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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Fancy hats on, pinkies up — it’s time for a Tea Party!

Wait a minute. Do you know the proper way to behave at a tea party? Are your best manners in check? Hmmmm, sounds like you need a little help. Have no fear: thanks to Madelyn Rosenberg and Heather Ross, How to Behave at a Tea Party (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014) is here!

(click to enlarge)

In this delightful story, Julia briefs her younger brother Charles on the finer points of tea party etiquette. Apparently this includes washing strategic parts of his body (left elbow, right knee, ears, nose), donning fancy clothes and hat, bringing a stuffed animal and present (no snakes), holding the teacup just so, and definitely not inviting the McKagan brothers or the frog.

Also crucial? Not eating the peonies or the tablecloth. And no slurping or burping. “Please” and “thank you” are the mark of civilized guests, who ideally would nibble ever-so-daintily on little sponge cakes with jam and cookie cutter sandwiches.

Well.

Charles and the McKagan brothers have their own ideas. Julia’s perfectly laid plans deterioriate rapidly as the boys make rocket ships out of sugar cubes and towers out of teacups. They are champion burpers and slurpers. Not surprisingly, things come to a CRASHING halt and Julia has a meltdown.

But is this the proper way for a hostess to behave? One certainly can’t have a tea party without any guests. Maybe sugar cube rocket ships could be fun after all, along with castles, moats and dragons. While you’re at it, let’s juggle saucers, put spoons on our noses, and use the tablecloth as a cape! Now you’re talkin’.

Heather Ross’s emotive, action-packed illustrations effectively dramatize Rosenberg’s spare text, heightening the humor at every turn. When Julia reminds Charles to clean his ears, we see Charles brushing the dog’s ears with Julia’s toothbrush. The McKagan brothers are appropriately rambunctious as they tie the stuffed bear to its chair and balance teacups on their heads. And who can resist a dog in a pink tutu or that feisty frog, as he laughs, points, and hot-tubs in a cup (drying himself off with a napkin, of course)?

Julia’s spot-on facial expressions aptly chart her gradual unraveling — from cool, confident and authoritative, to doubtful, peeved, harried, frustrated, exasperated, just plain FED-UP. Ross also deftly captures Julia’s change of heart as she decides to re-invite her guests, and it’s amusing to see Charles and the McKagan brothers treading a little more carefully the second time around as they all settle into a fun afternoon (high tea in a treehouse, anyone?).

How to Behave at a Tea Party serves up the classic older sister-mischievous younger brother scenario with a skillful nod at the importance of remaining flexible, keeping an open mind, and learning how to go with the flow. Since life is often unpredictable, the art of compromise is key. Some will see themselves in Julia, with her need for control, while others will identify with Charles, who has his own definition of fun. Either way, kids will love the face-off between Prim-and-Proper vs. Let’s-Wing-It. One lump or two? :)

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TEA PARTY TREATS!

By now you’re probably anxious to host your own winter tea. What to serve? Madelyn and Heather both like to nibble on homemade cookies with their tea. Madelyn says, “For tea parties, I like anything with jam.” Me too! :)

Be sure to whip up batches of these goodies and read How to Behave at a Tea Party aloud to all your guests. Fancy hats and superhero capes, optional. Just have fun!

JAM THUMBPRINTS
from Madelyn Rosenberg

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • One egg (yolk only)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • jam of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and both sugars (by hand). Mix in the egg yolk and gradually add the flour. Finally, add the vanilla and mix well.

Take the dough by teaspoon and roll into balls. You’ll flatten those a bit as you place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart. Put your thumbprint in the middle. Fill with jam (I usually put the jam in a sandwich bag and cut off the end to make it easier to deal with.)

Bake for around 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Careful not to overbake.

Yields 4 dozen cookies.

~ Adapted from the Words Worth Eating Cookbook‘s recipe for German Christmas Cookies.

*

(PERFECT?) PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
from Heather Ross

I have been working on this recipe for quite some time, and I am happy to report that I have succeeded in making batch after batch that actually stay soft for up to a week without using icky corn syrup. The list of ingredients might sound like something that only our yoga teacher would consider to be the makings of a cookie, but trust me. These are chewy heaven.

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon peanut butter (my favorite brand is Arrowhead Mills Organic Creamy Valencia Peanut Butter)
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar (I like Hain Organic)
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar or raw cane sugar (also perfect in your morning coffee!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and set to speed 3, cream butter, peanut butter and sugars until well blended. Some of the sugar will still be granulated.

