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Her Sister’s Shoes Cover Reveal

Her Sisters Shoes - Ebook

We are thrilled to reveal the cover of Ashley Farley’s latest novel, Her Sister’s Shoes, to you today.

Her Sisters Shoes by Ashley Farley

Scheduled to be released on June 24th, you can pre-order the Kindle version now here.Visit Ashley’s blog, Chronicles . . . An Avid Reader and Indie Author, for a chance to win a copy.

While Ashley’s choice of the eye-catching cover should be enough to convince you to buy the book, this synopsis should whet your appetite even more in planning your summer reading:

Her Sister’s Shoes is a contemporary women’s novel that proves the healing power of family. Set in the South Carolina Lowcountry and packed with Southern charm and memorable characters, Her Sister’s Shoes is the story of three sisters—Samantha, Jackie, and Faith—who struggle to balance the demands of career and family while remaining true to themselves.

In the midst of their individual challenges, the Sweeney sisters must cope with their mother’s mental decline. Is Lovie in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or is her odd behavior normal for a woman her age? No one, including Lovie, understands her obsession with a rusty key she wears around her neck.

Lucky me, I got a pre-release copy, and I loved it! In fact I told Ashley that I hated for the story to end. The three sisters around whom the story revolves are so relatable, and their challenges provide enough suspense to keep you reading late into the night without losing their realism. I am so in awe of good storytellers, and Ashley is becoming a great one! If you are a fan of Dorothea Benton Frank’sLowcountry tales, you’ve got to read Ashley’s new book.

Murrells Inlet

After you finish it, I bet you will want to take a road-trip to the town of Prospect where most of the story takes place. Though the beautifully-described small town is just a figment of Ashley’s imagination, she has included on her website photos of images (like the one above of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina) that inspired her as she was writing Her Sister’s Shoes. I am already hoping that she will choose to revisit the book’s setting in a future work.

Saving Ben by Ashley Farley

If you need a good read before June 24th, why not download Ashley’s first novel, Saving Ben?It’s a very different story but also filled with sibling relations and suspense. Set in Charlottesville and Carter’s Creek, Virginia, our RVA followers will recognize many of the locations her college-aged characters visit. This weekend you can download it on Amazonfor only $.99.

As most great novelists do, Ashley writes about the places she knows. She was born and raised in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Since graduating from college in North Carolina, where she met her Richmond-born-and-bred husband, Ashley has lived in Virginia and raised her now college-aged children here right alongside many of the posse. You can visit Ashley at her favorite writing spot located on Carter’s Creek in Writer . . . in Residence.

You will be hearing more about Her Sister’s Shoes as the publication date approaches, but for now we are delighted to put it on your radar. It’s a perfect beach read written by one of the posse. Why not reserve your copy now?


March 27, 2015

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Making Lasting Family Memories España-Style

Mezquita interior

The stars aligned for my family to travel to Spain recently. Those precious ten days proved just what we wanted and much more. We enjoyed quality family time, cultural enrichment and gastronomical pleasure, but what surprised us was España’s rich and complex history, stunning Gothic, Islamic and Mudejar (a blend of both) architectural marvels, and a picturesque countryside that rivals any popular European destination. 


Our trip itinerary ran Madrid – Toledo – Cordoba – Sevilla – Ronda – Grenada. The stops other than Madrid lie in the region called Andalusía. Perhaps you will want to add Spain to your travel bucket list after reading this post or will simply enjoy re-living your travel experience if you’ve already had the pleasure of visiting.


The present-day capital of Spain is Madrid, a world-class city with chic hotels, fabulous restaurants, museums….like Paris but without the attitude. After arriving and acclimating, we spent one and a half days touring this vibrant city, beginning with a Tapas Tour.

Tapas Tour in Madrid © The Gracious Posse

I can think of no better way to become acquainted with Madrid and its funky tapas culture. Our jovial guide, arranged by our travel advisor Caroline Wallace, expertly escorted us through four tapas (pronounced táhpahs) bars, each one with its own specialty.

Day 2 in Madrid led us to the Palacio Real,

Royal Palace in Madrid © The Gracious PosseKing Philip V modeled the royal palace to rival Versailles, his birthplace.

lunch at the San Miguel Market with something for everyone,

Market San MIguel Collage © The Gracious Posse

and a visit to the Reina Sophía modern art gallery (instead of the nearby Prado museum which would have taken more time than we had to do it justice). The Sophía is home to several works by native son Salvador Dalí.

Pierrot Playing the Guitar by Dali © The Gracious PossePierrot Playing the Guitar

The most riveting piece was Picasso’s Guernica. Guernica is a town in the Basque region in northern Spain that was bombed by the Nazis as practice during the Spanish Civil War. Permission was granted for the bombing of the civilians by Franco. It is a compelling and emotional depiction of the grief, agony and destruction of the innocent Basques. on canvas mural, 11′ x 26′


Holy Toledo! Now I know the provenance of the saying. Forty minutes away (by high-speed train) from Madrid sits 1000-year-old Toledo. Once the capital of the Iberian Peninsula, it was the home to a prosperous population of Jews, Moors (Muslims) and Christians who lived together in relative peace until the Spanish Inquisition began in 1478. Can you imagine that coexistence today?

Panorama of Toledo © The Gracious Posse

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, the ancient city is strategically perched high above the river Tajo. Go to Toledo to see a microcosm of Spain’s glorious history.

San Juan de los Reys Collage © The Gracious PosseSan Juan de los Reys, built to be the final resting spot for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel.

Jewish Quarter Toledo Collage © The Gracious PosseThe ancient synagogue named Santa Maria la Blanca, has also served as a church and hospital. The Jewish Quarter is decorated with small tiles representing (top to bottom) Hai (life), the Menorah, and the Hebrew symbol for Sephardi meaning Jews from Spain. 


Travelers visit Córdoba, a charming medieval town that thrived during the Dark Ages, to see La Mezquita, the grand Mosque of the city dating to 785. The exterior is rather tame for Islamic architecture,  

Mezquita exterior © The Gracious Posse

but the interior is like nowhere else on the planet. It should be one of the 7 Wonders of Something.

Mezquita interior

The clever Moors scavenged old Roman columns from existing structures and repurposed them. See, most are different. 

Mezquita Columns © The Gracious Posse

Matchy-matchy wasn’t important to the Moors, but saving time and money was. What’s even more intriguing is once the Christian Catholics conquered the city, they built a cathedral inside the walls of the mosque. The Catholics had the good sense not to destroy the majestic structure in order to erect their house of worship.

Mesquite Cathedral Collage © The Gracious PosseInside the cathedral of St. Peter, it’s hard to believe that it’s located within the Grand Mosque.


From Córdoba, we made the 1½ hour drive to Sevilla and arrived at our hotel the Hotel Alfonso XIII,

Alfonso XIII Collage © The Gracious Posse

which opened in 1928 to welcome the Iber-American Exposition to Sevilla. Its central location allowed us to walk to most destinations. We began our exploration of Sevilla with a half-day bike tour, familiarizing ourselves with places we wanted to tour later, like

Alacazar Palace Collage © The Gracious Possethe Royal Alcazar Palace and Gardens, still in use by Spain’s royals when in Sevilla,

Santa Cruz Collage © The Gracious Posseand the charming Santa Cruz neighborhood with winding narrow streets, plazas and outdoor restaurants and bars. 

Sevilla is a gorgeous city that we hated to leave,

Sevilla at night © The Gracious Posse

but Ronda had more in store for us the next day.


This ancient city held more surprises-per-step-walked than any other we visited. One of the white hill towns in Andalusía, Ronda was founded by the Celts on a cliff overlooking a gorge.

Ronda on the cliff © The Gracious Posse

It has been home to Phoenicians, Romans, Moors and Christians, who all fought for this enviable natural defense site. The spectacular gorge

Ronda's bridge © The Gracious Posse

leaves nothing to the imagination when contemplating what might happen should one go over the edge, accidentally or not.

We walked from the bridge to the old Arab baths (fed by Roman aqueducts) located at the bottom of the gorge.

Ronda Bath Collage © The Gracious Posse

This was the first aqueduct I had ever seen, having only read about them in 6th grade history class. The other notable site was the Plaza del Toro,  the bullfighting ring. 

Plaza del Toro Collage © The Gracious Posse

Modern bullfighting originated in Ronda. We did not see a bullfight, nor would I want to, but it is a huge part of Andalusían culture and history and still quite active today. After our half-day in Ronda — we could have lingered longer — our van left for Grenada a few hours away for our grand finale.


Grenada was the last Moorish kingdom to fall to the Christians. Its crown jewel, the Alhambra, was a planned city built by the Moors’ king as a compromise with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel.

Alhambra at night © The Gracious PosseLet me and my people live here in peace, and we won’t bother you.

That lasted until 1492 when the Spanish monarchs decided to finish off the last Moors and drive them out of Spain.

It takes at least four hours to tour this ancient city.

Reflection Pool at Alhambra Palace © The Gracious Posse

Alhambra view to plaza © The Gracious Posse

Fortress at Alhambra © The Gracious Posse

Summer Palace in Grenada © The Gracious Posse

View of Alhambra from Summer Palace © The Gracious Posse

I shared a few glimpses of the Alhambra, but there is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes. We should have spent two nights there, but our finite time together was coming to an end. We returned home with a new appreciation for España, its colorful and complex past and hope to return to experience more of its splendors.

I feel blessed to have experienced this amazing country with my family. Our shared journey will make for  fond memories and re-told stories in the years to come. ¡Salud!


March 25, 2014

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A Soirée of Spring Entertaining Inspiration

50 shades of pink-1

Our local Boxwood Garden Club hosted a spectacular fundraiser last Tuesday at the Jepson Alumni Center at the University of Richmond. The event blew in a breath of fresh air just in the nick of time to remind us that winter is fading fast and a glorious spring awaits. The event featured Danielle Rollins

Danielle Rollins © The Gracious Posse

presenting Gracious Living and Stylish Entertaining™, plus ten spring tablescapes prepared by Boxwood members. 

Danielle Rollins

Ms. Rollins shared her thoughts on Gracious Living and Stylish Entertaining while demonstrating how to build a large floral arrangement in an urn, an arrangement suitable for an entry table. As she positioned flowering branches, roses, magnolia, poets laurel, stock, hydrangea, tulips and even carnations, she covered a gamut of ideas on entertaining, but the one that resonated with me most was, 

Entertaining is how we show love for other people.

I couldn’t agree more. Hospitality is the genuine show of love for others. Opening your home takes guts, planning, and time, especially when a cacophony of images from all sorts of media can intimidate one into paralysis. Aren’t we all grateful to be included at a gathering in someone’s home?  

Danielle sprinkled useful nuggets throughout her talk:

  • On the subject of using real linens, she uses colored napkins and tablecloths because they hide stains better and provide pops of color.
  • Regarding stains, her preferred potion is a combination of Oxiclean Laundry Stain Remover and ZAP All Purpose Cleaner. Also, for red wine stain, pour white wine on it and rinse. Wine Away works well too.
  • When using tulips in an arrangement with oasis, use a chopstick to poke the hole and then place the stem.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix china patterns, especially vintage ones. This is especially helpful when complete place-settings aren’t available.
  • She likes place cards at a seated dinner to simplify getting the guests to the table without confusion or anxiety; plus they add that special touch to the setting.

Signed copies of Danielle’s book, Soiree: Entertaining with Style

Soiree © The Gracious Posse

Soiree opened

were available for purchase. The book is gorgeous and demonstrates her impressive creativity and expertise. 

Danielle Rollins 2Danielle Rollins posing with her completed floral arrangement


The tablescapes created by club members were the frosting on the cake for me ~ just what I needed to see on a gray day in mid-March. Take a look. 

Table 1

Garden Party table © The Gracious Posse

Monogrammed linens and unusual burlap-lined container highlight the garden party table.

Garden Party collage © The Gracious Posse

Table 2

Downton Abbey table  © The Gracious Posse

A mix of vintage china and adorable place cards set a Downton Abbey theme.

Downton Abbey collage © The Gracious Posse

Table 3

Easter table © The Gracious Posse

I swooned over the bunny folded napkins, jelly beans and layered placemats.

Easter table collage © The Gracious Posse

Table 4

Fraiche table © The Gracious Posse

Stunning table by FraÎche showcases  Anna Weatherly china, a new line for the shop. 

Fraiche collage © The Gracious Posse

Table 5

Picnic table © The Gracious Posse

Picnic fare complete with beach sand made me want to plop down with my favorite book.

Picnic table collage © The Gracious Posse

Table 6

Rustic table © The Gracious Posse

The rustic simplicity of this table is anchored by the stone centerpiece.

Rustic table collage © The Gracious Posse

Table 7

Tea Time table © The Gracious Posse

Wouldn’t you love to have tea time at this Marie Antoinette-inspired table, complete with hand-sugared violets atop petit fours?

Tea Time table collage © The Gracious Posse

Table 8

St. Patrick's Day table © The Gracious Posse

St. Patrick presided over this table set with monogrammed silverware. Only the best for our Saints.

St. Patrick's Day collage

Table 9

Natural table © The Gracious Posse

Nature was center stage here. Where DID they get the container for the arrangement?

Table 9 collage

Table 10

50 shades of pink table © The Gracious Posse

I couldn’t take my eyes off this Fifty Shades of Pink table. 

50 shades of pink collage © The Gracious Posse

This event couldn’t have come at a better time. LDB and I are hosting one of the SCAN progressive dinners on April 18. Now I am motivated to shake off the winter doldrums and, with so much inspiration, step up my hospitality game a notch or two. 

Which table inspired you the most?


March 23, 2015