[songs + recipe] Celebrating Paul’s 80th Birthday + a summer blog break

“What I have to say is all in the music. If I want to say anything, I write a song.” ~ Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney turns 80 tomorrow!

We’re celebrating Macca’s milestone birthday by sipping English tea, nibbling on fairy cakes, and listening again to several of his best songs. 

photo by Mary McCartney (2020)

We all have our favorite McCartney tunes – from his time with the Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist. But have you ever wondered which of Paul’s songs he likes most? 

I imagine “I Lost My Little Girl” will always hold a special place in his heart, since it’s the first song he ever wrote at age 14. He composed it on his Zenith acoustic guitar shortly after his mother Mary died.

Yes, he still has that Zenith!

Here he is on MTV Unplugged (1991). Can you detect the Buddy Holly influence? 🙂

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melanie parke: beauty and light

Welcome, do come in!

A pretty teapot, a vase of wildflowers, a bowl of fruit on the table. Melanie Parke elevates common still life elements into scenes of breathtaking beauty by infusing her pictures with exhilirating light.

Melanie in Rome.

Melanie’s interiors feel refreshingly alive thanks to her winsome layered compositions, gorgeous colors, and interesting perspectives.

We sense someone may have just left the room, or is expecting a visitor or two at any moment. Once our eyes have drunk their fill of sheer loveliness, we gaze beyond, through open doors or windows – out to the garden, woods, or beach, where we can continue dreaming.

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stepping back into fourth grade

James Crews’s new anthology has been my constant companion for the last several weeks. The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy (Storey Publishing, 2022) is a beautifully curated treasure and a welcome spiritual balm for these turbulent times.

Like his previous book, How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope (2021), this “perfect-in-the-hand” soul-nourishing collection contains 100+ poems by a diverse group of established as well as emerging poets. It’s such a pleasure to spend time with “old friends” Barbara Crooker, Andrea Potos, and Penny Harter, and to catch up with PNWers Susan Rich and Kelli Russell Agodon, whose work I featured here awhile ago.

Current Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is included, as well as Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye. And as before, Crews offers (for select poems) Reflective Pauses and Invitations for Writing and Reflection  – breathing room for readers to explore ideas, delve deeper, and absorb inspiration for journaling or even writing their own poems.

Today I’m happy to share one of my favorites from the book. Brad Aaron Modlin is new to me, and he does what good poets do: take us a little off center so we can consider ideas from a fresh perspective.

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1959 Fourth Grade Classroom photo by Larry Syverson
WHAT YOU MISSED THAT DAY YOU WERE ABSENT FROM FOURTH GRADE
by Brad Aaron Moldin

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

~ from Everyone at This Party Has Two Names (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2016)

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I love all the quirky lessons Mrs. Nelson shared with her class. Often the most far reaching things can’t be found in textbooks. 

Ideally, all children should be reassured that they already have enough, and more importantly, are enough. 

“I am” just may be the most empowering belief any of us can own.

Ultimately, Modlin reminds us that we aren’t alone in feeling that we might have missed that all-important memo everyone else got. 

Hopefully with all the rich experiences we’ve had so far, we’ve come to realize that peeling potatoes can indeed be a form of prayer, and standing still to listen to the wind is an excellent practice – as is being kind especially when it is the most difficult.

What do you wish your teachers, parents, or mentors had taught you?

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THE PATH TO KINDNESS: Poems of Connection and Joy
edited by James Crews
published by Storey Publishing, April 2022
Poetry Anthology, 224 pp.

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The lovely and talented Buffy Silverman is hosting the Roundup. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Have a lovely weekend!

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

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.

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[poem + 3 recipes] celebrating the queen’s platinum jubilee

“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.” ~ HM Queen Elizabeth II

Happy Platinum Jubilee Weekend! 

We’re here to raise our teacups and nibble on a few treats as Her Majesty the Queen celebrates 70 glorious years on the throne. At age 96, she’s ruled longer than any other monarch in British history, and is currently the oldest and longest-serving incumbent head of state in the world. 

The official Platinum Jubilee emblem was designed by 19-year-old graphic design student Edward Roberts from Nottinghamshire.

When she pledged to devote her life to service on her 21st birthday, little did she realize she’d actually be Queen just four years later. In fact, she never expected to wear the crown in the first place, since the line of succession was supposed to pass from her grandfather, King George V, to her Uncle Edward, and then on to his children. Of course Edward’s abdication to marry Wallis Simpson changed everything. 

Coronation Day portrait by Cecil Beaton, June 2, 1953 (Westminster Abbey).

I remain in awe of someone who accepted the cards she was dealt, got on with the job, and has remained a beloved, steadfast exemplar of duty, devotion, and public service despite rifts, divorces, deaths, scandals, and challenges to the monarchy’s relevance during rapidly changing times. 

“I have to be seen to be believed.” ~ HM Queen Elizabeth

Seven decades = a LOT of smiles, handshakes, white-gloved waves, receptions, charity events, walkabouts, fittings, sittings, tours, state banquets, royal performances, garden parties, teas, carriage rides, and HATS. 🙂

God Save the Queen! 

We’re thrilled and honored to welcome HM back to Alphabet Soup. You may remember when she first visited for a quick cuppa eight years ago. This time, we were anxious to try a couple of recipes from Carolyn Robb’s new cookbook, Tea at the Palace (Weldon Owen, 2022). 

Robb was Personal Chef to TRH the Prince and Princess of Wales for 11 years. Her 50 sweet and savory recipes are tied to twelve of Britain’s most stunning palaces and residences, and is a nice mix of traditional, contemporary and whimsical dishes.

We selected three recipes just for the Queen and enjoyed a lively chin wag. She ‘spilled the tea’ on her least favorite granddaughter-in-law and told us about the time she found a slug in her salad (ugh!), but she would not reveal what she carries in her handbag (a lady is entitled to her secrets after all).

Ring when you’re ready and enjoy!

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