nine cool things on a tuesday

Forest Feast Paper Placemats

1. Northern California author, food photographer, and blogger Erin Gleeson has written a new cookbook, The Forest Feast for Kids (Abrams BYR, 2016)  that will be released on February 16 and is now available for pre-order! If you’re familiar with her popular blog or first book, The Forest Feast (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2014), you know that she features simple, delicious vegetarian recipes + gorgeous photos + fanciful hand-lettering and watercolors.

Kids will enjoy learning how to make healthy dishes inspired by fresh local produce and Gleeson’s beautiful natural surroundings (have you seen her idyllic cabin in the woods?). “In addition to its recipes—which span meals, party food, snacks, and beverages—this nonfiction book includes ideas for crafty table decoration, party ideas, an illustrated guide on kitchen safety, and a glossary of culinary terms.”

Forest Feast Notebook Bundle

To complement Erin’s cookbooks, there are lovely notebooks, a meal planner/ shopping list magnetic notepadpaper placemats (these come in five stunning designs), notecards with envelopes and a wall calendar — all perfect for adding some warmth, color and fun to your day.🙂

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2. Have you checked out Litographs? They make cool t-shirts, tote bags, temporary tattoos and posters using the full text of literary works. They’re adding new designs all the time to their collection of classic and contemporary books. I like that they’ve partnered with the International Book Bank to send a new book to a community in need for every t-shirt, tote bag, poster or every 5 tattoos they sell. They offer free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Little Women
Anne of Green Gables

Check out this video to see how they make their t-shirts:

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3. I’m still thinking about Margie Culver’s “15 Dog Books” series at Librarian’s Quest. If you follow her blog you know that Margie writes the best book reviews — always insightful and thoroughly engaging. After she lost Xena, her beloved chocolate lab and constant companion of 15 years, she decided to pay tribute to this extraordinary dog by featuring 15 recently published dog books (picture books, chapter books, novels, and Maira Kalman’s Beloved Dog).

As much as I loved the reviews, I enjoyed even more the anecdotes and stories about Xena she included in each post. Whether you’re a dog lover or not, I think you’ll be moved and inspired by how Margie describes the deep human-canine connection, the intelligence, fierce loyalty, courage, and playfulness of dogs she’s experienced firsthand and as these traits are explored in the stories, several of which are told from a dog’s point of view.

There’s something for every reader in Margie’s chosen 15, whether you’re a fan of humor, suspense, family stories, or adventure. Click here to go to the first post in the series featuring Michael J. Rosen’s The Tale of Rescue, illustrated by Stan Fellows (Candlewick, 2015), and you’ll likely want to read on and on.

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“Cat Bakery” by Aram Kim

4. Every once in awhile, while casually browsing Pinterest, I’ll stumble upon a cute illustration that makes me smile. Not too long ago, “Cat Bakery” by Aram Kim meowed at me, so naturally I had to find out more about the artist. I was tickled pink to discover that in addition to adorable dog and cat pictures, NYC-based Aram has a thing for drawing food!🙂 I promptly bookmarked her site with plans to contact her in the future.

Spread from Aram’s WIP, “Kimchi Pancakes”

It could have been the cats, the bakery, spicy kimchi, or a mutual love of dumplings, but out of the blue Aram emailed me a couple of weeks ago, after following a 7-Imp link to my review of Miracle on 133rd Street. She was happy to discover Alphabet Soup and told me she’s currently working on a food-related picture book called Kimchi Pancakes. Yum! Her debut picture book, Cat on the Bus (Holiday House, 2016), will be out this Fall. Generous Aram also created a special “Cat Bakery” blog header for Alphabet Soup (feast your eyes ⬆⬆⬆). Totally purrrfect, of course! Is there anything better than connecting with kindred spirits? Just goes to show the power of FOOD! Be sure to visit Aram’s website to see more of her charming work!

You can purchase some of Aram’s designs on t-shirts, phone cases, tote bags, etc., at Society 6. Click on the image to find out more about this yummy Brownie Sundae throw pillow.

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5. Any time you need a little lift, click over to the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, where you can visit with mama panda Mei Xiang and her adorable cub Bei Bei. While it’s fun to watch Mei munch munch munch on bamboo leaves and catch Bei Bei rolling around on the floor or napping, probably the most adorable thing is when Mei cuddles with Bei Bei. So sweet and heart-melting! But you have to be vigilant and check in frequently. Love watching them!

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6. Always a pleasure to drop by They Draw & Cook to see what’s new. This tasty site now features more than 5400 recipes illustrated by artists from around the world, and founders Nate and Salli have so far published 10 books — some are collections featuring single artists, while others feature a curated selection of artists. The Illustrative Chef, the latest in the single artist series, features the bold and vibrant stylings of Edinburgh based former-professional-chef-turned-illustrator Liv Wan. If her bright, eye-popping colors don’t wake you up, nothing else will.

In addition to the recent TDAC book, Liv has published a cookbook of Taiwanese recipes and a children’s book about the Edinburgh Zoo. She’s also worked on projects for the likes of The Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh, the Highland Council and the UK Foodies Festival, among others. I love her food maps!

Click to see details of Liv’s Scottish Food Map.

Be sure to visit Liv’s beautiful website to see more of her work — guaranteed to make you feel happy!

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7. If you’re a Susan Branch fan, you’ve likely already read The Fairy Tale Girl (Spring Street Publishing, 2015) which came out last Fall. I purchased a copy for myself and several for Christmas gifts, but have yet to crack it open — though it’s right there at the tippy top of my tottering TBR pile. Since I thoroughly enjoyed A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (2013), I can’t wait to read this first of two prequels (the second prequel, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams, will be out in May).

Based on the diaries Susan has kept since she was in her 20s, THE FAIRY TALE GIRL is book one of a two part series. Together the books are an illustrated memoir, charmingly designed in Susan’s style with her whimsical watercolors and personal photographs. It’s an enchanting story of love and loss, mystery and magic that begins in a geranium-colored house in California, and ends up, like any good fairy tale, on the right side of the rabbit hole, in a small cottage in the woods on the New England Island of Martha’s Vineyard.

THE FAIRY TALE GIRL humorously explores Susan’s journey as an artist and as a girl/woman, from the 1950s through the 1980s. In the first book of the series we get a revealing view of Susan’s early life as the oldest of eight children and the marriage she imagined would be forever; it’s filled with inspiration, romance and discovery, and a leap into the unknown.

If you’ve read The Fairy Tale Girl, how did you like it?

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8. Just in case you missed it, wanted to point you to Cynthia D. Bertelsen’s excellent blog series, “On the Shelves of Elves: A Baker’s Dozen of British Cookbooks for the Christmas Season” at Gherkins and Tomatoes.

Even though traditional American cuisine is British to the core, with borrowings – not appropriations – from other cultures, the media lately has been full of commentaries such as this. In an attempt to put a more scholarly and rational spin on it, I am beginning by pointing out 13 relatively recent British cookbooks, all with a historical slant. Just in time for Christmas giving, BTW, these books well illustrate the vast and diverse and key source recipes that indeed formed the roots of what is called Southern, and American, cuisine. 

This series is obviously an Anglophile’s delight, great not only for those interested in culinary history and exploring the wider context associated with traditional British foods and its influences on American cooking, but with books such as Mary Gwynn’s WI Cookbook (2015), that traces the activities of the Women’s Institute, we see how the roles of women changed over several decades as they gradually moved from the private world of their households into the public sphere inhabited by men.

Fine and fascinating, for the W.I. appeared to be much like the Junior League, a similar American organization for women. Both groups arose at a time when social mores restricted women’s activities and both groups produced cookbooks for charitable purposes, a practice that began during the Civil War years in America (1861-1865). 

Start here with Book #1, Florence White’s Good Things in England (1932), then check out the other 12 titles in the series, all listed in the post.

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9. Speaking of food illustration, I’ve mentioned Boston-based artist Kendyll Hillegas a couple of times since I interviewed her back in 2014, and with good reason. She continues to amaze me with her meticulously crafted realistic food portraits. She was one of the most generous Indie Spotlight interviewees, taking the time to describe her process step-by-step in great detail.

All along, she’d been answering illustration questions on her tumblr blog, Instagram, etc., and now, due to popular demand, she’s started her own YouTube Channel, where she’ll continue to offer tips and demonstrations for aspiring artists and illustration junkies. Now you can see just how she works her magic, layer by layer, with fascinating time-lapse videos. Check out the work of this very talented artist if you haven’t already done so; she also just happens to be one of the sweetest people I’ve met online.

Here’s her introductory video:

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Alrighty, that’s it for this time. Have a great Tuesday and a happy, productive week! Don’t forget to be kind.

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Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

19 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

    1. Those t-shirts are amazing — can you imagine people coming up to you wanting to read your clothes?🙂 But then, there’s also the problem of wanting to lick your brownie sundae throw pillow.😀

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  1. You find the best things, Jama. I had to run over and put those Forest Feast placemats in my shopping cart. They would certainly make a meal special.

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    1. I couldn’t resist those placemats — they’re really nice in person. Received a review copy of the new book and plan to try a recipe soon.🙂

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  2. Oh my goodness, I love all nine of these things! And coincidentally, my daughter received a preorder of Forest Feast for Kids AND a Litograph t-shirt (Secret Garden; palest yellow and so, so soft–I want one, too) for Christmas. Now I’m off to read the dog book reviews…thank you!

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    1. Oh, sounds like I need one of those t-shirts too — I like soft ones.🙂 Cool that your daughter got a copy of the book — it must be shipping early.

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  3. I read The Fairy Tale Girl by Susan Branch. I did not find it as charming as A Fine Romance but it was interesting to read how she became the artist she is today.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking it would be hard to compete with the first book because a large part of what I liked about it was that it took place in England. But we’ll see. Susan’s writing is always a pleasure to read and of course her drawings and lettering are consistently beautiful. I’d better read Fairy Tale Girl soon since the next book will be out in May.

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  4. Wow, Jama, I will need to keep this to refer to for gifts (some for me too). That Forest Cookbook for Kids/site sounds wonderful for the grand-girls. And I love the idea of “They Draw & Cook”, beautiful to see those recipes. So much to adore from this Tuesday. Thank you!

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    1. I’m a sucker for illustrated recipes, so TDAC has been a favorite site for a long time. I’m anxious to try some of Erin Gleeson’s vegetarian recipes now.

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  5. Gadzooks Jama! I am moved to tears by your kind words regarding the series of blog posts I did about my beloved Xena. Thank you. I already have Forest Feast for Kids on pre-order but I did not know about the new They Draw & Cook book. Yum! Yum! AND the brownie pillow is certainly going to draw my attention today. You have the coolest things on this blog. To be included today is wonderful. You’ve made my day and it’s only 9:06 Mountain time! ♥

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    1. I love that you use the word gadzooks!!🙂 I should try to use it more often in everyday conversation. A show stopper!

      I have the very first TDAC book and it’s a lot of fun (haven’t made any of the recipes yet though).

      I really did love your dog book series. Xena was such a special dog and we’re glad you shared her with us.

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  6. Wow – Goodness overload! You find the coolest folks and most magical stuff, Dear Jama. All worth revisiting. I didn’t know about the Forest Feast (& now one for kids!) books – right up our alley. I will have to check out the heartfelt dog posts, and would love to visit that cat bakery…. Purrrrr!

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  7. Never had kimchi pancakes, but kimchi pizza… I’m waiting for THAT book. Love the artwork in paper goods and those lithograph t-shirts. It’s always a relief to find a bit of extra pretty in the world. Thanks, Jama-j.

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