claire west: a shot of happiness

If this isn’t joy personified I don’t know what is.

One glance at Claire West’s exuberant splash of colors and you’re smiling, your heart’s beating a little faster, you. are. UP!

Say goodbye to even a tiny case of the winter doldrums as your eyes drink, drink, drink it all in. Wow. Gorgeous. Whoa. More, please.

Claire hails from Hull in East Yorkshire, England. She initially trained as an interior designer at Newcastle Art College before studying part time for seven years to earn her Fine Arts degree from Humberside University.

Claire with her border collie Flossie

She then began doing freelance work for television production companies, who featured her work in TV programs. She’s exhibited her paintings and linocuts all over the UK and also teaches painting and printmaking workshops.

Claire paints because it makes her happy, and she hopes her pieces make others feel the same way. She strongly believes in the power of color therapy to uplift the spirit.

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love me some biscuits

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” ~ Carl Sandburg

Hello Friends and Hello 2021!

Nice to be back, and I must say, you’re even cuter than you were last year. How is that even possible? Maybe it was all those cookies you ate over the holidays. 😀

I was so happy to toss out 2020 and turn the page on a brand new Susan Branch calendar. Marking the days, weeks, and months with her charming art, quotes, photos, and recipes is how I like to roll. I think of her as a good luck charm; her optimism and positive energy really keep me going.

If January is any indication, we’re all in for a BIG year. Huge challenges, yes, but I’m hopeful that with our new President, Vice President, Democratic Congress and our collective faith in the power of BLUE — we’ll be able to heal, restore, build, and move forward for the good of all.

2021 will be one heck of a feast, and I’m anxious to dig in, so please pass the biscuits!

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via JaneCBaker
IN RHAPSODIC PRAISE OF BISCUITS
by Joan Leotta

Biscuits transubstantiate from
buttermilk or Lily brand flour and
Clabber Girl baking powder
into a heavenly delight.
So, it is only right that they
are the first item passed
after prandial prayer.
Plucking one from the basket
passed to me,
my fingers tingle as they brush
the lightly crisped top.
Slowly, I separate the still warm
bread of perfection
into two perfect halves,
tamping down the steam 
with a pat of real butter
and a swirl of honey.
I lift one section to mouth
and savor the
sweetness of the topping,
aided and abetted by the salty,
creamy butter amid the
biscuit crumbs.
Edible perfection.

~ from a broadside sponsored by Poetry in Plain Sight (Winston Salem, December 2019)

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holiday grab bag: Susan Branch’s Home for Christmas, Cranberry Tea Cake, a poem, and a wee blog break

“What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever.” ~ Mary Jo Putney

Ho Ho Ho and Merry Merry!

How are you faring this holiday season? If you’re like me, you’re probably craving generous helpings of comfort, reassurance, and nostalgia to temper the reality of what has been the craziest, scariest, most distressing, heartbreaking, and unpredictable year ever.

As if she knew exactly what we needed, dear Susan Branch recently published Home for Christmas (Spring Street Publishing, 2020), a keepsake book that speaks to the very essence of the holiday: love, family, joy, cherished traditions and good food.

In a nutshell: good things come in small packages. There is so much more to this little book than meets the eye.

Yes, it contains Susan’s amiable handwritten text (does she ever get writer’s cramp?), a bevy of carefully chosen quotes, and of course, her charming watercolor illustrations.

She relates, in earnest and intricate detail, what her childhood Christmases were like, pointedly channeling her 9-year-old self in 1956.

Though I also loved her wonderful memoir trilogy, I found this book especially touching because her pure child’s heart fills every page.

Aside from being with family, when we say we want to be “home for Christmas,” perhaps what we truly mean is we wish we could be kids again, experiencing Christmas when it was magical, over-the-top exciting, and full of wonder. Before our adult selves equated the holiday with too much busyness, stress, reluctant obligations, and the whole bah-humbug thing, there was a time, when, with every ounce of our being, we believed.

Susan was inspired, in part, by Dorothy Thompson’s Once on Christmas (1938), which she had read to her nieces (photo by Susan Branch).

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Susan’s here to remind you — of the anticipation that steadily built to a fever pitch from right after Thanksgiving until the big day finally arrived.

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Tijana Lukovic: Inside and Out

Belgium-based painter and illustrator Tijana Lukovic is inspired by motherhood, nature, folklore and fairytales. Her biggest inspiration is her daughter and their world of play. 

I love the sense of serenity and calm depicted in her domestic scenes, where ordinary activities and family life become a form of meditation. Home is nourishing, pleasurable, and safe — its own world within the world, and her pictures are a good reminder to be fully present in our daily lives. Also cool is that touch of whimsy when the outside comes in. 🙂

Once outdoors — whether exploring the woods or riding on the backs of moths or birds — we’re invited to dwell in magic and wonder. Humans and animals happily co-exist in idyllic locales — riverbanks, hillsides, streams and meadows. 

Her love of nature, as well as drawing and painting it, is rooted in childhood. She grew up in a small town in west Serbia surrounded by mountains called Užice. There, she and her friends had many adventures exploring the hills and forests, making their own toys, pretending they were the characters in the stories they read, and building forts with branches. She enjoyed drawing the fairies she heard about in her grandmother’s stories.

Tijana works primarily in gouache. She earned an MA in Drawing at KASK/Ghent and an MFA in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts at Novi Sad. 

She loves the work of Elsa Beskow, Sylvil von Olfers, Beth Krommes, Molly Brett, Phoebe Wahl, Makoto Kagoshima, and Gemma Koomen, among many others.

Check out Tijana’s Official Website and Instagram for more. You can purchase prints, originals, and cards at her online shop.


*Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

tapioca carioca

Hello, Cutie.

Put on your best bib, grab a spoon, and dig into some homemade tapioca pudding. 🙂

I LIKE TAPIOCA
by Bill Batcher
I like even the word "tapioca."
It sounds like the name of a Latin dance,
the beat of the Samba underscoring
the ritual movements of some Amazonian tribe.
"Come, let's do the Tapioca."
Or it could be the local indigenous name
of a tributary of the congo
the newsman Stanley hoped would
bring him closer to Dr. Livingstone.
"This is the Tapioca, I presume."
Or even a tropical insect,
whose bite transmits a lethal disease,
while its genes contain the secret
to conquering the riddle of aging.
"Tapioca face cream, $26.59 a jar."
Yet tapioca is more than these:
A confection that puts a spring
in my step, takes my spirit
to worlds unknown, and renews my youth,
when I loved those gelatinous pearls --
even when told they were frog eyes -- the bigger, the better.

Where is it from? There's the mystery,
unlike the rice pudding they try to pawn off
on me instead.
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