Friday, January 18, 2019

Literary Friday: The Story of Arthur Truluv



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg.  Berg is one of my go-to writers because her stories usually contain quirky characters who somehow meet to form families of choice.  Plus, I've never been disappointed by any of her books.  I received the sequel to this book The Night of Miracles for Christmas.

I was shocked when I realized that I've never posted nor reviewed any of her novels before!  One day I should write a round-up post featuring her books, but in the meantime here are three others I highly recommend:


We Are All Welcome Here
Open House
The Year of Pleasures

I have reread The Year of Pleasures several times!  


According to Goodreads:

A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.


My Review:

This is definitely a character-driven novel, although the plot is also very entertaining.  I love how Arthur immediately takes a liking to Maddy and vice-versa, especially since they meet in a cemetery under unusual circumstances. Their friendship brings out the best in each other, and it opens their eyes to other opportunities.  Maddy's backstory is so pitiful: Her mother died during childbirth, and her father has never stopped grieving.  Arthur takes Maddy into his home when she needs the support and guidance of an adult most.

Lucille is Arthur's neighbor and busybody.  Everyone needs a Lucille in her life because she's that awesome!  Lucille experiences a tragedy during the course of the novel, but Arthur helps her through it, and then she moves across the street to live with Arthur and Maddy.  Maddy is not happy with the situation at first because Lucille is definitely an acquired taste, but soon Maddy realizes that Lucille is a valuable advocate.

This is such a sweet and charming story.  It made me think about the lonely people in our community, and how each Sunday we pray for the lonely in church.  I love stories about characters who create their own families in spite of previous hurts, disappointments, and tragic events. These three characters stay with you long after the last page, and I can't wait to start The Night of Miracles in a week or two.



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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Thursday, January 17, 2019

Big Mama's Pound Cake




Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  How is your week so far?  I've gotten a lot of boring stuff done...like cleaning out drawers and closets.  But I did bake my grandmother's pound cake because I saw Martha Stewart's recipe for Rosemary Pound Cakes in the Puffin Plated edition of Pride and Prejudice.




Plus, I baked it for Mr. Sketchy Reader as an "I'm sorry for being a meany" apology.  So I guess you can say that it's an apology cake!  And I'm not going to tell you what I did because you will unfollow me, so there!

I decided on Big Mama's recipe because I just wasn't in the mood for rosemary.

My grandmother baked this cake often when I was growing up.  I can remember eating it after school, and I liked it plain with nothing on it.  She preferred to bake it in loaf pans.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can give away one loaf and keep the other.  Plus, this cake freezes very well: I like to slice it and then freeze it in individual freezer bags.

This cake is called a "pound" cake because originally the recipe required a pound each of sugar, eggs, flour, and butter. 



I drizzled a little bit of honey on my slice.  Mr. Sketchy Reader likes whipped cream and berries on his.


If you choose not to bake it in loaf pans, you can bake it in a tube pan.  I used my fancy rose-shaped pan.  It looks pretty with confectioner's sugar sprinkled on top.  Another idea is to bake eight miniature loaf cakes for the holidays.  You could bake them for Valentine's Day, place them in pretty cellophane treat bags and finish each off with a red ribbon and card!


Big Mama's Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon, butter, or almond flavoring (or additional vanilla flavoring if you prefer)

Procedure:

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.  Add flour alternately with cream, beginning and ending with flour.  Add flavorings.  Pour into two 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 X 3 inch loaf pans, or 1 10-inch tube pan.  Bake at 325 F for one hour.  (Note:  My oven is slow, and it took closer to 1 hour and twenty minutes in the tube pan.  Check after one hour.)

The way you know when it's done is stick a wooden skewer into the cake and a little cake should be attached to it (not runny batter, but cake crumbs).  You don't want the skewer to come out clean!



In case you're wondering, I added lemon extract because it's Mr. Sketchy Reader's favorite.
I like more of a buttery taste, so I prefer the butter flavoring. 
Both daughters like vanilla only!


Pound cake is definitely on my Top Ten Comfort Foods List.  I think this and chocolate chip cookies are the only desserts on there.  I like savory more than sweet!


What about you?  Do you bake any comfort desserts?


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Help for Winter Skin and Hair



Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!

Today I want to share with you a few of my favorite products for combatting winter dryness.
Our skin and hair put up with a LOT during winter.  Heating systems dry out our hair and skin, and blowdryers compound the damage we do to our hair because we tend to use more heat on our hair in winter than in summer.  It's so important to protect our skin because it's the largest organ in our bodies!  Plus it's our first line of defense against illnesses.


These are my personal favorite products, and my daughters have introduced me to a few of them.  Many come in travel sizes so you can try them without spending tons of money.  


HAIR:

I've tried many moisturizing conditioner, but either they really aren't that moisturizing, or they make my baby fine hair too limp.  R+Co's Atlantis Moisturizing Conditioner  ($29.00 for 8 ounces) is the best I've ever tried.  Leave it in your hair for 10 minutes for extra conditioning, plus it smells heavenly with bergamot, wild fig, and cyclamen. (Available in travel size)

Some days I need even more moisture, so I use Aveda's Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil ($31.00 for 1 ounce).  Just three or four drops for longer hair is all that's needed.  It also helps with flyaways.  I can either use it on wet hair before styling or dry hair when needed.  It's also a multi-purpose product because it's great on dry elbows, knees and cuticles.


BODY:

Lush's Scrubee ($7.95 for 3.1 ounces) is one of my favorites.  Introduced in 2017 for their Mother's Day line, Lush has kept it because it's so popular.  You can see it in the lower left corner, above.  The Scrubee is made with shea butter and honey to moisturize and almonds and coconut shells to exfoliate.  Some folks shy away from exfoliating during winter, but this is a mistake!  The way you use it in the shower:  Rub the bar over wet skin and massage the rich butters and exfoliants into skin.  Rinse, and pat dry with a towel.  Easy peasy!

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream (not shown; $10.99 for 16 ounces) Is one of the best body moisturizers on the market.  I love it for my heels, especially.  (Available in travel size)


HANDS:

L'Occitane Gommage Mains One-Minute Hand Scrub (now made with shea butter and sold in a tube, $24.00 for 2.5 ounces) is quick and works wonders for dry hands.  I also like all of their hand creams, especially their Shea Butter Hand Cream (not shown, $29.00 for 5.2 ounces, available in travel size).

Aveda's Hand Relief Moisturizing Cream ($24.00 for 4.2 ounces) is my very favorite hand cream.  It only takes a little, and it's is very emollient.  My mom bought me one for Christmas!  (Available in travel size)


LIPS:

Lush Lip Scrubs (10.95 for 0.8 ounces) should seriously be illegal.  It's my guilty pleasure of the moment, and the flavors include: chocolate, honey, cherry bubblegum, and "mint julips."  I have the chocolate, of course!  They also make the lip balms to match, and with instructions like this: "Take a pea-sized amount and scrub your lips soft, then lick off the excess," need I say more?

Fresh's Sugar Lip Treatment ($24.00 for 4.3 grams) is the smoothest lip balm ever.  It's proven to keep lips moist for at least 6 hours, and it has an SPF 15 protection.  


FACE:

Clinique's Moisture Surge Overnight Mask ($35.00 for 3.4 ounces) helps prevent moisture loss while you sleep because everyone loses moisture overnight.  I've always loved moisture surge, so when Clinique came out with the overnight mask, I had to try it.  I love that it literally stays put on my face and doesn't get into my eyes overnight like many serums tend to do.  In the morning, your skin will look rested and moisturized.  (Available in travel size)



What are your go-to products to combat winter dryness?  Please let me know in the comments section below!


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




Monday, January 14, 2019

Bringing In a Little Cheerfulness for Gray January Days


Fresh flowers from the Piggly Wiggly


Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  This time of year I enjoy fluffing our home with fresh flowers and plants.  These additions help to brighten-up dreary, gray winter days.

And we've had bunches of those lately....

But fortunately for me we had a couple of sunny days recently so I could take some halfway decent photos in our home. 

I placed our fresh flowers in our powder room and kitchen:








I always scatter primroses around our home during January.  I also purchased a new fern and a cineraria.



Primrose in our family room



Cineraria in our foyer



New fern also in our family room



I moved this philodendron from our kitchen to the foyer



I decided to keep this red primrose on the breakfast room table for Valentine's Day

I usually don't decorate for Valentine's Day so early, but I decided to go ahead and decorate the breakfast room table.  I will probably change it closer to the big day...maybe change the runner and bring in roses.

























Resources:

Primroses:  The Leaf 'n Petal
Raffia hearts and rose napkin rings:  Pier1
Hearts teapot:  Emma Bridgwater
Runner and heart dessert plates:  Williams Sonoma
Napkins:  Anthropologie
Heart shaped dishes and bowls:  MacKenzie-Childs


I can't decide how to decorate our dining room.  I asked my Instagram Friends, and some of them had funny responses.  ;P  The three choices I asked their opinion about were: Mardi Gras, winter (which I'm sick of....but mayhap I should embrace the coldness and gray skies), or Valentine's Day.  Right now I'm leaning towards Mardi Gras!  What do you think?

I'm thinking about going out today and buying more primroses.  Maybe I could arrange them at each place setting in the dining room because it's the darkest and most depressing room in our home!  

How do you beat the post Christmas I hate winter because it isn't baseball season yet blues?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill





Friday, January 11, 2019

Literary Friday: Beartown



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!

My first review for 2019 is Beartown by Fredrik Backman.  Several of my Instagram Friends have read it and loved it, so when I saw it at my local library, I checked it out.  I read it at the perfect time, when we were having flooding rains here in Central Alabama.  Beartown's setting is so cold and dismal that it made me feel better about our weather!

I've also read A Man Called Ove written by Backman, and I loved it.  

According to Goodreads:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


My Review:

Beartown is located far from a major city, and is close to the arctic circle.  Although small, it is a microcosm because many different demographics call Beartown home.  And don't be fooled thinking that this is a novel about hockey and it wouldn't interest you (I'm from the Deep South and I know next to nothing about the sport).  This book is very deep, and has many, relatable themes.

It helps to know a little about the Swedish education model before reading Beartown.  Students with certain abilities can attend specialized high schools called gymnasiums (an art school would be an example).  There are also gymnasiums for sports, too.  In Beartown, the citizens are hopeful that the junior team will win the national hockey semi-finals and possibly the finals.  Then their town would receive a charter to build a hockey school, which would bring in families, which would bring in commerce and save the town.

I enjoyed the deep themes of this book: mob mentality, feminism, ethics, racism, and class divisions.  But the most compelling theme is that no matter what parents do, they cannot keep their children safe.  This is the theme that will wake you up at 2:00 A.M.  The story is very good, but at times during the plot Backman is repetitive (we get that Beartown is a hockey town already...quit repeating it).  I also enjoyed the characterizations, especially the teenage girls.  I found it hard to put down, and although I'm a baseball girl, Beartown has piqued my interest in hockey.  I suggest you grab a copy, make some hot cocoa, build a fire, and read!  It's the perfect book for winter reading.



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Are any of y'all reading Pride and Prejudice this month for book club?


You still have a couple of weeks to read it before we discuss it on January 25th.




I'm enjoying this edition so much!  



There are recipes scattered throughout the book.



I also love the quotes!


Please read it with me!!!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Thursday, January 10, 2019

A New Year, a New Beginning



Cineraria and primroses 

Happy New Year, My Lovelies!

I hope you had a lovely Christmas season, and I hope that 2019 will be an exceptional year for you!

Usually I'm a little sad as the year closes, but not this year.  Looking back on 2018, there were many happy moments and blessings.  

But it was a difficult year for me.

I had a few health issues that blindsided me.  But fortunately for me: WOW!  What a difference a year can make!  Now looking back I can see how ill I was and how much healthier I am now.

I am grateful.  

I am strong.

I am looking ahead!

The goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2018?  I did not reach a single. One.

But I made new goals for myself given my circumstances:

     I started practicing yoga again, and I have missed very few days since the beginning of June.

     I said no to commitments that might cause stress, and yes to opportunities that might broaden my world.

     I quit Facebook.  And I don't miss it.

I've decided that my WORD FOR 2019 will be:


Fearlessness

I was inspired by my sweet friend Jenna and her Fearless Friday posts.  

I love them.

They are inspiring me to get back into my art and just.  Draw....or paint....

Each time I hesitate or feel a little rusty, I'm going to link over to Jenna's blog for inspiration.


Goals for 2019

I've decide that there will be no resolutions, no goals for the year,
with ONE exception:

I want to read all twelve books for The Sketchy Reader Book Club.
That's it!



But this doesn't mean that I won't challenge myself.  I will continue to push myself in my yoga practice.  Plus, I'm starting THESE on Saturday:



They go together well, don't you think?


One thing I would like to do MORE of during 2019 is blogging.  I miss the old days.  Blogging is much more personal.  Instagram is quick, it's convenient, but it isn't the same.

Today I'll be placing cheerful plants around the house.  I was so happy to put away our Christmas decor and clean, but then the house seemed a little sad and bare.  You can see the primroses and other plants I bought to brighten up our rooms at the top of this post.  I'll share a few photos later this weekend.

Do you have any goals for 2019?  What about an inspirational word?  I'd love to know what yours are so please leave a comment below!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill