nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Hello April (come she will)! I see you there on your chaise lounge, totally relaxing with a glass of wine and a bowl of cherries. Who said April is the cruelest month? Doesn’t look that way to Nevada based artist Elaine Cory, whose vibrant, textured paintings transport us to a dream world.

She’s known for her color saturated florals, gorgeous landscapes, and pretty street scenes that make you wish you could be relaxing on a balmy tropical isle or sitting at an outdoor Parisian café right this very minute. Mais, oui!

An Army brat, Elaine lived in Germany and France and traveled to many foreign countries, which opened her eyes to the beauty of the world. Upon returning to the U.S., her family settled in San Francisco, where she frequented museums and art galleries.

She attended San Francisco State College on an art scholarship and worked as an interior designer for about 20 years. All the while, she continued to paint, working in acrylics and mixed media, developing her distinct impressionistic style.

Elaine sells originals at her Etsy Shop, Elaine’s Heartsong. She calls her paintings “jewelry for your walls.”


2. New picture book alert: Look what’s coming out April 25: Full Moon Pups by Liz Garton Scanlon and Chuck Groenink (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2023):

This lyrical, gorgeously illustrated picture book in verse follows a litter of baby wolf pups in the wild through their first full lunar cycle.

Deep in the forest, Mama Wolf gives birth to an adorable litter of pups under a sky full of moon. Over the next month, the pups will open their eyes, stretch out their tiny paws, and playfully explore the world around them—all under the watchful eyes of Mama Wolf and the rest of the pack. And before long, these pups will be big enough to yip at the full moon themselves!

With stunning artwork and a gently rhyming text full of fascinating wolf facts, this ideal bedtime or storytime read is perfect for anyone who has ever heard the call of the wild.

I’ve only seen a few sample spreads, but I love the lyrical rhyming text, which has just enough information to engage curious munchkins. And just look at those pups (*hugs self*)!

The book has received glowing reviews so far: Kirkus called it “irresistibly adorable” (agree!), and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books said, “Scanlon shines new light on a keystone species’ life cycle through the subtle framing of a lunar cycle. The text’s tightly structured rhyming stanzas, softened by sweet alliteration and an earnest tone, lend well to a thoughtful, informational storytime itinerary . . . Groenink’s use of soft textures, diffused light, and striking combinations of blues offset by warm hues, creates a sequence of breathtaking art.”

Pure delight!!

Congratulations, Liz and Chuck!


3. Royal Rendezvous: With King Charles III’s Coronation just a few weeks away (Saturday, May 6), there are all kinds of cool commemoratives available for those who’d like a little something to mark this historic occasion.

Of course Emma Bridgewater has come out with a special limited edition collection of mugs, plates, tea towels, tin caddies, trays, and biscuit barrels. Yes, there’s a teapot too. 

After all, if you’ve waited 70 years to be crowned king, you definitely deserve to have your name on the dishes. 🙂

My favorite mug is the above King and Countryman one, and since I love tin (lightweight, versatile, longlasting), I ordered a tea caddy. I wasn’t tempted to get a teapot (surprised?) because I simply do. not. have. any more storage space. The tin pieces are a good bet because they’re inexpensive and much easier to store.

Oh, I also like this Limited Edition Coronation Mug by Alison Gardiner. Her designs are more whimsical and this one comes boxed for easy gift giving. I have several of her other bone china mugs (Jane Austen, Shakespeare) and they always make me smile.

See more memorabilia at The Bee’s Knees British Imports and Joanne Hudson. The Bee’s Knees carries other products such as Jan Constantine throw pillows and Victoria Eggs chinaware.

As a certified royal watcher, I’m looking forward to Charles’s big day. Did I mention he and Len have the exact same birthday? Len calls him “Chuck.”


4. Cool Connections: With Jimmy Carter sadly entering hospice recently, I found this video clip from the 2020 documentary, “Jimmy Carter: Rock ‘n Roll President,” topical and interesting. He utilized his lifelong love for popular music as a means of boosting support in the Democratic primaries.

Alongside artists such as Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Jimmy Buffet and Bob Dylan, he was able to tap into counterculture energy to invigorate his campaign. He became personal friends with many of these musicians, who subsequently visited him at the White House during his tenure. I especially enjoyed hearing what Carter and Dylan had to say about each other. They seem like unlikely friends, but maybe not. I plan to watch the entire documentary soon.


5. Deal Me In!: Tired of the same-old, same-old deck of 52? Who needs pictures of diamonds, hearts, spades, clubs, Kings, Queens, and Jacks, when you can play with Faulkner, Stein, Nabokov and Angelou? I mean seriously.

Check out Genius Writers Playing Cards:

Add a touch of class to your poker table with Genius Writers, featuring some of the most exciting literary figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Fifty–four writers from the last 100 years have been chosen from the following periods: Modern, Mid–Century, Postmodern, Contemporary. Marcel George’s stunning watercolour portraits of writers of fiction ensure that even if you don’t win, you’re in good company. Genius Writers can be used in exactly the same way as regular playing cards. Each suit features a group of writers from history with numbers and court cards, including two jokers.

For example:

James Joyce
William Faulkner
George Orwell
Thomas Mann
Katherine Mansfield
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Albert Camus
Ursula K. Le Guin
Chinua Achebe
Philip K. Dick
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Jean Rhys
Doris Lessing

Gabriel García Márquez
Italo Calvino
Maya Angelou
Günter Grass
Susan Sontag
J.M. Coetzee
Milan Kundera

Hilary Mantel
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Orhan Pamuk
Lydia Davis
Michel Houellebecq
Jonathan Franzen
Karl Ove Knausgard

The Jokers
Jorge Luis Borges
Vladamir Nabokov

Fun way to spice up your next round of poker, bridge, gin rummy, hearts, war, or solitaire. Some of your favorites may bring you good luck, or at best, the unfamiliar ones may inspire you to read their books. 🙂

This series also features decks of Genius Musicians, Artists, TV and Movie Personalities. Nice gift idea.


6. Let’s get cosy! When I see things like these, I wish I could knit. If you’re one of those talented souls who knows how to wield a pair of needles (click, click), you may find just the thing for your next project at TeaCosyFolk. Designer Susan Cowper, who’s based in Newton Stewart, Scotland, sells knitting patterns ($6.09 each) as digital downloads.

Awhile back, we featured some of her designs, including Yoda and Queen Elizabeth’s Golden State Coach. Happy to see many new delights — animals, occupational figures like schoolteachers, nurses, fishermen, cleaning ladies, etc., and other novelties like cottages, caravans, sandcastles, even the Statue of Liberty. But most have a decided UK flavor — charming and adorable. 🙂

I can’t help thinking how happy my teapots would be to wear one of these. See the complete collection here.


7. Another New Book Alert!: Look what’s coming out April 28: Finley Feels by Joan Waites (Schiffer Kids, 2023):

Finley is a piebald dachshund who just wants a new family! But with this new experience comes some very big feelings.   

Follow along with this little dog as he deals with all the emotions of being adopted. From initially feeling shy and curious to eventually feeling playful and happy, Finley slowly adjusts to his new home and a jealous kitty. Through playful illustrations, young readers will easily identify with this sweet puppy, especially the excitement he feels when his new best friend comes home for school. All pets deserve a loving home, and this adoption story leaves you feeling just as loved as Finley is by his new family.   

Adorable board book about a little dachshund highlights the many common emotions a young child feels when experiencing something scary or unfamiliar, and then ultimately taking comfort in the fact that when they are loved, things will be okay.

Well this just looks totally adorable. And I’ve never seen a piebald dachshund before. Gotta admit, Finley has loads of kid appeal. Don’t you want to pet and cuddle with him right now?

Congratulations, Joan!


8. Living End: Are your books toppling over? Likely they’d feel a lot better propped up by a couple of iconic women – bookends, that is.

These are handmade from solid distressed pine by Kristen and Lindsey Archer in Memphis, Tennessee. Each one-of-a-kind piece features an original illustration and an inspiring quote, and measures 7”L x 3.5”W x 5”H. 

They are sold in sets of 2 or 4, and there are eleven different iconic women to choose from:

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg 
– Michelle Obama 
– Louisa May Alcott 
– Jane Austen 
– Katherine Johnson 
– Ketanji Brown Jackson 
– Angela Davis 
– Sojourner Truth 
– Kamala Harris 
– Sonia Sotomayor 
– Gloria Steinem

Fun way to keep your books – and your spirits – up, and a novel gift for your favorite bookworm.


9. Starving? Bawk Bawk! Miracle of miracles: you’ve made it to the end of the roundup without fainting dead away. Have no fear, Jacques Pépin is here! It’s no secret that I’m a longtime Jacques fan. Love his cooking shows and cookbooks and it’s always a treat to catch one of his videos on Facebook. Love that he has two grand passions: cooking and painting. In his latest book just released last Fall, we learn about both. Check out Art of the Chicken: A Master Chef’s Paintings, Stories, and Recipes of the Humble Bird (Harvest, 2022):

From legendary chef Jacques Pepin, a book celebrating his lifelong love of chickens—featuring dozens of his celebrated paintings, a treasure trove of poignant and often humorous stories, and sprinkled with recipes throughout.

Chicken may not be an extravagant ingredient, but for master chef Jacques Pépin, it is the one he turns to most frequently—to cook and to paint. In this beautifully illustrated book, Jacques reminisces on his life through the lens of the humble bird, from his childhood in rural France, where he chased chickens and watched as his maman turned them into her poulet à la crème, to his demanding apprenticeship and long, illustrious career—cooking Chicken Chasseur for Charles de Gaulle and his family, turning down a chance to work as JFK’s White House Chef for a job at Howard Johnson’s, and appearing on television alongside food-world luminaries like Julia Child. Throughout are Jacques’ favorite chicken and egg recipes, conveyed as if he were sharing them over a dinner table. Most significantly, the book displays dozens of Jacques’ stunning paintings of chickens. “If it clucks or scratches, it’s likely that Jacques has painted it.” This unique book is the next best thing to a visit to Jacques’ home, which would include a tour of his art studio, captivating conversation as he cooks, and a toast with a glass of wine over a simple meal of perfect roast chicken.  

Art, recipes and stories in the same book? Yes, please! Have you ever seen such beautiful chickens?! Nice bonus: Whenever I read his books, I can just hear his voice with that wonderful French accent. Merci beaucoup, Jacques! 🙂


It’s April, so we need an April song. One of my favorites is “The April Fools” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It was the title song for the 1969 movie starring Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve.

I was saddened to hear of Bacharach’s passing back in February, as his music has figured largely in the soundtrack of my own life, especially during the 60s and 70s. I practiced his songs on the piano for hours on end, saw him in concert three times, and blasted my Dionne Warwick albums in my college dorm room.

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” is the finest cinematic musical sequence ever. Because he composed for artists, television and film, his music was ubiquitous; his songs have been covered by over a thousand artists.

For my February Cool Things Roundup, I shared the duet “On My Own,” which Bacharach wrote with his then wife Carole Bayer Sager. Little did I realize he would die the following day. I listened to his CD boxed set and reminisced. So many good songs, so many good memories.

“The April Fools” is a beautiful piece of music. I love its inherent romanticism. Dionne Warwick’s rendition is featured in the movie along with Percy Faith’s orchestral version. Bacharach also recorded the song as an instrumental with his own orchestra, which I’m sharing here today along with Warwick’s recording, which was released as a single. I love hearing his piano in this gorgeous arrangement. Enjoy!













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**Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

14 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Thank you for this fascinating blog! I also love Burt and Dionne! I also love April, because I was born in April! Thursday is my birthday, and the year I was born it was Easter Sunday! Thank yo also for the British part of this blog. My son and family are in England right now, lucky people. I was there last year near the Jubilee, and I purchased a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo There Once is a Queen. Michael just wrote a new one for Charles’ coronation called The Boy Who Would be King. My son is going to scoop it up for me!!

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    1. Lucky you!! I must look for Michael’s new book about King Charles. And of course I envy your son and his family being in England now. Happy Birthday week to you, Joanne!!


  2. Love all moon books, Jama, will find Liz’s book, beautiful! Thanks for all the rest, too. I remember the music stuff with Carter, but didn’t know about the documentary! And, I’m sure you’re over the moon about the coronation, & glad you reminded about the date! Those first paintings – wow! We’re still mostly brown here, so late!

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