September 29, 2020

cool stuff i like

Hello #oatmealwarriors! If you're wondering what I mean by that, check out this Instagram post I created last weekend. My friends, I sincerely hope that you're doing ok. I feel like I've been in such low spirits for such a long time, but I've decided that I am going to gather all of my gratitude, place it firmly in the forefront of my mind, and celebrate all the little things. #1 on the list - distance learning for the most part is going very well for Julia, and getting to see her so much this past year has truly been a gift. 

And speaking of gifts, Emily Winfield Martin's beautiful book 'The Imaginaries - Little Scraps of Larger Stories' is one of the most enchanting books that we own. I featured it last spring/summer (who knows??)  on Instagram more in depth. A work of art, with pages of fairy tale images come to life paired with tiny fragments of mysterious words that lead and prompt the reader to take the story further on their own. Pure loveliness, and would make for the most unique and special treat for anyone aged 5 to 105.

Funny (?) story - I went to Trader Joe's last week and ALL of the autumn and pumpkin treats were in stock. ALL OF THEM. And I think I had ALL OF THEM in my cart and then I felt bad, like so much autumnal excess was just WRONG, and I put most of it back. And then I had so much REGRET. So now I'm going back to get the Vanilla Pumpkin Candle, the Maple Kettle Corn, the Apple Cider Doughnuts, the Pumpkin Curry Simmer Sauce, and the Pumpkin and Paneer Samosas. And now that I've written it all out, now I feel bad again. We need NONE of these things. AAAAAAAH.

(*UPDATE 09/29 Tuesday evening after the debate: I am no longer conflicted about any future Trader Joe's autumnal purchases. I will be purchasing ALL THE THINGS because I deserve it after watching that dumpster fire of a criminal promote blatant white supremacy in a NATIONAL PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE FORUM.)

Let's move on to online treats for you to see:

I want to live in this room.

Very intrigued by 'The Midnight Library'

Ways to get involved in national issues. Super great list/blog, with lots of ideas and choices on how to participate.

The perfect afternoon snack?

15 great campus novels.

Going to be watching this documentary about RBG asap.

Look at all of these cute reading sweatshirts! This search was inspired by my discovery of a 'reading sweater' on Cup of Jo and I started instantly hyperventilating. That excitement turned quickly to sadness when I RACED to see and discovered that everything was out of stock. (also not sure about that price for a cardigan, but still, I adore the colors and the concept.)

Big thanks to the brilliant MFAMB for pointing me to this UK home decor website

I get it. I see what she's saying. I really do. But I think I'll still watch this

HOW have I never HEARD of Kashmir Pink Tea??? (still searching to see if there exists a variety one can actually order or purchase.)

 Old fashioned butterscotch pudding.

Cool Book of the Week: 'The Once and Future Witches' by Alix E. Harrow, who also wrote the very fun 'The Ten Thousand Doors of January'. My dear friend Danzel from Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes was so kind to let me know this book was being published this October! Magic AND suffragettes? I am HERE for THIS. Witches empowering women to vote? I'm literally nodding my head as I type. Fun!

Have a great rest of your week! The reporting from the New York Times about you-know-who's tax debacle is really putting the wind in my sails right now. Let me know what falltimey things are bringing you joy! Also please please VOTE. I'm so excited to vote this year I'm giddy.



September 8, 2020

spiced autumn

Well hello! Remember when I said maybe I wasn't going to blog anymore? "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!"  FUN FACT - that phrase is often erroneously ascribed to Shakespeare, but is in fact, from Sir Walter Scott's poem 'Marmion'. You guys should know by now that I sit on a throne of LIES. Ha ha ha. I appear to be on the once-a-month blogging schedule.

Some things I actually quite enjoy creating are little collages o' fun and interesting things. Books, treats, know, the usual.

I began putting together an Autumn layout and quickly realized that a sort of theme was emerging, and it was one of magic and spiced flavors and far-away worlds.

You know me and my motto, show me a great book cover and I'll show you a SALE - well I haven't taken my ordering pinky out  - yet - for 'A Pinch of Magic' by Michelle Harrison, but that's only because I've ordered five books recently, and I Must. Show. Some. Restraint. The reviews about this middle grade magical storyline involving sisters and a curse and magical objects just sounds so FUN, and the sequel came out this past February.

May I suggest with your reading some of these rose and pistachio shortbread cookies from Makabi & Sons? High five to them for their very cool website, and this intro description for these Maroc cookies:

"The grand Souk rumbles with the sound of nomads and traders in search of their next fortune. But navigate the Medina maze to find treasures beyond the Kasbah walls. A taste of the Berber life awaits."


Now. Let's get down to brass tacks here and can we all FREAK OUT IN UNISON that the genius Susannah Clarke has written another full length novel, 'Piranesi'. Who is she and why do we care? Because she wrote the utterly brilliant 'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell' (which was published nearly 15 years ago!) and is considered by many to be one of our greatest living writers. And good news! For those who might have been daunted by Jonathan Strange's 1024 page endurance ultra-marathon, 'Paranesi' clocks in at a comparatively wee 272 pages.

Again, why do we care? Because Clarke is a flipping genius who can write about magic and unseen worlds while making you feel like you just got a literary Ph.D of some kind in the process of being royally entertained. 'Piranesi' apparently is about a magical house and really, that's all I know. I am HERE for this, and if you're unfamiliar with Clarke, but are a fan of Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus' type fare (someday I will write a review of 'The Starless Sea' and complain A LOT - I loved the writing and the characters but I was totally bummed about the endless wandering around with no discernible endgame) you will want to get your hands on this book. 

Here are some items of interest that you might enjoy during the fall time season, along with your magical books. Tea and cardigan weather. Very few things make me happier. I was completely charmed by this tin of Harney & Sons Golden Milk Powder Tea, flavored with Turmeric, Ginger, Coconut and Spices - seriously how cute is this tin? What a lovely little gift for a friend or YOURSELF. Harney & Sons always give names to their tea blends and this one is called 'Glimmer'. Looooooove.

And while we're on the topic of tea, let's peek at this Marco Polo tea from Mariage Freres. This is a tea line from Paris, and they are splurge priced, but if you love tea and haven't tried this line, you need to get on it. One of my big regrets in life is that I didn't bring home 5 tins when we were in Paris last autumn, but I didn't want to cart the tins in my Very Tiny Suitcase. 

I gave Andrew a cannister of French Breakfast tea last Christmas, but one of the big stars in the Mariage Freres line is the Marco Polo, and that will be the next one we try. I've linked to the tin, rather than the tea bags, because you get more bang for your buck if you get loose tea. So get a strainer, stop moaning, and embrace loose tea! The Mariage Freres site describes Marco Polo thusly : "Mariage Frères’ overwhelming success is a mysterious blend that will take you to distant lands and unforeseen territories."  Well alrighty. I'm there. It's a floral and fruity black tea and it's supposed to be INCREDIBLE. 

I saw a bottle of Meadow Land simple syrup last year in a local shop and literally stopped and stared. The prettiest packaging! 'Inspired the prairie'. SAY NO MORE. You can put it in anything, or on top. Tea. Coffee. Drinks. Cocktails. Drizzled on desserts, ice cream, fruit. I'm linking to the original syrup, but there are a ton of other flavors, like strawberry basil and honey vanilla chamomile. 

OMG THERE IS NOW AN AUTUMN COLLECTION. Pumpkin Spice, Vanilla Maple, Woodfired Apple, Golden Age. I am FREAKING OUT. OMG AGAIN - there is a Winter Wonderland collection! I'm going to get one, break it apart, and give them out as holiday gifts. OH MY WORD.

Saw this cute pom-pommed sweater on Amazon of all places and was Very Impressed. I wish it had a button, but this is really super cute. I displayed it in the ivory to better suit the color scheme I had going for this collage, but my personal preference is the forest green color.


Well after all of that magical syrup biz, this Pumpkin Butternut Spice syrup from Pink House Alchemy seems a bit redundant, but here you go, here's another syrup. Enjoy. 

Anyone who has ever purchased one of my book boxes knows that I am nothing if not predictable - book, tea, socks, and a treat pretty much always find their way into a parcel, and more often than not, the treat is usually of the chocolate variety. Sorrynotsorry. I ADORE the look of this hazelnut milk chocolate from Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate. Beautiful packaging right? Tons of unique flavors. 

And lastly, I leave you today with another just-right-for-this-time-of-year read - 'The Vine Witch' by Luanne G. Smith caught my eye and I love the cover. It's the first in a series, and set in the French countryside, with the plot involving 'vine witches' who assist in wine production in the Chanceaux Valley. Magical wine? OK! That sounds fun.

So there you go! So many fun things! Did I make up for my Very Long Absence from blogging?

August 14, 2020

cool stuff i like

 Well hello. I feel like I begin every blog post this way, apologizing for how long it has been. The truth is...I think I'm reaching the end of the road with this blog. Instagram is quicker and easier and chattier. It's a ton of work to get a bunch of photos up in a blog post, versus concentrating on getting ONE photo up on Instagram. These are the times we're living in. 

And while I do love the ability to long form ramble here - let's just get it on the table that blog posts are going to be few and far between. I just don't have the energy. Unless I really get a bee in my bonnet, I don't think I'm going to be here much. Once remote learning starts for Julia in the fall, my time is going to become even more scarce. I still enjoy hunting and scavenging items of interest, so who knows. I say all kinds of nonsensical things, and change my mind every other day, so I might show up here more than I think. If only to grumble and moan.

One thing I want to mention - Gabrielle Blair from Design Mom has written a brilliant post perfectly articulating everything I am feeling about people supporting the current 45 administration.

Note: I've already had some pissy personal emails.  Don't bother. In the future I will not read them, and if I get them on Instagram, those accounts will be blocked. So if you feel the need to write me with your personal disappointment regarding my extreme dismay about everything Trump related.....just move. it. along.

Until the election, my nerves are going to be frazzled to a crisp. So......sort of goodbye-ish??  If you want to hang out, come over to Instagram! Unless, see above, for the short attention span crowd. Longtime readers of this blog know I don't mince words around here.

Also - I announced on Instagram that I'm winding down the book box biz - 3 years was fun, but it's SOOOOOO much work and they don't really yield much financially, so I'm scaling back. I might make some specialty themes next year, and I'm up for custom orders, but really, I'm just going to try and rein in my massive anxiety and take care of my family right now. And READ more books, instead of wrapping and packing them ha ha ha.

Some cool stuff I managed to find online:

EXACTLY the emotion I had.

Target has a new candle called 'Bookshop'.

And speaking of Target, I love ALL of this.

Where to start reading Vita Sackville-West books.

How to create the perfect summer picnic, pandemic-style.

A singing teen version of 'Macbeth'?? I AM HERE FOR IT.

A very cottagecore home tour set in the English countryside.

Dear friend sent this article to me. Spot on. 

Books and indie booksellers to get you out of your reading slump. (a couple of my all time favs are on this Very Cool List.)

Cool Book of the Week: 'Mexican Gothic' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia had me when it was described as "Lovecraft meets the Brontes in Latin America." OK. I'm ALL IN for that! A house called High Place in the Mexican countryside. A debutante who seeks it out, hoping to aid her cousin In Distress. A mysterious family with SECRETS, of course. It's been described as the perfect summer horror read, and I'm so intrigued. I think it looks perfect for this time of year, the winding down of summer and slow burn into autumn.

Have a great weekend! It looks like it's going to be one of the warmest weather days of the year around here on Sunday, so that means we'll be hiding from it. I really want to learn how to play Settlers of Catan.
xo, Melissa

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.


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!