 2020

a little post of comfort care


Ok it's April 8th as I'm writing this and I'm feeling pretty crappy today. And I feel crappier for even writing that sentence, as I sit in my safe and secure house, stocked with food, and a spouse who is so fortunate to have a job that allows him to work from home, and a daughter who has weathered this upheaval to her life with immense grace. She has been my ray of sunshine throughout this pandemic experience. We began quarantine-life over a month ago, and I sailed through the first month no problem - my introvert self was actually RELIEVED to have an official mandate to STAY HOME.

But I have a hefty and severe and mostly untreated generalized anxiety disorder during the best of times. I do have some prescription medication, but it doesn't work particularly well for me, and I can't tolerate most pharmaceuticals. The world events of the past couple of months (actually since November 2016) has thrown my anxiety into an unremitting and constant state. And in the past few weeks, I have nightmares pretty much every night, so sleeping hasn't been fun.

I saw this post on Instagram that described exactly how I'm feeling. "I stay away from the news as much as possible because it either makes me cry, convince myself I'm dying, have a panic attack, or want to vomit." Yeah, that sums it up to a tee, except I haven't been staying away from the news.
And I saw a meme that basically said something to the effect of - you know how lately everyone feels totally flipped out and like the world is ending? That's how people with severe anxiety feel every day of their lives. It's rough to be a prisoner in your own mind.

Ok so at this point you might be wondering, um Melissa I thought I was going to come here and get a little lift, your post says comfort care. I mention the above litany because I want you to know that if you have been feeling sad, bad, mad, crazy, or full of despair - you are not alone. And it seriously makes me want to tear the hair from my head to think of what the front line heroes are going through. Health care providers crying in closets, working shift after shift with unsuitable protection. Doctors living in tents in their garages so they don't infect their families. Grocery workers and delivery staff keeping people fed and safe in their homes. OMG THANK YOU to all them, there can never be enough thank yous.

So now I'm going to show you pictures of jam and chocolate and some books, and then go cry some more I guess. I'm sorry, today was the wrong day for me to be writing, but I'm writing it all down anyway.

I'm not having a good day. Let's talk about chocolate. And tea. If you haven't tried Biscuit Brew Yorkshire Tea from Taylor's of Harrogate, please please please do yourself a huge favor and get this immediately. It's the most delicious, full bodied, slightly malty, amazing, comforting, hug-in-a-cup. It really really is. A dear friend of mine spent the summer in England two summers ago, and she sent me a box of this magical tea. I carefully rationed the tea, making it last for nearly a year, because I didn't think I'd be able to get it in the states. But turns out you can!


EARLY on in the quarantine process, I knew I was going to need my favorite chocolate to help get through this journey, and I was going to need A LOT. Lo and behold, Amazon sells a whole box of Cadbury Fruit & Nut milk chocolate bars - I think 14 came with the box? NO it is not the kind from England, and NO it is not as good, but it's still pretty great. I love this chocolate so much, I've loved it forever and it's just screams comfort to me. Now - I have to apologize because I'm seeing that now Amazon has DOUBLED the price. What?! I bought my box of 14 bars for $20, which was a great deal. Ugh. That's outrageous. Well I guess I better make these chocolate bars last......

Speaking of chocolate - I found this Vosges line of chocolate bar in a local grocery last winter, and gasped at the beauty of the packaging. I got a chocolate and stout variety for my husband for Christmas. But look at these other flavors! So beautiful right? I think these would be very nice for a Cottagecore picnic this summer, even if just in the backyard. I'm torn about which I would like to try more - the Fromage Blanc and Berries, or the Cheddar and Apple. Only the Raw Honey Cacao is available on Amazon right now, sadly, but the entire line is available on the Vosges website.


And while I'm on this cozy comfort picnic theme, I want to remind you all again about these amazing Elegant & English cookies - I mentioned them last year and they are definitely worth seeking out.


How good can a plain, unadorned biscuit-type cookie be? AMAZING. Just amazing. They're imported from the U.K. and they are hands down the best tea cookies I've ever had. Treat yourself, or treat someone else, and I promise that neither one of you will be sorry. I had the Baked Apple & Custard variety last summer, and I would dearly love to try the Lemon & Ginger and the Strawberries & Cream flavors.


I knew I was going to want chocolate, my favorite tea, and MARMALADE to get through this stay at home time. In addition to what you see here, we also got several jars of Bonne Maman marmalade, which is a great favorite in our house. At Christmas, I got a jar of 'Old Times' Orange fine cut marmalade and it was wonderful, so we thought trying out 'Tiptree Orange', which is a medium cut flavor would be a good idea. Black Currant is also one of my great favorites - the older I get, the less sweet, and more tangy I like my jams. You should peruse the entire line of Tiptree jams, if you're a very jammy person. They have such pretty labels, and would make for lovely gifts. Sigh, I swear Amazon has jacked up the pricing on all of this since last I looked. This Black Currant jam is also very good, and less expensive.


We love marmalade so much in our house, I really think it's time that we learn to make it, but it sounds intimidating. I think we have to give it a whirl though.

Now that we've discussed chocolate, tea, and jam, of course you're going to want some reading material. I happened across these three books recently, and I ordered one of them, and intend to eventually bring the the others home as well.

  
'Plaid and Plagiarism' by Molly MacRae is sitting at the top of my book pile right this second.This is Book 1 from the Highland Bookshop Mystery series, and I'm totally up for reading about bookstore owners who become amateur sleuths after discovering a murder victim in a backyard garden shed. The story is set in Scotland and centers around the goings on of a local literature festival. I WANT TO GO TO A LITERATURE FESTIVAL WHAT IS THAT AND WHERE CAN I FIND ONE BUT OH NO THERE PROBABLY WON'T BE FESTIVALS ANYMORE. Insert brain exploding emoji.

I fell in love with alllllll the covers from this cute looking mystery series set in Singapore featuring a lady named Aunty Lee, who loves to cook. 'Aunty Lee's Delights' by Ovidia Yu tells the story of Rosie 'Aunty' Lee, who finds time for solving mysteries while running a restaurant. Yes, as you can see, I'm still on my cozy mystery kick and I feel like that's mainly what I've been showing lately here and on Instagram. No apologies. If I didn't apologize for the rant up above, you think I'm going to apologize for picking cozy mysteries over and over? Lol. I've officially lost my mind in real time. Isn't this fun?

And lastly, how pretty does this last one look - 'Shades of Milk and Honey' by Mary Kowal. I'm kind of kicking myself that I didn't order this one first. Seriously what was I thinking?? The summary on Amazon describes it "like wandering onto a secret picnic attended by 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell', 'Shades of Milk and Honey' is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen...if only she had been a fantasy writer." This is a world where society ladies practice magic -- 'glamour' -- as part of their everyday lives. Ok I'm off to go order this right now.

Don't these look fun? Are you off to order chocolate and tea? I'm actually writing the end of this post on April 9th and I'm feeling a lot better than I was yesterday. I had Biscuit Brew tea and marmalade toast for breakfast. I took out the part of my blog post wherein I threatened immediate deletion of any comments that might wander over here and mention anything about that disgrace we have for a "president". I put quotes around that word because obviously that term has no meaning anymore. OH LOOK WHAT JUST HAPPENED I TOOK OUT PART OF YESTERDAY'S RANT ONLY TO PUT IT BACK IN TODAY!

Good times my lovelies. Welcome to my breakdown.



March 31, 2020

melissa's comfort reads


Hello sweet quarantine friends! I don't even know what to say at this point. I'll just start by sharing bits of random in our world, I guess. I have been a stay at home mom since my daughter was born - I used to be an attorney, and then I got out of that biz, and moved into blogging (no money) and then photography (some money but not very much the way I was doing it, which was very half assed). Then I became my daughter's Mom-Uber, shuttling her around the surrounding Seattle area to her various performing arts auditions and theater productions. Somewhere in there I began doing my book surprise boxes (also very little money lol), and now I have no idea why I even began this litany. OH - it's because that was a longwinded way of saying that I've been at home a lot for many many many years and my husband also works from home, so really, this isolation thing hasn't been that terrible for us because we're the ultimate home bodies anyway. For those of you who are used to being out and about all the time, I feel for you. I don't understand you, but I feel for you. Whenever I'm out and about, I really just want to be at home ha ha ha.

Anyway that was a ramble on how sorry I am about Everything, and it's all Really Scary, and this virus might be the event that pushes me into official Agoraphobia territory.

My real purpose today is to share some books that I have turned to, time and again, both in periods of stress and no stress. I've read each of these books so often that when I told Julia about this post, she named pretty much every book on the list.

Maybe some of you are not re-readers of books? I am. It's kind of ridiculous - I would have read SO many other books in my life at this point if I would just stop reading the same handful of books over and over.

A little caveat about this selection of books. Whatever type of book I read, I don't do sad, I don't do bad, or scary. I don't read a lot of true-to-life fiction. I loved fairy tales when I was young and I still do, just skewed for an older audience. And I read cookbooks like they are novels, particularly anything by Nigel Slater. So let me show you my selection of all time comfort reads....

Starting with the photo up above - 'Magic Flutes' by Eva Ibbotson. Eva's books are my new favorites and I'll be doing a standalone post on her books soon, so I'll keep it brief about her in general. I haven't been so charmed by a book as I was by 'Magic Flutes' in a long long time. I loved it so much, I then had to search out everything else she wrote, and I used 'Magic Flutes' in my 2018 Autumn book surprise box, along with a couple other titles from Eva. I've read most of her adult books now, and 'Magic Flutes' remains my favorite. I adore this sweet romance story of a princess who poses as a stagehand in a Viennese opera company. My zeal for Eva's works is so enormous, I'm now buying multiples of her works in various cover art editions. Lots more to say about Eva coming soon in another post!


I have mentioned Laurie Colwin on the blog more times than I can count, but I'm too lazy to link to those times. Her food memoir 'More Home Cooking' was the book choice in my Vintage Summer book surprise box. I only chose that one because I liked the jam jar on the cover of that book particularly for that box. But I adore 'Home Cooking' just as much! Laurie's books of short essays and stories about food and her daily living are such an integral part of my own life that I just go ahead and keep both of those books permanently in my bathroom lol lol. I love her writing style, I love her recipes, and I love that she's so chatty and witty and friendly in her books. A lot of you who read my blog probably already know about Laurie Colwin, but if you don't.....GET ON IT. Also. I included pictures of both the UK edition, as well as the US edition because I couldn't decide which one I liked better.


I'm currently re-reading Susan Branch's darling 'Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams' while I eat breakfast every day. It's the type of book that lends itself nicely to reading little bits at a time, because the whole book is basically diary entry format, with pictures and Susan's artwork scattered all over every page, recipes sprinkled throughout. Her writing is just as delightful as her art, and I DEVOURED this book when I got it last year, and it's just as much fun to read again - the real life story of how Susan came to live on Martha's Vineyard, and the series of events that led her to create the art she's now renowned for is just so fun. Once you read this, you MUST carry on with 'A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside. Divine. I'll be re-reading both of these books forever.


JUST gave this a re-read. For the tenth time. So much to say about 'The Scorpio Races' and Maggie Stiefvater in general. First of all, if Maggie writes it, I will read it. I ADORED her 'Raven Boys' series. Adored. I adored her 'Shiver' series. And I SUPER ADORE 'The Scorpio Races'. I'm not a 'horse' person. But man alive am I obsessed with this story of a grueling and deadly horse race on a mythical island that is supposed to be near Ireland, involving magical water horses that emerge from the sea and are the fastest horses in the world that will also kill you if you turn your back on them for even a moment. The writing is gorgeous and the setting is so expertly described you just feel completely transported. I've read this book once or twice a year since I got it a few years back. LOVE it.


I've read this so many times I can't even give a number. I read it so many times I ultimately tired of it, and it's not quite as often in my Re-Read Rotation, but that's only because I read it over and over and over for the better part of 5 years. I'm not joking you guys. I'm a SERIOUS re-reader. If you're a fan of the magical realism genre, you most likely have already read this and I'm preaching to the choir. If by some twist of absurdist fate the story of the Waverley sisters and their subtle magical skills has passed you by, it will totally charm you. I included the UK cover for 'Garden Spells' because I thought it was very sweet. I'm basically just a huge Sarah Addison Allen fan in general, and I've read every book she's written.


OH MY FRIENDS. This book is a legend in my family. My husband and daughter tease me about it all the time because I carry it all around the house like Linus and his blanket. I think I actually have this one memorized. My copy is literally falling apart. I'm sure many of you are already big fans of Rosamunde Pilcher. I've read all of her books, but 'September' is the one that really holds my heart. I've been reading this book over and over since I was 25 years old, I think. This quiet domestic story of a Scottish family and their lives is so beautiful and in my opinion, the literary equivalent of wrapping up in a patchwork quilt with a cup of hot chocolate. Again, I've included the UK cover. Sensing a theme? I often prefer UK covers to their US counterparts. But - I now can no longer find this particular cover just in the few days since I snipped it, so I'm linking to the US version.


This one I really DO have memorized.

True story about 'The Blue Castle':

One time I read it. Then immediately re-read it. AND THEN STARTED IT UP A THIRD TIME. I am not joking. You read that right - I once re-read this book THREE TIMES IN A ROW, with no breaks, back to back to back.

I know that so far in this post, I have lost my marbles over every book I've listed but this is The One. I don't even know how to talk about this book. So charming. So funny. Such a sense of beauty and place, set in the Canadian wilderness. Darling love story. How can anything from the author of 'Anne of Green Gables' be anything other than wonderful?? It can't, is the short answer to that. Some people don't realize that Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote a ton of novels for adults, in addition to the 'Anne' and 'Emily' series of books. I can't express my love for this book adequately. I just can't. It's simply my favorite book of ALL TIME, tied for first with the next book down below:


And then we have this bobbin. I thought that by now, nearly a decade later, my love for 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern might have waned a bit. But, um, no. It hasn't waned, and I read this book once or twice a year, without fail, and EACH time, some line or phrase jumps out at me that I haven't really noticed before. I think most or many of you have at least heard of this book, even if you haven't read it. Erin writes the most beautifully captivating descriptions I've personally encountered in any writer, ever in my life, except for Willa Cather. I was pretty disappointed with the non-plot of her latest book, 'The Starless Sea', however, that one too - gorgeously written descriptions. But in my opinion, 'The Night Circus' is a totally and completely PERFECT book. This story of a duel to the death between two illusionists who are also soulmates, set within the realm of a magical traveling circus -- there's nothing like it. If something ever comes along that manages to push this book further down from the #1 spot on my Favorite Book list, it will have to be something very special indeed, and I'm not sure such a book will ever ever exist. There's also this cover edition, which is lovely.

There you go friends! Oh I have one more thing to throw at you - I'm a huge fan of a YA fiction series called The Ruby Red trilogy. SO fun and witty about a time traveling teen girl. I've read these several times. I really wish the cover art was a little more impressive, but the books are super charming - I'm a huge Kerstin Gier fan. She's a very funny writer. If you're looking something for your teen that you can then steal, look no further!

TELL ME TELL ME - which books do you read over and over? Do you re-read books at all?? My husband and daughter both do NOT.


March 24, 2020

cottagecore


Well hello friends. As I'm writing this, plans are probably afoot in my state for a shelter-in-place mandate to occur, the governor is due to have a televised speech tonight and all I can say is FINALLY. Last week, I read one comment after another and saw photo after photo on Facebook showing people out and about in DROVES. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. All I've done for a solid week is read one article after another - at this point, I honestly think I've read ALL THE NEWS about this virus and now I just need a little break. Maybe you do too. I tend to read myself into an anxious stupor, and I just need to back away from it for a little bit. So even though we're living in a real life dystopian novel, I'm going to show up here and try and show you some pretty things. Also, STAY HOME STAY HOME STAY HOME.

After I put the photos together for this post, I realized that maybe right at this moment is not the best time to be utilizing mail and delivery systems for non-essential items, but if you like what you see here, perhaps you can file it away for later or for when you or someone else might really need a treat.

So today I'm going to chat about about this newest form of cozy living I just happened across.

COTTAGECORE.

Except apparently it's not new. My daughter asked me if I had been living under a ROCK. Because she knew ALL ABOUT cottagecore. But if you, like me, remain in the dark about what it all entails, this is a great primer, as is this post HERE. Basically, it's all about a love for the idea of an enchanted and pastoral life lived in pretty, floral dresses, in a country cottage, while baking pies and frolicking with baby goats, in between foraging for wild mushrooms and maybe some fairies.

WHERE IN THE NAME OF ALL STARDUST IN THE UNIVERSE WAS THIS IDEA WHEN I WAS 17??????

I think I might have been trying to live the cottagecore life as a teen without even knowing about it. I kid you not, I was the only girl in my school who ever showed up wearing a PETTICOAT under her Laura Ashley dress. I swear to you that's a true story.

Apparently this aesthetic is very popular with teen girls, so my daughter and the internet tells me, but I think we can all enjoy the idea of pretty things that exist just for the sake of being pretty, and a longing for a return to a girlhood existence comprised of living like the heroine of whatever lovely movie caught your fancy and imagination in a tremendous way when one was young (er). For me, that movie was 'A Room With a View'.

UPDATE FROM MY DAUGHTER: After I showed Julia this post, she said that there is also a sub-category of this theme called GRANDMACORE, the hallmarks of which are chunky knit sweaters, baking cookies, gardening, and crocheting/knitting. I might skip cottagecore and go straight for this. I don't knit or sew though. I'll get back to you after I wrestle with this existential crisis of deciding in which camp I want to place myself.


I've made a little selection of bobbins that I think fit into the cottagecore realm of Aesthetically Pleasing Things. Aren't they all so sweet and springy?? I'm putting the notebook in my daughter's Easter basket. Just the thing in which to write poems about baby goats.

I happened across this set of 'Tea Shop Cozy Mysteries' by Katherine Hayton and thought they looked sweet. I've never read these, but they sound jolly and cute and non-stressful. Good grief, if someone tries to make me read anything heavier than a feather right now I would throw the book at their head. These appear to only be available on Amazon as a digital Kindle download, so that's convenient if you're trying to save space on your shelves. A lady running an herbal tea shop solves crimes in England. That's all you need to know! I'd read these even without the mystery element, I'm just there for the herbal tea shop.

If you or your teen daughter or whoever needs a pretty lip balm that smells amazing and works at really hydrating, let me assure you that the entire line of lip balms from Smith's is fantastic. How pretty is this Mocha Rose flavor??

Every cottage needs a darling teapot OF COURSE. I think this Fitz & Floyd English Garden teapot with the wee butterfly sitting on the top of the lid is perfect.


Last year, I put these socks into a spring things post I put together, and I remain extremely enchanted with these linen/cotton blend floral lovelies. I have a pair of these going into a custom Cozy Box order I'm sending out in late spring, and they are even prettier in person.

I got a pair of denim overalls from Amazon last fall and I wear them at least 3-4 times a week. They've become my uniform, and I think this pair of oversized floral denim overalls needs to be what I wear during the spring and summer months.


This darling magazine was something I picked up several weeks ago - it was one of The Last Outings I had with my daughter before everything became all-COVID19-all-the-time. Julia and I ran out to Barnes & Noble. It really wasn't that long ago, but it seems now like ages and ages.

I rediscovered 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' by Susannah Clarke, it was hidden away in my bookshelf. I've only read the first two stories and that was about 13 years ago. For some reason I just forgot about this book, even though I ADORED 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell'. I'm going to begin 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' all over again - I think this collection of fairy stories for grownups will be just the thing to read in May or June, when lilacs begin to bloom.

(I already have Clarke's newest, 'Pirenesi', on pre-order. I've been waiting and waiting for her to create another book!!)

While on the topic of cottages, my husband and Julia will both tell you that I've been ready for cottage living since the beginning of time. I mention it pretty much every other day.

I've had dreams of living in dollhouses and cottages since I was tiny. I've been ready to downsize my entire adult life. When 'Escape to the Country' was available on Netflix my family and I watched it every weekend with great joy.

(WHY WHY WHY IS IT GONE ESPECIALLY NOW THAT WE ARE ALL SO STRESSED - WAIT. It appears to be available via Prime video on Amazon!!!) I think that maybe my husband might be a secret cottagecore devotee as well, only his cottage would be filled with video games.


Look at these cuties. Darling jam bookmarks, a charming floral tea cozy, and wee toadstool mushroom earrings. If you do a search on Etsy for cottagecore, you'll have a delightful time sifting through all the cute.


I really think that this particular edition from Vintage Classics of  'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith is pretty much the perfect embodiment of cottagecore, n'est-ce pas? And despite the fact that the heroine of the book, Cassandra Mortmain, lives in a castle - this book is TOTALLY a cottagecore story. A young girl, living in a dilapidated castle in the English countryside, trying to figure herself out while stomping through moors and fields, deciding which boys she likes and writing in a diary? This should be Cottagecore Reading 101.

So there you have it my lovelies. Are we all on board with some cottagecore? I know I am. If my daughter is really going to be away from regular school from now until next autumn, maybe I'll start Melissa's Cottagecore School for Young Ladies, and we'll drink tea, eat cake, and fight about who has the prettiest floral ensemble.