Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mid-Week in Dark Rainy Wintertime

My snug and cozy house, decorated for the New Year and the many dark winter nights to follow

I'm doing my best to get out and about during the daytime, trying to get some light on my skin. I don't suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I do get a bit discouraged while waiting for sunny Spring and Summer days.

In the evenings, I'm reminding myself to take advantage of the pleasures this season affords: plenty of time to snuggle up with pets by the fire in a cozy throw and slippers, drink delicious hot tea, and indulge in long book-reading sessions. I also have lots of opportunities to sneak out to evening movies since I'm not busy doing outdoorsy things in the evening this time of year.

What do you do to cope with long dark winter days? What pastimes do you indulge in? Let me know in the comments below.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • FLOWERS: Grocery stores in many areas now have colorful tulips,daffodils, and primroses available. Even though it's winter still! If you like cheery flowers, pick yourself up some. You can generally get a bouquet of several tulips for less than $5 and daffodils for less than $4. Primroses aren't expensive either. This will bring a little cheerful, early feeling of spring to your home.
  • LIQUOR: I'm still enjoying making hot toddies on cold winter nights, but guests drank up much of my bourbon and whiskey at my parties. (I don't mind, they were invited to!) Check your supply of liquor, wine and beer if you keep those sorts of beverages around. Did your supplies get depleted during your holiday parties? Add to your grocery shopping list if needed.
  • PAPER AND PLASTIC: Take inventory of your paper and plastic products. Do you need more Kleenex, paper towels, toilet tissue, garbage bags, sandwich bags, serving containers? Add anything you need to your shopping list for the weekend.
  • ENTERTAINMENT: Do you have any library books due to be returned this week? Any movies you need to return to Redbox?
  • KIDS ALLOWANCE: It's a new year - do your children need their allowances adjusted for cost of living increases and for their age? If this isn't something you review around their birthday, this might be a good time to discuss it. Also, it may be time to adjust chores around your childrens' older age, new skills they've acquired, or new schedules they've taken on at school.
  • RUGS: Need to shake out any throw rugs, or sweep off any doormats that have gotten heavy traffic so far this week? My kitchen and dog doors need their mats shaken out for sure.
  • LAUNDRY: Don't let laundry pile up going into the weekend. Do you need to run a load tonight - perhaps towels, pet bedding, or children's clothing?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Mid-Week Tidying

These colorful oval pails from The Container Store come in bright spring colors to make tidying less of a chore.

My employee and I have been doing a lot of projects around the house for work, which tends to mess the house up a bit. We've also removed the furniture from a guest room that needs to be refloored (sigh), taken down my blogging photography studio and created a second guest room in the space. We're sorting, organizing and photographing my collection of fairy tales and antique children's books. This has left piles of books on my dining room table - and they can't be put away until we're done, hopefully by the end of this week.

The mess is purposeful, but about to drive me crazy. I can't control it until we finish (and until the contractor is done ripping out and replacing flooring). So I'm choosing to mega clean up other areas of the house that I do have control over.

Today during my housekeeping project time (about 1 hour, plus maybe some laundry folding and sorting during an hour long TV show) I will clean my master bathroom, empty trashcans throughout the house, take out recycling, sanitize the kitchen counter, mop the kitchen floor, and file away some papers on my desk that are driving me crazy.

I feel like this will help me take back some control over the current messy situation, and help maintain the rest of the house in decent shape to make up for the chaos in the guest room and dining room! Also doing so many things tonight will help keep my weekend free for more delightful things.

What project might you tackle tonight?

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Lemon Verbena Hand Soap

There are two times of the year when I use lemon, citrus or lemon verbena products around the home: Summer and Winter. Citrus seems like a summer scent to me, but also citrus is at its best during winter. On long cold dark days, I feel like the smell of lemon verbena makes my house feel fresher, cleaner, and less dark and cold. Maybe I'm just crazy! Anyway, here's the hand soap I currently have set out in my master bathroom and in one of my guest bathrooms. I might pick up the matching lemon verbena candle from the line, and burn it in the kitchen, too.

Lemon Verbena Foaming Hand Soap, at Mrs. Meyers

LOVELY BLOGS: The Bojon Gourmet

This blog presents "seasonal recipes from a recovering pastry chef." Alanna creates sweet, savory, and occasionally boozy recipes in her San Francisco kitchen. I'm really enjoying her lovely food photography, as well as her recipes. Lately she's posting about curried noodles with crispy tofu, a gluten free Dutch baby with maple cranberries, and a delicious sounding blood orange and corn flour ricotta cake. Visit again next week to see what other delights she's presenting!

http://bojongourmet.com/

The Bojon Gourmet on Facebook

LOVELY BOOKS: Audrey at Home

Audrey Hepburn's son shares memories of growing up in his mother's kitchen. It's a biography of his mother, but also includes recipes she wrote in her own handwriting, and previously unpublished family photographs. This seems like a nice pleasant read as we head into springtime.

I'm tempted to see if anybody wants to read this with me in the Lovely Living University Book Club this spring.

Audrey at Home, at Amazon

Audrey at Home, at Barnes and Noble

LOVELY BOOKS: Lullabies of Many Lands

I love browsing through vintage children's books. I'm so grateful for The Internet Archive! This 1894 book has charming illustrations, even though they are not in color. The authors collected lullabies from Denmark, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and other countries, and translated them into English for us. Leafing through this book (virtually) is a pleasant way to spend my morning teatime break! Hope you enjoy looking through it as much as I did.

Lullabies of Many Lands, at Archive.Org

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Blood Orange, Almond and Ricotta Cake (Smitten Kitchen)

Citrus Kale Salad with Miso Tahini Dressing (What's Cooking)

Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte (Brown Eyed Baker)

Honey Ginger Madeleine Cakes with Chocolate Sauce (Eat Well 101)

Lentil, Swiss Chard and Sweet Italian Sausage Soup (Its Cooking With Magda)

Lemon, Ricotta and Pea Linguine (Larger Family Life)

Maple and Spice Old Fashioned Cocktail for Winter (NW Edible)

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chorizo White Pizza (Modern Day Donna Reed)

Sour Cream Lime Bars (Baking Bites)

Tzatziki Bites with Greek Salsa (The Wanderlust Kitchen)

Winter Butternut Bruschetta with Herbed Ricotta (Behind the Plates)


--Copyright 2016 Lovely Living

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Lovely Living University

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cleaning Up After Christmas and Winter Wonderland Party Prep

Bit by bit, I'm removing my Christmas decorations from my house.

Happy New Year's Eve! Today I'm playing a bit of hooky from work - taking my dogs to the park, and then taking down my Christmas decorations. I'll swap out my red tablecloth for a white one, take the red-and-green wreath off my door and replace it with a snowy evergreen one, and make other small alterations to my decor.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

A dozen organic eggs I'm hard-boiling for salads and egg salad sandwiches in the week ahead

  • Do you have any time off this week? Can you catch up on a few things and get a little bit ahead before your next workweek? Things that will make your life easier when work resumes? I'm cooking a few things to put away and/or freeze to make my January easier.
  • For example, do you have any breads you might bake ahead of time, soups or casseroles you could freeze, hardboiled eggs for your upcoming salads? Desserts to share or gift to neighbors?
  • Have you cleaned up your living room, if you hosted Christmas, of all the extraneous gifts, ribbons, wrapping papers and trash bags?
  • After the festive holiday dinners and parties I attended, I feel a little unhealthy. I'm making extra effort to avoid sugar and fat, and eat some healthy fruit and veggies. Do you have fresh produce in the house?
  • If you traveled for Christmas, are you caught up on your laundry and unpacking?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cleaning Up Christmas

I housesat this lovely home during the week of Christmas.

I didn't spend Christmas in my own home this year. Instead, I housesat for traveling relatives and spent the holidays with my grandfather. The small town I was in had a generous amount of snow. After my grandfather went to bed every night, friends bundled me up and took me out to bars and festive late night gatherings at their homes.

It was nice to shake up my yearly routine a bit (and nice not to have all the work of hosting a big Christmas dinner for multiple family members). However, my dream will always be to spend Christmas in my own home. That might not always be possible, since I don't have any children of my own to host Christmas for.

I can't really complain about making myself at home in a castle-styled house with an indoor wine cellar, basement movie theater and outdoor hot tub! Also, I'm counting my blessings that I was able to finally have a White Christmas!

I decorated minimally this year - check out my tiny tree!

Now that I'm home, I'm making time today to take down my Christmas tree and decorations. I'm usually very prompt about removing decorations on New Year's Day - pajama clad and aided by my last round of Christmas music, a fire, and a generous mug of bourbon-laced hot cocoa. Normally I've overdecorated my house and am quite glad to have some of the festive Christmas clutter gone!

These silver ball trees will be part of my Winter Wonderland party decorations

This year I'm in an extra special hurry to swap out the festive red and green decorations, anything with a poinsettia or Santa on it, or anything that screams "Christmas." I'm having a "Winter Wonderland" party in a couple weeks and need to get the house staged for that.

These silver ball trees were heavily discounted after Christmas, so I bought several

My decorating theme for that party is a snowy winter woodland with silver and gold accents. I don't normally care for the way silver and gold look together, so decorating for this party has been a bit of a mental challenge for me. But I brought this upon myself!

When I'm done undecorating, vacuuming, and redecorating, I'll have just enough time to eat a quiet hot dinner, then make my way to a friend's house where I am babysitting tonight. They'll come home before midnight so I can safely get off the roads before any dangerous drivers come out. I can look forward to coming home, lighting a fire in the fireplace, pouring a small bit of champagne and spending a quiet New Year's Eve with my pets. This is my first New Year's Eve at home alone and I'm excited I have chosen to celebrate this way this year!

When do you remove your Christmas decorations? Let us know in the comment section below.

LOVELY BLOGS: Champagne & Macarons

I'm surprised this lovely blog doesn't have an About page. I had to dig around a bit to find out the blogger's name: Brenda. (Not stalking her, just curious about the woman behind this blog!) She lives in St. Louis Missouri, and specializes in design & decor, fashion & beauty blogging. I especially enjoy her travel blogging - her photographs are so gorgeous and make me so intrigued to learn more about the places she's been. She also shares beautifully photographed recipes and the occasional cocktail.

Check out her post from September on Inspiring Baths!

http://champagnemacaronsblog.com/

Champagne & Macarons on Facebook

Champagne & Macarons on Twitter

LOVELY MOVIES: Pretty in Pink 30th Anniversary

It makes me feel old that Pretty in Pink will celebrate its 30th anniversary this February (2016). This film meant a lot to me when I saw it as a 17 year old. Like all John Hughes films, it celebrates the smart, nerdy outsiders which I of course identified with heavily.

I also about wore out my Pretty in Pink Soundtrack, which I had on vinyl. So many good songs on that album - "Left of Center" by Suzanne Vega, The Smiths' "Please, Please, Please, Let me Get What I Want," "Bring on the Dancing Horses" by Echo and the Bunnymen, and of course the titular song by The Psychedelic Furs.

I'm so looking forward to hosting a Girls Night Out complete with cocktails, pink dresses, and Duckie fangirling.

Pretty in Pink Showtimes at Fandango.com

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Boozy Adventures and How to Make Homemade Limoncello (Multiculturiosity)

Broccolini and Sausage Pasta (Bonbon Break)

Chickpea Potato Soup with Pesto and Lemon (Eat in My Kitchen)

Chocolate Cherry Scones (Cooking Light)

Cranberry Brie Bites (The Rose Table)

Cranberry, Lemon and Poppy Seed Breakfast Slice (Dolly and Oatmeal)

Five Useful Tips for Off-Season Storage (Vintage Zest)

Gingerbread Layer Cake (Smitten Kitchen)

Kourabiedes - Greek Butter Cookies (Sailus Food)

Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (My Recipe Confessions)

Lemon Ricotta Cookies (Kitchen Nostalgia)

Lemon Truffles (Keep it Sweet Desserts)

Meyer Lemon Tart with Gingersnap Crust (Grits and Pinecones)

Meyer Lemon and Thyme Roasted chicken (The Unorthodox Epicure)

Olive Oil Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting (Cuisinovia)

Roasted Lemon Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Prosciutto (Little Broken)

Sunny Pie (Milk and Bun)

Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Mascarpone Cheese (Whidbey Island Girl)


--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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www.lovelylivinguniversity.com