nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy Wintering! Let’s wander into nature’s wonderland with Laivi Põder’s enchanting art.

Originally from Estonia, Laivi currently lives and works in London. She derives most of her inspiration by visiting nearby and distant woodlands, forests, meadows, lakes, botanical gardens and parks.

She loves creating dreamy and peaceful atmospheres with Procreate, adding details digitally after painting backgrounds in watercolor. 

Laivi initially worked for several years as a nurse, but in her twenties she quit her job to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time artist.

I especially love her moonlight scenes, especially this one with bears partying outdoors. 

See more of Laivi’s work at her Official Website and Instagram. Don’t miss her gorgeous autumnal scenes with their exquisite colors and details. 


2. Attention royalists: I’m so excited that 2022 is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee! She is the first British monarch to celebrate 70 years of service – a remarkable reign – having acceded to the throne on February 6, 1952, at age 25.

Year-long celebrations will be held throughout the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the world, the highlight of which will be a four-day Platinum Jubilee Weekend in early June.

Here are a couple of recently published children’s books I just ordered:

Our Queen Elizabeth: Her Extraordinary Life from the Crown to the Corgis, by Kate Williams and Helen Shoesmith (Wren & Rock, 2021):

A colourful, charming picture book by historian Kate Williams, taking young readers on an amazing journey through Queen Elizabeth II’s seven decades on the throne. 

Discover everything there is to know about the life and the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II in this beautifully illustrated book. Readers will learn all about Elizabeth II’s youth growing up during the Second World War, how she came to the throne and what it really means to be the Queen. Along the way, they’ll see her sparkling crown jewels and magnificent palaces. They will meet her beloved corgis, horses and of course, her very famous family. Plus they’ll discover lots of amazing facts – such as why she has two birthdays, always wears bright clothing, and is a world record breaker!


The Queen’s Wardrobe: The Story of Queen Elizabeth II and Her Clothes, by Julia Golding and Kate Hindley (Two Hoots, 2021):

The story of the life of Queen Elizabeth II, told through her clothes and jewellery – and a gorgeous gift to treasure. A big beautiful book to celebrate the Queen’s 95th birthday in style!

Includes a foreword by Michele Clapton, costume designer for series one of Netflix’s The Crown, giving a peek behind the scenes at the recreation of some of the Queen’s most famous outfits.

Did you know the Queen’s crown weighs as much as a bag of potatoes? Or that she has her own tartan nobody else is allowed to wear? 

Written by the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-winning Julia Golding, The Queen’s Wardrobe is packed with fascinating stories and astounding facts about our record-breaking Queen. The detailed, humorous and colourful artwork from bestselling Kate Hindley shows what it’s really like to grow up as a princess.

This book brings to life the story of a young princess who grew into one of the world’s best-loved and most famous royals, touching on wartime truck-fixing, ration-book wedding dress making, splendid gowns, trusty wellies, the Crown Jewels and jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond.

Both of these sound interesting, and I can’t wait to dive right in. The first title is for ages 6-8, while the second is for ages 7-11. Though I’ve read a couple of adult biographies about the Queen, I don’t think I’ve read any picture book biographies. Of course this will be the perfect excuse to sip a nice cup of tea while turning the pages. 🙂


3. Ceramics Fix: Check out these lovely nature-inspired designs by Osoka Art Ceramics.

Located in Kiev, Ukraine, Iuliia Osoka’s studio produces all pieces by hand using a partial glazing technique. Each bowl, plate, mug or spoon is first soaked in milk before firing, an eco-friendly technique that makes the items water resistant and smooth to the touch. 

Special pigments are then used for painting the designs onto the partially glazed pieces before a second firing.

While the botanical designs are lovely, I’m particularly partial to the whimsical animals – foxes, bees, birds, rabbits, and hedgehogs. Osoka ceramic items are suitable for everyday use and are microwave but not dishwasher safe.

Visit Osoka Art Ceramics’s Etsy Shop for lots more.


4. Heads up, Harry Potter fans: Have you seen The Official Harry Potter Baking Book by Joanna Farrow (Scholastic, 2021)?

Bake your way through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! Inspired by the films, this is the ONE and ONLY official Harry Potter cookbook! Packed with over 40 recipes and gorgeous, eye-catching photography, this baking cookbook is a must-have for every Harry Potter fan.

Delight in 43 tasty recipes inspired by the Harry Potter films! From Pumpkin Patch Pies to Owl Muffins, Luna’s Spectrespecs Cookies to Hogwarts Gingerbread, The Official Harry Potter Baking Cookbook is packed with mouthwatering recipes that will, dare we say, … ensnare the senses.

Host a Great Hall-inspired feast for your friends or delight in a portion for one. Includes recipes for all kinds of delicious baked goods, as well as nutritional and dietary information. This baking cookbook is great for everyone and includes gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan recipes as well!

Must say I’m tempted to get this one. After all, the word “baking” is in the title. I have seen The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz, which was published back in 2010, and likely the first of its kind. Since then, there have been several other “unofficial” HP cookbooks, and a couple of Hogwarts cookbooks.

This new one is apparently inspired by the films rather than the books, which might make sense for someone like me who’s seen the movies but hasn’t read all the books.


5. Cool beans: Are you familiar with Author Acrostics? Every Monday at her blog, author and poet Nancy Tupper Ling features a children’s author who has written an acrostic poem using his or her first name. This is presented as a lovely graphic that includes the acrostic along with Nancy’s brief introduction + images of a few published books. 

Back in November, Nancy posted my acrostic, in which I described Alphabet Soup. Nancy not only included images of two of my picture books and my blog header, but also a little photo of my secret husband Colin Firth (ooo la la indeed!).

You may remember my recent review of Nancy’s latest poetry anthology, For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day, which she co-edited with June Cotner. I also interviewed Nancy back in 2015 when her lovely picture book, Double Happiness, came out. 

Thanks for inviting me to participate, Nancy.  (You can see all 70+ authors in her ongoing Author Acrostics series in this cool flip book). 

There’s only one problem: now Colin wants his own page!


6. Cool poetry book alert: Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup (Nosy Crow, 2021):

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! is a lavishly illustrated collection of 366 animal poems—one for every day of the year. Filled with favorites and new discoveries written by a wide variety of poets, including William Blake, Christina Rosetti, Carl Sandburg, Grace Nichols, Matsuo Basho, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and many more. This is the perfect book for children (and grown-ups!) to share at the beginning or end of the day.

What better way to celebrate the Year of the Tiger than by reading a poem each day from this anthology? I like the mix of classic poets + new voices, and the sample illustrations look beautiful. Definitely on my Wish List!!


7. Wow, you must be starving by now! Have no fear, we have rice, rice, rice (so nice)!

I’ve loved onigiri — Japanese rice balls — since childhood (in Hawaii they were more commonly called musubi). I liked watching my mom shape cooked white rice into delicious triangles (tucking a pickled plum in the middle), then wrapping strips of nori (dried seaweed) around them. Perfect for picnics or anytime snacks. Yum!

In this Instagram age, onigiri has become a unique art form. At Onigiri Gekijo (rice ball theatre), the chef creates cats, anime characters, pop culture and folklore figures out of rice. I’m not sure, but I think the chef is male judging by the hands I see in the tutorial videos. He uses cut seaweed, dried bonito flakes and black sesame seeds for the fine details, sometimes “dyeing” the rice with different sauces.

What’s especially charming are the facial expressions of the animals and people. Just too cute to eat. So clever!

Watch how he makes a brown tabby cat:

For more rice ball fun, visit the Onigiri Gekijo Instagram and YouTube channel.


8. Oh, you beautiful doll, you great big beautiful doll! Love Helen Wood’s vintage-inspired handmade cloth and wooden dolls, which she sells at her Etsy Shop Isabella’s Secret Attic.

Based in Yorkshire, England, Helen grew up in a very creative family — drawing, painting, sewing, knitting, playing music and writing. She also had many cherished dolls, for whom she made clothes.

She especially loved visiting her grandparents’ home; her grandfather had a 1930’s toy box and her grandmother had a dressing up box full of 30s and 40s dresses. After discovering a cache of old family photos from this era, she was inspired to paint a series of canvases based on what she’d found, and eventually she began making vintage art dolls.

Her beautifully crafted dolls evoke warm feelings of nostalgia and take us back to simpler times. More at her Instagram. Just darling!


9. New Book Alert: Raucous Invention: The Joy of Making by Mark Hearld with text by Alan Powers and Lydia Wilson (Random Spectacular, 2022):

This beautiful new book throws open the doors to the wonderfully vibrant and energetic world of the artist Mark Hearld across 196 fully illustrated pages. Hearld’s exuberance, the endless inspiration he finds in nature, and his unbridled passion for making are evident on every page. Featuring his distinctive collages, textile designs, linocut prints, wallpapers and sculptures (to name just a few), Raucous Invention is a celebration of – and insight into – Hearld’s recent work and extraordinary creativity. As Alan Powers explains in his introduction, ‘this art is imperfect in the best way, messy and not prone to explaining itself, but the sound of singing and laughter is in the air.’

I’m a huge Mark Hearld fan (wish he’d do more children’s books!), and was happy and excited to hear about this new publication. It’s now out in hardcover, and a paperback edition will be issued later this year (which might be more affordable for shipping to the U.S.).

I’m fascinated by his creative process; he’s simply brilliant — a rare, one-of-a-kind artist with a unique vision (I featured his art in this post). Stunning work all around. Find out more about the book at the St. Jude’s website.


A little change in 2022: goodbye blue songs, hello swoon tunes – a mix of old and new favorites on my ultimate playlist.

A swoon tune kills you on the spot, takes you back every time, wows you anew with its artistry and emotional impact no matter how many times you’ve heard it before.

Have you ever been listening to a song you absolutely love in the car, and when you reach your destination it’s still playing but you cannot bear to kill the engine so you just sit there until it’s over?

Yeah, that kind of song.

First up: “When You Say Nothing At All” is a country song written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. I first heard Ronan Keating’s version on the “Notting Hill” soundtrack. Part of my infatuation with the song is that NH is one of my all-time favorite movies. I didn’t realize it was intially released by Keith Whitley in 1988. Alison Krauss recorded it in 1995, followed by Keating in 1999. It was a chart topper for all three artists, and I love all three renditions. A good song is a good song.

Enjoy Keating’s rendition from the film, followed by Krauss performing it for the Obamas at the White House in 2014 (pure and ethereal):











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14 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. I love seeing your acrostic and visit with Nancy Tupper Ling, Jama. I didn’t know about it. How fun that is & I love it all. Everything you share makes me “swoon” thus certainly I love your new “swoon” tunes! I marked Mark Herald’s new book. I really don’t know much of his work but did enjoy his illustrations for Nicola Davies’ book, Outside Your Window. Like always, thanks for every bit. The rice art – amazing what creative people can make!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also love Outside Your Window. Always exciting to see what Mark Hearld is up to. SOOOO talented! Nancy’s Author Acrostics is fun — interesting how everyone used their names to define themselves or offer inspiration for writing, etc. And it was nice to see familiar names like Irene Latham, Nikki Grimes, etc.


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