nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Here’s the perfect cheer-up: cut paper collages courtesy of UK illustrator and surface pattern artist Tracey English!



Love her refreshing style, pretty colors, uplifting subjects, and appealing compositions. Tracey lives in SW London with her husband, two sons, a cat named Jelly and their dog Daisy. If I do say so myself, she has the *best* surname. 🙂




She uses hand painted papers in all her pieces, and has worked for such clients as Quarry Books, Bloomsbury Publishing, Design House Greeting, and Calypso Cards.





One can’t help but feel happy when looking at her pictures; she has such a joyous spirit! I mean — ice cream sundaes, birthday tea, blue pots, birdies in cups! Does she know me or what?




She has a book out in case you’re feeling crafty:




Such lovely work. See more at Tracey’s Official Website, Instagram, and Etsy Shop, One Apple Designs.



2. Talk about being on a roll: Alabama author, poet, and dear Poetry Friday friend Irene Latham has so far published three books in 2020, with another coming out in September. Yes, a new book for each season!



We previously mentioned her winter release, Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes from A to Z, which she co-wrote with Charles Waters. Here’s the scoop on the other three:

The Cat Man of Aleppo, co-written with Karim Shamshi-Basha and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR, 2020):



The courageous and true story of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, who in the midst of the Syrian Civil War offered safe haven to Aleppo’s abandoned cats.

Aleppo’s city center no longer echoes with the rich, exciting sounds of copper-pot pounding and traditional sword sharpening. His neighborhood is empty–except for the many cats left behind.



Alaa loves Aleppo, but when war comes his neighbors flee to safety, leaving their many pets behind. Alaa decides to stay–he can make a difference by driving an ambulance, carrying the sick and wounded to safety. One day he hears hungry cats calling out to him on his way home. They are lonely and scared, just like him. He feeds and pets them to let them know they are loved. The next day more cats come, and then even more! There are too many for Alaa to take care of on his own. Alaa has a big heart, but he will need help from others if he wants to keep all of his new friends safe.

This one has deservedly earned four **starred reviews** from Kirkus, Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Publishers Weekly. Beautiful and inspiring true story!



Nine: A Book of Nonet Poems, illustrated by Amy Huntington (Charlesbridge, 2020):



Fans of clever poetry and numbers rejoice! Nine is a book of nine-line poems called nonets, all about the number nine!

Hi there!
Love nonets?
I’m sure you do.
What are they, you ask?
You don’t know a nonet?
Not even one little one?
Actually, they’re all the same size!
They’re poems, of course–and here’s your first!

Each poem in this clever collection is a nonet: a nine-line poem that starts with nine syllables in the first line and ends with one syllable in the ninth line (or the reverse). But these nonets go even further! Every one is also written with the number nine at its heart. There’s plenty to love and learn: topics include the nine months it takes a baby to be born, cats’ nine lives, baseball’s nine players, and the nine-banded armadillo. Some feature history, such as the Little Rock Nine, the spacecraft Apollo 9, the ninth president; others explain idioms, like “dressed to the nines,” “cloud nine,” and “the whole nine yards.” Explore these and more with nonets galore!

How could I NOT include this book in a Nine Cool Things on a Tuesday roundup!?  So much fun!



And coming September 8, 2020:

This Poem is a Nest, illustrated by Johanna Wright (Wordsong, 2020):



This beautiful poetry collection introduces readers to the art of found poetry as the poet writes a 37-line poem, “Nest,” then finds 160 smaller poems within it.

What can you find in a poem about a robin’s nest? Irene Latham masterfully discovers “nestlings” or smaller poems about an astonishing variety of subjects–emotions, wild animals, natural landmarks on all seven continents, even planets and constellations. Each poem is a glorious spark of wonder that will prompt readers to look at the world afresh. The book includes an introduction detailing the principles of found poetry and blackout poetry, and a section of tips at the end. The joyous creativity in this volume is certain to inspire budding poets.

Wow! Is there anything Irene can’t do? Three poetry collections and a nonfiction picture book this year. You may know that she’s also published fiction picture books, historical fiction, as well as middle grade novels. Visit her website to learn about all her wonderful books.

BIG Congrats to Irene, Charles, Karim, Yuko, Amy and Johanna!



3. You may know that I’m a big fan of UK artist James Ward, d.b.a. Jimbobart. It could be because he just happens to feature lots of bears in his designs. But I also love his otters, badgers, raccoons, mice, birds, squirrels, penguins, and sloths. Nice to see these creatures on stackable plastic cups, ceramic mugs, and serving platters.



I own several of his decorated side plates, and like to periodically check his site to see what’s new. Was happy to learn he’s now selling cake and biscuit tins and a bear enamel mug!




Bears on bicycles! Bears in red jockeys! Bears in tweed caps! LOVE.

You will be relieved to know that thus far, I have exercised extraordinary willpower by not ordering any biscuit tins . . . BUT. I. could. not. resist. the Sandwich Defender tin. Little red handle! Sigh. Cute, no? It’s winging its way across the Atlantic even as we speak.


Actually, Mr Cornelius begged me to order one. He claims since Paddington has a hat to stow his marmalade sandwiches, he should have something too. Who am I to disagree? Mr Cornelius can be very convincing. I sense the sandwich tin will make a blog appearance in the near future. Stay tuned.

More goodness at and Jim’s Etsy Shop.



4. Music Break: I continue to enjoy oodles of videos recorded from the homes of favorite artists. Music is good medicine for what ails us, and I usually find something new and wonderful to listen to every day. Recently I’ve been checking out John Fogerty and his family jamming together indoors and out. Love that they always have a Pooh Bear in a t-shirt sitting with them. 🙂

His songs take me right back to high school, when Creedence Clearwater Revival was all the rage. No gathering was complete without “Born on the Bayou” blasting through the speakers. Was thrilled to see CCR perform once in person too.

Love their cover of Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” Bound to lift your spirits. To hear the gang perform some classic CCR tunes, check out John’s YouTube channel and look for the Cosmo’s Factory/Fogerty’s Factory videos. Good stuff!




5. Check out “People and Places,” a special Emily Sutton Exhibit at The Scottish Gallery (June 3 – June 27, 2020):


“Still Life with Buttercups”


The preparation for this exhibition has been very much divided into two parts. It began last year with trips to the Yorkshire coast and further afield to Paris with my sketchbook to draw, paint and collect material which I then used as the basis for a series of watercolours. The second part was a direct reflection of the shrinking down of life – rather than responding to scenes from the outside world I focused instead on smaller, more focused subjects in the form of still lives. During a time of uncertainty it was comforting to put my attention towards favourite collected objects and optimistic spring flowers.

The title of the exhibition, People and Places, was decided before the world came to a standstill. It was the title of a small book of drawings that I began as a student at ECA in which I would make daily observational sketches, something that has stayed with me to this day and is the basis for all my artistic practice. – Emily Sutton, 2020




“Still Life with Toy Chicks”


For now, because of the pandemic, this exhibit will be online only, and you can view Emily’s paintings at The Scottish Gallery website. Most of her pieces have already been sold, but it’s well worth a look. I continue to be in awe of Emily’s gorgeous work!


“Passage Verdeau, Paris”


“Fleurs de Magenta, Paris”


“A La Mère de La Famille, Paris”




6. Story Time: There’s certainly no shortage of great children’s book read aloud videos on the web these days. I’ve been especially enjoying “Mondays with Michelle Obama” on PBS Kids Read Along.

A recent episode featured Michelle reading Giraffe Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith, and Michelle and Barack reading The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach.

I remember them reading to kids during the annual Easter Egg Rolls; Barack especially loved reading Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are.

I reeeeeeeeeally miss these two, so it was good to see them reading together again. And of course Mr Cornelius was thrilled to bits about their choosing a bear story. 😀

I have to say, though, Michelle’s reading of the giraffe book is brilliant in every way — she nails every nuance of emotion and brings the story to glorious life. So good!



Michelle and Barack, PLEASE come back! We need you more than ever in more ways than we can count.



7. Arf arf! Ruff ruff! If your dog’s been barking more than usual, it may be because he/she wants a custom dog portrait designed and completely handmade by Oksana Kokovkina.

How cute are these?




Oksana’s business is called Makiko Art, and in addition to custom dog portraits and oodles of animal brooches, she creates other OOAK pieces of embroidery art (worry dogs, hoop wall art, ornaments).

Her style is whimsical and childlike, and quite irresistible — the kind of thing that makes you squeal with delight. 🙂



Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Oksana now lives and works in Vienna, Austria. Of course she is a diehard dog lover; it shows in every one of her beautifully crafted pieces.





She also sells a dog embroidery book at her Etsy Shop:





Her worry dog dolls are part of her 100 Days Project on Instagram. These charming pocket dogs were inspired by the Guatemalan tradition of worry dolls:

If you have a problem, share it with your small dolls before going to bed and then place them under your pillow. The dolls will take your worries away while you are sleeping.

The dog is filled with lavender and he is ready to hear your worries or your happy stories!



I don’t know about you, but I think there’s a LOT to worry about these days. Would make a thoughtful gift for a special friend.




Learn more about Oksana’s work in this Create Whimsy interview, and do check out all her offerings at Makiko Art.  



8. I’m still obsessed with blue eyes. Seems they’re everywhere with their hypnotic power. Recent blue eye crushes: Jim Sciutto, Poppy Harlow, and Erin Burnett of CNN (they make watching the news much easier), and this guy:  American actor Aaron Tveit.

Had not heard of him until I started watching “Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration” on YouTube. “Company” is one of my favorite musicals, and I loved that there were a couple of songs from the show included in the celebration. You’ve probably seen Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Audra McDonald doing “The Ladies Who Lunch” — fabulous!

So here is Aaron Tveit singing, “Marry Me a Little.” A compelling performance with blue eyes that’ll make you want to marry him a lot. 🙂



Do check out the other performances from this Sondheim celebration with the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mandy Patinkin, Neil Patrick Harris, Lea Salonga, and many more. Donna Murphy’s “Send in the Clowns” is brilliant. The perfect Broadway fix!



9. Something to look forward to: Once Upon a Kitchen: 101 Magical Recipes by Leslie Bilderback (Get Creative 6, 2020). This one doesn’t come out until September 1, 2020, so I’ve added it to my Wish List:



Cook up something magical in your very own kitchen with 101 recipes inspired by Harry Potter, Tolkien, Arabian Nights, fairy tales, and more!
For lovers of legends, literary enchantment, and (of course) food, Once Upon a Kitchen celebrates all things magical. Author and top chef Leslie Bilderback has created 101 recipes inspired by classic books, history, movies and TV shows. She draws from sources as rich and varied as Shakespeare’s plays, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Grimm’s fairy tales, Washington Irving, Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars saga, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Potterverse. Enjoy Scheherazade’s Arabic Coffee and Cardamom Cookies; a Coconut Shrimp Green Curry “Witches Brew” in honor of Macbeth; Gandalf’s Cold Chicken and Pickles; Jedi Ration Bars; Rapunzel’s Rampion Salad; Mary Poppins’s We Are Not a Codfish and Chips; and Mulan’s Dragon Fruit Pops.



Sounds wide ranging and delicious. Can’t wait!



Finally, to top everything off, a dose of “blues,” the essence of cool. Has anyone ever been able to outdance, outsing, or outenergize Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the Blues Brothers? Here’s their classic performance of “Soul Man” on Saturday Night Live (1978). Put on your shades, crank up the volume, and prepare to be transported.



















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

14 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Every part’s a favorite, dear Jama. Thank you for keeping us smiling on Tuesdays. And I love Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as that sweet icing on the cake! Have a wonderful day as best you can. It is a tough time and I’m hoping that together we can make it better for everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you SO much for this listing of goodness, bright whimsy, and cheer. These are such horrible and dark days, that this kind of joy is needed even more.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for spreading the blue & the cheer, Jama! Love Irene’s poetry–so many books to look forward to reading!

    And I must have a dog worry doll!!! In memory of my late girl!! I will get on that–thank you so much for sharing this great stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I got side-tracked this morning when I was visiting your nine things (didn’t make it back after the worry dog site) and so I had to return to see the rest. I have been re-watching Brain Dead (which features Aaron Tveit) with one of my young ‘uns. I don’t know if you would like it or not — it is about politics and doesn’t feel too far off today, even though there are brain-eating bugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Out of the 9 cool things, Makiko Art stole my heart. (What can I say, I’m a die hard dog person.) I am ordering one of Oksana’s worry dog dolls for my daughter’s summer birthday. Being a teen is modern times gives her a lot of worry, hopefully this little cuties will lighten her heart, if only momentarily. And the shop ships from Austria – a friendly Swiss neighbor! Thanks for all the coolness you always share, Jama. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad to hear you’re ordering a worry dog doll for your daughter, Bridget. I hope Smidgey doesn’t get jealous . . . 🙂


  7. So many thanks to you dear Jama and Mr. Cornelius, too, for including me on this 9 Cool Things…2020 hasn’t been anything like I expected it to be! Sigh. I am smitten by Tracey’s art. I’d like to make art like that. And the worry dog dolls are so creative and just plain adorable. I needed that today. Thank you. xo
    p.s. one of these days I’m gonna write a BEAR book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, please do — we definitely want a bear book! 2020 has certainly thrown everyone for a loop in so many ways. That’s why we need good books like yours more than ever. Thank you for continuing to enlighten and inspire us with your words, Irene.


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