Friday, August 1, 2014

Winner! Plus a fond farewell for now....

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  I have a winner for my Mad Tea Party giveaway!

*drumroll, please.....*

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Congratulations, Beth!  Send me an email with your address and I'll send it out to you ASAP!

With a very heavy heart I must say goodbye for a little while.  So what will I be doing during this time?  Some of you know that I'll be homeschooling Shelley for the rest of high school, and I'll be spending most of my time refining curricula and developing a plan to help her reach her goals for the next chapter of her life.

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I love this kiddo!  I also want to enjoy her big sister's last year in college.

Shelley chose art as her elective this year, and don't you know that I'm thrilled!  She'll be taking lessons from my art teacher with me as well as exploring art at home and at Auburn University monthly.

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We'll use art journals across the curriculum this year.

We're still about a month out from finishing the backyard and patio, so I'll be planting even more hydrangeas (different varieties), plus many other plants, planters, and turf.  I'm trying to finish before school starts, so I'm on a strict timetable! 

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I will also continue painting, and I hope that we get lots of use out of our studio.

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Thanks for the adorable Mason jar, Donna!
Donna has one of the cutest studios in blogland.  Check it out here!

I hope to paint a few paintings on rather large canvases, and I'll continue painting my minis

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"Winter Apples"

Tears are running down my cheeks as I write this.  I hope I can return to blogging one day, but so much of that depends on Shelley and her progress. We have a lot of work to do!

I will check back in with y'all after Labor Day at the latest.  I hope that I don't have to give up blogging forever, but for now.....

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, July 25, 2014

Literary Friday: The House At the End of Hope Street and Love In the Time of Global Warming

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope you've had a great week.  We had a great time in New Orleans, but Mr. Art @ Home had to visit a Doc in the Box while we were there, and both girls caught the funk.  So far I've escaped it *fingers crossed*…

During the road trip, I read two books:  The House At the End of Hope Street and Love In the Time of Global Warming.

I received The House At the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag for the Books 'n' Bloggers Swap because it was on my wish list.  I was interested in it because a blurb written by Sarah Addison Allen (one of my favorite authors) is on the cover, and I like magical realism.  I rarely post the Goodreads blurb, but here it is:

Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen. 

First of all, the house is the most intriguing character in the book.  It provides its residents with encouraging letters and supplies to enable them to turn their lives around.  There are also photos of the women who've stayed there lining the walls, but unfortunately the house must not have a fantastic track record because a few of the most outspoken former residents include Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Vivian Leigh.  Okay.  So these temporary residents are supposed to take advice from these women about how to turn their lives around?  Really?  (The portraits talk like the ones at Hogwarts.)  The women living at the house are underdeveloped, especially the one chosen to be the house's caretaker.

Alba is very young, and she's taken advantage of by a horrible academic advisor who gets completely away with it (complete disappointment).  She has a few special abilities that are given less attention than deserved, and there's even a glossary in the back of the back concerning these gifts that aren't fully integrated into the plot.  I read the glossary before I read the book, so I suppose I had higher expectations for Alba's gifts being a bigger part of the story.

The main problem I have with the story is that these women end-up at Hope Street because they are stupid:  They are not victims.  To make matters worse,  two of them basically continue with the same behavior that got them into trouble in the first place.  Pink's Stupid Girls kept playing in my head during most of this book.  I'd skip this one even though it has a high Goodreads rating.

Love In the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block is part allegory and part fairy tale.  It's about an older teen named Pen who has survived an apocalypse of devastating proportions in Los Angeles not caused by global warming, actually.  The title of the book comes from a chapter title in the book.  I purchased this book because it was recommended to me by a bookseller at one of my favorite Indie bookstores Octavia Books in New Orleans.

SIDEBAR:  Have you noticed how scientist no longer refer to it as global warming but climate change because science doesn't support the global warming arguments according to progressive scientists?  But I digress….

Pen survives a catastrophic Earth Shaker that basically destroys all of Los Angeles, yet her home is spared (the reader discovers later in the book why). With her wits, a little help from Homer, and butterflies, Pen set out on a quest to find her family swept away by a tsunami.  She quickly notices a parallel between her journey and that of Odysseus's, so she uses The Odyssey as a guide as she faces: giants that caused the Earth Shaker, lotus eaters at the Culver Hotel, a Circe-like witch, and very creepy Beverly Hills sirens.  

Allegory aside, this is the tale of four young people with magical abilities trying to not only navigate a post-apocalyptic world, but to develop self-acceptance none had before the Earth Shaker.  This story is a great companion for older teens as they read The Odyssey.  Block has written a sequel, The Island of Excess Love.  In this installment, Pen relies on Virgil’s epic Aeneid as her guide.  This is on my To Be Read List.

How's your summer reading so far?  Link-up and share!

Literary Friday
Until next time…
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shelley's 17th Birthday Party

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We celebrated Shelley's 17th birthday with a small family party.  We have four family birthdays this month.  :)

I decided to purchase new table linens that were on sale @ April Cornell from the Garden Patchwork and the Zinnia Garden Collections.  I didn't see them in person first, but I thought that the collection would work well with my MacKenzie-Childs Wallcourt Collection, and I was correct (this time).  I love the linens, and I think they'll be used a whole lot in the coming years.

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Because the colors in the linens match the Wallcourt dishes so well, I think I'll use them often.
Keeping with the flower garden-themed party, I put together informal summer blooms in mason jars with flower frog lids.

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Shelley chose the menu for her party:

Chocolate cake with chocolate icing
Prosciutto and cheese roll-ups
Vanilla scones
Turkey finger sandwiches
Cheese and sausage balls
Coca-Cola in mini bottles
Coffee and tea

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NOTE:  My girl has been fighting a sinus infection, and the antibiotics have made her terribly ill.  I'm worried about dehydration, so I'm keeping a close watch on her today.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What I've Been Doing Lately...

Good evening, My Lovelies!  We've been in New Orleans for our nephew's wedding.  We had a fantastic time, but it's good to be home!  I'm so upset that I forgot to pack my camera.  Boo!  We also recently celebrated Shelley's birthday, and I'll post about her party tomorrow.

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Although we haven't been home, that hasn't stopped a crew from working on our new backyard.  We're getting rid of the 45-degree angle, moss, and ugly juniper to create a very pretty (I hope) patio and outdoor fireplace area.  If you follow me on Pinterest, you might have seen a couple of new boards I started to help with the process.

Here is my dream patio:

Ours will have the bluestone floor, but we're going with a brick fireplace to match our house, and no pergola.

Ours will look more like this one, but brick:

We also did a little work in our powder room.  Here's a sneak peek:

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Can you tell what this is???

I found a wonderful book about design bloggers.  I've enjoyed looking at fantastic photos of quirky spaces and reading about these bloggers and their creative process.

I will post about the powder room Saturday, and Design Bloggers at Home early next week.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Friday, July 18, 2014

Literary Friday: Love Letters To the Dead

This week I read Love Letters To the Dead by Ava Dellaira: It was one of the books I received from sweet Wendi @ All Who Wander for the Books 'n' Bloggers Swap.  This book has been on my Want to Read List for several weeks, and it did not disappoint.  

I wasn't crazy about the book's premise:  It's a story told through a series of letters written to dead people.  When I was a high school English teacher, I was often astounded by how students thought that writing about death was a more mature choice than writing about life.  I find the opposite to be true:  Life is a blessings and should be celebrated!  Laurel starts high school just a few months after her older sister's tragic death, and on the first day of school, her English teacher assigns the students to write a letter to a dead person. Rather than choosing her sister May, Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain as her letter's "recipient" because May listened to Nirvana often and had posters of Cobain in her room.  (Later we discover that this teacher knew about May and probably gave the assignment on purpose.  Bad teacher.)

But Laurel doesn't end the assignment with one letter.  She begins to write letters to other famous dead people, like Amy Winehouse, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison, and Elizabeth Bishop among others.  Laurel's  letters contain everything from the mundane day to day schedule of a high school freshman to her sorrow, anger, and grief over the death of her sister and her mother's recent separation from her father.  There is a progression to the letters as Laurel slowly reveals the circumstances of her sister's death.  The letters also become more mature and complex as the year progresses, and most teens will relate to many of Laurel's trials, but hopefully not all of them.

I really liked Laurel's Aunt Amy.  Laurel alternates weekly living with her dad and her aunt so she can attend a different high school in a different school district.  Amy is a devout Christian, and (keeping in mind that the story is told in Laurel's voice) it's very refreshing to see a Christian being depicted in a positive light.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the plot is revealed in a way that kept me thoroughly engrossed, and Laurel's well-developed character is one of the most interesting young women I've read in YA in a very long time.  I really hope Laurel writes to the living in tenth grade.

NOTE:  Music lovers will appreciate this book because of the music Laurel discusses in her letters.  You can see a playlist for the book on Ava Delaira's website here.

Dear Amy Winehouse,
Something terrible happened today.  I wore my new Lavender crushed velvet shirt to school, and in English, I saw that Mrs. Buster had on the exact same shirt."

from Love Letters To the Dead, page 225

Literary Friday

Linking to:

Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos></a>
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Until next time…

Happy Reading!
Ricki Jill