Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter Storm 2014

Good morning, Lovelies!  It is so wonderful to be home safely due to the winter storm.

On Tuesday morning while I was in Pilates class, we noticed that it had started snowing hard.  The forecast only called for light flurries and maybe a possible dusting for the Birmingham and Central Alabama area.  The bulk of the winter weather was supposed to hit Montgomery and farther south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The forecasters were wrong….dead wrong.  It was a not so subtle reminder that God is in control, for sure.

I ran home (one minute away) from Pilates and grabbed a light jacket and my purse/cell phone and headed to my daughter's school to check her out.  We live on Oak Mountain and these things tend to affect us more because the road over the mountain is treacherous on a sunny day.  By the time I left our neighborhood and made it to the top of the mountain, conditions were so hazardous that a truck had jackknifed on the mountain and I had to turn around and go the "back way" down Dunnavant Valley.  Then I had to go over the mountain on Highway 280.  This delayed me and caused me to get in the gridlock around Birmingham.

I finally made it to Valleydale Road in about four hours (my daughter's school is just off Valleydale), and I hit even more gridlock.  Below is a photo of a 24 car pile-up soon after it happened, and as more cars tried to get through Valleydale, folks abandoned their cars, sometimes on the street because many people were running out of gas.  There were at least 500 or so cars in this area alone Tuesday night.  (The Fox Lake Farm property is visible on the right where my daughter rides.)

Valleydale Road accident via Twitter

The cause for much of the gridlock is this:  School administrators dismissed schools and businesses closed around the same time, but Hoover City Schools (where we live) delayed their dismissal more than the other districts. As a result, some 4600 students had to spend the night at their schools in Hoover.

Since I couldn't get through Valleydale to get to my daughter's school, I did a u-turn (absolutely no traffic headed in the opposite direction) and drove about 500 yards to a fire station.  I noticed a snowplow and sand truck there, and they were preparing to put sand down on Valleydale once crews cleared a path.  In the interim, my friend Lulu and her husband Robert heard I was at the firestation and invited me to dinner at their house just a block away. After the best chicken wings and pizza I'd ever had, it was time for the sand trucks and plow to make the road safer.

The sand truck and snowplow wrecked into each other.  (I can't make this up), plus the plow was behind the truck, pushing the sand out of the way!  :/

It took yet another thirty minutes for the trucks to be disentangled and set to rights.  Once the sand was down, it improved the road enough for me to get through so I could get to Christ Church United Methodist, home of Stonecreek Montessori School.

I arrived at 10:30 PM, approximately twelve hours from the time I left home. Shelley was happy to see me, and I was happy to be there with the kids and faculty over night.

Several of the kids from the local high school wrecked their cars in front of the church.  I think it was reckless of the high school to release those kids to drive home, but they did.  We took in several girls from Spain Park High School and a few kiddos from Jeff State Community College.  The church was so gracious to serve the kids their Wednesday Night Meal a night early, and the kids slept in the church's sanctuary.

At noon yesterday, I drove as far as I could up the mountain (Hugh Daniel Drive), precariously parked my car on the flattest shoulder I could find, and walked up the mountain and down to our subdivision's gate.  Several young men and dads had ATV's and were taking turns giving folks rides to their homes.  I want to thank the young man who took Shelley and me home.  It was irresponsible of Hoover not to have the mountain barricaded.  Again, epic failure for the City of Hoover.  Plus, I walked by two abandoned Hoover police SUV's on the mountain.

We also walked up the mountain with a Berry Middle School student who had walked from school.  How can this happen?  It is over 14 miles from our home to Berry, and this little guy lives about another two miles farther than our home.  I think it's very irresponsible for a school to allow a student to walk that far.

I'm so sad over the loss of life and those who were injured as a result of this debacle.  Please understand that I'm not upset with the meteorologists because people make mistakes.  I'm VERY upset that our state and local officials were not prepared for this.  It was chaotic, and I didn't see many authorities trying to help at all with the exception of the nice folks at the Firehouse.  And since I spent most of my time on Valleydale Road amidst abandoned cars, it was surreal, truly… a zombie apocalypse.  I felt like I was on the set in Atlanta for The Walking Dead!

I learned many, many lessons as a result of this mess:

1.   If you think you can depend on your government in times of crisis, think again.

2.   No one, no vehicle can drive on ice.  Sand helps on ice very little, and we have no salt trucks in Alabama.

3.   Alabamians are generally kind.  I want to thank The Home Depot on Highway 280 for their generosity in passing-out water bottles to motorists and Chick-Fil-A for giving out free food.  I will be a  customer to both businesses in the future…they've earned my loyalty.

4.   I will keep water bottles in my car from now on as well as an emergency kit.  I was not dressed appropriately in Pilates clothes and a light jacket. Fortunately I was not stuck in my car for the single digit temperatures.

5.   My family will have an emergency plan from now on.  

6.   I will not vote for a single incumbent locally in the next election, and I don't care what his or her political affiliation is……they had their chance to lead, and they failed us all.  I only wish I had the right to vote for school board members and superintendent.  

7.   Kudos to many local businesses and churches who took in folks in need. They were wonderful, and these are folks you can depend on.

8.   I also must give kudos to the Shelby County Fire and Rescue.  They came to our school twice to check on the kids, and they even gave us good advice about road conditions and the safest routes to help the parents get their children home safely.  They are the ONLY local authority who seemed to care in my world.  They are also bringing home stranded folks in our neighborhood, too.  I have yet to see anyone around here from Hoover, but maybe I missed them.

9.   Check on your neighbors, even if you aren't very close to them. Sometimes it's the little things, like taking in a pet home alone, that can mean so much to a family.

10.  You can depend on your friends and neighbors.  Thanks Lulu, Robert, Ainslie, Randy, Tracy, Rachel, and Natalie.

I want to apologize if this is too much of a rant.  I'm tired, I'm traumatized, and I'm going to enjoy the next several days with my daughter because school is out until Monday.  I am very thankful that no one close to me was hurt, and I'm equally thankful that I didn't harm anyone on the roads.

I'll be back next week.  I need to just live in the comfort of our home for a few days.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Morning After

I hate waking-up to a mess in my kitchen….especially after a party.  My sweet artist friend Karyn can find humor in anything, but I must give her kudos for finding beauty in an after party mess.

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Karyn Mosley
"The Morning After"
24" X 18" (I think)
oil on canvas

You can tell from her art that Karyn makes art class fun!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Monday, January 27, 2014

Musical Monday: Cardiac Arrest and (updates)

Good Monday Morning!  I hope all my Southern friends are preparing for the impending winter storm event here in the Deep South.  :/

I have been working on achieving my January Goals, and I will be posting a full report either at the end of this week or at the beginning of next week. This month I've been focusing on organizing our books and pantry as well as getting control of paper.  I'll also share tips that have helped me during this process.

I've also been working in the studio on some fun art projects, so stay tuned!

I thought it would be a great time to update you on The Book of Doing.  I've been checking-off projects left and right, I tell ya!

1.  Learn to Code:  Check!  I know the basics.

2.  Go Up a Hill And Go Down Really Fast:  Check!  I love to ride bikes!

3.  Eat More Fiber:  Check!  I've been adding kale to salads and I've been eating a high fiber cereal.

4.  Mail Something:  Check!  I just mailed a surprise to a blog friend.  ;P

5.  Share an interest fact.  Okay!  The book shares the fact that flossing your teeth can add years to your life.  Studies show there's a link between flossing and lower rates of diabetes and heart disease.  Check!

6.  Draw yourself as a cartoon character.  Check!

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Obviously I have no shame to post this cartoon of myself on the blog.  I look like a demented Tinkerbell!

Now on to Musical Monday...

Since I've been working around the house the past few days, I've been listening to a whole lot of Pandora radio as well as SiriusXM radio.  One of my favorite songs lately has been Cardiac Arrest by Bad Suns.

What have you been listening to lately?  Join Miss Angie @ My So-Called Chaos.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, January 24, 2014

Literary Friday: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Good morning!  It's a balmy 14 degrees here with a wind-chill of about 5.  :/   So methinks it's appropriate that I read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black this week.  I also read the latest Flavia de Luce mystery, but it deserves its own post.  :D

My daughter Shanley read this book first, and she brought it home from Tuscaloosa for me to read last weekend because she enjoyed it so much. She told me that I would need to rewrite my Best of 2013 book list after reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.  Of course I was very intrigued because I've read many of Holly Black's books for middle grades and young adults and I wanted to see what she'd make of vampires.  Well, I certainly wasn't disappointed in the story and her very unique take on vampires, but it is a very, very gory book.  I winced.  Often.  But I should have been prepared for it because I think that Shanley's homepage is Bloody Disgusting.  :/  

Tana probably should have known better than attending a party where she was sure to run into her charming ex-boyfriend Aidan, especially without her best friend for backup who's away at drama camp.  She wakes up in the wee hours of the morning in the bathtub at the party host's home (never a good sign), and she thinks she's the first one up, but in actuality she's the only one awake because almost all of her friends are dead.  Vampires are in the house, and Tana is unsure how that happened.  Since the world has gone "cold," or since vampirism is no longer fantasy but real, and ancient vampires are out of the closet due to a rogue vampire infecting thousands of unsuspecting humans, Coldtowns were formed in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease.  In these Coldtowns, vampires and humans exist in a precarious balance of supply and demand.  Humans enter in the hopes of being turned and gaining eternity, but if all are turned, then there's no more blood supply. Once a human enters a Coldtown, he or she can't leave unless they have a special hard to get marker. One of my only issues with the book is that Coldtowns should be unsustainable, very much like healthcare reform: The young and healthy are required to "sign-up" or there's a "death spiral."   ;P

One of my favorite quotes from the book

While Tana is making her getaway, she notices Aidan restrained on a bed, and he has been infected.  There's a vampire beside him in chains, and Tana decides to rescue both of them before the other vampires rise from the basement at sundown to finish them off.  They decide to go to one of the oldest Coldtowns which happens to be near Tana's hometown.  Tana realizes early during the trip that Gavriel just isn't right, but she can't help her attraction to the vampire.  I must say that Gavriel is one of my favorite vampires because he quotes Shakespeare, he's fearless, and he truly has a very endearing personality.  I even enjoyed reading about his background.

I couldn't help but think that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is social satire.  The live feeds from Coldtown (especially the scenes from the never-ending Eternal Ball) and the celebrity status of some of the vampires make our reality TV pale in comparison.  And of course bloggers are all over the place making names for themselves in posting about their contacts on the inside and advice on what to do upon entering Coldtown.  

I couldn't put this book down.  Holly Black has yet again proven why she's one of the best YA writers. Although the story is intense, there is romance, tons of action, quirky three-dimensional characters, and a unique dystopian world.  I would love to read a sequel, but I don't know that one is in the works. I still have a few questions about the main characters although most of the major questions are answered.  I adore Tana:  She's beyond brave, and she is loyal almost to a fault.  I do not think this book is appropriate for young teens at all due to the violence and gore.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown book trailer

"The cabins weren't lakeside- the trees shielded them from the water- but the lake was nonetheless a palpable presence.  Like heat from a fire, the closer to water you are, the stronger you will feel it."

from pg. 57 Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
(Page 56 was blank!)

Literary Friday is a linky, so please share your books here!

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Please Read If You Have a Google Account

Good morning, Lovelies!  I did not mean to take a blog break.  Nope!  Not me….
….but I was hacked. 

Let me explain, and give you a little background.

Most of you have heard of the hackers who attacked several retailers during the holidays and compromised the security of millions of shoppers' accounts.

When we were on our way to New Orleans after Christmas, Mr. Art @ Home tried using one of his credit cards to pay for gas in Tuscaloosa.  The card was declined, and when he called his credit card company customer service told him that there was some suspicious activity in Alexandria, Virginia on his card, so they had canceled his card and were sending him another one to our home.  Not very convenient as we were traveling, but fortunately I had one of mine to use on our trip.

We believe that the card was compromised because he had bought me some goodies at Neiman Marcus in Atlanta in the store (not online) during the holidays.

When Shanley Belle returned to Tuscaloosa from New Orleans for the new semester and attempted to use her credit card to buy books, her debit card was declined.

Shanley Belle had used her debit card at Target during the holidays.  :/

I was so smug.  I write checks for virtually everything, and although I had made some charges to Neiman Marcus during Christmas, they were online charges which were secure.  I truly hate using credit cards, and we usually only use them when we're traveling.  I've always believed that they're from satan.

This week I was knocked off my high horse pretty darn quickly when I received my Visa bill.  Some gamer in Atlanta had charged online games to my account.  The point of access was through my gmail account via online Christmas purchases.

I was hacked, they knew my password, and they accessed my gmail account several times in Atlanta via an iPhone.  I haven't been to Atlanta since early October.

It has taken virtually all my free time this week to finally get people on the phone at the gaming website.  Plus I was trying to get Visa NOT to send me another card because I don't want to re-set so many of my online shopping accounts, like Amazon.  So I had to request to challenge the charges.  So far, the gaming site has credited me one dollar.  Yep, a measly dollar (out of $39).  But what had me worried is that the kids were just getting started.  :/

I reset my Google password, and I've decided that I will check it daily to make sure no one is accessing my Google account from a remote location.

Here's how you can do the same:

Go to:

Next, you'll notice four rectangles.  Look at the upper right hand rectangle entitled Recent Activity and click View All Events that's written in blue.  This will show you all activity on your Google accounts and the locations and dates for each activity.  That's when I found that someone was accessing my Google accounts in Atlanta.

I'm also considering a more secure email, like, and investing in Life Lock.

Were you one of the millions of Americans hacked during Christmas?

I plan to return to blogging tomorrow with a Literary Friday post.  It has been a busy week, with riding make-up lessons, and I'm afraid we'll have more next week as the temperatures drop.  It's not good for the horses to work them in this cold weather.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, January 17, 2014

Literary Friday: The Last Camellia and Morning Glory

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Welcome to Literary Friday!

This week I read two books by Sarah Jio:  The Last Camellia and Morning Glory.  I think I've read all five of Sarah Jio's novels so far.  You can read my posts about The Bungalow, The Violets of March, and Blackberry Winter by following the links.

Sarah Jio is the master at writing books with two plots, one from the present and the other one from the past, and then weaving the two together seamlessly to form a cohesive story.  Although formulaic, it doesn't really matter because Jio is the very best storyteller.

The last Camellia might be my favorite of all her books.  It isn't set in Seattle like most of her books: It's setting is the English countryside at the beginning of World War II and present-day England.

Flora, an American botanist, is sent to the English countryside by a shady conman to locate a rare camellia called the Middlebury Pink.  Thought to be the very last of its kind and stolen from the British royal family, Flora begins working as a nanny on the estate where the camellia its thought to be hidden. Her mission proves difficult on many levels: First of all, the estate has a camellia orchard, and the client who's willing to pay big bucks for the tree is a Nazi.

In the present, landscape designer Addison accompanies her writer husband to his parents' English estate where she discovers a cryptic inscription in a Virginia Woolf novel and a journal documenting the estate's extensive camellia orchard.  On each page of the journal there's a mysterious code Addison doesn't understand, and this mystery is a distraction from her dangerous blackmailer.  Can Addison trust her husband with a horrific tragedy she witnessed as a teenager?

If you've heard of Sarah Jio and want to read one of her books, I highly recommend The Last Camellia.

I must admit that I love camellias.  We have several of the dwarf variety planted in our garden, and it's the state flower of Alabama.  Here is the book trailer for The Last Camellia:

Morning Glory is set in Jio's hometown of Seattle.  This one is a bit more tragic than most of her books as the main character in the present has lost both her husband and daughter in an accident.  Ada leaves her magazine editorship in New York and rents a house boat in Seattle on Lake Union and sleeps through the night for the first time since losing her family.  Ada finds a key in the bedroom loft that opens a trunk in the living room.  Inside, she discovers treasures placed there by Penny Wentworth.

Penny Wentworth is a young  bride in the late 1950s.  Her husband Dexter is a wealthy, highly acclaimed artist who spends far too much time at his studio in town than with Penny at their boathouse. Penny is lonely, and becomes fed-up with her husband's philandering.  She befriends and falls in love with one of the residents on boat street, a man with secrets of his own.  Collin is restoring a sailboat, and he and Penny are planning to run away together. But the night they've planned their escape, Penny mysteriously disappears, and the folks living on boat street aren't talking.  They've agreed to a pact of silence that has frustrated investigators for decades.

Ada is determined to learn more about Penny and her disappearance, and when she meets Alex, she has no idea that he has a connection to Penny and the mystery from almost fifty years prior.  Told alternately from Ada's and Penny's point of views, Penny seems a bit more developed, yet Ada's depiction of Alex is endearing.  He's such a sweet, kind man, and his faith only increases his charm.  I've read that Jio is a woman of faith, and Alex's character reflects her faith in a non-preachy, yet realistic way.

I really enjoyed this  book!  It has romance and a mystery that kept my attention from page one until the epilogue.  If you enjoy murder mysteries, you'll love Morning Glory.  Plus, you can't beat the setting…think Sleepless in Seattle!  Sarah Jio actually rented a houseboat on Lake Union while she wrote this book.  the following video is a tour of the boat she rented and the neighborhood where she lived.

Please stop by next week as I feature a recipe from Morning Glory.

"Little did she know that when it comes to the bluffing game, she was up against a master.  I'll teach her a trick or two, I thought."

from Page 56,  The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Oh, *squee*  I have been waiting for the latest Flavia de Luce mystery for months, and it finally arrived at my doorstep yesterday.  I won't get a thing done this weekend until I've read the whole thing.  I'm Flavia's biggest fan!  :D

What have you been reading lately?  Please share!

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, January 16, 2014

{THE BEST} Travel Cookbook

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Good morning, My Lovelies!  I found the most delightful travel recipe book entitled A Suitcase and a Spatula: Recipes and Stories From Around the World by Tori Haschka.  Tori is an Aussie food blogger, writer, traveler, and gourmand.  I'm new to her blog,  but I will definitely be a frequent visitor in the future.  I love that her January 11, 2014 post features a gluten-free dessert.

First of all, I like the way A Suitcase and a Spatula is organized: There are four sections for breakfast, summer dinners, winter dinners, and desserts.  I also enjoyed the little personal stories and anecdotes Tori shares with her readers for each recipe.  She is witty, and I found myself smiling while reading about her travels and gastronomic adventures.

Isobel Wield's gorgeous photography and Andrea Turvey's fun illustrations enhance Tori's prose and recipes to perfection.  There's nothing NOT to like about this book!

Poke from Wailea, Maui
Summer Section
Photo by Isobel Wield

Beef Bourguignon Pie from Beaune, France
Winter Section
Photo by Isobel Wield

Chicken and Parsley Pearl Barley Risotto from Dublin, Ireland
 Winter Section
Photo by Isobel Wield

If you've read my blog for long, you know how breakfast is my very favorite meal of the day, so of course I tried a recipe from the breakfast section: Raspberry Croissant Pudding from Paris.

Tori suggests serving it with yogurt for breakfast, or ice cream for dessert.

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The perfect breakfast with a shot of espresso.

Raspberry Croissant Pudding

1 T butter
2 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
1 t vanilla extract
2 c mik
1/2 c caster sugar
6 croissants (I used 8 mini croissants), preferably stale
1 c raspberries

You'll also need 6 ramekins and a deep baking dish.

1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease ramekins with butter.
2.   Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, milk, and sugar together.  Tear the croissants into pieces the size of a matchbook.  Place half the croissants across the bottom of the ramekins.  Add the raspberries, then the remaining croissant pieces.
3.   Pour the custard over the croissants and allow to soak for 10 minutes.
4.   Cover each ramekin with foil and puncture the top to let the steam escape.  Try not to let the foil touch the mixture.  (This is very important because the foil did stick to one of my custards!)
5.   Place the ramekins in a deep baking dish.  Pour hot water into the pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 40 minutes or until custard is set.
6.   Serve warm with more fresh raspberries.

NOTE:  I baked mine in a convection oven, and I added ten minutes to the baking time.  Please adjust according to your oven, and check after 40 minutes.

Do you enjoy travel books?  I wrote a post a while back about a few of my favorite travel books.  You may read that post here,  "Winter Comfort Soup and *perfect* Books for the Armchair Traveler".

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Have You Met Daphne? {Daphne's Diary Number 1 - 2013}

I've discovered the best magazine.  Ever.  It's called Daphne's Diary, and I'd like to share the first volume available here in the U.S.

The magazine is written as if it's diary written by a wife and mother of two. Entries include slices of family life, recipes, dreamy interiors, travels/field trips, unique artists and their art, gardens, and shopping.  Here are a few of the features that I love from this first issue:

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Festive Dining for the Birds:
How To Make Tasty Fat Cakes for Our Feathered Friends

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A Greenhouse in Your Garden
I share this dream with Daphne: I would love to have a greenhouse!

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A Cottage by the Sea

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The recipes in Daphne's Diary are lovely!
 It's very similar to Prince William's groom's cake from his wedding.

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The magazine has pretty recipe cards in it.  I put this one for Malteser Cake in Shanley's recipe SMASH book as well the following one for pansie crêpes.

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I used clips for the recipes so Shanley can remove them from the book and use them.

I love the many crafts in Daphne's Diary.  

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There were four passport photo holders in the first issue.  I placed one of Shelley's school photos in this one.  The cover has a pretty angel on it.

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Look at the pretty wrapping paper.  I wrapped a prize for Shelley's lunch box.

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Look at the adorable gift tags!

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I made a buttoned-up envelope to hold them.

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I made a little book of gnomes.  :D

Other features include:  vintage caravans (or campers), Feenwald Teddy Bears, adorable canning labels, and a cork memo board just to name a few.

I enjoyed Daphne's Diary so much, that I'm only renewing one magazine subscription this year because it's a bit pricy.  {but oh! so worth it!}

Have you read Daphne's Diary yet?  I'll share the second issue with you in a few days.  Stay tuned!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Monday, January 13, 2014

Musical Monday: Dirty Paws

Press play
Of Monsters and Men "Dirty Paws"

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Bonnie Blue went on a joy run, and she needed a bath.  I kept singing "Dirty Paws" while bathing her, and now I can't get the song out of my head!

I love the band Of Monsters and Men.  They're Icelandic, and they have a very neat style.  I've always wanted to visit Iceland, and I hope to travel there soon.

Quote from "Dirty Paws"

"Dirty Paws"

Jumping up and down the floor,
My head is an animal.
And once there was an animal,
It had a son that mowed the lawn.
The son was an ok guy,
They had a pet dragonfly.
The dragonfly it ran away,
But it came back with a story to say.

Her dirty paws and furry coat,
She ran down the forest slope.
The forest of talking trees,
They used to sing about the birds and the bees.
The bees had declared a war,
The sky wasn't big enough for them all.
The birds, they got help from below,
From dirty paws and the creatures of snow.

And for a while things were cold,
They were scared down in their holes.
The forest that once was green
Was colored black by those killing machines.
But she and her furry friends
Took down the queen bee and her men.
And that's how the story goes,
The story of the beast with those four dirty paws.

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Shelley learned how to hand knit at school, and she made Bonnie a little scarf from yarn remnants.
Poor baby.

What's on your playlist?  Link-up to Musical Monday!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, January 10, 2014

Literary Friday: Mermaid and The Dinner

This week I read two very different novels:  Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon and The Dinner by Herman Koch.  One I enjoyed, and the other, not so much….

I won this copy of Mermaid from Marfi @ Incipient Wings.
Thank-you, Marfi!

The book I enjoyed: Mermaid.  The Princess of the Northern Kingdom Margrethe is in hiding at a secluded convent while her country wars with the Southern Kingdom.  On a bitterly cold winter's day, Margrethe witnesses a miracle:  A mermaid places a shipwreck survivor on the rocky shore next to the convent's garden.  The ethereal creature summons Margrethe telepathically to rescue the prince, and then disappears.  From the story's beginning, there is a supernatural connection between Margrethe and the mermaid.

Lenia, the youngest daughter of the Queen of the mer folk, saves a young man as his ship falls apart during a raging storm on her eighteenth birthday. This is the only day a mermaid can ascend to the surface of the sea, and Lenia has broken every rule in the book.  She falls in love at first sight with the young man she saves:  Christopher, the Prince of the South, and mortal enemy of Princess Margrethe.  During his delirium, Christopher thinks his "angel" who saved him is a novice named "Mira."  He mistakenly thinks Mira sang to him as she rescued him from the sea.  They have a moment in the garden before the prince abruptly leaves (after all, he's in enemy territory) and neither suspects the the other's true identity.

In the meantime, Lenia makes a deal with the devil, the Sea Witch Sybil.  She wants to be a human girl so she can be with Prince Christopher.  She literally loses everything only to discover that a deal is in the works for a truce marriage between Princess Margrethe and Prince Christopher.  Another complication is that Lenia and Margrethe have become friends, and neither knows that the other is in love with the Prince.

Mermaid is a fantastic retelling of The Little Mermaid, only it's a little bit darker and a bit more "adult." Told alternately from Margrethe's and Lenia's point of view,  I found the love triangle disturbing in the gothic story.  Yet miraculously, Turgeon writes a very satisfying albeit bittersweet ending.

The Dinner is like watching a train wreck:  You know you shouldn't watch it, yet you do it anyway.  I should have put the book down after a few chapters, yet I just couldn't.  

The book's narrator is Paul Lohman, brother of Serge Lohman.  Serge is a politician, and he's favored to become Holland's next Prime Minister.  He has summoned Paul and Paul's wife Claire to dinner at a posh restaurant with himself and his wife Babette. The purpose for the dinner is to talk about a family (and political) crisis. Each couple has a fifteen year old son, and both young men committed a crime that will eventually be revealed to the reader.

The first problem with the book is the narrator and his credibility.  Paul hints that there's something not right with himself, that he has a "mental illness." The reader is led to believe that it's Aspergers, and if that's the case, Koch did a very poor job in his characterization of Paul.  I must say that on a personal level I was so offended by it I could barely finish reading the book. But then again none of the characters were likable, and the smarmy restaurant manager had me thinking violent thoughts myself.  

Koch does a very good job in developing a plot and revealing secrets and agendas; and Paul Lohman is a character I certainly won's soon forget:  He's a demented Walter Mitty with Hannibal Lechter's 

Read at your own risk.

"Mrs. Dilloway suddenly appeared in the doorway.  'Pardon my intrusion,' she said, her voice steeped in formality that didn't fit the decade, or perhaps even the century.  'If you would like to accompany me, I will begin the tour now.'"

page 56 from The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What a Crock!

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When I was a little girl, my family would always stop at Weidmann's on our way to New Orleans.  Located in Meridian, Mississippi, Weidmann's is halfway between Birmingham and New Orleans, so it was a great place to stop for lunch.  Our girls also enjoy dining at Weidmann's, and on our recent trip to New Orleans, we made a stop and had brunch.

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I ordered french toast with strawberries and cream.

Weidmann's has a neat little tradition that started during World War II.  A friend of the owners suggested that they replace butter for peanut butter as butter was being rationed.  Today, diners can enjoy peanut butter and saltine crackers while they wait on their food.  A Mississippi potter makes the cute crocks, and diners can take them home, too.

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I keep The Bee's Knee's peanut butter by the Peanut Butter Company in the crock.  The crackers are water crackers with black pepper.

I enjoy seeing the crock on our kitchen counter because it reminds me of so many happy road trips to New Orleans.

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Linking to:

Ivy and Elephants

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Books 'n' Bloggers Swap Sign-ups

Good morning!  It's a balmy nine degrees here in Central Alabama.  Our power went out overnight, and I'm so *happy* it's back on.  YAY!

Chaotic Goddess Swaps is hosting another Books 'n' Bloggers Swap.  Here's some information about how YOU can participate:

Your Swap Objective:

Send your partner THREE books:
A book you love
A book you haven't read but are interested in
A book from your partner's wish list

Books 'n' Bloggers Swap Rules:

Packages must contain 3 books that fit the criteria stated in the Swap Objective.
Send books that fit your partner's genre preferences.
You must respond to emails from the swap hosts within a timely fashion.
Books MUST be mailed on or before February 1st, set to arrive by February 5th!
You must send a tracking number for your package to your partner and to us at Chaotic Goddess Swaps.
You MUST post and link up your swap reveal post. This is non-negotiable.

I've signed-up, and I can't wait to share and receive books in early February.

You might have noticed today's Google Doodle.  It celebrates one of my favorite authors (and Alabamian) Zora Neal Hurston.  Hurston was a key artist during the Harlem Renaissance.

Happy Birthday!

Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my favorite books...I love that Janie! Hurston was brilliant in the way she wrote vernacular dialect with the characters' dialogue and standard English for the narrator. 

An American classic

Have you read a classic lately?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill