Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Treleavens Have Gremlins

We may have gremlins inside but outside our planters are thriving this summer.

Good morning, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all having a fantastic summer full of baseball, grilling, travel, and fun.


Our summer has been interesting so far.  About a month ago, lightning struck our air conditioner in Birmingham.  Then about three weeks ago, lightning struck our lake cabin and took out all of our TV's, stereo, half our wall outlets, coffee pot, cable box, router, all surround sound speakers, wire under the house that led to the cable box, and a modem.  What a mess!  First world problems, I know, but we had to spend the first half of our Independence Day vacation fixing all the shiz.  

We weren't there when it happened (we were at the beach) but what is scary about the situation is we could see where flames shot out of the speakers and melted the felt and wiring.  We can't believe that the house didn't catch on fire.  We truly are none of the major appliances were affected.

But before we left for the Independence Day vacation, our freezer stopped working, and our fridge is running a little too hot.  We're having to eat mostly out these days, but the repairman will be here Thursday to fix it.  We had to order 16 parts.  Sixteen!  

I miss ice.  Yes, I know....another first world problem.  But then again....we do live in Central Alabama.  It's freaking HOT!


I finally settled on a camera: the Sony a6000 with a couple of lenses that I really like.  I want to thank all of you who gave me fantastic advice during this process.  It has been quite the learning curve, but I am enjoying it.

My New Blog and Instagram

I also want to invite you to follow my art blog and my Instagram feed for my art.  Here is the link for my blog, and you can follow me on Instagram @rickijilltreleaven.

Instagram @rickijilltreleaven

I feel badly asking y'all to follow me on different accounts, but my professional artist friends have all told me that I should ONLY feature my art on my blog, and that I should ONLY feature my art on my Instagram feed.  I don't know if I can maintain so many accounts.  I probably won't post as often on this blog, but I will still post over here a little, especially when I want to share a good book, recipe, or home decor.  

I've joined the Daily Painting movement in a big way.  Y'all, I am LOVING IT!  Basically, Daily Painters paint small paintings everyday (or in my case one per weekday).  I have joined the Dialy Paintworks website, and I have rebranded my Etsy store for my paintings.

If you know of anyone in the market for small paintings, send them my way!

The new name of my Etsy shop


Have you tried the Steller app yet?  I am loving it!  I've enjoyed looking at others' stories.  It has been a great tool for me to make Instragram stories.  It is very user friendly.  You can check out some of my stories by clicking on the Steller S below!

I appreciate y'all more than you'll ever know.  Thank-you for reading my blog!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing an intriguing cozy mystery:  Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan.  This is the second installment in the Van Buren and DeLuca Mystery Series; the first installment is Murder at the Flamingo.  Although it isn't necessary to read the first book, I think it would be helpful because a few of the references to Hamish's cousin Luca confused me.

According to Goodreads:

Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case—and this one could demand a price they’re not willing to pay.

Determined to make a life for herself, Regina "Reggie" Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he's afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes that seem to link Boston to Hamish's hometown of Toronto.

When an act of violence hits too close to home, Hamish is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.

My Review:

This series is unique because of the setting: Pre World War II/ early 1940s.  War is immenint, so we as readers know what's coming in Europe; the racism and antisemitism of the plot seem even more sinister in this context.  I love baseball, so I loved the Boston/Fenway Park setting.  

The mystery takes a backseat to Reggie and Hamish's relationship (the murder mystery doesn't even happen until halfway through the narrative).  There's tons of tension between the two: We see how Hamish cares for Reggie, and I like seeing her through Hamish's eyes.  Reggie is definitely brave to throw away her secure, pampered debutante lifestyle in favor of a business that might or might not make it.  I find her choices highly unlikely for the time, but she does want to be a modern, independent woman...yet she entertains a marriage proposal from a successful childhood friend.

Hamish is so endearing.  He has an anxiety disorder, and I feel for him when he's in the midst of one of his "episodes."  He is trying very hard to overcome his shady past, especially his familial ties to organized crime.  Plus, I love the fact that an Italian is named Hamish.  Although he is far from being perfect, his imperfections make him even more likable in my opinion.  

There are also a few secondary characters that make this book interesting, especially Nate.  Nate.  Is.  Great!  He needs his own book if not his own series.  :D

Usually cozy mysteries are all about the plot, but this one is definitely character-driven, and I like it!  I also love that it is a clean read, and it's published by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson.  If you're looking for a new mystery series for summer, I highly recommend this one. 

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link:

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Disclosure:  I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for sending me a paperback copy of Murder in the City of Liberty via the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, June 21, 2019

Literary Friday: A Palm Beach Wife

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I have a fun, PERFECT beach (or lake) read to share with you:  A Palm Beach Wife by Susannah Marren.  I was intrigued from the first few pages, and it maintained my interest throughout.  Add this to your summer readling list ASAP!

According to Goodreads:

For readers of Elin Hilderbrand, Susannah Marren's A Palm Beach Wife is a delicious and irresistible commercial novel set among the high society galas and gossip of Palm Beach. 

Amid the glamour and galas and parties of Palm Beach, Faith knows that image often counts as much if not more than reality. She glides effortlessly among the highest of the high society so perfectly that you would never suspect she wasn’t born to this. But it wasn’t always so; though she hides it well, Faith has fought hard for the wonderful life she has, for her loving, successful husband, for her daughter’s future.

In this town of secrets and gossip and rumors, Faith has kept a desperate grip on everything she holds so dear, built from so little. And yet even she—the only one who knows just how far she has to fall—never suspects from which direction, or how many directions all at once, betrayal will come.

My Review:

Faith Harrison has it all: A faithful, loving husband, a smart, accomplished daughter, a successful business, and social status in Palm Beach, Florida.  She has harbored a secret for most of her life that could bring her social life and standing in the community to a crashig halt.

But this pales in comparison to the secrets her seemingly perfect husband Edward has been keeping from her for at least a year.  And this is where the narrative begins:  at one of the most prestigious balls of "the season;" Faith and Edward both intended to come clean with each other this special night, but circumstances prevented one from following through.

Faith's business is called Vintage Tales; it's a high-end consignment shop that specializes in jewelry and purses.  A huge part of the book is all about designer clothes, purses, jewelry watches, and even housewares.  At times the digression into all things haute couture gets monotonous, but it does add to the storyline because of Vintage Tales.  What I loved most about the store is Faith's daughter Katherine's quirky contribution to the store's items: each one comes with a story, the "tales" aspect of Vintage Tales.  For example, a mid-nineteenth-century rose-gold earrings and necklace set is tagged with Anne Brontë's feminist novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  This is probably what I love most about the book: the consigned items and their literary pairings.

The story itself is interesting, and I find that although Faith is the main character in the book, I still have questions about her past.  It's also shcoking that Edward married her in the first place; maybe it's because he had no family left to object.  Faith maintains her support of Edward even when she finds out what he's been up to, and she does not make the typical Palm Beach decisions in how she handles her situation.  Mrs. A, Palm Beach matriarch extraordinaire, admires Faith's tenacity even though she disagrees with her.  Everyone needs a Mrs. A in her life!

If you strictly want a feel-good book, then this is not the book for you.  However, if you're looking for a unique story set in one of the wealthiest American enclaves that will raise lots of questions (especially from a feninist perspective) then you will love A Palm Beach Wife.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of A Palm Beach Wife from the publisher via the author.  Normally I only accept books from TLC Book Tours, but I made an exception this time because the author is a professor in the field our youngest is studying right now.  Thank-you, St. Martin's Press!

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book.

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What's on your summer readling list?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I'm Getting a Son! *plus* a Winner

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  I have great news!!!!!  Our oldest DD is engaged to be married!  We are so happy for Shanley Belle and Christopher.  And I'm happy for myself because I'm gaining a son to spoil rotten!  ;P

Shanley Belle and Christopher are two of the hardest working young people you'd ever hope to meet.  While Shanley is defending her generals for her PhD program this summer, Christopher is graduating (this weekend) top in his class from his residency program and will begin working at a pediatric clinic in Baton Rouge.

They've only been engaged a week, and they're busy this week celebrating Christopher's graduation with several parties and a commencement at the Country Club of Louisiana.  They are getting close to setting a date, and I am so excited to help them plan their wedding.  I think they're the cutest, but obviously I'm a wee bit prejudiced!

In the meantime...

I'm trying to learn new photography skills especially during weekends at Lake Martin, Alabama.

Here are a few of my favorite shots:

We've been looking for and discussing possible venues for the wedding in case the couple decides not to get married at St. Stephen's (Shanley wants a smaller wedding), and they've even talked about the possibility of a destination wedding because their closest friends are scattered all over the country.

I promise that Goat Island IS NOT one of the possible venues, although it is fun to see and feed the goats snacks.  :D

On to the winner of the June 1st Giveaway...

I don't know what happened with my Rafflecopter.  I've only used that widget MANY times on my blog, and this one did not work.  Also, no one said that it wasn't working in comments!  So odd....

Anyway, Google number generator picked number 17 out of 20, so Carla is the winner of the wine carrier!  Congratulations, Carla!!!

Please check back on Friday for a couple of reviews that just might be the beach or lake read you're looking for!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Tales of the Traveling Totes: Lake Martin, Alabama *PLUS* a Giveaway!

Happy June, My Lovelies!  Welcome to another edition of the Tales of the Traveling Tote.

This past quarter I only traveled 83 miles from our home in Birmingham to beautiful Lake Martin, Alabama.  It's our home away from home.  In this post, I'll share with you a few of my favorite places on the lake.  I have been "trying out" cameras, and the learning curve with them all has been a thing, I'm not going to lie.  Some photos are better than others, so please forgive me for a few less than stellar photos.

Duck swimming near Goat Island

This post will feature:

1.   Jim Scott's Gardens
2.   SpringHouse Restaurant
3.   Tallapoosa Art School
4.   Chimney Rock

First stop:  Jim Scott's Garden

Jim Scott began his gardening journey after a tornado felled several trees on his property.  Rather than replanting the trees, he started a small garden.  He has added to his property over the years, and now owns just under seven acres on the banks of Lake Martin.  The property is mostly sloped, and there are many garden "rooms" on multiple levels, often separated by pathways and water features.  His gardens are only open during the month of May, and this year everything was stunning.  We've had a wet spring in Alabama, so it's been one of the prettiest springs that I can remember.

La Countess de Monet and I toured Jim Scott's Garden with my ECW group.  This metal pot is located in a woodland area near the street side entrance and pavilion.  

Street side entrance to path leading to the gardens

One of the numerous water features in the garden

What I love most about the garden is the fairytale-like quality.  I was expecting to see Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs around each corner!

The property did not have a single stone on it; instead it was composed of Alabama red clay.  Although the above water feature looks natural, most of the rocks were brought in from Sewanee, Tennessee.

I took several photos of containers because they were all so beautiful and most were dramatically planted.

Handmade swing in a tiny glade filled with hydrangeas and ferns

Detail of playhouse

I wonder where this little doorway leads...

This is one of my favorite water features

What kind of voodoo magic is this?  I can't seem to grow maidenhead ferns in my home.  I love them, and they are stunning in Jim Scott's garden!

Top of lakeside gazebo

Hippopotamus sculpture in the reeds, lakeside

One of the lawn areas

SpringHouse Restaurant

In my opinion, SpringHouse Restaurant at Russell Crossroads is arguably the best restaurant in Alabama.  I know it's my favorite!  Executive Chef Rob McDaniel sources local produce and products.  But not only is the food par excellence, the setting is stunningly gorgeous.  The buildings are constructed of stone and rough hewn timber overlooking the stables and rolling hills leading to the lake.  

The grounds are so pretty

This photo is taken from the promontory upstairs.  This is my favorite part of the restaurant because it overlooks the well house and the stables.

The Well House is a
circular, 12-seat private dining room accessed via the restaurant’s
subterranean wine cellar.  I would love to host a party there one day!  We asked for a tour, and it's truly an amazing space.

View of the Stables at Russell Crossroads from SpringHouse Restaurant

Tallapoosa Art School

Dorothy Littleton has created an amazing space to create art on the shores of Lake Martin in Dadeville, Alabama.  The Tallapoosa Art School hosts workshops throughout the year, and I was so lucky to get to attend Qiang Huang's still life workshop earlier this spring.  Dorothy is the ultimate hostess, and her family's property, called Blue Heron, is a wonderful facility with lakeside cabins for visiting artists and a beautiful studio.  Plus, one can't beat the beauty of Lake Martin for plein air painting practice.

La Countess de Monet outside the Blue Heron's art studio.

The outdoor spiral staircase leads to a loft where visiting art instructors can stay.  It is the most charming studio I've ever seen!

Inside studio, looking down from loft

The following photos are courtesy of Dorothy Littleton

One of the adorable cabins visiting artist can stay in while attending workshops.

Qiang Huang teaches a plein air lesson

Some plein air workshops visit Jim Scott's Garden for painting demonstrations and classes.  There's plenty of inspiration for landscapes there!

Sunset at the Blue Heron

You can read my blog post about my experiences at the workshop HERE.  I had such a great time that I'm already signed-up to take another workshop at the Tallapoosa Art School this summer.  I will probably take more than one, actually.  For more information about scheduled workshops, click HERE

Chimney Rock

One of the most popular hangout spots at Lake Martin is Chimney Rock and neighboring Acapulco Rock.  Youngsters enjoy jumping off the rocky cliffs, and it's a great place to people watch.

I apologize about the quality of these photos.  I'm still learning!  ;P

I hope you enjoyed our adventures.  La Countess de Monet and I appreciate your attention and patronage, and we'd like to treat you to some ice cream!

And now on to the giveaway!

That's me!  I'm The Sketchy Reader!

In order to enter, please fill-out the Rafflecopter widget below!
LEGAL:  This is a sweepstakes, and the winner will be chosen at random via the Rafflecopter widget.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please visit all the other ladies and totes by using the links below!

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths 
Emily with Miss Courtney ChildsThe French Hutch
 Patti with Miss Kenzie @ Pandora's Box
Jenna with Miss Coquille @The Painted Apron
Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda
Rita with Miss Luna C Panoply 
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Jackie and Miss Madi K @ Purple Chocolat Home
Ricki Jill and Countess De Monet @ The Sketchy Reader You are HERE!
Cherry Kay and Carrie Ann Hall @ Entertaining Women  

Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.  I hope you are having a lovely late spring wherever you are, and I hope that those of you affected by flooding will dry out and rebuild soon.  Much love to you all!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill