Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Love Walked In

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  After a rainy and cold weekend, it's been a beautiful sunny week (although unseasonably cold).  Today I'm sharing the first book in a series by one of my favorite writers Marisa de los Santos:  Love Walked In.   I've already shared book two (Belong to Me) and book three (I'll Be Your Blue Sky) here on the blog, so I thought I should probably share the first book, too.

According to Goodreads:

When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbs--eleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mother--goes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the unpredictable currents of love and life.

My Review:

Cornelia Brown is a thirty-one year old underachiever.  She's wicked smart, yet she quit graduate school before she'd completed a semester.  She's dreamy, a romantic, and has a great big heart.  Cornelia also loves classic movies, and when Cary Grant lookalike Martin Grace walks into her coffee shop she's immediately smitten.  But Martin's introduction into her life isn't the big story in this novel.  This story is more concerned with eleven year old Clare (whose mentally unstable mother is missing at Christmas) and Cornelia's friendship with Clare at the most vulnerable time in her young life.

In spite of Cornelia's slacker lifestyle, I love her character.  Sometimes she feels a wee bit overshadowed by her geneticist sister who happened to marry Teo, Cornelia's best childhood friend.  Teo travels to Philadelphia for a conference during Christmas while Cornelia is trying to help Clare find her way (and her mother).  They decide to spend Christmas with Cornelia's family in Delaware, and Clare is happy and content spending time with the Brown family.  Reality sets in as the holiday comes to a close and school is set to begin.  How can Cornelia continue to care for Clare without the school becoming suspicious, and should she or should she not contact the police?

Although this is a sweet story,  Marisa de los Santos does an admirable job depicting the devastating affects of bipolar disorder on individuals who suffer from the mental illness and their family members.  Santos sugarcoats nothing, yet she's also respectful and handles the plot point with dignity.  If you enjoy family drama with lovable, quirky characters, an interesting plot, and plenty of references to classic films, then you should enjoy Love Walked In.  

Below is an affiliate link to IndieBound for purchasing Love Walked In.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Happy List: Sweet Gifts, Gardening, and Instagram

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I have so much to be happy about, but these are things that are holdovers from March.  Isn't it funny how sometimes life gets in the way of blogging?

We celebrated a really big anniversary in March.  Mr. Sketchy Reader did the sweetest thing:  He bought me my Wish List from the MacKenzie-Childs website.  I'd forgotten what I'd put on there, and he bought me two espresso cups and saucers in case a friend would like to partake with me.  ;P

I think that I now have all the flat rimmed dinner plates from the Taylor line.  I've wanted the piccadilly mug for a long time, and I love the little bunny planter.  

What I love so much about this is that my husband wanted me to have my wish list.  It isn't just about the "stuff" although I am thrilled with the presents.  I just thought he earned a lot of cuteness points for ordering my wish list items.  

One of the funniest things on my list is the wrought iron mug tree.  It's flippin' HUGE.  It holds twenty-four mugs.  I need to take a better photo of it.  The box it came in was very big, too.

I'm happy to announce that all the old Taylor patterns are back!!!  I swear when I opened my email and read it the heavenly chorus sang.  You can read more about this exciting announcement HERE.  

I've been playing with MacKenzie-Childs since we married, and I still enjoy it.  It makes me and my family happy!

Sweet Kris from Junk Chic Cottage sent me this adorable party favor because I won her giveaway, and it is the cutest thing!  I got it right at the end of Shelley's spring break, and she loved it, too.  She asked if Kris is a party planner, and I told her she probably could be!

Look at all the cuteness inside.

If you don't follow Kris's blog, you're missing out.  Visiting Junk Chic Cottage makes me happy because Kris makes everything beautiful.  She's a true talent!

The images below have been popular on my Instagram this past week.

In between storms, rain, and cold we've been gardening, and this column is at our back gate.
Springtime gardening makes me very happy!

This Instagram photo is for an April challenge, a book with the sky on the cover.

Instagram is making me very happy these days.  I've "met" some nice artists and bookstagrammers, and it seems to be the most positive of the social media platforms.

I'm shutting down my Facebook page and account later this week.  I posted last week that I would be doing this, and I'm getting off Facebook for several reasons. I might write a blog post about it, but I haven't quite decided yet whether it's really worth talking about here on the blog.  I would greatly appreciate it if you'd follow me on Instagram if you have an account, and I'll follow you back! The link is on my sidebar!

Finally, I'd like to thank all the TTT ladies for having my back last week.  Y'all are the reason I blog along with my other sweet bloggy friends.  I'm so grateful to y'all, for your friendship and kindness.  My blog friends make me happy!  It was also a treat to eat lunch with Jenna and Emily yesterday.  :D

What's making you happy this week?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, April 13, 2018

Literary Friday: In the Woods by Tana French

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This year I'm shopping my bookshelf as part of a yearly challenge at The Caffeinated Reader.  We're tying to get a handle on our TBR list, and I'm committed to reading the entire Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French.  The first book in the series is In the Woods, and I finished it a couple of weeks ago.  Hopefully I can start on book two this weekend.  

According to Goodreads:

A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Here are all six books in the series so far.

My Review:

One thing that's interesting about this series is that each book has a different protagonist who's part of the Dublin Murder Squad.  This novel focused more on Rob Ryan's story and a tragic event from his childhood that's affecting him as a murder detective.

When Rob was a preteen, he enjoyed playing in the woods with his two best friends.  One evening the trio didn't return to their homes for tea, and a search ensued.  Rob's friends were never found, but he was found in a catatonic state with sneakers filled with blood.  He was so traumatized from the events that he never regained his memory of what happened to him and his friends.

In the present, Rob is assigned to the murder case of a twelve year old girl who's discovered on an archaeological dig in the same woods where Rob played as a child...the same woods where his friends disappeared.  My heart goes out to Rob because he really didn't get the therapy he needed as a child and was shipped-off to England to boarding school shortly after the incident.  He started going by his middle name, and his parents moved so the press and other interested parties couldn't find Rob for updates on his story.  The conflict of interest in his being assigned to the case is obvious, but no one knows on the Murder Squad about Rob's past.  Even his best friend and partner Cassie doesn't find out until they are deep into their investigation. 

Rob's loss of sleep, memory fragments, and complicated feelings about Cassie do not help his detecting skills.  He's a borderline alcoholic, and he can hardly sleep even when he drinks.  During the day, he drinks tons of caffeine in order to function, and it's disturbing to read how this case affects Rob because he's a very likable character in spite of his faults.  Tana French is so good at getting inside the minds of her characters, and I love how she writes!  The story is well-scripted, and it's hard to believe that this is her debut novel.

This mystery is a rollercoaster of emotions, drama, and suspense.  The plot had many unexpected twists which makes it a very fun, exciting read.  Cassie is the focus of the second book, and I'm looking forward to reading it because her backstory is very unique, and it's a huge plot point in her book.  So far I highly recommend this series.

I keep a reading journal, and this is the page for In the Woods.  

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing In the Woods.

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What are you reading this weekend?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, April 12, 2018

How to Host a Spring Book Club Meeting

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing ideas for hosting a spring book club meeting.  I've chosen three very different books and themes for spring, and I hope that a few of these ideas might work for you and your book club.

Book #1:  The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

According to Goodreads:

Charles Wang, a brash, lovable businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, has just lost everything in the financial crisis. So he rounds up two of his children from schools that he can no longer afford and packs them into the only car that wasn’t repossessed. Together with their wealth-addicted stepmother, Barbra, they head on a cross-country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the Upstate New York retreat of the eldest Wang daughter, Saina. The trip brings them together in a way money never could.

“Highly entertaining” (BuzzFeed), this “fresh Little Miss Sunshine” (Vanity Fair)is a “compassionate and bright-eyed novel” (New York Times Book Review), an epic family saga, and a new look at what it means to belong in America. “When the Wangs take the world, we all benefit” (USA Today).

Spring is the perfect time to read a book about a road trip, don't you think?  This book is so much fun, and it does remind me of Little Miss Sunshine

Ideas for the meeting:

Decorate using vintage or vintage-looking tea towels with state maps on them.  You can find them on eBay, Etsy, Uncommon Goods, Amazon, and in local gift shops because I see them everywhere.

Suggested menu:

Strawberries are in season, and there's a scene in the book with strawberries.  I think it would be fun to have a build your own strawberry shortcake bar. 

What you'll need:

Fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
Slices of angel food cake
Fresh whipped cream
Powdered sugar
Chocolate syrup
Caramel syrup
Maple syrup
Chocolate shavings
Drinks: iced tea with strawberry syrup or strawberry soda

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing The Wangs VS. the World: 

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Book #2:  The Thing About Jane Spring by Sharon Krum

According to Goodreads:

At thirty-one, Jane Spring has everything a woman could ask for and seemingly everything a man could long for: "great legs, brains, rising star status in the Manhattan D.A.’s office”but she just can’t find a man who’ll fall madly in love with her. Men are always lining up to ask her out, but for some reason no one wants a second date.

So Jane resolves to change her tack. One snowy night while watching a Doris Day marathon on cable it hits her: Doris Day always got her man. Trading her nondescript black pantsuit for petal pink Chanel and pearls, Jane dyes her hair, stops cursing, softens her voice, paints her nails "even her apartment”and embarks on a fun-filled journey to find the smart, sweet, gorgeous, capable, ambitious, courageous, loving, adoring, hardworking man of her dreams.

Trust me, this book will get your book club talking.  Jane's a military brat who's cool and calls everyone a civilian until her self-imposed makeover.  I confess that Doris Day is my favorite, and you might just want to watch The Glass Bottom Boat to get in the mood for this book.

Decorate with daisies...lots of daisies!  

And why not serve Banana Pudding Layer Cake similar to the Banana Cream Cake Doris Day made for Rod Taylor (and Dom DeLuis destroys) in The Glass Bottom Boat.
Serve with tea or coffee.  Why not dust-off your grandmothers tea and coffee service?  If this sounds like a lot of trouble remember that you're not painting your entire home like Jane!

This book is a little harder to find, so you'll probably have to order it via Amazon.

Book #3: How to Be a Wildflower: A Field Guide by: Katie Daisy

According to Goodreads:

A fresh perspective, an outdoor exploration, a new adventure about to begin—How to Be a Wildflower is the book to celebrate these and other wide-open occasions. Encouraging self-discovery through encounters with nature, beloved artist Katie Daisy brings her beautiful paintings and lettering to this collection of things to do and make, quotes, meditations, natural history, and more. A recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie, a prompt to hike by the light of the moon, a place to press flowers: every page inside the charming textured two-piece case invites readers to wander, gather, savor, and ponder the natural world around them. For every wild and free spirit—and those who aspire to be—this is a field guide to living life to the fullest.

If you can't stand the thought of staying indoors on another beautiful spring day, you'll love this idea: take it outside!  Why not have your book club meeting at your local botanical gardens or a park?  Club members could walk around and use this adorable book as a guide.  

Your book club could meet at a park or public garden and bring a brown bag (or wildflower bag) lunch.

Your club could also do some of the activities in the workbook.  The line also has colored pencils.

If you have a beautiful back garden and patio, you could host the meeting at your home and enjoy the pretty weather outside.  

If you host at home, you could bake the strawberry rhubarb pie from the book and serve it with homemade whipped cream.

That's it!  Three very different ideas for hosting your spring book club meeting.  Which idea do you like best?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My Happy List: Heirloom Roses

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I have so many lovely things I want to share with y'all on My Happy List (and on my blog in general), but I've been spring cleaning.  Not only my house, but my blog.  I now have a secure certificate on my blog, and the change has been a great big time suck.  I've had so many settings to change, and I've been busy redirecting broken links.

Also, I've revived my older blog (deleted a lot of posts and spruced it up a bit).  You can either use the link at the top of the page or follow THIS ONE.

Meditation of My Art focuses on art journaling

Not fun...just trying to "keep it real" around here!

Spring has left Alabama.  It was so cold and rainy Saturday, and we're supposed to have a frost tomorrow morning.  I'm so over the cold because I want to plant containers and completely clean-up our patio area!  On Friday before it turned really cold, Mr. Sketchy Reader and I visited Petals from the Past, and I fell in love with a few of their heirloom roses.  In order to be considered heirloom, a rose must have been cultivated before 1867.  We bought two carpet roses, and we'll be planting them in our giant containers soon, I hope!

Here are a few photos of the roses I liked best.  Enjoy their beauty!

Even the faded ones are lovely!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Tales of the Traveling Totes "Taste Of" Swap

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you the delicious and fun goodies I received from Jackie via the Tales of the Traveling Totes "Taste Of" swap.  Jackie writes the incredibly gorgeous blog Purple Chocolat Home.  If y'all don't follow Jackie, you should.  She creates the most amazing celebrations for her family, and I'm happy that she shares all the beautiful things on her blog.  She's truly inspiring!  Click on this LINK to visit Jackie.

The purpose of the swap is to send a few goodies from your state, to give the recipient a "taste" of where you're from.  Jackie is from Utah, and she sent me some lovely surprises.  Let's take a look:

As y'all know, I collect kitchen and tea towels.  These are so cute, and I love the black and yellow.  
We also enjoy trying different salts.  This Utah salt is exceptional.  I've enjoyed cooking with it!
The best part:  The Utah truffles.  Y'all, both flavors were so delicious.  I loved them both and did NOT share!  ;P

Jackie was also very thoughtful by writing the nicest note about Utah and her history there inside the pretty heart card.  I enjoyed reading about her state and her story!

Jackie also sent me a pretty wind chime that's already hanging, but it will be shared in an upcoming gardening post.  Stay tuned!

Thank-you, Jackie, for the thoughtful gifts from your home state.  This has been a fun swap, and I'd also like to thank Patti from Pandora's Box for organizing it.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring Field Trip to My Favorite Nursery

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  Recently I visited my favorite nursery in Birmingham: Leaf 'n Petal in Cahaba Heights.  They recently moved into a new location just a block or so from their old store, and I am so enamored!  The store is beautiful, and so is the greenhouse.  The Crestline Bagel Company is on the premises, so hungry shoppers can get a snack and eat it outside in the sunshine!

The displays are stunning, and there are beautiful vintage birdcages throughout the store.  
This orchid display is in the front of the store.

There's a small corner for books, and most of them are about gardening.  I went in the store to purchase a fern, but I got distracted.  Do you think I bought a book, too?

Aren't these doors stunning!  The fixtures in the store are so pretty!

One of the wonderful Southern gardening books (but not the one I bought)

I also got some great ideas for our containers outside and in the greenhouse.  I can't wait to plant next week!

An Easter basket full of hydrangeas at our church.  The Leaf 'n Petal is up the street, and I wonder if these were purchased there.

Are you planning your spring plantings?  Will you plant lots of container gardens this spring?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What I'm Reading Wednesday: The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

Hello, My Lovelies!  It's Wednesday, and today I'm reading The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel.  

Lindsay agreed to write today's post, and you'll find it below the Goodreads blurb.

According to Goodreads:

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

I asked Lindsay what inspired her to choose this topic (heart transplant recipient with knowledge about donor) for her novel.  Her response is in the following guest post.

I first thought up the concept for The Heart Between Us when I heard a radio feature about a woman who went skydiving because her heart donor had always wanted to. That got the ball rolling in my own mind. At first, this was just going to be Megan’s story (she’s the one who got the heart transplant). In my mind, she was a woman who had been sick all her life and was finally well—but still living as though she wasn’t. I needed an antagonist, so I gave her a twin sister, someone who lived the life she always wanted, who was overbearing and too protective for her own good.

But when I told the story concept to my agent, she challenged me to look deeper and see what Crystal (Megan’s twin) had going on beneath the surface. So I started thinking about it: What would it be like to BE the “healthy” twin? To feel guilty for that? To be seen as “the sister of the sick girl”? To start to define yourself that way? 

And I realized I didn’t have to look all that far to put myself in Crystal’s shoes. You see, from the time I was 8 until I was 19, I lived with a very ill family member. My mom battled cancer off and on for all of those years until she ultimately passed away. So I had some experience that I could write into Crystal’s life and motivations. I knew why Crystal strove so hard in her career, why her achievements meant so much to her (even if she didn’t!), and why having control over her circumstances was so important to her. How ironic that the character who was initially “just an antagonist” became the one I related to most.

I was ultimately inspired to write about this topic because I’ve seen first hand how fleeting life can be. I want everyone who reads this book to feel empowered and inspired to live their own lives to the fullest.

Thanks so much for writing this wonderful guest post!  And thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to host.

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book:

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, March 30, 2018

Literary Friday: 1001 Ways to Be Creative

Happy Literary Friday and Good Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you an interactive book that's fun and helpful, especially if you're looking for ways to enrich your life and spark your creativity. I know that this isn't the type of book I normally post for Literary Friday, but 1,001 Ways to Be Creative by Barbara Ann Kipfer is so unique I think most of my readers would enjoy its inspiring content.

About 1,001 Ways to Be Creative

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 27, 2018)

Best-selling author Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is back with a new, beautifully illustrated book that will help you break free from to-do lists and find time to think and live more creatively. The third entry in Kipfer's successful 1,001 Ways series, this interactive list book will inspire anyone looking to unleash their creative genius. In today's overscheduled world, there is often little room for creativity in our daily lives. 1,001 Ways to Be Creative shows you how to set your brain free, and will help you find the time and energy to play, dream, imagine, breathe, and explore. This inspirational book of lists offers a treasure trove of ways to bring a little creativity into your life, including ideas for innovative things to do, practical tips, and thought-provoking quotes. Interactive prompts inspire art projects, storytelling, innovative thinking, seeing like an artist, and more. With this energizing book by your side, your next Big Idea could be just around the corner!


Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon

About Barbara Ann Kipfer

Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is the author of 14,000 Things to Be Happy About and the Page-a-Day calendars based on it. She has written more than 60 books, including 1,001 Ways to Live Wild, The Order of Things, Self-Meditation, Instant Karma, 8,789 Words of Wisdom, The Wish List, and 4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone,and she edited Roget’s International Thesaurus. She holds PhDs in linguistics, archaeology, and Buddhist studies. Dr. Kipfer is the Chief Lexicographer of Temnos and has worked for such companies as, Ask Jeeves, and

My review:

The first thing I noticed about this book is that it's thick yet tiny!  It's only about 6" square.  I looked though the book the first day I received it, and I liked the suggestions.  But where to start?  The suggestions seem random and not in chronological order. Some call for action, and some reflection only.   As an example, here are a few of the entries:

#67: Write a sonnet.
#523: The first step to controlling your destiny is to imagine it.
#859: Open this book to a random page and perform one of the entries.

Okay!  So I think I'll take #859's suggestion and do just that...although maybe it would be better to go to a number generator app and select three numbers randomly.

Here are the numbers and the tasks:

#510:  Be constantly and quietly aware.

#886:  Write your life story in 250 words or less.

     I was born on Decoration Day (Sunday, May 2), and my family always teases me about it, saying things like, “You were born at the decoration.”  If you’re Southern you know what this means.  I became a Christian at a young age only by God’s grace, and I can see his hand guiding me my entire life. When I was a little girl, I loved books, coloring and drawing, and bikes.  Not much has changed! I was a bit of a tomboy, and my best friend in elementary school was Ken.  I loved high school, but hated college because I didn’t love what I was studying (but luckily that changed in graduate school). However, I did love my sorority sisters and other things about the University of Alabama, and I met my husband Trip at a fraternity party.  A friend from mine from high school named Ken (a different Ken) introduced me to him. I married Trip young and started graduate school at Tulane and finished my courses at Belmont because we moved.  We moved again to Scottsdale, Arizona where Shanley Belle was born, and then to Alabama where Shelley was born.  I’ve been an English teacher.  I became a stay at home mom and loved it.  I’m well traveled, and I enjoy learning new things.  Now I’m an empty nester and Westie mom to Finlay and Mustang Sally with way too many hobbies.  I’m prayerfully considering dropping most of them and going back to school for another degree (MFA).

(By the way....the word count is 250 exactly!)

#701:  Go on a drawing retreat.

I'll definitely try #510, and I'd love to do #701, but that will take a bit of planning!

There are also inspirational and fun quotes in the book.  This is one of my favorites:

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to live a more creative life.  Some of the suggestions are humorous, some are funny, and some are good for pondering.

Disclosure:  I received a hardcover copy of 1,001 Ways to Be Creative from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair an honest review.

Below is an affiliate link for IndieBound if you'd like to purchase this book:

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Until next time...

Happy reading AND creating!
Ricki Jill