February 28, 2013

A Lovely February Party

So as we say goodbye to February, I have to show you a last peek at some serious February candy-heart-pink party goodness. Allison, who's a friend of mine via another friend of mine, is an Incredibly Cool Person. (and she and her daughter Lulu are divinely beautiful, see here.) She's lived here, there and everywhere (including Hawaii!), and she recently threw the most adorable Valentine-y party for Lulu and her preschool friends.

So even though we're a bit past Pink Candy Heart Fun Time for this year, you MUST see her party pix because you're going to want to file the whole soiree away in your mental cutest party ever file...

Go see the whole party over at her blog, The Mommy Concierge! How I wish I had known about a blog like Allison's when I was pregnant ~ she's done the legwork and has the lowdown on basically everything related to baby gear, products and resources. You can also find more of her tips on The Mommy Concierge Facebook page.

Thank you Allison, so much, for sharing your party with me!!!! Wish I could have come!

(P.S. She MADE all those banners herself. Um, Miss Allison? You are very very very awesome.)

February 27, 2013

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower

Does anyone besides my friends from Hawaii know about Girl's Day? Otherwise known as Hinamatsuri, or the Doll Festival OR the Peach Festival, this celebration is held every year on March 3. (not to be confused with Children's Day, which is a Japanese national holiday held on May 5th.) Apparently Japan has a lot of kid holidays and THAT'S RAD.

It's basically a day to celebrate little girls, and their safe upbringing! I can tell you, that's pretty much all I hope for, for Julia to make it to adulthood in one piece. And with my sanity intact. That's not asking for too much is it?

So since I like Japanese stuff and I like my daughter, and also dolls, we're celebrating Girl's Day! Typically, special and fancy ceremonial Japanese dolls, which are passed down from grandmas to mothers to daughters, are set out and displayed. A typical display consists of about 15 dolls.

We have um, maybe 3? If you count our Japanese kokeshi doll eraser. AND I DO.

Super sweet reader Colleen wrote me and asked if I knew about the book 'Miss Happiness and Miss Flower' by Rumer Godden. I got our copy, with illustrations by Jean Primrose, from the library. That edition seems to be $60 and up for even a used copy. This version is more reasonable, but I haven't seen it or the art.

Actually I had known about it and buried it somewhere in my Pinterest boards, but I had totally forgotten all about its existence. So basically, Colleen made my whole month happy by suggesting I check out the book, because I did, and Julia and I read it and....

AAAAAAH it's so awesome!!!!!

Ok, here's the real deal. I think I got away with Julia sitting for this one because she's been royally sick for the past week and a half. It's oh so slightly too old for her. This book would have ROCKED MY SOCKS off when I was about 8 or 9.

But it's FABULOUS. A motherless little girl from India is sent to live with her English cousins, and she receives two beautiful and magical Japanese dolls. The rest of the story is about how she and her cousins create an amazing Japanese doll house for Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (the dolls) to live in.

OH, and her cousin Belinda is a LITTLE PUNK, who is awful. (but she learns to be less awful.)

It reminds me a bit of  'A Little Princess' in tone. If I had read this when I was a little girl, it would have been one of my favorite books.

At the end, there are REAL DOLL HOUSE PLANS, like with carpentry specifics, to make a real Japanese doll house with sliding doors and whatnot.

This was the version Julia was inspired to make. It may not hold up as well as a real wood dollhouse but I think her effort is both admirable and adorable.

Also, anything will hold together if you throw enough tape on it, I've discovered.

So hurray for Girl's Day! On Friday, I'll show you some Japanese treats we got last weekend.

February 26, 2013

Hedgehog in the Fog

Well friends, there's procrastination, and then there's moi. I've brought dawdling to a whole new level. Want to know when I planned to show you all this book? LAST MAY. Aaaand here we are, nearly a year later. In my defense, I thought this was a story that would be more appropriate to show you all in the foggy grey months (hey that's ALL YEAR LONG here!), so actually, I really have no excuse.

Ok, so a little backstory on 'Hedgehog in the Fog' by Sergey Kozlov & Yuri Norstein and Francesca Yarbusova. Are you getting that there's a Russian vibe?

Last year, a friend of mine sent me a link to an amazing video. I promise you that you've NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT. The Hedgehog in the Fog short film is considered one of the best animated films of ALL TIME. It's not happy-go-lucky Disney fare and it might creep out the very sensitive, so watch it yourself first before trying it out on your kiddo.

I was so enthralled I looked around and discovered that there was a book written many years later, by the original creators, based on the film. A magical, otherworldly, ethereal book.

I've never seen anything like it! This book got under my skin and has never let go.

It's truly one of the most incredible-looking picture books I've ever seen. (it's far less intense than the movie, which features swirling foggy are-they menacing-or-are-they-not shadowy figures of unknownness.)

The story is really simple. A hedgehog is trying to bring raspberry jam over to his best friend Bear's house, so that they can hang out and have tea and count the stars, but the little fellow gets a bit turned around in the fog. And has Many Thoughts in the process.

I'm not sure if this is a translation thing or what, but there are several references to drowning. The little Hedgehog wonders if a horse will drown in the fog if the horse falls asleep. He wonders if he will drown because he is so wet after floating in a pool of water.

After being pursued through the fog by an Owl and other creatures, which may or may not be figments of Hedgie's imagination, he makes it safely to Bear's house and they do indeed partake of tea and jam and make a fire of JUNIPER TWIGS (that's awesome!).

And the Owl has a conversation with a well.

Friends, I've said this before, but there are some books that are books, and then there is Art.

Need more, of all of this amazing? Here's the film:

And there's a DVD of Norstein's work, HERE.

And take a peek at another book by Francesca Yarbusova (she's Nortein's wife), called 'The Fox and the Hare'.

WHAT DO YOU THINK??? Flipping incredible, yes? This one is in the shop!

February 25, 2013

Chillin' in Julia's Room

I've mentioned before that Julia's room is my favorite room in the house. It's the loveliest shade of pink. Everyone should get to have a pink room, WHETHER THEY WANT IT OR NOT. Actually, I also really love our yellow room. The master bedroom is not painted and I really really want to rectify this. I wanted a smoky lavender grey and Andrew choked with laughter. I FAIL TO SEE WHY THAT WAS SO FUNNY. Now I'm thinking a light tealy blue maybe. And then laziness speaks to me and I think I will embrace the greige in there in a big way. Neutral bedding, neutral walls, it will be a sea of tranquility.

In the meantime, I'll just keep hanging out in Julia's room. At some point, she might not appreciate me using her room as my crash pad. I guess when that happens, I might have to paint my own bedroom smoky grey lavender.

This is our Strawberry Fairy. I'm obsessed with her cotton candy pink hair. Speaking of cotton candy pink hair, remember my friend Aadip, maybe possibly the Worst Cook in America, but we don't know yet? Well his wife is the cutest girl ever, and she's blonde and has at times, delightfully chosen to make parts of her hair pink, and she's in a pink phase right now. And she's going to take pix the next time she pinkifies herself and is going to send them to me!

And then I'm putting her on Pink Sparkle Fun!

I told her that I would give just about anything to be able to have pink hair.

Its been grey, grey, nothing but grey lately. Do you spell grey or gray? I think grey is...greyer.

What else? This is a day of random, in case you can't tell. Julia's been letting me photograph her again, she went through a several-months long phase of running the other way whenever I had the camera out. But now she seems keen on having me take pix of her again. I wonder how long that will last?

Speaking of pink stuff and Pink Sparkle Fun, I really, really, REALLY want to go with Julia to Hello Kitty Land in Japan. I wonder how much it costs. I wonder if there's a tour one can sign up for. The Hello Kitty tour of Japan? And I wonder how foolhardy it would be to ever attempt going in the springtime to see the cherry blossoms, along with the other millions of people who want to do the same exact thing.

I have a lot of deep thoughts.

February 22, 2013

Cool Stuff I Like

Oh gracious what a week. DOWNTON SEASON 3 SPOILER ahead: I know a lot of folks were shocked/horrified/chagrined about the ending of 'Downton'. NOT ME.  OH HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY! I won't have to cringe anymore during the Matthew/Mary scenes. I've been griping about their total lack of chemistry often and loudly since last year. I'm so DELIGHTED at this turn of events. I asked a friend, Do you think Dan Stevens is gunning to be the heir to Hugh Grant's throne? I have this sneaking suspicion that he is! I think he's made a seriously bad career move and is greatly overestimating the strength of his appeal. Were you a Matthew lover or hater?  Shall we discuss this further in the comments? Oh ~ the best part of the finale? CARSON HOLDING BABY SYBIL!!!!!!!!!! omg that was the cutest thing ever.

