celebrating george washington’s birthday with hoecakes and hospitality


This year, we celebrated President’s Day with a return visit to Mount Vernon and by whipping up a batch of George Washington’s favorite hoecakes.

After reading Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, 2011), I was especially anxious to check out “Hoecakes and Hospitality: Cooking with Martha Washington,” a special exhibition at the new Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, a truly fabulous place with its many galleries and theatres, interactive displays, fascinating exhibits and 700+ objects illuminating the style, taste, and personalities of the Washingtons, their life at the Estate, the presidency and the Revolutionary War.


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one more bowl of dumpling soup, but please, no octopus!

book and soup
Nothing like a bowl of homemade mandu to start off a new year!

Once upon a time, I published a picture book called Dumpling Soup, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders:

Every year on New Year’s Eve, my whole family goes to Grandma’s house for dumpling soup. My aunties and uncles and cousins come from all around Oahu. Most of them are Korean, but some are Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, or haole (Hawaiian for white people). Grandma calls our family ‘chop suey,’ which means ‘all mixed up’ in pidgin. I like it that way. So does Grandma. ‘More spice,’ she says.

This year, I celebrated the New Year in Hawai’i for the first time in decades. Thanks to my mom, I got to eat my favorite traditional Korean dishes, and for the first time ever, I got to hear my story read aloud on New Year’s Eve.

julia book

julia book 2

My niece Julia wasn’t yet born when the book was first published almost twenty years ago, and she never experienced those big, noisy family gatherings I so fondly recall in the story. But at least she can still eat some of the same food! It was hilarious hearing her trying to pronounce the Korean phrases — but what a wonderful, expressive reader she is, and for a few moments, I was 7 years old again, smack dab in the middle of “so many Yangs!” 🙂

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hello, brand new year!

corn leis
Thanks for the beautiful lei, Cobi!

Hello, Cutie Pies, and Happy New Year. We’re baaaaack!

Yes, well, mostly. Still battling the jet lag . . . lag . . . lag . . .

Hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that Santa was extra good to you. I must say, you’re as good looking as ever and none the worse for the wear (are those cookie crumbs I see on your face?). Mr. Cornelius and I had fun visiting friends and relatives in Hawai’i, where the operative word is FOOD. Enjoyed Christmas at my brother’s, some great restaurant outings, and of course, the ultimate New Year’s Korean Feast at my parents’ home (details in a separate post).

edwards soup (2)Yay! It’s a brand new year and a brand new month. January is a particular favorite because it’s National Soup Month and Hot Tea Month. I’m looking forward to welcoming some cool guests to Alphabet Soup in the coming weeks, not only authors and illustrators talking about their new books, but also folks who create some fabulous arts and crafts. Look for, “Indie Artist Spotlight,” a new interview series featuring some immensely talented artisans and their work. I’ve always loved unique, heartmade, handcrafted goods, and try to support independent artists whenever possible. I can’t wait to learn more about their inspirations and processes!

For now, check out some of our Hawai’i adventures. As usual, Mr. Cornelius ate more than anyone else and loved having his picture taken. (He asks that you hold your applause until the end.) 🙂

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autumn amblings, or, cornelius falls for fall

~ by Mr. Cornelius, especially for Julia

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

Oh hello!

Do you know what the best part of Fall is?

It could be crunching leaves under your boots,

finding tree faces,

or going to the pumpkin farm!

I like all the funny bumpy squashes and gourds,

You really should see someone about that.

diving into the candy bin,

playing with the tractors and miniature horses,


doing daredevil stunts,

lending an ear,


liking dem apples,


baby, you can drive my car!


BUT. There’s something else that tops all.

Now you’re talkin’.

Mmmmm! This one’s still warm. Can you smell those cinnamon-y apples?

Apple Pie is a really really good part of Fall.

But even better is adopting a pumpkin friend and making him feel at home.

Don’t worry, we won’t carve him.

Come visit us soon, Julia —

before giant pumpkins take over the world!

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” ~ Emily Bronte

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P.S. Posting may be sporadic this week because of Hurricane Sandy. Wishing the best to all my East Coast friends. Stay safe and good luck!


Copyright © 2012 Cornelius Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All pumpkins preserved.

carlyle house cauldron tea and tour

Happy Almost Halloween! 

‘Tis the season to practice your cackles, dust up your brooms, and sip strange brews.

Is he hiding a biscuit in his vest?

This past Sunday, Len and I headed out to the historic Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria to attend a Cauldron Tea. I’m always happy to steep myself in the fun of a seasonal tea and this one came with the chance to tour the beautifully restored 18th century Palladian-style home of one of Alexandria’s founders, John Carlyle, a wealthy merchant who apparently knew how to invest his shillings and have a really good time.

We arrived a little early, so we strolled around the lovely 3/4 acre garden, which showcases plant materials available to Carlyle during the time of his residency. We were greeted by the chitter chatter of hundreds of birds, no doubt exchanging Sunday pleasantries and engaging in mini-debates (we are a swing state after all). I’d been to Old Town countless times, but never knew this sweet little haven was here. Perfect spot for a tête-à-tête!

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