Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Happy List: Happy Projects

I have some pretty and easy tips for hosting your winter book club meeting in tomorrow's What I'm Reading Wednesday post.

Hello, My Lovelies!  I hope you're happy today.  I'm happy just thinking about all the projects and things I want to share with you here at The Sketchy Reader.

For the past couple of weeks I've been busy doing lots of work and learning all about blogging. I've been enrolled in Gina Luker's Ultimate Blogging Bootcamp, and I'm simply amazed how much I've learned.  One important lesson that really touched my heart is this one:

"Don't be a selfish blogger."

What this means is give your readers what they want.  If you want to strictly blog for yourself, then you should keep a journal.  The trick is to do this while still being authentic.  I want to give y'all content you want to read.  I think Gina is spot on about this, so I've looked at my analytics to see which posts are the most popular.  I'm in the process of editing my blog's editorial calendar based on all the work I've done for the Bootcamp, and I hope y'all will be happier readers.

Please tell me:  what type of posts would you like to see more of here at The Sketchy Reader?

1.  Completing Bootcamp is making me very, very happy!!!

Now that bootcamp is almost over, I will be able to spend more time in the art studio.  This makes me so happy.  My art journal doesn't remember what I look like!

2.  I received some Happy Snail Mail yesterday.  Happy Snail Mail makes me so, so happy....Want to see what I received?  Sure you do!

Ooooo.....something NEW from KariAnne.  What could it be???  I'll tell you this: it's something that is interactive, so I must play with it BEFORE I share it with you!
Come back January 30th for a share and review.

3.  In between working on bootcamp, I did make a couple of fun crafts.  I'll share tutorials for both crafts with you THIS WEEK so please check back and see how to make them!  Creating makes me so happy...especially when my brain is about to explode!

Remember how I stated early in January how I want to organize our family photos this year?  This simple craft is one thing you can do to not only organize photos but display and store them.  I'll post about this craft on Thursday!

This craft is a DIY challenge from The Shabby Creek Cottage (the challenge for January is a photo frame).  I'll post this tutorial on Saturday.

4.   I'm hopeful that my book club will actually get back in the routine of meeting and discussing books. Book club meetings make me happy!  I started thinking the other day about how I'd plan a winter book club meeting.  Tomorrow, I'll share how to host a perfectly lovely winter book club meeting.

These are the three books I suggest for a winter book club selection.  Come back tomorrow and see the plans, reviews, and menus for all three.

My first newsletter went out today.  Please sign-up for my newsletter.  YOU will make me happy if you do!   A pop-up should have appeared when my blog loaded.

What's making you happy today?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Organization Challenge: January Goal

Good morning, My Lovelies!  Today is the first day of the Book Organization Challenge.  Each month, I'll be sharing with you tips and tricks on how to better organize, display, and enjoy your books in your library.

There are tons of home decor bloggers who've shared tips on how to style bookshelves.  I just shake my head at most of them because usually they have very few books on the shelves.  It's all about displaying something pretty in them.  My question is this:  Why have bookshelves if you don't own many books?  Why not have more wall space and display beautiful art?

The tips and tricks I'll be sharing with you are meant for people who actually own books.  

January's focus is:


Some of you, like my oldest daughter, can't stand the thought of letting a book go.  But eventually you're going to run out of space, and then what will you do?  You won't be able to walk through your home due to way too many books.

I have some ideas to help you sell, donate, or recycle your books.

1.   First, go through your books and place the ones you did not enjoy in a pile.  Chances are if you didn't enjoy them the first time you read them, you won't ever read them again.

2.   Next, separate books into three separate piles:  those you want to sell, donate, or recycle.  There are used bookstores that will buy your books (like 2nd and Charles), or you could save them for a garage sale.  Another option is to donate them to your local library.  Our local library has an annual book sale, and the librarians appreciate donations for the sale.  You can also donate books to church libraries, or you can find out if there are any Little Free Libraries near you and leave books in them.  You might also want to ask family members, neighbors, and friends if they'd like to take any books off your hands.

3.   What should you do with the ARC's (advanced reader's copies) you have?  Technically, these books are not meant to be circulated.  They might have mistakes or other issues that the author and publisher might not want to share with the world, and ARC's should be considered uncorrected proofs, not the final book.  Reputable used bookstores will not accept them, so your best option is to recycle them.

4.  Finally, go through the process again until you feel good about the books you're keeping.

I hope these tips help!

Next month I'll share general tips on organization.

On the TLC Book Tours Facebook Page, Lisa asked which books we've had for at least two years and keep passing over them in favor of other books.  I found these books that for whatever reason I keep passing on...I've only started one of them and have abandoned it at least three times.  If I don't read at least one of them by spring I'm donating the lot!

By the way, as part of the Ultimate Blogging Bootcamp I've been participating in the past couple of weeks, I posted a FB live video about these books and I asked which one I should read first.  You can tell me in comments which one you think I should read first.

I'm probably going to continue FB Live, but I still haven't worked out which days and what time of day I'll post.

Also:  I've started a weekly newsletter, and I'd love for you to sign-up for it!  

You probably noticed the pop-up when my page loaded.

The first issue will go out tomorrow, and when you sign-up you get a FREE and FUN daily checklist/planner downloadable!  My newsletter will be about my favorite post from the previous week and will include some exclusive information not on the blog!  

I know everyone's inbox gets full, but mine is only sent out once a week, and it's cute and short!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, January 19, 2018

Literary Friday: The Rules of Magic

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Each Friday during the month of January I'm sharing one of the books I read during Christmas vacation.  Today I'm reviewing The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman.  It's the prequel to her very popular book Practical Magic, and it's the story about Sally and Gillian's aunts, Franny and Jet, and the aunts' brother Vincent.  

The books I read during Christmas

According to Goodreads:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. 

My Review:

This was the first book I read on vacation, and I could barely get through it.  I can't recall ever being more disappointed in a book!  Practical Magic is one of my favorite books, so I was anxiously awaiting the prequel. I intentionally waited to read it during Christmas because I thought it would be special, like a Christmas present to myself.  Was I ever wrong!

Aunt Jet and Aunt Frances were intriguing and delightful characters in Practical Magic, but not so much in The Rules of Magic.  They're unlikable in this book.  They make stupid decisions, and I thought Franny was downright mean until almost the end of the book.  Jet's character is odd, and she allows circumstances to define who she is.  Their brother Vincent is Gillian and Sally's grandfather.  What a little womanizing horn dog he is (from a very young age)!  

The timeline is off in this book as it ties into Practical Magic.  Although Vincent fathers Gillian and Sally's mother at 14, still there's no way that the timeline works with their ages in 1995.  This bothers me so much!  Honestly I think it was set in the sixties strictly for political reasons because, again, it doesn't fit with the timeline of Practical Magic!  I could barely get past the bad editing.  There are repeated words, and on page sixteen, "Franny discovered an old photograph album wrapped in muslim on the top shelf of the hallway closet."  Muslim and not muslin?  Really?  After sixteen pages I put it down and ordered a cold blade drink on the beach because at that point I needed it.  I don't know why it was necessary to include pedophilia in the book, and why Ms. Hoffman "body shames" a thirty-something year old mother.  Failure to the sisterhood!

I've read so many of Alice Hoffman's books.  I liked or loved them all.  This one is definitely a disappointing outlier.  Plus, I chose it as the Indie Next List selection for my Sketchy Reader Letters, but I'm not going to subject anyone to this book so I selected another one from the list.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  Today is a recycled post about one of my favorite books for 2017, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.  I chose it as the January Favorite Book for The Sketchy Reader letter subscription.

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read the very best book I've read all year: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

Below is a video introduction of the book featuring Hogan:

According to Goodreads:

A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.
Bone china cup and saucer—Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?
Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

My Review:

Well that explains it!  If you read the last paragraph of the Goodreads review, three of my favorite books are compared to The Keeper of Lost Things:  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Anthony Peardew (love the anglicized version of "perdu" which means lost in French) is an obsessive keeper of lost things because of something precious he lost decades earlier.  Now Laura must take the reigns and try to put to rights the massive collection of lost things Anthony has meticulously curated and stored in his study.  In exchange for continuing his work, she has inherited his lovely home and gardens, not to mention the handsome and sexy gardener named Freddy who tends to the property. Plus there's a disruptive ghost.   She doesn't execute her mischief in a malicious way, but more in do-I-have-your-attention-yet way.  

Shortly after moving into the home, Laura befriends Sunshine, a young lady and neighbor with Down Syndrome.  Sunshine is aptly named because she sheds light, humor, and often times wisdom on various situations within the household.  She has amazing gifts that are supernatural and helpful to Laura.  I really enjoyed her interaction with the characters of the novel.

This book is so well-written, and the characters are unforgettable.  The resolution of the mystery of Anthony's lost thing as well as the thing his beloved fiancée Therese lost on that fateful day decades earlier is genius, I tell ya.  If you love romance, mysteries, magical realism, and ghost stories, this book is what your Summer Reading List is missing.

NOTE:  This was originally posted on July 14, 2017.

If you're interested in subscribing to my literary snail mail letters, or if you'd like to purchase any of my back letters, please visit my Etsy Shop.

Until next time...

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Snow Day! Plus a Recipe for the Best London Fog Latte You'll Ever Have


Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Yesterday we had a Snow Day here in Central Alabama.  It was so much fun hearing the children outside playing because all the schools were closed. The snow didn't begin until late in the day, so I didn't take any photos because it was too dark. Since I've been home all day, I thought I'd perfect my London Fog Earl Grey Tea latte, and I did just that.  This is the best recipe I've ever made, and I want to share it with y'all.

Check out the frothy goodness!

I've been making tea lattes for a very long time.  Our oldest daughter loves them and she especially loves the London Fog ones made with Earl Grey tea.  We drink them year round, even during summer.  I've tried many versions of the London Fog Latte: with lavender, or maple syrup, or vanilla. Honestly I can't begin to tell you how many variations I've tried.  After years of trial and error, here is my very best London Fog Latte recipe.

This is all you'll need.

1 1/2 T maple syrup, 1 T brown sugar

2/3 c strong Earl Grey tea (we like Numi), 1 t vanilla bean paste, and 1/3 c milk

London Fog Earl Grey Latte Recipe


2/3 c strongly brewed Earl Grey tea
1/3 c whole milk
1 1/2 T maple syrup
1T brown sugar
1 t vanilla bean paste
cinnamon sugar for garnish


Brew your tea, and while it steeps you can gather the rest of your ingredients.  Let tea steep at least five minutes.

In your milk frother begin frothing milk and set it to the highest milk temperature setting.  

(I have a Breville Milk Café Electric Frother, and I highly recommend it.  It heats milk to the perfect temperature, and it's perfect for hot chocolate, too.)  

As it's frothing the milk and heating it, slowly add the maple syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla bean paste.  These ingredients make the milk thicker and creamier.

Pour your tea in a large mug, and add the frothed milk by first adding the milk and then spoon the foam on top.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top to taste.

NOTE:  If you have a handheld milk frother, you might want to mix all the ingredients in the tea first and froth the milk by itself.  

I know you want one of these.  Admit that you do!!!

Add the ingredients to your next grocery list.  And then I want you to tell me if it's the best version of a London Fog Latte you've ever had.  If you think you have a better version, you're wrong.  

(I'm so kidding...please share with me your favorite recipe for a tea latte.  I enjoy learning new things! And if I like your recipe better, you have to let me share it here on the blog.  That's the deal!)

Until next time...

Ricki Jill