Thursday, April 29, 2010

April Winds Down


I treated myself to this blue hydrangea plant. Until I replant it outdoors, it sits on my breakfast nook table, where we drink tea in the morning.

Did you accomplish everything you wanted to this month? Finished the projects you started? Spent some time alone, time with friends, quality time with family? Exercised, ate well, stuck to your budget? Think over your past month, and make goals for next month, as May begins soon.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Do any mid-week laundry that's piled up.

- Prepare for your weekend a bit early. Do a quick sweep through the house, whisking away damp towels, bringing dishes and drinking glasses back to the kitchen, watering houseplants, emptying trash cans, filling or emptying the dishwasher as needed, and giving a quick vacuum to the rooms that need it.

- Go for a walk if the weather is nice tonight - even if that means giving up some TV time.

- Did you read a newspaper or watch the news at all this week? Local news as well as countrywide or international? Are you kept up on current events? If not, use time tonight to catch up with what's going on in your area and the rest of the world.

- Need to charge any cell phones, cameras, or MP3 players tonight?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Patio

I'm having company over tonight. It won't be nice enough to eat outdoors, but I might be able to coax them outside after dinner if I turn on my patio heater and light a cozy fire in my fire pit. Setting out rocks glasses with bourbon or tiny glasses of ruby port might help tempt people outside!

This afternoon I'm hosing down and sweeping off my back patio, getting it ready for the coming nicer weather. Time to throw out some dead plants I have sitting out neglected. I have some slimy mold I need to scrub off some of the wood, too. I've already hosed off my patio cushions, and they're drying in the limited sunshine available to me today.

I'll finish by Windexing the glass patio tables, cleaning off the outdoor furniture, wiping down the tiles around my fire pit table, and relaxing outdoors for a bit before my guests arrive. Even if I have to wear a jacket to do so!

LOVELY BLOGS: Party Perfect


I always love party inspiration blogs. This one is particularly well researched and full of fun things to look at. Currently Sara is blogging about a rustic baby shower, a magical forest dinner party, a Lego-themed party for a five year old, and a pioneer-themed kids' party.

http://partyperfectblog.blogspot.com/

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Fresh's Petite Perfumes


These one ounce jars of perfume are expensive, at $32. But you just use a dab or two from your fingertips to layer your fragrance. Great for traveling - pop one into your cosmetics bag. My favorite is the citrusy "Hesperides."

http://www.fresh.com/fragrance/1oz-fragrances

LOVELY HOME DECOR: Summer Pillow


I'm tempted by this lovely orange throw pillow from Z Gallerie. It's not an outdoor pillow though, so I'd have to check to be sure it goes with my summery indoor decor. Their other spring pillows are really pretty, too. It's dangerous to look through their website!

LOVELY KITCHEN: Aprons


I don't usually wear an apron in the kitchen (and I'll admit my clothing then smells like the onions I was sweating or the sweet potato fries I was frying!) These aprons from Carolyn's Kitchen are almost too adorable to wear - I'd be terrified of staining them! Love the vintage retro styling on them.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

How to Decorate With Velvet (Casasugar)

Meringue-Themed Jewelry (Non Solo Kawaii)

Mother's Day Celebration Ideas, at Celebrations.com

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Garage Decluttering Weekend

This weekend I'm tackling my overstuffed garage. It's full, so I can't park my car inside it, and that will probably never change due to my home business. Half of my garage is full of merchandise for my business. Mostly, that stuff is kept neatly stacked and organized already. Mostly..

The other half of the garage, however, is a nightmare. There are dozens and dozens of boxes of keepsakes, books, dolls my mom and I used to collect, Christmas ornaments, Halloween decorations, extra dishes, and photograph albums. There is even some canned food I'm storing since my pantry is so pathetically small.

If I'd kept up with my "A Box a Day" sorting project a couple years ago, this would have been all taken care of by now. (However, there are some things I just won't be able to get rid of, like keepsakes and letters, photo albums, and my Christmas decorations, of course).

And of course, if I might have stopped shopping and accumulating, the garage wouldn't have gotten so bad to begin with. (I'm relieved to say that while driving through my neighborhood on this sunny weekend, I've observed that all my neighbors have garages much fuller than mine. None of us seem to park our cars inside!)

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Linger over your breakfast, tea and coffee this morning. Enjoy a magazine. Don't rush yourself.

- Have you taken vitamins recently?

- Go for a long walk if the weather is nice enough.

- Eat meals outside today if it's warm enough.

- Eat as many "whole foods" as you can. A handful of almonds? Slices of avocado? An apple? an orange? An artichoke? Asparagus?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Garage

If it's warm enough weather where you live, open up your garage, air it out, and start sorting out clutter. Throw or give away as much as you can. I'm amazed when I drive through my neighborhood on warm days, seeing everyone's garage open, all full of junk. I can only theorize this is due to the rarity of basements and attics nowadays and in Seattle.

Where else am I supposed to put my mother's four boxes of wedding china - too sentimental to sell or throw away, too 1960's ugly to actually serve dinner on, too chipped to sell or donate?

Today I'm sweeping, restacking boxes, and seeing if I can consolidate anything. I already found two half-full boxes of letters that I can merge into one box. Now I have an empty plastic box. One of my missions today is to get rid of as many cardboard boxes as possible. I've been working on this for months, after rats moved into my garage last summer, chewing up and pooping in the cardboard boxes. I really prefer plastic for long term storage.

I'll try to move my canned food back into the house, but I'm afraid my deep fryer and KitchenAid artisan stand mixer will have to live in the garage still. Otherwise they'll take up counter space and make my kitchen look cluttered.

I'm forcing myself to reevaluate all of my Madame Alexander dolls to sell at a loss on eBay. Which dolls are the cleanest, nicest, that someone might want at a bargain price? I have way too many dolls. I don't need to keep all of them to remember the fun my mom and I had collecting them.

Serious about decluttering? Plan to have a garage or yard sale in a couple weeks. I'm not allowed to in my evil fascist covenanted neighborhood, so I haul boxes of stuff to a nearby cousin's house. I promise my cousin that I will remove whatever of my junk that doesn't sell, and we then put up a Craigslist ad. We barbecue, eat picnic foods, and make a fun family event of it. I might only make a few dollars here and there, but more importantly, I'm sending off my junk to someone else's house to be their junk problem now. Muwahaha!

LOVELY BLOGS: Notes on a Party


This blog is by an events planning company. They find interesting things to blog about, such as bamboo grow pots, the Treetini cocktail, and Zoku Quick Pops.

http://www.notesonaparty.com/

LOVELY FOODS: Les Fleurs de Chocolat


Perfect for a Mother's Day gift, here's Les Fleurs du Chocolat from Vosges. Fruits, flowers, chocolate and cream are combined into these beautiful truffles, which are then topped with edible, organic flowers.

LOVELY TRAVEL: Vacationing at Home/Staycation

I love this idea that Cooking Light had a couple years ago. If you can't afford to travel, take a vacation at home instead. Their idea was: for a weekend, serve ethnic foods from the country you wish you could visit, watch travel shows as well as movies set in that country, and read travel magazines and websites about that country.

I think I'll modify that idea next time I get the travel bug. I'll just go on vacation at home. I'll wash my bedding and clean the bathroom the night before (since you always have fresh clean sheets and towels in a hotel). Turning off all my phones and avoiding email is paramount to making one's home vacation authentic. Maybe I can talk my teenager into bringing breakfast in bed to simulate "room service." (I'll tell her I'm staying in a five star hotel so the eggs had better arrive hot and plated attractively!)

We'll pretend we're tourists and explore Seattle, going to see the sights that natives normally avoid: the Space Needle, Pike Street Market, the Aquarium. If I can't afford to "really travel", I probably can't afford to have a spa treatment. So maybe I'd do my own nails and pedicure. Then at night, I'll stop in at my "hotel bar" (My living room) for a nightcap, then laze around in bed doing exactly what I do in hotels at night - stay up super late watching movies. What do you think - sound fun?

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Conserving Water With a Rain Barrel (Old Fashioned Living)

Famous Movie Scenes of Women Giving Birth (Slate)

Italian Escarole Soup: A Reason to be Bitter in Spring (NY Times)

Most Vegetables are Suitable for Container Gardening (Pittsburgh Live)

Nostalgic Desserts for a Modern Age (Star Chefs)

The Secrets to Perfect Pasta (Dallas Morning News)

Friday, April 23, 2010

April Weekend Approaches


A nice leisurely weekend stretches before us. One with no major holidays to prepare for, nice spring weather for many parts of the country, and plenty of time to relax and rejuvenate ourselves. What will you do to take advantage of your weekend?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Try a 5 minute bathroom cleanup in all bathrooms of your home. Empty trash, refill toilet paper if needed, wipe mirrors and counters, sweep or spot-clean floor, wipe toilet seat, change out hand towels.

- Is your kitchen tidied and ready to go for the weekend? Dishwasher emptied?

- Need to fill up with gas or get cash from an ATM for your weekend?

- Have you made arrangements to see friends or family this weekend? Scheduled fun time with your sweetheart or your kids?

- Throw out any dead plants or flowers, and replace with fresh ones for the weekend. I avoided restaurants every day this week, so I think I can squeak $3 out of my budget for a bouquet of pink tulips.

- Sweep entryway; put away shoes if you have an accumulation by the front door like I do.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cupboard or Cabinet

I'm going to a movie tonight after work ( Kick-Ass, if you must know!) So I don't have time for a major project tonight.

But I want to keep on top of my housekeeping by not letting things slide. So in the interest of maintenance, I'm going to sort out a junky bathroom cabinet. It holds extra shampoos, conditioners and shower gels that I'm hoarding in case I run out and can't get to the store; the extra bathroom rug I swap out at laundry time; a humidifier; and women's supplies. I don't think I'll find extra cluttery stuff in there that I need to throw out, but I need to reorganize everything and dust the cabinet thoroughly inside and out. I'll also get a better idea of what exactly I have on hand, so I won't feel the need to panic at the grocery store tomorrow and buy a bunch of shampoos.

Do you have a cabinet or cupboard you can sort out tonight that will make you feel like your house is a bit cleaner and a bit more organized before you leave to do something fun tonight?

LOVELY ACCESSORIES:


Tired of dragging a boring brown paper bag with you for lunch? Check out these adorable bird, cabin and diner-themed insulated lunch bags. So cute! They're from Jane Jenni.

LOVELY BLOGS: Making Arrangements


I just discovered this fantastic interior styling and party ideas blog. What initially attracted my interest was this incredible post on a Joan Walsh Anglund themed party for children. (Joan Walsh Anglund is a children's illustrator who was popular in the 1970s when I was a little girl. I had several beloved paper dolls, stickers and books by her.)

Recent posts include decorating with birdcages; light and airy designer bedrooms; and how to look like a fashion diva without trying too hard. See if you don't get distracted and "waste" fifteen minutes here today. (I don't think it's a waste to read blogs full of beautiful photos and great ideas!)

http://www.makingarrangementsblog.com/

LOVELY SHOPS: Red Candy


I love the concept of this store. Red Candy sells only items that are predominantly red. It's a UK shop, so it's relatively safe for me to browse around here without worrying about going crazy shopping - I don't want to pay the shipping or worry about currency conversion! I love their red Guzzini kitchenware, and I'm enjoying looking around at their red teapots. A fun browse!

http://www.redcandy.co.uk/

LOVELY TELEVISION: Party Down


I'm intrigued to check out this show because it is centered around a catering company. I probably have enough TV shows to watch right now, but I can't resist in case there is kitchen porn and food photography! The second season starts April 23.

Party Down (Official)

Party Down, at Wikipedia

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Bold Gardening (Chatelaine)

Bubble & Squeak Cakes (BBC)

Build a Slimmer, Tastier Sandwich (Today Show)

Buttermilk and Brown Butter Waffles (CHOW)

Chocolate Chess Pie (Mlive.com)

Food Network Spinoff Announces Its Lineup (NY Times)

Holland: Rites of Spring (Conde Nast Traveler)

Hunting & Gathering: World's Best Shops (Hemispheres)

Moroccan Spaghetti (BBC)

A Second Food Network (NY Times)

Spring Lipsticks (Handbag)

10 Classic Summer Lodges (National Geographic Traveler)

2010 Home Decor Colour Forecast (Chatelaine)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vacuuming Day


Walking Edgar and Victor at Seattle's Arboretum

Time to freshen my carpets and do a little cat and dog hair removal. My home always seems so much cleaner after just a simple vacuuming.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- If you have leather car seats, do they need a quick wipedown with Armor-All or your favorite leather care solution? If your seats are cloth, do you need to vacuum and do any spot cleaning? It took me only 7 minutes today to freshen my car seats and wipe down the dashboard.

- Do you have your Mother's Day present and card ready to send? If your mother is deceased (as is mine), is there a special older woman in your life who has guided or supported you? Maybe she might like a Mother's Day card from you.

- Empty trash cans and recycling if needed

TODAY'S PROJECT: Vacuuming

Today I'm vacuuming all three bedrooms (the fourth is occupied by an extremely messy college student, so it's not vacuumable), the small corridor in my office that isn't covered in merchandise, both living rooms, both sets of stairs, and the hallway. That covers all the carpeted areas.

I'll take a break for lunch, and then move on to vacuum the hardwood floors in my dining room, kitchen and breakfast nook.

I expect all today's vacuuming to take less than 40 minutes. Then my major project for the day will be done. I can return to my work, and pay attention to daily maintenance cleaning chores such as running the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen sink, and doing a load of laundry.

I hate dragging the heavy vacuum around, but I do admit vacuuming is nice since you see instant results!

LOVELY BLOGS: A Diary of Lovely


Helena blogs about fashion, home decor, art, cooking, movies, and other lovely topics. She has a great positive attitude, and you can tell she strives for (and attains) happiness! I think you'll see a lot of inspiring photos here, and you'll enjoy a lot of the interesting finds she blogs about.

http://adiaryoflovely.blogspot.com/

LOVELY DISHES: Bento Boxes


I am so tempted by this blue tiered bento box. Except I work at home, so I don't have a legitimate need for a lunch box. Darn!

Bento Boxes, at Plastica

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Grow Your Own Cocktails (Chow)

Housecleaning Improves My Relationships (CNN)

Mother's Day Brunches (Cooking Light)

Season's Best: Artichokes (Cooking Light)

10 Cosmetic Uses for Everyday Foods (Chow)

14 Cute Spring Date Outfits (Glamour)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Dresses

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Is it warm enough where you are to air out the house? Open windows and doors and let fresh breezes in, if at all possible.

- Shake out rugs and hang them to air; remove pillowcases and set pillows out in the sun to air out too. (If you are lucky enough to have sun today!)

- Check over shopping list for the week. Add fresh fruits and vegetables, and don't forget to pick yourself up some flowers.

- Start planning your Cinco de Mayo festivities, if you plan to have a party or small gathering.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Dresses


Catmint dress I'm considering saving up for, at Anthropologie

I hate wearing pants, but winter often finds me choosing to wear velvet pants to stay warm. I'm a girlie girl, so I prefer dresses. I'm so looking forward to wearing floaty, light, colorful little spring dresses soon!

Today I'm getting out my cute, ruffly, flirty spring dresses. I want them out and visible in my closet so I can easily find them when choosing my clothes every morning.

I'll make sure everything is ready to wear - has it been dry cleaned? Ironed? Smells fresh? Examine your dresses for tears and loose threads. Try a few on, if needed, to make sure they still fit and look good.

Get out your coordinating shrugs, shawls, and scarves. Find the right sandals to wear, if it's warm enough in your area. Spritz yourself with one of your favorite light spring or summery perfumes while you work.

Do you have any room in your budget to treat yourself to a new spring dress? It feels so wonderful to traipse about looking gorgeous in a new dress that makes you feel beautiful!

LOVELY BABY: Gymboree "Ice Cream Shop"


Last night I was minding my own business at Northgate Mall and I accidentally wandered into Gymboree. The adorable "Ice Cream Shop" series for newborn girls caught my eye, and I'm afraid I have to admit I didn't leave the store empty handed. My best friend's newborn baby girl already has more clothes than she can wear, but I couldn't resist a little something! After all, these all have cute little ice cream cones on them!

"Ice Cream Shop," at Gymboree

LOVELY BLOGS: A Mingling of Tastes

This is an enjoyable food & wine blog by a freelance writer. You'll find recipes for a spanish frittata, baked beans, a poached salmon and fennel salad, morel-barley risotto, and other delicious things.

http://www.aminglingoftastes.com/

LOVELY GIFTS: Mother's Day Cookies


I am enthralled with the looks of these Mother's Day Cookies. There are shoes, hats, purses, butterflies, ladybugs, bees and flowers. Very spring, very expensive, and very adorable. I wish I could bake and create beautiful things like this myself, but I guess that's why Dean & Deluca own a gourmet food shop and I don't! :)

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Chandeliers: Not Just For the Dining Room (The Ruby Blog)

Costumes at Restaurants: Naughty Nurses, Ninjas Bring Your Food (CNN)

Dandelion Fritters: A Spring Tonic (18th Century Cuisine)

Delicious Solutions for Day-Old Bread (Today Show)

Food Network Expands With "The Cooking Channel" (NY Times)

Freezing Greens and Herbs (Fine Cooking)

Miso Vegetables & Tofu (101 Cookbooks)

Personalize Your Table With Elegant Dyed-Linen Napkins (AZ Central)

Planning Your Vegetable Garden (Martha Stewart)

Spring Cleaning Basics (Martha Stewart)

Spring Cleaning Time for Your Furniture (LaDiff)

$25,000 Sundae? 11 Expensive Eats (Today Show)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rainy April Day

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Need to mow your lawn this week? Be sure to fit this into your weekend calendar.

- Take inventory of pet medicines, pet food and pet toys. Need to throw out any old toys that might have become dangerous, or just simply filthy and slimy? How are you doing on pet treats? Need to launder pet bedding? Brushed your pets in the last 2 weeks?

LOVELY DRINKS: Spring Wines


Alianca's Vinho Verde, from Portugal

I'm stocking up on some spring wines. At the store last night I bought a sparkling Pinot Grigio, a Pinot Gris, a sweet Asti, and my favorite, Alianca's delicious sparkling Vinho Verde. I will put them away carefully because it's still not warm enough to sit out on the patio in the evenings drinking wine. I'm just hopeful and getting ready for when it is.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Housework Catchup

Did some of your regular maintenance housework get neglected during the major Spring Cleaning tasks? Today I'm going to catch up on housework and laundry. The more you do this week, the less you have to do on your weekend. Do as much laundry as you can finish today. Launder bedding if needed.

Finish any regular chores that might need doing - kitchen cleaning, floor mopping, decluttering, trash emptying, counter cleaning.

When you're done, spray home fragrance or light a scented candle, and treat yourself to a funny TV show, a book, magazine, or quality time with family.

LOVELY KITCHEN: Ice Cream Maker


My birthday present to myself this year is going to be an ice cream maker. I've thought about and researched this purchase for a long time. I entertain quite often, and I'm looking forward to ice cream socials in my backyard this summer. I want an ice cream maker that works well and is easy to clean up, but it also has to fit in my limited cabinet space.

I was hoping to get the kind that you just plug in and it starts working. That way you don't have to make room in your freezer and remember to freeze the bowl overnight. But I don't think I can cough up the $300 for the "> Cuisinart Supreme at Williams-Sonoma. Plus, it is so huge, I'd have to store it out in my garage rather than nearby in the kitchen.

So I'm quite tempted by these colorful Cuisinart Classic ice cream makers from Sur la Table. Currently on sale for an affordable $49.95. (I'll probably get Crush, the blue/purple one).

I can't wait to use all the ice cream cookbooks my family and friends have gifted me over the years!

LOVELY MOVIES: The Back-Up Plan


I am really looking forward to this movie! I've really enjoyed Jennifer Lopez' chick flicks throughout the years ( The Wedding Planner, Monster in Law, Maid in Manhattan, etc.)

With so many friends and family members either undergoing or seriously considering infertility treatments or single motherhood, this film seems perfectly in-the-moment for where we're at and what we're talking about. I'm looking forward to grabbing a delicious cocktail with a couple girlfriends and seeing this sometime this weekend!

http://www.theback-upplan.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Characters in Cake: Mickey and Minnie Mouse Cake Pops (Bakerella)

Cinco de Mayo Recipes and Drinks (Epicurious)

Cobbler Baked in Jars (Not Martha)

Easy Homemade Butter (Kayotic Kitchen)

Luxirare's Bento Box (Luxirare)

Pink Salt & Pepper Cupcakes (Cupcake Bakeshop)

Rum Drinks: Recipes for Cocktails and Bites (Epicurious)

Simple DIY Home Decor for Spring (Good Housekeeping)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pictures and Posters


An Erte poster I bought recently for my downstairs living room.

Today I'm removing all the artwork in my house to clean behind it. I'll move some different family photos into various rooms, just to switch things up a bit. I don't think I'll frame any photos of my puppies, but I'm going to want to put up a framed picture of my friend's new baby.

I'll also spend some time gathering the posters I want to have framed. They'll get ruined if they keep rolling around in my closet waiting to go to the framer's.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Clean out your cosmetics bag (or box, trunk, purse, traincase, or wherever you keep the bulk of your makeup). Empty it out thoroughly and clean the inside and outside. Throw out any old cosmetics or cosmetics you don't actually truly use.

- Going to throw a Cinco de Mayo party? If so, time to start planning!

- Launder pet bed and bedding if needed

- Sort out your fruit bowl. Need to eat anything today? Throw anything out? Run to the store to replenish the fruit supply? Wash the fruit bowl?

- Make menu plans for the week, and create your grocery list.

- Think back to your meal habits last week. Did you eat breakfast every day? Did you skip lunch at all any day this week? If this is a problem area for you, like it is for many women, spend some time organizing better so you can eat all three meals tomorrow and every day next week.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Pictures and Posters

You'll be surprised how many spiders, spiderwebs, and dust bunnies can accumulate behind picture frames. Today I'm taking all mine down, dusting the backs, and wiping the fronts if they're glassed. I'll wipe the wall behind the picture, and use my Mr. Eraser if the wall is stained from dirt or candle soot. (I do burn a lot of candles!)

I'll spend a bit of time thinking about if I'm happy with the placement of my pictures. Am I tired of the painting over my fireplace? Would it look better in another room? Or is it good the way it is? Do I have any posters that would look better now that it's Spring? I'll also look at some of my blank walls - would they be better served if I actually got off my rear and got some of my unframed posters framed and on the walls? I need more family photos on the walls, too.


LOVELY BLOGS: Not Quite Nigella

I am blown away by the photography and imagery on this blog by a Sydney foodie. Currently, she's blogging about food bloggers and their obsessive hoarding of cookbooks (I can relate!), scrambled eggs with truffle salt, a progressive dinner she enjoyed in Salzburg, and sparkling bracelet cookies. I don't know how she has the time, creativity and energy to come up with such high quality, visually interesting and mentally stimulating posts on an almost daily basis!

http://www.notquitenigella.com/


LOVELY BOOKS: Every Day in Tuscany

I was delighted to see this continuation of Frances Mayes' memoirs. It's a beautiful read, evoking images of the Tuscan countryside, and really letting you feel what it's like to live in Italy. The book is peppered with delicious recipes she's learned from her Italian friends. Don't read the book while hungry!

I found it a very relaxing and calming read while I was in a hospital waiting room over the weekend - excitedly awaiting the birth of my best friend's new baby girl!

Every Day in Tuscany

LOVELY DISHES: Toaster Teapot


I probably wouldn't buy one of these toaster teapots, as I try to prevent my kitchen from getting cluttered up with kitschy stuff. But this is adorable and I love looking at retro styled things, so I'm giving you a tiny peek!

LOVELY FOOD: Chocolate Safari


I wanted to show you this cute chocolate Safari from La Maison du Chocolat. I don't see it for sale on their website, so it might just be a showpiece. Adorable!

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Do-It-Yourself Mushrooms (NY Times)

Modern Design, in Miniature, is Growing (NY Times)

Sewing Cafe Mends Parisians' Relationship with Home-Made Fashion (Times Online)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday in April


Method Home's Spring Cleaning Kit

Today is my last day of Spring Cleaning. While I'll still have ongoing cleaning projects all throughout 2010, the bulk of the big stuff has been done by now. Whew!

After my project today, I'm taking a few hours to do fun things for me. I'll go visit a friend who has a new baby, and I'll read the latest copy of "Martha Stewart Living." And it's Sunday, so it's Family Night. When I get home from Family Night, I just might treat myself to an hour or so of my new "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" Blu-Ray.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Take vitamins and have some fruit with dinner

- Warm enough to bundle up and go for a walk in your neighborhood?

- Make phone calls you are overdue for. Any elderly relatives you should give a cheery, chatty call to?

- Create your shopping list for your next excursion. Do you need toilet paper, spring seeds, fertilizer, spring plants, a new hand towel for the kitchen or bathroom, light bulbs, a pink or yellow spring candle, a new throw rug for your mudroom perhaps?

- Maintenance clean one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves in your refrigerator.

- Do you need to pick up any firewood or Duraflames? It can be hard to find these in Seattle come late May or June. I still like to have several logs on hand for evening fires on surprisingly cold summer nights.

- Bathe and groom pets if needed

- It's Earth Day Weekend. Are you participating in any Earth Day events?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Laundry Room and Spring Cleaning Supplies


Method Home's Laundry Detergent

Today I'll clean my laundry room really quickly. The washer and dryer need cleaning inside and out, and the floor needs mopping due to my puppies. The light switch is a bit grimy, and the baseboards need dusting. Time to move the washer and dryer and thoroughly clean behind them, as well as the hose and lint trap. My laundry room cupboards need to be emptied and dusted, their contents (cleaning supplies) sorted and then replaced. I'll take inventory of my laundry detergents and laundry-related products, throwing out anything I haven't used in the last four months or so, and adding things to my shopping list as needed.

Now that we're done with Spring Cleaning, it's time to sort and put away our cleaning supplies. We should also clean the cupboard, closet, drawer or area we keep our cleaning supplies in. (All mine are up in a high cupboard far out of reach, since I have so many small children come visit me). Be sure everything is out of reach of your pets, too.

Throw out any cans that look rusty, and take inventory of any supplies you might need to replenish. Get rid of your two worst rags, and turn two older towels, kitchen towels or hand towels into new rags. (Don't forget to buy new towels to replace them with). Throw out any old sponges or scrubbers that look a bit worn. While you're here, check your inventory of home fragrance if you use such a thing.

Do you use any of those Wet-Wipes style cleaners? Pledge Wipes, Clorox or Lysol wipes, counter wipes? Try a couple out and see if they are usable or dried out. I just had to throw away two canisters of old dried out wipes that won't be useful.

Sort and organize your brooms, mops, swiffers, etc. Are they easy to get to? Do they fall out of the closet when you open the door? Do you have too many? Any old brooms you can throw away? Any wooden handles or plastic sticks that don't have a mop or broom attached to them anymore? Those should be thrown out.

What do you need to add to your shopping list? I need more stainless steel cleaner for my sink and oven. Do you have something to dust with, wash windows with, scrub bathroom fixtures with, wash floors with, sanitize with, wash wood with?


Russian Dolls Notecards, at Paper Source

LOVELY WRITING PROJECT: Letter Writing

Do you love writing letters? Real, paper, personal handwritten letters? If so, I suggest today you find a cosy spot, pour a cup of tea (or coffee, or hot chocolate?) and wrap yourself in a snuggly throw. Settle in to write a letter or two to a friend or relative.

If you have a hard time thinking of something to write about, you can share what you did for Easter, something funny your kids did, something silly about your pets, mention a book you've read or movie you've seen recently, mention spring activities or upcoming travel plans. Mail Easter photos of your children, if applicable.

I stay connected with my two closest out-of-town friends by sending frequent updates on my life. Because I'm not using Livejournal anymore and I don't post super-private things on Facebook, I tend to open up more on paper.

Perhaps I bore those two friends with too much minutiae, but I send pictures of the flowers that just came up in my yard, pictures of my messy office and efforts to clean and organize it, stories of cooking failures as well as successes, and info on what movies, books and restaurants we've been enjoying. I love how easy and inexpensive my digital camera makes it to quickly snap a picture of something. I'll take a quick shot of my newly cleaned and reorganized breakfast nook, for example - to keep a close friend updated with something I'm proud of doing this week. Sometimes I travel, so I can send them pictures of my antics in Las Vegas, Wenatchee, San Diego, Boston, or Washington DC.

It's simple to cut and paste a picture right into the Word document, if I'm writing a letter on my computer, or print out a photograph to include in my handwritten note.

Make a stronger connection with a friend or relative, and treat them to a delightful letter today!

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Goat Cheese, Tomato and Basil Tart (NY Daily News)

Sour Cherry Pastry Bites (The Novice Chef Blog)

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Perfect Day for the Patio


What I treated myself to this week: Sweet Lemon Shower Gel, at The Body Shop.

Today it's sunny and incredibly warm for Seattle in mid-April. It's 69 degrees! I'm almost done with my work for the day, and I'm looking forward to my afternoon project.

This afternoon, before I go to "Girls' Night Out," I'll be cleaning off the patio, sorting my garden shed, and getting my outdoor entertaining areas ready for spring use. I use my patio as an outdoor office and whenever possible I use it for entertaining and lounging. My puppies are excitedly keeping me company outdoors, hovering nearby and sniffing everything I'm touching, but also taking lots of play breaks!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Do you need to buy any stamps? I used up a bunch yesterday doing my tax mailings, bill paying, and sending a few handwritten letters to nieces and nephews. I buy mine at USPS.com when I have time to wait 10 days for them to arrive; or at the post office when I stop in to drop off packages.

- Spritz your home with a spring home fragrance, or burn incense, if you are into that kind of thing.

- Fill your car with gas for the weekend, and visit an ATM if you need cash

- Make weekend socialization plans with friends and family

- Do your nails need cleaning, clipping, and/or polishing for the weekend?

- Need to clean out your car? I have a few magazines, parking validation tickets, straw wrappers, Kleenex and receipts to clean up out of the back seat. My stack of Trader Joe's grocery bags in the front seat should move into their proper home in the trunk. A quick dusting-off of the dashboard and stereo will make my car seem fresher and look a lot nicer.

- While you're in your car tidying up, do you need to replenish your emergency money supply? I need to replace the $20 I keep stashed in there (but sometimes blow at Taco Bell, naughtily).

TODAY'S PROJECT: Patio and Garden Shed

This afternoon I'm removing everything off my patio, hosing it down, letting it dry in the sun, and replacing the furniture and cushions after they've dried. I have a patio table plus umbrella, six chairs, and a side table. Also, on a lower level, I have a muddy, mossy, moldy concrete slab to scrub. Around it sit four plastic chairs (tacky, I have to admit, sigh!) and a fire pit table that needs cleaning out and wiping down.

I'll sweep, then hose off the decks, as well as the outdoor furniture. I have a lot of dead plants to throw out - I'll put their dirt and roots on my compost pile, then put the plastic tubs and pots they came in into my recycling bin. I'm ashamed to admit I left some Halloween lights and an outdoor extension cord out all through the snow, wind, rain and ice storms we had, so I worry they are unsafe. I am throwing them away, wastefully.

The side table, fire pit table, and patio table all need to be Windexed. It's too early in the year to get out my colorful outdoor pillows, but I'll get out my vibrant candleholders and put tea lights in them.

Next in line for attention is my garden shed. My exhusband stored some non-gardening related items in there, unfortunately, and left them behind when he moved. There are inexplicably some cardboard boxes stored there that can go into my recycling bin. A frightening amount of spiders live in the shed, so I'm wearing gloves while I sort and clean.

I'm hoping to clean out the garden shed to the point it only stores needed outdoor equipment: the two patio umbrellas, the lawnmower, a gas can, one bag of charcoal, one plastic bin of outdoor acrylic dishes, one plastic bin of fire pit tools and cooking skewers, my outdoor rugs, and my gardening tools.

If the sun is out tomorrow, I'll have a lovely outdoor office to work at (I do work on Saturdays sometimes). I might be bundled up in a sweater, and I'll probably be clutching a mug of hot tea in my hands.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Embracing a Life of Solitude (NY Times)

Materialistic People Less Happy, Less Liked (CNN)

Pad Thai, an Easy Stir-Fry (NY Times)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day

It's Tax Day here in the U.S. All over, accountants are scurrying busily, and dreaming of the vacations they'll head out on tomorrow. Post office parking lots are generally crowded today, because of people who didn't plan ahead. Those disorganized people now are rushing down frantically to get their taxes mailed in. I hope you've already finished and mailed your documents away so you don't have to worry!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- File your taxes if you haven't already

- We're mid-month. Look over your calendar to see upcoming birthdays, appointments, and socialization opportunities. Need to make any dentist or vet or doctor appointments?

- Are you planning any trips or parties later this month? Need to start working out the details?

- It's time to my downstairs carpet cleaned. I was trying to wait until the puppies were completely potty trained, but I can't take it anymore. I hate to think about fitting this into my budget after just paying out so much in taxes, but I think I need to prioritize this expense. Is it time for you to schedule a carpet cleaning for your home?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cabinet or Drawer Sorting

Today I have a lot of work to do that will probably spill into my evening. So I don't have time for a huge cleaning project. But I don't want my house to get cluttered up or become messy from lack of maintenance cleaning.

So tonight I will choose one cabinet or one drawer to sort out. I'll remove everything, reevaluate if I need to keep it, toss out broken items, sort and organize before replacing items in the cabinet or drawer. I will try to recycle or throw out as much as possible, keeping only essential items, things that are useful or beautiful.

I anticipate this project to take less than fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

National Garden Month


Edgar, guarding my newly planted primroses

April is National Garden Month!

http://www.nationalgardenmonth.org/

"How much the making of a garden, no matter how small, adds to the joy of living, only those who practice the arts and the science can know." - E. H. Wilson

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Water houseplants

- Need to weed, prune or plant something in your garden?

- Check over your budget for the month. Think about paying current bills, savings, emergency funds, travel savings, upcoming presents/parties, upcoming book or film releases you're interested in, child-related expenses, and pocket money for manicures/lunches/coffee. Don't forget tax time is coming!

- Leave yourself some time tonight to do a little work on your favorite crafts, writing or art project. This may have to involve turning off the TV. Sometimes it's not worth dragging everything out to only be able to work on it for ten minutes, so you might have to wait until your family is in bed to really give yourself a good stretch of time.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning the Dining Room

Let's be sure our dining rooms are fresh and clean, ready for everyday family meals, and ready for impromptu parties. And maybe you like to do rainy-day crafts all spread out on your table.

This chore is perfect for after dinner. My sister's taking me out at 5pm for a belated birthday dinner. When I get back I want to finish my chore so I can dive back into the book I'm currently enjoying.

I'll start by washing my dining room windows. I just recently put up my spring curtains, so they are fresh and clean and won't need to be laundered yet. That's one less thing to do!

I'll sponge off and vacuum my upholstered chairs - it takes about 1 minute per chair. I'll dust the table, windowsills, and baseboards with my citrus orange wood care oil. I'm going to dust the wood slats on each chair, then dust the outside of the curio cabinet that sits in my dining room. I've sorted the things inside recently, so I'll ignore them for now.

Next I have to attend to my extremely dusty chandelier and the Moroccan glass lantern I have hanging in a corner. I have a couple light bulbs to replace, and the lantern needs a fresh votive candle inside.

The last part of my project is thoroughly mopping the hardwood floors, using my favorite almond-scented wood floor cleaner. When I'm done, I'll put a clean pink Spring-themed tablecloth on the table. For table decor, I keep it simple and not cluttery. I'll put out the cherry blossom teapot we're using this week, and a vase of pink tulips.

I'll finish by spraying a freesia scented room spray around the room. For lunch tomorrow, I'll eat my soup-and-sandwich meal on a fresh, clean, restful dining table.


LOVELY DISHES: Strawberry Teakettle

This strawberry teakettle is just too adorable. Given that my current (and boring looking) stainless steel kettle just developed a leak, I'm very tempted to go get this today. My kitchen doesn't really have a themed decor, so the strawberry wouldn't be out of place!

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Circling the Globe Without Stepping on an Airplane (Slate)

Hattie's Pincushion Flower Revival (Victoria Magazine)

The New Cottage Food Economy (CHOW)

Seed Saving for Beginners (CHOW)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Beginning of April


My birthday month begins! I'm already celebrating - lunch out with a girlfriend, an 11:30 AM Cosmo, and a red velvet cupcake for dessert. Next we go get manicures and pedicures!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Pay beginning-of-month bills, rent/mortgage, etc.

- Need to make any dentist, doctor, veterinarian or salon appointments for your family this month?

- Plan menus for the week and create your grocery shopping list.

- Look over your calendar for the next two weeks, checking for upcoming birthdays. Plan gifts, write and address cards.

- Plan to plant some flowers this year? Pick up some flower seeds at the grocery store if you haven't yet already.

- Does your coffeemaker get used a lot? Is it time to run a cycle of white vinegar through it, then another cycle of hot water, to clean it out a bit?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning The Living Room

Today I'm overhauling my upstairs living room. I'm hosting a baby shower on Saturday, and I've hauled extra couches and chairs into that room. The upstairs living room is not quite a "formal" living room but is a bit nicer than our more lived-in, smaller family room. I have a big bay window that lets in lots of light, so on weekends we often read magazines in this room. During the week, this is where I eat my lunch or watch Oprah if I'm taking a break. At dinner parties, I serve appetizers and drinks in here in front of the fireplace. There's a television, but it's small and doesn't get used much - maybe once in a while when someone wants to watch something different from what we're watching on the bigger TV downstairs.

In this room, there's a lot of space to spread out, so sometimes in the afternoons I will sort merchandise or photograph items for my eBay store. When company comes over, this is where we sit to chat.

I had the carpets cleaned in this room recently, so all the furniture was moved just a couple weeks ago. Therefore, I will skip moving the furniture to vacuum under it. I still have a lot of work to do in here though! There's one puppy accident that needs to be cleaned up better, too. Ugh.

This room normally contains a couch, two armchairs, two bookcases, a curio cabinet, a coffee table, a standing lamp, a table the TV sits on, and a side table. There's also a wood-burning fireplace that will need my attention yet again, though I cleaned it out a couple weeks ago. We just keep enjoying our fires!

I'll vacuum the upholstery, dust the wood on the armchairs, dust the fireplace mantel and the wood railings in the room, dust the baseboards, dust the lamp (and remove accumulated bugs from it, yuck!) and dust the side table and coffee table.

I'll handwash and air dry the pink-and[purple colored placemat that's sitting on the coffee table, as well as the matching placemat on the side table. I need to dust the picture frame and crackle glass candleholder that are the only decorative elements on the side table.

I will dust the bookcases, but won't do a major reorganization project on them for a while yet. So I'll mostly just be dusting around the books.

The curio cabinet will need to have everything removed and washed - my goblets look dusty, and they need to be ready to go at all times in case I throw an impromptu cocktail party. There are also glass doors and shelves that need to be cleaned. Then the curio cabinet's wood will need dusting.

Next, two of the walls in the room have grubby handprints from children and pawprints from cats, so they need washing.

The curtains need to be taken down and dry cleaned, but I won't have time to do that before the party. As you can imagine, my windows badly need washing inside and out. Besides the usual accumulation of grime, they now have puppy nose prints near the bottom of each window.


Candied Fruit Home Perfume, by L'Occitane

I'll finish by vacuuming the room thoroughly with my Dyson, fluffing the pillows on the couches, and spraying the room with my "Candied Fruit" home fragrance spray.

Tonight will find me with my fuzzy-stockinged feet up on the coffee table, fire burning in the newly cleaned fireplace, glass of wine in front of me and a good book in my hands - enjoying a quiet night at home in my lovely, clean living room, and looking forward to my birthday celebrations tomorrow.

LOVELY BOOKS: Anthropologie's Canvas Bound Books


Check out the new collection of canvas bound books that Anthropologie is carrying. For vegetarians like me who prefer not to use leather, they're a great way to dress up a bookshelf. Recycle favorite worn-out ripped up paperbacks with these long-lasting more-decorative copies of your favorites.

Their collection includes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Jane Austen's Emma, Treasure Island, The Odyssey, and Lady Chatterley's Lover.

LOVELY CANDLES: Illume Lawn Candles


For summer, Illume just debuted their new Lawn Candles. I love the idea! Perfect for outdoor entertaining. The scents come in pineapple (not my favorite), refreshing Rain, and my favorite, Cassis.

LOVELY FOOD: Chocolate Cheerios


I never thought I'd see the day: Chocolate Cheerios? I think it's a fabulous marketing idea. While I don't normally buy sugary cereals for my kids, if I was going to, it would definitely be Cheerios. I'm eager to try this - it's on my grocery list! I'm concerned about all the corn syrup in the ingredients though - their other sugary cereal, Honey Nut Cheerios does not use corn syrup.

LOVELY TELEVISION: Undercover Boss


Lately I'm really enjoying this reality show. Top bosses pretend to be regular workers and spend a day doing really hard minimum wage jobs. They work side by side with their employees, unbeknown to the workers. At the end of each show, of course, the boss reveals their true identity, and lets the workers know how much they are appreciated. (I'd love to see more promotions or raises handed out at the end, though!)

Bosses featured in episodes so far have included White Castle, 7-Eleven, Churchhill Downs, and Roto-Rooter.

I think it's really important for all of us to look outside ourselves and our own jobs and really think about how much harder other people have it than we do. I can't complain about my computer-related eye strain when I watch these episodes with people standing on their feet all day and dealing with annoying customers in person!

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/undercover_boss/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cold Asparagus With Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (Seattle Times)

Delicious Passover Desserts (Epicurious)

Easter Recipes, at Razzle Dazzle Recipes

14 Ways to Make Veggies Less Boring (MSNBC)

Growing Your Own Horseradish (NY Times)

In E-Book Era, You Can't Even Judge a Book By Its Cover (NY Times)

Keep Your Financial Records No Longer Than You Need To (NY Times)

Meatless Meals for Good Friday (Today Show)