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.
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!
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!
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. 🙂
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?
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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!
1. The old saying, “good things come in small packages,” couldn’t be truer when it comes to these cool leather-bound miniature books by Colorado artist Ericka VanHorn. These are 1/12 scale and reflect Ericka’s love of fantasy, whether it’s wizards, witches, or steampunk.
In addition to handmade mini books, she creates old curiosities like hourglasses, collector’s cabinets, celestial instruments, potions, scrolls, wands, and candelabras. Most of her items are one of a kind and sell quickly, so the best way to keep up with new pieces is to subscribe to her mailing list. Her brand is “EV Miniatures,” and you can see more of her work at her website (currently under construction), on Pinterest, or at her Facebook page.
2. Just in case you’re suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal (and missing Mrs Patmore and Daisy in particular), take a look at these wonderful historic kitchens, all of which are open to the public. I especially like the working kitchen in Wordsworth’s childhood home in Cumbria with its hanging herbs, Queen Victoria’s holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight (built at 3/4 scale to teach children life skills), and the kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, at one time the largest kitchen in England (it would have to be to feed Henry VIII’s court of 600). Love the big fireplaces, work tables and rows of copper pots! Nice places to tour, but I wouldn’t want to actually work in any one of these with their hard-on-the-feet stone floors.
3. From the Cooler than Cool Department especially for Poetry Month: haiku to go. Really! Have you heard of The Haiku Guys & Gals? They’re a group of performance poets based in NYC, LA, DC, the Berkshires, and traveling worldwide. Next time you organize and/or host an event, consider commissioning these talented people to write on-the-spot custom haiku for all your guests. What could be more fun? Hand them a subject, watch them compose a 5-7-5 mini masterpiece on their antique typewriters. That’s what I call a cool party favor!
Read this article by Haiku Guys & Gals co-founder Lisa Markuson, who recently quit her job to become a full-time haikuist! What?! Yes! Talk about taking a leap of faith and following your dreams. Her words about confidence will inspire and hearten you. I also LOVE this wonderful review of the ovenly bakery in NYC (prose + senryu) from The Haiku Guys & Gals blog.
What’s that? You’re craving a haiku right this minute? Click over to the site and request a free haiku. Just provide a subject (as specific as possible), and you will receive a custom haiku in your mailbox within 48 hours. Of course I had to test this out for myself. I submitted “Colin Firth in the Kitchen” as my subject. And look what came back:
he can take an egg and turn it into heaven– hearts, into butter
LOVE! A swoon-worthy senryu! Do they know me, or what? I can tell Colin likes this poem too. Oh yes, I can tell. 🙂
4. Perhaps you have noticed that I am a little more than mad for English pottery. I’ve been collecting for years, most recently Emma Bridgewater pieces — so I was happy to read Emma’s memoir, Toast and Marmalade and Other Stories (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015), which shows how she built her business from the ground up with the help of family and friends, factoring in various life events, hard work, serendipity, and flying by the seat of her pants.
I think part of what draws collectors like me to Bridgewater pottery is that it feels personal. Usually when you buy dishes or other home goods, they’re made by a big faceless company and you have no idea who designed the styles and patterns. But Emma is a real person, married to another talented artist, Matthew Rice, and they seem to live an idyllic life in the English countryside, so you feel like you’re buying into that fantasy when you buy the dishes.
Anyway, I loved the memoir and can’t wait to read Emma’s new book Pattern (& the Secrets of Lasting Design), which comes out at the end of May. It features the stories and inspirations behind her iconic designs, the research and collaborations that went into the creative process. This sounds like essential reading for Bridgewater collectors and design students, or anyone who might enjoy the human story behind a familiar piece of crockery. Years after many of the big pottery factories in Stoke-on-Trent closed, Bridgewater continues to thrive, and unlike some manufacturers who’ve transferred production to Asia, Bridgewater still makes all their pieces on-site. I like seeing that coveted “Made in England” backstamp. 🙂 You can read more about Emma here.
5.Korean food lovers! Found this piece about Korean small plates/side dishes, or “banchan” as they are called, interesting. I’ve eaten many of them, but learned about quite a few new ones. Blistered Shishito Peppers, Dried Squid and Gochujang, Daikon and Garlic Pickles, anyone? It certainly proves that when it comes to Korean cuisine, variety is the spice of life. Take a look if you’re curious about the names and ingredients of these palate pleasers beyond the usual varieties of kimchi and muchim.
6.New picture book alert: happy to report that Hawaii-born author Frances Kakugawa has published the fourth book in her popular Wordsworth the Poet series! The new one is called Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket(Watermark Publishing, 2016):
Wordsworth has hardly seen his friends all summer. They have been too caught up in their electronic devices to pay attention to anything around them, and now they are tangled in wires and gadgets! A mysterious old mouse tells him that the secret to saving his friends is in his pocket—what does he have that can help? Emphasizing creative play, imagination and the fun of the outdoors over the allure of video games, computers and cellular phones, this new Wordsworth adventure is a gentle reminder for families that it’s important for young minds to unplug and enjoy real-world friends and activities. Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket is the fourth book in the award-winning series of books featuring the poetry-loving mouse.
Sounds like many electronically ensnared adults should read this book too. What happened to the fine art of face to face conversation? Is it possible for people to go anywhere without constantly checking their cell phones? Like me, Frances is concerned about how overdevelopment is harming the planet and how technology has de-humanized society. If you missed it, read the interview we did when the third Wordsworth book was released a few years ago. All the Wordsworth books celebrate the power and wonder of poetry.
Available for the first time and collected in one volume, the letters of one of America’s most beloved authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a treasure trove that offers new and unexpected understanding of her life and work.
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a vibrant, deeply personal portrait of this revered American author, illuminating her thoughts, travels, philosophies, writing career, and dealings with family, friends, and fans as never before.
This is a fresh look at the author in her own words. Gathered from museums, archives, and personal collections, the letters span over sixty years, from 1894 to 1956, and shed new light on Wilder’s day-to-day living. Here we see her as a businesswoman and an author through reflections on her beloved Little House books; her legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom; and her readers and as a wife and a friend. In her letters, Wilder shares political opinions and reminiscences of frontier childhood. Also included are letters to her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, who filled a silent role as editor and collaborator while the famous Little House books were being written.
Wilder biographer William Anderson collected and researched references throughout these letters, and the result is an invaluable historical collection, tracing Wilder’s life through the final days of covered wagon travel and her years of fame as the writer of the Little House books. Here we see her as a farm woman, a country journalist, and a Depression-era author. This collection is a sequel to her beloved stories and a snapshot of twentieth-century living.
Definitely on my Wish List!
8. A delicious treat for Tolkien fans: “Food in the Hobbit” from the Oakden website. Besides their hairy feet, I love that hobbits usually eat 6 meals a day (two dinners!). 🙂 This article provides a historical context for the foods they enjoyed + traditional recipes (seed cakes, pork pies, scones, mince pies, breads, griddle cakes). Oakden sells handmade reproductions of authentic and traditional English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh cookware, baking plates, griddles, and bakestones. Best to keep your larder stocked in case some hungry dwarves should drop by.
9. If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve gone crazy for coloring books and you just happen to be a Julie Paschkis fan, GOOD NEWS: she just added a coloring book to the cool items for sale at Julie Paprika. Since she believes coloring is a wonderful communal activity, her pages are unbound and perfect for sharing with friends. Just picture it — a laid-back evening around the table, everyone busy coloring and chatting and sipping wine or tea. . . Read Julie’s post about Imagination Unbound, which includes 21 images printed on heavy card stock suitable for crayons, markers, pencil, and watercolor.
10. Love this video about Japanese school lunches. This is in sharp contrast to some situations in America, where students have only 15 minutes to wolf down a slice of greasy pizza between classes. In Japan the entire lunch period is a learning experience, a time to practice social etiquette and to share responsibilities for food service and clean-up. Love that everyone brings his/her own set of chopsticks, a placemat, and a toothbrush. The whole thing is so civilized and nurturing. Why can’t we do this in our schools?
11. Finally, if you’re still suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal, rest easy: the brilliant and oh-so-thoughtful Julian Fellowes is coming to the rescue with his new novel, Belgravia (Grand Central Publishing, 2016)! The hardcover print version won’t be out until July 5, but in the meantime you can read the novel in 11 weekly installments just like they did back in Dickens’s day. Episodes 1 & 2 will be released and available for download on Thursday, April 14, 2016. Read or listen on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.
There’s also a Progressive Blog Tour for Belgravia, with reviews and discussions of each weekly episode on different host blogs. The blog tour kicks off at Austen Prose on April 14, where you can view the full schedule. Download the app from the official Belgravia website, where Julian provides more details in a video. Kindle users, go here.
In my many years of scoping out flea markets, craft fairs, juried art exhibitions and gift shops, I’ve encountered a lot of ho-hum pottery and ceramics. You’ve probably seen them too — pieces that are nice enough but not distinctive in design or color, pieces that lack a certain je ne sais quoi that makes you stop and take a second look (ho-hum, yawn, moving right along . . . ).
So when I do stumble upon truly exquisite work that sets my heart aflutter, prompting numerous sighs and pangs of longing, it’s cause for celebration. Enter award-winning UK artist-designer-ceramicist Katrin Moye!
An English and Art History major, Katrin is largely self taught in ceramics. She’s inspired by mid-century decorative art, Scandinavian and Eastern European folk art, and 1970’s childhood memories growing up in England and Germany (mainly textiles, book illustrations, soft furnishings and other domestic paraphernalia). Literary influences include Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren, Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, and Alf Proysen.
1. Just in case you missed it, wanted to point all Julie Paschkis fans to the lovely post about her by Patricia Belyea at Okan Arts. What a treat to get a mini tour of Julie’s gorgeous Seattle home and learn a bit more about her passion for quilting. As one would expect, each room is a creative haven with its many colors, textures and charming objets d’art.
We all know that “there was an old lady” who swallowed lots of things. Now meet the old dragon who swallows pretty much an entire kingdom! Will he ever learn a little moderation?! This rollicking rhyme is full to bursting with sight gags, silly characters, and plenty of burps! Parents and kids alike will delight in Ben Mantle’s precisely funny illustrations and in Penny Parker Klostermann’s wacky rhymes.
Debut author Penny Klostermann has penned a zany send-up of “there was an old lady who swallowed a fly” that’s a riot to read aloud. She proves her Medievalish muster by featuring a delirious dragon sans decorum whose antics inevitably lead to much bloating and burping (what do you expect when you guzzle and gulp like there’s no tomorrow?). It’s one thing to swallow a knight, a steed, a squire, a cook, and a lady — but a castle and a moat??!! Ben Mantle captures all the gustatory gulping and nonstop nonsense with his colorful, vigorous, high-octane illos. Clippity, clippity, clippity clop to your nearest bookstore and (politely) swallow this one whole. It is, in short, a GAS. 😀 😀 😀 (Click here for Dragon’s Blog Tour.)
3. Shopping for just the right gift for a bookish friend? Check out these cool mugs from The Literary Gift Company. Pick a pre-printed classic or order a personalized mug with any title and author’s name on it (eg., “Pies I Have Loved” by Cornelius Rattigan). 🙂
4. On what would have been Princess Diana’s 54th birthday, blogger Tori Avey celebrated the People’s Princess with a batch of her favorite Bread and Butter Pudding as prepared by Chef Darren McGrady, who cooked for the royal family at Buckingham Palace for over a decade before moving into Kensington Palace to cook for Diana and her boys.
Like Tori, I remember vividly that fateful Sunday when I first heard the saw news of Diana’s death. Can you believe August 31 marks 18 years that she’s been gone? How Diana would have doted on Prince George and Princess Charlotte if she were alive today! The Bread and Butter Pudding was a special treat in Diana’s otherwise health-conscious diet.
5. Having a baaaaad day? Then you need a Mary Kilvert sheep fix! This Somerset-based artist has created a distinctive line of sheepish homeware products reflecting her love of the English countryside. She first began making miniature needle-felted sheep back in 2008, inspired by a fictional character she created called Baatholomew, who knitted himself a colorful jumper (sweater) so he could stand out from the flock. Naturally all the other sheep copied him by knitting jumpers too (different colors and patterns to reflect their distinctive personalities).
Well, wouldn’t ewe know it? As soon as word got out about Mary’s baaaaad sheep (whose fleece was white as snow) — they became an instant success, and very soon their likenesses began appearing on plates, mugs, dishes, aprons, tea towels, stationery and bags. Adorable and fun! Visit Mary’s website for more (don’t worry, if sheep are not your thing, she has some equally irresistible doggy stuff). 😀
6. One of the books I read and especially enjoyed during my summer blog break was Anne Bustard’s debut middle grade historical novel, Anywhere But Paradise (Egmont USA, 2015).There are so few children’s books set in Hawai’i, even fewer that explore the subject of bullying in which the victim is a white character among ethnically diverse kids.
It’s 1960 and Peggy Sue has just been transplanted from Texas to Hawaii for her father’s new job. Her cat, Howdy, is stuck in animal quarantine, and she’s baffled by Hawaiian customs and words. Worst of all, eighth grader Kiki Kahana targets Peggy Sue because she is haole–white–warning her that unless she does what Kiki wants, she will be a victim on “kill haole day,” the last day of school. Peggy Sue’s home ec teacher insists that she help Kiki with her sewing project or risk failing. Life looks bleak until Peggy Sue meets Malina, whose mother gives hula lessons. But when her parents take a trip to Hilo, leaving Peggy Sue at Malina’s, life takes an unexpected twist in the form of a tsunami. Peggy Sue is knocked unconscious and wakes to learn that her parents safety and whereabouts are unknown. Peggy Sue has to summon all her courage to have hope that they will return safely.
This story will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider. Peggy Sue’s voice is engaging and compelling, and I found myself remembering those times when I felt intimidated by tough, mean girls who hung out in the restroom smoking, giving anyone who dared to enter a menacing stare. The book also brought back pleasant memories of taking hula and sewing lessons, and basking in the warmth and talkiness of extended family. Of course it felt good to “return” to a familiar setting and culture. Be sure to check this one out!
7. Would you like to host (or virtually attend) a Harry Potter themed dinner party? What about a nice Wind in the Willows picnic, a Peter Rabbit Easter Brunch, a Queen of Hearts Tea Party, or a Hobbits Party complete with seed cakes, scones, apple tarts and mince pies? Sound good? Head over to Food in Literature, a thoroughly delicious and inspiring site hosted by Australia-based blogger Bryton Taylor. Bryt serves up recipes based on some of her favorite books (mostly children’s and YA fantasy), along with great craft and entertaining ideas. She is especially fond of Harry Potter (hear that, Julia?), but also whets the reader’s appetite for noshes à la Sherlock Holmes, The Great Gatsby, Mad Men, Ulysses, Pride and Prejudice, and The Da Vinci Code. Both printable recipes and video demonstrations can be viewed at Bryt’s site. Here’s a sample video of Bryt making Mrs. Weasley’s English Toffee:
Confession: I am obsessed with have a penchant for dishes.
Oh, you noticed? 😀
I especially love novelty china and porcelain with drawings and words on them. Food simply tastes better on cool plates, in cheeky bowls, and sipped from nifty cups. Beautiful handcut crystal usually leaves me cold. But give me a fetching illustrated ceramic plate and I’m all yours. Yes to color, pattern, detail, and personality!
Several months ago, I was delighted to discover JimboBart, featuring the work of London-based artist/designer James Ward. I saw his “Eats Cake and Leaves” side plate on Liberty of London’s Pinterest board and was immediately hooked.
He mostly likes to draw cheeky animals paired with clever sayings. While Cornelius and I are crazy enamoured with his BEARS, we also covet his badgers, mice, foxes, penguins, and owls.
Seriously, how could you not love an artist who draws a big bear in a bathtub?