Add egg and mix well.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt together (I use a whisk). Add these ingredients to the butter mixture and blend on speed 2.

Add chocolate chips, mix on speed 1 until well distributed.

Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Press each cookie lightly with a fork to flatten.

Bake for exactly 13 minutes, then remove (cookies will still look very soft and squishy) and place baking sheet on the top of your stove and leave your oven on, for about twenty minutes.

Transfer cookies to a plate or cooling rack and allow to cool.

Makes 12 – 20 cookies, depending on size.

Store in an airtight container if possible.

~ This recipe appeared in Heather’s “Weekend” blog.

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FROG TEA SANDWICH
from Mr. Cornelius

  • two slices bread of your choice
  • one slice bologna (or your favorite cold cut)
  • one slice white cheddar cheese
  • 3″- 4″ piece of cucumber
  • two stuffed Manzanilla green olives
  • a little mayo (optional)

1. Wash your paws.

2. Cut each slice of bread into rounds using a 2-1/2″ biscuit or cookie cutter.

3. Slice the bologna into pie-shaped fourths.

4. Cut the corners off the cheese slice, then trim to make a jagged edge all the way around.

5. Slice the cucumber vertically (about 1/8″ thickness), making sure to include the rounded end.

6. If using, spread mayo on one of the bread slices.

7. Carefully roll the baloney pieces and lay on the bread. Place cheese slice and cucumber “tongue” over them.

8. Place other piece of bread on top, and position the olive eyes.

9. Ribbet before eating. Burp afterwards.

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HOW TO BEHAVE AT A TEA PARTY
written by Madelyn Rosenberg
illustrated by Heather Ross
published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2014
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.

*Read an excerpt at the publisher’s website.

**Check out this fun book trailer:

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SPECIAL GIVEAWAY!

We have a brand new copy of How to Behave at a Tea Party to give away to one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite teatime treat is no later than midnight (EST) Sunday, January 25, 2014. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!

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wkendcookingiconThis post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. No fancy hats or raised pinkies required to join the culinary fun. :)

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*Spreads from How to Behave at a Tea Party posted by permission of the publisher. Text copyright © 2014 Madelyn Rosenberg, illustrations © 2014 Heather Ross, published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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via AHA

PRODUCE AISLE
by Rebecca McClanahan

The artichoke keeps her distance.
She has been taken too many times. Now
the armadillo armor hides her secret heart.

Everyone counts on the onion, staple of stews
and pottage. But deep in the crowded bin, her skin
is thin as moth wing. It peels away before their eyes.

Green peppers are modern women who take
their muscles seriously. They hunch their shoulders,
broad, shiny beneath a fluorescent sun.

Close by in cellophane the carrots keep for weeks,
the last to lose their figures. All legs,
tapering to slim ankles–and above,

wild profusion of hair. They gather in knots
of conversation and whisper about the apples,
those aging showgirls who didn’t know when to quit,

redheads buffed an unnatural blush, a shine
that shouts forever while inside the white flesh softens.
In the center aisle, bananas in bunches

curl like firm young girls in sleep. Soon they will turn
like their half-price sisters, learn the bruise,
dark print that begins beneath the skin and grows.

Oh to be the avocado! She ages so well.
Time makes love to her daily, finding her sweeter
the softer she grows. Beside her the potato,

peasant woman in brown, comes into her own slowly.
She stays in the shadows, blindly remembers
her place. Come to me! I will make you whole!

coos the eggplant mother. And from the corner bin
a chorus: Oranges, Oranges, Oranges, Oranges.
We are what we seem. We speak our own name.

*

~ Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 1989 Rebecca McClanahan, from Mrs. Houdini (UP of Florida).

*   *   *

Well, grocery shopping will never be the same. I mean, who knew? :)

Love the whimsy in this poem, but also the relatable truths. What lies beneath, when you peel away the layers? Many of us are simply not what we seem. Since the items described here are all female, do you think women conceal more of their true selves than men do? And what interesting statements about aging — for sure, I’d like to be an avocado.

I can think of someone I know in real life who matches each of these fruit and vegetable personality types. Which do you most identify with?

While you’re contemplating that, enjoy this little gallery of reimagined fresh produce:

Portraits by Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Y&R Interactive

Cafe M Food Sculptures by Carl Kleiner

via Techno Crazed

 

*   *   *

Rebecca McClanahan’s tenth book is THE TRIBAL KNOT,: A MEMOIR OF FAMILY, COMMUNITY, AND A CENTURY OF CHANGE. She has also published five books of poetry and a suite of essays, THE RIDDLE SONG AND OTHER REMEMBERINGS, winner of the Glasgow prize in nonfiction. Her three books of writing instruction include WORD PAINTING: A GUIDE TO WRITING MORE DESCRIPTIVELY, which is used as a text in numerous writing programs. For more, check out her official website.

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HAPPY NEWS

Big Congratulations to Diane DeCillis! Her debut poetry book, STRINGS ATTACHED, was just named a 2015 Michigan Notable Book! Hers was one of 20 books selected for this honor by the Library of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Education. You may remember when I shared “Music from Another Room” and “Last Night I Dreamed I Stole the Croissants” from this book as well as Diane’s hummus recipe. If you still haven’t seen STRINGS ATTACHED, treat yourself to a copy to celebrate the New Year. It’s a rich, sumptuous feast of words, impressions, and ideas sure to satisfy your literary palate.

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poetryfriday180The lovely and talented Irene Latham is hosting the Roundup at Live Your Poem. Is she an onion or an orange? Stroll over to peruse the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week. If you go grocery shopping this weekend, be sure to pay close attention to the tomatoes.

Yours truly,

Miss Potato, née Banana
xoxoo

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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Guess who’s having a birthday?

Michael Bond, who created Paddington, my most favorite bear character in all of children’s literature, turns 89 today!

photo by Sue Foll

Thought we’d celebrate by taking a look at his latest novel, Love from Paddington (HarperCollins, 2014), the 14th chapter book in his beloved series featuring the marmalade-loving, well-mannered, endlessly charming “rare sort of bear” from Darkest Peru.

Thanks to Mr. Bond, we now have vital proof that bears are indeed good letter writers. LFP contains 15 of Paddington’s letters to his dear Aunt Lucy describing how he met the Brown family at London’s Paddington Station, and about some of the unexpected “misadventures” he gets into (for he’s “just that sort of bear”).

This is the first of the novels to be written in Paddington’s own words, so expect to be totally delighted and amused by his endearing personality and refreshing innocence. Who else could manage to wallpaper himself or saw a table in half while constructing a magazine rack? What happens when he climbs atop a horse, plays a game of cricket, or attends the theatre for the first time? Let’s just say it isn’t every day a marmalade sandwich lands smack dab on a bald man’s head.

It’s hard to pick a favorite episode, but I do love the time Paddington helps out at the barber’s. If some bear accidentally shaves some man’s hair off, the least he can do is glue it back on — and, of course, make further amends with his knowledge of antique Spode Blue Italian bone china (how I love a bear who knows his crockery!).

The man had told me not to touch the top of his head, but it was too late. Whereas it had been covered by a mass of thick black curls, now there wasn’t a hair to be seen. He was completely bald!

There was only one thing for it. I reached for my tube. Mr. Sloop had said his floor was covered with unwanted hair, so I wouldn’t be short of material to repair the damage.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but there were so many different kinds of hair, and so many different colors, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

Whatever the mishap, Paddington always lands on his feet and things work out in the end much to everyone’s relief. Love from Paddington is a great way to whet the appetite for the other books in the series, where these stories are described in greater detail. Those who’ve already read the previous books will enjoy hearing Paddington’s unique take on these somewhat sticky adventures, enjoying yet again his strong sense of right and wrong, his capital bargaining skills, his admirable hat-raising politeness, his enduring kindness, his unmatched appetite for chunky marmalade sandwiches, and his masterful hard stare.

Written to coincide with the Paddington movie release, the book contains wonderful pen-and-ink drawings by Peggy Fortnum and R.W. Alley. Ms. Fortnum was the first to depict Paddington on the page back in the late 50’s, and Mr. Alley, Paddington’s current illustrator, has been drawing him since 1997. I think there have been at least 6 different illustrators through the years, but it’s nice to have the first and the most recent represented in this book.

by R.W. Alley

by Peggy Fortnum

by Peggy Fortnum

I’d like to think that part of Paddington’s enduring appeal is the theme of unconditional acceptance and tolerance. He is an immigrant, after all, and an ursine one at that — yet the Browns happily welcome him into their home and he becomes a member of the family just like that. Good manners (often lacking in these crazy times) never go out of style — something I’ve always loved about this bear. Could you resist him if he tipped his hat at you? :)

But ultimately Paddington is just plain lovable and fun. I enjoy reading his observations about the sights, sounds, and the people he encounters in London. I’ve always said that rescuing a lone bear from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve says a lot about a man.

Thank you, Mr. Bond, for giving us Paddington!

Happy Happy Bearthday!!

 *   *   *

LOVE FROM PADDINGTON
written by Michael Bond
illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and R.W. Alley
published by HarperCollins, December 2014
Chapter Book for ages 8-12, 144 pp.

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MORE CHUNKY GOODNESS

*Don’t forget: the Paddington movie opens January 16!

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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ALTERNATIVE SANTA: A CHRISTMAS POEM
by Roger McGough

‘I’m fed up looking like Father Christmas,’
Muttered Father Christmas one year
‘I need a new outfit, I must move with the times
So for a start, it’s goodbye reindeer’

He googled Alternative Santas
And was amazed at the stuff that appeared
He got rid of the holly-red costume
Had a haircut, and shaved off his beard

Spent his days in front of a computer
In a cave hollowed out of the ice
Wearing a tee shirt emblazoned Merry Xmas
And jeans (Amazon, Armani, half price)

Couldn’t wait to straddle his snow-ped
(The bargain he’d bought on eBay)
A rocket-powered silver toboggan
His supersonic sleigh

Then one morning he thought, ‘Oh why bother
Delivering presents by hand
When it could all be done online
Busy parents will understand

We are lucky to live in a digital age
Where the aim is access and speed
SantaNet I’ll call the system
‘Santafaction guaranteed’

And that was years and years ago
Times that children barely know
Midnight mass and mistletoe
Christmas carols and candle glow

Sleigh bells ringing across the snow
And Santa singing Yo ho ho
For that was years and years ago
And that was years and years ago.

~ This poem first appeared in The Telegraph (December 2013).

*   *   *

Ho Ho Ho!

This poem made me smile and nod knowingly, but also wax nostalgic.

Who doesn’t love cyber shopping? Whose eyeballs don’t gleefully roll in their sockets at the words, “FREE SHIPPING”? Yay for the convenience of comparison shopping with just a few clicks, the ability to purchase online one day and find the spoils on your doorstep the next!

But SIGH. When it comes to Santa, I want him to stay exactly the same.

I need his holly-red suit, flowing white beard, and all his reindeer. I need this iconic symbol of joy, wonder, and magic to rekindle those happy childhood memories during a season when we inevitably think of those who are less fortunate, who can’t be or are no longer with us.

I’m so grateful we went to Hawai’i last year to celebrate Christmas with my family. It was my mother’s last, and though she’d been declining for awhile, none of us could have predicted she’d be gone just three months later. I baked several of her favorite treats — Russian Tea Cakes, Almond Christmas Trees, and Walnut Refrigerator Cookies. Whenever she knew I was coming, she’d remind me to bake Refrigerator Cookies for my brother since those are his favorite. But she liked them too. :)

Auntie Ella and Margaret

During the holidays, I also think about one of my mother’s younger sisters, Auntie Ella. Unlike my mother, she was an avid baker and usually made gingerbread boys and fruit cakes and rafts of cookies. Who can forget her caramel popcorn balls wrapped in Saran?

When I was growing up, my mother’s family took turns hosting the Christmas Day gathering — a joyous, talky potluck usually featuring turkey, ham, Chinese noodles, sushi, a Jell-O-mold, salads, mashed potatoes, hot veggies, kimchi, pies, cakes and fruit punch with 7-Up and orange sherbet. After lunch we played games and got all excited over the prizes we’d won. The “big” door prize was often a 100-lb bag of rice. My favorite prize was a transistor radio I received for winning the limbo competition at Uncle Joe and Auntie Gladys’s house (one of the few times it was advantageous being short). :)

When we were little we were blessed with lots of presents from aunties and uncles (my mother was one of 12 children, my father one of 6). Among the most memorable:  a 3-foot Ruthy Doll from Uncle Myung Ho and Auntie Susan, a beautiful lacy yellow cardigan (my first with covered buttons) from Uncle Charlie and Auntie Suney, a white wicker purse from Auntie Lily. We anxiously waited for our annual share of Auntie Esther’s scrumptious homemade cookies and the 5-lb box of See’s Candies Uncle Stan and Auntie Kyung Sin sent us every year from California. Grandma Yang was fond of slipping us some pin money along with a box of Hershey kisses.

Of course all this Christmas noshing and partying was just a warm-up for New Year’s, always held at Grandma Yang’s, always featuring dumpling soup — a two-day marathon of serious eating when we kids ran wild doing whatever we pleased while our parents were busy playing poker (did I ever mention that I was asked to leave that part out of my original Dumpling Soup manuscript?).

My mom prepared her last New Year’s feast two years ago. At 88, she was still a champion chopper with hands that smelled of garlic, a tireless, generous cook who always made extra so everyone could take something home. Cooking, her special way of showing love, was so integral to her identity that she became somewhat despondent when failing health forced her to stop.

Fork over the cookies!

Speaking of Santa and rekindling childhood memories, I only vaguely remember meeting Santa once, and there wasn’t any discussion of whether I’d been naughty or nice, or what was on my Christmas wish list. Judging from the only surviving Santa photo in our family album, I was quite terrified of the man in the red suit. Now, if he’d offered me a few sugar cookies we could have become fast friends. :)

Despite my early Santa trauma, I still believe in him, the spirit of Christmas, and the value of giving. Every day I still wish for peace on earth, good will towards men, and a time when all colors and stripes of human beings can live together in harmony. And if only we could somehow slow things down so kids can retain their innocence a little while longer!

But we are rich with Christmases past, striving to make Christmases present and future the best they can be. And yes, it’s too easy to lose sight of what really matters. So, bring on the “midnight mass and mistletoe/Christmas carols and candle glow/Sleigh bells ringing across the snow . . . ”

As much as I love my laptop, I mourn our loss of humanity, our allegiance to electronic screens vs. real face-to-face contact marked by kindness and respect. People are not machines.

This will be my final post of 2014, an eventful year marked by sadness as well as joy. I have lost one parent, but the other will celebrate his 100th Christmas next week. Thank you for spending some time here this past year — for your likes, comments and discussions, for always arriving hungry. As before, there will always be a place for you at the Alphabet Soup table, and we’ve much to look forward to in the New Year — cool author and illustrator interviews, reviews, delicious recipes, Indie Artist Spotlights, poetry, tea, Paddington movie, Colin Firth, Downton Abbey!

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or all three — enjoy and be merry!

May all your holiday wishes come true. Make some good memories, like “years and years ago,” worthy of the years to come.

See you in a bit. :)

♥,

Jama, Mr. Cornelius, and 30-something Paddingtons
xoxoxo

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CATCH THAT COOKIE GIVEAWAY WINNER!

We’re pleased to announce that Anna E. Jordan has won a signed copy of Catch That Cookie by Hallie Durand and David Small. Congratulations, Anna! Please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and we’ll send your prize out to you today!! Thanks to everyone for entering this surprise giveaway, and thanks to Hallie and David for donating the book :)!

*   *   *

poetryfriday180The inimitable, immensely talented Buffy Silverman is hosting today’s Roundup at Buffy’s Blog (I love the name “Buffy”). Put on your elf shoes and scamper over to check out the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week.

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I leave you with this beautiful rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” (“Ellen’s Third Song”) sung in German by American vocalist Barbara Bonney. I had only heard it sung in Latin before and didn’t realize it was originally part of Schubert’s Opus 52, seven poems loosely translated from Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady of the Lake. This sublime, soul-stirring piece is definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by holiday craziness. It will comfort, make you remember, give you hope. ★

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

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Stories about runaway food — whether pancakes, bannocks, rice cakes, latkes, tortillas or gingerbread men — have long delighted children of all ages. Though Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first man-shaped gingerbread cookie, portraying the Gingerbread Boy as a story hero is a uniquely American invention. The cheeky, spicy guy first appeared in print in an 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine, and he’s been running and taunting readers ever since.

In the charmingly clever interactive mystery Catch that Cookie (2014), which was inspired by author Hallie Durand’s son, young Marshall doesn’t believe gingerbread men can walk or run. Sure, he’s heard all the stories his teacher Mrs. Gray has shared with the class, but Marshall doesn’t buy any of it. Cookies are for eating, period.

When it’s time for them to make their own gingerbread boys, Marshall enjoys mixing the dough (Mrs. Gray tells him he “rocked” it), and decorating his little man with “good stuff”: six raisins for eyes and a special silver-ball belt. But later when Mrs. Gray unlocks the oven to retrieve the baked cookies, they’re gone!

(more…)

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