Wednesday, March 31, 2010

End of March


- Do you pack lunches for your children? Want to surprise them ahead of Easter, with a few cute surprises tucked into their lunch bags or lunchboxes? If so, put some thought into what little Easter-themed treats you might add and where you might find them this week.

- How are your nails looking? Need to remove polish, add polish, trim, file?

- Look back over the month of March. Were you able to get everything done that you wanted to? Was your life in balance, between family, work, friends, taking care of yourself, caring for pets, cleaning your home, doing projects, crafting, gardening, and down time?

- Take a brisk walk around your neighborhood, and enjoy seeing the daffodils, tulips, crocus, and hyacinths that may be in bloom.

- Hot chocolate season is almost over. Soon it will be too warm to fully enjoy rich hot drinks. Have a cup of nice hot chocolate while you still want to.

- Read a book and write in your journal tonight. Last night I was too tired and fell asleep - I spent too much time watching TV before bed. I enjoyed it, but I know I would enjoy a book more. Tonight, less TV!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning Doors and Floors

Today I wiped down both sides of all 14 doors in my house. (Don't forget closet doors too, especially those that slide open). Mine are wood, so can be dusted. Only one of the doors has been painted white, which requires extra scrubbing to get greasy fingerprints off. One of the doors is the glassed-in door to my kitchen, so it needs to be Windexed too.

Although most of my doors don't visibly look dirty or dusty, it's amazing how shiny and clean they'll look (and smell) when I get done and step back later today to look at them.

I'm also going to be cleaning all the floors in the house. Carpets will be thoroughly vacuumed, a daily task now that I have two puppies. When I'm done, I'll empty the canister on my Dyson so it's ready to go for next time.

Bathrooms and laundry room need to be mopped; the wood floors in my kitchen, dining and entry will be vacuumed then mopped.

I'm hosting a baby shower on Saturday, so all this floor cleaning will help me feel more relaxed about getting ready for it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Secret Garden

Every spring for years now, I take time to re-read the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, "The Secret Garden".

Although her other well-known book, "A Little Princess," is my favorite, there's definitely a wonderful rainy-day air about "The Secret Garden" that makes it perfect for reading in March. Winds whistling across the moors, a lonely girl exploring a large house full of antiques and mysteries, and a walled garden waiting to be lovingly tended by small hands...

My favorite part of the book is the chapter where she finally finds the key and unlocks the gate to the hidden garden:

"The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and hopped about or flew after her from one bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he were showing her things. Everything was strange and silent and she seemed to be hundreds of miles away from any one, but somehow she did not feel lonely at all. All that troubled her was her wish that she knew whether all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather got warmer. She did not want it to be a quite dead garden. If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be, and what thousands of roses would grow on every side!

Someday when I have a young child, I'd like to set aside a portion of the yard for a secret garden they can keep all their own. If we're still living in the house I own currently, there's a few tucked-away areas we could wall off with an attractive small fence (giving the child the illusion of privacy). Or there are a few flowerbeds that could be dedicated to a child's garden.

If you enjoy gardening and have space in your yard, why not consider letting your child have a space to make all their own. It wouldn't take much: they would need a spade small enough for their little hands, a small watering can light enough for them to carry, and tiny gardening gloves. But they don't need kneeling pads, gardening hats (Use any old hat or cap), fancy boots (their other boots will do just fine), or expensive potting chairs. (Resist the temptation to run down to Target or Pottery Barn Kids and buy all the adorable children's gardening supplies.) Just let them have a few colorful packets of seeds, a few starter plants, some potting soil, and a bit of your attention and help at first.


- If you're traveling early this summer, it's time to make reservations for flights, hotels, rental houses, rental cards, etc.

- Empty trash cans throughout your home

- Have everything ready for Easter, if you celebrate it? Eggs, dying supplies, candy, special outfits for your children? Camera batteries charged? Ready to take pictures?

- Give the kitchen a quick freshen-up. Empty or load dishwasher, change out dishtowels, wipe down counters, scrub sink, mop floor. This should take less than 15 minutes.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning: Cupboards

Pick a cupboard, dresser, cabinet, curio cabinet, or your entire linen closet (if you have time), and thoroughly sort it. Remove everything, wipe down the shelves and front of the cupboard/cabinet, then replace everything in an organized manner. Throw out anything you can bear to part with, things you aren't using, or anything looking old and stained. Add anything you need to your shopping list for the week.

The Vera Wang "Pink Duchesse" teapot I got as a wedding present. Love it!

This afternoon I'll be sorting my Teapot cabinet, washing all the cups and teapots that have gotten dusty, and taking inventory of my tea and hot chocolate supplies.

I sorted this cabinet pretty well last year during Spring Cleaning, so I think I'll be able to tackle another cupboard as well - the one that holds all the small white appetizer cups, white serving pieces and plates I use for dinner parties.


I just find this Winestein very amusing. From Z Gallerie, it might be a fun way to gently tease a friend who appreciates beer but is new to wine tasting.


What to Do With Leftover Easter Eggs (CHOW)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Cleaning Your Closet, Part 2

My new primrose garden, in front of my house

Today I'm finishing sorting my closet for Spring. I'm putting away my velvet pants and velvet skirts, and getting out cooler, lighter, more flowing tops and skirts.


- We're halfway through the week. Have you eaten a sit-down meal with family this week? Taken your vitamins? Gone for a walk?

- Made plans for Easter yet, if this is a holiday you celebrate? It's celebrated on April third this year.

- Take inventory of your pet food and medicine supplies. Need to buy any pet related food or items?

- Do you have enough of the right kinds of hangers for your closet? Need to pick anything up to make your closet cleaning job easier today?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Closet Cleaning, Part 2

Tonight I'll finish up what's left from yesterday's project. I have several tops and skirts I need to try on to be sure they fit. I have laundry that was washed last night and needs to be hung up or folded and put away. There are four pairs of shoes to try on to be sure they are still comfortable. And, sadly, it's time to sort my bras - and try them on. Ugh.

I'll pay attention to problem areas that happen in my closet: my comfy PJs end up clustered on top of a storage box, rather than folded and put away, and I tend to collect a pile of pants within easy reach when I dress in the morning. Those should be hung up on their proper pants hangers.

When I finish tonight, I'll lay out a specially pretty new dress to wear out to dinner tomorrow night.

LOVELY BLOGS: Room Mom 101

This blog is chock full of great ideas for room moms (and teachers, too!) She's posting about rainbow cupcakes, teacher appreciation ideas, displaying kids' artwork, and making bulletin board decorations. Lots of fun things to look at here!

LOVELY FOOD: Easter Gummy Bunnies

New from Williams-Sonoma, Sour Gummy Bunnies. I'm giving a couple bags of these to friends as Easter gifts. The flavors include Key lime, lemon and pink grapefruit.


Appetizers for Dinner (Chatelaine)

Apple Napoleon (Luxirare)

Bartenders Shake Up Some Serious Tiki Drinks (CHOW)

Cake Pop Culture (Food2)

Decorating Tips for Stripes (Chatelaine)

Easter and Spring Centerpieces (Martha Stewart)

A Greek Easter Celebration (CHOW)

Making Easter Candy With Jacques Torres (Epicurious)

Passover Recipes, Menus and Entertaining Ideas (Epicurious)

Recipes for Passover (CHOW)

Spring Fever Recipes (Rachael Ray)

Tips on Decorating a Studio Apartment (Robin's Nestings)

24 Spring Dinner Party Menus (Martha Stewart)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Cleaning Your Closet, Part 1

These potted flowers are decorating my front porch this Spring.

Every spring when I clean out my closet, I put away most of my sweaters in storage boxes - minus any worn out looking sweaters that need to be thrown away. It's still in the low 50s, so I will still need a couple sweaters left out, however.

My favorite part of Spring Closet Cleaning is taking out and hanging up my beloved cotton, light, gauzy, colorful spring dresses. It's still quite chilly outside every day though. I can only yet dream of wearing one of my flowery pastel cotton summer dresses, and my beloved sandals and espadrilles sit dusty on a top shelf, sigh!


- Tonight after work, enjoy a leisurely cup of tea, and your current favorite book or magazine. Don't rush into your evening cleaning activities quite yet; savor a stolen moment or two.

- Do you have fresh flowers in the house, perhaps tulips? Remedy the situation if you forgot to pamper yourself with flowers this week (budget allowing).

- Finish laundry so everybody has clean clothes for the rest of the workweek. (Or better yet, make your kids do their own, if they're old enough!)

TODAY'S PROJECT: Closet Spring Cleaning

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that currently, my closet has two or three large storage containers in the way so I will have a bit of difficulty stepping in to start sorting. I'll drag the boxes out into my bedroom, and try to figure out what's inside them and how I can minimize the clutter.

My newest dress. Not very summery, but I feel pretty in it.

I splurged on some new clothes in January, and shoved them into my closet a bit haphazardly. I'm worried I'll forget about a couple of the newer, fun pieces, since they aren't currently visible. With all my travels lately, I've let things fall on the floor, dry cleaning pile up, and my shelves get horribly untidy. I still do not have a dresser, so things like T-shirts and underwear are stored in baskets on the shelves. At least I tidied those recently, so that's a bit less work I have to do.

I don't have a fancy plan for reorganizing my closet, other than to just remove everything, sort and put things back.

I'll force myself to try things on to make sure they still fit - I've fortunately not gained too much weight since last year's Spring Cleaning. I will very strictly make myself get rid of things that don't fit, old things or things I know I won't wear any time soon.

Hoarding Gowns

I used to think I would keep around some gowns that don't fit me for a dress up trunk for nieces, but I've found that only gives me an excuse to keep things cluttering around. And the sad reality is my nieces don't visit very often at all. The fantasy of needing the gowns for nieces gave me an excuse to clutter up my closet with many gowns that are two or three sizes too small. Worn only twice or three times, and dry cleaned, they'll be perfect to donate to prom dress charities.

My System

I'll make a pile for trash, one for charity, one for laundry, one for storage, and then hang up clothes I will keep. I'll count my tank tops (I have way more tank tops than we have sunny days in Seattle summers) and try to pare down my collection. It's difficult for me, since they are so comfy - especially the Gap ones with the built-in bras.

Making it Fun

I plan to make my cleaning chore more pleasant by lighting a candle in my bedroom, playing my newest CD, or maybe I'll see if there's a good trashy Lifetime movie on.

Possible Shopping Opportunity!

As you sort, pay attention to things you might be missing. Is there anything you need to add to your shopping list? A silk blouse, a new business jacket, spring capris, a summery dress, a new bra? Maybe something nice you could wear to a wedding or a summer evening dinner party in an emergency? Do you have a lightweight spring coat? A rain slicker? How are your bras and panties holding up? Do you have something conservative in black you could wear to a funeral if you had to go to one on short notice?

Hoarding Clothes?

Do you notice any problem areas where you have WAY too many of the same type of items? My problem areas are shoes and the aforementioned tank tops. Spend a couple minutes really looking over your collection and evaluating where your personal shopping weaknesses lie. Next time you're in a store and reach for that pair of shoes, tank top, sundress, shorts, jeans, or whatever you seem to constantly buy, try to talk yourself out of it. Closet clutter is one of the most discouraging battles to fight in life, I think.

As you sort, don't forget to check clothes for wear, tears, stains, and fit. Make a laundry pile for clothes you want to keep. It might be a good idea to launder things you intend to send to charity. Although we most likely hung our clothes up clean in our closets, they might be a bit musty or dusty smelling. I like the charity sorters to know these are clean clothes, so I'll wash mine before giving them away, just to re-impart a fresh scent.

I expect this to be an all-evening project that spills over into tomorrow. I'll have to figure out a way to prevent it from making the bedroom unusable for sleep later tonight.

LOVELY ART: Helen Musselwhite

I thought you might like to check out this incredibly talented paper sculpturist. She creates fascinating scenes, often with owls, ravens or other creatures.

I love her woodland cottages, too.

LOVELY CRAFTS: Letterpress Machine

I am so excited about this home letterpress machine! I think I will get it for myself as a birthday present, once it becomes available in late April. As much as I love stationery and writing letters, I do think I would use this often.


Aren't these tiny sorbet cups adorable? They're tempting to me because they are so affordable, but I'd have trouble figuring out where I could store them year-round. I do throw a lot of sorbet tasting parties in the summertime, and I do serve sorbet with a lot of my summer meals. So I think I might use them enough to warrant some cupboard space.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Beauty Touch-Up

Sorrento Melamine Dishes

Red ranunculus I'll plant by my front door this Spring

I'm quickly doing a few beauty-related things here and there in preparation for my upcoming birthday, a couple dates (ooh!) and a baby shower I'll throw. I probably won't have time to get a trim on my hair, but otherwise after tonight I think I'll be looking my personal best.


- Need to launder pet bedding?

- Check on houseplants, if you have any. Water them, move them into a sunny window if needed, and throw out anything dead. Add houseplants to your shopping list if you want a pretty spring perk-up.

- Have you eaten several "whole foods" today? Something fresh, not out of a box? An apple perhaps, an orange, or a handful of almonds?

This spring I'm using L'Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil to keep my skin soft and prevent dryness.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Beauty Touch-Up

I'm getting a manicure and pedicure today after work. I'll give myself a sugar scrub in the shower tonight, and shave my legs, then moisturize them. With Seattle's warmer and sunnier weather, I'm going to be wearing lots of very sheer stockings under my dresses during my upcoming dates and parties.

Also tonight I'm dying my roots. (I currently am using L'Oreal Feria's "Chocolate Cherry".

Also, I'll drink lots of water tonight and get to bed early. A rested, hydrated, smiling Carrie will be more beautiful than a tired, thirsty, grumpy one!

What beauty things might you want to take care of tonight?

LOVELY BLOGS: Hostess With the Mostess

I absolutely admire this entertaining tips blog. Currently it features fabulous articles on Fresh Spring Colors, Inspiration for Spring Parties, a French circus themed baby shower, and a Twilight-inspired tablescape. There's also a timely post on Easter Egg centerpieces.

LOVELY DISHES: Sorrento Melamine

I just can't find room for these in my cupboards (nor an excuse to buy them) but I couldn't resist stopping to admire these brightly colored melamine plates when I was at Crate and Barrel over the weekend. What fun they'd be for outdoor entertaining or a luau-themed party!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mid-March, Springtime

The cherry tree in my front yard. I do my work in the upstairs living room in the morning so I can enjoy the view.


- Make menu plans and create grocery list for the week

- It's the middle of the month. Have you called your mom/dad/grandmother/etc yet this month?

- Any appointments you need to make in the next 2 weeks? Any birthday gifts you need to send out, or cards to mail?

- Laundry done, folded and put away?

- Kitchen clean and ready to go for breakfast tomorrow?

- Pet food bowls clean, and pet bedding laundered? How's your inventory of pet food?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning - Kitchen

Today I'm doing a thorough cleaning on my kitchen. Rather than my daily "buff and puff," I'm doing a very complete all over cleaning and reorganizing. It shouldn't be too bad since I was careful to do a good job back in October when I prepared for fall entertaining.

I will be scrubbing the refrigerator and stove/oven, and moving them to clean behind them. This is something I only do twice a year. The refrigerator is on wheels so I can move it myself, but the oven I'll need help with.

Next I'll mop the floors. I'll take a lunch break in another room while the floors dry. I'll launder the blue floor mat I keep by the back door.

I will remove every dish from every cupboard, clean the inside of the cupboards, dust the outside of the cupboards, wash any dusty dishes, and replace the dishes in an organized fashion. I'll be removing silverware and utensils from their drawers, and wiping down the drawers.

I've already cleaned out the junk I keep under the sink (trash bags, empty plastic bags that need to be recycled, cleaning products, old gloves). I just need to scrub and sanitize the kitchen trash can.

I will be removing every item from the counters, then scrubbing and sanitizing the counters. I will really be putting thought into what I'm putting back onto the counters. I'd much rather have things out of sight, hidden away in a cupboard. Do I use my rice cooker every day ? No, but maybe every other day. So it can stay, but my panini grill we use just once a week needs to be removed and put into a cupboard.

As I'm putting things back in cupboards, I'll be seriously evaluating if I need to keep each item. Clutter removal is always a high priority. On the other hand, I'm not trying to live a simplistic life either. I'm a hostess and enjoy frequent entertaining, so I do need all those wineglasses and serving pieces. Still, as you go to put things away, ask yourself when is the last time you used that particular dish, utensil or appliance. Are you really going to use it in the next six months? In the next year? If not, sell it, recycle it, give it away, or toss it out.

I'll also be looking to see if I need anything new for the kitchen. What should I be saving up for in the next few months? I'll be checking out how my kitchen curtains, towels and other linens are holding up. I'm pretty sure I don't need any more new kitchen gadgets, appliances or tools, however.

Making sure my work environment is pleasant, I'll turn on the Food Network on the little television I put into the kitchen last month. I'll burn incense, and enjoy a big hot steaming mug of English Breakfast tea while I work. The door will be open to the patio - it's a bit chilly, but I'll be moving around a lot and I'll love the fresh air.

I'll finish by lighting a lemon scented candle. Tonight I'll be cooking dinner in a sparkling clean kitchen!

LOVELY FRAGRANCES: Escada's "Marine Groove"

Every summer I treat myself to a bottle of Escada's limited edition seasonal fragrance. I've loved all of them but one (Moon Sparkle). They make me feel young, pretty and summery. So I'm excited to check out this season's "Marine Groove." It's scented with passionfruit, red currant berry, grapefruit, peony, jasmine, and white cedarwood. I will allow myself to purchase this (assuming I enjoy the scent) because I haven't bought myself perfume in many months, and I've been remembering to wear and enjoy a perfume almost every day.


St. Patrick's Day Recipes (Martha Stewart)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Cleaning Delays

Victor, one of the two puppies I recently adopted

Spring came early this year. Snowdrops and my cherry trees are blooming in my yard. Sunlight is streaming through my office window.

This week I'll be putting away my heavier blanket throws, changing out my red pillows in the living room for pink and purple ones, and using freesia body wash instead of cranberry spice.

Although I'm pretty much sick of winter and looking forward to spring, I do want to make sure I'm fully enjoying winter while it's still here. I'll be burning fires in my fireplace a lot this week while it's still cool enough to do so, drinking lots of hot chocolate, and maybe having a fondue party.

And with sunnier, warmer weather on the way, I'm concerned about all my winter projects I haven't finished yet. Do you have crafts projects, journals, writing projects, letters to write, recipes to try, photos to sort or scrapbook, or other indoor activities you should get done before warm weather tempts you outdoors?

It's time to begin Spring Cleaning. I'd much rather Spring Clean now while it's still generally rainy, cold and foggy outside. In about a month when it's sunny enough to sit out on the porch with a book or magazine, I can relax knowing my big yearly chore is already done.

I generally start my spring cleaning a lot sooner. Here it's already almost the middle of the month. My new puppies have been very distracting with their cuteness and their begging to play. But also they've majorly increased the time I spend cleaning the carpet, vacuuming, and doing laundry. That's slowing me down from my planned Spring Cleaning schedule.

Over the next two weeks, I'll share my struggles and challenges with you as I finish my Spring Cleaning.


- Daylight Saving Time was last night. Have you updated all your clocks, computers, and the clock in your car?

- We generally use Daylight Saving Time to remind ourselves to change batteries in our smoke detectors and flip our mattresses.

- Take inventory of your cleaning supplies. Do you have window/glass cleaner, kitchen and bathroom sanitizers, Febreze (if you use that kind of thing), sanitizing wipes, floor wash, mopping supplies, dusting spray/wood oil, sink scrub, paper towels, clean rags, bleach, stainless steel polish, silver polish, trash bags, bathroom mildew removers? Any products you have TOO much of that you can get rid of or use up? Anything you need to add to your shopping list?

- Allergy season will soon be in full swing. Do you need to make an appointment with your allergist, refill a prescription, or stock up on any over-the-counter allergy meds?

- Treat yourself to a $3 bouquet of tulips for your kitchen, or a 99 cent potted primrose or two, for your porch or deck.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning Part 1: Windows/Blinds/Curtains

Let's make sure our windows are able to let in as much spring sunlight as possible. Remove and launder or dry clean all curtains in the house; wash windows; then replace. While you're there, might as well dust any wood frames and windowsills you might have around your windows.

If it helps, count your windows and break the task up with rewards (not food rewards, but things like TV time, longer bath time, a quick magazine read). I have only fourteen windows, but three of them are huge sizes that cover one entire wall.

If you have blinds or miniblinds, wash as many as you can today. These often chat can be a huge task. Make a note, if you have broken or missing levers in your blinds, to replace that blind with a new one sometime in this next year. (Or call your apartment management if you live in a well-run complex; they may replace them for you).

If you are unable to remove your curtains, at least Febreze them and whack them with a broom to dust them (if you and your guests don't have allergies).

LOVELY FOOD: Tea Forte's Tea Truffles

I think these Tea Truffles, new from Tea Forte, are the perfect gift for a man. Masculine looking, and not too sweet. I'm sending some as a thank-you to someone I owe gratitude to.

LOVELY BLOGS: Gardening by Trial and Error

A blogger from the Pacific Northwest shares her gardening efforts. There are always lovely pictures to see here, whether of flowers, her garden, or animals. Check out her beautiful azalea!


"Honey, Don't Bother Mommy, I'm Too Busy Building My Brand" (NY Times)

How to Cook Up a Food Celebrity (NY Times)

How Vacations Affect Your Happiness (NY Times)

Jalapeno Popper Recipes (CHOW)

Lemon Desserts (Martha Stewart)

Make Your Own Girl Scout Cookies (CHOW)

Monday, March 01, 2010

First of March

What I'm burning for Spring: Nectarine Mint candle from Bath & Body Works

It's a new month!

Look back over February. Did you accomplish things you meant to do? Were you able to make and keep important appointments (doctors, veterinarians, etc?) Paid mindful attention to any New Year's resolutions you made, and tried to work towards those goals? Stayed within your budget?

Did you make time for yourself to relax, or did you fill your life with dramas, unnecessary projects, over-scheduled events and things you allowed yourself to be volunteered for? Did you have time for yourself, time for family, and time for your friends?

Have you been taking your vitamins and exercising like you should? Are you making time to write in your journals, create your crafts, paint your paintings, putter with your houseplants, or create other things you enjoy?

We're not beating ourselves up over missed opportunities and unaccomplished goals. We're just staying conscious of how we're spending our time. I'll just promise myself I'll do better next month - or pat myself on the back if I've been doing well.

Look for ways to meet your personal goals in March, while still giving yourself time and room to relax and be with friends and family. What fun things do you want to do this month? Throwing any parties (Easter, tea parties, St. Patrick's Day?) Can you throw them without stressing yourself out?

Taking your kids somewhere for Spring Break? If not, how are you going to entertain them for that week or two?

For me, I'm back from months of family stress and drama. Four funerals and a wedding. Two new puppies join me as I return. My store's been closed for 2 months out of the last 3. I've missed my friends, and several Family Nights in a row have gone uncelebrated.

It's time to get back to work maintaining my home and rebuilding my life.


March is National Women's History Month

March 17: St. Patrick's Day

March 20: First Day of Spring/Vernal Equinox

March 30: Passover


- Make menu plans for the week; create or add to your grocery list.

- Breeze through the house picking up any spare utensils and drinking glasses, return to kitchen.

- Look over the next month - any upcoming birthdays or events you need to send gifts or cards for? Budget your time, see what appointments you need to make for the upcoming month, and talk to family members about anything that needs to be put on your family calendar.

- Any items waiting on the stairs to be carried up or down and put away? Anything left by the front door that needs to go out? (Dry cleaning, rental DVDs, mail, items to return to friends?) If applicable, put things in the car so you'll remember to drop them off tomorrow on your way to or from work, or during your regular errands.

- Give yourself a manicure if needed, before the week starts. Don't wear polish? Just work on cleaning up your nails and making them look healthy, clean and pretty.

- Sniff your family members' current winter jackets. Any jackets need to be laundered or dry cleaned? What coat will you or your family wear while their main coat is being cleaned?


I'm going to start my Spring Cleaning off gently, since I'm just now returning home with a lot of loose ends to catch up on.

Today I'll begin by washing down all the walls in my house. I'm not going to cover absolutely every painted surface with my little wet washcloths: I'll concentrate on problem areas. Walls near my light switches are very dirty and fingerprinty, as are walls next to where someone sleeps in their bed. A few high-up corners need to be dusted with a dry mop for spiderwebs. All three of my bathrooms need every surface wiped down and probably sanitized too.

There's also a living room wall that has grimy footprints where my cat, Tyler, jumps on it to climb onto the bookcase every day. Looking at this closely, I think it's time to repaint that wall - which likely means a repaint of the entire living room so it matches. I've lived here six years, so it's time for a repaint anyways. I'll probably wait a month until I can have the doors and windows open to get rid of the strong paint smells. Hopefully I can interest my teenagers in earning extra money to get this chore done for me!

I also need to work on some candle smudge marks above both mantels, underneath the paintings which hang over each mantel. Also, there are grubby marks on most of the walls where my door handles hit them when the door is opened.

I expect this project to take three to four hours today. I'll put on music to listen to as I work, and when I'm in a room with a television, I'll entertain myself with Season 2 of "Party of Five."

My cleaning supplies are as simple as a washcloth, some orange spray for tough spots, and a fresh Mr. Eraser.

LOVELY MUSIC: Peter Gabriel

I'm really curious to hear Peter Gabriel's new album: Scratch My Back. I'd describe it as an album of cover tunes, but the official idea is to "reinterpret" songs by other artists. The album is performed only with Peter Gabriel's voice and orchestral instruments. I need something nice and low key to listen to around the house, and I'm thinking this just may fit the bill.

The songs covered include Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today," Regina Spektor's "Apres Moi," "The Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon, and David Bowie's "Heroes."


Eight Ingenious Travel Innovations (Conde Nast Traveler)

Jean-Georges' Traditional Fondue (Today Show)

Latest Spring Makeup Trends (Handbag)

The Luxury of Roughing It (Time)

Quick and Easy Organizing Tips (Good Housekeeping)

San Francisco: Decoding Shabu Shabu (Newsweek)

Soups to Warm Up Your World (Early Show)

Spring Break With Kids (CNN Travel)

10 Fast Snacks for Drop-In Guests (Seattle Times)