Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Confessional: I Really Need To Get My Act Together!

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If it's Friday, then it's time to confess!
I confess...
I confess that I really dread horse shows this summer due to the heat.  Does this make me a bad mom?  :/  We went straight from winter to summer. Where did spring go???

I confess...
I confess that I love the market basket Ginger gave me for my birthday.  I saw them all over the place at the Farmer's Market @ Seaside last weekend.

I confess...
I confess that I used the market basket to take my Nespresso and capsules with me to the beach.  I also confess that I have a serious addiction problem, and I need a twelve-step program.

I confess...
I confess that I ate way too many of the Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies.  But they taste OH SO GOOD with espresso!

I confess...
I confess that I still haven't planted our containers.  See the sad, empty plant stands on our deck?  But I do have a good excuse reason....we are having our gutters cleaned out, and I didn't want them messed-up.  :/

Bonnie doesn't seem to care....she still ikea sunning on the deck!

I confess...
I confess that just because Dori had some of these new Gamblin paint colors at the studio Thursday didn't mean that I had to go out and buy them.  But I must say in my defense that I only bought three tubes.  I could have been badder.  ;P 

OMG.....where have you been all my life, Warm White?
*le sigh*

I confess...
I confess that there is definitely a rustic cobbler in my very near future.  :D

I confess...
I confess that I've killed most of the house plants in our home.  I think I might just use these to store art supplies.  I give up.

I confess...
I confess that I was bad at Sundog Books.  I have no excuse....our library has opened a brand new branch within biking distance of our home!  I've been so bad.....but at least only one was hardcover.  :D

I confess...
I confess that our beach cottage rental had a library in it.  Yes, it did!  But I was good.  I didn't borrow or remove any of the books from the cottage, but I was *so* tempted.  Plus the owner obviously has very similar taste in literature as I!!!

So what are you waiting for?  Confess and link-up @ High-Heeled Love! Plus, Aubrey is hosting a giveaway!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Literary Friday: Memorial Day Weekend Beach Reading *and* a Special Recipe

When Shelley finished school last Thursday, we headed down to Seaside, Florida for Memorial Day weekend.  I read two books at the beach:  a romance and a foodie memoir.  Both were very enjoyable!

Lynn Kurland is the only romance writer I read.  I've read all of her romances: She knows how to tell a great story!  You can read my reviews of The More I See You,  One Magic Moment, and All For You by following the links. FYI: A Garden in the Rain, A Dance Through Time, and The More I See You are my favorites.  What I love most about her books is that they are't formulaic. Her characters are individuals, although some do share particular family traits. Her novels are character driven, and I relate to some more than others. In her latest, Roses in Moonlight, the characters are flawed yet endearing.

Samantha Drummond is a naive mid-twenty-something with two very overbearing academic parents.  Her big rebellion: She focused on the Elizabethan rather than the Victorian era in college and graduate school.  Her cringe-worthy mother is a nightmare, and she works Samantha very hard with little compensation.  When she has the opportunity to escape to Northern England and housesit for the summer, she takes it.  Little does she know that the couple for whom she's housesitting stole a priceless piece of Elizabethan lace, and Samantha becomes an accessory after the fact by unwittingly transporting the stolen textile.  

Derrick Cameron is a dashing antiquities dealer, security expert, and time traveler.  He knows that Samantha is the courier of the lace, but she doesn't fit the criminal profile.  Derrick follows Samantha from Northern England to (Elizabethan!) London, and the plot thickens as a couple of shady characters who are known jewel thieves start shadowing Samantha, too.  Derrick also has a secret: He's a trained Shakespearean actor!

Although Derrick is a Highlander and a member of the Cameron clan, I was not as enamored with his character until later in the book.  He was a bit snarky, especially in his comments directed toward Samantha. However, there is an explanation for his behavior, and it's refreshing to still root for Derrick in spite of this shortcomings.  Lynn Kurland fans will be happy that Sunny and Robert Cameron are also in the book; they are definitely one of my favorite couples.

I also read a memoir over the weekend: Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky. This probably seems like an unlikely beach read, but I loved it.  Shelasky's memoir basically details her love affair with a famous reality TV chef she calls Chef in the book.  She leaves her enviable job in New York to follow her chef and her heart to Washington, D.C. where Chef and his investors have started a restaurant and other projects.  Shelasky is not a foodie (a word she doesn't like), and she quickly seems lost and unhappy in D.C.  But this girl has the chutzpah to conquer her fears in the kitchen and starts a wildly popular blog, Apron Anxiety.  Ivy League educated, the girl can write. I love her voice; she seems very genuine.  Alyssa reminds me of Carrie Bradshaw with a potty mouth.  Some of her language and shenanigans made me wince, but I couldn't help but like her.  She has such a big heart, and she takes the time to get to know those around her.  

Each chapter ends with an applicable recipe or two.  All of the recipes sound fantastic, and I look forward to trying each and every one of them.  The first one I tried: Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Yep, that one...the one that has several urban myths attached to it.  I could almost swear that I heard the heavenly chorus when I saw the recipe.  Her Rainy Day Rigatoni played an important role in her book, and I'll try that one next, maybe over the weekend.

Although Alyssa's love affair with Chef didn't last, I still highly recommend it.  I was so pulling for them...I am their biggest cheerleader.  I think they're made for each other and love each other very much.  Love like theirs is rare, and I really hope they can eventually work out their differences.

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are worth an extra session of Pilates!

½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder, slightly crushed
1 ½ cups (8 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets. 

Cream the butter with the sugars using the paddle attachment until fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract. 

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Beat into the butter mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. 

Using a small one ounce scoop or a large spoon, drop onto the cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or 10 - 12 minutes for a crispier cookie.  

What have you been reading?  This is a linky!

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***Next week, let's share our summer reading lists!***

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Want To Know Wednesday: A Bit Random...

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Oops!  I'm a day behind.  Why is that?  Oh, yeah......the Memorial Day holiday!  :/

{no. 1} If we met up for coffee what would we talk about?
I would talk about horses with Kenzie, and books with Scriptor!  :D

{no. 2} What is one great thing that has happened to you this month? 
Our beach trip, definitely.  Having the whole family together plus good friends from New Orleans was so nice!

{no. 3} Where is the last place you went? 
Tuscaloosa yesterday to spend some time with daughter #1

{no. 4} If you could meet up with one or two bloggers who would they be? 
See the buttons on my sidebar?  Any one of them for sure!

{no. 5} What are your pet peeves?
I have several, but lately I've been annoyed by distracted drivers.  I've almost been in a couple of accidents recently (I've been on the road A LOT) due to drivers either texting or talking on cell phones. 

Link-up and share your answers!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

10 Things to Smile About This Month

I think this is a great idea for a monthly swap hosted by Emmy @ Emmy Mom.

I've had much to smile about this month!  Here's my list of ten things:

1.  Beach Trip:  Seeing my sweet college friend (Christine, center) at the beach with her family
Christine and Otto's daughters are so sweet!

 Spending time with my girls and their friends at the beach
So nice having everyone together!

Art at Home

2.  My blog's new look, thanks to Miss Angie!

3.  It's time for Birmingham's first Montessori High School.  
Plus, school is out for summer!  YAY!

4.  The first book sent to me by a publisher for review

5.  Cooking panna cotta for the first time!

6.  Retail therapy

7.  Horse show season

8.  Another great overnight oatmeal recipe
It's so nice when breakfast is ready when I wake up!

9.  Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies from the book Apron Anxiety.

10.  Lightening up for spring around the house!  I'll post more changes later.

I hope you'll join Emmy and share!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Happy List

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My Happy List

This will probably be the shortest My Happy List post *ever*

We've been @ the beach (Seaside and Watercolor, FL) and we left early this morning to return home.  I didn't have the patience to post because the internet was too slow, so I waited to until we got home.  We're also expecting Mr. Art @ Home's aunt and uncle this evening, so we're looking forward to visiting with them.

So sorry this post is so late!

I'm happy that we had a great time at the beach.  We visited our sweet New Orleans friends, the Briedes.  LOVE Otto, Christine, and their beautiful daughters.    :D

The weather was great, we are all blistered, but that's okay.  More later about our trip on Friday as I confess to all the shenanigans at the beach.

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Shelley (right) and her friend Bailey on the beach, Seaside, FL

Link-up your happy posts *here*

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, May 27, 2013

Musical Monday: Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov

Last week I enjoyed reading Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay while listening to the playlist on the author's blog.  You can see the playlist here.

I love classical music, and sometimes I need to listen to it when I'm stressed. I was definitely stressed last week!

Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade  

I hope you've enjoyed your Memorial Day Weekend!  We're at the beach, but we'll be home soon.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, May 24, 2013

Literary Friday: Sight Reading

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Sight Reading from Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.  My opinion and thoughts about the book are my own, and I was not paid to write this post.

This week I read Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay.  I've been looking forward to its release because I loved her first novel Russian Winter.  You may read my post about Russian Winter here.  Sight Reading is a lyrical story of family, betrayal, and yearning set in the world of a classical music conservatory.  The book includes a handy musical terminology glossary as well as a playlist on Kalotay's website.  I suggest listening to the playlist while reading the novel.

The story spans twenty years beginning in the late eighties.  Nicholas Elko and his wife, Hazel, have relocated to Boston from Paris.  Nicholas has accepted a prestigious position at a Boston conservatory where Remy, a violinist, is finishing her final year.  Nicholas and Remy begin an affair, and after he experiences a shock at a festival in Italy, he decides to leave Hazel and marry Remy.  Each of these characters represent three different levels of artistry: Hazel is an artist, but she never fulfills her potential;  Remy has talent but lacks a certain quality and never moves beyond second chair;  and Nicholas is a prodigy and at the top of his field.  I knew that the book was going to be interesting as Remy constantly quotes Oscar Wilde.  She wants to live fearlessly like him, and claims to want to live his life, a "big" life. Nicholas' colleague, Yoni, tells her that:

"Even the grandest lives come down to a few people and places.  Loved ones, your daily work, your neighborhood....I've been realizing that lately.  How complete our lives can be with just the few people and activities you most love."  

Although the woman scorned, Hazel is the most well-defined character.  It takes her a long time, but she finally "gets it" in the end and lives her life according to Yoni's wisdom.  She builds a life of beauty in the small details of her daily life while also giving other artisans an opportunity to sell their creations. In music, sight reading means performing music from a score without having seen the score before.  Having the second sight means perceiving things that aren't apparent to most people.  Hazel has this second sight, but she doesn't trust it. She sees her doppelgänger on two different occasions, and she has visions. The book is divided into three sections, and all three represent aspects of Hazel's gift.

Nicholas is the least defined main character, and he has abandonment issues.  He suffered a childhood trauma that has made him aloof and disengaged, the direct opposite of Remy and her sensitivity to others and their needs.  He has been composing an orchestra for years inspired by his Scottish childhood, and he can't seem to finish it;  yet he has no problems writing scores for movies and completing other commissions. Ironically Nicholas peaked very young, and Hazel is just coming into her own in her early fifties.

I enjoyed this book so much and not just because of its focus on music. It's a family drama about divorced parents with joint custody attempting to rear a daughter amicably.  The characters harbor deep, dark secrets, and some of them are quite shocking.  There is an element of magic in it (even a leitmotif of Gypsy music) and the unexplained.  But my favorite element of the book is the creative process and what it truly means to be an artist.  Remy's tutor at the conservatory teaches her that "the practice is the performance."  I couldn't agree more!

What have you been reading lately?  This is a linky!

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Just grab my button from my sidebar and link-up!
Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jasmine Tea-Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce

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Sometimes a special snack is needed to encourage students during Exam Week.  :D  This week I made Jasmine Tea-Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce from Southern Living.  I love Southern Living recipes.  They've never let me down!

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Jasmine Tea-Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 (3-inch) orange peel strip, white part removed
3 regular-size jasmine tea bags
1 vanilla bean
2 cups whole buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Berry Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water; let stand 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine cream and next 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Split vanilla bean; scrape seeds into cream mixture, and place bean in mixture.
3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or just until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat; immediately stir in gelatin mixture until smooth. Let stand 5 minutes.
4. Discard tea bags and vanilla bean. Stir in buttermilk and salt. Strain into a heatproof glass measuring cup. Divide among 8 (6-oz.) glasses. Cover and chill 24 hours. Serve with Berry Sauce.

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Berry Sauce

6 ounces fresh raspberries
3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Coarsely mash 3/4 cup raspberries and next 4 ingredients in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes. Stir in remaining raspberries just before serving.

NOTE:  I used Twinings jasmine tea, caster sugar, and a Meyer lemon.

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Southern Living 
MARCH 2013

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Do you have a go-to special after school snack for your kids?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We Want to Know Wednesday: Loves and Technology

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{no. 1} How connected are you to your phone? Do you always have it on you?  Very connected (?)  Yes.  I do always have it on me.  I wasn't as bad until my oldest daughter started driving!  :/ But I hate it when people mess with their phones at the dinner table, especially in public.  It's rude!  I won't let my kids have their phones at the table.

{no. 2} Would you be able to be away from your computer for an entire week?  Absolutely!

{no. 3} If you had to get rid of one of the following, which would it be and why? Cell phone, computer, or TV? Definitely TV.  I watch TV on my computer all the time.  Would that be cheating? :/  But it would be difficult to part with my iPad.  I have our whole life on it....calendars, schedules, recipes....That would be difficult.

{no. 4} Do you think you could ever live off the grid? I suppose anything is possible, but I'd probably move to Texas first.  it's the only state with its own grid.  :D

{no. 5} Tell us about a time you disconnected from technology/the world and how you dealt with it. Was it good or bad?  A few years ago we went skiing for a week during Christmas.  (Well to be fair we do that almost every year.)  I didn't mess with any devices.  It was so nice to get a break!  I didn't even ski with an iPod....I listened to nature!

So now you know one of my pet peeves!

Now on to some of my *loves*

[1.]   Lately I've been loving Goodreads.  If you want, please follow me over there and I'll follow you back!  Click on the yellow G icon under the Connect With Me heading at the top of my sidebar!

[2.]   Lately I've been loving Panna Cotta.  It's been very hot this week, and Panna Cotta is such a creamy and yummy dessert.  Stop by tomorrow for a recipe!

Doesn't it sound yummy!

[3.]   Lately I've been loving aloe vera.  I got a nasty burn on Saturday!

[4.]   Lately I've been loving BB creams.  Clinique's CC Cream is my favorite!

[5.]   Lately I've been loving my iPad.  I spite of today's questions for WWTKW, I do love it.  And I love its little stand that makes it so easy to use in the kitchen!  :D

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Happy List: Fun (out of the) Sun and Rain

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Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate when you want to spend time outdoors.  We've had several events cancelled due to inclement weather lately.  Here are three fun things to do with the kids this summer inside for very little money.

Gettin' *happy* indoors

My Happy List

1.   Visit the library or bookstore.  Since this is the last week of school (for our daughter) it's time to discover some wonderful reads just in time for Summer Reading.  Most libraries have Summer Reading Programs, and we sign-up every summer.

Here are three summer releases I'm looking forward to reading:

Released today!

Will be released June 18th

Will be released July 23rd

New book releases make me so happy!

2.   Take a class at a DIY Pottery Studio.  Recently Shanley Belle and I painted pottery at All Fired Up in Tuscaloosa during her sorority's Parents' Weekend.  I painted a tray in a retired MacKenzie-Childs pattern.  I found the costs to be very reasonable!

This is painted in the Perpignan pattern by MacKenzie-Childs.

All Fired Up even offers summer camps for kids.  Fun and creative activities make me happy!

Pottery class at Fired Up

3.   Here's an idea:  Send your child with dad to a Cooking With Dad class at Sur la Table.  The menu sounds great:  Pizza Bar: Make Dad a Pizza – Grilled Sliders Stuffed with Cheddar – Oven-Roasted Corn with Honey Butter – S’mores Sundaes.  Wow!  And just think:  they can practice what they've learned and cook dinner for the family.  GENIUS, I tell ya!

What is your go-to activity when you can't play outside?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill