Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Mantel

This is my fireplace surround and mantel.  I love it, and I tiled it myself with a little help from DH (Dear Husband).

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The only problem with decorating a mantel for Christmas in my home is this:

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My husband has a huge TV.  But that's okay....really....because he is great guy, and he puts up with quite a lot from his girls.  By the way, the Wasted Spaces was not planned, although it is a waste, in a way, because I could hang some killer art up there! *sighs*

I only have six inches of space to decorate a mantle, so I used fake snow and snowballs I bought from Anthropologie,  MacKenzie-Childs tumblers I've had forever as well as some votives from Anthropologie and Shabby Chic.

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That's about all I can do, but it is festive and fun.

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I am linking this over to The Lettered Cottage for a linky mantel party.  I know that Layla's mantel will be *to die for*.  I can't wait to see how other creative types have decorated their mantels.

I am also linking over to Cielo's Show Off Your Cottage Monday, and Julia's Holiday Tour Party At Hooked on Houses.

Have you decorated your mantel yet for Christmas and the holidays?

Until next time.....

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




The Lettered Cottage

Monday, November 29, 2010

Finished Small Paintings

As promised, here are my finished paintings for Red Dot Gallery's Holiday Show.

This one is entitled "My Hearts Bleed for You."  These flowers are called bleeding hearts, and I have also seen them in red and pink.  I probably should have painted red ones because the name "bleeding hearts" makes more sense when they are red.

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This is "Madame Blueberry and her Minions."  The fat blueberries reminded me of my daughter's favorite Veggie Tales cartoon about Madame Blueberry and thankfulness.

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Here is a picture I posted before of the blueberry painting in progress.  Notice I "erased" the leaf on the blueberries.

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This  one is my favorite.  It is called "Don't Pepper Me with Questions."

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Here is "King Cotton."

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This is my last one for the show entitled "Tempted."

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Now I need to start my day and dash to the frame shop.  Why am I such a procrastinator?

I am linking to the Feathered Nest Friday Holiday Party at the French Country Cottage.


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Tablescapes

I have been cooking, cleaning, and decorating all morning.  I like the way my tables look, especially the children's table in the kitchen.

This is the children's table:

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The little pumpkin painting was painted by Carol Marine.

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This is Pocahoppy and Muffy Pilgrim.  Muffy and Hoppy have appeared at all kind of events since Shanley Belle was two years old.  They have outfits for all occasions.  As a matter of fact, I am envious of their wardrobe!  Tom Turkey was recently pardoned by President Obama.

This is the dining room table.  I want to apologize in advance for the poor quality of the pictures.  It has been terribly overcast today, and the dining room is on the north side of our home.

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I have combined the antique, old, and new.

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I bought these little leaf salad plates from Pottery Barn recently.  I have mixed silver we inherited from both sides of the family on the dining room table.

We will be busy with family and friends for the next several days.  Tonight, after I have completed all the prep work I can, we are going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Plans for Friday include decorating for Christmas and watching Alabama football (Roll, Tide, Roll!!!).  Saturday we will do a little shopping using some coupons I received via email. Sunday, we will go to church and then relax all afternoon!

Stop by next week to see the five little paintings I want to include in Red Dot's Holiday Show.

Until next time...

Thanksgiving blessings!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dixie Diva Book Club November Meeting

Tonight we met at Mikey's Grill for dinner, and then traveled to Barbara's house for dessert and book discussion.  November's book selection is Alice Munro's selection of short stories entitled Too Much Happiness.


Barbara served a variety of pies for dessert.  I tried the rhubarb and strawberry pie because there was a reference to rhubarb tarts in the story, "Free Radicals."  She also served some hot spiced apple cider that was yummy!

I was interested in hearing which story the ladies liked  best.  The consensus: "Free Radicals" was the favorite.  It is about a lady named Nita whose husband has recently died of a sudden heart attack; Nita is also a cancer survivor.  This story's brilliance is how Nita outwits a mass murderer to save her own life.

The Divas also enjoyed the title story, "Too Much Happiness," based on the real life story of Russian mathematician Sophia Kovalevsky.

Probably the story that elicited the most giggles and blushes is the story "Wenlock Edge." I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I do like the plot twist at the end of this one.

Munro's stories remind me a little of Flannery O'Connor's.  Munro definitely has a penchant for the "freak" as a character just like O'Connor, but without the Catholic angst.  As a matter of fact, Munro's characters tend to be agnostic hippies.  And I must say that I do prefer reading about freakish Southern characters in the Protestant South than Canadian agnostic hippies. However, this is probably an unfair comparison because I am very Southern and Flannery O'Connor is one of my favorite writers.  But even in saying that, Munro is an excellent writer, too.  I plan on reading more of her stories.  Also, the title is totally misleading.  There is not too much happiness in any of these stories.

I will not feature a book for Literary Friday this week because I will be spending the day decorating for Christmas with my family.  Have you read any good books lately?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Decorations

How do you decorate for Thanksgiving?  Do you decorate beyond the dining room table?  I like to go all out in decorating the children's table in the kitchen. I also decorate the front door with flowers (usually hydrangeas) I place in a door basket.  Sometimes I'll place a few pumpkins and other fall flowers in the living room on an end table and the coffee table.

Here is a sneak peak of a few items I will incorporate into this year's Thanksgiving decor:

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Check back on Wednesday and see how my Thanksgiving tables will look for my family and friends on Thursday.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dressing V. Stuffing

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Which do you serve on Thanksgiving: dressing or stuffing?  I think Southerners tend to prefer dressing, so I think it might be a regional preference.  Does anyone know for sure?  I wanted to serve a delicious oyster stuffing to my family this year.


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But it's not.  Gonna.  Happen.  Everyone wants me to cook my grandmother's chicken and dressing recipe.  It is very simple and yummy:

Big Mama's Dressing

1 (8 inch) cornbread
4 slices white bread
Chicken broth
3 medium onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded chicken (this is optional, and I prefer dark meat)

Combine chicken broth, corn bread, and white bread; let soak until mushy. Cook onions and celery in a saucepan with water to cover until done; drain. Pour over cornbread mixture. Add salt and pepper.  Add eggs to mixture.  At this point, you can add a little bit of chicken to the mixture.  Pour into a greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan, and bake at 350 degrees until done, about one hour, but you might want to start checking it at 50 minutes.  Serves 6 - 8 hungry people!

I am making a quick trip to the grocery after church to start buying what I need for our Thanksgiving meal so I don't have to buy so much on Wednesday.  I have a long list, and I have checked it twice!

I hope y'all have a great Sunday.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Enamel Name Sign - House Number Giveaway!

Jennifer over at The Old Painted Cottage is hosting an amazing giveaway. The winner will choose between an enamel name sign or house number. The designs are so pretty!  So why are you still here?  Scoot right now over to Jennifer's blog and leave a comment.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy!

Have a great Saturday!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Friday, November 19, 2010

Literary Friday: Esperanza



About three weeks ago, I read the book Esperanza by Trish J. MacGregor. Writing this review has been difficult due to spoiler avoidance!

Tess Livingston, an FBI agent, exits a bus at a bodega high in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. Tess has a huge problem because she does not remember getting on the bus!  At the Bodega, she meets a handsome journalist named Ian Ritter.  He is on route to the Galapagos Islands, and he does not remember getting on Bus Number 13, either.

While at the bodega, Tess witnesses the scary death of a man who had been possessed by a brujo, an angry spirit who uses humans to feel and experience the physical world.  I think it is genius the way MacGregor depicts the movements and lifestyles of the brujos.  Their world is like nothing I have ever read. Coincidentally, Bus Number 13 is headed for Esperanza, Ecuador, where one of the largest brujo tribes in the world preys on tourists (because the locals know how to protect themselves from the hungry brujos).

There is plenty of action, suspense, and even time travel in this novel.  Ian and Tess seem to fall in love a bit too quickly given their unusual circumstances.  And as much as I want to root for Ian and Tess, their characters are not as developed as I would have liked, and I found I did not care what happened to them as much as I should have.  As a matter of fact, I am actually more sympathetic to the brujo tribal leader, Dominica.  I really liked her character in spite of her selfish and violent nature.

Esperanza is the first book in a planned series of "The Hungry Ghosts."  I will definitely read the next book, and (hopefully) Tess and Ian will be more developed.  I recommend Esperanza due to its uniqueness.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Senior Portraits at Sloss Furnace

Today was a special yet bittersweet day.  My daughter, Shanley Belle, had her senior portraits taken by Amanda Traywick at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham.  Shanley Belle will be graduating in May from The Alabama School of Fine Arts.  Because she attends an urban arts school, she chose an urban setting for her portraits.

Here is Amanda at work photographing Shanley.  She is wearing her graduation dress:

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Amanda is an amazing talent.  You can check out her work at her website.  I cannot wait to see all the proofs!

Thanks, Amanda, for your patience with all the wardrobe changes.  It was a great morning!



They grow-up too fast, don't they!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Red Dot Gallery's Holiday Show

I wanted to share with you the Red Dot Gallery's Holiday Show invitation.

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Isn't it adorable!  It was painted by my friend, Ellen Moore.  Her grandkids are too cute!

I'll give you a preview of some of my paintings next week.  There will be lovely little paintings at great prices at the show.  I hope to see y'all there in December!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Carol Marine's Daily Paintings

I recently bought the cutest painting of a pumpkin.



I think it looks like Cinderella's pumpkin pre-trans.



It was painted by Carol Marine, a daily painter I've been following for a little while.  You can read about Carol and her group of daily painters here.  Carol teaches painting workshops all over the country, and it is my dream to attend one with my friend, Ellen.  We think it would be a fun girlfriends' weekend. The problem is they fill up fast!  You can read more about Carol Marine at her blog.  You can also bid on her cute daily paintings at her ebay store.  I love her style, and I'm sure you will,  too.

You can bet that I will be incorporating this adorable pumpkin painting into my Thanksgiving decor.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fun Christmas Gift Wrap

Guess what I did over the weekend?



I wrapped Christmas presents!  Since I am hosting my family for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I decided to get a handle on things early.  I am almost finished with my shopping, and I have a great start on my wrapping.

I asked my daughters to help by running to the store and buying some pretty wrapping paper. Most of the paper is from Paper Affair in Mountain Brook.  I think they did an excellent job.  It is nice having a teenager who can drive and help out with errands.





What did you do this weekend?  More about my holiday preparations later on in the week.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Friday, November 12, 2010

Literary Friday: Juliet



When Julie Jacob's aunt dies, she is devastated and confounded: her aunt has left her entire estate to her twin sister, Janice.  Julie inherits a mysterious family "heirloom" housed in a safety deposit box in Siena, Italy.  Thus begins Anne Fortier's mesmerizing novel,  Juliet.

Julie travels to Siena and discovers that her life has pretty much been a lie: she is not Julie Jacobs, but Giulietta Tolomei, a descendent of the fourteenth century Giulietta Tolomei.
Yep!  That Giulietta, or Juliet, as Shakespeare immortalized in his play Romeo and Juliet. And guess what?  There is also one Romeo Marescotti who is a descendent of the Romeo. Giulietta's quest uncovers priceless fourteenth century artifacts, devastating truths about her family, and a centuries old curse, as in "a curse on both your houses." I love the way Fortier describes the City of Siena and its very distinct seventeen neighborhoods, or contradas. We even get to visit a couple of the famous contrada museums in the novel.  I have been to Italy three times, but I have never visited Siena.  I am now obsessed with visiting Siena. Anne Fortier has probably done more for the tourist industry there than anyone else in years!

Fortier also does an amazing job of weaving the backstory of the fourteenth century Romeo and Giulietta with the present.  I truly thought, at first, that I was not going to care as much about the backstory because I was already so familiar with it, but I was wrong.  I became just as intrigued by the ill-fated lovers in the past (and actually pulling for them to have a happy ending, even though I already know that their story ends in tragedy) as I did the present-day Romeo and Giulietta.  The big question in the book is this: can the curse be broken?

This well-researched book is a bright mixture of intrigue, suspense, history, and romance. My only criticism of the book is that the ending is a little flat; however, I highly recommend it.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I (blog about) Sins, Not Tragedies

Upon returning home from a weekend trip to Atlanta, this is what I found:



Everything in my front garden was gone, except the two crepe myrtles and leyland cypresses. Even the grass was missing.  The original plan was this: remove the juniper bushes in the front and replace them with double knock-out roses.

Obviously, there was a slight miscommunication.  My roses are gone.  My azaleas?  Gone. My Japanese honeysuckle, Lady Banks rose over trellis, and gardenias?  Gone, gone, and...oh, yea...gone.

I know it was not a life or death situation, and there are far worse things that can happen in life.  It was not a tragedy, but it was a tremendous disappointment.  I worked hard to keep my roses black-spot free (which is a feat in Alabama, I tell ya!), and I fed and babied my beautiful azaleas.  Oh, well. That's what I get for leaving town when we are beginning a big project (which, at the time, I did not realize was going to be so big).

My husband is a prince, and he helped to make it right.  The company he hired was the best, and all the gentlemen tried very hard to design, build, and plant a lovely front garden.

Here are the results:


We now have a brick retaining wall that matches the brick on our house. They moved one of our crepe myrtles, and committed crepe murder on them! I am thinking about adding a few knock-out roses to curve around the left-hand side of the wall.  It might soften it some. Do you think it's a good idea?

Here are a few close-ups of the foundation plantings you can't see from the street.  Now I have camellia and hydrangea babies to take care of (I have never had either before).




I also planted three planters for some fall color:





We also planted bunches of rosemary by the front steps.  According to lore, rosemary keeps unwanted guests away from your home.  We are hoping it will repel deer so they won't eat our flowers!




I am looking forward to the shrubs maturing, and I am anticipating beautiful camellias by Christmas.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Delicious Coffees for Eighties Girls!

I love shopping at The Fresh Market.  I especially enjoy their coffee department.  Check out the names of the dessert coffees: they make me smile!

"It's Raining Cinna-men",
"Wake Me Up Before You Cocoa", and
"Karma Caramel Chameleon."



These coffees are delicious, and I do not mind having Boy George or George Michael singing in my head all day long (well maybe a little).  My favorite is "Wake Me Up Before You Cocoa."  The only one I have not tried is "White Chocolate Raspberry Beret" because I do not care for white chocolate.  Which one would you like to try?

It's time for my daily caffeine fix before I begin painting.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Mother's In-box

It's Monday morning, and my "in-box" is "full."  I have bills to pay, graduation announcements to order, field-trip forms to complete, etc......




*sighs*  Mission accomplished!





Now it is time to plan my week over some yummy tea.

Until next time....

Blessings!
Ricki Jill