Monday, August 28, 2017

Atlanta Field Trip

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend unlike our brothers and sisters in Texas.  They really need our prayers now and help soon.

Last week, Shelley and I went on a fun field trip to Atlanta shopping.  We mainly went to art supply stores like Dick Blick and Binders.  Here are some of the highlights from our trip:

Shelley and I decided to make fun little art journals commemorating our field trip.  These are made with luggage tags and binder rings.  Judith Cassel-Mamet has a fun video tutorial on how to make these HERE.
The photos above are Shelley's tag journal.

The photos above are of my tag journal.

Shelley and I enjoyed Dick Blick even though the Atlanta store is much smaller than the one in Chicago near the Art Institute.  We liked how organized the store was.  It was very tidy, and the clerks were knowledgeable and helpful.

I bought these Caran d'Ache sketch pencils that supposedly don't show-up in photography.  I thought this would be great for art journaling because I don't mind looking at guidelines in my journals, but they probably aren't Instagram-worthy.  I hope I like them!

Shelley bought rice paper at Dick Blick because she wanted a few custom pencil cups for her dorm room.  We used 7Gypsies ribbon to trim-out the cups.  Actually, we used tin cans for this project.

I like the paper Shelley chose.  Her dorm room is mostly pinks and reds with gold accents.

My favorite stop was the cutest Indie bookstore, A Cappella Books!
Look what I bought:

I cannot WAIT to read this one!

The helpful staff at A Cappella Books recommended The Mothers because I love Joshilyn Jackson's books, and Jackson loves this book.

Shelley has made several DIY projects for school, and the one above is my favorite.  It's a flower garland, and I love the paper.

Tomorrow is move-in day at Shelley's college.  I will go to my art class and paint most of the day Wednesday, and Thursday morning I shall have coffee in bed while reading this:

Please come back Friday for a very special Literary Friday post.  The featured memoir is about a family split apart by the Berlin Wall.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, August 25, 2017

Literary Friday: Language Arts

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This week I read Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos. It's been sitting on my To Be Read Shelf for two years.  I can't believe it took me so long to read it; this is one of the best books I've ever read.

According to Goodreads:

The new novel from the best-selling author of Broken for You spins the stories of a dedicated teacher, his enigmatic son, and a wartime survivor into an affecting tale of love, loss, and handwriting.

Charles Marlow teaches his high school English students that language will expand their worlds. But linguistic precision cannot help him connect with his autistic son, or with his ex-wife, who abandoned their shared life years before, or even with his college-bound daughter who has just flown the nest. He’s at the end of a road he’s traveled on autopilot for years when a series of events forces him to think back on the lifetime of decisions and indecisions that have brought him to this point. With the help of an ambitious art student, an Italian-speaking nun, and the memory of a boy in a white suit who inscribed his childhood with both solace and sorrow, Charles may finally be able to rewrite the script of his life.

Sometimes the most powerful words are the ones you’re still searching for.

My Review:

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know how much I love cursive writing.  I enjoy filling my art journal pages with words written in a blend of both the Palmer and MacLean methods for penmanship.  I'm also a former language arts teacher like Charles Marlow in the book, plus I have a heart for people with autism: This book is the perfect match for me!  Not only do I love the subject matter, but Stephanie Kallos can write extremely well. Her technique for presenting most of the story from Charles's point of view and just a select few sections from his daughter Emmy's point of view is genius because this is what truly gives us insight into Charles's heart.

Charles Marlow's story is poignant yet inspirational.  Throughout the novel the reader is given hints about something traumatic that happened during Charles's fourth grade year: the same year he won a city-wide short story contest he wrote as part of an experimental "language arts" curriculum (the year was 1962).  These events are woven into the present-day storyline seamlessly and brilliantly; this is necessary because a memory from fourth grade haunts him. But it's the fourth grade Charles who breaks our hearts.  Children are supposed to be "resilient," however Stephanie Kallos gets it.  Plus her ability to integrate two divergent plot lines is magical.  

If you enjoy high quality literature with engaging characters and a very unique plot, then Language Arts is the book you must read next.  Seriously, don't wait two years to read this book like I did!

“It's never too late to try a new approach to learning anything, and just because one has no expectation doesn't mean one has no hope.” 
― Stephanie Kallos, Language Arts

And now I'd like to announce the winners from last week's giveaways, chosen by my daughter Shelley!

Joan, you won the copy of The Art of Living With Nature, and Charlotte, you won the hand painted recipe card for Madeleines.  Congratulations, ladies!  Please email me with your contact information.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Busy Week!

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  This week has been filled with fun activities.  Shelley and I went on a quick field trip to Atlanta to buy fun art supplies.  We've also been creating lovely stuff for her dorm room:  Shelley heads back to college Tuesday!  On Wednesday morning of next week, I'll wake up an empty nester for the first time in almost twenty-five years.  :)

I love spending time in the art studio with my favorite younger daughter!

I'm extending both giveaways from last week until tomorrow morning.  Shelley will select both winners based on your comments, so if you haven't entered yet you should!  I will announce both winners on tomorrow's Literary Friday post.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: The Daughters of Ireland

Happy Solar Eclipse Monday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read Santa Montefiore's The Daughters of Ireland, the sequel to The Girl in the Castle.  You can read my glowing review of The Girl in the Castle HERE. For some reason these books have been repackaged and retitled in the UK and here in the States:  The Girl in the Castle is now Songs of Love and War in the UK and The Irish Girl in the US.  Also, Book 2 in the series is entitled Daughters of Castle Deverill in the UK, and here in the US it's The Daughters of Ireland. Book 3 is already out in the UK, The Last Secret of the Deverils  (I have no idea what the title will be once it's released here).  I'm concerned about the publisher's shenanigans because I really don't want all the title changes to discourage readers; this is an excellent series. The story is so much better than Downton Abbey.  I don't know if the series has been optioned yet, but it would make an incredible miniseries.

Also, I must disclose that I really enjoy Santa Montefiore's books. I've also reviewed The Beekeeper's Daughter and The French Gardener  here on my blog.

About The Daughters of Ireland

• Paperback: 576 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 15, 2017)

Ireland. 1925. The war is over. But life will never be the same... "Everything Santa Montefiore writes, she writes from the heart,” says JOJO MOYES. See why in this unforgettable story of love, loss, and life, perfect for fans of DOWNTON ABBEY and KATE MORTON.

In the green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill has burned to the ground. But young Celia Deverill is determined to see her ruined ancestral home restored to its former glory — to the years when Celia ran through its vast halls with her cousin Kitty and their childhood friend Bridie Doyle. Kitty herself is raising a young family, but she longs for Jack O’Leary — the long-ago sweetheart she cannot have. And soon Kitty must make a heartbreaking decision, one that could destroy everything she holds dear. Bridie, once a cook's daugher in Castle Deverill, is now a well-heeled New York City socialite. Yet her celebrity can't erase a past act that haunts her still. Nor can it keep her from seeking revenge upon the woman who wronged her all those years ago. As these three daughters of Ireland seek to make their way in a world once again beset by dark forces, Santa Montefiore shows us once more why she is one of the best-loved storytellers at work today.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Santa Montefiore

Santa Montefiore was born in England. She went to Sherborne School for Girls in Dorset and studied Spanish and Italian at Exeter University. She has written sixteen bestselling novels, which have been translated into thirty different languages and have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Find out more about Santa at her website, and connect with her Facebook. You can also join the Facebook group dedicated to her books.

My Review:

First of all I want to emphasize that this is not a standalone novel.  If you are looking for a series, then you've come to the right place:  I highly recommend it!  This family drama is entertaining, and I love the County Cork setting. Plus, this book is set just after the Irish War of Independence during the Roaring Twenties and ensuing Great Depression.  There are some very surprising plot twists: This is not a formulaic historical romance or chick lit book at all. It's gritty, and Montefiore doesn't shy away from violence in this novel just like she didn't in the first.

This installment is a little slow to develop, but once I reached page 75, I couldn't put it down until I finished.  Kitty takes a backseat to Celia and Bridie in Book 2.  Bridie spends most of her time in The Hamptons (so reminiscent of The Great Gatsby's setting) partying and trying to forget her many losses.  Celia travels around the world to restore her family's name.  Both Celia and Bridie develop into much more likable women, especially Celia who morphs from silly and vapid to conscientious and courageous.  She is my new literary hero; Celia has a strength of will and determination I admire. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Jack O'Leary; he's lost his moral compass and his mind, apparently.

If you enjoy family dramas, novels set in Ireland, strong female characters, and a little bit of the paranormal thrown into the mix (there are ghosts), then you will love this series.  I can't wait for Book 3!

Disclosure:  I received an ARC from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, August 18, 2017

Summertime Tablescape Challenge

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  For those of you expecting a Literary Friday post, I hope you aren't disappointed.  I'll be back on schedule next week; but for today, I put my books down and got creative in our dining room.

Catherine at Katherine's Corner is hosting a Summertime Tablescape Challenge.  Thanks for hosting, Katherine!  I thought it would be fun to participate, to celebrate the end of the summer with my youngest daughter before she heads back to college at the end of the month.

Ah, the best laid plans....I had planned a nice party outside on our patio, but Mother Nature refused to cooperate.  We've had so much rain lately, and I waited as late as I could. Unfortunately I had to bring the party indoors.  *sadface*

Well, what are you waiting for?  Let's get this afternoon tea party started!


We're having tea, madeleines, petit fours, and cheese straws.  Then we'll retire to the family room to watch a summertime Hallmark Channel movie.

Grab your plate and fill it with teatime goodies.  Don't be shy!  

Don't forget your tea!

Today I'm serving Tea Forté's Garden Harvest.  A friend gave me a box a while back and we enjoyed it so much I've been ordering it online.  Peach is my favorite!

I had a very small window of opportunity to take photos.  We had a break in the clouds, but sadly it didn't last very long.

The only thing new on the table is this lovely table runner from Williams-Sonoma.

Since we couldn't enjoy the patio and our roses, I brought one inside!

We drink hot tea year round in our home everyday.  Do you?


Darcy dining chairs, napkins, blue vase:  Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic
Table runner:  Williams-Sonoma
Teapot, plates, cups and saucers, teabag plate, flower pot:  MacKenzie-Childs
Mosaic server, candlestick:  Mosaicwares

This batch is browned a bit more.  Shelley likes her madeleines topped with powdered sugar.  I like mine plain.
All items above:  MacKenzie-Childs

Madeleines are easy to bake and perfect for a summertime tea with their adorable shell shape.  Please find my favorite Madeleine recipe below.  

This is an original work of art, and one of my lucky readers will win it.  It was drawn with Derwent "Inktense" watercolor pencils on high quality, 8" X 10" watercolor paper, ready for framing.  You can enter for a chance to win it by leaving a comment below, answering the following question: What's your favorite way to spend a stormy summer afternoon?  One winner will be drawn at random one week from today.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

This is a link party, and I hope you'll visit Katherine's sweet blog friends and enjoy all the pretty tablescapes in the challenge.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New from MacKenzie-Childs

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  The weekend is almost here.  Do you have any fun plans? Are you traveling to view Monday's eclipse?

There will be no Literary Friday post tomorrow, but never fear...Literary Friday will return next week, and I'll post a bonus review Monday.

Please join me tomorrow instead for a Summertime Tablescape Challenge. 

Here's a preview:

My tablescape is actually in our dining room, not here in the breakfast room, but this is still a hint of what is to come.  ;P

Have you seen the brand new coffee pot from MacKenzie-Childs?  I love me some coffee, so I must needs this lovely addition to the majolica line.

I do love this pot!  My Christmas Wish List is growing by the day...

I also love this pretty deviled egg plate.  We Southerners love our deviled eggs!

I also love this dish towel.  I draw ribbons and bows like these all the time.  These are holiday bows, and they are part of the holiday line, but I think they're fun for anytime at all not just Christmas.

I'm giving away this book.  Have you entered yet?  Here's the link!

Please come back tomorrow for the fun Summertime Tablescape Link Party.  There might be a giveaway involved (or more)!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Inspire: The Art of Living with Nature *plus* a Giveaway

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  We enjoyed a really long weekend at Lake Martin (Thursday through Monday), a very rare long weekend.  We had a wonderful time.

Today I want to share with you a pretty and creative book:  Inspire: The Art of Living with Nature by Willow Crossley.  Crossley is a British floral designer, stylist, and author, and I've read a few articles about her in British magazines.  This book presents simple ideas to incorporate nature in your home. With chapters entitled: Woodland, Flora, Fauna, Beach, and Edibles, there's surely a chapter or two that will appeal to most readers (I loved the Woodland, Flora, and Beach chapters).

Since it's summer and we haven't made it to the beach yet, I wanted to bring a little of the sea into our home.  I liked how Crossley placed orchids in clamshells and houseplants in nautilus shells:

The photographs are beautiful in this book.  Although many of the floral arrangements and other projects are simple, the staging of the projects elevate them.

This is my take on the clamshell project:

I placed my project on this little MacKenzie-Childs table in the art studio.  See it?
Come a little closer...

I placed my little orchid...

...inside an abalone shell rather than a clamshell.  I love the color and texture!  And don't worry....I did a better job placing the bark around the roots later.

One of the great tips I learned from the book is the best way to water an orchid.  Once a week, place an ice cube on the roots.  As it melts, it waters the orchid!  A couple of other favorites from the book are: a gorgeous arrangement made with radishes and a fun, large arrangement with branches and pompoms.  

Because I enjoyed the book so much, can you imagine my delight when Amazon notified me that Willow Crossley has a new book?  Can you?  I ordered it.

*squee!* Another book with 50 beautiful projects to bring the outside in.

Ummm....there's a slight problem.  Although the books have different covers, they have the exact same content inside.  :/

Truly, I don't know whether I should be more annoyed at Cisco Books or Amazon.  Honestly, I'm more annoyed at myself for falling for it.  I have been burned by magazines doing this, changing a cover to sell more of the same issue.  I won't fall for either scheme again, I tell ya!

My stupidity, My Lovelies, has a silver lining.  I don't need two copies of the same book, so I will share.  I will give the newest one (the one on top in the photo above) to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me your favorite idea for bringing nature into your home.  I will read them to Shelley and let her pick her favorite.  Here's a hint: she likes pretty!  She will pick the winner one week from tonight, and I will announce the winner on Wednesday of next week.  Please leave an email so I can contact you if you're a No Reply Blogger!  Good luck!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill