nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Now you see her, now you don’t. Peruvian-born, Philadelphia-based camouflage artist Cecilia Paredes creates extraordinary “photo performances” using her own body as part of the canvas.

She blends in with beautiful patterned backgrounds by painting her own skin (sometimes her entire body), or wearing painted clothing that will allow her to disappear/reappear.

Such precise, tedious work to transfer all the details onto a three dimensional surface! Cecilia was initially inspired to begin this photographic series because of her constant relocation, using the body as part of the intended landscape. How do we adjust to our new surroundings? How do we fit in?

Her artist statement:

Part of what makes us human is our ability to see beyond the narrow door through which we enter the world—to grow beyond the culture of our birth by recognizing other cultures, other patterns of life. Yet our birth culture is always imprinted upon us; the mystery of identity is never fully resolved. We are always from a time and place to which we can never return.

We continue to marvel as she explores themes of self identity, belonging, displacement, invisibility/visibility, emotional interiors, and body politics. Her striking, thought-provoking pieces certainly encompass self reflection as well as social commentary. Coincidentally, her last name, “Paredes,” means “Walls” in Spanish. Some of her pieces are for sale here.


2. You may know I’m a longtime fan of Salley Mavor’s exquisite fabric relief artwork. I religiously follow her Facebook updates and blog to see what she’s currently working on, and am constantly awed and amazed by her creativity and productivity. For the last year, she’s been working on a stop-motion animation movie called “Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free.” She hopes to release it this summer. Can’t wait!

from In the Heart (2001)

Meanwhile, just wanted to give you the heads up in case you weren’t aware that in addition to notecards, posters, and prints, Salley has autographed books for sale in her Etsy Shop, Wee Folk Studio. Both of her Felt Wee Folk craft books as well as two picture books, In the Heart and Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, are currently available. Wonderful gifts and keepsakes!

In the Heart (2001)


from Pocketful of Posies (2010)


3. March is a very good month for poet, author and educator Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. She has two new books being released!

Dreaming of You, illustrated by Aaron DeWitt (Boyds Mills Press 2018) just came out on March 6:

This soothing bedtime story explores the question, When animals sleep, what do they see in their dreams? The lyrical text tells readers that chipmunks dream of digging deep burrows, puppies dream of long, waggy walks, and horses dream of wild, windy rides. But most of all, the animals dream of all the fun and adventure the next day will bring. The gentle rhymes and gorgeous, serene illustrations combine to create a comforting story perfect for transitioning from a busy day to being tucked in peacefully at night.

Dreaming of You has already earned a *starred review* from Kirkus, who described it as, “sweetly imaginative, linguistically rich, and featuring enlivening vocabulary with lots of active verbs and new and interesting nouns and adjectives.”


And, on March 27, With My Hands: Poems About Making Things, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (Clarion Books, 2018) will officially hit shelves:

Building, baking, folding, drawing, shaping . . . making something with your own hands is a special, personal experience. Taking an idea from your imagination and turning it into something real is satisfying and makes the maker proud.

With My Hands is an inspiring invitation to tap into creativity and enjoy the hands-on energy that comes from making things.

I’m looking forward to featuring both books in the coming weeks. Stay tuned. 🙂

Double Congratulations to Amy!!


4. I don’t know. There’s just something about these fruity pencil cases. I was big on pencil cases in grade school and still lament the loss of my shiny royal blue one. These colorful cuties are so cheery I’m sure my pens and pencils would enjoy hanging out in them. 🙂

They’re about 8 inches long and made of bicast leather. Get yours here. Fun! :).


5. Tune into some good grub: Eat Like a Rock Star: 100 Recipes from Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Greatest by Mark Bego (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017)!

Who knew that Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones) makes an amazing Lamb Chops with Endive and Blue Cheese Salad, that Michael McDonald (The Doobie Brothers) loves Pasta with Ham and Parmesan Cheese, or that Boz Scaggs eats Tuscan Grilled Chicken?

With more than a hundred recipes from seven decades of rock ‘n’ roll, pop, country, RnB, and disco, Mark Bego, along with Mary Wilson of The Supremes, gathers beloved recipes from legendary rocker friends and invites the ultimate music fan to put on an apron and join them at the table. Featuring each rock star’s biography, their favorite recipe, and other fun facts, Eat Like a Rock Star is a must-have for every die-hard rocker-at-heart who loves to eat.

There is nowhere else you will find Ray Parker Jr.’s Salmon and Eggs, Joey Fatone’s (NSYNC) Rice Balls, Micky Dolenz’s (The Monkees) Micky ‘D’ Cocktail, and Angela Bowie’s (David Bowie’s ex-wife’s) Rosti Hash Brown Potatoes all in one book. Whether it’s brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert, learn to cook:

• Michelle Phillips’s (The Mamas & The Papas) Organic Lemon Chicken
• Lou Christie’s Linguine with Fresh Tomatoes
• Marilyn McCoo’s (The 5th Dimension) Leg of Lamb
• Glen Campbell’s Favorite Mexican Chicken Casserole
• Sarah Dash’s (Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles) Peach Cobbler, and more!

With a section on head-spinning cocktails, full menu suggestions, as well as author Mark Bego’s own culinary concoctions such as Spicy Szechuan Sesame Noodles and Boozy Banana Cream Pie, look no further for the all-in-one cooking and rock ‘n’ roll companion. As Martha Reeves says about her Smoked Turkey Necks & Lima Beans, “Honey, this is real soul food!”

Okay, I may just pass on the smoked turkey necks but this book sounds like a hoot. Even if I never make any of the recipes, I’m curious to know what these music types like to cook and eat.

You may be wondering who Mark Bego is. He’s written and co-written many pop and country music and showbiz biographies — hence the access to personal recipes from these celebrities. Since Skyhorse Publishing also published Eat Like a Gilmore: The Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of Gilmore Girls (2016),  I’m hoping this one will be just as good.

“California Dreamin’ on such a winter’s day . . . ”


6. You’re hungry now? Well, what a surprise. Take a little time to enjoy this wonderful “Storymakers in the Kitchen” Kidlit TV video featuring Aram Kim making kimchi pancakes with Rocco Staino. You may remember we interviewed Aram shortly after No Kimchi for Me was published last summer. Put a little spice in your day! Hooray for Aram!


7.  Not too long ago, I stumbled upon Lieke van der Vorst’s work online and fell in love. I admit her food and bear illustrations were the first to catch my eye, but as I explored further, I noticed how calm and peaceful her art in general made me feel.

Lieke hails from the Netherlands, is a nature lover, and draws inspiration from everyday life. In a recent interview, she was asked if there is a message she wishes to convey through her art.

That people should start [to] listen, to themselves, their bodies and nature. It would be so nice if we can all live together without hurting any living thing.

Love her focus on the interconnectedness of all living things, as well as how she blends whimsy/fantasy with reality.

Check out her Liekeland Shop, where she sells prints, cards, and bags.


8. You know me, I need my pottery fix. Been following Nancy Gardner Ceramics for awhile. Nancy is an award winning potter from Illinois who’s been collaborating with her partner Burton Isenstein since 1988.

They produce one-of-a-kind, hand-built and hand decorated pieces, works of art that are meant to be used and enjoyed (the glaze they use is food safe and water tight).


Their work is inspired by historical and contemporary pottery forms, textiles, paintings and illustration. I like the whimsy and quirkiness. See more at their official website and Etsy Shop. Happy stuff!


9. Finally, a hedgehog. This little guy called out to me recently. Just sitting there, all balled up, not demanding anything of anyone — adorable and cozy. Just a lump. Check him out at GladoArt, along with other needle felt animals made by Olga Gladkaya of the Ukraine.

Would you like to adopt this little friend? 🙂


Mustn’t forget our blue song.  Here’s a tune courtesy of the wayback time machine. I think I was in utero when it first came out :D, but I remember hearing it on the radio all the time in grade school. Until I saw this video, I never knew what Jimmy Clanton looked like.







*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee (at no cost to you). Thanks for your support!

Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

nine cool things on a tuesday

1. You know how it is. You stumble out of bed, reach for your phone, turn on the TV, or if you’re old school, check the headlines on the front page. There is this urge to find out if the world is still intact.

Even though you don’t want to, you check Twitter. Which of our allies has been insulted by the highest office in the land? Who’s been given a new nickname and attacked? What lies have been told?

Mornings are hard enough, but all this is . . . unbearable and demoralizing. For survival sake, we all need a little levity. Why drink your first cup of java in a ho-hum mug when you can brace up, smile, and be a little naughty? 🙂

Check out the cool camping mugs at pnwenamelco (Pacific Northwest Enamel Company). I love owner and designer Karen Simpson’s irreverence! Political humor not your style? She’s got designs for outdoor lovers, nerds, Harry Potter fans and more. These make a fun novelty gift, or if you’re in the mood, treat yourself!  Nephew cracked a rare smile when he received the Covfefe mug for his birthday last summer . . .


2. So, as the joke goes, “How do you like your eggs?” Answer: “In cake.” 😀

But if you’re Michele Baldini, your answer would probably be, “Fried up as a work of art.” The 20-year-old medical student from Mexico makes breakfast magic with his eggstraordinary yolk and white creations.

Using a plain black frying pan as his canvas, he’s done people, a little Van Gogh, countries, animals, symbols, whatever comes to mind.

