nine cool things on a tuesday

Emperor Penguin Chick” by Ashley Wolff

1. Ho Ho Ho and Happy Almost December! So, are you feeling festive this week? If, by chance, you need a little holiday lift, please enjoy some of Ashley Wolff’s gorgeous art. 

Isn’t this penguin chick adorable? Ashley’s handpainted one-of-a-kind mini bird ornaments would make the perfect gift for a special someone — or maybe it’s just the thing to give your tree an added touch of beauty. 🙂

These 3” by 3” ornaments are painted with acrylic gouache and mounted on a painted 4.5” easel. These can either be hung or set on a table or shelf for display. Nice way to own an original piece of art!

Many of you know Ashley from her wonderful picture books — the beloved Miss Bindergarten series, Baby Bear, Compost Stew, etc., but did you know she’s also an accomplished landscape painter? I’m blown away by her versatility as an artist, and love her Vermont landscapes as much as I do her book illustrations.

Check out her Etsy Shop for limited edition prints, original paintings, and of course, lots of bird and keepsake ornaments. For even more, check out my recent interviews with Ashley for How to Help a Pumpkin Grow, and Only the Cat Saw.

And don’t forget Ashley’s latest picture book, WILDFIRE! (Beach Lane Books, 2021), just released last month. 🙂

**ETA: Ashley’s running a holiday special: 20% off a combined purchase of $75 or more, plus free shipping!

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[savory poem + recipe] sing a song of soup

“It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it.” ~ M.F. K. Fisher

“Vegetable Soup” by Joe Anna Arnett
SOUP ALLURE
by Nancy Dymond
Combine the following and stir:
A fragrant powder of savory herbs
Tree nuts tossed and gently toasted
Vegetables oiled and slowly roasted
Broth of beef, honey of bee
Flake of parsley, salt of sea

In a great pot over a medium flame
Provoke rolling bubbles of rising steam
Turn to the lettuces; wash, chop, mix
Color with celery and carrot strips
Raisins? Almonds? Olives and cheese?
Tomatoes? Scallions? All of these?

Reduce the flame to a quiet simmer
Set the table for evening dinner
A scalloped knife beside the bread
Jam to sweeten and butter to spread
What more could a person want from life
Than a salad, a soup, and a loaf with a knife?


~ from Sleep Barn (Stockport Flats, 2015).
“Salad Bowl” by Tjalf Sparnaay (oil on linen, 2006)

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It’s always nice when soup season returns each fall. There is something so comforting about having a pot of soup simmering on the stove with its promise of a satisfying meal later on. Making soup is calming and therapeutic — you can’t rush homemade soup.

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sara pulver’s quirky animals and pet people

Maira Kalman once said, “There’s a good reason to love dogs more than people because they don’t talk.”

I wholly agree, and would even go so far as to say that if dogs were in charge, the world would be a lot more fun. 

Sara with one of her larger paintings.

That seems to be Sara Pulver’s feeling too. In her colorful, offbeat paintings, animals and humans play a rollicking game of role reversal. Dogs and cats do very humanlike things with people as their pets.

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a rose by any other name may or may not smell as sweet

“I like my name pronounced by your lips in a grateful, happy accent.” ~ Charlotte Brontë

WHY I CHANGED MY NAME
by Phyllis Wax

My father-in-law calls me Lois,
his other son’s wife.

Mail comes addressed to
Phyllis R. or Phyllis M. Wax.
I don’t have a middle initial.

My daughters call me Mom,
my sons-in-law Mother.
To my grandchildren I’m Meme.

To the waitress at the diner
I’m Honey or Dear.

Some people confuse me
with my good friend. To them
I’m Helen.

Today the mailman brought 
some coupons for Yolanda Wax.  
I kind of like that.
Please call me Yolanda.

~ as posted at Your Daily Poem, October 2021

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Had a good laugh reading Phyllis’s Yolanda’s poem. Talk about being able to relate!

Who hasn’t been called all kinds of different names? Maybe we’ve been given special nicknames by family or friends (Auntie Ella called me “Jade,” Lindsay called me “Eloise,” Tanita calls me “jama-j”). Perhaps our significant others use pet names or terms of endearment (Len calls me “Lulu,” “Curly Top,” “Cutie,” or “Shirley” — I call him “Digby”).

Of course many names are shortened for ease or familiarity: “Bob/Bobby” for Robert, “Dick” for Richard, “Liz/Betty/Betsy” for Elizabeth, “Sam” for Samantha. I’ll never understand “Jack” for John or “Harry” for Henry, though. Why not name him Jack to begin with?

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mary fedden: beauty in finessed simplicity

I actually came to know Mary Fedden’s work in a round about sort of way. Truth is, her name was so frequently mentioned as an inspiration or influence by so many of my favorite British creators that I simply had to learn more.

Turns out she’s one of Britain’s finest and best-loved contemporary artists, one who painted daily right up until her passing in 2012 at age 96. She’s most well known for her distinctive still lifes, characterized by a bold use of color, odd and inventive perspectives, and flat picture planes. 

Artist, printmaker and illustrator Mary Fedden in her Durham Wharf Studio

She made the ordinary extraordinary with her signature näive yet sophisticated style, elevating the beauty of favorite subjects such as fruits, feathers and plants. Her extensive body of work spanned over seven decades.

Born in Bristol, England in 1915, Mary hated and dropped out of Badminton girls’ school to attend the Slade School of Fine Arts in London at age 16. While there, she studied under Russian scene painter Vladimir Polunin, who had worked with the Ballets Russes and with Pablo Picasso.

After completing her studies, she briefly designed sets for Sadler’s Wells before returning to Bristol to work as a teacher and portrait painter. Polunin’s influence was evident in her opulent palette, reminiscent of the sumptuous colors of the ballet’s sets and costumes. 

With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Fedden served in the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Voluntary Service, where she was commissioned to create murals for the war effort. She later worked as a driver for the NAAFI in Europe.

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