Friday, July 25, 2014

Literary Friday: The House At the End of Hope Street and Love In the Time of Global Warming

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope you've had a great week.  We had a great time in New Orleans, but Mr. Art @ Home had to visit a Doc in the Box while we were there, and both girls caught the funk.  So far I've escaped it *fingers crossed*…

During the road trip, I read two books:  The House At the End of Hope Street and Love In the Time of Global Warming.

I received The House At the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag for the Books 'n' Bloggers Swap because it was on my wish list.  I was interested in it because a blurb written by Sarah Addison Allen (one of my favorite authors) is on the cover, and I like magical realism.  I rarely post the Goodreads blurb, but here it is:

Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen. 

First of all, the house is the most intriguing character in the book.  It provides its residents with encouraging letters and supplies to enable them to turn their lives around.  There are also photos of the women who've stayed there lining the walls, but unfortunately the house must not have a fantastic track record because a few of the most outspoken former residents include Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Vivian Leigh.  Okay.  So these temporary residents are supposed to take advice from these women about how to turn their lives around?  Really?  (The portraits talk like the ones at Hogwarts.)  The women living at the house are underdeveloped, especially the one chosen to be the house's caretaker.

Alba is very young, and she's taken advantage of by a horrible academic advisor who gets completely away with it (complete disappointment).  She has a few special abilities that are given less attention than deserved, and there's even a glossary in the back of the back concerning these gifts that aren't fully integrated into the plot.  I read the glossary before I read the book, so I suppose I had higher expectations for Alba's gifts being a bigger part of the story.

The main problem I have with the story is that these women end-up at Hope Street because they are stupid:  They are not victims.  To make matters worse,  two of them basically continue with the same behavior that got them into trouble in the first place.  Pink's Stupid Girls kept playing in my head during most of this book.  I'd skip this one even though it has a high Goodreads rating.

Love In the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block is part allegory and part fairy tale.  It's about an older teen named Pen who has survived an apocalypse of devastating proportions in Los Angeles not caused by global warming, actually.  The title of the book comes from a chapter title in the book.  I purchased this book because it was recommended to me by a bookseller at one of my favorite Indie bookstores Octavia Books in New Orleans.

SIDEBAR:  Have you noticed how scientist no longer refer to it as global warming but climate change because science doesn't support the global warming arguments according to progressive scientists?  But I digress….

Pen survives a catastrophic Earth Shaker that basically destroys all of Los Angeles, yet her home is spared (the reader discovers later in the book why). With her wits, a little help from Homer, and butterflies, Pen set out on a quest to find her family swept away by a tsunami.  She quickly notices a parallel between her journey and that of Odysseus's, so she uses The Odyssey as a guide as she faces: giants that caused the Earth Shaker, lotus eaters at the Culver Hotel, a Circe-like witch, and very creepy Beverly Hills sirens.  

Allegory aside, this is the tale of four young people with magical abilities trying to not only navigate a post-apocalyptic world, but to develop self-acceptance none had before the Earth Shaker.  This story is a great companion for older teens as they read The Odyssey.  Block has written a sequel, The Island of Excess Love.  In this installment, Pen relies on Virgil’s epic Aeneid as her guide.  This is on my To Be Read List.

How's your summer reading so far?  Link-up and share!

Literary Friday
Until next time…
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shelley's 17th Birthday Party

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We celebrated Shelley's 17th birthday with a small family party.  We have four family birthdays this month.  :)

I decided to purchase new table linens that were on sale @ April Cornell from the Garden Patchwork and the Zinnia Garden Collections.  I didn't see them in person first, but I thought that the collection would work well with my MacKenzie-Childs Wallcourt Collection, and I was correct (this time).  I love the linens, and I think they'll be used a whole lot in the coming years.

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Because the colors in the linens match the Wallcourt dishes so well, I think I'll use them often.
Keeping with the flower garden-themed party, I put together informal summer blooms in mason jars with flower frog lids.

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Shelley chose the menu for her party:

Chocolate cake with chocolate icing
Prosciutto and cheese roll-ups
Vanilla scones
Turkey finger sandwiches
Cheese and sausage balls
Coca-Cola in mini bottles
Coffee and tea

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NOTE:  My girl has been fighting a sinus infection, and the antibiotics have made her terribly ill.  I'm worried about dehydration, so I'm keeping a close watch on her today.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What I've Been Doing Lately...

Good evening, My Lovelies!  We've been in New Orleans for our nephew's wedding.  We had a fantastic time, but it's good to be home!  I'm so upset that I forgot to pack my camera.  Boo!  We also recently celebrated Shelley's birthday, and I'll post about her party tomorrow.

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Although we haven't been home, that hasn't stopped a crew from working on our new backyard.  We're getting rid of the 45-degree angle, moss, and ugly juniper to create a very pretty (I hope) patio and outdoor fireplace area.  If you follow me on Pinterest, you might have seen a couple of new boards I started to help with the process.

Here is my dream patio:

Ours will have the bluestone floor, but we're going with a brick fireplace to match our house, and no pergola.

Ours will look more like this one, but brick:

We also did a little work in our powder room.  Here's a sneak peek:

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Can you tell what this is???

I found a wonderful book about design bloggers.  I've enjoyed looking at fantastic photos of quirky spaces and reading about these bloggers and their creative process.

I will post about the powder room Saturday, and Design Bloggers at Home early next week.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, July 18, 2014

Literary Friday: Love Letters To the Dead

This week I read Love Letters To the Dead by Ava Dellaira: It was one of the books I received from sweet Wendi @ All Who Wander for the Books 'n' Bloggers Swap.  This book has been on my Want to Read List for several weeks, and it did not disappoint.  

I wasn't crazy about the book's premise:  It's a story told through a series of letters written to dead people.  When I was a high school English teacher, I was often astounded by how students thought that writing about death was a more mature choice than writing about life.  I find the opposite to be true:  Life is a blessings and should be celebrated!  Laurel starts high school just a few months after her older sister's tragic death, and on the first day of school, her English teacher assigns the students to write a letter to a dead person. Rather than choosing her sister May, Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain as her letter's "recipient" because May listened to Nirvana often and had posters of Cobain in her room.  (Later we discover that this teacher knew about May and probably gave the assignment on purpose.  Bad teacher.)

But Laurel doesn't end the assignment with one letter.  She begins to write letters to other famous dead people, like Amy Winehouse, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison, and Elizabeth Bishop among others.  Laurel's  letters contain everything from the mundane day to day schedule of a high school freshman to her sorrow, anger, and grief over the death of her sister and her mother's recent separation from her father.  There is a progression to the letters as Laurel slowly reveals the circumstances of her sister's death.  The letters also become more mature and complex as the year progresses, and most teens will relate to many of Laurel's trials, but hopefully not all of them.

I really liked Laurel's Aunt Amy.  Laurel alternates weekly living with her dad and her aunt so she can attend a different high school in a different school district.  Amy is a devout Christian, and (keeping in mind that the story is told in Laurel's voice) it's very refreshing to see a Christian being depicted in a positive light.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the plot is revealed in a way that kept me thoroughly engrossed, and Laurel's well-developed character is one of the most interesting young women I've read in YA in a very long time.  I really hope Laurel writes to the living in tenth grade.

NOTE:  Music lovers will appreciate this book because of the music Laurel discusses in her letters.  You can see a playlist for the book on Ava Delaira's website here.

Dear Amy Winehouse,
Something terrible happened today.  I wore my new Lavender crushed velvet shirt to school, and in English, I saw that Mrs. Buster had on the exact same shirt."

from Love Letters To the Dead, page 225

Literary Friday

Linking to:

Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos></a> </center> <b><i><br /></i></b></center> <center style=

Until next time…

Happy Reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, July 14, 2014

Parties. LOTS of Parties….

Happy Monday!!!  I hope you're having a great one.  It's one party after another around here.  We had one family birthday party last week, two this week, plus our nephew is getting married in New Orleans very, very soon.

I'm also participating in two rather large blog parties, Where Bloggers Create and the Mad Tea Party.

Please Join Vanessa @ a fanciful twist and Karen @ My Desert Cottage and check out all the other lovely parties!

Since I've had partying on the brain, I've been thinking about two videos that certainly embody the party spirit, although they are odd parties.  So for today's Musical Monday, please sit back and enjoy some weirdness from two Georgia bands, REM and the B-52's.

Happy Musical Monday!

B-52's Love Shack

R.E.M.'s Imitation of Life

Don't both parties look oddly fun!!!

I hope you're having fun this summer.  We are!!!  I'll be busy the rest of this week visiting all the parties, so if you didn't participate in them, I might not make it to your blog this week.

I'll be back on Friday for my Literary Friday post.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mad Tea Party 2014 *plus* A Giveaway!

Welcome to this year's party!!!
I want to thank Vanessa @ a fanciful Twist for hosting!  

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"`I don't know what's the matter with it!' the Queen said, in a melancholy voice. `It's out of temper, I think. I've pinned it here, and I've pinned it there, but there's no pleasing it!' 
~Through the Looking Glass

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"The White Queen only looked at her in a helpless frightened sort of way, and kept repeating something in a whisper to herself that sounded like `bread-and-butter, bread-and-butter,' and Alice felt that if there was to be any conversation at all, she must manage it herself. So she began rather timidly: `Am I addressing the White Queen?' 
~Through the Looking Glass

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Bread and butter, bread and butter...

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`You couldn't have it if you did want it,' the Queen said. `The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday -- but never jam to-day.' 
~Through the Looking Glass

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`It must come sometimes to "jam do-day,"' Alice objected. 
~Through the Looking Glass

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Coddled Eggs (Click link for instructions)
Vanilla Bean Scones (recipe to follow)
Blueberry Jam
Octane Coffee
Black Tea

Vanilla Bean Scones

1 3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour  (You can substitute Gluten free flour, same amount)
1 Scraped Vanilla Bean
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Table Salt
4 Tablespoons Chilled and Cubed Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Cup Heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter, melted
casting sugar for sprinkling (about two tablespoons)

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Mix in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until dough is like large crumbs.

Add in the vanilla and cream. The dough should be sticky, but if it's still too dry add a tablespoon or two of cream.

Roll out onto a well-floured surface until a six inch circle is formed.  Brush top with melted butter and sprinkle casting sugar on top.  Cut into eight wedges and place on a baking sheet with a Silpat pad, about two inches apart.  Bake for around fifteen minutes, but check at 14.

Serve with either lemon curd or your favorite jam!

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`I wish I could manage to be glad!' the Queen said. `Only I never can remember the rule. You must be very happy, living in this wood, and being glad whenever you like!' 
~Through the Looking Glass

Sometimes we need a little bit of encouragement.  The purpose of this breakfast tea is to encourage my daughters and you, my readers, with the quotes from Alice's adventures.  

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The quotes pinned to the cutlery and napkins were shared at the breakfast table.

Now on to the giveaway!
I have one copy of The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree to give away to one lucky reader.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, July 11, 2014

Where Bloggers Create Blog Party

For the Where Bloggers Create Blog Party @ My Desert Cottage, I thought I'd share my home art studio with everyone.  I know I shared it a few years ago when we converted our never-used living room into the studio, but I've made a few changes since that post.

Many of you know that I'm an artist, and my medium is oils.  I also enjoy Smash Journal projects, too.  Currently I'm working on a peony in a mercury glass vase painting, and I'm working on a Smash Journal cookbook and recipe notecards.

Let's take a look around the studio…

When you enter our home, the studio is immediately to the left of our small foyer, and it's open to our dining room.

Looking from the dining room into the art studio and foyer

The large armoire contains art supplies and things for the dining room, especially canvases.

Two of my favorite things about the studio:  the zinc-topped table and MacKenzie-Childs tiny table with art palette top.

I ordered baskets to contain small craft supplies, especially Smash Journal supplies, drawing supplies for my daughter, Shelley, and journaling supplies. I moved most of the books upstairs to our library and only kept the art-related books in the studio.  They're on the bottom shelves.

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I have a couple of additions in the studio, including a piece by my art teacher, Dori DeCamillis.

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I think the Alabama patchwork pillow is fun on the sofa.

Here are some of my favorite tools of the trade.

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This roll stores my favorite Escoda brushes from Spain.

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My brush cleaner is the best.  Stuff.  Ever….
It truly extends the life of my brushes, and I always clean them after each use.

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I paint from life, and I like using my iPad to help me with my paintings.  The iPad stand is a must because it protects my iPad from spillage.  

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I like Strathmore products, especially their large palette paper.  I've also been using lots of my favorite pinks lately. 

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My pinks in action.   The roses in the tin only have one wash, the peonies about three washes, and the roses in bucket and onion are finished.

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I substituted the glass-topped table by the Victorian sofa with an antique.  The lamp is an antique, and it's marble and brass.

My most recent completed painting.

That's it for the tour.  I hope you'll come back and visit me here at Art @ Home.  I'll be sharing a few craft projects soon.  

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Until next time…

Ricki Jill