nine cool things on a tuesday

“Blue Skies” by Nathaniel Mather


1. Well, of course — must share something blue to kick off the first Cool Things Roundup of 2020. Memphis-based artist Nathaniel Mather is a recent discovery for me; another case of love at first sight.

I enjoy the playful spirit and child-like quality of his narrative pieces. Colors, textures, and simple renderings of flowers and animals evoke 19th century primitive folk art, but still feel contemporary.



His compositions have a wonderful “unstudied” quality about them — a brand of sophistication that’s difficult to pull off well.





As a typography freak, I swooned when I noticed text and numbers in some of his work. Letters floating around in paintings always make me happy, but alphabets in two blue trees? Have mercy!



He wants to produce work that is “true, beautiful, and restorative” . . . reflecting “God’s wonder and grace while wrestling with daily struggles and pain.” One can’t help but feel uplifted by his art.

Learn more about Mather’s work at his Official Website and Etsy Shop, NathanielMatherArt.



2.  New Book Alert! Look what just came out February 4: Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson’s Mammoth, by Candice Ransom and Jamey Christoph (Doubleday BFYR, 2020)!



A little-known, fascinating story about Thomas Jefferson and his obsessive quest to find America’s first complete mastodon skeleton.

Thomas Jefferson: Third president of the United States. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Obsessive prehistoric mammal hunter?? It’s true! In this little-known slice of American history, see Thomas Jefferson as never before!

In the late 1700’s, America was a new nation, with a vast west that held age-old secrets: Bones! Massive tusks and enormous animal skeletons were being discovered and Thomas Jefferson – politician AND scientist – was captivated. What were these giant beasts? Did they still roam on American soil? Jefferson needed to find out. Funding explorers, including the famed Lewis and Clark, Jefferson sought to find a complete prehistoric mastodon skeleton – one which would advance the young science of paleontology, but would also put this upstart young country on the world stage. Follow along on the incredible journey – full of triumphs and disappointments, discoveries and shipwrecks, ridicule and victory.



Author Candice Ransom researched this amazing story for years before telling this tale, closely collaborating with Jefferson scholars and natural history experts. Jamey Christoph’s moody, luminous illustrations paint the scene: A young country, a president with a thirst for knowledge, and an obsessive, years-long quest to find the prehistoric bones that would prove the importance of a growing nation.

I do enjoy learning more about our Presidents. Jefferson is a particular favorite because of his culinary interests, and now I look forward to reading about his fascination with mastadons. A perfect choice for President’s Day. 🙂

Congratulations to Candice and Jamey!!



3. Something fun to do if you like stationery and surface design: browse the Rifle Paper Co. website! This brand was founded by husband and wife team Nathan and Anna Bond back in 2009. Anna, a freelance illustrator and stationery lover, started out by designing wedding invitations — her own and those of her friends.


Notebook Set


She and Nathan then decided to build a brand based on high quality products featuring Anna’s designs — moving beyond stationery sets, greeting cards, journals, and desk planners, to home decor items such as rugs, bedding, and pillows, to tote bags, travel accessories, drinkware, and even shoes!


AirPods Case


Anna’s trademark style is marked by strong colors and lots of florals. It all feels fresh, modern, accessible, and of course, fun.


Monogrammed Mugs


Recently added are these cool mini-books: classics such as The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, and A Little Princess.




I’m also partial to this recipe tin:



Rifle Paper Co. products make the perfect gifts; you’ll likely find some special must haves for your loved ones. Or maybe a winter treat for yourself? Enjoy! 🙂



4. The resident bears insist that I mention the new animated Nick Jr.  Paddington Bear Series that officially debuted in the U.S. January 20. It’s called “The Adventures of Paddington” and is targeted for preschool munchkins.



There are 26 episodes based on letters a younger Paddington sends Aunt Lucy celebrating all the fun things he does living with the Browns in London. I was happy to learn that Paddington is voiced by Ben Whishaw, who also did the two Paddington feature films.

Check out “Paddington Bear in 6 Fun Facts.” He looks adorable!



And to further whet your appetite for this marmalade muncher, enjoy this special holiday episode from December, “Paddington Finds a Pigeon/Paddington and the Chores List.” I was tickled to discover that Mrs Bird is voiced by Phyllis Logan, none other than Mrs Hughes from Downton Abbey. 🙂



We’re mad about Paddington around here, can you tell? 🙂



5. New Cookbook Alert:  Amy Cotler’s The Secret Garden Cookbook: Inspiring Recipes from the Magical World of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (Harvard Common Press, 2020) was just released January 14, 2020.



Experience the magic and enchantment of The Secret Garden whenever you like, right at home in your kitchen. The Secret Garden Cookbook, now newly revised, is the only cookbook that celebrates the delicious and comforting foods that play such an important role in the novel and its world.

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s wonderful tale The Secret Garden celebrates its young heroine, Mary Lennox, as she brings an abandoned garden back to life. It also delights in good food, robust appetites, and the health and strength they can bring. It describes a world where water, light, and loving care bring soil and plants back to life—and also one in which fresh milk, homemade currant buns, and hearty, simple fare renew and bring pleasure to the novel’s complex and fascinating characters.



Amy Cotler serves up in these pages 50 recipes, all updated for the modern kitchen, that are at once true to Mary’s world and completely appealing for today’s tastes. You will find a bounty of baked things, including English Crumpets, Cozy Currant Buns, Jam Roly Poly, Dough Cakes with Cinnamon and Sugar, and The Best Sticky Gingerbread Parkin. (A parkin is a cake rich in molasses, honey, and sugar that often is served on Guy Fawkes Day.) There is more-substantial and savory fare for teatime and dinnertime, too, and for breakfast and brunch, along with drinks and snacks for the daily whirl—all guaranteed to keep the magic of this beloved tale alive for years to come.

The Secret Garden Cookbook is an essential companion—and the pitch-perfect gift—for anyone, young or old, who loves the book.

Although I already own Cotler’s 1999 edition, I was happy to hear about this newly revised version, since it contains color photographs of many of the recipes. I’m always in favor of recipe photos (especially helpful for novice cooks), and I look forward to seeing how Cotler has expanded an already wonderful cookbook!

Special thanks to Beth Fish Reads for the heads up. 🙂



6. Just because you’ve probably never seen one before, here’s a one-of-a-kind handmade Ramen Guitar.



Artem Mayer of Copper Guitars used 36 packages of instant ramen noodles and 5 litres of polyester resin to create his tuneful masterpiece.

Yes, you can actually play it! Noodle around, instant music.



Watch his process:



Who knew, right? 😀



7. I know, I know, you’re starving. It’s amazing you’ve held out this long. Fear not, for this week we’re going to Brazil where the newest culinary craze is BLUE FOOD!



Yes, you heard right. They’re basking in the blueness over there. As you probably know, there are few naturally blue foods — blueberries often tend toward being more purplish than blue.

But in Brazil, they have jenipapo berries. Normally, this berry is used to make compotes and syrups, but these days chefs are interested in the unripe and bitter fruit, which contains genipin, a substance which reacts with proteins and amino acids in the presence of oxygen or heat, resulting in an edible blue pigment.



They discovered that to achieve the most vivid blue dye, it’s best to mix the jenipapo pulp with milk. This blue milk is then used in everything from tortillas to breads to puddings and salads. Both professional chefs and amateur cooks are having fun experimenting with all kinds of blue recipes.



Read more about the jenipapo berry and the clever food blogger who started the Brazilian “blue wave” in this article.



8. Always fun to see what’s new from Fred & Friends, who specialize in whimsical novelty products. Of course I’m usually most interested in their food-related items, such as these pomegranate pushpins:



or the fried chicken erasers (bawk bawk!):



and the Dinner DJ for kids (or short grownups):


Makes life more interesting, right? I’ve always wanted my food to spin around a turntable. And those fried chicken erasers aren’t even greasy. 😀



9.  Another New Book Alert: Look for After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals by David L. Harrison and Stephanie Laberis (Wordsong, 2020), officially hitting shelves on February 25:



This collection of twenty-two poems explores the fascinating lives of North American nocturnal animals.

When the sun goes down, many animals come out. Crickets chirp their crickety song hoping to attract a mate. Cougars bury their leftovers for later, leaving few clues for others to follow. Armadillos emerge from their dens to dig for worms, leaving holes in the lawns they disturb. This collection of poetry from acclaimed children’s author and poet David L. Harrison explores the lives of animals who are awake after dark. Stephanie Laberis’s beautifully atmospheric illustrations will draw in readers, and extensive back matter offers more information about each animal.

This is David’s 97th book! Talk about prolific! And to celebrate, there’s a very cool AFTER DARK BLOG TOUR, beginning today at Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating. David introduces the book, and you have a chance to win a free copy. 🙂

Check out the full schedule:

Big Congrats to David and Stephanie!!



Finally, our blue song this week is Madonna’s “True Blue.” It’s the title track from her hit 1986 album TRUE BLUE, which was inspired by and dedicated to Sean Penn, her husband at the time. Her third studio album, it cemented her reputation as the top female artist of the 80’s, on a par with Michael Jackson and Prince. This light hearted dance-pop song, co-written and co-produced with Steve Bray, recalls the girl groups of the 60’s, and is Madonna’s “unabashed valentine” to Penn, who used the expression “true blue” to express his pure vision of love.













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

10 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. You really made me want to go shopping! Mastodons, pomegranates, and Mather, oh my! My daughter asked for Rifle Paper stuff for Christmas. It’s popular! That ramen guitar…you outdid yourself this Tuesday, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rifle Paper Co. stuff is so joyous and uplifting. It’s nice to see all those colors esp. during winter. I kind of wonder what would motivate someone to make a ramen guitar . . .


  2. Oh, Jama, it’s taken a while to walk along through all your wonderful ‘things’. I’ll be sure to show Imi the Paddington cuteness, love those blue trees, and it’s hard to believe there are fried chicken erasers. I thought I’d seen everything! The ramen guitar is hilarious, at least to me, & Madonna’s song really takes me time traveling. I’m on the tour for David’s new book, and it’s a special one! It’s a lovely start to your ‘nine things’ this 2020! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is Imi a Paddington fan? My kind of girl. Blue trees and blue cake — I guess all’s right with the world at this moment. Looking forward to your blog stop for David’s book.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She’s not really a fan, but we do watch some kid shows together on that network. I bet she’ll like them. Oh, forgot about the fun blue cake/food!

        Liked by 1 person

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