nine cool things on a tuesday

1. March winds are blowing, tiny buds are appearing on trees, it won’t be long before Spring is officially here!

For now, let’s look at how Jenny Beck’s gardens grow – rows of vegetables, flowers, blossoming trees – all set against rolling hills, everything lush, green, flourishing. 

Jenny hails from West Dorset, England, and has been surrounded by gardens and countryside for most of her life. She initially trained in ceramics, decorating pots with images of the English countryside.

Since she enjoyed decorating more than making pots, while working as a gardener she re-trained in illustration, then worked as a freelance illustrator. In addition to selling prints and cards, she works on community art projects and commissions for house and garden paintings.

Visit her Etsy Shop to harvest onions, pick apples, feed the hens, tend the allotment cabbages, and revel in the bucolic. Nothing finer than an English garden!


2. New Book Alert: Coming out March 25, 2022 is The Hundred Choices Department Store by Ginger Park (Regal House Publishing, 2022):

It’s 1944. The Pangs own The Hundred Choices Department Store, a thriving business in northern Korea that caters to wealthy Japanese. Thirteen-year-old Miyook Pang has spent two years serving in the war effort on behalf of Japan during the Japanese Occupation of her country. Miyook endures exhaustion and illness, but only when she is sent to work in the dreaded dye factory – a place deemed Hell’s Chamber by her older brother, Hoon – does she experience spiritual death. It is here where she meets Song-ho, an orphaned boy, and unbeknownst to her, the brief encounter will prove fateful. When Japan loses the war, Russian soldiers capture her beloved hometown and The Hundred Choices Department Store, leaving the city in ruin. With the Korean War looming, Miyook must take a dangerous flight south, across the 38th parallel now guarded by the newly formed North Korean Army. Here, once again, she encounters Song-ho, an event that will change the course of her life.

I had the distinct privilege of reading an advanced copy of this book last year and am excited that it’s finally hitting shelves this month!

You may remember that I interviewed Ginger and her sister Frances for their scrumptious memoir, Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats and the Little Shop That Could (2011), and then again for their wonderful cookbook, Allergies, Away! (2013). 

Together and separately, they’ve also published award winning fiction for both children and adults, much of it about their family history and Korean heritage. 

The Hundred Choices Department Store, Ginger’s debut middle grade historical novel, is based on her mother’s family, who owned a department store that was destroyed during the Russian occupation of Korea following WWII. This book of her heart is a beautiful way of honoring her mom, who passed away in 2019, and whose birthday is release day, March 25.

Here’s the blurb I wrote for the book:

This beautifully written, heart-wrenching coming-of-age story speaks to the enduring power of familial bonds and the resiliency of the human spirit. As her world is destroyed by tyranny, subjugation and agonizing separation, Miyook learns that a small act of kindness can have enormous consequences. The heightened pathos of deftly crafted scenes will inspire empathy and compassion for the plight of refugees. A riveting, timely, humanizing account of risking everything for freedom.

To learn more, check out this piece Ginger wrote for Washington Family (page 38), and this article/interview by Elliot C. Williams at DCist.

Here’s the Official Book Trailer:

Congratulations, Ginger!!


3. Sister Book Alert: Frances Park’s That Lonely Spell: Stories of Family, Friends & Love (Heliotrope, 2022), is also being released on March 25:

Frances Park’s parents arrived in the United States decades before the mass migration of Koreans. Her background and memory are rich with unique histories that work their way into That Lonely Spell. A mosaic of previously published essays, this memoir reveals—with heartbreak and humor—one woman’s passion, insights, and love for the family and friends who graced her life. A singular voice.

I’m a big fan of personal essays and enjoyed some of the pieces in this collection when they were published by various online magazines. Now I can reread those as well as some new ones in this book! Frances has been sharing tempting excerpts from this memoir-in-essays via her Facebook page for at least a year, ramping up the anticipation.

Here’s what several others have said about That Lonely Spell:

A Korean heritage interwoven with an American-upbringing results in unique views on life and family. These coming-of-age stories—these life lessons—entertain even as they teach us something about ourselves. ~ Robert Kostuck, author and editor-in-chief, DoveTales

A tour de force in memoir writing… informative, elegant, and extravagantly pleasurable to read. ~ Susan Tepper, author of What Drives Men and The Crooked Heart, a Play

Heart and humanity shine through in essays that speak to a fierce love of family and longing for home. ~ Kirkus Reviews

Glowing words, all well deserved. I can’t wait to dig into this one!

Congratulations, Frances!

📕 Lucky us, both Ginger and Frances will be discussing their new books at a special P&P Live! online double launch (via Politics & Prose Bookstore), on Wednesday evening, March 23, 2022, from 6-7 p.m. (EDT). Free to attend and you can register here. Both books are available for pre-order now. Can’t wait!

♥️ And of course, you can also visit the Park sisters at Chocolate Chocolate in D.C. any time you need a sweet treat. They also sell signed copies of their books at the shop. Chocolate and books, what more could one possibly need? 🙂


4. Ceramics Fix: Recently stumbled upon California artist Julie Whitmore’s pieces and am having fun learning more about her.

She’s been a ceramicist for a couple of decades, a proponent of the French Faience tradition. Here’s how she describes herself:

“former mud pie maker, now potter. old stuff lover, garden digger, weak in the knees for poetry, flocks of birds, fields of donkeys, blowsy roses and pie.”

A pie and poetry loving potter. Yes, please. She has a free spirited style; her pieces have that handmade look — perfection in imperfection.

It is easy to see her love of gardening and wildlife in her whimsical pieces. This type of 3D ceramics is sculptural as well as painterly. Love all the charming hand-built elements.

She creates lots of kitchenware – cups, platters, spoons, bowls, etc., which look like show pieces but are actually utilitarian and functional. They’re made with lead free glazes and are food safe.

Julie also sells wonderful allegorical and folk art paintings. It’s a fanciful world that shows up her love of antiques and storybook settings. 

Visit her Big Cartel site for ceramics, her Fine Art America page for paintings, and be sure to check out her flickr photostream, which nicely showcases the range of her work. For new pieces (they get snatched up quickly), follow her on Instagram.


5. New Literary Cookbook: The Emily Dickinson Cookbook: Recipes from Emily’s Table Alongside the Poems That Inspire Them by Arlyn Osborne (Harvard Common Press, 2022), was just released in January.

Bring the mysterious and magical world of Emily Dickinson into your home by making the comforting foods that Emily loved to cook.

Whether you are a fan of the hit television series Dickinson or have long been inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poems, this enchanting cookbook brings Emily to life as little else could. A distinguished food historian said this about Emily: “She was probably better known as a baker than a poet in her lifetime.” Remarkably, that is true! Emily wrote her poetry in the kitchen of her home in Massachusetts and was cooking up a storm much of the time. She wrote poems on the wrappers of packages of chocolate that she had ordered for baking; and she wrote recipes in her notebooks of poems. Food and cooking were central to Emily’s identity and were woven into her vocation of writing poetry.

The more than 50 recipes in this colorful and lavishly illustrated book include recipes that Emily recorded during her life, other recipes we know she and her family enjoyed, and recipes typical of the New England of her time. All are completely updated for today’s cooks. Throughout, you will also find inspiring poems by Emily, some about food specifically, others that provide poetic inspiration for the recipes in this volume. The recipes include:

  • Winter Vegetable Soup
  • Carrot Fritters
  • Apple-Butter Glazed Doughnuts
  • Boston Brown Bread
  • Lemon Verbena Tea Loaf
  • Emily’s Oval Gingerbread Cakes
  • Chocolate Loaf Cake with Cherries
  • New England Pear Tart
  • Peaches and Cream Pudding
  • Emily’s Chocolate Caramels

This charming cookbook makes a perfect gift for the Emily fan in your lifeor for yourself, if you happen to love Emily and the comforting foods of days gone by.

This one is definitely on my Wish List; can’t resist the prospect of recipes + poems. Did someone say Chocolate Loaf Cake with Cherries? Yum. 🙂


6. Speaking of edibles, you know I can’t resist handmade felt food – cute and calorie free :).

The Primrose Cottage Shop, based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, uses felt that has been recycled from plastic pop bottles. These sets are kid safe and hand stitched, constructed without the use of any glues.

In addition to food, the crafter also sells educational sets (play money, life cycle of the salmon), as well as odds and ends like American Girl doll clothes and reusable sandwich bags. 

Play money

Who says these fun things are just for kids? 


7. We want poetry! And Pennsylvania poet Marjorie Maddox has not one, but two new books out this month: Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts Publishing, 2022), a collection of ekphrastic poems, is being released March 21, World Poetry Day:

In Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For, a cracked, heart-shaped stone inspired poet Marjorie Maddox and artist Karen Elias to collaborate in creating nuanced portrayals of love, obsession, grief, joy, loneliness, anger, protest, and hope. Looking backward to memories and forward to our responsibility for the earth, their individual visions combine to create an expansive understanding of our beautiful, complicated world, a world constantly reimagined through the persistence of our fragile, courageous hearts.  

Here’s a sample poem paired with Karen Elias’s lovely photograph:


Marjorie’s other book is Begin with a Question: Poems (Iron Pen/Paraclete Press, 2022), and its pub date is March 22:

Begin with a Question explores how the life of faith is a continuous voyage, launched anew each bright day of the spirit or dark night of the soul. This is a book of contemplation and motion, a journey—often in stops and starts—toward the Divine, a pilgrimage paved with prayer, praise, pause, penitence, and (of course) questions. Urgent and universal, joyful or joyless, tinged with doubt or rinsed with hope, here are honest queries that probe, lift, and lead to discovery. Begin with a Question keeps us moving, seeking, reaching, lifting us out of ourselves to something beyond. Using a variety of fixed forms and free verse, the poet examines our relationship to the one who asks, “Who do you say that I am?” A book for seekers, doubters, and believers alike, these poems bring us face to face with anguish, anger, awe, and adoration. They give us permission not to demand answers, but to follow the questions that lead to the Alpha and Omega, to the I AM that keeps us spiraling along this twisting path toward God.

I’ve previously featured two of Marjorie’s books, Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems (Finalist, International Book Awards/Children’s Educational), and I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (a 2021 NCTE Notable Poetry Book).

Her new adult collections are just the thing for reflection and contemplation during National Poetry Month in April. Pre-order your copies of Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For and Begin with a Question now! 🙂

Congratulations, Marjorie!


8. New Picture Book Alert: Still dreaming of Spring? Celebrate with Spring Parade by Camelia Kay and Allyn Howard (Cameron Kids, 2022), releasing March 22, 2022:

Here comes Spring! March along with Mama and Baby Bunny as they welcome a festive parade of budding flowers and blossoming trees, new birds, butterflies and bees, and all of their beloved friends, emerging from the winter season.

Doesn’t this look adorable? You may remember when I featured Allyn Howard’s artwork not too long ago. Love all her “small curious animals” and pretty floral designs. I thought then that her sweet style was perfect for children’s books, and now I can’t wait to see Spring Parade, which is her picture book debut. A little gray bunny!

In a glowing review, Kirkus said, “Howard’s impressionistic paintings are all presented as two-page, full-bleed spreads, allowing for a sense of movement and spring’s expansive energy. Each spread includes one or two sentences in capital letters, almost all of which use anaphoric repetition, resulting in a rhythm that feels full of anticipation . . . Simple but effective at conveying the joy of the season of new beginnings.”

Congratulations to Camelia and Allyn!


9. Hippity hop hop! Speaking of baby bunnies, how about these little cuties from Jen’s Felted Jems? Jen’s a mother of two who lives on the west coast of Canada.

All her pieces are needle felted of 100% wool. Perfect for Waldorf nature tables or Easter gifts for that special someone. I’m sure one of these wants to hop right into your Easter basket.

You know you want me.

These look to be OOAK, so order now to get one in time for Easter (April 17).


**BONUS KICK: I’m loving this rabbit teapot! Maine artist Brita Holmquist worked with Deruta artisans to create the design. These were then traditionally handcrafted and hand-painted by artists in Deruta, Italy. It’s 5.5″ tall and holds 30 ounces. More info at Bonechi Imports.


Our Swoon Tune this month is “Superstar,” written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell. Rita Coolidge came up with the idea for the song based on the rockstar groupies she’d observed in the late 60s.

It was first recorded by Delaney & Bonnie in 1969 under the title, “Groupie (Superstar),” and covered by many artists over the years, with the most successful versions by the Carpenters (1971) and Luther Vandross (1984).

Apparently Karen Carpenter wasn’t taken with the song at first, but after hearing Richard’s arrangement she changed her mind. She recorded it on her first take, and Richard received a Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist.

Richard changed the line, “And I can hardly wait to sleep with you again,” to, “And I can hardly wait to be with you again,” because it was considered too risqué for their wholesome image.

I’ve always loved this song; it reminds me of a time when all I cared about was music, rockstars, the radio, fan magazines, and concerts. The line, “Don’t you remember you told me you love me, baby” kills me every time.

Here’s the Carpenters’ version followed by a live performance by Bonnie Bramlett in 2016 (wow). It’s always interesting to hear a songwriter interpreting his/her own song — nice that Leon Russell is listening in the audience too.













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**Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

32 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. I love this blog! Anywhere there are bunnies, food and poetry is my place of comfort. Jama, you have a knack of brightening my morning! Pray for the people of Ukraine!🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you watched “The King’s Affection”? It’s the most recent K-drama I’ve seen and enjoyed. What other Korean Netflix series have you especially liked?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Navillera,” Crash Landing on You,” “Strongest Delivery Man,” Hometown Cha Cha Cha,” “Signal” Record of Youth,” “Start-Up,” Mr Sunshine,” “That Winter the Wind Blows, now I am watching “Forecasting Love and Weather,” and “Twenty-five Twenty-one.” I’ve never watched so much but started over the pandemic and love the stories and acting 🎭 and so many of them share so much sensitivity. I’ll have to check the one you mentioned, thanks ☺️!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, what a great list — will have to check them out. I’ve seen “Navillera” and the first couple episodes of “Crash Landing on You.” King’s Affection” is historical — unusual as it has a kind of feminist main character.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jama, thanks so much for including HEART SPEAKS, IS SPOKEN FOR and BEGIN WITH A QUESTION on your Nine Cool Things on a Tuesday. Now I not only feel cool, but lucky at #7! And what great company to be in! Happy dance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ekphrastic poetry is currently my favorite way to get the poetry cogs turning! Right now I’m working on poems based on work by my artist daughter. What a delight! Try it!


  3. Thank you so much, Jama Darling, for including F & me in this gorgeous blog post. You know how to make two girls feel so special! I LOVED the two video performances of “Superstar”. Wow – Bonnie’s was so heartfelt – gave me goosebumps!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, NO. Felted bunnies… and felted food, and ceramics that are way too cute. ::sigh::
    Your blog is just dangerous.The poetry collections also look glorious – I LOVE the cover of The Heart Speaks…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So many things to love her, thanks Jama. Thanks for introducing me to these authors, poets & artists. I LOVE that teapot!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m late to the table but so happy I didn’t skip out entirely! My book list just enlarged. Each one you shared sounds wonderful, Jama. Thanks for the art. Those tiny felt creatures are delightful. And Karen Carpenter with ‘Superstar’, takes me back a long way. I saw Leon R. when he was not very well-known in a small venue years ago – great performance, but do not remember if he sang this song, probably not. Karen Carpenter’s voice is so nice! Thanks for all!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How cool to have seen Leon Russell — and at a small venue (I love those best)! I miss Karen C. — she was such a gifted vocalist. Gone too soon.

      Liked by 1 person

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