Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I'm Getting a Son! *plus* a Winner

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  I have great news!!!!!  Our oldest DD is engaged to be married!  We are so happy for Shanley Belle and Christopher.  And I'm happy for myself because I'm gaining a son to spoil rotten!  ;P

Shanley Belle and Christopher are two of the hardest working young people you'd ever hope to meet.  While Shanley is defending her generals for her PhD program this summer, Christopher is graduating (this weekend) top in his class from his residency program and will begin working at a pediatric clinic in Baton Rouge.

They've only been engaged a week, and they're busy this week celebrating Christopher's graduation with several parties and a commencement at the Country Club of Louisiana.  They are getting close to setting a date, and I am so excited to help them plan their wedding.  I think they're the cutest, but obviously I'm a wee bit prejudiced!

In the meantime...

I'm trying to learn new photography skills especially during weekends at Lake Martin, Alabama.

Here are a few of my favorite shots:

We've been looking for and discussing possible venues for the wedding in case the couple decides not to get married at St. Stephen's (Shanley wants a smaller wedding), and they've even talked about the possibility of a destination wedding because their closest friends are scattered all over the country.

I promise that Goat Island IS NOT one of the possible venues, although it is fun to see and feed the goats snacks.  :D

On to the winner of the June 1st Giveaway...

I don't know what happened with my Rafflecopter.  I've only used that widget MANY times on my blog, and this one did not work.  Also, no one said that it wasn't working in comments!  So odd....

Anyway, Google number generator picked number 17 out of 20, so Carla is the winner of the wine carrier!  Congratulations, Carla!!!

Please check back on Friday for a couple of reviews that just might be the beach or lake read you're looking for!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Tales of the Traveling Totes: Lake Martin, Alabama *PLUS* a Giveaway!

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

This past quarter I only traveled 83 miles from our home in Birmingham to beautiful Lake Martin, Alabama.  It's our home away from home.  In this post, I'll share with you a few of my favorite places on the lake.  I have been "trying out" cameras, and the learning curve with them all has been a thing, I'm not going to lie.  Some photos are better than others, so please forgive me for a few less than stellar photos.

Duck swimming near Goat Island

This post will feature:

1.   Jim Scott's Gardens
2.   SpringHouse Restaurant
3.   Tallapoosa Art School
4.   Chimney Rock

First stop:  Jim Scott's Garden

Jim Scott began his gardening journey after a tornado felled several trees on his property.  Rather than replanting the trees, he started a small garden.  He has added to his property over the years, and now owns just under seven acres on the banks of Lake Martin.  The property is mostly sloped, and there are many garden "rooms" on multiple levels, often separated by pathways and water features.  His gardens are only open during the month of May, and this year everything was stunning.  We've had a wet spring in Alabama, so it's been one of the prettiest springs that I can remember.

La Countess de Monet and I toured Jim Scott's Garden with my ECW group.  This metal pot is located in a woodland area near the street side entrance and pavilion.  

Street side entrance to path leading to the gardens

One of the numerous water features in the garden

What I love most about the garden is the fairytale-like quality.  I was expecting to see Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs around each corner!

The property did not have a single stone on it; instead it was composed of Alabama red clay.  Although the above water feature looks natural, most of the rocks were brought in from Sewanee, Tennessee.

I took several photos of containers because they were all so beautiful and most were dramatically planted.

Handmade swing in a tiny glade filled with hydrangeas and ferns

Detail of playhouse

I wonder where this little doorway leads...

This is one of my favorite water features

What kind of voodoo magic is this?  I can't seem to grow maidenhead ferns in my home.  I love them, and they are stunning in Jim Scott's garden!

Top of lakeside gazebo

Hippopotamus sculpture in the reeds, lakeside

One of the lawn areas

SpringHouse Restaurant

In my opinion, SpringHouse Restaurant at Russell Crossroads is arguably the best restaurant in Alabama.  I know it's my favorite!  Executive Chef Rob McDaniel sources local produce and products.  But not only is the food par excellence, the setting is stunningly gorgeous.  The buildings are constructed of stone and rough hewn timber overlooking the stables and rolling hills leading to the lake.  

The grounds are so pretty

This photo is taken from the promontory upstairs.  This is my favorite part of the restaurant because it overlooks the well house and the stables.

The Well House is a
circular, 12-seat private dining room accessed via the restaurant’s
subterranean wine cellar.  I would love to host a party there one day!  We asked for a tour, and it's truly an amazing space.

View of the Stables at Russell Crossroads from SpringHouse Restaurant

Tallapoosa Art School

Dorothy Littleton has created an amazing space to create art on the shores of Lake Martin in Dadeville, Alabama.  The Tallapoosa Art School hosts workshops throughout the year, and I was so lucky to get to attend Qiang Huang's still life workshop earlier this spring.  Dorothy is the ultimate hostess, and her family's property, called Blue Heron, is a wonderful facility with lakeside cabins for visiting artists and a beautiful studio.  Plus, one can't beat the beauty of Lake Martin for plein air painting practice.

La Countess de Monet outside the Blue Heron's art studio.

The outdoor spiral staircase leads to a loft where visiting art instructors can stay.  It is the most charming studio I've ever seen!

Inside studio, looking down from loft

The following photos are courtesy of Dorothy Littleton

One of the adorable cabins visiting artist can stay in while attending workshops.

Qiang Huang teaches a plein air lesson

Some plein air workshops visit Jim Scott's Garden for painting demonstrations and classes.  There's plenty of inspiration for landscapes there!

Sunset at the Blue Heron

You can read my blog post about my experiences at the workshop HERE.  I had such a great time that I'm already signed-up to take another workshop at the Tallapoosa Art School this summer.  I will probably take more than one, actually.  For more information about scheduled workshops, click HERE

Chimney Rock

One of the most popular hangout spots at Lake Martin is Chimney Rock and neighboring Acapulco Rock.  Youngsters enjoy jumping off the rocky cliffs, and it's a great place to people watch.

I apologize about the quality of these photos.  I'm still learning!  ;P

I hope you enjoyed our adventures.  La Countess de Monet and I appreciate your attention and patronage, and we'd like to treat you to some ice cream!

And now on to the giveaway!

That's me!  I'm The Sketchy Reader!

In order to enter, please fill-out the Rafflecopter widget below!
LEGAL:  This is a sweepstakes, and the winner will be chosen at random via the Rafflecopter widget.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please visit all the other ladies and totes by using the links below!

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 are HERE!
Cherry Kay and Carrie Ann Hall @ Entertaining Women  

Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.  I hope you are having a lovely late spring wherever you are, and I hope that those of you affected by flooding will dry out and rebuild soon.  Much love to you all!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Mother's Day; Cameras; Copyright, Watermarks, and Phishing; Beautiful Spring Days

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!

I hope all of you enjoyed Mother's Day, whether you are a mom or not.  I have many dynamic friends who aren't moms, but they are fantastic aunts, sisters, and mentors.  

I recently celebrated another birthday in early May, and because it's usually during exam week here in Alabama, many of my friends wanted to delay celebrating my birthday.  I lot of college students are moving out of dorms, etc, so I'm still celebrating this week!  :D

I want to thank many of my readers for your sweet emails, birthday cards, and prezzies, especially the Traveling Totes gals.  Y'all are all so kind and thoughtful!  I feel so loved....

I received the Five Days of Mom Mother's Day Advent Box from Once Upon a Book Club.  The hot pink booklet has adorable stories in it, one for each of the five days.  Each story corresponds to a gift for that day....Thanks, Shanley Belle!

I will write a review of the book and the box as a whole later!

I have been trying out cameras for my birthday.  So far I have not found what I really want.  The main reason I want it is for photographing my oil paintings.  I was reading an online forum for painters, and most of them no longer use their DSLR cameras: The mostly use iPhone 8X or better, mainly because the cameras are so accurate now, and the apps help editing them (like SnapSeed).  

Please: If you have any experience with cameras and would like to share your knowledge, leave a comment or email me.  I'm painting up a storm these days, and I'd like to sell my daily paintings, but I need good images or they won't sell.

As y'all know, I am not the best photographer, and I've never had good equipment.  I would like for the images on my blog to improve, but keep in mind that isn't my top priority.

While reading about cameras on an artists' forum, I also read about a few scams.  One in particular caught my attention:  Wallpart.  I will not provide a link here because I'm not quite sure what to think about it.  If you want to visit them, do so at your own risk.  Basically, Wallpart can steal any of your images from your blog or website and sell your copyrighted images via poster form.  They've been around for a long time, but I'm just now learning about them.  Their address is an incomplete Australian address, their posters are printed and shipped from China, and the IP address was registered by a Russian.  I have read that the site is actually a phishing site, and its main goal is to steal information from photographers and artists.  

Hmmmm.....I'm not quite sure I buy this.  If I were a Russian mobster and wanted to steal information from a group of people, I don't think I'd choose struggling artists or photographers.....or bloggers.  I do want to share that I did search the site.  Many of my photos from my blog are on there.  And so are yours.  Every single blog friend of mine has photos on this site.  

BTW I also learned from artists who've had their work stolen is this: Watermarks do not help, either.  Watermarks can be removed via photoshop and other photo editing apps.  Also, disabling right click doesn't help because predators can take screenshots of art and photography.  

I'll be the first to admit that I love many of the photos y'all have shared over the years, and I think prints of your photos would look beautiful in anyone's home (especially mine).  However, I think the whole set-up is weird.  

I do not make money from my blog.  I do not make money from my art.  I took art classes for ten years, and I have invested in thousands of dollars of art supplies.  I will have to sell a lot of art to make-up for what I've spend on this hobby.  But still, I didn't like it when the Bleacher Report used a photo without my consent, and didn't even credit my blog.  

What are your thoughts?  Have you heard of Wallpart?  Do you know of any other sites that steal from bloggers and other creatives?  I would love to read your thoughts on this topic below.

I have been enjoying this beautiful spring we're having here in Central Alabama, although we've had our share of rainy days, too.  We eat alfresco every chance we get!  I did see a lovely article in my inbox of an outdoor book club or literary tea party.  It's from Cottages and Bungalows Magazine (printed in the May/June edition), and I guess I'll start reading and supporting it it since Romantic Homes is no more.  I don't want this magazine to go away, too!

Here is the link for the article, and they even have a fun quiz and other adorable ideas for your tea party.  Better yet, pick-up the May-June edition at your local bookstore or newsagent!

I also wanted to let y'all know that I've given-up on The Sketchy Reader Book Club.  Clearly my readers don't want that.  I get it. 

If you would like to comment on what you'd like to read about on my blog, let me know!  But I must warn you that it must be stuff that I'm already doing in my life (reading, art, gardening, tablescapes, decor, cooking, baking, etc).  I blog about my family life, and I DO NOT plan my life around my blog anymore.  If anything, I do want to be authentic which is not easy for me because I tend to be more reserved and stoic compared to most bloggers I've met.  Any feedback will be appreciated!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill