seven layer picture book cake!

Art by Julie Paschkis

Hey, Good Lookin’, the cake kart’s here! What’s your pleasure?

Today, I’m dreaming about german chocolate cake. Mmmm, that distinctive caramel-y frosting full of coconut and pecans! No, maybe I want some chocolate cheesecake. I have a delicious recipe that’s oh so smooth and creamy. Then again, since the weather has definitely warmed up, it might be refreshing to think light — angel food, sponge, or chiffon. But what about a nice homemade pineapple upside down cake — that’s certain to evoke fond childhood memories. Sigh. So many cakes, so little time.

While I’m trying to make up my mind, why not sample some of these charming cake picture books? They’ve been lovingly baked with the finest ingredients, are great for kids ages 4-8, and will rise to any celebratory occasion. Reading, after all, is the best party going.

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SOUP’S ON: Melissa Sweet in the Kitchen Interview and Book Giveaway!

Melissa with Rufus and Nellie.

Friends, I’m tickled pink and over the moon, because our very special guest at alphabet soup today is 2009 Caldecott Honor Medal winner, Melissa Sweet!

 I can’t think of a better way to top off National Poetry Month, than with the illustrator who so brilliantly rendered the story of how Willie Williams, a doctor from Rutherford, New Jersey, became one of America’s most influential twentieth century poets.

If you’ve seen Melissa’s masterful work in A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams (beautifully written by Jen Bryant), then you know the award was supremely well deserved. Her mixed media collages embody the very soul and spirit of the poet, who “walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths . . . stretched out beside the Passaic River . . . watched everything,” took notes “about things he’d heard, seen, or done . . . looked at the words . . . and shaped them into poems.”

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a dose of dylan

"A poem is a naked person. Some people say that I am a poet." ~ Bob Dylan

So, I simply can’t celebrate National Poetry Month without mentioning my man. 

Found this very cool piece in Vanity Fair by Duff McDonald, called "Inside Dylan’s Brain" (click through to lopez2k95’s photostream, "all sizes," to see full size version of graphic).

By cataloguing some of Dylan’s themes, musical preferences, quips, quotes and other bits and pieces from his Theme Time Radio Hour show on XM Satellite radio, McDonald has given us a glimpse into the mind of the Pulitzer Prize winning song and dance man.

I like that Dylan’s given advice on "How to Walk Like a Runway Model," and "How to Give Yourself Dreadlocks." He’s played George Jones more than any other artist; he’s mentioned Shakespeare, Poe, Joyce, Cummings, Yeats, Plath. He’s pontificated on Women’s Names, Shoes, Thanksgiving Leftovers and Spring Cleaning. And you gotta love a man who makes his own barbecue sauce and meatballs, and shares his recipe for Figgy Pudding. Fascinating stuff!

Read the entire list at Vanity Fair.

I also listened to "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" again, and found it very moving, still relevant in these turbulent, uncertain times. This poem is the only one Dylan has ever read in public (April 12, 1963 at New York Town Hall); it’s a tribute to the man who probably had the strongest influence on his music, and speaks to the crucial role the poet/songwriter/artist has in society. Eric Clapton said this about Dylan:  

He’s a poet. Basically he’s a poet. He does not trust his voice. He doesn’t trust his guitar playing. He doesn’t think he’s good at anything, except writing—and even then he has self-doubts. Have you heard that thing he wrote about Woody Guthrie? That to me is the sum of his life’s work so far. Whatever happens, that is it. That sums it up.

You can find the poem in its entirety here.

friday feast: i love me some little cakes

From Denslow’s Mother Goose, 1902.

While reading up on Medieval/Elizabethan food for Shakespeare’s birthday yesterday, some very fetching banbury cakes insisted that I pay attention to them.

Naturally, I was reminded of the English nursery rhyme, and the time Len and I traveled to Banbury for a taste of those famous cakes. Food, you see, is always the great motivator.

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happy birthday to the bard!

“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” ~ Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.

Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, not yet authenticated.

Huzzah, I say, Huzzah!

And, bullyrook, scullion, rampallian, fustilarian! Let me tickle your catastrophe, o trencher-friends!

Lords, Ladies, Cousins and Curs: don your finest cauls, corsets, breeches and brocade! Only your finest jeweled or flowered ruffs will do. If thou hast need for a codpiece, joyfully tie a big one
on — for today is Will Shakespeare’s 445th birthday!

Ay, our most beloved red-haired poet, actor, and dramatist from Stratford-upon-Avon, who gave us 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and several other poems besides, is still the brightest star amongst all the luminaries who ever dared to tarry with the English language. His comedies, tragedies, and histories are still the most widely performed on the planet, and even after centuries of scholarship, speculation, and debate — some details of his life, as well as doubt over his authorship, continue to mystify and enthrall enthusiasts and detractors alike.

Franco Zefferelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” (1968).
photo from EmMe09’s photostream.

I must admit I didn’t truly “get” Shakespeare until I saw the Franco Zefferelli version of “Romeo and Juliet” in high school. I remember swooning over Leonard Whiting, and thinking Olivia Hussey the most beautiful woman ever. For the first time, I really listened to Shakespeare as these actors delivered their lines, and realized how beautiful, varied, complicated, precise, multi-faceted, and glorious the English language really was. For months afterwards, I listened to my R&J record and recited some of the most memorable speeches, imagining myself in “fair Verona, where we lay our scene.”

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