nine cool things on a tuesday

 

1. How about a bit of nature, whimsy, nostalgia, and coziness? New Hampshire artist Madison Safer’s work has a charming storybook quality to it that feels safe and comforting.

 

 

 

Hers is a world of owl apothecaries, rabbit beekeepers, people wearing mushroom hats, and fairy birthday parties where ladybugs, squirrels and wee folk chat over cake. I love that humans and animals are on equal footing, and that woodland creatures of all kinds co-exist peacefully.

 

 

Madison studied illustration at Montserrat College of Art and she works mainly in watercolor, gouache and acrylics.

 

 

 

She’s inspired by Eastern European art, folk art traditions, vintage Victorian postcards, old 50’s field guides, and classic children’s books like Frog and Toad Are Friends and The Wind in the Willows.

 

 

In addition to creating narrative illustrations, Madison is keen on plant and natural education, perfectly in keeping with the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife right outside her door. Favorite pastimes include daydreaming, drinking tea, napping, and stealing flowers. She is happiest in a field of mushrooms.

 

 

For more, visit Madison’s Official Website, Instagram, and Etsy Shop, where you can purchase prints, stationery, and other goodies. Enchanting!

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celebrating colin’s birthday with 2 treats from The Secret Garden Cookbook (+ a giveaway)

♥️ Special thanks to Marian from the Netherlands for inspiring me to write this post. 🙂

“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of someone else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”  ~  Archibald Craven (Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, The Secret Garden)

 

 

Guess who’s turning 60 on September 10?

Hint: he knows how to rock a waistcoat and cravat, is fluent in Italian, plays the guitar to relax, likes to tease fellow actor Gary Oldman about the size of his *ahem* manhood, almost voiced Paddington Bear in the movies, looks good WET (dry, and in-between), and even if you cook blue soup, he likes you just as you are.

Yes, it’s Colin, aka my secret husband (SO secret, even he doesn’t know about it). Fine specimen of a human being, don’t you think? Doesn’t look a day over 39. 🙂

 

Colin Firth as Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden (2020).

 

Unless you look at him playing Archibald Craven in the new Secret Garden movie. Have you seen it yet? They were all set for a big UK cinema premiere back in April, followed by the U.S. in August. But of course the pandemic changed everything, so instead, the movie went straight to video on demand beginning August 7, and will now open in UK cinemas October 23.

 

 

Colin, Colin, Colin, you’ve never looked so wretched, weary, or downtrodden. But Archibald is, of course, consumed with grief over the loss of his wife, making him inaccessible to his son and unable to properly care for his newly orphaned niece Mary Lennox, who comes to stay at Misselthwaite Manor.

 

Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters), Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), Colin Craven (Edan Hayhurst), Dickon (Amir Wilson) Archibald Craven (Colin Firth)

 

This new 2020 version (don’t worry, I promise not to be too spoilerish), is the fourth produced for the big screen, and Colin was attracted to the role because of the lavish garden scenes (which unlike previous films, were not confined to a single, walled-in area, but features an expansive, wide ranging terrain representing Mary’s unbounded imagination), as well as the “design concepts” of the castle, which really became a symbol for Archibald’s state of mind: dark, destructive, depressive. The creepiness of the house is highly atmospheric and underscores the tragic decline of what was once a joyful life.

Colin doesn’t get much screen time in the new movie; this makes sense since the story revolves primarily around the three young people: Mary, Colin Craven, and Dickon. The time period has been moved up to 1947, after WWII, instead of the early 1900’s as the book was originally set, and there is a new “character,” a stray dog named Jemima (later Hector, when his gender is confirmed), who helps lead Mary to the garden wall and gate key along with the robin.

 

Mary with Hector (this scraggly pup is a scene stealer!)

 

The spirit remains true to the original — the transformation of sickly, morose, isolated children into happy and healthier souls who blossom and thrive with newfound friendship, fresh air, good and nourishing food, and the magic of making things come alive.

Did you know this was the second time Colin appeared in a Secret Garden adaptation? Thirty-three years ago, when he was just 27, he played an adult Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie that’s told as a flashback from the POV of an adult Mary. Colin only appears at the very end, when he reunites with Mary after the war . . . and there’s romance!

 

Colin as Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie.

 

So it seems fated that Colin appear in these films, since there is a ‘Colin’ who has a major role in the novel, and he actually played this Colin years ago. Something else that’s cool about the 1987 version is that it was filmed at Highclere Castle. As a Downton Abbey fan, I enjoyed seeing familiar exteriors and interiors. 🙂

In addition to studio sets, the new 2020 movie was filmed at various gardens around England and North Wales, on location in Yorkshire, and at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire. Knebworth is a cool place all its own, known for hosting awesome rock concerts (Stones, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton), and has been a choice setting for many other films, including “Nanny McPhee” and “The King’s Speech.” I imagine Colin feels quite at home there. 🙂

 

Poor Archibald. He needs some good food to restore his spirits!

 

The Secret Garden is one of my top three all-time favorite children’s novels, so it’s really icing on the cake to see Colin, however briefly, in two of the movies. Revisiting this classic, whether between the covers or up on a screen, tends to make me hungry because hearty farm-fresh Yorkshire fare helped restore Mary and Colin to optimum health. Okay, time to eat.

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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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[review + giveaway] The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

“Imagine, if you can, what the rest of the evening was like. How they crouched by the fire which blazed and leaped and made so much of itself in the little grate. How they removed the covers of the dishes, and found rich, hot, savory soup, which was a meal in itself, and sandwiches and toast and muffins enough for both of them.” ~ A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Reading Kate Young’s new cookbook is like sitting in the kitchen with a good friend and chatting endlessly about cherished stories while noshing on all manner of sweet and savory homemade treats.

Fancy a Room with a View iced coffee and meringue, a stack of Pippi Longstocking Swedish Pancakes, a slice of Moominland Pear and Lemon Birthday Cake, or a Franny and Zooey Chicken Sandwich?

If you’re a fan of her literary food blog, The Little Library Café, or read her Novel Recipes column in The Guardian, you know Kate is Australia-born, but now lives in London, where she works as a private cook and food writer who caters weddings and hosts regular supper clubs. With her lifelong passion for food in literature, she’s been able to strike a delicious chord with accessible, doable recipes and captivating personal stories.

The Little Library Cookbook: 100 Recipes from Your Favorite Books (Sterling Epicure, 2018), might be the most comprehensive literary cookbook I’ve come across in ten years of blogging, since it includes classic and contemporary works of fiction for both children and adults. It was just as much fun reading about old favorites as it was learning about new-to-me titles, which I’m anxious to read now that I know about all the food they contain. I certainly look forward to some stimulating bookish travel: what about Paris for tea (The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford), Holland for warm cinnamon rolls (The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt), or Naples for pizza (My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante)?

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