[review + recipe + giveaway] Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes and Laura Freeman

 

Kamala Harris is precisely the vice presidential nominee we need at this particular moment in time. Being chosen to run alongside Joe Biden in the most consequential election of our nation’s history is a notable, glorious, glass-ceiling-shattering triumph.

Senator Harris hadn’t fully entered my radar until I  saw her grill Brett Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court Senate Confirmation Hearings in 2018. Wow! She was tough, articulate, whip smart, and definitely someone to watch. Early last year, I eagerly read her memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey (Bodley Head, 2019), and was wholly inspired by her compassion, work ethic, professional accomplishments, and steadfast commitment to social justice and public service.

 

 

Just two weeks after she was chosen to be Vice President Biden’s running mate, a new picture book biography, Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes and Laura Freeman (Atheneum BFYR, 2020), officially hit shelves. Talk about perfect timing!

But then, everything about Kamala’s life story (her immigrant background, family history of political activism, impressive barrier-breaking, step-by-step rise in the ranks) suggests she was almost divinely destined to be the first African-American and first South Asian-American female candidate to run on a major party ticket during these turbulent times of systemic racism, economic inequities, public health crises, criminal injustices, and gender discrimination.

Thanks to Nikki Grimes’s succinct, artfully crafted free verse narrative, and Laura Freeman’s vibrantly gorgeous art, young people not only have an engaging overview of Harris’s life from birth to her withdrawal from the 2020 presidential nomination, but also an inspiring portrait of her character and true essence as a human being.

Grimes frames Kamala’s story as a conversation between a black mother and daughter. First grader Eve is upset because a boy in her class called her stupid for wanting to be President when she grows up. Eve’s mom says he’s wrong, and proceeds to tell her all about Kamala, a girl from right there in Oakland who hopes to be President one day.

 

Life is a story
you write day by day.
Kamala’s begins with a name
that means “lotus flower.”
See how her beautiful smile
opens wide, like petals
fanning across the water’s surface?
But you don’t see the flower’s roots. Her roots.
They grow deep, deep, deep down.
Let me show you.

 

Freeman’s beautiful double page spread provides a dramatic entrée into Kamala’s world, depicting her amidst pink lotus blossoms as a happy toddler, sensitive child, intent student, and an adult glowing with confidence. Grimes uses the floral/roots metaphor to great effect, as it prepares the ground for tracing the origins of Kamala’s ancestry, guiding principles and political aspirations. We sense this story will be an edifying blossoming, as we dig below the surface to learn how Kamala grew into the strong, determined leader, truth seeker, trail blazer, and role model she is today.

Young readers will especially appreciate the many pages devoted to Kamala’s early formative years: how her Jamaican father met and married her Indian mother in Berkeley before Kamala was born in Oakland, how they took her with them on civil rights marches, where she repeatedly heard words like “freedom,” “justice,” and “peace” even before she understood what they meant.

After her sister Maya came along, they enjoyed “faraway adventures together,/like visiting their grandparents in Zambia,” soon learning that “fighting for justice/ran in the family.”

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celebrating colin’s birthday with 2 treats from The Secret Garden Cookbook (+ a giveaway)

♥️ Special thanks to Marian from the Netherlands for inspiring me to write this post. 🙂

“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of someone else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”  ~  Archibald Craven (Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, The Secret Garden)

 

 

Guess who’s turning 60 on September 10?

Hint: he knows how to rock a waistcoat and cravat, is fluent in Italian, plays the guitar to relax, likes to tease fellow actor Gary Oldman about the size of his *ahem* manhood, almost voiced Paddington Bear in the movies, looks good WET (dry, and in-between), and even if you cook blue soup, he likes you just as you are.

Yes, it’s Colin, aka my secret husband (SO secret, even he doesn’t know about it). Fine specimen of a human being, don’t you think? Doesn’t look a day over 39. 🙂

 

Colin Firth as Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden (2020).

 

Unless you look at him playing Archibald Craven in the new Secret Garden movie. Have you seen it yet? They were all set for a big UK cinema premiere back in April, followed by the U.S. in August. But of course the pandemic changed everything, so instead, the movie went straight to video on demand beginning August 7, and will now open in UK cinemas October 23.

 

 

Colin, Colin, Colin, you’ve never looked so wretched, weary, or downtrodden. But Archibald is, of course, consumed with grief over the loss of his wife, making him inaccessible to his son and unable to properly care for his newly orphaned niece Mary Lennox, who comes to stay at Misselthwaite Manor.

 

Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters), Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), Colin Craven (Edan Hayhurst), Dickon (Amir Wilson) Archibald Craven (Colin Firth)

 

This new 2020 version (don’t worry, I promise not to be too spoilerish), is the fourth produced for the big screen, and Colin was attracted to the role because of the lavish garden scenes (which unlike previous films, were not confined to a single, walled-in area, but features an expansive, wide ranging terrain representing Mary’s unbounded imagination), as well as the “design concepts” of the castle, which really became a symbol for Archibald’s state of mind: dark, destructive, depressive. The creepiness of the house is highly atmospheric and underscores the tragic decline of what was once a joyful life.

Colin doesn’t get much screen time in the new movie; this makes sense since the story revolves primarily around the three young people: Mary, Colin Craven, and Dickon. The time period has been moved up to 1947, after WWII, instead of the early 1900’s as the book was originally set, and there is a new “character,” a stray dog named Jemima (later Hector, when his gender is confirmed), who helps lead Mary to the garden wall and gate key along with the robin.

 

Mary with Hector (this scraggly pup is a scene stealer!)

 

The spirit remains true to the original — the transformation of sickly, morose, isolated children into happy and healthier souls who blossom and thrive with newfound friendship, fresh air, good and nourishing food, and the magic of making things come alive.

Did you know this was the second time Colin appeared in a Secret Garden adaptation? Thirty-three years ago, when he was just 27, he played an adult Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie that’s told as a flashback from the POV of an adult Mary. Colin only appears at the very end, when he reunites with Mary after the war . . . and there’s romance!

 

Colin as Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie.

 

So it seems fated that Colin appear in these films, since there is a ‘Colin’ who has a major role in the novel, and he actually played this Colin years ago. Something else that’s cool about the 1987 version is that it was filmed at Highclere Castle. As a Downton Abbey fan, I enjoyed seeing familiar exteriors and interiors. 🙂

In addition to studio sets, the new 2020 movie was filmed at various gardens around England and North Wales, on location in Yorkshire, and at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire. Knebworth is a cool place all its own, known for hosting awesome rock concerts (Stones, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton), and has been a choice setting for many other films, including “Nanny McPhee” and “The King’s Speech.” I imagine Colin feels quite at home there. 🙂

 

Poor Archibald. He needs some good food to restore his spirits!

 

The Secret Garden is one of my top three all-time favorite children’s novels, so it’s really icing on the cake to see Colin, however briefly, in two of the movies. Revisiting this classic, whether between the covers or up on a screen, tends to make me hungry because hearty farm-fresh Yorkshire fare helped restore Mary and Colin to optimum health. Okay, time to eat.

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Macaroons and Madeleines from The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

Good afternoon.

Please go through and have a seat in the library. You’re just in time for tea.

Must say, you look smart in that periwinkle frock and lovely felt cloche. Always the fashion plate!

Let’s celebrate the recent release of the Downton Abbey movie by taking a peek at (and a taste of) The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray (Weldon Owen, 2019).

This is by no means the first Downton Abbey cookbook to be published. The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines came out in 2012 (a new, expanded edition with color photos was just released in August 2019), and there’s Larry Edwards’s, Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey’s Elegant Meals (Arcade, 2012).

Of course we must also mention Pamela Foster’s wonderful website and blog, Downton Abbey Cooks — a fabulous archive of period recipes, musings, and food history that sustained us through all six seasons of the PBS TV series. Pamela’s eBooks are still available for download: there are two editions of Abbey Cooks Entertain, as well as a Relaxing Over Afternoon Tea cookbook.

On October 26, Christmas at Highclere: Recipes and Traditions from the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon (Preface Publishing, 2019) will hit shelves.

So, if you want to sip, eat, nibble, feast, dine, indulge, or entertain Downton style, there are many resources available to help you get your Crawley on.

 

 

That said, it’s still nice to have an “official” Downton Abbey cookbook to drool over, now that the movie is finally out. When it comes to dining like the Crawleys, and learning more about the dishes Mrs Patmore and Daisy are busy cooking downstairs, we can never have enough. It’s by far the most delicious way to wholly emerge ourselves in that once-upon-a-romantic-time-gone-by upstairs/downstairs world.

 

 

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[tasty review + 2 recipes] In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels

 

Many of us think of French cooking as complicated, time consuming and just plain intimidating. We assume it requires special ingredients we don’t usually have on hand and sophisticated equipment.

And to teach French cooking to kids? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

Toronto-based food and travel writer and educator Mardi Michels proves otherwise in her first cookbook, In the French Kitchen with Kids (Appetite/Random House, 2018).

A full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and author of the popular eat. live. travel. write. blog, she runs after school cooking classes twice a week for 7-14-year-olds called Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. They meet in the science lab to whip up such classic favorites as macarons, madeleines, pains au chocolat, and baguettes. They make short crust and choux pastry from scratch, and with proper knife skills, chop, slice and dice fruit and veggies to make berry galettes, ratatouille, steak frites, and beef and carrot stew.

 

 

So what makes this particular kids’ cookbook a standout among the zillions of others?

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♥️ a trio of sweet treats for valentine’s day ♥️

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever noticed how many terms of endearment are related to food?

Just call me Honey, Babycakes, Sugar, Pumpkin, Cookie, Cutie Pie, Cupcake, Pudding, or Dumpling.

Of course I wouldn’t mind a little foreign flavor once in awhile, like “petit chou,” (little cabbage, French), “polpetto/a” (meatball, Italian), or “fasolaki mou” (my little green bean, Greek).

It’s all good, cause food is love, and love is food.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, we’re serving up a little three-course feast just for you, cause we love you more than chocolate . . . well, almost (and that’s saying a lot). 🙂

So put on your best bibs and savor these goodies to your heart’s content (feel free to smack your lips, lick your chops, and kiss your bunched fingertips).

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❤️ APPETIZER: VINTAGE FOODIE VALENTINES ❤️

Oh, how I love old timey valentines! They take me right back to grade school. It was exciting to go to the five-and-dime with my mom to buy a pack of valentines for my classmates.

Back then, there weren’t any rules about having to give them to everyone in your class. On Valentine’s Day morning, we’d put our cards in a big box, and when we returned from morning recess, we’d find those addressed to us on our desks.

This was actually both a happy and sad experience, because some kids ended up with a big pile of valentines, while others only received a few. A ranking of popularity there on display for all to see. I still remember how sorry I felt for Ronald, because he only got one. This was over 50 years ago, and it still bothers me.

Anyway, a quick scan of vintage valentines (ca. 1950’s) revealed a preponderance of food-related puns. Some are sweet, some are groan-worthy, and some a little strange. Nevertheless, all harken back to a simpler time and are interesting for different reasons. It’s too bad that for the most part, we’ll never know who the artists were behind these designs. Hope you enjoy this little feast from yesteryear!

 

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So, did you like those? I think my favorite is the Olive Oyl one. I did find a few raise-the-eyebrow-strange non-foodie ones, too:

 

Violent, much?

 

Flattery will get you everywhere.

 

This one’s probably the weirdest. Just ewww.

 

I like that the practice of sending Valentine’s Day cards, flowers, chocolates, and other gifts started in the UK. Leave it to those clever Brits! And back in Victorian times, they exchanged fancy valentines made with real lace and ribbons before paper lace was invented. So cool.

Do you still send Valentine’s Day cards? More than just a nod to romantic love, this particular holiday is a wonderful time to celebrate friendships.

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