Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Happy List: January 16, 2018

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I have so much to be happy for today, so prepare for a longer post than the norm!

Isn't this the perfect winter table setting?  It's from Shabby Chic, and it has inspired my tablescapes I'll share next week (and I might have been shopping recently on the Shabby Chic website, hint, hint!)

1.   All of our Christmas decor is put away.  As much as I love Christmas, it's a relief once it's over to store everything away and start with a fresh, clean slate.  I've been working on some pretty winter tablescapes in our breakfast room and dining room, so please stop by next Tuesday to see what I created.  Having a clean house and clean slate for the new year makes me happy!

Mustang Sally

2.   Our Westies make us all so happy!  Little Mustang Sally is so sweet.  She needs a haircut, and she has an appointment on Thursday for a wee trim.  I might need to post a before and after photo next week!

Journal entry

3.   I survived the Ultimate Blogging Bootcamp!  ....and I couldn't be HAPPIER!  I've been following Gina Luker for a while, and I enjoy her Facebook group's Blogging Over Breakfast every weekday morning at 7AM CST (the FB group is called Fundamentals of Blogging).  If you want to start a blog, grow your blog, better understand social media, or run your blog like a business, then this is the course for you.  I highly recommend it.  With the information and worksheets Gina shared, the bootcamp was a super investment; several fellow bootcampers stated that they've spent much more money on other courses and they didn't learn as much as they did in the Ultimate Blogging Bootcamp.  Based on what I learned, I have my work cut out for me the next several days!  Hang out with us every morning for Blogging Over Breakfast: I think you'll enjoy it.  Gina's super smart, down to earth, and authentic.  Plus she has such a big heart....she humbles me.  She's generous to a fault!

You might already follow Gina's DIY blog The Shabby Creek Cottage, and if you don't you should if you love farmhouse decor.

4.   Today I'm pleased to reveal January's Sketchy Reader letters:

The Indie Next List selection is A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline and my Favorite Book selection is The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.  Both books made my Best Six Books of 2017 List.

For this letter I "copied" a part of a painting by Andrew Wyeth.
I used Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils because I wanted the colors to be brighter than Wyeth's palette.

“Frostbitten” (1962), watercolor on paper
This is the perfect thing to draw for a January literary letter!

A Piece of the World is about Andrew Wyeth and his friendship with Christina Olson, the subject of his iconic painting Christina's World. (shown below)

I chose A Piece of the World because I found Christina's life, although small and bound to her family farm, fascinating.  I also appreciated Kline's intensive research on Wyeth and his artistic process.  His chosen medium was egg tempura, a medium used by the masters (like Leonardo da Vinci).  Egg tempura lends a beautiful luminescence to paintings.  I've never tried mixing the pigments with eggs, but I'd like to try at some point.

You can read my review of A Piece of the World HERE.  You can order this letter HERE.

I chose The Keeper of Lost Things for several reasons.  Unique characters, magical realism, a ghost, mysteries, and romance make this book hard to categorize although I think it certainly is good enough to qualify as literature.  I also love how Hogan deftly intertwines two mysteries, and the resolution is genius.

You can order this letter HERE.

Writing and illustrating these letters each month make me happy!

What's making YOU happy today?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, January 15, 2018

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

About Family Tree

• Paperback: 400 pages

• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 9, 2018)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a powerful, emotionally complex story of love, loss, the pain of the past—and the promise of the future. 

Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child.

But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Life at Six Knots Photography

About Susan Wiggs

Susan Wiggs is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including the beloved Lakeshore Chronicles series and her most recent novel, the instant New York Times bestseller Family Tree. Her award-winning books have been translated into two dozen languages. A native of a small town in upstate New York, she now lives with her husband at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and in good weather can commute to her writers’ group in a twenty-one-foot motorboat. A former teacher and graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard, Susan is also an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier, and a cautious mountain biker—yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Find out more about Susan at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Review:

In 2016 I read The Beekeeper's Ball, also written by Susan Wiggs, and I loved it.  The book even had recipes I tried, and I enjoyed making them almost as much as I enjoyed reading the story.  Of course the recipes were centered around honey.  Family Tree also has characters who enjoy creating in the kitchen, and my only disappointment is that there were no recipes for the epicurean delights mentioned in the book.

Annie always wanted to escape small town Vermont and have her own cooking show.  She even made her own VHS tapes cooking various dishes from the time she was nine years old.  Yet in spite of her hard work fulfilling her dream producing a cooking show in Los Angeles she developed herself, a tragedy sends her back home to her family farm.

Annie has trust issues with men because the two most important men in her life abandoned her.  She often thinks to herself: "Men leave."  First, her father left the family when she was ten to pursue his selfish dreams, and then her cheating husband divorces her while she's in a coma.  What adds insult to injury is Annie made her husband Martin the TV chef star that he is today: it was her idea (from her senior project at NYU's Tish School of the Arts) that launched both their careers, hers as the producer and his as star of The Key Ingredient show.  So the question is: Can she ever learn to trust her former high school love Fletcher, the true love of her life, even though he never left her?

The storyline shifts back and forth between the past and present.  The reader gets the entire story of Annie and Fletcher, and a little about her relationship with Martin.  It's hard reading about Annie's recovery, especially since the reader knows how much she's lost.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop...waiting on pins and needles.  This is what Susan Wiggs does so well: she writes beautiful stories about relatable characters that you care about: You know these people. Plus, she always writes with a sense of place wherever her books are set.  I enjoyed the Vermont setting of this story along with the peoples' dialect and atmosphere of the town.  I highly recommend this book if you enjoy contemporary family dramas with unforgettable, relatable characters.

I also found out that there's a prequel to this book entitled The Key Ingredient.  I'm getting it for my Nook this week because I want to read more about Martin and Annie's story.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Family Tree from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, January 12, 2018

Literary Friday: The Dress Shop of Dreams

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  During January, I'm sharing the four books I read during Christmas vacation each Literary Friday.  The second book I'm sharing is The Dress Shop of Dreams by MennaVan Praag.  I've read another book by her called The House at the End of Hope Street.  I didn't love the book because I thought the female characters made poor choices, but I did think that it was well-written.  I enjoyed The Dress Shop of Dreams much more.

These are the books I read during Christmas.

According to Goodreads:

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

My Review:

I love the premise of this book, and I enjoyed the narrative.  There is just enough magical realism to make me smile.  Cora's Grandmother Etta has a gift: She can sense what a woman needs to improve her life when she walks in her shop.  Then she knows which dress each customer needs, and she sews magical stitches in the dress to ensure success.  I love how the shop changes from season to season (the paint color changes magically).  I also thought it was fun how the shop's music changes as new customers walk in.  It would be fun to put together a playlist of the music mentioned in the book!

Walt is an interesting character.  He has magic of his own through his voice, and he can make stories truly come to life.  After he's finished running his bookshop he has a second job reading classic literature over the radio late at night. This has garnered him hundreds of lovestruck female fans who write him fan letters.  Cora is disinterested in a romantic relationship with Walt until one of these fans gets Walt's attention.  

Although I love this story, especially the storyline about Etta and her past, I feel that Cora's character is a little flat.  Walt has certainly loved her since they were children, and maybe I'm being hyper-critical because it's clear in the book that Cora has been repressing her emotions since the tragic deaths of her parents.  Still, I recommend this book if you like sweet love stories with magical realism and interesting settings.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Snail Mail Craft

Above are a few foldable letters/envelopes from Flow Magazine, a magazine for paper lovers.

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  As promised in yesterday's post, below is my craft inspired by the book Snail Mail.

I used one of the envelope templates in the back of the book and cut out an envelope from double sided craft paper.  I wanted to use something predominately red for Valentine's Day.  You can find envelope templates online, or deconstruct an envelope you already have as a template, but I really like this "dragon tooth" one found in the book.

This is the pattern for the inside of the envelope.  You'll also notice that I made some confetti for the letter, and you can barely see the finely-lined paper underneath for the letter.

The assembled envelope before inserting the letter

Ta da!  My Valentine letter is all ready to be addressed and mailed.  I chose a Valentine's sticker to keep the envelope closed.

I glued lines from a vintage postcard to the front of the envelope for the address, and I placed washi tape on the corners to keep the address label in place.  I had to leave room for my rather large Wonder Woman stamps!

This was so simple and fun.  I might take a little leftover red Christmas wrapping paper that doesn't look "Christmasy" and make another envelope!

Just in case you missed it, you can read my review of Snail Mail HERE.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Snail Mail by Michelle Mackintosh

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reading Snail Mail by Michelle Mackintosh.

I love snail mail, don't you?

Snail Mail is the coolest.  Book.  Ever....

Michelle Mackintosh has written a book full of creative and {mostly} simple ideas for how to create and send adorable snail mail letters and packages.  I love every idea in this book!  Michelle also has a little section on etiquette that I love very much, too.

There are several ideas about why and when one should send snail mail.  Being the romantic that I am, I enjoyed the love letters section very much.  Plus, with Valentine's Day right around the corner, I found this section very timely.  Mackintosh even includes letters written by famous people, like Robert Browning and Oscar Wilde.  

If you want to make your own envelopes, there are many ideas for how to create them.  I like that Michelle included the packaging and not just the contents of the envelope in the book because I can just imagine how happy it would make the recipient feel when he or she opens the mailbox to fun and whimsical packaging.

At the back of the book, there are templates for making envelopes and other neat things, plus there are tons of stickers to embellish your mail.

Below are a few of my favorite ideas from the book.  

I love washi tape, and on these pages there are several cute ideas for how to embellish plain envelopes using washi tape.

These are up-cycled envelopes made from things like maps and clothing patterns.  

This isn't a craft idea from the book, but I enjoyed seeing photos of old letters.  This one was written by Robert Browning to his future wife Elizabeth Barrett.  Many of the letters I couldn't read, but Michelle Mackintosh provides the content of these letters in print so that readers can read them.

Below is a trailer for the book:

If you enjoy sending snail mail, you will appreciate the ideas in this cute book!  
Come back tomorrow and see a DIY letter craft inspired by Snail Mail.

Until next time...

Happy Reading!
Ricki Jill