nine cool things on a tuesday

coolbootsorange

1. Well, now, here’s something I haven’t done before: get my daily dose of Vitamin C from a pair of boots! Orange you just tickled by these? Certainly a fun way to brighten up a rainy day.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a “thing” for fake food. When I visited Japan years ago, I LOVED all the fake food dishes displayed in the restaurant windows. They looked very realistic and handily solved the problem of not being able to read the menu. 🙂

coolramen
Ramen
cooldandannoodles
Dan Dan Noodles
coolsausageplatter
Sausage Variety Plate

Fake Food Hatanaka sells these orange boots and other accessories, along with plates and bowls of amazing deliciousness: Chinese, Japanese, or Western food, sweets, fruits, sandwiches, and drinks. They also do miniatures if you’re a dollhouse person. Get Google to translate the Japanese to English on the site, purchase via Paypal, and you’re all set!

coolbootsicecream
Ice Cream Boots

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2. New picture book alert: Sweet Competition by Liz and Jimmy Reed (HarperCollins, 2016).

coolsweetcompeititionLiz and Jimmy Reed, the creators of the Cuddles and Rage webcomic, have whipped up a truly delectable picture book debut featuring the antics of competitive twin cherries who will do anything to outsweet er, outsmart one another.

For this pair of twin cherries, everything is a competition. If Girl Cherry can swing higher, Boy Cherry will boast that he can swing lower. If one is smarter, then the other is cooler. So when they enter a contest to build the best dessert ever, they immediately pit themselves against each other. But when you’re attached at the stem, there’s only so much you can do on your own. Things could be easy as pie so to speak if they put aside their differences and join forces. Will Boy Cherry and Girl Cherry cream the competition by working together or will one try to be the cherry on top?

With loveable characters and laugh-out-loud situations, Sweet Competition is the perfect addition to any child’s bookshelf. After all, there’s always room for dessert!

Find out more from the creators at All the Wonders!

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autumn pleasures: three poems, butternut bisque, and gingerbread applesauce cake

Hello Friends. Can’t believe it’s already the end of October!

Fall is going much too fast for me. I wish there was a way to make it last longer — trees aflame with color, deep blue skies, crisp mornings, apple everything and friendly pumpkins! If I had my way, I would skip summer entirely and have two autumns in a row.

More than any other season, Fall reminds me to make the most of each moment. Lovely though it may be, there’s always this sense of reckoning, the gathering in and taking stock, and with that an acute awareness of life’s evanescence.

“Pumpkin Patch” by Paul Peel

AUTUMN
by Linda Pastan

I want to mention
summer ending
without meaning the death
of somebody loved

or even the death
of the trees.
Today in the market
I heard a mother say

Look at the pumpkins,
it’s finally autumn!
And the child didn’t think
of the death of her mother

which is due before her own
but tasted the sound
of the words on her clumsy tongue:
pumpkin; autumn.

Let the eye enlarge
with all it beholds.
I want to celebrate
color, how one red leaf

flickers like a match
held to a dry branch,
and the whole world goes up
in orange and gold.

~ from Heroes in Disguise (W.W. Norton, 1992)

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Celebrating Susan Branch’s Latest Books with Tasty Words, Pics, and Potato Chip Cookies

“Never let anyone tell you magic doesn’t exist or that fairies aren’t real. It isn’t cynicism that will change the world. Do your best to believe in yourself, and even if you don’t, keep trying to and never give up. If all else fails, use your imagination and pretend.” ~ Susan Branch (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

Though I’ve been a Susan Branch fan for decades, until I read her 3-part illustrated memoir I knew only a little about her personal life or how she started painting, writing, and publishing.

It was love at first sight when I discovered her greeting cards, calendars and illustrated cookbooks back in the late 80’s — I just couldn’t get enough of her beautiful handwritten recipes and inspirational quotes, the cozy, quaint watercolors of old fashioned baskets, bowls, and quilts, those scrumptious fruits, veggies, cakes and pies. Oh, the checkered floors! The Laura Ashley hats and exquisite floral borders! That iconic vintage stove! I wanted to inhabit the world of her homemade books; they were charming, unique, and most important, personal.

You may remember how much I adored A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (review here). It convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Susan was even more of a kindred spirit with her love of Beatrix Potter, the Yorkshire Dales, afternoon tea, the Cotswolds, Emma Bridgewater, and the Queen!

But it wasn’t until I read the prequels to A Fine RomanceThe Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams  (both based on her diaries) — that I gained a true appreciation for how this self-taught artist built her career from scratch, how the first seeds were actually planted in childhood, and how she’s been able to effectively elevate the various facets of homemaking (cooking, sewing, gardening, interior decorating) to a fine art.

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9 cool things on a tuesday

Turbo has his own desk and reading lamp.

1. Nothing cuter than a few literary hedgies to get your day off to a cheery start! I’m sure Mrs Tiggy-winkle would be highly pleased. See more Bookish Hedgehogs here.

Scooter (RIP) preferred fresh air and a picnic blanket.

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2. New book alert! Just in time for Fall is Apple Picking Day!  by Candice Ransom and Erika Meza (Random House, 2016), a Step Into Reading title that’s a perfect companion to last year’s Pumpkin Day!

 

Who doesn’t love to go apple picking at the first sign of fall? A sister and brother celebrate autumn with a trip to a local apple orchard in this simple, rhyming Step 1 early reader.
 
The kids bound with glee through the rows of trees, and race against other children to pick the most and the best apples. The story of their day is bright, fun, and full of light action. It’s told in easy-to-follow rhyme, ensuring a successful reading experience.

Congrats on the new book, Candice!

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3. Heads up Susan Branch fans! In addition to collecting Susan’s wonderful illustrated cookbooks, 3-part memoir, calendars and greeting cards, you can also enjoy her fabulous designs on fabric, wallpaper, labels, and gift wrap.

 

 

Visit her design shop at Spoonflower to see the entire collection. I am especially partial to her dotty, kitchen, and afternoon tea prints, but she also has pretty florals, butterflies, sweet lambs, and a marshmallow world. Just lovely!

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4. Recently read a wonderful post (“if quirky is your thing”) at Orange Marmalade about a series of classic children’s books republished in beautiful new editions by New York Review Books (NYRB). In her post, Jill highlights five titles from their Children’s Collection, which currently features around 80 books.

 

 

What a great way to discover gems from the past!. I’m especially excited about getting my hands on Junket is Nice and The Magic Pudding, but so many of them look interesting. Visit the New York Review Books Children’s Collection page for more. Actually, I wish I had them all. 🙂

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5. Holy guacamole! Have you ever fantasized about being a human burrito? Come on, admit it!

You’ll be happy to know you can now embrace your inner taquito with the ingenious TORTILLA TOWEL. 🙂

 

This fetching 5-foot round limited edition towel resembles a real flour tortilla. Imagine yourself as a tiny taco filling — a little chicken, refried beans, jalapeno, maybe? Roll around in the grass, become the envy of those snooty sunbathers on the beach, or cuddle up for a nice after-bath nap. Finally, a towel to meet all your Mexican dishy needs!

See how you can become a taco, quesadilla, tostada, enchilada, burrito or taquito. Would you like a little Cholula with that?

Order yours at the Tortilla Towel site.

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6. Pop over to The Literary Foodie for a nice list of Food Fiction titlesJessica says this will be an ongoing, ever-changing list, and she welcomes recommendations from all.

 

I’m only familiar with a few of the titles (Babette’s Feast, Like Water for Chocolate, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe), so I’m looking forward to checking out some of the others!

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7. Love this Mad Hatter Teapot for One from LennyMud!

 

 

It’s made from lead free, toxin-free earthenware clay and is dishwasher and microwave safe. Perfect gift to let friends know you’re mad about them! 🙂

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8. What to do with those cute drawings your kids make? Post them on the fridge — or if you’re a creative Mom from Tokyo (aka Konel Bread), you incorporate them into loaves of round bread! KB makes these loaves with natural flavors and colors (beetroot, spinach, cocoa), and many are based on her son’s drawings. I want some mustache bread! See more at Konel Bread’s Instagram.

 

 

 

 

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9. Finally, if you’re a Jacques Pépin fan like I am, you’ll be happy to know his whimsical artwork is featured in a new collection of handcrafted Italian ceramics and table linens available exclusively at Sur La Table.

There are a lot of adorable chickens on mugs, platters, aprons, mitts, and pasta bowls. I especially love this baker, which has one of Jacques’s hand-painted menus on the interior. The entire collection has a fresh French country chic feeling about it.

Collection Menu Baker

Jacques has also added new original paintings and signed prints to his art website. You probably know that for years he’s been creating hand-drawn menus of his dinner parties — what beautiful mementos! Some of these are also available as prints. I love a chef who creates art in and out of the kitchen!

“Blue Table”
“Blue Flower on Brick Wall”

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Until next time, as Jacques would say,

HAPPY COOKING!

ENJOY YOUR WEEK.

BE KIND!

🙂 🙂 🙂


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

nine cool things on a tuesday

Forest Feast Paper Placemats

1. Northern California author, food photographer, and blogger Erin Gleeson has written a new cookbook, The Forest Feast for Kids (Abrams BYR, 2016)  that will be released on February 16 and is now available for pre-order! If you’re familiar with her popular blog or first book, The Forest Feast (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2014), you know that she features simple, delicious vegetarian recipes + gorgeous photos + fanciful hand-lettering and watercolors.

 

Kids will enjoy learning how to make healthy dishes inspired by fresh local produce and Gleeson’s beautiful natural surroundings (have you seen her idyllic cabin in the woods?). “In addition to its recipes—which span meals, party food, snacks, and beverages—this nonfiction book includes ideas for crafty table decoration, party ideas, an illustrated guide on kitchen safety, and a glossary of culinary terms.”

Forest Feast Notebook Bundle

 

To complement Erin’s cookbooks, there are lovely notebooks, a meal planner/ shopping list magnetic notepadpaper placemats (these come in five stunning designs), notecards with envelopes and a wall calendar — all perfect for adding some warmth, color and fun to your day. 🙂

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2. Have you checked out Litographs? They make cool t-shirts, tote bags, temporary tattoos and posters using the full text of literary works. They’re adding new designs all the time to their collection of classic and contemporary books. I like that they’ve partnered with the International Book Bank to send a new book to a community in need for every t-shirt, tote bag, poster or every 5 tattoos they sell. They offer free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Little Women
Anne of Green Gables

Check out this video to see how they make their t-shirts:

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3. I’m still thinking about Margie Culver’s “15 Dog Books” series at Librarian’s Quest. If you follow her blog you know that Margie writes the best book reviews — always insightful and thoroughly engaging. After she lost Xena, her beloved chocolate lab and constant companion of 15 years, she decided to pay tribute to this extraordinary dog by featuring 15 recently published dog books (picture books, chapter books, novels, and Maira Kalman’s Beloved Dog).

 

As much as I loved the reviews, I enjoyed even more the anecdotes and stories about Xena she included in each post. Whether you’re a dog lover or not, I think you’ll be moved and inspired by how Margie describes the deep human-canine connection, the intelligence, fierce loyalty, courage, and playfulness of dogs she’s experienced firsthand and as these traits are explored in the stories, several of which are told from a dog’s point of view.

There’s something for every reader in Margie’s chosen 15, whether you’re a fan of humor, suspense, family stories, or adventure. Click here to go to the first post in the series featuring Michael J. Rosen’s The Tale of Rescue, illustrated by Stan Fellows (Candlewick, 2015), and you’ll likely want to read on and on.

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“Cat Bakery” by Aram Kim

4. Every once in awhile, while casually browsing Pinterest, I’ll stumble upon a cute illustration that makes me smile. Not too long ago, “Cat Bakery” by Aram Kim meowed at me, so naturally I had to find out more about the artist. I was tickled pink to discover that in addition to adorable dog and cat pictures, NYC-based Aram has a thing for drawing food! 🙂 I promptly bookmarked her site with plans to contact her in the future.

Spread from Aram’s WIP, “Kimchi Pancakes”

It could have been the cats, the bakery, spicy kimchi, or a mutual love of dumplings, but out of the blue Aram emailed me a couple of weeks ago, after following a 7-Imp link to my review of Miracle on 133rd Street. She was happy to discover Alphabet Soup and told me she’s currently working on a food-related picture book called Kimchi Pancakes. Yum! Her debut picture book, Cat on the Bus (Holiday House, 2016), will be out this Fall. Generous Aram also created a special “Cat Bakery” blog header for Alphabet Soup (feast your eyes ⬆⬆⬆). Totally purrrfect, of course! Is there anything better than connecting with kindred spirits? Just goes to show the power of FOOD! Be sure to visit Aram’s website to see more of her charming work!

You can purchase some of Aram’s designs on t-shirts, phone cases, tote bags, etc., at Society 6. Click on the image to find out more about this yummy Brownie Sundae throw pillow.

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5. Any time you need a little lift, click over to the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, where you can visit with mama panda Mei Xiang and her adorable cub Bei Bei. While it’s fun to watch Mei munch munch munch on bamboo leaves and catch Bei Bei rolling around on the floor or napping, probably the most adorable thing is when Mei cuddles with Bei Bei. So sweet and heart-melting! But you have to be vigilant and check in frequently. Love watching them!

 

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6. Always a pleasure to drop by They Draw & Cook to see what’s new. This tasty site now features more than 5400 recipes illustrated by artists from around the world, and founders Nate and Salli have so far published 10 books — some are collections featuring single artists, while others feature a curated selection of artists. The Illustrative Chef, the latest in the single artist series, features the bold and vibrant stylings of Edinburgh based former-professional-chef-turned-illustrator Liv Wan. If her bright, eye-popping colors don’t wake you up, nothing else will.

 

 

 

 

In addition to the recent TDAC book, Liv has published a cookbook of Taiwanese recipes and a children’s book about the Edinburgh Zoo. She’s also worked on projects for the likes of The Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh, the Highland Council and the UK Foodies Festival, among others. I love her food maps!

Be sure to visit Liv’s beautiful website to see more of her work — guaranteed to make you feel happy!

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7. If you’re a Susan Branch fan, you’ve likely already read The Fairy Tale Girl (Spring Street Publishing, 2015) which came out last Fall. I purchased a copy for myself and several for Christmas gifts, but have yet to crack it open — though it’s right there at the tippy top of my tottering TBR pile. Since I thoroughly enjoyed A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (2013), I can’t wait to read this first of two prequels (the second prequel, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams, will be out in May).

 

Based on the diaries Susan has kept since she was in her 20s, THE FAIRY TALE GIRL is book one of a two part series. Together the books are an illustrated memoir, charmingly designed in Susan’s style with her whimsical watercolors and personal photographs. It’s an enchanting story of love and loss, mystery and magic that begins in a geranium-colored house in California, and ends up, like any good fairy tale, on the right side of the rabbit hole, in a small cottage in the woods on the New England Island of Martha’s Vineyard.

THE FAIRY TALE GIRL humorously explores Susan’s journey as an artist and as a girl/woman, from the 1950s through the 1980s. In the first book of the series we get a revealing view of Susan’s early life as the oldest of eight children and the marriage she imagined would be forever; it’s filled with inspiration, romance and discovery, and a leap into the unknown.

If you’ve read The Fairy Tale Girl, how did you like it?

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8. Just in case you missed it, wanted to point you to Cynthia D. Bertelsen’s excellent blog series, “On the Shelves of Elves: A Baker’s Dozen of British Cookbooks for the Christmas Season” at Gherkins and Tomatoes.

Even though traditional American cuisine is British to the core, with borrowings – not appropriations – from other cultures, the media lately has been full of commentaries such as this. In an attempt to put a more scholarly and rational spin on it, I am beginning by pointing out 13 relatively recent British cookbooks, all with a historical slant. Just in time for Christmas giving, BTW, these books well illustrate the vast and diverse and key source recipes that indeed formed the roots of what is called Southern, and American, cuisine. 

 

This series is obviously an Anglophile’s delight, great not only for those interested in culinary history and exploring the wider context associated with traditional British foods and its influences on American cooking, but with books such as Mary Gwynn’s WI Cookbook (2015), that traces the activities of the Women’s Institute, we see how the roles of women changed over several decades as they gradually moved from the private world of their households into the public sphere inhabited by men.

Fine and fascinating, for the W.I. appeared to be much like the Junior League, a similar American organization for women. Both groups arose at a time when social mores restricted women’s activities and both groups produced cookbooks for charitable purposes, a practice that began during the Civil War years in America (1861-1865). 

 

Start here with Book #1, Florence White’s Good Things in England (1932), then check out the other 12 titles in the series, all listed in the post.

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9. Speaking of food illustration, I’ve mentioned Boston-based artist Kendyll Hillegas a couple of times since I interviewed her back in 2014, and with good reason. She continues to amaze me with her meticulously crafted realistic food portraits. She was one of the most generous Indie Spotlight interviewees, taking the time to describe her process step-by-step in great detail.

 

All along, she’d been answering illustration questions on her tumblr blog, Instagram, etc., and now, due to popular demand, she’s started her own YouTube Channel, where she’ll continue to offer tips and demonstrations for aspiring artists and illustration junkies. Now you can see just how she works her magic, layer by layer, with fascinating time-lapse videos. Check out the work of this very talented artist if you haven’t already done so; she also just happens to be one of the sweetest people I’ve met online.

Here’s her introductory video:

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Alrighty, that’s it for this time. Have a great Tuesday and a happy, productive week! Don’t forget to be kind.

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Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.