Celebrating Susan Branch’s Latest Books with Tasty Words, Pics, and Potato Chip Cookies

“Never let anyone tell you magic doesn’t exist or that fairies aren’t real. It isn’t cynicism that will change the world. Do your best to believe in yourself, and even if you don’t, keep trying to and never give up. If all else fails, use your imagination and pretend.” ~ Susan Branch (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

Though I’ve been a Susan Branch fan for decades, until I read her 3-part illustrated memoir I knew only a little about her personal life or how she started painting, writing, and publishing.

It was love at first sight when I discovered her greeting cards, calendars and illustrated cookbooks back in the late 80’s — I just couldn’t get enough of her beautiful handwritten recipes and inspirational quotes, the cozy, quaint watercolors of old fashioned baskets, bowls, and quilts, those scrumptious fruits, veggies, cakes and pies. Oh, the checkered floors! The Laura Ashley hats and exquisite floral borders! That iconic vintage stove! I wanted to inhabit the world of her homemade books; they were charming, unique, and most important, personal.

You may remember how much I adored A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (review here). It convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Susan was even more of a kindred spirit with her love of Beatrix Potter, the Yorkshire Dales, afternoon tea, the Cotswolds, Emma Bridgewater, and the Queen!

But it wasn’t until I read the prequels to A Fine RomanceThe Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams  (both based on her diaries) — that I gained a true appreciation for how this self-taught artist built her career from scratch, how the first seeds were actually planted in childhood, and how she’s been able to effectively elevate the various facets of homemaking (cooking, sewing, gardening, interior decorating) to a fine art.

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Winnie-the-Pooh and The Royal Birthday by Jane Riordan and Mark Burgess (+ Honey Chocolate Pie)

Mr Cornelius practicing the royal wave.

Hello Hello!

What’s the best way to honor two beloved British icons with 90th birthdays this year?

Feature them both in a beary good story, of course.🙂

All art copyright © 2016 Mark Burgess.

Mr Cornelius is convinced 2016 is extra special and that 90 is a magic number. On January 13, much to the delight of the 50-something resident Paddingtons, Michael Bond turned 90. On April 21, HRH Queen Elizabeth turned 90 (with her official birthday celebration taking place just over a week ago), and this coming October marks the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh’s first book.

Goodness. This is like a golden trifecta for us anglophiles who are mad for Brits, books and bears! Just so happens that Her Majesty loved the Pooh books when she was little, and the year she was born, Mr. Milne dedicated his Teddy Bear and Other Songs (1926) to her.

What does this Palace Guard have stashed under his hat?

Earlier this year, Mr Bond was asked to write an address for the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s 90th Birthday. His “Reflection on the Passing of Years” was read aloud at the service by Sir David Attenborough (and yes, he turned 90, too, on May 8). This piece, a special gift for the Queen, described the experience of life for those born in 1926. Is there any better gift than the gift of words?

So we could say that in effect Paddington has “met” the Queen, but until this new story Pooh had not.

 

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[review + giveaway!] taking a peek at The Forest Feast for Kids by Erin Gleeson

If you want to get your kids to eat their veggies, ask them to feast their eyes on Erin Gleeson’s gorgeous photos of Carrot “Noodle” Salad, Kale and Black Bean Tacos, Bay Potatoes, and Pesto Pepper Pizza.

They’ll marvel at the stunningly showcased variety of colors, shapes and textures, then ask to see more. Grazing through the sweets, they’ll drool at the divine close-ups of Fried Banana Split, Plum Tartlets, and Melon “Cake.” You’ll likely hear cries of “I’m hungry!”, “I want some!” and maybe even,”What’s edamame?”

(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

A quick glance at the illustrated recipes and they’ll be anxious to make some of the dishes themselves. And yes, before you know it, they’ll be happily eating their fruits and their veggies, eminently proud of their newfound skills.🙂

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sing a song of soup, or, may peace soup be with you

Mixed Media Soup Collage by Melissa Sweet

 

Since January is National Soup Month, thought we’d celebrate with a bit of art, a heartening song and a bowl of homemade soup.🙂

Pictured above is one of my prize possessions — an original Melissa Sweet watercolor I won in a Small Graces auction back in 2010. It all started in 2009 when Newbery Honor author/illustrator Grace Lin donated 11 original paintings to benefit the Foundation for Children’s Books (now Wondermore). In 2010, twelve different illustrators donated their work, and each month a new painting was auctioned off.

Guess what was featured in January? Melissa Sweet’s SOUP painting had my name written all over it and I was thrilled when I won. This piece continues to feed my soul every single day.🙂

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[Author and Illustrator Chat + Giveaway] Eat Your U.S. History Homework by Ann McCallum and Leeza Hernandez

Huzzah, Fine Friends, Huzzah!

Put on your deerskin skirts and mantles, your finest waistcoats and breeches, your linen aprons, your three-cornered cocked hats and buckle shoes.

‘Tis a banner day for those of us who like to eat our homework.🙂 Yes, the third book in the popular Eat Your Homework series by Ann McCallum and Leeza Hernandez officially hits shelves today!!

You may remember how these clever, ravenous ladies tessellated our taste buds (Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds (2011)) and cooked up culinary magic in the kitchen lab (Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds (2014)). With their lip smacking recipes, easy-to-digest info and fetching illustrations, these books quelled math phobia and demonstrated scientific principles at work in our everyday lives.

And now, with Eat Your U.S. History Homework: Recipes for Revolutionary Minds (Charlesbridge, 2015), Ann and Leeza serve up six chewy slices of America’s early history by highlighting events and food from 1620 – 1789. That would be from the time the Pilgrims landed in America till George Washington became our first President.🙂

Wrap your lips around some Thanksgiving Succotash while reading about the arrival of the Pilgrims and how the Wampanoag people taught them to hunt and grow food in the New World. Sweeten your understanding of the thirteen original colonies while getting down with some Colonial Cherry-Berry Grunt. Nosh on Lost Bread while considering what was behind the French and Indian War.

No lesson on slavery and Southern plantation culture would be complete without a tall stack of Hoe Cakes, and when there are rumblings of discontent about unfair British taxation and 45 tons of tea get dumped into Boston Harbor, you’ll want to fortify yourself by joining the patriots for coffee and Honey-Jumble Cookies in the taverns where they’re making big plans. Finally, when it’s time for full-out war and signing the Declaration of Independence, nothing better to get you riled up than an Independence Ice Cream food fight!

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