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1. just for fun: alphatot spot



#15 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Why settle for boring tater tots or plain frozen fries when you can eat these?


They only take 20 minutes in a 475°F oven.


So yummy when warm and a little brown around the edges. 


How do you spell delish? Kids and short grown-ups can't resist them. Munch on a few crispy letters today ☺! 

Hope you had a nice weekend. Happy Monday! ♥

More alphabetica here.

P.S. The letters, "Y - E - S" taste especially good.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade especially for you with love and a lot of happy, highly literate Idaho spuds.

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2. friday feast: flirting with a fritter




by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer (1896),
rosewithoutathorn84's photostream.



Take a deep breath, my friends, for today you must be brave.

It's confession time.

Have you ever hidden food you really love (like chocolate) so no one else would eat it?

Even worse, have you ever "cheated" on your S.O. with fine pastry?

Temptation is always there, ready to sabotage our good intentions. Perhaps it all began with Eve's apple. Oh woman, how weak thou art in the presence of sugar! We're all doomed, to be sure. But what a sweet way to go. (BTW, how come men never feel guilty about what they eat?)

EVE'S CONFESSION
by Diane Lockward



photo by Adam Kuban.

Sunday morning I slipped
out of bed, ran to the bakery,
and bought two apple
fritters, bulging
with fruit and slathered
with sweet white frosting --
breakfast in bed for me
and my husband.
     While he slept on
in innocence, ribcage
peacefully rising
and falling, the kitchen
filled with essence 
of apple. And oh!
those fritters looked
divine. I broke 
off a sample -- wickedly
good -- then another
and another.
     Of course, it was
my husband's fritter
I sampled. I stuffed
my mouth. Globs
of tart gooey apples slid
down my throat, apple
after apple, and chunks
of dough, crusty
from the fryer.
     I could feel
my cholesterol rising,
arteries hardening, and I
didn't care. That fritter
was delicious.
     As the calories
mounted, guilt entered
the kitchen. And still,
that pastry beguiled me.
"Eat of this fritter," it called.
"Okay," I said, "one last bite,"
but I knew I was going to fall
and fall, knew in my evil
heart I was going
to eat it all.

~ posted by permission of author, copyright © 2003 Diane Lockward (Eve's Red Dress, Wind Publications). All rights reserved. 

Being bad never felt so good.

Just in case you'd rather have a turnover (if you're going to be bad, you may as well go all the way):

photo by Ezra Pound Cake.

Stroll on over to Book Aunt, where Kate Coombs is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. Lots of naughty poetry people to play with over there.

"Ever since Eve started it all by offering Adam the apple, woman's punishment has been to supply a man with food, then suffer the consequences when it disagrees with him." ~ Helen Rowland, English-American writer (1876-1950).

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.
 

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3. your favorite sandwich, please!




August is National Sandwich Month, and I'm dying to know if there is any one particular kind of sandwich writers, poets, illustrators, and/or book bloggers prefer.

Please share your faves in the comments, and I'll post the results next week. I want a list as big as this dagwood ☺.

Thanks! ♥

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4. abcs of shopping


#14 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


  
   8-1/2" x 11" signed and dated fine art print.


When the writing gets tough, the tough go alphabet shopping.

Actually I don't usually wait till things get tough.

See, I was once a Brownie. And our motto, just like the boys, was "Be prepared."

Life is so unpredictable. You just never know when you might need a good alphabet hit. Keep those 26 friends close by, I always say. Why, just hearing the words, "letter," "typography," "typeset," or "lower case" sends shivers up my spine, not to mention the all-time seducer (which I hesitate to mention in mixed company) -- font. Say it with me, friends: font, font, font!
 
*swoon* *fans self* *reaches for smelling salts*

While you're composing yourself, check out these decidedly cool things, all available from geniune-for-real artisans at Etsy.com. No big factories, no mass production. Whenever possible, I like to support independent artists. It's back-to-school time. What better way to learn your ABCs?

(Just click on each picture to go straight to the seller's page.)

Two-tone alphabet pencil case:


Letters and birds tote (100% cotton canvas, about 10" x 13"):



Alphabet tote (about 8" x 10", graphic print from Japan):


Yummy 100% cotton tea towel, hand screen-printed (16" x 30"):



Hot tea cosy (also hand screen-printed):



Lime green hulk wooden typewriter keys (set of 45):



Mint chocolate tea wallet (about 6" x 4" open):



Embroidered felt letters (100% cotton):



Monogram bottlecap zipper pull/keychain:

(this is especially for you, Mrs. Bottlecap♥)

Lowercase magnets (1" diameter):



Librarians love letters zipper pouch (8" x 8"):



Alphabet handbuilt porcelain dish (4-3/4" square):



DIY Heat fabric transfer (8" x 8", iron-on to bags, pillows, t-shirts, etc.):


And the best for last: PMC (precious metal clay/.999 silver) bracelets by Live Journal's very own Laura Ludwig Hamor, who just opened a brand new Etsy Shop called Silver Freckles! Each piece is hand stamped, sanded, polished, and attached to a black leather cord. Wear one at all times for enhanced creativity!



In case you didn't know, Laura is [info]artistq !

Okay, that's your alphabet fix for the week. Go forth and order something! ☺ 

More alphabetica here.

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade just for you with love and faboo fonts!

 

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5. between the slices (part one): what kind of sandwiches do writers love?



"Too few people really understand a good sandwich." ~ James Beard


Well of course.

If you ask a bunch of writers what their favorite sandwiches are, they're not going to be satisfied with simple answers like "ham and cheese" or "tomato."
 
No, they will pause a moment, conjure up a recent reubenesque rendezvous, then proceed to give you all the living, breathing details. Writers thrive on sensuality. It's in the genes like genoa salami. And there are always conditions, little things that spell the difference between ho-hum and heavenly. Writers are, if nothing else, specific

When I took "orders" for sandwiches last week, I was reminded of the restaurant scenes in "When Harry Met Sally." Reading everyone's preferences was a delicious meal in itself -- types of bread, cheeses, meats, veggies, spreads and condiments had me salivating all afternoon and craving a good dilly dally with a dagwood. 

My highly scientific soup survey of 2008 revealed that most writers prefer tomato. The sandwich results were surprisingly similar; tomatoes were frequently mentioned in combination with lettuce, cheese, bacon or by itself. Overall, comfort food sandwiches received the most votes. Yes, there was mention of more sophisticated indulgences like oysters, hummus, baba ghanoush, and ciabatta rolls, but when push came to shove, grilled cheese and reuben sandwiches dominated. Those who mentioned other sandwiches as their favorites tended to mention grilled cheese as a second or third choice, as though feeling the need to include a childhood friend.


Grilled cheese by c. buras.

Cheese is dairy, consciously or subconsciously reminding us of our mothers' milk. Can't get any closer to the source than that. Long after we've grown up and become independent beings, our food choices inevitably strip us down to our essential selves. But aside from cheese, there was all kinds of tasty goodness. Read for yourself what 25 writers said when asked to name their favorite sandwich:

                 
                        photo by platinum army.

THE BREAD LINE:

"Pesto, fresh mozzarella, basil and sun-dried tomatoes!" - Tricia Stohr-Hunt.

"Grilled cheese (sharp cheddar and Swiss, preferably), with extra-crispy bacon on it. Hey, I'm hungry." - Laura Purdie Salas

"My fried egg sandwich. Fry onions. Fry egg (lots of salt). Toast bread. Spread mayonnaise on hot toasted bread so it sort of melts. Put egg and onions on toast. Eat. A la Julie and Julia . . . YUM! :)"
- Becky Levine

"Debra's out-of-this-world chicken salad sandwiches! Made with diced apples, walnuts, golden raisins, pickle relish, celery, mayo and a splash of Catalina dressing. But that's all I can say. It's a well-kept family secret!" - Charles Ghigna

"Pepper jack cheese, just a bit of salami, red onion, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, cucumber, avocado, and pepperoncini, on sourdough or Dutch crunch." - Sarah Stevenson

"Fakin' bacon, lettuce and tomato with mayonnaise on flax bread (how boringly healthy, right? lol!)(but, is there anything else quite like a sliced tomato hot out of the garden? I think not!" - Julia Karr

"Family favorite: Turkey and Bacon. Plain or poppyseed kaiser roll, mayonnaise, Boarshead Ovengold turkey with pepper and salt and tasty fried bacon. Even better with a bag of chips, and heavenly the next morning when wrapped in foil in the fridge." - Allison Fraclose

"A Montreal old-fashioned smoked meat!" - Grace Lin

"Toasted sesame bagel with hummus, cucumber, and tomatoes."
- Erin Eitter Kono.

"Philly steak sandwich with lots of thinly sliced beef and fried onions. No other veggies, please, especially not peppers. Peppers totally ruin it. And the bread has to be big and soft, not crunchy."
- Shevi Arnold

"The sandwiches all sound so good! My favorite is roasted eggplant, grilled onions and peppers, sliced tomato, feta cheese on a fresh ciabatta roll." - Vivian Lee Mahoney

"OMG! I LOVE all these sandwiches! When I'm in New Orleans, I can't resist a good Oyster Po' Boy with fried oysters, lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomatoes, sandwiched between slices of French bread."  - Edna Cabcabin Moran

"Oh, man! I have three faves! But I'll pick one! :) I like reubens minus the sauerkraut." - Kelly Maple Polark


The Reuben (writers' top pick) by Spencer Hooks.

"If I'm picking just one sandwich, it's probably egg salad with sliced green olives in it, preferably on toast, but Pepperidge Farm white bread will do just fine either way." - Kelly R. Fineman

"For comfort food, I like grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread, served with tomato soup, of course. When I want a fancy deli sandwich, I spread thick layers of hummus and cream cheese, then add cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, provolone, and avocado -- on ciabatta bread, please, hold the mayo." - Melodye Shore

"Tuna Melt!" - Heidi R. Kling

"I would happily eat all of the sandwiches listed above. Some of my favorites: BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado), Reuben made with red cabbage, sour-cream herring and lettuce, egg salad. Then again, I'm happy with baba ganjouj on lavash bread." - Farida Dowler

"I'm not a big sandwich fan and am cutting back on bread in general. But I have fond memories of eating a kaas broodje -- Gouda cheese on a thick roll in the lobby of the Rotterdam Hilton." - Barbara Etlin

"I'm a big fan of the basics. I'll never turn down a good grilled cheese or PB&J, and it's even better if the PB&J is on toasted bread, or grilled. Melty PB = ♥. I've occasionally wanted a childhood favorite of Oscar Meyer bologna with mayo. However, I've enjoyed some more interesting sandwiches at various delis, bagelries, etc., like turkey with provolone and cranberry sauce." - Debbie Fulmer

"Hmmmm . . . so hard to pick. A good 'ol veggie sub with extra cheese. OR a tomato mozzarella sandwich." - Julie Danielson

"I like ham and cheese sandwiches. But the ham must be Chinese-style and the cheese must be Edam cheese. :D " - Tarie Sabido

"No way I can pick just one. No way. But if my life depended on it or something, I would say a Reuben. But it has to be a perfect Reuben, because that is one sandwich that can either be a culinary masterpiece or a disaster. Perfectly crispy bread and lean meat, super thinly sliced are my pet peeves. For your general interest, my other favorites: Cuban -- this might actually be tied with the Reuben. Hmm . . . no . . . Reuben wins. A good club. Good, white meat Chicken Salad. BLT. PB&J or Grilled Cheese cannot be overlooked here either. Oh dear. I am so hungry now. Drooling."
- Paula Brown

"A nice tuna melt. Yumm!" - Marivee

"The Reuben. And, the good ol' fashioned and very simple tomato sandwich on toasted bread with tons of mayo. Num!" - Laura

"My FAVORITE SANDWICH OF ALL is the falafel sandwich." - Mindi Scott (Click here to read Mindi's issues with the second halves of sandwiches.)

"My favorite when I am CARRIE WHO EATS MEAT: Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce. My favorite when I am CARRIE WHO DOESN'T WANT TO KILL ANIMALS: Avocado, Brie, Lettuce, Tomato." - Carrie Jones

"I don't eat a lot of sandwiches -- but some I do like: Reuben, BLT, grilled cheese with tomato/tomato & bacon, fresh mozzarella with basil and tomato (with maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar). There was a wonderful sandwich shop in the town where I taught. They made fantastic sandwiches there. One of the sandwiches was called a Jose Jr. It was a double-layer sandwich with ham, turkey, roast beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and cole slaw." - Elaine Magliaro



PB and J come out of hiding.

So, what does all this mean? Stay tuned for Part Two: "Sandwich Personalities." Enjoy a yummy sandwich today to celebrate National Sandwich Month, and feel free to add your faves in the comments!

"It has been well said that a hungry man is more interested in four sandwiches than four freedoms." ~ Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., American diplomat

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


 

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6. between the slices (part two): sandwich personalities




ants illo by lisa.loo77.


So, writers crave reubens and grilled cheese, while Paddington lives for marmalade (never mind that a sandwich stored under his hat for weeks could be misshapen, soggy and covered with fur).

Harriet the Spy favored tomato sandwiches, Wimpy scrounged hamburgers, and of course, Elvis noshed on peanut butter, banana and bacon.

A sandwich is a sandwich is a sandwich.


photo by keaggy.com.

Ever since John Montague, Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), wanted to eat while gambling without getting his hands greasy (thereby indirectly "inventing" the modern-day sandwich), the ingenious practice of placing fillings of meat, veggies, or almost anything between slices of bread has captured the minds, hearts, and appetites of people all over the world.
 
In the U.S. alone, 300 million of these beauties are consumed each day, with cool names like hero, hoagie, monte cristo, croque-monsieur, butty, panini, fluffernutter, po' boy, submarine, and mother-in-law. I'm willing to bet that if you thought about it for a moment, you could associate a type of sandwich for each stage of your life, or most every place you've ever been.

My childhood in Hawai'i was punctuated with tuna, bologna, and luncheon meat -- white bread sandwiches with lots of mayo (mustard was reserved strictly for hot dogs). I remember the thrill of discovering the french dip in high school and meatball subs in college. It wasn't until I moved to England that I encountered those dainty, crustless tea sandwiches, little mouthfuls so "civilized," I positively waxed poetic after each bite.


photo by SatrinaO.

When I ventured to Japan for the first time one summer, I happily devoured my fair share of vegetable sandwiches; they were so light and refreshing, a total surprise in a place where I expected nothing but white rice. A trip to Cape Cod (LOVE that place) yielded an ecstatic eyes-roll-back-in-the-head liaison with a sumptuous Provincetown "lobstah" roll. I can still remember that beautiful sunny day, the little restaurant full of chatter and chew, the lightly toasted bread, the fresh, succulent chunks of lobster married to creamy dreamy dressing. *swoon* 

Just last November, when Len and I flew up to NYC to see Dylan, we wandered into the Stage Deli, where humongous sandwiches are named after famous patrons. Ah, the mountains of pastrami, corned beef, turkey, salami, swiss cheese, smoked ham and tongue (ergh)! 


photo by mooshee85.

Seriously. Where would we be without the Italian sub, the Jewish deli, those post-Thanksgiving hot turkey sandwiches drowning in gravy, ballpark hotdogs, the all-American burger on the 4th of July, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches lovingly tucked into lunch boxes and brown bags? Could there be a more intimate way of eating -- cradling fresh bread in hand, bread that encloses, caresses, complements, and protects its filling to the last bite?


photo by mooshee85.

Though one's preferences are influenced to some extent by region, ethnicity, age, and family traditions, it's fun to consider  whether they could also be connected to something more emotional, like personality. Recently, Best Foods/Hellmann's commissioned a study* conducted by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. About 2700 participants were given a battery of pychiatric/personality tests, and then asked which sandwich they preferred from among these eight: club, chicken salad, tuna, seafood salad, egg salad, BLT, turkey, and ham and cheese.

After the results were correlated, the following profiles were established by Dr. Alan Hirsch and his team. (Widely popular favorites like PB&J and grilled cheese were not among the choices, because they would skew results.) Select your fave of the eight listed, then see if the profile fits. Is it true that tuna lovers are aggressive and achievement oriented, or that egg salad people like to be the center of attention? And which other sandwich types are you most romantically compatible with?

SANDWICH PERSONALITIES

THE CLUB: Individuals who prefer the Club sandwich are often agreeable and unselfish. Club sandwich eaters are reliable and strongly devoted to work as well as relationships. The best words to describe those who prefer the club sandwich: committed and loyal. They are most compatible with those who chose Club, BLT, or turkey.

photo by Quan Nyugen.

HAM & CHEESE: Ham and cheese lovers are curious and have a wide range of interests. They are most productive and creative when working alone without direct supervision. The best words to describe ham and cheese lovers: thoughtful and inquisitive. H&C people are often independent without strong romantic ties.

photo by justine.foong.

TURKEY: Those who prefer the turkey sandwich are free-thinkers. They function best when given space at work and in relationships. The best words to describe turkey lovers: creative and rebellious. They are often attracted to other turkey sandwich lovers.

photo by babythinkitover.

TUNA SALAD: Tuna salad eaters are generally aggressive and achievement-oriented. They are natural leaders and driven to succeed in both work and personal relationships. The best words to describe tuna lovers: competitive and successful. They are most romantically compatible with those who prefer egg salad and others who also like tuna salad.

photo by Accidental Hedonist.

EGG SALAD: Egg salad eaters are often the center of attention. They are entertaining and crave adventure. Best words to describe egg salad lovers: charming and energetic. Egg salad sandwich people are the "universal romantics" and are often compatible with all sandwich lovers.

photo by sameold2008.

CHICKEN SALAD: Individuals who prefer chicken salad sandwiches are well-adjusted and empathic. Best words to describe CS eaters: easy-going and understanding. Most romantically compatible with egg salad lovers.

photo by Adam Kuban.

SEAFOOD SALAD: Similar to those who prefer the Club, seafood salad fans are agreeable and unselfish. They seek comfort in close, secure relationships. Best words to describe them: commitment and loyalty. Most romantically compatible with BLT or other seafood salad eaters.

photo by Quasimondo.

BLT: Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich lovers are conscientious perfectionists. They are devoted in all areas of their lives: work, home and relationships. Best words to describe them: honest and full of integrity. BLT eaters are most compatible with seafood salad sandwich lovers.

photo by jasonperlow.

Well, that was quite a platterful. My fave? Chicken salad. Does the profile fit? Let's see. Empathic? Yes. Well-adjusted? Questionable ☺. Problem is, though CS is my fave, and lobster (seafood) salad is my ideal sandwich, almost every single day I have the same lunch: smoked turkey on multi-grain with lettuce and mayo. I'd like to think I'm a free-thinker, and I can be shockingly rebellious (eating dessert first). 

What are you having for lunch?


photo by mooshee85.

Thank you, my darlings, my sandwiches.

Ever yours,

jama ♥
a native of the Sandwich Isles
xxoo

*study controls: those polled were predominantly from the Midwest; sandwich choices were mayo-oriented, understandable with Best Foods/Hellmann's as the sponsor.

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

 

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7. friday feast: pudding's turn



      

Cheerio! Pudding here. 

Jama is busy writing a story napping. She said I could make a post of my very own.

I like the letter P. It stands for Pudding, and Poetry, and -- PICNIC! Pip pip! Would you like to come?

(It's okay if you're not furry. A little peach fuzz will do.)

I'm sharing my fave song today (music by John Walter Bratton, lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy). Teddies everywhere love it.


bear mosaic from cheryl-ann's photostream.

It inspires them to rush to the kitchen,
 
from ichabodhides' photostream.

whip up some berrylicious treats,

from faeryboots' photostream.


illo from erin taylor's photostream.

and hang by their ears?!

photo by EmoPrincess.

(No no no! Do not pay any attention to him.)

To make sure they don't get lost, they carefully study detailed maps.

from erin taylor's photostream.

They often meet others en route,

Molly Brett illo from contrarymary's photostream.

sometimes stop to visit relatives,

photo by tim ellis.

and sneak off to gamble and drink gin.

photo by halifaxlight -- mostlyoffline

STOP IT! (Who's messing with my keyboard?)

I need some chocolate or I'll never make it to the end of this post (help yourself).

photo by petra jane.

When it comes to picnics, bears are the paws down best. They know how to pick the perfect sunny day,

 

call in bad ass musicians (Hey, watch your language!)

photo by ©_AL_D90_©.

amuse themselves with daredevil tricks,

photo by julesactionpic.

and indulge in boot fetishes.

photo by endless beauty.

Sheesh! This post is really going to the dogs. (Someone, call security!)

Listen, the song's starting:



If you go down in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

(Listen to the whole song and see more of our friends here.)

Did you like it? More refreshments, then.

How about a honey bear cookie?

photo by kiriel.

Relax and enjoy the rest of the picnic!!

photo by wonderwizzy.


photo by Casper and Melody.

While I worked hard on this post, this is what Jama did:

photo by louisetucker15.

Oh well, thanks for coming, and don't forget to picnic at all the other poetry stops today. You can find the complete buffet menu over at A Year of Reading. Please give this to Mary Lee when you see her:

photo by Sunshine Hanan.

Hey, do I look good in macro?


Hope you had fun. Ta!

photo by ichabodhides.

♥ Unbearably charming post compliments of Mr. Pudding, who wishes you a faboo weekend and wants you to have this:

                                    ((YOU))
For more bear mania, click here!

 

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8. happy monday!



        

Look what came in the mail the other day!

After oohing and ahhing every month since the beginning of the year, I finally won my very own Grace Lin original painting in July's Small Graces auction!

I just have to say, Grace's art is gorgeous in person -- the vibrancy of the colors, the small details, and those trademark swirls. I will be drinking in this loveliness for many years to come, and I can't wait to see what next month's painting will be! If you've been hesitant to bid, take the plunge -- it's a rare chance to own an original piece of art and help the Foundation for Children's Books. Win-win situation all around ☺!

♥ Since you're here, no need to go hungry. Why not pop on over to Lisa Schroeder's blog and try her recipe for Blueberry Crumb Bars? 

 And have you checked out the Novel Food 2009 Summer Edition? Tanita S. Davis tipped me off to this cool event awhile ago, but I didn't get my act together in time to submit a post to the roundup. Two bloggers, Lisa from Champaign Taste, and Simona of Briciole, started this literary-culinary event a couple of years ago, where bloggers are invited to cook a dish inspired by something they've read (novel, novella, short story, poem, memoir). 

Some of the treats this time around include a Mad Hatter's Tea Party in honor of Alice in Wonderland, four kinds of bread (Rounding the Mark by Andrea Camilleri), and an Afghan meal featuring lamb kebabs (A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini). Lisa has half the roundup here, and Simona has the other half here. An archive of all Novel Food roundups can be found here. There'll be another Novel Food edition later this year -- read more about how to participate!


photo by Heaps Happy.


Take it easy and stay cool this week!

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9. happy birthday beatrix, or, cornelius learns a lesson




Today is Beatrix Potter's 143rd birthday!!

I'm a huge fan and sucker for anything Beatrix related -- books, china and pottery, apparel, figurines, stuffed animals, stickers, stationery, you name it. I'm so obsessed that I even named our dining room after one of my fave BP books. While other normal people decorate their dining rooms with sophisticated window treatments and/or floral centerpieces, ours boasts "Roly Poly Pudding" in blue and green stand up letters. 

I can't help it, really. Just seeing those three words makes me deeply happy. They're adorable, delicious, so very British. And if any of our dinner guests misbehave, we can always roll them up in a pudding (mmwwwaahahahahaha)!
      

The Roly-Poly Pudding was the original name for this tale, first published in 1908. It's all about the time Tom Kitten finds himself confronted under the attic floorboards by two very large rats, Samuel Whiskers and his wife, Anna Maria. They decide to butter him up and roll him in dough to make a delicious pudding. Roly poly, roly poly! The character of Samuel was based on Beatrix's own fancy rat, Sammy, whom she describes as "the intelligent pink-eyed representative of a persecuted (but irrepressible) race and affectionate little friend, and most accomplished thief." Irrepressible indeed, as he somehow got the book renamed in 1926. Typical rat.


Cornelius (licking his chops) convinces Kitty to re-enact the famous rolling scene.

Have you ever eaten a roly-poly pudding? It's commonly known as Jam Roly-Poly, a simple dessert consisting of jam spread over dough, which is rolled up and baked. Celebrate Miss Potter's birthday by making your own Jam Roly-Poly (
recipe here). 

         
           photo by Chico68.

For the full effect, drown it in warm custard.

photo by Sandy49.

The animated version of The Tale of Samuel Whiskers can be found in three parts on YouTube (adorable, adorable). I've embedded the best part, where Tom gets rolled in the dough. If you prefer to watch it from the beginning, click here.


Happy Birthday, Beatrix!


Mosaic by lillipops.

Uh-oh.

Kitty gets the last roll!

♥ Other Beatrix Potter posts on this blog:

"Tea with Miss Potter" (recipe for Blueberry Muffins)
"Fierce Bad Rabbit's Carrot Raisin Salad"
"Of Bonnets and Bunnies, Carrots and Cakes"
 (includes recipe for Carrot Cake).

                                      ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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10. the secret garden (part two): yorkshire culinary delights





"After a few days spent almost entirely out of doors Mary wakened one morning knowing what it was to be hungry, and when she sat down to her breakfast she did not glance disdainfully at her porridge and push it away, but took up her spoon and began to eat it and went on eating it until her bowl was empty."

The Secret Garden is first and foremost about the wonder and magic of making things come alive -- the blossoming of an abandoned garden and two lonely, neglected children. But food is also magical and plays a crucial role in the story. As the flowers and plants grow, so do Mary and Colin's appetites -- and who can blame them, with pails of fresh milk, homemade cottage bread slathered with raspberry jam and marmalade, buttered crumpets, currant buns, hot oatcakes, muffins, dough-cakes, and the all-important bowl of warm porridge, sweetened with treacle or brown sugar.


Oatmeal porridge was eaten by both rich and poor in Yorkshire during Victorian times.
(photo by flirty kitty)



photo by daveknapik.


photo by girlygoogal.

My recent rereading of the novel yielded new insights about the self sufficiency of manor houses like Misselthwaite during Victorian times, and Burnett's advocacy of homegrown and lovingly shared food as a key component in establishing physical and emotional health. We see Mary change from a sickly, sallow, ill-tempered waif, to a happy, engaged, more caring individual. Colin undergoes a dramatic transformation from a pessimistic, overprotected, bedridden tyrant to a budding evangelical Christian scientist. Purposeful activity centered around nature, lots of fresh air, exercise and companionship certainly contributed to healing, but so did unlimited access to a bounty of locally sourced nourishment.

You may remember that the first time Mary wandered outside, she met Ben Weatherstaff, who was working in one of the kitchen gardens. A place like Misselthwaite probably had at least three kitchen gardens (averaging between 1-1/2 to 5 acres each) and an orchard, which supported a large variety of fruit, vegetables, and herbs. The high brick garden walls kept out thieves and large animals, and helped keep the heat in. Some of the vines and fruit trees were trained to grow on the walls for maximum exposure to light and warmth, thereby increasing their yield.


Victorian cloches at West Dean Kitchen Garden protect against cold and pests.
(photo by ANDREWPF)


Felbrigg Kitchen Garden photo by ANDREWPF.


Photo of walled kitchen garden at Knightshayes Court by rmtw


Rhubarb garden at Knightshayes Court (Tiverton, Devon, England).
(photo by rmtw.)


Mrs. Loomis, the cook, consulted with the head gardener, Mr. Roach, about what to plant, and made sure the larder and pantries were stocked with all the ingredients necessary to feed the family, staff, and guests. She also supervised the cooking of breakfast, luncheon, tea, and dinner. It is likely the manor raised its own dairy cows and chickens, or ordered milk and poultry from local farmers.


Beaulieu Palace kitchen photo by Antony Smith.
 
By contrast, Dickon's family, who lived in a small four-room cottage a few miles away, struggled with getting enough food on a daily basis. Susan Sowerby had fourteen mouths to feed; their mainstays included porridge, breads, the occasional bacon, and whatever Dickon grew in their small garden -- practical, sturdy vegetables like potatoes, turnips, carrots, cabbages and herbs that could stand up to the harsh Yorkshire weather and be easily stored for the winter. Not a crumb was ever wasted or taken for granted, so that's why Martha was so shocked when Mary refused to eat her porridge her first morning at Misselthwaite (do you remember what she did end up eating?). Since they couldn't afford the brick walls of manor houses, cottagers like the Sowerbys constructed stone walls to buffer the wind and guard against animals.

But whether the children feasted on Mrs. Loomis' meals or Susan's currant buns, they thrived -- grew fatter, stronger, and more energetic, because the food was always made from fresh ingredients and shared among friends. The most delightful meals took place in the secret garden itself, on occasions when Dickon brought along a pail of fresh milk, and whatever baked goods his mother could spare that day. That she was willing to share what little food they had speaks highly of the generosity of country folk, and is in keeping with Burnett's idealized vision of pastoral bliss in the face of poverty. In this story, those who had the least seemed happiest, while Colin and Mary, who came from privileged backgrounds, suffered from neglect. Though Mary probably could have had anything she asked for at the manor, I'm guessing she relished those warm currant buns wrapped in a clean blue and white napkin. 


Currant buns by Evanswood.

My memories of Yorkshire food are unequivocally positive. While in London, we mostly ate at ethnic restaurants -- Japanese, Indian, Korean, and Italian, because English food, other than breakfast, was largely disappointing. But when we traveled up north, the food vastly improved. Was it the bracing country air, the farm fresh produce, the friendly people, or the romance of being in the culturally rich shire associated with the Brontës, James Herriot, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, children's author Arthur Ransome, or poets W.H. Auden and Ted Hughes?  


Haworth moors, Brontë Country (photo by Abigail 709b).

Yorkshire fare is simple, hearty, and rich with flavor -- comfort food designed to keep the body and spirits braced against a damp, harsh climate and adequately fueled for a hard day's labor. You've probably heard of Yorkshire Pudding, which is like a popover cooked in meat drippings. Though many restaurants now bake individual puddings, served along with the Sunday roast and vegetables, traditionally Yorkshire Pudding is baked in large rectangular pans, sliced into squares, and then served with gravy before the rest of the meal.


photo by Robbie Jim.

What else is Yorkshire known for? Cured ham, Wensleydale cheese, and a raft of baked goods (one needs extra energy roaming those heathland moors for the likes of Heathcliff).

There's parkin, an oatmeal ginger cake sweetened with treacle,
 
photo by Spider.Dog.

fat rascals, small cakes similar to scones containing dried fruit,

photo by skyoasis.

stottie cakes, a kind of flat bread used for sandwiches,


Wilfra apple cake, which is made with Wensleydale cheese,


singin'hinny, a lard-based pastry that whistles when it bakes, due to its high fat content,

photo by Lien (nottie van Lien)


and Yorkshire curd tarts (made with rosewater).

Yorkshire Curd Tart at Betty's Tea Shop (York, England)
(photo by elb_the_prof)

Then there's the famous Yorkshire oatcake, also known as havercake. Along with bread and currant buns, oatcakes were a staple in the Sowerby home, cooked in large quantities on a bakestone suspended by a hook over the fire. Some were enjoyed hot and buttered, while others were left to cool and crisp, propped up on wooden blocks or hung near the ceiling of the cottage so they could be eaten later. At one point in the story, Dickon suggests that Mary visit the cottage to have some "o' Mother's hot oat cake, an' butter an' a glass o' milk." Mmmmm!

Of course I had to try making some of my own. I love pancakes in general, but never made any using oat flour. The recipe from Inside the Secret Garden calls for a blend of whole wheat flour and finely ground oatmeal and yeast! It was easy to make, though you need to plan ahead, since the batter has to rise for about an hour before cooking on a griddle. Of course, the bears ate them with marmalade, raspberry jam, and maple syrup. Oatcakes can also be rolled and stuffed with savory fillings like cubed ham or cheese. I do like this recipe and will definitely make it again.


Oatcake batter after one hour's rising.

MOTHER'S HOT OATCAKE
(makes 6 oatcakes)


Cornelius tries one out with butter and marmalade.

1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 oz. fresh yeast (or 2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast and 1 tsp. sugar)
1-1/2 cups finely ground oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. shortening (for greasing the griddle)

1. In a saucepan, mix the milk and water. Set the saucepan over low heat until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch, or 110 ° F if you are using a cooking thermometer.

2. Pour the warmed mixture into a large mixing bowl. Crumble the fresh yeast into the warm milk and water and stir it until it is dissolved. If you are using dry yeast, stir it and the sugar into the warm liquid and set it aside in a warm place for about five minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble, before proceeding.

3. Stir the oatmeal, flour, and salt into the milk and yeast mixture. Add more water, if necessary, to make a batter. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm place for about an hour.

4. Lightly grease a griddle or large skillet and place it over medium heat.

5. Stir the oatcake batter and spoon about 2/3 cup of it into the hot pan, spreading it slightly to make a thin oval cake in the middle of the pan.

6. Cook the oatcake for just a few minutes, until it is set but not browned on the bottom. Turn the oatcake and cook it briefly on the other side.

7. Serve the oatcake hot, letting each person break off a piece for herself. Spread the oatcake with butter and jam or marmalade, if desired. Dry any leftover loaves on a wire rack, store them covered, and eat them later, plain or with cheese.


Hmmm, would raspberry jam be better?


I think fresh raspberries and whipped cream is probably best!

♥ Needless to say, when I made this, there were no "leftover" oatcakes to dry. I found these light, fluffy and flavorful -- better than pancakes made with all purpose flour. And it was exciting watching the batter bubble up! I can see how much Mary would be comforted and satisfied eating these in the Sowerby cottage, cheered on by a tribe of boisterous children. I am now anxious to make some parkin and fat rascals, since I've already tasted Yorkshire Pudding and curd tarts.

Interesting that The Secret Garden was written during a time when many poverty-stricken children, who were forced to move to industrial towns for work, lacked proper nourishment, sometimes even fresh drinking water.  Burnett created an ideal world where children, rich and poor, had access to fresh food. This story celebrates the wonders that can happen when it is generously and joyously shared.   

CHECK THESE OUT:

 

Inside the Secret Garden: A Treasury of Crafts, Recipes, and Activities, by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson (HarperCollins, 2001). In addition to great recipes for breakfasts and teas, it contains chapters devoted to garden crafts and background about Frances Hodgson Burnett, Misselthwaite Manor, and the language used in the novel.

The Secret Garden Cookbook by Amy Cotler, illustrations by Prudence See (HarperCollins, 1999). Recipes for Yorkshire Breakfasts, A Manor Lunch, An English Tea, The Kitchen Garden, Dickon's Cottage Food, A Taste of India, and Garden Picnics. Also contains juicy tidbits about Victorian cuisine and excerpts from the novel.

Recipes for Yorkshire Pudding, Wilfra Apple Cake, Fat Rascals, and Ginger Parkin can be found online here. Recipe for Singin'hinny is here.


Thanks for reading, and have a Yorkshire Secret Garden kind of day!

The Secret Garden (Part One): Another Peek Inside can be found here.

*Victorian Kitchen illustration used with permission, copyright © 2009 John Shipperbottom. All rights reserved.  

 

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11. two years old today!



Today is alphabet soup's second blogiversary! 

I'm up to 665 entries, 3200+ images, and 8700+ comments. And boy, have I made a lot of soup! 


Thanks for visiting today. Please help yourself to the cupcake that looks most like you!
(photo by specialcakes/tracey)

This past year, I've interviewed some of my favorite authors and illustrators, discovered some new-to-me poets and blogs (*waves to new blog friends*), read and reviewed some amazing books, and learned all kinds of fun, life-essential stuff, like: where to find the best cupcakes in the country, what the White House kitchen looks like, if Banbury cakes are as good as I remembered, and which images I post are the most viewed (teddy bears). Plus, I'm pretty sure both Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan have been asking about me. ☺

To think, once upon a time, I was really afraid of blogging, or even commenting on other people's blogs! There are a lot of scary-bad things about the internet, but being able to start your own blog, and do whatever you want with it, is a fine thing and a great privilege. 


Oh! There's cookies, too! (photo by Lily's Homemade)

When I started two years ago, I thought it would be fun to combine food and books. The best part of this blogging journey, aside from all the great people I've "met," has been discovering how much I love learning about the many ways food and life intersect. Examine what, where, or how a person or fictional character eats, and your intellectual meal can include the flavors of family, personality, culture, and history. I never thought I would get so excited about Mary Todd Lincoln's Vanilla Almond Cake, or finding out who invented the potato chip, but there you have it. Now that I've got my kettle on the stove, I'll keep my soup simmering with ideas as long as you're here to taste it.  

Thought I'd share some random thoughts about some of the regular features on alphabet soup:

SOUP OF THE DAY: I love celebrating new books and welcoming them to the world because each is a miracle. My intention at first was to post about all the new books by writers on my LJ friends list, but I soon discovered I couldn't keep up. You guys are such a prolific bunch; some of you pub on the same day, have several books in the same year, and things get totally crazy in February and September with so many new releases. But, since I now own stock in Campbell's Tomato Soup and Earth's Best Organic Alphabet Pasta, I'll keep doing as many as I can, and continue to also include books by some non LJers.

BOOK REVIEWS: My reviews are really recommendations. Since this is still a young blog, I don't automatically receive loads of ARCs or review copies from publishers. I post about old and new books; most are library or personal copies. For new releases that seem promising, I've requested ARCs, and received them 80% of the time. I subscribe to the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," school of thought. Call me Pollyanna, but I don't think anyone sets out to write or publish what he/she perceives to be a bad book. Besides, I don't want to spend my time tearing something down. My mantra has always been, "focus on the positive."


Can't have too many cupcakes! (photo by buttercupandfriends)

My purpose in reviewing is to share, recommend, and celebrate good writing and illustrating. If you have written or know of a good food-related book, please let me know about it, so I can consider reviewing it or possibly setting up an interview.

ALPHABETICA: I'm excited about finding new ways to celebrate all 26 of my closest friends. I've only done about 10 posts so far, and they've ranged from book review to poetry to artist spotlight to memes. Again, if you know of/run into any cool alphabet-related stuff, please let me know (thanks for your great suggestions, Sara)!

POETRY FRIDAY: I have a love/hate relationship with these posts, because unlike many of the other Poetry Friday participants, I don't write poetry, own a gazillion poetry collections, or hob nob with cool, bohemian types in cafés. I struggle to find poems that really resonate with me, always using "accessibility" as my primary criteria. I know, I should just relax and enjoy it -- and I do enjoy seeing what others have posted every week. Still, I keep wishing more cool poems would just magically fall into my lap. Important: these posts have taught me the most about "my own way of looking at the world."


I love polka dots! Please take two! (photo by specialcakestracey)

INTERVIEWS: Another love/hate thing. LOVE getting to know authors and illustrators better. HATE delays and waiting on people. LOVE interviewees who take my questions and run with them. HATE technical problems which force me to retype the entire interview. LOVE including awesome illos or personal photos. LOVE the fact that because of this blog, I am able to connect with people I've admired but would never be able to approach otherwise.


Some pink lemonade to wash it all down. (photo by toriejayne)
 
GENERAL THOUGHTS: I miss the blogs of friends who have chosen to spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I miss the unique voices and nuances of personal expression that you just can't get in 140 characters or less. I like knowing more of the real person, not just the abbreviated version. Personally, I find it more stressful and time-consuming trying to process a bunch of random tweets than it is to read a coherent paragraph. Are we writers or telegraph operators?

Ours is a culture of more more more in the least amount of time. I wonder what this is doing to attention span and meaningful, soul-nourishing reflection. I wonder why we all feel so compelled to reveal the minutiae of our daily lives in an age rampant with identity theft, and why it's so easy to get sucked into the "I don't want to miss anything/everything is critically important" mindset. Just sayin'.



YOU: The best readers (and good looking, to boot!) I could ever ask for. Thank you so much for your support! If you have any suggestions for alphabet soup, please feel free to share them. And if there are any lurkers out there, please say hello!

SOME FAVORITE POSTS FROM THE PAST YEAR:

A Grand Adventure, Part One (Bob Dylan concert)
Soup's On Interview with Author/Illustrator Melissa Sweet
Soup of the Day: Mouse Was Mad
Spotlight on Author/Illustrator Allen Say
Secret Garden (Part Two): Yorkshire Culinary Treats
Review of Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: The Story of Edna Lewis, by Robbin Gourley
Friday Feast: Yum yum dim sum!
Seven Layer Picture Book Cake (a thematic book list)

              

 
© 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

 

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12. good pickins'


 
photo by Afrodita B.


Don't miss these sweet, sweet thangs:


Friday, August 14th, is the deadline to enter Liz Scanlon's drawing to win a signed first edition of her new picture book, All the World (illustrated by Marla Frazee). Release date is September 8th; it's a gorgeous book that's already earned three starred reviews, and has been selected for the Autumn 2009 Indie Kids' Next List! Don't miss your chance -- leave a comment here.

Friday, August 14th, is also the deadline to bid on this Small Graces original painting by Grace Lin. All proceeds benefit the FCB (Foundation for Children's Books). With lots of folks out of town/on vacation, this might just be the perfect time to nail a sweet deal! Click here to place a bid on Ebay.

Saturday, August 15th, is the last day to nominate your favorite blogs for Book Blogger Appreciation Week (September 14-18, 2009). Here's your chance to tip your hat to your favorites in lots of categories, like, Best General Review Blog, Best Kidlit Blog, Best Literary Fiction Blog, etc. See all the categories here, and add your blog to the master blog directory.

  The Color Me Brown Challenge, sponsored by Color Online, runs through the entire month of August. Now's the time to post your reviews of books by or about POC (People of Color). Click here to leave your link, and you may be one of three reviewers selected at random to win a drawing!

The third annual Kidlitosphere Conference is scheduled for Saturday, October 17, 2009, at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. This is open to authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, book reviewers, editors, publishers -- all bloggers or wanna-be bloggers in children's and YA literature. Panel discussions to be held on such topics as, Building a Better Blog, Social Networking for Fun (and profit?), and Book Reviewing. Click here for full schedule and details about registration, hotel reservations, etc. MotherReader (Pam Coughlan) is organizing the event and is maintaining a list of attendees here.


Cherry cups by Pillsbury.com (recipe here).

Happy weekend!

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13. let's go to the farmer's market!


"We are stardust. We are golden. We are caught in the devil's bargain. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden." ~ from "Woodstock," by Joni Mitchell.



Happy Monday! Hope you had a groovy weekend and treated yourself to a little 60's music to celebrate Woodstock. Today we move from Max Yasgur's farm to the farmers' market (how's that for a cool segue?).

Since we don't have our own vegetable garden, farmers' markets are a real godsend during the summer. While some locally grown, seasonal produce is available in supermarkets, you can't beat shopping en plein air, swapping stories with the vendors, discovering new fruits and veggies, and picking up recipes and tips about preparing them in a colorful, family friendly atmosphere -- that may or may not include live music, the heavenly smell of barbecue, and the happy splashing of kids in water jets.



 
I like supporting small farmers. I like knowing where my food comes from. I like not having to dodge stressed-out people racing their shopping carts up and down grocery store aisles like there's no tomorrow. And it's the best place for people watching. You know the old adage, "you are what you eat." Well, I love spying on taking note of what other people are buying. Gruff expressions melt away at the sight of an overflowing peach bin. Go ahead, snap a green bean in half and taste it. Marvel at the long, curly cucumbers. Inhale the sun-ripened scent of a freshly-picked tomato, and renew your commitment to a healthier diet.



Recently, I learned about the newest arrival to the farmers' market scene in Northern Virginia, Smart Markets, Inc., which has a market every Tuesday afternoon at Fairfax Corner, only ten minutes from home. 





On the day I went, they were featuring a cooking demonstration and booksigning with Dr. Preston Maring, associate physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, California. He's a crusader for local, healthy food, a national advocate for the small family farm, and co-author of the Introduction for EatingWell® in Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook (Countryman Press, 2009). 


EatingWell® in Season, by Jessie Price and the Editors of EatingWell, includes a Foreword by Nell Newman.

Six years ago, he founded the first hospital-based farmers' market in the country, thinking that selling locally grown, fresh food right in the parking lot was the perfect prescription for preventative care. Today, there are 30 such farmers' markets in four states and D.C., and local produce is now part of in-patient care at 19 hospitals. He's a doc who likes to cook! He's been known to write prescriptions for arugula salad, and circulates recipes inspired by all his wanderings through farmers' markets across the country, to thousands of co-workers and patients every week.




It was fun watching how Dr. Maring and his wife got the kids involved. They chopped tomatoes with kid-friendly plastic knives for a chilled tomato soup with cilantro-yogurt swirl. "This is our future," he said, pointing to his little sous chefs. It's never too early to educate kids about healthy eating and making them active participants in selecting and preparing food. After wiping tomato juice from his hands, Dr. Maring happily signed my book.


How can you not love a doctor who wears a carrot necktie?

In addition to the fruits and veggies, there was wine from a local vintner, barbecue, gluten-free baked goods, and homemade bread.





    

I'm anxious to try some of the recipes in the Summer Section of my new cookbook, which contains 150 recipes for everything from soup to salads to main dishes to desserts for all four seasons, cooking and canning tips, nutritional information and farmer profiles. And, I can't wait to go back to the market, because now they have children's story times. It'll be quite interesting to see just what books they'll be reading, don't you think?





Here are five of America's Best Farmers' Markets, according to a poll taken by readers of EatingWell Magazine and eatingwell.com:

♥ Dane County Farmers' Market, Madison, Wisconsin/dcfm.org
♥ Lincoln Square Greenmarket, New York, New York/cenyc.org
♥ Portland Farmers' Market, Portland, Oregon/
portlandfarmersmarket.org
♥ Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, San Francisco, CA/cuesa.org
♥ Sunset Valley Farmers' Market, Sunset Valley, Texas/
sunsetvalleyfarmersmarket.org

Any of these near you?

     

**August is National Peach Month. Check out these peachy recipes at the EatingWell website.

Happy and Healthy Eating!
 

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14. paolo, take me away!


I wonder, do you know Paolo Conte's music?

Years ago, Len and I were invited to dinner at a friend's house, and I heard some wonderful music playing in the background. A man with a gravely voice was singing in Italian, and though I couldn't understand any of the lyrics, I loved what I heard. 

The music transported me to another time and place, Old World Europe -- wet stone alleyways, sidewalk cafés, dimly light jazz nightclubs with curls of smoke rising in the air, people quietly sipping their glasses of Pernod. Musical notes were colors, songs became paintings -- part memory, part dream, part fantasy. It was jazz and boogie woogie, it was hot tango, seductive, lilting, tantalizing, a beautiful sadness.

I learned the man singing was Paolo Conte, a very famous Italian composer, who also paints and writes poetry. His compositions, his performances, his ability to bring together fragments of life, disparate emotions, stirring in the listener forgotten memories or imagined moments, are unparalleled. Because I don't understand the words, it's all about emotion; I hear the stories, which often seem like a pastiche of one of my former lives. 

Here are three songs: Sotto le stelle del jazz, Blue Tangos, and Come Away with Me. You may recognize one from a commercial or movie. If you'd like to buy his music, I recommend
The Best of Paolo Conte to start. Listening to this compilation will change the way you move through the small moments of your day.




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15. tidbits to please the palate




FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THE STORIES BEHIND THE THINGS WE EAT,
by Ken Robbins (Roaring Brook Press, 2009), ages 6+, 48 pp.

What do you think is the most important food in the world?

Besides chocolate, that is ☺.

In his sumptuous new book, Food for Thought: The Stories Behind the Things We Eat, Ken Robbins serves up a thoroughly mouthwatering, fascinating feast of culinary history, myth, folklore, trivia, and nutritional information about nine foods widely available in supermarkets across the country: apples, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, mushrooms, corn, bananas, and pomegranates.

Though some may find the selection eclectic, I like that Robbins includes foods most kids in America probably eat on a regular basis, maybe even take for granted -- and then piques their curiosity with provocative infobits and absolutely stunning photographs. Then, while he's got their attention, he also rhapsodizes about mushrooms and pomegranates (not exactly lunchbox fare), tempting them just enough to whet their appetites (pizza lovers may not even need a mushroom nudge).



As Robbins states in his brief introduction, "Every kind of food has its story." This includes where these foods originated, how they are grown, processed, and consumed, how they've inspired writers and artists, what part they've played in America's history, and even their political and economic implications in a world whose population will likely double by the year 2050.

I like knowing that an apple helped cause the fall of Troy, that Brazil produces the most oranges (but most of its OJ is not drunk at breakfast), and that bananas are so full of essential nutrients that it would be possible to "eat nothing else and still survive in good health." Good stuff to know if you're ever banished to a desert island and allowed to take only one kind of food! And now, I feel even more indebted to the Native Americans, who kept the Colonists from starving with their gifts of corn. 

One might ask, why do we need to read this book, since the information is widely available on the internet? First, the gorgeous photographs are worth the price of admission alone. Life-size, and larger-than-life-size close-ups of the fruits and vegetables, set against various skyscapes, some dark and cloudy, some sunny, provide a unique opportunity for aesthetic appreciation. It's no mistake that some of the world's greatest paintings are still-life studies; through Robbins' discerning lens, we are invited to reconsider and pore over the beautiful texture of orange peel, the juicy sheen of citrus chambers, or the curious, almost comic shapes of heirloom tomatoes. Food can nourish on so many levels.

     

Also, each fruit or vegetable is discussed via several pages of text, with additional photographs showing their sources -- a vineyard, a potato field, an apple tree. Because only 2% of today's Americans live on a farm, fewer of us know what these foods actually look like in their natural state. Robbins never forgets who his audience is, either -- kudos to him for two photos of french fries (both with ketchup, of course), along with pizza, apple bobbing, a mushroom fairy ring, as well as sit-up-and-take-notice mention of popcorn, cornflakes, banana splits, and apple pie.

Food for Thought, suitable for ages 6 and up, is perfect for National Fruit and Vegetable Month. The bountiful mixed platter of information contains just enough choice facts to intrigue young palates, enabling them to look at these common foods in a new way.



And the most important food? Corn. It feeds billions of people worldwide and without it, many would starve to death. Did you already know that?

Today's Nonfiction Monday Roundup is at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

*Photographic spreads posted by permission, copyright © 2009 Ken Robbins, published by Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press. All rights reserved.

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16. an eye on carrie


Lately, I've been watching a lot of Little House episodes in preparation for my interview with Sidney Greenbush. Though I've seen most of them before, this time around I've been keeping a careful eye on Carrie. There are a lot of charming scenes of her at the table, or mimicking grown-ups. And have you ever noticed the twins' big, beautiful blue eyes?

I'm having fun trying to see if I can tell the twins apart. As they got a little older, Sidney is recognizable by a space between her front teeth. Their facial expressions are a little different, too. Lindsay's face is longer, more angular, Sidney's rounder and fuller.

I watched an interview with Alison Arngrim (who played Nellie Oleson) last night. Like me, she always wondered why Carrie was treated as "Baby Carrie," even when she was 10 or 11. She definitely should have gotten more speaking parts as one of Laura's siblings, and more storylines written for her.

Thought you might like to watch the beginning of the only episode that features both twins, "The Godsister." Apparently, this is the only time they argued over who would play which scenes. Both wanted to be Elissa, Carrie's imaginary friend, so in the end, they shared both roles. "The Godsister" is Sidney's favorite episode. I'm embedding Part One, so you can see her famous opening sequence, and Part Two, which shows Carrie meeting Elissa for the first time. The rest of the episode is on YouTube (7 parts total).




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17. happy 10th anniversary to the ugly vegetables!



 THE UGLY VEGETABLES by Grace Lin (Charlesbridge, 2009),
 Picture book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.



Mmmmmm!! What's that tantalizing aroma?

Could it be a delicious soup made with Chinese spinach and bitter melon?

           

          

It's so intoxicating that I have a sudden urge to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and smell the sky. AH! It's simply magical -- I definitely want to eat that smell!

Last week, when I posted a list of my favorite gardening picture books, I purposely left one title out, because I wanted to feature it in a post of its own. It's such a timeless, savory story that its nourishing goodness has already been enjoyed by millions of hungry readers.

You may know that the 10th Anniversary Commemorative Edition of Grace Lin's The Ugly Vegetables was released this past spring. This was Grace's first published picture book -- a charming gem that never loses its freshness and appeal with its enduring themes of diversity, acceptance and community. The Anniversary Edition has new cover art and an updated glossary that makes it easier to pronounce the names of all the Chinese vegetables used in the famous Ugly Vegetable Soup recipe.



Each time I read The Ugly Vegetables, I feel the little girl's anticipation and excitement as she and her mother turn the soil and plant their seeds. But she's sad and disappointed when she realizes all their neighbors are growing colorful, pretty flowers, while they're growing funny looking, bumpy, decidedly and undeniably ugly vegetables.

Then comes my favorite part: the girl and her mother harvest the vegetables, and while the girl is outside playing, she begins to smell the magical aroma of her mother's ugly vegetable soup. When she tastes it, the flavors dance in her mouth and laugh all the way down to her stomach. Next thing she knows, all the neighbors appear on their doorstep with flowers to trade for a bowl of soup. What's really cool is that the following spring, everybody's garden contains a mixture of both vegetables and flowers.

        

        

This story resonates on so many levels: finding beauty beneath the surface or in unexpected places, the joy of growing one's own food and cultivating friendships based on mutual respect for cultural differences, and of course, there's the mini lesson in Chinese cooking! The gouache illos are cheerful, busy, color-saturated and replete with pattern, telling detail, and a palpable childlike sensibility. I like how Grace's trademark sky swirls were there from the very beginning -- kind of like a secret promise of more good books to come, each one breaking new ground, blossoming in ever delightful ways.

It's been so much fun revisiting this book, reflecting on all the books Grace has given us since then, and thinking, yes, this is where it all began. And there's so much more to come (her third novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is officially out next week)!

For now, Congratulations, Grace, and Happy Anniversary to The Ugly Vegetables! I'm so glad it's here with its new green jacket just waiting for another crop of young readers to harvest its treasures. Grace Lin fans will definitely want to add this classic collectible to their stashes. Like I always say, there's only one first book, and this just happens to be an especially noteworthy introduction to one of the finest author/illustrators creating children's books today. ♥

          

Visit Grace's official website for Ugly Vegetables activities, awards and reviews, the soup recipe, and behind-the-story info.

*Spreads posted by permission, copyright © 1999 and 2009 Grace Lin, published by Charlesbridge. All rights reserved. 

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18. friday feast: fresh squeezed emotion



            
           photo by Abby Lanes


Happy Poetry Friday!

Please help yourself to some fresh lemonade and make yourself comfortable. Summer's in full swing now, so we don't have to rush. It's the season to lounge, languish, and love your lemons!


photo by distopiandreamgirl.

It's an odd thing, really. Lemons are acidic and very sour -- yet their emotional connotations are almost always joyful and sweet.

Mere mention of lemons, and my mind goes to a happy place, rejuvenating and clean.
photo by"M" Pearl.

I think of childhood lemonade stands,

photo by fleamarketstudio.

sunny slices splashing in cool, refreshing drinks,


saucy little wedges that say, "Squeeze me," so they can squirt me in the eye.


Lemon juice adds just the right tang to salad dressings and marinades, and makes just about everything taste and look good:
 
  Chicken piccata by leia511.

There's nothing I love more than the scent of lemons, especially nice when zesting a juicy yellow beauty. Added to a few other ingredients, like butter, sugar and eggs, lemons magically transform themselves into some of my absolute favorite desserts, like lemon bars,

photo by Glorious Treats.

lemon meringue pie,

photo by Daniel Greene.

and a sentimental favorite, lemon curd tarts!

photo by chris5aw.

While living in Wimbledon, I always stopped at Sainsbury's on the way home from school to get a few things for tea and supper. I usually bought bourbon cream biscuits or jam tarts. But one day, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give those lemon curd tarts (which had been coyly beckoning to me for a few weeks) a try.

Well, my eyes rolled back in my head with that first bite -- tangy sweetness cradled in a buttery crust. GIVE ME! Ever since then, lemon curd has become synonymous with England, a decadent treat I allow myself for special occasions only -- like summer, fall, winter, and spring. ☺

       
             photo by Fatty Tuna.      

But let's get to today's poem. Jennifer Perrine of Des Moines, Iowa, recently won the "Taste Test" poetry contest sponsored by the Virginia Arts of the Book Center.  Here is lemon at its metaphorical finest: Perrine's words bite and sting; her artistry is achingly sweet. This gem will make you pucker and salivate with a taste you won't soon forget.  

IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE


photo byhallie jo.

your mouth into a trough, a spout
from which that sour sauce will pour,
pulp and spittle swimming down your
chin, eyes pinched shut, each acid thought

welling under the tongue. Thin slice
of pain wedged on the salty rim
of your face, let its tart grace skim
your glass neat: no sugar, no ice

to temper this bite, this slick burst
that cankers your lips. Life gives you
lemons: cut your teeth on their rinds, 

tear them with gusto, slake your thirst
with their slavering, jaundiced juice,
swallow hard, leave no seeds behind. 

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted by Kelly Herold at her new blog, Crossover. Stroll on over, and offer her a cool drink before you check out all the great poems. I bet she takes her iced tea with lemon.

Oh, before you go, a little lemon sorbet to cleanse your palate.♥

photo by Lynnylu.

♥ In case this post has inspired you to bake this weekend, here's my fave recipe for lemon bars. Enjoy!
 

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19. oh boy, more maira!


Check out the new "Pursuit of Happiness" illustrated essay by Maira Kalman, "Time Wastes Too Fast." It's all about (*swoon*) Thomas Jefferson and Monticello!!

Best line: "History makes you hungry."


~ from the New York Times.


I lurv her ♥!

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20. friday feast: poetry friday roundup is here!



"In summer, the song sings itself." ~ William Carlos Williams


photo by BékiPeti.

Happy Poetry Friday!

So glad you're here. I can't talk too much, because my mouth is full of sweet juicy peach. The past two weeks, I've been gorging myself on these perfect orbs of blushing summer goodness and appreciating how beautifully they epitomize the season. Summer days are long, slow, lazy-drowsy sort of affairs where you might just get it into your head that time is standing still. Peaches originated in China, where they were favored by emperors and consumed by the immortals. They've always symbolized longevity in Chinese culture.

I invite you to taste this poem and savor its essential truth. How many summers can you taste in one bite of peach? Ingest this perfect moment in time; reflect on the eternity of words.

FROM BLOSSOMS
by Li-Young Lee



From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background, from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.


photo by Priscilla1295.

I'm anxious to see what delicious treat you've brought to today's feast. Please leave your offerings with Mr. Linky by including the title of your poem or the book you're reviewing in parentheses after your name, along with a comment.

 


 


And, to tide you over while you're reading all the good poems being shared today, please help yourself to some peach sorbet or peach pie. If you happen to be smiling at this very moment, you may have both! ☺


photo by jensteele.


photo by chocolategourmand.

Thanks for joining us and have a great weekend!!

♥ My fave recipe for Peach Cobbler is
here.

♥ Throw caution to the wind: mix peaches with apples in this luscious literary Crisp recipe
here.

"It is the poet's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail." ~ William Faulkner

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21. need a lift?


    

Start the week off right:

♥ From Color Me Katie, "Rules to Live By." (My thoughts exactly.)

♥ From Sarah Aronson at Through the Tollbooth, "Antidotes to the Low Moments." Oh yeah, she knows what it's all about (hummus, chocolate croissant bread pudding, and raspberry buttermilk cake)!

"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it." 
                                           ~ Groucho Marx

         


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22. a gratuitous chocolate fix, or, how to make your age taste good



photo by ParsecTraveller.

Janet at Across the Page recently asked her blog readers to calculate their ages based on their chocolate habits.

The first thing we had to do was pick the number of times per week we would like to have chocolate (more than once, less than 10).

I picked 7, since my ideal scenario would go something like this:

Monday, some handmade Valrhona dark chocolate (best in the world),

photo by roboppy.

Tuesday, velvet fudge brownies,

photo by honey drizzle.

Wednesday, luscious, moist devil's food cake,

photo by Sifu Renka.

Thursday, live-on-the-wild-side chocolate cheesecake,

photo by rachel is coconut&lime.

Friday, warm from the oven chocolate chip cookies,

photo by amber in norfolk.

Saturday, hand dipped chocolate ice cream,

photo by Brown Eyed Baker.

and Sunday, a nice, cozy cup of hot chocolate:

photo by RoOoNa.

After calculating a few more numbers, I discovered this system really works -- proving yet again the undeniable awesomeness of chocolate. (My chocolate age is 26 35 41 never mind.) Math has never been sweeter!

Here, you try:

♥ First, pick the number of times a week that you would like to have chocolate (more than once but less than 10).

♥ Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold).

♥ Add 5.

♥ Multiply it by 50 -- (I'll wait while you get the calculator).

♥ If you have already had your birthday this year, add 1759. If you haven't, add 1758.

♥ Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

♥ You should have a three digit number. The first digit of this was your original number (i.e., how many times you want to have chocolate each week). The next two numbers are . . . YOUR AGE!

Did it work for you? If not, you're probably not eating enough chocolate ☺!

Here, have one of these beautiful handpainted art chocolates:

photo by Ben Adlin.

Coming tomorrow: Chocolate and zucchini hook up!

 

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23. chocolate zucchini bread to the rescue


            
          from jc5083's photostream.


RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

GIANT ZUCCHINI ARE ON THE LOOSE!

It happens every year. It doesn't take much -- maybe a little extra rain, or you leave town for a day or two. You innocently go out back to check your vegetable garden to find Mother Nature has GONE WILD.


photo by emwchiu.

Suddenly, you feel very small and helpless,

as your squash take on a life of their own.

photo by IronStef.

People you haven't heard from in years repeatedly call, begging you to pick up your "kids."

photo by windelbo.

Sometimes, you can't even tell them apart from your other babies.

photo by wombatclay.

Friends, don't despair. You are not alone in this. Anyone who has ever tried to grow their own veggies has faced this crisis at one time or another. Some of them even show up on your doorstep bearing gifts.


               photo by solteronita.

No need to hide from these well-meaning folks. Just keep calm, invite them in, and call in the chips!

  
    photo by julia.maki.

Just a few weeks ago, I was one of those people who dreaded the onslaught of excess zucchini. I didn't feel like stir frying it with bacon, grating it for omelets, tossing it in salads, or dipping it in ranch dressing. I'd even baked some zucchini bread -- and while it was tasty, I couldn't really impress anyone with it because it was so, well, ho-hum. (Um, well thanks, zucchini bread again? Right Jama, you're beyond exciting.)

Then, one day, while prudently minding my own business, my finely tuned olfactories picked up a positively orgasmic aroma drifting about the internet. 

Chocolate! Yes! My love! My true friend! Let me kiss your antioxidants!

I followed the scent to Robin Brande's blog (home of adorable dogs and mucho chocolata). Seems her friend, Elizabeth, had gifted her with a loaf of Chocolate Zucchini Bread, and Robin had devoured it in less than 24 hours! Well now, Robin not only writes fabulous books; she sure as sugah knows her chocolate. Lucky for us, Elizabeth shared the recipe with Robin, who posted it on her blog.

I made it, I made it!

Got some nice unsweetened cocoa powder and everything.
  

Questions have been raised: is zucchini surrounded by this much sugar still healthy?

Robin's well-informed, astute reply: "this is practically salad."

So, my friends, invite those giant green suckers into your home and introduce them to some good quality chocolate. Let them party down with some eggs, flour, vanilla and oil in a warm climate. Chances are real good you'll never have a surplus of squash in your kitchen ever again. Goodbye, ho-hum zucchini bread, HELLO bliss. Nom nom yum diddle um!

ELIZABETH'S PHENOMENAL CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD



3 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
3 eggs or equivalent egg replacer (I use Ener-G egg replacer, which is made from potato starch)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchini)
1 cup chopped nuts
1 pkg (12-oz) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5" loaf pans with canola spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. In a separate bowl, beat eggs (or egg replacer and water) with the sugar until well combined. Add oil and vanilla. Beat to combine, then stir in zucchini. Add wet bowl to dry bowl and stir until just moistened. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Spoon evenly into pans. Bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then turn onto racks.

Cook's Note: As far as possible, use organic and fairly-traded ingredients.

    
      The best way to eat your veggies --
      unbearably delicious!   

♥ If you're a true chocoholic and want to indulge your cravings even more, click here!

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24. the secret garden (part one): another peek inside



"Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight. She was standing inside the secret garden."  ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett


 Illustration by Russell Barnett.

Whenever I am asked to name my all-time favorite children's book, I always say, The Secret Garden.

It's not like I've read it more than three or four times in my entire life, or that I can quote key passages from it at the drop of a hat. And as soon as I mention it, a bevy of other beloved favorites come to mind -- Little Women, Little House books, Ramona Quimby, Anne of Green GablesA Little Princess. I love them all -- but somehow, The Secret Garden has the tightest grip on my child's heart.

     
        Original 1911 edition with illos by Troy Howell.

When I first read it, at the age of nine or ten, I knew nothing of the Yorkshire moors, gorse, heather, or the myriad flowers mentioned in the book except for roses. Instead of crocuses, snowdrops, lilacs, peonies and forget-me-nots, I had grown up with anthuriums, plumeria, bird-of-paradise. I had never seen a robin, fox, or crow. But I knew loneliness and had a big case of "it's not fair," and often wished I had the power to boss grown-ups around and make them listen to me. Oh, to have an Ayah or servants at my beck and call!
 
Mostly, though, I was captivated by the possibility of having a secret sanctuary which totally excluded all the disappointments, hurts, and concerns of the outside adult world. I loved knowing that children my age were capable of transforming a place of willfull neglect into a thriving Eden, and that even if you were once a brat, finding the right friend and learning how to use a trowel could cure you of it. Hope for the downtrodden! Open the book, pass through the gate, cultivate your imagination as you try to survive childhood.

 
Some of Troy Howell's illustrations.
 

I suppose The Secret Garden hit me just when I needed it most. I did not grow up orphaned, rich, sickly or neglected. But like Mary Lennox, who asked for a "bit of earth," I longed to claim something for my very own, and reading this story allowed me to do that. I claimed whatever emotions rang true, whatever truths made sense, whatever details and descriptions a nine-year-old was capable of holding on to. I had never eaten oatcakes or currant buns, but I knew the comfort a fresh glass of milk and a homebaked treat could provide. I could pretend a wild robin trusted and liked me unconditionally, and that I could depend on Martha or Susan Sowerby when my own mother was not around.


European Robin photo by Steve Greaves.
 
Then there's the ingenuous belief that a small nobody girl like me, all on her own, could turn the corner and discover a wondrous, astonishing, albeit forbidden place! Why not? It was after reading this book, I think, that this startling thought took hold: you are capable of creating your own reality (in fact you must) -- plant the seeds early, feed, nourish, protect and tend to the ideas that matter most. There is a secret garden in every person's soul


North York Moors in low light by Tall Guy.


North Yorkshire Moors pasture land by ukawar.


Heather moorland, North York Moors National Park.

Recently, I read the book again, and it was, in many ways, like reading it for the first time. Because now I have the advantage of knowing what Yorkshire really looks like. I've wandered a little on those moors with the wind "wuthering" around me, heard the famous Yorkshire accent or Tyke, tasted some of that hearty cuisine. I've even been south to Kent, site of Great Maytham Hall, where Burnett lived for a time with her own rose garden and friendly robin, which is to say, now the story is sweeter, richer, deeper, more vivid and far-reaching. I wonder, sometimes, if my reading it as a child lay the groundwork for my decision later on to leave the insulated haven of O'ahu for a larger, distant garden two oceans and a continent away. 


Great Maytham Hall, Rolvenden, Kent, is now divided into apartments and
used as a retirement home (photo by Stephen Nunney).



The enclosed garden beyond the wall on the right was FHB's inspiration for
The Secret Garden (
photo by Stephen Nunney).

One thing I do know about England -- "this sceptred isle, this other Eden" -- is that gardens are taken very seriously, from the immaculate grand scale formal gardens of manor houses and parks, to the private gardens proudly and lovingly tended by the average citizen. Even small, non-descript rowhouses will have a patch of green out back, a natural calling card. If you're British, you like your lager at room temperature and your gardens tidy, and Frances Hodgson Burnett exploited the garden metaphor to its fullest. It was a place of destruction and tragedy, where Colin's mother had her fatal accident, but more importantly, a place of restoration, redemption, and healing -- for Mary, Colin, and Mr. Craven.


Cottage garden, North Yorkshire Moors, by Acomb Dave.


Hampton Court Palace (one of my fave formal gardens) by Sue@Naulaka.

One of the things I noted this time around was finding the Yorkshire dialect distracting at times; I don't remember if it hindered my reading of the story as a child, but I found myself stumbling over some of it. I also did not like Colin's pontificating and sermonizing near the end of the book. I found his scientific lecture about Magic over the top, an authorial intrusion designed to hammer home Christian Science/New Thought tenets.

The story itself beautifully illustrates the curative powers of nature, the importance of love, companionship, and friendship, and the power of positive outlook on health and well being without these added sermons. Dickon singing the Doxology also made me cringe. Just a little too preachy for me, though I doubt I found any of this objectionable as a child reader. Then, I read for story and happy endings and the high enchantment factor. The world of that garden was foreign, idyllic, pure fantasy. Who could have dreamed I would one day travel to that eternally green land a spinster schoolteacher, and emerge a blushing bride? ☺ There's magic there, indeed.

   

The references to India, i.e., partly blaming a location for Mary's ill health and sour temperament also gave me pause: "Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another." India is presented in an unfavorable light throughout the book -- a place of ugliness and disease with nothing to recommend it, whereas England is an ideal place where, with fresh air, exercise, and companionship, people can thrive (even Mr. Craven's travel to foreign lands is a sign of sickness). My mind swirls with the evils of British colonialism; I'm once again reminded of Burnett's Christian Science agenda, how times have changed with our current aversion to overt moralizing, and how "showing, not telling" is today's barometer for good fiction. Still, regardless of age, we all read for moments like these:

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun -- which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone's eyes.

The Secret Garden was first serialized in The American Magazine (1910), before book publication in 1911. Surprisingly, it was not Burnett's most lauded work during her lifetime. She led an interesting transatlantic sort of life with her fair share of sorrow and adversity: losing her father at age 4, suffering from depression, surviving two failed marriages and the death of her older son, enduring harsh public scrutiny and condemnation of her lifestyle.

    

The book's been in the public domain in the U.S. since 1987, and is available in a skerjillion different editions, some with illos by people like Tasha Tudor and Charles Robinson. A recent edition published by Candlewick in 2007 contains a treasure trove of Inga Moore's gorgeous ink and watercolor illustrations. I love how the highly detailed pictures progress from soft and subtle to brighter and more vibrant as the children and garden flourish. In many ways, it's the secret garden as I have long imagined it. If you love this story, you must see it. 

     

Do kids these days still read The Secret Garden? Lois Lowry doubts they do, but would love it if they did, because:

I would like next century's children to know the languor of loneliness, the anguish of neglect, and the sweet frisson that secrecy gives. And if only, through the leisurely pace of pages, they could learn of the patience, tenderness, and nurture that once brought flowers -- and young humans -- into bloom. (Horn Book Magazine, 2000)

                 

Just for fun, take this Secret Garden Quiz to see how much you remember.

And, don't miss Lois Lowry's Introduction in the Bantam Classic edition -- insightful and enlightening (click on the See Inside feature to read it in its entirety).


Private garden in the Cotswolds by UGArdener.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Yorkshire Culinary Delights from The Secret Garden!

 

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25. abcs of stamp collecting, and a peek into john lennon's album


#10 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


Click on this image to go directly to the online Alphabetilately Exhibit.

Any stamp collectors out there?

I've always appreciated the artistry and infinite variety of postal stamps, as they commemorate people, places and historic events. I still have a few teddy bear stamps and cherish those featuring children's book authors. Remember the Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss stamps? Very cool. And I've always had a soft spot for LOVE stamps.

This year, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., has an exhibit called "Alphabetilately," where each letter of the alphabet stands for some aspect of stamp collecting or postal service. (A is for Advertising Covers, D is for Duck Stamp, O is for Overprint, etc.) In the actual exhibit, there is a display case for each letter, but you can get a good overview by reading what is available online. Find out which stamp many collectors consider to be the most beautiful ever produced in America, and see one of the first stamps ever issued in the U.S., the 5-cent Benjamin Franklin (1847). In this day and age of email, stamps seem to be less and less a part of our everyday lives, so take a few minutes to appreciate these miniature pieces of art!

Not part of the Alphabetilately exhibit, but of interest to Beatles fans, is John Lennon's Childhood Stamp album. Apparently, both he and Paul were collectors. 


John (age 8), outside his childhood home with friend, Stanley Parkes.

Here is the cover of John's album,


his writing on the flyleaf,


and a page of his stamps.


To see the rest of his album, click here.

Alphabetica posts #1-9 are here.

Happy licking! ♥

*All images copyright © 2009, Smithsonian National Postal Museum website. All rights reserved. 

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade especially for you with love and a wish for more personal letters with real stamps!

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