1. Get in the car – we’re off for a December ride! ‘Tis the season for bundling up, picking out that perfect tree, shopping for gifts and making sure our animal friends are happy.
British artist Stephanie Lambourne’s colorful and quirky pictures are just the thing we need to get us into the holiday spirit.
Based in Suffolk, England, she earned a BA in Fine Art and a post graduate degree in Art and Education from the Hornsey School of Art (now Middlesex University). After teaching at schools and colleges for a few years, she transitioned to painting full time in 2003.
Inspired by walks along the beach, she featured coastal landscapes, cottages, beach huts, boats, and seagulls in her earlier paintings. In recent years, her main focus has been people and humor (“unreal characters in sometimes strange pursuits”).
She works in acrylic, rarely doing preliminary sketches, preferring to draw ideas straight onto the canvas to create a sense of freshness to her work.
Though I’m sharing mostly holiday/winter themed pieces today, her pictures are set in all seasons. Her objective is to make people smile, to immerse the viewer in a lighthearted and slightly offbeat narrative from a bygone era. It’s fun to imagine just what the people in her pictures are really up to. 🙂
For more, visit Stephanie’s Instagram and FB Page. Her fine art greeting cards may be purchased via Green Pebble and The Blank Card Company. Original acrylics are available at Southwold Gallery and Bircham Gallery. DM her directly for any inquiries or commissions.
2. New Picture Book Alert: Look for Aram Kim’s Tomorrow is New Year’s Day: Seollal, a Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year (FSG, 2022), officially out December 27, 2022!
Seollal, the Korean Lunar New Year, is Mina’s favorite day of the year.
Mina can’t wait to share the customs of Seollal with all of her friends at school. She will show her classmates her colorful hanbok, demonstrate how to do sebae, and then everyone will make tasty tteokguk in the cooking room. Yum! Her little brother may even join in on the fun… if he can find a way out of his bad mood.
In this joyful book about sharing age-old cultural celebrations with new friends, Aram Kim has created a must-have book for the New Year’s season. A glossary of Korean terms, with pronunciation guide, is included.
I was so happy to see that Aram has written and illustrated a picture book about Seollal; I don’t know of any others on this subject to date, so it’s definitely a must-have title for anyone interested in books about holidays, diversity, and Asian culture.
As you probably know, most Lunar New Year books feature Chinese customs, so it was nice to learn something new about how Koreans celebrate this major holiday. Happy to report that Aram will be stopping by the blog in January to tell us more about this delightful book (she’s outdone herself with the adorable art)! FYI, Lunar New Year begins Sunday, January 22, 2023. Copies are now available for pre-order.
3. Knife, fork, spoon: Do you like to read a little something on your flatware? Certainly makes mealtime even more delicious. 🙂
Check out Cyndi’s hand stamped vintage (silverplate) silverware at Bella Jackson Studios. Her sweet and funny sayings are bound to make you smile.
Eat dessert first.
You mocha me crazy.
You make miso happy.
Good morning handsome.
It’s always tea time.
You have been poisoned.
Choose from a variety of themes: coffee & tea, family, holidays, inspirational, weddings, fork fun. Since Cyndi welcomes custom orders, you can have a utensil stamped with happy birthday, anniversary, new baby, father’s day, etc., wishes with names and dates. Or any other clever quip you like or make up.
I’ve ordered several times from Cyndi and have always been pleased with the results. You may have seen my “May the fork be with you,” or “Coffee, tea, or me” pieces. 🙂
These make nice gifts since you can personalize them any way you like and they do serve a practical purpose (as opposed to sitting on a shelf collecting dust). And if you’re a word lover like me, even better. Choose from teaspoons, soup spoons, forks, butter knives, spreaders, and serving utensils.
Visit Bella Jackson Studios for more. It’s worth a click just to read all the interesting possibilities.
4. Special Heads Up from Paddington Bear: Are you familiar with the “Kohl’s Care” program? Kohl’s sells a line of merchandise (nothing priced above $10) – mostly plush toys and children’s books – where 100% of the net profits are donated to support the health and well being of families in our communities. They’ve partnered with organizations like Boys & Girls Club of America, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, so far raising over $400 million to help kids and families.
Paddington wants everyone to know that plush Paddingtons and his picture book, Paddington and the Christmas Surprise, are both available for just $5 each! Books are full size hardcover editions, and the plush bear is 11” x 10” x 6”. Such a deal!
There are other cool offerings too, including Corduroy, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Jurassic World, Madeline, and Pooh. Check online for store availability for pick-up, or order to have items shipped to you. How nice to have such wallet-friendly goodies with the added bonus of donating to a good cause. Do you know of any munchkins who would love to have a Paddington book and/or bear? Check out all the Kohl’s Cares merchandise here.
5. Another New Book Alert: Hooray! Jasmine Toguchi: Brave Explorer by Debbi Michiko Florence (FSG, 2022) just came out in October.
Toothbrush? Check. Her special journal? Check! Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi―flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch messmaker―can hardly wait for her family vacation to Japan, and by the time their plane finally touches down, she’s ready to dive into their new adventure. There are so many things to see in Tokyo: Ramen Street, which she learns is not a whole street made of ramen; old temples with fancy gates; and Tokyo Tower, where you can even spot Mount Fuji on a good day.
But when they arrive, Jasmine finds herself unable to get away from her older sister Sophie’s crabby attitude. Plus there’s so much about Japan she didn’t know, and she seems to be getting in trouble right and left. Will Jasmine be able to cheer up her sister AND find her footing in a new country?
With her trademark humor and warmth, Debbi Michiko Florence weaves family drama and a fun introduction of Japanese culture into this delightful next chapter in Jasmine’s world.
So glad to see Book 5 in the wildly popular Jasmine Toguchi early chapter book series! I’ve been hooked on Jasmine Toguchi ever since reading the very first title, Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen (see my interview with Debbi here). Debbi has created such a likable character who keeps us guessing as to just what she’ll do next. Love how there’s something new to learn about Japanese culture in each book (mochi making, Girl’s Day, taiko drumming, daruma dolls) with fun activities to try.
Not only do we have Book 5 to read now, we can also look forward to three more titles, all centered around Jasmine’s vacation in Japan: (Book 6) JT: Peace-Maker (March 2023), (Book 7) JT: Bridge Builder (July 2023), and Book 8 (unnamed as of this writing). Books 6 and 7 are now available for pre-order!
Don’t forget, you can order signed copies of any of Debbi’s books from her local indie, Bank Square Books, not only the Jasmine Toguchi series, but her middle grade books, Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai; Keep It Together, Keiko Carter; and Sweet and Sour.
Must I mention that signed books make the perfect holiday gifts? 🙂
Jasmine rocks on! Congratulations, Debbi!
6. Tea Towels Time: I’m a longtime fan of tea towels and can’t get enough of them. My obsession dates back to the late 70’s, as a way of keeping the British thing going after moving back to the states.
I still have my “Upstairs, Downstairs” tea towel in our butler’s pantry, which I probably purchased while watching the original PBS series. Can’t beat the UK for long-lasting quality and the best designs.
These days, one of my fave places to shop for tea towels (and lots of other things) is Bees Knees British Imports. They have oodles of them, crafted by brands such as Ulster Weavers, Alison Gardiner, Emma Bridgewater, Town Towels, and Emma Ball. Most are 100% cotton.
From Christmas puddings and kittens, to festive penguins and the Nutcracker, tea towels make great gifts – lovely and practical, and they’re easy to pack and ship. Check out Bees Knees’s entire catalog of tea towels here.
7. Bag it: If there’s something I simply cannot resist, it’s purses pretending to be food items. Though they’ve been available a couple of years, I only recently discovered these milk carton cross-body bags.
Strawberry Milk! Chocolate and Banana Milk! How cute are these?
They’re made of faux leather, an affordable novelty bag where one can toss phone, credit cards, compact, lipstick, keys, and the all-important Kleenex. 🙂 It seems these bags are loved just as much by 9 and 10 year-old girls as they are by adult females. And why not? They’re a fun way to top off any ensemble. 🙂
Want something a little less square? They do come in another style:
Okay, let’s all say it together:
“We Want Strawberry Milk!”
8. Let Them Eat Cake: Sweets for the sweet! How about Gâteau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes by Aleksandra Crapanzano (Scribner, 2022):
James Beard Award–winning writer Aleksandra Crapanzano shares the secrets of the cakes Parisians bake at home, from the simplest yogurt cakes to a deceptively easy bûche de Noël, from yuzu madeleines to boozy flourless chocolate confections.
When we think of French desserts, we tend to imagine ornate creations and confections. Perhaps we envision a tarte Tatin, but rarely a homemade cake, whipped up on a weeknight with little fuss. But that is exactly what Parisians make and eat. Gâteaux are simple, delicious cakes, both sweet and savory, served to family and friends.
As food-columnist Aleksandra Crapanzano spent time in Parisian home kitchens, she realized that the real magic is a certain savoir-faire, that distinctly French know-how that blends style and functionality in every aspect of life. By and large, the French do not try to compete with their chefs, nor with their boulangeres and patissieres. But many Parisians are natural cooks, and most finish dinner with a little something sweet, effortlessly made and casually served. The trick is having an arsenal of recipes that, once mastered, become blueprints, allowing for myriad variations, depending on what’s in season and what’s in the cupboard. It is a practical approach, and the French are nothing if not practical. That is the savoir-faire—from tying a silk scarf just so to popping a gateau in the oven without anyone even noticing. When you know what you’re doing, there’s no need to overthink it. It looks easy because it is easy.
While the Paris culinary world is experiencing a fresh vibrancy, certain traditions remain intact yet may surprise in their modernity. For example, French cakes have less sugar. The pure taste of apples is not masked by cinnamon, and vanilla is never a given. A gateau may be lightly glazed, dusted with cocoa or confectioners’ sugar, drizzled with rose water, but rarely heavily iced. A splash of brandy, a squeeze of lemon or a thin blanket of ganache elevates even the easiest of cakes in mere minutes. And then there are savory cakes made with cheese, herbs, ham, baked into a delicious loaf. These cakes salés are ideal for picnic lunches, accompanied by a salad and a glass of Sancerre. Gâteau includes cakes for birthdays, summer feasts and winter holidays, last-minute dinner parties and school lunches, as well as beloved regional recipes and guest contributions from superstar Parisian bakers.
Practical, simple, and filled with over 100 rigorously tested recipes and charming illustrations, Gâteau celebrates every day and sometimes fanciful French cakes in all their glory.
I have this one on hold at the library and can’t wait to test out a few recipes. Would really be nice to find a “simple” French cake to enjoy now and then. I’m all about easy and unintimidating recipes so I hope this book lives up to its promise.
So far, it’s gotten positive reviews from home cooks, and a thumbs up from one of my fave chefs, Dorie Greenspan. J’ai faim!
9. Season’s Greetings: Don’t you love it when a charming illustration catches your eye, and after tracking down the artist, you discover she has an entire website full of cute greeting cards and other goodies?
I first saw this sweet and touching portrait of Queen Elizabeth with her corgis by Helena Mackevych during the Platinum Jubilee. Her style reminded me of the Ahlbergs (of The Jolly Postman fame).
I soon learned about her brand, Nice Things by Helena. Turns out Helena started out in children’s book illustration but has since expanded her business to producing timeless creations for all ages.
Though greeting cards are the mainstay of her collection, her delightful images adorn tote bags, aprons, tea towels, puzzles, and calendars. Of course she also sells prints.
I especially love her aprons! The special appeal of her pictures can be attributed to what she calls “the tiny details of life.” Click here to see a short video showing how Helena makes her cards.
**Bonus Cool Thing: You may remember my mentioning in the last Roundup that the 1000+ Paddington Bears left at royal residences in tribute to Queen Elizabeth were to be donated to Queen Consort Camilla’s children’s charity. Since then, some of the bears were presented to Barnardo’s Nursery at a special tea party attended by special guests Karen Jankel (Michael Bond’s daughter), as well as Hugh Bonneville and Madeleine Harris (from the Paddington movies). They had marmalade sandwiches, of course.
Before being transported to the nursery by special limousine, the Paddingtons enjoyed hanging out at Buckingham Palace, sliding down bannisters and checking out the library. Our 70-something resident Paddingtons wanted you to see for yourself in this video. Do you think Paddington will be invited to the King’s Coronation in May? 🙂
There’s nothing like an aching love song to make you swoon, and Timothy B. Schmit kills it with his lead vocal on “I Can’t Tell You Why.”
Look at us baby, up all night
Tearing our love apart.
Aren’t we the same two people
Who lived for years in the dark?
I like a lot of Eagles songs, but this sublime tune is often underrated, standing in the shadows of iconic hits such as “The Best of My Love, “Take It Easy,” “Desperado,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Lyin’ Eyes,” which all feature either Don Henley or Glenn Frey on lead vocals.
Schmit joined the Eagles in 1977 as bassist and vocalist, replacing original band member Randy Meisner. Schmit co-wrote “I Can’t Tell You Why” with Henley and Frey, and it was included on the Eagles 1979 album, The Long Run. It was Schmit’s debut as lead vocalist with the band.
Schmit came up with the title and had composed the nucleus of the song before presenting the idea to Henley and Frey, who sang counterpoint on the recording.
Here is a wonderful live performance with Don Felder playing those amazing guitar riffs. Schmit’s near falsetto masterfully conveys the emotional heartbreak in a song which he admits was loosely based on personal experience. A beautifully arranged classic!
🎁 HAPPY TUESDAY 🎁
FROLIC IN FESTIVITIES
BAKE AND EAT COOKIES
WATCH OUT FOR MISTLETOE
JINGLE THOSE BELLS
SING THOSE CAROLS
THINK RED AND GREEN
🌲 HO HO HO! 🌲
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