nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy September! Apple for the teacher? Perhaps you’d like to visit a busy outdoor market, enjoy a relaxing picnic, or steep yourself in the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen?

Elena Narkevich’s beautiful acrylic on canvas naïve paintings are characterized by vibrant colors, inventive compositions, precise details, and a strong narrative component. 

Born in Minsk, Belarus, but now living and working in Spain, Elena is able to capture a wide range of human emotions in her pictures: happiness, love, surprise, delight, wonder, sometimes sadness. 

Her dynamic and joyful scenes from everyday life, sometimes laced with a touch of humor or irony, are widely accessible because of their uncomplicated universal themes. 

Love her work! For more, visit Elena’s Instagram. Originals may be purchased via, and prints are available at and


2. New Picture Book Alert: Maya’s Song by Renée Watson and Bryan Collier (HarperCollins, 2022) officially hits shelves September 20:

This unforgettable picture book introduces young readers to the life and work of Maya Angelou, whose words have uplifted and inspired generations of readers. The author of the celebrated autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya was the first Black person and first woman to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration, and her influence echoes through culture and history. She was also the first Black woman to appear on the United States quarter.

Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Renée Watson uses Angelou’s beloved medium of poetry to lyrically chronicle her rich life in a deeply moving narrative. Vivid and striking collage art by Caldecott Honor recipient and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Bryan Collier completes this unforgettable portrait of one of the most important American artists in history.

Maya’s momma was right.

Maya was a preacher, a teacher.

A Black girl whose voice

chased away darkness, ushered in light.

As a longtime Maya fan, I can’t wait to read this one. It’s always interesting to see how different authors and illustrators approach picture book biographies of well known figures who’ve already been widely featured. So far, Maya Sings has earned **starred reviews** from Booklist and Kirkus, who described the book as, “A loving tribute in free verse to a writer who found her home, and herself, in her words.”

Congrats to Renée and Bryan!


3. Head Up, Maira Kalman fans: Here’s a chance to satisfy your Maira cravings while donating to a good cause.

She has recently published Bed, a 4.25” x 5.5” signed and numbered limited edition 64-page booklet in support of abortion rights. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the National Network of Abortion Funds, a grassroots network helping people access safe abortions across the land. 

Bed is the third in a series of charity projects produced in collaboration with Maira’s son Alex Kalman and What Studio?. Previous titles, Trees and Women Holding Things, (both now sold out), earned funds in support of voting rights and hunger.

I have to say I love this wee book, a nicely bound softcover gem that would make a cool gift if you can bear to part with it. 

Who can resist Maira’s inimitable text and pictures? Always curious with a wry sense of humor, she’s one of the few people I know who can make you feel happy and sad in the same moment. She begins with:

There is nothing I
love more than bed.

The precise ecstatic moment
of getting into bed.

The covers.
The pillows.
The womb.
The cocoon.

Beautiful blissful bed.
Sweet soft beckoning bed.


I really have to go to bed.

Only Maira could charm her readers with pictures of Virginia Woolf’s, Thomas Jefferson’s and Napoleon’s beds, with just a small corner of Proust’s bed thrown in. Lemon pound cake in bed? Chocolate covered cherries in bed? Soup in bed? and naps? Yes, please.

I adore this woman, and am thrilled to add Bed to my collection.

Nobody does it like Maira. Order yours here. Zzzzzzzzzzz . . .


4. Time for a lovely read aloud: Recently, Hawaii’s First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige did a reading of Frances Kakugawa’s picture book, Wordsworth the Poet (Watermark, 2003). Some of you may remember when I interviewed Frances, a native of Hawaii who now lives in California. 

Wordsworth the Poet is the first title in Frances’s 4-book series, where we meet young Wordsworth, a poetry-loving mouse in the Hawaiian rainforest who’s teased for being different. It’s a wonderful story of friendship, self empowerment and learning to be true to oneself. It also celebrates the joy and wonder of poetry.


Collect all the Wordsworth the Poet books!


5. Ceramics Fix: Woof woof! Love Nan Hamilton’s Airedales! Nan is a Boston-based ceramicist (Mudville Pottery) who decorates her pieces with all kinds of wonderful animals including penguins, tigers, rabbits, camels, bears, pigs, elephants, fish, and birds. 

For some reason, I’m most enamored of her Airedale designs. Not only does Nan paint them on the surfaces of her pots, she also sculpts them around the rims to charming effect. She’s inspired by her own Airedales — Phoebe, Dinah, and Hazel.

Her website gallery from 2021 doesn’t show any Airedales so I can’t say if she’s still featuring them on her pieces. Nevertheless, her site is worth a visit since she’s archived her work all the way back to 1999, and she also discusses her process in detail (click “Workshop”). 

Click on this image to see how Nan made this pot, “Airedales at the Fence.”

I also noticed a “Recipes” page which I’ll have to return to (did I see Lemon Pudding Cake?). 

Sit. Stay. Good boy.


6. Up for a delicious read? Check out Shawn Amos’s debut middle grade novel, Cookies and Milk (Little Brown, 2022), just released in May.

Eleven-year-old Ellis Johnson has the summertime blues. He dreamed of spending the summer of 1976 hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing his harmonica. Instead, he’ll be sleeping on a lumpy pullout in Dad’s sad little post-divorce bungalow and helping bring Dad’s latest far-fetched, sure-to-fail idea to life: opening the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store. They have six weeks to perfect their recipe, get a ramshackle A-frame on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard into tip-top shape, and bring in customers.
But of course, nothing is as easy as Dad makes it sound, even with Grandma along for the ride. Like she says, they have to GIT—get it together—and make things work. Along the way, Ellis discovers a family mystery he is determined to solve, the power of community, and new faith in himself.

Partially based on Shawn Amos’s own experiences growing up the son of Wally “Famous” Amos in a mostly white area, and packed with humor, heart, and fun illustrations, this debut novel sings with the joy of self-discovery, unconditional love, and belonging.

I have this on hold at the library and can’t wait to take a bite. Of course part of the draw is Famous Amos Cookies, of which I’ve had my fair share. 🙂 But any mention of Wally Amos gets my attention because he lived in Hawaii for many years (not sure if he’s still there now). I remember well how excited everyone was when Famous Amos Cookies first went on sale at the clothing store McInerny in the late 70s.

I’m curious about how and why Wally opened his first cookie store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and of his relationship with his youngest son Shawn, who besides being an author, is a world renowned blues musician, songwriter and record producer. More good news: an original animated series based on the novel is now under development at Disney Television Animation Studio.

Shawn with his dad Wally Amos.

Enjoy the official trailer and then listen to Shawn’s latest single, “Hollywood Blues (Cookies and Milk version).” Love the intersection of books, food and music. Too cool!


7. Beautiful new postage stamps! Have you seen and/or ordered your Mariachi stamps yet? Just released in mid July, the five stamps in this set were created by award winning artist and children’s book illustrator Rafael López.

Each of the five stamps features a musician dressed in traje de charro, the traditional outfit of mariachi performers, playing one of five iconic mariachi instruments: guitar, guitarrón, viheula, violin and trumpet. The geometric shapes in the background of each stamp are a nod to Mexican villages where mariachi music originated.

Internationally recognized artist and illustrator Rafael López lives and works in San Diego and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

“My inspiration comes from music, from movies, from thousands of things I see when I go out on the street and from new things I meet,” López told Al Día News. “I want to transmit to people the way I see mariachis and the history they have had through the years . . . I wanted to do something that felt nostalgic and emotional, something that was a combination of my life, how I saw the mariachis and what they really were in history.”

Didn’t realize Rafael is a leftie. 🙂

Back in 2012, López designed the “Latin Legends” collection (featuring iconic Latin singers such as Carlos Gardel, Tito Puentes, Celia Cruz and Selena), which is now part of the U.S. Postal Service’s permanent collection.

The Mariachi collection has been issued as Forever stamps in panes of 20. Why not adorn all your snail mail with them during Hispanic Heritage Month? 🙂 Order yours here.


8. Calling All Crafty Types: Since it’s never too early to start thinking about holiday gifts, check out these lovely needle felting kits by Hawthorn Handmade.

Kits contain British wool in several colors from a variety of breeds (or ethically sourced merino wool), 2 stainless steel German-made felting needles in a secure holder, and detailed instructions with step-by-step photos. 

The tortoise and border collie kits will take the average beginner about 6 hours, and the reindeer brooch and mince pies about 4 hours to complete. All kits are packed by hand in Hawthorn Handmade’s Dorset studio, a female-led business.

A nice gift idea, whether you choose to make the wool sculpture yourself, or give the kit to a craft-loving friend. In any case, it’s a calming form of therapy. See more kits (birds, cats, sheep) at Bees Knees British Imports.


9. Susan Branch fans: Received my copy of Susan’s latest book, Distilled Genius: A Collection of Life-Changing Quotations (Spring Street Publishing, 2022) and it’s such a beauty!!

Distilled Genius is a collection of life-changing quotations from Susan Branch, New York Times best-selling author. Like all of Susan’s books, Distilled Genius is charmingly handwritten and watercolored in Susan’s inimitable style, and, as with her other books, it tells a story. This is not just any quote book, but a forty-year carefully curated collection of quotes from Susan’s lifelong search for deeper meaning, joy, and fulfillment in life ~ and her desire to share ~ from Mark Twain, to the Bhagavad Gita, from Anne Frank, and George Patton, to Marcus Aurelius, and Louisa May Alcott; from Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou, the Bible, and beyond.

Reading about the struggles of others who, often against all odds, made something of their lives, gives us strength, and encourages us to make our own dreams a reality. Life-affirming, clever, poetic, heroic, hilarious, and human ~ hopeful words of wisdom, distilled into one book of Genius for all time. Distilled Genius is arranged in themes, such as “Secrets of Life,” “Writing and Writers,” “Creativity,” and “Finding your Dreams,” to name a few; it’s 272 pages of joy, just when we need to be reminded of who we are, where we came from, and what our future can be if we choose it.

The power in words is endless, they make you think, and once in a while, they tell you that you were right all along (that’s when you truly understand the Genius part). Everything that’s needed to be said, has been said, by someone whose words carry weight, such as this quote by Joseph Campbell: “We have not even to risk the adventure alone for all the heroes of all time have gone before us.” Distilled Genius has a sewn-in ribbon bookmark, is proudly printed in the USA, and unlike an e-book, it comes complete with that beautiful new-book smell at no additional charge.💖

Goodbye impersonal Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, this is now my quotation reference book of choice. It’s friendly, personal, and gorgeous to behold. In lieu of a paper book jacket that can tear or give you paper cuts, Susan has drawn the front and back flaps as part of the endpapers. Brilliant! And need I mention how much I love that the endpapers feature letters of the alphabet? She knows me!

This is the perfect gift book for the person who has everything. It’s something they’ll want to return to for inspiration again and again. I’ve always loved the quotes Susan includes in her cookbooks and memoirs, and now I have them all in one place. How I admire someone who started collecting quotes at age 9 and kept doing it all her life! That’s dedication. Knowing these are Susan’s personal favorites makes this collection even more meaningful. Order signed copies via Susan’s Website Shop.


We’re going with longtime favorite Jackson Browne for our Swoon Tune this month. Jackson wrote his first version of “These Days” at the age of 16. It was first recorded by German model and singer Nico (with whom Browne was then romantically involved) on her Chelsea Girl album (1967), and then by several other artists (Tom Rush, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jennifer Warnes and Greg Allman), before Browne himself released it on his album For Everyman (1973).

The song had evolved from Nico’s version, moving from electric guitar to acoustic, with changes in some of the lyrics, and a slower paced instrumentation with piano and steel guitar. I like Browne’s stripped down solo acoustic version best, just his voice and beautiful flatpicking, as it brings out the plaintive, world weary lyrics of loss and regret in a very moving way.

Don’t confront me with my failures, I had not forgotten them.

This video was recorded live at Browne’s home in December 2020 for Steve Earle’s sixth annual John Henry’s Friends benefit concert in support of the Keswell School, a non-profit dedicated to serving the specialized needs of autistic children and young adults. At age 73, he’s still in such good voice. And (somebody’s gotta say it), he remains very easy on the eyes. (There’s also a beautiful Austin City Limits rendition with his band from 2021 here.)











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18 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Hi Jama,
    It’s been a while, but I am so happy to visit and marvel over this wonderful post full of beautiful interesting artists and author’s work. I love your nine cool things on Tuesday posts and especially enjoyed seeing the art of Elana Narkevich and then the book about Maya Angelo. You always introduce us to so many wonderful things. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hooray! Jama’s back. Oh, what a fabulous return with apples and Wordsworth and Bed and that gorgeous book of quotations that I’m going to order (for my public library)right now! I have missed your inspiring Tuesday posts. I hope you are well. Bring on the FALL!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you like the Airedales — there’s just something about them I’ve always found adorable. I especially love the sound of Jackson’s guitar on “These Days.” Happy September to you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome back, Jama, it is wonderful to see you here, to read of more cool things. I bookmarked all the books, made note of those paintings and cute felt kits, am sitting here listening to Jackson Browne as I write. Wishing you a very happy September!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Linda! Jackson has aged very well, hasn’t he? I remember listening to his music when Len and I drove cross country years ago. “Running on Empty” was the perfect soundtrack. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How fun! It is on my bucket list to get to Bees Knees British Imports as soon as they open their new location in a few weeks! Just down the road from me!

    Liked by 1 person

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