Friday, March 30, 2012

Literary Friday: The Angel Makers

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This week I read The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson.  The novel is based on a true story, and it is one of the most chilling historical stories I have ever read (not involving an oppressive government).  If you are interested, google The Angelmakers of Nagyrev for more information.

The story begins in 1914, shortly before the beginning of World War I, in the tiny, remote Hungarian village of Faluscka.  Fourteen year old Sari Arany's father, Jan, is a taltos, or wise man.  He is very well-respecteed in their village, but not Sari.  Wise women tend to be feared, and since her mother died during Sari's childbirth, rumors have surrounded Sari her whole life. Sari has been promised to Ferenc, the eighteen year old heir from the wealthiest family in the village.  That was the custom in Hungary at the time: Girls' parents chose their husbands for them.  Before Jan dies suddenly from a heart issue, Sari promises him that she will wait until she is eighteen before marrying Ferenc.  World War I intervenes before Ferenc can persuade Sari to break her father's promise, and he goes off to fight.  Sari does not live in her father's old house because it would not be proper, so she moves in with Judit, the village's midwife and rumored to be a witch.

About two years into the war, the army commandeered Ferenc's family's estate to use as a prisoner of war camp.  The army holds many Italian prisoners there, and the army gives them far more freedom than is seemly. By this time, the women of the village have become accustomed to making their own way and not answering to overbearing, sometimes abusive, husbands.  Many of the women have affairs with the prisoners, and many of the women are not happy when the war ends.

Sari has a relationship with an Italian named Marco.  He was a history professor before the war, and Sari befriends him initially because she has a true love for learning.  As Sari's services as a nurse are needed at the prison, Sari has the opportunity to meet with Marco, and their relationship deepens. At the end of the war, Ferenc comes home, and he is not the same young man he was before the war.  He is abusive and cruel to Sari, and he forces her hand.  She decides to kill him with arsenic to protect something precious to her, and her actions start a series of events that spiral crazily out of control.

I enjoyed The Angel Makers overall, but I must warn you that Gregson drops tons of f-bombs, and she is overly fond of the word discomfited.  When writers overuse words, it is a distraction to me.  I also found it difficult to sympathize with Sari in spite of the book's theme of choices and feminine empowerment.  Still, Gregson's plot moves steadily along, and I could not put the book down.  I read it in two days even with my very busy schedule this week.

What have you been reading lately?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Carolyn McDonald Workshop

Recently I took a workshop taught by Carolyn McDonald.  She is a daily painter, and I have always wanted to learn some daily painting techniques. Carolyn is a fantastic teacher, and I learned so much from her.  All of us had such a great time!

Here are the paintings I completed at the workshop.  Both are painted in oil, and they are 6" X 6".  They are untitled.  Any suggestions?


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This is Carolyn's cute book about her daily painting journey.  I have enjoyed reading it and looking at her paintings.


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If you have the opportunity to take one of Carolyn's workshops, I highly recommend you do so. You can visit Carolyn's website here.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Monday, March 26, 2012

Back from Spring Break

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Bonnie enjoying Lake Martin on Saturday.  She loves boating!


We spent a long weekend at the lake for spring break.  The break was spread over two weeks for us, and I am so happy to be back in a routine!

I spent most of the day today trying to get our house back in order.  I need to run tons of errands tomorrow, and I hope that I can finish my chores tomorrow, too.

Have your kids been out for spring break yet?  What did you do?  What are your plans if your kids have not had break yet?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chocolate Cake

Shelley and I wanted to bake a cake for Mr. Art @Home.  After we put away the St. Patrick's Day decorations, we set the breakfast table for dessert, and started baking!



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We baked the chocolate cake from a gluten free mix.

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I have used several products from this company, and I have liked them all!


We were very pleased with the results!  The cake is delicious.

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We are enjoying spring break so much.  We have baked, created art, shopped, gone on walks, and enjoyed an afternoon at the library.  What have you been doing this week?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We Want to Know Wednesday #20





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WWTKW is hosted by Crazymama, Queso, and Mamarazzi.


{1} How many phones do you have in your household? (cell, smart, land lines)

Okay.  I answered this wrong before.  We have four cell phones and three land lines.  If you want me to count the number of physical phones we own, the number is actually twenty-two including the lake cabin.  Sorry, before I was counting physical phones! ;P


{2} Are you brand loyal? (Apple or Android or something else?)



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I am definitely a loyal Apple girl!


{3} Would you rather talk on the phone, text or email?

Email.


{4} What do you think of Video chat? what do you use? (skype, facetime? google talk?)


I like it okay, and I am a Skype user.


Fulfilled Mommy @ http://threekidsfouryears.blogspot.com/ wants to know:


{5}What is your favorite gadget? (Tablet, cell phone, etc.)

iPad!


{6} If you had to pick just one technological gadget, (computer, cell phone, smart phone, tablet)and it was the only one you could use for a year, which would you pick? explain why.


I would definitely pick my iPad because I can blog, net surf, email, play games, and read books.


Link-up to We Want to Know Wednesday!  :D

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Happy List #47




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Everything is Coming Up Roses on this week's Happy List!  :D


My Happy List

1.   We celebrated my grandmother's 92nd birthday with a Sunday brunch on March 18th. Spending time with my family makes me so very happy!  I wish I had taken pictures, but it was so loud in the restaurant I could not hear myself think!  While at the mall,  we took the girls to their mother ship, the new Free People store.  The big hit with them was all the pretty hair accessories.


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2.   My husband and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary on March 19th (yesterday). Look what I found by our kitchen sink when I got home! Pretty roses make me happy!


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These roses are called Topaz.




3.   Speaking of pretty roses, ours are just starting to bloom and bud.  :D It is almost time to plant spring annuals.  Working in the garden in early spring makes me so happy!


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4.   We went to the library today, and every book that y'all have been suggesting to me was checked out (meaning they must be pretty good) except for one.  Your book suggestions have made me so happy, and I have placed a request on most of them!  :D


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This book is a paranormal detective story about psychics.  It sounds very different from what I normally read!



5.   I have recently painted a couple of rose paintings.  Completing paintings makes me very happy!



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"Roses in a Coal Scuttle"
6" X 6"
oil on art board



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"Shabby Roses"
from Joyce Wasnor's book Big Art, Small Canvas
3" X 4"
oil on canvas

Last week was Shanley's spring break, and she returned to college yesterday.  This week is Shelley's spring break, and we have some fun things planned.  What is making you happy this week?  Join Mamarazzi @ Dandelion Wishes, and share your happy!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Friday, March 16, 2012

Literary Friday: The Scottish Prisoner

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This week I read The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon.  She also wrote the wildly popular Outlander series which is my very favorite series of all time. You can read about the series here.

One of the reasons I wanted to get this book is because there is a preview of Written in My Own Heart's Blood,  the eight installment of Outlander, in the back of the book.  I wanted to read this excerpt badly because the seventh book, An Echo in the Bone, ended with a triple cliffhanger!

The Scottish Prisoner is a book about an episode that happened while Jamie was serving out his term as prisoner of war at Helwater when his illegitimate son, William, was a "wee bonnie lad."  Of course Claire was still in the future after the failure at Culloden, so I spent most of the book feeling sorry for Jamie as he deals with his grief over the loss of his beloved wife and unborn child.  Lord John Grey is a major character in this book, but this is not strictly a Lord John Grey novel like others Gabaldon has written.  Lord John's elder brother Hal, the Duke of Pardloe, needs help in a possible court martial case. A manuscript written in Erse, or Scottish Gaelic, needs translating, and Hal sends soldiers to Helwater to retrieve Jamie and bring him to London so he can help with the translation.  The translation was included in several documents written about Major Gerald Siverly; the documents are proof of corruption and of a possible future plot.

But before the soldiers arrive at Helwater, Tobias Quinn, a Jacobite who eludes capture, appears to inform Jamie of a scheme to rally the Irish Jacobites to fight for the cause.  The plan includes an ancient Druid relic, and Jamie wants nothing to do with the cause, politics, or Irish Jacobites.  He has recently been allowed to give young William riding lessons, and he is so grateful for the opportunity that he does not want anything to interfere with spending time with his son.

The manuscript Jamie translates is a story of the Wild Hunt straight from Celtic folklore, yet it is also a coded missive about a new Jacobite rising: a plot that would endanger King George II. Soon Jamie and Lord John set sail for Ireland to question Siverly.  Jamie and Lord John have had a very volatile relationship since Outlander, and the trip to Ireland proves to be a difficult task for the two of them.  Plus Quinn arrives on the scene as a travel companion to further complicate their mission.

My favorite aspect of the book is the Celtic mythology and supernatural elements woven throughout the plot.  It was fun for me to read about Jamie's brush with the mystical realm rather than Claire.  I have a sneaking suspicion that we might see more of this side of Jamie and perhaps an ancient Druid or two in future Outlander books.  Lord John was his usual honorable self, and I enjoyed the parts of the book written from his point of view.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has read the Outlander and/or Lord John Grey series.  It is a nice Jamie Fraser (and Lord John Grey) fix while waiting for Written in My Own Heart's Blood.

I must say that this year has not been a good reading year so far.  I have read a few good nonfiction books, but I have been in terrible reading slump when it comes to fiction.  Please, if you have any good fiction recommendations, please share them with me.  PLEASE!!!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Great Spring'tacular Table Scape/Recipe Party

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ReFresh ReStyle is hosting the Table Scape/ Recipe Swap.  It sounded like a fun party!  I went with a St. Patrick's Day them for our breakfast room table.


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Resources:


All linens, shamrock bowl, and baskets:  Longaberger 2001 collection
Bowls:  Biscuit from Anthropologie
Faux bamboo spoons:  Mod Apartment
Shamrock dessert plates and stand:  Home Goods
Vase, flower pot, and cupcake plate:  MacKenzie-Childs Taylor collection
Salt and pepper shaker set: MacKenzie-Childs Wallcourt collection
Duck napkin holders: vintage


We set the table for our Guinness Irish Stew dinner.  You can see the recipe here.  For dessert, we are having Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Frosting.  You can find the recipe for the cupcakes here at skinnytaste.com.  I love this website!  Shanley found the recipe, and the cupcakes are divine!


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Each iced cupcake only has 188 calories.  :D


I love St. Patrick's Day.  My family is Scotch Ulster, so we love all things Irish. My grandmother's 92nd birthday is on the 18th, and our wedding anniversary is on the 19th.  We are taking my grandmother out to lunch Sunday.  We cannot wait!  These are three of the most fun days of the year for us, so it will be a great weekend and Monday!

Linking to:

Thursday Favorite Things

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

We Want to Know Wednesday #19




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Just in time for The Hunger Games, WWTKW is all about food! ;P  WWTKW is hosted by Queso, Crazymama, and Mamarazzi.


{1}Ricki Jill from http://ricki-treleaven.blogspot.com wants to know:
I would like to know what the WWTK's  participants serve when they have company for dinner.  What are your go-to recipes?


I cannot wait to read your responses to this question because I need help!

Definitely everyone's favorite go-to recipe of mine is my Buttermilk Pie.  The recipe makes two pies, one for sharing with guests and one to enjoy later. The recipe is below, and you can read some of my other favorite recipes on my recipe page.


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Yummy Buttermilk Pie

5 eggs (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
1 cup whole buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 heaping teaspoon grated lemon rind (at least two lemons)
3/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour (all purpose)
2  8" pie shells (deep dish!)

Combine first two ingredients, and beat well.  Stir in buttermilk and next 2 ingredients.  Stir in melted butter and flour.  Pour into two 8-inch deep dish pie shells.  Bake at 275 degrees for ten minutes.  Increase to 300 degrees, and bake 45 - 50 minutes.

Garnish with fresh fruit, freshly ground nutmeg, lemon zest, mint leaves, and/or freshly whipped cream.




{2}Jill @ http://jills-world.blogspot.com wants to know:
If you were told it was time for your last meal, what would you order up or make for yourself?


I would probably want comfort food if told it was my last meal, so I would want my favorite meal from childhood:  My grandmother's fried chicken with rice and English peas.  My grandmother can cook the very best fried chicken in the world!


{3}Suzanne @ http://suzannewynnell.wordpress.com/ wants to know:
Sugar or alcohol? or more delicately Drink or Dessert?


Dessert!!!  And I am posting an amazing one later today that actually has both sugar and alcohol in it *giggles*   But you will have to come back later to see the chocolaty goodness.  ;P


{4}Myya @ http://myyasays.blogspot.com/ wants  to know:
What is your favorite Crock Pot Recipe?


My favorite Crock Pot Recipe is Irish Stew.  We will be eating it Thursday night.  :D


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Guinness Beef Stew


Ingredients:
1 bottle of Guinness stout beer
2 pounds stew meat
2 yellow onions, medium, diced
2 carrots, large, diced
6 new potatoes, large, diced
24 ounces beef broth
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
Rosemary and thyme to taste
1/2 stick butter
1 cup flour, seasoned with pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1.   Place beef and flour in zipper bag.  Shake to cover beef with flour.

2.   Melt butter in large pot.  Place seasoned beef into pot and allow to cook to golden brown.

3.   Transfer meat to crock pot.  Add Guinness and beef broth to pot.  Add the vegetables and seasoning, and cook on high for four hours or low for six to eight hours.  Check it every so often in case you need to add a little water to the stew.

Serves: four


{5} Mamarazzi is having a hard time getting breakfast in everyday so she wants to know:
What are you eating for breakfast these days?


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I eat Dan D Pak Goji Omega Boost Oatmeal and 1/2 cup blueberries almost every morning.  I like to mix the blueberries in with the oatmeal and heat it in the microwave once the oatmeal is done.  Yummy!


These questions are fun this week! :D

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gina's Spring Craft Party

Random Thoughts


Gina @Random Thoughts from an Incoherent Mind is hosting a Spring'tacular craft party. Most of y'all know that I am not very crafty, but I *heart* Gina, so I am participating just for her! ;P

For my craft, you will need:

Canvas paper
Paint and brushes
Wood artist panel
Scissors
Wood glue
Krylon Kamar spray varnish


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Some of the supplies you will need


First, draw a square on your canvas paper that is smaller than the area of your artist panel. Paint your image inside it.  If you are using oil paints (like me) put your painting in some out of the way place to dry.


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I placed my painting on the bulletin board to dry.


Cut out your image and center it on the panel with wood glue.  Varnish with Kamar varnish; remember to start off the panel and end of the panel while spraying.


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It is a good idea to place something heavy on top after gluing your painting.


It did not take me long to paint this.  I wanted a loose little painting that would not take long to do.


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"Easter Monday Breakfast"
Oil on canvas paper, mounted on Artist Panel
4" X 4"


Make sure to visit Gina's party and check out all of the other spring crafts.


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


My Happy List #46 and an Update on Holly


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Today's list is rather random!

My Happy List

1.   Shanley Belle is home from college for Spring Break.  I am so happy to have her home! Shelley's Spring Break is not until next week, so we will not be taking a trip this year.




2.   My mom gave me the cutest little sign for my office area in our kitchen. Surprises always make me happy!




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3.   I spent some time talking with Holly last week.  She has started her chemo, and I want you all to know that you have made her so happy by sending her cards.  I was so happy getting a chance to catch-up with her, and it made me happy to hear how much her attitude has improved.  The kindness you have shown Holly has made me so very happy!




4.   I love daylight savings time!  I like having more light in the afternoon.  It means I have great light later in the day for painting.  Lighter afternoons make me so very happy!




5.   I just finished a healthy cooking course, and I learned so much!  Learning new things makes me so very happy!  I want to take the next course that will start in April.  In the coming weeks, I will be sharing recipes and other tips I learned while taking the course.





What is making you happy this week?  Join Mamarazzi, and share your happy!


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Monday, March 12, 2012

Musical Monday: In Memory of Davy Jones



When I was a little girl, I loved The Monkees TV show.  I was only about three years old when my parents divorced, and my dad was soon drafted and sent to Vietnam because he had a military school background.

I can still remember the first time I saw The Monkees on TV: I thought that Mickey Dolenz was my dad.  I was a funny little girl!  It was very confusing, and I do not recall whether or not I ever asked my mother about it.  I don't know whether this is a very funny story or sad....or maybe a little bit of both! Either way, I loved the Monkees and their music growing up, and I still do.  



The Monkees "Daydream Believer"


When I was at The Fresh Market last week, I found some Irish Cream Believer chocolate and Irish cream cookies to go with the coffee.  The two make a great snack, and I will be thinking about the Monkees and Davy Jones while eating the cookies and drinking the coffee.


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Rest in peace, Davy Jones!

What have you been listening to this week?  Join Miss Angie @ My So Called Chaos for Musical Monday and share!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Debbiedoo's Magazine Copy Cat Challenge: Spring Edition

Random Thoughts



Are you participating in the parties listed above?  They sound like tons of fun. Today, Debbiedoo is hosting a spring magazine copy cat challenge.

My inspiration came from a lovely article in the February 2012 edition of Country Living Magazine (British Edition).  The article is about incorporating homemade items into your decor.  


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Don't you know that the artist in me loves this cover!



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I was inspired by this photo of hand thrown pitchers with forsythia branches.  Such a pretty vignette for spring!


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I used my collection of MacKenzie-Childs pitchers and creamers in my copy cat.  They are handmade in Aurora, New York.  I used pussy willow branches instead of forsythia.


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Ta-da!  Sorry about the darkness of my photo as it is very overcast here today.


Are you linking-up to any of these parties?  I hope to see you there!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill