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September 2011


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Jun. 8th, 2011

hawaii girl

seven random things, hometown edition


A little while ago, the lovely and talented Susan Taylor Brown presented me with this wonderful Stylish Blogger Award! The alphabet soup kitchen helpers and I are tickled pink that Susan finds our aprons and oven mitts worthy of recognition ☺.

This award comes with these responsibilities:

1. Thank and link to the person(s) who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to five blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

For my seven random facts, I decided to focus on my hometown of Wahiawa on the island of O'ahu. I lived there for the first 25 years of my life, attended two elementary schools, middle school, and high school there.

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Jun. 6th, 2011

summer jam

olivia walton's applesauce cake

"Two applesauce cakes were on display in the middle of the kitchen table when Clay-Boy walked in. He breathed in the spicy aroma appreciatively. Something had happened during his absence. There was some quickening of excitement, a sense of Christmas rushing inexorably down upon them, but in spite of the two proud cakes, he knew that his mother was not really prepared for the day." ~ Earl Hamner (The Homecoming)

    Miss Michael Learned earned 3 Emmy Awards for her role as Olivia Walton.

When I heard June 6th was National Applesauce Cake Day, the first person I thought of was Olivia Walton.

Though she and Grandma spend a lot of time in the kitchen serving up good old-fashioned country dishes like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, beef stew, fresh corn on the cob, scrambled eggs, bacon and heavenly peach pie, it is her applesauce cake that holds special favor. Whenever there is something to celebrate, Olivia makes an applesauce cake, and it seems to work wonders with anyone needing a good serving of down home comfort.

          "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" aired in 1971.

In Earl Hamner's novel, The Homecoming (1970), upon which the series pilot is based, Olivia Spencer makes two applesauce cakes for Christmas. She is apprehensive because her husband Clay, who's been working in the city far from home, is late returning home on Christmas Eve. She tries to hide her worry from the children by asking them to help her crack black walnuts for the cakes.

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Jun. 3rd, 2011

poetry friday

friday feast: two poetic peas in a pod

Did you know that June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month?
Let's celebrate with PEAS!


Today, we have not one, but TWO perfectly penned pea poems (one of them by a poet named Penny). I've titled this post "Two Poetic Peas in a Pod," because the similarities between the poems are quite uncanny. Both are entitled "Shelling Peas," both refer to fond childhood memories with grandmothers, both contain references to little boats from children's literature, and both are written in seven stanzas. To top it off, both poets live in New Jersey (the Garden State), and their first names contain five letters ("e" + double consonant + "y"). I mean, what are the chances?!

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Jun. 2nd, 2011

choc cupcake

random cuppie-o-gram #90765456

Mosque cupcake by Rosina M/flickr.

It's been awhile since our last Cuppie-o-Gram, but this one was truly worth waiting for.

We are extremely pleased to congratulate fellow Virginia author Maha Addasi on receiving an Arab American Book Award Honorable Mention for her 2010 picture book, Time to Pray (Boyds Mills Press)!! 


This award is given each year in the categories of Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Children's/Young Adult and Poetry, and was established in 2006 by the Arab American National Museum and faculty members at the University of Toledo. Selected groups of readers consisting of respected authors, university professors, artists, and members of the AANM staff choose the winning titles. The purpose of the Award is to inspire authors, educate readers and foster a respect and understanding of the Arab American culture.

To see the full list of 2011 winners, click here.


 ♥ My review of Time to Pray, which was illustrated by Ned Gannon and translated into Arabic by Maha's mother, Nuha Albitar, is here.

♥ More Random Cuppie-o-Grams here.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 1st, 2011

summer jam

jammin' into june

"Then followed that beautiful season . . . Summer . . .
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape/Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood." ~
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Okay, how did this happen? It's June already?

Doesn't matter what the calendar says. Summer has already hit Virginia with my "favorite" menu of H's: hazy, hot, humid. Hell's bells, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!

Since I can't and don't want to do that, I'll just have to requisition a few extra hunkalicious hotties to cool me off with palm fronds and tall glasses of sweet tea. (It would help tremendously if they all resembled Colin Firth and/or George Clooney and had the songwriting chops of Bob Dylan.)

Ooh, ooh! Have to share this video that was posted on the When Bob Met Woody Facebook Page. Hubba hubba! Hopefully, this will temporarily silence some of the misguided folks who constantly complain about Dylan's singing voice. Every word is intelligible.

Okay, where was I? So, what mischief have you been up to? Did you have a good Memorial Day weekend? We took it easy and slow; actually, we were forced to on Sunday since we had a morning power outage. Couldn't plug in, charge up, cook or flush -- when the power goes out, our well pump doesn't work, so no water to wash or rinse. You'll be happy to know we somehow managed to remain fair of face. Amazing what bathing in a few dewdrops will do. ☺

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May. 31st, 2011

baby reading

lip-smacking feast: hot, hot roti for dada-ji by f. zia and ken min


Are you hungry, baba?

You've come to the right place! Let's fire up the skillet and cook some lip-smacking, oh-so-yummy, belly-rubbing roti! 

Harry R/flickr

There's so much more to this homey unleavened Indian flatbread than meets the eye (or the stomach). Yes, it's perfect for scooping up curries and vegetables (love love it with dahl), but did you know it also has the power to inspire really good stories? Hunh-ji! Yes Sir!

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji (Lee & Low Books, 2011) contains all the ingredients I love most in a children's story: food, family, and high octane fun. I can say unequivocally that it's my favorite picture book thus far about contemporary Indian American life. How to blend the old with the new? Find an interesting way to bridge the generations? Introduce young readers to an unfamiliar culture? Lace a story with tasty specifics that tap into universal themes? Debut author F. Zia accomplishes all these things with her beautifully crafted "story within a story" that never misses a beat and is an absolute hoot to read aloud.

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May. 27th, 2011

poetry friday

friday feast: arroz con leche/rice pudding by jorge argueta and fernando vilela


The best poems feel like they were written just for you.

I guess it's no secret I'm a teensy bit partial to food poems that tease and tickle my literary palate with evocative sensual detail and juicy words I can roll around my tongue.


Last year, when Greg from GottaBook stopped by to share a poem and recipe at my Poetry Potluck, he mentioned Jorge Argueta's new book about rice pudding. Since I loved Jorge's Sopa de Frijoles/Bean Soup, I was anxious to taste his Arroz con Leche/Rice Pudding, another bilingual free verse Cooking Poem, this time illustrated by award-winning Brazilian artist Fernando Vilela.

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May. 25th, 2011

may madness

quack up!

Blurry? Is this picture blurry? Have you ever tried to photograph a quazy duck?

Quackity quack quack!

Look who waddled into town over the weekend -- yes, that's Max the Duck, star of the New York Times Bestselling picture book series with his uber-talented creator, Jackie Urbanovic!

Jackie was on the panel at the Mid Atlantic SCBWI New Member Welcome held at the Reston Regional Library, sharing her thoughts on "The Creative Life: Navigating the Peaks and Valleys of Writing and Illustrating for Children," along with Lezlie Evans, Valerie Patterson and Regional Advisor Ellen Braaf.

Though I had interviewed Jackie a couple of times for alphabet soup, we'd never met in person. When I finally introduced myself following the panel discussion, she let out a little scream, jumped out of her seat and gave me a big hug. "I can't believe you're here!" she kept saying. Just ducky!!


Such a thrill -- I've been a Jackie fan since I discovered Duck at the Door at my public library back in 2007 -- and have enjoyed each and every installment in the series: Duck Soup, Duck and Cover, and Sitting Duck. Okay, guess which one is my favorite?


Anyway, I got her to sign my books, and then we quipped and quacked for a few minutes. Jackie's positive energy is contaigious, and she's able to convey so much joy and exuberance in her art. Zip, jump, run. Badda-bing! Quazy good (with a side of quisp).

Possibly my most favorite inscription EVER!

Her latest title, released earlier this year, is IF YOU'RE HOPPY, written by April Pulley Sayre (Greenwillow, 2011). Full of hoppy sloppy animals growling and flapping all over the place (review coming soon). Big, big dose of Happy.


I'm a lucky duck, no? ☺

♥ More Jackie posts here.

*skips away*

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

May. 24th, 2011

dylan finger pointing

let's celebrate: when bob met woody by gary golio and marc burckhardt!

"All I can do is be me, whoever that is." ~ Bob Dylan


Hey, hey! Today is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday!!

We could celebrate by listening to 70 of our favorite Dylan songs, singing "Like a Rolling Stone" seventy times, or by letting out 70 WooHoo's! for this brand new picture book biography, When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan (Little, Brown, 2011). (I vote for all of the above.)

Honey Babe, I was soooooooo excited when I first heard this book was coming out, but disappointed when I couldn't get my hands on a review copy -- until the ever thoughtful and generous Jules of 7-Imp offered to share hers (kiss kiss hug hug love on that beautiful woman). Now, I'm no longer a sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, because I've devoured Gary Golio's wonderful words and pored over Marc Burckhardt's crackerjack illustrations.

Though there are several middle grade Dylan biographies, and two recent picture books illuminating his song lyrics -- Man Gave Names to All the Animals illustrated by Jim Arnosky (Sterling, 2010), and Forever Young illustrated by Paul Rogers (Atheneum, 2008) -- Golio's is the first trade picture book biography featuring the iconic music legend.


Even a casual fan knows there are tons of books published about Dylan (latest count: approximately 1000 titles in English), including biographies and retrospectives, songbooks, photo albums, graphic interpretations of his lyrics, collections of articles and interviews, academic analyses of his ouevre by hardcore Dylanologists, even an encyclopedia containing every bit and bob about Bob. And of course, there's Dylan's own critically acclaimed memoir, Chronicles, Volume One (S&S, 2005). So Mr. Golio's task must have been quite daunting, sifting through the available resources and creating a narrative captivating enough to interest young readers who've probably never heard of our favorite Archbishop of Anarchy. And then there's that little matter of Dylan fabricating parts of his life, especially his early years.

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May. 20th, 2011

poetry friday

friday feast: round and round we go, or, once upon another time


by Jane Yolen

I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Cinder Elephant,
Sleeping Tubby,
Snow Weight,
where the princess is not
anorexic, wasp-waisted,
flinging herself down the stairs.

I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Hansel and Great,
Bounty and the Beast,
where the beauty
has a pillowed breast,
and fingers plump as sausage.

I am thinking of a fairy tale
that is not yet written,
for a teller not yet born,
for a listener not yet conceived,
for a world not yet won,
where everything round is good:
the sun, wheels, cookies, and the princess.

~ from Such a Pretty Face (Meisha-Merlin Publishing, Inc.), Copyright © 2000 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the author.


That Jane. She runs rings around us all, doesn't she?

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May. 18th, 2011

aloha shirt

slurp slurp yum: plenty saimin by feng feng hutchins and adriano abatayo

Know what would taste really ono right about now?

A big bowl of warm, steamy, soul satisfying saimin!

At this very moment, I'm dreaming of dipping my chopsticks in hot dashi and slurping up some fresh saimin noodles -- just the right firmness, a little curly -- with a bit of char-siu (sweet roast pork), kamaboko (fish cake), fried egg and crunchy wonbok cabbage. See those chopped green onions nestled atop the noodles? I'm gonna scoop them up and slurp again. Mmmmm!

James Rubio/flickr

Saimin is truly "Hawai'i in a bowl," a ubiquitous snack turned main dish inspired by Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino pancit. It always, always hits the spot. Now there's a brand new award winning picture book called Plenty Saimin by Feng Feng Hutchins and Adriano Abatayo (Island Paradise Publishing, 2010), a tasty tale sure to satisfy the appetites of diehard saimin lovers and curious foodies.

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May. 17th, 2011

may days

six happy things on a tuesday

1. Amiable houseguest: our great-nephew Charlie, surely the sweetest, most adorable munchkin in the land, was here over the weekend. To his credit: good looking in PJs, can pronounce my name correctly, puts trash in the bin, likes my bread pudding, eats his veggies, good napper, smiles 99% of the time, likes washing machine buttons. We are presently negotiating his employment here as a duster.

          Charlie with his dad, Brad. Want one of those monkey bibs.

2. Made an egg custard pie after being inspired by Candice Ransom's guest post about her mom's great baking prowess. Sprinkled extra nutmeg on top just like Candice likes it. Can you say smooth and velvety?

3. Fox sightings! Fuzzy the Fox has a brand new family -- a wife and two kits. One afternoon I spotted one of the babies out and about by himself while everyone else was asleep. Finally captured the rascal playing near the den, which is quite a comfy compound with 3 mounded entrances and an impressive series of underground tunnels. The babies' names: Kit and Kaboodle, of course!

4. Finally got a Kindle. First book I'm reading is Robin Brande's YA novel, Doggirl. Loving it. Think I might subscribe to a few magazines to cut down on the clutter around here.


5. Baby bird: Every year, we have a bird's nest in the same corner of our porch roof. The mama bird sat for days on end and finally, little beaks appeared! In a tragic turn of events, one of the nestlings fell out of the nest, but its sibling survived. This jumbo fledgling likely needed more room. Hope Mama makes the nest a little larger next year.

6. More pie! Recently went to Hill High Country Store and scored a divine cherry pie. Bar none, these are some of the best pies around, with crusts so light and flaky your eyes roll back in your head. Definitely worth the hour's drive. Gonna try their peach next time. ☺

Happy Tuesday, All! Whatever's on your agenda, have fun and remember to smile at the next person you see. And eat some pie. One can never have too much pie. Did I mention I like pie?

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


May. 16th, 2011


if rocks could sing: a discovered alphabet by leslie mcguirk!

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

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." ~ Jonathan Swift

Oh. My. God.

This has got to be the most astonishing alphabet collection ever -- the coolest of the cool, the most unique and inspiring gift from nature anyone has ever received!

Some time ago, author/illustrator Leslie McGuirk began taking a closer look at the sedimentary rocks on a stretch of Florida beach near her home. These fascinating natural sculptures, smoothed and shaped by thousands of years of wave action, consisted of grains of sand and fossilized shell fragments "glued together" by a chemical in the seawater. Yes, they were all amazing and beautiful, each in its own way, but it was Leslie who noticed that some resembled letters of the alphabet.   

She soon became obsessed (my kind of woman), and began collecting these special letter rocks, as well as rocks resembling objects beginning with each letter. She did this for over ten years. Patient, persistent, eyes open, heart waiting. One by one, they revealed themselves to her. And now, she's sharing her collection with the world in her brand new book, If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet (Tricycle Press, 2011), which will be officially released on Tuesday, May 24th!

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May. 13th, 2011

poetry friday

friday feast: poetry friday roundup is here (and it's smokin')!

"Apple Dumplings" by George Dunlop Leslie (1835-1921).

Happy Poetry Friday!

Heartfelt Congratulations to J. Patrick Lewis, our new Children's Poet Laureate!

Welcome, All. So glad you're here -- there's some HOT STUFF going on in the alphabet soup kitchen today. We're peeling a few apples, rolling out a little dough and celebrating girl power (gentlemen, brace yourselves). ☺

Before we proceed any further, please put on a couple of these oven mitts; you may need them to handle today's poem.


Alright. Remember when I said that women seem to have the market cornered when it comes to writing about the sensuality of food? Combine that with sassy powers of seduction and you've pretty much slayed the soufflé. Sue Staats really knows how to bring it and she doesn't believe in taking any prisoners. "Come, come into my kitchen if you dare," she seems to say. Hotcha-cha and Va-va-voom!

(You've got your oven mitts on, right? Don't say I didn't warn you.)


by Sue Staats

Oh yeah, I’ll make you a man in my kitchen
buckle your blueberries, slump your apples,
cream your butter and sugar,
knead your dough,
steam your windows with my oven heat.

Bet your life I’ll poach your pears,
pickle your persimmons, foster your bananas,
cobble your peaches, marmalade your oranges
clafouti your cherries to a parlez-vous

You’ll be cross-eyed, crumb-topped
crimped, crisped, crusted, folded,
punched, proofed and risen before I’m done.

Get over here now.
My pan dowdy’s hot, and there’s cream.

Don’t keep me waiting.

© 2011 Sue Staats. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of author.

Cherry and Almond Clafoutis by Pinot & Dita/flickr

fans self*

Is it hot in here or is it just me? Nothing sexier than a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. (Oh my, Jama says demurely, my Jello's still jiggling after that one.) ☺

Now, once you've cooled down, please leave your links with Mr. Linky below. Don't forget to put the title of your poem or the book you're reviewing in parentheses after your name. 



TODAY'S POETRY FRIDAY MENU (nibble, crunch, chew):

1. Charles Ghigna ("Wild Flowers")
2. Rasco from RIF (Monday is One Day)
3. Julie (Links to J. Patrick Lewis poetry)
4. Diane Mayr (Massachusetts Poetry Festival)
5. Kurious Kitty ("Why I Am Not a Painter")
6. KK's Kwotes quote by Salvador Dali
7. Janet ("The Peace of Wild Things")
8. Amy @ Hope is the Word (Scranimals by Prelutsky Art Activity)
9. A Fuse #8 Production (Lemonade by Bob Raczka)
10. Heidi Mordhorst (Thomas Lux's "The Voice You Hear When You Read Silently")
11. Debbie Diller ("Wind on the Hill")
12. The Stenhouse Blog ("To David, About His Education")
13. Robyn Hood Black (Book Spine Poem, Writing with Mrs. Mirabel)
14. Alice@Supratentorial (A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes)
15. Liz in Ink (Children's Poet Laureates)
16. Katie @ Secrets and Sharing Soda (Judy Scuppernong)
17. Elaine@Wild Rose Reader (Two eel poems)
18. Tabatha (Being Civilized)
19. Ruth (J. Patrick Lewis)
20. Books4Learning (Pocketful of Posies)
21. Barbara Etlin (Stevie Wonder's Sunshine)
Great Kid Books (The Great Migration)
23. April Halprin Wayland ("The Ubbery Tree")
24. Mary Lee (Hooray for J. Patrick Lewis)
25. Janet Squires (Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers)

Thanks for joining us today. What'll you be cookin' in your kitchen tonight? If you're hungry for an encore, click here to hear Sue read "Cookin' It," which was featured as a 2011 Alimentum Menupoem.

Apple Dumpling by fayettevilleflyer/flickr

Oh, don't forget to eat your dumpling ☺!

*Oven mitts by the_red_deer/flickr.
**ABC fruit by
***Blueberry Cheese Coffee Cake by TheCookingPhotographer.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

May. 11th, 2011

chef hat 2

toying with tofu


Do you tofu?

Last week, there was a "Hell's Kitchen"/Gordon Ramsay segment on "American Idol," where the five finalists were asked to make an omelet. Gordon deemed Lauren's the best, with Jacob's in second place. In the final face-off between Lauren and Jacob, they were blindfolded and asked to identify three different foods: steak, tofu and hot dogs. When it came to the tofu, both Lauren and Jacob gagged. 

I'm guessing the texture is what turned them off, because tofu by itself is basically bland. I wonder how I would react if I hadn't grown up with it, seen it floating in steamy bowls of miso soup, stir fried in dozens of dishes, pan fried with a spicy chili sauce, pulverized in fruit smoothies, baked into cheesecakes and pies, tossed into salads, or simply sliced into little cubes and dipped in a shoyu dressing. Tofu is a given in Hawai'i, a staple of Asian cuisine, an unassertive player who is happy to absorb the flavors of other ingredients. There are few foods so versatile and nutritious. Still, when all is said and done, it comes down to taste.

This being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and all, I thought it the perfect time to tout the terrificness of tofu with a couple of cool recipes. Both are from my half-sister Sylvia, former caterer and uber talented chef to the stars. If you suffer from tofu phobia, hopefully one of these dishes will win you over. Enjoy!

(4 servings as part of a Chinese meal)

4 cups chicken broth
3 slices fresh ginger
1/4 lb. beef, minced
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 pkg. medium firm tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
1-1/2 T cornstarch
1 bunch cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 tsp pepper
salt to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring broth and ginger to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine beef, cornstarch, sugar and soy in a small bowl. Let marinade until broth is ready.

Carefully drop minced beef into broth, breaking up any lumps. Add tofu. Turn heat up and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine 1-1/2 T cornstarch with 1/3 cup water. Add to soup, stir well and bring to a boil until soup is thick. Just before serving, add cilantro and green onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



1 block firm, organic tofu, cut into good sized cubes
7 or 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked overnight, or a similar amount of fresh ones, cut into halves
Broccoli that has been trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces


3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
a small finger of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced


1/3 cup bottled oyster sauce
1/4 cup rice wine (not vinegar)
1/3 cup sesame oil
4-5 T sugar (should be sweet, so add more if needed)

To cook:

Heat cooking oil in wok or frying pan. Brown the tofu cubes and set aside.

Stir fry the broccoli until crisp tender, set aside.

If you need to add a little more oil to the pan, do so, and sizzle the garlic and ginger. Add the mushrooms, if dry, cook until tender and juicy (keep splashing a little broth or water in the pan if it dries out).

Add broccoli and cover and coat all with the sauce. If it is thick, thin a little with broth or water. If you need more sauce, add in the ingredients proportionally.

NOTE: Dried mushrooms add so much depth and richness to this dish that I actually prefer them. You just need to be sure that when stir frying, you cook them until tender and keep adding a bit of water or chicken broth as the mushrooms tend to dry out.


Click here for another Sylvia recipe: Bay Scallops with Lemon Sauce.

"Real Cat Thoughts" by Deborah Leigh/flickr

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


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