nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Hello, October! How about some of Janet Hill’s Halloweeny oil paintings?

Janet is based in Ontario, Canada, and has been painting since her senior year of high school. Her work is elegant and nostalgic with charming touches of whimsy. 

Her many interests include tornadoes, haunted houses, quicksand, pirates, witches, lady villains (preferably ones that wear monocles), doll houses, dogs and cats, fashion and interior design (1920-1979), Laurel Canyon, historic hotels, ESP, sea monsters, vintage cars, Old Hollywood, the Manson family, Wes Anderson movies, and understanding why her husband owns over thirty books about Bob Dylan.

To purchase any of these prints, visit Janet’s Official Website. While you’re there, browse all her other wonderful offerings. In addition to prints, she sells cards, puzzles, games, stationery, and her latest book, Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House (for ages 12+). More goodness at her Instagram and Etsy Shop.


2. New picture book alert: Coming out October 14 is Leaves to My Knees by Ellen Mayer and Nicole Tadgell (Star Bright Books, 2022):

Camille is determined to rake her own pile of leaves―all the way up to her knees! She swishes leaves to and fro, watching her pile grow bigger alongside the piles made by Daddy and her little brother, Jayden. WHOOSH! After raking leaves to the top of her boots, a giant breeze blows the pile back down to her ankles. But Camille won’t be stopped until she gets the job done––a knee-high pile, the perfect size for . . . jumping in! Leaves to My Knees is a playful introduction to the early math concepts of size comparison and measurement. A note by researcher and mathematics learning expert Marlene Kliman explains how parents and caregivers can use the book to help young children explore different sizes and measurement in everyday environments.

What a fun book for fall! Kelsey Gottschalk, Program Director of Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, says:

Leaves to My Knees packs volumes of research-based math, literacy, and emotional development concepts into a sweet and simple story that children will want to read and act out again and again. The gently sentimental and finely detailed storytelling is reflected in both the lilting text and the lyrical watercolor illustrations. It is, first and foremost, the story of a regular family on an autumn day finding the fun, the math, the rhyme, and the love in working together on chores. Our irresistible narrator and intrepid raking-machine Camille walks us through her mathematical thinking as she overcomes obstacles in order to reach her goal. The deeply integrated and developmentally appropriate academic concepts woven together with the realistic representation of a gentle dad and bright young girl of color make us proud to add this title to Tandem’s book collection.”

Can’t wait to read this one. 🙂

Congrats to Ellen and Nicole!


3. Tick, tick, tick . . . what time is it? Time to watch Her Majesty the Queen’s outfit change color!

Swatch’s “How Majestic” watch was issued to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. It quickly sold out earlier this year, with secondary market prices shooting up to three times higher than list. 

I was happy to grab one as soon as Swatch got them back in stock and I love it! The dial has 70 gold dots on it to mark her 70 year reign, and yes, the Queen’s outfit really does change color, subtly day by day (she’s especially stunning in her peacock blue ensemble). Of course there’s a Corgi at her feet and she’s wearing dark gloves to match her ever-present handbag (we now know she carries a marmalade sandwich in there). 🙂

The watch is water resistant with quartz movement and has a two-year warranty. And I must say, the white silicone band is very soft and comfy around the wrist. The presentation box is also lovely and there’s a little surprise inside – a sparkly silver paper tiara.

This would make an awesome holiday gift for the anglophile, watch collector, or monarchist on your list (or for you!). Now that the Queen has sadly passed on, the demand for these watches has skyrocketed. They are a lovely memento of a much beloved public figure, especially poignant since her passing truly marked the end of an era. It’s one way to become a true blue “royal watcher” in more ways than one. Purchase yours here. ETA: The watch has sold out again, but you can sign up to be notified when they’re back in stock.


4. Blackberries and milk: This is a special year for Beatrix Potter fans, as October marks 120 years of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. 

As you probably know, Beatrix first self-published the story that grew out of a personal letter she’d sent to her former governess’s son, Noel. Her private printing of 250 copies sold out quickly, which impressed Frederick Warne & Co. enough to bring out a trade edition in 1902. To date, it’s sold over 45 million copies worldwide (read more about it in this previous post, that includes a recipe for Lakeland Lemon Bread).

