hooked on trevor smith’s crochet sculptures

Australian textile artist Trevor Smith learned how to crochet from his mother when he was just a child. His first projects were baby blankets for family friends and doll clothes for his younger cousins.

He’s been experimenting and perfecting all manner of applications ever since, recently creating imaginative tea cosies, retro appliances, and platters of colorful food. Most of the pieces shown in this post were part of a large-scale exhibition held at the Michael Reid Gallery in Sydney last year. It was called “Cocktail Hour” — retro-domestic bliss with a touch of humor.

What’s especially impressive about Trevor’s work is that he doesn’t use any patterns or make sketches ahead of time. He’ll look at images of what he wants to make online and then proceed with a plan of what he wants to do in his head.

For his tea cosies, he’ll first crochet a traditional cover for the base, then build a 3D form out of foam or wire for whatever animal, person or object he wants to add, and then crochet a cover for it. Finally, he’ll crochet any other loose accessories or finishing details to sew on later.

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[review + giveaway] When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon and Garfunkel by G. Neri and David Litchfield

When it comes to Simon and Garfunkel, three things stand out in my memory: hearing “Homeward Bound” for the first time in a soundproof studio, waiting hours for them to arrive at the airport, and attending their 1968 concert in Honolulu.

I was a big S&G fan back in the day, belonged to a fan club whose sole purpose was to meet every rock group that performed in Hawai’i. We haunted airports and hotel lobbies, camped out overnight to score concert tickets, and sometimes got to meet our idols up close and personal at special events.

The Simon and Garfunkel concert remains in the top 5 of all shows attended in my lifetime. It still stands up against today’s large-venue extravaganzas with the big screens, sophisticated sound systems and light shows. There was just something pure, pristine and utterly transformative about those two voices and acoustic guitar. No need for any high tech razzle dazzle when you have good songs and soul-stirring, transcendent harmony.

When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon and Garfunkel, a fab new picture book biography for middle grade readers by G. Neri and David Litchfield (Candlewick, 2018), opens with the famous Central Park reunion concert in September 1981.

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Now you see her, now you don’t. Peruvian-born, Philadelphia-based camouflage artist Cecilia Paredes creates extraordinary “photo performances” using her own body as part of the canvas.

She blends in with beautiful patterned backgrounds by painting her own skin (sometimes her entire body), or wearing painted clothing that will allow her to disappear/reappear.

Such precise, tedious work to transfer all the details onto a three dimensional surface! Cecilia was initially inspired to begin this photographic series because of her constant relocation, using the body as part of the intended landscape. How do we adjust to our new surroundings? How do we fit in?

Her artist statement:

Part of what makes us human is our ability to see beyond the narrow door through which we enter the world—to grow beyond the culture of our birth by recognizing other cultures, other patterns of life. Yet our birth culture is always imprinted upon us; the mystery of identity is never fully resolved. We are always from a time and place to which we can never return.

We continue to marvel as she explores themes of self identity, belonging, displacement, invisibility/visibility, emotional interiors, and body politics. Her striking, thought-provoking pieces certainly encompass self reflection as well as social commentary. Coincidentally, her last name, “Paredes,” means “Walls” in Spanish. Some of her pieces are for sale here.


2. You may know I’m a longtime fan of Salley Mavor’s exquisite fabric relief artwork. I religiously follow her Facebook updates and blog to see what she’s currently working on, and am constantly awed and amazed by her creativity and productivity. For the last year, she’s been working on a stop-motion animation movie called “Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free.” She hopes to release it this summer. Can’t wait!

from In the Heart (2001)

Meanwhile, just wanted to give you the heads up in case you weren’t aware that in addition to notecards, posters, and prints, Salley has autographed books for sale in her Etsy Shop, Wee Folk Studio. Both of her Felt Wee Folk craft books as well as two picture books, In the Heart and Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, are currently available. Wonderful gifts and keepsakes!

In the Heart (2001)


from Pocketful of Posies (2010)


3. March is a very good month for poet, author and educator Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. She has two new books being released!

Dreaming of You, illustrated by Aaron DeWitt (Boyds Mills Press 2018) just came out on March 6:

This soothing bedtime story explores the question, When animals sleep, what do they see in their dreams? The lyrical text tells readers that chipmunks dream of digging deep burrows, puppies dream of long, waggy walks, and horses dream of wild, windy rides. But most of all, the animals dream of all the fun and adventure the next day will bring. The gentle rhymes and gorgeous, serene illustrations combine to create a comforting story perfect for transitioning from a busy day to being tucked in peacefully at night.

Dreaming of You has already earned a *starred review* from Kirkus, who described it as, “sweetly imaginative, linguistically rich, and featuring enlivening vocabulary with lots of active verbs and new and interesting nouns and adjectives.”


And, on March 27, With My Hands: Poems About Making Things, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (Clarion Books, 2018) will officially hit shelves:

Building, baking, folding, drawing, shaping . . . making something with your own hands is a special, personal experience. Taking an idea from your imagination and turning it into something real is satisfying and makes the maker proud.

With My Hands is an inspiring invitation to tap into creativity and enjoy the hands-on energy that comes from making things.

I’m looking forward to featuring both books in the coming weeks. Stay tuned. 🙂

Double Congratulations to Amy!!


4. I don’t know. There’s just something about these fruity pencil cases. I was big on pencil cases in grade school and still lament the loss of my shiny royal blue one. These colorful cuties are so cheery I’m sure my pens and pencils would enjoy hanging out in them. 🙂

They’re about 8 inches long and made of bicast leather. Get yours here. Fun! :).


5. Tune into some good grub: Eat Like a Rock Star: 100 Recipes from Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Greatest by Mark Bego (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017)!

Who knew that Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones) makes an amazing Lamb Chops with Endive and Blue Cheese Salad, that Michael McDonald (The Doobie Brothers) loves Pasta with Ham and Parmesan Cheese, or that Boz Scaggs eats Tuscan Grilled Chicken?

With more than a hundred recipes from seven decades of rock ‘n’ roll, pop, country, RnB, and disco, Mark Bego, along with Mary Wilson of The Supremes, gathers beloved recipes from legendary rocker friends and invites the ultimate music fan to put on an apron and join them at the table. Featuring each rock star’s biography, their favorite recipe, and other fun facts, Eat Like a Rock Star is a must-have for every die-hard rocker-at-heart who loves to eat.

There is nowhere else you will find Ray Parker Jr.’s Salmon and Eggs, Joey Fatone’s (NSYNC) Rice Balls, Micky Dolenz’s (The Monkees) Micky ‘D’ Cocktail, and Angela Bowie’s (David Bowie’s ex-wife’s) Rosti Hash Brown Potatoes all in one book. Whether it’s brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert, learn to cook:

• Michelle Phillips’s (The Mamas & The Papas) Organic Lemon Chicken
• Lou Christie’s Linguine with Fresh Tomatoes
• Marilyn McCoo’s (The 5th Dimension) Leg of Lamb
• Glen Campbell’s Favorite Mexican Chicken Casserole
• Sarah Dash’s (Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles) Peach Cobbler, and more!

With a section on head-spinning cocktails, full menu suggestions, as well as author Mark Bego’s own culinary concoctions such as Spicy Szechuan Sesame Noodles and Boozy Banana Cream Pie, look no further for the all-in-one cooking and rock ‘n’ roll companion. As Martha Reeves says about her Smoked Turkey Necks & Lima Beans, “Honey, this is real soul food!”

Okay, I may just pass on the smoked turkey necks but this book sounds like a hoot. Even if I never make any of the recipes, I’m curious to know what these music types like to cook and eat.

You may be wondering who Mark Bego is. He’s written and co-written many pop and country music and showbiz biographies — hence the access to personal recipes from these celebrities. Since Skyhorse Publishing also published Eat Like a Gilmore: The Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of Gilmore Girls (2016),  I’m hoping this one will be just as good.

“California Dreamin’ on such a winter’s day . . . ”


6. You’re hungry now? Well, what a surprise. Take a little time to enjoy this wonderful “Storymakers in the Kitchen” Kidlit TV video featuring Aram Kim making kimchi pancakes with Rocco Staino. You may remember we interviewed Aram shortly after No Kimchi for Me was published last summer. Put a little spice in your day! Hooray for Aram!


7.  Not too long ago, I stumbled upon Lieke van der Vorst’s work online and fell in love. I admit her food and bear illustrations were the first to catch my eye, but as I explored further, I noticed how calm and peaceful her art in general made me feel.

Lieke hails from the Netherlands, is a nature lover, and draws inspiration from everyday life. In a recent interview, she was asked if there is a message she wishes to convey through her art.

That people should start [to] listen, to themselves, their bodies and nature. It would be so nice if we can all live together without hurting any living thing.

Love her focus on the interconnectedness of all living things, as well as how she blends whimsy/fantasy with reality.

Check out her Liekeland Shop, where she sells prints, cards, and bags.


8. You know me, I need my pottery fix. Been following Nancy Gardner Ceramics for awhile. Nancy is an award winning potter from Illinois who’s been collaborating with her partner Burton Isenstein since 1988.

They produce one-of-a-kind, hand-built and hand decorated pieces, works of art that are meant to be used and enjoyed (the glaze they use is food safe and water tight).


Their work is inspired by historical and contemporary pottery forms, textiles, paintings and illustration. I like the whimsy and quirkiness. See more at their official website and Etsy Shop. Happy stuff!


9. Finally, a hedgehog. This little guy called out to me recently. Just sitting there, all balled up, not demanding anything of anyone — adorable and cozy. Just a lump. Check him out at GladoArt, along with other needle felt animals made by Olga Gladkaya of the Ukraine.

Would you like to adopt this little friend? 🙂


Mustn’t forget our blue song.  Here’s a tune courtesy of the wayback time machine. I think I was in utero when it first came out :D, but I remember hearing it on the radio all the time in grade school. Until I saw this video, I never knew what Jimmy Clanton looked like.







*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee (at no cost to you). Thanks for your support!

Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

Faith Shearin’s “A Few Things I Ate” (+ a recipe!)

Lucky me, poet friend and kindred spirit Andrea Potos had the Poetry East Spring 2017 Food Issue sent to me shortly after it came out last year. You can bet I’ve been savoring and feasting on it ever since (thanks again, Andrea!).

This special issue, published by DePaul University, contains 49 poems presented in seven courses (truly the perfect meal), along with seven delectable recipes and a bevy of beautiful fine art paintings.

In the Main Course section, I was especially taken with Faith Shearin’s poem, “A Few Things I Ate.” The conversational style drew me in immediately, and I love how Faith built a captivating narrative with an embellished list of telling details, how she subtly wove in deeper regrets as well as fond memories. It’s wonderful how carefully chosen specifics can be so universally relatable.

Are we not all a product of what we’ve eaten throughout our lives? The countless foods, with their why’s and whens and wherefores, reveal our unique, personal stories.

I thank Faith for permission to share her poem, for answering my questions about it, and for her yummy recipe. Enjoy!


Tailleuses de soupe by François Barraud (1933)


by Faith Shearin

There are a few things I’m sorry I ate: a piece of fried chicken
in an all-night diner that bled when I cut into it,
a soup in an elegant French restaurant where I encountered
a mysterious ring of plastic. Also: a bowl of spaghetti served
with so many long strands of hair I wondered who,
in the kitchen, had gone bald. I’m sorry I ate the fast food
cookies that tasted like paper the same way I am sorry
I let certain men kiss me or hold my hand. I’m especially sorry
I ate a certain hot dog on a train that had been twirling for days
on a lukewarm display. Forgive me for all that cafeteria food
in college: packaged, bland, frozen so long it could not
remember flavor. And, hungry in my dorm, I ate bags
of stale lies from vending machines, once even a pair
of expired Twinkies filled with a terrible chemical cream
I am still digesting. After my daughter was born I bought
so much organic baby food my husband found the jars
everywhere: little glass wishes. One winter I ate exotic fruits
from upscale stores so expensive I might have flown instead
to a distant tropical island. Then, careless, I ate
from containers only my microwave understood. I know
what food is supposed to be but often isn’t; I know
who I might have been if I ate whatever I should have eaten.
Remember the time we ate Ethiopian food and spent
a week dreaming so vividly our real life grew pale?
Or the day we ate so much spice in our Thai food
that our mouths were softer? I’m not sorry I ate
all those ice cream sandwiches from my grandmother’s
freezer and drank those Pepsis with her on the way
to Kmart to buy more pink, plastic toys. She liked
the way sugar made me lively, and anyway,
she was suggesting the possibility of pleasure.
She made a vegetable soup that simmered all day
on the stove: growing deeper, more convincing,
and a carrot cake with cream cheese icing that floated
on my tongue like love. Now I am middle-aged. I am fat
and eating salads or, before bed, talking myself
into rice cakes that taste like despair. My father
is diabetic and must have everything whole wheat
and lean and my sister can’t have any salt. I’m sorry
I ate all that cereal when we first got married,
by myself in the kitchen, the milk pale and worried.
Remember how I covered my fruit with cheese
and mayonnaise? I’m not sorry, whatever
you might say. Then there were the lunches
we ate on the beach, watching the seals
sun themselves: thick chicken sandwiches wrapped
in a foil so silver they must have been valuable.

~ posted by permission of the author, © Poetry East: No. 90 (Food), Spring 2017.


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[review + giveaway] Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament by Anne Renaud and Felicita Sala

Crisp, crunch, snap, munch.

Pardon me while I lick the salt off my fingers.

Mmmmmmmm, potato chips!

We all love them, but who actually invented them?

Some say it was George Crum, a Saratoga Springs chef working at Moon’s Lake House in 1853. In Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament (Kids Can Press, 2017), author Anne Renaud and illustrator Felicita Sala serve up a taste-bud-tempting tater tale showing how Crum’s culinary clash with a picky patron accidentally led to the creation of the first c-r-i-s-p-y chip. 🙂

The story you are about to savor is a fictional tale with a helping of truth.

With those appetizing words, we meet George Crum, busy in his kitchen.

He fricasséed and flambéed, boiled and braised, poached and puréed. He made sorbets and soufflés, stews and succotashes, ragouts and goulashes.

Make no spuds about it, George loved what he did and he was really good at it. He had his own restaurant, Crum’s Place, where he and his plum-cheeked waitress Gladys kept customers happy devouring his choice concoctions.

George was considered to be the best cook in the county — until one fateful day, when a certain Filbert P. Horsefeathers walked in and ordered a “heaping helping of potatoes.”

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