Monday, April 30, 2018

Southern Living Inspired Home, Mt. Laurel, Alabama

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  Yesterday I visited the Southern Living inspired home in Mt. Laurel, Alabama.  I took a few photos to share with you (I did ask permission first); I loved many of the finishes in this home.  The main colors of the interior are white and khaki with strong blue accents.  If you like the Southern Living Magazine look, you'll love it!

I thought the floor plan was one of the best I've seen so far in Mt. Laurel.  I loved the openness of it, yet you don't walk in and immediately see the kitchen.  I liked some of the neat built-ins, like a window seat between the kitchen and laundry room (I didn't get a photo of it).  The Pella windows are gorgeous, and the kitchen had a nice blueprint.  If you'd like to see the floor plan for the Magnolia Cottage, you can see it HERE.

Welcome to 110 Elyton Drive!

I love the shiplap in the foyer and stairwell.

Looking up in the stairwell, the shiplap continues onto the coffered ceiling.

This is the ceiling in the dining room.  There are many shades of blue in this house.

Great room

The burlap covered table should be removed.  It's in the walkway between the foyer and the kitchen, and it serves no purpose; it's in the way of the traffic flow.  I do love the botanical specimens.  I wish I could've taken a better photo but it was hard because of the people viewing the house and the glare.

The upper display cabinets in the windows of this home are unique, and it will allow a little privacy when the lot next door is built on, yet it allows light to flood the kitchen.  I also loved the tall height of the white marble island in the middle of the kitchen, and the varied marble backsplash. 

This is the study off the foyer.  It is painted a vibrant blue.  Don't let the sun streaming in fool you.  It.  Is.  Bright!

I love the wet room in the master bath.  

Master bath double vanity

The wood trim in the master bedroom is interesting.

This is the loft area upstairs.  It has the same hardwoods as downstairs.  There are two bedrooms and two baths upstairs, too.

Close-up of tile in Jack and Jill bathroom. We recently put this same tile in the master bathroom of one of our rental homes, and I love it.  I wish we had it in our home.

Tile in loft bathroom

I hope you enjoyed the tour!  Below I have a few of the paint colors and featured tile selections.

Paint Colors (all by Sherwin Williams)

Exterior Main:  SW 7045 Intellectual Gray
Exterior Trim:   SW7057 Silver Strand
Foyer:  SW 7035 Aesthetic White
Great Room, Dining Room, Kitchen:  SW 6149 Relaxed Khaki
Great Room Ceiling:  SW 7057 Silver Strand
Great Room Trim:  SW7035 Aesthetic White
Dining Room Ceiling:  SW 6244 Naval
Kitchen Ceiling:  SW 7014 Eider White
Master Bedroom:  SW 2850 Chelsea Gray
Master Bath:  SW 2850 Silver Strand
Study:  SW 7052 Gray Area
Study Built-Ins:  SW 7602 Indigo Batik, SW 6150 Universal Khaki
Loft:  SW 6150 Universal Khaki, 7602 Indigo Batik
Jack and Jill Bath:  SW 7651 Front Porch

Featured Tile Selections

Kitchen:  Vihara Karuna SIlk
Jack and Jill Bath:  Equilibrio Leon Cement Tile
Master Bath Floors: Interlaced White Carrera, Temple Gray and Thassos Marble
Master Bath Wall:  Thassos White Herringbone Marble

What did you do over the weekend?  Have you been enjoying pretty weather?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, April 27, 2018

It's a Garden Party!

Happy Weekend, My Lovelies!  After a week of cooler temps and pouring rain, it's finally sunny today.  YAY!  I'm so happy about it, although with the wind it's still chilly.

Sweet Stacey @ Poofing the Pillows asked me to be a part of this party, and as usual I'm late.  But this time it was Mother Nature's fault and not my own!  ;P

I thought I'd share a few scenes from around our garden, and focus on our roses.  Let's take a look!

We still haven't cleaned-up from the week's rain and thundershowers.

Finlay and Mustang Sally wonder why I'm taking this photo!
We put zip ties on the gate so the Westies won't escape to chase the squirrels and rabbits!

Terrible photo, but I love the sunshine!  You can see our new sod, camellias, ferns, and Confederate jasmine in the background. 

We have giant pots in our back garden that are filled with carpet roses, petunias, and plumbago.  The plumbago aren't blooming yet.

This little hydrangea has a few buds on it.

Chair planter filled with bacopa

Tuteurs planted with tomato plants

These are our roses in the front of our home.

This is a new knockout rose we planted out front.  

A variety of carpet roses and knock out roses spilling over our retaining wall.

More carpet roses over another retaining wall.  Our property is on the side of a mountain, and the lots slopes.  That's why we have so many retaining walls.

Planter on our front porch with bacopa and million bells

More roses near our front door

Our endless summer hydrangeas are just starting to bloom.  Our grass isn't green yet, and not much else is blooming other than the Confederate jasmine and roses.

Our hydrangeas are purple this year.  Sometimes they're very blue, and sometimes they're pink.

The next three photos show a row of knockout roses in our side yard.

That's about all that's interesting in our garden.  We still need to power wash our brick and clean up a little.  That's our plans for the weekend.  

I want to thank all the ladies in the graphic at the top of the post for hosting the link-up.  You can see more of the pretty gardens by linking HERE to Poofing the Pillows.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Literary Friday: Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling

This week I read Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling.   It's disturbing for several reasons: suburban affluenza, neighborhood cliques, and a foreign adoption gone terribly wrong.

According to Goodreads:

In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group's loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.

My Review:

This book hit close to home because it's never a good idea to become friends with people just because they have children your children's ages.  Also, it's not always a good idea to become friends with your neighbors just because of geography.  I wish I'd read this book when I was much younger because although it's fiction, I could've learned from it.  Now I choose my friends based on shared interests and values. 

The jockeying for position with the women in this clique is tiresome and silly.  Paige is the perfectionist that the other women look-up to and all seek her approval.  She is passive aggressive in how she takes things farther, like putting together over the top or inappropriate party favors for the groups' children for random occasions and holidays.  Her unpredictability also enhances her passive aggressiveness.  A trained horticulturalist, her stately tutor is stunning with its informal English garden.  Lorraine is the bossy friend: a corporate headhunter who's very persuasive. A divorced single parent, she tends to speak her mind more than the other three women.  Nela is the busy corporate lawyer.   She isn't as available as the other three, but she sometimes calls the other three out for bigotry and vapidness.  The fourth in the group is Nicole, a stay at home mom and former journalist.  

The story is told from Nicole's point of view, and I'm not normally a fan of first person POV but it works in this novel.  I'm still not sure how reliable Nicole is as narrator because she's not as busy as the other women, she's preoccupied with her own dysfunctional family (her sister is a train wreck), and the reader is privy to so many of her thoughts.  We all have crazy thoughts from time to time, but I'm not fully clear as to which thoughts she believes.  Interestingly enough, the narrative is bookended with a Prologue, "What We Thought We Knew, " and an Epilogue, "What We Knew." The prologue is chockfull of contradictions:  "we abhorred social climbers....we hated strivers....we were modest....we were moneyed...our extended families weren't as smart or as kind or as socially mobile as we were..."  The Epilogue focuses on the Edwards' adopted daughter Winnie and "what ifs," but it also discusses the troubles the other parents are having with their own children.

What bothered me most about the book is the preoccupation with Winnie.  Each family clearly has children with disabilities that are never addressed: They are never addressed by the parents, and they are never addressed by the school district and private schools.  Massachusetts (the setting for this novel) supposedly has one of the best special education programs in the country.  This made it hard for me to maintain my suspension of disbelief.  But in spite of this, I enjoyed the story and I highly recommend it.  

I'm thankful that our cul-de-sac is nothing like "the nicest street in the nicest neighborhood in Fair Lawn."


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

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing Good Neighbors. 

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Must for Your Summer Reading List: Hurricane Season by Lauren K. Denton

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I hope you escaped the storms over the weekend.  We had a couple of neighbors with storm damage to walls and roofs, but luckily for us we only had a few branches blown down. 

Speaking of storms: I read another wonderful release published by Thomas Nelson Publishing recently entitled Hurricane Season by Lauren K. Denton.  If y'all haven't read any of Thomas Nelson books yet, truly you should.  I have yet to be disappointed by any of them.  Here's a LINK to their website.

According to Goodreads:

Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have decided to put life’s disappointments behind them. At least in theory. Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, while Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget the longing for motherhood set deep in her heart. But when Betsy’s free-spirited younger sister Jenna drops her young daughters off at the farm to attend a two-week art retreat in Florida, Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.

As those two weeks stretch much farther into the hot Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world and revel in a home that’s suddenly filled with the sound of laughter and life. Meanwhile, record heat promises to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.

Four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She’d once been free to travel and pursue a career in photography, but all that changed with the appearance of two pink lines on a plastic stick and a boyfriend who hit the road. At Halcyon art retreat, she finally has the time and energy to focus on her photography. As the summer continues, she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home with her two children.

When Hurricane Ingrid aims her steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that could affect both her and her children’s futures, and Betsy and Ty find themselves protecting their beloved farm as well as their own hearts.

My Review:

First of all, I must disclose that I loved the Alabama setting.  Almost all of the locations mentioned in Alabama are real, and the author lives in Homewood, Alabama, a very quaint suburb where I take art classes each week.  As a Southerner, I appreciate Southern fiction with a sense of place, and Denton nails it in this book.  I felt the oppressive heat and humidity that's a thing during late summer in Alabama.  I also enjoyed reading about Betsy and Ty's backstory as undergrads at Auburn.

Much of the story concerns the sisterly relationship of Jenna and Betsy.  One seems to be rebellious and a free spirit more than the other, yet both disappoint their overachieving parents in different ways.  It's all about perspective in family dynamics, isn't it!  And for those of you who've read my blog for a long time, y'all know how fascinated I am about sisters, especially family dramas centered around them.  When Jenna drops-off her daughters Addie and Walsh at the Franklin Dairy Farm, she's oblivious to Betsy's hurt over not being able to conceive.  Once close, Jenna and Betsy no longer confide in each other.  This is where the conflict of the story is centered: Just what kind of mother is Jenna?  How could she drop of her girls and then extend her stay at the Halcyon Art Retreat for basically the rest of the summer?

Ty and Betsy's relationship is perilous because neither discuss their disappointment about not being able to start a family.  The nieces are reminders of their failure, and as the summer progresses, Ty's resentment of Betsy's agreeing to keep the girls without his consent festers.  Both are stubborn, and they annoyed me due to their their lack of communication.  Of course Betsy did the right thing for her sister, and she didn't really have time to discuss it with Ty.  As Hurricane Ingrid approaches, preparations for the storm consumes their time, and they drift further apart.

In the meantime....Jenna is progressing at Halcyon, and she's producing beautiful photographs.  Opportunities are opening for her, and she has tough decisions to make as the end of summer approaches.  I love how Denton weaves the Greek myth of Halcyon and Ceyx into the story.  I read the myth while reading the book, and the story applies to both sisters.  If you don't know this myth, you should read it.  Also, you should add Hurricane Season to your summer reading list because it's a very well-written, sweet story.  

Lauren K. Denton

Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing Hurricane Season

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, April 20, 2018

Literary Friday: The Cruel Prince

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  As our daughters have gotten older, I'm not reading as many YA novels.  The reason I've read so much YA is because I enjoyed discussing books with my girls, and that's what they were reading.  Now they're reading more "new adult" and sometimes I read along with them, but they're so busy with their studies it leaves little time for them to read for fun.

I read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black during the winter, but I keep forgetting to write about it here on the blog.  Both of our daughters love Holly Black, but each loved a different series, so I've read many of her books.   ;D    I enjoyed The Cruel Prince so much because it's so well-written, and it's understandable why Holly Black is one of the best YA writers.  The photo above is the first entry in my new reading journal, and as you can see from the date, I'm a wee bit behind on blogging about my reading, but I'll catch up, no worries!

According to Goodreads:

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

My Review:

If you enjoy books about the fae, then you will love the kingdom Holly Black has built in this book.  I  also love that mortal Jude wants to be recognized at the High Court of Faeire for her skills in the hopes that she will be chosen as a knight.  She diligently trains, and she makes a few daring choices to get noticed by powerful members of The Court.  This is shocking to me especially in light of the circumstances of her parents' brutal murders.

As interesting as the characters are, the plot is what totally kept me entranced.  There are many plot points I was not expecting, and I read this book quickly over a couple of days.  If I hadn't had life interfere, I probably would've read it in one sitting.  Jude's relationship with Prince Cardan and how each views the other is interesting to say the least, and the book ends with many more questions than answers.  I'm already very impatient waiting for Book Two in what promises to be the best YA series I've ever read.  The Cruel Prince is Book One in The Folk of the Air series.

This is the beautiful cover of book two in the series, scheduled for release January 8, 2019.

Sidenote:  I'm trying to read more stand alone novels than series because the older I get the less patient I am in between installments!  ;D

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing The Cruel Prince.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

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