As you can tell, I checked-out The Miniaturist from the library.  I will definitely purchase this book for our home library.  I love it!

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton because I wanted to read the novel before watching the series on Masterpiece Theater.  I have yet to see the three-part series because we've been busy, and when we're watching TV we're watching the final games of the Cubbies' 2018 season (and hoping they will win the National League Central Division).

According to Goodreads:

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam--a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion--a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . ."

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office--leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist--an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand--and fear--the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

My Review:

I love this book because of the setting and the characters.  The setting couldn't be better for someone who loves historical fiction:  The Dutch Golden Age.  The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world.  Nothing showcased wealth more than a dollhouse:  these Dutch miniature homes were no toys, however.  The cost to build and furnish these tiny replicas was equal to that of a real home.  I also enjoyed the characters in the book, especially Nella.  Her circumstances remind me of Rebecca (one of my favorite novels), and at first I didn't think she'd be able to cope due to her age and inexperience.  However, she quickly proves to be a thoughtful and strong woman.

It's true that the Brandt household is full of secrets, secrets so scandalous they could be life-threatening.  But the scariest part is that the miniaturist seems to know all their secrets, and she provides Nella clues to them via furnishings for the dollhouse.  Nella doesn't feel as threatened by the miniaturist's intimate knowledge of the household, rather she becomes more emboldened because she believes the miniaturist to be benevolent towards her, almost encouraging.  Nella searches for the miniaturist's workshop because she wants to ask her questions about: the items sent (many of them were not commissioned by Nella); her encouraging yet cryptic notes included with the parcels; and how she knows so much about the household.

If you enjoy historical novels about family drama, then you will love this one as it's set in one of the most opulent and contradictory (calvinistic versus wealthy) times in history.  The Miniaturist has been a book club favorite, and I can understand why.  It's so well-written, and I could not put the book down.  I read it in one day!  One of the criticisms I've read about the book is the lack of closure with the miniaturist character (also named Petronella), but I disagree because her being an enigma adds much more to the mood and atmosphere of the story.

Below is a video about a real Dutch miniature dollhouse from the Dutch Golden Era.  Courtney Harris of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston does an amazing job explaining the purpose of these homes and how they were furnished.  The workmanship is unbelievable, and I hope you take the time to watch it.

Below is a trailer for The Miniaturist on Masterpiece Theater.

Below is an affiliate link for purchasing The Miniaturist via IndieBound.

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I hope y'all enjoy the first full weekend of autumn!  Please share what you've been reading!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you French Country Cottage by Courtney Allison.  I've followed Courtney's blog (also entitled French Country Cottage) almost since the beginning, and I've sometimes participated in her Feathered Nest Friday link parties.  Over the years she's featured many lovely DIY projects on her blog, and now readers can enjoy the beauty of her cottage in book form.

I ordered French Country Cottage via her online shop, and she signed it for me.  It was wrapped very prettily, and I ordered the package that also includes the adorable pink beach bike tote shown below.

I love totes, and this one is perfect to take to Seaside and Lake Martin.
The lightweight cotton tote is of very good quality.

I love the cover.  Sometimes Courtney shares photos of flowers past their prime on her blog, and they are beautiful.  And I think this is a photo of her cute little pooch Sweet Pea; all book covers should have pups on them!

Everyone love's Courtney's beach bike photos, and she is the Queen of Styling Mantels!

I love everything about French Country Cottage, but if I had to pick a couple of favorites in the book they would have to be the beautiful pages about outdoor entertaining and the holidays.  I keep going back to them for inspiration because the holidays are right around the corner, and it's almost time for outdoor entertaining here in Central Alabama (no more temperatures in the nineties, y'all).

Sometimes the prose isn't great in home decor books because they tend to be more visual, but I like how Courtney shares stories about her home in her book.  I tend to read a lot of books about the creative process: drawing, writing, art journaling, and creativity in general.  Reading about Courtney's process for creating her California cottage and how she developed her style was fun for me.  

Here are a couple of double page spreads from French Country Cottage.  You'll notice that Courtney's photography is gorgeous; she has such a great eye.

I love beautiful bookcases, so of course I had to share this page.  Although this isn't very practical for a book blogger or Bookstagrammer, I can still enjoy looking at this gorgeously styled built-in bookcase.

Aren't the pumpkin vignettes pretty?  I have an old blueberry crate, and I might have to copycat this pretty idea.  I love the soft colors of the pumpkins and greenery!

This is by far my favorite home decor book this year.  Courtney's French style, photography, staging, and ideas for "feathering the nest" are timeless and elegant.  I highly recommend this book for your home library, and it would make a nice Christmas present for your loved ones who j'adore the French country look.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Happy Sunday, My Lovelies!  This week is Banned Books Week.  I'm celebrating that I have the freedom to read whatever I want, including the Holy Bible on this beautiful Sunday!

Curious about the most challenged and banned books from 2017?  Watch this video to see the books on last year's list.

It is frightening that there are those who want to censor ideas that do not align with their own.  Censorship is dangerous, and we must do everything to uphold the freedom of expression, whether it's speech on social media or the printed word.

Have a great week, everyone, and read a banned book!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  My reading slump is finally over.  Yay for me!  I decided to check-out Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine at the library because so many of my Instagram friends raved about it.  Gail Honeyman is an extremely good writer, and I found the book difficult to put down.

According to Goodreads:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . 

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

My Review:

First of all, I need to correct the faulty book blurb above.  I hate it when they get it wrong....did this person who wrote it even read the book?

First of all, Eleanor only talks to her mother on Wednesday evenings via a phone call originated by her mother, not the weekends.  Raymond and Sammy do not live their lives in isolation.  Raymond has roommates and friends he plays computer games with, and he has a doting, loving mother.  Sammy has an extended family who loves him very much, and his children and grands are very much involved in his life.  Eleanor is the only one living in isolation, so when I read the book and then re-read the blurb, I thought, "What the what?"

Eleanor is a very interesting and endearing character.  The reader knows that she's had a harrowing childhood, and she is very, very awkward socially.   I thought that she might be spectrum-ish, maybe high functioning Aspergers because she is brilliant, having studied the classics at university and an avid crossword puzzle solver.   But there is much more to her than her limited, stringent lifestyle.

It is true that new possibilities open-up for Eleanor when she and Raymond help save Sammy's life.  She begins to interact with people outside of work (she and Raymond work for the same Graphic Design Company), and she decides to fall in love with a local musician who doesn't know she exists.  This juvenile infatuation leads to a series of events that thankfully mature Eleanor, and none to soon as she's thirty years old.

Although I think the book is well-written and it's arguable a wonderful book, I'm probably not as enamored with the book as several of my friends, and here's why:

Spoiler Alert!  Spoilers Below!

Eleanor is an atheist.  I don't have much patience with atheists who put their faith and trust in a vodka bottle rather than God.  When this was revealed in the book I almost put it down.  

Also, there's a plot twist that was completely unexpected, and it made me rethink everything I thought I knew about Eleanor.  Her issues were much more involved than I realized; the plot twist had me seconding guessing the Aspergers diagnosis among other things.  Eleanor Oliphant is NOT completely fine.  The title is a lie!  Plus, the book would have benefited from a bit more closure.

End of Spoilers

If you enjoy character-driven novels with interesting, well-drawn and quirky characters, you should like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.  

The book cover below is an affiliate link for purchasing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine via IndieBound.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Ta-da!  I went with the orange and blue table runner.

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  I appreciate all the feedback y'all gave me on how to decorate our breakfast room from this post.  I read all of your emails and comments, and you truly helped me make my decision.  I noticed that several of you suggested I add copper to my plan, and I thought y'all had a great idea. 

Let's take a look at my choices for early fall.  The table is set for after dinner coffee and dessert (Madeleines).  We'll take the desserts outside and watch what we call "Midnight Baseball," or when the Cubbies play starting at 8:40 PM CDT.  I don't really mind these late games because it does cool down up here on Oak Mountain when the sun goes down.  The only downside is if Mr. Art at Home has an early case the next morning because he wants to go to sleep and I want to stay up and watch baseball!  ;P

Dessert plates and napkins stacked and ready to go.
I chose vintage MacKenzie-Childs patterns that are more fall-ish, and the indigo floral napkins are perfect for fall.  The plate's pattern is Cayuga.

I love the grays, oranges, blues, purples, and bright reds in the table runner.  The candlestick has a dark gray stripe that blends nicely with it.

Platter for Madeleines
I chose the Brittany pattern for its purples, blues, and wavy copper stripe.  
Do you notice anything else that's copper on this table?

I couldn't resist the tiger-striped pumpkins and the book nook dishtowel from Anthropologie.

The ceramic cups can be used for coffee or wine.

I'll be serving French pressed coffee, the Tea Cake roast from Revelator Coffee.

Sugar and creamer set was a gift from my mom and grandmother.

The bright roses are from The Fresh Market.  They are more of an orangy-red.  The wooden buffet server has just enough chippy blue paint.

And in case you missed it, I chose a pair of small geometric copper tea light lanterns from Pier1.

So basically I took your idea of adding oranges with the blues while also incorporating copper in my decor.  I didn't have any copper on hand, so I purchased these lanterns with the geometric look that's popular now; but at $5.95 per lantern, that's a small financial commitment for a trend that probably won't last until Christmas! (But I do like this trend...)

Thanks for your input!  I still love the other two choices, and perhaps I might choose one for November.


Chair cushions, table runner, sugar and creamer set, and dishtowel:  Anthropologie
Blue vase and indigo floral napkins:  Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic
Dessert plates, candlesticks, oval serving plate, and spoon rest:  MacKenzie-Childs
Spoon: Horchow
Lanterns:  Pier1
Roses and pumpkins:  The Fresh Market
Wooden buffet server: At Home, Homewood, Alabama
Cup set: Angel and Boho, UK
French press cozy:  Etsy find

Have you started bringing out the pumpkins yet?  If so, let me know in comments,  and I'll come over and be a looky-lou visit your blog!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I love using our slow cooker.  I also enjoy perfecting recipes by tweaking them a little each time I make them.  But sometimes it's important to know when to stop....As Mr. Sketchy Reader says: "Sometimes the enemy of good is better!"

Speaking of Mr. Sketchy Reader....he is spoiled.  Spoiled rotten to the core.  He requested chili because he wanted it for chili dogs while watching Cubbies baseball.  Well of course he gets whatever he wants even though we've had the hottest temperatures this past week we've had all summer!  I want smoothies and he wants chili dogs!!!

But that's okay because it gave me the opportunity to work on this recipe yet again.  The base for my recipe is from Genius Kitchen, a recipe entitled (you guessed it!) The Best Bowl of Chili I've Ever Had.  Please click on the link to see the recipe because there are a couple of things I left out, and a couple of things I added.  Also, this recipe can be cooked in less than an hour, but I prefer to cook mine early in the morning and let it cook all day long on low in the slow cooker.

The most important ingredient in this recipe is the beef.  Find the highest quality beef you can because it makes such a huge difference in the quality of the chili.  It's also healthier to cook grass fed and grass finished beef.

I usually wouldn't share a slow cooker recipe this early in the season, but you can also make your own tweaks and perfect it before you host your first college football tailgate or viewing party!

Here is my version.  I'm also including the brands I like to use.


1 1⁄2 lbs. ground beef (I use Miller Farms Grass Fed Beef, raised locally in Alabama)
1 large chopped white onion
5 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chili powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
2 (15 1/2 ounce) cans kidney beans (Piggly Wiggly Brand)
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes (Piggly Wiggly Brand)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (Piggly Wiggly Brand)
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers (Old El Paso chopped green chiles)
1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar (cane sugar is fine)
1 T Dutch Processed Baking Cocoa (The Fresh Market Brand)
1 cup dark beer (I use Newcastle)
1 cup shredded cheese (Piggly Wiggly Mexican mix) (optional)
1⁄2 cup sour cream (Daisy Brand) (optional)
Louisiana or Tobasco hot sauce (optional)


1.   My slow cooker has a browning feature on it, so I brown my ground beef in the slow cooker on 350.

Cook's tip: A great tip when browning meat is to dump it from the package directly into the pan.  Let it brown really well for several minutes, and then, using a spatula, flip it and let it brown on the other side before you break it up with a wooden spoon.

Once the meat is crumbled and browned thoroughly, add the onion, garlic, chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano,  and cayenne.  Cook while stirring, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

2.   Add the Kidney beans (juice and all), canned tomatoes (juice and all), the tomato paste,  chopped green peppers (yep, juice and all), sugar, cocoa powder, and beer.

3.   Stir well, and cook on low for 8 hours.

4.   Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, and hot sauce.

Cook's Note:  I think my version of the recipe has enough fire, but you can add hot sauce during cooking if you wish.  The original recipe calls for 1/2 t Tobasco.

If you try this recipe and want to add your own tweaks, please let me know in comments below!

This recipe is super as a topping for chili hotdogs, too!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

These books are a few of my favorite creative books I've been enjoying lately.

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies! 

I have been in a reading slump lately.  This has not been a banner summer for my reading life.  Nope!  Not at all.  I really wanted to share a book I've read and loved this week, but it's not meant to be.  So instead, I'll share a few thoughts on reading and recommend a few new releases this autumn that should be good reads because the authors are among my favorites.

Lately I've been doing something I used to N*E*V*E*R do:

DNF a book.

What does DNF mean, you ask?  It's nerd-speak for not finishing a book.  It stands for "did not finish," and DNF has become a verb.  

For example: 
Instagram Friend:  "RJ, I saw that you checked out The Bear and the Nightingale from the library.  Did you like it?"  
Me:  "Nope!  I DNF'd it."

I returned The Bear and the Nightingale yesterday and checked out Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine because one of my favorite writers Deborah Harkness raved about it.
Jo Nesbø's Macbeth should be fantastic.  It's a modern-day retelling of the Shakespearean play, and Nesbø has a great reputation.  Plus I've enjoyed all the Hogarth Press Shakespeare editions.

I've come to that point in my life that if I'm not engrossed after a couple of chapters that it's okay to DNF a book.  And it feels so good!!!

My oldest daughter has a habit that I will never do: She always reads the endings of books, and that's how she decides whether or not she will read a book.  So basically she never DNF's books, but to me, that's cheating- knowing how a book ends before starting it.

Getting back to the subject at hand and why this isn't a typical Literary Friday post...I've been asking a few friends what they do when they're in a reading slump.  Most responded that they re-read old favorites.  And I must admit that is like visiting an old friend, isn't it?  A couple of others told me that they like to read a few cozy mysteries.  That's a very good idea!

Ellie Alexander's cozy mysteries are lots of fun.  Shanley Belle has been reading the Noodle Shop Murder Mysteries by Vivien Chien.

Lovelies, I want to ask you:  What do YOU do when you're in a reading slump?

I do have a couple of aces up my sleeve for this autumn.  Ace #1: I've ordered the fall book capsule from Capsule Books.  It's one of my favorite book subscription services, and I like that it's a quarterly subscription.

This is the summer capsule, and the theme is melodrama.  The only problem is that I'd already read two of the books!  The gal who owns Capsule Books and I have very similar tastes in reading, and I've noticed that I've read many selections from past capsules, too.  There are three capsules per quarter, and the reader gets to choose a capsule that is meant to evoke an emotion.

Ace #2:  Three of my favorite writers are releasing brand new books this month and next.  I will definitely read all three!

Thanks for reading my reading woes rant.  And as always, I appreciate your reading recommendations!  

We're headed to the lake this weekend, and I'm hopeful that I will have a great reading weekend, and that the Cubs will play better than they have been lately!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!

This is not my favorite time of year, I must confess.  September is basically the last month of baseball's regular season, and summer is almost over, which basically means many of my favorite activities have either already or are about to come to a screeching halt.

So what's a girl to do?  Bake something delicious, of course!  And if it's also healthy?  That's an added bonus!  Plus, today is a sucktastic's gray and raining.  So after a trip to the library to cheer myself up, I'm baking!

Y'all might have read last week's post about how autumn decor isn't typically my favorite.  I'm just not an orange person, and I'm thankful for all the pretty heirloom varieties of pumpkins that aren't orange.  By the way there seems to be a consensus from those who read the post that I need to add copper to any one of the schemes I choose.  I think I'm copper challenged around here, but I'll see if I can find something in one of the far reaches of our attic because I really like that idea!  Come back next week and see the breakfast room table all decked-out for early fall.

I love yellow and red, so for now I'm using apples in our decor to transition (ever so slowly) from summer into fall.

Because we have an abundance of apples around here, I decided to bake something with apples.  

Serendipitously while perusing the October 2018 edition of Romantic Homes Magazine, I noticed a recipe for golden delicious apple muffins that sounded scrumptious.  The fact that they're healthier without the edition of granulated or brown sugar made my decision to bake them a no-brainer.

Matthew Mead is an excellent source for all things entertaining.  I'm a fan!  So happy to see his contribution to the magazine.

The muffins were relatively easy to make.  The hardest part was dicing one apple into 1/4" pieces, and grating another one.

I love cinnamon.  Cinnamon reminds me of colder temperatures and hot drinks.  I like just about anything baked with cinnamon.

Ta-da!  Don't they look yummy for the tummy!
They are delicious, and so moist!

Our house smells wonderful right now.  Not many things smell as good as baked apples, cinnamon, and vanilla.  

You might be wondering what I serve with these yummy muffins.  Honestly, they don't need a thing, but I have a couple suggestions.

On the right my jam jar is filled with apple maple bacon jam by Terrapin Ridge Farms.  Mr. Sketchy Reader likes the jam on the muffins.
I also treated myself to the flowers.  They're locally grown, so that's three treats today: Library books, flowers, and muffins!  This day is looking brighter already!

I have local Alabama wildflower honey in the honeypot.  Local honey is a must this time of year to help sooth your throat and ease the affects and discomforts of fall seasonal allergies.

My allergy doctor suggested that I add a couple of tablespoons of local honey to my diet daily to help my allergies, and I've found that it works wonders.  Plus I eat less sugar when I use honey in my coffee and tea.

I used my honey dripper and drizzled a little inside my muffin.  Yum!
I didn't get these made in time for breakfast, so this is lunch.  I also made myself a macchiato. 

If you'd like to bake this recipe (it has applesauce (I used unsweetened), maple syrup, and Greek yogurt in it) I found a very similar recipe online at the Cookie + Kate blog.  

I want to apologize about the photos in this post.  Our dining room is the darkest room in our home, plus it's an overcast day.  I really need to invest in a light kit if I continue to share photos of our home.  If you know of an inexpensive yet fairly decent light kit, please share it with me!

What have you been doing so far this week?  Leave me a comment because I'm nosy and want to know what you've been doing.

Also: Did you notice the little box on my sidebar that says: Subscribe to My Newsletter?  I know that your inbox probably explodes with mail everyday, but I only put out about 2 - 3 TinyLetters monthly, and I've gotten lots of positive feedback.  Please consider subscribing because I'm off Facebook, and Instagram is also "curating" our feeds.  BUT I'm still in total control of my TinyLetter newsletter and email, so I find it's the "best" way to connect with my readers.

Thanks for your consideration!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Today is National Read a Book Day. What are you currently reading?  Need a suggestion?  I highly recommend Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone.

Hello, My Lovelies!  

I need your help.  I'm already sick of Halloween decor (not my favorite) because I've seen it everywhere since Independence Day.  It saddens me that Halloween has become our national holiday...but I'm sure that maybe a week before I'll put out some Jack-o-lanterns.

I'm almost tired of pumpkins with the exception of heirloom ones.  I like the soft colors, especially the whites and pale greens. do I need your help?  Please help me decide on how to decorate our kitchen for early fall.  There are three choices, and you can share your favorite in the comments section.

#1:  Deeper Pinks and Purples

I love soft pinks.  But for autumn I thought it would be fun to deepen the pinks and add a little purple:

Roses in deeper shades of pink

Mercury glass vase by MacKenzie-Childs

Plum table runner by Terrain

Dusty rose napkins by Shabby Chic

#2:  Pretty Neutral

Neutral might be a good idea to enjoy in our kitchen before I bring in the candy corn and other orange things.

Mackenzie-Childs parchment check vase

Same table runner from Terrain but in golden color

Creamy roses

Shabby Chic lacy inset napkin

#3:  Brighter Pinks and Blues

You might not like this color scheme because it appears a little summery, but the table runner does have deep reds and orange on top.  Plus this one has a subtle book theme I love for back to school.

I love the real wood timberline vase and votive set from Olive and Coco.
I also like the use of books as a centerpiece, and the flowers are pretty, too.  

I love the bright blue on this Anthro runner.

This adorable kitchen towel also from Anthropologie coordinates well with the runner, and I love the cozy reading corner depicted on it.

Which one is your favorite?  I need your input!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill