May 31, 2012

Nigella’s Chocolate Cookies

_DSC0194_DSC0189_DSC0191_DSC0195_DSC0204I've been accused recently of being a secret food blogger. Guilty! I'm greatly enamored by all-things-foodie and at one point I considered going to culinary school. (But I thought that sounded really sweaty.) I have just a slight little cookbook problem. Thankarooni there are so many food blogs and recipes online now, as this has totally helped cut down on my cookbook consumption!

By now you probably know about my love for Nigella Lawson……anything. I love her. I love her shows. I love her books. (I own all of them!) I love her chatty, fun writing style. I love that she has an irreverent attitude towards cooking, while possessing a deep respect for food itself.

Also, I really like her hair. She has divine hair.

I felt chocolatey a couple weekends ago. You’re familiar with this, yes? Feeling chocolatey is totally a real, legit emotion. So I made Nigella’s cookies that have 3 different kinds of chocolate in them. I was short on choc chips, so I threw in some white chocolate chips that I had leftover from Christmas. But if you make these, you should really go for ALL CHOCOLATE.

And because in the book (‘Nigella Express’), she shows a picture of the cookie with a glass of chocolate milk, I thought I would include a picture of chocolate milk as well. WHY NOT.

Nigella's Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies


4 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted (I don't do this)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) soft butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, cold from the fridge
2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels or dark chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt the 4 oz of chocolate.

Measure the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

Cream the butter and two sugars in another bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix together.

Beat in vanilla and cold egg, and then mix in the dry ingredients. Finally stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop out 1/4 cup-sized mounds of dough (Nigella uses an ice cream scoop) -- and place on a lined baking sheet (mine was not lined) about 2 inches apart. Do not flatten them.

Bake for 18 minutes, testing with a cake tester to make sure they come out semi-clean and not wet with cookie batter. If you pierce a chocolate chip, try again. (I didn't do this, I just eyeballed them.)

Leave to cool on the baking sheet 4-5 minutes (I took mine right off, I forgot this instruction), then transfer them to a cooling rack to harden as they cool.

Makes 12.

So now when you are feeling chocolatey as well, you can make these cookies and we can feel chocolatey together!

May 30, 2012

Raggedy Ann

raggedy ann mix
It seems only fitting to drink the Raggedy Ann Pink Hot Chocolate Julia received as a birthday gift from a friend, while reading Raggedy Ann stories. . .

I love love lovedy LOVED Raggedy Ann stories when I was young! I have nearly the entire set of books by Johnny Gruelle from my childhood.

Such a lovely place to be, the world inside these books! Did you know that Raggedy Ann has a pink candy heart sewn into her cotton body? And that her little girl owner’s name is Marcella? LOVE that name! So old-fashionedy.

(Just ordered this book. I had to have it. LOOK AT THIS COVER!)

These stories are so sweet. Raggedy Ann and her friends escape the nursery to hightail it to the pantry TO STEAL JAM. Oh the naughtiness! She gets accidentally flown into the sky by a kite. She comes down into a tree. Raggedy Ann and her friends meet some kittens.

Are you feeling my vibe here? THE SWEETNESS. Hard to find in a lot of books. Julia is just now starting to be able to sit still long enough to handle the text involved. I wouldn’t really start on these before ages 5 or 6.

I’ll talk about her other books another day. (One book talks about a hot dog tree and a lemonade pool. SO AWESOME!!!!!)

(Image Credits for Marcella book: Aleph-Bet,)

May 28, 2012

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

“Oh, oh, oh!
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!”  -- from ‘Mary Poppins’ (Julia’s favorite film)

We were super lucky to have won this glorious kite and this book that was given away on Pen Pal & Picture Books! Over the weekend we had perfect weather and a golden opportunity to try it out. What a simple joy, just to see something colorful and fluttery fly around in the sky.

Did you all have a marvelous weekend? And are you feeling READY FOR SUMMER?

(Danzel and Colleen! You guys won our Playful Moon giveaway! Email me! -- and for those who are interested in ordering the book, it is available here on Amazon.)

May 25, 2012

Cool Stuff I Like

My neighbor has the most divine lilac tree growing and oh so generously allowed me to cut a giant bouquet. I adore lilac with all of my being. My entire kitchen now smells like lilac. Happy happy happy happy! Lilacs grow really well in this area. Not in my own backyard however, which I have renamed the Bermuda Triangle of Plants. I have a lilac. It's not doing a darn thing. Not so happy. I think it needs a sunnier location, my neighbors have theirs in a different spot. Hopefully they won't mind further poaching from me??

So what else happened recently.....saw 'The Avengers', it was rad and fab. That Robert Downey Jr. is a funny fellow. Discovered I am 284th in line to put a hold on 'Divergent' at the library. That's...disappointing. I might need to try a used bookstore! Guess what else, it rained so tremendously the other day that when I drove under this little bridge, a waterfall of water washed over the car so hard I gasped. Little shrieks of terror while driving are always exciting. I also have a teensy sore throat. Oh my goodness, I'm ending the week on a bad note! So sorry!

COOL STUFF that was not disappointing or terrifying:

Remember my Kokeshi Doll post? I flipped over Annelore Parot's Kokeshi website! (make sure to click the 'translate' button.)

Fabulous DIY Constellation Jar. This is very cool.

A new online store, Polkaros. Darling!

Baby in a Box. (friends with babies -- you should totally do this!)

Blueberry and lemon traybake. (Traybake! What's a traybake? A cake you bake in a tray! Love it!)

You must see this party I wrote about on Pink Sparkle Fun.

Cool Book of the Week: I've been after 'They Draw & Cook: 107 Recipes Illustrated by Artists from Around the World'  for a solid year now -- I think I need to just get it already. I saw the book featured somewhere online and thought it looked so darn cool. The book started out as an online collection of artists drawing their favorite recipes and the website drew such a response that it became a book. It's not aimed specifically at kids (there's a Top Model Salad with pictures of some Barbie-esque ladies), but there are tons of pictures and recipes that kids would enjoy, like the Marmalade Flapjacks shown down below.
Marmalade Flapjacks

Have a LOVELY weekend -- For the first time in many weeks, we have zero plans. It's a nice feeling!

May 24, 2012

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby

adore Carey Mulligan, can't wait to see!Hey friends, the first trailers for Baz Lurhmann’s new adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gastby’ popped up online – I caught it the other day and I am SO excited to see this movie! (But we have to wait until Christmas 2012.) Leo and Carey look divine, and I think Lurhmann’s traditional ‘glazzle’ (I just made that up, glitz and dazzle.) looks glorious. It’ll be fun to see how it compares to the original movie, which I really love.

Take a peek:

‘The Great Gatsby 2012’

You guys might also enjoy seeing a new Pinterest board I created called ‘Books on Film’. I’m pinning favorites of mine, movies I still hope to see, and films based on classic Children’s Lit. Tell me if you have a favorite I should have on there!

(Image credits:,,

May 23, 2012

Dressing Up Like a Dragon

P1010926Julia and I sorted a bunch of dress up stuff the other day and we re-discovered her dragon costume (she will tell you loudly that it’s NOT a dinosaur!). She put it on and wore it for the next eight hours straight. She wore it around the house. She wore it in the car. She wore it at Grandma’s house. You should have seen the tangled mess of hair when we finally pried the thing off of her head.

She was so happy that day. She loved being a dragon! I don’t know why it makes me so happy that she is so into dragons. I guess I’m happy that she feels free to be something besides a princess. She’s always loved dinosaurs and dragons; she has two dragon stuffed animals that she adores. During the toddler years, she went through a phase where she insisted on introducing herself to people as “Julia T-Rex”.

P1010948P1010958P1010956P1010957The dragon costume was worn, as you can see, to paint the dragon we gave her for her birthday. The exact set she received you can find here. The set comes with two dragons – the other dragon has yet-to-be-painted and is named Marshmallow. I forget what the painted one was named. She’s been working on painting the first dragon off and on for a couple of months.

Last year I wrote several posts about some of our favorite dragon books – you can see a few of them here and here.

We think dragons are the bee’s knees around here.

May 22, 2012

Playful Moon Giveaway

_DSC0187 (2)I am so excited to share this book with you today! Not long ago, I saw on a friend’s Facebook page that she had a friend who had just illustrated a new children’s book. I wrote to her in a mad scramble, “who’s your friend? can I talk to her? what’s the book? TELL ME, TELL ME!”. My friend put me in touch with her pal, Michaele Razi, who illustrated the lovely book I’m giving away today. All of the book proceeds are going to the organization Smart Beginnings, a program seeking to aid and educate teen parents.

I wrote to Michaele immediately and she so kindly sent me two copies of her enchanting book! As soon as I opened the package, I was dancing around in delight. I often dance around in delight when it comes to beautiful books. I’m not joking.

Michaele’s talent is just…dreamlike. The whole book looks like a dream put down on paper. And the story is just the sweetest, about a little girl who makes friends with the moon:

_DSC0201_DSC0191_DSC0193_DSC0195_DSC0196_DSC0197_DSC0200Did you catch the incredible detail work in the indigo night sky, the scrolls and patterns? The book is visually stunning and the story has a rhythmic cadence that really makes it a super charming bedtime (or anytime) read. Julia adored it. I told her the books were to give away and she thought that was really fun, since we just received our own book win from my friend Robyn's giveaway.

This book is SO PRETTY I wanted more than one of you to have it.

So friends, to enter the giveaway leave a comment below! For extra chances of winning, you can share the news of the giveaway on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest and leave another comment letting me know you where you shared. You can also gain extra entries by ‘liking’ Julia's Bookbag on Facebook or following our blog via Google (if you haven’t already). The contest ends Friday at 10pm PST and I’ll announce TWO WINNERS, chosen at random, next Monday!

 You should also head over to see more of Michaele’s work at her website and blog – I think she is so gifted, don't you?

This giveaway is now closed --but you can order the book HERE.

May 21, 2012

Melissa's 2nd Annual Rad Summer Book List

Hey Peeps! I want to preface this by saying I have read NONE of these books – I like to fly wild like that – I often suggest things I haven’t actually read yet because a jacket cover alone can totally sell me on a book. So shallow. But I’m super intrigued by ALL of these books and I’ve listed the ones I’m going to be trying to get my hands on this summer. I have a strong bent towards the supernatural, so if that’s not your gig, you may not like my picks. But I loved fairy tales when I was young and I basically want to read grown-up fairy tales now that I’m older.

Really excited for ‘Shadow of Night’. I adored ‘A Discovery of Witches’ last year and can’t wait for this sequel, which drops into bookstores on July 10. It’s like ‘Twilight’ goes to Oxford with Ph.D professors. Hey, that appeals to me.

I’m FINALLY going to read ‘Your Voice In My Head’. I’ve heard glowing reviews about it for over a year now and I just haven’t gotten to it. The book supposedly addresses the author’s real life relationship with actor Colin Farrell, although he is never named. I’m excited for the movie being made, which is going to star Emma Watson. No word yet on who plays the narrator’s ‘Gypsy Husband’ (cough, Colin.)

I’m almost embarrassed to have ‘Divergent’ on this list, since most everyone has probably read it already and is ready to move on to ‘Insurgent’, which was just released. I, however, have not read it yet so I’m going to be the stoked one who gets to read the first book and then immediately go on to the sequel. This was also my technique with ‘Downton Abbey’ – I waited a year before getting into it and then I only had to wait a week until Season 2 came out! I’m so clever. The plot? Dystopian society in which people must choose which virtue they will embody for the rest of their lives. COOL.

‘Sorcery & Cecelia, Or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot’ has been described as Jane Austen meets Harry Potter. I’ve seen so many books described as a cross between something and Harry Potter. THAT’S OK WITH ME. I’m fine with that. So I am totally going to read this Regency-era romance that focuses on a girl attending a College for Wizards. Yes, indeedy!

‘Everybody Was So Young’ by Amanda Vaill, is a book I own, but haven’t finished. I started it about six years ago and then something happened…not sure what…oh yes…MISS JULIA. Somehow the book was put down amidst all the I-have-a-baby-what-do-I-do-with-her-also-I-am-very-tired. So I need to finish it! Sara and Gerald Murphy served as the real life model for the married couple F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about in ‘Tender is the Night’.

The Murphys were artistic souls. Totally in love with each other. They threw mega parties extraordinaire in Paris. Served as inspiration for Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and Dashiell Hammett, among others. Gerald Murphy supposedly created the idea of vacationing at the French Riviera. They personified the glory and artistry of the 1920’s. You know, just ordinary folks.

I really love the writing style of Sarah Addison Allen. I loved ‘Garden Spells’. Her books are sweet, swift, breezy books that usually focus on someone’s romantic life in the South, with a sprinkle of supernatural intuition thrown in. ‘The Peach Keeper’ came out earlier this year, and is an old-fashioned gothic mystery set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina, focusing on a run down bed & breakfast that harbors long-buried family secrets. Well of course! Is there any other kind?

After reading the first of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, I’m ready for more historical time travel stories. Isn’t everyone down with historical time travel?? Which is why I really want to get my hands on ‘The Rose Garden’ by Susanna Kearsley. A woman living on the Cornish coast of England, who somehow travels back in the past to the 1770’s, and meets the original owner of the present-day house she was living in. Apparently mystery and romance ensue. I’M SO THERE. I also want to read Kearsley’s other book, ‘The Winter Sea’.

So there you have it, my lovelies. This is what I’m going to be trying to wade through in the coming months. Also, if you haven’t read this book yet, we’re officially thumb war wrestling. What about y’all? Have any great books to share? If you want more summer reading inspiration, check this out.

(And here's last year's list, for those who want to take a peek.)

May 18, 2012

Cool Stuff I Like

Strawberry Breakfast! On cream cheese and an English muffin. Oh, drizzled with honey. Very important little detail. I have to pause and say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Mr. Andrew -- he is celebrating a birthday this week. We're hoping this weekend to be able to get into 'The Avengers', if the hordes have diminished a bit.

The weather was AWESOME this week. Near 80 for several days. I was so happy just to be...warm. Andrew said he's ready for Autumn to return. I gave him a little kick. Our baby peas and beans sprouted and Julia flipped out with excitement. My beets have little sprouts but I think the carrots are not doing anything. I planted them in March, I think something should be happening by now. I wonder what I did wrong??? Maybe I needed to plant them earlier when it was still frosting at night. Pickle.

COOL STUFF, of the mid-May variety (lots of foodie items this week)....

Mini doll houses made from mint tins. BRILLIANT.

LOVE this doll house poster that you can color in. 

I got this 2-pack of tops for Julia. They're listed in the sleepwear section, but she wears them as tanks. 

Lemon Turnovers from my beloved Trader Joe's. (they are awesome.)

Cool Book of the Week: A book for the older kiddos today, good for ages 8+. 'The Penderwicks' is a light, old-fashionedy tale about four sisters (aged 4 thru 12) who spend the summer with their father in a cottage situated on the edge of a huge country manor house estate. They befriend the little boy who lives in the giant house and have loads of fun, while staying out of the way of his fancy-pants mama.

This one is just right for summer! Just in case anyone doubts my love for children's books -- ask me what I'm reading right now. THIS BOOK. I read children's books all the time, for reals. Andrew laughs at me, he's like what are you reading??? To which I say, A KID'S BOOK. What of it? Huh?

HAVE A LOVELY WEEKEND! Felt like shouting that at you. I feel excited for summer, even though it's a month away...


May 17, 2012

Skillet Spiced Chicken & Rice

Friendsies, I made Spiced Chicken and Rice for dinner last week and it was REALLY GOOD. If the recipe was from my cookbook collection, I’d write out the recipe all nice for you right here, but the recipe comes from the Williams-Sonoma website, so it just seems silly for me to write it down AGAIN. So go over and check it out if you want to MAKE A REALLY AWESOME DINNER.

A couple of notes.

Make it on a day when you have time to grate your lemon zest and ginger and whatnot. Don’t try to throw it together 15 minutes before you want to eat it.

I did everything they said to do EXCEPT (there’s always an ‘except’ with me…):

I used boneless, skinless THIGHS, not breasts, because I’m afraid of cooking with chicken breasts and I think chicken thigh meat is the more reliable, juicy, impossible-to-mess-up choice.

Also, I only used a 1/2 teaspoon of salt AND THAT WAS PLENTY. I think using the whole teaspoon would have been too salty.

And as you can see, I used regular raisins, not golden raisins. I think that’s totally ok.

We ate this two days in a row! Julia loved it! It was awesome and you should make it! Or not. Free will, you know.