You know, everyone complained about this season but I thought it was just grand. If you're feeling low, you must read this and this.

COOL STUFF that Julia received from friends/family for her birthday!

Personalized name birthday candles.

Super adorable fuzzy monster magnetic page clips.

Fashion Headbands kit.

Fifties Shirt Dress.

Nightttime Fairies: A Bedtime Shadow book.

Hello Kitty Big City Dreams (yes, this came from me and Andrew)

This robot necklace in pink.

Candles that have colored flame. (cuz you needed to see more candles)

Cool Book of the Week: 'I'll Be You and You Be Me' by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak. Not sure how best to describe this one. Childhood, wrapped up neatly between the covers of this charming book. Short stories, poems, silly drawings, nonsense rhymes, even a play ("The Doll in Pink"), with teeny tiny wee mini-sized drawings by the Grand Master himself, Mr. Sendak. I bought it, even knowing Julia was getting too old for it (it's perfectly perfect for preschoolers!) because it was simply too beautiful not to have. Any book that says "I think I'll grow up to be a bunny before I grow up to be a lady" is a must-have, in my opinion.

Have a lovely weekend! My friends with tons of snow ~ have snow fun on my behalf! Friends who are warm ~ be warm for me! I'm trying to get some materials together to show you about Girl's Day, which is a Japanese holiday for little girls, celebrated on March 3.


February 21, 2013

The Great Big Enormous Book of Tashi!

I don't know if any of you recall this Cool Stuff post I did last fall, and I chose the Tashi books as my Cool Book of the week? My kiddo and I hadn't read them yet, and they looked fun and amazing and spectacular. You don't recall? Well that's why I'm here. TO REMIND. 'Cuz I haz a helpful soul. Also, an annoying one.

A publicist from Independent Publishers Group wrote to me and asked if I'd like to get my hands on 'The Great Big Enormous Book of Tashi' by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Feinberg and Kim Gamble, to read and review. My answer was YES YAY HOW FAST CAN IT GET HERE?

I was hoping these books were as cool as they looked. HAPPY DAY, they are! We actually didn't begin reading this book o' Tashi tales until after Christmas, but once we got started, my daughter insisted on a Tashi story EVERY SINGLE DAY for an entire month. We just finished the last Tashi story last week, and now we haz a sad.

(I'm sure IPG is super duper happy right about now that they asked me to review for them, please click on previous link. I'm sorry, when it comes to kitty cat memes I can't help myself, I really can't.)

So what's this Tashi biz all about you are maybe wanting to know? ADVENTURES, my friends. Adventures of a plucky young lad named Tashi, who hails from a land of unknown, quasi-Asian origin. Somehow he has wound up in a typical suburban neighborhood and befriended a boy named Jack, to whom Tashi relates his exploits. Tashi is either the luckiest, or the unluckiest fellow who ever lived, because his life is a non-stop roller coaster of scrapes, mishaps, and near death experiences with ghosts, trolls, evil warlords, uncles, cousins, and demons, AS WELL AS witches, dragons, robbers and monsters.

Did I miss anything?

Tashi is so clever that he escapes every swashbuckling scenario with wit and and his tall hair (or is it a hat? My daughter and I could never tell.) intact.

I can't tell you the love we have for these stories. SO MUCH LOVE. They were absolutely as great as I hoped they would be.

The greatest genius of the books is the way very simple vocabulary is used to create really interesting plot lines. There were very few words my kiddo didn't understand, but yet the stories were fabulously descriptive and intricately worded. I didn't feel the stories were dumbed down for young kids in any way, but yet it was easy enough for my 1st grader to understand and read on her own. (she preferred to read it with us though.) I'd suggest this for kids 6-11.

The other big seller was the HUMOR. We like our books funny! The tone of all the Tashi tales are very light hearted and enthusiastic. Behold some of the names of the characters, who are recurring throughout the stories:


Bu-li. (get it? he's a BULLY.)

Not-Yet. (he's my favorite, he makes shoes VERY SLOWLY, so he always gets asked, 'Are the shoes ready?' 'Not yet!')

Oh, Uncle TIKI-PU, we would giggle EVERY TIME we read this name. EVERY TIME. I'm laughing now, actually.

Now, if your child scares easily or is under 6, I think you gotta wait. There are some scary-esque looking demons and the later stories in the book increase in length and are meant, I feel, for 7-and-up kids. Julia loved each and every one however, and had no problem with all the derring-do and James Bond-ish escapes Tashi had to perform to flee his various captors who either wanted to eat him, cook him, drown him in a river, or let tigers dispatch him.

The black-and-white pencil art is super fun and there's a picture on nearly every page, which my daughter looooooved. You can get this big huge book, or get the books individually, but if your kiddo is into adventure stories, you must must must seek out the Tashi stories!

February 20, 2013

Funfetti Birthday!

Sometimes, with birthdays, themes are planned. Yes? And sometimes they sneaky up on you and jab you in the temple, demanding to be noticed. Actually themes aren't that rude. I think a better, less violent way to describe the manner in which an unplanned theme can approach is to say that it tugs the hem of your skirt, asking to please please be noticed.


The funfetti theme that managed to insert itself into Julia's latest birthday came as a request from my kiddo, and then it snowballed from 'Let's have a funfetti cake!' to 'Let's bring funfetti cookies to school!' and 'I would like funfetti pancakes please.' I think maybe I'm imagining that she said 'please'.

And I realized that my Best Friend Pinterest had long since given me a recipe for funfetti pancakes. (go see my Happy Fun Times board for all the bits of awesome all-things-party related business I've culled together.) So off we went with the funfetti theme!

Julia had wanted "an intimate gathering of friends" sleepover soiree, a term she picked up from 'Phineas & Ferb'. And we decided that everything from the food to the favors would be colorful and sprinkly.

Because life is better when it's colorful and sprinkly. 'Tis true.

The funfetti cookie recipe I used came out GREAT. I would totally make them again. The kids in Julia's class expressed extreme approval. One boy said he'd give them a 10 out of 10. High praise, yo!

I followed the advice someone mentioned in the comments for the recipe and flattened the cookies with the bottom of a cup before baking. The cookies come out really nicely sized. You could of course make them smaller to get a higher yield from the batch, but I wanted nice big cookies to hand out to the kids.

Moving on to the cake. I took the easy way out. I did not make the whole deal from scratch, I used funfetti box mix. What an interesting.....artificial flavor it has! Next time I'd bite the bullet and do it all homemade. We did pink vanilla frosting on the outside and this chocolate icing for the middle layer.

The birthday girl had a rip roaring time by the way. She had three friends spend the night with her, and they went on a scavenger hunt for their party favors, made their own mini pizzas, and watched a movie (this one). Then they finally made it into their sleeping bags and spent about 45 minutes chatting and READING BOOKS TOGETHER, it was so cute!

Also someone mentioned Bigfoot and then they all got scared. And asked for more food at 10pm. I told them that if they were sleeping, they wouldn't be hungry. Actual sleeping occurred at 10:45.

I'm amazed I came away so unscathed by little girl bedlam. OR SO I THOUGHT.

The following evening after all the party biz? Julia came down with a fever.

Lesson: too much funfetti makes you sick.

STILL MORE FUNFETTI! I made this recipe for the funfetti pancakes. The pancakes almost didn't happen after I moseyed downstairs to discover that we HAD NO EGGS. This was on the heels of Andrew going to the store for me the previous day and asking me if we needed more eggs. I was like, nah. So the poor dude had to get THE BLOODY EGGS at 8am.

I loved the recipe! Unlike the Valentine's pancakes, these funfetti pancakes didn't make me feel royally ill. But Julia preferred the Valentine batch so go figure. I think these came out fantastic, with a nice texture and awesome vanilla-y flavor.

I was most impressed with myself at this point.

By awesome coinkidink, my little bro gave Julia this cute cute card that had sequin cupcakes, which I found to be very FUNFETTI-ESQUE.

I never really want to see any more funfetti again. But maybe you do? I must direct you once more to my Happy Fun Times Pinterest board because I have even more funfetti treats over there.

Funfetti, funfetti....this word starts to look really weird after you gaze at it for too long....