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Attention: Good-looking friends, blog readers, lurkers and chocolate lovers!

Washington, DC’s favorite (and first independent) chocolate shop, Chocolate Chocolate, needs your vote. They recently learned they will be losing half their storefront due to a building renovation (boo! hiss!). Naturally this will decrease their visibility from the street and shut out some of the natural light.

You may remember my interviewing owners Frances and Ginger Park, who opened this ‘little shop that could’ about 30 years ago. Those of you who’ve been there know this is more than just a business — this shop with its awesome level of personalized service is an extension of their home.

Chocolate Chocolate has just entered the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business Contest – where five winners will be chosen to receive $25,000 each. This mentorship would enable Frances and Ginger to boost their online presence via social media and advertising, and develop more marketing strategies for the 21st century.

To cast your vote, click here. But hurry, the contest ends today, June 30, midnight PT.

Support small business! Support CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE!

Please share the contest link with all your friends and on all your social networks!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

Mr. Cornelius Cucumber

While looking for more children’s books illustrated by Lena Anderson, I was happy to discover Anna’s Garden Songs – a whimsical, light-hearted collection of 14 fruit and veggie poems written by Mary Q. Steele.

Garden favorites like peas, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, beets and onions take their place in the sun with playful rhyming verse and Lena’s fanciful pictures. I may as well confess right now that I’ve always had a thing for giant vegetables, so when I saw how Lena fiddled with scale in this book I squealed with delight. :)

Blond, mostly barefoot, bespectacled Anna is just adorable as she plants, harvests and shares the garden’s bounty with her friends, grandfather, and large pet rabbit, who happily scampers through the pages and almost steals the show (he’s especially good at nibbling and napping).

 

From the moment I opened the book and saw Anna hiding in that big pea pod, I knew I was in for a real treat. I can’t decide which I like most — Anna sitting atop a giant beet, relaxing amongst the tomato plants, or wearing a dress made from lettuce leaves.

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If 19th century French chef Alexis Soyer were alive today, he’d likely have his own cooking show. His name brand sauces, cookbooks and kitchen utensils would fill store shelves, velvet berets would be all the rage, and lines of fans would snake around the block at all his public appearances.

Though he was deliciously famous during Victorian times and has been called the first celebrity chef, today Soyer is curiously the man history forgot.

I’ve been fascinated by his life and work ever since reading Ann Arnold’s beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography. You may know Ann as the illustrator of Alice Waters’s now classic Fanny at Chez Panisse, which is ‘the book’ that got me hooked on illustrated cookbooks.

In The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), Ann outlines Soyer’s life from his humble beginnings in the tiny French town of Meaux-en-Brie (1809), till his death from Crimean fever in London at the age of 48. He was quite a colorful and flamboyant character who enjoyed amusing people — not only a celebrated chef with a social conscience, but also an inventor, entrepreneur, and prolific cookbook author.

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Ahem. I’ve known for some time that poets J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian are both crazy. Crazy talented, that is.

Ebullient wizards of comedic timing and wordplay, these two pun meisters should be arrested for having way too much fun. Having tickled the funny bones of kids everywhere for decades, they’ve each published dozens of award winning books that celebrate the many wonderful possibilities of poetry. Such joy! Such cleverness! Such vigorous versifying! Veddy veddy good.

Now, a new book by either one of these beloved poets is a real treat, but having them write a book together is like having your cake and eating it two, three, maybe five thousand times. In Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems (Schwartz & Wade, 2014), Mr. Lewis and Mr. Florian have set their engines at full throttle, pulling out all the stops when it comes to inventing 21 crazy dazy cars of the future.

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Remember how excited I was to hear that Colin Firth was going to voice Paddington Bear in the new movie to be released Christmas Day in the U.S.?

The other day I saw the official movie trailer and something felt wrong. Can’t explain it — the bear on the screen looked like Paddington, but he didn’t feel like the character I had grown to love so much from reading Michael Bond’s books. I know how more often than not, the book is usually better than the movie. And the producer of this project did say they were going to put their own spin on the character. But still.

See for yourself:

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Okay, maybe I’m just used to the Paddington puppets from the old TV series. Or maybe I’m stuck on the Paddington of my own imagination. Maybe I like him so much I’d be disappointed no matter what.

Now I’ve learned that Colin Firth has left the film. Apparently it was mutually agreed that his voice didn’t suit the on-screen character they had created (who so far feels more like a “Ted” than a child-centric bear).

Sigh. Wonder who will take Colin’s place. No one can, really.

Sigh.

I really need a marmalade sandwich.

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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