21 October 2017

Sentimental and Inspirational Quotes from Winnie-the-Pooh

Last week, Goodbye Christopher Robin--an A. A. Milne biopic about the writing of the Pooh books--opened in the United States. I love the Pooh books in particular and Milne's work in general, so I'm very interested to see the film when it's eventually released on DVD, since I'm not a big fan of going to movie theaters. Until then, I've been reading articles about and reviews of the movie online, and to my dismay one of the latter used a quote that's commonly falsely attributed to A. A. Milne--as a matter of fact, it's a quote I previously debunked in a whole post about how some of the most popular "Milne" quotes online aren't from Milne at all.

Since there are many quotes actually from the Pooh books that are worth sharing (far more worthy, in fact, than the falsely attributed ones) I thought I'd share some here. As most of the widely-circulated false Milne quotes are sentimental or inspirational in nature, I chose quotes of a similar theme for this post--although there are several hilariously witty passages in the Pooh books that are just as worth sharing as well.

Christopher Robin was sitting outside his door, putting on his Big Boots. As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was going to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw, and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

Chapter Eight: In Which Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition to the North Pole

"Do go and see, Owl. Because Pooh hasn't got very much brain, and he might do something silly, and I do love him so, Owl. Do you see, Owl?"

Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh 
Chapter Nine: In Which Piglet Is Entirely Surrounded by Water

But, of course, it isn't really Good-bye, because the Forest will always be there . . . and anybody who is Friendly with Bears can find it.

A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner 

". . . Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you."

Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner 
Chapter Nine: In Which Eeyore Find the Wolery and Owl Moves Into It

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

The House at Pooh Corner 
Chapter Ten: In Which Christopher Robin and Pooh Come to an Enchanted Place, and We Leave Them There

10 October 2017

Lake Champlain Organic Fair-Trade Chocolate Review

Chocolate is one of my favorite treats, and I always buy brands that are fair-trade certified to make sure that I'm not contributing to unethical business practices such as child slave labor. Luckily there are lots of great fair-trade chocolate companies out there, and I actually wrote about several of my favorites in one of my oldest posts on this blog. But since then I've discovered a new brand that has become my top choice: Lake Champlain Chocolates.

I've been familiar with Lake Champlain Chocolates for several years, but when I first spotted their products at my local Whole Foods they weren't fair-trade or organic certified. Now, nearly 100% of their chocolate is fair-trade certified, and much of it is also organic. What really sets them apart from other brands for me is their wide selection and rich, classic chocolate flavor--while other organic and fair-trade chocolate often has "gourmet" fruity, earthy, or spicy notes, Lake Champlain's chocolate reminds me of the chocolate from fancy candy stores I had on special occasions when growing up.

They carry a full range of organic chocolate bars, including plain bars in various levels of cacao intensity plus filled varieties like peanut butter and caramel that I've never seen in other organic fair-trade brands. They make plenty of organic seasonal and holiday varieties as well, like the foil-wrapped milk chocolate coins for Halloween and the filled leaf-shaped autumn chocolates in the photo above. Milk and dark organic chocolate turkeys, organic Christmas and winter holiday chocolates, and filled organic chocolate Easter eggs are also available seasonally.

One thing to note is that even for organic and fair-trade brands, Lake Champlain's products are a bit on the pricey side. However, if you're going to indulge for a holiday or special occasion, I think they're worth it, especially since their products are excellent in quality and hard to find elsewhere. I've ordered from Lake Champlain's website several times and my orders have always been nicely packaged and properly insulated during warm weather, but if you'd prefer to shop in-person, I've found a decent selection of their products at several Whole Foods stores in my region.

02 October 2017

Spooky Reads Set at Halloween for YA & Up

When I was growing up, I had a handful of Halloween picture books that I would read every year as Halloween approached. Now that I'm older, I've also discovered a handful of atmospheric books for young adults and adults that take place on or around Halloween, and every few years when October rolls around I'll return to one or more of them for bedside reading to help get me in the spooky mood. Here are my favorites:

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

The "witch week" in this book's title refers to the week between Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night, a British holiday that marks the arrest of Guy Fawkes for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In Jones' novel, witch week is a particularly potent time for magic--which is problematic in a world where using magic is illegal. The book follows several students at a boarding school for witch orphans, or children whose parents were convicted of using magic, as they come into magical power and try to use it surreptitiously without being caught by school officials. As I wrote in my post on Diana Wynne Jones book recommendations for popular fandoms, Witch Week tackles some of the same themes as the Harry Potter series in a more nuanced fashion, and predates J. K. Rowling's books by almost twenty years.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

When lady-in-waiting Kate Sutton is exiled to a remote estate for crossing Queen Mary I, her punishment is meant to be one of solitude and loneliness. But at the Perilous Gard, Kate soon faces trials of a more intense nature when she and Christopher Heron, her new guardian’s younger brother, become entangled in the affairs of the Fairy Folk. The novel's climactic scene on Halloween follows the old ballad "Tam Lin" very closely, although the preceding events are quite different. Pope's depiction of the Fairy Folk and their underground abode is deeply atmospheric and leaves the reader questioning whether or not the "fairies" are in fact supernatural beings. (Description originally written for Sparrow Tree Square.)

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Is it possible to have two sets of memories? Polly Whittacker, who believed that her life so far had been perfectly ordinary, faces this possibility when she begins recovering memories of strange events surrounding a man named Tom. As Polly remembers more and more about her relationship with Tom, she becomes determined to find him–and rescue him from the deadly peril he faces from the Queen of the Fairies. Halloween is a significant time at more than one point in the book, including the climax. And like in The Perilous Gard, the ballad of "Tam Lin" inspires the story, with key elements of the ballad are present in the novel's end sequence. (Description originally written for Sparrow Tree Square.)

Prince of Darkness by Elizabeth Peters

When Peter Stewart arrives in Middlesburg, Maryland with  secretive agenda, he at first seems like the unsettling element in the picturesque small town. But Middlesburg hides dark secrets beneath its charming surface--secrets that date all the way back to the town's founding in the seventeenth century. Peter becomes acquainted with local folk scholar and author Kate More and her cousin Tiphaine, and as Halloween approaches he begins to uncover the hidden evil in the town's past and present. A bit of a warning: Barbara Michael's books are all somewhat unsettling in parts due to their supernatural elements, but this one deals with darker subject matter than usual including *spoiler* cults and devil worship, although nothing overly graphic takes place.

19 September 2017

Makeup Review: Maybelline Blushed Nudes Palette

I've had my eye on Maybelline's Blushed Nudes palette for some time now, and when I got my most recent quarterly CVS ExtraBucks I finally decided to give it a try. Normally I buy my eyeshadows singly because I don't often like all of the colors in a bigger palette, but I use pink and neutral tones often so this seemed like a good selection for me.

There are twelve shadows in the Blushed Nudes palette, and I would say the mix of light, medium, and dark shades is fairly even. However, shimmery shades dominate, with the most matte being the light pink one pan in from the upper right. Even this seems to have a bit of shimmer, although that could just be fallout from the other colors, since it applies fairly matte to my eye. The most shimmery shade is the dark brown with the berry glitter in the bottom right corner, and the rest fall on the pearly-to-shimmery spectrum.

As the name suggests, the colors all have a blushed tone--there are true pinks, peachy neutrals, mauvey taupes, and browns with berry undertones. There's enough variety in color to create several different looks, with good options for base, crease, highlight, and liner colors for each. The colors apply true to how they look in the palette with moderate pigmentation, but I actually prefer my shadows to apply more softly like this with the option to build intensity than to have super-intense colors right out of the pan.

All in all, I think this is a really nice palette for creating soft, blushed eye makeup looks. The neutral, pink, and berry-brown shades are pretty autumnal colors for those who don't like the more typical warm earth tones, and the variety of shades in the palette allow for complete eye looks without any additional products.

04 September 2017

Recipe: Egg-Free Vanilla Pudding Cupcakes and Chocolate Frosting with No Mixer

Note: Please keep in mind that my recipes reflect only my own experience, and that if you choose to follow them you do so at your own risk!

In the spring I shared my recipe for chocolate cupcakes and vanilla frosting, and now here's the reverse! It's taken me a while to develop a recipe for vanilla cake that's easy, egg-free, mixer-free, and lighter than other recipes, since these properties can often make cake taste more like a muffin or quick bread. But this summer I've hit upon the secret: using instant pudding mix in the batter. It's an old trick often used with boxed cake mixes to give them an extra-moist texture, and it does that here as well as substituting for the binding properties of an egg--just make sure to use organic instant pudding mix to avoid additives and artificial ingredients.
Vanilla Cake Ingredients

- 2 cups einkorn flour*
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons dry organic instant vanilla pudding mix
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups milk

* Einkorn flour is made from an ancient variety of wheat and is naturally moister than all-purpose flour. If you substitute all-purpose flour, you may need to add 1-2 extra tablespoons of water.


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cupcake pans with sixteen parchment cupcake wrappers, or grease a 9-inch square cake pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter. Stir in the vanilla extract with 1/4 cup of the milk.

3. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour, the dry pudding mix, the baking powder, and the salt. Alternate the remaining milk 1/4 cup at a time with the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, finishing with the last 1/4 cup milk.

4. Spoon the batter into the lined cupcake pans until it is evenly distributed, or pour the batter into the greased cake pan.

5. Bake the cupcakes until they are springy and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the center cupcakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Bake a round or square cake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.

6. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool, or let a round or square cake cool in the pan. Wait until the cake is completely cool before frosting.

Makes 16 cupcakes or one 9" square cake

Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Up to 3 tablespoons milk


1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter and vanilla extract. Sift in the cocoa powder a stir with a fork to combine.
2. Sift the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time into the melted butter, beating with a fork after each addition. When the mixture becomes stiff, add a little milk, one teaspoon at a time--the frosting thins out easily with just a small amount.
3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to incorporate all the powdered sugar, and add any remaining milk to reach your desired consistency.

4. Spread the frosting using an offset spatula or butter knife onto the completely cooled cupcakes or cake.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups, or enough to frost 16 cupcakes or one 9" round or square cake