Chimps and Crocodiles are British Too


May 6, 2011

In addition to all the teashops near me, there’s a British emporium not too far away!

It’s got a tea room, a gift shop and a take-out bakery section. IT’S AWESOME.

I think that British candy bars are so much more entertainingly titled than American candy bars:

What the hey is a Jammie Dodger?

Check this out:

See that blue jar in the way back? Horlicks? It’s a malted before-bed milky drink thingy. I got it, tried it, liked it and then made Andrew try it. He said it tasted like milk after cereal had been in it. NOW I CAN’T DRINK IT ANYMORE BECAUSE ALL I CAN IMAGINE IS OLD CEREAL MILK. Bad husband!

And BAD crocodiles! Very, very bad.

More than anything, the Enormous Crocodile longs to eat children. If you are familiar with the dark humor and wicked wit of Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches), this will not shock or upset you.

The book tells the tale of the Enormous Crocodile as he tries to capture and eat as many children as possible by embarking on a spree of ‘clever tricks’. He fails miserably each time as he is thwarted by other jungle creatures, who are horrified by his wicked ways. It is SOOOOOO FUNNY -- my daughter thinks this story is High Entertainment.

I read this for the first time to my kiddo when she was 4. I think it’s great for kids 4-9.

Also naughty, but in a more gentle way, are Chimp and Zee:

This is a big huge picture book! And so gorgeously illustrated by UK artist/writers Catherine and Laurence Anholt:

I love the map of Jungletown:

Chimp and Zee do not listen to their Mumkey. They wander off and are mistakenly carried away on elephants. Eventually the pair do get their cheeky little selves back to their tree house home, with their irrepressible spirits well intact!

One of the most fun and unique books we own. The Anholts have a really cute website too!

There are so many fabulous British-based books for older children that I haven’t touched on – I’ll wait until the little missy gets older, but you might want to peek at this list for some great Brit reading suggestions for older kids. Have a WONDERFUL Mother’s Day weekend!

Totally Tea Time


May 5, 2011

Ok I have to warn you, get comfy because I’ve got a lot to say about tea!



(photo via

Whoever thought to combine the two into one entity is my hero and I love you. Forever!

Twinings is an eternal favorite:

I took Miss J to her first tea shop when she was 3 years old. After our first trip, I came home and almost cried, I was so happy! (Yes, I’m a freak.) I’m blessed to live within 10 minutes of not one, not two, but THREE teashops!! I’ve hit the teashop lottery! She is usually pretty great about using her “tea shop manners.”

That’s hot chocolate she’s drinking by the way, but she also loves chamomile, peppermint, blueberry herbal or anything else fruity.

And while we’re on the topic of tea, sorry Brits, but if you want to discover tea happiness you must check out KUSMI TEA. It’s the most amazing tea line, which is made in France but based on Russian blends.

The Russian Morning is my favorite but Prince Vladimir is a close second. The Anastasia and Bouquet of Flowers are also amazing. The best way to get a variety of their flavors is to try out the Kusmi sampler set.

These teas have flavors I haven’t experienced in tea before. However, these teas are subtle. DO NOT add milk - you won’t be able to appreciate the full flavor! I gave them away as gifts to most of my family last year, they are THE BEST. Try Kusmi if you love tea!!

So back to the Brits. I’ve got two tea book suggestions for you today (there are MILLIONS), I like these because if you want books that have a nice variety of traditional British tea time recipes, these will do it for you:

Crumpets and Scones is a fun read, very old-fashionedy. The chapters include Tea with Queen Victoria, In the Gypsy Tea Room, Tea for Two, A Russian Easter Tea, Breakfast in Scotland, High Tea, A Garden Party, Hearthside Tea in an Irish Kitchen, Dim Sum Tea Lunch, and Nursery Tea.

Someone please make this recipe from the Nursery Tea section and let me know how it is, I haven’t made it yet!


Chocolate soup is properly served in a cup on a saucer with a soup spoon. A homemade Graham Cracker resting on the saucer is a perfect accompaniment.

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream or evaporated milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping teaspoon cocoa
1 egg yolk

Heat milk and cream or evaporated milk. Pour from pan into cup leaving about 2 teaspoonsful in pan. Add sugar, vanilla and cocoa to milk in pan and mix to a smooth paste. Add egg yolk and stir over low to medium heat. Gradually stir in heated milk. Stir until blended and thick. This makes one serving, increase quantities to make larger amounts at one time. – from Crumpets and Scones.

This book has every traditional English tea time treat you can imagine:

From scones to tarts, from Chelsea buns to Cornish splits to Eccles cakes – this book has EVERYTHING.

(photo courtesy of James Murphy)

And here is my health wisdom nugget for the day: DRINK LOTS OF GREEN TEA! It’s good for you.

(This is the best green tea: Yamamotoyama. I should have mentioned it during Japan week!)

I want to live in Charlie & Lola’s flat


May 4, 2011

I know, I know. Charlie & Lola. Everyone loves them, I’m not exactly reinventing the wheel by talking about THEM.

Except, you have to allow me to convey HOW VERY EXTREMELY MUCH I LOVE CHARLIE & LOLA! If the only thing C&L had done for me was introduce me to the phrase “EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY”, that would have been enough for the brother-sister pair to endear themselves to me forever. But no, I also got to pick up “MY FAVORITE AND MY BEST”, which is now what Julia and I tell each other when we are feeling very lovey.

Also, author/illustrator Lauren Child is a GENIUS.

Just in case there is anyone on the planet unfamiliar with them, sums it up pretty well:

The books. Are. The. BEST.

The show. Is. The. Cutest. Show. EVER!

Every Saturday morning Julia crawls into bed with us and we watch Charlie and Lola episodes that we’ve taped and oddly, are on only at 3 AM. And every time, it’s ME who’s the one squealing, ‘Yay! We get to watch Charlie & Lola!”

But here’s the other thing I love about them – THE DÉCOR. I am officially obsessed with the lime green walls of their flat, the pink damask print wallpaper, and Lola’s bedding!!

Through my wanderings around the web, I’ve culled some adorable pix of kids’ rooms, many of which are British kids’ rooms and they all appeal SO much to me in their colorfulness, their hodge-podgeness, their un-decoratedness.

These are the kinds of rooms I wish I could have had as a little girl! I would have lost it over all the roses . . . .

(photo courtesy of Ohdeedoh)

(photo courtesy of Ohdeedoh)

This shared sibling room is one of my favorite kid rooms of all time:

The little girl’s bedspread is very Lola-esque.

(photos courtesy Domino magazine)

Look! See the Charlie and Lola bag on the bed post?

(photo courtesy of Sussie Bell, Ideal Home Magazine)

And then imagine my surprise when I got a recent Land of Nod catalog.

The wallpaper!! It’s Charlie & Lola’s wallpaper!! I swear to goodness, it’s Really Extremely Close!!

For Julia’s room, I’ve sort of done this combo of Ikea + Color + Fairies = Hopefully Something Cute. I’ll discuss my deep affection for Ikea during Scandinavian week!

Sometimes we switch around the pillow in the reading corner.

If by some quirk of fate, you have never read or seen Charlie and Lola, check them out immediately – they are Really Extremely Great.

Tiny Tot Tuesday: Polly Dunbar


May 3, 2011

One of the reasons I started this blog was because there are so many amazing and exciting books in Children’s Lit Land and if I get to share something that really floats my boat, then maybe someone else will think it’s super cool as well!! And then HAPPINESS IS MULTIPLIED.

 Polly Dunbar has written and illustrated some of our very favorite books (and I don’t think we’re alone in sharing that opinion), including this one:

Joyce Dunbar is her mom! I love Shoe Baby so much, I give it away as gifts! There were about six or so books that were in constant rotation when my kiddo was a toddler, this was one of them.

Shoe Baby has LOADS OF FUN travelling around in a magical shoe. Why does he fit into a shoe? Well because his folks are GIANTS!

The rhyming story is so adorable that certain words in it have become common phrases that we use in our family even now:
“At long last this baby slept in that shoe, so dozy, so cozy, so tickety-boo.”
TICKETY-BOO!! I mean really. The cuteness. Tickety-boo! There. Now it will be forever in YOUR head as well!

Those amazingly vivid colors remind me of another Polly Dunbar book, Flyaway Katie, also a huge favorite:

Katie wakes up one day and laments about the gray, gray day.

To cheer herself up, she puts on her most colorful clothes and paints every last inch of her body!

At which point, she (OF COURSE) turns into a fabulously plumaged bird and flies off to Beautiful Bird Paradise, where she spends a glorious afternoon before having to fly home into her bath.

One day we entertained ourselves by drawing our own pictures of Flyaway Katie and her birds!

More Dunbar cuteness:

Do yourself a HUGE favor and bring a Polly Dunbar book into your reading world – more Polly Dunbar info can be accessed here.

International Week: England


May 2, 2011

Did you all watch The Wedding?? I managed to get Julia to watch it with me for 45 minutes before she pronounced it “too boring” and when I asked her if she wanted to go to England someday, she said “If I am going halfway around the world, I want to go to Japan!” Alrighty.

(photo courtesy

I’ve been a hard-core Anglophile since before I even knew what the word meant. Maybe it was because I was living on a bright, sunny tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but the thought of misty England half a world away seemed so mysterious and far removed from my everyday living experience that it proved an endless source of fascination for me.

I got up at 2:30 AM Hawaii-time to watch Princess Diana get married. That’s commitment from a little girl!!

(Photo via Kimberlybabcock.blogspot)

I read every book I could get my hands on about children in England, children in boarding schools in England, children having magical encounters with fairies and mystical beings that seemed only to exist in the English countryside.

So, on to all things fabulously British! Here’s a little quiz . . . .

Do you prefer this Emma?

Emma2Or this Emma?
I love them BOTH! (Gwynnie haters step to the rear. I love Gwyneth! Yay GOOP!)

And which is your preferred Mr. Darcy?

I’m on Team Colin.

I had another MAJOR English obsession – CRABTREE & EVELYN. Oh my how I loved me my Crabtree & Evelyn. For a loooooooong time, I just could not get enough C&E! I even had to own this book:

The recipes were compiled by British cooking legend, Nigel Slater, and I love, love, love this cookbook! The gingerbread recipe is one of the best I’ve ever made. Beautifully photographed and divided into sections including Breakfast, Brunch, Tea, Lunch, Picnics, Cocktails, Supper and Dinner, there’s a really interesting assortment of recipes that will make you feel like hosting your own garden party! Or heading out for a picnic with a group of friends! Or having a family brunch at home!

(If you are a slacker like me, it’s also fun to read the recipes and IMAGINE that you will host one of these little fetes.)

Anyone going out for a Sporting Afternoon??

It’s a really fun book and the photos are gorgeous. I look at it all the time! (Someday I really will get around to actually making more things from it.)

Ok, I guess I should get around to discussing an actual children’s book – this one is a nicely abridged edition of a true classic:

I blew it up nice and big for ya so you can get the full effect of the amaaaaaazing illustrations. EACH PAGE is illustrated and the story is absolutely perfect for kids not quite old enough for the full text of the original.
Julia adores this book! She is especially intrigued by that naughty Mr. Toad.

I’m not sure if I can cram my love for All-Things-Brit into one week but we’ll give it a sporting try.

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