Valentine's Day Decor

Sunday, February 5, 2023



Happy February, My Lovelies!  What have you been up to so far this month?  I've been doing lots of chores and things that were not done last year.  It hasn't been fun, but I admit that it feels pretty good because I'm completing lists almost daily!

I've also been decorating a little for Valentine's Day, and I thought I'd share.  Most of the decor is in the art studio.  I started with a banner that spells L-O-V-E., and added a few romantically frayed ribbons with sentiments stamped on them.  (It's always a challenge taking photos in the studio, especially on sunny days.)











Yes...I still have poinsettias all over the place because they still look so great!  I can't bear getting rid of them.



Valentine's Day mini ornaments




The bottom heart-shaped paperweight is new.








Other than fresh flowers, I haven't decorated much in the family room:






More mini Valentine's Day ornaments in a milk glass bowl







And if you missed it, I participated in a Happy Valentine's Day Tablescape Blog Hop:


Here is the LINK.



Breakfast room table




Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill



Valentine's Day Tablescape Blog Hop: Paris Is Always a Good Idea

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

 

Je t'ador!

Je vous adore, mes amours!  Welcome to the 2023 Valentine's Day Edition of our Tablescape Blog Hop Series!  I want to thank sweet Rita from the Panoply Blog for organizing and hosting these hops.  Rita, you are the best!



My Valentine's Day tablescape is in our dining room.  I chose a French theme because I'm in the mood to travel, but for now, I can pretend.  Paris is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world, and I agree.  Not only did I decorate the table, I also decorated our Welsh Cupboard, too.  Yes, the flowers on the lefthand side of the cupboard are poinsettias.  I still have them all over the house because they still look so pretty.  I've never had them last so long.  I've had them in the house since before Thanksgiving.





Before we look more closely at the table, let's look at the Welsh cupboard:


I made a banner using vintage-style Valentine's Day cards and grosgrain ribbon.



I also added a few French and Valentine's Day accessories.



A cake stand and server for Valentine's Day treats


Below is a closer look at the table:







The first thing I chose for the table is the linen tablecloth.  I like using it for football season because it's crimson and white (University of Alabama school colors), but this past football season I didn't use it.  It's one of my favorites in my collection.



I chose the Paris theme due to my Nathalie Lété La Tour Eiffel plates:


I love the hearts on the plates as well as the fun colors.


Next, I added café au lait bowls in different colors; each bowl matches a color on the plates.  We've been eating lots of soups, stews, and gumbo since Christmas.


The crimson bowl matches the heart.



Continuing the Parisian theme, I chose crimson and white toile de jouy napkins.  They even have a dancing couple on them!



The MacKenzie-Childs Piccadilly heart-shaped bowls match the plates and bowls.



Pink mercury glass tea light votives add sparkle.



The glasses are etched with the letter T as are the coasters.

I wanted the centerpiece to be French-inspired.  French flower arrangements tend to be very dense, unlike English designs.  I went out and found the most ruffled roses I could find.



I decoupaged the vase myself.  I used images from old Romantic Homes magazines.  Do you remember that magazine?  It was one of my favorites, and I miss it!



Resources:

Plates and café au lait bowls:  Anthropologie
Tablecloth, glasses, and flatware:  Horchow
Heart-shaped bowls and Salt and pepper set:  MacKenzie-Childs via Christine's 
Votives:  Leaf 'n Petal
Napkins:  Waverly
Wooden chargers:  Pier1




Please visit all the blogs participating in the hop.  Everyday Living is next! 
Here are the links:

Home is Where the Boat Is - Love Birds' Bed & Breakfast
My Hubbard Home - Vintage Inspired Rose and Gold Valentine's Table
Everyday Living - Colors of Love
Pandora's Box - A Galentine's Table
Living With Thanksgiving - Let Me Call You Sweetheart
The Little Yellow Corner Store - A Glamorous Winter Snowman for Valentine's Day
The Painted Apron - Hearts and Flowers
My Thrift Store Addiction - Cupid's Valentine Dessert Buffet
Belle Bleu Interiors - A Day for Love
Red Cottage Chronicles - Fire and Ice Valentine's Tablescape
Hyacinths for the Soul - Where You Go, My Heart Follows
Thrifting Wonderland - Start With Flowers Tablescape
Corner of Plaid and Paisley - Sweet Valentine Tablescape









Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


Literary Friday: Muffin But the Truth by Ellie Alexander *PLUS* a Recipe for Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Friday, January 13, 2023



Happy Literary Friday (the Thirteenth!), Y'all!  

Today I'm reviewing the second half of the Bakeshop Mystery Series by Ellie Alexander.  Here they are in order:


For those of you who've been paying attention (HAHA), I read the entire series from start to finish in 2022.  I had already read several of the mysteries, but I decided to read the series from start to finish and in order during my cancer treatment.  It was so much fun, and my family enjoyed many recipes from the books. Each book has several recipes in the back, and every one I've tried has been fantastic!  The latest installment, Muffin But the Truth, was released on December 27th.  I think it's fun that it was released on that date because I started chemo on December 27, 2021, so I've come full circle!

At the end of this post, I will include a recipe for lemon blueberry muffins you and your family will love!


First, you might want to read my overview of the series and short reviews of the first eight books by linking to THIS POST.


Here are the mini reviews of Books 9-15:



Juliet Capshaw, or Jules to her friends and family, has a lot on her plate in this installment as there are multiple murders: the first one when Juliet discovers a skull at a lakeside picnic.  It is believed to be connected to a missing persons case from the 1960s, which adds an interesting layer to the plot.  Jules is also struggling with the business side of Torte, her family's bakery, and she's still estranged from her husband Carlos, a head chef on a cruise ship.  I enjoyed the mysteries in this book, and the overall plot was engaging.



I loved A Cup of Holiday Fear because it has all the Christmas feels.  Jules and her mother Helen are blessed to have the best staff at Torte, and they want to show their appreciation to them by  hosting their annual staff party at the historic Winchester Inn’s Dickens Feast. The six-course dinner is a beloved tradition in Ashland, complete with Yorkshire pudding and a Christmas goose. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and even "a cheerless Ebenezer Scrooge" delight diners with jokes, friendly banter, and surprise gifts. Or that's usually the plan for these entertaining themed dinners.  Unfortunately for the Torte team, the actors are less than delightful and the dinner is a disappointment.  To make matters worse,  the power goes out during the dessert course as snow falls outside.  Soon a body is discovered by the inn's Christmas tree, and Jules finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.  Merry Christmas, Jules!



This installment takes place in the spring, and Jules and her team at Torte are preparing for the influx of tourists as it's the beginning of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Jules' mother and her new husband, Ashland's police chief known as The Professor for his Shakespearean scholarship, have moved into a lake home, and they gifted Juliet with her childhood home.  While getting settled, Jules finds a journal her father wrote back in the 1980s, and it outlines a hit and run accident among other mysteries new to Juliet.  This one was poignant because Juliet lost her father when she was a child.  It is very well-written, but I did need to have tissues nearby while reading it.






Chilled To the Cone takes place shortly after Nothing Bundt Trouble.  It's still spring, and Juliet has the opportunity to open-up a pop-up shop featuring Torte's signature iced drinks and frozen custards called concretes.  Jules and her team have trouble with the new business venture, and they seem to be sabotaged at every turn.  When a street performer called The Wizard becomes a murder victim right as the new venture is about to open, Jules tries to solve the case while struggling to run her businesses.  



Mocha, She Wrote takes place in summer during the height of Ashland's festival season.  Torte is busy nourishing the tourists' sweet cravings and iced caffeinated needs between performances at the Elizabethan Theater.   Head barista Andy has been selected to compete in the West Coast Barista Cup which will be hosted in their quaint hamlet.  The competition has drawn coffee lovers and press from all over the West to sample the creative drinks made by the competitors.  Unfortunately for Andy, the first round of competition is a fiasco when the head judge spits out Andy's brew.  Just a few hours later, said judge is found dead holding Andy's creamy latte.  Can you guess who's the number one suspect in Book #13?  You don't have to be a coffee lover to enjoy this installment, but if you love coffee, you will probably love the mystery as well as the recipes.






Bake, Borrow, and Steal takes pace in November, and the Torte Team is challenged with their biggest event ever: creating chocolate novelties for the opening gala of a new exhibit at the  Southern Oregon Museum of Art.  The big draw for the exhibit is a lost Shakespearean manuscript entitled Double Falsehood.  The recent discovery of the manuscript is considered one of the greatest historical discoveries in literature, and to celebrate it Jules and her team will also cater a historically accurate Elizabethan feast.  I loved the historical aspect of this mystery story.  This one is lots of fun!



Donut Disturb is a book the Bakeshop Mysteries fans have been waiting for: Thomas and Kerry's springtime wedding.  Both are Ashland police officers, and Thomas is one of Jules' closest childhood friends.  His bride, Kerry, is fast becoming a good friend to Jules, too.  Kerry is very private, and she's intimidated about having a wedding of any kind, but Jules promises a simple yet beautiful wedding in one of Ashland's most beautiful settings, Lithia Park.  The picnic wedding begins on a sour note as one of the members of Heart Strings (the wedding band) is found dead, and then a wedding crasher from Kerry's past might just undermine the entire event.  As a super fan of this series, this one did not disappoint.


And finally, the most recent installment, Book Sixteen, of the Bakeshop Mystery Series:


I will be writing a longer review of this one.

According to Goodreads:

In Muffin But the Truth, Torte's pastry chef and amateur sleuth Juliet Capshaw finds herself in deep water... in another delicious installment in the Bakeshop Series from author Ellie Alexander, set in Ashland, Oregon!

Ashland is known for its Elizabethan charm and touches of Shakespeare around every corner, but the surrounding Rogue Valley draws adventure enthusiasts to its outdoor wonderland of high alpine lakes, mountain ranges, and pristine rivers. Jules Capshaw and the team at Torte have been hired to cater a weekend getaway on the mighty Rogue River. Jules is going to have to put her culinary skills to the test while baking gooey chocolate chip skillet cookies over an open flame and preparing extravagant feasts under a canopy of stars. The executive team at a big city firm will be rafting the Rogue’s rapids and gathering around the campfire for spooky stories, but their dysfunction quickly begins to show. Between constant bickering and heavy drinking, Jules wonders how the team can accomplish anything. She’s happy for a brief reprieve when they zip up their lifejackets and head out in their boats, but the serenity of the scene quickly vanishes when Jules discovers one of the execs floating face down in the water. She’s going to have to uncover the truth before she gets pulled under.




My Review:

There are certain characteristics most readers expect in cozy mysteries: lovable, amateur sleuths; interesting settings; unexpected plot twists; and undelightful murder victims.  In Muffin But the Truth, one of these expectations is not met, which makes it vary from the norm.  I won't tell you which one because I don't want to spoil it for you.  The event Jules and the Torte team are catering on the banks of the Rogue River should have been so easy given their skills and preparation.  However, the corporate employees they're catering to are all a bit too much to handle, whether it's their drinking, attitudes, or spiteful comments.  I wanted Jules to walk away, give them a refund, and take the loss, but our intrepid Jules would never consider such a thing.

What I loved most about Muffin But the Truth is the creativity Jules and the team draw from to make the logistics of catering cowboy-style cookout fare for the event seem simple.  I also have tried a few of the recipes from the back of the book, and they are delicious!  I always try the recipes when I finish each book.  It's fun because all the recipes are in the plot somewhere, and Ellie also shares tips and tricks she's learned about baking and cooking: She is a fabulous baker!  I love watching her YouTube videos.  

Although I recommend reading these books in order, you don't have to do so.  I read several out of order before I started at the beginning (the first one I read was Book #5, Fudge and Jury).  

Here are the recipes in Muffin But the Truth

Skillet Cookies
Cowboy Baked Beans
Caramel Apple Strudel
Chicken Pot Pie
Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Ode to September Latte




Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (I used unsalted)
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (use whole)
Juice and zest of one large lemon
2 cups flour
2 t baking powder 
1 t salt
2 cups fresh blueberries


Procedure:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  

Cream butter and sugar together in mixing bowl.  Add eggs, buttermilk, and the juice and zest of one lemon.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together and slowly incorporate flour mixture into the mixing bowl.

Gently toss blueberries with one tablespoon of flour.  This ensures that the blueberries don't sink to the bottom of the muffin pan!  (Ellie always shares helpful hints like this one.)  

Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.

Scoop into greased muffin cups (I grease cupcake liners) and bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes.  Take muffins out of tin and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes or so.  When left in the tin, they continue to cook!

NOTE:  Ellie also includes a recipe for a lemon glaze for these muffins, but since I baked them for breakfast, I opted not to glaze them.  If you want the recipe for the glaze, buy the book.  You won't be disappointed!  


I've enjoyed sharing my favorite cozy mystery series with you.  It was comforting reading it during treatment because I love the setting, characters, baking, and the feeling of community.




Do you have a cozy mystery or cozy mystery series you'd like to share with us?  Leave a comment and share!





Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill