Christmas Book Advent 2017 | 10 more Awesome Christmas Books

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

We are all about simplifying our lives in certain areas, but not when it comes to our Christmas Book Advent. Christmas books are a serious weakness of ours and we generally add several new titles to our burgeoning collections each year. We’ve seen a variety of beautiful book advents but still find that the perfect set up for our Advent happens to be the bookshelves in our playroom.

This year we’ve added an adorable letterbox for our kids to write letters to Santa to their hearts content, they’ve already stuffed several drawings inside in hopes that once our elf arrives he’ll whisk them off to the big guy.

If you are Christmas book addicts like us, or are simply looking to start a new tradition, we’ve rounded up 10 more Christmas favorites below and you can also check out our list of 24 from last year.

1-  Pick a Pine Tree We are also pretty serious about picking out just the right Christmas tree, we like them straight, full and piney fresh and of course we go en masse to pick The One each year. This book perfectly captures the tradition of picking out a Christmas tree and the excitement that comes with getting the tree set up and trimming it with an assortment of sparkling baubles. The illustrations are bright, lively and lovely and are perfectly complemented by the rhyming verse. This one evokes all sorts of nostalgia as well as excitement for welcoming a new Christmas season.  A wonderful read to kick off seasonal festivities!

2- Waltz of the Snowflakes This wordless picture brings to life the beauty, splendor and even uncertainty of seeing The Nutcracker for the first time. We love how the illustrations evoke all the feelings one can feel when attending a performance for the first time and not knowing if it should be something to be endured or enjoyed.

3- Finding Christmas As three woodland critters, Squirrel, Mouse and Hare prepare for Christmas they find a sick Sparrow in the snow that they lovingly rescue and then nurse back to health. This is a truly special book that focuses on the spirit of giving and on the power of compassion.

4-The Little Reindeer This new release is a simple and charming. We go with Ollie through the snowy forest as she follows the sounds of jingle bells to a pretty perfect Christmas adventure.  I particularly appreciated the illustrations.  The pops of red in the otherwise muted color scheme are perfect and the little bits of silver and cutouts add just the right touches of magic.

5- A World of Cookies for Santa This one had us at cookies; within these pages you will find a thorough overview of the different types of cookies left out for Santa in countries around the world. Also included are some of the Christmas traditions and several recipes for cookies mentioned in the book. A great primer for those who love to bake and learn about other cultures.

6- One Christmas Wish A beautiful British import that explores a boy’s loneliness on Christmas Eve and the magic that occurs after a Christmas wish helps remedy his sad situation. Emily Sutton’s illustrations are an utter delight.

7-Presents Through the Window A slightly less traditional Christmas read, we love Taro Gomi's tale of Santa's deliveries gone hilariously awry. Humorous, original, and interactive- all the elements of a great picture book.

8-The 12 Days of Christmas This is not new, and it's not exactly a picture book- but it's one of my absolute favorite holiday reads.  I laugh every year.  Told from the perspective of the appreciative, then exhausted, then exasperated, and finally furious recipient of the absurd gifts outlined in the classic holiday song. John Julius Norwich has created a holiday treasure.  And the illustrator?  None other than the inimitable Quentin Blake.  Highly recommend.

9-Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present If you like charming and humorous stories this one will not disappoint. On Christmas Eve, after his sleigh and reindeer have been put away for the season, Santa discovers one last gift that still needs to be delivered to a Harvey Slumfenberger. Santa must use his ingenuity to get the present to Harvey at the top of Roly Poly Mountain without his traditional mode of transportation.

10-The Nutcracker in Harlem Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, author T.E. McMorrow, takes the magic of the Nutcracker and introduces its magic to a new place and time.  An original and breathtaking spin on the familiar classic.


Keep calm, and eat pie.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I could take or leave Thanksgiving dinner; I know, I know, I'm a weirdo.  I like the elements of a traditional Thanksgiving meal okay. I'm just not crazy about them.  But pie, well that's another story.  When I was little, we always had Thanksgiving at my grandparents.  New Hampshire in November is freezing and my grandmother would store all the pies on their covered back porch.  I loved going out there and just looking at all that baked goodness and planning what order I was going to eat them in.  It just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving if there aren't at least half a dozen pies to choose from. In case you're in the same boat, or just need some inspiration, here is a roundup of some of our favorite pies.  We'd love to hear some of your favorites too!

1. Apple Pie
There are so many great variations of this classic: dutch, deep dish, sour cream, salted caramel, pie with cheddar baked right into the crust (as my grandmother used to say, "A pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.").  They're all wonderful but you'll never go wrong sticking to the basics.

1/2 C. white sugar
2 Tbs. instant tapioca (this is just a thickening agent, not critical)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
6-7 thinly sliced apples (a mixture of tart and sweet)
Combine and let sit for about 10 minutes, then pour into pie shell.  

Mix until crumbly and sprinkle 1/2 on top of the filling (save the other half for another pie): 
1/4 C. unsalted butter
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. flour

Cover with top crust or lattice.  Bake at 400 oven for 50 or so minutes.

2. Pecan Pie
Cooks Illustrated probably has the most outstanding pecan pie I've ever had.  It's pretty straightforward, but you need to build in a fair amount of time for the filling to set after baking.  About 4 hours.  I also love adding a tablespoon or two of bourbon.

6 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 C. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3/4 C. light corn syrup
1 Tbs. vanilla
2 C. whole pecans, toasted and chopped

Melt butter in medium bowl set over simmering water. Remove bowl; mix in sugar and salt until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla. Return bowl to hot water; stir until mixture is shiny and warm. Remove from heat; stir in pecans.

Pour into still warm, baked pie shell and bake at 275 for 50-60 minutes until the center feels gelatinous. 

(Recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

*Molly Wizenberg from Orangette wrote a memoir, A Homemade Life, and shared another delicious but unbelievably simple chocolate pecan pie that we make fairly often- Hoosier Pie.  Here's a link to that recipe.

3. Chocolate Cream Pie
I'm always looking for a reason to make this- it's like eating chocolate custard, on a cookie, slathered in whipped cream.

Cookie Crust:
Pulse together 16 Oreo cookies (with filling) in a food processor until finely ground.  Combine with 2 Tbs. melted butter and press into pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes then set aside to cool.

2 1/2 C. half and half
pinch of table salt
1/3 C. white sugar
2 Tbs. cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
6 Tbs. unsalted butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chopped or Ghiradelli chips work well)
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla

Bring half-and-half, salt, and about 3 tablespoons sugar to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir together remaining sugar and cornstarch in small bowl, then sprinkle over yolks and whisk until mixture is glossy and sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. When half-and-half reaches full simmer, drizzle about 1/2 cup hot half-and-half over yolks, whisking constantly; then whisk egg yolk mixture into simmering half-and-half. Return to simmer, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on the surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 15 seconds longer.

Off heat, whisk in butter until incorporated; add chocolates and whisk until melted. Stir in vanilla, then immediately pour filling into baked and cooled crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate pie until filling is cold and firm, about 3 hours. Top with fresh whipped cream.

(Recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

*Another pie that both Sarah and I have made fairly often is this s'mores pie from Epicurious.  You're killing me smalls.

4. Berry Crumble Pie
Bursting with fruit and a great counterbalance to some of the heavier, traditional holiday pies.

36 ounces of mixed, fresh berries (raspberries and blackberries are great)
1/2 C. cornstarch
1 C. white sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
zest of one lemon

Gently combine ingredients and pour into fully baked pie crust.

Pulse in food processor and sprinkle over berry filling:
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter
1/2 rolled oats

Bake at 375 for 1 hour.

(Recipe from The Italian Dish)

5.  Key Lime Pie
Smitten Kitchen is one of our favorite cooking blogs, I could give you a list of dozens of recipes from the blog that have made their way into rotation in our  home.  This key lime pie is one of them.

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 crackers)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pinches sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
3 large egg yolks 
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (from about 1 dozen tiny key limes or 4 persian/regular limes)
To Finish
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar, to taste
Make crust: Combine graham crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir until mixed. Add butter and stir until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of pie dish. Bake crust at 350 until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set on cooling rack while you prepare filling. Leave oven on.
Make filling: Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 1 1/2 tablespoons. Beat zest and egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened again, about 3 minutes more. Squeeze zested limes until you have 2/3 cups juice. Whisk into yolk mixture until combined. Pour into graham crust and bake pie for another 10 minutes, until set but not browned on top at all. Let pie cool completely before adding topping.
Spread freshly whipped cream over chilled pie.
(Recipe from Smitten Kitchen)


Rainbow Sparkle Gift Guide

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I love it when my littles are surrounded by things as vibrant and colorful as they are.  And who couldn't use a little more sparkle in their day?  We had so much fun compiling this gift guide- it is bright and fun and bursting with color.   Isn't the Penguin Classics Set lovely?

1. Grimm's Elements Large Block Set | 2. Instax Mini 9 Camera | 3. Care Bears Cheer Bear | 4. Rainbow Stripe Socks  Rainbow Socks | 5. Days of the Week Underwear | 6. Rainbow Sweater Dress | 7. Sterling Silver Rainbow Earrings | 8. Stuart Weitzman Verna Alexa Sandal | 9. Super Happy Magic Forest | 10. Art Workshop for Children | 11. Puffin Classics Set | 12. Swatch The Girl Who Loved Color 

And for the final touches, stocking stuffers to complement art time, play time, and bath time. The Playdoh soap is genius.  Did we miss anything?

1. Lush Playdoh Soap | 2. Rainbow Jump Rope | 3. OOLY Sparkle Gel Crayons | 4. Color Bath Dropz | 5. Sarah's Silks Rainbow Streamer


Gifts for Space Lovers

Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's that time of year again, where we are planning out the holidays and thinking about how to make Christmas meaningful for our families. As part of that we are trying to get some of our gift purchasing done ASAP so we can focus on our families and all the fun activities that are part of the holidays. We thought some of you might be doing the same, or at least making some lists as Black Friday approaches so we happily put together some gift guides for you all.

This year we decided we were going to use a more minimalist approach also known as the 4 gift rule. We've put together some incredibly fun themes and we'll be sharing a few things that fit in the something to wear, something to read, something they want, something they need categories. Without further ado, check out our space themed guide.

space gifts, gift guide, books

And let's not forget stocking stuffers! Seriously, who doesn't love discovering the treasures a stocking holds?

This theme lends itself to so many fun ideas, we'd love to hear what you would add to our list. 


Little Fun Club Review and $50 Giveaway

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Little Fun Club blog tour. A subscription box for children's books. Great for kids ages 0-12.

You all know we love to check out subscription boxes, so when we were asked to participate in a blog tour of the Little Fun Club, we jumped at the chance. There are so many wonderful book subscription boxes out here, but one of the things that caught our eye about Little Fun Club is how they customize their boxes to fit individual families. You give them the ages for your children and each box they send is carefully curated to suit your kids, so no two boxes are the same. 

Everyone in our house loves book mail, so when our package arrived we were excited to see what it contained. I let my 8 year old do the honors:

There is something utterly charming about brown paper packages, am I right?

We were all excited to see what was in our package, but I may have been more excited than my kids. As a picture book enthusiast it is rare that we are gifted books and even more rare that we are given three titles that we don't already own. Little Fun Club did a wonderful job with our picks; all 3 of the books we received are books that we do not already have in our home library! My oldest was immediately drawn in by the cover of William Joyce's The Sandman

While my youngest immediately gravitated to Boy + Bot

 And I can't wait to read Return to the Willows with them as a read aloud.

 Some Details:
  • In addition to providing the ages of your children, you can add a note to your account with reading preferences so the box can be tailored to their interests. They can customize one three book box for up to 3 kids. 
  • As your child gets older, the books will change accordingly, so you will always receive age appropriate books. It's a gift that grows with them- and we love that!
  • Shipping is FREE on all boxes. Subscriptions prices are $29 for a 1 month subscription (we like this option as a gift giving option), $27 for 3 months (we think this would be perfect for summer break) or $25 for 6 months (the best value!). They also have a new two book box option available. Check out all the details here.
  • Little Fun Club selects books based on merit which means that their books go through a rigorous selection process and are read and reviewed by the Little Fun Club team before being considered.
  • If you receive a book that you already own, just let Little Fun Club know about it. They'll replace the book in the next box! You don't have to return anything.
  • You can cancel or put your subscription on hold at any time.
  • A Little Fun Club subscription makes a fabulous gift for birthdays, holidays, or just because you love giving books. We love that we can add this option to our gift giving arsenal.  
And now for the giveaway details

$50 Cash Giveaway | batchofbooks.com   

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive $50 in PayPal cash Open to US and Canada Ends May 12, 2017 Use the Rafflectoper to enter. Entrants must be 18 or older or have their parent/guardian enter for them. The winner will be chosen randomly. Winner must respond to the notification email within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. No purchase necessary to enter. This contest is void where prohibited by law.   a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Blog Tour Schedule- 
April 17 - The Mommy Island April 18 - Writing My Own Fairy Tale April 19 - The Kids Did It April 20 - Feed Your Fiction Addiction April 21 - Book Review Mama April 24 - Homebound but Hopeful April 25 - Looking Glass Review April 26 - Kristi's Book Nook April 27 - Natasha Reads Books April 28 - Create With Joy May 1 - That's What She Read May 2 - Tee and Penguin May 3 - Bookworm for Kids, This Kid Reviews Books May 5 - Word Spelunking May 8 - Babies to Bookworms May 9 - The Tangled Yarn May 10 - Geo Librarian May 11 - Savings in Seconds May 12 - Kid Lit Reviews


An ABC Easter Basket

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Does anyone else get excited when the time comes for your kids to learn the alphabet? I love when my kids are learning their letters and sounds because that means they are building a foundation for learning to read!

We've put together some of our top pick for little learners on this Easter basket round up and are now having a difficult time settling on what exactly to put in our kids baskets. So many cute options!

1. eeBoo Alphabet & Numbers Puzzle Pairs - putting things in pairs can be so satisfying, we love these eeBoo puzzle pairs because they are high quality, colorful, and fun!

2. Janod Alphabet Magnetibook-a toy that improves fine motor skills and encourages spelling out words, yes. This portable set includes illustrated pictures along with 104 letter tiles to encourage letter and word recognition.

3. Plan Toys Preschool Alphabet- I bought this Alphabet set for my oldest who is 8 1/2 and it is still in amazing shape. My toddler loves playing with the letters and matching them to the corresponding images on the cards. While I love that in addition to its durability, it comes with a drawstring bag to keep everything together.

4. AB See by Elizabeth Doyle- visual eye candy as well as educational, sign us up! Elizabeth Doyle has created a stunning and engaging book that showcases each letter as a compilation of tiny images that begin with that letter. A wonderful take on an eye spy- a must for any toddler library.

5. Words by Christoph Riemann- this clever book pairs 300 sight words with illustrations that encourage kids to delve into word meanings, explore how they are used and more. Perfect for the beginning reader in your house.

6. ABC Touch Think Learn by Xavier Deneux- this has been my go to gift for baby showers and first birthdays lately and has been met with universal adoration. The design is superb and the die cuts invite children to learn through tactile as well as visual exploration.

7. Mudpuppy ABC Flash Cards- so many flash cards, so little time. There really are an amazing array of beautifully designed flash cards available these days, but we picked this set because it is not only well designed but includes a ring to keep all those lovely cards in one place.

8. Melissa & Doug Alphabet Stamp Set- my kids are stamp fanatics, especially my 3 year old. If there is a stamp set available he is there. This alphabet set is a fun way to start a discussion on letters and would be a great way to practice spelling words, if you are looking to liven up study time!

9. Janod Alphabet Puzzle- this puzzle is gorgeous, wooden and colorful and begging to be displayed as well as played with. It fits so many of the criteria (educational, durable, long lasting) we use for buying toys that it's a no brainer.


An Easter Basket for your Little Sweet Tooth

Sunday, April 9, 2017

We both have quite the sweet tooth and actually bonded over our love of treats on our study abroad to Paris where our host family liked to feed us generic cornflakes and hotdogs with sauerkraut instead of all that is delicious in France. We were basically forced to sample all the neighborhood patisseries to really immerse ourselves in the culture.

This basket is for all our kindred spirits out there and your mini sweets lovers.

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