His wolf howling at the moon is a fan favorite, but I’m quite partial to the kitty face. Wonder how many yolks he’s broken in the process? Lots more at Michele’s Instagram, “The Eggshibit.” Omelet you go now . . . 😀


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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. So of course the first cool thing for 2018 is a teapot. January is National Hot Tea Month, after all, and there are those who simply cannot resist handpainted pottery (who me?). 🙂

This beauty is made by Ceramika Artystyczna in Boleslawiec, Poland, and sold via Slavica Polish Pottery. They have a brick and mortar store in Prague, but you can also purchase their pieces online. They have a full range of tableware and bakeware — teapots, plates, bowls, mugs, serving dishes, etc.

Everything is hand decorated and microwave, freezer, dishwasher safe, chip resistant and lead and cadmium free.

And so pretty! Love their patterns.

Enjoy this video showing how their pieces are decorated.

Check out all their offerings here.


2. Look what’s officially out today: Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl by Deborah Hopkinson and Qin Leng (Balzer & Bray, 2018)!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of our greatest writers.

But before that, she was just an ordinary girl.

In fact, young Jane was a bit quiet and shy; if you had met her back then, you might not have noticed her at all. But she would have noticed you.

Jane watched and listened to all the things people around her did and said, and locked those observations away for safekeeping.

Jane also loved to read. She devoured everything in her father’s massive library and before long, she began creating her own stories. In her time, the most popular books were grand adventures and romances, but Jane wanted to go her own way…and went on to invent an entirely new kind of novel.

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen includes a timeline and quotes from Austen’s most popular novels.

Art © 2018 Qin Leng

Who can resist a lovely new picture book biography about the incomparable Jane Austen? I’m a big fan of both Deborah Hopkinson (Fannie in the Kitchen, Independence Cake) and Qin Leng (Happy Birthday, Alice Babette). So happy they teamed up for this one!


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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Hooray, Hooray! It’s official release day for Groundhug Day by Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)!

Moose is having a Valentine’s Day party, and all his friends are so excited! Everyone except Groundhog, that is. If Groundhog sees his shadow outside, he’ll hide in his hole for six more weeks and miss the party!

Determined to help their friend join them, Moose, Squirrel, Bunny, and Porcupine put their heads together and come up with a plan. But will it be enough to get Groundhog out to play?

This heartwarming picture book by the author of Vampirina Ballerina, with adorable illustrations by Christopher Denise, is sure to be a hit, whether readers are bursting for spring or snuggling up for six more weeks of winter.

As a fan of Anne Marie’s Pigloo and Vampirina series, and many of Christopher’s books – especially his Redwall and bear books (Baking Day at Grandma’s, Me With You), I’m really looking forward to reading this one. How can anyone look at that adorable cover and not want to scoop this book up immediately?  Lovable animals, hearts, balloons, pink cake on the table . . . sigh. I am so there. Get yours now so you’ll be all set when Groundhog’s Day and Valentine’s Day roll around.

*Check out this Goodreads giveaway running now till December 12: enter for a chance to win one of two copies signed by both author and illustrator.

Happy Book Birthday, Anne Marie and Christopher!


2. Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Jedi Master Chef used the Force to whip up out-of-this-world treats. No secret ingredients or light sabers necessary when wielding just the right spatula for just the right batter. Check out this set of Star Wars™ spatulas — one medium and two mini — all with durable silicone heads (heat resistant up to 600 degrees), and guaranteed not to chip or crack. Love the rounded beech wood handles, too!

If you’re a muggles-pleasing kitchen wizard, you might prefer one of these Harry Potter™ spatulas. Whether you’re Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin or Ravenclaw, you’ll be able to create pure magic for those you love (Mrs. Weasley’s fruitcake, a treacle tart, or peppermint toad, anyone?). Mix, fold, scrape, scrape.


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[scrummy review + recipe] Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story by Nadiya Hussain and Clair Rossiter

Ho, Ho, Ho, jingle jangle jingle – what better way to rustle up a little holiday spirit than with a brand new Nadiya Hussain story-cookbook!

If you’re a fan of The Great British Baking Show/Great British Bake-Off, you know Nadiya as the GBBO Series 6 winner (2015). Ever since then, Nadiya has been racing full steam ahead as an author, columnist, and television presenter, while remaining a devoted mum to her three children..

So far, she’s published two adult cookbooks, one contemporary novel, and now, two children’s story-cookbooks. You may remember when I featured Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story last Fall and baked her Very Berry Breakfast Muffins. I was excited to learn she had published a second children’s book, Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story, which was just released in early October.

Nadiya once again celebrates her love of storytelling and cooking, but this time her focus is on what matters most about the holidays: caring, giving, sharing, family, joy and fun.

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