holiday grab bag: Susan Branch’s Home for Christmas, Cranberry Tea Cake, a poem, and a wee blog break

“What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever.” ~ Mary Jo Putney

Ho Ho Ho and Merry Merry!

How are you faring this holiday season? If you’re like me, you’re probably craving generous helpings of comfort, reassurance, and nostalgia to temper the reality of what has been the craziest, scariest, most distressing, heartbreaking, and unpredictable year ever.

As if she knew exactly what we needed, dear Susan Branch recently published Home for Christmas (Spring Street Publishing, 2020), a keepsake book that speaks to the very essence of the holiday: love, family, joy, cherished traditions and good food.

In a nutshell: good things come in small packages. There is so much more to this little book than meets the eye.

Yes, it contains Susan’s amiable handwritten text (does she ever get writer’s cramp?), a bevy of carefully chosen quotes, and of course, her charming watercolor illustrations.

She relates, in earnest and intricate detail, what her childhood Christmases were like, pointedly channeling her 9-year-old self in 1956.

Though I also loved her wonderful memoir trilogy, I found this book especially touching because her pure child’s heart fills every page.

Aside from being with family, when we say we want to be “home for Christmas,” perhaps what we truly mean is we wish we could be kids again, experiencing Christmas when it was magical, over-the-top exciting, and full of wonder. Before our adult selves equated the holiday with too much busyness, stress, reluctant obligations, and the whole bah-humbug thing, there was a time, when, with every ounce of our being, we believed.

Susan was inspired, in part, by Dorothy Thompson’s Once on Christmas (1938), which she had read to her nieces (photo by Susan Branch).

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Susan’s here to remind you — of the anticipation that steadily built to a fever pitch from right after Thanksgiving until the big day finally arrived.

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Tijana Lukovic: Inside and Out

Belgium-based painter and illustrator Tijana Lukovic is inspired by motherhood, nature, folklore and fairytales. Her biggest inspiration is her daughter and their world of play. 

I love the sense of serenity and calm depicted in her domestic scenes, where ordinary activities and family life become a form of meditation. Home is nourishing, pleasurable, and safe — its own world within the world, and her pictures are a good reminder to be fully present in our daily lives. Also cool is that touch of whimsy when the outside comes in. πŸ™‚

Once outdoors — whether exploring the woods or riding on the backs of moths or birds — we’re invited to dwell in magic and wonder. Humans and animals happily co-exist in idyllic locales — riverbanks, hillsides, streams and meadows. 

Her love of nature, as well as drawing and painting it, is rooted in childhood. She grew up in a small town in west Serbia surrounded by mountains called UΕΎice. There, she and her friends had many adventures exploring the hills and forests, making their own toys, pretending they were the characters in the stories they read, and building forts with branches. She enjoyed drawing the fairies she heard about in her grandmother’s stories.

Tijana works primarily in gouache. She earned an MA in Drawing at KASK/Ghent and an MFA in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts at Novi Sad. 

She loves the work of Elsa Beskow, Sylvil von Olfers, Beth Krommes, Molly Brett, Phoebe Wahl, Makoto Kagoshima, and Gemma Koomen, among many others.

Check out Tijana’s Official Website and Instagram for more. You can purchase prints, originals, and cards at her online shop.


*Copyright Β© 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

tapioca carioca

Hello, Cutie.

Put on your best bib, grab a spoon, and dig into some homemade tapioca pudding. πŸ™‚

I LIKE TAPIOCA
by Bill Batcher
I like even the word "tapioca."
It sounds like the name of a Latin dance,
the beat of the Samba underscoring
the ritual movements of some Amazonian tribe.
"Come, let's do the Tapioca."
Or it could be the local indigenous name
of a tributary of the congo
the newsman Stanley hoped would
bring him closer to Dr. Livingstone.
"This is the Tapioca, I presume."
Or even a tropical insect,
whose bite transmits a lethal disease,
while its genes contain the secret
to conquering the riddle of aging.
"Tapioca face cream, $26.59 a jar."
Yet tapioca is more than these:
A confection that puts a spring
in my step, takes my spirit
to worlds unknown, and renews my youth,
when I loved those gelatinous pearls --
even when told they were frog eyes -- the bigger, the better.

Where is it from? There's the mystery,
unlike the rice pudding they try to pawn off
on me instead.
*
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[zesty review + recipe] Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Tie on your apron!
Roll up your sleeves!
Pans are out, oven is hot.
The kitchen's all ready,
where do we start?

From its very first cheery HELLO! . . . to its final glorious SLURP!, this exuberant, soul-nourishing story demonstrates the good that can come when ordinary people work together to help others.

In Our Little Kitchen (Abrams BFYR, 2020), Caldecott honoree Jillian Tamaki takes us inside a bustling community kitchen, where every Wednesday a crew of hardworking volunteers prepares a meal for their neighbors.

They’re a resourceful, ethnically diverse bunch who get the job done with their no-nonsense brand of high energy, cacophonous teamwork.

Upon arrival, young and old waste no time in assessing available ingredients: “what we’ve grown, what we’ve kept, been given, and bought!”

In the garden they find ripe tomatoes and zucchini, though “the lettuce is holey,” the carrots too small. But in the fridge, a purple-haired teen boy jubilantly discovers carrots, celery and radishes.

They know how to make the best possible use of what’s on hand, cutting the brown bits off apples to make a sweet crumble, tossing day-old bread into the oven (“Soft and warm, good as new!”), and earnestly contemplating what to do with the abundance of food bank beans: “bean salad? bean soup? bean tacos? bean stew?”

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we have two winners!

Hooray, we have two winners!

Joe Biden for President and Kamala Harris for Vice President!!

*thunderous applause*

Oh, you were wondering about the action figure giveaway? πŸ™‚

Well, it just so happens that Monsieur Random Integer Generator picked someone who wanted Joe, and someone who wanted Kamala. Maybe it’s his way of celebrating the most awesome Presidential election victory in America’s history (he’s cool that way).

So, are you ready?

*rubs hands together*

*deep breath*

*a little tap dance*

**trumpet fanfare**

***la la la la la***

The first winner, who requested a Joey action figure (and who just happens to live in Delaware) is:

🐞 BARBARA V.!! πŸ“

And the second winner, who wanted a Kamala action figure (and who’s from Barack’s and my home state) is:

🌴 LI ANN!! 🌺

πŸŽ‰ CONGRATULATIONS, BARB AND LI ANN!! πŸŽ‰

🎈WOO HOO!! 🎈

*cartwheels*

*backflips*

*high fives*

I’m sure Joey and Kamala will love living with you (make sure you stock up on ice cream for Joey and Special K cereal for Kamala).

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway. It was especially wonderful hearing your enthusiasm for the trail blazing women who continue to inspire us.

Now, on to the Georgia run-offs, and then the inauguration in January.

We are in good hands with Joey and Kamala!!

As I said before, WE HAVE TWO WINNERS! πŸ™‚


*Copyright Β© 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.