(actually more than) nine cool things on a tuesday

art by Maira Kalman


1. Surely there’s no better way to begin a day, a week, a month, a year — or even a roundup — than with a Maira Kalman fix. The above painting is part of an exhibition featuring 100 pieces of her work, “The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children,” running through September 15, 2019 at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and coming to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (October 13, 2019 – January 19, 2020).

If you can’t make it in person, the next best thing is this paperback exhibit catalog:



LOVE me some Maira! Anytime, anyplace. And the thing is, whenever I think I can’t adore her even more, she’ll do something new to tickle me pink all over again. Take this short film she made recently in collaboration with her son Alex, for example. Can’t decide what I like most — the talking chicken piano teacher? the naps? or the pink cake? When it comes to Maira, every day is a wonderful day:



And there’s more: look what’s coming out in March 2020!


Cannot. Wait. Available now for pre-order!



2. New Book Alert! I mentioned this before I went on summer blog break, but wanted to give you the heads up that WOMEN HEROES OF THE US ARMY: Remarkable Soldiers from the American Revolution to Today by Ann McCallum Staats (Chicago Review, Press, 2019), was officially released in early July.



Though early laws prohibited women from becoming soldiers, they still found ways to serve, even disguising themselves as men in order to participate in active battle. Women Heroes of the US Army chronicles the critical role women have played in strengthening the US Army from the birth of the nation to today. These smart, brave, and determined women led the way for their sisters to enter, grow and prosper in the forces defending the United States. Through the profiles highlighting the achievements of these trailblazers throughout history, young women today can envision an equitable future.

Yep — that’s my mom, Margaret KC Yang, on the cover (second from left). Ann included an entire chapter about her service in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII. In the summer of 2018, I shared information and photos with Ann via email (she’d first heard about Margaret while reading a Memorial Day blog post I wrote several years ago). So nice to see how Ann put everything together. 🙂

This is an interesting and empowering book for readers 12 and up. Honored and excited to have my mom included with the other women soldiers, and I know she would be so pleased and proud. Congratulations, Ann!!



3. How about a rousing game of poker with some of your favorite writers? Check out Writers Genius playing cards (Laurence King Publishing, 2019):



Add a touch of class to your poker table with some of the most exciting literary figures of the 20th and 21st centuries. Fifty-four writers have been chosen from the following categories: Modern, Mid-Century, Postmodern, Contemporary. Marcel George’s stunning watercolor portraits of writers of fiction—including Samuel Beckett, Doris Lessing, Roberto Bolaño, and Zadie Smith—ensure that even if you don’t win you’re in good company.



Sounds cool, no? Not too early to think about holiday stocking stuffers. I imagine these would make for interesting card tricks, too. Stack the deck. Shuffle, shuffle.



4. Heads up, teachers, school administrators, librarians, parents, or anyone interested in notable people from Hawai’i: check out LEADING WITH ALOHA: From the Pineapple Fields to the Principal’s Office by Jan Iwase (Legacy Isle Publishing, 2019):



What works and what doesn’t? An innovative educator and student advocate shares the many lessons learned from her 45 years in Hawai‘i’s public schools. Both a personal memoir and a guide to creating a positive educational environment, Leading With Aloha: From the Pineapple Fields to the Principal’s Office offers reflections and recommendations from educator Jan Iwase. The many lessons learned during Iwase’s career in Hawai‘i’s public schools as she rose through the ranks, beginning in the Head Start program and ending her teaching years as principal of Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School, provide a blueprint for successful schools and classrooms with happy students, empowered teachers and involved parents.

Here’s the perfect book providing inspiration and helpful insights to jump start the school year. Most of us who have classroom experience know there’s more to teaching than good lesson plans that align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Just as important is creating a safe, nurturing environment to maximize learning, with lots of genuine caring, compassion, respect, and empathy.

I’m proud to say I’ve known Jan since junior high and am thrilled she’s just published her first book. She knew she wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten, and I know you’ll enjoy reading about her unique experiences as an educator and principal in Hawai’i, where the spirit of aloha is a way of life.

I often think that if everyone could be as tolerant and accepting of diversity (and as friendly) as the people of Hawai’i, our country would be a different and far better place.

And it all begins with kids, in the classroom. “Leading with Aloha”  = a love of teaching and teaching with love.

Find out more at Jan’s Official Website. You can purchase the book here.

*A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The National Kidney Foundation of Hawai’i, in memory of Jan’s late son Jarand.

Congratulations, Jan!



5. Remember a couple of years ago, when I featured the exquisite tea bag art of New York-based artist and graphic designer Ruby Silvious?

Thought I’d share several more of her recent paintings because I simply can’t get enough of her work!







Lucky for us, Ruby is publishing a new book this Fall, Reclaimed Canvas: Reimagining the Familiar (Mascot Books, 2019). This is a follow-up to her first book, 363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journal on Used Tea Bags (Mascot Books, 2016).



Take everyday materials and turn them into exquisite works of art.

Reclaimed Canvas: Reimagining the Familiar, will inspire you to repurpose, reimagine, and reclaim everyday objects–including paint chips, egg shards, pistachio shells, paper bags, dried leaves and, used tea bags–and turn them into eye-catching, clever, and inventive pieces. Using alternative materials as canvas, the collection in this book sparks creativity, challenging the way people think about the world around them.

You can purchase both books via Ruby’s Official Website.



6. Well, we’ve been patiently waiting for over 3 years, and now, finally, finally, the Downton Abbey movie is opening in North America on September 20!

I’m super excited about all the Downton Abbey book tie-ins that are coming out too. First, there’s The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray (Weldon Owen, 2019):



The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook presents over 100 recipes that showcase the cookery and customs of the Crawley household—from upstairs dinner party centerpieces to downstairs puddings and pies—and bring an authentic slice of Downton Abbey to modern kitchens and Downton fans. 

Whether adapted from original recipes of the period, replicated as seen or alluded to on screen, or typical of the time, all the recipes reflect the influences found on the Downton Abbey tables. Food historian Annie Gray gives a rich and fascinating insight into the background of the dishes that were popular between 1912 and 1926, when Downton Abbey is set —a period of tremendous change and conflict, as well as culinary development.

With a foreword by Gareth Neame, executive producer and co-creator of Downton Abbey, and featuring over 100 stunning color photographs, The Downton Abbey Cookbook also includes a special section on hosting Downton-themed dinner parties and presents stills from across the TV series as well as the latest film. Notes on the etiquette and customs of the times, quotes from the characters, and descriptions of the scenes in which the foods appear provide vivid context for the dishes.

The recipes are grouped by occasion, which include breakfast; luncheons and suppers; afternoon tea and garden parties; picnics, shoots and race meets; festivities; upstairs dinner; downstairs dinner; downstairs supper and tea; and the still room.
From the upstairs menu:

  • Cornish Pasties
  • Sausage Rolls
  • Oysters au Gratin
  • Chicken Vol-au-Vents
  • Cucumber Soup
  • Soul a la Florentine
  • Salmon Mousse
  • Quail and Watercress
  • Charlotte Russe

From the downstairs menu:

  • Toad-in-the-Hole
  • Beef Stew with Dumplings
  • Steak and Kidney Pie
  • Cauliflower Cheese
  • Rice Pudding
  • Jam and Custard Tarts
  • Gingerbread Cake
  • Summer Pudding

With these and more historic recipes—compelling to a contemporary palate and easy to replicate in today’s kitchens—savor the rich traditions and flavors of Downton Abbey without end.



Then, there’s The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book (White Lion Publishing, 2019):



Timed to coincide with the much anticipated Downton Abbey movie, this enticing collection of cocktails celebrates the characters, customs, and drinking way of life at Downton Abbey.

Cocktails were introduced in the drawing rooms of Downton Abbey in the 1920s, when US prohibition inspired the insurgence and popularity of American-style bars and bartenders in Britain. This well-curated selection of recipes is organized by the rooms in the Abbey in which the drinks were served and spans everyday sips to party drinks plus hangover helpers and more. In addition to classic concoctions like a Mint Julep, Prince of Wales Punch, and Ginger Beer, this collection features character-specific variations such as Downton Heir, Turkish Attaché, The Valet, and The Chauffeur. The recipes reflect drinks concocted and served upstairs and down, as well as libations from village fairs, cocktail parties, and restaurant menus typical of the time. Features 40+ color photographs, including drink images photographed on the set of Downton Abbey.



And then there’s Downton Abbey: The Official Film Companion (St. Martin’s Press, 2019):



Downton Abbey: The Official Film Companion is a stunning memento, bringing the world and the characters of our favorite fictional country house to life. Featuring spectacular photographs from the production, interviews with the cast and crew, and a look into the historical and geographical backdrop of the film, this official guide to the Downton Abbey film is made to be treasured and loved by fans across the globe.

The film revolves around the King and Queen making an official visit to Downton in 1927, and not only sees the return of all the main cast from the final television series, but also introduces some great British actors to the world of Downton, as we meet the royal family and their retinue. The accompanying book is lavishly illustrated with stunning shots from both behind and in front of the camera, which capture some wonderful off-guard moments during filming, as well as the original costume illustrations.


Finally, there’s even a Downton Abbey 2020 wall calendar:



With a Downton Abbey feature film on the horizon, fans can’t get enough of the splendor and romance, scandel and heartbreak that resides within the great house. Enjoy images of the aristocratic Crawley family and their household servants surrounded by sumptuous settings and magnificent period costumes during the early years of the twentieth century. Printed on high quality paper, this large format wall calendar features grids with ample room for jotting notes and begins with six bonus months of July through December of 2019. Also included are moon phases (CST), along with U.S. and international holidays.

*There are also DA mini calendars and engagement calendars. 🙂

All three books hit shelves on September 17, 2019. The calendars were released in August.




7. Set the table, set the table. My favorite thing to do! Recently stumbled upon these lovely placemats by North Carolina artist Kimberly Hodges.






Don’t they make you happy? They’re a generous 12″ x 18″, with a different design on each side. You can purchase them printed on semi-gloss paper stock in sets of 12, or laminated. The vibrant colors are so cheery and will brighten up any decor. You can also use the paper placemats as gift wrap or shelf liners.

