nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy June! Welcoming a new month with the sheer loveliness of Matt Underwood’s woodblock prints.

Matt’s a painter, printmaker, and beekeeper based in Lincoln, England. He studied art and art history at the Salisbury College of Art and wildlife illustration at Carmarthenshire College of Art. He’s primarily inspired by the natural world and began drawing and keeping sketchbooks at an early age.

Because he doesn’t have a printing press, he practices the Japanese woodblock printing technique of using a bamboo baren (round flat disc covered with a dried leaf).

He shows his work regularly in London and throughout the UK, including at the Medici Gallery, the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, and the Royal West of England Academy of Art.

His work has also appeared in several books: Wildlife in Printmaking (Langford Press), Art for the Love of Sark (Gateway Publishing, Ltd.), and The Great Fen (Langford Press).

For more, visit Matt’s Official Website. You can purchase prints at his Etsy Shop.


2. New Book Alert: Just released May 24 is Luli and the Language of Tea by Andrea Wang and Hyewon Yum (Neal Porter Books, 2022):

Though they may speak different languages, kids from all over the world come together to enjoy the shared pastime of tea in this delicious book for young readers.

When five-year-old Luli joins her new English as a Second Language class, the playroom is quiet. Luli can’t speak English, neither can anyone else. That’s when she has a brilliant idea to host a tea party and bring them all together.
Luli removes her teapot, thermos, and teacups from her bag and calls out “Chá!” in her native Chinese. One by one, her classmates pipe up in recognition: in Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Spanish, Portuguese, and Swahili. Tea is a tasty language they all know well, and it gives them a chance to share and enjoy each other’s company. When all the tea is gone and it’s time for dessert, Luli gets to use her favorite English word, cookie! After that, the playroom isn’t so quiet.
Informed by her own experience as the child of Chinese immigrant parents, Andrea Wang makes the point that when you’re looking to communicate with people, you look for a common bond. The word for “tea” is similar in many languages, and tea becomes the unifying metaphor that brings a diverse group of children together. Additional material at the back of the book explores the rich and ancient history of tea drinking across cultures all around the world and contains maps, statistics, and fascinating details that will delight young readers.

How much do I love the idea of a book about the common language of tea? Just received a copy and love it. This one checks all the right boxes when it comes to diversity, inclusion, friendship, community and connection. How fun learning to say ‘tea’ in 10 different languages! And it must be some kind of cosmic awesomeness that the illustrator’s last name is Yum (I’m jealous). 🙂

Luli and the Language of Tea has received glowing reviews, including a **starred review** from Booklist, who said:

 Wang writes a simple, precise narrative that is more than the sum of its parts. Few writers could conjure up the characters’ contentment as concisely. . . . Yum’s sensitive colored-pencil illustrations use clean lines, rounded shapes, and soft hues to depict the setting and reveal the characters’ emotions. . . . A rewarding read-aloud choice.

Don’t miss this charmer!


3. Heads up London fans: Check out Hannah Ricketts on YouTube. If you can’t get to the city anytime soon, this is the next best thing. Hannah takes her viewers out and about in London for all kinds of adventures: shopping, location tours, neighborhood walkabouts, and food!

Likeable, energetic, chipper and chatty (she sometimes talksveryfast), she was definitely born with a healthy shopping gene (my kind of girl). Enjoyed a recent video where she walked all over Liberty’s in Regent Street (one of my favorite department stores). Got to see lots of new merchandise and hear her spontaneous reactions. Nice that she often checks the price tags too. This is helpful if you ever want to buy something from them online. It’s like having my own personal shopper scoping things out.

Hannah’s vlogs vary in length; here’s a shorter one from last December when she took her sister and niece to afternoon tea at Harrod’s (another of my faves). Her niece had the Teddy Bear Christmas tea! Mr Cornelius was beside himself. Enjoy!


4. Time to get your Scots on: Great Scot, a Moray-based clothing firm in northeast Scotland, has designed a special “Ukraine Forever” tartan to raise funds for victims of the Russian war. 

Great Scot will be sending a tartan to President Zelensky, whom they consider an honorary Scotsman.

We meticulously and respectfully designed this unique tartan to reflect Scotland’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine; one sovereign nation to another. The simple but bold colour elements of both our country’s flags are fused together. It is a strong and emotive tartan. It will endure. 

We will weave, we will cut and we will sew for a better tomorrow.

With every single Ukraine Forever tartan item we make, sell and ship we will donate funds to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, run by the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee.

The design is now included on the Scottish Register of Tartans.

As of this writing, Great Scot is taking pre-orders for a variety of items — not only waistcoats and kilts for men and women, but also scarves, blankets, neckties, flags, Christmas stockings, picnic blankets, even face masks. Of course you can also order the 13-oz pure wool cloth by the metre to make your own items.

These colors are dyed specifically for this registered tartan.

Such a great idea — makes me love Scotland even more. 🙂

Visit the Great Scot site for more info.

Enjoy this video about the weaving process.


5. Coming Soon: A brand new picture book by award winning author and illustrator Diane deGroat: The Adventures of Rabo-Kid (Neal Porter Books, 2022), hits shelves on June 28!

A comic-book superhero climbs off the page and into the real world. When they get into trouble, his biggest fan is there to save the day.

Imagine you could meet your favorite comic-book hero in the real world. What kinds of questions would you ask? Would you go on new and exciting adventures? While heroes might seem larger than life, everyone can use some help from a friend.
Follow two intersecting stories set in the real world and inside a comic book as a real-life kid finds the courage to cope with his anxiety with the help of Robo-Kid, a comic superhero with his own vulnerabilities. With two distinctive art styles blending comic book and traditional picture book formats, Diane deGroat’s The Adventures of Robo-Kid is an inspiring tale about what it takes to be a hero.

What a brilliant premise! I can’t imagine any kid who wouldn’t be intrigued by the idea of a favorite comic book hero stepping into the real world. (We have a phone booth in our house and I’m still waiting for Superman to emerge.) 🙂

Kirkus has given this book a **starred review**, calling it “A super blend of everyday courage, the inner lives of readers, and rising to the challenge of doing something difficult.” The Adventures of Robo-Kid is also a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Sounds good, no?

Pre-order your copy here.


7. Alphabet Love: I’ve been in alphabet heaven ever since I stumbled upon Shelli Graham’s Etsy Shop, Yeti Cards and Gifts. I first spotted her “A Very English Alphabet” tea towel and was impressed by the cool lettering and drawings. 

I then noted she also features Scottish, Welsh, and Irish alphabets, and in addition to tea towels, these designs are available as prints, on mugs, cutting boards and metal storage tins. So cool.

Cutting board.

In case you’re not an Anglophile like me, Shelli also offers alphabets in other themes: Wedding, Gardener, Cat, and Dog. 

Her items look to be of high quality and would make lovely gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, or just because. Everything is designed and made in the UK. Check out her shop to see more. How I love my ABCs. 🙂


8. New cookbook alert: You’re starving, right? Here’s something to feed not only your stomach, but your cravings for food history, beautiful photography and anecdotes related to HM the Queen and the rest of the royal family: The Platinum Jubilee Cookbook by Ameer Kotecha (Jon Croft Editions, 2022), will be released in the U.S. on June 14:

19th century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston once declared that ‘dining is the soul of diplomacy’ and this unique and sumptuous new book, published as part of the celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s 70 years on the Throne, presents 70 recipes from British embassies and high commissions around the world.

With a foreword by Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, this book celebrates the landmark occasion of the Platinum Jubilee by bringing together recipes – many of them served during Royal Visits – that are proudly British, inspired by local influences from the embassy’s host country, or a fusion of the two. Throughout, the book shows off the spectacular food and drink produce found within our shores that our embassies are proud to showcase around the world, including:

· Spanish Marmalade, from the Madrid embassy
· Green Fish Curry, from the Islamabad high commission
· Jollof Rice, from the Abuja high commission
· Mince Spies, from ‘C’, Chief of MI6
· Cardamom Lamb, from the New Delhi high commission
· Chicken Wellington, from the Lisbon embassy
· Toffee Apple and Rhubarb Crumble, from Chevening House
· Whisky-laced Bread & Butter Pudding, from the Washington D.C. embassy

Alongside the delectable recipes, stories abound of culinary diplomacy in action. Contrary to the clichés, you will not find an Ambassador’s table piled high with Ferrero Rocher, but food is nonetheless central to the diplomatic cause. Ameer Kotecha delves into the Foreign Office archives to reveal diplomatic dinner party anecdotes through the years – the good, the bad and the highly entertaining – and provides contemporary stories of food being used as a potent diplomatic tool. For the first time, this book tells the story of how nations break bread as a means to resolving differences, and seek to get to the negotiating table by first starting at the dinner table.

A mixture of recipes, food history, anecdote and stunning photography, this book is an engrossing read for anyone with an interest in food, diplomacy or British heritage. With contributions from Her Majesty’s representatives around the world, it is also a celebration of Britishness that makes for a unique memento for the Platinum Jubilee, delving into an underexplored part of Her Majesty The Queen’s reign.

The author is donating 100% of royalties from sales of this book to two charities: The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) and The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF).

This one appears to be something for serious cooks or anyone wanting a quality collectible to mark the Platinum Jubilee. A quick glance at the sample recipes, and I’m thinking this might be the sort of book I’d read and enjoy, but not necessarily cook from. I do like that 100% of royalties will go to charity. For hardcore Anglophiles, this one is a must have.


9. Iron Man: Bob Dylan’s latest sculpture, “Rail Car,” was unveiled last month in a Provence rail yard.

This sculpture, of a railway freight carriage, is his largest so far and was made with seven tons of iron. It’s installed on train tracks in Château La Coste. It features motifs of ladders, wheels and tools.

Dylan said the artwork “represents perception and reality at the same time … all the iron is recontextualised to represent peace, serenity and stillness.” He heralded the work’s “enormous energy … It represents the illusions of a journey rather than the contemplation of one.”

Railways are often depicted in Dylan’s paintings, and iron is linked to his past. “I’ve been around iron all my life, ever since I was a kid,” he said in 2013. “I was born and raised in iron ore country, where you could breathe it and smell it every day.”

As for trains, he said in his Chronicles, Volume I memoir: “I’d seen and heard trains from my earliest childhood days and the sight and sound of them always made me feel secure. The big boxcars, the iron ore cars, freight cars, passenger trains, Pullman cars. There was no place you could go in my home town without at least some part of the day having to stop at intersections and wait for the long trains to pass.”

It’s not enough to continue making albums and touring, he also paints, welds and continues to publish more books. Where does this 81-year-old get all his energy?

There’s an iron train a-travelin’ that’s been a-rollin’ through the years
With a firebox of hatred and a furnace full of fears
If you ever heard its sound or seen its blood-red broken frame
Then you heard my voice a-singin’ and you know my name

~ from Train A-Travelin’


♥️ Bonus Kick: Look who visited the White House recently:


♥️ Bonus Bonus Kick!! Two of my favorite people having tea! Yes, you’ve probably already seen this, but the 70-something resident Paddingtons insist on sharing it here. Stroke of genius!


Our Swoon Tune this month is by the one and only Paul McCartney, who turns 80 on June 18. Pretty phenomenal that he’s still writing, recording, touring, and making millions happy. And he hasn’t lost a bit of his boyish good looks!

It’s impossible to pick a favorite McCartney tune, but I decided on the one he said he’d like to be remembered for in the future. “Maybe I’m Amazed” was included on his debut solo album, “McCartney” (1970), and in addition to singing, he played all the instruments himself: piano, organ, bass, guitars and drums.

He wrote the song in 1969; it was inspired by Linda, who helped him get through tough times right after the Beatles broke up. Though most of the album was recorded in his London home, he recorded “Maybe I’m Amazed” at EMI’s No. Two Studio in Abbey Road.

Initially he didn’t release it as a single (until his live version with Wings in 1977), but it had gotten lots of worldwide radio airplay. Now considered one of his finest love songs, it remains a staple in his live concerts.

Here’s the Official Video of his original recording, featuring photos by Linda McCartney. Stay tuned for more of Paul’s music in our Poetry Friday birthday post (June 17, 2022).











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

23 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Jama, you fill up my happy tank this morning. I love your book recs and the London travel tip person on youtube. My daughter is going to study in London for a semester…so we will watch some of these together! Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, your daughter is lucky (I’m jealous!). I think Hannah’s videos will be very helpful — her enthusiasm is contagious!


  2. Good morning, Jama! I am delighted with this blog! I just got back on May 17th from England, Scotland and Wales. I want to go back already! I want that cookbook! I love the skit with the Queen and Paddington as well. Who am I kidding, I love it all!👑👸🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. England, Scotland, and Wales! Wow — sounds heavenly. I’ve seen very little of Wales. Did you follow all the Platinum Jubilee events this past weekend? So exciting!


  3. Hats off to the Scottish weavers and their tribute to and honor of Ukraine!!! Makes me proud to have Scots blood mixed in with all the rest of “me” We are very excited to finally visit Scotland this month. We leave in 15 days on a walking trip through the Highlands. Perhaps we will be near the home of the Great Scots weavers. I am looking forward to my copy of “Luli” for my 3rd grade classroom. As always, thanks so much for all of the charming and informative posts, Jama.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is there any room in your suitcase for me? Would love to visit the Highlands. Do let me know if you run into Sam Heughan, et. al. They’ve just started filming Season 7 of Outlander so the cast is in Scotland now. . .


      1. Yes, I have been repacking and repacking so there may be a tiny space left over!! I read all the “Outlander” series decades ago and have not seen the tv show as I think it would diminish the characters in my mind somehow-although I hear great reviews and think that Clare and Jamie were well cast. I probably won’t be able to avoid all things “Outlander” as it seems those tours are everywhere. We will be walking the Great Glen from Inverness to Fort William so if I spot Jamie it’s celeb selfie time!! Thanks for your reply!:)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. So much adorable stuff — that Luli is so sweet. I’d heard about the lovely Ukraine tartan on the news, and I love that if nothing else from this horrible aggression we have hands reaching out to promise friendship – everyone doing what they can.

    Those tea towels are the best – I’m cracking up at the “H is for HP Sauce” – though what I really need the Scottish tea towel. Who else on earth will have a tea towel with The Big Yin on it?? ☺

    Also, is Bob Dylan not AMAZING!? Wow, I just LOVE that he’s taking up other art and doing it so beautifully! I should be so blessed in my eighties!

    Thanks for the fun today, Jama-j.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m impressed with Dylan’s art — both painting and the ironworks stuff. Joan Baez is also an excellent painter. Admire these multi-talented people.

      Agree that it’s really wonderful and inspiring to hear how other countries are finding ways to support Ukraine.


  5. Each one is a gem. I love the idea of the Scots doing that special weaving for Ukraine, seeing more from Bob Dylan, & yes, I certainly thought of you when I saw that video of the Queen & Paddington, better than anything else of the Jubilee! Remember my husband managed a rock radio station in the seventies. We saw one of the early Wings concerts & met Paul & Linda, very briefly, at a big party for them. I was sad because of the Beetle breakup but remember loving the performance anyway. Paul has rather filled a lot of lives, hasn’t he? Thanks, like always, Jama, for the Tuesday delight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Still envy your having met Paul and Linda! I’ve watched the Queen & Paddington video at least a dozen times and never tire of it. Two British icons. Also loved seeing photos of the Cambridge children reacting with great surprise and delight when they saw the video at the concert. Imagine seeing your great grandmother with Paddington of all people! 🙂


  6. Wonderful post. I loved it all, but especially the Ukraine Tartan. By the way, my baking granddaughter came over today and made the Chocolate and Salted Pistachio Cookies you featured here last week. They are spectacular! Thanks again for that recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the cool things, Jama! I bought some of the tartan (a tie and a scarf). I also love Shelli Graham’s shop, and the charming tea book! Bob Dylan’s iron sculpture is impressive as well. You really delivered the cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, your nine things are amazing! I love woodblock bright prints! I especially love the cat because I adore cats. I love the amazing tartan cloth! How wonderful that they have made a tartan for the President of Ukraine! Thank you for sharing Paul’s Baby I’m amazed! He is one of my favorite singers. I grew up listening to the Beetles because my father loved them and I grew to love them, also. We would record ourselves to the instrumental music. He had two of the original Beetle albums, which I have gladly inherited. One is Meet the Beetles. I can’t think of the name of the other album. I hope to be as ambitious as Paul and Bob Dylan when I’m in my 80’s. I liked a lot of Bob Dylan’s music, too. That Adventures of Robo-Kid sound like a great book! Thank you for sharing everything. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also had the Meet the Beatles album. Was so excited after seeing them on the Ed Sullivan Show that I really wanted their record. It wasn’t available in my hometown, so my uncle, who worked downtown (Honolulu), bought one for me there.


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