Friday, July 30, 2010

Another Beautiful Summer Weekend


  • Pick out something fun to wear tonight when you get back from work or if you plan to go out. Something colorful and summery! Lay out shoes, jewelry and the perfume you'll wear, if you have time before you leave the house today. Then you can enjoy anticipating how lovely you'll look and fresh you feel later this evening when you're doing something fun in hopefully beautiful weather.

  • Have you taken any good photos of your children this summer? If so, make time this weekend to print some out to send via snail mail to older relatives who might not be Flickr or Facebook savvy. If not, be sure your camera is charged and ready to go this weekend, to capture those precious faces.

  • Speaking of charging things up, do you have a good charge on your cell phone for this weekend's activities?

  • Glide through your house tidying it up for the weekend. Empty trash cans, throw out any dead flowers, water houseplants, put away shoes, replace magazines in their proper homes or recycle them, wipe down bathroom mirrors and sinks, empty or fill dishwasher, and wipe down kitchen counters as needed.

  • Need to fill up with gas for the weekend, or visit an ATM for cash?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Vacation From Cleaning

Today I'm doing a bare minimum to tidy the house for the weekend, then leaving to go on a boat ride with family. I'm looking forward to sunshine, water, lounging, relaxing, and catching up on family gossip. I can always clean tomorrow, when a long sunny Saturday beckons.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Morning Glory Liquid Hand Soap

I love Claus Porto not only for their beautiful packaging, but their exquisite scents. Here's my new bathroom hand soap for summer: Morning Glory.

LOVELY BLOGS: Diary of a White Indian Housewife

This is an absolutely fascinating blog by a woman who moved from Australia to Mumbai after meeting her husband in Calcutta. If you're at all interested in traveling to India or in relocation-adjustment type blogs, this one will probably suck you in. Sharell lets you peek deeply into her daily life, and it's so interesting to compare the differences.

Recent posts cover a dog ripping up her house; getting organic fruits and vegetables delivered; what it's like to navigate having a maid or housekeeper in India; and what happens when a Customers officer decides to open food in your parcel.

It's worth skimming backwards in her blog to learn about A Typical Indian Bathroom and to see what it took to get married to an Indian.

LOVELY FOOD: Starbucks Ice Cream

New flavors of Starbucks ice cream, just in time for summer: Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, Signature Hot Chocolate, and Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino. I'm excited that they aren't flavored with coffee (I don't care for the flavor of coffee, unfortunately). I think I'll pick up the Signature Chocolate one to try this weekend. It's not summer without an occasional ice cream treat!


Avoiding a Big Phone Bill When Traveling (NY Times)

Easy Beach-Inspired Decorating Ideas (Real Simple)

Fashion: Plus-Size Wars (NY Times)

How to Spice Up Your Charitable Efforts and Enjoy Volunteering (Slate)

Make The Porch Be the Focal Point for Your Summer Party (Providence Journal)

Make Your Own Tofu (CHOW)

The Only Child: Debunking the Myths (TIME)

60 Outdoor Party Ideas (Martha Stewart)

60 Summer Side Dishes (Martha Stewart)

Superfast Stir Fries (Cooking Light)

Three Organized Things To Do Right Now That Have Lasting Benefits (Real Simple)

To Enhance Flavor, Just Add Water (NY Times)

Top 10 Fast Summer Salads (Food & Wine)

Turn Your Garden Into a Hummingbird Buffet (Pacific NW Magazine)

Why Summer Vacation Won't Make You Happier (Newsweek)

Why You are Time Poor (Dumb Little Man: Tips for Life)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What to Clean When It's Horribly Hot Inside Your Home

What I'm enjoying burning in my kitchen this week: Verbena Summer Secret candle, from L'Occitane

My house, like so many in Seattle, doesn't have air conditioning. We only need it a couple weeks a year, usually in late August when we finally hit the high 90s or even 100s for a few days. The rest of the summer, we make do with fans and open windows. Luckily we don't have humid, sticky summers like the South or East.

Even in the 80s the last week or so, it's been too miserable to think about doing heavy housekeeping that might make one break a sweat: Vacuuming, for example, is banned until evening. Today I'm finding things to do around the house that won't make me miserable in the heat.


  • Need to water any indoor or outdoor plants? My basil and a potted hydrangea are looking a bit wilty today.

  • Need to return any library books, DVD rentals, or items borrowed from friends today?

  • How is your stock of sunscreen doing now that we're over halfway through the summer? Need to wipe off your sunscreens if they're getting gunky?

  • If you have school-aged children, have you done something special and summery with them this week? If not, see if you can plan something extra fun for next week.

  • Need to launder any picnic blankets or beach towels that have been used this week?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cleaning Despite the Heat

I don't live to clean, and I don't like to make myself "makework" or "busywork." I'd much rather lounge around on my patio with a magazine and iced tea when it's this hot, than be indoors cleaning. But if I don't keep on top of my housework, my home will quickly become a disaster zone.

So today I'm doing chores that won't break a sweat. I'll put off vacuuming til later tonight (with four pets in the house, vacuuming is a daily necessity in the living room and family room; and an every-other-day task in the bedrooms and hallways). Here are my suggestions for things you can do when it's miserably hot:

  • Dust! Flounce around in a cute sundress, glass of lemonade in one hand, dusting your dining table, coffee tables, end tables, nightstands, and bookshelves. As long as you don't scrub too hard, you won't work up a sweat. Save the baseboards for another time, as all that crawling around on the floor would get you too sweaty.

  • Wash windows. Spraying a little Windex and wiping down windows won't be too unpleasant as long as you don't work too vigorously.

  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher isn't too sweat-producing. Just be sure not to run the dishwasher until later tonight - mine heats up the kitchen counter and adjacent area.

  • Wiping down the kitchen sink (without too much scrubbing) and counters isn't too taxing.

  • Use the excuse of cleaning the fridge or freezer out, to stand in front of heavenly cold air for fifteen minutes or so.

  • Fold laundry while watching TV in front of a powerful fan.

  • Declutter a drawer, cupboard, or closet.

  • Start a load of laundry, but wait to run the dryer til evening when it's cooler.

  • Sort out cosmetics, shampoos, and lotions, getting rid of items likely to be unused in the next month.

  • Arrange a sock or underwear drawer, sorting and decluttering as you go.

What other hot-weather cleaning ideas do you have?


A blog by an artist and photographer, featuring art, design, and photography. Currently featuring Sweet William, Cathy Nichols, and some wonderful photography from the Creative Challenge Group. Lots of lovely things to see here.

LOVELY DISHES: Le Creuset Dinnerware

I am not a Le Creuset collector, as I haven't yet found room in my budget for their expensive, high-quality cookware. But I'm still excited to see their new dinnerware collections, currently available in cobalt and Kiwi. Gorgeous!

LOVELY DRINKS: Eat, Pray, Love Tea

I'm allergic to cinnamon, so I won't be able to try the new Republic of Tea's "Eat, Pray, Love" tea. But what a fabulous gift it will make for a couple of my girlfriends who loved the book and are looking forward to the movie! The new tea is a black tea, flavored with blood orange and cinnamon.


Back to Basics With Old-Fashioned Cakes (Today Show)

Blackberry Kir Royale Recipe (CHOW)

Gluten-Free Cupcakes and Frosting (Today Show)

Paris in August (National Geographic Traveler)

Summer Table Accessories (New York Times)

Top 10 North American Train Trips (National Geographic Traveler)

What You Should Know About German Beer (CHOW)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Failing to Live a Lovely Life in Moderation

What I'm serving at my next outdoor party: Belvedere Pink Grapefruit, ice cold, probably in a Cosmo.

Today I'm utterly exhausted, a bit dizzy, and I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow. I simply did far, far too much work today. On a Saturday!

I try to balance my life so that I have enough work time, enough leisure time, enough family time, time with friends, plenty of sleep, and some alone time. Besides daily homemaking tasks (vacuuming, kitchen cleaning, etc) I do several little housework and decluttering projects during the week so the house doesn't become a disaster zone. On weekends, with their bigger chunks of time, I do bigger projects. But I generally try to leave lots of time for leisure, friends, and throwing parties.

Today, however, was all about work and catching up on neglected chores.

A couple weeks ago, I took three days off work to go to San Diego. Now I'm "paying" for it by working all day long on a Saturday. I feel a bit sorry for myself today, but I'll see friends tomorrow and go to "Family Night" afterwards. So I do have fun things to look forward to as I slave away today.

My foster dog, "Lucky," snoozes happily in the yard while I work.

Here's what I got done so far:

  • I washed both of my cars - the one that's operable and the one that's dead, sitting in my driveway waiting for me to find the title so I can donate it.

  • I swept my back patio and threw out two dead houseplants, then watered my basil and potted hydrangea.

  • I set and rearranged sprinklers eight times so my front and back lawns got thoroughly watered.

  • I scrubbed a kitchen counter that needed extra attention, and cleaned the stove.

  • I spent twenty minutes cutting down an overgrown hedge that was preventing one of my garden gates from opening.

  • I washed a load of brand new sheets - they're headed to my "new" guest room that my departing college student is cleaning out tomorrow.

  • My Lab puppies have a new outdoor swimming pool, which I unpacked, inflated, filled, and then taught them how to climb in and out of it. Then broke down and recycled the cardboard box the pool came in.

  • I spent three hours cleaning and organizing the merchandise area of my garage.

  • Dusted my dining room table, curio cabinet and chairs. The slats were getting dusty because I have the front door and windows open so much of the time right now.

  • Changed another front porch lightbulb, tightened hinges on a kitchen cabinet, and dusted a bookcase.

  • Hosed down all three dog crates and let them dry in the sun.

Whew, I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment! I did however manage to do three fun things for myself today: I took a half hour nap while snuggling the cat; read the last three chapters of a book I've been enjoying; and now I'm settled happily and comfortably on a chaise lounge, watching a silly episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and enjoying tonic water with a bit of Torched Cherry Bacardi in it. (Ok, more than a "bit.")


This style blog covers architecture, fashion and decor. Currently blogging about narrow houses, resortwear, a set designer, and handbags. Pretty pics to look through!


Best Tips for Outdoor Entertaining (Real Simple)

Edible of the Month: Sweet Corn (National Gardening Association)

40 Cool Drinks for a Hot Day (Real Simple)

Have Your Best Summer Ever (All About You)

Sleek, Crisp White Look is Hot Bedding Trend (Arizona Republic)

10 Things to Know About Yogurt (Cooking Light)

20 Creative Summer Activities for Kids (Babble)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting Ready for a Summer Weekend

A lovely bouquet of freesia from Trader Joe's. It's now adorning my kitchen.

It's summertime! Give yourself time (and permission) to lounge about a bit, enjoying sunshine and warm weather.


  • Are you going out tonight? Lay out the outfit you plan to wear. Don't forget colorful, fun summery earrings and bracelets. Sandals, or espadrilles?

  • Set out a pitcher of sun tea so your family can enjoy it tonight and tomorrow.

  • Tidy the kitchen for the weekend: empty or fill dishwasher, scrub sink, wipe down counters, sweep floor if needed.

  • Whisk through the house, emptying wastebaskets, decluttering, putting away shoes (or having their proper owners do so themselves), watering houseplants, fluffing pillows, putting away magazines.

  • Vacuum the room that needs it the most.

  • Visit an ATM or gas station if you need to before the weekend starts.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Making My Home Prettier

Here in the Northwest, you can find yourself wanting to burn a cozy fire at night during a good 9 months of the year. Of course, nobody can afford to do that every night. But I like to have firewood and fire starters stocked up and ready to go just in case the mood strikes. So unfortunately, that's meant I've had this unattractive Duraflame box (or one like it) in my upstairs living room constantly for the past seven years. Ugh. Even in summertime, when I won't be burning any fires, because I've preferred not to drag my firewood supplies into the garage for 3 months.

I don't know what took me so long to get around to it, but today I bought an inexpensive $4.99 basket at Fred Meyer. My firestarters are now stacked in an attractive basket, and the ugly Duraflame box is now in the recycling bin. I try not to "buy things" to solve my household problems: decluttering should be my priority, not buying more items. In this case, however, I think an attractive little basket was the perfect solution, since I'm hardly going to declutter by burning up all my firestarters and then not buying any more.

Today I'm also replacing the curtains in my office. I've lived here for seven years, and I don't know how long the previous owner had the curtains before she generously left them for me. Despite my taking good care of them (laundering twice a year, Febrezing when needed), they're faded and covered in cat hair where Tyler paws at them to go sit in the window.

Yesterday while shopping at Ross, I finally found a set of new faux silk lined panels that I liked. They're chocolate with blue stripes, similar to these. $12 per panel, and I needed three. So for just $36 I have a whole new, clean, fresh look in my office. Instead of going out to dinner last night (I would have spent way more than $36) I stayed home, ate leftovers, put up my curtains, and played with my dogs.

LOVELY BLOGS: Betty in the Sky With a Suitcase

I travel often, so I find this flight attendant's blog fascinating. She posts podcasts you can listen to. Currently there are stories about misbehaving animals on flights, racial profiling, people peeing in the aisles, and tales of unruly passengers.

She's also published a book of humorous travel stories recently.


Stop Margarita Madness: Drink a Surly Temple (Chicago Tribune)

Summer's Fresh Bounty (LA Daily News)

Tofu Burgers (101 Cookbooks)

What Should I Do With This Summer Fruit? Freeze It (CHOW)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tricking Myself Into Cleaning

A potted pink dahlia that I embellished with sequins as a birthday gift for a friend. She pronounced it very Bollywood!

Sometimes I use little tricks to inspire myself to keep my home clean and well maintained. For example, I imagine I suddenly have to move and sell the house in a month. While this isn't actually a very likely scenario (knock on wood), it does horrify me into doing more weeding, washing down the walls more often, and tackling my messy bookcases.

There's no way I can pretend I'd be able to realistically stage the house myself, just by removing personal photographs, putting away the Kleenex boxes in every room, and storing some decorative clutter. Mostly, walking around my house looking at things as though I'd have four weeks to move, helps me throw things away and plan home maintenance projects.

I wouldn't be able to sell the house with its falling-down patio deck and the broken fireplace doors. Those are things I should replace or get fixed right now, so *I* can enjoy living in my home.


  • Need to do any loads of laundry? Clothing, towels, or bedding?
  • Need a trim on your summer haircut? Roots need updating? Hair need a conditioning treatment?
  • Throwing any outdoor parties this weekend? Have you called to invite your friends, and made your grocery shopping list and menus?
  • Made a pitcher of sun tea, or fresh lemonade lately?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Examining My House Through Someone Else's Eyes

Wander through your house pretending you are a Bravo film crew, Oprah Winfrey, or your mother-in-law, or a houseguest taking refuge for a week. What do you see? Are you happy with what you find, or are there things you would like to change? Try this experiment next time you drive up to your home or apartment. Approach it like you've never been there before. Walk into the front door and sniff, listen, and look.

Don't just go from room to room - open cupboards, snoop in your closets, and peek into drawers. Look for not only cleaning, sorting and organizing projects, but see what needs to be done from a maintenance standpoint. Is it time to repaint, recarpet, get new curtains, throw out a ratty old couch, change out the stained light fixture, etc?

Today I'm walking through my house making lists of things to fix, renovations to think about, and decluttering that needs to get done.

I won't have a lot of time tonight to actually DO those things, but I will keep the list handy where I can see it this week, adding things, and hopefully checking off a lot of tasks.

LOVELY PETS: Martha Stewart for PetSmart

I am so sick of the realistic-looking pet toys that are tossed around my yard. I cringe every time I see the slobbery squirrel and the too-real raccoon. So I'm looking forward to picking up a few of Martha Stewart's pet toys next time I go to the pet store for dog food. I'm tempted by the cupcake and chicken coop and I'm sure the dogs will love chewing up whatever I select. Anything to keep them busy and happy for an hour!


"Where travel and culinary passions meet." Travelogues, articles on wine regions, restaurant reviews, lists and links. Even though I have no plans to travel outside the US in 2010, I still am enjoying browsing through the wealth of interesting articles and photos on this site.


Cherry Bomb (Syracuse New Times)

Cooking Class: Peach Crisp (Chatelaine)

Kids Quit the Team for More Family Time (WSJ)

Seasonal Home Stencils (Chatelaine)

Sleeping Under the Stars: The World's Most Elegant Outdoor Beds (Conde Nast Traveler)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking Care of the Little Things

I treated myself to two inexpensive, colorful bouquets of zinnias from Trader Joe's today. Now one is on my coffee table, and the other is in a vase in the kitchen.


  • Make menu plans for the week; create grocery list
  • Need to wash your car this week? Mine is looking quite dusty and dirty.
  • Pets have fresh water, clean drinking and food bowls?
  • Have you enjoyed fresh summer berries in the last week or so?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Home Maintenance: The Little Things

Today I am working on several annoying little things that are easy to get done in a few minutes, but that I seem to put off for far too long. Want to peek at my list?

  • Fix broken screen on kitchen door. I have the crimping tool, rubber and new screen, so this should only take 5 minutes.
  • Replace dead outdoor lightbulb by front door, for nighttime safety.
  • Change batteries in two musical toys I keep for visitors' children.
  • Tighten screw and hinge on loose kitchen cupboard door.
  • Wash dirty feather duster and let it dry in the sun.
  • Tighten loose screw on glass fireplace door.
  • Cut hairs out of vacuum brush. (Yuck!)
  • Fix sagging curtain rod in living room.
  • Call recycling people to come pick up two old TVs and two old computer monitors.

As you can see, the above tasks aren't of lifechanging importance (except for maybe the outdoor lightbulb!) Since they aren't huge projects (like sorting a closet) or very important things like vacuuming and kitchen cleaning, I've let them get neglected.

Fixing "the little things" keeps your home running smoothly. I want to challenge myself to take care of more of them as they happen, not let things wait until I have a long list of things to take care of. I could have been reading a book in my spare time today, rather than fiddling with a bunch of screwdrivers!

What are some "little things" that need attention in your home?

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Fresh's "Eat, Love, Pray" Collection

I'm a big fan of Fresh, so I am eager to try out their new "Eat, Pray, Love" movie tie-in products. I don't really need any more perfume, so I might try the candles.

LOVELY BLOGS: Party Wishes

This cheerful party blog showcases lovely parties she's found on the Web. Currently featuring a Pioneer-themed party, a fabulous Alice in Wonderland bridal party, a fancy yellow lemonade stand, and a safari party. She has great taste in party ideas!


Backyard Party Plan (Epicurious)

A Vegetable Torte Starts at the Grill (NY Times)

60 Fun Beach Ideas (Martha Stewart)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Day for Gardening


  • Refresh your home: Open doors and windows to let in sunshine and fresh air. If you have air conditioning or central air, do this later tonight when it's cooler anyway. Even if you have a ventilation system, there's nothing like an open (preferably screened) window to let in a breeze you can feel on your skin.
  • Run upstairs and look at your dresser (or whatever large wooden piece of furniture you have in your bedroom). Find two items that doesn't belong there (or more, if you have time). What could be removed to prevent a cluttered look? Put the item elsewhere, or give it away, or try to sell it on eBay/etc. (List it immediately so you won't forget!)
  • Have you made and enjoyed a fresh fruit smoothie lately?
  • Do any quick work that needs doing in the kitchen. Microwave wiped inside and out? Stovetop wiped? Counters cleaned? Floor mopped? Dishwasher loaded or unloaded? Sink scrubbed?
  • Social plans made for tomorrow night and the weekend? Need to call anybody to make plans? Any friends or relatives you haven't seen for a couple months?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Gardening and Weeding

Let's face it, I'm just not a gardener. I don't have a way with plants, and I don't really enjoy most of the gardening process. I like buying plants and flowers, but don't really like fighting the ground to dig a hole, and getting my hands dirty planting them. I'm scared of spiders and don't like seeing worms squiggling around in the dirt. I do like looking at the finished product - a colorful garden - so I force myself to struggle through the work.

I do like mowing, watering and weeding though. You can step back and really see you've accomplished something. (Plus it's a good excuse to spend time in the sun!) I also like hearing the comforting sound of sprinklers running, and it's sort of fun wandering about the yard watering by hand with a hose.

Today I'm mowing my gigantic back yard, weeding the front flowerbeds, removing grass from in between my rose bushes, and raking leaves out of the wooded area in my back yard.

This year, unlike last year, I have two puppies eagerly "helping" me, running around playing beside me or staring at me to figure out what on earth I'm doing. (Edgar even "helped" by digging a hole in the grass.. sigh).

Later tonight I'll set up my sprinklers to run for half an hour or so, as it's been dry in Seattle the last few days. As I'm sitting out on my back patio this evening, I'll enjoy listening to the sprinklers run.

Do you have any gardening to do? If you live in a condo or have the privilege of retaining a gardener, do you have houseplants to tend to tonight instead?

LOVELY BLOGS: The High-Heeled Contessa

This blog is by "An amateur hostess indulging her senses (and yours) with food, music, and violently cute things." I love the interesting things she finds to blog about. Currently she's showcasing fried apple pie, African Yammes Frites, and avocado cream macaroons.

LOVELY BOOKS: Mini-Shopaholic

I'm looking forward to treating myself to "Mini Shopaholic" when it comes out in September. I've really enjoyed Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series - they're quick, fun, indulgent reads. The new book covers what happens when Becky's daughter is old enough to join her in her shopping frenzies.

LOVELY FOOD: Lemon Ice Cream

I don't think I've ever tried lemon ice cream before. Sorbet, yes - that's my favorite sorbet flavor. I'm excited to try the new Haagen-Dazs Lemon Ice Cream tonight after I'm hot and tired from finishing my gardening. This is part of their "Five" series, using only five ingredients.

LOVELY MOVIES: Grease Sing-A-Long

Delight your mom or aunt by taking them to a showing of Grease Sing-A-Long. It's in theaters in the US for the month of July. Sounds fun!


40 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda (Yahoo! Green)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

First of July

The second month of summer begins! Let's take a few moments to look back through our month of June. Did you get your housecleaning projects done, appointments kept, spend time with family, time with friends, time for yourself? Summery activities enjoyed? What things did you miss out on, what do you want to schedule for July, and what do you want to do more of before summer is over?


  • Pay bills, rent, mortgage
  • Finalize Fourth of July plans, invitations, etc.
  • Look over your birthday list or calendar for the month. Any birthdays coming up? Do you need to send any flowers, write and mail any cards today, shop for and send birthday gifts, plan parties?
  • Need to make any dentist, doctor, or vet appointments this month?
  • Is it time to book yourself a haircut, dye, manicure, pedicure or massage? Family members need haircuts?
  • Look over your budget for the month, preferably together with your spouse or significant other (if any). Are you doing ok on paying bills, paying off debt, depositing into savings? Can you budget in room for entertainment, dinners, fresh fruit, fixing things around the house, gas for going to summer activities, and the occasional movie night or small retail therapy treat?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Provisioning

Today I'm doing a whole bunch of errands. I'm not doing a whole ton of shopping - just enough to have what I need, but not so much I'm cluttering up my nice home with any junk.

I'm stocking up on toilet paper, Kleenex, feminine supplies, light bulbs, a new kitchen sponge, dish detergent, laundry detergent, hand soap, and paper towels. I'm buying two citronella candles for the patio, as well as two Fourth-of-July flowerpots to make it pretty. And I'm buying another collar for my cat, who is an expert at losing his.