facehook: a facetious finale for the letter F

**Postponed from an earlier date due to fa la la, falderol, et. al.


On the world’s most popular social networking website, I’m just a face.

My life (i.e., the gospel according to Facebook) is one big F: friends, fans, followers, feed. I can face the facts, face the music, lose face, or face off. It’s fun fun fun, and absolutely free!

There’s more: With a click click here and a tap tap there, I can instantly be in your face. "Like" my fan page? Be my friend? Isn’t it simply fab? No need for fuss or formality. Because now, I am famous. My profile page says so.


When I first joined Facebook fifteen months ago, I was all a-flutter with the possibility of coming "face-to-face" with faraway family members, long lost classmates, neighbors who’d moved away, all kinds of awesome people associated with books and publishing. I could scroll through my News Feed and get the latest skinny on all the fads and fibs in my carefully circumscribed FB world. Who wouldn’t covet "the power to share, to make the world more open and connected"?

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merry merry to all!

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."  ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Happy Winter and Happy Holidays!


Most everything on my to-do list is now done:

Wrap and ship gifts.
Put up Christmas tree and other decorations.
Hang outside wreaths.
Hang stockings.
Mail holiday cards.
Bake cookies! 
Plan and shop for Christmas dinner.
Sweep chimney for Santa’s arrival.
Make peanut butter and seed pine cones for birds.
Practice favorite carols on the piano.

I still have a little more baking to do. The resident bears want to make Gingerbread Teddies (sounds a little cannibalistic to me). Though I love eating them, it’s quite a job chasing those little fellers down after they come out of the oven (read more about them here). And Len has requested date bars, a favorite tried and true recipe from Hawai’i that always elicits eye rolling and enthusiastic "mmmmmmmmmmm’s" (in two part harmony, of course).


We went to see the Vienna Boys’ Choir the other night. I always crave live choral music during the holidays. It reminds me of playing piano for the choir back home (my dad sang bass), the time we sat in Westminster Abbey right next to their boys’ choir, and our first Christmas in Virginia, when Len and I attended a candelight service at a small church in Colonial Williamsburg. 

There are 100 choristers (ages 10-14) in the VBC, divided into four touring choirs (Hadyn, Schubert, Bruckner, and Mozart). We heard the Schubert Choir, 25 adorable boys in spiffy white sailor uniforms with earnest faces and angelic voices, who sang classical compositions, Austrian folk songs, and several familiar carols. As I sat listening to those pure, soaring notes filling the theatre on a cold winter’s night, I remembered our trip to Vienna (beautiful coffee houses and pastries), and thought it might be nice to adopt (or rent) a choir boy for the holidays. He could sing in the kitchen and we’d reward him with an abundance of cookies. I guess I must have a thing for choir boys since I married one. ☺

We gave Fuzzy the Fox some pizza and chicken last night, and he proceeded to clean out his den so he could store the food in his woodland larder. We love our wild animal pets, especially the tidy ones. The deer have been nibbling on pumpkin seeds leftover from Thanksgiving, and the squirrels are happy with the almonds and bread I toss out the kitchen door.


This will be my last post of 2010, and I want to thank you, dear blog friends, for visiting, reading, noshing on virtual food with us and commenting. There would be no alphabet soup without you.

Wherever you are, however you celebrate, I wish you a beautiful and delicious holiday, and PeaceJoy, and Love in the New Year. I will be back the first week of January with a brand new menu of tasty children’s books and lots of food for thought. Of course we’ll save your place at the table here, and look forward to catching up with your news then.


I leave you with the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Is there anything sweeter than a child’s voice raised in song?

♥ Recipes for the cookies shown or mentioned in this post can be found here.

♥ This post is brought to you by Festive, Fun, and Fa la la la la la la la la!

♥ In case you missed any of the 2010 F is for Fall posts, click here.

mantle_wreath.gif Christmas Garland image by SmileyPaisley

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!"  ~ Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

♥ my darling, my bento ♥

When the going gets tough, the tough get BENTO!

Seriously. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, just hearing the word, “bento,” makes me happy. It’s childhood, Hawai’i, and the most ono-licious comfort food all lovingly packed in the perfect box.

Who can resist those perfect size portions of rice (or maybe musubi with ume), chicken katsu, beef teriyaki, nishime, and kamaboko? There is something so very reassuring and personal about a little meal just for one, its ingredients carefully chosen for their complementary tastes, textures, and colors.

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wherein i give you the f-f-f-f-f-f-i-n-g-e-r!

       What did Chekhov say to Churchill?

Finger puppets, that is.

Magnetic personalities from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild are my favorite stocking stuffer. I like to match up my friends and relatives with just the right puppet. Charlie Chaplin for a movie buff. Eleanor Roosevelt for a penpal who loves history. For the science freaks, Einstein, Edison, Curie, Galileo. Artsy types love Monet, Kahlo, Picasso, Warhol, Dali. 

And there are lots of literary puppets — Melville, Austen, Joyce, Shakespeare, Parker, Poe, Hurston — as well as cool luminaries from the performing arts, politics, psychology, and um, philosophy. Every year I check out the new ones, and add a few to my collection. They’re really quite versatile.

They make interesting canapes:

can be used as tree ornaments:

are quite willing to perform musical numbers,

even make great table centerpieces.

Of course, you have to keep your eye on the mischievous ones.

George Washington Carver will likely find your peanut butter stash,

Theodore Roosevelt will glomb onto Theodore Teddy,

Monet will go ga-ga over your flowers,

the President will likely orate to the masses,

and Warhol will raid your soup pantry.

Are they really magnetic? Heck yeah!

(Sir Isaac Newton tries to defy gravity.)

Of course, they’re fabulous for dressing up your fingers. Why bother with gloves or jewelry? Wearing puppets to match your outfit is the height of haute couture. Pass out puppets to your guests. Imagine the stimulating after dinner conversation! 

They can be purchased singly or in cool sets: Nutcracker Suite, Forgotten Presidents, Great Writers, Great Artists, Great Composers, etc.

So, if you know someone lacking a personality, give him/her a magnetic one for Christmas ☺. If your friends already have good personalities, gift them with fun personas to play with! But don’t take my word for it. Watch this:

♥ Check out all the magnetic personality finger puppets here. The UPG also has dolls, cards, mugs, and other interesting gift items.

♥ More F is for Fall posts here.

♥ This post is brought to you by FINGERS, FUNFALDEROL, and these luminaries:

"If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." ~ Sir Isaac Newton

"You ask me: what is life? That is like asking: what is a carrot? A carrot is a carrot and that’s all there is to it." ~ Anton Chekhov

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." ~ Winston Churchill

"Art is never finished, only abandoned." ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

"I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers." ~ Claude Monet

"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." ~ George Washington Carver

"No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency." ~ Theodore Roosevelt

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

"I am a deeply superficial person." ~ Andy Warhol

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

eight good things

Brrrrrrrrrrr! Call me Nanook.

Dem cold winds are blowing! Way too early for this sort of thing, if you ask me. Just walking to my mailbox feels like an arctic expedition. If this keeps up, I’ll have to call out the sled dogs.

The good news is, I don’t have to venture out to the Mall or the post office. I’ve just about completed my holiday shopping and mailing, except for a few stocking stuffers. I’ve got a good supply of green tea, warm cider, and raisin cinnamon English muffins. And soon the cookie baking will begin. Warm oven = warm house.

Meanwhile, here are eight good things:

  Yay! I successfully completed the PiBoIdMo Challenge! *pauses while everyone applauds* I came up with 48 picture book ideas in 30 days. Of course not all of them are viable. Some are half-baked and need stronger hooks. Some require more research before I can decide whether they have legs. But there are about 15 solid ideas I’m quite excited about. ☺

This was a good brainstorming challenge which got me into the habit of recording things without obsessing too much about whether they were good enough or not. Looking over my list, I am surprised at how many ideas are really floating out there, how one idea begets another, and how your perception of simple things is altered when you make a habit of really paying attention. I’m not one of those writers who is always flooded with great ideas and regrets not having enough time in one lifetime to develop them all. I struggle to find subjects really worth pursuing. So this challenge was very freeing and made me stretch in different directions — I’ve got quirky and quiet, multicultural, foodie, and historical on my list now. Oh, the possibilities . . . enough to keep me busy for a long time. ☺ Thanks again to Tara Lazar for organizing the challenge.

 Giveaway Reminder: You have until midnight (EST) Sunday, December 12th, to enter to win a signed copy of Maha Addasi’s new picture book, Time to Pray (Boyds Mills Press, 2010). Click here for all the details. My review of this title is here.

Chronicle Books Happy Haul-idays Giveaway: You have until this Friday, December 10th, to leave a comment on any of the participating blogs for a chance to win $500 worth of books. Check out my wish list and get all the details about this incredible contest.

The Winter Blog Blast Tour (WBBT), organized by Colleen Mondor, is in full swing. There are some fabulous in-depth interviews with the likes of Cynthia Hand, L.K. Madigan, R.J. Anderson, Josh Berk, and Salley Mavor, among others. Check out the full schedule at Chasing Ray.

Loved this article about one of my all-time favorite author/illustrators, Allen Say, at OregonLive.com. The words that come to mind whenever I try to describe his work are "exquisite," "sublime," "dream-like." Read my author spotlight on Allen Say here.

Have you checked out the incredible online interviews at The Paris Review? They date from the 1950’s to the present day and include so many wonderful literary luminaries, such as Capote, Faulkner, Franzen, Hemingway, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Bishop, my former English professor/biographer Leon Edel, and this fascinating one with P.L. Travers. A valuable resource worth bookmarking!

If you’re looking for some holiday cookie recipes, check out my Cookie Party post, which features favorites from several children’s authors, bloggers, and my half-sister Sylvia (uber-talented former personal chef to Barbra Streisand).

 Love this video of Toni Buzzeo’s writer’s cottage that Cynthia Lord posted the other day. I had the pleasure of meeting Toni briefly this past summer at the VCFA Katherine Paterson Tea. Enjoy!

And that, my friends, is a wrap!

♥ More F is for Fall posts here.

Help yourself:

Linzer Cookies by Herbert Harper/flickr.

*Vintage 1908 illo at the top of this post from Royce Bair’s flickr photostream/The Stock Solution.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved