Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mess of Christmas

These recently-tested Christmas lights are waiting for my Christmas tree to arrive, but they look messy. I need to put them in a plastic bin or go get my Christmas tree and put them on ASAP!

My recent Christmas decorating has made my house messy and cluttered. Time for me to put away the decorating supplies I'm not going to use, finish decorating, and clean up so my house is lovely again!


  • Need to sweep leaves off your front porch or back deck?
  • Does your entryway or front hall need sweeping or vacuuming? Mine has leaves and muddy dog footprints on it.
  • Any Redbox movies to return? Christmas cards to mail out? Need to pick up a movie for the weekend?
  • Any library books that need to be dropped off?
  • Fill up with gas for the weekend; pick up cash at an ATM if you need pocket spending money.
  • Is there fresh fruit in a bowl in your kitchen or on your dining table, waiting to be sliced and eaten?
  • Do you have tissues in your purse, car and coat pockets?
  • Tidy your house for the weekend. Empty or fill dishwasher; wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters; swap out for clean hand towels and kitchen towels; empty trash and recycling bins; refill toilet paper as needed; toss out dead flowers and replace with fresh if possible;

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cleaning Up After Christmas Decorating

My mail table is only supposed to have outgoing mail, incoming mail, library books and DVDs, car keys and one decorative candle on it. This is not ok!

This year I am taking my sweet time decorating for Christmas. I'm hosting our family Christmas Eve this year again, but not throwing a massive party like I did last year. Because I'm not throwing a big party, I'm not panicking and rushing to decorate. I'm getting a few things out here and there and setting them up. But in the meanwhile, my house is becoming cluttered by half-full decorations boxes, strands of Christmas lights laying about, tape and rolls of gift wrap, and piles of yet-to-be-wrapped gifts. I also have an unofficial "staging area" in the kitchen of holiday foods I intend to bake or cook. Those should be put away in my cupboard! I suspect I'm afraid I'll forget to make them if I don't keep them in sight. An entire guest bed is covered with clean towels I need to fold, sheets I need to put on the bed, and several gifts I need to wrap - plus the supplies to wrap them.

I think that perhaps because I'm taking my time, my house has gotten messier than it would have if I had simply devoted an entire weekend to decorating and being done with it. Then I would have cleaned up all the mess of Christmas decorating.

My dining table is not supposed to be covered in stuff! Time to clear it off so it's usable for meals again!

So my project today is cleaning up my Christmas decorating mess! I'll finish decorating, put unused lights back in their storage containers, and put storage bins back in the garage. I can always pull them out if I suddenly feel the need to add more decorations as Christmas Eve approaches. I'll clean off my kitchen counters, clean off the dining table, restore the mail table to its normal functionality, and get lights off the floor of my living room. I'm babysitting a friend's kid tonight so can't take the time to go get a Christmas tree. But I should be able to accomplish all these - plus wrap some gifts and restore my guest room to ready-for-company status, in under an hour.

I'll be better able to look forward to my Christmas Eve hosting if I know I have a lovely, uncluttered house to welcome people into!

Do you have any Christmas related messes to tidy up?

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Salted Caramel Tea

When I think of a delicious tea I enjoy, the word "salty" never enters into my mind. But I'm curious to try this seasonal tea, since I like caramel so much! Since I don't care for peppermint and I'm allergic to cinnamon, this is about one of the only seasonal teas I can enjoy.

Salted Caramel Tea, from Bigelow Teas

LOVELY BLOGS: The Best of This Life

This blogger (Emily, from Ottawa) concentrates on gluten-free and vegan cooking recipes, healthy living, travel, parenting, and hosting parties. She also has a helpful section on journaling. There are a lot of sponsored posts and giveaways here though, it's a bit distracting trying to find actual content such as this nice post on 3 ingredient chocolate cornflake clusters.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Old Design Shop Vintage Image Treasury

This blog offers one really lovely vintage image every day. They're out of copyright, of course, and the blog curator has really great taste. It doesn't feel like they're just repackaging old images from clipart CDs or whatnot. In fact, I'm quite impressed that the blogger posts the source of their image (which vintage magazine it came from) nearly every time! Posts lately have been seasonal images like this one, but recent posts also include Victorian images and some recipes. What an extremely useful resource!

LOVELY FOOD: Duncan Hines Holiday Velvets

My nephews and I just made a similar layer cake using a mix by Duff. It tasted good and was nice and moist, but I suspect the Duncan Hines one would be even moister - I have had good experiences with their mixes. I may whip up a cake like this for our Christmas Eve celebration!

Duncan Hines Holiday Velvets Cake Mix, on Amazon

LOVELY HOME: Method Home's New Seasonal Scent

I'm almost positive the other shoppers at Target could hear me exclaim two or three aisles away, when I discovered a shelf of Method Home's new Honeycrisp Apple products. I was delighted to sniff them and not be overpowered by a cinnamony scent. This is clean and fresh and crisp apple, not disguise-your-pet-scented-home apple. I picked up the laundry detergent and have been using it enthusiastically on my many loads of weekly laundry. I also got the countertop cleanser as that gets used a lot around here, but I skipped the hand soap - due to my eagerness for seasonal scents, each bathroom is more than well stocked with hand soap at the moment.

Honeycrisp Apple, at


Cranberry and Mint Rum Punch (Foolproof Living)

Cranberry Apple Crisp (Baking Bites)

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins (Bright Eyed Baker)

Gingerbread Surprise Beignets with Spiced Mocha Hot Chocolate (Half Baked Harvest)

Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles (Alexandra Cooks)

Kahlua Hot Chocolate Marshmallows (Bakers Royale)

My Christmas Meltdown Came Early (The Life of Bon)

The Non-Skiiers Guide to Ski Towns (NY Times)

Pecan Linzer Cookies (Annie's Eats)

Slow-Rise Panettone (CHOW)

The Three Best Types of Cookies for Mailing (The Kitchn)

What Happens When Kids Don't Have Internet at Home? (The Atlantic)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

December Begins - Gift Wrapping Day

Felt Santa Claus, from Cost Plus World Market


  • Need to de-clutter and clean out your car? I do this every time I find myself sitting in it for a few minutes while waiting for someone. Otherwise my car gets really out of hand! Do you need to restock things you might keep in your car, such as Kleenex, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a cell phone charger, mints, lipstick, and hand lotion?
  • If you're wearing slippers at night a lot, do you need to launder them? They can get sweaty and a bit smelly. How about your family members slippers?
  • Need to catch up on any vacuuming or laundry?
  • Are you mailing out a Thanksgiving thank-you card? Do you have time to write a few Christmas or holiday cards today?
  • Have you eaten fresh fruit in the last two days? An apple, banana, strawberries, melon of some kind?
  • Do you use Redbox or do you exclusively stream movies? If you use Redbox, I suggest popping over today to grab one before the boxes get depleted for the weekend. Right now their new releases include "The Hundred Foot Journey" which I highly recommend, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and "It's a Wonderful Life."
  • Put away any remaining autumn crafts or crafting supplies. It's time to switch to winter crafts.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Gift Wrapping

Snowy Day Wrapping Paper, at The Container Store

Tonight I'm wrapping the gifts I've bought so far. (I'm usually done shopping by December 1st, but this year got a super late start on my shopping!) I'll wrap the gifts I have so far (mostly books, games and puzzles, plus a few festive outfits for babies) while I watch some shows I saved up on my Tivo. Tonight is serving as my "down time at home night" and I'm looking forward to a fireplace, hot tea, television, snuggling with dogs, and wrapping gifts.

I'll label the gifts carefully so I know who to mail them to or which gift pile to put them in in my home. After they're wrapped, I'll store the gifts in a Sterilite bin in my closet. This protects them from the cats, who like to chew on the corners of boxes that look or smell intriguing.

I'm looking forward to adding some special touches to my gift wrap. I want to make my inexpensive gifts more fun and exciting to open. I'll add some sequins and sparkles to some of the gifts, and glue some fake Swarovski crystals onto some of the ribbons I'm tying around the gifts. I tuck small inexpensive acrylic ornaments into the bows sometimes too.

Vintage Santa Wrapping Paper, from Paper Source

How much gift wrapping can you get done tonight, assuming you've shopped for some gifts already? Won't it be nice to have festive gifts under your tree (or hidden in a closet if that works better in your particular family situation!) and not have to stress about getting things wrapped as the month wears on closer to Christmas?

I am going to be very strict with myself and make sure my tape, scissors, ribbons, bows, tags, stickers, and rolls of wrapping paper are put completely away by the end of this evening. Even if I think I might do some more wrapping tomorrow. I am determined not to let the trappings of Christmas take over my house. Decorative items can take over, but not the supplies and tools of the holiday season!

LOVELY BLOGS: Old Fashioned Girls

Rachel and Miranda blog together about their shared passions: good books, afternoon tea, letter writing, knitting, black and white films, and stylish clothes. Recently they're blogging about re-reading "Little Women" at Christmastime (something I do some years too!), an update on what they're reading in their book club, a peek at the lovely Christmas cards they're sending out, and what they're reading this winter.

LOVELY BOOKS: Kitchen Creamery

I think I am going to treat myself to this book for Christmas. I'm really into the idea of making my own yogurt, cheese, and butter at home. That way I can be sure they don't have too many additives or chemicals, and I can add whatever herbs and flavors I want to customize them with. The book doesn't come out until late January, which is perfect since I'll be too busy with Christmas celebrations to be puttering around in the kitchen experimenting with yogurtmaking anyway!

Kitchen Creamery, on

LOVELY FOOD: Reindeer Noodle Soup

I love specialty shaped pastas! This one isn't vegetarian, so I can't enjoy it myself, but I will serve it to my nephews when they come visit this weekend. It will be good to have something filling and salty in their stomachs before we dive into all our Christmas cookie baking!

Reindeer Noodle Soup, on Amazon

LOVELY KIDS: Wooden Greenhouse Gift for Christmas

Here's a really cool gift for children growing up in a family of gardeners - their own adorable little wooden greenhouse. It comes with 49 pieces - plants, flowers, shelving, a watering can and other accessories. I just wish they offered Asian and black gardener figures as an add-on option.

Wooden Greenhouse by Goki, on Amazon


Oh how fun! This is vintage antiques and collectibles store Ruby Lane's magazine on vintage collectibles and the vintage lifestyle. You can read each issue for free. Currently, the Winter 2014 issue features articles on The Vintage Tree, decorating the mantel, All That Glitters stocking stuffers, the holiday table, plus holiday finds and wish lists. This is fun to flip through during my morning hot tea break!

Ruby Read, on Issuu

LOVELY SHOPS: Christmas Jul

This Etsy shop specializes in Christmas fabrics and Christmas crafting supplies. There are several adorable Michael Miller fabrics here, including Yule Critters; plus some quilt patterns, embroidery and quilting supplies. The Christmas fabrics include over 200 different styles!


Chestnut Chocolate Bread Wreath (Domestic Gothess)

Chicken Alfredo Pizza Bites Wreath (Bubbly Nature Creations)

Christmas Wreath Macarons (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Crab Manicotti with Bechamel Sauce (The Stay at Home Chef)

Cranberry Mustard (The Painted Apron)

Cranberry Cheesecake Bars (I Married a Milkman)

Cranberry Chocolate Scones (Decor8)

DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater Ornaments (Aunt Peaches)

Easy Penguin Cookies (The Bearfoot Baker)

Mashed Potatoes & Clouds (101 Cookbooks)

No One Agrees on Who is Doing Domestic Chores (Forbes)

Thai Tortellini Fritters (Just a Pinch)

The Toys That Send Kids to the Emergency Room (The Atlantic)

Where to Move in America If You Want a Job, More Money or Lots of Single People (The Atlantic)

Wreath Recipe Book Review (Christina Williams)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living