Friday, September 30, 2011

Literary Friday: The French Gardener

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This week I read The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore.  My bloggy friend, Linda, posted about it here, and I wanted to read it based on her review.  I will keep my review brief and refer you to Linda's post.  Linda also has another blog, News from Italy, I enjoy reading, too.

Last week, I wrote about The Winter Sea, and I loved it because it was two stories in one book.  I was a little surprised that The French Gardener also contained two separate stories.  It has been a joy reading two very good books in a row.

The French Gardener is about a young couple, David and Miranda Claybourne, who have moved from London to rural Dorset.  They purchase a sprawling estate that is reputed to have had the most beautiful garden in England.  The reason for the move: their troubled son, Gus, has been expelled from his elementary school, and David decides that moving to the country will help his son's behavior.  The couple also have a daughter named Storm.  Both children are attention starved and disturbed by the move. Miranda is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the estate, so she seeks to hire a cook, housekeeper, and a couple of gardeners to right the garden that has gone to seed.  Storm finds a gardener while out playing one afternoon, and he helps her find her way back home.  He is French, very handsome, and looking for work.

Miranda offers the estate's neglected cottage by the river to the gardener. While renovating the dilapidated structure, she finds a mysterious scrapbook that celebrates a rare and beautiful love. The story took place over a year's time over 26 years ago.  Miranda is captivated by the scrapbook and the story it tells.  She decides to keep the scrapbook to herself, and it becomes a muse to her work as a writer.

David is away all week in London working, and he feels a bit out of place when he comes home for the weekend.  The gardener, Jean-Paul, is fantastic with the kids, and they bond with him because he spends time playing with them.  He works tirelessly to bring the garden back to its former glory, but it seems that the more Jean-Paul accomplishes in the garden, the more resentful David is of his influence on the estate and his family.  The Claybournes are in jeopardy, and there are secrets that could tear the family apart.

The book is divided into the four sections based on the seasons, and follows the story depicted in the scrapbook as well as the transformation of the Hartington House estate and the Claybourne family.  I love the descriptions of the garden, main house, cottage, and Jean-Paul's vineyard in France.  There is something very special about books set in gardens, and it makes me want to learn much more about gardening and own acreage one day.  Two other books set in gardens I really liked are The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and The Savage Garden by Mark Mills.

Have you read any good books with garden settings?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Every Room Should Have a Little Bit of Black

Designers say that every room should have a little bit of black.  I think it has something to do with giving the eye a place to rest, or something like that.

{But not big and ugly giant black boxes.}


Warning:  This is a very scary post.



I love Mr. Art @ Home.    Truly, I must because I put up with his collection of big black boxes. Can I participate in all the fun autumn mantel parties?

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No.




Can I enjoy the view from my kitchen to the keeping room without seeing one?

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No, not really.




Is our bedroom off limits to big {ugly} back boxes?

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Nope, and....

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Uh-uh.  


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But at least I found a way to cover up one of the uglies.



So tell me, have I let Mr. Art @ Home's obsession with all things large and electronic ruin our home?  Any suggestions on what I can do?  :/

{I would appreciate any words of wisdom you care to share.}

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting Into the Spirit of Swapoween and Autumn

Miss Angie and Beth are hosting a Halloween swap they are calling Swapoween.  I have never participated in a swap before, and I am so excited about it!


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I even bought an orange glass pumpkin at Pier 1 to help get into the spirit of autumn.  I thought it would be fun to display it here in the art studio because of the orange flowers in the wallpaper.


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Can you believe I bought something orange?  Gina did not believe me.


I will start shopping as soon as I am paired with my swap buddy.

Have you ever participated in a Blog Swap Party?  Please tell me about it!

Until next time,

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Giveaway at Barn Light Electric

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I hope y'all are having a great Tuesday!  I wanted to share with you a giveaway sponsored by Barn Light Electric.  Are you in the market for a gorgeous light fixture for your home or business?  You might find just what you are looking for at Barn Light Electric.


The Prizes: They are giving away one $1,000 Grand Prize and one $500 2nd Place Prize to two lucky winners who enter their homes. The two winners will each receive a Barn Light Electric Gift Certificate to purchase new lighting for their homes or to finish off that lingering renovation project.

The Challenge: Take a look around their website and pick out lights that you’d love to own. Then feature your choices on your personal blog and at the bottom of the post, include their directions for your followers to enter, too.

Once you’ve posted and submitted your link to Barn Light Electric, that officially begins the contest. Everyone has through October 12th to enter.


I still need an overhead light for our art studio, and I found a few options at their website.  I would love your input about which light would look best in the studio!


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Featured on ABC-TV's Extreme Makeover



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Featured in the Southern Living Texas Idea House

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So which one should we pick?  Here is a link for a post about the art studio.  Take a look around, and help me pick out a light fixture!  You can vote in the poll at the top of my sidebar.

Here are the rules if YOU want to enter the Online Giveaway at barn Light Electric:



1. Look around online at Barn Light Electric and pick lights you’d love to own
2. Feature your lighting picks on your personal blog, and link to the lights if you can!
3. Copy/Paste these rules at the bottom of your blog article
4. Once your personal article is up, you must email your blog link to:              
        contest@barnlightelectric.com to be qualified to win. 
        The contest ends October 12th, 2011.
5. Don’t have a blog? Find out how you can enter by visiting their website.


I hope I am a winner!  Please don't forget to vote.  I am undecided because they have so many great lighting choices!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thank You!

I am so humbled by your kind comments and emails concerning my Practical Magic Blog Party post.  I have never received so many comments before on any other post!  Thank-you.

This is all that is left of my "conservatory."  A couple of neighborhood kids came over and thought it looked like  Mad Scientist Lab (these are the guys who go into schools with fun science experiments that are part magic show). So I had to take down most of it.




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If you have not done so, please join Anna at Frosted Petunias for the Practical Magic Blog Party.  It has been so much fun visiting everyone's party!

Practical Magic Blog Party

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today Is the First Full Day of Autumn

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A hydrangea blossom from our garden


Today is the first full day of autumn.
*shhhhhhhhh*  No one told my hydrangeas!   *whispers*  It's a secret!  ;P

{I wrote this yesterday, and did not get around to posting it.}  I have been busy with house guests, and what little time I have spent on the internet I have spent looking at the Practical Magic blog party posts.  Anna from Frosted Petunias is the hostess.

I will get around to visiting your blog by tomorrow morning.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Happy List #27



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My Happy List is all about Retail Therapy!!!  I do not like to shop.  I do not have the patience for it.  But every once in a while, I like to shop for fun things.

My Happy List

1.   I found the neatest box of stationary.  It is so girly, and I bet you can guess who will receive a majority of these cars.  Yep!  My daughter away at college.  Pretty stationary makes me happy!


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2.   I have not bought any MacKenzie-Childs in a while.  I recently bought a new piece at a local store, and an older, discontinued piece from Ebay. Collecting MacKenzie-Childs has been fun, and finding new pieces makes me very happy!  I will use this spoon rest every day while I cook.




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3.   This is the Ebay find, a lovely, discontinued MacKenzie-Childs flower frog. Flower frogs make me happy!  I did a post about flower flogs that you can read here.


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Have you found any treasures on Ebay lately?  Don't forget to share your happy with Mamarazzi today.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Friday, September 23, 2011

Literary Friday: The Winter Sea

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This week I read The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.  My sweet friend Natalie recommended it to me, so I knew it was going to be a great read.  I was not disappointed!

The Winter Sea is unique because it is a novel within a novel.   Writer Carrie McClelland has been writing a book based on the " '08 " (or the failed Jacobite invasion that never was in 1708) that could have restored James Stewart to the Scottish throne.  She writes historical fiction, and has been researching the '08 in France, but unfortunately she is suffering from writer's block. She travels to Scotland for her agent's son's christening, and there she finds her muse.  Jane (her agent) lives conveniently only ten miles from the Slain Castle ruins.  Suddenly, Carrie's writer's block is gone.  The area around Cruden Bay, the village where Slains is located, becomes Carrie's new home while she writes her book.  Carrie lets a cottage by the sea, and she cannot write her novel quickly enough.  Her landlord's two handsome sons, Stewart and Graham, might be a wee bit of a distraction to the lass.

The novel within the novel focuses around Sophia, a distant relative of the Countess of Erroll, the mistress of Slains Castle.  Sophia moves to live at Slains at the invitation of the Countess. The household is instrumental in planning the Jacobite rebellion primarily due to the Countess's politics and the geographic location of Slains castle on the northeastern coast of Scotland.  Visitors and intrigue are a constant at Slains Castle: sea captains, soldiers, gentry, and spies all descend upon the castle waiting for news of James Stewart's return.  One young soldier in particular, John Moray, interests Sophia more than all the others.  Moray is a wanted man, but she falls in love with him anyway.  Sadly, duty calls, and he must return to France to fight for the crown.

Carrie decides to make the focus of her story Sophia, who is one of her ancestors, and her writing explodes from there.  Her dreams are filled with detailed scenes about Sophia and her life at Slains.  As Carrie finishes a chapter, she is stunned at the historical accuracy of her story. She thinks at first that she must have read these historical facts while doing research for her book, but eventually she is convinced she has never before in her life read most of the information.  Could Carrie be reliving the life of her ancestor through genetic memory? Susanna Kearsley brilliantly weaves both Sophia and Carrie's stories together into a seamless book.  I love her writing style, and this novel has two romantic story lines, plenty of history, suspense, and atmosphere.  I will definitely read more of Kearsley's books.

Have you read any good books this week?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill 

Practical Magic Blog Party 2011



Practical Magic Blog Party


I am so excited to participate in the Practical Magic Blog Party.  I loved both the book (written by Alice Hoffman) and the movie, and I will start my post with the ending of the book:

"There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens  knows for certain:


Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder.

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Keep rosemary by your garden gate.

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Add pepper to your mashed potatoes.

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Plant roses and lavender for luck.

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Fall in love whenever you can."

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I wanted to celebrate the conservatory, or greenhouse, from the movie. I have always wanted a conservatory of my own, so in the spirit of the movie, I have created my own conservatory on our glass-topped dining room table.

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In the movie, the greenhouse's purpose is to make candles and grow plants for spells.

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I used many glass and crystal containers from around the house because the Owens had tons of glass and plants in their conservatory.  I also added plants and plenty of white candles.  I love white candles!


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I do have a tiny greenhouse ;P

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Here is a photo of the greenhouse from the movie:

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Isn't it a dream!


Here is my take on this photo:


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I hope you will join the Practical Magic party hosted by Frosted Petunias.



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Linking to:



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Until next time...

Fall in love whenever you can!
Ricki Jill