Not in the market for placemats? Kimberly also sells giclee prints and painted wood sculptures and decals.





See Kimberly’s full line of merchandise at her Etsy Shop, Goldfish Marmalade.



8. Just because being female these days requires all manner of superpowers, why not don a special apron while you’re working wonders in the kitchen?




This Wonder Woman apron is made of polyester twill and comes in one standard size.

Throw in a spatula/cookie cutter combo and you’re all set to conquer the world:




9. Finally, something cool to look forward to in December: a new Little Women movie is coming to the U.S. on Christmas Day!

Since there have already been seven feature film adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel so far, one can only wonder: do we really need another one?

I don’t know about you, but say the names Meryl Streep and Emma Watson and I’m in. Judging from recent photos shared at Vanity Fair, it looks like a gorgeous production:


From left to right: Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, Saoirse Ronan as Jo, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth (photo by Wilson Webb, 2019)




Laura Dern plays Marmee, and Meryl Streep steps into the role of Aunt Josephine. The film was written and directed by Greta Gerwig, and shot in Boston, Harvard, and Concord, MA. Can’t wait!

Here’s the official trailer:



Finally, our blue song. “Am I Blue?” was copyrighted by Harry Akst and Grant Clarke in 1929. So far, it’s been featured in 42 films, including “On With the Show” (Ethel Waters, 1929), “Funny Lady” (Barbra Streisand, 1975), and “Slaves of New York” (Billie Holiday, 1989). It’s also been covered oodles of times by artists such as Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Ricky Nelson, and Rita Coolidge.

I like this short clip from the 1944 film, “To Have and Have Not.” When you’ve got Hoagy, Bogie and Bacall, what more do you need?















*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a teensy referral fee. Thanks for your support. 🙂

**Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

21 thoughts on “(actually more than) nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Maura Kalman! Oh thank you thank you Jama! I am preordering as we speak!!!
    This is a gorgeous feast of imagery and news.

    As for Little Women. . . . the BBC version of last year was so utterly perfect and “accurate” that I just can’t believe it needs ever to be made again! This one looks “modern” in language and tone, like the 1994 movie was. I’m sorry for being a contrarian. . . but what ISN”T timothee Chalomet in nowadays????

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen Chalomet in anything yet — at least I don’t think so. Maybe I did and didn’t know his name. 😀

      I agree the BBC Little Women series was great — the one with Emily Watson as Marmee, right? She was SO good.


    1. Yay for Margaret! She was always so proud of her military service. BTW, most people think I resemble my dad more than my mom . . . 🙂


  2. Jama, what a delight this was to read—and to learn more about your mom, and to see her lovely face on the cover of a book that includes her special story—you must be over the moon! What an honor! Then, to read about Jan’s book, at whose school I did author visits for a few years before she retired, was so much fun. She definitely has words of wisdom to share. Thank you, as always, for sharing your aloha for so many wonderful books, movies, and recipes! Aloha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did think of you when I read Jan’s book, Margo! It’s really a small world, isn’t it? I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s something extra special about Hawai’i educators. When you’re raised in an environment of aloha, it’s bound to influence your approach to teaching. 🙂


  3. how wonderful about your mom, Jama, and I LOVE Maira! Her “Principles of Uncertainty” is always in view, in case I need cheering up on a dreary day… ( which your column also does). thamk you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fall is such an exciting time with wonderful new books coming out. Only problem is, how to find the time to read everything I’d like to?


  4. JAMA-J! YOUR MOM ON A BOOK COVER!!!! Lovely pin-up Margaret, where she belongs at last. How proud you must be. ♄

    Thank you, as always, for sharing such loveliness! The PBS Nerd tea bag art was so, so cute. And the playing cards and PLACEMATS just made my day. I had no idea I needed a bunch of fun placemats but now I do

    *my wallet hides from me these Tuesdays…*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those placemats are dangerous — they’ve been nagging at me, but so far I’ve resisted the temptation. Ruby’s tea bag art is just too awesome — she also does amazing things with pistachio shells. Too bad Margaret wasn’t able to see herself on the cover of an actual book. She’d be flabbergasted.


  5. Time to celebrate your Tuesday “nine things (& more)” are back. Too many to gush over in this comment, but I think the best thing is your mother being on that cover & in that book. My library has copies & I have to wait a bit, but it’s on its way! Love each part, Maira, the tea bags, & Little Women again! Thank you, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad your library has copies and that you’ll be able to read the book soon, Linda. Ann has done a wonderful job of profiling all the women — I’m glad readers will now get to learn about their amazing contributions. Sigh, what would we do without Maira? She never fails to make me feel so much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! That is so cool that your mom is featured in the book and on the cover!

    Love the Hoagy Carmichael version of “Am I Blue?” in To Have and Have Not, of course! It was his first movie and I assumed (wrongly) that he wrote the song. Bogie teased him about the matches he chewed and told him that actors used special coloured matches for each mood. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thanks for the movie trivia, Barb! You are an expert on all things Bogie and Bacall! I love Hoagy’s performance — so smooth. 🙂


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