Happy Thursday, Lovelies!

Recently, we had a little tea party as part of our celebration of Hot Tea Month.  We were planning a winter wonderland party, but we're tired of winter.  We instead decided to decorate for Valentine's Day, but without a lot of pink and red.  During the party we celebrated Shelley's last semester of undergrad.  YAY!!! 

We had fun decorating the table.  I chose a linen table runner that feels like spring and summer, but it does have thistles on it, which is reminiscent of winter.




















Our menu for the party:

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's Ham Sandwiches
Three Ingredient Scones
Darjeeling Hot Tea

The Mr. and Mrs. Beaver Ham Sandwiches are from a delightful book entitled A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh.  Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are characters from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  The roll-up sandwiches are made on oatmeal bread and are filled with cream cheese, pesto, and prosciutto.  Readers of my newsletter can see the recipe in the February edition.




Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's Ham Sandwiches
These went quickly, and I almost forgot to get a photo of them.
I would also recommend these sandwiches for a picnic or luncheon.



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This recipe book is perfect for the bibliophile who loves tea parties!





I served the scones with lemon curd and raspberry preserves.  The scones aren't very sweet, which is another reason why I love them!









The scone recipe is genius!  You will find it below.  I love the scones because they are very light.  The carbonation in the lemon soda allows the scones to rise.
This recipe is everywhere (I found several sources sharing it), so I'm unsure who the genius is who created it.


Three Ingredient Scones

You will need:
3 cups self-rising flour
1 cup lemon flavored soda
1 cup heavy cream

*You will also need cooking spray.

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray; lightly dust with flour.

2.   Sift self-rising flour into a large bowl. Combine lemon soda and cream and pour over the flour. Mix until dough is just combined. Turn dough out onto the prepared baking sheet. Flour your hands with a lot of flour and gently pat dough into a large rectangle. Do not overwork the dough. Cut into triangles or squares.

3.   Bake in the preheated oven until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.  I used a larger biscuit cutter, so mine baked for 14 minutes.




Homeschooling parents and grandparents:  Making this recipe is a wonderful lesson in chemistry (baking is chemistry, after all) for younger children!  Plus it is very simple to mix, and an adult can assist with the sticky part.




Have you been celebrating tea this month?  Or are you like me, celebrating it all year long  ;P






Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill





 



Hello, Lovelies!  How is your week so far?  It's Wednesday, and I know y'all are dying to know: What I'm Reading Wednesday.

Today I'm sharing Seasonal Flower Arranging by Ariella Chezar and Julie Michaels.  Ariella is one of the most talented florists, and she's also an excellent teacher.  She holds workshops, teaching her techniques to eager students.  



Isn't the cover gorgeous!
This summer arrangement includes stunning peonies, bearded iris, and climbing nasturtium.




The photographer for the book is the very talented Erin Kunkel.  I have bought cookbooks she's photographed because she is that good, including Vintage Cakes.
This arrangement is from the Spring section. and it includes mandarins and other bumpy citrus, ranunculus, and minnow narcissus.




Photo by Erin Kunkel
This arrangement is called Spring Awakening, and I love the anemones, ranunculus, and mustard flower stems.



I love this book because it is like a recipe book for flowers.  Each pretty arrangement has a name, like "Spring Awakening" or "Autumn Rose Medly," and the recipes list each "ingredient" used to make the arrangement.

I love trying new things, so I thought I would try my  hand at one of the winter arrangements.  It has been very dreary here in Central Alabama this month (typical of January), however there seems to have been even fewer sunny days.

I thought I would try to replicate the winter arrangement, below.




This one is called Holiday Party Arrangement.  I liked the pretty shades of green in it, and I thought it would be pretty for our little winter tea party coming up.


Because of COVID, I ordered the stems from a downtown florist (with a large variety of stems) and requested their curbside pick-up service.  I was very explicit about what I wanted.  I knew they probably didn't have everything in the "recipe," but I had a few alternatives to give my arrangement the same look.  I wanted to recreate a loose, low, and flowing arrangement, and I twice told the lady on the phone that I had my own container, and I only wanted the loose stems.

This is what they gave me:
















They sold me a tightly-packed arrangement of flowers in a concrete container: They charged me for it, of course.   I could've ordered something very similar from Olive and Cocoa and had it delivered to our home and not driven downtown.  They only had three of the stems on my list, and they put lilies in it.  I usually have problems with lilies (allergies) which I did before I even got it home.  I stashed it upstairs for Shelley to enjoy because I can't be around it.

I politely told them at the curb what had happened, and they were perplexed and couldn't understand why I didn't like the winter arrangement.  They still weren't listening; I had to repeat again that I had a container I wanted to use at home, and I simply wanted to buy the loose stems.  Frustrated and not wanting to make a scene, I accepted the arrangement and left.  I was downtown, and I didn't want to drive out of town in heavy afternoon traffic: I was trying to beat it.

I realize this is definitely a first world problem.  I know people are losing jobs, businesses, and loved ones.  People are sick (my SIL has COVID).  But I did save up a little pocket change so I could make something beautiful for our home, something nice for our little tea party as Shelley begins her last semester of college.  Plus it would have been a unique opportunity for me to learn something new, a  tactile activity/craft.  

I've decided to try again in the spring, and I will purchase the flowers from another source.  Still, I'm grateful I'm healthy and have the gift of this beautiful book.  

Below is a video featuring Ariella.  I hope you will take the time to enjoy viewing it.







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Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


 



Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I don't know what it's been like in your neck of the woods, but here in Central Alabama it has been wet, foggy, and cold.  I'm over winter....soooooo over it.

So I took down all wintry decor (snowmen, etc.) and shelved all winter-related books.  I decided to look ahead to Valentine's Day, and I decorated it for weekend breakfasts.



Lately I've been baking muffins and cooking coddled eggs on the weekends.  These little heart plates are perfect for muffins.  I set the table for six because there's three of us: we can use three place settings for  Saturday and three for Sunday.







I love the large napkin rings (a gift from a friend):  The table doesn't really need fresh flowers!




We usually don't eat at this table with just the three of us except on the weekend.  We burn candles throughout the week to make our home cozy.  




How can I not have two love bugs on a Valentine's table?  The salt and pepper shakers are Westies like our Mustang Sally and Finlay.


We only have a couple of other small Valentine's Day decorations out....nothing exciting.  I can't decide whether or not to decorate for Mardi Gras this year because everything has been canceled.  Mardi Gras is early this year (February 16th) which  means that Easter will also be early.

Do you decorate for Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras?


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill








 Happy Saturday, My Lovelies!  

I love learning new things, and several years ago, I learned how to roast a chicken from the A Cup of Jo blog.  You can see the original recipe HERE.  





Last week, I was trying to share this with my daughter, and I mistakenly thought I'd posted/shared this recipe, but I had not.  So I decided the next time I roasted a chicken, I'd write a post so our daughters would have a record of it here on my blog.

What I love most about Jo's recipe is how easy it is, although it looks very, very impressive.  This recipe truly is easy enough for a weekday supper, yet impressive enough for a dinner party.




This is what you'll need to roast a chicken.  You will need kitchen twine, but don't let that discourage you.





Roasted Chicken Recipe

Ingredients:

3-4 lb. free range chicken, giblets removed 
1 lemon, cut into quarters
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 T butter
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1 t garlic powder with parsley
1 t Herbes de Provence (thyme, basil, savory, fennel and lavender, purchased from Williams-Sonoma)
Salt and pepper

Procedure:

Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. According to Jo: "it is very important that you dry it well; any excess water will turn to steam in the oven and prevent the skin from getting nice and crispy."  She is correct!  Don't skimp on the paper towels.  

Insert lemon, garlic, sprigs of thyme and rosemary in the cavity of the bird, and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.  See!  Trussing a chicken is super-easy!

Rub the butter all over the skin of the bird. Any excess can be rubbed under the skin of the breasts.

Rub the dried herbs all over the bird, and then sprinkle the chopped herbs. Shake salt and a lot of pepper over it next.

Let chicken sit for one hour until it’s about room temperature. (Don't skip this step!  Good advice from Jo.)

While the bird is coming to room temperature, remove the middle rack in your oven and preheat to 450F. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or roasting pan into the oven while it preheats.

When oven is ready carefully remove roasting skillet/pan, and place the chicken, breast side up, into the pan. Return pan to oven and roast for 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165F when inserted into the thickest part of the bird (the breast).

(Note: If you have a larger bird, you may need to increase the ingredients and roasting time.)



Oven-ready chicken




Yum!  Winner winner chicken dinner!

My family has enjoyed this recipe over the years.  I'm trying to encourage Shanley Belle to roast a chicken using this easy method.


What are you having for dinner tonight?


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill






 

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reviewing one of my Christmas presents:  My Midnight Sun by John Shors.

According to Goodreads:

Life is good for thirty-year-old Owen Sterling.  But when tragedy strikes during his honeymoon in Thailand, the future he'd hoped for is shattered.  After time with his family and friends in America does little to ease his pain, Owen returns to Asia to try to make peace with his past.  A chance encounter unites him with Suchin, a young Thai woman battling her own demons.  Inspired by their unexpected connection, the unlikely pair of traveling companions journeys to Nepal, soon embarking on an extraordinary trek through the Himalayas.  Facing their own doubts, as well as everything from bandits to mudslides to illness, Owen and Suchin climb higher, their bond strengthening with each step.  But the shadows of their pasts continue to loom large.  And while both seek rebirth within a beautiful yet unforgiving land, neither knows if they will reach a legendary summit.  The climb could break them-or save them.

My Review:

My Midnight Sun was on my Christmas Wish List at our local Indie bookstore, and I was thrilled on Christmas morning when I opened it.  John Shors is the author of one of my favorite books, Beneath a Marble SkyIf you enjoy historical fiction set in Asia, I highly recommend it.  

I read in Shors's Author's Note that he wrote this novel based on his adventures backpacking through Asia when he was in his early twenties.  His agent was unsuccessful in getting it published; undaunted, he published ten other novels set in Asia during the interim.  COVID lockdowns gave him the opportunity to dust-off his manuscript and rewrite the beginning.  He decided to self-publish My Midnight Sun.  I enjoyed this book so much that I can't believe it was rejected by multiple editors.

A big chunk of this book is about hiking, and that is a topic I know very little about.   The two main characters Owen and Suchin set out on a quest to conquer the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal's Himalayan Mountains.  The first time I read the book blurb, I thought that the book might not interest me because of my limited experiences hiking, but I knew I would love Owen and Suchin because Shors is one of the best at presenting well-drawn characters.  I was very pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed reading about the hiking itself, every little detail from the medicines they had to pack to the beautiful descriptions of the landscape and trails.

The book starts out tragically as Owen loses his beautiful wife on their honeymoon in Thailand.  His grief is consuming him, and a friend suggests that he return to Thailand to begin healing.  That's where he meets Suchin, and she has suffered greatly, too.  On a whim Owen invites her to accompany him to Nepal.  I knew early in the story that there would be no happily ever after ending, yet their journey truly is magical and has a fairytale quality to it.  This novel is a must read because it reminds us that suffering is no match for hope and peace:  They heal brokenness.  


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Have you read anything good in 2021 you'd like to share with us?  Leave a comment below!


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




 





Happy Literary Friday, Lovelies!  Have you seen the beautiful January/February issue of Victoria Magazine yet?  It is one of the best issues I've read in a very long time.  It's the Entrepreneur Issue, and there are also lovely articles about Valentine's Day, "An Ode to Romance," and in Cooking and Entertaining there is a delightful article about "Gathering the Book Club."  The best news, though:  Jan Karon has been named the 2021 Writer in Residence.  She's the author of the popular Mitford Series, and if y'all have been paying attention, then you know that I started reading the series from the beginning during 2020.  This series, with its inspirational themes, has been a comfort to me during these unprecedented times.  I had read a couple of the books years ago, but it has been fun to read them in order.  




Jan Karon has been the Writer in Residence in the past; so happy to see her back in this role!


Today I'm reviewing the tenth installment, Home to Holly Springs.  I have four more left to read, and I'm hoping I will have read them all by spring.  I checked the book out from my local library.



According to Goodreads:

Readers of the nine bestselling Mitford novels have been captivated by Jan Karon's gift for illuminating the struggles that creep into everyday lives along with a vividly imagined world (People). They learned quickly that after you've spent time in Mitford, you'll want to come back (Chicago Tribune). Millions eagerly awaited the publication of each novel, relishing the story of the bookish and bighearted Episcopal priest and the extraordinary fullness of his seemingly ordinary life.


Now, Jan Karon enchants us with the story of the newly retired priest's spur-of-the-moment adventure. For the first time in decades, Father Tim returns to his birthplace, Holly Springs, Mississippi, in response to a mysterious, unsigned note saying simply: Come home. Little does he know how much these two words will change his life. A story of long-buried secrets, forgiveness, and the wonder of discovering new people, places, and depth of feeling, Home to Holly Springs will enthrall new readers and longtime fans alike. 


My Review:

I can't really share many plot points in this well-written novel because it would involve too many spoilers.  However, I can say that it was fun visiting Holly Springs and the places where Father Tim spent his childhood.  He returned to Holly Springs because he received a mysterious, unsigned letter saying simply, "Come home."  Tim drives his Mustang convertible with his huge dog Barnabas from Mitford, North Carolina to his hometown in Mississippi.  The narrative alternates between the contemporary plot and Father Tim's memories from childhood.  I enjoyed reading about Timothy as a boy and young man: I really feel like I know his character even better now.  I've always enjoyed books about family dynamics and secrets, and this one has them in spades.  If you've never read the Mitford Series, I highly recommend it.  I have enjoyed every single one of them so far, which is unusual for me because it seems like book series authors usually run out of storyline after a few books.  A major plus is that Father Tim and many of the other characters are inspiring: scripture and biblical truths are always integral elements in the stories.



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Have a great weekend, Lovelies.  What are you currently reading?


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


the favorite

  Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!   Yesterday we had a Snow Day here in Central Alabama.  It was so much fun hearing the children out...