Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mid-September and the Mid-Autumn Festival

I'm trying to wait until October to start decorating for autumn. I like enjoying each season in its own time, and with it 78 degrees here today, it's still summer to me. Still, I couldn't resist this tricolor planter of mums! I had to splurge on it. It was nearly $30, and I bought it instead of going to a movie and spending money on a drink and popcorn. (There wasn't anything I wanted to see this week anyway!)

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Are any of your friends celebrating the mid-autumn festival? Wish them a festive one!
  • I'm doing a load of towels to get a little ahead of the laundry before the weekend starts. Can't hurt, can only help!
  • As the evenings are growing colder, I feel more like cuddling up in bed reading more substantial material than my backyard "beach reads" I indulged in. Do you have anything good picked out to order at the library or from your favorite bookstore?
  • Let's spend just a tiny bit of time today on our area rugs and throw rugs. I'm going to vacuum all of mine that can't be laundered, wash the ones that can, sweep under them, shake out the little rubber non-skid mats I have under them, and hose off the welcome mat by my front door. These mats are important, as they trap dirt that might otherwise end up on my floors and carpets!
  • Have you made a little bit of time the last couple evenings for yourself, to read the book by your bedside table? Or are you just dropping into bed exhausted and ready for sleep?
  • Do you have your social plans set for the weekend? Need to make any plans, RSVP to anything, invite anyone to something fun?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Yardwork

This weekend might very well be the last of our nice weather for eating and working outdoors, for months to come. (I live in Seattle). I'll retain my hope that we have lots of warm sunny days all the way through into late October like we did the last couple years. But meanwhile, I want to get some of my yardwork (lawn mowing, weeding, planting fall flowers in my flowerbeds) done while it's still nice. Tonight I'll mow, sweep the front walkway, pull weeds from driveway cracks, scrape moss off the steps, and tidy everything up as best I can until I get sick of it and flee indoors to nicer pursuits. (I'm really not a yardwork person!)

In my back yard, I'm moving outdoor furniture around so I can water parts of the lawn without soaking my furniture.

When I get inside, I want to research why the mid-autumn festival is taking place right now, despite it not being even autumn yet. I think it has something to do with the lunar calendar and tonight's nearly full moon. (The Harvest Full Moon rises September 16, 2016).

Do you have any yard work to do this week or weekend, or are you a lucky apartment or condo dweller where that's taken care of for you? :)

LOVELY BLOGS: Well Plated

Erin writes, "I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Here, you'll find lightened up comfort foods, weeknight meal ideas, and a few soulful sweets." She blogs from Milwaukee.

Recent posts I've enjoyed here include Apple Oatmeal Cookies; Pumpkin Pasta Sauce; Crockpot Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs; and Pumpkin Pecan Cobbler.

This is the perfect recipe blog for cooking inspiration as we transition into autumn! Take a look.

http://www.wellplated.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Birthday Cakes

I have a bit of an obsession with cake decorating books, though my own personal cake decorating skills are not quite up to the task of creating any of the lovely things pictured in them. This one is by Britain’s leading baker and cake designer, Fiona Cairns. The cakes are categorized by the type of party you might throw. For example, the Vampire Party has recipes for vampire cupcakes, black cookies, a crystal skull, a strawberry and elderflower cake, a jewel box, and then, inexplicably, robots. There's recipes for cakes for a Vintage Tea Party, including Earl Grey tea cupcakes, and tiny rose and violet creams. The other party themes include Alice in Wonderland, Glamping, and a Gardener's Delight party. I love envisioning theme parties I might throw!

Birthday Cakes, on Amazon

LOVELY BOOKS: Fairy's Album

Here's a charming vintage book you can read online. (Peek at the first page, this was a Christmas gift given way back in 1892!) It features "rhymes of fairyland" and simple, adorable illustrations. I hope you enjoy paging through it.

The Fairy's Album, at The Internet Archive

LOVELY FOOD: Apple Cider Cupcake Mix

Though I shudder to think about what chemicals created the color, I love the hue on these apple cider cupcakes! I also rely heavily on box mixes with my busy life. Today before I go out to dinner, I plan to bake a batch of miniature loaves in my new Wilton mini loaf pan. They'll create tiny loaves that are just three or four bites. They'll technically be "cupcake loaves" and I'm delighted to do something different than just trendy round cupcakes! I'll drop off a couple at the neighbors' and gift one or two to my cousin. Later tonight when I'm watching Netflix and drinking my caramel hot black tea, I bet I'll be nibbling on a little apple cider loaf!

Apple Cider Cupcake Mix, on Amazon

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Apple Cinnamon Muffins (Brown Eyed Baker)

Building a 13th Century Castle in the 21st Century (The Atlantic)

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms and Collards (Country Living)

Ginger Bourbon Smash (Baking Bites)

How to Dry Herbs (101 Cookbooks)

Mom's Italian Cream Cake (Bake at 350)

Orzo Salad with Roasted Cauliflower (Annie's Eats)

Roasted Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta (Alexandra Cooks)

See a Harvest Moon Eclipse, The Last Until 2024

Tomato Soup (Bakers Royale)

Two Millenniums of Chinese Tradition Come to Life at Mid-Autumn Festivals (LA Times)

Wild Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta (Connoisseurus Veg)


--Copyright 2016 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Things I Learned on Vacation This Summer

Our charming rental beach house in Plymouth, Massachusetts

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Look over the week and weekend ahead on your calendar, noting appointments and events. Make socialization plans for the week.
  • Create dinner and lunch sack menu plans for the week if you haven't already.
  • Does your pet bedding need laundering? My dogs have two sets of beds - one each for the living room and one each for the bedroom. If I wash a set of two dog beds each week, then each bed only gets washed once every two weeks - probably not often enough! Into the laundry goes a set today.
  • It's still iced tea weather here for me, and my carafe I keep in my fridge is empty! Time to refill it and "cold brew" another batch. How about you?
  • It's warm enough here I can eat dinner outside. Soon the evenings will be too chilly. I mustn't forget, or give up and eat dinner in front of the TV or computer!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Putting What I Learned on Vacation Into Practice, or At Least Thinking About It

I learned something on my East Coast beach house vacation this summer, and I'm mulling over a bit of a lifestyle change.

Our rental house was a 15 minute drive (30 round trip) from a little Stop and Go grocery store and a handful of restaurants. While that was very convenient, we didn't always feel like leaving the restful porch overlooking the sea, or stopping our beach walk or swim time in order to go to the store. I noticed my friends and I ate what was in the house, what we'd already purchased, instead of going to the store for more. I found it very freeing, actually, while planning dinner on the nights it was my turn to cook.

Also, the kitchen was well organized, and had just the right kinds of items we needed, and not a single item more. (I did feel the need to buy a pitcher for iced tea, and left it behind for the next guests!) Because the kitchen wasn't cluttered or full of specialty kitchen items, it was easy to grab what we needed, cook a meal, clean up and put things back. We were able to bake an apple pie, bake bread, roast potatoes, and make cookies.

I'm putting some thought into organizing my kitchen better (I don't need to declutter much, as I lost many items due to smoke in a small kitchen fire I had earlier this year). But I may rethink the way I shop for groceries - hoarding lots of things "in case" of emergencies, spontaneous dinners and last minute parties. It might be nice to reach into the organized, nearly empty pantry for the only jar of spaghetti sauce and only box of pasta and know what I was having for dinner - or suck it up and drive to the nearby store for something different.

I'm thinking about it.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Lipton's New Black and Herbal Teas for Autumn

I'm trying all of Lipton's new black teas: Amazingly Grey, Daring English Breakfast, Stirring Ceylon, and Irresistible Lady Lipton, but I'm skipping their chai due to my cinnamon allergy. Their new herbal teas include Peach Mango, Lemon Ginger, Berry Hibiscus, and Apple Cinnamon. So far I didn't find the Amazingly Grey very flavorful, but I did like the Daring English Breakfast and the hint of citrus in the Irresistible Lady Lipton. I like that these come in individual packages (though that isn't as friendly for the environment) so I can offer them around in my tea chest after a dinner party, for guests to select a flavor to try.

New Black and New Herbal Teas, at Lipton.com

LOVELY BLOGS: Brewing Happiness

Haley blogs from Los Angeles about healthy eating habits - but the occasional indulgence too. "Brewing Happiness is a place where we celebrate the strength it takes to choose fruit instead of a candy bar. Brewing Happiness does honor the fact that some days are salad days and some days are French fry days."

Recent posts I've enjoyed here include Mango Basil Hot Sauce - Saucy Sunday; Poke Nachos; Crunchy Hazelnut Chocolate Pudding and Orange Blueberry Balsamic Sauce.

http://www.brewinghappiness.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Ladurée Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living

I can't wait to dive into this book! "Stunningly illustrated with specially commissioned photographs and illustrations, the book offers practical tips and inspiration on such varied topics as how to prepare and have breakfast the Ladurée way, how to be a good host and a good guest, how to dress for the theater, and how to pack for stylish travel. It is the ultimate guide to knowing how to live well, the French way." I really enjoyed the Madame Chic advice books, and I suspect I won't be bored of yet another "Live like the French" lifestyle book.

Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living, on Amazon

LOVELY DISHES: Sur La Table's Woodland Creatures Collection

As we head into autumn, I'm doubly tempted by the cute woods-and-forest themed dishes, candles and decor from Sur la Table's new fall collection. There are foxes, raccoons, owls, and squirrels. The collection includes salt and pepper shakers, dishes, platters, an almost irresistible owl-shaped ice cube tray, kitchen items, and home decor. Plus a couple candles that go along with the theme. Also, the good news is, many of these are already on sale!

I daren't buy even a single item as I'm trying to declutter my decor and tablewares as it is! Shoot! Hope you enjoy looking through these.

Woodland Creatures Collection, at Sur la Table

LOVELY CANDLES: Wasabi Pear

I like to use pear-scented bath and body products and burn pear-scented candles in the harvest season. This NEST Fragrances Wasabi Pear Votive Candle "is a blend of anjou pear and fresh, ozonic watery notes that are infused with the essence of wasabi." I don't know what ozonic watery notes means, but I like the way this smelled when I tested it at a local store.

Wasabi Pear Votive Candle, on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: Miss Poppins and Me

This Melbourne, Australia based shop specializes in crafting delicate, beautiful paper flowers made from books. There are wedding bouquets, boutonnieres, single paper flowers, corsages, and the occasional paper hair accessory. I think it would be so romantic for some bride to carry a paper bouquet made from a couple's shared favorite book!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MissPoppinsandMe

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Almond Butter and Jam Bites (Poppy Deyes)

Basil Lemon Verbena Pesto Recipe (Cooking on the Weekends)

Breakfast Baked Sweet Potatoes With Almond Butter, Banana and Chia (Ambitious Kitchen)

Chicken and Corn Chowder (Jo Cooks)

Cucumber and Avocado Sandwich (2 Peas and Their Pod)

Hatch Honey and Carolina Porch-d'-Oeuvres (Young Austinian)

How to Build a Reading Corner In Your Home (Huffington Post Canada)

Inside the World of New York's Vintage Girls (Harper's Bazaar)

"Jackie" Natalie Portman Movie Review (Collider)

Pesto and Parmesan Bread Sticks (Honest Cooking)

Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad (Thirty Handmade Days)

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Soft Pretzels (Southern Fatty)

10 Mostly Healthy After-School Snacks (Love and Lemons)

Zucchini and Lettuce Soup with Pesto (Serious Eats)


--Copyright 2016 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com