nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy December! Though the holidays will definitely feel different this year, we can still daydream about idyllic times past. No better way than to escape into Jane Newland’s art.

Fancy the peaceful countryside or a brisk winter walk? 🙂

You may remember when we featured Jane’s work last year. She’s from the UK and does all her work digitally. Her lovely scenes are calming and filled with exquisite detail.

Deep breath. Deep breath. Ahhhhh . . .

Check out her website shop to purchase prints, and for the latest, follow her on Instagram.

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2. Speaking of the holidays, here’s a sweet gift for a special friend (or why not treat yourself?). Yes, you deserve it. 🙂

Susan Branch’s latest book is called Home for Christmas (Spring Street Publishing, 2020):

A brand new book from  New York Times bestselling author and watercolor artist Susan Branch. Home for Christmas is a heart-warming tale of a childhood Christmas in the years after World War II, with Susan, her parents and her siblings. A book for all ages, told from a child’s perspective, filled with anticipation and hope, it’s a charming story about the enduring love of family that reads like a long illustrated letter. A beautiful Christmas gift, because we need a little EXTRA Christmas now. 

We certainly need an extra large dose of nostalgia this holiday season, especially since many of us will not be attending the usual in-person family gatherings. There’s nothing more comforting than fond memories, reminding us to cherish the times we’ve had and to give us hope that good times will come again.

You probably know I’m a longtime Susan Branch fan; can’t get enough of her charming hand-lettered books and watercolor art. I love her eternal optimism (“happy gene”) and as far as I know, no one does heartwarming better. Her gift books and cookbooks are all treasures. Add this one to your collection.

*More about this book in an upcoming post. 🙂

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nine cool things on a tuesday

“Blue Skies” by Nathaniel Mather

 

1. Well, of course — must share something blue to kick off the first Cool Things Roundup of 2020. Memphis-based artist Nathaniel Mather is a recent discovery for me; another case of love at first sight.

I enjoy the playful spirit and child-like quality of his narrative pieces. Colors, textures, and simple renderings of flowers and animals evoke 19th century primitive folk art, but still feel contemporary.

 

 

His compositions have a wonderful “unstudied” quality about them — a brand of sophistication that’s difficult to pull off well.

 

 

 

 

As a typography freak, I swooned when I noticed text and numbers in some of his work. Letters floating around in paintings always make me happy, but alphabets in two blue trees? Have mercy!

 

 

He wants to produce work that is “true, beautiful, and restorative” . . . reflecting “God’s wonder and grace while wrestling with daily struggles and pain.” One can’t help but feel uplifted by his art.

Learn more about Mather’s work at his Official Website and Etsy Shop, NathanielMatherArt.

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alcott’s little women: a pair of poems and yummy gingerbread (+ a holiday blog break)

“I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!” ~ Jo March

 

Season’s Greetings!

Are you excited about the Little Women movie opening on Christmas Day?

To get us in the mood for all things Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Marmee and Laurie, I’m sharing two poems from the novel and a recipe from the new Little Women Cookbook by Wini Moranville (Harvard Common Press, 2019).

 

 

I think most of us can remember when we first read Louisa May Alcott’s classic — I was nine, staying with two older girl cousins downtown for about a week during the summer. We spent most of our time playing “school,” and during one of our “classes,” I began reading Little Women.

 

 

Since I wasn’t able to finish before it was time to return home, my cousin Judy let me take her copy with me (it was an abridged edition published by Whitman in 1955). I can’t remember if it was a loan or a gift, but I do remember her telling me how much she loved the book and that I should definitely read it.

Fast forward to 6th grade, when we acted out the opening scene in English class. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” was my Jo March ‘stage debut,’ marking the first time I would read the entire novel. Like so many others, generation after generation, I was hooked for life.

 

 

I so wanted to belong to the March family, to experience that deep bond of sisterhood. I had a huge crush on Laurie, and loved Mr. Laurence because just like Beth, I loved music and playing the piano. Of course I identified with Jo, because she was a writer, only wishing I could be as feisty and forthright. And wasn’t Marmee the best mother anyone could ever ask for? As the child of a working mother, I envied children whose moms had the time and patience to listen to all their concerns.

Just like The Secret Garden made me fall in love with England, Little Women made me long to visit New England — the gorgeous autumn colors and beautiful winter vistas! the rich history and Colonial architecture! the lobstah rolls, fish chowdah, maple syrup, brown bread, baked beans, boiled dinners, Indian pudding, Yankee pot roast . . . *drools* . . .  “licks chops”. . . oh wait, where was I?

 

 

With the new movie coming, I decided to reread the book, since it had been about a decade since I last gave it my full attention. When I scanned my bookshelves, I found Judy’s copy alongside my Little, Brown edition. Didn’t realize I still had it! It’s probably the only book that survived my childhood. My mother gave away my entire Golden Books collection (still grieving), and though I read voraciously, I didn’t own many novels — mostly everything came from the library.

 

 

One of the things I especially enjoyed this time around was taking a closer look at the poems Alcott included in the story. There was the elegaic “My Beth” of course, as well as the incantations in Jo’s play featuring Hagar, Roderigo, and Zara. In a letter Jo sent to Marmee, she included “a silly little thing” for her to pass on to Father about helping Hannah with the wash, the delightful “A Song from the Suds.” And who can forget that splendid Christmas when Jo and Laurie made a snow-maiden,  complete with a crown of holly, a basket of fruit and flowers, and a carol, “The Jungfrau to Beth,” to cheer up the convalescent?

 

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nine cool things on a tuesday

 

1. Hungry for a little lunch? Not so fast — you may have a little trouble actually eating this one, since it’s actually — *wait for it* — a purse!

 

 

Yes, Rotterdam based artist Rommy Kuperus is still creating her amazing, over-the-top accessories for fashion forward peeps who enjoy wearing their food.

 

 

 

 

And why not? Rommy’s pieces are handmade, totally calorie free and 100% eye-catching fun. You may remember when we interviewed Rommy a few years back. Glad to see she’s still going strong and bringing out new designs all the time.

 

 

 

I was especially tickled to see her instant ramen purse (having just reviewed Andrea Wang’s picture book biography of Momofuku Ando, who invented instant ramen).

Check out all of Rommy’s delicious offerings at her Official Website or at her Etsy Shop, RommydeBommy. Bring your appetite! 🙂

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2. Look at what I just started reading: Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books by Clare Pollard (Fig Tree, 2019). It came out this summer, and so far, I’m really enjoying it!

 

 

What is The Tiger Who Came to Tea really about?
What has Meg and Mog got to do with Polish embroidery?
Why is death in picture books so often represented by being eaten?

We’ve read Green Eggs and Ham, laughed at Mr Tickle and whetted our appetites with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But what lies behind the picture books that make up our childhood?

Fierce Bad Rabbits takes us on an eye-opening journey in a pea-green boat through the history of picture books. From Edward Lear through to Beatrix Potter and contemporary picture books like Stick Man, Clare Pollard shines a light on some of our best-loved childhood stories, their histories and what they really mean. Because the best picture books are far more complex than they seem – and darker too. Monsters can gobble up children and go unnoticed, power is not always used wisely, and the wild things are closer than you think.

Sparkling with wit, magic and nostalgia, Fierce Bad Rabbits weaves in tales from Clare’s own childhood, and her re-readings as a parent, with fascinating facts and theories about the authors behind the books. Introducing you to new treasures while bringing your childhood favourites to vivid life, it will make you see even stories you’ve read a hundred times afresh.

Clare is a British poet and playwright whom I was not previously familiar with. Now I’m going to have to check out her poetry too! And, in case you’re wondering, the cover art for this book was created by fave British illustrator Emily Sutton. 🙂

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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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