Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Preparedness on the Last Day of September

Italian Apple Dishes, at Sur La Table

Do you have all the things you'll need for fall? Fire logs, matches, rain boots, raincoats, leaf bags, a rake, caramel or pumpkin scented candles? Kleenex packets for coat pockets? Caramel for dipping apples as an occasional treat? Decorative pumpkins, gourds and ornamental corn?


- Take inventory of fall supplies like firelogs and matches, and add anything you need to your shopping list.

- Start thinking about making a Christmas shopping list. My Christmas shopping is usually done by November 15. I sincerely enjoy all that extra time in December that comes from not running around frantically to finish my shopping.

- Plan a quiet evening at home into your schedule for next week.

- Do you need to make an appointment (or schedule time yourself) for someone to come check your gutters?

- Do mid-week tidying. De-clutter the living room and mail table, empty the dishwasher and put dirty dishes in it, wipe kitchen counter and sink, empty trash, wipe down bathroom mirrors, counters and sinks.

Look back over the last month. Did you get everything cleaned and sorted that you wanted to? Made it to your hair, vet and doctor appointments? Got the kids supplied for and settled in school? Remembered all the birthdays you needed to? Called and wrote relatives to stay in touch? Wrote in your journal, painted or drew in your sketchbook, worked on your knitting or craft projects? Read your book for your book club? Tried cooking something new?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Prep

As the days grow colder, our appetites and our cooking styles change with the new season. New types of produce become available at the farmer's markets and grocery stores, and we crave different foods - hot soups, crusty breads, pies, apples, pears, and hearty vegetables.

Those of us who live in cold weather climates might find ourselves going out to restaurants less in the upcoming months, staying home for quiet meals, even having just two or three other people over for dinner. (Plus in this economy it's probably a good idea to eat at home as much as possible to save money).

It's time to start gearing up for fall cooking, baking, feeding overnight guests, and entertaining. Time to sort and organize our kitchens, take inventory, and stock our pantries with necessities.

Even if you hate cooking personally or don't consider yourself a cook, you'll need to get your kitchen in order so someone who does the cooking in your household (be it a husband, boyfriend, child, grandmother, mother-in-law, or good friend who comes over and attacks your kitchen) has all the tools and supplies they need.

Go through your stack or folder of takeout menus from various restaurants. Throw away duplicates or out-of-date menus, and organize your collection. Store near the phone for easy access. There'll no doubt be cold nights when you're too tired to cook and don't want to go out, and those menus will come in handy. Get in the habit of grabbing a take-out menu whenever you're at a restaurant you like that offers them. Plan ahead for those cold, rainy, snowy nights. (And tip the poor, frozen deliveryperson well!)

- Go through your potholders and kitchen towels and immediately discard any limp, smelly kitchen towels or crusty, stained potholders. Be firm with yourself - don't give in to the temptation to keep an old towel around "just in case." It's ok to transfer old kitchen towels to your Rag pile (I use mine for dusting, cleaning floors and windows, etc.) But then get rid of one of your worst rags for every old kitchen towel you put in the rag pile. It's all about avoiding clutter and weeding out unnecessary items in our lives.

Put new potholders and new kitchen towels on your shopping list, and don't forget to grab some next time you are at the grocery store. Many stores are actually carrying attractive, non-cutesy towels nowadays, so you should easily be able to find something you like.

If you have guests helping you in your kitchen often, please be sure to have plenty of clean, soft, dry towels for people to dry their hands with. I can't tell you how often I end up with red, chapped hands from helping do dishes at someone else's house and not being able to properly dry my hands; or from drying my hands on very rough scratchy towels.

Speaking of towels, check your paper towel inventory and be sure you have a good supply.

Get yourself in the fall cooking mood, if you at all enjoy cooking magazines, by treating yourself to reading one or two today. Pick up Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine or even just the fall Williams-Sonoma catalog - or read their websites to save money. Have a nice cup of coffee or tea and something to munch on as you browse - looking at beautifully photographed food makes me so hungry! Visit fun food, cooking and home-decor webpages tonight during your nightly Internet browsing time. Drool over kitchen gadgets you don't need and can't afford, impractically beautiful expensive dishes, and amazing mail-order pastries. Get on your TIVO and look for cooking shows that are coming up to record, if you like such a thing.

(If you absolutely despise cooking and are angry at me for even mentioning the topic, go to your favorite fashion website and drool over fall fashions instead!) Have fun looking at beautiful things today, because we have a lot of work to do tomorrow and the rest of this week.

101 Cookbooks

Crate and Barrel

Dean & Deluca


Pottery Barn

Sur la Table



Only 13 Weeks Til Christmas (Kat's Money Corner)

Orzotto is Simpler Than Risotto (NY Times)

Ripe for Autumn's Hearth (NY Times)

Save Money by Winterizing Your Home (Canoe)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Get Ready for the Weekend


- Need to fill up with gas for the weekend, get cash out of an ATM?

- Go through your fridge and throw out any leftovers or takeout food or sack lunch leftovers from the week. You're probably not going to eat them this weekend if you haven't already by now. This will make room in case you bring home leftovers from a restaurant this weekend.

- Tidy your house in preparation for the weekend. Empty vases of any dead flowers, then rinse the vases out and put them away. Declutter kitchen counters, load or unload dishwasher as needed. Wipe kitchen counter and sink; wipe bathroom sinks and mirrors. Sweep wood floors; vacuum living or family room if needed. Declutter dining room table if it's being used for storage. Run through the house really quickly emptying trash cans and removing any cups or drinking glasses that have wandered out of the kitchen. Finish by spritzing with home spray or burning home fragrance oil or incense.

- Oktoberfest celebrations are taking place in various cities all over the world. If this is something that appeals to you, take a look at your city's newspaper or web resource page and see if there's anything you can attend this weekend.


I don't have time to do a big housecleaning project today. I'm working and trying to dress up and go out for dinner and a movie tonight. So I'm doing a much-needed minor project: sorting my music CDs. (You can tell I'm "of a certain age" because I don't just simply have all my music on an MP3 player or on my computer!)

My CD collection overflowed from the tower shelf I have them in, and have gradually migrated out to a shelf in the garage where I store my cooking appliances. Uh, not good. So today I'm putting all my CDs in one place, alphabetizing them, and getting rid of CDs I know I won't actually listen to. There's no sense hanging onto the scratched ones (throw them away!) and I can find friends on my various communities to give the other CDs away. Somebody will like my brother's old "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack, maybe.. It's not worth the hassle and potential for negative feedback to sell them for 75 cents on or a dollar on eBay, so if I don't find takers in my communities I can donate the like-new non-scratched CDs to Goodwill or something similar. The important thing is to actually donate them or throw them away and get them out of my house.

Another thing I will do is keep out some CDs I haven't listened to in a long time that I know I will enjoy. I'll make sure they aren't cluttery and visible, but nearer my stereo. I'll also swap out the 6 CDs I am very very sick of listening to in my car, for some I haven't heard in a long time. (Hello Howard Jones and Human League, I've missed you!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Take Time For Yourself

Cafe Cup, from Tea Forte

Women are the caregivers of the world. We take care of our husband/partner, children, relatives, friends, and pets first. Only then do we stop to take care of ourselves. But if we don't take good care of ourselves, we'll have nothing left to give to others.

This autumn, give yourself permission to be a little selfish sometimes. The more relaxed you are, the better a mom you will be. The healthier you are, the better you can take care of your elderly parents. The more you laugh, the more fun you'll have with your children.

What are you going to do for fun for YOU this fall? Long, dark evenings, cold rainy/snowy weather, and beckoning warm fireplaces encourage homey activities.
Will you take a class, join a book club, join or create a dinner party club, write, journal, blog, work on your scrapbooks, go see fall movies in the theater, actually use that gym membership, work through that pile of books by your bed, rubber stamp and do paper crafts, paint, knit, crochet? Save up your Starbucks money for a month so you can treat yourself to a professional massage? Take your best friend out for a cocktail and a manicure, leaving your kids at home with their father or your best friend's husband and kids?

What will you have to do to be able to indulge yourself in some fun activities? What will you have to give up? If you have children, you'll need to budget for babysitters, or budget time to swap with your children's other parent, or perhaps trade off with a friend or neighbor. What will your activity cost? If you take a class, you'll need to budget money for the class, materials, and gas - plus budget your time for the class, moving housekeeping chores to another timeslot or letting some slip by temporarily.

In my case, I've already long ago bought the rubber stamps, stickers, paper, magazines and books I want to play with and enjoy this fall. I should never, ever go into a craft store for the next three years. What I need to do is buckle down, carve out time and religiously enforce it: "This is my crafting afternoon." "This is my cooking Sunday." "This evening, I will craft while I watch TV." "Tomorrow night, I will enjoy attempting to create handmade Halloween cards."

I'm not going to force myself to craft and cook if I don't enjoy it - I do! Rather, I'm going to make myself watch less TV, go out to fewer dinners, and spend less time goofing off on the computer.

You'll also need to think about your entertainment time budget. I get mostly done with the shipping part of my work every day around 4pm. I take a break, watch Oprah, read magazines, eat a snack, do my nails, do laundry, whatever. By 5pm I'm cleaning, and by 6pm I'm cooking. After 7pm dinner and twenty minutes of cleanup, I have maybe three or four hours left before bedtime. At least one of those hours is spent working on my business. So basically every night I probably can count on two hours for entertainment. How do I want to spend them? I'm limiting the number of fall TV shows I am going to watch.

I'm cutting way back (I can't give up my beloved Desperate Housewives though, but do I really NEED to watch "Real Housewives?") so that I have more time to read and try to do my goofy crafts. I hope my resolve holds. I SHOULD be trying that new recipe, or reading a book, not laughing at Kim and Nene.

Your family members may initially resist and complain. Just keep smiling and firmly insisting that you need your Mommy time. Set kids up in the other room with crafts of their own, or make Daddy do something fun with them for an hour every week so you have something extremely important for your creativity, health, and peace of mind: UNINTERRUPTED time just for YOU.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Day of Autumn: Fall Wardrobe Organization

Rayon Pashminas, at Wrapables

Happy Autumn Equinox!

With our Indian Summer weather here in Seattle, I'm struggling with what to wear every day. Mornings and evenings are chilly, so I'd want long sleeves, but our afternoons are very warm or even hot. I definitely need to layer. It's not time for a coat, and a sweater is even a bit much after 10am. I still want to wear sundresses, floaty and soft, so it's time to get out lightweight sweaters and cute wraps.


- Put on some music that makes you think of fall. To me this means Loreena McKennitt, Mediaeval Baebes or Miranda Sex Garden, Throwing Muses, Enya or Stevie Nicks to me.

- Get some exercise. Take a long walk, run briskly in the mall from sale to sale, put on some music and dance, mow your lawn, or go for a bike ride.

- Catch up on emails tonight. I've gotten my mail email box down to 45 - instead of saving all these, I should reply, archive or delete them.

- Need to wash your car today? I'm taking advantage of the warm weather, and it takes me less than ten minutes to thoroughly wash and dry the car.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Closet Organization

You may live in an area of the country where it's still very warm. But for me, it's time to clean out my closet, put away my summer dresses, and get my sweaters, heavier skirts and velvet leggings out of storage. I'll keep a couple sundresses nearby on hand for this warm week though.

I personally handle this project by removing absolutely *everything* from the closet and dumping it on my bed. This sort of forces me to actually get my project done so that I can sleep in my bed tonight. (I usually find I don't wimp out and just throw unsorted clothes on the floor and climb into bed.) I then give the closet a good vacuuming, wall washing, and baseboard dusting.

Next the items dumped on my bed go through a sorting and evaluation process. I try a lot of the pieces on, skipping things I know still fit such as Tshirts and elastic skirts.

Items either get thrown out, donated, or put into storage bins. I'll remove the label that says "Fall/Winter" and replace it with a label that says "Summer." I don't quite have a walk-in closet, it's a bit small to store things in. And since I'm storing my store merchandise in the garage, I might as well store my own things in there too, so that's where I keep my clothing storage bins - three of them.

Now I take the Fall/winter clothes out of the storage bins and fill the closet back up with those items. But first I sniff them to see if they need to be laundered after spending a few months in plastic. I'll evaluate to see if I need to try anything on to see if it still fits - I do think I've gained weight over the past five stressful months.

Time to put away bathing suits, skimpy tank tops, shorts, and sandals. It's still too early to get my holiday gowns out of storage, so I have a bit of extra room in my closet for now.

As I put things away, I'll inspect for damage, wear and tear, and see if any clothing needs to be drycleaned first. I don't want to put away dirty clothing.

Anything I haven't actually worn this sumer needs to go through an honest evaluation. If I haven't worn it, is it because it's ugly? doesn't fit? Because I no longer have as much of a partying lifestyle as I used to? Because I shoved it back in the closet where I couldn't actually see it? Anything I can't envision myself actually wearing next summer I need to throw away or donate. I keep a plastic storage bin in my trunk that I can put donation clothing into. Next time I drive by a clothing donation bin (Usually at Safeway or other grocery stores) I can stop and donate clothing.

Shoes, lingerie/pajamas and foundation garments (bras, stockings, panties) I'll save for sorting another day. As it is, I will have to hustle so I have time to sort the entire closet before going out to the store to get supplies for the soup I'm making tonight.

Why is my closet so cluttered and messy? Mostly from two things: Lack of controlling myself at stores, and lack of honest evaluation of which clothes I actually end up wearing and which should find new homes. I HONESTLY do not need any new clothes this season other than a skirt to replace the torn one I threw out this week. I just need to stop going into stores, since I am on a tight budget right now.

If you sort your closet tonight, be sure to lay out something special to wear tomorrow - something you haven't worn in a long while that looks pretty on you.

LOVELY BLOGS: Things Your Grandmother Knew

This homemaking blog focuses on home economics, above and beyond living simply and living green. It focuses on thrift in food, nutrition, consumerism and household management. She finds and republishes old newspaper and magazine articles on the topics.

I've learned a lot already from the posts I've read. Currently she's blogging about selling your unwanted things online, daily care of wooden floors, avoiding mistakes with poisons, and making your own lingerie boxes.

Things Your Grandmother Knew

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Morning

This is one of those days that's a total blur of activity mixed with interruptions. If the phone rings one more time, I am going to scream. I have a carpet cleaner coming, I'm on the phone every half hour with a programmer working on one of my websites, the post office came early and left empty handed without my packages, and the house is so messy (from moving furniture for the carpet cleaners) I am climbing around things to get anywhere. I think I am going to switch to decaf tea for the rest of the morning.


- Make menu plans for the week and create grocery list. Think about the lunchboxes you might be packing this week, too.

- Visualize what you and your children (if any) will be wearing to work and school this week. Need to do any laundry, enforce some hang-up-your-clothes rules, set out anything for tomorrow, drop off or pick up any dry cleaning?

TODAY'S PROJECT: General Overhaul

I'm trying to get the house back in order, and rather than focusing on a specific room like I normally do on a big Day Project, I'm putting out fires here and there in the whole house. I have the dining room cleaned out (other than two chairs from downstairs waiting here while the carpets are cleaned), laundry started, pet bowls washed, dishwasher running, and trash taken out. Next I have to clear a pathway in my office and put packing peanuts and boxing supplies out of the way where they belong.

LOVELY BOOKS: The Century CookBook

This is an 1895 cookbook by Mary Ronald. You'll need an updated browser to read through the book. I found it quite charming and not so out-of-date as we might think. There are chapters on dinner giving and etiquette, table decorations, economical living, wastefulness, cooking as a pleasure and an accomplishment, and all sorts of recipes. There's even a chapter on making candy. I found myself quite sucked into reading this today instead of getting my work done, oops!

Century Cookbook, at Google Books


I just wanted to share this gorgeous paper shop with you. I am drooling over everything here right this moment. So far I've managed to control myself and not buy anything. I am looking at their Snow & Graham Christmas-themed papers right now.

By the way, whenever I mention a shop on here (which is rare) I want you to know it's because I enjoy the shop and thought you might too. I do not accept advertising from companies nor do I let them suggest their shops be included on the blog. I just show you what I've stumbled onto lately. That said, I do occasionally include an Amazon affiliate link if I'm talking about a book I was going to talk about anyways. I wouldn't mention a book I didn't like just in the hopes of someone clicking on it or buying it. Yuck!



Check out the gallery of stunningly gorgeous tables and dishes this company has created for various catered dinner parties. I bet you'll want to look at every one!

Amy Atlas Portfolio


Buddha-Shaped Pears (Neat-o-Rama)

Homemade Bento Boxes Slideshow (NY Times)

Sur La Table Fall Cooking Classes

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back Home and In a Whirlwind

I'm back home again after living with family in another town for the past several months while we worked through a family crisis. It's amazing to sleep in my own bed again, and my cats have forgiven me for my long absence and are cuddling me right this second.

Today it's a nice sunny Sunday, so I'm outdoors visiting with neighbors and doing my fall garden cleanup. Someone has already mowed the lawn for me, so now I just have to weed extensively and feed my poor neglected lawn.

Back inside the house, we've moved furniture out of the way for tomorrow's carpet cleaners, and we've painted the nursery. So it rather looks like a tornado hit the house at the moment. The only three rooms that haven't been affected are the kitchen, which stayed miraculously clean even after feeding our painting volunteers, and two of the bathrooms (the third is being used to store couch cushions).

It's hard to remember that my house often gets much worse in the process of getting better!


- Exercise and take vitamins. Then you can feel superior and smug!

- Fridge and Freezer maintenance: Remove everything from one shelf, one drawer or two door shelves in your fridge or freezer. Examine food, toss out anything old, sanitize shelf, dry it and put food back in an organized manner.

- Call an elderly relative tonight (but try to call before it gets too late!)


I don't know what you're doing today, but I'm in the garden for quite a while. When I get indoors, I have a bunch of catchup things to do: laundry, unpacking, and re-provisioning at Target and the grocery store. We have food, but we're out of things like produce, milk, bread, dishwashing detergent and paper towels. The cats are eyeing me suspiciously at their dwindling bag of cat food, too.

LOVELY WEBSITES: Cabinet des Fees

I thought some of you might enjoy this online fairy tale journal. Their eighth issue just came out, with poetry and fiction based on fairy tale themes. They also have some book reviews.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Decorating for Autumn

Mosaic Oil Warmer, at Bath & Body Works

The stores are filling up right now with beautiful autumn decor. Oranges, browns, greens, purples, and dark reds adorn bedding, candles, table linens, kitchen towels, and dishes. Target, Craft Warehouse, Michael's and Joanne's crafts stores are particularly dangerous right now - yikes!


- Sanitize or clean pet water and food bowls, if needed. Refill with fresh food and water.

- Look over your budget for fall decorating (if any!)

- Have you read a newspaper, visited a major news website, or watched an evening hour-long newscast in the last week or two so you can stay informed about what's going on? I am sick of all the health care political whining, but I can skip over annoying parts of the newscast and just focus on things that are going on in my area and in the world in general.

- Need to empty out your purse or wallet and tidy them?

Mexican Cocoa Fragrance Oil, at The Body Shop

TODAY'S PROJECT: Beginning Fall Decorating

I'm not quite ready to admit summer is over and haul out my three plastic storage bins of fall decor. I want to look everything over before I give myself permission to buy any more decorations or household items. I probably don't need any more, to be honest. I should stay firm and not add to my household clutter.

So hopefully I will control myself, and I will buy is some candles (which get used up) and fresh squash/pumpkins to use for ornamentation. I bought the oil warmer pictured above earlier this week to replace a broken one. Now I can enjoy using some of my Body Shop home fragrance oils!

If you want to do some shopping for decor, look over your budget for fall decorating. How much money can you spend on new decor, if any? Can you buy a couple new fun, lovely items, without cutting into your holiday gift budget (not to mention rent, food, savings, and entertainment?)

Also, how is your STORAGE budget for fall decorating? Can you make your home cozy and homey for autumn without making it cluttered and overly kitschy? Where do you put and store your decorations once fall and the holidays are over?

You might already own everything you need. I have TWO autumn-themed wreaths I alternate on my front door (one for everyday, and one I use for the week before and after Halloween). I'll never need to buy another fall front door wreath, as long as I take good care of the two I have. None of us probably *need* new decor, but it gives us a nice pick-me-up and can make us feel like our home is lovely and cozy.
I want, but don't need, another fall-colored pillow, and luckily this year I haven't seen any tempting ones in the stores. I'm wondering if store inventory in general is still down due to the recession.

Spend some time tonight decorating your house for autumn in a way that will please you and your family members. Enjoy the process - turn on fun music, burn fall-scented candles or spray pumpkin home fragrance spray, and pour yourself a glass of wine or a mug of hot tea. And whatever you do, don't do any cleaning! This is a decorating day!

LOVELY BLOGS: The Enchanted Cottage

This is a truly lovely and inspiring blog. The author posts her "Gratitude List," shares her journey along "The Artist's Way," and shares things from her daily life. You really get a sense of who she is and what she's working towards. You can tell she puts a lot of thoughtful energy into her posts, and I almost feel bad reading them as a total stranger glimpsing into her private life. A very enriching blog to read through.


First Day of School Bento (Playing With My Food)

Home Style: Heat Up Your Hearth This Fall (Evansville Courier & Press)

How to Bag Your Kids at Lunchtime (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Peanut Butter Krispy Treats (101 Cookbooks)

"Superior Wife Syndrome" Book Review (Today Show)

Travel Mishaps With Silver Linings (CNN)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mid-September Weekend

I just got back from the Chelan County Fair. Now that I'm full of lemonade and funnel cakes, I'm going to get a couple projects done in the house I'm housesitting at.


- Start a load of laundry; fold and put away any clothes that might have been on top of dryer

- Maintenance clean one shelf, one drawer or two door pockets in your refrigerator. Mercilessly throw out anything you know you won't eat by next Friday (got any weird condiments that should go?)

- Make phonecalls to any relatives you haven't seen or talked to in a while.

- Take a quick look around to see what fall decorating you might want to do soon. Any particular decor, candleholders, or pillows you want to put out?

- Set out clothing for tomorrow for yourself and any family members too young to do it for themselves

- What foods are you sending to school in lunchboxes tomorrow?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Doors and Windowsills

Today I'm digging dead flies and bees out of the many windowsills in the house I'm staying in. I'll dust the windowsills afterwards - they seem to accumulate weird fuzz rather than dust. This is just one of my ways of saying thank you to the relatives who are hosting my extended stay here.

I'll dust the wood doors next, doing both sides of the door as well as the wood trim around them. I haven't counted the doors in this house yet, but I'm sure there are many more than the eleven I have in my own home.

While you work, take notes on any chipped windowsills, chipped frames over the doors, or peeling paint. Need to add anything to your home fix-it list or your repainting schedule?

LOVELY BLOGS: Kind Over Matter

Their tagline is "Have you ever left something beautiful for a stranger to find, have you ever found something beautiful yourself?" Mostly their posts consist of one beautiful image, often with words spelled out somehow in it, focusing on lovely inspiration and positive encouragement. Definitely worth a look every morning.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Lucky Day?


I'm not superstitious, but I'm getting a kick out of today's date! I've decided it's going to be a lucky day. But luck is what you make it, and instead of running out to buy a lottery ticket, I'm going to work very hard on all my projects today.

Then later tonight, I'll enjoy doing something summery, while I still can. There's still time to enjoy a picnic, have a bonfire in the back yard, eat meals outside, go to a farmer's market, eat summer corn, make homemade ice cream or sorbet, go for a walk along a waterfront, go walking or biking in the evenings without having to be too bundled up.

If it's still nice and warm where you live, make time in your schedule to enjoy the outdoors. Even if it means recording your TV shows or skipping them all together, putting housework off for another day if you have to, or spending less time on the computer tonight. (Painful thought though that may be!)


- Do quick mid-week vacuuming and mid-week laundry so it doesn't pile up for the weekend

- Time to schedule a grooming appointment for any of your pets?. I can groom my shorthaired Tyler by myself, but the longhaired Jack might need a professional trim, especially around his neck.

- Do you need to call for your yearly fireplace inspection? Chimney cleaning?

- Along the same lines, do you need your heater and water heater checked, cleaned, drained, or filter changed?

- Throw away (or use, give away, recycle) two things you've had laying around for five or six months. Today I'm giving away a L'Occitane home fragrance spray I hate the smell of (too cinnamony). I was keeping it around "just in case" I changed my mind and liked it, but it's better off at someone's house who appreciates the smell. I'm also giving away a brand new mystery book someone gave me, not knowing I don't enjoy mystery novels.

Currant Soy Candle, from Archipelago Botanicals

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fireplace and candles

I'm getting my fireplace ready for the season. It will definitely get used often! Time to make an appointment with a chimney sweep, clean the fireplace and its glass, and stock up on firewood and the Duraflames I love so much. (I use the Duraflames to help get the real wood started on fire).

Because of Seattle's devastating windstorm (and subsequent 7 day power outage) three winters ago, my friends and I are doing a lot better job of making sure we have a good supply of firewood. Every couple years, we split the cost of a cord of wood. We'll have it dropped off at my woodpile, then ferry half of it over to their house in cars and trucks.

I am determined never to spend freezing nights huddled in my living room again, nor have to evacuate our home because we ran out of firewood. Nor will I ever be unable to cook hot food for the neighbors again in case of another emergency. On my shopping list: a giant iron Dutch oven I can cook in the fireplace with, and a grate to set it on.

Also tonight, I will pull out my three storage boxes of candles. Away will go my blue, yellow, orange and teal candles I decorated with this summer (I'll throw out any odds and ends that don't look like they'll burn well). Out will come my blackcurrant, green, purple, brown and burgundy colored candles. Besides just the color of the candles, I'm looking for fall scents - fig, currant, eucalyptus, espresso, lavender, and vanilla. I save my food scented ones (caramel, pumpkin pie, apple pie, etc) for November.

I'm not yet feeling ready to go full-on decorating for fall, but I definitely want to get my candles sorted out and ready for the season. I'll clean out my votive holders, try to toss out old funky candles I know I honestly won't burn, and take inventory of my candle holders, tea light holders, and candle stands.

I can't wait to burn my first evening fire and see my cats lounging lazily and luxuriously in front of the fireplace!

LOVELY BLOGS: The Fashionable Housewife

This is a fashion blog with attitude. They keep you up on trends and the current season. There's a few too many shoe-related posts lately, but perhaps that's just because they are eager to cover the fall 2009 shoe styles. I'll definitely look forward to checking this out more than once or twice a week - they post quite frequently.


This is a PBS show that's design oriented. It shows you how to attain luxury at any budget. Recent episodes have visited the Saint James Hotel and Baccarat museum in Paris, visited a cottage garden in England, and shown a home in Houston, Texas. There's lots of eye candy and decor inspiration here. It's a pleasant show to have on in the background while doing dishes or laundry, too!

Moment of Luxury


Autumn Flavors (Donna Hay)

New Perfumes and Fragrances for Fall 2009 (Now Smell This)

Simply Scrumptious Stir-Fried Noodle Recipes (Today Show)

Sipping Through South Africa (CNN)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Weekend is Over


- Clean one shelf (or two door pockets) in your refrigerator. Remove everything, sanitize, and throw out any spoiled food

- Is it time to clean your fans and put them away for the year? It's been so nice (and chilly) here I haven't used my bedroom fan in over a week. I don't want to put away dirty fans (though they'll get dusty in the garage) so I'm taking a minute to wipe them down.

- Set out clothes for yourself (and children, if they are too young) so tomorrow's morning won't be so hectic. Don't forget shoes!

- Plan or prepare children's lunches and your own if you take food to work.

- Make any phone calls to relatives if you haven't over the weekend. Don't forget your in-laws!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Introducing.. Enchanted Alphabet

My new blog, a letter every day with something beautiful, magical, mystical or enchanting to look at.

A is for Apple, B is for Edward Burne-Jones, C is for... come visit to find out.

Subject matter runs from artists to jewels, foods to movies, books to fashion, furnishings to music.

Visit every morning for a new cheerful, beautiful set of things to look at. I'm still finding my voice, and figuring out what I want to do with this. I've already decided I want the pictures to be bigger, so I'll be changing that for tomorrow's entry.


Back to School For You

Basketweave Throws, at Pottery Barn

With September underway, kids are back in school. I live right next to a school, and every morning I hear their excited little voices as they are being dropped off. I'm so jealous. I want to go school supply shopping; take notes in a fresh notebook; pore over a syllabus of upcoming readings. I want to sit in a classroom soaking up interesting knowledge. I might even look forward to a teensy bit of homework (as long as it doesn't involve math!)

If you at all have room in your life, see if you can make time this fall for some enriching classes you will enjoy. Be a lifelong learner, and continue to explore your interests. Whether you take classes at a cooking store, community college, karate school, yoga center, or online, give yourself the gift of knowledge. Maybe all you can fit in is a weekend workshop this fall, or an online course you do at night when your kids are in bed.

You may have to trade babysitting with another mother, arrange to leave your children with your partner one night a week, or barricade yourself in your room for an hour a night to finish an online course. You might have to give up TV two nights a week, or limit your daily computer time until the class is over. If it's important to you, you'll find and make the time for yourself. I know it's hard if you're working, even if you don't have kids, to find time after you get home tired every weeknight. But you do still have weekends!

7 Universities Providing Free Online Literature Courses


- Fill up with gas for the weekend; stop by an ATM for cash

- Wipe down kitchen sink and counters; fill or empty dishwasher as needed

- Take out trash if needed, or make someone in your household help you

- Declutter and vacuum living room really quickly so you have a nice fresh home to come home to tonight

- Take inventory of your baking cupboard. Do you have fall goodies on hand, like buttermilk biscuit mix, scone mixes, flour, sugar, muffin mixes, apple crisp topping, cake mixes and cookie ingredients? Add anything missing to your shopping list.

Velvet Quilts, at Pottery Barn

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Blankets

If it's getting chilly in your area, time to swap out your summer bed linens for your fall and winter ones. Here in Seattle, it was cold enough last night to remind me it's time to get out my faux down duvet. Away go my cream colored summer sheets with flowery embroidery trim. Out come my cranberry flannel sheets and warmer bedding.

Launder your outgoing sheets and blankets before folding them away for storage. Smell your replacements to see if they smell fresh. Mine are a bit dusty smelling from the closet, so I want to wash them before putting them on the bed. Use linen spray, if you like, to help freshen the bed too. See how your accent pillows (if any) smell while you're there. My cranberry velvet ones need to be Febrezed or linen sprayed a little bit. Repeat the process for your children's rooms or guest room, if applicable.

I'm getting out a couple quilts for at the foot of everyone's beds. Also, it might be time to get out your throws to toss around your couches and living rooms. Freshen them too, if needed. There's nothing like snuggling up in front of a bad reality TV show with a soft throw on a chilly fall evening.

LOVELY BLOGS: Once Upon a Blog

This blog covers news about fairy tales. I love everything fairytale related, especially in autumn when I curl up by the fire and read dark old stories. So I'll check back with this blog often to see news on movies, books, conventions, art, and other blogs. There's a wee bit too much Disney here for my liking, but it's easy to skip over, and I bet I have readers who would enjoy that much Disney anyways.


Fantastic Fare in 5 Ingredients or Less (Today Show)

8 Speedy Suppers (Coastal Living)

With a Chill in the Air, a Hearty Red Wine (Today Show)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Budgeting for Autumn

Creamy Nutmeg Slatkin candle

I'm taking time today to look at my budget for the next couple pre-holiday months. (I'll worry about my Christmas shopping budget a bit later). I've been living away from home for months, working at a gift shop for far less wages than I make in my own home business, so my budget this year is a lot lower than last year.

I need to think about upcoming birthdays I'll need to send gifts, cards and flowers for, Thanksgiving expenses (I don't travel for that holiday, so that helps), and all the grocery shopping I'll need to be doing for the autumn dinner parties I throw.

Two huge upcoming expenses are my adoption in 2010, and the nursery I'm creating for her in my guest bedroom.

Meanwhile, I will need money to maintain my home (and better it, not just keep it at the same level). I need a chimney sweep, carpet cleaning, and a furnace inspection. I have a flatscreen TV that STILL needs to be mounted on the wall. If I can squeeze enough into the budget, I'd like to get the electricity rewired in the garage so I can put an inexpensive $300 garage refrigerator from Home Depot out there. And very soon I'll be buying bulbs to plant in my fall planting spree.

I'll likely need to buy a couple new sweaters for the fall. The teenage cousin living with me needs textbooks and some clothes for fall, too. This year there is only one musical coming up that I'm particularly interested in (Wicked) and I definitely will forego Starbucks, manicures and other non-necessities in order to save up for that.


- Balance checkbook; pay any outstanding bills that didn't get done on September first.

- Do a quick maintenance-cleaning wipedown of bathroom mirrors, counters, and sinks

- Launder bath towels, wash towels and hand towels, if needed


Sit down with your significant other/spouse/partner (or yourself; or your accountant) and look over your budget for the next 2 months. Are you able to put away money in savings? Pay down credit card debt? If not, what things do you need to give up, and behaviors to change, in order to do so?

What sorts of upcoming expenses can you anticipate? Need to buy any coats or fall clothing for family members? New shoes (the kind someone actually needs because their existing shoes are worn out; not the kind we just want because they're pretty).

Do you have any medical appointments coming up? Dentist visits that need a co-pay? Veterinarian visits for your pets? School pictures for your kids? Any upcoming field trips at their schools that have a fee associated? Will your family members need haircuts, or pets need professional grooming, in the next two months?

Any birthdays coming up, or parties you plan to throw? Need to stock your pantry for fall, and buy cleaning supplies? Planning on attending any movies, concerts, or events between now and November? Are you well stocked on fall home fragrance and candles?

What home-repair, home maintenance, and home improvement projects do you need to get done in the next 2 months? Doing any home organizing or redecorating, and maybe need to budget in organizing supplies?

Write your estimated budget (and expenses) down on paper. If you have a significant other, have them sign it, and make a copy so you both have one. That way you can refer back to it later (especially during an argument, laugh!)

I post mine somewhere I see it every day - my bathroom changing area. After a couple weeks I'll forget to look at it, so hopefully I will remember to move it somewhere else so I will notice it again. I wouldn't put it anywhere public like the fridge where visitors could see it, though. Mostly it's just a reminder for me of all the things I want to accomplish and to be able to provide for my household.


This blog aggregates cocktail recipes (with beautiful photographs to accompany them) from various blogs around the world. Currently there are nearly 4,000 cocktail, beer, wine and liquor photographs and recipes here.


25 Sexy Fall Finds for Under $100 (Glamour)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

First of September

Apple and Pumpkin Pocket Pie Molds, at Williams-Sonoma

Today, I'm looking back over my summer, finishing up diary and journal entries, reminiscing, and seeing if there's anything I wanted to do and forgot to make time for. I need one more picnic in a park, one more night spent sleeping under the stars, and one more dinner at a waterfront restaurant's patio. I'd like sit out under my patio umbrella before it's time to put it away in storage for fall. I'm keeping my windows and doors open to let in fresh air while I still can, and gathering generous portions of plums, mint and basil from my garden.


- Look over your calendar for the upcoming month. Need to make any hair, veterinary, doctor or dentist appointments for you or family members? Getting flu shots?

- Any upcoming birthdays you need to send cards or gifts for?

- Make any phone calls or send emails you need to catch up with family and friends

- Pay mortgage, rent, and bills

- Are you a listmaker? Today I'm going to be sure that my very
important "list" notebook (currently a teal-and-chocolate striped little thing ) his tucked away into my purse, along with a pen. With fall coming on I'll have plenty of things to keep track of and make lists about.

- Make time for yourself sometime today outdoors while it's still nice enough to enjoy it. Take a longer walk than usual; take some of your summer magazines out on the porch with some iced tea and enjoy them.

- It's time to finish reading our summery magazines, or anything with
summer recipes, beach house decoration or island travel themes. Coastal Living, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and pre-October issues of Good Housekeeping, House & Garden, etcetera. These will hold us back from getting into the mood for fall, so let's read, enjoy then recycle them!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Goodbye to Summer

Some of you are still living in uberhot weather right now. But if it's getting too chilly to be outside, it might be time to put away your patio furniture. Use it one last time, enjoying your patio while reading magazines, paying bills or writing a quick note to a relative. Let's let our significant others do all the heavy lifting and washing off and storing; but we can still put away our summer decor, beach towels, citronella candles, etc.

I have two Sterilite plastic storage boxes marked Summer. Into them today is going all my summer tablecloths and tablerunners, my yellow and white polkadot outdoor dishes, any leftover unused summery paper napkins, my teal votive holders, my citronella candles, tealights in the wrong color scheme for fall, and anything else I used to decorate for outdoor parties.

With these boxes safely tucked away in our storage shed, I'll be able to get out fall decor and start decorating in autumnal colors this week.

Time to toss those old, crusty sunscreens. Supposedly it goes bad after a year so we'll have to buy new ones next May anyway. Keep a couple newer looking ones, in different SPF, around in case of emergencies. Never know when you're going to win the lottery and immediately jump on a plane for Hawaii!

Beach towels need to be laundered and stored or put far away in the linen cupboard. We'll need the room for fall linens and cuddly throws.

It does make me sad to put away my summer things. I just have to look forward to the holidays ahead, and remember that summer will come again next year. I'll remind myself of the nice few San Diego trips I took last winter, soaking up sun for a weekend here and a few days there.


Back-to-School Menus (Epicurious)

End of Summer Cocktails (Martha Stewart)

Peach Clafouti (Rachael Ray)

Ratatouille Grilled Panini (Rachael Ray)