“Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music.” ~ Paul McCartney
Why, hello. Thought we’d serve up some lemon drizzle cake in honor of Paul McCartney’s 74th birthday tomorrow. Please help yourself to a piece or two or three and a nice warm cuppa.
While you’re sip sip sipping and ever-so-politely wiping crumbs from the corners of your mouth, enjoy Paul’s “English Tea,” which I strongly suspect he wrote just for me. See if you agree:
Am I not a “nanny bakes fairy cakes” kind of person who tends to veer into twee at a moment’s notice? I think “English Tea” should become Alphabet Soup’s official song.
Miles and miles of English garden stretching past the willow tree . . . lines of holly, hocks and roses listen most attentively.
It’s hard to believe Paul is going to be 74; he hasn’t slowed down one bit. Right now he’s in the midst of his One on One Tour, and just a week ago he released “Pure McCartney,”a comprehensive retrospective collection of his solo, Wings and Fireman work available in 3 formats: 2CD, 4CD and 4LP. The 4CD version features an amazing 67 tracks, all handpicked by the man himself.
To help promote “Pure McCartney,” he’s done a series of six virtual reality mini-documentariesfilmed in his home studio in England, where he discusses backstories and recording/production tidbits about some of his songs. These can be seen in 360-degree videos or in virtual reality on a mobile app for Android or iOS.
I love how he continues to be on the forefront of studio technology. Never one to rest on his laurels, he’s always been pro-innovation (Sgt Pepper, anyone?) — the mark of a true creative, a musician through and through. When it comes to staying power and audience appeal in a rapidly changing and highly competitive industry, Paul takes the biscuit!
1. A monocle, a top hat, a mustache? Definitely the cat’s meow! Am loving Vickie Liu’s adorable donuts and cookies. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Vickie calls herself an amateur baker and professional eater. She started baking in high school and studied architecture and interior design in college.
It was only after getting her degree that she was finally able to devote more time to indulging her passion for decorating sweets. She’s developed quite a following on Instagram and her future plans include launching a lifestyle blog and running a home bakery. Her creations fall into the category of “too cute to eat,” but I think I could be convinced. Yum.
2. Heads up, unpublished children’s book authors of color: check out the Roll of Thunder Publishing Contestsponsored by Penguin Random House in partnership with We Need Diverse Books.™
“In 1974, the Council on Interracial Books sponsored a writing contest seeking out diverse voices. Mildred D. Taylor was the winner of the African-American segment for the manuscript that became Song of the Trees (Dial, 1975), her first book. It introduced the Logan family and was followed by Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), which won the Newbery Medal.
Forty years later, in partnership with We Need Diverse Books™, Penguin Young Readers celebrates this momentous publication by launching a debut children’s fiction contest to find talented, ethnically diverse authors writing for readers ages 8-14.
Submit your manuscript for a book about diversity for ages 8-14 and you could receive a publishing contract from Penguin Random House LLC!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:01:01 AM Eastern Time on April 26, 2016 and 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time on June 21, 2016. Open to people of color (or those who self-identify as other than white) who are residents of the fifty United States, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories and possessions, aged 18 and older.
PRIZE: The confirmed winner will receive a book publishing contract for the publication of a novel for ages 8-14 by Penguin Random House LLC, with an advance of $35,000, plus royalties as follows: (i) on hardcover, 10% up to 50,000 copies and 12.5% thereafter; (ii) on paperback, 6% up to 50,000 copies and 7% thereafter; (iii) on audio, 8% of net; (iv) ebook, 25% of net; (v) world rights/all subrights at a 50/50 split; and (vi) an option on their next children’s or YA novel.
Judging will begin on or about June 28, 2016, and one winner will be chosen from the final group of ten (10) submissions narrowed down from all entries received. Entries will be judged based on (i) overall storytelling; (ii) creativity; (iii) originality; and (iv) writing ability, with equal weight given to each criterion.”
A gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists.
Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not wicked things born from mud, as most people of her time believed. Through careful observation she discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented her findings in gorgeous paintings of the life cycles of insects.
More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England. To him they were merely a source of income, but to Mary they held a stronger fascination. Intrepid and patient, she eventually discovered fossils that would change people’s vision of the past.
Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell helped her mapmaker father in the whaling village of Nantucket. At night they explored the starry sky through his telescope. Maria longed to discover a new comet—and after years of studying the night sky, she finally did.
Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates the joy of discovery and finding wonder in the world around us.
I’m a huge Jeannine fan in general and loved Borrowed Namesto pieces, so I’m really excited to read Finding Wonders. Her books are meticulously researched and she is brilliant at excavating and fashioning telling detail to masterful effect, giving the reader an intimate, uniquely nuanced view of her subject(s). She has such a beautiful way of crafting words, whether poetry or prose. Don’t miss this one!
“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.” ~ Michael Levine
Please don’t wake me. I’m in the midst of a chocolate truffle dream. I’m surrounded by beautiful bonbons and it’s my job to taste them. One by one, I wrap my lips around the scrumptious hand-shaped orbs, savoring each note of exquisite flavor as they slowly melt on my tongue.
Deep Milk Pleasure with its creamy milk chocolate buttery center takes me back to the after school treats of my childhood. With the rich white chocolate of Coconut Rum Paradise I’ve washed up on the shores of Hawai’i, while the Original Dark, with its chocolate liquor and handsome dusting of Scharffen Berger cocoa, speaks of men in tuxedos waltzing in dimly lit ballrooms.
With an Irish last name, I’m entitled to an Irish Cream Dream. I breathe in the heady aroma of Bailey’s Irish Cream before gently sinking my teeth into the rich Valrhona chocolate shell, my taste buds tickled by those sprinkles of coffee-infused El Ceibo. It’s like meeting Aidan Turner at the corner pub. Pure ecstasy!
Since I am serious about my chocolate, I save the best for last: Uber Dark and Decadent. Dangerous and devilish, this one is capable of bringing even veteran tasters to their knees. This is how it is with 70% cacao and sassy cinnamon– one small taste and you’re hooked. Come over to the deepest darkest dark of the dark side.
In my mother’s kitchen, there was always a gallon jug of Aloha Shoyu and a 100 lb. bag of calrose rice in the cupboard; garlic, ginger, toasted sesame seeds and green onions in the fridge, and papayas and bananas on the counter.
The middle child of 12 and second oldest daughter, Margaret was known in the family for her good Korean food, a style of cooking she learned from her mother and continued to develop through decades of practice. She never used written recipes for the Korean dishes, magically turning out batches of kimchi and other banchan, platters of bulgogi, kalbi, jap chae, shrimp and vegetable jhun, and bowls of mandu with the studied efficiency and honed techniques of a master chef.
Though she had a hutch full of English bone china, I think she valued most the set of stainless steel pots and pans she once purchased from a door-to-door salesman when I was 9 or 10. “Don’t ever give these away when I’m gone,” she reminded my brother and me repeatedly. “They don’t make cookware like this anymore.” She was right of course. Those pieces served her well for over 50 years and thousands of meals.
1. The old saying, “good things come in small packages,” couldn’t be truer when it comes to these cool leather-bound miniature books by Colorado artist Ericka VanHorn. These are 1/12 scale and reflect Ericka’s love of fantasy, whether it’s wizards, witches, or steampunk.
In addition to handmade mini books, she creates old curiosities like hourglasses, collector’s cabinets, celestial instruments, potions, scrolls, wands, and candelabras. Most of her items are one of a kind and sell quickly, so the best way to keep up with new pieces is to subscribe to her mailing list. Her brand is “EV Miniatures,” and you can see more of her work at her website (currently under construction), on Pinterest, or at her Facebook page.
2. Just in case you’re suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal (and missing Mrs Patmore and Daisy in particular), take a look at these wonderful historic kitchens, all of which are open to the public. I especially like the working kitchen in Wordsworth’s childhood home in Cumbria with its hanging herbs, Queen Victoria’s holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight (built at 3/4 scale to teach children life skills), and the kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, at one time the largest kitchen in England (it would have to be to feed Henry VIII’s court of 600). Love the big fireplaces, work tables and rows of copper pots! Nice places to tour, but I wouldn’t want to actually work in any one of these with their hard-on-the-feet stone floors.
3. From the Cooler than Cool Department especially for Poetry Month: haiku to go. Really! Have you heard of The Haiku Guys & Gals? They’re a group of performance poets based in NYC, LA, DC, the Berkshires, and traveling worldwide. Next time you organize and/or host an event, consider commissioning these talented people to write on-the-spot custom haiku for all your guests. What could be more fun? Hand them a subject, watch them compose a 5-7-5 mini masterpiece on their antique typewriters. That’s what I call a cool party favor!
Read this article by Haiku Guys & Gals co-founder Lisa Markuson, who recently quit her job to become a full-time haikuist! What?! Yes! Talk about taking a leap of faith and following your dreams. Her words about confidence will inspire and hearten you. I also LOVE this wonderful review of the ovenly bakery in NYC (prose + senryu) from The Haiku Guys & Gals blog.
What’s that? You’re craving a haiku right this minute? Click over to the site and request a free haiku. Just provide a subject (as specific as possible), and you will receive a custom haiku in your mailbox within 48 hours. Of course I had to test this out for myself. I submitted “Colin Firth in the Kitchen” as my subject. And look what came back:
he can take an egg and turn it into heaven– hearts, into butter
LOVE! A swoon-worthy senryu! Do they know me, or what? I can tell Colin likes this poem too. Oh yes, I can tell.
4. Perhaps you have noticed that I am a little more than mad for English pottery. I’ve been collecting for years, most recently Emma Bridgewater pieces — so I was happy to read Emma’s memoir, Toast and Marmalade and Other Stories (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015), which shows how she built her business from the ground up with the help of family and friends, factoring in various life events, hard work, serendipity, and flying by the seat of her pants.
I think part of what draws collectors like me to Bridgewater pottery is that it feels personal. Usually when you buy dishes or other home goods, they’re made by a big faceless company and you have no idea who designed the styles and patterns. But Emma is a real person, married to another talented artist, Matthew Rice, and they seem to live an idyllic life in the English countryside, so you feel like you’re buying into that fantasy when you buy the dishes.
Anyway, I loved the memoir and can’t wait to read Emma’s new book Pattern (& the Secrets of Lasting Design), which comes out at the end of May. It features the stories and inspirations behind her iconic designs, the research and collaborations that went into the creative process. This sounds like essential reading for Bridgewater collectors and design students, or anyone who might enjoy the human story behind a familiar piece of crockery. Years after many of the big pottery factories in Stoke-on-Trent closed, Bridgewater continues to thrive, and unlike some manufacturers who’ve transferred production to Asia, Bridgewater still makes all their pieces on-site. I like seeing that coveted “Made in England” backstamp. You can read more about Emma here.
5.Korean food lovers! Found this piece about Korean small plates/side dishes, or “banchan” as they are called, interesting. I’ve eaten many of them, but learned about quite a few new ones. Blistered Shishito Peppers, Dried Squid and Gochujang, Daikon and Garlic Pickles, anyone? It certainly proves that when it comes to Korean cuisine, variety is the spice of life. Take a look if you’re curious about the names and ingredients of these palate pleasers beyond the usual varieties of kimchi and muchim.
6.New picture book alert: happy to report that Hawaii-born author Frances Kakugawa has published the fourth book in her popular Wordsworth the Poet series! The new one is called Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket(Watermark Publishing, 2016):
Wordsworth has hardly seen his friends all summer. They have been too caught up in their electronic devices to pay attention to anything around them, and now they are tangled in wires and gadgets! A mysterious old mouse tells him that the secret to saving his friends is in his pocket—what does he have that can help? Emphasizing creative play, imagination and the fun of the outdoors over the allure of video games, computers and cellular phones, this new Wordsworth adventure is a gentle reminder for families that it’s important for young minds to unplug and enjoy real-world friends and activities. Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket is the fourth book in the award-winning series of books featuring the poetry-loving mouse.
Sounds like many electronically ensnared adults should read this book too. What happened to the fine art of face to face conversation? Is it possible for people to go anywhere without constantly checking their cell phones? Like me, Frances is concerned about how overdevelopment is harming the planet and how technology has de-humanized society. If you missed it, read the interview we did when the third Wordsworth book was released a few years ago. All the Wordsworth books celebrate the power and wonder of poetry.
Available for the first time and collected in one volume, the letters of one of America’s most beloved authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a treasure trove that offers new and unexpected understanding of her life and work.
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a vibrant, deeply personal portrait of this revered American author, illuminating her thoughts, travels, philosophies, writing career, and dealings with family, friends, and fans as never before.
This is a fresh look at the author in her own words. Gathered from museums, archives, and personal collections, the letters span over sixty years, from 1894 to 1956, and shed new light on Wilder’s day-to-day living. Here we see her as a businesswoman and an author through reflections on her beloved Little House books; her legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom; and her readers and as a wife and a friend. In her letters, Wilder shares political opinions and reminiscences of frontier childhood. Also included are letters to her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, who filled a silent role as editor and collaborator while the famous Little House books were being written.
Wilder biographer William Anderson collected and researched references throughout these letters, and the result is an invaluable historical collection, tracing Wilder’s life through the final days of covered wagon travel and her years of fame as the writer of the Little House books. Here we see her as a farm woman, a country journalist, and a Depression-era author. This collection is a sequel to her beloved stories and a snapshot of twentieth-century living.
Definitely on my Wish List!
8. A delicious treat for Tolkien fans: “Food in the Hobbit” from the Oakden website. Besides their hairy feet, I love that hobbits usually eat 6 meals a day (two dinners!). This article provides a historical context for the foods they enjoyed + traditional recipes (seed cakes, pork pies, scones, mince pies, breads, griddle cakes). Oakden sells handmade reproductions of authentic and traditional English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh cookware, baking plates, griddles, and bakestones. Best to keep your larder stocked in case some hungry dwarves should drop by.
9. If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve gone crazy for coloring books and you just happen to be a Julie Paschkis fan, GOOD NEWS: she just added a coloring book to the cool items for sale at Julie Paprika. Since she believes coloring is a wonderful communal activity, her pages are unbound and perfect for sharing with friends. Just picture it — a laid-back evening around the table, everyone busy coloring and chatting and sipping wine or tea. . . Read Julie’s post about Imagination Unbound, which includes 21 images printed on heavy card stock suitable for crayons, markers, pencil, and watercolor.
10. Love this video about Japanese school lunches. This is in sharp contrast to some situations in America, where students have only 15 minutes to wolf down a slice of greasy pizza between classes. In Japan the entire lunch period is a learning experience, a time to practice social etiquette and to share responsibilities for food service and clean-up. Love that everyone brings his/her own set of chopsticks, a placemat, and a toothbrush. The whole thing is so civilized and nurturing. Why can’t we do this in our schools?
11. Finally, if you’re still suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal, rest easy: the brilliant and oh-so-thoughtful Julian Fellowes is coming to the rescue with his new novel, Belgravia (Grand Central Publishing, 2016)! The hardcover print version won’t be out until July 5, but in the meantime you can read the novel in 11 weekly installments just like they did back in Dickens’s day. Episodes 1 & 2 will be released and available for download on Thursday, April 14, 2016. Read or listen on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.
There’s also a Progressive Blog Tour for Belgravia, with reviews and discussions of each weekly episode on different host blogs. The blog tour kicks off at Austen Prose on April 14, where you can view the full schedule. Download the app from the official Belgravia website, where Julian provides more details in a video. Kindle users, go here.