January 31, 2012


I have to state at the outset of this post that there will be a great deal of internet shouting today. I’ve been waiting for about 6 months to write about Moomins. I had to patiently wait for a few more Moomin books to be released, which they were this past holiday season. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting.

WELL THE WAIT IS OVER FRIENDS! The ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’ series of books by Tove Jansson were HANDS DOWN some of my ALL TIME favorite books as a little girl. I read them and re-read them countless times between the ages of 8 and 10.

These guys:

These tales of delightful and friendly little creatures called Moomintrolls, who live in the wild forests of Finland, are so funny and sweet and charming and hilarious and fantastic. But you know, a little lengthy for your average 4 year old. I knew I had to bide my time until Julia was old enough to be introduced to this magical world.

OR SO I THOUGHT. I found out a few years ago that a new series of Moomin books, based on the original stories, had been created for the preschool set.

I LOST MY MIND. I WAS SO HAPPY. ‘The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My’ is one of Julia’s favorite books ever. THE ART. THE ART!!!! The pages have cut-outs in them so you can peek in at the action on the next page. And the rhyming tale of the story is too wonderful, all about Moomin bringing milk home to his mama, while also helping his pal Mymble find her rascally lost (?) little sister, Little My. (who isn’t really lost, she’s hiding, the scamp.)

You get to draw a picture of a fillyjonk. In the book. Don’t you know about fillyjonks? Here’s Julia’s rendition:

I’ve been waiting for nearly a year to get my hands on ‘Moomin and the Birthday Button’ and ‘Moomin and the Winter Snow’ – they are both adorable. I just got them last week!

If you are freaking out about the level of awesome I have just shown you here and you’re like, “Melissa! What do I choose! Which one?” I will make that easy for you. Level of awesome in descending order: ‘The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My’. Then ‘The Winter Snow’ book. Then the ‘Moomin’s Moonlight Adventure’ book. Then ‘The Birthday Button’.

Friends, if you are bored with the same-old-thing in bookland, you MUST read these. All things Moomin are huge in Europe, less so here in the States. Not sure why. Moomin books are up there in my All Time Great pantheon of kid books, closely following the Oz books.

Are you still reading this? Go get your hands on a Moomin book! And if your kids are old enough, get the original series! Go go go!

January 30, 2012

Miss Flora McFlimsey’s Valentine

‘Miss Flora McFlimsey’s Valentine’ by Mariana (just one name!) is a pink pretty pile of Valentine perfection. I own the Flora McFlimsey Easter book; I never knew there were more until just recently, when my sweet Julia brought this one home from the school library! I’ve told you before, the kid finds the BEST books, all on her own!

The rundown is that a sweet dolly named Flora McFlimsey has a not so sweet cat, Pookoo. Pookoo is a bit of a punk. (I am obsessed with his name so I am going to use it as many times as I can.) At first, Pookoo is not on board with Flora’s plans to make a Valentine’s post office for their woodland friends. But Pookoo soon learns the error of his ways. Pookoo learns a valuable Valentine’s lesson. Pookoo decides giving is better than receiving. Pookoo becomes less of a punk.

And that there is a lesson for us all this Valentine’s Day:


(Image Credit: book jacket cover via openlibrary.org.)

January 27, 2012

Cool Stuff I Like

Well our snow is pretty much melted away but here’s a reminder shot. Winter can be so beautiful, yes? I just like to admire it from AFAR. I don’t know if the after-holidays, after-birthday blahs have finally set in or what, but all I have wanted to do this week is bury myself under every blanky I can find. I need a big gust of I-can-make-it-through-winter to sail me on through February. By then the days usually begin to get a little less dark and I can see the teensiest possibility that Spring will start to peek its head over the horizon. . .

There’s a decidedly warming bent to the COOL STUFF list this week:

7 Hot Toddies! I want to try them ALL.

A Hot Toddy for your body. (I should start a rhyming biz. ‘Cuz I’m such a rhyme wiz. hahahaha.)

The perfect hot drink for Valentine’s Day. (and kid friendly!)

The perfect treat for a cold winter day.

Little Oven has wonderful macarons; their Café Sampler looks so great for Valentine’s Day.

A Little Box of Valentine Cookies.

I heard this rumor and I am shaking with excitement. You have NO IDEA my love for this mag.

Found a new blog via Facebook. Momestery. Amazing. This post. And this one.

Suffering from Pinterest inadequacy? (Not me. I revel in my laziness. I’m there for the pretty pix.)

We got a new Facebook badge! Come love us! I’ll settle for ‘like’ actually -- I get excited about the little things. . .

Cool Book of the Week: ‘The Adventures of Strawberry Shortcake and Her Friends’ by Alexandra Wallner and Mercedes Llimona, in honor of my Strawberry Shortcake rant the other day.

Strawberry Shortcake book
This one is my own book from my childhood and THIS is how Strawberry Shortcake should appear – sweet, adorable and oh so darling. Not looking like she’s about to step into a nightclub. It has a fair amount of text, so I’d say for grades K through 4. More cuteness than you can handle about Strawberry and her pals trying to protect their berries from some nasty Berry Birds.

Have a lovely last January weekend! Julia’s off to a birthday party, what oh what will I do with the two hours of free time? Probably hide under my blanky!


January 26, 2012

V is for Valentine

Yes! The sugar pink heart day is coming! Isn’t this Valentine Treat Box just the cutest? I historically haven’t paid too much attention to Valentine’s Day; I never placed a great deal of Romantic Importance on it – everything is so crazily overpriced, the flowers, the restaurants – seems a bit silly to me. But I do think of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to pretty things up, eat chocolate (I had a chocolate party once, it was super fun and I really should do it again.) and PINKIFY one’s life for a little bit? With THAT idea I can get on board!

As usual, one of my favorite online shops, Magic Cabin, has more Valentine goodness than I know what to do with…

Heart Garland, $21.98.

‘The Very Special Valentine’, $15.95.

Memo Hearts Game, $14.98.

Meri Meri Set of 21 Fairy Valentine Cards, $17.98.

Another favorite source, Eeboo, has some really delightful cards:

Eeboo Valentines Card Sets, $5.95. (Genius babies had better pricing than Magic Cabin, which also sells these. But if you want the Candy Collection, they are only available at Magic Cabin.)

And look at this darling Valentine gift bag I found from PicoCrafts on Etsy:


I adore these Cavallini Vintage Valentine Postcards, aren’t they the sweetest?


As much as I admire all of these lovelies, we’ll probably be making our usual pilgrimage to Target to pick out whatever is floating Julia’s boat this year (Last year I think she chose monster-themed Valentines.) And soon we’ll be decorating the stick tree in a Valentine theme, can’t wait to get that ready. I’ve already been cutting out construction paper hearts. It’s very meditative for me!

January 25, 2012

Making Stew with My Pal Jamie Oliver

Ok, I don’t really know Jamie Oliver. But I wish I did because he seems so fun and cooks awesome things and names most of his children after flowers. I have many of his books, including this one.

Last week’s snowy weather had me thinking I needed to to make something hearty and rib sticking and believe it or not I had never made stew before! So I consulted with my Very Close Personal Friend Jamie. (I am the Queen of Lies. Ignore everything I say. Except when I tell you how Very Good this stew turned out.)

Actually I was also consulting this book, but I decided to fully commit to Jamie. (Hi Jamie! Want to be my BFF? I’m perfectly normal.) I was worried at the outset that the result would be too winey, more like beef bourguignon, but after 3+ hours in the oven, it all melded into a just-right beef stew.

DO add the lemon zest called for at the end. It adds a delightful brightness of flavor. You know when I start calling things delightful, it’s awesome. The other herbs I added before the stew went into the oven. (Sorry Jamie. I didn’t fully commit to you 100%. I march to my own drummer. One time I decided that I knew better than Jacques Pepin and changed the recipe I was using. Guess what? Turns out I DIDN’T know better than Jacques. Go figure.)


  • olive oil
  • a knob of butter (I interpret this as a tablespoon.)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves (I didn’t have this.)
  • 1 3/4 lb stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • flour to dust (I used about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced. (I didn’t have this.)
  • optional: a handful of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and halved. (Didn’t have it.)
  • 1 lb small potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree (paste is fine too)
  • 1/2 a bottle of red wine (this is about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups beef or vegetable stock
  • zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • a handful of rosemary, leaves picked (I also used a handful of thyme, and a bay leaf. I put it in as it went into oven. The lemon zest I added at the end, the way I was supposed to.)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3-4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato puree, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground pepper and just a little salt. Bring to a boil, place the lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 (mine took 3.5) – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 225 degrees and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat. 
The best way to serve this is by ladling big spoonfuls into bowls, accompanied by a glass of French red wine and some really fresh, warmed bread. Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference – as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance. 
Serves 4.
--from ‘Jamie’s Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook’.

Perfect winter recipe! Andrew wants to be BFF’s with Jacques Pepin, we watch his show all the time. I want to be friends with all my Brit cookbook authors like Jamie and Nigella. I know they would also want to my friend, if only they knew me!

January 24, 2012

Don’t Mess With Strawberry Shortcake


Charming and sweet.


Fun ice cream for cute Strawberry Shortcake and her friends!

Look at Raspberry Tart's little pink curls! Look at her sweet pink gingham dress!

Strawberry shortcake1
What happened to Blueberry Muffin? Are her pants sprayed on? Are they pants? Apparently Blueberry Muffin is going to the prom. With no pants.

Strawberry Shortcake2
Strawberry Shortcake got beautifuller. Or something. What was wrong with her before? Why does she need to become all red carpet-esque? I’m afraid of this Strawberry Shortcake, she looks evil.


Did we all enjoy that little progression through cute and scary doll land? I know I am now pretty horrified. I realized after my Winter at Our House post, (wherein I showed some pix of the vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls I gave to Julia this past Christmas) we needed to have a much longer discussion about WHAT THE HECKFIRE HAS HAPPENED TO STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE OVER THE YEARS AND WHY HAVE DOLLS IN GENERAL BECOME. . . something I would never, could never, give to my child. Like, I feel like I have to walk incredibly fast when we go through a toy aisle that has these creatures.

I had to get Julia the original Strawberry Shortcake dolls because I had them when I was little and they were my favorite dollies. The ones available now are not nearly as cute and they are all plasticky and they look somewhat hoochie-esque. WHY? WHY must STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE BE HOOCHIFIED? WHY TOYMAKERS WHY? And what's up with the general hoochiefication of childhood anyway? No daughter of mine is going to wear/watch/play with something that looks like it came off a 28 year old woman with a strong aversion to clothing. Sorry. I really don't understand where all this hoochie is coming from because no one I know would be into it for their children. So why do "they" keep pushing it onto consumers? I'm baffled by it all. Could someone please explain 'Bratz' dolls to me?

(Andrew very helpfully suggested that I use the word “slattern” instead of “hoochie”. Maybe “trollop”?)

I won't go there toymakers. I won't buy your hoochie version of Strawberry Shortcake for my daughter. You plan, whatever it was, has backfired. So to Ebay I go to find the darling Strawberry Shortcake of my childhood.

Despite my love for all things old fashioned, I consider myself to be fairly forward thinking, but these dolls are not forward. They are not hip. Nor are they rad. I can’t even classify these as toys. I find it an interesting phenomenon that I often have to go to Ebay to seek out vintage toys to find something that is appropriate for my 5 year old to play with. I find it both interesting and disheartening that I have maybe five costume choices to pick from at Halloween (unless I make it myself, which sadly is not really within my craft capability) if I want to avoid my little girl looking like she’s 5-going-on-30.

I won’t pretend to have any answers. I just want to know WHAT IS GOING ON (I think Oprah did a show about this topic once, the aging-forward of childhood.) and WHY IS IT HAPPENING? I know little girls have always wanted to try on their mommy’s makeup and pretend to be grown up ladies, but things seem to have gotten out of hand. A five year old should not be marketed to like they are a teen. Or even a ‘tween’.

Good grief. I’m going to go play with the 30 year old Strawberry Shortcake doll I gave to Julia now.

(Image credits of modern dolls: Hasbro.com, Bratz.com)

January 23, 2012

Winter at Our House

You’ll notice there are no shots of ME outside! I prefer to be cozy INDOORS. With my Victoria magazine. (I did venture out to take these photos. And then I ran back in after 15 minutes, that’s about all it took for me to lose feeling in my fingertips.)

Julia made snowmen, snow angels, and snow chairs. And she super loves sledding! Andrew made a snow sphinx and stood in front of the garbage cans to prevent kids from taking them out with their heads. Speaking of Andrew, he has held onto his ‘Decembeard’ – now he is celebrating ‘Januhairy’.

The vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls were my gift to Julia for Christmas; I found them on Ebay. I’m trying to pin down Blueberry Muffin; she’s a bit tougher to find with her hat and shoes, and strangely more expensive. The ones I've shown here are Apple Dumplin' and Raspberry Tart -- they get shown because they still have their fruity smell. Sadly, the Strawberry Shortcake doll we got has lost her smell! It's such a disappointment, but I guess 30 years in a box will do that to a dolly.

So, after the snow, we dealt with freezing rain and lots of ice. This week is a return to more typical Pacific Northwest grey blah; the thaw began over the weekend. Everyone emerged from their homes after staying inside for about a week. Really not sure what Washingtonians would do with an entire winter of snow and ice. The entire area SHUTS DOWN. So many hills. So many inept drivers. (I’m one of them so I can make that joke.)

 ‘The Missing Mitten Mystery’ by Steven Kellogg is one I ordered from the library – we LOVE it! “Do you think my mitten got tired of being a mitten?” Cute for ages 3-6.

(Oh and Happy Chinese New Year! It's today!)