nine cool things on a tuesday

cooldimsumposterbig1. Few things make me happier than the thought of Dim Sum, so this delectable giclée print by Ellen Blonder pretty much gets me where I live. The watercolor paintings are from Ellen’s wonderful book, Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch (Clarkson Potter, 2002). Love the precise detail and quiet beauty of her work.

cooldimsumcoverAlso available is this print featuring art from Ellen’s award winning cookbook Every Grain of Rice: A Taste of Our Chinese Childhood in America (1998), which she co-wrote with Annabel Low. Both prints are signed, available in several sizes and are printed with archival-quality ink on acid-free paper. Gorgeous!

cooleerygrainbiggraincoverBe sure to visit Ellen’s website to see more of her exquisite paintings and her impressive list of awards, commercial clients and projects. Prints are available at her Etsy Shop.

*ETA: Ellen is on a short break, and will re-open her shop March 15.

Since 2017 is the year of the Rooster, here’s one of Ellen’s rooster paintings (she lives on Kaua’i where roosters run free).


2. These chilly winter days are perfect for indoor craft projects. Check out Margaret Bloom’s latest book, Making Peg Dolls & More: Toys That Spin, Fly, and Bring Sweet Dreams (Hawthorn Press, 2014):

mollycover2This inspiring new collection by Margaret Bloom builds on the success of her first book Making Peg Dolls. With peg dolls at the heart of each design, you’ll discover how easy it is to create toys which fly and spin, pin cushions, herbal pocket friends, wall-hangings, and much more. All projects are richly illustrated throughout with hand-drawn diagrams and full color photos.

The easy-to-follow instructions will guide you through a selection of simple and more advanced designs. Many of the projects are suitable for young children and will only take an hour or two to complete. Interwoven with poems, songs and stories, the projects can engage the whole family in the art of crafting and playing with these magical toys!

margaret-bloom-making-peg-dolls-favourite-page-vegetablesmolly3mollyonemolly4These dolls, which come from the Waldorf handcraft tradition,  are so sweet and will inspire hours of imaginative play and storytelling. Don’t you want to enter this tiny world of enchantment?

Here’s the cover of Margaret’s first book, Making Peg Dolls (Hawthorn Press, 2013):

mollycoverOh, and my foodie self was especially happy to see tutorials for making a peg doll dining table and tiny cakes (!) at Margaret’s blog, We Bloom Herewhere she regularly features fun projects for the whole family to enjoy. 🙂


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mulligatawny, anyone?

Mulligatawny: An East Indian soup having a meat or chicken base and curry seasoning.

It all started because I wanted to try a new recipe for National Soup Month. Of course, I thought of this (that’s Larry Thomas as the Soup Nazi):

Kramer is my favorite Seinfield character, and the Soup Nazi’s Indian Mulligatawny was his favorite soup. He called the man a “soup artisan,” “a genius.” It was because of Kramer that Elaine, George, and Jerry checked out that little soup place to begin with. Of course I wanted to make some. Had the real Soup Nazi, Al Yeganeh, put out a cookbook? No such luck.

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sip slurp slurp: more soup picture books

Thanks for trudging in the cold and snow to drop by today!

The soup kettle’s on at this very moment, and the savory aroma of Mulligatawny has drifted upstairs to my office. Mmmmm, it’s a new recipe, and I can hardly wait to taste it.

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yummy soup picture books to feed your kids

So, what’s next after your kids have slurped down their chicken noodle?

I’ve tossed some of my favorite picture books into the kettle today, to make a fine literary soup. I think the appealing variety of ingredients will satisfy:

1.  BEAR SLEEP SOUP by Jasper Tomkins (Green Tiger Press, 1989), ages 4-8.

I’ve been a Jasper Tomkins fan ever since I purchased his first book, The Catalog (Green Tiger Press, 1981). I can’t be objective about his work at all, since his books always seem to hit me in the right place. They’re quirky, whimsical, and endearing without being overly cute. The Jasper Tomkins experience is kind of like having a puppy lick your face while you’re rolling on the ground. In Bear Sleep Soup, baby bear fails to eat the special fall soup her family prepares, so she remains wide awake while everyone else is hibernating. How will she pass the winter?

2.  MARTHA SPEAKS, and sequels, MARTHA CALLING  and MARTHA BLAH BLAH (not pictured), by Susan Meddaugh, (Houghton Mifflin, 1995, 1996, 1998), ages 4 to 7.

This is kind of where it all started for me, with the alphabet soup thing. Martha the dog eats some one day, and the alphabets travel to her brain instead of her stomach. The result: a talky dog. In the first two books, Martha uses her adept phone skills to nab a burglar and win a radio call-in show. In Martha Blah Blah, we see what happens when the soup company leaves out half the alphabet. An interesting look at the dog’s point of view and the power of words, with funny cartoon captions. 

3. CHICKEN SOUP BY HEART by Esther Hershenhorn, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger (Simon & Schuster, 2002), ages 4-8.

When Rudie’s elderly sitter, Mrs. Gittel, gets the flu, he decides to make a pot of her famous soup. After all, she’s the Chicken Soup Queen, and if he makes her recipe to perfection, it’ll surely help her get well. Good thing he remembers the secret ingredient: stories about the soon-to-be-soup-eaters. As Rudie stirs these in, we are warmed with stories of their unique friendship. Mrs. Gittel’s chicken soup recipe is included.

4. ALVIE EATS SOUP by Ross Collins (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002), ages 4-8.

Alvie might easily be my alter-ego. Here is a boy who only eats soup. His first word wasn’t “Mommy.” It wasn’t “Daddy.” It was “Mulligatawny.” There was no bribing him or depriving him. Soup it had to be. Panic ensues when Granny Franny comes to visit. She’s a world famous chef. Can’t let her know about Alvie’s picky eating habits. If they order a whole bunch of food, maybe she won’t notice what Alvie’s not eating. Lively cartoonish drawings (with captions!) makes for a bowl full of fun.

5. PUMPKIN SOUP, and DELICIOUS!, by Helen Cooper (FSG, 2005, 2007). ages 4-8.

I love stories about friendship, and this series of picture books (there’s also a third, called Pipkin of Pepper, not pictured here), is truly heartwarming. In Pumpkin Soup, Duck, Cat, and Squirrel make pumpkin soup the same way together every day. Cat slices the pumpkin, Duck adds the salt, and Squirrel stirs in the water. But one day, Duck decides he wants to be the one to stir. They argue, and Duck leaves in a huff. Will the three remain friends? In Delicious!, a big problem arises when there are no ripe pumpkins available to make the soup. Cat and Squirrel try to appease Duck with mushroom and fish soup, but he’s a picky eater, and won’t even try their pink (beet) soup. Both books contain appropriate soup recipes.

6. The folktale, Stone Soup, is probably the most well-known soup story in children’s literature, with over two dozen picture book adaptations to its credit. When three hungry soldiers approach a village, the stingy people there scramble to hide all their food, since they are suspicious of strangers. Clever and undaunted, the soldiers announce they will make soup out of stones. The villagers are fascinated, and little by little, they furnish the ingredients for enough soup to feed everyone.

The Marcia Brown version (Atheneum), which won a Newbery Honor Medal in 1947, is still the best, and should be included in every child’s collection. The old fashioned 4-color illustrations evoke just the right tone of timelessness. I like some of the multi-ethnic versions, too, particularly CACTUS SOUP, by Eric Kimmel, pictures by Phil Huling (Marshall Cavendish, 2004). It is set in San Miguel during the Mexican Revolution, and features a soup made from a single cactus thorn, along with chile peppers and stewing hens.

Also notable is STONE SOUP by Jon Muth (Scholastic Press, 2003), which is set in China. I love the ginormous soup pot and the fascinating ingredients:  pea pods, lily buds, taro root, winter melon, mung beans, yams, and cloud ears, among others. And since I have a thing for poet monks, Hok, Lok, and Siew are appealing characters. Other retellings feature nails and buttons instead of stones, proving that when you set out to make soup, anything on hand will do. The making and sharing of soup might just be the most convincing literary symbol of cooperation and resourcefulness. Stone Soup is the ultimate equal opportunity tale, embracing all cultures, using many different ingredients blended together in a universal bowl.

7. Finally, we can’t forget the newest addition to the soup story kettle, DUCK SOUP (HarperCollins, 2008), by the one and only Jackie Urbanovic, who will be here tomorrow!  Maxwell the duck is busy making an original recipe, when he decides something is definitely missing. While he’s out in the herb garden, his friends, Brody, Dakota and Bebe, come to visit. They see a feather floating in the pot, but no Max. Their frantic search for him is hilarious. A great read-aloud!


in a stew

So yesterday I was thinking about how I’ve been blogging almost six months, and how I’ve failed all 5 of my faithful readers.

This blog is called jama rattigan’s alphabet soup: a children’s writer offers food for thought and fine whining.

Well, I’ve had so much fun eating, I forgot to whine!

So today, I’m going to make it up to you.

Sticking to our theme, of course. 

Any Seinfeld fans out there? Remember the Soup Nazi?

This character was based on a real-life soup vendor named Al Yeganeh, who ran Soup Kitchen International in midtown Manhattan. Apparently his soups were superb, but he was a meanie. Maybe moody would be a better word to describe his arbitrary granting of extra bread or candy to some customers and not others, and his insistence on everyone following his strict rules of ordering and paying up front, then quickly moving over to the left to pick up the soup. Any unsolicited comments, failure to keep the line moving, or wrong shade of lipstick could set him off with his world-famous rant: 


This man has inspired me. No more soft-spoken, green tea sipping, bullet biting, small Korean woman in flannel bunny pajamas who wouldn’t dare disturb the universe. No! 

Today, I decide who gets soup and who does not! 

I will make all the rules!

I will not be consistent, sensible, diplomatic or intelligible!

Just for you, my friends (all 5 of you), I will flip my lid!

Until further notice, the following people, places, things, or ideas WILL NOT be allowed to eat soup, look at soup, or even think about soup, period. You are hereby banned from the pleasures of any form of broth, consomme, stew, stock, avgolemono, billy-bi, bird’s nest, bisque, borscht, bouillabaisse, burgoo, caldo verde, callaloo, chowder, cioppino, cock-a-leekie, gazpacho, gumbo, menudo, minestrone, mulligatawny, pepper pot, pistou, potage, she-crab, or vichyssoise, for starters. Strict penalty will be enforced. No exceptions or extra crackers.


1. Males who hawk gobs of phlegm onto the sidewalk or expectorate out of cars.
2. Companies who overwrap products in thick plastic which must be cut with giant shears or torn apart by a member of the World Wrestling Federation.
3. Anyone who texts or talks on the phone while driving.
4. People who pick their noses in public.
5. The person who decided eating liver was a good idea.
6. Intolerance, ignorance, or discrimination.
7. The DMV
8. Thieves, internet hackers, warmongers, or the chronically arrogant.
9. Anyone in favor of banning books.
10. Houseguests who chatter or smile before noon.
11. People who talk on cell phones in stores, libraries, restaurants, airplanes, or any other public place where others may be disturbed.
12. People who don’t like poetry or Bob Dylan or the Beatles.
13. Hecklers and bullies.
14. Murderers, child abusers, and the big green Mucinex guy.
15. Men who slather themselves in cheap cologne.
16. People who leave coffee stains and crumbs in library books.
17. Overly zealous soccer moms or dads.
18. People who talk in movie theatres.
19. Doctors who lack bedside manner.
20. Poverty.
21. People who don’t mean what they say, or don’t say what they mean.
22. Liars, cheaters, Glade air fresheners.
23. Closed minds. 
24. People who talk, but don’t listen.
25. Fair weather friends.
26. People who are impatient with children, the elderly, or the infirm.
27. Parents who don’t read to their children.
28. Parents who don’t teach their children to write thank-you notes.
29. Stupid people (read about Mr. Kurtz here).
30. Anyone who mispronounces my name. (Reference here.)
31. Telemarketers.
32. People who ask writers, “Have you published anything yet?” 


Mmwahahahahahahahahahaha!! (Evil world domination laugh borrowed from Jules.)

Wow. That felt good, in a strange Allen Ginsberg-y sort of way.

While we’re at it, why not stew in it some more?

Here is a delicious Green Chile Chicken Stew recipe posted last month by Sara Lewis Holmes (Read*Write*Believe). It’s easy and so satisfying! The potatoes and creamed corn give the soup a nice creaminess without the added calories or fat of a traditional creamed soup.

And if you’re in the mood for some snuggling with your kids, try Donna Koppelman’s  Snuggle Night Beef Stew. Perfect for warding off the January chill.


Tell me, who’s on your NO SOUP list?

P.S. If you happen to be guilty of #30, I will accept bribes of cash or free books.