July 31, 2011

A Hello Kitty Birthday Party

When I saw recent photos from my cousin’s Hello Kitty themed party for her daughter’s fourth birthday, I seriously got a little dizzy. And SUPER HAPPY! And then I felt Very Sorry for Myself, I mean Julia, that we live so far away we were unable to attend an event that reached such levels of Pure Fantastic...

Before we get into further party details, I must share a fun story with you. Claire is one of my favorite cousins, but she lives in Louisiana and we rarely get chances to visit. Although she’s a few years younger than I am, I’ve always looked up to her – she’s so lovely, inside and out. She’s the type who, if you admire something she has, she’ll give it to you. Grace, sweetness, kindness, strength – these are all words I associate with Claire.

Family tradition is important to me and when Julia was born, I wanted her to have a name that found its roots from within family. On my side of the family tree, we have a Claire (my cousin), a Mary Claire (another cousin), a Clara (my grandmother), a Julia Claire (my daughter) and one more addition to the Pile O’ Claires – we have little Lucy Claire (my cousin Claire’s daughter, the birthday girl!). Got that?

Here’s both Mama Claire and her daughter Lucy Claire:

I had to know EVERYTHING about this Hello Kitty extravaganza, so I immediately got to quizzing my cousin:

So Miss Claire, who do I get to congratulate for having the FANTASTIC notion of having a Hello Kitty party? You or Lucy Claire? (We love Hello Kitty just a wee, teensy bit.)
“This is the second year in a row I have left the theme up to the birthday girl. Last year the three year old party was a Dora themed fiesta. This year, Hello Kitty was a particularly fun theme to work with. I was excited when Lucy Claire suggested it!”

What was Lucy Claire's favorite part of the party? And what about you, did you have a favorite moment?
“Lucy Claire was intent on having a Hello Kitty piñata. She was old enough to help me put the candy inside... She loved that part of the party.

My favorite moment was seeing her reaction to all the decorations after Kristen (Kristen Cascio's Extraordinary Events) set it all up. She was at her grandparents’ house during the party prep. Her joyful face made all the work more than worth it!”
At this point, I have to mention another cousin – Claire’s husband Ty has the most talented event-planning cousin! Her name is Kristen Cascio and after seeing what she threw together here at short notice, can you imagine the heights of genius she could create with more time?

Kristen explained how her passion for party planning became a business.
“I thought about a career in event planning after having so much fun planning my own wedding; however, I put the idea on hold. It wasn't until months and months of planning my daughter's first birthday, that I realized how much I enjoyed planning extraordinary events down to every last detail.”
Kristen also shared how her friends and family recognized the creativity that went into her daughter's party and at their urging, she finally opened Kristen Cascio Extraordinary Events.

Just look at the pictures below! You can see why Kristen’s work is considered notable for her exquisite attention to detail.

(Those peonies in the vases? J’adore.)

Claire, I understand this party came together very quickly. That's a lot of awesome on such short notice! Any advice for planning last minute parties?
“It did come together very quickly. That is largely due to Kristen's guidance and assistance. We are fortunate to have some great party stores in Baton Rouge and they had plenty of Hello Kitty supplies which is where we started. That helped to determine the party colors, etc.”

I can’t tell you how sad we are to have missed this amazing affair -- Let's have another Hello Kitty party when we come out to Louisiana to visit!!
“Lucy Claire would be more than thrilled to do it again! We have plenty of leftover Hello Kitty tattoos and sunglasses to share with Julia.”

Here’s the cool part – Kristen is happy to assist in planning and to give advice for your next soiree, party or gathering no matter where you live, via email and phone! If you’re looking for party nirvana, you can find more information at www.kristencascio.com and also at

And big thanks to Claire for sharing such a lovely party with us!

 (if you're visiting for the first time, Hello!! to keep up with more of Julia's Bookbag, feel free to follow along with our Facebook page and on Pinterest.)

July 29, 2011

Dollhouse Bookshelves

Happy Friday! As we wrap up our tour of Dollhouse Land, I’d like to leave you with some images of two of my favorite things combined – Dollhouses + Bookshelves!

I mentioned the other day that the new Land of Nod catalog is out and I found it brimming with inspiration. I especially loved this freestanding dollhouse bookcase:

And I was pleasantly surprised by Land of Nod’s cute, toddler friendly dollhouse furniture, which is on sale right now!

While I’m sighing at the pricing of this Dollhouse Light Up Shelf from Pottery Barn Kids, there’s no denying how darn cute it is. It lights up! (Maybe a sale will happen soon.)

And of course, my favorite store in the world, a.k.a. Target, has their own spin on the dollhouse bookcase theme. Apparently there is more storage in the lift-up attic:

1) Dollhouse Bookcase, $109.99. 2) Firehouse Bookcase, $119.99.

And for a DIY option, I saw this dollhouse shelf over at the lovely, lovely site, Melissa Loves (um, cool name right?):

I emailed Melissa to ask about it and while she was still trying to track down the source of this picture, she said she believes it is simply a dollhouse mounted upon a shelf!

Have a lovely weekend and hope to see you all next week!

July 28, 2011

Racketty-Packetty House

Are you wondering why Frances Hodgson Burnett’s name sounds familiar? She wrote ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘A Little Princess’ (Quite possibly one of my favorite children’s books of all time.) and ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’. She’s AMAZING.

(Note: If you ever get new copies of the ‘The Secret Garden’ or ‘A Little Princess’ – you must find the versions that are illustrated by Tasha Tudor. They are enchanting and well . . . you just have to get those versions because otherwise I’ll be sad.)

I think ‘Racketty-Packetty House’ is less known than Burnett’s other more famous works, which is such a shame. The story is geared for children 7+ and is shorter in length than her novels. This version, illustrated by Holly Johnson, is the one I was given as a seventh birthday present from my grandparents. It’s out of print but available used. There are new versions available by another illustrator but I haven’t seen the art, so I have no idea if the new art is as gorgeous as it is in the copy that I have.

(The dolls. Their names are: Charlotte, Victoria Leopoldina, Aurelia Matilda, Leontine, Clotilda, Augustus, Rowland, Vincent and Charles Edward Stuart. Those are the shabby ones! The really fancy pants dollies have names like Lady Muriel Vere de Vere.)

The story is about a posh dollhouse with fancy dolls who are disagreeable and a shabby dollhouse with sweet-natured dolls that once were fine but have fallen into serious dilapidation. Naturally, one of the fancy dolls falls in love with one of the shabby dolls. It’s West Side Story in a dollhouse setting!

At the end, the dolls from both houses learn to get along and Charles Edward Stuart marries Lady Patsy and the Queen of the Fairies herself appears at their wedding. And the shabby dolls are then adopted by a real princess of England since the girl who owned them wasn’t kind and was about to put the dolls into the trash.

Let me tell you, when one is seven years old, this stuff has you at the edge of your seat.

A magical and delightfully fun story by a Children’s Literature giant – you really should seek it out for the doll loving child in your life; it’s a such special book! Books like this just aren’t made anymore.

July 27, 2011

The Calico Critter Hotel

This is my dollhouse that I mentioned the other day! It’s a bit of a beast. I think my parents ordered it as a kit and then a carpenter friend of theirs put the thing together. I’ve had it since I was seven, and I’m considerably. . . older than seven now, so let’s just say that I’ve had the dollhouse for a Very Long Time! I gave it to Julia Christmas before last, right before she turned four. I worried I was giving it to her too early, but I felt like, Hey I might get hit by a bus (Yes, this is the way I think.) and by gum, I’m giving it to my daughter.

To be honest, she doesn’t play with it all that much unless I sit down and play dollhouse with her. I don’t mind that she’s not super crazed about it. It’s so monstrously large that we kind of view it like it’s a piece of furniture.

It’s been painted, wallpapered, re-painted and re-wallpapered and what was once a pretty spiffy specimen of elegance has become somewhat. . . vintage, shall we say. (Or charming? I used to laugh when I saw that word used when we were looking to buy a house. The word “charming” and “vintage” usually meant rundown and not-in-good-shape.) The wood on the roof is warping somewhat, the floors are sagging and the teeny tiny little cut-out Holly Hobbie pictures I put on the walls when I was 9 are faded. But I still get a thrill out of arranging everything and seeing my old bits and pieces of décor and furniture.

Passing on this dollhouse, as well as passing on a few of my books that I read when I was Julia’s age, have produced some of the most incredible feelings I’ve had as a parent. I almost cried the first time I read her my favorite book from my preschool years. I didn’t know those experiences would be so emotional!

The dolls you see in it are mine from when I was little. The Calico Critters are Julia’s; she’s way more into animals than I ever was. When we play dollhouse, the play usually consists of the children being naughty and the grandma doll threatening them with no cake. Hear that little critters? No rubber Japanese eraser cake for you!

Speaking of naughty, my favorite dollhouse related story of all time is Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tale of Two Bad Mice’.

I can’t imagine that most of you are unfamiliar with this classic tale, but if by chance this one has passed you by, the story basically is about two mice who throw a hissy fit when they discover that the food and other items within a dollhouse turns out to be. . . made of plaster. (Julia was fascinated with this wording. ‘What’s plaster?’ I told her it was kind of like plastic. That seemed to satisfy her!)

Then the two mice (Tom Thumb and Hunca-Munca) get all rock-star attitudey and trash the place. It’s hilarious. I love this story so much! Eventually remorse does kick in (after stealing a bunch of stuff) and the mice do kind things for the dollies to make up for their acts of Supreme Naughtiness.

If you think, Oh Beatrix Potter. Too prim, too twee, not fun – You’re wrong! Her books are a riot; this lady had a great sense of wicked humor.

SOMEDAY, I hope that this audiocassette is reissued as a CD – actress Claire Bloom’s narration of Beatrix Potter stories is the best version you’ll ever hear.

Got any dollhouse stories you care to share? Any tales of bad mice?

July 26, 2011

Tiny Tot Tuesday: Miniature Worlds

A life in miniature is endless enthralling to me. Why is it that the smaller things become, the more the cuteness becomes magnified?

I’ve mentioned before that I love/adore/worship/cherish all things Charlie & Lola. I’m not sure you can imagine the level of jaw dropping that occurred when I saw this handmade dollhouse ode to Charlie & Lola.

I first read about this magic creation on Ohdeedoh – for more photos and the full fabulous how-to-do-it of it all, you can hop over to Amy Hanson’s site, Sweet Sweet Life. This is without a doubt one of the coolest dollhouse creations I’ve ever seen!

Our book today is equally special. ‘Sarah’s Room’, written by Doris Orgel and illustrated by the magician of children’s art, Maurice Sendak, is that rare story that will entertain toddlers and older kids alike. I love books that straddle multiple age groups seamlessly and so well! A dollhouse figures prominently in the book as a source of all things delightful and enticing to a Very Small Child.

‘On Sarah’s wall, green trees grow tall, and morning glories bloom. Of all the rooms in all the world, the best is Sarah’s room.’

The book itself is miniature sized, rather akin to Sendak’s Nutshell Library collection. Although the title mentions Sarah, it’s really Jenny, Sarah’s little sister, who explores the magical world that is her big sister’s room. To Jenny, Sarah’s room is as fairytale a place as the dollhouse that resides within it!

At the end, Jenny is allowed to play in her sister’s room in reality and not just in her dreams. This little book is so captivating and lovely! Julia wanted this read to her over and over and she is now practicing her reading with it.

I’d love to hear about your own dollhouse favorites! Or thoughts on dollhouses in general. . .

July 25, 2011

Delightful Dollhouses

Happy Monday to all! You know, I’ve always been fascinated by dollhouses, and more importantly, the Items of Extreme Smallness that dwell within them. I was given an immense dollhouse when I was seven, and I saved it all of my life to give to my child. (Boy or girl, it didn’t matter, someone was going to get my dollhouse someday!) I’ll show you pictures of it in a post coming shortly.

Today though, I want to show you some dollhouse ideas that are a bit off the beaten path – I figure anyone can go find a dollhouse they fancy and there are so many wonderful choices out there! But these ideas below are special and different. Some are DIY and some are available ready to purchase but all are memorable.

The Land of Nod has a BLOG; it’s called Honest to Nod. And guess what, it’s fabulous! There is a wonderful make-your-own dollhouse tutorial that I highly suggest you check out. Look below, aren’t these darling? And what I really extra love is that this activity seems within my crafting capabilities, which are really limited.

Here’s the icing on the craft for me, and I’m wondering why such a simple idea never crossed my mind – how cool is it to glue on yarn as embellishment around the window frames and as a décor feature? Don’t you love the yarn “grass” and “flowers”?

Here’s a picture from the new Land of Nod catalog. See the dollhouses on top of the hutch and the little one on the floor? I am so enchanted by them!

And take a peek at these dollhouses from the all-things-wonderfully-Scandinavian shop Huset – I think these miniature brownstones are so unique and special! They also lend themselves to DIY flair, as the little houses can be drawn on with crayons and markers or wallpapered. I love the idea of dollhouses doubling as a tiny little city.

(Wallpapering dollhouse walls is fun!! Except not really at midnight on Christmas Eve, when I decided that my dollhouse needed new wallpaper before it was presented to Julia on Christmas morning.)

I’m completely smitten with this lovely from Upon a Fold – it’s a pop-up dollhouse! Apparently all you do is punch out the pieces from tabs and insert them together – no tape, scissors or glue required! There’s something about the simple purity of this one that I just adore.

Do you all know about the King of Crafts, Joel Henriques? His blog, Made by Joel is just stunning. And INSPIRING! How simple, lovely and brilliant is his idea to make a platform dollhouse? This just knocks me out with its uncluttered beauty. SO great for the imagination to take stage, as opposed to the stuff.

I saw this cool take on a dollhouse idea last year on one of my favorite sites, Dinner A Love Story – it’s a hidden dollhouse! It hides on the back of a cabinet door! Again, such a brilliant idea and so easy to do. Jenny, the Mom o’ Awesome who keeps providing the most tasty recipes day after day (And she also has great kid book ideas!) came up with this fab plan to keep her daughters occupied while she was cooking. See below:

Jenny had her kids cut out pictures from her favorite decorating magazines and then tape them onto the back of the cabinet door, using painters tape to outline the individual “rooms”. Her daughters then used their paper dolls to hop about in and around the little world they had created!

I’ve got a few really special dollhouse books to discuss this week so come by and visit us for the rest of our tour of All Things Small. . .

(Image credits: blog.landofnod.com, Huset.com, Upon a Fold.com.au, Made by Joel.com, Dinner a Love Story.com)

July 21, 2011

Beaches of a Different Kind

As I keep harping to anyone who will listen, I’m a born and raised Hawaii girl. Who no longer lives in Hawaii. I do get views of beaches fairly often, but they are beaches of a different sort . . . grey beaches with skies and waves to match. Coats, not bathing suits, are often the more suitable beach attire. I wasn’t sad the first time I saw a mainland beach, I was actually pretty impressed by the churning waves, the wind, the driftwood, the moody atmosphere.

These are beaches that will make you feel fierce and defiant and exhilarated by the windy, windy wind. Yes, wind can be windy!

And then that same wind gets sand in your eyes and makes your ears hurt from the cold and the rushing air . . . and it makes you think, what kind of beach IS this? I don’t really want the inside of my ears exfoliated! This is Angry Beach! Not comforting play-in-the sand beach and bask-in-the warmness beach.

(Of course, beaches in Hawaii are not without their perils as well. I’ve been tumbled like I was in the spin cycle of a washing machine more times than I can count. It pretty much put me off swimming at Hawaiian beaches.)

I was able to travel to Cornwall once and I thought the beaches there were stunningly gorgeous. The water was bluer than blue. Picture perfect. I thought it would be so great to swim in that water in Cornwall until I touched it. ICE.

After a foreign exchange student trip to France when I was in high school, I realized I had found my perfect beach. The shores of the Mediterranean! Flat, flat warm sea with NO waves, with water that only comes up to your shin for about a half mile out to sea. I looooooooved it!

Thus ends my world tour of beaches. While I’m impressed with these crazy clouds, these dark skies are making me feel less than chipper. Vitamin D anyone? I have a prescription! As does everyone else I know! (Public service announcement: Do you know your Vit D levels?)

I’ve got a couple more beachy book reads for your kiddos today:

The title of ‘Stella, Star of the Sea’ is somewhat misleading because the story focuses equally on her little brother Sam. Stella tries mightily to get Sam to join her in the water.

“Is the water cold?” asked Sam. “Is it deep? Are there any sea monsters?”

Sam has a great many questions. Stella thinks she has all the answers.

“Where do starfish come from?” asked Sam. “From the sky,” answered Stella. “Starfish are shooting stars that fell in love with the sea.”

I think this book is absolutely delightful and we’re going to be on the watch for other books in the series!

I don’t know about your kiddos, but Julia loves her some non-fiction, she’s waaaay into books that give her some facts. ‘Seashore’ is a great place to get started for the small Cousteau in your life.

Easy to digest information with beautiful photography and illustrations – this is a GREAT primer on all things seashore related.

Do you have any favorite beaches? Do share!