nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy May! Let’s celebrate this month of flowers with UK artist Lucy Grossmith’s exquisite paintings.

Lucy grew up in the Lincolnshire countryside and now lives and works in Suffolk, England. She’s always been surrounded and inspired by nature and enjoys walking outdoors, where she sketches and makes mental notes of flora, fauna, colors, textures, and weather conditions – all ingredients for her work.

She paints with acrylics on canvas or textured paper, focusing on gardens, wildlife, countryside, and coastal landscapes. 

Love the soft, feminine feel to her pictures and the delicate detail.

For more, visit her Official Website (“heart to art”) where you can purchase original paintings or fine art giclée prints.


2. New Picture Book Alert: Officially out today is Juna and Appa by Jane Park and Felicia Hoshino (Lee & Low, 2022):

From the creators of the award-winning picture book Juna’s Jar, comes a new magical tale where Juna embarks on a journey to help her biggest hero–her Appa!

Juna enjoys helping her father in their dry-cleaning shop on Saturdays. It’s their special time together.

One day Juna sees a customer yelling at Appa about a lost jacket. Juna has never seen her father look so worried and becomes determined to help. She sets off on a magical journey in search of the jacket, and along the way meets remarkable animals that show her the different ways that fathers care for their young.

Juna and Appa is a tender ode to fathers and to the many families working behind shop counters.

I enjoyed Juna’s Jar and can’t wait to read this new story. I’m always excited to see Korean American characters in children’s books (we definitely need more of them!). Perfect timing for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM) too. 🙂

Juna and Appa has received a glowing review from Kirkus, who said:

“Hoshino’s watercolor illustrations, with their soft, dreamlike quality, are perfectly matched to Juna’s musings. Delicate patterning and fanciful play of scale will captivate readers, while the warm glow of the shop brings the Korean American girl’s emotional connection and sense of place to life in this love letter to the mom-and-pop shops that carry the hopes, dreams, and hard work of the families who run them . . . alight with generosity and familial love.”

Congratulations, Jane and Felicia!


3. Heads Up, Beatrix Potter fans: A new exhibition, “Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature,” runs now through January 8, 2023 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Created in partnership with the National Trust, this is the first exhibition to tell Potter’s complete life story, showcasing her accomplishments as a storyteller/artist, scientist, and conservationist.

from the “Drawn to Nature” exhibit, Porter Gallery, V&A Museum

The exhibition showcases over 200 personal objects including artworks, rarely seen letters, manuscripts, sketches, coded diaries, family photographs, commercial merchandise and personal artefacts. It celebrates her early talent for storytelling, her business acumen and her fascination with the scientific study of the natural world, as well as her passion for sheep farming and conservation – a legacy still felt today.

Can’t attend in person? Score a copy of the exhibition catalog:

Beatrix Potter’s universe of characters—Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin ,Jemima Puddleduck—have delighted audiences for over a century. A creative pioneer and determined entrepreneur, she combined scientific observation with imaginative storytelling to create some of the world’s best-loved children’s books. This volume showcases Potter’s charming characters against the backdrop of her exquisite botanical drawings, humorous illustrated letters to friends, Lake District landscapes, and rarely seen photographs.
 Beatrix Potter’s endearingly hand-painted world of animals and gardens made her one of the most celebrated children’s book authors of all time, yet this is but one facet of her creative life. Drawn to the picturesque English countryside after a London childhood, Potter had a passion for nature that influenced her many achievements as a naturalist, artist, storyteller, and later in life as a fervent conservationist and “gentlewoman” farmer. This book sheds light upon the connections between her art, entrepreneurial success, and legacy in preservation.

I ordered a copy and it’s wonderful. When it comes to Beatrix, there is always more to learn, ponder, marvel at, and explore. This October marks 120 years since Frederick Warne published the first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. What joy she continues to bring to fans young and old all over the world.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this lovely, calming video of the Lake District, produced in conjunction with the exhibition. It features a “dawn to dusk” view of the region that inspired Potter’s work, where she purchased 15 farms and 4000+ acres, donating all to the National Trust to preserve the pristine beauty of the countryside she loved.

