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The furry helpers in the Alphabet Soup kitchen are just counting down the days till the new Paddington movie premieres in the U.S. on Christmas Day, which just happens to be Paddington’s winter birthday (he also celebrates June 25).

Though we’re disappointed Colin Firth decided to leave the project, and that the bear in the first movie trailer didn’t quite feel like the same character from the books, we’re still very pleased that Paddington will likely win over millions of new fans.

HarperCollins is re-releasing some of the Paddington novels and picture books, Michael Bond has written a new novel, Love From Paddington (hitting shelves in December), and there’s the wonderful Paddington Trail with 50 bear statues scattered around London. And what about all the coolio movie tie-in merchandise? Yes, please!

New PB Finger Puppets are faboo!

The set comes with Paddington and Aunt Lucy finger puppets, a two-sided backdrop and 24 stickers.

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“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.” ~ Claude Monet

Bonjour!

Today, a mini feast celebrating Claude Monet. There are very few of us who are not enamored with Impressionist art, and as writers, artists, and poets, we know only too well the great joy and frustration that can define the creative process.

You probably know that Monet developed cataracts late in life that severely impaired his acute perception of colors and light, the very hallmarks of his work. His world took on a yellowish tinge, and his paintings gradually became more reddish and muddied, the familiar scenes he so luminously depicted before appearing almost unrecognizable.

Japanese Footbridge (1897)

In a letter to a friend he said, ” . . . my poor eyesight makes me see everything in a complete fog. It’s all very beautiful just the same and it’s this which I’d loved to have been able to convey.” When he could no longer trust his eyes, he carefully read the labels on paint tubes, kept a regular order of colors on his palette, and painted from memory.

Japanese Footbridge (1920-1922)

Lisel Mueller’s poignant “Monet Refuses the Operation” is a beautiful testament to the mind’s eye, an inspiring philosophy, an artist’s credo, a passionate affirmation for all creatives: there’s more than one way of seeing.

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chalk it up to lily and val

#49 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

tea

All images © 2014 Lily and Val

There’s something wonderfully nostalgic and old school about chalk art. I remember being so excited when it was my turn to erase the blackboards in grade school. Before clapping the erasers outside, replacing stubs with brand new sticks of chalk, and wiping the boards clean with a wet rag, I liked to “play teacher” with my own little scribbles and drawings.

Now I have three chalkboards in my kitchen: one for the grocery list, one displaying an inspirational quote for the week, the third to advise guests: “Feel free to wait on me.” :) There’s also another chalkboard in our dining room, where I post the menu when we have company for dinner (it’s fun to “play restaurant”).

teatime

No surprise that I fell hard for Valerie McKeehan’s charming hand lettered chalk art, which she features on prints, note cards, stationery, gifts and accessories. Naturally I love her kitchen-themed designs best — tear-off placemats, illustrated recipes, menu boards, foodie sayings. Lily & Val products are quaintly whimsical with that undeniable handmade-heartmade quality I covet, and are available via LilyandVal.com or at the Lily & Val Chalk Art Boutique on Etsy.

I recently ordered some note cards which arrived lickety split — I kind of hate to part with them, but will enjoy sending them to special friends. :)

Enjoy this little Lily and Val sampler. How can you resist?

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Put on your aprons, raise your wooden spoons:

It’s baking day!

It’s baking day!

It’s baking day at Grandma’s!

In this charming new picture book by Anika and Christopher Denise, three spirited young bears tromp through the snow to spend a fun, cozy day at Grandma’s.

After a round of hugs and kisses, they get down to the delicious business of baking a cake together:

Pass out aprons, “One-two-three.”

Grandma reads the recipe:

flour, sugar, butter, eggs.

Stand on chairs with tippy legs.

The eager cubs add big spoonfuls of joy and anticipation to the batter as they help measure, mix, and stir in Grandma’s warm and welcoming cabin kitchen. And why not lick the spoon? :)

Love the way Chris plays with light in his illos, a nice way to underscore the theme of warm hearts and show the passing hours.

While the cake’s in the oven, they sip hot cocoa and dance to the sounds coming from Grandma’s Victrola:

Old-time music, soft and sweet.

Skippy notes and tapping feet.

Learning songs that Grandma sings –

when the kitchen timer rings!

Then it’s time to cut and frost the cake and add a few sprinkles before gift wrapping each piece and heading home by moonlight.

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These days, I’m all about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been enjoying Pamela Smith Hill’s online course, which compares Wilder’s Little House books with her soon-to-be published autobiography Pioneer Girl, and I must say all that talk of traveling to and from Walnut Grove in a covered wagon has made me hungry for some down home country food.

That’s why I was especially happy to see Melissa Gilbert’s recently released My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2014). I’m a longtime fan of the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series and always picture Melissa whenever Laura’s name is mentioned. Can you believe it’s been exactly 40 years since the series first aired on NBC?

My Prairie Cookbook is a must-have for Little House fans. In this scrapbook-cookbook, Melissa shares nearly 80 recipes and lots of wonderful behind-the-scenes photos, memorabilia, and personal recollections. She answers frequently asked questions from fans, lists her top ten favorite LH episodes, comments on LH bloopers and goofs, and writes so lovingly about Michael Landon, whom she considered to be her second “Pa” ( her own father died when she was just 11).

For those of us who’ve watched the series for many years, that image of a freckle-faced, somewhat fearless minx in pigtails and calico is so firmly entrenched in our minds that we might not realize that in real life Melissa raised four boys and liked nothing better than cooking lots of soul-nourishing comfort food for her family and friends.

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