Happily, there are some wonderful ways to celebrate Peter’s 120th birthday, including this new line of products by Cath Kidston.

Love the tote bags, mugs, throw pillows, women and children’s clothing, drawstring pouches, continental zip wallet, tea towels, lunch boxes and more. So cute! 

Visit the site to see the full range.


5. My mention of blackberries has probably made you hungry, right? And no birthday celebration is complete without cake. Great British Bake-Off winner, television chef and cookbook author Nadiya Hussain has created a special Peter Rabbit Parsnip and Blackberry Cake recipe so you can host your own Peter Picnic Party (try saying that fast 3 times)!

While I’m familiar with carrot cake, I admit it never occurred to me to try using parsnips instead, so I’m looking forward to giving this a try. Check out the Peter Picnic Party page for more info and fun activities (make your own bunny ears, color in a birthday card and/or bunting). 

Meanwhile, enjoy this video:


6. Heads up, Maira Kalman fans: It’s always exciting whenever Maira publishes a new book. Women Holding Things (Harper Design, 2022) hits shelves on October 18!

From the critically acclaimed artist, designer, and author of the bestsellers The Principles of Uncertainty and My Favorite Things comes a wondrous collection of words and paintings that is a moving meditation on the beauty and complexity of women’s lives and roles, revealed in the things they hold.

“What do women hold? The home and the family. And the children and the food. The friendships. The work. The work of the world. And the work of being human. The memories. And the troubles. And the sorrows and the triumphs. And the love.”

In the spring of 2021, Maira and Alex Kalman created a small, limited-edition booklet “Women Holding Things,” which featured select recent paintings by Maira, accompanied by her insightful and deeply personal commentary. The booklet quickly sold out. Now, the Kalmans have expanded that original publication into this extraordinary visual compendium.

Women Holding Things includes the bright, bold images featured in the booklet as well as an additional sixty-seven new paintings highlighted by thoughtful and intimate anecdotes, recollections, and ruminations. Most are portraits of women, both ordinary and famous, including Virginia Woolf, Sally Hemings, Hortense Cezanne, Gertrude Stein, as well as Kalman’s family members and other real-life people. These women hold a range of objects, from the mundane—balloons, a cup, a whisk, a chicken, a hat—to the abstract—dreams and disappointments, sorrow and regret, joy and love.

Kalman considers the many things that fit physically and metaphorically between women’s hands: We see a woman hold a book, hold shears, hold children, hold a grudge, hold up, hold her own. In visually telling their stories, Kalman lays bare the essence of women’s lives—their tenacity, courage, vulnerability, hope, and pain. Ultimately, she reveals that many of the things we hold dear—as well as those that burden or haunt us—remain constant and connect us from generation to generation.

Here, too, are pictures of a few men holding things, such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Anton Chekhov, as well as objects holding other objects that invite us to ponder their intimate relationships to one another.

Women Holding Things explores the significance of the objects we carry—in our hands, hearts, and minds—and speaks to, and for, all of us. Maira Kalman’s unique work is a celebration of life, of the act and the art of living, offering an original way of examining and understanding all that is important in our world—and ultimately within ourselves.

Can’t wait to get my paws on this one. As you know, I automatically order everything Maira publishes. She never disappoints!


7. Nom nom: if there’s one thing that gets my attention, it’s quirky food-related gifts. Nikki McWilliams is a designer and maker based in Dundee, Scotland, whose primary inspiration is biscuits (i.e., cookies)!

At her online shop you’ll find biscuity cushions, jewelry, pins & patches, stationery, other accessories (pouches and pencil cases), and DIY kits.

Nikki calls her cushions “little pieces of huggable design.”

What could be more comforting than to cuddle on the sofa with a big custard or bourbon creme cushion? I remember devouring those cookies when I lived in the UK, and these cushions are a fond reminder of happy tea times. And what a fun, playful, thoroughly modern design statement!

All cushions are handmade by Nikki’s family team in their own workshop. I know I mentioned Tunnock’s Teacakes on this blog before; Len and I both enjoy those as well as Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer biscuits. Yummers!

The stationery is cute too. Especially love the washi tape!

For more, visit Nikki McWilliams’s website and Instagram.


8. Speaking of Scotland, look who has a new book coming out October 25!! Sam Heughan, our favorite blue-eyed “Outlander” Highlander and whisky entrepreneur has written his first memoir: WAYPOINTS: My Scottish Journey (Voracious, 2022):

Journey deep into the Scottish Highlands in the first memoir by #1 New York Times bestselling author and star of Outlander, Sam Heughan—exploring his life and reflecting on the waypoints that define him.

“I had to believe, because frankly, I had come so far there could be no turning back.”

In this intimate journey of self-discovery, Sam sets out along Scotland’s rugged ninety-six-mile West Highland Way to map out the moments that shaped his views on dreams and ambition, family, friendship, love, and life. The result is a love letter to the wild landscape that means so much to him, full of charming, funny, wise, and searching insights into the world through his eyes. 

Waypoints is a deeply personal journey that reveals as much about Sam to himself as it does to his readers. 

As mentioned in a previous Cool Things Roundup, Sam co-authored two highly entertaining and hilarious nonfiction tomes with friend and co-star Graham McTavish: Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other (2020) and Clanlands Almanac: Season Stories from Scotland (2021).

It will be highly interesting to read a book that’s all Sam. If you’re a fan, you know that he’s like the Energizer Bunny — lots of irons in the fire at all times — besides the Starz series “Outlander” and “Men in Kilts,” he continues to work on new movie projects, spearheads My Peak Challenge, creates new alcoholic beverages (gin coming in 2023), shows off his handsomeness in many photoshoots, and jet sets around the world having all kinds of fun.

Can’t wait to get my Scots on!


9. Another new picture book alert: Kimchi, Kimchi Every Day by Erica Kim (Soaring Kite Books, 2022) is officially out today!!

Whether round and crunchy like a kimchi pancake or pinched and plump like a kimchi dumpling, there are so many ways to enjoy this Korean traditional dish.

Explore the different ways to eat kimchi in this fun, rhyming tale that also teaches the days of the week. Korean-American author-illustrator Erica Kim shares her pride in her delicious cultural food through her cut paper art technique. The Hanji paper that is used to illustrate the book comes from a paper mulberry tree native to Korea. 

This beautiful reflection of culture will inspire children to take pride in their cultural foods, too.

This looks like the perfect read to spice up your fall. My mouth is watering hearing about the different ways to enjoy kimchi. Rhyming text + cut paper art? Yes, please!

Kimchi, Kimchi Every Day has received a *starred review* from School Library Journal, who calls it “a delicious read-aloud and perfect recommendation for every child, any day of the week.”

Congratulations, Erica!


Our Swoon Tune this month is dedicated to the memory of Olivia Newton-John, who passed away in August. My favorite of her many hits is “Suddenly,” the duet she did with British singer Cliff Richard (released on the “Xanadu” soundtrack in 1980). It was written and produced by Australian songwriter/producer John Farrar.

I’ve never seen the movie and am only familiar with two other songs from the film, the title track, “Xanadu,” and “Magic.” “Suddenly” was one of those tunes I heard on the radio and liked instantly. I never tire of it and it’s one of the first songs I downloaded to my iTunes library.

Enjoy these videos: The first is a live performance of “Suddenly” from 1982. Olivia is singing with American musician Dennis Tufano. The second is of the “Suddenly” film sequence, where Olivia roller skates with co-star Michael Beck. Such a lovely moment. RIP Olivia.











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

12 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Definitely MORE than nine cool things. That Halloweeny oil painting with stars peeking in the window is my favorite–of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is WAY too much to absorb at one sitting, Jama! Which is why I will slowly savor bite by bite, and revisit often. Thanks for once again making my day with this outpouring of fun and fabulousness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s been a crazy, busy day, but I will return to bookmark all those links & the new books, Jama. I love the song by Olivia! Sad news about Loretta Lynn today, too. Happy Tuesday!

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    1. I’m finding the watch surprisingly comforting. It reminds me that once upon a time, there was someone who knew the true meaning of service and sacrifice (so lacking these days).

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