Friday, June 26, 2015

Literary Friday: Little Beach Street Bakery

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  After last week's literary disappointment, a friend recommended a cozy little chick lit book entitled Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan. This book is a very fun lake/beach read, and it even has a few fantastic recipes in the back which is another plus!

What would you do if everything in your life went to hell in a hand basket: You lose your company, you lose your upscale apartment, you are forced to declare bankruptcy, and your boyfriend and business partner runs home to his mommie?  

Jenny Colgan states in her blurb about the book that the story isn't simply about a girl who opens a bakery.  To her, this book is really about "being brave; about striking out on your own when everything's against you.  It's about daring to drop out of the rat race; about the satisfaction of making things by hand; of sharing with friends and neighbors; and how a simple creative act with a touch of flour and yeast can produce something quite magical."

I rarely quote a book's jacket cover description in my posts, but Colgan really sums up the book quite nicely in hers.  Polly is brave.  Not only does she set out on her own to get her life back in order, but she moves far away from the support of family and friends to a tidal island named Mount Polbearne off the coast of Cornwall.  Residents of the island must plan their outings to the mainland around the tides because the causeway is covered twice daily!

Colgan based Mount Polbearne on St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall.  In the above photo you can see the causeway at low tide.

When the tide is high, the causeway disappears!

Polly leaves Plymouth behind and rents a drafty apartment above an abandoned bakery in Mount Polbourne because that's all she can afford.  Her friends think she's daft, and several do try to be supportive of her dire circumstances after the bankruptcy and liquidation of all assets.  Her boyfriend Chris has become withdrawn and abandons her. Soon she gets into a routine on the island not strictly based on the tides, but on baking.  Polly loves to bake, and the local fishermen love her creations. Unfortunately her landlord Gillian Manse owns the only working bakery on the island, and her bread is as nasty as her personality.  Mrs. Manse hates the competition, and she strives to make Polly even more miserable than she already is.  Out of the pot and into the fire!  I love Polly's personality, and I found myself pulling for her even though she isn't perfect and makes mistakes.  

This cute little book isn't quite your typical chick lit book.  It does have tragedy, romance, quirky characters, and a magical setting.  But it also has a pet puffin named Neil and as I mentioned before recipes that the author has tried and some are family favorites.  Colgan also recommends music:

Yesterday I promised to share one of Jenny Colgan's recipes from the book with you, but since this post is already so long I'll share it next Thursday along with another recipe from the sequel (which I started last night).

Have you read any good books yet this summer?  If so, please share!  This is a link party!  Don't forget to grab one of my Literary Friday buttons from my sidebar!

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Do You Do When There's No Electricity?

Hello, My Lovelies!  Lately we've been losing power.  A. Lot…..So I haven't been cooking much, and normally I try to share something delicious on Thursday.  Come back tomorrow for Literary Friday for a recipe from the cute little book I just read.

Losing power is annoying.  Very, very annoying because we have underground utilities in our neighborhood.  We can have the slightest little thunder shower and BOOM!  No power.

Usually it goes off in the early evening and stays off until around midnight or later.  Then our alarm system goes crazy when it comes back one and wakes everyone up.

So…..since I can't do much of anything else, I've been drawing.  By flashlight.  :D

I'm starting a new series based on some of my favorite fictional heroines.  The theme is hard to put into words, but basically the heroines I've chosen all have one thing in common:  circumstances/fate cause them to have a much different home than the one they have at the beginning of the book.  I really need to figure out how to better state it, but here are a few of the characters I'll be painting:

Tessa from The Infernal Devices series
Claire from the Outlander series
Adelia from The Mistress of the Art of Death series
Jane Eyre
Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice
Katherine from The Tenth Gift
Darcy from Something Blue
Mac from the Fever series
Diana from the All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches)
Bethany from Styx
Katniss from The Hunger Games

I guess if you've read any of these books you'll get the point.  My only worry is that I don't want it to look like fan art.  I want them to look very nice!  Anyway….here is my first study from my art journal.  It's Tessa Gray from the Infernal Devices series from Cassadra Clare.  It's one of two YA books I have on the list.

 photo 54341135-91e1-4f12-9bf7-2d3c791cdac9.jpg

Normally I share my art journals on my art journal blog, but I might share my studies from this series over here, too. Did you even know that I have another blog?  Yep, I do. You can visit it by clicking on the link in my sidebar.

Also, I'm open for any and all suggestions for this series.  

So what do you do when the power goes out?  And keep it clean…..or PG-13 anyway!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Monday, June 22, 2015

Shoeless Joe Jackson McLean

Happy Monday!  I hope y'all had a wonderful Father's Day Weekend.  Mr. Art @ Home had a great one, the lucky duck!

My best friend Ainslie recently lost her beloved Portuguese Water Dog Joe.  He was the cutest dog, and I really loved him, too.  Whenever I'd go to her studio for Pilates, he'd put his favorite tennis ball in my shoe!  {so cute}  Joe became ill with a very aggressive lung cancer that killed him within a week.  Ainslie and her family have since adopted a new little PWD named Percy.  He is very different from Joe, but I know they have plenty of room in their hearts for little Percy.

When I lost Bonnie Blue and my sweet friend Ellen painted her portrait for me, I can't tell you how appreciative I was (and still am).  It's the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me, so I wanted to pay it forward and paint a portrait of Joe.  You can see my post about Ellen's portrait of Bonnie here.

 photo 35d5e506-9486-48bc-95b3-b1dc09093c30.jpg

8" X 8"
oil on artist board

Did I tell y'all that I'm taking a portraiture class this summer?  I've learned so much after only three weeks.  I'll share my painting from the class when it's finished.
Until next time…
Ricki Jill

Friday, June 19, 2015

Literary Friday: The Buried Giant

Happy Literary Friday, y'all!  This week I read The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I confess that I bought into all the hype about this book, and I was very disappointed.

Axl and Beatrice are an elderly Briton couple who set out on a quest to find their long lost son's village.  Set in England during the Dark Ages shortly after Arthur's demise, the Saxons are arriving by the boatloads.  Yet Briton and Saxon are living in peace partially due to a mysterious mist that makes everyone forget....everything. This makes for a difficult plot point because characters forget from one minute to the next what they were previously doing. 

SIDEBAR:  Has this ever happened to you?  You open your pantry, become distracted for one reason or another and forget why you opened the door in the first place?  That's The Buried Giant.  The frustrations of the characters set my teeth on edge!

Where was I?  The mist seems to have overtaken my brain...oh, yes!  Axl and Beatrice set out on a quest from their burren/village to find their long lost son's village.  They are eventually joined by a Saxon knight who luckily seems to be immune to the effects of the mist, a  young Saxon boy with a sketchy backstory, and Sir Gawain from Arthurian legend. There is little plot, the point of view is unclear, and if the point of the book is the retelling of an Arthurian legend, well it falls way short. Maybe the book is an allegory on the sad and depressing devastation of Alzheimer's disease and dementia in general.  I haven't read any interviews with the author yet, but I'm planning on getting to the bottom of the purpose of this book.  Maybe it's just me: I didn't get it!

There are many magical and fantastical elements to the story, but the characters are unreliable so you really don't know if the magic is there or not.  What kept me reading it (and yes I read the entire book....I wanted to be proven wrong) is Ishiguro's masterfully written prose.  The language is lyrical and lovely.  

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

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Enjoying Our Deck and Patio

Happy *pretty* Wednesday!  We've been enjoying our deck and patio/courtyard so much this spring, and although it's been hot this week, the evenings have been nice.  You might recall that we lived in our home for twelve years with nothing but a small deck to enjoy as our backyard was a 45 degree angle full of moss.  You can see the patio/courtyard/deck reveal here.

I want to show some photos of our containers that are filling-in nicely:

Mr. Art @ Home installed a drip system for all my containers.  I've also been feeding them a couple of times per week.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Please leave a comment.  I want to read your tips for pretty containers.  I'm new to having so many, especially the two really large ones, although I'm beginning to believe that bigger is better when it comes to containers.  Our two large ones are looking the best in my opinion.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hi! It's *me* {Finlay} Guest Post #4

I'm very busy.  I'm so busy that it's hard for me to take the time to write a blog post.  I have lots to do around here. Here is a typical morning at home....Take a look:

I jump on the outdoor furniture to protect my family from the dastardly squirrels.  I must protect my home and family!

I must jump on all Mama RJ's clean laundry to make sure it passes the Downy freshness sniff test.  These ones pass....

I must inspect all sacks of groceries.  It's a good job to have!  Now where are my treats....

I cleared the patio from all vermin....yes I'm talking to you, you evil chipmunks!

It's been a busy morning.  It's time for me to take a nap!

Next time on Hi!  It's *me*  {Finlay}:    Lake Martin Edition!

Until next time...

Keep reading my Mama RJ's blog!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Automatic for the People

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I hope you had a fantastic weekend.  Shelley took the ACT Saturday morning, so we had a kind of low-key weekend around here.

Today for Artful Monday I wanted to share with you the work of geniuses....yep, GENIUSES!  If you are of a certain vintage, you might remember cigarette vending machines that looked something like this:

But look closely:  Do you see it?  This vintage machines no longer dispense cancer-sticks, oh, no! Instead they dispense art.....because one should "never be without art!"

Called Art O Mats, these little machines can be found all over the world sharing tiny little works of art with the masses. The art is either contained in a box or affixed to a wooden block the same size of cigarette cartons.  That's how they work.  So.  Cool.

Art lovers can order cartons of tiny works of art from the website.

I was my first Art O Mat at Shelley's art class at Auburn University's Jules Collins Smith Art Museum:

Although I'm NOT an Auburn fan, I think it's fun that this machine is painted in the school's colors of orange and blue.

 photo 4e6770a1-cb09-4794-b9a7-fa956d663616.jpg

Above are the little abstracts and landscapes we collected during the school year.  We keep them in the art studio.  Aren't they fun!

While writing this post I developed an earworm  Do you know what an earworm is?  It's when you get a song stuck in your head and you can't get it out.  I keep hearing R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People album in my head...probably because of the vending machines providing art for the masses.
What's my favorite song on the album, you ask? Hmmmm....that's a hard choice because Automatic for the People just might be their best album.  I guess that today my favorite song from the album is "Nightswimming."

Here it is for your listening pleasure!

R.E.M.'s "Nightswimming" from the album Automatic for the People

Linking to:

Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos></a></center> <div class=

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Why Blogging (and Journaling!) is Good for Your Children

 photo fbc13ca0-2562-419f-92fe-b5793fda2b55.jpg
Background:  Shelley's ACT vocabulary journal
Foreground:  An accordion folder of Emily Dickinson's poetry used as part of the plot in the novel Emily's Dresses and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak
Happy Perspicacity Saturday! The purpose of these posts is to share with you issues that are important to me (and what I've learned about them).
Today I want to talk about journaling and how it can help your student learn.  Journaling uses both sides of the brain as students document facts, statistics, and notes from class usually on the right side of the page with the creative assignments/elements that support the facts on the left side of the page. This technique is often referred to as an interactive student notebook, and you can read many helpful articles online about them.
Nature journals are fun for students, and this article from Johns Hopkins University School of Education explains the benefits of nature as well as geography journals.
One interactive journal my daughter kept this year is a literary device journal.  These types of journals can be very practical because students can take them to college and use them as reference books.  For example, when Shelley studied Flannery O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge," she added a "Situational Irony" page to her journal.  She defined the term and then gave a detailed example from the story. This makes learning relevant, so when she's in college and can't remember what situational irony means, she can look it up in her literary device journal and be reminded of the example from O'Connor's story.  Next year she'll keep a Poetic Device journal when she takes The Language of Poetry as a class.
Taking journaling one step further is blogging.  Students can learn basic coding, writing, editing, photography, photo editing, art, and other skills.  Parents can keep settings private if they prefer so safety shouldn't be much of an issue.  Shelley will write a blog next year because she needs the experience before college.  Most of our older daughter's friends wrote at least one blog for a variety of courses while an undergraduate.  Professors are increasingly including blogs as part of their syllibi, so this is a good skill for students to familiarize themselves with before heading off to college.
What do you think about journaling and blogging for students? Do you think they're legitimate learning exercises or a waste of time?

BTW Did you know I've started a journaling blog?  Click on the link on my sidebar and check it out!
Until next time...
Ricki Jill

Friday, June 12, 2015

Literary Friday: The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Canterbury Sisters

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  Have you started your summer reading yet?  I did get a lot of reading done the past couple of days due to power outages.  Not a lot I could do other than create some art and read.  I had a great excuse to ignore chores!  ;)

This week I read two very different books:  The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black and The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is typical Holly Black:  a dark fairytale with fairies, hipsters, hipster fairies, romance, action, suspense, and fantastic character development.  And if that isn't enough the setting is perfect:  A New England town called Fairfold where humans live alongside fairies in the forest adjacent to it.  Oh, but it gets better:  Fairfold benefits from being a tourist town.  Some folks apparently lacking discernment flock to the town to take their chances in the forest and gape at a fairy prince slumbering in a glass coffin.  The townsfolk understand fairies: how they're cunning, how they can't exactly lie but they can certainly confound, and the magic and charms that can keep them at bay. The tourists don't know Jack or squat which leads to missing persons and sometimes worse.

Hazel Evans has lived in Fairfold for most of her life.  She and her brother Ben played in the forest as children, pretending to be knights on a quest to save the boy in the glass coffin.  The book is told mostly from Hazel's point of view, and she is one of the bravest YA heroines ever.  I love her.  But like all the best heroes she has a flaw: love for her brother forces her into bargaining with the fairies. Years pass, and the unimaginable happens:  the fairy prince in the coffin wakes-up, and Hazel is somehow convinced that she played a role in the event.  Her life is complicated enough as it is: she's made out with almost every boy in town, her brother is keeping secrets, and she has a tremendous crush on a fairy changeling named Jack.  As Hazel is lured into Fairy drama, the townsfolk become hysterical as locals become targets of fairy attacks.  Her beloved Jack becomes a suspect which complicates things even further.  It's a good thing Hazel "prepared" for knighthood during her childhood quests!

As a parent, one of the most interesting aspects of the book is the diametric parenting styles of Hazel's parents and Jack's parents.  Hazel's parents are free range parents to the point of neglect, and Jack's parents (Jack is a changeling intended as a substitute for his brother Carter) are helicopter parents.  I must say that I really love Jack and Carter's mom.  She's a badass!  

For those of you unfamiliar with Holly Black, she's an exceptional writer and one of the best YA writers period.  I enjoyed reading The Spiderwick Chronicles with the girls when they were much younger, and I also enjoyed The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (still hoping for a sequel to that one).  I recommend The Darkest Part of the Forest to older teens and not to younger ones due to adult content and violence.

Here is the trailer:

The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright pays homage to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  The story is about a group of women walking the original pilgrimage trail from London to Canterbury Cathedral, and each has been challenged to tell a story about love which will be judged by her fellow pilgrims.  The winner will be treated to an elegant gourmet dining experience in Canterbury.  A few of the tales even mimic themes in the original tales which is fun, and at the beginning the reader glimpses stereotypes that have been around for centuries.

Told from Che de Milan's point of view (I know….she has an unfortunate name), Che is joining the tour "Broads Abroad" at the last minute because her original solo tour guide has been hospitalized. She's an unwilling joiner because she's on a quest to take her hippie mother's ashes to Canterbury. Plus her boyfriend has recently dumped her, so she's not really in the mood to listen to much less tell love stories.  The pilgrims span in age from 17 to the early seventies, and the tour guide is a young history professor who takes on a few tours during breaks from her teaching.  At first keeping the characters apart is confusing, but it's probably because Che is confused, and as she learns about the women the reader does as well.

The stories that the women tell are compelling, and there's a tragic plot twist at the end I wasn't expecting.  But readers will cheer for these women to find the peace that should result from taking such a journey.

On a side note, I have decided to make Literary Friday a link party again, so please help a sister out and spread the word!

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Alabama White Barbeque Sauce

Happy Thursday!  Sorry I didn't post yesterday.  We had a bad storm (lost several trees in the neighborhood), and we lost power Tuesday night so I couldn't get a post ready for yesterday.

Today I'm sharing my recipe for Alabama White Barbeque Sauce. This sauce is the very best with grilled chicken, and my family likes to use it as a dip for onion rings, too.  I adapted my recipe from the Kowaliga white BBQ sauce served at Kowaliga Restaurant on Lake Martin.  It's easy to tweak the recipe to your taste.

 photo c02e9908-0e75-4d49-9cdc-8ca399aa715e.jpg

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Random Tuesday

 photo ae81966c-338f-4f0a-9b9a-635d507f839a.jpg

Happy Tuesday!  I have a long list of random for you today, so I'd better get on with it!

We've been spending some time at Lake Martin, and we've done lots of fun activities other than boating.  We've been to fun shows and sales, observed ospreys on the lake, and relaxed by reading and creating art.

 photo a425cd2a-944a-4424-aac9-4a930275624c.jpg

 photo 433f5330-39cf-441a-b898-cfe092f72be4.jpg

 photo a54e9e47-0cc4-4725-b06d-2c89fdb2c337.jpg

 photo d599a379-b4c6-404a-8f34-71c56d74685e.jpg

My girls love anything vintage or boho!

 photo ffa804c8-81a8-4e1e-8da9-070b4fb24ffc.jpg
Osprey in nest on Lake Martin

I recently started art journaling, and I've been doing it a lot lately.  Shelley likes to make art journals for school. Below is a page from my prayer journal:

 photo 118d206b-8113-4513-b2ab-770a8c3e8f40.jpg

Finlay is quite the little salty dog….he loves boating!  He also loves playing in the sun, but we have to be careful.  I don't want his little ears to sunburn!  Here he is catching some rays on the deck:

 photo 6fe6b389-0995-495d-bc02-c2c0e4196818.jpg

My artist friend Mary Compton is having a show at Red Dot Gallery.  I love her style, and the opening reception is Friday.  We can't wait!

I have a new breakfast obsession:

This conserve is made from the very sweet little scarlet strawberry….and it tastes divine!  I've been having it most mornings on toast with tea.  It is a little expensive, and is only available at certain times, but oh so worth it. It's my guilty pleasure of the moment!

Thanks for stopping by!  What is your guilty pleasure of the moment?

Until next time…

Ricki Jill