Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve!


- Put on a pretty party dress - even if you are just staying home!

- Eat and drink something festive tonight, diets be damned

New Year's Eve

Have fun! Don't drink and drive, remember to invite lonely friends if you're hosting a party, and look forward to a happy 2010.

If you're staying home alone, that's ok. Give yourself permission to have fun and not feel bad about being alone tonight. Quiet time at home guarantees you peace and, relaxation. Plus you can watch whatever and eat whatever you want without other people commenting!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Almost the End of December


- Need to pay any end-of-the-month bills?

- Do laundry, changing sheets on beds if needed

- Pick out a pretty party dress for New Year's Eve. Even if you're staying home! Try it on to be sure it's clean and fits. Find shoes, stockings, jewelry and accessories so you'll have them out for tomorrow.

- Make family phone calls today if needed. Any relatives you forgot to call over the holidays?

- Write thank-you notes for Christmas presents


My house is in good shape going into the New Year, except for my three bathrooms. They all need mirrors wiped, sinks and toilets sterilized, bathtub scrubbed, shower scrubbed, floors mopped, hand towels and rugs laundered, and baseboards dusted.

I also have some cluttery things in the bathrooms, like too many candles, perfume bottles, empty vases, and old magazines to get rid of. The trash needs to be taken out, and I need to refill the toilet paper emergency restocking supplies I keep under the counter.

This is not a glamorous project today, but a very important one.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reflecting Back on 2009

Was 2009 a good year for you? Or a difficult one you're glad to put behind you? What are some things you did wrong last year, some things you're proud of, and some things you wish you could change? What will you do right in 2010? What will you do more of, and what will you do less of?

Today I'm spending some soul searching time looking back on 2009, which was an incredibly difficult year for my family. I don't want to dwell on the negativity, but also don't want to blithely pretend bad things didn't happen, and sugarcoat my memories. I need to learn from mistakes I made, and experiences that happened to me. Then move on and continue to strive for happiness.


- Fridge and freezer maintenance. Clean one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves of your fridge or freezer.

- Laundry all done? Beds changed and made up fresh?

- Need to scoop any cat litter or clean catboxes? With the snow and cold weather, my cats are using their indoor box much more often than normal.

- How are your nails looking? Need to touch up your manicure for the upcoming New Year's festivities?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Look Back on 2009

Grab your calendar, diary, Livejournal, Facebook notes, or just your brain and reflect back on your last year. What are the happiest things that happened? What are your best memories from 2009?

Family: Did you make time for your friends and family? Did you enjoy some quiet evenings at home, and make eating at the family dinner table a priority in your home? Were you able to take a family trip this year? Any relatives you haven't talked to or written to in over 6 months? Have you had professional photos taken of your kids in the last 12 months to send to relatives? (Or if you can't afford it, pics taken with your own digital camera and printed out on your printer or sent via the web?)


Have you been able to enjoy time with friends? Anybody you've lost touch with over the years that you'd like to work to reconnect with? Anybody you should invite to come visit, or make plans to meet up with? How many birthdays did you miss this year because you forgot to check your calendar? (I'm guilty of at least six!)


Did you keep up with your home repairs, general housekeeping maintenance, decluttering and improvements? Do you feel happy to come home after a long day, because your home is a cheerful refuge? Are there some things you want to change in 2010, perhaps some decor or furniture arrangement, just to keep things fresh and mix it up a little?


What are you proud of yourself for this year? Have you been able to give yourself time to do the things you enjoy? Have you blogged, journaled, cooked, crafted, gardened, vacationed, gone to a movie, taken an online or in person class, gone to your favorite restaurant, snuck yourself a naughty fast food treat, gone to coffee or tea with your best friend, given generously to charity, enjoyed a Girls Night Out? Is there a stack of books you mean to do a better job of enjoying next year? Do you feel beautiful? Do you like the way your hair currently looks, or are you going to try something different in 2010?

I'm not asking for comments on this post, because your answers are private, meant for yourself to think about, not for us to snoop at!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cleaning Up Between the Holidays


- Fill up with gas if needed

- Are you going out tonight? Make reservations and socialization plans. Staying in by the warm fire like we are? Light your fire and get out something bubbly. I always end up with way too much leftover unopened champagne bottles after New Year's. This year I'm starting to enjoy champagne in the days leading up to New Year's too!

- Be sure to put any gift cards you got into the purse or wallet you're carrying with you. You never know when you'll end up at a mall and see something intriguing to use your gift card on.

- Think about the thank-you cards you need to write very soon for any gifts you received. I'll be working on mine tomorrow, but need to jot down some quick notes on who gave me which gift.

- Anybody you tried to call but weren't able to get ahold of on Christmas? Anybody you forgot to call? Have any relatives with a birthday a couple days after Christmas, like I do? Make some quick calls today and tomorrow to catch up.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Cleanup

Is your Christmas tree still green and pretty? Can you get away with leaving it up for the New Year? If not, take it down and get rid of it. Store ornaments and decorations away properly. Take the time to do it right so you won't damage your possessions.

Even if you plan to leave Christmas decorations up for another week, I bet you can find some projects to do tonight really quickly. If you entertained at home, you likely have vacuuming, clutter clearing, and kitchen cleaning to do. How are your bathrooms - did your houseguests use them often? Refill toilet paper, launder towels and hand towels. Need to do laundry tonight to change sheets?

If you were away, do you need to unpack your bags, put away gifts, put away children's toys you took on your trip, start thank you notes?

I need to do laundry, vacuum, and tidy the kitchen before I leave town for New Year's.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all have wonderful, stress-free holidays!

In January I'll be writing about winter projects (Photo album sorting, etc) and some personal growth challenges we might think of taking on.

Christmas Activity Suggestions:

It can be hard to be cooped up in the house with houseguests and relatives for several days, even if you love them dearly and get along great. However, try to find a balance so people don't feel stressed or pressured with all the outdoor activities too. Sometimes it IS good to be a bit cooped up indoors for a peaceful evening.

Try to find things to do that will get people out of the house often. It's a bit tricky with cold weather, rain and snow, but you can always bundle people up into an SUV.

- Play board games, do puzzles and make crafts with family members while cooped indoors.

- Look at old photo albums together and watch funny family videos.

- Drive around at night looking at Christmas lights.

- Visit a tourist attraction in your city (Check their webpages first to see when they're open). Try the zoo, an aquarium, museums.

- Go to a movie, a time-honored tradition.

- Go to after-Christmas sales.

- Visit the animals at a shelter (But agree before you go that nobody's bringing one home as a Christmas present for someone else! Pets should be adopted long before or long after holidays, not as a surprise present)

- Go sledding, ice skating or skiing.

- Make a family project to go shovel snow at an elderly neighbor's house

- Light a fire in the fireplace and tell spooky stories.

- Make a treasure hunt in your yard, bundle the kids up and have them go hunt for goodies.

- If you still have company when the libraries re-open, take the kids to the library for Story Hour. Your local big chain bookstore may have some events, too.

- Send a few people to the grocery store, and have a big group cooking activity when they get back with their purchases.

- Try group-activity games such as karaoke and Wii games.

- Get out someone's camcorder and make a funny family movie to send to other relatives later.


Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (Google Books)

The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost Christmas

Are you ready for Christmas (assuming you celebrate it?) If you're traveling, are you packed and do you have emergency snacks and/or food with you?

If you're hosting, is your house clean and ready to go? Baking done? Groceries shopped for? Done wrapping presents?


- If you're staying home for the holidays, check with area friends and family to be sure they have somewhere to go on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Invite them over if they don't.

- Mail out any remaining holiday cards you might have left.

Need to bring in extra firewood from outdoors?

- Sort out and organize your hot beverage supplies so you're ready to make hot coffee in the mornings, hot chocolate in the evenings, and hot tea in the afternoons.

- Go to the bank or post office if needed, before they close for the holiday

- Need to hit the grocery store so you aren't running down there frantically for something on Christmas Eve?

- Any laundry that needs doing?

- Check out the weather forecast before traveling or just so you know what to expect.

- Set a holiday book or two on your coffee table as conversation pieces.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Christmas Preparations

Without getting stressed about it, do whatever things you need to get done before the holiday. Pack luggage if needed, wrap remaining presents, bake foods for family members, water Christmas tree if needed. Fill stockings for the children if you haven't already.

Whisk through your house tidying it for the holiday. With extra family coming and going, my house definitely is getting dirty much faster than normal. I have extra trash to empty, bathrooms that need cleaning more frequently, and every carpeted room needs vacuuming. I need to sweep my entryway (Christmas tree needles, leaves and dirt) and mop it (muddy boots).

Remove clutter and things like newspapers, magazines, drinking glasses, plates and utensils from rooms of the house where they've wandered. Remove items from stairs and put them in their proper homes. Hang up coats, launder and put away mittens and gloves if needed. Straighten pillows and fold throw blankets, wipe off TV remotes and replace them where they belong. I don't know about you, but we have a huge pile of DVDs that need to be replaced in their cases and put back on their bookshelf.

Assign someone in your family to shovel your walks and driveway if needed. This is good exercise, too! Rounds of hot chocolate for all when they are done!

LOVELY BOOKS: Christmas Poems and Pictures

I found this charming 1864 book on Google Books. It's a book of Christmas poems, songs, and carols. I thought you might have fun reading through "Christmas in the Olden Time" by Sir Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray's "The Mahogany Tree," and Coleridge's "A Christmas Carol."

Christmas Poems and Pictures, at Google Books


Oprah's Holiday Food and Party Planner (

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Counting Down Til Christmas

Seven days until Christmas!

Don't forget to make time every day for yourself. Insist on giving yourself some "down time." Even if it's just ten minutes, you can put your feet up, relax, and do something just for you for a few moments. Read a magazine, sip hot chocolate, write in your journal, meditate, or call a friend.


- Need to shovel any walks? Or better yet, force a husband, boyfriend or teenager to do it? Muwahahaa.

- Fluff up your bedroom. Take just a few minutes to make the bed, whisk away magazines and books, dust the nightstand and lamp, replace drinking glasses with fresh water, carry out unneeded dishes to the kitchen, throw away old flowers, put away pens and notepads. Pick up clothing, hang it up or put it in your laundry basket.

- Read a holiday-themed book with your children tonight, in addition to their normal bedtime reading.

- If you celebrate Christmas, treat yourself to some Christmas-themed web surfing. Read up on the Christmas customs of other countries, revisit old Christmas stories, enjoy looking through Christmas recipes and crafts, and maybe peek at some Christmas webcams.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Getting Ready for New Clutter

Got kids? Clean out your kids' closets and toy boxes (preferably with their help) to make room for Christmas presents. Donate clothes and toys that are still in good condition; throw away the rest of the outgrown toys and clothes that aren't nice enough to give away.

I don't have kids, but I will be cleaning out my guest bedroom closet and putting some more work into my own clothes closet. I don't expect to receive any clothes as gifts for Christmas, but it seems I never quite catch up with sorting. I sorted it recently, but just yesterday was able to find a ratty old sweater to give up on and throw away.

I'll also be sorting out my Christmas gift wrapping closet, which is a disaster zone right now. There are empty cardboard tubes that need to be recycled, snippings from ribbons, scraps of paper, tape, glitter to vacuum up and various velvet and fake flower trimmings to put back away.


This article from has adorable ideas for festive holiday goodies. There are recipes for edible snowmen cupcakes, creamy truffle "ice cubes," white hot chocolate, a brownie tree, a Santa Claus cake, and other fun ideas.

Festive Winter Holiday Treats

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Beauty

Today I'm doing some beauty related chores so I will look my best for the holidays. I am going to a holiday party tonight, so I have a fun excuse to dress up and look festive.


- Do a quick pick-up of whichever room in your home needs it the most. Remove clutter, do a quick sweep, mop or vacuum, dust quickly, and generally turn the room back the way you prefer it to look.

- Any mid-week laundry to do?

- Have you taken your vitamins this week?

- Were you able to carve out (and enforce) a quiet evening at home this week? It works wonders for preserving sanity during the holidays.

- Do you have an "emergency contacts" phone number list posted on paper in your house? For babysitters or your kids to use in case they need to get ahold of relatives? Time to update the list and make sure the info is current. Do you have your contacts' cell, work and home phones all listed?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Beauty

What would make you feel you look extra special for the holidays? I need to retouch my roots with my current hair dye, give myself a manicure and pedicure (to save $50 and 2 hours, though the pampering would be nice), clean up my eyebrow area (but not too much plucking), and give myself a thorough sugar scrub in the shower tonight.

Do you need to shave, moisturize, scrub your skin, wear a face mask, go to bed with lotion in your socks, or work on any problem areas like heels and elbows?

Any favorite perfumes you like to wear this time of year that you haven't made time to get out and make available for daily use? Need to throw out any messy, cruddy lipsticks or lipglosses? Have any glittery eyeshadow or lotion that will make you feel extra festive?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009



- Phone a relative you haven't talked to in a while.

- Refrigerator maintenance - Clean and restock one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves.

- Take ten minutes to yourself (regardless of children, pets, significant others wanting your time - demand the alone time you deserve) to hide in the bathroom, bedroom, or even a closet if need be. Do something you enjoy. Paint your nails, read half a magazine, glance through a catalog, listen to music, or just sit resting with your eyes closed. This will help with the pre-holiday sanity maintenance.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Potential Projects

- Bake cookies, pies and other baked goods. Sort out your cupboard and inventory your cookie sprinkles, frostings, cutters, tips, and other decorating supplies. Don't buy anything because you probably already have enough.

- Sort out your game closet or box of household games. Discard old games you can honestly admit you'll never play; schedule an after-Christmas shopping trip to replace that dogeared old set of Old Maid cards. You'll need games for upcoming holiday visits and long winter evenings, so get your games in good shape. For each game you're keeping, organize it, examine pieces for damage, throw out old used scorecards or papers, count and make sure you have all the needed pieces to play it. You can find extra games for cheap on Ebay to salvage for parts. Discard the unused parts so you don't end up with clutter.

- Majorly clean a room.

- Majorly clean kitchen, if it needs it.

- Clean refrigerator in preparation for holiday events.

- Drive (or bundle up and walk) around your city looking at holiday lights. My family likes to pack big thermoses of coffee and hot cocoa, pile blankets into someone's minivan and all pile in. We go to some of the ritzier neighborhoods, thinking they have more money to buy nicer lights and hire professionals to decorate for them so the scenes will be even more dazzling.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday in December


- Pay any mid-month bills, if needed

- Plan menus for the week and create grocery shopping list

- Need to replace any burned out light bulbs?

- Christmas Eve is 10 days away.

Nigella Christmas, at Amazon

TODAY'S PROJECT: All Over Tidying

Though I've tried really hard to maintain the house in a clean condition and do projects every day to keep it that way, it needs some extra tidying help right now.

I went out of town last week. When I came back, I tried to view my house through the eyes of a stranger walking in for the first time. I saw kitty paw prints on the front entryway floor, a coat draped over the couch, too many pairs of shoes by the front door, and empty candle holders stacked on the dining table. The living room coffee table has too many magazines piled on it, and the fireplace doors need to be scrubbed.

In the kitchen, I noticed the microwave was dirty, my stovetop needs polishing, and we're out of paper towels.

The hallway leading to the bedroom needs to be vacuumed due to cat hair, and there are Christmas presents and wrapping supplies in the downstairs living room. The gifts should be put away under the tree and the paper should be put into the gift wrap storage box.

What little projects do you need to complete today to whip your house into shape for the holidays?

LOVELY BLOGS: Lovely Little Things

I think you'll enjoy peering into the life and thoughts of this Seattle elementary school teacher. Currently she's sharing absolutely gorgeous photos of the waterfalls at Snoqualmie Falls (near where I live too), linking to the video for my favorite Christmas song ("Christmas Wrappings" by the Waitresses), and showing us some things she recommends as stocking stuffers and holiday gifts. She also points out an interesting documentary called "Babies" that I hadn't heard of.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

L'Occitane Candied Fruit candle, at Amazon


- If you've been using your fireplace, need to clean it out so you can lay a fresh nice fire tonight?

- Have you been burning candles? Need to trim any wicks, clean out any gunky wax, or set out fresh candles tonight?

- Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean out one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves from both your fridge and freezer. Doing this faithfully every weekend means your fridge is completely sorted out every month. Or you can industriously clean it all out at once and get it over with!

- Get out "the good dishes." Even if you aren't making a fancy meal tonight, use your fancy dishes, beautiful ones, special ones for your dinner. It might take a bit of extra work (you might have to hand wash them) but it will make tonight's meal magical.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Celebration

No matter what holiday you celebrate, spend time with family, friends, pets, and yourself tonight. Relax and enjoy and let the housekeeping sort of take care of itself. You might do a quick vacuum, pick up wrapping paper, wipe down the kitchen counters, but don't kill yourself cleaning. You'll miss out on spending holiday time with the family. Play games, read books, watch a movie together, or bake up a big fun mess in the kitchen.

Our lives can't be 100% housekeeping 100% of the time. Our homes shouldn't look like magazine pictures, because then they won't look warm, cozy, lived in and enjoyed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sparkling Holidays


- Do you have a pileup of plastic bags in the kitchen that need to go be recycled?

- If you have a Christmas tree up, check to see if it needs water, and vacuum around it really quickly if needed. We've been tracking needles onto my entryway, so I need to sweep that too.

- Plan your weekend. Make appointments, plan to get together with family, get dinner reservations, purchase movie tickets, plan menus, etc.

- Tidy up really quickly. Wipe down kitchen sink and counters, declutter dining table, vacuum living room, remove clutter, refold throws, fluff pillows, bring escaped dishes back into the kitchen and put in dishwasher.

- Quickly check over your emergency power outage supplies. Do you have a working flashlight with working batteries in every major room of your home? (Firefighters recommend you don't light your houses with candles during power outages but.. Do you have candles and matches nearby too just in case?) If you have a fireplace, do you have an easy starter log, dry firewood, kindling and matches accessible?

- Does your home smell nice today? Mine doesn't (it smells a bit musty from being shut up due to the cold) except for my Christmas tree. Fix any sources of bad smells (kitchen trash needs to go out?) and treat yourself to seasonal aromatherapy. Burn incense, put fragrant oils in your tealight infuser, light a candle in the room you're in, boil cinnamon and oranges on your stove, or spray a home fragrance spray. Winter scents include pine, oranges, cloves, cinnamon, eggnog, peppermint, cranberry, berry, rosemary and frankincense. Set your bread machine, if you have one, to bake bread overnight so you are woken to the smell of fresh bread.


Choose two shelves of glassware (Goblets, crystal, wine glasses, anything you might use to entertain with) that look dusty. This might mean a curio cabinet or your kitchen cupboards. I particularly have to embark upon this project because I have an entire buffet of dusty Pier 1 holiday goblets I'm going to need in upcoming weeks. My basic everyday wine glasses get used and washed frequently and so aren't dusty, but our fancier "company" glasses are not in ready-to-go shape. The shelves they sit on are horribly dusty, too.

Remove the glassware and hand wash it; dry the glassware; wipe and dry the shelves. Replace the goblets in an orderly or attractive fashion, putting the glasses you expect to use the least often towards the back of the shelf. Take a quick visual inventory - do you have any sets that need another goblet or two added? Did you break any glasses in the last year that need to be replaced? Is there anything with chips in it that needs to be thrown away and replaced? Add any Must-haves and I-Wants to your shopping list to look over next time you're in your favorite home or kitchen store.

Treat yourself when you're done by putting a special drink (whether it be soda, wine, a cocktail or a sparkling cider) into one of your most gorgeous glasses, and sip it slowly while relaxing in your comfiest chair.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Making the Holidays Magical

What can you do to make the holidays more magical for your family, your friends, and yourself? Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice; or if you're an atheist who just likes the snow, festive atmosphere and pretty lights - what can you personally do to foster a warm holiday spirit? What things make the holidays really exciting for your children, your spouse/significant other, your parents, your sister, or your best friend?


- Eat some fruit. It's easy to forget to slice and enjoy fruit, especially in this busy time of year.

- Eat up some leftovers, if you have any. I need my fridge to be more empty by the weekend (so that I have room for party food). Plus I want to save money by using up perfectly good leftovers instead of running to the grocery store one more time this week.

- On the topic of leftovers, take a quick peek in your freezer. Is there something in there that you've had for a while and haven't used, probably because it takes more time to prepare than you think you can spend? Make a plan to use and enjoy that food this weekend - or give up on it and get rid of it. I have a nice bag of frozen broccoli and water chestnuts - perfect for stir fry, only I never seem to have fresh tofu in the house and I don't make the time to actually make the stir fry. I swear I am going to enjoy that meal this week. I'm adding tofu to my grocery list and I'll pick it up at the store today!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Magic

Think of something you can do today, and this weekend (as well as on Hanukkah or Christmas days) to make it magical and beautiful for yourself and for your family and friends.

You don't need to spend money to accomplish this, but you do need to spend time thinking, preparing, and doing.

Today, you might read one extra bedtime story (something with a holiday theme?); let little ones stay up just a wee bit longer if they are doing something with you (rather than camped in front of the TV or videogames by themselves). Play a board game after dinner instead of rushing to do the dishes; listen to holiday songs on the stereo during dinner or cleanup time; light a fire in the fireplace; open a bottle of something festive (champagne? sparkling grape juice?) to make dinner more special. Serve dinner (however simple the meal is) on your festive china. Burn incense, holiday candles, or pine scented oil in your fragrance diffuser.

This weekend opens up all sorts of possibilities for surprising your family with small treats, extra attention and affection, time spent doing something fun with you, putting up an extra set of lights or two, burning a couple extra candles, serving a special (but not over the top) meal, playing karaoke or Wii Fit with your kids, bringing home a festive houseplant for the dining table, making a holiday breakfast with Santa-shaped pancakes, inviting just a couple friends over for a holiday movie night; babysitting your best friend's kids for 3 hours for free so she can get some Christmas shopping done; and baking festive holiday cookies.

You can add some magic to the holidays without stressing yourself out. Just be relaxed about it. Give of yourself and your time.

What are the important things about the holidays? Spending time with family, children, friends; a warm inviting home; special meals; delicious beverages both hot and cold; candlelight and Christmas lights; cookies and desserts; a few days off from work perhaps; cards and phone calls from far away friends and relatives; photographs sent to you of cute young kids; festive drawings kids make you for your fridge; beautifully decorated homes; board games played til midnight; holiday music; festive parties; perhaps a snowy leisurely morning to sit back with a cup of steaming tea and a book you've been dying to read.

I notice I didn't mention gifts in the above list as I was thinking and typing and talking out loud to myself. I love buying gifts, giving gifts, and wrapping gifts, especially for children. Gifts definitely can make a holiday magical. But they can also be the most stressful part of the holidays for so many people. The malls are crowded, you're not sure what to get someone, the other shoppers are grumpy, you're exhausted, you don't have as much money to spend as you like or you spent too much money and feel guilty; you worry someone won't like what you got; you worry your sister will give your child a more expensive toy than you can; your mom gave your adult sibling a better gift than you got; etc. etc.

I'm going to make my own personal holiday much more magical by not stressing about the gifts. I'll strive to be spending carefully, giving joyfully, wrapping festively, and not worrying about it too much.

I'd like to continue to strive to give gifts year-round when I see something that reminds me of someone, rather than just giving things I thought I should buy at Christmas. I'll try year-round to give gifts of myself and my time. Babysit for people; cook for them; offer a ride to the airport; offer petsitting when someone is out of town; write someone an unexpected cheery letter; take someone out and treat them to a movie just-because. That's what I'm going to TRY to do in 2010 and for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Keeping Warm and Cosy

Cute warm gloves from Target

It's in the 20s here in Seattle this week, a bit abnormally cold for this area. I'm finally starting to dress more warmly both at home and when I'm going out. (I often tough it out and skip a coat if it's in the upper 40s!) I normally don't wear socks year round, but have been making myself do it lately. And I guess I am getting old, because I turned the thermostat down one degree and started wearing sweaters or coats in the house! My father would be so proud!

I'm treating myself to my gas fireplace for an hour or two every evening when I get home. It costs around 50 cents an hour, so I'm spending $30 or more a month on this luxury. I'll find something else to cut out (Starbucks, desserts, cocktails at bars) to save that $30 so I can be cozy while watching movies, folding laundry, and reading magazines.

Tonight is my planned weekly "stay at home and stay calm and relax" night. I very firmly enforce this and I said no to a dinner invitation that would have been fun to accept. Tonight, there's no rushing around to holiday parties, no rushing from store to store, no housework, no stressful things allowed. I plan to make a simple bread, pasta and salad dinner, and light a wood fire.

Are you enjoying your wood-burning fireplace if you have one? Is it clean and ready to be used should the mood (or cold) strike? Have plenty of firewood and fire starting supplies on hand? If you use "Bed Buddies" or some other heatable, microwavable warmers, are they nearby where you can find them? Covers clean?


- Clean fireplace if needed

- Need to sweep, mop or vacuum your front entryway, or back mudroom?

- Need to launder any throw blankets you cuddle up with on the couch? Mine gets lots of cat fur on it, so tonight it's being tossed in with a load of white towels I'm washing already.

- Wrap up any last gifts.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Sock Drawer and Glove Basket

I'm sorting my sock drawer this afternoon. I do this once a year in winter, about the only time I wear socks. I am mercilessly getting rid of socks with bad elastic or holes, socks that are itchy or too tight or too ugly, and of course socks that I absolutely cannot find a match for.

I will only keep socks that I know I will actually wear. I'll see if I need to pick up a new pair or two. I know I would like more pairs of a particular style of uber soft house socks (the kind with tiny rubber pads on the bottom so you don't slide around on your wood floors). I have a pair in black and one in red, but I'd like to be able to wear them every day and launder in between. I think I'll pick up two or three more pairs.

I'll be throwing unwanted socks away instead of donating them to charity - if they're not good enough for me to wear, they certainly aren't a nice donation for an unfortunate person.

I mustn't forget to go through my leggings and warm tights too.

When I'm done, I will have a lot less in my sock drawer, and everything will be arranged nicely so I can get dressed and out of the house even faster in the mornings.

Next I'll tackle our glove basket we keep by the front door. It also has warm hats and scarves we can wear outdoors. I will throw out anything that doesn't have a matching set, and I can restock easily with Target's under-$5 soft gloves.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas Tree Decorating

What I'm enjoying using in the shower this month: Merry Cranberry Shower Gel, from The Body Shop

Today some cousins are arriving to help me put up and decorate my Christmas trees. I'm splurging a bit this year, craving festive decor. I'll have a large tree in my upstairs living room window, and then a small potted living tree in the downstairs living room. In spring we will plant it in my back yard.

Tonight we'll play our " Santa Claus is Comin to Town" movie in the room we're working in. We'll have a fire going, plus popcorn and hot chocolate to sustain us.

There are five boxes of ornaments to paw through, selecting only our very favorites for each tree. The downstairs tree is much smaller, so our tiniest ornaments will probaly end up there. The ornaments we don't hang will go back into storage in my garage. I've been doing a pretty good job of not buying any more new ornaments the last couple years - we have more than enough!


- Make menu plans for the week, and add items to grocery list as needed.

- Wrap a couple presents tonight if you need to, and write out as many holiday cards as you can.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Christmas Tree Decorating

After my Christmas tree gets put up, and people have been baking in the kitchen, I know already that I am going to have to devote time to my floors tonight. The living room and family room will need needles vacuumed out of them, and the porch and front entryway will need to be swept.

The kitchen, of course, will need to be defloured with a mop after all the cookie baking that will go on tonight.


This blog is by a designer of home accessories. She's also a mom who loves to travel and entertain. She has an Etsy store, but doesn't just post ads for her things on the blog. Instead, you're treated to a look at her holiday mantel, the first snowfall to hit her home this year, her Christmas cones, and some handmade Santas she found at a craft show a couple years ago.

I think you will like looking through the pictures on her blog. I'm not sure I'm all that crazy about the idea of burlap Christmas stockings - but hers look simply sweet.


Can Romance Flourish in Recession? (

Christmas Cookie Swap Party (Good Housekeeping)

Glamour Gift Guide: 30 Under-$30 Presents (

Mexican Hanukkah Menu (Bon Appetit)

100 Christmas Party Fashion Must-Haves (Handbag)

The Resurgence of the Tie-Pin (Financial Times)

The World of Christmas (National Geographic Traveler)

Yarn Snowmen Crafts (Good Housekeeping)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Family Night

Just treated myself to this cute retro-styled book of Christmas celebration ideas. It's written for ages 9-12 but useful to adults too.

Tonight is Family Night at my house. Just a simple dinner and time spent together. I'm wishing I'd thought to invite some cousins with three small children who live across town - but it's such a busy time of year, I suppose they wouldn't have had time to come anyways.


- Refrigerator/freezer maintenance - Time to do our weekly cleaning of one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves. This way our fridges are fully cleaned a minimum of once per month.

- Is there a family member you should give a catchup phone call to this evening? I like doing this long before Christmas so they don't think it's an obligatory "It's the holidays so I guess I really should call you" call.

- Do a quick sort-through on your fruit bowl and bread basket. Anything you need to throw out? I have to say goodbye to an apple we didn't eat fast enough, the end of an old loaf of bread, a sad looking yam we didn't make on Thanksgiving, and a weird looking garlic bulb.

- Catch up with your laundry, if needed, so you don't have big piles that carry into next week.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Tackling Something Big

Before my family members arrive, I will do a housecleaning project.

What needs most to be done in your house? Do you need to do a whole bunch of little maintenance decluttering and straightening, or do you need to attack an entire room or a big project? Give yourself time today - but don't get so focused on the cleaning you make yourself crazy or don't have time for your family.

Today the project I need to do most I think is my bathroom. The shower needs scrubbing, and I might as well do the toilet too while I'm there, a bit of preventative maintenance. My bath towels are looking a little sad, so I'll launder them and my bath mat. The floor needs to be mopped, and my bathroom sink and counters cleaned off.

Tonight when I take my before-bed shower, I'll be enjoying it in a sparkling clean bathroom.


This fun, chic blogger shares recipes, entertaining ideas, tips on decorating for parties, and lovely fun party-related links she finds. If you often find yourself enjoying the role of a hostess, you'll probably find a lot here you'll enjoy reading.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Holiday Shopping

I'm sorely tempted by Pier 1's cute gingerbread house candles. They'd look nice on my mantel next to my sparkly Christmas Tree candle.


- If you've been wrapping gifts, see if you need to reorganize your gift wrapping box or station. Throw out those little odds and ends of paper you save "just in case I have to wrap something small." Odds are you won't actually ever find anything to wrap in those. Remember not to burn wrapping paper in the fireplace (though it's sorely tempting). The chemicals produced by burning wrapping paper can produce toxic fumes, and burning paper can ride up your chimney and catch the roof on fire. Organize your bows and ribbons. Put everything away if you are done wrapping for the year (lucky you!)

- Make weekend socialization plans if you don't have any set yet. Or cuddle up and stay home alone cozy tonight enjoying some quiet time.

- Fill up with gas for the weekend, if needed, and stop by an ATM for cash.

- Need to drop by the video store to rent movies for the rest of the weekend's entertainment?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Quick Polish and Declutter, Then Shopping

Tidy up for the weekend. Empty trash, take out recycling, freshen bathrooms, change bedding, sweep the front entryway, and do a miraculously quick cleanup on the kitchen. Have any dead flowers or houseplants to throw out? Can you squeak $8 out of your budget for fresh grocery store flowers for your home for the weekend?

Spend just a little time in every room whipping things into shape. In bathrooms, swish toilets, wipe mirrors and sinks, empty garbage, refill toilet paper roll if needed, and replace hand towels with clean ones.

In bedrooms, wash sheets if needed, remove empty drinking glasses, tidy up clutter, dust nightstands, and make beds. Need to vacuum?

In the kitchen, put dishes in dishwasher, scrub sink, wipe down microwave, fridge and counters, empty trash, sweep floor if needed.

In living room, pick up newspapers and magazines, dust TV, remove empty dishes and glasses, straighten pillows and refold throws. Sweep out fireplace (a task that should take no more than five minutes) and wash down the hearth. Vacuum a room or two if you have time and energy and if they need it.

Finish by spritzing with holiday scented room spray, then go have a glass of water to replenish your fluids after you expended so much energy making your home lovely.

After I'm done tidying today, I'm going Christmas shopping for my last two or three gifts. Later I'll join friends for dinner. We've chosen a restaurant that's nowhere near a mall, hoping to avoid crowds.

LOVELY MUSIC: Sting's "If On A Winter's Night"

I just treated myself to the new Sting holiday CD, featuring rearrangements of traditional holiday songs from the British Isles.

It's a major departure for Sting - his voice sounds totally different and he's purposely going out of his way to sing in a particular old style. I don't know if I can recommend this CD to any of you because your music preferences might be vastly different from mine, and this album is so different from what a Sting fan normally expects. I'm enjoying it on my car rides, but there are definitely a couple songs I skip over when they start playing (There is No Rose of Such Virtue and Now Winter Comes Slowly). My favorite song on the album is "Soul Cake."

Listen to the clips of the songs and see what you think.

Reading the reviews of this album on Amazon is actually quite entertaining - the fans are arguing back and forth about whether Sting's voice "sucks" on this album or whether this is a masterpiece album.

If On A Winter's Night, at Amazon


I wanted to point out that I normally include an affiliate link if I'm linking to something totally fabulous that I would talk about anyways, even if I wasn't an affiliate on whatever site the item is sold on. The Pier 1 candles I showcase above, for example, don't have an affiliate link because I'm not a Pier 1 affiliate. They're just something cute I wanted to show you.

I did not use an affiliate link when I mentioned the Sting album, though I'm an Amazon affiliate, because it's sort of an "iffy" album. Not everybody is going to like it. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was so desperate for a tiny bit of affiliate revenue that I would link to something weird or cram spammy advertising down your throats.

I'll always point out interesting or pretty things that I personally like on Lovely Living, whether or not I'm going to make money off of mentioning them. Lovely Living did start out as a "shopping finds" type blog, after all, and it didn't have affiliate links at all for the first several years. But I figured I might as well use an affiliate link when possible, because it doesn't hurt to get some extra pocket spending money here and there to use for books and pretty things!

And I love being able to "dress up" this otherwise text-heavy blog with pretty pictures here and there - copyrighted pictures I'm allowed to use because of my affiliate relationship!

LOVELY HOLIDAYS: Real Simple/Container Store Recipes

Real Simple magazine and The Container Store partnered together to share recipes for homemade treats you can gift. The recipes include sugar cookies, raspberry pinwheels, fudge sauce, lemon almond macaroons, cinnamon twists, spiced mixed nuts, and more.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Baking Day

"North Pole" Elf, Reindeer and Snowman pancake molds, at Williams-Sonoma


- How is your supply of hot cocoa doing? Tea? Coffee? Apple cider (both fresh squeezed and the alcoholic kind if you stock that?) Have a bottle or two of Sparkling Apple or Sparkling Pomegranate in case an unexpected dinner party turns up?

- Need to vacuum, sweep or mop any rooms to get a jump-start on the weekend?

- Need to return any pie pans, dishes, or serving pieces you might have been sent home with after Thanksgiving or a dinner party?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Baking and Provisioning

I think I'm staying in tonight, voluntarily, though it's a Friday night. I'm looking forward to just simply spending some time in the kitchen by myself, goofing around, making messes, experimenting, and hopefully baking some yummy treats to deliver this weekend to friends and family in the area.

I hope to give them something other than cookies, which are nice but seem sort of cliched. Maybe some gingerbread or lemon loaf, scones or muffins, or a home-baked loaf of bread. I might make a pumpkin pie for my household for the weekend too. It's not Christmasy, but we didn't get to eat very much of our pumpkin pie over Thanksgiving.

I'll put on Christmas music, and make hot cocoa with perhaps a bit of whiskey in it. Later after I'm tired from all the standing, I bet I will collapse onto the couch in front of a nostalgic old Rankin-Bass animated movie (probably "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town").

I predict tomorrow I'll be doing some extra kitchen mopping and cleanup. I'll put the things I used for baking away in the dishwasher overnight, and wipe down the counters, but probably will be tired and go to bed before the floor is mopped.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Decorating for the Holidays

Holly Kissing Ball, at Williams-Sonoma


- Need to launder your slippers or fuzzy socks? With the colder nights, I've been wearing either my pink slippers or my two pairs of black plush slipper socks for several days now. Both pairs are in dire need of visiting the laundry.

- Do you use an Advent calendar with your children? Either the paper or wooden kind? Any supplies you need to get for your Advent calendar to be ready? Coins, stickers, chocolates?

- Know where your snow shovel is? Can you get it out when you need it, in case it snows in your area this month? Do you need to buy rock salt? Do you have an ice scraper in your car for your windshield and windows?

- How is your family newsletter coming along, if any? Holiday card writing and mailing going along schedule?

- Made a plan for your family's charity contributions and/or activities this season?

What I'm burning in my living room this week: L'Occitane Winter Forest candle

TODAY'S PROJECT: Decorating for the Holidays

Today I am removing the last vestiges of my fall and Thanksgiving decor (purple, green, orange and gold) from my home. I am swapping in my holiday candles, red tablecloths, red beaded coasters, Christmas kitchen towels, and a red vase or two. In my family room and living room, I'm swapping out brown plush throws and pillows for red throws, white throws, and crimson pillows.

I've hung our four stockings by the fire (one for each of my kids and one for each of their girlfriends).

This week I burned up the last of my orange and pumpkin-scented candles (except for one huge orange one that I'll put away until next fall, unless I need it in a power outage between now and then). Today I'll spend about fifteen minutes cleaning out candleholders and cleaning wax off my downstairs brick mantel.

I don't put a lot of kitschy Christmas stuff out around to clutter up the house (It's already cluttered enough with books and magazines!). I wouldn't have a plush Santa or an elf sitting on the mantel, I refuse to get hooked on collectible Christmas villages, and I won't have a wooden or plastic reindeer standing by the front door. I do use some garlands for the mantels (real, not artificial).

But I use holiday colors when I set my table, decorate my couches, set out coasters for drinks to rest on, arrange candles, and choose houseplants and fresh flowers. Our bathrooms now have Target's "Method Home" berry handwashes, instead of this fall's lemon verbena.

Tonight I'll go shopping for a wreath made of fresh evergreens and put it on my front door. I'll also start putting up Christmas lights in each window of the house - even the kitchen ones that you can't see from the street. They're there just for our own enjoyment.

LOVELY BLOGS: New England Through Yummy Mommy's Eyes

I don't often showcase Mommy blogs just because there are so many good ones out there, it just seems redundant. You all likely have your own friends' mommy blogs to keep up with, and sometimes it doesn't seem to make sense to spend the time to pry into a stranger's life on her mommy blog. I'd rather snoop around on my own real-life friends' blogs, if they would only update them more often (cough).

What drew me to this blog is her thoughts on living simply, which intertwine here and there in all her posts. I liked reading her viewpoint on the ways she chooses to live a simple life - and it made me smile when she admitted sometimes you just have to buy a cute outfit for your daughter or do the very occasional run to Starbucks for a latte.

I adore her candy-free Advent calendar idea. Instead of candy, she puts a slip of paper behind each window, promising treats such as watching a Christmas movie, making a Christmas ornament, or having a "nail salon party" with Mom.

Other interesting recent posts include 12 Christmas Experience Gift Ideas, 12 New England Autumn Activities, and 50 Kids Birthday Party Ideas.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Winter Emergency Preparedness

Every winter lately, Seattle (as well as many other American cities) gets hit by some sort of really bad storm. Whether it be ice, rain, floods, snow or wind, something happens that shuts down power for a day or more; floods streets so you can't get around well; or causes traffic disruptions.

I've been fortunate not to be affected by too many problems - and a power outage for an evening is sort of fun once in a while (if you have a gas or wood burning fireplace).

But I'll never forget the year a windstorm knocked out power to our home for 7 days, and last Christmas we were snowed into our cul-de-sac for eight days.

So I try to stay as prepared as possible. I try to strike a good balance between having PLENTY of supplies on hand, but not having my home or garage filled with emergency supplies that become clutter. I don't want my emergency supplies to prevent me from enjoying my home. I don't want to have an unusable shower due to having dozens upon dozens of packages of toilet paper and paper towels stored in there. (I actually saw a TV show about a woman who did that!)

Do you know how to get home to your house more than three or four different ways (if applicable)? Do you know more than one route to your favorite two grocery stores? Do you know which local websites you can check for street closures or emergency info (assuming you have power?) Do you have flashlights, candles, matches, and firewood?

Which is the best radio station in your area to keep you informed about current traffic and weather conditions, especially when a disaster strikes?


- Wrap a gift or write one holiday card

- Eat some fruit if you haven't already today

- Quickly declutter one room, if any need it

- Sort mail table and pay any bills that came in

- Recycle latest magazines/catalogs you are done with

TODAY'S PROJECT: Emergency Preparedness

Three years ago, on December 14, Seattle had a major windstorm that left much of the city without power. Many homes, including mine, lost power for a week.

We were woefully unprepared for that long of an emergency. Not only did we not have enough firewood, nor a way to heat very much food, but we also didn't have enough gas in our cars. We'd started the week on quarter full tanks.

Nor did we have any cash to buy things with - the neighborhood stores didn't have power, and led people on flashlight tours of the stores, then wanted cash payments because their electronic cash registers were down.

We took friends in when we could, cooking outdoors and keeping warm with the fireplace, for two days. But then we ran out of firewood. We then accepted the help of other friends. It was time to abandon our cold, dark 40 degree house for a few days.

After the hard-working utility crews got our power back on seven days later, I vowed to never take power for granted again. I definitely have noticed myself turning off unused lights way more than I used to.

I also never wanted to be that unprepared again. I had a cord of wood delivered, and though I use a log or two from time to time, I treat the majority of the pile as untouchable, saved for an emergency. It's stacked neatly outside my home, protected from rain.

I have plenty of food stocked, more than one manual can opener, and two pans I can cook on my outdoor fire with. I have two boxes of Duraflames I don't touch or allow myself to use up (They are lousy for putting out heat, but nice for light in a dark house, and help get real wood fires started faster). And just to be sure I'd have dry wood in an emergency, I have three bags of wood stored in the garage. I know from our post-storm experience those three bags would provide enough wood for four hot meals for four people before burning all up.

I bought a couple more comforters. We thought we had a normal amount (two per bedroom) but when you are sleeping on the floor in front of your fireplace, in 30 degree weather, hoping you won't run out of wood in the night, you need a comforter under you and two or more over you. (We should have thought to drag mattresses off our beds in front of the fireplace, but didn't in all the stress).

I keep my car's gas tank as full as possible at all times now, during the winter. I'll even stop sometimes, if I happen to drive past a non-crowded gas station, and fill it up even if I still have 3/4ths of a tank. Filling my gas tank is one of the tasks I enjoy least in life, but I never want to be that low during a winter emergency again.

What would you do if your power was out for an extended time? We used to think we'd just go to a hotel, but we never anticipated an entire city of over a million people being out of power at the same time. The hotels were all sold out. Plus we didn't really have enough gas to drive to a hotel without stressing about running out of fuel on the way there.

How would you keep warm, how would you keep up with the news, how would you cook your food, how would you contact relatives to check on them? (I'm the only one of my family who still has a corded Princess phone. The power works differently for the phone system, so we had power to the phone line the entire time. My family members had cordless phones that need to be charged up or plugged into the wall, so they were incommunicado during the entire emergency week). Remember that even if your cell phone is charged, it won't necessarily work. In a city-wide power outage, the cell towers that move the phone calls around are probably out of power too, so your cell phone will be useless.

Do you know how to light the pilot light on your gas appliances if they normally have an electric switch? Do you know how to light your gas stove using matches, not just the switch?

You probably have enough batteries for your flashlight for a day long emergency. But do you have any idea how fast you go through flashlight batteries when your power is out for a week and you need a flashlight to find your clothes in your closet, your pets under beds, your food in the pantry? And you can't buy more batteries because the stores are closed or sold out of batteries because 1 million people in your city suddenly bought and hoarded them, or because you don't have any cash to buy batteries and the store's cash register is electronic?

Like me, you probably have a LOT of candles in your house. But when you're keeping a candle lit in the bathroom, kitchen, hallway and living room all at the same time, 16 hours a day, you burn through candles a lot faster than you could ever anticipate. (I liked having a few "lights on" in rooms we used frequently, so we didn't have to wander back and forth with dangerous drippy tapers).

And while you can sort of read by the light of one candle, it gets tiring after a while. You'd really need three or four candles to read comfortably or play board games with your houseguests. Experiment with it sometime and see - be sure to close your curtains to shut out any streetlights that might cheat the experiment by sending light into your house.

I found out a few helpful things: such as using Cyalume lights in the bathtub to help small children be less afraid to bathe in the dark. (Fortunately our hot water heater is gas). I learned you can easily cook scrambled eggs and pancakes over an open fire outdoors, but they cool off very quickly in the cold air so they should be eaten immediately.

What would you do if your gas AND electricity went out at the same time? We were very grateful for having both a wood burning fireplace, a gas fireplace AND a gas water heater. But our stove and oven are both electric, so we were cooking outside on our fire pit. We were very lucky it didn't rain or snow on our cooking fire.

Spend some time tonight looking through your supplies, and talking with your family about what you would do in case of flooding, fire, earthquake, snow, a tree hitting the house, and loss of power. You can do it gently and make it a fun adventurous topic so your kids don't get scared or depressed at all the "What if's."

Duraflame Log Safety FAQ

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December Begins

I'm giving away a few of the new Trader Joe's Belgian Chocolates as gifts this Christmas. Just $5 a box, and you get 25 lovely chocolates. I of course had to sample several to make sure they were delicious enough to give away!

This is the beginning of the most festive month of the year. Ahead are long, dark, cold nights, sprinkled with a liberal amount of parties, celebrations, events, guests, family and tasty shared meals. I'm looking forward to nights spent reading books in front of my fireplace, crafting, throwing a party or two, and going home to a family Christmas.

What are you looking forward to especially this month?


- Pay bills, rent/mortgage

- Look over your list of upcoming birthdays this month. Write cards and mail now - it will get busier this month and you may forget later on. Order flowers, and send gifts if you're planning to.

- Make room on your calendar for at LEAST one night *every* week where you can stay home in your pajamas, de-stress, and spend time with family or your significant other. At home, not running around busily to events or errands. Guard this time fiercely for yourself.

- If you use an Advent calendar or Advent house, time to get them out and stock them with small treats!

- Have you planned your holiday party yet, if you're throwing one? Your potential guests likely already have every weekend evening booked for the next month. Better send out a save-the-date or invitation immediately if you are hosting a holiday party this year.

- Do you need to make any doctor, dentist, vet, haircut or salon appointments for the next busy 4 weeks? Any appointments you can put off until next month, to keep December saner?

- Check inventory of firewood, starter logs, matches, and candles (if needed and if you have a wood fireplace)

- Bundle up and go for a quick, brisk walk if you didn't get any exercise this weekend. (If you went shopping at the mall, you probably DID get exercise already!) You can always treat yourself to a hot bath or extra long shower when you get back to warm back up.

- Make menu plans and create grocery list for the week

Red Jewel Ornaments, at Z Gallerie

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Preparation

Do whatever you need to do to prepare for whatever holidays you celebrate. Start planning your cooking for Hanukkah; or go Christmas shopping; write holiday cards; decorate the house; put up lights; bake goodies; decorate a gingerbread house with your kids or nieces/nephews. Need to pick out your Christmas tree?

Today I'm putting on Christmas music, wrapping gifts, and getting out my Christmas decorations. I put up my outdoor lights this weekend, and today I'm putting lights in my windows.

Tonight I'm emailing some friends and family members to make sure I have their current addresses and information for my address book. That way I'll have everything ready as I mail out my Christmas cards.

Tidings Stocking, from Crate & Barrel

I'm trying to decide if it's time to put Christmas stockings up in front of the fireplace. The problem is I already have some chocolates in each stocking, and I use my fireplace very often.. I think you can see where I'm going with this!

Here is a "guide to gracious and glamorous living." Recent posts have showcased mineral lamps, nursery decor, bamboo, and decorative planters. The blogger is based in Washington, DC, so shares info from that area on sample sales and sales at local shops.


This Flickr photostream belongs to a professional baker who creates lovely things for parties and events. There are all sorts of fun things to look through here, from Warhammer cupcakes to sushi mini cakes, Easter cupcakes, Halloween bat cupcakes, snowglobe Christmas cookies, and owl-and-bird cupcakes. A feast for the eyes!


Allowing Pasta to Drink to its Fill (NY Times)

Holiday Cookie Workshop (Bon Appetit)

The Latest Entrepreneurial Fantasy is Selling Cupcakes (NY Times)

25 Days of Christmas Cookies (Epicurious)

33 Gorgeous Holiday Wreaths (Martha Stewart)

Monday, November 30, 2009

End of November

Pacifica "Zanzibar Cinnamon Almond" - What I'm burning in my kitchen today

November ends. December begins, with its month full of dark nights, wintry cold, seasonal holidays, festive parties, and family gatherings.

Let's be sure to have some fun tonight or this week before the crowds completely make restaurants and malls unbearable. And before we get wrapped up (so to speak) in holiday preparations and all the busy times ahead.

After I finish cleaning today, I'm taking a friend out to dinner. It's a work night for both of us, so we won't stay out too late, but we'll have fun and make the most of our time. This is our chance to see each other before the holidays start consuming a lot of our evenings.


- Need to send any thank-you notes?

- Look over your past month. Did you achieve goals you set for yourself? (Whether they involve personal growth, housekeeping, crafting, cooking, socializing, decluttering, travel, book-reading, journaling, etc?)

- Make a meal that cleverly helps you use up your last leftovers from Thanksgiving?

- Spend a bit more time with your pets tonight. They may need extra affection after being stressed by visitors or by your absence this weekend.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Pick-A-Spot Cleaning

I don't want to involve myself in an enormous project, since I'm working today and trying to make time to go out in the evening. So I'm going to pick the worst spot of my house and work on it.

Right now the worst spot is my Breakfast nook. On Thanksgiving we piled it full of extra dishes, boxes of muffin mixes, cookie sheets and baking pans we removed from the oven to fit the turkey in, and my gingerbread house making supplies. I want to clear off the table, put everything back in its proper home, set the table with a new tablecloth, give up on a sad houseplant I accidentally killed, and mop the floor underneath. I also want to wipe the windowsills where I'd been displaying miniature pumpkins the past two months.

After dinner I'll come home to a table that's clean, fresh and ready to eat breakfast on in the morning!


Why We Shouldn't Buy Christmas Gifts (Time)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Autumn Beauty Routine

Today I'm taking care of myself so I'll continue to look my best through the holidays. I'm not obsessing over trying to be beautiful or glamorous or anything like that, just making sure I feel pretty when I go to this week's round of parties, dinners, lunches and cafes.


- How are you doing on eating up and using up Thanksgiving leftovers? Don't be afraid to pitch something you know you won't actually eat.

- Need to do any post-Thanksgiving laundry? The clothes your family traveled in? bedding your guests slept in? Towels from the kitchen? Bath towels?

- Need to catch up with some friends? Things may have been so busy with family over the holiday that you haven't gotten to see or talk to your favorite people lately.

- If you took a Thanksgiving road trip, do you need to clean out your car?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Autumn Beauty

Today I'm making time to take care of my skin and body. I'll be shaving, sugar scrubbing, moisturizing, and giving myself a manicure and pedicure. I also probably need to redo my roots (my hair is currently burgundy). I'll make a relaxing evening of it with good music, wine, my fireplace, and the phones turned off.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Missive Maven

This warms my heart - it's a blog dedicated to the lost art of snail mail letter writing. This blogger boldly puts her mailing address right on the blog and encourages you to write her a letter. (I can't seem to find her actual name though, so I have to address my correspondence to Missive Maven!) I'm going to write to her right now, though I am ashamed of my handwriting. Like me, she's a fan of Any Soldier. She shares mail art she's received, showcases interesting vintage stationery finds, and points out neat places you can find stationery online. I will definitely be back to this blog often to check it out - I think I'll become addicted!


I was so delighted and surprised by this movie, which I went to on Friday as part of Girls Night Out. We laughed and chuckled more than we had expected, and left the theater smiling. The film is centered around Jenny, a 16 year old Oxford-bound student who meets an older man. He takes her to jazz concerts, art auctions, and Paris (where she picks up the most heartachingly beautiful Sobranie Cocktails pastel cigarettes.) Suddenly Jenny wonders if she isn't getting a better education by traveling around with this man, than doing all the hard work of studying boring Latin. She definitely receives an education after what develops next...

Since the movie is set in 1960s London, the costumes, cars and set decoration are highly interesting to watch. I especially enjoyed seeing Rosamund Pike playing a ditz. (You might remember her as Jane Bennett from the 2005 Pride & Prejudice.)

An Education Trailer, at Apple

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Leisurely Holiday Weekend

I never can resist these snowflake-shaped crackers, I have to buy a box or two every winter. They just make my soup so festive!


- Have you sat down and watched the news (or spent some time with your preferred news website) in the last few days? A lot is going on, and it's too easy to focus so intensely on our Thanksgiving and family celebrations that we lose touch with what's going on in the world around us. It's easy enough to have it on in the background while we're doing laundry or catching up with magazines.

- Make weekend socialization plans if you haven't already. Today I'm going to a movie with friends who have said goodbye to their out-of-town houseguests. We might not go to dinner as both of our households have lots of leftovers to eat up still.

- Need to do any Christmas shopping this weekend? If you can't bear the crowds (I waited til 9pm to slink into Target last night to pick up a few things) shop online, or get other tasks out of the way so you can shop on a slower weeknight next week.

- Spend some extra time with your pets if needed. They may be upset after the flurry and activity of Thanksgiving, or might need extra attention if you've been traveling.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Laundry and Leftovers

Today I'm doing laundry, eating leftovers and rearranging my refrigerator. We had to move a bunch of our food around to make room for the turkey we were storing to take to another household. Now I can't find anything in the fridge. I'll be removing everything from my fridge and doing a major cleanup today.

Meanwhile my washer and dryer will be busy cleaning all the bedding in the house (including throws and the fluffy blankets we curl up in to watch movies downstairs). I'll also do a load of dark clothes before I leave for my movie.

LOVELY BLOGS: Found in Mom's Basement

This blogger unearths interesting vintage advertisements from magazines she finds in her mom's basement. Apparently her mom didn't throw much away! I really enjoy browsing through the old ads, seeing the fashions and hairstyles on the models, and looking at the products that were being advertised to 1950s housewives. The one that says "For Digestion's Sake, Smoke Camels" really blows me away!


This website features a gallery of extremely cool sandwiches to make for your kids. There are no instructions on how to make them (they're writing a book for that) so you can just enjoy the ideas in the pictures.

There's a sandwich shaped like a piano, a colorful butterfly, and several sandwiches made to look like popular cartoon characters. Very fun to look through! I can't recommend browsing this website on an empty stomach.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recovering From Thanksgiving Fun

Pacifica "Russian Fir" Candle - What I'm burning in my living room today.

If you're reading this, you probably aren't traveling today. Are you back home? Are your guests gone, or staying for the whole weekend?

I'm very, very glad I spent so much time earlier this month getting my guest room and home ready for company.

After my guests leave tonight, and after my work is done, I will have a little bit of time for myself. Time to relax by the fire, wrapping gifts perhaps, catching up with my catalogs and magazines, and getting little projects out of the way. Leftovers to be eaten, extra exercise to make room for in my schedule, holiday letters to be written.


- Shovel sidewalk if applicable/needed. You're exercising and working off those Thanksgiving calories, too!

- What did you use up yesterday, or notice you were out of? Add to your shopping list.

- Need to launder your kitchen towels? We went through a lot yesterday!

- Did you call all your relatives yesterday to say Happy Thanksgiving? If not, be sure to make some catchup calls today.

- Maintenance cleaning: One refrigerator shelf or drawer, or two door shelves.

- Write a thank-you note to your Thanksgiving hosts, if applicable.

- Clean up kitchen if you cooked yesterday and didn't clean up thoroughly last night.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Winter Car Emergency Preparedness

If you live in an area where you can have bad winter weather, do you have a blanket in your car? An extra coat, at all times, in case you run out of your house without one on? (I sometimes do that when I have a warm sweater and it's "only" 45 degrees. I feel warm without a coat, until I leave the car to go into a store and realize how cold it really is!)

Do you have a pair of gloves in the trunk, and boots? Do you have an ice scraper, first aid kit, flashlight, matches? Do you leave home with a full tank of gas? Do you have your cell phone with you, charged, at all times? Do you have a $20 (or more) in the car, and some change, for emergencies? (Picking up a snack at a gas station while you are waiting for a tow truck, making phone calls from a pay phone, etc?)

Do you have a bottle of water or two, and some granola bars or other easy-to-transport snacks?

Also, do you keep a pen and notepad in your car at all times? Fingernail clippers, hand lotion, breath mints?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Pep Talk

Think positive. We can do this. We're lucky to have family to spend time with (even if they drive us crazy) and food to eat at our feasts. Hopefully we have friends who will join us to celebrate today and help smooth things when our relatives are getting a bit uppity.

Don't stress yourself worrying about how your Thanksgiving will go (whether you are worried about your travel, hosting, or spending the holiday at someone's house).

Nothing has to be perfect. Thanksgiving is about being with family and friends. If you undercook or overcook the turkey, that's ok - people will happily eat the mashed potatoes instead. If old Uncle Joe starts in on you about politics, that's ok, you knew he would. Sigh and try to change the subject. Your tablecloth is stained or a bit ratty? Who cares - it was put on the table fresh and clean, right? Your furniture has cat-scratch marks on it, and your relatives will see it? Oh well, it means you have pets you love.

If something spills, wipe it up with a smile. Stains on your apron or clothing from cooking? Good, that means you worked hard to make something nice for your family. June Cleaver isn't here in her pearls and heels and immaculate freshly starched dress to make us look bad.

If someone cries, hand them a tissue, and give them a hug. If that person is you, have your cry for a few minutes but don't let it ruin your day, and don't let yourself contribute to family drama.

There are some things that won't change, and some things we can't control. No, our houses will never be as clean as our mother-in-laws' homes. We will never have as nice of cars or furniture or as big a house as our brother-and-sister in law. We're good cooks, but there's always an Aunt Edna or a Gramma known for being the best cook ever. That's ok, let them enjoy that title. We still make darn delicious food.

It's all going to be ok. We can do this.

Take care of yourself first. One thing that helps is for sure having some quiet alone time today as well as some tomorrow morning. If you have guests over, you might not be able to take half an hour tonight to hog the bathroom and enjoy a long hot bath. So maybe do something relaxing in the morning (read a book? magazine? go for a quick walk?) to destress before the stress even starts. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself, so you can give more of yourself as the holiday begins.

Delegate! Thanksgiving is not all about you and you can't be the Queen of Thanksgiving. If someone offers to help, let them. If someone offers to bring a dish, let them. (Worried Aunt Ida will bring her nasty sugary marshmallow yams? That's ok, let her and be grateful she's not bringing her mushy overcooked cold mashed potatoes).

One of the things I'm doing to emotionally survive the holiday is having a special after-Thanksgiving casual movie night on Saturday night for any friends who are still in town. We'll wear comfy sweats or pajamas, eat leftovers, and watch fun movies while relaxing. Friends are the family you choose, and I choose to be around happy, fun, easygoing people on my four-day weekend.

And a special note to anybody reading this who might be spending their Thanksgiving alone. It's ok, it happens to all of us. Not everybody has family close by, or the ability to travel, and sometimes people have to work on Thanksgiving or the day after. On some years, I absolutely couldn't face the whole thing and voluntarily stayed home alone and I truly did have a good time. Instead of sitting there feeling sorry for yourself for being alone, think of all of us who are having our crusty old relatives argue with us about religion or politics, ask us why we're still single (or not pregnant yet, or still fat, etc etc) and possibly fighting with our grown siblings.

I'll never forget when my friend Chris moved to New York and spent his first Thanksgiving alone in a big scary city where he knew nobody. Instead of crying at home over a TV dinner like I might have, he went out and volunteered at a homeless shelter, cooking and serving their Thanksgiving meal, and eating it with the homeless people and the other volunteers.

Make yourself a special delicious treat to eat, watch a movie or put on your favorite music and enjoy your relaxing alone time. If you are feeling a bit blue, skip the alcohol and have hot cocoa instead.

A special challenge: Try to be there "in the moment" during all your Thanksgiving meal, plus during the preparation before it and recovery after it. What do I mean by this? Don't spend all your time texting your friends; don't spend all day on your cell phone talking to people who aren't there in person. You can talk to your friends and text them all day long some other time. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about reconnecting with family who you don't see often. Give them respect by giving them your full attention. Granted, we do all have people we'll need to phone to wish a happy Thanksgiving. Try to keep those calls brief, and get it done in a chunk of time if you can so you aren't constantly sneaking off to another room.

This is obviously quite a pet peeve of mine, but I implore you with all my heart to think about this issue seriously and try, if you can, to spend quality time (not texting time) with the people who took time out of their busy lives to spend tomorrow in person with you, celebrating with you face to face. Your text buddies will be there tomorrow and always.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Almost Thanksgiving

Wilton Christmas Tree Silicone Pan. I'll be using this the first week of December to bake holiday treats to drop off at friends' and neighbor's houses.


- Need to give yourself a quick manicure so your hands look nice for the holiday? I need to, I don't want to show up at Thanksgiving with chipped nail polish.

- Add 15 minutes to your normal exercise routine today - Thanksgiving preparedness!

- Gather phone numbers of people you want to call on Thanksgiving to wish a happy holiday.

- Sweep the entryway to your home, both outdoors and inside.

- Gather cameras, chargers and batteries you'll use tomorrow.


If you're going out of town for Thanksgiving, you can enjoy coming home to clean bathrooms. If you're hosting, you need all your bathrooms to be spotless for guests.

If you have a big crowd coming, more than one bathroom may be in use at the same time. So I'm cleaning all three of mine today. If someone had snuck in to use my master bathroom the way it looked this morning, I would have been embarrassed!

Clean mirrors, light fixtures, sinks and counters. Scrub the toilet, see if the bathtub and shower need any work. Finish by mopping floors, replacing hand towels and rugs/mats with clean ones, stocking toilet paper and Kleenex. Do you have a vase of fresh flowers in the guest bathroom? A candle you can light later on in the evening?


Beautify Your Balcony (SF Gate)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Two Days Until Thanksgiving


- Try to get your grocery shopping done very soon. The closer it gets to Thanksgiving, the crazier the stores get. Try to plan ahead so you don't have to run to the store at the last minute on Thanksgiving.

- Pick out an ice cube from your freezer, smell and taste it. Does it taste fresh and delicious, or has it picked up food smells? Make fresh ice if needed (unless you plan to pick up Party Ice bags for Thanksgiving). Empty, scrub and refill your ice cube trays, or empty out your icemaker box and let it start over. With 2 days to go til Thanksgiving, your icebox should be refilled in plenty of time.

- If you're hosting the meal, check over your menu plans. Do you have the traditional Thanksgiving foods coming? Turkey (or veggie alternative), sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie? Corn, if that's your tradition? Plenty of food for any vegetarians who might show up?

- Do you need to do any laundry, launder table linens or hand towels? Tablecloth needs to be ironed perhaps?

- If you have guests coming, do you have breakfast foods in the house? I don't often eat cereal, so I need to remember to at the very least stock milk and Cheerios.
I want to be sure to have orange juice to offer the next morning.

- Clean off and sanitize your home telephone (and cellphones if you have time). I don't know about you, but my cell phone gets covered in makeup and my kitchen phone gets grimy fingerprints on it. Because of the holidays, your phone is likely to get a lot of extra use this week - calls coming in, relatives borrowing the phone to call out. A quick wipedown and some Windex will do wonders.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Thanksgiving Preparations

If you're traveling out of town, rather than hosting at home, you still might want to join the rest of us in tidying our homes today. That way you'll come back after a long, tiring journey, to a shining clean, relaxing house.

We sorted and organized our kitchens last month to prepare for the holidays. Now I don't know about you, but I let my normal maintenance cleaning slip a bit, and I have a bit extra work to do to get my kitchen ready for the holidays. Oops. Otherwise, I'm doing pretty well. My counters are cleared off and got spritzed with citrus cleaner last night, and my cupboards are still pretty well organized. My kitchen floor needs to be scrubbed and mopped. Finish what you have left to do in your kitchen, and let's move on to our dining rooms.

Start by clearing off your dining table, if needed. Don't just move mail to another table, making a mess for another day. Now is a good time to stop and organize it, pay bills, file things and burn or shred those pesky credit card applications. Dust off and polish your dining table, and set it with your tablecloth, tablerunner, placemats or whatever you intend to use for Thanksgiving or even for your next upcoming meal.

Look around your dining room and see what else needs to be done. Do you have furniture to dust? Have your windows been washed, inside and out, in the last month? Dust and clean off your dining chairs. While doing so, remove them from the area and vacuum or mop the floor under your table. If you have time and someone to help you to move your table, it makes it a lot easier to clean the floor. Do a last check to see if there is anything in the dining room that doesn't belong (shoes, toys, clutter, dead houseplants?).

Do you need to have a box of Kleenex handy? Every year it seems at least half the table breaks down crying when we start the "What are you thankful for?" discussion.
(Do you know what you're going to say when this inevitable discussion starts at your table?)

Finish by spritzing the room with home fragrance, and setting the table with some pretty fall-colored candles. Put out any last fall decorations you might nave wanted to put up. It's a day too early to get fresh flowers for the table if you are hosting a meal, so hold off.

Let's move on to the living room, where it's likely our guests will retire with aching bellies, for hours of football or chatting and visiting. Dust, remove clutter, vacuum, wash windows, clean off coffee table, fold throws. Be sure to dust off the TV screen.

Does your family have a particular movie they watch on Thanksgiving? "Home for the Holidays," "Planes Trains and Automobiles," "The Sound of Music," or "Wizard of Oz" perhaps? Do you have kids' movies ready to go? Make sure you know where your VHS or DVD movies are and have them accessible.

Do you have children coming to visit? Get out toys, books, and games - maybe storing them in an attractive basket in a corner of the room.

Refresh houseplants and toss any dead ones. If you have a fireplace, you'll likely not be able to burn a fire in it with so many people in the room. Too warm! Does your fireplace look neat and tidy? Set out a magazine or two or coffee table books, and finish by spraying your home spray in the room.

Tomorrow I'll be working on my guest bathrooms so they are ready for company.

Keep your spirits up and don't get overwhelmed. We still have a couple days until the holiday. Don't forget to make time for yourself for some down time every day. A happy mom makes for a happy home. Build in some magazine reading time, bath time, or even mindless TV watching for a few minutes a day. The more private time you give yourself, the better a hostess you'll be during the holiday week. And remember.. Thanksgiving doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.