Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This week I read an excellent Christian romance: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter.

According to Goodreads:

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

My Review:

This is probably the best Christian romance I've ever read.  One of the main reasons I love it is because both Josephine and Noah are so flawed and are constantly at cross-purposes with each other. There's lots of tension between these two!   Noah is hurt and feels betrayed; he can't get past Josephine's  (perceived) indiscretion(s).  Josephine is guarded to the point of being hostile and snarky.  Both want to protect their hearts from the other above all else, yet neither has moved on even though each think their divorce was finalized.

I love Josephine's character.  The storyline is told partly in flashback, so the reader understands why Josephine sabotages her relationship with Noah.  Her past is heartbreaking, and Noah's cluelessness about it is annoying.  Clearly he loves her, yet he's so easily willing to think the worst of her.  But as the plot thickens, Noah redeems himself. Josephine's faith journey is dramatic, and so is Noah's crisis of faith.

The suspense in the novel is surprising, and I like the pacing of the story. There are several unexpected plot points, and the North Georgia setting is perfect. It's refreshing to read a Christian romance where both characters need a reality check.  If you enjoy Christian romance with uniquely flawed characters and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat, then you'll appreciate Sweetbriar Cottage.  I will definitely read more of Denise Hunter's romances.  FYI: two of her books have been made into Hallmark Channel movies.  

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I received a copy of Sweetbriar Cottage from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

I have a friend who always makes grilled cheese for her family's supper on Sunday nights.  She started this tradition when her daughters were toddlers, and now they're college graduates. When they come home to visit, they know what to expect for supper on Sundays.

There is comfort in the familiar, in knowing what to expect.  Rituals remind us of home, and sometimes the simplest ones can be the most meaningful.  About a year ago, Mr. Art @ Home and I decided to keep things simple on Friday nights.  If we're home, we have Cheese Plate Friday Night, and if we're having it with wine, we call it Charcuterie Board Friday Night.  ;P

Imagine my excitement when Mr. Art @ Home bought me The Art of the Cheese Plate by Tia Keenan.  I absolutely adore this book.  It includes recipes and cheese selections for 37 distinct cheese plates.  There's a lot of reference materials including an index of cheese and resources. The photography by Noah Fecks is eye candy.  It's not only fun to see the different themes of the cheese plates, but it's equally fun to see all the unique linens, plates, and serving pieces.

I love the rustic tray with the pretty retro tablecloth.  Lovely combination!  The theme for this cheese plate is "The Hills Are Alive."  You'll have to buy the book to find out why!

The theme of this spread is "Cheese is for Lovers."  I like the Darth Vader plate!

Now back to my plate at the top of this post...

Obviously this photography is NOT by the very talented Noah Fecks.  
I like to include a little meat, a variety of crackers, and one hard, one aged, and one creamy cheese.

Here's a close-up of our cheese selections, from left to right:  Tipsy Goat from Spain, Triple Cream Brie from France, and Yancy Cheddar with Bacon.

Because Cheese Plate Friday Nights has become a thing, I might share more of our selections in the future.  I'm learning some fun information from The Art of the Cheese Plate, and I hope I can use it to keep Cheese Plate Friday Nights interesting.  

I highly recommend this book.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I want to share with you two books by my new creative role model, Janice MacLeod.

Paris Letters is her first book, so I'll review it first.

According to Goodreads:

“How much money does it take to change your life?”

Unfulfilled at her job and unsuccessful in the dating department, Janice MacLeod doodled this question at her desk. Then she decided to make it a challenge. 

Over the next few months, with a little math and a lot of determination, she saved up enough to buy two years of freedom in Europe.

But she had only been in Paris for a few days when she met a handsome butcher (with a striking resemblance to Daniel Craig)—and never went home again.

A love story in the vein of Almost French and Lunch in Paris, Paris Letters (February 4) is a joyful romp through the City of Light, and an inspiring look at what can happen when we dare to create the life we want.

Realizing that her Parisian love affair would be forever, MacLeod began her own business on Etsy, creating beautifully-illustrated letters from Paris inspired by artists like Percy Kelly and Beatrix Potter. She now paints and writes full-time, bringing beautiful things to subscribers around the world and reviving the lost art of letter-writing.

My Reivew:

Part love story and part travel journal, this memoir captivates my imagination.  I absolutely love MacLeod's courage and determination to make it as an artist.  Her business model is genius: Who doesn't love getting fun snail mail?  After reading her book, I visited her Etsy store.  She offers several types of subscriptions to her monthly letters.  I have ordered one of her letters plus her book plates for both books.  I can't wait to receive them!  I highly recommend this book to all romantics, artists, and entrepreneurs.  

This is an example of one of her letters.  You can order specific back letters, and subscribe for either one month, three months, six months, or twelve months.  Janice paints Parisian scenes with watercolors and uses ink to enhance the illustrations and write the letter.  She photocopies the monthly letter and personalizes each letter to the recipient.

You may link to her Etsy store HERE

Her second book is entitled A Paris Year.

According to Goodreads:

Part memoir and part visual journey through the streets of modern-day Paris, France, A Paris Year chronicles, day by day, one woman's French sojourn in the world's most beautiful city. Beginning on her first day in Paris, Janice MacLeod, the author of the best-selling book, Paris Letters, began a journal recording in illustrations and words, nearly every sight, smell, taste, and thought she experienced in the City of Light. The end result is more than a diary: it's a detailed and colorful love letter to one of the most romantic and historically rich cities on earth. Combining personal observations and anecdotes with stories and facts about famous figures in Parisian history, this visual tale of discovery, through the eyes of an artist, is sure to delight, inspire, and charm. 

My Review:

This book should be required reading for anyone planning a trip to Paris.  I find this book fascinating, and I love MacLeod's photos and illustrations.  The book literally looks like a visual journal or daily diary.  I discovered so many interesting things about Paris that could only be shared by someone who has lived there.  For example, there is a thing in Paris called carriage green. What is it, you ask? Get the book and find out!  Chock-full of history, festivals, landmarks,  and anecdotes, I couldn't help but plan my next trip to the City of Light.  And thanks to A Paris Year, I've decided what time of the year I'd prefer to go as well as which places in the city are "must sees."  A Paris Year is insightful in what it's like living the expat life.

I wanted to share a couple of pages from the book so you can get an idea of the format of the book.  It literally starts with January and ends with December, just like a diary.  I turned to my birthday, and I was fascinated reading about Stamp Day.

 Here is a video that shows how Janice MacCleod creates her art:

You can follow Janice on her blog HERE.

How cool is this?  Truly, I am so inspired.  I would love to do something like this.  I love sending and receiving snail mail, but NO ONE would enjoy reading letters from Birmingham, Alabama.

I think Paris Letters are so much fun.  I can't wait to receive mine!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Hello, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all had a wonderful weekend.  I signed-up to participate in the Summer Tablescape Challenge at Katherine's Corner on August 18th.  So as I'm in the planning stages, I thought I'd look back at a few of my previous summer tablescapes.

I notice that I favor turquoise and yellow in the summer.  Interesting!  I wonder if I should challenge myself not to repeat that color combination.  

Are you up for the challenge?  Why don't you sign-up for the Summer Tablescape Challenge at Katherine's Corner?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Peaches, cream, and raspberry-colored arrangement
I haven't been arranging flowers much this summer, but I put these two flowers together, and I think I like it!

Happy Saturday, My Lovelies!  I hope you are having an enjoyable weekend so far.  We're chillaxin' at the lake.

I wanted to share with you a small little project that only took about five minutes.  I decided that the inspiration board in our library was looking a little tired: It needed an update!  Due to its location, I thought book quotes would be appropriate.  I used the pretty quotes from my Once Upon a Book Club subscription boxes.

Currently the inspiration board is on our large desk between the computer and printer.  It's displayed on a tabletop easel.  I like to move it around the house, so the easel is perfect for that!

If you aren't a Once Upon a Book Club subscriber (but really you should be) you can create your own quote cards using your favorite quotes, plain 4 X 6 notecards, and markers.

Another thing I want to share with y'all is that I've reactivated my art journaling blog.  I thought it might encourage me to draw and journal more.  My other blog is called Meditation of My He{art}, and you can follow the link on the bottom of my sidebar.

Here is one of my latest art journaling pages:

On this page I included a cantaloupe and peach salad recipe.

I drew the peach using Prismacolor Colored Pencils.

I'm trying to decide how to proceed with my art journaling.  I've seen so many beautiful mixed media pages, and I'd like to learn new techniques.  BUT I really want to improve my drawing, and I like keeping a written journal, too.  What I really need is an art journaling workshop, but I can't find one close by. Maybe I can travel to one in the fall once Shelley returns to college.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I read the most delightful book this week:  The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson.  I know it will definitely make my "Best of 2017" list (which usually only consists of three books).  It is laugh out loud funny and poignant at the same time.  You must place it on your To Be Read List immediately!

According to Goodreads:

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy--an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

My Review:

I love everything about this book.  I'll start with the setting:  Tallapoosa County, Alabama, near the shores of Lake Martin.  I read this book in Tallapoosa county (Dadeville, to be exact) on the shores of Lake Martin (we have a lake cabin there).  Leia spent all of her summers with her grandmother in the fictitious town of Birchville, so the residents of said town consider Leia one of their own; they show no compunction at alerting Leia to her grandmother's "Late Unpleasantness" (or breakdown) at the Baptist Church's annual fish fry.  This scene is one of the funniest in all of Southern fiction: I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.  Leia's phone starts blowing-up about her grandmother while she's at her stepsister Rachel's house during what was supposed to be her family's weekly Sunday lunch.   Rachel had canceled lunch due to a knock-down drag-out fight with her husband, but Leia missed Rachel's message about the cancellation. Take charge Rachel helps Leia make travel arrangements to Alabama, and she insists Leia take her thirteen year old daughter Lavender with her.

I absolutely love Leia's character.  She's a nerdy comic book artist (she's a DC Girl, but I won't hold that against her) with a thing for Batman.  I can't even begin to tell you how this book appeals to my inner nerd.  Plus the fact that Leia meets batman at a Comic-Con in Atlanta is a perfect plot point. Leia shares her predicament with Lavender before she has a chance to tell Rachel, and things truly start to get interesting.  (Thirteen-year-olds have mad social media skills.)

Although the book is laugh out loud funny, it also explores serious issues like racism (especially in the Deep South), dementia, and familial roles.  Sisterhood is also a major theme.  Women in the South can get things done, but pair two together working in tandem and they are practically invincible.  The Almost Sisters is truly more than just a fun story.  It will make you think about what role you play in your family, and, if you're Southern, it will challenge you to determine in which South you live:

"The South I'd been born into was all sweet tea and decency and Jesus, and it was a real, true place.  I had grown up inside it, because my family was there.  Wattie's family owned real estate there, too.  The Second South was always present, though, and in it decency was a thin, green cover over the rancid soil of our dark history.  They were both always present, both truly present in every square inch, in every space, in both Baptist churches, at both tables."

The Almost Sisters, page 222.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Almost Sisters from the publisher William Morrow in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  It's VERY HOT here in Central, Alabama.  It's so hot My Mom canceled her birthday plans for today (Happy Birthday, Mimi!)

When the hot midday weather keeps me indoors, I like to pursue creative activities.  I recently bought a few fun books to spark my creativity when I don't want to go to the trouble of taking out oil paints.

Plus, they're very portable.  I can easily take them to the lake, a coffee shop, or on a plane.  All I need are a few Stablio pens, drawing pencils, an eraser, and sharpener.

I keep a few art supplies for travel in my "sketch" pouch, above.

Danny Gregory's Art Before Breakfast has a handy workbook.  I am a fan of Gregory's books, and this workbook combines creative tips with fun drawing prompts.

This is the first page in the journal.  There are several challenging prompts, like drawing items using only triangles.  

Literary Listography is what it sounds like: A book of lists!  No drawing in this book, but my inner nerd couldn't resist!

Although there isn't any drawing in this book, there are pretty watercolor illustrations on almost every double page spread.

There are more drawing prompts in this book than not.  I love some of the categories, like drawing your favorite literary villains.

This activity didn't involve drawing, but how could I resist a good Shakespearean insult (or four)?

I haven't started this guided journal yet, but it promises to help spark your creativity across several disciplines.

Finally, I checked out this book from my local library.  I thought I might learn a few techniques to use in my art journaling, but I really need to not use so much wet media and practice drawing.

Is it unbearably hot in your neighborhood?  What do you like to do (other than swimming and going to movies) when it's so hot?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read the very best book I've read all year: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

Below is a video introduction of the book featuring Hogan:

According to Goodreads:

A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer—Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

My Review:

Well that explains it!  If you read the last paragraph of the Goodreads review, three of my favorite books are compared to The Keeper of Lost Things:  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Anthony Peardew (love the anglicized version of "perdu" which means lost in French) is an obsessive keeper of lost things because of something precious he lost decades earlier.  Now Laura must take the reigns and try to put to rights the massive collection of lost things Anthony has meticulously curated and stored in his study.  In exchange for continuing his work, she has inherited his lovely home and gardens, not to mention the handsome and sexy gardener named Freddy who tends to the property. Plus there's a disruptive ghost.   She doesn't execute her mischief in a malicious way, but more in do-I-have-your-attention-yet way.  

Shortly after moving into the home, Laura befriends Sunshine, a young lady and neighbor with Down Syndrome.  Sunshine is aptly named because she sheds light, humor, and often times wisdom on various situations within the household.  She has amazing gifts that are supernatural and helpful to Laura.  I really enjoyed her interaction with the characters of the novel.

This book is so well-written, and the characters are unforgettable.  The resolution of the mystery of Anthony's lost thing as well as the thing his beloved fiancée Therese lost on that fateful day decades earlier is genius, I tell ya.  If you love romance, mysteries, magical realism, and ghost stories, this book is what your Summer Reading List is missing.

What's on your Summer Reading List?

Until next time...

Happy reading!

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I hope you have had a wonderful week so far.  Mine has been busy, and the traffic in Birmingham has been very bad this week, especially for summer.

A few weeks ago I received an email about the newest Taylor patterns from MacKenzie-Childs. They are both so pretty!  Here they are:

This pattern is called Kings Corners,

and this one is Forest Home.

I love both patterns.  I like the unique center of Kings Corners, and I like the green and purple stripes on Forest Home.

Mr. Art @ Home likes Kings Corners much more than Forest Home.  I want to purchase two of the flat rimmed plates in each.  

I recently bought a Kings Corners mug.  I like the silhouette of this mug better than the old style mugs because it's more sturdy.

The Barn Sale is right around the corner.  I would love to go and purchase more items in these beautiful new patterns.  My daughter and I went five years ago, and we had so much fun!

Will you be going to the Barn Sale this year?  Don't worry....you can be honest.  I'm not looking for a personal shopper or anything like that....no not me.  Seriously I'm not!

I would also want this bunny planter if I went...

It looks like this one is planted with Mexican heather, and it looks pretty!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill