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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Literary Friday: The Late Bloomer's Club

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!
Today I'm sharing a fun novel by Louise Miller:  The Late Bloomer's Club.  You might recall that I reviewed her first novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living a couple of months ago.  Both novels are set in the rural Vermont town of Guthrie, and it was fun to get glimpses of some of my favorite characters from the first novel in the second one.

According to Goodreads

A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small-town's efforts to do right by their community, and the power of a lost dog to conjure up true love

Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what's "the usual." But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her younger, free-spirited sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.

Kit, an aspiring--and broke--filmmaker needs to generate funding for her latest project, and is particularly keen when they find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided--some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change--and they aren't afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.

Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn't quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had. 

Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on--finding Peggy's missing dog, Freckles.

When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn't always mean giving up your dreams.

My Review:

I'm beginning to get attached to this little Vermont hamlet and her residents: They're all quirky, passionate, complicated, and very, very interesting.  

This one begins with the untimely heart attack and car wreck of Guthrie's cake lady, Peggy Johnson.  Peggy's loyal border collie companion Freckles escapes the wreckage and runs away.  The search for and sightings of Freckles is a motif throughout the novel, and it's symbolic of the search for the main characters' true purpose.  As an example, Nora's heart doesn't really belong to the diner she inherited from her parents; she doesn't even cook!  Also, Nora's love interest Elliott seems way too grounded and generous to work as a location scout and negotiator for a "big box" store.  

One of the story's mysteries is why Peggy had intended to sell her property to a big box store chain.  Nora doesn't want to sell, and she's being pressured not to sell by most residents because the large super center would hurt most local mom and pop stores.  She's torn about what to do: As one of Peggy's heirs she wants to uphold her wishes (not to mention that her sister Kit wants to sell so she can finance her movie she's filming).  When a series of unfortunate events makes it certain that Nora and Kit MUST sell, all is not lost.  This book has one of the most unexpected and happy resolutions ever.  

One of my favorite characters is Max.  Max is Kit's boyfriend, and he's a veritable Jack of All Trades.  He did a stint as a baker, and his skills enable Kit and Nora to fulfill Peggy's outstanding cake orders.  Louise Miller shares Peggy's famous Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Icing in the back of the book.  This recipe alone is worth the book's price, but fortunately for her readers, Miller has written a charming, inspiring story reminding readers it's never too late to chase dreams.

NOTE: I purchased this book at my favorite Indie bookstore, Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida.

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Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Book Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I hope you are enjoying a beautiful spring wherever you are.  I've been MIA partly due to gorgeous weather and outdoor activities.  We have to enjoy it while we can in Central Alabama before the high summertime temperatures take over!

Today I'm sharing a new novel that's hit the shelves at just the right time, right before Mother's Day:  The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms.

According to Goodreads:

“A laugh-out-loud funny, pitch-perfect novel that will have readers rooting for this unlikely, relatable, and totally lovable heroine, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is the ultimate escape—and will leave moms everywhere questioning whether it isn’t time for a #momspringa of their own.” —New York Journal of Books

Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City.

Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind.

But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.

My Review:

First of all, I need to explain the term "momspringa."  Momspringa comes from the Amish word "rumspringa," which is a period when some Amish youth, boys more than girls, experience greater freedom. Without their parents' authority and not yet under the authority of the church as they haven't been baptized, the adolescents can leave their homes, buy cars, play with technology, and experience other things forbidden in their communities.  This is a time for reflection and deciding whether or not they want to become members of the church.  Amy is from Amish country in Pennsylvania, but she is not Amish.  Her best friend from college, New York fashion magazine editor Talia, decides to make a project out of Amy by treating her to her very own "momspringa."  Amy's mospringa will include a complete and total makeover, exciting New York City activities including dating,  a magazine feature article, and a whole lot of reflection.

Momspringa doesn't sound like a bad idea...especially for a single mom, does it?

Amy's children Cori (15) and Joe (12) have been Amy's sole focus for the past three years after their deadbeat father leaves them to run away to Hong Kong with a young honeypot.  Not only does he abandon his family, he abandons them with a mortgage (in Bucks County no less) and no money for them to live.  Amy had been a stay at home mom, but fortunately she finds employment at her children's private school as a librarian.  Her "escape to New York" is actually for a librarian conference at Columbia where she can earn professional development hours.  She's also a presenter, and her topic is genius: a "flexthology" where students can choose their own books uploaded to their e-readers based on theme/interest.  Eliminating reading groups, the theory is that lower readers will feel more inclined to read as they aren't labeled as being in the lower group, and of course it won't hurt the higher level readers because they can still be challenged by choosing books above grade level.  Sorry about my geek-fest here, but there's tons of nerd humor in the book, too, especially from very hot librarian Daniel.

Y'all must read this book.  It would make the perfect book club selection because everyone will finish it: Kelly Harms' witty dialogue, quirky, well-drawn characters (Lena-the-former-nun and Amy's best friend is a favorite), and honesty about the complicated feelings all mothers have will leave readers plenty to discuss at your next meeting.  This book is the perfect gift for mothers of all ages, and it's aptly dedicated to single mothers everywhere.

Disclosure:  I'd like to thank the publisher via TLC Book Tours for sending me a hardcover copy of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill