Petit fours:dainty little iced cakes, delicately layered with fruit or buttercream, an adorable bite-size treat. Eating one of these pastel pretties can make you feel quite special, maybe even a little giddy with delight.
That was just how I felt reading The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by award winning author and poet Anne Michaels. Meeting the inimitable, eccentric Miss Petitfour was a singular pleasure since she’s an expert at baking and eating little cakes. A very good talent to have, I must say.
Miss P also likes to read, chat, and dance. She thrives on small pleasures. Fond of “pockets, paisley, playful patterns and anything hand-knitted,” she travels by tablecloth with her 16 cats trailing aloft, a fanciful kind of Mary Poppins sans umbrella with her own brand of magic.
Laced with just the right amounts of whimsy and fun, this charming book features five everyday adventures of precisely the right size:
Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened. Like the adventure of sharpening your pencil to a perfect point, just before it breaks and that little bit gets stuck in the sharpener. That, I think we will all agree, is a very small adventure.
Other adventures are so big and last so long, you might forget they are adventures at all — like growing up.
And some adventures are just the right size — fitting into a single, magical day. And these are the sort of adventures Miss Petitfour had.
And guess what else?
Miss Petitfour believed firmly that every adventure past her doorstep — even just a jaunt to the grocery shop — must end with a tea party . . .
1. It’s always exciting to discover a quirky new alphabet book — even better when it features fruits and veggies like you’ve never seen them before. Check out Aitch’s Veggie Fruit Alphabet, which the Romanian artist describes as “a playful approach on the traditional alphabet book. Each letter features a fruit or vegetable, depicted as a morph between the fruit’s or veggie’s shape and the female body, a beautiful tribute to natural diversity. Each character has a companion page featuring an illustration of the letter itself and a hand painted pattern based on the fruit or veggie.”
This 56-page gem has super shiny covers, and there’s also a cool art print you can purchase separately (my fave is a toss-up between the Eggplant and the Watermelon). Visit Aitch’s Etsy Shop for more info.
2. You may have noticed that I am slightly mad for English pottery and china. I squealed with delight when I stumbled upon Stokesay Ware — dollhouse miniature china (1:12 scale) in classic English patterns made by hand using completely authentic materials and techniques. The designs/patterns are not applied with decals. Instead, the “decoration is made using specially drawn artwork and hand printed by silk screen using specialist onglaze enamels which are coloured with metal oxides.”
Imagine serving your dolls or teddy bears on patterns such as Blue Willow, Asiatic Pheasant, Jubilee Gold, or Sovereign Red or Blue! And there’s an adorable Nursery pattern featuring the alphabet. It almost makes me want to get a dollhouse . . .
3. How about a quilted spot of tea? Canadian quilt pattern designer Laurraine Yuyama combined her love of tea and Japanese country patchwork in these adorable fabric teapots, cups and saucers.
My style has been described as “country chic” which mixes elements of old and new to create a sophisticated timeless quality. I like to incorporate machine-appliqué, hand-embroidery and buttons along with at least a splash of linen in everything I make. I enjoy combining elements from both my passions of patchwork and pottery– creating dishes with patches of intricate patterns, and quilting three-dimensional teapots and teacups.
Such a unique idea! Laurraine began selling patterns online when the demand for finished pieces became overwhelming. To date, her patterns have been included in at least 11 craft books, and she hopes to publish her own book someday. Find out more about her downloadable pattern booklets here, and view more of her finished work here.
4. Whoever thought “biting the biscuit” could be so creative, stylish and fun? Behold the Hairdo Cookie Cutter designed by Avihai Shurin! Now with each bite you can style Sam’s hair :). A little nibble here, a strategic munch there, go short or shaggy, round or square. It’s totally up to you. No such thing as a bad hair day when your cookies taste so good. 🙂
5. It’s never too early to think about holiday gifts, especially those you’d like to have personalized. What about a lovely folk art print by Catherine Holman? Ever dream of having your own cupcake or tea shoppe? Maybe you have a friend who’d love to see her name on the awning of this cute and cozy cakery and cafe.
Though we see the likes of Elizabeth Bennet’s White Gazpacho and Bathsheba Everdene’s Grilled Corn with Basil Butter, the majority of dishes are linked to children’s book characters (Anne Shirley, Jo March, Lucy Pevensie, Ramona Quimby, Mary Lennox).
7. It’s here, it’s here! Though its official pub date is September 15, Jeannine Atkins’s Little Woman in Blue (She Writes Press, 2015), is already available via online booksellers. In her first historical novel for adults, Jeannine shines the spotlight on the youngest Alcott sister May.
At last, a book about the other artistic Alcott sister. May Alcott, dismissed in Little Women as the pampered youngest March sister Amy, explodes onto the pages of this wonderful novel as a real and hugely likeable woman, passionate about life, art, and adventure, and struggling to make sense of her relationship with an older sister who will never appreciate her for who she really is. Thank you, Jeannine, for giving Amy March a voice of her own! (Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Woman Letters)
I’ve only just started to read it, but so far — wow! As one might expect from an author who’s also a poet, each sentence, each scene is beautifully crafted, informed by thorough research and illuminated by an indeniable passion for her subject. Friends who’ve finished the book have deemed it a must read. A rivalry between two talented sisters, and May’s internal struggle over the desire for artistic achievement as well as having a family of her own will make for a compelling read. Check out these excellent reviews by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman and Melodye Shore.
8. Start with the alphabet, end with the alphabet. Love Emma Block’s beautiful floral alphabet, now available as an archival print at her Etsy Shop. All prints are signed and dated by Emma, whom we spotlighted in this interview. A is for Anenome, J is for Jasmine, O is for Orchid. Perfect for the flower lover and/or gardener on your list (and for you)!
Be kind. Don’t forget to smile, and have a lovely Tuesday!
I can’t remember whether it was “La Petit Patisserie” or “The Flower Shop” that initially caught my eye, only that it was love at first sight and I wanted more.
I soon discovered that the artist behind these winsome and enchantingly feminine illustrations was none other than 20-something-year-old Emma Block of London, England.
Inspired by vintage clothing, 30’s jazz, 50’s illustrations, old photos, travel and people watching, Emma’s work is delightfully retro and thoroughly modern at the same time. Using paint, colored pencil, ink, cut-paper collage and Photoshop, she creates charming, spritely, a little bit quirky, always refreshing pictures in an inimitable style that has a distinctive handmade quality about it.
I’ve long been a big fan of illustrated cookbooks, often adding them to my collection without ever intending to make any of the recipes. I’m content to ooh and ahh over the beautiful art, happily satisfying my visual cravings.
Emma was actually commissioned by the publisher to do the illustrations while in her last year at university; the recipes themselves were created by a team of recipe writers whose names, oddly enough, do not appear on the cover of the book. But Emma’s name is there, front and center, and she definitely deserves the spotlight, because it is her work that really makes this book shine.