lettuce celebrate easter with beatrix potter’s flopsy bunnies (+ 2 recipes!)

Spring is finally here and Easter’s coming up this weekend — which means it’s time for a little Beatrix Potter!

Always fun to reread her little Peter Rabbit books and play with the Beswick porcelain figurines that wait patiently all year in the butler’s pantry cupboard. Take us out, they say. Dust us off and take our picture!

Who will be in the spotlight this time?

Hmmmm. Last year we wrote about The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley. Most everyone knows Peter’s story and its sequel featuring Peter’s cousin Benjamin Bunny, who returns with him to Mr. McGregor’s garden to get Peter’s clothes back.

Potter followed that adventure with The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909), that’s about Benjamin and Peter all grown up. Benjamin is now married to Peter’s sister Flopsy and they have six children “generally called the ‘Flopsy Bunnies.'” We soon learn that lettuce will play a key role in this story. ūüôā

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific.’

I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.

They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!

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remembering aunty esther’s christmas cookies

They were simple butter cookies decorated with multi-colored sprinkles. She packed them in round plastic containers with a gift tag that read, “Merry Christmas from Uncle Keung Ho, Aunty Esther, Patti and Cindy.”

Each of my mother’s eleven siblings and their families received a batch of these lovingly baked treats every year. Their rich, velvety texture, generous kiss of vanilla, and perfect crispness made other holiday cookies pale by comparison. These cherished gems also had a way of magically disappearing within minutes of their arrival.

When we told her how much we loved her cookies, my aunt would often half apologize: “We can’t afford to buy presents, so we gave everybody cookies.”

She visited us in 2001.

I wish I had been articulate enough to properly thank her for our only homemade present. How to put a price on time, care, a gentle spirit, an open heart?

Little did she know how everyone waited and waited for her cookies, and when they finally came, what jubilation!  More than a gift, they symbolized another passing year, a sweet reminder of how lucky we were to have such a large, close-knit family.

These days, I don’t bake quite as many holiday cookies as I used to, but I usually try my hand at Aunty Esther’s butter cookies. And I say, “try,” because so far, I haven’t been able to duplicate them even using her exact recipe. Did she add a secret ingredient? Lightly tap the rims of her mixing bowls with a magic wand? Maybe it was her apron, a certain time of day, or her favorite music playing in the background.

I was a lucky child, blessed with many gifts each Christmas. Aside from a certain yellow sweater and a beloved Ruthy doll, I don’t remember most of them, but I still covet Aunty Esther’s cookies, which were flavored with her kindness, love of books and music, and appreciation for all things bright and beautiful.

BUTTER COOKIES

1 lb. butter
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar well. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until batter is light and fluffy.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to batter gradually and mix well.

Shape into balls, flatten slightly with the back of a teaspoon and decorate with non-pareils.

Bake at 325 degrees F about 16 minutes.

*This batter can also be used to make thumbprint cookies. After rolling into balls, make an indentation in each cookie with your finger or the end of a wooden spoon. Bake 10 minutes, fill with your favorite jam, then bake 5-6 minutes longer.

TIP: Make these with someone you love, or share them with someone you love. Make a new memory. No one will ever be able to duplicate them!

“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.” ~ Alexander Smith

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Copyright ¬© 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

loving lisa schroeder’s sprinkles and secrets

Cover Bear Pauline loves this book!

We’ve been having lots of fun recently¬†in the Alphabet Soup kitchen thanks to Lisa Schroeder’s Sprinkles and Secrets (Aladdin, 2011).

*nibbles on a Monster Cookie*

Not only have I reread this totally scrumptious companion book to It’s Raining Cupcakes (Aladdin, 2010), but I made Monster Cookies — one of two recipes included in the book (the other is Isabel’s prize-winning Chocolate Jam Tarts). Perfect way to get into the holiday spirit AND indulge my neverending cookie cravings.

Just in case you haven’t read Sprinkles and Secrets (please remedy that immediately!), it’s about Isabel’s best friend Sophie, an aspiring actress who gets her big chance to audition for a¬†television commercial. She’s thrilled, of course, until she finds out she’d be advertising for Beatrice’s Brownies, the chief competitor to Isabel’s family’s cupcake shop. She tries to keep the specifics of the commercial under wraps for fear of jeopardizing her friendship with Isabel, but things go from bad to worse when she wins the audition and¬†still can’t bear to tell Izzy. How do you choose between your fondest dream and your BFF?

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‚ô•love‚ô• = susan branch cookie jar

I’ve been a longtime Susan Branch fan, and have a pile of her books and calendars to prove it. Her drawings and watercolors are every bit as gorgeous as her handwritten quotes, musings and commentaries, and her illustrated recipes are the best, so lovingly infused with her special brand of cozy charm.

Recently she included this wonderful Cookie Jar in her Willard Email Newsletter, decorated with the names of some of her favorite holiday recipes. Clicking on the words gets you the recipe –don’t you just love it? Click here to access Susan’s Cookie Jar; you’ll probably want to make something right away!

‚ô• If you’re not already reading her blog, you really should. Like me, you’ll probably want her to adopt you, so you can live in her beautiful home on Martha’s Vineyard, play with her adorable cats, sip tea and warm cider in front of the fireplace, and cook delicious foods in her vintage kitchen.

‚ô• For some last minute gift ideas, check out her Shop!

For the month of May in her 2012 Heart of the Home Calendar, there is this quote from Margaret Fuller: “The special genius of women I believe to be electrical in movement, intuitive in function, spiritual in tendency.”

She’s also laid out a Mother’s Day Tea Party! On the menu: Lavendar Tea Cookies, Orange Cake, Cream Scones with Clotted Cream and Coconut Layer Cake with Lemon Filling, among other treats. Yum yum yum! Her calendars are such wonderful keepsakes.

‚ô• Special thanks to Susan for permission to post the Cookie Jar here ‚ėļ!

Sigh. There’s nothing like “homemade.”¬† Have a lovely day, Everyone!

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Copyright ¬© 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

chatting with hallie durand about no room for dessert

Put on your favorite bibs, Hallie Durand is here!

Those of you familiar with the indescribably delicious early chapter books featuring the irrepressible Dessert Schneider (who is synonymous with fun, surprises, a little mischief, lotsa spunk and –*wait for it* — fondue), are in for a treat.

You may remember when I featured Dessert First, where we first met this enterprising third grader who loves all things sweet and tries to convince her parents (who own a fondue restaurant) that they should eat dessert before dinner. Remember how she scarfed down an entire pan of double decker chocolate bars?¬† Clearly a book with my name written all over it. In Just Desserts, Dessert forms the Annoying Siblings Club, since as the eldest of four kids, she’s more than qualified to lead the charge against pesky brothers and sisters.

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