November 20, 2020

a fanciful twist

I have a treat for you today! Well actually I have a treat for MYSELF lol, but once you make the acquaintance of Vanessa's wares at A Fanciful Twist, you will also find yourself in the land of treats. I happened across her amazing Instagram account fairly recently, and it was like falling into a wondrous realm of enchanted beauty and fairytale-like charm. She was hosting an incredible giveaway this past October, which consisted of a special edition signed copy of Alice Hoffman's 'Practical Magic', as well as a vintage copy of Victoria magazine from the 1990's that contains a feature on the real life house showcased in the 'Practical Magic' film. But that wasn't all! The giveaway also contained home grown dried botanicals from Vanessa's magical garden (you seriously must see her Instagram), AND a lovely glass teapot, plus a packet of blooming flower green tea!

I WON THE GIVEAWAY. I literally screamed. I seriously could not believe it.

Here's a hot tip my friends. If you are on Instagram, there are giveaways happening every two seconds. I highly encourage you to enter!! My dear friend Danzel enters giveaways allllll the time and she's always winning cool and awesome stuff! 

When the box arrived, I wish I had it on video. Julia and I were FREAKING OUT. Mostly me, I was freaking out. Look at how the book was packaged! And you see that gorgeous postcard?? You can find them here, in Vanessa's Etsy shop. I just placed an order for these holidays cards, and another surprise for Julia. I can't say what exactly because she reads my Instagram and might hop over to this blog post ha ha ha. Anyhoo, there are lots of lovely things, and I'll take a picture of what I got and put it up on IG at some point.

Fun fact - the box was overflowing with colorful rainbow tissue paper and now my cat thinks it is the greatest joy in her life. She sits in it constantly.

Behold the amazing teapot! It's specially tempered heat stable glass. I've used it several times already and it's really adorable. The blooming tea has been used up, and I'll have to get more. 

Here's a fun story about Victoria. I've had two great magazine loves in my life, Victoria and Domino. I actually cried when both magazines went under. Victoria came back several years ago and it's been a great joy in my life to have it back. Domino is also back.....as a quarterly magazine but it is NOT the same - different editor, different vibe, different everything, and totally lacking in the charm and delight of the original. Insert shaking head emoji. You broke my heart Domino. 

(oh I forgot about Cookie magazine! I greatly loved that one too. I loved it during Julia's tiny tot years. That one went away as well, never to return. I adored the out of reach overpriced New York lifestyle vibe of it ha ha. The recipes were amazing though!)

Here you can see the book unwrapped. And the botanical bouquet Vanessa included. There's something that looks like a black potato by the teapot - it is actually more lovely dried botanicals, but my camera phone was struggling in the low dreary light. The book is absolutely gorgeous and fun fact, I've never read it! I'm so excited! Very ashamed to say that I haven't read any Alice Hoffman yet! I know, it's just wrong.

Can we take a moment to admire the tray upon which the book and teapot is resting. My sweet friends, this lovely has been cooling its heels in my GARAGE for several years. For all of my vintage love proclamations, my home decor leanings are actually more modernist, and this hand me down tray/stand from my mom was something I had deemed "too baroque" and I didn't think it was in keeping with the rest of our house. What?! Use the crazy things! Mix styles! What was I thinking hiding this away? It's going to be great for prop styling with books for photos!

Time spent 24/7 in one's home for the better part of a year has a way of making you see things with fresh eyes. That tray came OUT of the garage, got a thorough wipe down, and is now sitting in the family room in front of the fire place. I ate my lunch on it the other day while watching 'Emily in Paris' and felt Very Happy Indeed. After the holiday season it will move upstairs next to a reading chair.

I'll be putting a little video I made of the interior of the book later on my Instagram stories, or maybe I'll do it as a reel on my main feed. The end papers are gorgeous, and Julia and I are currently engaged in a battle over who gets to read it first. Oh wait I do, because she just began 'The Night Circus'. (new readers might not know about My Obsession with that book. It's my favorite of all time.)

My friends! Please visit the A Fanciful Twist shop, and consider supporting small business owners during your holiday shopping! I wasn't asked by Vanessa to promote the giveaway - I was legitimately so blown away by her Instagram, and then her shop, and I could not in good conscience fail you guys by not letting you know about all of her incredible awesome. She also has a gorgeous blog

Go find some giveaways to enter!! 

November 10, 2020

cool stuff i like

I hardly know what to say this week after the 2020 election! Thank you universe?! One of the great thrills of my lifetime was sharing the news with my daughter that Joe Biden won the election and that Kamala Harris is to be our first female Vice-President.

If you follow my Instagram, and in particular, my Instagram stories, you'll know that I've basically turned my IG stories feed into an activism account. I'll take this moment to repeat something Gabrielle Blair from Design Mom has been saying over and over. Obviously the internet is a vast and public realm. However - I will not hold up my blog and my Instagram account as places for 2016-2020 presidential supporters to congregate. Comments and direct messages from that contingent will be deleted and blocked. Point being - move along. I think it's great that President-elect Biden stated his intention to be a president for all of America - that's how a United States president should function. But I'm not a president, and personally I'd have to see a sincere and meaningful shift in ideology before I would become even conversational with supporters of the 2016-2020 administration.

This amazing essay from the brilliant Rebecca Solnit was written two years ago, and is still very relevant. It elucidates the idea that for far too long, empathy/reconciliation/support has been offered to abusers, at the expense of their victims, as a matter of course.

But Melissa! There are two sides, this sounds so intolerant. Incorrect. There are not two "sides". There are two REALITIES. I absolutely refuse to 'tolerate' and 'try to see all sides of an argument' when it comes to the fact that a large segment of our country feels that white supremacy, institutional and systemic racism, human rights, a living wage for all workers, climate change, healthcare, gun control, and a woman's right to decide what happens to her body are issues to be debated, denied, and discouraged.It's not my job to dissuade, or talk someone down from rhetoric and a belief system that is so destructive. It's my job as a person to denounce it. (Can we take a moment to appreciate how many 'D' words I just used?)

I'd like to refer you also to this post by Gabby Blair, who has written a new piece on the issue of forgiveness and reconciliation; it's a really thought provoking read. Her articles have been resources that I've deeply appreciated throughout this time.


With that said, let's shift to some cozy self care. I think we're all in dire need of it.

We all need ALL the treats, yes? And I'm happy to share a few that were shared to me by the amazing and lovely Natasha Lowe, who is the author of the 'Poppy Pendle' series of books. I recently reviewed her latest book, 'The Daring of Della Dupree' on Instagram, and you can see that post here. (And on the topic of the Natasha Lowe's books - they were my daughter Julia's FAVORITES from her elementary school days, and each book can also be read as a standalone story.) These beautiful books would make for such a charming gift, so keep them in mind during your holiday shopping! Give books! Support writers and the arts!

Natasha kindly sent me a link to this old-fashioned butterscotch pudding and these salted buckwheat chocolate chip cookies and I thought you also would like a look.

Other online items that are heavily on the cozy side this week:

Holiday gift alert! Look at this beautiful puzzle, based on Edith Holden's 'The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady'. There are different seasons!

These pumpkin bars look fabulous.

Lovely autumnal post.

Cozy fall soups from Food52.

I CAN'T EVEN HANDLE HOW AMAZING 'BRIDGERTON' LOOKS.

I'm getting this virtual Nordic Advent calendar - we've done others from this line and they've been so fun.

I really want this 'Snacking Cakes' cookbook.

A sleepover in a Paris bookshop?!? Amazing!

Emily Henderson's Guide to Comfort EVERYTHING.

Doesn't 'Lullaby' tea sound so nice right now? From one of my favorite tea purveyors.

Cool Book of the Week: I think I might have linked to this book before? Maybe? But I've been wanting to read the writings of Ali Smith for ages. Particularly 'Autumn' - one of a seasonally themed quartet of books. This one in particular is supposed to be amazing and the novel is a Man Booker prize finalist. The book is set in England in the time period right after the Brexit vote, and I've been wanting to read more about what people experienced during that time, as it ran parallel to the situation the United States found itself in after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. I'm not sure how to describe the plot because Ali's books supposedly are very stream of consciousness. This one follows the friendship between a young woman and a man who is a century old. Have you read any of her work?

My friends, please take good care of yourself right now. Hang in there! It's been a long time since my last post, I would LOVE to know what you're reading and watching right now! Just started 'The Queen's Gambit'.

XO,

Melissa

September 29, 2020

cool stuff i like

Hello #oatmealwarriors! If you're wondering what I mean by that, check out this Instagram post I created last weekend. My friends, I sincerely hope that you're doing ok. I feel like I've been in such low spirits for such a long time, but I've decided that I am going to gather all of my gratitude, place it firmly in the forefront of my mind, and celebrate all the little things. #1 on the list - distance learning for the most part is going very well for Julia, and getting to see her so much this past year has truly been a gift. 

And speaking of gifts, Emily Winfield Martin's beautiful book 'The Imaginaries - Little Scraps of Larger Stories' is one of the most enchanting books that we own. I featured it last spring/summer (who knows??)  on Instagram more in depth. A work of art, with pages of fairy tale images come to life paired with tiny fragments of mysterious words that lead and prompt the reader to take the story further on their own. Pure loveliness, and would make for the most unique and special treat for anyone aged 5 to 105.

Funny (?) story - I went to Trader Joe's last week and ALL of the autumn and pumpkin treats were in stock. ALL OF THEM. And I think I had ALL OF THEM in my cart and then I felt bad, like so much autumnal excess was just WRONG, and I put most of it back. And then I had so much REGRET. So now I'm going back to get the Vanilla Pumpkin Candle, the Maple Kettle Corn, the Apple Cider Doughnuts, the Pumpkin Curry Simmer Sauce, and the Pumpkin and Paneer Samosas. And now that I've written it all out, now I feel bad again. We need NONE of these things. AAAAAAAH.

(*UPDATE 09/29 Tuesday evening after the debate: I am no longer conflicted about any future Trader Joe's autumnal purchases. I will be purchasing ALL THE THINGS because I deserve it after watching that dumpster fire of a criminal promote blatant white supremacy in a NATIONAL PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE FORUM.)

Let's move on to online treats for you to see:

I want to live in this room.

Very intrigued by 'The Midnight Library'

Ways to get involved in national issues. Super great list/blog, with lots of ideas and choices on how to participate.

The perfect afternoon snack?

15 great campus novels.

Going to be watching this documentary about RBG asap.

Look at all of these cute reading sweatshirts! This search was inspired by my discovery of a 'reading sweater' on Cup of Jo and I started instantly hyperventilating. That excitement turned quickly to sadness when I RACED to see and discovered that everything was out of stock. (also not sure about that price for a cardigan, but still, I adore the colors and the concept.)

Big thanks to the brilliant MFAMB for pointing me to this UK home decor website

I get it. I see what she's saying. I really do. But I think I'll still watch this

HOW have I never HEARD of Kashmir Pink Tea??? (still searching to see if there exists a variety one can actually order or purchase.)

 Old fashioned butterscotch pudding.

Cool Book of the Week: 'The Once and Future Witches' by Alix E. Harrow, who also wrote the very fun 'The Ten Thousand Doors of January'. My dear friend Danzel from Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes was so kind to let me know this book was being published this October! Magic AND suffragettes? I am HERE for THIS. Witches empowering women to vote? I'm literally nodding my head as I type. Fun!

Have a great rest of your week! The reporting from the New York Times about you-know-who's tax debacle is really putting the wind in my sails right now. Let me know what falltimey things are bringing you joy! Also please please VOTE. I'm so excited to vote this year I'm giddy.

XO,

Melissa

September 8, 2020

spiced autumn

Well hello! Remember when I said maybe I wasn't going to blog anymore? "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!"  FUN FACT - that phrase is often erroneously ascribed to Shakespeare, but is in fact, from Sir Walter Scott's poem 'Marmion'. You guys should know by now that I sit on a throne of LIES. Ha ha ha. I appear to be on the once-a-month blogging schedule.

Some things I actually quite enjoy creating are little collages o' fun and interesting things. Books, treats, teas...you know, the usual.

I began putting together an Autumn layout and quickly realized that a sort of theme was emerging, and it was one of magic and spiced flavors and far-away worlds.

You know me and my motto, show me a great book cover and I'll show you a SALE - well I haven't taken my ordering pinky out  - yet - for 'A Pinch of Magic' by Michelle Harrison, but that's only because I've ordered five books recently, and I Must. Show. Some. Restraint. The reviews about this middle grade magical storyline involving sisters and a curse and magical objects just sounds so FUN, and the sequel came out this past February.

May I suggest with your reading some of these rose and pistachio shortbread cookies from Makabi & Sons? High five to them for their very cool website, and this intro description for these Maroc cookies:

"The grand Souk rumbles with the sound of nomads and traders in search of their next fortune. But navigate the Medina maze to find treasures beyond the Kasbah walls. A taste of the Berber life awaits."

THAT'S COOL.

Now. Let's get down to brass tacks here and can we all FREAK OUT IN UNISON that the genius Susannah Clarke has written another full length novel, 'Piranesi'. Who is she and why do we care? Because she wrote the utterly brilliant 'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell' (which was published nearly 15 years ago!) and is considered by many to be one of our greatest living writers. And good news! For those who might have been daunted by Jonathan Strange's 1024 page endurance ultra-marathon, 'Paranesi' clocks in at a comparatively wee 272 pages.

Again, why do we care? Because Clarke is a flipping genius who can write about magic and unseen worlds while making you feel like you just got a literary Ph.D of some kind in the process of being royally entertained. 'Piranesi' apparently is about a magical house and really, that's all I know. I am HERE for this, and if you're unfamiliar with Clarke, but are a fan of Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus' type fare (someday I will write a review of 'The Starless Sea' and complain A LOT - I loved the writing and the characters but I was totally bummed about the endless wandering around with no discernible endgame) you will want to get your hands on this book. 

Here are some items of interest that you might enjoy during the fall time season, along with your magical books. Tea and cardigan weather. Very few things make me happier. I was completely charmed by this tin of Harney & Sons Golden Milk Powder Tea, flavored with Turmeric, Ginger, Coconut and Spices - seriously how cute is this tin? What a lovely little gift for a friend or YOURSELF. Harney & Sons always give names to their tea blends and this one is called 'Glimmer'. Looooooove.

And while we're on the topic of tea, let's peek at this Marco Polo tea from Mariage Freres. This is a tea line from Paris, and they are splurge priced, but if you love tea and haven't tried this line, you need to get on it. One of my big regrets in life is that I didn't bring home 5 tins when we were in Paris last autumn, but I didn't want to cart the tins in my Very Tiny Suitcase. 

I gave Andrew a cannister of French Breakfast tea last Christmas, but one of the big stars in the Mariage Freres line is the Marco Polo, and that will be the next one we try. I've linked to the tin, rather than the tea bags, because you get more bang for your buck if you get loose tea. So get a strainer, stop moaning, and embrace loose tea! The Mariage Freres site describes Marco Polo thusly : "Mariage Frères’ overwhelming success is a mysterious blend that will take you to distant lands and unforeseen territories."  Well alrighty. I'm there. It's a floral and fruity black tea and it's supposed to be INCREDIBLE. 

I saw a bottle of Meadow Land simple syrup last year in a local shop and literally stopped and stared. The prettiest packaging! 'Inspired the prairie'. SAY NO MORE. You can put it in anything, or on top. Tea. Coffee. Drinks. Cocktails. Drizzled on desserts, ice cream, fruit. I'm linking to the original syrup, but there are a ton of other flavors, like strawberry basil and honey vanilla chamomile. 

OMG THERE IS NOW AN AUTUMN COLLECTION. Pumpkin Spice, Vanilla Maple, Woodfired Apple, Golden Age. I am FREAKING OUT. OMG AGAIN - there is a Winter Wonderland collection! I'm going to get one, break it apart, and give them out as holiday gifts. OH MY WORD.

Saw this cute pom-pommed sweater on Amazon of all places and was Very Impressed. I wish it had a button, but this is really super cute. I displayed it in the ivory to better suit the color scheme I had going for this collage, but my personal preference is the forest green color.

 

Well after all of that magical syrup biz, this Pumpkin Butternut Spice syrup from Pink House Alchemy seems a bit redundant, but here you go, here's another syrup. Enjoy. 

Anyone who has ever purchased one of my book boxes knows that I am nothing if not predictable - book, tea, socks, and a treat pretty much always find their way into a parcel, and more often than not, the treat is usually of the chocolate variety. Sorrynotsorry. I ADORE the look of this hazelnut milk chocolate from Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate. Beautiful packaging right? Tons of unique flavors. 

And lastly, I leave you today with another just-right-for-this-time-of-year read - 'The Vine Witch' by Luanne G. Smith caught my eye and I love the cover. It's the first in a series, and set in the French countryside, with the plot involving 'vine witches' who assist in wine production in the Chanceaux Valley. Magical wine? OK! That sounds fun.

So there you go! So many fun things! Did I make up for my Very Long Absence from blogging?

August 14, 2020

cool stuff i like

 Well hello. I feel like I begin every blog post this way, apologizing for how long it has been. The truth is...I think I'm reaching the end of the road with this blog. Instagram is quicker and easier and chattier. It's a ton of work to get a bunch of photos up in a blog post, versus concentrating on getting ONE photo up on Instagram. These are the times we're living in. 

And while I do love the ability to long form ramble here - let's just get it on the table that blog posts are going to be few and far between. I just don't have the energy. Unless I really get a bee in my bonnet, I don't think I'm going to be here much. Once remote learning starts for Julia in the fall, my time is going to become even more scarce. I still enjoy hunting and scavenging items of interest, so who knows. I say all kinds of nonsensical things, and change my mind every other day, so I might show up here more than I think. If only to grumble and moan.

One thing I want to mention - Gabrielle Blair from Design Mom has written a brilliant post perfectly articulating everything I am feeling about people supporting the current 45 administration.

Note: I've already had some pissy personal emails.  Don't bother. In the future I will not read them, and if I get them on Instagram, those accounts will be blocked. So if you feel the need to write me with your personal disappointment regarding my extreme dismay about everything Trump related.....just move. it. along.

Until the election, my nerves are going to be frazzled to a crisp. So......sort of goodbye-ish??  If you want to hang out, come over to Instagram! Unless, see above, for the short attention span crowd. Longtime readers of this blog know I don't mince words around here.

Also - I announced on Instagram that I'm winding down the book box biz - 3 years was fun, but it's SOOOOOO much work and they don't really yield much financially, so I'm scaling back. I might make some specialty themes next year, and I'm up for custom orders, but really, I'm just going to try and rein in my massive anxiety and take care of my family right now. And READ more books, instead of wrapping and packing them ha ha ha.

Some cool stuff I managed to find online:

EXACTLY the emotion I had.

Target has a new candle called 'Bookshop'.

And speaking of Target, I love ALL of this.

Where to start reading Vita Sackville-West books.

How to create the perfect summer picnic, pandemic-style.

A singing teen version of 'Macbeth'?? I AM HERE FOR IT.

A very cottagecore home tour set in the English countryside.

Dear friend sent this article to me. Spot on. 

Books and indie booksellers to get you out of your reading slump. (a couple of my all time favs are on this Very Cool List.)

Cool Book of the Week: 'Mexican Gothic' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia had me when it was described as "Lovecraft meets the Brontes in Latin America." OK. I'm ALL IN for that! A house called High Place in the Mexican countryside. A debutante who seeks it out, hoping to aid her cousin In Distress. A mysterious family with SECRETS, of course. It's been described as the perfect summer horror read, and I'm so intrigued. I think it looks perfect for this time of year, the winding down of summer and slow burn into autumn.

 
Have a great weekend! It looks like it's going to be one of the warmest weather days of the year around here on Sunday, so that means we'll be hiding from it. I really want to learn how to play Settlers of Catan.
xo, Melissa