June 30, 2011

Catalog Coolness

A recent pile of catalogs came my way recently and I have to share that I am the Catalog Queen. I think I have so so many because I am such an internet troll and click on everything I see, so I wind up on a gazillion mailing lists . . . I actually look forward to sorting and going through my giant pile . . .before tossing them all out. But occasionally I find great inspiration....

Have to admit that I am normally not the biggest fan of Pottery Barn Kids room décor styling. Just too . . . perfect and saccharine sweet for me, I usually like something more vibrant and off kilter. But this room speaks to me for some reason, and what I am really flipping for is the handmade cherry blossom 3-D art on the wall! In the catalog, it says that the mural was crafted from colored heavy duty paper. I think this is something even the craft challenged could do and would make big visual impact!

Shark sheeting because Julia thinks that sharks are awesome.

And madras plaid curtains, because preppy is ALWAYS awesome! Yes, always.

Zodiac pillows from Serena & Lily are new and so fun. I’m a Capricorn by the way, aristocracy of the zodiac. Just sayin’.

I love love love love this room. LOOOOOOVE IT.

And how fabulous are these menagerie bookends? (Pretty fabulous, if you ask me!)

Poofs are a dime a dozen now, but I haven’t seen them in cute colors like this before.

I love the shape of these lunch pails from Garnet Hill. There’s a shark pail!

And I leave you today with a little something for the grown up people – I want this outfit. BAD. It just epitomizes summer coolness to me. . . .

You can find the Ikat tunic here. The cardigan in this color may be sold out, but other colors are available here. And don’t forget the shorts!

If you’ve seen anything summerific around the internet or in a catalog, let me know, and we can revel in the cuteness together!

June 29, 2011

Strawberry Days

We have quite a lot of strawberry-ness to discuss today . . . .

I believe that it is universally agreed upon that June is The Month of the Strawberry, is it not? I so look forward to this time of year, when a strawberry is RED all the way through to the core, as opposed to the rest of the year when a red outer layer only masks a sad, pale inner middle.

My mother picked up these crimson lovelies at her local Farmers’ Market and Julia and I consumed nearly two boxes over the course of one afternoon. And look at my strawberry pot – this year I decided this was THE year that I was finally going to make my growing-a-real-strawberry dream come true! We have about five varieties growing in the pot, including a French strawberry that was supposedly just introduced to the U.S. a couple of years ago – and I am so sorry but I have totally forgotten the name.

And I have so much Strawberry Fun for you today! Starting with this Strawberry Summer Cake – doesn’t that sound like something we all MUST try? There really is no choice is there? Just an imperative to go forth and make strawberry cake!

You can find the recipe for Strawberry summer cake here at Smitten Kitchen. I highly encourage you to take a look through the recipes on the site and try a few! I made the lemon tart a couple months back and it was unbelievably good.

Now here is another kind of strawberry cake and isn’t this something? Life will not be fully complete for me until I try this pinkalicious cloud of cake . . . .

The cookbook that contains this amazing creation is called ‘Sweets: Soul Food Desserts and Memories’ by Patti Pinner. And if you are interested in just the cake recipe, you can find it here.

And do you all know about Kathe Kruse dolls? They are so lovely and each one is made by hand, using natural materials whenever possible. They also possess a price tag that reflects all that craftsmanship. However, they are truly stunning and special. And sometimes you can find them on sale. Julia received the Strawberry Elf doll (the one with the cotton candy hair) from Santa (Who found it on sale! Clever Santa.) and she just adores this doll. And Julia is not a doll girl!

1) Kathy Kruse Strawberry Elf Doll, $34. 2) Waldorf Baby Doll Strawberry, $69.95. 3) Kathy Kruse Strawberry Princess Doll, $176.95.

“Where is Strawberry Moshi” is a puzzle and activity book that has been on my radar for ages, but I finally just got it for Julia last week. AND SHE DID NOT PUT IT DOWN FOR 4 HOURS STRAIGHT AFTER SHE RECEIVED IT. Not even television will enthrall her to that degree! To say she loved this book would be an understatement.

On each page you get to find Strawberry Moshi (I have no idea what a moshi is, by the way.) and her pal, Super Moshi. And you can also look for bonus moshi friends, like Samurai Moshi! Panda Moshi! Baby Moshi! On some pages, you will help your moshis find their way through mazes – the goal is to get to DELICIOUSLAND, while avoiding SCARYLAND. Got that?

There is a ‘Strawberry Mermaid Moshi’ coming out in August, my bookstore source tells me, and I can promise you that one will be in our home the day after it hits the stores!

“Strawberries are Red” and “The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear” are adorable board books that smaller toddlers would just love. But here’s the fun thing – simple, easy text stories have another use past the toddler years, I’ve discovered. They serve as great books for early readers to practice their beginning phonics and word recognition skills!

“Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the Strawberries” is the cutest story about three sisters living in Sweden. There is a whole series of these books! We have several and each one is a delight. The sisters have small, sweet little adventures, which seem Big in the eyes of small child – looking for wild strawberries! Where did the lost kitten go? Will Mom’s birthday cake turn out as they hoped? Beautifully illustrated and classic, you really should get your hands on these books. (And we’re going to look for ‘Snip, Snap, Snurr’ very soon as well.)

Well, I’m exhausted! Do you have any strawberry fabulousity to share?

June 28, 2011

Tiny Tot Tuesday: 4th o’ July Fun

You should know that my kiddo is wearing her Hello Kitty skort and her Hello Kitty flip-flops. Just FYI. I think this is the first year really that she is super excited about “America’s Birthday Party”, as she terms it. The little missy had a ball painting in the backyard this past weekend and was very happy to give her own interpretive spin to the U.S. of A. flag!

Aren’t these watermelon stars DARLING?? They are so effortlessly brilliant in their simplicity – I saw these and thought, Now there is something I could do!! And yet, it never occurred to me to do this with watermelon. Sooooo easy, so cool!

And these lanterns – well need I remind you how easy and fun this craft is to do? And we all know that I am not crafty. Remember our Japanese lanterns? These are constructed exactly the same way! They would look so fabulous strung on a patio or in a tree outside.

I’m not sure I quite understand the whole cake-in-a-jar phenomenon, but you have to admit, they sure are cute! Like little mini trifles, these are assembled in much the same way – crumble a cake layer, add a layer of frosting, crumble more cake, add more frosting and sprinkles and you’ve got CAKE IN A JAR! And apparently they keep well! For the whole tutorial, see here. (And just you wait until next Christmas season – my discovery of lights-in-a-jar was basically a holiday miracle for me.)

Hello Kitty wants to help you celebrate the 4th of July, isn’t that sweet? Did you know that there was a Hello Kitty book about celebrating the U.S.A.? Neither did I! Do I have any idea about what is in this book? No! Never read it, but it’s HELLO KITTY and I love her and apparently she loves the U.S. so we’re all good here.

(All of the Hello Kitty books I’ve read are really simple and fun and I have a feeling that this is probably a very sweet little story that would be fun for toddlers. And myself.)

‘Fourth of July Mice’ is perfect perfect for the toddler set and it’s a cute as a button little book.

I got this one a couple years ago – we loved the little wee mousies!

When Miss J was a baby and toddler, oh how she loved Corduroy books! They are so sweet and so colorful! ‘Corduroy’s 4th of July’ follows along with him during his fun Independence Day celebrations, which involve a picnic, a parade, playing games with his pals and of course, FIREWORKS!! This one is soooooo darling, and Lisa McCue’s art is just the most adorable that you’ll ever see.

I think our July 4th plans involve attending the local Kid’s Bike Parade and then parking ourselves in the backyard for the remainder of the day and playing and sparkler-izing. What’s on the agenda for you?

(Image Credits: Pinterest, Babble.com)

June 27, 2011

Melissa’s Summer Reading List

Hi fab friends! Get this – the SUN came out this weekend! And I heard it might stick around for three whole days! Color me stoked. (Yes, I was a child of the ‘80’s.)

So in the past week, I’ve been noticing some summer reading lists going around in various magazines and online, so I thought I’d toss my hat into the arena and let you all know what grown-up books I hope to be reading this summer!

An oldie but goodie, ‘I Capture the Castle’ is one that I’ve read before, actually. But I recently came across it at my mom’s house where it had been in storage for a number of years, and I thought, I need to read this one again.....

Believe it or not, Dodie Smith is also the author of the original ‘101 Dalmatians’, but this book is for adults. It was actually published in 1948, but had it been released now, this story would probably be considered YA fiction. (If you want to learn more about my love for young adult fiction, see here.)

The books follows sixteen year Cassandra Mortmain as she and her family move into a run down castle in the English countryside, and it focuses primarily on the rivalry between Cassandra and her sister Rose, and the romantic entanglements in which they become ensnared. But it’s MORE than that. Over and over, this book has been described as having one of the more charismatic narrators found in fiction -- Cassandra is a breath of fresh air, and so is this lovely book.

And there’s a movie! Not as grand as the book, but if you are an English period film buff, you should check it out!

‘The Cookbook Collector’ is the book I am reading right now. I’m halfway through, and I’m not sure what I think of it yet. But it has a pretty jacket cover, and I’m shallow, so that kind of sells a book to me right there . . .I’m a cookbook collector so the title spoke to me, but it seems to be mostly about some woman running a start up technology firm, which I’m not terribly interested in.

So with this one, I’m not sure. Did I mention it has a pretty jacket cover?

What I am REALLY wanting to read is this one:

My mom read it and loooooved it, every review I’ve read just looooooved it, and I’ve heard it described as being ‘Twilight’ –esque, only INTELLIGENT. Now I loved me some ‘Twilight’, believe you me, but a strain on the brain it’s not. Or maybe it is! Why is Bella so moany? Why do Edward and Jacob keep fawning over this girl? It’s a mystery. Anyhoo, I REALLY REALLY am looking forward to reading ‘A Discovery of Witches’.

Now speaking of jacket covers, I almost don’t want to read ‘Beauty Queens’, because I think the jacket cover is so lame. HOWEVER, it was written by the magnificent Libba Bray, and the book has been described as being like ‘Lost’ meets ‘The Hunger Games’. So, I’m there!


I’m willing to go with the buzz on this book, because Libba Bray wrote my beloved Gemma Doyle trilogy, which began with ‘A Great and Terrible Beauty’.

I tore through these a couple of years ago and then had to wait a year for the third book. In a nutshell, Victorian teen girls in a posh boarding school – and they have superpowers. Well, one of them does. No, don’t laugh! These books are GREAT and super fun and the perfect summer read! (I don’t love this jacket cover either. The books are far greater than the mundane romance-novel jacket cover style would lead you to believe.)

So those are some of the reads on my radar. Please clue me in – what are you all reading this summer? Or hoping to read?

(Image credits: http://capturethecastle1.blogspot.com/2010/04/i-capture-castle.html)

June 24, 2011

Cute/Fierce Dinos/Dragons

Well now that we’ve spent the week canvasing the book world of Dinosaurs & Dragons, it’s time to look at some cute Dino-Dragon STUFF. Or more specifically, some great bags to put your stuff into! And some great stuff to put into bags! Are you confused yet? I am!

Let’s start with a great bookbag shall we? (And you know we love bookbags around here so much we named the blog after them!):

You can find this darling backpack (monograms available!) here.

Over at the gorgeously photographed blog, Under the Sycamore, I saw some truly precious dino apparel featured. Julia would have lost her mind over this Dino with a Lolly shirt when she was a toddler!!

Repeat: DINO WITH A LOLLY. The inventory at this Etsy shop changes fast I think, I’d get on this quick if it floats your boat. The super cute Dino dress I saw featured on Under the Sycamore was gone by the time I got over to the Etsy site to check it out. (*Looks like the dress is back in stock. Go now!)

And over at Applewoods Knoll’s adorable Etsy shop, I found this ultra charming dragon nursery art – I love that I can see this art in a child’s room no matter what the gender!

Let me tell you, both dinos and dragons are both well represented in the lunch box realm:

This Dragon’s World Lunchbox I could see as a lunch box or just as a really cool carrying case for toys or art supplies.

And I can’t decide which of these dinosaur/dragon lunchboxes I think is more fun.

The dinosaurs?

Or the dragons? Tough call!

I can personally vouch for Crocodile Creek lunchboxes and backpacks. Julia used one of their lunchboxes all through preschool and it basically looks like it did when we first bought it.

Crocodile Creek has so many fun things (many of which come in a Dinosaur theme!) – like this sketch book, water bottles, backpacks, toys and other accessories. I think their inventory is really super cute and really super well made!

Getting back to books for a minute – I didn’t even touch the surface of what’s out there in Dinosaur book land – I have some great non-fiction dino books for kids that I’ll come back to at another time!

Enjoy your weekend and please think healthy thoughts for little Julia – no more pneumonia!

June 23, 2011

More Dragons!

So I have to share that my little dragon was just diagnosed with walking pneumonia. I’m so BUMMED. This is coming a little more than a month on the heels of her lengthy Easter-time virus that had her down for about three weeks. This year has just been non-stop with the illnesses.

But here’s the kicker and it shows how helpful Blogland can be – yesterday I read on one of my favorite sites, Design Mom, about how one of the daughters in that family had just come down with bad pneumonia. My daughter had been mildly sick with this seemingly slight cough/cold, but it just wasn’t going away – and after I read about the pneumonia on Design Mom yesterday morning, something just went CLICK and I told my husband, we’re calling the pediatrician NOW. They got her in, the doc listened to her chest and immediately ordered a chest x-ray, and yep, walking pneumonia. My free advice? Don’t ever be afraid to be “that mother”, who worries and frets over every illness. I am that mother, and I used to feel bad about it, but I feel pretty vindicated now, you can always tell when something is not quite right!

So before today’s dragon fiesta, we have more dino stuff to wade through. Last weekend we went to a local Children’s Museum, and up on the rooftop, there was the coolest area where kids can ‘dig’ for dinosaur bones! My kiddo thought this was FAN-TAS-TIC:

Very intense and blurry paleontology practicing . . .

Fossil. Cool.

Mr. Stegosaurus is wearing a little sign asking that you PLEASE STAY OFF HIS BODY! (But it’s alright to stand IN IT.)

OK! Switching gears! Back to dragons!

If your little dragon needs his or her own play dragon, isn’t this corduroy plushy adorable? I’ve never seen one like this before! You can find it at this Etsy shop.

This guy just cracks me up for some reason – it’s summer Campfire Dragon!

And if your child dragon needs to also dress like a dragon, take a peek at these pajamas from the children’s clothing line, Tea Collection.  We own the pink ones and my daughter has been wearing them non-stop since last Christmas. The selection at the actual Tea site is limited since these were winter PJ’s, but I’ve found them available via some other online retailers. They’re on sale!

1.) Tea Collection Dragon & Cloud Long Sleeve Pajama Set in Rose, $24.49. 2.) Tea Collection Dragon Clouds Short Johns, $29.

I wrote not long ago about how I tore through the ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ books at the speed of light – well, for my daughter, the ‘My Father’s Dragon’ book series was her “Twilight’. We started these books one afternoon and she insisted we read them at every opportunity until the very last one was completed!

These books were written in the 1940’s and the stories have just the right amount of suspense for a preschooler being read to or 6-7 year old reading on their own. They are just plain FUN – I mean, the hero’s name is ELMER ELEVATOR. Plus, the art is amazing and there are really cool maps of the fictional dragon country in which the stories are set. I love cool maps!

These are the most text heavy books I’ve read to my kiddo, and she just couldn’t get enough – we went back and read the first one again as soon as we were done with all three.

I like all of the books I write about, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about them, but to these books I seriously give my HIGHEST recommendation – they are fabulous! They are definitely my cool book score of the year.

Are there any books that have just rocked your universe lately?? Or any illnesses you diagnosed from reading a blog?? Tell me, tell me!