Friday, February 28, 2014

Literary Friday: Seraphina

Happy Friday!  This week has been super busy for our family, so I only read one YA book:  Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  I enjoyed this book so much, and it is one of the best YA books I've ever read.

Where to begin….I must first applaud Hartman for her incredible skill at world craft:  Seraphina lives in a very unique, slightly medieval, yet slightly advanced world.  The world is at peace and has been for forty years since the signing of the treaty between humans and dragons.  Yet as the new year approaches and a large celebration is planned to celebrate this peace, a prince is executed, and the people of the Kingdom of Goredd suspect that a dragon is the culprit.  To complicate things, dragons can take a human form, and it's almost impossible for humans to tell the difference.  A saarantras, or dragon in human form, must wear a bell around his or her neck with the exception of those who have a scholar waiver.  I've read many fantasy novels with dragons, and these dragons are unique although they do have a few characteristics from lore.  Serpahina also creates a garden in her mind for coping with visions, and the amazing descriptions of the garden as well as the Kingdom of Goredd are lovely and vivd.

The aptly named Seraphina is one of the most endearing YA characters ever. A musical prodigy, she is the assistant music master at court: not the best place to conceal a secret that could get her killed.  The lies she must tell to protect her very life increase her stress level, not to mention all the performances and performers she must direct as the new year and the anniversary of the treaty approach.  And to complicate things even further, she begins to fall for Prince Lucian who's betrothed to Princess Glisselda, the heir to the throne.  Glisselda is a pupil of Serpahina's, and I thought she was very vapid at first, but her character grows on you as the plot advances.

There is a rather large cast of characters and unique vocabulary, but Hartman has provided a categorized Cast of Characters as well as a Glossary in the back of the book.  I found this very helpful with the vocabulary, but her characterizations are so well drawn that I didn't need to refer to the Cast of Characters very often.  I've been wanting to read this book for a couple of years, and I'm disappointed I waited so long.  If you read a YA book this year, I highly recommend Seraphina.

Seraphina book trailer

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It's that simple.

"If Fruit Bat was loose in the garden, that explained the orange peel on Pelican Man's lawn, and it might very well explain the intensity of my headache.  If some little Porphyrian boy had found the way to peer back up the spyglass like Jannoula…I went cold all over.  It was inconceivable."

~from pg. 56 of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Are you intrigued, confused, or both?  Do you want to read more?

What have you been reading lately?  This is a link party.

Literary Friday

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dori DeCamillis' Latest Art Series

Good Morning!  I want to share with you my art teacher Dori DeCamillis's latest art series.  Per her website, her paintings are self-portraits depicting her own mind-states. Each piece is a character in a private mythology designed to personify her ever-changing thought patterns, habits, and perspectives. She is currently writing a book about the process of painting this series.

All paintings are oil on board at 16" x 20" and titles are taken from the sonnets of Shakespeare. 

This one is my favorite:

Forgot For Which She Toiled

To read more about this series and to view all the paintings in it, click here.  I hope you take the time to link over and view this fun series.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Happy List: Trying Very Hard to Find the Happy!

Good afternoon, My Lovelies!  I know this isn't Friday Confessional, but I must confess that I miss My Happy List.  Although I'm not bringing back the link party, I will probably post a Happy List most Tuesdays because it's good for my heart, soul, and spirit.

My Happy List

1.   It makes me so happy to see Shelley with a smile on her face.  The blue ribbon is for a cross rail class, not a flat class.  Congratulations, Shelley!

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2.  Sunshine!  We had sunshine over the weekend.  Sunshine always makes me happy!

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We've had a craptastic winter, so it's such a blessings to see bright sunshine!

3.   I've been cooking a wee bit more lately.  This is a delicious winter salad recipe from Jane's Adventures in Dinner.  You may see the recipe here.

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Maple, bacon, and fennel salad

4.   I painted in my home art studio for the first time since Bonnie left us.  It was difficult because she was always in there with me.  I am excited about this book because it's inspiring me:

I'm painting something from the green section!

5.   Although no dog could ever replace Bonnie Blue, I do have room in my heart for another Westie baby.  Mustang Sally had a litter of puppies, and seeing their sweet faces makes me so happy!

Mustang Sally with three of her pups.

What's on your Happy List today?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, February 24, 2014

Musical Monday: Vienna Waits for You

I absolutely love the soundtrack for the movie 13 Going on 30, and one of my favorite Billy Joel songs is featured in the film.  I hope you enjoy it, and happy Musical Monday!

Vienna Waits for You
Billy Joel

I do love the sentiment(s) expressed in this song!  What (or where) is your Vienna???

Join Miss Angie @ Musical Monday!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, February 21, 2014

Literary Friday: Winter Break Edition

This week I read two books because Shelley has been out of school for Winter Break, and we've spent tons of time at the barns for make-up riding lesson from all the snow and inclement weather.  Waiting for Shelley's lessons gave me lots of time to read!

I read Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale.  I loved Ausetenland, and but where Austenland is reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice, Midnight in Austenland is all about Northanger Abbey….and I thought it was *great*!

I enjoyed the late thirty-seomthing heroine Charlotte Kinder because she is a strong, well-drawn character.  She decides to visit Austenland because it was recommended to her by her travel agent.  Charlotte is recently divorced, and her husband and his new wife have custody of her children for the summer. There are several flashbacks in the novel explaining what makes Charlotte tick, from childhood memories to anecdotes about her marriage and subsequent divorce.  I enjoyed these scenes because it really helped give a complete picture of Charlotte as well as her quirky inner monologues with herself.

Charlotte is soon inspired by Northanger Abbey's Catherine Morland because she is determined that a murder has occurred at Pembrook Park.  Colonel Andrew's "mystery" that he's arranged as an "entertainment" allows her imagination to run wild, and during a power outage she swears she finds a body hidden in the mansion.  This book has a definite gothic vibe à la Catherine Morland, and a few of the new characters were downright psychotic.

It was fun to see Colonel Andrew and Miss Charming again.  I love their characters, and they were even more fully developed in this novel.  Although a light read, I enjoyed the murder mystery and conclusion of the story very much.  If you're a Northanger Abbey or Jane Austen fan in general and/or a gothic novel/ light mystery fan, you'll enjoy Midnight in Austenland.  

On another note, I did finally get to see Austenland, and I thought it was so much fun.  Jennifer Coolidge's performance was spot-on, and Keri Russell was cute in it, too.  Jane Seymore also stars as Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the mistress of Pembrook Park.  If you missed it on a previous post, here is the trailer for Austenland.

Now for the Friday 56 
@ Freda's Voice

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It's that simple.

"She blew out her cheeks and tried to focus on driving.  She could feel him staring at her, contemplating her, and it was such an unfamiliar sensation that she sprouted goose bumps as if she'd been tickled.  Thoughts fled her head.  Apparently they found the place too crazy to stick around."

from Page 56, Midnight in Austenland

I also read Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield.  It was my pick for our St. Stephen's Episcopal Church book club.  I'm afraid I'm about to be voted off the island out of book club.  

I have waited for years for her second book.  I absolutely loved The Thirteenth Tale, and it was one of my all-time favorite books.  But Bellman & Black falls way short of the touted ghost story it is supposed to be.  I don't think it in any way represents that genre.

William Bellman makes a mistake as a young boy.  When he is ten, he shoots and kills a young rook with his slingshot.  An impossible shot, the parabola linking himself to the bird is flawless.  Skip ahead a few years, and William is working in a mill he'll eventually own.  But when he loses almost his entire family to illness, he strikes up a deal with a mysterious man to save his remaining daughter.  As a result, he becomes and obsessive-compulsive manager, and embarks on a quest to create the quintessential Victorian mourning emporium and Bellman & Black is born.

What disappointed me so much about this book is Setterfield's exhaustingly lengthy description of Victorian textile mills and Bellman's OCD obsession with his Bellman & Black business.  That's pretty much the gist of the book: description after (boring) description, and the story is totally lost.  There are a few interesting breaks from the descriptions with these little personified blurbs about rooks.  I had no idea that there are so many collective nouns for rooks! Maybe if Setterfield had focused on the Victorians' obsession with the dark and middle ages, occult, and funeral practices of the Celts (which she did barely touch upon) it might have made for a better story.

The only way I would recommend this book to anyone is if he or she wants to learn more about how a Victorian mill was run or about the Victorian mourning process.  I really wanted to like this book.  And my book club members are not going to be happy with me.  I dread our meeting this morning!

Bellman & Black book trailer

If you want to learn more about the Ravens at the Tower of London and other raven lore, I suggest Boria Sax's City of Ravens.  Many of the folklore surrounding the tower ravens began during the Victorian era.

What have you been reading?  Please link-up and share!

Literary Friday

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mardi Gras Tablescape in the Breakfast Room

Good morning!  I decorated our breakfast room table for Mardi Gras.  I confess that I really don't like the garish gold, bright green, and K&B purple colors of carnival.  I actually dislike them all…..however, my family loves to celebrate, and I grin and bear it!

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I started with a linen dotted table runner with Mardi Gras colored dots plus blue.  Then I added some things we bought at Rouse's grocery store in New Orleans when we were visiting during Christmas.  I also found some wonderful candles and holders at Pier 1 after Christmas.  The greens and golds are perfect for Mardi Gras.

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This candle holder and candle from Pier 1 was part of the Christmas collection, but I think it's the perfect Mardi Gras green.

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The fun votives were also bought at the Pier 1 after Christmas sale.  

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I cheated and bought flowers from Winn Dixie!  I didn't feel like making a trip to the flower market.

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Mardi Gras primrose!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Making a House Your Home by Clare Nolan

I recently bought a copy of this book with a gift card, and I'm so happy I did. This is not your typical home decor book:  It makes you think and look at your space completely differently than most books.  Nolan challenges you to think about how you and your family live because fulfilling your family's needs and wants will create a happier home.  In looking at a space, Nolan suggests creating a "Lust-list" and a "Must-list."  She contends that lists help focus the mind, and by dreaming big (Lust-list) and then focusing on the reality of what you truly have and can afford will help you arrive at a practical solution.  

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Clare Nolan likes to use sketchbooks like the ones above to contain mood boards and lists. 

Making a House Your Home is well-organized, and there are lots of mood boards for inspiration.  One of my favorite sections is "Do sweat the small stuff."  Sometimes it truly is the little things, especially those things you use every single day.  She uses great examples in the book, but in our home it would be a sturdy teapot, comfortable and soft sheets, easy access to favorite mugs, convenient vertical space to place books, nondrying soap, and a soy candles.  Since these little things matter every single day these are the things that are splurge-worthy.  I also enjoyed the pages dedicated to flower arranging.

Nolan focuses on all the senses in the book.  I enjoyed the section on scent.

Many of the sections are dedicated to specific rooms, and although some of the tips are intuitive, many of them are not.  The Living Room section (especially the Creating Tablescapes page) is wonderful.  The Home Office section with its pages on personal passions is also neat, and I'll never look at a master bathroom the same way ever again:  I love the bathroom section!

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There are several tutorials in the book including the gorgeous chest above.

This book is helpful for everyone, whether you're just starting out in your first home, or are an empty nester in need of downsizing.  There's great advice in the book on how to reassess your needs after a few years as our needs are constantly changing.  I will definitely keep this book for a very long time for this reason.

I wanted to try one of the tutorials from the book that was super easy:  Dust-Free Potpourri 

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Mix together a few drops of essential oil to a small bowl or cup full of rock salt.
I suggest Aveda essential oils.  I used rose!
Candle by Angèle Parlange, New Orleans

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This little carnival glass bowl is in our powder room.

Have you read any neat home decor books lately?  If so, please share!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mardi Gras Treats

Mardi Gras is only two weeks from today (yikes)!  So I'm planning on some fun after school treats for the big day since we'll be home on Fat Tuesday.  I just need to decide on the two or three to make.

From Catholic Icing, these Mardi Gras pretzels are easy and fun.

From HGTV, these macaroons are gluten-free. 

Moon Pies are an Alabama Mardi Gras tradition, and are often thrown from floats in Mobile.  This cute Moon Pie Cake tutorial and printable is from Belly Feathers.

These mini king cake cupcakes are like mini coffee cakes, and would be great for breakfast.  

Finally, for those of you who want a healthy treat for Mardi Gras, here's a healthy smoothie that looks appropriate for the day.

Since I pretty much "punted" all things Valentine's Day around here, I hope to do a better job with Mardi Gras for my family.  I will be decorating later on in the week, and I'll certainly share our decor with you.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Monday, February 17, 2014

Musical Monday: Holding On for Life

One of my daughters really likes Broken Bells (probably because of the Shins' James Mercer), and I must say that I like this 80's disco sound they have going on in "Holding On for Life."  I like the video even better because it stars one of my favorite Indie actresses, Kate Mara.  It's like a little sci-fi movie.  I hope you enjoy it!

"Holding On for Life"  Broken Bells

Girl, take a seat
Rest your weary bones
Your secret's safe
In my hands

Tell me about the years and
Let me buy an hour
Maybe help me to understand

Oh, ain't nobody calling
Ain't nobody home
What a lovely day to be lonely

You're holding on for life
Holding on for life, love
Holding on for love

You're holding on for life
Holding on for life, love
Holding on for love

Light another cigarette
Burning in the cold
Waiting on the street
For your man

You're trying not to look so
Young and miserable
You gotta get your kicks
While you can

And in the Latin quarter
Sitting on your own
What a lovely day to be lonely

You're holding on for life
Holding on for life, love
Holding on for love

You're holding on for life
Holding on for life, love
Holding on for love

might belong
to another time
Still you have to carry on, yeah

else to go
and you never know
what to hide and what to show, no

You're holding on for life
Holding on for life, love
Holding on for love

You're holding on for life
Holding on for life, love
Holding on for love
I'm not sure what this song is about.  On a first glance it might make you think of a prostitute, but I think it's deeper than that.  Maybe it's about settling for someone or a certain situation.  IDK….but I like the song.

What have you been listening to lately?  Join Miss Angie for Musical Mondays!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day {to you.}

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I want to share some virtual Valentine's Day cookies with you, my sweet readers.  Y'all are truly the *best*.  I appreciate you so much, and you encourage me everyday more than you'll ever know.

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I also want to give an extra cookie to Nita, Andrea and Susan.  Thank-you for your kind words.  Y'all get it, and I am grateful for the time it took you to share. Y'all are blessings to me!

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The cookie press and recipe is from Anthropologie.  I made these cookies at Christmas, and they were a hit!

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Almond Layer Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t cardamon (ground)
2/3 cup almond meal
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups fine sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
raspberry jam

1.  Take out two mixing bowls.  In the first one whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamon.
2.   In the second bowl, whisk with your mixer butter and sugar until fluffy.
3.   Beat in egg and vanilla into the butter and sugar mixture.
4.   Gradually add the flour mix from Bowl #1.
5.   Form two discs, cover in plastic wrap, and chill for three hours.
6.   Preheat oven to 350.
7.   Roll out discs on a floured surface and cut out cookies and stamp half of them.
8.   Bake around 15 minutes (check after 12).
9.   Cool on a wire rack and stick them together in pairs using your favorite raspberry jam.

*I use Bon Maman raspberry jam and Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour.

Speaking of love and encouragement, I also want to thank Miss Angie for nominating me for her blog awards.  I was nominated in three categories (The Bookish Babe, The Authentic Artist, and Best Linky Party for Literary Friday), and I'm very honored, but mostly humbled.  Go over and vote for me {pretty please} if you want, and also visit some of the talented bloggers she's featuring.  I'm finding some new bloggers to follow from her nominees list! Click on the link below to read more:

My So-Called Chaos Best of Blog Awards

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Literary Friday: Undressing Mr. Darcy

This week I read Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos, one of my Books 'n' Blogger Swap selections.  Thanks so much, Kate!  I truly enjoyed it. You may recall my review of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy not too long ago also written by Doornebos. You may click on this link to read that review.

Tech savvy Vanessa Roberts is in her mid-thirties, wicked smart, captain of her very own PR business, and the queen of social media.  No one has mastered Twitter like Vanessa: she falls just short of prefacing her speech with hashtags.  Her elderly Aunt Ella is the queen of all things Austen:  She's the Dowager Countess of the local Jane Austen Society of Chicago. Although Vanessa lived with her aunt from her early teens until adulthood, Vanessa rebelled against her aunt by refusing to read Austen.  However, Ella needs Vanessa's PR skills to help promote a book entitled Undressing Mr. Darcy, and Vanessa agrees to help the cause pro bono.  Ella is friends with the book's author Julian, a history professor struggling to restore his family's eighteenth century manse in the heart of Austen country. Julian is set to be one of the most popular speakers at the Austen Society's Convention.  His lecture includes explaining a Regency era gentleman's wardrobe, one piece at a time, while undressing.  Did I mention he's handsome and buff?  #swoon. #takeitalloffdarcy

The hotel hosting the Austen Society is also hosting a comic con type meeting, and Vanessa meets a Captain Jack Sparrow with a connection to her Aunt Ella and her past.  #givemebackmykohleyeliner  The pirate's name is Chase, and he has a very large sailboat, he travels the world for an antiques auction house, and he likes children.  #whothehellisdarcyanyway

So we have a dilemma:  Sexy Jack Sparrow (did I mention tall) or Sexy Fitzwilliam Darcy?
#ihatevanessa  #poorvanessanot!

Not only does this fun book have a love triangle, it also has two fantastic girlfriends who make travel and all things Austen fun as heck.  I love Vanessa's friends Lexie and Sherry.  They help Vanessa realize that there's a happy medium between the virtual and real because in spite of her thoroughly modern lifestyle, she is not an Elizabeth Bennett at the beginning of the book.  She is mayhap one rung below a Kitty or Lydia.  I also enjoyed all the Austen references and history, and I want to take a tour of Austen's Bath.  Plus an extra added bonus:  Henry and Chloe from Definitely Not Mr. Darcy make a cameo, and it.  Was.  Great!  I loved their scenes.  #awwwwww

"'Kelly Clarkson won the auction and paid more than two hundred and thirty thousand dollars for the ring.'  
'Kelly Clarkson the singer--is a Jane Austen fan?'

from Undressing Mr. Darcy page 56

Jane Austen's turquoise ring

What have you been reading lately?  This is a link party!

Literary Friday

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Changes In the Kitchen

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...or how I'm feeding my salvaged wood addiction!

I've been working on organization in our home this winter, and one of the biggest challenges is sorting through our books, organizing the ones we want to keep, and donating the rest to our local library.  I really wanted a low bookcase for our kitchen to go behind our sofa for my cookbooks (our family room opens to our kitchen).  Books should be stored where you use them, and having them on a different floor in the library didn't make a whole lot of sense.  I found a few pieces I love (like Rachel Ashwell's Warrenton Console), but the dimensions weren't quite right.

Mr. Art @ Home suggested that we visit our favorite resource for custom furniture: Southern Accents in Cullman, Alabama.  I described what I wanted, and the end result far exceeded my expectations.

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The bookcase is made from old walnut.

The bookcase also holds several kitchen items that I use often: items that are bulky and take-up a lot of cabinet and counter space.  I'm very pleased with the end result!  

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We went with a waxed, unstained finished.

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If you look closely at the back of the bookcase, the black stripes are actually sawtooth marks from long ago.

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Notice the peg details...the carpenters at Southern Accents are true artisans!

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I highly recommend Southern Accents.  This is a tile with their logo on it.

I'll post more ideas and tips for organizing books and paper in the next couple of weeks.  I've found some wonderful resources, and I'll share those as well!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill