Randomly Random Tuesday: Thanksgiving Edition

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Happy Tuesday Afternoon, My Lovelies!  So thankful for you, my readers and friends.

I pulled an all-nighter (almost) to decorate for Thanksgiving.  With college visits and other school activities I haven't had the time!  The tables are set, the groceries are bought, and the cooking will commence tomorrow.

I will be making Italian Turkey Soup with our leftover turkey.  Recipe to come!

I had to go to three different grocery stores.  What's with that?  These guys should know what Southerners expect to find in their stores and order enough.  Boo!  One of the stores said they never carry white cornmeal.  

I'm loving these Christmas cacti.  One looks like it is lit from within!

We had a wonderful weekend.  Shelley rode in two horse shows, and she came in third in one and won her class in the other.  They only have three high schoolers on her team, but they won the show on Sunday! I am so proud of them!

Third place

Holding horses and freezing in the early morning hours.  

Shelley is in the white gator!

Mr. Art @ Home is proud of his daughter's win!

Taylor, Jessica,  and Amelia came to support Shelley @ Sunday's show

The Magic City Equestrian High School Team:  Shelley, Maddie, and Sadie with Coach Pam

Shanley Belle will be coming home tomorrow, and we are beyond excited.  We are also thrilled that her book was released yesterday!  And per yesterday's post, here is the recipe for Mary's favorite hot chocolate.  It is so rich, a spoon can practically stand-up in it!

Mary's Favorite Hot Chocolate
(serves 2)


2 t cornstarch, sifted
3/4 c whole milk
4 oz. Winn Dixie milk chocolate chips
3/4 c heavy whipping cream
1 T confectioners sugar


Make a paste with the cornstarch and milk.  Only use a tiny bit at first and add milk until it is the consistency of toothpaste.  Use a wire whisk for mixing.

Place the chocolate chips and remaining milk and cream in a saucepan.  While whisking constantly, simmer over low heat until the chocolate has melted.

Add the sugar and cornstarch paste and heat gently, whisking constantly, while the mixture thickens.
Make sure there are no lumps!

Pour into two cups and serve with your favorite toppings.  Mary likes whipped cream and marshmallow fluff!

It's the perfect dessert drink for college football grudge matches and Hallmark Channel Christmas movies!  (or reading romance novels, like Punished)

There's a similar recipe to Mary's Favorite Hot Chocolate in the book below.  I found it at World Market, and there are some recipes in it I can't wait to try.  Some of them are so different; I've never seen any recipes like them before!  The recipe I used for this post is one that has been in our family for a long time.

I can't wait to spend a nice week with my family.  It's rare we're all together, so I doubt I post much between now and Sunday.

I hope y'all have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Literary *MONDAY*: Punished by Samantha Stone

Monday, November 23, 2015
Happy Monday!  This is a special edition of Literary Friday on a Monday because today is the release date of my daughter's book!  And being the Mama Bear that I am, well, I just couldn't wait until Friday to post about it.

Punished is the first in an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans.  Shanley Belle has enjoyed spending time with her family in one of our best Southern cities her entire life as Mr. Art @ Home is from New Orleans.  

Raphael Saar is an exiled werewolf, a convict on the direct path to a death sentence—for a crime he didn’t commit. He doesn’t care, so long as he can end the human trafficking ring kidnapping women across New Orleans.

Recovering from a horrific tragedy, one particularly bad day for Mary Newman has stretched into months. A nanny for a wealthy family in New Orleans, she can’t understand why she’s being constantly humiliated by her boss until the night she learns that he’s not human—and neither is she.

Only Raphael can save her from the monster feeding from her misery, but will Mary be able to stop his execution?

Punished teams up werewolves, banshees, a wompus cat and a haint in order to rid New Orleans of a group of immortals determined to hurt the city’s women and kill Raphael’s pack. 

One thing I love most about the book are the creatures featured in it.  They are from Southern lore, and I can remember tales my grandmother Big Mama told me about the wampus cat!  The series has many colorful characters, and you'd better pay attention in the first installment because the action is non-stop.

Although this story focuses on Mary and Raphael's love story, they are not my favorite characters in the book (especially Mary).  Not that I don't LIKE Mary, it's just that I'm more intrigued with a few of the secondary characters, like Wish and Leila, Mary's sister.  I can't wait to read their individual books (they are not a couple).

I think Stone nailed the New Orleans setting.  The reader can tell that she's spent quite a bit of time there, and I dare any native to say otherwise!  There is truly a sense of place in the book, and the unique atmosphere and culture of New Orleans is almost a secondary character.  I think anyone who loves New Orleans will love this series.

Here is an EXCLUSIVE excerpt, only found here @ Art @ Home!

“They only know two things,” Wish said, “mating and killing.”

At Mary’s alarmed gasp, Aiyanna quickly chimed in, shooting Wish an annoyed look. “These men contain themselves with chains enchanted to subdue werewolves with full powers.”

Powers these men didn’t have. So long as Leila and she stayed away from where they were chained, they would be safe.

The thought of crazed wolves still made Mary’s knees weaken. If it weren’t for Aiyanna and Wish’s earnest reassurances about the men, coupled with their lacking abilities most werewolves had, Mary might have run from the firehouse, dragging Leila along with her.

Something wonderful—fragile, but worth cultivating—was forming between her and Raphael, but giant, relentlessly angry wolves were up there with large cats in her book.

She learned the loss of their powers was another punishment for their crimes. No one could tell Mary what the weres, namely Raphael, had done to deserve this.

“They’re all good men,” Aiyanna had assured her. “Whatever they’ve done, they’ve been punished enough for it. I promise you, there is no safer place than here.”

Then why don’t you live here? Leila had signed, earning a growl from the shapeshifter.

“Cael won’t let me,”Aiyanna said. 

In keeping with the urban fantasy genre, there is a lot of violence in this book, so it probably isn't for the squeamish.  The second installment is scheduled for a February release, and Samantha is already hard at work on her third book.

Punished is an ebook, and you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Please visit Samantha's blog HERE.

FYI:  Shanley "borrowed" here pen name from her great-grandfather, renowned New Orleans architect Sam Stone.

Please let me know if you read Punished.  I'd like to know your thoughts!

Mary, one of the main characters, loves drinking hot chocolate.  New Orleans has many local coffee shops, but Mary doesn't appreciate the chicory-rich coffee the city is known for....instead she prefers a rather thick hot chocolate that I will feature on tomorrow's post.  Please come back tomorrow so you can make Mary's favorite hot chocolate!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Literary Friday: The Christmas Secret

Friday, November 20, 2015

This week I read The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere.  If you enjoy reading cozy Christmas Chick Lit, then you should like this book.  It's a quick read, and although the plot is slightly predictable, there are a few twists and mysteries to maintain your interest.

Christine Eisley is a single mom to two young children, seven year old Zach and five year old Haley. She is working double shifts to pay back-rent and purchase Christmas gifts for her children.  Her ex-husband, who's a deadbeat dad (he hasn't paid child support in months), constantly harasses Christine for visitation rights via the court system and DHR.  She's plagued with less than reliable babysitters, and she could lose her job if she's late to work again.  In desperation she writes God a letter begging for help and places it under her Christmas tree.

Jason is a victim of downsizing at his large accounting firm in the city.  His grandfather offers him a holiday job at the family business, Wilson's Department Store, in a small town.  Vapid and conceited, Jason thinks the opportunity is beneath his college education.  He accepts the offer anyway and moves into a small garage apartment.  To make matters even worse, his grandfather Marshall refuses to pay him unit he knows everyone who works for Wilson's.  He also sends his grandson on a series of quests and community service opportunities that slowly open Jason's eyes to others' challenges.

On one of these quests, Jason meets Christine while she's waiting tables.  She mistakenly thinks that he is a spy sent by her evil ex, so her misapprehension snowballs into a series of missed opportunities and cross-purposes.  I truly became frustrated with these two!  There are many lovely characters who help Christine and Jason as they struggle with tough decisions.  I love Jason's story arc because it is anything but static: He grows and matures into a dreamy, loving man.

The novel is written from Christine's point of view and an omniscient point of view with the other characters.  I found this jarring when the point of view switched several times in a chapter, but this is truly my only complaint because overall it is a delightful, uplifting Christmas story.

Last year it was made into a movie for Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel.  Here is the trailer:

I plan on reading several cozy Christmas romances, mysteries, and Chick Lit books during the holidays.  I can't wait!  I hope to read  a few of these:

Do any of these look good to you?

What have you been reading?  Please share!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill

Random Thursday: So Happy to be Home and Blogging!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It's a pretty, sunny day in Central Alabama!

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I think I mentioned that we were in DIY h$ll lately….well, here's the scoop!

Mr. Art @ Home and I decided to strip the wallpaper from our bathroom walls and paint.  We've been sick of the wallpaper for quite some time.  We started with the basement bathroom, and the wallpaper was refusing to come off.  We watched every YouTube and HGTV video we could find on the subject, and we were following instructions.  Nothing worked short of the tedious inch by inch scrape and peel method.

Needless to say it took us three weeks to strip, patch, and paint one small bathroom.

It was time to call in the professionals!

The painter came in and looked at our three remaining bathrooms and sea in he could have the job done in 1 1/2 to 2 days.  He was so very wrong!  He had a team, and it took him six days.  The paint came off with the wallpaper.  The only thing we can conclude is perhaps the first owners of the home painted without priming first.  Who knows?  We had to leave the house, which isn't easy when you're homeschooling!  :/   We have been vacuuming and mopping sheetrock dust for days.  But it's done. Thank God!

Here are some photos:

Shanley Belle's spa-like bathroom

Shelley's feminine bath

Master bath with a favorite Hatch Show Print of The White Animals

Bright basement bath

I'm very pleased with this color

Here are the colors we used in our bathrooms:

Shelley's bath:  Nano White

Master bath:  Sonic Silver

Basement bath: Turquoise

Shanley's Bath:  Seaglass

All paints by BEHR

I've painted every square inch in our home, and it did bother me to have others paint, but sometimes you must needs call the professionals!

I've also been working on Shanley Belle's bedroom.  She had been using the room as a book repository, apparently.  She came home a few weekends ago and helped me clean out her coset.  I organized and stored most of her books in the attic, but I kept a few of her favorites in her bookcase and secretary in her bedroom.  I also bought her some new bedding so when she comes home for Thanksgiving week she'll be comfortable and can relax!

A reading nook in her dormer.  This is the only window in her room, and it's the darkest room in the house!

I love the needlework Penguin Classics!
The lamp was in her nursery.

I was so happy to be home, I decided to bake banana bread with some overly ripe bananas I had on hand.

Easy Banana Bread

2 very ripe bananas, peeled
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup of sugar 
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 4x8-inch loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas with a fork  and then add the melted butter.

Mix in the baking soda and salt. Stir in the sugar, beaten egg, and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour.

Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes (check at 50 minutes)  or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. Remove the banana bread from the pan, slice, and serve!

I have not been painting much, but I have been drawing in art class and playing in my art journals.  

The dates on the art isn't the date I painted the pages, but rather the dates the prompts were published on Journal52.  You can visit my art journal blog by clicking on the link in my sidebar.

On Tuesday I cleaned out my closet.  Mr. Art @ Home installed some beautiful drawers and shelves.  I love it!  I worked until midnight.  You would unfollow me if you could see the before photos!  Yes, you would….

Check this out!  Our kitchen table is usually full of school books, papers and projects.  Check this out:

Nothing but a vase with roses and a large bowl.  YAY!!!

Later this afternoon, I'll begin to get our tables ready for Thanksgiving.  Basically just making some decisions because I don't want the dishes to get dusty before the big day!  But I did buy some bright pink Christmas cacti this week.  I might not buy as many poinsettias!  

I love the color of the pink blossoms!

And finally (sorry for such a long post, but we haven't been home much!) we spent the weekend in Marion, AL @ Judson College.  It was Judson's preview and scholarship day, and Shelley met some of the faculty and staff.  She also shared her art portfolio with the art department chair.  We had a great weekend!

Pretty white camellias, our state flower

A view of camellias and Jewett Hall from under the porte cochere outside the Alumnae Auditorium.  

Please come back tomorrow for a special Cozy Christmas Literary Friday!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill
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