Tales of the Traveling Tote: September 2023

Friday, September 1, 2023


Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  Welcome to another edition of Tales of the Traveling Tote!

If you'd like to learn more about these posts and our group, please click on THIS LINK.  La Countess de Monet and I have been super-busy this summer traveling back and forth to Lake Martin and Louisiana for events.  In today's post I will feature our trip to New Orleans for a very special group birthday party: Mr. Bookish and a few of his childhood friends had a birthday party at Commander's Palace.  We also had fun visiting a few of our favorite haunts as well during our trip to his hometown.

We spent one afternoon at the New Orleans Museum of Art gazing at their permanent collection.  This field trip deserves its own post, and I plan to write it soon.

Wayne Thiebaud
Salmon Rose, 1966
Oil on canvas

Close-up of a beaded costume on the Grand Staircase.

La Countess felt special because she got a sticker!

Mr. Bookish also took me shopping.  We went to three shops: the Tasc Store,  Aux Belles Choses, and Octavia Books.  Tasc sells the most comfortable active wear in the world.  Most of their clothing is made from sustainable bamboo.  I love their yoga pants, and I purchased several pairs of them and coordinating tops for summer and winter.  Although we're fortunate to have a Tasc store here in Birmingham, it's still fun to shop at their original store in New Orleans.  Aux Belles Choses lives up to its name because the shop offers the most beautiful French and English treasures for home and garden.  Their vintage linens are stunning, and I always purchase French soaps to bring home.  Octavia Books is one of my favorite indie bookstores, and the sweet booksellers there never disappoint.  I purchased a book for myself and a few cute bookish things for our daughters.

Octavia Books is on the upper left, and Aux Belles Choses is on the upper right.
We started our day at District Donuts (bottom).  
La Countess met a friend there.  Check out the first graphic in this post at the top of the page.  She loves making new friends! 

Not only does Aux Belles Choses sell beautiful things for the Anglophile and Francophile in your life, they also sell pretty Mardi Gras gifts and decor all year.  I love their king cake and Mardi Gras float porcelain boxes:  They make the cutest gifts!

All the shopping made us a wee bit peckish, so Mr. Bookish wanted to go to the very best place in the world for snowballs:  Hansen's Sno-Bliz.

I ordered a strawberry one.  They are famous for their nectar flavored ones and some of the cream ones, too.  What makes Hansen's Sno-Bliz snowballs so good is their ice pulverizing machine: It's the only one like it in the world!  

We always enjoy Audubon Park, and our hosts live right by the park.  What I love most are the gorgeous live oak trees.  Did you know that there is a Live Oak Society that registers and names these beautiful and ancient trees?  We found one on St. Charles Avenue that had lots of personality.

Called "Open Arms," it was registered by the Live Oak Society on August 14, 2001.

As I was saying...Open Arms has lots of personality!

Speaking of personality...

Mr. Bookish in the Garden Room at Commander's Palace.
Virtually everyone there was an LSU fan.
Roll Tide Roll!

Please visit the other Tales of the Traveling Totes posts by using the links below.  Jackie @ Purple Cocolat Home is hosting a giveaway for the pretty Courtly Check To Go tote.

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths 
Emily with Miss Courtney ChildsThe French Hutch
 Patti with Miss Kenzie @ Pandora's Box
Jenna with Miss Coquille @The Painted Apron
Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda
Rita with Miss Luna C Panoply 
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Jackie and Miss Madi K @ Purple Chocolat Home
Ricki Jill and Countess De Monet @ The Sketchy Reader (You're here!)

Mr. Open Arms would like to invite you to join us for the next episode of Tales of the Traveling Tote which will be live on December 1, 2023.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Falling Leaves Tablescape

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  Welcome to the 2023 Welcome Fall Tablescape Blog Hop hosted by my Sweet Friend, Rita, from the Panoply blog.

Thank-you so much for hosting, Rita!

I'm a summer girl, but I must admit that this year I'm truly looking forward to fall.  Our niece will be getting married in October in Louisiana, and we have a few other events we're looking forward to as well.  Although I always lament the end of summer, there are things I love about fall: college football season; all the pumpkin spice things; apple cider donuts; fall color (we live on a mountain in a deciduous forest); cooler weather; cozy decor; and quieter weekends at Lake Martin. 

Would you like to see my first step in fluffing our home for fall?  

Step into our dining room!

For my Welcome Fall tablescape, I chose a set of falling leaves napkins as my inspiration.  You can see what they look like in the first graphic at the top of the page and below.

Not only do I love the napkin's fall colors, I also love the pink on them.  I chose a few pink roses to match.

Because it's been very hot here, I chose a white table runner and willow placemats.  I was planning on using a green, orange, and yellow plaid runner that also looks nice with the napkins, but I changed my mind because it seemed too heavy.  I selected MacKenzie-Childs dinner plates that match the napkins.

Next, I added white leaf plates from Williams-Sonoma.  I actually have several white fall decorations;  I guess I've always liked using white to decorate for fall.

The MacKenzie-Childs rose cottage pattern blends nicely with the napkin and leaf plate.

I chose a vintage Laura Ashley brown and white plaid pitcher as a vase for the roses.  I also used a MacKenzie-Childs Keukenhof pitcher for the main centerpiece.

I enjoy purchasing flowers for our home from a local grower.  
The centerpiece includes celosia, zinnias, and bunny tails. 
I also added a few white gerbera daisies in white MacKenzie-Childs thistle vases because they're so cheerful.

I thought a few glass acorns would be fun additions, so I have them scattered on the table.  
MacKenzie-Childs tumblers and salt and pepper set; Horchow iced tea glasses and flatware; Longaberger votives; and a Pier1 candle holder complete the tablescape.

I was adding water to the centerpiece, and I spilled some a lot of water on the white runner, so after I quickly removed it and I cleaned up the table, I replaced it with a brown and off white Spode table runner.  At least I'd already taken a few photos!  I can't decide which one I like better.

Thank-you for visiting!

I hope you take the time to visit the other stylists participating in the blog hop via the links below.  I always enjoy seeing the other ladies' stunning tables!  

Everyday Living - Autumn is My Favorite Color
Home Is Where the Boat Is - Sunflowers and Pumpkins
Life and Linda - A Fall Wine Dinner
The Bookish Dilettante - Falling Leaves Tablescape  (You are here.)
The Little Yellow Corner Store - A Gathering of Mushroom Joy
Me and My Captain - Goodbye Summer Hello Fall
Red Cottage Chronicles - Autumn Brunch Table Setting
Thrifting Wonderland - Savor the Moment...Fall Tablescape
Belle Bleu Interiors - Anticipating Autumn's Arrival
Corner of Plaid and Paisley - Fall is Time for Football
The Painted Apron - Celebrating Fall

Come Back Friday For:

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Literary Friday: The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill by Rowenna Miller

Friday, August 25, 2023


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reviewing The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill by Rowenna Miller.  It was one of the five dollar specials at Barnes and Noble, and I bought it because I liked the premise of the story.

According to Goodreads:

"A warm-hearted yet fierce fairy tale."―H. G. Parry

In the early 1900s, two sisters must navigate the magic and the dangers of the Fae in this enchanting and cozy historical fantasy about sisterhood and self-discovery.

There is no magic on Prospect Hill—or anywhere else, for that matter. But just on the other side of the veil is the world of the Fae. Generations ago, the first farmers on Prospect Hill learned to bargain small trades to make their lives a little easier—a bit of glass to find something lost, a cup of milk for better layers in the chicken coop.

Much of that old wisdom was lost as the riverboats gave way to the rail lines and the farmers took work at mills and factories. Alaine Fairborn’s family, however, was always superstitious, and she still hums the rhymes to find a lost shoe and to ensure dry weather on her sister’s wedding day.

When Delphine confides her new husband is not the man she thought he was, Alaine will stop at nothing to help her sister escape him. Small bargains buy them time, but a major one is needed. Yet, the price for true freedom may be more than they’re willing to pay.

My Review

In this well-written novel, folks who live in the Prospect Hill community make little bargains with the Fae.  If they want to find something lost, they might leave the Fae a button and a ribbon.  The Fae take these small inconsequential items and remake them into something else entirely.  These little items help the Fae build their world.  It must be noted that these fairies are not friendly like Disney fairies: They are downright frightening and dangerous.  One should not mess with them, nor should they make bargains they can't fulfill.  Plus, language can be an issue as the Fae can twist it to their advantage in bargaining.

Although this novel is a fantasy about the World of the Fae, it also has elements of historical fiction.  The suffrage movement at first divides sisters Delphine and Alaine: Alaine runs for office in her local agricultural community, and Delphine, married to an industrial magnate, does not endorse the suffrage movement.  Delphine's husband is running for a city council seat, and he expects his wife to be supportive in the home through entertaining business and political allies.  Both sisters also differ in what they want out of life.  Alaine loves the farm and orchard of her childhood and never wants to leave;  Delphine wants to marry well and travel.  Older sister Alaine is disappointed in Delphine's choices, and she can't understand why Delphine doesn't want to stay.  Delphine, however, wants to escape her big sister's shadow.

What ends up uniting the sisters is a very dangerous bargain with the fairies on Alaine's Prospect Hill orchard.  Delphine's husband is abusive, and Alaine bargains for Delphine's escape.  Unbeknownst to Alaine, Delphine has also made a bargain that goes awry in a tragic way.  Both sisters must work together to figure out how to undo the bargain, yet one will have to travel beyond the veil to set things aright.

This story's pacing is very good, and it kept me turning the pages far into the night.  I really liked the world Rowenna Miller creates with the Fae: it's unique how they come into being.  The otherworldly setting and mood make The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill a worthy fantasy.  Delphine's transformation from victim to gritty heroine warms my heart.  Her fierce character will definitely stay with me for a long time.  

Have you read anything lately you'd like to share with us?  I'm always interested in book recommendations.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill