friday feast: a little poem and pie for mother’s day

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.

Margaret’s 8th grade graduation picture. This is our oldest known photo of her. How did she look as a baby, toddler or grade school student?

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.

This simple ladle, used by my mother and grandmother to serve countless bowls of dumpling soup, was placed in Margaret’s casket when she died in 2014. What I would give for just one more bowl of her soup.

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poetry friday roundup: mother’s day edition

“If I had a flower for each time I thought of my mother, I could walk in my garden forever.” ~ Anonymous

Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

I’m happy to be back and hosting the Roundup this week. Please help yourself to some strawberry shortcake and green tea.

I made the shortcakes with Bisquick in honor of my mom. We grew up on these, along with Bisquick pancakes and waffles. It’s nice to remember those carefree days before trans fats became a no-no. Care for an extra dollop of real whipped cream? Only the best for you. ūüôā

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by Khalil Gibran

I am a kind word uttered and repeated
By the voice of Nature;
I am a star fallen from the
Blue tent upon the green carpet.
I am the daughter of the elements
With whom Winter conceived;
To whom Spring gave birth; I was
Reared in the lap of Summer and I
Slept in the bed of Autumn.

At dawn I unite with the breeze
To announce the coming of light;
At eventide I join the birds
In bidding the light farewell.

The plains are decorated with
My beautiful colors, and the air
Is scented with my fragrance.

As I embrace Slumber the eyes of
Night watch over me, and as I
Awaken I stare at the sun, which is
The only eye of the day.

I drink dew for wine, and hearken to
The voices of the birds, and dance
To the rhythmic swaying of the grass.

I am the lover’s gift; I am the wedding wreath;
I am the memory of a moment of happiness;
I am the last gift of the living to the dead;
I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow.

But I look up high to see only the light,
And never look down to see my shadow.
This is wisdom which man must learn.


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Mom, me and my brother Newton. She let me call her Margaret :).

Besides being a good cook, my mother was an avid gardener who had an extensive knowledge of tropical plants. Monstera, hapu’u, red ginger, heliconia, plumeria, anthuriums, bird of paradise — she knew them, grew them, filled ceramic vases with blossoms and cuttings. She inherited some of my grandmother’s orchid plants, which thrived under her loving care.

When I complained once about disliking hot weather and the searing Hawaiian sun, she said, “You’re like a greenhouse orchid.” Quite true when considering my finicky personality and love of climate control, but I still took it as a compliment. ūüôā

I am the memory of a moment of happiness;

She was surrounded by pink kalanchoe, white orchids and purple hydrangea when she died. The day before, she had turned in her bed to look up out the window at the beautiful blue sky and the stretch of ocean where she had enjoyed happy fishing days on my brother’s boat. I thought of a line from my favorite Truman Capote short story: “As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.”

But I look up high to see only the light,
And never look down to see my shadow.

She was honored at her memorial service with standing wreaths and sprays of white and yellow chrysanthemums, white gladiolus; pink, white and purple dendrobium, pink roses and carnations, and pink and orange stargazer lilies.

I am the last gift of the living to the dead;
I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow.

Writer friend Candice Ransom says that a white carnation signifies your mother has passed. I will be holding mine close on Sunday, savoring the fragrance of good memories.

If you’ve lost your mother too, these are for you.

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Please leave your links with the ravenous but reliable sausage connoisseur Mr. Linky. Don’t forget to put the name of your poem or title of the book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name. Thanks for joining us today — enjoy all the poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere!

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‚ô• A Special Note from Jane Yolen ‚ô•

I send out a brand new poem every day to subscribers, and the only thing I ask in return is that at month’s end, they either buy a book of mine or borrow one from their local library and read it.

Since I have 350 books out, that should be a piece of cake! More numbers, this is my second year of doing this for subscribers, of whom there are now over 400! It’s also my fourth year of writing a poem a day. Most of the poems I send are adult poems, but occasionally there are new children’s poems as well.

To get on the list, send me an email request: janeyolen (at) aol (dot) com. If the request comes before May 10, I will catch you up on the first ten May poems. After that, you will be started on June 1.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all. What kind of flower is your mother?


Copyright ¬© 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

sunday bear: julia alvarez

“Cornellia” by Barbara Whisnant (German distressed mohair, antique baby dress, 1989)



Woman’s Work
by Julia Alvarez

for Judy Yarnall

Who says a woman’s work isn’t high art?
She challenged as she scrubbed the bathroom tiles.
Keep house as if the address were your heart.

We cleaned the whole upstairs before we started
downstairs. I sighed, hearing my friends outside.
Doing her woman’s work was a hard art

to practice when the summer sun would bar
the floor I swept till she was satisfied.
She kept me prisoner in her housebound heart.

She shined the tines of forks, the wheels of carts,
cut lacy lattices for all her pies.
Her woman’s work was nothing less than art.

And I, her masterpiece since I was smart,
was primed, praised, polished, scolded, and advised
to keep a house much better than my heart.

I did not want to be her counterpart!
I struck out . . . but became my mother’s child:
a woman working at home on her art,
housekeeping paper as if it were her heart.

~ from She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems, edited and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (Hyperion, 2011).


‚ô•¬† Today’s Sunday Bear Hug is brought to you by Mr. Cornelius, who is eating three extra cream scones today in honor of mothers everywhere, past and present. Have a beautiful Mother’s Day, everyone!



Copyright ¬© 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

here’s to the best mom!

               Margaret and me, when I found out Paul had married Linda
Isn’t my mom a beauty?

Here are a few things she taught me:

You’re smarter than you think.
Be generous and kind.
Have confidence.
Clint Eastwood is hot.
I have huge feet for a short person.
It’s important to have a nice complexion.
Think positive.
Exercise is critical, no matter what your age (at 83, she bowls and does aerobics).
Be organized and prompt.
You can be anything you want to be, but clean your room first.
There’s nothing more important than family.

                YOU’RE MY FAVORITE MOM! 


sweet treat for mother’s day

      by Diane deGroat (HarperCollins, 2008), 32 pp., ages 4-8

Back in October, I interviewed¬†children’s author/illustrator Diane deGroat as part of Robert’s Snow: Blogging for a Cure.¬†We had a lot of fun talking about her taxidermy collection, and she showed us¬†how she created one of the pictures for her newest book about Gilbert the possum,¬†Mother, You’re the Best! (But Sister, You’re a Pest!).

Published by HarperCollins and released this past March, this 11th title in the¬†wildly popular Gilbert and Friends series of picture books (appropriate for ages 4-8), finds Gilbert longing to please his mother with a special gift. After burning the toast, spilling the cereal, and drenching his Mother’s Day card in orange juice, Gilbert¬†takes breakfast upstairs to Mother, but his younger sister, Lola, is already there. He is jealous of Lola sitting on Mother’s lap, so he¬†offers to take Lola to the store.

As the day unfolds, Gilbert¬†ends up giving Lola a bath, and then reading to her at naptime — both attempts to keep Lola from¬†absorbing all of Mother’s attention. At the end of the day, he discovers to his surprise that he has given Mother the gift she wanted most of all — some time to herself.¬†And to sweeten the pot, he finally gets what he’s longed for all day — some time alone with her.

This story is endearing and heartfelt¬†without being saccharine, and expresses well¬†an older sibling’s longing for¬†one-on-one parental attention.¬†Buoyant watercolor illustrations draw the reader into Gilbert’s warm,¬†cozy world of home, school,¬†and neighborhood.¬†A lovely addition to home or school libraries!

I asked Diane to share a favorite childhood recipe, and she sent me this:


Wonder bread
fresh peaches (very ripe)

1. Peel and cut peaches into large chunks, removing pits and any brown spots. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Let sit until the sugar is dissolved and syrupy.

2. Spread margarine onto both sides of bread. Fry until browned and greasy.

3. Spoon some peaches over the hot bread, and eat it with a knife and fork.

**This recipe is also included in Writers in the Kitchen, compiled by Tricia Gardella (Boyds Mills Press, 1998). Diane offers this preface:

My mother regarded cooking as an unnecessary evil. Rheumatic fever in her childhood left her without a sense of smell or taste, which was helpful when changing diapers for five kids, but did nothing for the subtleties of food preparation. Her own personal diet consisted of Velveeta cheese with Ritz crackers and¬†Pepsi spiked with Port wine; supper for the rest of us was usually hot dogs and burnt french fries, or meat loaf made from ground beef and oatmeal. Period. I know we had salt in the cabinet — we used it to melt ice on the front steps, but if we had anything like garlic or basil, it never found its way into the meat loaf.

Sometimes she made something delicious, like peaches on toast. It appeared whenever the market had a run on overripe peaches, which were free. I’ve made it with whole grain bread and Pam instead of margarine, but the original is still better.

Visit Diane’s website¬†for a full list of all her wonderful books, and if you missed it,¬†check out the¬†in-depth interview.