nine cool things on a tuesday

cooldimsumposterbig1. Few things make me happier than the thought of Dim Sum, so this delectable giclée print by Ellen Blonder pretty much gets me where I live. The watercolor paintings are from Ellen’s wonderful book, Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch (Clarkson Potter, 2002). Love the precise detail and quiet beauty of her work.

cooldimsumcoverAlso available is this print featuring art from Ellen’s award winning cookbook Every Grain of Rice: A Taste of Our Chinese Childhood in America (1998), which she co-wrote with Annabel Low. Both prints are signed, available in several sizes and are printed with archival-quality ink on acid-free paper. Gorgeous!

cooleerygrainbiggraincoverBe sure to visit Ellen’s website to see more of her exquisite paintings and her impressive list of awards, commercial clients and projects. Prints are available at her Etsy Shop.

*ETA: Ellen is on a short break, and will re-open her shop March 15.

Since 2017 is the year of the Rooster, here’s one of Ellen’s rooster paintings (she lives on Kaua’i where roosters run free).


2. These chilly winter days are perfect for indoor craft projects. Check out Margaret Bloom’s latest book, Making Peg Dolls & More: Toys That Spin, Fly, and Bring Sweet Dreams (Hawthorn Press, 2014):

mollycover2This inspiring new collection by Margaret Bloom builds on the success of her first book Making Peg Dolls. With peg dolls at the heart of each design, you’ll discover how easy it is to create toys which fly and spin, pin cushions, herbal pocket friends, wall-hangings, and much more. All projects are richly illustrated throughout with hand-drawn diagrams and full color photos.

The easy-to-follow instructions will guide you through a selection of simple and more advanced designs. Many of the projects are suitable for young children and will only take an hour or two to complete. Interwoven with poems, songs and stories, the projects can engage the whole family in the art of crafting and playing with these magical toys!

margaret-bloom-making-peg-dolls-favourite-page-vegetablesmolly3mollyonemolly4These dolls, which come from the Waldorf handcraft tradition,  are so sweet and will inspire hours of imaginative play and storytelling. Don’t you want to enter this tiny world of enchantment?

Here’s the cover of Margaret’s first book, Making Peg Dolls (Hawthorn Press, 2013):

mollycoverOh, and my foodie self was especially happy to see tutorials for making a peg doll dining table and tiny cakes (!) at Margaret’s blog, We Bloom Herewhere she regularly features fun projects for the whole family to enjoy. 🙂


3. Pioneer Woman fans probably know that Ree Drummond and her family recently opened a cool Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Via her blog, I enjoyed seeing how they refurbished the historic building that originally housed the Osage Mercantile (est. 1910), transforming it into an amazing shopping experience, complete with a Bakery, Deli, and General Store.

mercantileThe General Store carries clothing, jewelry, books, toys, Ree’s own line of kitchen and tableware, and a variety of practical and quirky gifts. If you can’t make it to Pawhuska in person, you can shop online. Here are a few items that caught my eye:

Fun bandages!
Wooden Toaster Play Set
Toast and Egg Salt and Pepper Shakers

Ree’s next project: a magazine!! This woman is unstoppable!


4. I love Lily & Val’s  2017 Chalk Art Recipe Calendar! You may remember my sharing some of Valerie McKeehan’s fun and unique designs two years ago. Be sure to check out her website and Etsy Shop for her full line of prints, greeting cards, other paper goods and unique gifts.



5. Have you seen these cool Lunch Box Books? Why settle for a boring brown bag when you can pack, partition, and portion your mid-day meal in one of these fun containers? They come in 3 colors, offer a generous 1500 ml of space, and are BPA-free. I do like things that are disguised as something else — people will think you’re extra bookish instead of extra hungry. Proof once again that books and food naturally go together. From Box Appetit. 🙂



6. New book alert!! Congratulations to Jeannine Atkins on the January 10th release of her new young adult verse biography Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis (Atheneum, 2017)!

coolstonemirrorsFrom critically acclaimed author Jeannine Atkins comes a gorgeous, haunting biographical novel in verse about a half Native American, half African American sculptor working in the years following the Civil War.

A sculptor of historical figures starts with givens but creates her own vision. Edmonia Lewis was just such a sculptor, but she never spoke or wrote much about her past, and the stories that have come down through time are often vague or contradictory. Some facts are known: Edmonia was the daughter of an Ojibwe woman and an African-Haitian man. She had the rare opportunity to study art at Oberlin, one of the first schools to admit women and people of color, but lost her place after being accused of poisoning and theft, despite being acquitted of both. She moved to Boston and eventually Italy, where she became a successful sculptor.

But the historical record is very thin. The open questions about Edmonia’s life seem ideally suited to verse, a form that is comfortable with mysteries. Inspired by both the facts and the gaps in history, author Jeannine Atkins imagines her way into a vision of what might have been.

Since I thoroughly enjoyed Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, as well as Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters, I can’t wait to read Stone Mirrors, which has already earned **starred reviews** from Kirkus and Booklist.

Read some fascinating backstory about Jeannine’s new book in this recent blog post.


7. While Christmas shopping last month, I stumbled upon a site called A Love of Dish Towels: A Nod to Nostalgia, which made me see this often underappreciated workhorse of the kitchen in a new way.

coolcherrypieDish towels rarely get the same attention pretty aprons or table linens do, yet safe to say, in the average household they are used more often. If push comes to shove, we could do without that lacy tablecloth or fancy napkin, but where would we be without our dependable dish towels?




The site features lots of unique and whimsical dish towel designs — everything from cats, dogs, farm life, holidays, seasons and retro flair to gardening, travels, coffee and tea. Most are 100% cotton flour sack — talk about nostalgia! You can get waffled or embroidered towels, and I especially like their recipe towels. They do carry napkins and aprons too. All make great hostess gifts and are a fun way to brighten up the kitchen. 🙂


labdogtreatscoolteacookiesIf you’re a big dog lover, also visit their sister site, For the Love of Dogs, where proceeds help support the staff’s foster dogs and local rescue programs.


8. Soup, soup soup! We all crave this comfort food even more during the winter months. If you’re looking for delicious ways to celebrate the goodness that is soup, read Melissa Perry’s article at the Ithaca Journal: “Soup with a Story: Young Readers Can Recreate Recipes.”

coolsoupbooksShe lists soup-related books, some that contain recipes and some that don’t, and suggests ways to read, cook from, and extend your enjoyment of them. Happy to see Dumpling Soup mentioned as one of the “soup books with recipes,” along with personal favorites Soup Day by Melissa Iwai, The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin, and Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper.

Under “books that feature soup,” she’s included one of my all-time faves, Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice. What could be better than rhapsodizing about soup every month of the year?


9. Speaking of Chicken Soup with Rice, enjoy this video featuring Carole King singing Sendak’s words from the animated film “Really Rosie.” It’s impossible not to be happy while watching it. Go ahead, sing along. LOVE all the big bowls and spoons! Oh, so nice!


Now, it’s time for you to get on with your day, which I hope is a good one. In fact, while you’re at it, have a good rest of the week too. 🙂



wkendcookingiconThis post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!

Copyright © 2017Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

31 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Had to squeal at the lunch box books! I love the cover of Jeannine’s new book sooo much. Everything you posted today is great, Jama. I will have to return to check them out more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that rooster painting, Jama & the thought that theyr’e running free in Kaua’i brought me some cheer today :).

    Can’t wait to read Stone Mirrors! I just loved Jeannine’s Finding Wonders so much.


  3. Hello, and welcome to another edition of Jama Is Trying To Bankrupt Me.
    I am SO all over that calendar, and those dish towels!! Dimensional dish towels!! Do I have a drawer full of dish towels already? Why, yes, I do! but, I’m going to …well… ::cough:: ANYWAY.

    Thanks for the LOVELY kitchen dreams…


  4. This tugged at my heart because I had that Every Grain of Rice poster and while we were moving about 10 years ago and were staying at the new place, someone went in to our old house and dragged that poster and my paintings I bought in China while adopting my children out into the yard and trashed them. I so loved that poster! Her art is awesome!

    I’m so happy to see Ree Drummond’s mercantile. I used to follow her blog daily and watched the early restoration of the building but haven’t had time to go on there in so long. It looks awesome, and I love those little tins!

    Margaret Blooms Peg Doll books are wonderful. It’s something even kids feel like they can do yet they can also be very sophisticated. I’ve been following her blog for years. Lots of fun things in this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So sorry to hear that some of your possessions were trashed like that! There’s no reason for it other than meanness. I only recently “discovered” Ellen’s books and look forward to learning more about her work.

      Ree’s Mercantile looks like a fun place to shop and eat. Wish I lived closer. I couldn’t resist purchasing the mustache bandages. 🙂

      Good to hear you’re a longtime fan of Margaret’s peg dolls, too. Her blog is such a delight.


  5. I always love your cool things roundup posts. I generally want EVERYTHING! I love the dish towels and the clever lunchboxes. Oh and the chalk art calendar the fun bandages . . . yep. Everything.


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