nine cool things on a tuesday

1. For this important, historic day, let’s start with food, glorious food, courtesy of British artist Lucy Crick. She lives and works in Suffolk, and has been painting still life oils since art school.

She’s all about “dramatic lighting, careful staging, and attention to detail,” which adds a touch of magic to her otherwise everyday subjects.

Her work reflects her love of the traditional still lives of the Dutch Golden Age, and she paints mainly on board or wooden panels. I suppose one could categorize her paintings as “photorealistic.”

Are you drooling yet? Feast a little more at her official website. 🙂


2. New Book Alert: A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Crown, 2020). This doesn’t officially release until November 17 (my father’s birthday!), but this title seems like a good one to include today, the most important presidential election of our lifetimes.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

Sigh. I’ve never missed a President so much.

You can preorder A Promised Land here.


3.  Tee hee. Had to include this plush pencil. Isn’t it adorable? Something about the smile and feet appeal to me.

The Jellycat Smart Stationery Pencil (5″ x 17″) would make a fun mascot for the “serious” writer in your life (maybe you?), but of course kids would love it too. Who could resist that suede-y eraser and corduroy tip? It’s safe for all ages, from birth+, and is hand washable. Get yours here.

P.S. Mr Cornelius says “HB” stands for Handsome Bear. 🙂


4. Is it just me, or did anyone else miss the 1998 “Little Men” Canadian TV series? Yes, it first aired about 20 years ago, but I hadn’t heard of it till I stumbled upon it on Prime Video recently.

It’s loosely based on Alcott’s sequel to Little Women, set in Concord, MA, just after the death of Jo’s husband Fritz Bhaer. Jo is left to run Plumfield School alone.

My initial impression after watching the first episode (the series only ran for 2 seasons), was that Jo didn’t feel particularly “Jo-like.” Still, since I didn’t remember much of Little Men, having only read it once eons ago, I was curious to watch the series anyway.

Once I got over my Jo-thing, I was hooked! There’s a wonderful ensemble cast (esp. liked Nat, Dan, and Nan), and the storylines will appeal to viewers who enjoy other family-oriented series like “Little House on the Prairie,” or “Anne of Green Gables.”

A widowed Meg, Amy, Laurie and their daughter Bess are there too, in addition to Asia (cook/housekeeper), Franz (Jo’s nephew/teacher), and a very-easy-on-the-eyes former Merchant Marine/handyman, Nick Riley.

I happily entered the lives of the Plumfield students (some of whom had Canadian, rather than New England accents). As long as you’re not an Alcott purist and expect something true to the Little Men novel, I think you’d enjoy it. It certainly was a heartwarming and wholesome binge-watch diversion from the usual daily chaos. Check it out if you have Prime Video. 🙂


5. Two new Emily Sutton picture books! Always a cause for celebration to see more of her beautifully illustrated titles. First up, Grow: Secrets of our DNA, written by Nicola Davies (Candlewick, 2020), just released in the U.S. on September 1. You may know that Nicola and Emily are the crackerjack team behind Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes (Candlewick, 2014), Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth (Candlewick, 2017), and A First Book of the Sea (Candlewick, 2018). All highly recommended!

Here’s the scoop on Grow:

Earth is full of life! All living things grow—plants, animals, and human beings. The way they grow, whether it be fast or slow, enormous or not so big, helps them survive. But growing is also about change: when people grow, they become more complicated and able to do more things. And they don’t have to think about it, because bodies come with instructions, or DNA. With simple, engaging language and expressive, child-friendly illustrations, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton provide an introduction to genetic code and how it relates to families to make us all both wonderfully unique and wholly connected to every living thing on earth.


Emily’s other 2020 release is Jumbo: The Most Famous Elephant Who Ever Lived, written by Alexandra Stewart (Bloomsbury, 2020). UK edition out, U.S. edition forthcoming.

Roll up! Roll up! And meet the incredible, the colossal, the world-famous … JUMBO!

Our story begins in 1860, in the mountains of East Africa, where a baby elephant struggles to his feet and takes his first shaky steps …

This is the deeply touching story of an elephant who captured the world’s imagination, brought beautifully to life with enchanting storytelling and gorgeous artwork. Follow Jumbo’s amazing journey from his remote home in the rugged mountains of East Africa and the time he spent delighting visitors with elephant rides and comedy routines at London Zoo. Be amazed by his spectacular stint in P.T. Barnum’s ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ and how he led a herd of elephants across the newly-built Brooklyn Bridge to test its strength. Discover how Jumbo’s remarkable life and legacy transformed our understanding and treatment of these magnificent creatures.

With a page-turning narrative by Alexandra Stewart and breathtakingly beautiful artwork by Emily Sutton, the true story of Jumbo’s incredible life will fascinate young and old alike.

I am especially fond of elephants and can’t wait to see this book in person. Grow is, of course, gorgeous, and like Nicola and Emily’s other books, appeals to this sometimes science-phobic reader. Can’t think of a better way to learn cool stuff while treating myself to stunning art. 🙂


6. Hmmmmm, what has the beautiful and multi-talented Robyn Hood Black been up to lately at artsyletters? Mr Cornelius and I had fun checking out some of the new items in her shop.

We love her Fancy Fall Leaves Bookmarks:

Falling leaves cascade from this fall bookmark…. A lovely way to keep your place in your favorite book as you enjoy the crisp, clear autumn weather! Old and new charms dangle on vintage clock chain from a gold-plated shepherd’s hook bookmark. Charms include a vintage handpainted enamel double-leaf-charm, a sparkly pyrite connector, two tiny oxidized brass leaves, and a vintage fancy brass maple leaf, all coming to a point with a pointy brass alloy leaf.

The gold plated simple hook bookmark is approximately 5 inches long. (Each bookmark is made by hand. Teeny wee variations possible.)

So pretty!

Also, if you have a thing for antique maps, check out these cool thank you cards and note cards:

These come in sets of 8 with envelopes. Makes you want to dip your quill and write to someone special in your best cursive, doesn’t it?

And speaking of Louisa May Alcott, how about these BLUE vintage stamp earrings? Her image was part of the 1940 “Famous Americans” postage stamp series. I sense they’d look sensational on you. I like the upcycled shepherd’s hook bookmark too!

Visit the artsyletters Etsy Shop for lots more — jewelry, gift packs, bookmarks, magnets, keychains, mixed media poem collages, journals, and sketchbooks — perfect for readers, writers, poets, teachers, librarians, or anyone with a taste for vintage with a literary twist. Never too early to start your holiday shopping. 🙂


7. Ceramics fix! Looking at Brooklyn-based artist Stephanie H. Shih’s pieces is like stepping into a childhood hometown grocery store. I used to tag along with my mom for her weekly shopping trips to Elite Market, where she’d pick up staples like soy sauce, 100 pound bags of calrose rice, several cans of Spam or Libby’s Corned Beef, bean sprouts, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and guava juice.

She’d always stop by the meat counter to ask Pang for several pounds of beef short ribs or maybe some fresh ahi (my dad claimed his favorite food was sashimi).

I love Stephanie’s ceramic Kikkoman Soy Sauce tin, savory sauces and dried noodles! Wonderful work with the labels and packaging — looks so real! With their gentle wavy-ness, they have an intimate, handmade feel about them. The beauty is in the imperfection.

She started this Chinatown grocery store project in 2018 by making dumplings (over 1000 so far!), and after communicating with her social media followers, decided to make other items that resonated with them. Her master plan is to open an entire grocery store filled with her ceramic pieces.

It’s amazing how these grocery shelf staples from the 80s and 90s bring back such great memories — items I’ve seen for years but took for granted, not really “seeing” them until now. I just happen to have the same blue and white rice bowl that’s in her dumpling photo. In a wonderful way, I feel a new kinship to other Asian Americans regardless of where they grew up or where they live now. Our “community” is really a common feeling. Delicious nostalgia!

See more at Stephanie’s Official Website.


8. Maira, Maira, Maira! Yes, she has another new book out! Just released October 27, it’s American Utopia, written by David Byrne (Bloomsbury, 2020).

A joyful collaboration between old friends David Byrne and Maira Kalman, American Utopia offers readers an antidote to cynicism, bursting with pathos, humanism, and hope–featuring his words and lyrics brought to life with more than 150 of her colorful paintings.

The text is drawn from David Byrne’s American Utopia, which has become a hit Broadway show and is soon to be a documentary from Spike Lee. The four-color artwork, by Maira Kalman, which she created for the Broadway show’s curtain, is composed of small moments, expressions, gestures, and interactions that together offer a portrait of daily life and coexistence.

With their creative talents combined, American Utopia is a salvo for kindness and a call for jubilation, a reminder to sing, dance, and waste not a moment. Beautifully designed and edited by Alex Kalman, American Utopia is a balm for the soul from two of the world’s most extraordinary artists.

I admit I wasn’t familiar with David Byrne’s work until I saw the “American Utopia” documentary on HBO recently. Wow! Talk about heartening and uplifting! Spike Lee filmed a live Broadway performance of a modified version of Byrne’s “American Utopia” album. Byrne is joined onstage by 11 awesome musicians. Worth a look if you haven’t already seen it. Prepare to levitate !

At the very beginning, the film shows the stage curtain with all of Maira’s drawings on it. Love seeing them in this new book. As I’ve said many times before, whenever Maira comes out with something new, I order it immediately. Looking at my Maira bookshelf always makes me happy.  🙂


9. Remember when Dusty Springfield sang, “You don’t have to say you love me, just put on your mask . . . ” Well, close enough. 😀

Anyway, I think it’s a good idea to tell people you love them while gently reminding them to mask up. Have you seen these adorable postcards created by Minnesota children’s author/illustrator Nancy Carlson?

They’re fun and whimsical like her many books, which feature memorable characters like Harriet, Loudmouth George, and Arnie. I’m sure you know someone who’d be delighted to find one of these postcards in the mail. Visit her online shop for more details.


Finally, here’s today’s special BLUE song, courtesy of the inimitable Randy Rainbow (love him!). The only song parody we need for Election Day. Yeah, we work the blue too.
















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

18 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Thanks for starting my day off with a big dose of cool things and the perfect brain worm! Working the BLUE! Believing in blue! Ready to start the work of healing our divides!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Jama! Think I’m going to get the DNA book for my grandson for Christmas! May this Tuesday bring our nation closer to the healing we need! God bless us all, and especially Brooklyn’s own Dr. Anthony Fauci who should never be fired! Amen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree about Dr. Fauci. Makes me boil to see him treated so disrespectfully by 45 and his minions. Science saved 45’s life (or at the very least, saved him a lot of misery). 45 called Dr. Fauci while he was in the hospital — he turned to the expert. Now that he’s well again, he stabs him the back this way?

      Nice to hear you plan to get GROW for your grandson. And let’s pray this election saves our democracy and brings us all closer to healing.


  3. I started with Randy, a big lift to start this day! Of course, I loved every bit, Jama. A week or so ago I ordered some more things from Robyn, can’t stop finding lovely things at her Artsy Letters shop! If my dad was still alive, I would order that SPAM ceramic for him, someone who said it was the best invention ever – oh my! I have loved Tiny Things & used it in class years ago, & now have Grow – both special books. I didn’t know about Jumbo, will look for it! And a new Maira Kalman book – wonderful. Thank you for this Tuesday/Election Day/best start to the day post. May we be happier & happier as the day, then week moves along!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with your Dad about Spam (all Hawaii people love it). Yes, Robyn continues to offer such wonderful items in her shop. I remember when she first opened and am so impressed by how she’s expanded her business. And I do HOPE with all hope that today and the days ahead bring the happy result we’ve all been waiting for.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Randy Rainbow’s parodies and Sarah Cooper’s lip-synchs are the only two ways I can listen to that dude who will, fingertoeslegshandseyes crossed, soon no longer be president. Thanks for all the fun distractions.


  5. I wasn’t that familiar with David Byrne until this year when I ran across his Reasons To Be Cheerful website (and realized he was a rock star, duh). ( “American Utopia” just seems to be more of the same – interesting and creative and unexpected. As were so many of the things shared here today! All the cute ceramics! And postcards! And, I don’t know how I missed Robyn Hood Black’s etsy page – now I’m REALLY in trouble…


    1. Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t know Byrne was a rock star. I think I was the wrong demographic for liking Talking Heads. Thanks for mentioning his website — will have to check it out.


  6. Waited until Wednesday morning to enjoy your nine cool things. Never disappointed with your finds. Thank you so much. Joy on an anxiety filled morning.


  7. What glorious finds, all, Jama, and I’m beyond honored to be included in this diverse and lovely and lively list! Thank you. I was definitely in the Talking Heads demographic; delighted to see all the buzz for David Byrne’s new incarnations. (And how about that Stevie Nicks lately? :0) ) The Obama book sounds like a necessary purchase. So great to hear his voice in recent weeks. I’m finally tuning in here Wed. night, and there’s still anticipation and angst – sure needed all these wonderful ‘distractions’! Tell Mr. C. I have LOTS of pencils with his initials in my studio, so now I’ll think of him even MORE often… XO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr C is tickled pink about your HB pencils!

      Love Stevie Nicks, and it *is* great to hear from Obama again. Yes, the anticipation and angst continue; hopefully we’ll feel much better by the end of the day.

      BTW, artsyletters is a forever cool thing! 🙂


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