Visit the Victoria & Albert Museum website to learn more and to enjoy online interactive activities related to the exhibition. Visit the museum shop for BP goodies.


4. Are you a Georgette Heyer fan? Recently I’ve been rereading some of her Regency novels – pure escapism at its best. Gotta love the witty repartee and seeing words and expressions like cucumberish, make a cake of oneself, faradiddles, elbow-crooker, fairly flush in the pockets, and pudding-house.

It beats listening to depressing news on TV any day.

I first read her books in high school, so reading them now is like reading them for the first time. All along, I never knew anything about Heyer’s life – then I read this interesting biography by Jennifer Kloester. 

It was published over a decade ago, but if you like Heyer’s books and haven’t read it yet, it’s well worth your time. 

Georgette Heyer famously said, “I am to be found in my work.”

Who was this amazing writer who was so secretive about her personal life that she never gave an interview? Where did she get her ideas? Were there real-life models for her ultra-manly heroes, independent-minded heroines, irascible guardians, and clever villains? What motivated her to build a Regency world so intricately researched that readers want to escape there again and again?

Heyer’s Regency romances, historical novels, and mysteries have surprised and delighted millions of readers for decades, while the woman behind the stories has stayed hidden…Until now!

With unprecedented, exclusive access to Heyer’s notebooks, papers, and early letters, Jennifer Kloester uncovers both the complex life of a private woman and a masterful writer’s craft that will forever resonate in literature and beyond.

I was excited to discover she was born in Wimbledon (where I lived for 2 years), and even frequented the Dog & Fox (pub and hotel), where we hung out many times. I was surprised at how much of her writing was motivated by ongoing financial problems and the desperate need to EARN MONEY, and how many times she and her husband had to move (she also supported her two brothers into adulthood).

Interesting, too, to learn about her interactions with agents and editors, how easily she switched between writing romances and mysteries, how fast she worked (averaging a novel a year), and how long she kept up that frenetic pace.

All this time, I’d been pronouncing her surname as, “higher.” Seems it was pronounced that way for part of her life, but later her father changed it to, “hare” (so they wouldn’t be mistaken for Germans during WWI). The things you learn! If by chance, you’ve never read a Heyer book, what are you waiting for? I would start with These Old Shades. Escape, escape!!


5. How’s this for a cool art form: paper and stitch! UK artist Jennifer Collier creates amazing paper sculptures from vintage recycled materials in conjunction with stitch – using a sewing machine or embroidering by hand.

The papers serve as both inspiration and media for the work. She transforms old papers (book pages, maps, etc.) into truly unique and complex objects – lampshades, pitchers, telephones, cameras, typewriters.

Recently Jennifer has been collecting rarely used heritage stitches, translating the art of lost stitches onto paper. She feels it’s important to preserve these techniques for future generations. 

Everything she makes is a one-off, and she does take commissions. Learn more at her Official Website, Instagram, and FB Page. You can purchase her items at MadebyHandonline.

Watch Jennifer in action:


6. New Early Reader Alert: Gigi and Ojiji by Melissa Iwai (HarperCollins, 2022), is officially out today!!!

Gigi, a biracial six-year-old girl, learns about her Japanese culture from her grandfather when he comes to visit. Perfect for social emotional learning. 

Gigi can’t wait for her Ojiji—Japanese grandpa—to move in. Gigi plans lots of things to do with him, like playing tag, reading books, and teaching Roscoe, the family dog, new tricks.

But her plans don’t work out quite the way she’d hoped. And her grandpa doesn’t seem to like Roscoe. Will Gigi find a way to connect with her Ojiji?

This is the first title in a Level-3, I Can Read, 4-book series — perfect for early independent readers. The story contains several Japanese words and a glossary of definitions and pronunciations.

It has already received two **starred reviews** — from School Library Journal:

“Gigi crafts her Japanese American identity in this ­enchanting early reader. The cuteness, inclusivity, and cross-cultural problem-solving represented will have young ­readers coming back again and again. A must-buy.”

and Booklist:

“The text is well supported by the endearing illustrations, which capture all of Gigi’s big emotions and depict her as a biracial child, with a white father and Japanese mother.”

Melissa said this about the book on FB:

“This situation is inspired by the time my Ojiji came to stay with my family when I was a little girl. He immigrated to Hawaii at the turn of the last century, and my parents were born and raised there. They never learned to speak Japanese properly because they weren’t allowed to as kids — having grown up in Hawaii during WWII.”

I’m a longtime Melissa and I Can Read fan and can’t wait to read this new series. Another excellent choice for AAPIHM and every month throughout the year.

Read more backstory about the book (which she worked on for 9 years!) at Melissa’s blog.

Congratulations, Melissa!


7. Put on your posh threads and polish the silver — the second Downton Abbey movie is coming to U.S. theaters on May 20!

In “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” the long awaited sequel written by Julian Fellowes, the cast travels to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’s newly inherited villa. That Violet — full of surprises and such a colorful past!

I remember when there was doubt about whether Dame Maggie Smith would appear in the first DA movie – and now it looks like she’s definitely back for the second. Truly, it wouldn’t be the same without her, right? No one else can deliver those one-line zingers like she can.

Most of the cast will return along with several new characters. Will Tom Branson marry Lucy Smith? Will Lady Edith have a baby? Is there romance in the cards for Thomas? And what’s up with Henry Talbot? Can’t wait!

Enjoy the trailer:


8. Let’s hear it for our favorite birthday boy: Bob Dylan will turn 81 on May 24, and he continues to amaze. Still recording new albums and touring, creating new paintings and sculptures, and finishing up another book. The Philosophy of Modern Song (Simon & Schuster, 2022) won’t be out till November, but is available for pre-order now.

The Philosophy of Modern Song is Bob Dylan’s first book of new writing since 2004’s Chronicles: Volume One—and since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.

Dylan, who began working on the book in 2010, offers a master class on the art and craft of songwriting. He writes over sixty essays focusing on songs by other artists, spanning from Stephen Foster to Elvis Costello, and in between ranging from Hank Williams to Nina Simone. He analyzes what he calls the trap of easy rhymes, breaks down how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song, and even explains how bluegrass relates to heavy metal. These essays are written in Dylan’s unique prose. They are mysterious and mercurial, poignant and profound, and often laugh-out-loud funny. And while they are ostensibly about music, they are really meditations and reflections on the human condition. Running throughout the book are nearly 150 carefully curated photos as well as a series of dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem and add to the work’s transcendence.

In 2020, with the release of his outstanding album Rough and Rowdy Ways, Dylan became the first artist to have an album hit the Billboard Top 40 in each decade since the 1960s. The Philosophy of Modern Song contains much of what he has learned about his craft in all those years, and like everything that Dylan does, it is a momentous artistic achievement.

Chronicles: Volume One is a memoir, but this new one, with its focus on the craft of songwriting as only Dylan can explain it, should be of special interest not only to Dylan fans, but to musicologists and pop music history buffs. I remember enjoying Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour (premiered May 3, 2006), and being impressed with his encyclopedic knowledge of music history. I look forward to learning even more from this Nobel Prize winning artist.

Here are a couple of paintings from his latest series, “Deep Focus,” where he transforms scenes from films into paintings. These figurative paintings, a natural progression from his landscapes, demonstrate his ability to fix a moment in time.

“Rainy Night in Grand Forks” (2021)
“Bar Room Cowboy” (2021)

Happy Birthday Month, Bob!


9. Who is everybody’s valentine, the Queen of Happiness? Susan Branch, of course — and she’s got a new book coming out this summer: Distilled Genius: The Illustrated Secrets of Life: A Collection of Life-Changing Quotations (Spring Street Publishing, 2022):

From Susan:

As many of you know, I’ve been collecting quotes most of my life and began adding them to the pages of my books beginning with my first one, Heart of the Home, published in 1986. I learned that everything that’s ever needed to be said, has been said by someone whose extraordinary life and times give their words fathomless depth. Practical expressions of wisdom from courageous thinkers and teachers ahead of their time, nurturing and life-affirming, hilarious, heroic, and human ~ they taught me how to be brave, showed me where to find my dreams, and encouraged me to try and make them a reality. From Bhagavad Gita to Anne Frank, Rosa Parks to George Patton, Marcus Aurelius to Doris Day ~ brilliant hopeful words, from the beginning of time, words that changed my life. I can’t think of a better gift to give you at this time in my life. Our world has gotten so out of hand, I found much comfort through the sages of history and hope you will too. As usual, this book is hand-written and watercolored, and like my others, it’s a book with a story, and comes with forever love from the Heart of the Home and me! 

This one is 272 full color pages with ribbon bookmark, and pre-ordered copies (now offered at a discount price) come with a signed bookplate.

I was excited to hear she was doing a book of quotations because over the years she has collected SO many good ones. I often go back to read them again in her books and calendars. Now they’ll all be in one place. 🙂

Reading her blogs is always a special treat, and so is browsing through her online shop. Let me whet your appetite with these items (click on images for more info):

Decorated Butter Dish
Heart Tea Strainer
Piecraft print


Our swoon tune this month is James Taylor’s, “You Can Close Your Eyes.” He wrote it in 1970 in an Albuquerque, NM, hotel room, and released it the following year on his album, “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon.”

Some say he wrote the song for Joni Mitchell, his girlfriend at the time. He considers it a “secular hymn,” though it is most often referred to as a lullaby. He often closes his concerts with this song, and over the years he has sung it with many notable singers including Joni, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, his wife Kim Taylor, and most recently with his son Henry Taylor.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite version of this beautiful tune, but I’m partial to Taylor’s duet with Carly Simon — partly because when I saw him perform in Hawaii, he was with Carly (who came out at the end to sing, “You’re So Vain,”) — and partly because I’ve always wished they had stayed together.

So here’s James and Carly, and then an audio only recording with Joni Mitchell in London (1970). After all, Joni was probably the first on the planet to hear the song.













Peace for Ukraine” by Melissa Iwai (all proceeds from the purchase of this 8″ x 8″ print will benefit UNICEF’s Protect the Children of Ukraine Fund — click for info).

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

18 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Such a great way to start my Tuesday! I especially love the hedgehogs with stars and Melissa Branch’s book sounds like a must read! Thanks, Jama. I love the beauty you share here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think of you whenever I see stars! I’m really looking forward to seeing Susan’s book. It’ll be a couple of months yet.


  2. oh! oh! oh! I forgot to mention how lost I have been in the paper craft photos. WOW! I must explore more of this artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I would love to have that paper telephone!
    This weekend, my dad told me a Bob Dylan-related story you might appreciate. When he was a teen, he worked for a radio station as a dj. When the higher-ups received 45s from record companies that they didn’t intend to play, they let my dad take home the ones he wanted. And that is how he got Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone! I have no idea why the radio station wouldn’t play it — they must have thought it was kind of “out there.” (I asked my dad if he still had the 45 somewhere and he wasn’t sure.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, what a great story, Tabatha! I imagine the station decided against playing it because it was too long. Didn’t fit in with standard top 40 tunes. They were so wrong in the end to pass it up!


  4. I can’t wait to show Imogene those paper creatiions. She does that & loves the doing. You’ve done it again, Jama, sharing so many beautiful things, capping it off with James and Carly, then Peace for Ukraine. In this latest ‘heat of the moment’, we don’t want to forget them! Thankyou1

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such cool things! And what an honor! Thanks for including me in such a stellar group! How have a never heard of Jennifer Collier and Lucy Grossmith’s work before?!! Love!
    Happy Book Birthday to Jane and Felicia!
    And thank you for mentioning the Ukraine benefit as well, Jama! You’re the best! ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been aware of Lucy for awhile now, but only recently ran into Jennifer’s work. Both amazing artists. Congrats again on Gigi and Ojiji!!


  6. Oh, my. What a lovely post. I love the paper sculptures. That camera is incredible. I love, love, love the paintings by Lucy Grossmith. And the song from James and Carly. Sigh. Just a lovely, lovely post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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