Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Embarking On My New Year's Project for 2015

Orange "Store Anywhere" Boxes, at The Container Store


  • Is your Facebook feed as cluttered as mine? Let's clean ours up a bit today. Take a quick peek at your "Pages I Like", removing any pages you aren't actually interested in hearing from. Add pages you really do want to hear from to your Interests list or choose to Get Notifications from them so you don't miss anything cool or important.
  • Need to do any tossing of leftovers, or make a plan to eat up leftovers tonight? Let's get our fridges emptier going into the weekend so we can grocery shop and fill them with fresh tasty foods.
  • Any mid-week laundry that needs to be done? Towels, clothing you want to wear on the weekend, pet bedding, socks and undies?
  • Are you on track for your exercising this week so far? I didn't do anything yesterday so must redouble my efforts today.
  • What are you serving or having for breakfast tomorrow? I'm planning to build in time to make myself a nice breakfast of oatmeal, hash browns, a half grapefruit and an egg. I might have to go to bed a bit earlier or get up fifteen minutes earlier. Otherwise I'll be eating the same old cold, quick cereal.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Garage Sorting

My "resolution" for the new year was to clean up my garage. (Note that I said "clean up" not "clean out.") I have a weird irrational fear of parking in the garage, so even if my garage was 100% empty and swept clean, I wouldn't use it for my car. Since I don't have an attic or basement (basements in rainy Seattle are not a good idea, so builders don't usually put them in) the garage is where I store things. I'm a packrat, not a hoarder, I swear! I can get rid of things, recycle and throw things away. I do have a bit of a shopaholism problem but I've been working on it, and I do throw quite a lot of parties, so I justify keeping party supplies around. Half of my garage is full of boxes of things important to me - books, family photographs, paper letters, some important documents, seasonal decorations (especially Christmas) and the off-season things I store when not in use. (I swap out my bedding, curtains, tablecloths and other linens to match the seasons).

One of my new rules for myself is "No books in the garage." I'm patting myself on the back for getting rid of five boxes of books from the garage. Many went to Half Price Books, a few went into the recycle bin, a few moved onto merchandise shelves to sell in my eBay store, and several found new homes on empty shelves on the bookcases I keep in every bedroom of the house.

I've been sorting 1-2 boxes per night of stuff from the garage, getting rid of the items completely or consolidating 2 or 3 boxes into one. Soon I hope to have all the family photos stored in just two big boxes instead of six or eight medium sized ones. I've been doing a much better job of getting rid of things - realising that I don't have any children to leave things to, and nieces/nephews and cousins who don't seem to care about family history, has made it easier to get rid of or find new homes for handmade dolls, jewelry I don't care to wear, dishes that aren't sentimental to me and not pretty enough to keep, etc. I have been making daily trips to the Goodwill truck in my neighborhood every time I pass by on some other errand.

This is 50 percent of the "merchandise" half of my garage. As you can see if you peer into the photo, things were once nicely organized on the shelves, but have migrated onto the floor and become messy. I can still find a particular item of merchandise within 1 minute of looking for it, but this still isn't ideal. I've got to reorganize, take inventory, and run some massive sales to encourage customers to buy. Now that I'm shutting down my eBay store (as soon as I sell everything) I am no longer buying new merchandise. My dream is to have the use of these shelves within the next 12 months, for things more important to me: my baking supplies and kitchen appliances that aren't used often enough to warrant space in my small kitchen.

So my project tonight is sorting yet another box or two or three. It's something I can easily do in my warm living room in front of the television, a donation box and trash bag and recycle bin handy nearby.

What might you need to sort or reevaluate keeping in your home and in your life tonight?

LOVELY BLOGS: Cook the Books Club

Here's a fun book club - you read the chosen book for each two-month period, then create a recipe based on the book or its theme, photograph your creation, and write up a blog post about it. It's fun to look through the back archive of things that have been created in tribute to the books!

LOVELY BOOKS: Candy Aisle Crafts

Here's a really cute, creative book from Jodi Levine who runs the Super Make It blog. "Create fun projects with supermarket sweets." I love that it includes step-by-step photos. The book covers things you can make with gummies, marshmallows, cookies and cereal, and hard candy.

Candy Aisle Crafts, on Amazon

LOVELY CRAFTS: Paper Japanese Store Models

My current obsession with house-shaped things is making me extra excited about these paper models you can put together. I am not very talented in the crafts department, so might have to recruit some help to complete them nicely. I can't decide which is my favorite, the ramen stand or the sweet shop. They're expensive, so I can only dream of attempting one of the two.

Sweet Store Model, at Japan Trend Shop

Ramen Stand Model, at Japan Trend Shop

LOVELY HOME: Wonderwash Mini Washing Machine

Sometimes I just want to wash a couple pairs of panties and a couple pairs of socks. Or a couple washcloths. I don't want to waste a ton of water and energy using my regular washing machine to do so. I'm so tempted by this WonderWash. It's affordable, but I'd have to find somewhere to store it. I guess I will forego it since I'm not a camper or RV person - situations in which it would be very handy to have one of these hand cranked units.

Wonderwash, on Amazon

LOVELY KITCHEN: Bake a Cake Apron

Isn't this apron cute? I don't really like to wear aprons myself - somehow the ties make me itchy and uncomfy, and I feel like I'm falling out of the sides of the top part. But I might gift this apron to someone I know who bakes a lot - perhaps as a Valentine's Day gift or a hostess gift next time she invites me over. The print is so darling!

Bake a Cake Apron, on Amazon


Almond Orange Mexican Wedding Cookies (The Artful Desperado)

Applewood Bacon Shortbread Cookies (Sprinkle Bakes)

Baked Pecan Crusted Chicken Fingers (Sally's Baking Addiction)

Blood Orange Ricotta Cheesecake with Red wine Glazed Figs (The Artful Desperado)

Blood Orange Curd (A Cozy Kitchen)

Buttermilk Cake with Blood Orange Frosting (The Vanilla Bean Blog)

Buttermilk and Chive Biscuits (Williams-Sonoma Taste)

Buttermilk Pasta Sauce (Created by Diane)

Buttermilk Rosemary Donuts (Adventures in Cooking)

Cheesy Buttermilk Herb Bread (Mrs. Happy Homemaker)

Chocolate Stout Peanut Butter Cups (The Beeroness)

Dips and Spreads for Superbowl Sunday (One Perfect Bite)

Egg Sandwich with Spinach and Gouda (Annie's Eats)

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha Honey Glaze (Creative Culinary)

The Logic of Long Lines (The Atlantic)

Rhubarb, Millet and Almond Crumble (London Bakes)

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse (Love and Olive Oil)

Tuna and Avocado Tartine (The Chronicles of Home)

--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beautifying with Color in Winter

These $1.50 primroses are an inexpensive, long-lasting way to add color to my front porch during dreary, rainy wintertime


  • I was really lazy this weekend and let my kitchen slip into messiness. Then I cooked up a big batch of spaetzle last night and didn't do a good job of washing and drying my pots and pans before I went to bed. How's your kitchen looking?
  • Look over your calendar for the few remaining days of this month. Any appointments coming up? Any bills coming due?
  • If you're a member of a book club, have you finished your assigned reading for this month?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Adding Color to Cheer Grey Wintertime

I've purchased several inexpensive potted primroses to adorn the steps leading up to my front house. For now I'm letting the moss grow, finding it pretty. Later I'll have to scrape it off to prevent people from slipping on my steps.

What can you do to add a pop of color to your home, inside and out, this winter? Your efforts might include adding plants outdoors if you live somewhere that isn't too cold; or you might choose a couple inexpensive new houseplants to keep indoors. You might swap out heavy red and green pillows and tablecloths from Christmas, for lighter pastel or fresh white pillows, curtains and decor.

Mirrors at Z Gallerie

You might add light to your home with silver and gold accents, silver trays on tabletops, or extra mirrors. Polish your chandelier to let more light shine into your dining room.

Colorful Ramekins from Now Designs, on Amazon

Warm up your kitchen with colorful utensils, teakettles, pots and pans, and baking accessories whenever possible. Try tossing a colorful scarf over the top of your coffee table or a bookcase to add color in sun-starved rooms.

Today I'll be dusting and wiping lamps and light shades, light fixtures and light bulbs to make sure as much clean, fresh, warm light is in my house as possible. What might you do to enliven and add color to your home?

LOVELY BLOGS: Butter and Brioche

Thalia blogs from Brisbane, Australia. She's a Francophile and self-taught baker. Recent recipes she's shared with her softened, muted, dreamily gorgeous photography include Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookie Layer Cake, an intriguing guest post recipe for Pink Grapefruit and Rosemary Madeleines, and Pink Pomelo and Rose Tarts with Honey Meringue.

LOVELY BOOKS: The Art of Stage Dancing

This charming book by Ned Wayburn was published in 1925. I am personally not at all interested in dancing or related topics, but found browsing through these illustrations and antique photographs immensely diverting.

The Art of Stage Dancing, at Project Gutenberg

LOVELY BOOKS: Rainbow Tarts

I am trying not to acquire too many cookbooks to take up space on my kitchen bookcase, but I think I need to prioritize room for this one! "Rainbow Tarts" features 50 tarts, each with its own gorgeous photograph. There are recipes for savory tarts as well as the sweet ones. The author runs the Griotte's blog. You can read an interview with her about the book here. The book comes out in the US on March 10. You can see a gorgeous preview of the book here.

Rainbow Tarts, on Amazon

LOVELY FOOD: 3 Minute Focaccia Mix

Yes, I am too lazy to actually measure and mix my own bread ingredients. I do rely on boxed mixes, or else nothing in my home would get baked. I've lately been bringing focaccia to parties, with great results. Everybody gobbles it up! You need a can of sparkling water or club soda to make each mix. When I use the rosemary mix, I try to pinch off fresh rosemary from one of the potted plants I keep in my kitchen herb garden. So far I've only tried the savory focaccia mixes, not yet the chocolate or raisin ones.

3-Minute Focaccia Mix, on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: Agnes World Rolling Pins

This store, based in Poland, sells the most incredible rolling pins! They're designed to emboss your cookies with particular shapes (especially holiday-themed ones). I'll have to get better at learning to prevent cookie spread before I invest the money and cupboard space for one of these, but I'm certainly tempted. My favorite rolling pin here so far is the one with folk patterns.

AgnesWorld on Etsy

LOVELY TV: Death Comes to Pemberley

I resisted seeing this when it first aired on PBS. I typically don't enjoy mysteries, especially not murder mysteries. This morning when I saw the show was available on Netflix, I went ahead and gave it a try. Oh my, have I been missing out! What a fun watch. It stars Matthew Rhys (who I've been enjoying watching in "The Americans") as Mr. Darcy. I put this on this morning in order to have some background noise while I worked, but found myself stopping what I was doing to watch the show more often than not! It's a three-episode miniseries, so it's easy to indulge in a brief binge watching session tonight!

Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC Official Site


Belle, Beast and Enchanted Rose Cake (Between the Pages)

Blood Orange Mojitos (Annie's Eats)

Butterbeer Hot Chocolate (Bakingdom)

Cheesy Skillet Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Baked Bread (I Am Baker)

Creamy Poblano Stovetop Mac and Cheese (Annie's Eats)

11 Pastas for Riding Out Winter Storm Juno (CHOW)

50 Bite-Sized Game Day Appetizers (This Gal Cooks)

January Cleanses and Detoexes (101 Cookbooks)

Lemon Ginger Crinkle Cookies (Lemons and Anchovies)

Mixed Berry Cheesecake Crumb Bars (Bakers Royale)

108 Super Bowl Recipes (Brown Eyed Baker)

Slow Cooker Gigante Beans with Tomatoes and Pancetta (Alexandra Cooks)

Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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