Wednesday, June 30, 2010

End of June

Have you been enjoying your summer so far? Have you picniced in a park, gone to the beach or a lake (if you have one nearby), had a barbecue, eaten at an outdoor cafe, indulged in a fudgesicle, drank an Orange Crush, gone for long walks, stargazed, napped in a hammock, gardened, swung, and run through sprinklers?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make menu plans for the week and create grocery list

  • Make socialization plans for the week - what are you doing for Fourth of July? Be sure to leave time for Family Night (if you do that sort of thing) and I always try to leave one evening empty for a quiet night at home.

  • Dump out your purse during a break today, clean and sort it, throw out unneeded items and trash. See if there are two items you don't need to carry with you every day. I typically have five or six pens, and two boxes of Tic Tacs when I only need one, etc. I also have three or four lipsticks more than I need. I should put those back in my bathroom drawer where they belong.

  • Read your local newspaper (online if you don't subscribe) for a quick 5 to 10 minute catchup on what's going on around you. Or watch your city's evening newscast tonight.

LOVELY PARTIES: Summer Party Ideas

I was just talking to my best friend yesterday about the long dry spell for holidays that comes after the Fourth of July. We love holidays and parties, and celebrate as often as possible. We're sad that other than Labor Day Weekend, there won't be a big holiday until Halloween. Unless we throw a pre-Back To School celebration, we're going to have to come up with some ideas for summer parties. So I spent some time thinking about this today, and here are a few things I came up with:

  • Scavenger hunts: Either hide things in your backyard, or send your friends out chasing down clues. With gas prices so high, maybe the hide things in the backyard idea is better. I do have woods really close to my house, but don't want the neighbors to freak out with people clambering through there digging things up.

  • Sorbet tasting party: I think my guests really enjoyed this last time. I bought seven or eight different sorbets (and a couple gelatos), set out crackers and a few salty snacks, then did a sorbet tasting party. I needed a lot of help to serve the sorbet fast enough to all eighteen guests before it melted. Meanwhile, everyone hung out in the backyard visiting.

  • Backyard luau. I'm not about to roast a pig, but otherwise Hawaiian themed parties are pretty easy to throw. Most party stores have lots of fun tacky, inexpensive Hawaiian decorations. The theme food is a bit trickier, especially if you have guests who don't like coconut.

  • Camping party. If you have a big backyard and warm nights, invite friends to an outdoor sleepover. Have someone bring a tent or two, and offer your coziest outdoor picnic blankets and comforters. Especially if you have a fire pit or cooking table. This party works best when your guests are not the rowdy drinking and talking loud type - so that your neighbors don't come over angrily at 3am.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Gardening and Weeding

I'm hosting a Fourth of July party this week, and need my backyard to be in perfect condition for the barbecue, fire pit, outdoor dining table, and picnic blankets I'll throw around the yard. One of my teenagers will mow the lawn for me, so that will help a lot. But I have tons and tons of weeds everywhere. Flowerbeds, cracks in the sidewalk, and all over the lawn. Last night I discovered it took less than 10 minutes to completely weed one flowerbed, so I hope I can get a lot done in the hour or two I'll spend today. I'll probably weed after dinner, maybe from 7pm to 9pm, when it's a bit cooler outdoors.

Those of you with condos and apartments, enjoy a nice quiet peaceful evening doing something relaxing and fun. Think of me out there in the heat weeding and ruining my manicure!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lovely Sunday

I just had the most delightful morning. My teenagers are out of town, I slept in late, drank iced tea on the porch, and read two Martha Stewart Living magazines with my feet up. I lazily made myself scrambled eggs and ate them slowly. After I'm done with my chores today, and before I leave for my friend's birthday party, I am going to go back out on the porch with a stack of magazines. Entertainment Weekly, Time, Food & Wine, and Gourmet. My recycling bin is going to be full after this weekend!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Get your grocery shopping and errands done, if needed. I'm trying to do all my errands in one fell swoop, to save gas. I'm going to a neighborhood strip mall that has a video store I can drop my rentals off at, a grocery store, a gas station so I can fill up, a dry cleaner I can drop my clothes off at, and the post office is just one block away. I should be in and out of there in 25 minutes or so.

  • Nine weekends left of summer. Do you have fun plans for most of them? I was thinking about holding a garage sale, but why waste one of my nine Sundays?

  • Look over your schedule for next week. Do you have a weeknight you could host an impromptu small cocktail or dinner party? A very casual one that you can easily throw even after coming home from work? Inviting just one to three friends? Summer weekends get so busy for everyone, this is sometimes the only way to catch up with people.

  • Need to run the dishwasher?

  • Doing any laundry today? I'm doing a load of musty blankets from the linen closet, then a load of my bedding, then one of darks.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Under Stairs Closet; Airing Linens

Do you have a closet under your stairs? I do - that's where I store blankets, throws, colorful pillows I swap out seasonally, board games, and the tool chest. It's been smelling very musty lately, to the point that recently laundered blankets smell bad after spending a couple nights in there.

So today I've removed every item from that closet, and I'm airing the blankets and pillows outside in the sun. My grass is dry, so I just laid them on the grass, where they'll stay for six or seven hours. If I was overly concerned about them getting grass stained, I would have put them out on top of old sheets. I'm not concerned about the bright, hot sunlight fading their colors, since the pillows are just out for a few hours. I have a few of the throws hanging on my deck railing, and I'm doing a load of the worst smelling blankets. In a few hours I'll go out and turn over the pillows and blankets so their other sides get exposed to the sun, too.

I found a few surprises in the closet - an old sewing machine I've been looking for, a stack of nine hideous huge framed pictures I hope to sell for 25 cents each in a yard sale someday just to get rid of them, a set of purple Halloween rope lights that need to go into my holiday decorations closet, and my picnic basket. I'll keep that in front from now on so it's easily accessible.


I'm taking inventory to see if I can throw anything away.

  • Picnic blankets (old, soft, faded, and delightful): three. Nope, I need all those.

  • Moroccan-style colorful beaded pillows from Target (used for gypsy, Moroccan, India and magical-themed parties): Nine. I don't like two of them -one a velvet teal and the other a forest green. They're perfectly good and still new, so I don't want to just throw them out. They were only $20, so no point selling them. Too big to fit into a box for a soldier who might want to decorate her barracks. Hrm. I must think about this.

  • Purple pillows I use for the living room couches in Spring: 5. I love all of them. One pillow per seat, perfect amount.

  • Outdoor pillows in orange, yellow, hot pink and red: four. I have one for every chair that sits around my fire pit.

  • Light blue, yellow and light green pillows I use in the living room in summertime: Five. One per seat. I love all of them, especially the striped one.

  • Cranberry colored pillows for Christmas/Valentine's Day seasonal decor in the living room: Eight. One per seat downstairs, and I'll use two of the cushions on my new upstairs couch when it arrives. That leaves me one to store in the cupboard waiting for another $19 pillow to get old, ripped, and thrown away.

  • Soft Throws: Two white, one light blue that generally gets used outside, one a dark blue that doesn't match anything, but usually gets used in the dark wintertime in a darkened living room while watching movies, so who cares. I thought I owned a yellow throw, which is missing, probably up in one of the teenagers' bedrooms.

Now that everything is out of the closet, it already smells better. I've thrown some of that nasty powdery, flowery scented carpet freshener on the carpet, and I'll vacuum it up in about four hours with my Dyson.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cleaning Cheerfully

Somehow cleaning on a nice sunny day makes me happy. You'd think I'd be bitter about my wasted time indoors - I should be outside enjoying the sun, not indoors bending over my vacuum. But with my doors and windows open to the fresh air, a candle burning, summery music playing, my freshly mopped floors drying in the sunlight that's streaming in, and my cat napping on sun dappled cushions, I am in a pretty good mood.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Burn a nice scented candle. Candles aren't just for fall and winter! I'm burning Pacifica's "Tahitian Gardenia" this afternoon.

  • Do you need to make an appointment for your half-yearly carpet cleaning?

  • Fill up with gas for the weekend, and visit an ATM for pocket cash

  • Tidy up the house for the weekend. Empty trash cans, tidy kitchen, wipe down mirrors and counters in bathrooms, remove dead houseplants, freshen hand towels and kitchen towels if needed, vacuum family room, declutter dining table. Spritz with home spray for freshening.

  • Do you need to shave your legs or fix your manicure or pedicure before going out tonight?

  • Vacuum any room that needs it. How about your carpeted stairs, if any?

  • Throw something away today. I just put a big, bulky, pretty, itchy, worn-twice red sweater in the Goodwill pile. I feel bad about donating something to charity that's so itchy, but maybe the homeless person who gets this will be glad of its warmth, come winter.

  • Put on some music that you enjoy listening to in the summer.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Pantry Shelf Sorting

I can no longer find anything on the "snack" shelf of my pantry (where I keep peanut butter, chips, nuts, unopened salsa jars, raisins, canned olives, and crackers). It's a deep, dark shelf, and I'm tired of digging things out and having sunflower seeds spill on the floor. Time to remove every item from the shelf, wipe and dust the cupboard walls and shelf, examine items for freshness and usefulness, then put the remaining items back in an organized fashion.

Truth be told, my entire pantry needs to be sorted out (not just this one shelf), but I'm trying to find a manageable project to accomplish today. I still have to work a few more hours, empty all the trashcans in the house, take the trash can and recycling bin to the curb, make dinner, clean up after dinner, and do a load of laundry. I also neglected my kitties the last couple days, so need to spend some extra cuddling time with them tonight.

It's nice and temperate today, but will probably be in the upper 80s over the weekend. Time to check my sunscreen supplies, make iced tea, buy watermelon, get out picnic blankets, and make sure there's plenty of clean, fresh ice in the freezer for chilling drinks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Six Months Til Christmas

Are you an advance planner? Then maybe today you've noticed we have six months until Christmas. I'm looking forward to it - I love the holidays! I'll put some thought into restocking my gift closet, picking up gifts for friends and family here and there when I find them, and negotiating with family which city we'll spend the holidays in. I will have all my Christmas shopping done by December 1st. My Christmas lights go up on December 1, so I'll be shopping for the special bright LED lights I like over Thanksgiving weekend. But I won't obsess and drive myself crazy planning and obsessing over Christmas. I just am reminding myself today that it's six months away.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Wipe down kitchen counters (if needed)

  • Do midweek laundry - a load of whites or towels perhaps?

  • It's summertime. Have you enjoyed a mojito? Fresh squeezed lemonade? Corona with lime? Orange Crush? A fudgesicle?

  • Spend some time thinking about your New Year's resolutions, yearly goals, etc. The year is half over. Have you accomplished what you wanted? Finished projects you started? Achieved goals? Fixed something major in the house? I've cleaned my house totally, but I still have some problem areas on the deck, a broken cupboard door, and a hallway carpet that needs to be replaced.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Party Preparation

You never know when you are going to suddenly have someone over to dinner on one hour's notice.

Last night was a sore test of my hostessing capabilities. I came back on Sunday night after being gone from home for 2 weeks. My teenagers cleaned up after their own messes but didn't do any maintenance cleaning (I wouldn't expect them to). Monday I was out of the house doing errands most of the day. Tuesday I was out of the house dealing with some family issues and doing errands. I stopped at the grocery store, but only briefly. I picked up only butter lettuce, fresh strawberries, fresh corn, artichokes and strawberry ice cream. When I got home at 6pm, I made a simple, healthy dinner for the two of us - fresh corn, salad, and artichoke.

But at 7:30 pm, an old friend (with gourmet tastes) called to see if he could come over for dinner. I hadn't seen him in years. Of course he could come over! I momentarily panicked, looking at my house:

  • Front entry, swept recently

  • Kitchen - disaster zone

  • Front living room - full of shopping bags from my errands on Monday and Tuesday. Horribly messy.

  • Lower living room - Needed vacuuming, decluttering and pillow straightening

  • Downstairs bathroom - I'd left it scrubbed clean, but teenagers aren't able to refill toilet paper rolls or change hand towels to clean ones.

  • Stairways and hallways - Desperately in need of vacuuming

  • Dining table - needed decluttering

  • Outdoor patio table - I'd hosed it off the night before, but needed to Windex it and scrub off a few stains and pick off some melted candle wax


How do you make a gourmet dinner for a treasured old friend when you have basically no fresh produce in the house? I of course gravitated to the old standby - pasta - discovering in the process I had tons of different pastas but only two jars of tomato sauce left. (Adding to grocery list). The butter lettuce I'd just made into salad for dinner was bitter, and I had no tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, or avocado to brighten up the salad.

Fortunately I had pickled mushrooms, gourmet olives, and sugared peanuts I could put out for appetizers, since he arrived hungry.

I served my friend a butter lettuce, crouton, carrot and cranberry raisin salad with crumbled gorgonzola cheese on top. (He graciously ate everything I served). I was glad I had fresh corn, strawberries (with yogurt) and artichoke to serve. But I wished I had bread to make bruschetta (with my jarred Trader Joe's bruschetta mix), mozzarella and tomatoes to make a fresh caprese salad with, more fresh fruit, or time to make a quiche from scratch. I had one hour's notice.

While I was out of town, my teenagers had eaten the freezer's entire Trader Joe's emergency appetizers I keep on hand (mushroom turnovers, spanakopeta, etc). They treated them as meals, not appetizers.. Sigh. So I had to make do.

And everything turned out ok. He brought wine, we ate fresh corn and artichokes, plus pasta, and had fresh strawberries and yogurt for a fresh simple dessert. I just would like to be better prepared, next time, with fresh veggies.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunny Day in June

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Sweep front and back porches, and front entrance, if needed

  • Set out a pitcher of sun tea if you like to drink tea

  • Look over budget for the rest of June. Can you afford to treat yourself to a little something (a houseplant, a new body wash, a scented candle, a movie, a small fancy cheese?) this week?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Dinner Outside

In many parts of the country tonight, it will be warm enough to picnic outdoors. If you have a nice backyard, why not eat outdoors tonight? Or email some friends today and invite them to a short notice picnic in a nearby park. Since our dinner last night was popcorn (we went to an 8pm movie), I want to have a really nice dinner with fresh, healthy ingredients. If we eat at home, I'll do fresh corn and asparagus, watermelon, strawberries, and some sort of veggie protein. If we picnic, I'll go heavy on the salad and have fabulous sandwich ingredients on delicious fresh baked bread I'll pick up at Trader Joe's.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mid-Week in June

The days are so nice and long right now. Let's not squander our opportunities to enjoy warm sunny evenings. Go for walks, go berry picking, sit on the porch visiting with friends, go to outdoor cafes. I've banned myself from watching my shows on Tivo until it's dark or too cold to be outside.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Declutter mail table if needed

  • Any houseplants need watering? I have a particular indoor heather I keep forgetting about because it's tucked away in a corner of a living room I haven't used much lately.

  • Take inventory of condiments for picnic and BBQ purposes. Do you need to throw any out? Have enough mustard, relish, ketchup, mayo? Pickles? Sauerkraut, if you like that kind of thing? If you use mayo alternatives, do you have a small jar of the real stuff to offer visiting guests who might not enjoy your alternative versions?

  • Do you have summer plans for your kids in August? Any classes, sports, activities, camps you want to sign them up for?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Mid-Week Maintenance Cleaning

I'm tidying the house so I won't have so much to do on Friday evening before I go out. I'll sweep my front entry hall, mop the kitchen, vacuum both living rooms, vacuum the upstairs hall, do a load of dark laundry, declutter the dining room table and change the tablecloth, and spend some time getting the kitchen back in order.

I'll also probably make time to dust the downstairs living room. The tray we keep remote controls and drinks on gets dirty very fast, and I have the doors and windows open so much, my bookcase and end table get dusty more quickly. While I work, I'll be airing out the cushions and pillows from the living room, outdoors in the sun if I am lucky enough to see some.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunny Monday

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Take stock of your citronella candles, mosquito repellent (if applicable), and other outdoor candles. Need to add anything to your shopping list? Using and enjoying the candles you already have?

  • Go for a walk tonight.

  • Hose down patio furniture if needed (Mine has bird poop on it!)

  • When's the last time you had some fresh summer corn?

  • Make menu plans and create grocery list for the week.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Bathrooms

I have three bathrooms, so if I clean one a week, then skip a week in laziness, my bathrooms are only getting cleaned once a month. That's not enough! So tonight I'm thoroughly cleaning all three. I expect it to take about 1.5 hours because of the scrubbing-the-shower and scrubbing-the-bathtub component. Otherwise, everything else will require only a quick wipedown because I've been so good at regular maintenance cleaning.

I'm removing rugs and towels, laundering anything that needs it, cleaning toilet paper holders, emptying and sanitizing wastebaskets, wiping down baseboards, washing walls where needed, wiping light bulbs and light switches, wiping down towel racks, scrubbing toilets inside and out, mopping floors, scrubbing showers and bathtubs, scrubbing sinks, and wiping down mirrors and counters.

I don't need to sort the inside of cabinets since I've had so many cabinet sorting projects lately.

When I'm done cleaning, it will be too hot tonight for a long bath. But I might take an extra long shower in my freshly scrubbed bathroom. I'll treat myself and use plenty of my favorite Aveda shampoo that I hoard since it's expensive.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Weekend

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Go for a walk if it's nice enough out.

  • Do your sheets need washing today? I'm looking forward to sleeping on fresh clean sheets tonight.

  • Look over your calendar for the rest of the month. Any birthdays coming up? Need to write any cards, send any gifts, plan any parties?

  • How are your beach towels looking? Do you have nice fluffy ones for the summer? (Even if you don't have a nearby beach, you might have an apartment pool, a backyard, a lake, or the community pool to use beach towels at). Have any old much-used beach towels that should be cut up and converted into cleaning rags? Have too many beach towels, so you need to sort and give some away? (I definitely do not need to buy any more beach towels until the year 2013 or so).

  • Are you still well stocked on Kleenex? With the allergy season upon us, and Seattle's slow start to summer, my guests and I have used up almost all my tissues.

  • Take inventory of your sunscreens. Need to throw any old or potentially rancid ones out? Do you have a range of SPFs so visiting guests have their preferred sunblock? (I use 30 but try to have some 15 for guests who tan and 50 for serious heliophobes). Do you need to pick up some kids or baby sunblock?

  • Need to do any laundry this weekend?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Tea Cabinet and Gift Closet

Today I'm cleaning out my gift closet. It's nearly empty now that we're halfway through the year. I've raided it of almost all it's guest soaps, lotions, scented candles, chocolates, and pretty books I keep around for emergencies. I was really glad I had all those supplies since a couple cousins' and friends' birthdays snuck up on me the last couple months. I've also completely exhausted my supply of little stickers, color books, and picture books I send occasionally to my niece and nephews as "I'm thinking of you" gifts.

I seem to have plenty of pretty gift bags, wrapping paper and ribbons, so I don't need to restock any of those. Otherwise, I now have a legitimate reason to go "gift closet shopping" at the outlet mall next week. Woohoo!

I'm also sorting out my tea cupboard yet again. Last night a guest wanted decaffeinated tea at 11pm (understandably!) I couldn't easily locate any, because I have so much caffeinated tea in the way. I only have two kinds of decaf tea, too - mint, which some people don't like, and chamomile, which also isn't necessarily anyone's favorite. I have a tea serving box that's designed to hold lots of teabags for presenting to guests, but I've let it get disorganized and nearly empty. Time to rearrange my teas, wipe down the cabinet, consolidate where I can, and take inventory. And I seriously need to not buy any more Earl Grey until I drink up two or three of the six boxes I already have!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Weekend

This weekend I've been sunning, gardening, swimming, eating outdoors, and only doing the bare minimum of housework I can get away with. Light reading only, and trying to avoid sitting indoors in front of the computer as much as possible. (Right now it's too hot to be outside, so I'm inside enjoying air conditioning for an hour and doing some quick web surfing). I know the summer days are longer, but these beautiful afternoons and evenings seem to rush by so quickly. I actively try to savor every warm, sunny moment.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Launder any beach towels or picnic blankets used over the weekend, if needed

  • Drag out your picnic basket and eat dinner in a park tonight. Or eat outdoors on your own porch. Sound like fun?

  • Slice and enjoy summer fruit - berries, melons, cherries? this evening.

  • Set out a pitcher and make sun tea.

TODAY'S PROJECT:Toy Sorting

It's been six months since Christmas. If you put away some of your kids' gifts so they wouldn't get sick of them all at once, it may be time to rotate out toys. Do involve your children in the toy sorting process. Put away toys they're currently bored of, bring out toys that seem new and fresh. See if there are any toys they will let you throw away.

Give unwanted toys to friends or charity only if they're in great condition - even Goodwill doesn't want faded, broken, wilted, boring, or sad looking toys.

I don't have kids, I'm just an aunt, but I have lots and lots of toys at my house for whenever they visit. Right now I have three toy boxes in my garage. I'd like to whittle it down to two. One for infants, and one for older kids. Currently I have all the dangerous small, chokable, swallowable tiny toys mixed in with the baby toys. Nobody can find all the pieces of the Shrek Swamp House playset to play with it, and the Playmobil castle is in a few pieces.

I need to evaluate if I have the right mix of toys for the ages of children who will actually be visiting me. I expect a couple of friends to have infants in the next year, so I'll hang onto some of the baby toys. But it will be 3-4 years before I need toys for the 3-4 year old set. I can probably safely give those away now that little visitors to my home are four or older. And I always have plenty of books to entertain children with. Those I hang onto regardless of which age child will enjoy them.

So this afternoon while it's too hot to be outdoors, I will enjoy the air conditioning while I ziplock all my Playmobil pieces into their own baggies, put Shrek's swamp house back together and ziplock the tiny figures and dishes, and sort out the plush toys and stuffed animals that no baby ever seems to want to play with when they visit. I think I literally can get rid of every single stuffed animal. Maybe I'll keep one nice plush tiger in case a little one naps here and needs something to hug.

Race cars, Kelly dolls and the Hello Kitty village seem to always be popular, though, so I don't dare get rid of a single piece.


When I'm finished sorting, I may sneak a few minutes to play with the Hello Kitty ice cream parlor, by myself. Keeps me young and the funnest aunt ever!