Monday, November 17, 2014

Simplifying Christmas

Holiday Simplicity

Because this blog often (ok, every single time!) features shopping related info, images of things I've bought to enjoy in my own home, and excitement about new products, I hesitate to spend too much time talking about frugality. There are enough blogs on the net talking about money saving tips and budgeting. Lovely Living has a completely different focus.

However, I appreciate the idea of a simpler, less hectic, less stressful Christmas. That's part of why I begin my Christmas shopping early in the year, and finish by December 1st whenever possible. I shop for fewer items, and I try to make very careful decisions about the few gifts I am going to buy. I spend less time shopping and more time with family and friends.

You can simplify Christmas, and yet still enjoy shopping, just by cutting down on the amount of gifts you purchase. I love shopping but I don't feel the need to buy a gift for everyone I know. I love giving gifts, but this year I'm only buying presents for children. I will buy just one small gift, one piece of clothing and one book each for my nephews and nieces.

No Need to Buy More Decorations

I realized a few years ago that there is very little I need to buy for my own home for Christmas, other than a fresh live tree. I can cut down greenery in my own back yard to use for garlands and wreaths. I already have far more ornaments than I have space to fit on the tree; plenty of holiday decor; I already have more than enough hoarded Christmas wrapping paper and beautiful ribbons to wrap the few gifts I'll purchase. I don't have children living here any more, so don't need stockings, and I'm not feeling the need to hang up stockings for my dogs and cat!

I don't need Christmas-themed kitchen towels, placemats or tablecloths (though I did break down and buy a cute gingerbread-kids themed kitchen towel at JoAnn's last week). Until something wears out, I have plenty of holiday linens and tablecloths. I already have Christmas dishes, which I have to store in the garage because I don't have room for them in the house. I have a wreath for my front door, and tons of Christmas lights for outside. It appears that I don't have room (or need) in my life for any more holiday decoration supplies. At least not until I give some away, throw some away or recycle them, or trade them with a friend.

So this year the only things I should be buying for the holidays are a few gifts, fresh food and some fun beverages. I am proud of myself, by the way, for resisting the temptation to walk into Pier 1 Imports today while I was next door buying pet food. I knew if I went in I'd end up buying something Christmas-related that I didn't actually need!


I'll be frugal with my time and activities too. I want to prioritize enjoying time with family - even if it's just doing something simple like making popcorn and hot cocoa, then settling in to watch "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Or we might play board games all night. Some years I've had two Christmas trees (one in each living room) and a tiny tree in the kitchen. This year, I'll budget my time carefully. I'll keep it simple. One medium sized tree.


  • I like eating hard-boiled eggs on my salad, or for a quick shot of protein in the morning. But I don't often plan ahead enough to have hard boiled eggs on hand for convenience. Today I'm going to take just a few minutes to put four or five eggs on the stove, set a timer, and take them out once they're done. I'll label the eggs with a pencil so I know what day I made them. Tonight my salad can be adorned by some tasty hard-boiled egg slices! Want to make some to store in your own fridge?
  • Make menu plans for the week ahead; create grocery list.
  • Recycle old newspapers (if any), catalogs and magazines. Any newspaper that's more than a week old, throw out mercilessly. Don't be one of those people who accumulate a huge stack of newspapers thinking they'll get around to reading them someday. You can always visit your favorite newspaper on line and scan the headlines to catch up. Also, instead of keeping an entire catalog so you can remember something you want to check on later, pull out that page instead, then recycle the rest of the catalog.
  • If you're going to any plays, operas, ballets, or concerts this season, do you have tickets yet? I'm really tempted by Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • Check over your Christmas gift list - do you keep one in your purse or on your tablet or smartphone? (If you don't keep a list with you when you're out and about, I highly recommend this technique). Cross out anything you've bought, add any new ideas you've had.
  • Need to stock up on gift wrap tape or packaging tape?
  • Let's exercise for at least twenty minutes today.


Next weekend I'm flying to San Diego to attend my father's 70th birthday party. I bought my airline tickets months ago, but need to finalize my hotel plans, arrange for a rental car, make an appointment for my dogs at their favorite pet hotel, and pack my suitcase.

I also need to take time to make some appointments for myself here at home in Seattle before I leave on my journey: Hair color, pedicure, and a massage to help relax my back injury so I can more comfortably walk on hard airport floors and sit on the airplane. Tonight I'll be making phone calls and arranging things via the web, then listening to my new Stevie Nicks album in my bedroom while I pack my sundresses!


This holiday gift inspiration blog is run by personalized paper goods store Evermine. Right now they're focusing on unique ideas for Christmas gifts, including homemade hot chocolate mix, cornucopia candy favors for Thanksgiving, and a Hanukkah gift of personalized coasters. The photography here is gorgeous, and it doesn't feel super commercial or full of ads. I'm really enjoying looking at the gift ideas here.

LOVELY KIDS: Bonnie Jean Thanksgiving Outfit

If I had a little girl, I'd bring her to Grandmother's house over the woods, through the snow, and wearing this adorable turkey outfit. The Bonnie Jean company has so many cute Thanksgiving themed outfits, it would be hard to pick just one. There are even Thanksgiving coats to keep your little one warm (and stylish) on the journey! However, it may be a little unfrugal to buy a one-use outfit - your little girl will grow out of it by next Thanksgiving. I'd be more likely to purchase this if there were younger girl cousins to hand it down to for the next couple years of Thanksgiving festivities.

Bonnie Jean Thanksgiving Outfits, on Amazon

LOVELY TV: Hallmark's 12 New Movies of Christmas

I just got finished watching my DVRed movie Northpole (it bugs me so much that they ran the words together!) It was much cuter and less sappy than I thought, and totally family-friendly. I was intrigued by a couple of the other new movies they advertised during the movie, so went to the website to check out the offerings. I'm looking forward to seeing A Royal Christmas which stars Jane Seymour and Lacey Chabert. Christmas Under Wraps is also tempting me!

12 New Movies of Christmas, at The Hallmark Channel


Autumn Style Salads with Grilled Chipotle Chicken (Gourmet Girl Cooks)

Beet Hash with Eggs (Delicious Shots)

Best Ever Sausage, Sage and Apple Stuffing (The Comfort of Cooking)

Five Reasons Why You Should Make Gravy Ahead of Thanksgiving (The Kitchn)

Four Best Thanksgiving Sides (Worth the Whisk)

A Fun and Fancy Child's Holiday Table (Home-ology Modern Vintage)

Helpful Thanksgiving Tips to Get You Through the Holiday Season (The Kitchen Revival)

Hot Chicken Sandwiches (Creatively Domestic)

Kale Shiitake Mushroom Stuffing (Love & Lemons)

Roasted Autumn Vegetable Pot Pie (Hungry Couple NYC)

Turkey Breast in a Pot with Gravy (Solid Gold Eats)

Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Bread Salad Inspired by Stuffing (NY Times)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Lovely Sunday in Autumn


  • Maintenance clean one shelf, one drawer or two door pockets in your refrigerator and in your freezer. This will help keep our fridges and freezers ready for Thanksgiving foods! I have an inexpensive refrigerator and freezer outside in my garage too, so I'm actually doing TWO fridge shelves and TWO freezer shelves today.
  • Launder your bedding (and your kids' bedding, if applicable) so you all have fresh sheets to sleep on tonight (unless you do your bedding on a different day of the week).
  • Need to do any Christmas shopping this weekend before the malls get really crazy in the next couple weeks?
  • Make a plan for a special breakfast this upcoming weekend. Buy a paper newspaper if you normally don't, or stop by the library to pick up a local events calendar paper. Pull out a couple magazines you've been wanting to browse. Take extra time to make pancakes, omelettes, fresh (not frozen or boxed) hash browns, crepes, waffles, or other breakfast treats. Treat yourself to a latte or cappuccino if you normally don't. Enjoy a leisurely morning eating your tasty breakfast, reading the paper and magazines, even though you'll have a bit of a kitchen mess to clean up!
  • Have you baked an apple pie yet this autumn?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Major Cleaning of One Room

Plum Bergamot Clove Limited Edition Holiday Countertop Spray, from Caldrea

Pick a large, major room in your home that needs cleaning really badly. Is it perhaps your living room, your master bedroom, the kitchen, the basement? Attic? Garage? Bathroom or two? Mine is definitely the bathrooms - I need to thoroughly clean all three.

Do a total overhaul cleaning on your chosen room today. Decluttering, sorting, dusting, scrubbing, washing, laundering, vacuuming, mopping, light bulb checking, deodorizing, and more. Dust the door/s, wipe down light fixtures and light switches, and don't forget to dust the baseboards and windowsills.


Walk into the room and pretend you're seeing it through someone else's eyes (a relative, your boss, your best friend, a home decor magazine stylist, a realtor, Oprah or Martha Stewart, your mother-in-law, or whatever helps motivate you!)

Put on music and make yourself a nice beverage. Light incense if you like. Let's make this a pleasant task.

Start by removing clutter. Throw away or put into the charity bin or recycling bin anything you can possibly part with. Next, empty wastebaskets, recycling, and find some items to put in storage if you can't part with them. Remove any drinking glasses, dishes or any other items that don't belong. Do you have too much furniture in this room? Too many things on the walls? Too many kitschy knickknacks?


Thoroughly clean ceiling fan and light fixtures, then lamps. Wash and dust windows, windowsills, trim, closet doors and the room's door (on both sides). Don't forget to clean the wood at the top of the doorframe, too. Do your curtains need dry cleaning, or your blinds need wiping down? Wash walls. Check to see if you need lightbulbs. Clean baseboards and air vents before you vacuum.


Move furniture to vacuum, sweep or mop under it. If you really are inspired or have strong helpers, remove most furniture from the room before you vacuum and/or mop. Open drawers on tables and nightstands and sort them before replacing furniture in the room.

If you're deep cleaning a bedroom, don't forget to vacuum the mattress (and flip/rotate if needed).

Wash and replace any floor rugs. If it's a bedroom, wash the bed linens (Don't forget to wash the dust ruffle and mattress pad, too!).


Endust Dust Cloths, on Amazon

Dust your furniture and any knick-knacks. Replace any decorative candles that are looking discolored or crooked; remove half-burned votives and replace with fresh candles. See if any upholstery needs to be spot cleaned or professionally cleaned (I have a couch with far too many pet hairs and pet stains to handle by myself!) Clean any items that need to be put back on tables, dressers, shelves, etc, and replace them in an orderly manner.

Water houseplants and dispose of any dead or dying ones. If the houseplants are looking dusty, spray them down in the kitchen sink. (This is a great time to get rid of any tacky fake plants!) Polish doorknobs on both sides of the door, and on closets if needed.


Finish by spraying the room with your current favorite room freshener or a home spray. Or by burning a scented candle (while you're still in the room to attend to it). My current favorite home fragrance oil is The Body Shop's Frosted Cranberry. I'll burn some in my fragrance diffuser in this room.

Put fresh flowers on a small table, if this is a room used frequently.

The weather's getting much colder - does this room have a nice soft throw waiting on a nearby chair? Is there a box of Kleenex accessible? A nearby trash can for convenience?

Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit down and relax for a while in your fresh, clean, clutter-free room.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Shiseido's Translucent Soap

I am so excited to gift this new limited edition translucent soap to a couple stepsisters and female friends this holiday season! I'll probably gift the red one, but it also comes in green. I'll of course want to smell it before committing to buy it. I like that it is quite possibly "lightly scented" so it's not overwhelming.

Honey Cake Red, at Sephora

LOVELY BLOGS: Awful Library Books

I'm really conscious about not posting any sites that make fun of anybody or anything here - that's not very Lovely. However, this entertaining site from a couple of professional librarians is just too fun to browse through. You also can learn a lot about history just from some of the weird old books they find to weed out. The post categories here are hilarious: They include Animal Love, Bleeding Edge, But it's Historical!, Celebrity Fun, Condition/Processing Fail, Feeling Good, For the Kids, Friday Fiction, Getting Crafty, Living the Good Life, Looking Good, Parent Trap, Practical Librarian, Spanning the Globe, The Unexplained and Just Plain Crazy, Vice Patrol, Working 9-5, and You Ate What? You can also learn a lot about how libraries work and how librarians decide which books to buy, keep, and get rid of. I'll bet you get sucked into spending way more time browsing this blog than you expected to!

LOVELY FOOD: Barilla's Regional Specialty Pastas

I eat way too much pasta, and should probably cut back. But I've been really enjoying trying these new regional pastas. Only one chain grocery store near me carries them - Fred Meyer. I've tried the Bucatini, Casarecce (my favorite so far) and the Spaghetti alla Chitarra so far. I've had to do some research to figure out which kind of pasta sauce works best with these. And I can report that they all taste excellent with a glass of Merlot and a side of garlic toast!

Collezione, at Barilla

LOVELY FOOD: Autumn Velvet Cake Mix

I don't know why, but I am totally giggling at the picture of this two-colored autumn velvet cake. It just delights me! I can't wait to make it. I'm sure it won't turn out as pretty as the one baked and photographed by professionals, but I'm sure it will taste good. The two mixes are "brown velvet" and "orange velvet." I'm still chuckling.

Autumn Velvet Cake, from Duncan Hines, on Amazon


Free Christmas Gift List Printable (Joyful Homemaking)

Gruyere and Green Olive Rolls (Joy the Baker)

Homemade Ketchup (The Handy Homemaker)

Kabocha Sage Creme Fraiche Pappardelle (Two Red Bowls)

Mini One-Bowl Yellow Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting (The Cake Merchant)

No Bake Cranberry Cheesecakes (My Baking Addiction)

Pretzel Parker House Rolls (Smitten Kitchen)

Pumpkin Pie Panna Cotta (Traditional Cooking School)

Turkey Pot Pie (Miz Helen's Country Cottage)

What is it Like to Be a Full-Time Homemaker? (Apartment Therapy)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living