a blog birthday, coming attractions, and the fuzzy one

*enters kitchen, turns on the stove, takes a bite*

Hello, Cutie Pies! We’re b – a – a – a – c – k!

Hope you had a nice summer feasting on sweet corn on-the-cob, juicy watermelon, garden tomatoes and fresh peach pie. How was that hammock working for you?🙂

Today there’s a lovely back-to-school-ish feeling in the air. New pens and pencils! New spiral-bound notebooks! Smell that clean, crisp paper — blank pages just begging to be written upon.

We’re munching on a little fruit danish this morning to celebrate Alphabet Soup’s 9th Birthday. I’m amazed that someone like me, who’s usually so *cough* quiet, always manages to find something to say. You know who’s to blame, don’t you? YOU!!

Yes, YOU!! You’re the one who’s kept me going, challenging me to do better, dropping by to chew the fat, telling me about new books I have to read, eating all my cookies. Really, I don’t mind. To you, I say, THANK YOU! Thank you for continuing to take a seat at this humble table, for reading my posts, commenting, sharing, and teaching me something new with every visit. In a world of a million blogs, I really appreciate your support!

Thanks, too, to all the authors, illustrators, poets, and indie artists who’ve chatted with me about their work over the years and shared personal recipes (about 200 now!).🙂

It’s always Colin o’clock at Alphabet Soup!

In fact, I like you so much I don’t even mind sharing Colin and Aidan with you.🙂. No, wait. I take that back. C&A are mine, all mine!!

Are the stars out tonight
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have pies for you, dear.

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Winnie-the-Pooh and The Royal Birthday by Jane Riordan and Mark Burgess (+ Honey Chocolate Pie)

Mr Cornelius practicing the royal wave.

Hello Hello!

What’s the best way to honor two beloved British icons with 90th birthdays this year?

Feature them both in a beary good story, of course.🙂

All art copyright © 2016 Mark Burgess.

Mr Cornelius is convinced 2016 is extra special and that 90 is a magic number. On January 13, much to the delight of the 50-something resident Paddingtons, Michael Bond turned 90. On April 21, HRH Queen Elizabeth turned 90 (with her official birthday celebration taking place just over a week ago), and this coming October marks the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh’s first book.

Goodness. This is like a golden trifecta for us anglophiles who are mad for Brits, books and bears! Just so happens that Her Majesty loved the Pooh books when she was little, and the year she was born, Mr. Milne dedicated his Teddy Bear and Other Songs (1926) to her.

What does this Palace Guard have stashed under his hat?

Earlier this year, Mr Bond was asked to write an address for the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s 90th Birthday. His “Reflection on the Passing of Years” was read aloud at the service by Sir David Attenborough (and yes, he turned 90, too, on May 8). This piece, a special gift for the Queen, described the experience of life for those born in 1926. Is there any better gift than the gift of words?

So we could say that in effect Paddington has “met” the Queen, but until this new story Pooh had not.

 

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a fond farewell to downton abbey

“All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite.” ~ Violet

 

The soufflés are sinking, the puddings are pouting, the meringues have taken to incessant weeping.

I fear much of our “unbridled joy” is rapidly dissipating — Downton Abbey is ending its 6-year run on PBS with the series finale on March 6!

Only one more episode to go. No!😦😦😦

Treated myself to a Crawley family Spode Stafford White cup and saucer just to drown my sorrows.

I’ve been hooked since Season One, Episode 1, only too willing to spend my Sunday evenings with the entire Crawley family at their opulent digs in Yorkshire. Not since the original “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971-1975) have I been so emotionally invested in the lives of an aristocratic British family and their servants. I find the entire class system fascinating, rooting for those who would dare defy the established social order, sympathetic to characters grappling with changes beyond their control.

Today serving Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea: “This decadent dessert tea has the homemade flavors of vanilla cake drizzled with rich caramel sauce.” Good afternoon tea, a perfect pairing with puddings, scones, and shortbread.

Indeed, when I first started watching Downton, I was instantly reminded of “Upstairs, Downstairs.” The time periods somewhat overlapped, with UD beginning about a decade before the sinking of the Titanic and ending in 1930. Both series revealed interesting aspects of post-Edwardian social life set against significant historical events. Instead of Mrs Patmore there was Mrs Bridges, instead of Daisy, there was kitchen maid Ruby. Bellamy son James marries his secretary Hazel as Crawley daughter Sybil marries chauffeur Tom Branson — both compelling, frowned-upon liaisons championing the triumph of true love over all impediments.

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Please Look After Michael Bond on His 90th Birthday. Thank You.

via The Sunday Times

HOLY MARMALADE!

The one and only Michael Bond is 90 years old today!

All of us here at Alphabet Soup — especially the 50-something resident Paddingtons — are in a full out tizzy of joy. We’ve been rereading the stories, noshing on marmalade sandwiches, sloshing about in our wellies, and ever-so-politely tipping our bush hats to honor the man who gave us our beloved bear from Darkest Peru some 57 years ago.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rescuing a lone bear from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve says a lot about a man. This small kindhearted gesture would prove to be delightfully fortuitous, spawning a bear chapter book written in just 10 days, 25 more published novels, numerous picture books, board books, an avalanche of Paddington-related toys and other merchandise, several television series, a play, and an award-winning motion picture. Paddington’s likeness has appeared on postage stamps and marmalade jars, and a Paddington balloon was recently introduced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Paddington as a stop-motion puppet for his FilmFair television series (1975).

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ho ho ho!: scrumptious treats and a holiday blog break

IT’S CHRISTMAS WEEK! IT’S CHRISTMAS WEEK!

Put on your best bibs and elf shoes and ring those bells!

Now that I’m done with shopping, wrapping, mailing and decorating, I can finally “relax” and concentrate on my favorite part of the holidays — food! Needless to say, the Alphabet Soup furry kitchen helpers are beside themselves with excitement. This year, we decided to try a couple of new recipes to keep things interesting, and we picked up a few treats from the British Pantry in anticipation of “Downton Abbey” starting up again on January 3. Mrs. Patmore, here we come!

To me, there’s nothing more British than mince pies at Christmastime. The only person in my family to ever bake mince pies was Auntie Ella, and she made the full size pies that are common in America, rather than the individual serving tart-size ones that you see in the UK. Mince pie also appeared on the Thanksgiving table in New Hampshire; when Len’s parents were still alive, mince and apple pies were served more often than pumpkin.

Those little mince pies are just too cute — couldn’t resist buying a couple of boxes from the BP, Walker’s Spiced Orange and Cranberry, and Mr. Kipling’s. Of course they’re perfect with a cup of tea, so we stocked up on some Downton Abbey Holiday Cheer and Christmas teas.

Also treated ourselves to a tin of Quality Street confections. These yummy chocolate covered toffees were made by Mackintosh in Halifax, West Yorkshire, before Nestlé acquired Rowntree-Mackintosh in 1988. Happy to see that the Quality Street sweets are still packaged in the familiar pink/magenta boxes and tins, something I first saw when I lived in England, and which I’ll always associate with traditional British holidays.

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