Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last Day of September


I'm enjoying my new Pumpkin Patch candle. It makes it smell like autumn in my home!

Do you have all the things you'll need for fall ready? Nearby where you can easily find them when needed? Fire logs, matches, rain boots, raincoats, leaf bags, a rake, caramel or pumpkin scented candles? Kleenex packets for coat pockets? Caramel for dipping apples as an occasional treat? Decorative pumpkins, gourds and ornamental corn? (Ok that last suggestion is a want, not a need!)

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • It's the end of the month, so let's look back over our Septembers and quietly reflect on how the month went. Did we budget well, eat healthy, take our vitamins, spend time with family and friends, make quiet time and alone time for ourselves, do something charitable, maintain our homes in a lovely manner, try new things? Remembered all the birthdays you needed to? Called and wrote relatives to stay in touch? Wrote in your journal, painted or drew in your sketchbook, worked on your knitting or craft projects? Read your book for your book club? Tried cooking something new? Rather than beat ourselves up for any failures or missed opportunities, let's vow to do better next month!

  • Take inventory of fall supplies such as firelogs and matches, and add anything you need to your shopping list.

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

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

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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Birthday Preparations

My sister's birthday is on Friday, so I'll be spending all Friday with her (lunch, manicures, dinner, dancing). And on Saturday we'll have a family celebration too. So knowing that I'm taking a day off work, means I have to work extra hard today, getting a lot done. I'm putting my puppies in Doggie Day Camp (they love it, and come home tired and ready for a nap!) so I can get more work done today.

I need to shop for her presents and card, and build in time Friday morning to buy fresh flowers and bake her birthday cake.

All this doesn't leave me a lot of time to do a home maintenance project today, so I'm going to skip it. I'm able to do this without a moment's hesitation, because I know I've kept up with my laundry, vacuuming, kitchen, dusting and decluttering this week.

I can drive away from my home Friday morning knowing I'm leaving behind a mostly clean house to come home to - other than I bet my kitchen will be messy from baking the cake! I won't have time to clean it up before I leave. Luckily I don't have any roommates to complain about me leaving some dishes in the sink!

I'm excited to help one of my favorite family members celebrate her birthday!

LOVELY BLOGS: If It's Hip, It's Here


This is one of those "look what cool thing I found" type blogs. I love those - so fun to browse through the goodies. This one covers art, design, fashion and style. The posts are picture-heavy, but it's well worth any download wait you might have to endure.

http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

15 Top-Rated Pizza Recipes (Epicurious)

IKEA Recipe Book Review (The Lovely Room)

Too Frumpy for the Good Seats? (CHOW)

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon (Orangette)

Top Rated Casseroles (Cooking Light)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Quite Fall After All


Love the scent of my new Method Home "Clementine" dish soap

Seattle is having an extended summer, though we have gray rainy mornings. My heater hasn't been on for the last week or so, unusual for September evenings. It was 80 degrees yesterday, and last night I dragged a fan back out from the garage so my bedroom would be cool enough to sleep in.

It feels weird because I geared up for autumn - I want to bake, but it's too hot in my kitchen today. I want to light a fire in my fireplace, but that would be silly. Yet I'm wiping my puppies' muddy paw prints off the kitchen floor because they've been playing in the rain today!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Check your fruit bowl - anything that needs to be thrown out? Something tasty you can enjoy as part of your lunch or dinner today? Need to make a trip to the store for some fresh fruit, maybe some tomatoes?

  • Two days into the week, how is your carpet looking? Need to vacuum a room or two today? I'm making myself vacuum both sets of my stairs today, a much-hated but much-needed task.

  • What are you doing for fun this weekend? Today's a great day to make plans so people have enough advance notice to join you in an activity.

  • Do you keep a diary or journal? Do you need to update it with your adventures from the past weekend? It takes me only ten minutes to update my diary usually - the hard part for me is carving out the quiet alone time to make a cup of tea, sit down and actually reflect and write.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Dusting

In addition to my daily maintenance tasks that I do in order to keep my house in its normal condition (vacuuming, a load of laundry, emptying or filling dishwasher, emptying a trash can, and wiping down counters) I do one project every day. Today's project is dusting.

I'll start with my pictures, paintings, mirrors and artwork or anything else hanging on the walls. Several of them are visibly dusty, so that's what sparked my attention to this particular project today.

Next come the four televisions in my home (living room, family room, bedroom and kitchen). I won't just wipe off the screens, I'll dust the sides and backs too.

Last, I'll dust my two curio cabinets, two nightstands, the hope chest in my bedroom, DVD bookcase, Blu-Ray bookcase, four bookcases, one coffee table, and two end tables. I'm skipping the window sills as they get cleaned at the same time I do the windows, and they don't look visibly dusty right now.

I'll finish by dusting my three standing lamps, six bedroom lamps and the lamp in the family room.

I expect this project to take just twenty minutes out of my day, and I think it will be quite pleasant actually, traipsing around the house rubbing my beautiful wood furniture (or tacky bookcases, as well!) with lemon-scented spray, while I listen to music I've put on in the living room.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Caldrea's New Scented Hand Products


I'm not normally a fan of sandalwood (too hippie for me, maybe?) so I was surprised how much I liked Caldrea's new sandalwood rice flower scented dish soap. I won't be buying any for a while, as I'm currently using the Method Home shown above. But maybe when I run out! There's also a matching sandalwood rice flower hand soap and hand lotion.

Caldrea Sandalwood Rice Flower, at Sur la Table

LOVELY BLOGS: The Seasonal Home


This blog is by the author of "Creative Family Traditions and Ideas." The blog's focus is on decorating for holidays and sharing joy. Currently posting about decorating garden planters for Halloween, making a lovely gift basket for a new baby, and using apothecary jars in your home decor.

http://seasonalhome.wordpress.com/

LOVELY DISHES: Crate and Barrel's Sushi Servers


Do you make and serve sushi at home? I couldn't resist picking up eight of these red sushi servers. They're lacquered wood, so you have to hand wash them. They hold just two bite-size slices of sushi rolls. I'm tempted to serve mini cheesecakes, mini tarts or other small desserts on them after a regular non-sushi dinner party, too.

LOVELY WEBSITES: Jetiquette


An airline professional's website encouraging passengers to take the Jetiquette Pledge: “I am committed to making travel a more civilized experience for myself and others by exhibiting polite, courteous and considerate behavior to all I encounter when traveling." Interesting stories on airline industry news, passenger behavior, and travel tips. There are also some podcasts, and a newsletter you can sign up for.

http://www.dearskysteward.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes (NY Times)

Decorating With Apothecary Jars (Everything Fabulous)

Fall Cloches, Apothecary Jars, and All Things Pretty (DecorChick.com)

Oprah to Reunite "Sound of Music" Cast for First Time in 45 Years (Entertainment Weekly)

Show Off Your Cottage Monday (The House in the Roses)

The Underwater Jelly Cake (Not Quite Nigella)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Annoying Sunday Workday


This is a bad photo, but I wanted to show you the pretty orange dahlias I treated myself to for my front porch.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean, sort and sanitize one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in your fridge and in your freezer. Doing this faithfully every week means your fridge and freezer get cleaned out once a month - 90% more than normal for the U.S.A.!

  • Make menu plans for the upcoming week; create grocery list; shop as needed

  • Sunday nights can be a good time to relax with family, make phone calls to relatives, and write letters to friends and family.

  • Are your kids going to school with clean clothes tomorrow? Need to do any laundry tonight? Are you sleeping on clean bedsheets?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Work

I normally spend Sundays cleaning, doing errands, spending time with friends and family, reading, watching movies, and taking my puppies out to do fun things. Today, however, I have to work all day long. I'm spending tomorrow doing a project (tell you about that soon!) for fun, so I have to work today to make up for it. I'm so fortunate to be self-employed so I can juggle my work hours like this.

Still, there's some housework I can get done in the background while working today. I have time to empty and refill the dishwasher, I can start a load of laundry and put it in the dryer, I can handwash a sweater and lay it flat to dry, and I can quickly declutter my bathroom which has too many clothes hanging around in it.

I *will* build in some time for ME tonight though, I'll make time to enjoy a couple chapters of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" which I'm slowly making my way through in the evenings.

Hopefully you're having a more relaxing work-free Sunday than I am!

LOVELY BLOGS: Kitchen Retro


This blogger finds all sorts of interesting vintage kitchen and homemaking advertisements to share and snark about. There are also some nifty poems inspired by ads. There's also a nice section of retro recipes.

http://kitchenretro.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Delicious Pasta Tonight (CHOW)

Globe Artichoke Salad (BBC Food)

The Great Pumpkin Shortage is Over, Charlie Brown! (Seattle P-I)

How to Maximize Your Space (AZ Central)

Humanize Your Home (Canoe)

Nigella Lawson's Savory Pumpkin Scones (Better Homes & Gardens)

Spice Gives Biscotti a Whole New Personality (NY Times)

Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries (NY Times)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mid-Autumn Festival

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to do any mid-week laundry?

  • Let's spend some time today on our area rugs and throw rugs. I'm going to vacuum all of mine, sweep under them, and sponge-clean the one by my front door. The one by my back door has been hosed off and is hanging to dry on the railing, since we have an unexpectedly sunny day.

  • Have you made time the last couple evenings for yourself, to read the book by your bedside table? Or are you just dropping into bed exhausted and ready for sleep?


TODAY'S PROJECT: Mid-Autumn Festival

I'm not attending or hosting a party, but tonight I'll take some time for myself to experiment in the kitchen a bit. I want to decorate my mooncakes, and afterwards I feel like baking muffins and pumpkin bread.


I love buying Mooncakes. They're packaged in such pretty boxes. I don't like to eat them; they're an acquired taste. Many people will actually admit that mooncakes taste really bad. But every year I dutifully bite into one and try to be open minded while tasting it. Maybe someday I'll learn to like them.

I got the box shown above at Uwajimaya in Bellevue. The selection wasn't as varied as I am used to from my adventures in San Diego at 99 Ranch Market. I wanted the mooncakes inside to be more colorful, perhaps have a couple of snow skin mooncakes inside.


Opening up the box revealed six small mooncakes nestled in gold foil cups. Beautiful, but I felt like adding some more color.


I decided to try painting the mooncakes with my luster dust. (Luster dust is classified as "non-toxic" but not necessarily "edible." You don't want to go to town chowing down on it, but I eat cookies and things decorated with it all the time, and I'm fine!)

I put two or three drops of vodka in a tiny glass, then carefully shook out a tiny bit of luster dust into the glass. My food paintbrush stirred the vodka around into the luster dust, and within about 30 seconds I was ready to paint the luster dust onto my mooncakes. It tended to drip down the sides of the cakes if I used too much, but I didn't mind.


I let the mooncakes dry for a couple hours, then repackaged them into the box. I wouldn't really give them away to anybody in this condition, since it's rude to give an opened box. But I liked peeping into the box from time to time to admire their beauty. (Notice the purple mooncake that I tried to add purple sanding sugar to. Turns out it obscured the design too much and didn't look very nice!)

LOVELY BLOGS:


I happened across Patti's blog recently while searching for the answer to a baking problem I was having. I have so enjoyed reading her daily posts since then and poking about in her archives. So many delicious things to try here! As a vegetarian I especially appreciate her "Meatless Mondays" menu posts!

http://worththewhisk.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Turning to Twitter to Fix Restaurant Complaints (Today Show)

What Pick-Your-Own Apple Orchards Teach About the Economy (Slate)

Yves Saint Laurent's Moroccan Legacy (Conde Nast Traveler)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Creeping Into Autumn


Baby eggplant that I plan to fry up tonight as an appetizer

Here in Seattle, it's raining harder than normal. We're used to it raining every day, but this amount of water falling so quickly from the sky is unusual. Meanwhile it's still warm enough I have all my windows and doors open right now to let in fresh air. My heater doesn't need to be turned on at all, not even at night. My dogs can play outside because the sun generally comes out to warm the yard in the afternoon.

It's windy and rainy, and I feel like I want to light a fire, but it would make the house too hot. It's dark enough that I do enjoy lighting candles after dinner. So strange, this entrance into autumn.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Look ahead at your week (take a deep breath if the week seems daunting!). See if there are any appointments you need to keep; build in time for yourself, time for your family, time for socializing, and time to snuggle your pets.

  • How are your houseplants doing? Need to water, fertilize, or adjust them for more light?

  • Can you declutter your mail table (if needed) when you get home from work tonight? Actually process the mail, not just move it around?

  • Throwing a dinner party, moon festival celebration or autumn equinox gathering this week? Have you invited people, made your menu, bought your groceries?


TODAY'S PROJECT: Mini Closet Sorting

Tonight when I get back from dinner with friends, I plan to sort just one part of my closet: the skirts.

Every year in the fall I tend to do a massive all-day-Sunday closet reorganization. This year, I'm not so sure I want to spend an entire autumn Sunday doing that. I think I'd rather sort my clothes during a couple evenings here and a couple evenings there - preferably when there's something I want to watch on TV anyways. That way I'm not wasting time watching TV, but I'm also doing a useful project, not make-work.


I must have had my skirts crammed in there really tight, because it doesn't look like I removed very much from that closet! (Note the cat bed in there, my attempt to get him to sleep in his cat bed instead of napping in the laundry bin or under long dresses where I can't see him when I look for him).


I just counted my skirts, and have to force myself to deal with the wasteful reality: I own 43 skirts. Forty-three. Wow! I had no idea. Just last week I was on a shopping trip with my friend, whining to her "I need skirts! I wish I could have found one today!" Apparently, folks, I do NOT need any skirts.

Now, I am a dress and skirt-wearing girl. I rarely ever wear pants, so I have just four pairs: three black velvet and one brown velvet. Think how much worse my closet would be if I was a pants wearer too - would I also own nearly 45 pairs of pants if that were the case? Yikes.

Also, just taking a look at the pile of skirts dumped on my bed, I can see I have a black skirt buying problem. I obviously love wearing black, but as I went through to do a brief count today, I saw multiples of the same style of black skirts. I found two polkadot skirts, three long velvet skirts, two short velvet skirts, two summery white skirts (when just one would have sufficed, given that I only wore it twice this season), and three black skirts made of the same yucky clingy rayon.

Already I saw four skirts I can immediately give away since I don't wear them, and one that I must throw away because the elastic is limp and the skirt was extremely inexpensive - not worth fixing it up just to give it to charity. I prefer to only give pristine, immediately useable clothes to charity.

Sorting tonight, I will force myself to try on every skirt I want to keep. If it doesn't fit, I will be very firm with myself and put it in the donation bin. I've been the same weight (though I should drop a few pounds) for 3 years now, so if a skirt is too small, I'm probably not likely to lose enough weight over the next year to wear it. If it's too big, I'm probably (and hopefully) not going to gain enough that it will fit. The hard part will be reminding myself, "You never wear this. When's the last time you really wore this?" or "You can easily buy another one in the future if you give this away and regret it."

I'll post an update tonight when I'm done, hopefully with a much smaller count of the skirts I'm actually keeping.

UPDATE:

I threw away four skirts for having broken elastic, being stained or having rips. I donated 19 skirts, and kept 20. Total skirts processed: 43. I will go out of my way to wear and enjoy some of the skirts I have left that I'd forgotten about, starting with my lunch date tomorrow morning!

LOVELY BLOGS: Made by Girl


A lovely picture-heavy blog by a girl who is interested in interior design, travel, art, food and fashion. She finds really interesting things to blog about, I think you will enjoy your time spent here.

http://madebygirl.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cooking With Figs (Epicurious)

Fall Dinner Party Menus (Martha Stewart)

How to Make an Autumn Wreath (Helium)

Morning Timesavers (Martha Stewart)

Oktoberfest Beers: An Ever-Changing Lot (Chicago Tribune)

Pumpkin Lasagne (BBC Food)

Salads: Holding Onto Summer (Chicago Tribune)

This Autumn Wreath is Not Like the Others (Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Baking Day and Kitchen Organization


My current countertop spray: Williams-Sonoma's Basil

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Fridge/freezer maintenance cleaning: Thoroughly clean one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves. Doing this every week means your whole fridge gets cleaned every month, rather than twice yearly like most people's.

  • Make menu plans for the week ahead; create grocery list and shop as needed.

  • Need to pick up or drop off any dry cleaning? Return library books, mail out Netflix mailers, or drop off rented DVDs?

  • Any elderly relatives who might like a phone call from you today? I find Sunday afternoons and early evenings a great time to catch people at home.

  • Wednesday is the Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn festival.

  • Thursday is the first day of autumn, the Autumn Equinox - are you doing anything to celebrate?

  • Thursday is also the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Baking Experimentation and Kitchen Organization

Today I'm going to mess around in the kitchen. I tidied the kitchen yesterday to get ready. Before I started cooking, I organized my tea cupboard and the shelves where I keep my appetizer and dinner party dishes and serving pieces.



This cupboard has frustrated me because I can't find things when I am looking for them. Here's where I keep spices, egg cups, appetizer plates, sushi molds, chocolate molds, ice cube molds, my two mandolines, serving dishes, and cookie cutters. I've put a clean throw rug down on the granite counter in case I drop anything out of the cupboard. I've broken two or three of my little white dishes that way this year - this reminds me I still need a butter dish!


While I had this shelf emptied of items, I repapered it with fresh blue-flower-sprigged shelf paper.


I decided to relocate my cookie cutters and ice cube molds to the garage shelf where I store kitchen items. I have to admit I don't use my cookie cutters even once a week, and ice cube molds only get used right before major parties that I throw. So why was I letting them clutter up a cupboard that also holds dishes I use every 2 or 3 days? I'm glad I forced myself to change the way I was using this storage space.

Shown above is the finished product. It still looks horrible and cluttery, but I can easily find what I need. My measuring cups are right in front where I can get at them easily, as is the cute kitty kitchen timer I'd forgotten I owned.


I gave my tea cupboard a quick sorting and reorganizing too. This is definitely a cupboard that gets a lot of daily use in my house - especially during the fall and winter months.

I've already baked up a batch of sugar cookies that I tried to decorate in a certain way - I failed, but they still taste delicious. Next I'm going to try making mini key lime tarts, and I'll bake up a batch of almond poppyseed muffins to enjoy at breakfast in the upcoming week. I'm also planning to make a homemade wild mushroom soup to eat for my lunches the next couple of days.

After I'm done baking and cooking, I'll need to do dishes, scrub the sink, wipe the counters and mop the floury floor. All in all, I bet I will have enjoyed a wonderful, happy time puttering around in my kitchen on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

When's the last time you organized a kitchen cupboard or two?

LOVELY BLOGS: Tarragon & Thyme

A nice blog by a woman interested in cooking, crafting, and music. I enjoyed reading over her Christmas provisioning post and her elderberry and apple wine post. I wish there were more pictures here, but the writing is interesting and you'll learn a lot from her.

http://tarragonnthyme.blogspot.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: The Betty Crocker Party Book


I've so enjoyed browsing through this facsimile edition of the 1960 original book. The vintage illustrations are so charming. It's given me several ideas for holiday parties I want to throw, or nice things I want to serve at my next dinner. Much of the back of the book is focused around weddings. I don't know anyone getting married any time soon, so I might skip that part and concentrate on the Christmas chapter!

The Betty Crocker Party Book, at Amazon

LOVELY DRINKS: Twinings' New Organic Teas


I haven't made it a priority to go out of my way to find organic tea to drink. But I'm a daily Twinings drinker, so I might have to investigate their new organic teas. It's also nice that they are Fair Trade certified. Earl Grey is my favorite, so I'll probably start there.

Twinings USA

LOVELY FOOD: Vosges Baking Mixes


I love Vosges chocolate, so I'm intrigued to see they're now making baking mixes. I'm not good at making cakes from scratch (maybe I'm just too lazy to measure!) so I do enjoy baking nice things that come in bags and boxes. Their mixes include Caramel Toffee Chunk chocolate brownie mix, a Love Goddess cake, and a chocolate chip cookie mix. I'm going to skip, however, the Bacon Chocolate Chip pancake mix!

Vosges Baking Mixes

LOVELY MOVIES: Tangled


Disney's new fairy tale movie is scheduled for a near-Thanksgiving release. It's a big departure from the traditional Rapunzel story. And it's of course in 3D. I do think it will be a fun diversion to enjoy with some young nieces and nephews over the holidays.

Tangled Trailer, at Apple

Tangled Trailer, at Disney

Tangled, at IMDB

LOVELY TV: Downton Abbey

This Edwardian period drama is airing on the British public service network, ITV. Which means myself and my US readers won't be able to check it out for months or a year or so! I am really eager to see this show. It portrays the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. I adore Maggie Smith, who stars.

http://www.downtonabbey.com/

Downton Abbey Pics from Enchanted Serenity Period Films

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Autumn Colors of Lapland (SpittoonExtra)

Choosing Wines at the Touch of a Screen (NY Times)

15 No-Fail Seafood Wine Pairings (Coastal Living)

Furniture Takes a Manly Turn (NY Times)

Glorious Gourds in Your Fall Decor (Seattle Times)

Granola Bars, Unwrapped (NY Times)

How to Step Apples (Helium)

Old Istanbul Hotels Reveal New Style (Newsweek)

Six Tips for Falling Into Fall Decor (Daily Herald)

"Survival Gardens" Help Save Cash (Seattle Times)

Three Perfect Days: Paris (Hemispheres Magazine)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kitchen Tidying


A bowl of clementines from Trader Joe's sits on my kitchen counter, ready for snacking. They won't need to be refrigerated - they will get eaten up quickly!

I don't want to spend all day today cleaning. I'm going out to a movie tonight, and I'd like to read a book on this rainy day. So other than my daily vacuuming and a quick folding of some towels fresh out of the dryer, I'll just do a small project today.

I know I'm going to spend tomorrow baking in the kitchen, so I think I will get the kitchen tidied up in preparation for making it totally messy tomorrow! I am not ready to do a full-out fall kitchen cleaning (that comes next month). For now, I want a clean, clutter-free, cozy atmosphere to work in. So I'm whisking through the kitchen and my former breakfast nook (which is now a sitting area) making everything look nice.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • We're ust past mid-month. Look over your calendar for the next two weeks. Any birthdays you need to celebrate? Special occasions? Appointments you need to make? Letters that you should write?

  • Plan something to do this weekend just for you. If you can steal two hours, treat yourself to a movie (whether by yourself or with a friend) or a long book-reading session. If you can only steal one hour, try a hot bath or a quick shopping trip errand by yourself or a walk alone. If you can only carve out 15 mins for yourself, try dancing to two fun songs, or sitting in complete silence, eyes closed, relaxing.

  • Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement.

  • Any friends you haven't seen in a while that you might like to socialize with tomorrow? Call them up today so they have plenty of notice.

  • Need to check your supplies of pet food? I was getting a bit low on cat food so made a quick trip to the store to remedy that.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Kitchen Tidying

I'll start by lighting my Mexican Pumpkin candle, and I'm glad there's a "Deadliest Catch" marathon going on that I can put on my kitchen TV for background noise while I work. I'm going to skip mopping the floor in here since it will get floury tomorrow, but I need to wipe down the counters. I'll be trying to make as much counter work room as possible for tomorrow's cooking fest, so some decluttering is in order. I need to unload the dishwasher and then fill it with dirty dishes, then scrub the kitchen sink.

I've kept up with my regular Sunday fridge/freezer cleaning habit, so I only have one shelf to clean today. I'll have a nice sorted, organized fridge to work with tomorrow.


Taking out the recycling and checking my fruit basket for moldy food will tidy up this corner nicely.



I've got to find a way to declutter this counter. I'm trying to prioritize things that get used every day, and put away other things that are used only once a week or so. I'd love to find a way to put my oils, vinegars and cooking sauces up off the counter. Some of them get used every day (the olive oil) but I never know what I'm going to need until I start cooking dinner. The shelves above the counter aren't strong enough for the weight of so many bottles, but my pantry is too far away and too deep to make storing oils there convenient. It's a dilemma!



My orange kitty can't decide which chair is his favorite, so he sleeps on all three. That means I have three chairs and three pillows (which he leans up against, naturally) to clean cat hair off of every day, not just one. Sigh.

I like to have these chairs clean and ready to go in case I sit down with a magazine while waiting for something to bake. Or you never know when a friend will drop by and enjoy a cup of tea, keeping you company while you cook.

LOVELY BLOGS: From Moon to Moon

This blog specializes in finding very interesting bohemian-style decor pics from around the Net. Currently posting about swimming pools, a house called Casa Consuelo, and bohemian bedspreads.

http://frommoontomoon.blogspot.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Dean & Deluca's Orchard Collection


I might have to break down and buy myself this lovely Orchard Collection from Dean & Deluca. The chocolates are heart-shaped, and the harvest-themed fillings sound so tasty - apple/almond marzipan? Yum!

LOVELY KITCHEN: Le Creuset's 2 New Colors


So far I haven't succumbed to the mystique of Le Creuset. Quite simply, I can't afford it, I don't have the cupboard space for it, and I honestly don't often enough cook the types of foods you'd need these dishes for. But I can totally see why people crave and covet and collect these pots and pans. Sur la Table has just introduced two exclusive new colors, Cassis and Lilac. I have to admit I am drooling over the cassis, but it wouldn't look right in my rust-orange themed kitchen. So that helps me resist the temptation. I bet a lot of Le Creuset fans and lovers of purple are delighted to see these new colors!

LOVELY SHOPS: Mibostudio


This Etsy shop sells PDF files that let you print out and create adorable paper crafts at home. The Christmas Creatures are so adorable, and I think they'd make a great kids' holiday party tablescape. What cute papercraft! I'd love to see something for Halloween.

Mibostudio, on Etsy

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

A Visual Guide to Apples (Epicurious)

Coffee Cake Muffins (Baking Bites)

My Summer in a Jar (She Who Eats)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Preparing Your Fireplace and Candles for Autumn


I'm putting away my hot-pink-and-orange summery hurricanes and replacing them with my brown Pier 1 hurricane candleholders

Tonight I'm planning to light a roaring fire (as opposed to a calmer "cozy" fire). I'm looking forward to sitting in front of it while I do various sorting projects and catch up on the TIVOed shows I missed over Labor Day weekend. I've set aside a couple tasty chews for my dogs to enjoy so they can keep me company without getting themselves in trouble - they're not normally allowed in the upstairs living room.

If it's still nice and warm where you live, make time in your schedule to enjoy the outdoors. Even if it means recording your TV shows or skipping them all together, putting housework off for another day if you have to, or spending less time on the computer tonight. Think of me standing dripping in the rain while waiting for my dogs to do their business outside, wishing I could stretch out and read in the sun instead.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Time to wipe down your summer fans and put them away in storage? It's cold enough here I have the heater on already, so away go my fans into the garage until next year.

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

  • Need to spend time grooming your pets tonight? Luckily all three of mine (two dogs and a cat) enjoy their brushing time, though it makes the puppies a bit too hyper.

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

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

  • What about your gutters? I can hire someone to do it here for just $100. Well worth it to not risk my life climbing around on ladders!

  • See if you can throw away (or use, give away, recycle) two things you've had laying around for five or six months. I'm donating my nearly-new copy of "The Tipping Point" to the library's book sale drive, and throwing away three rusty Halloween cookie cutters cluttering up my drawer. I have nearly identical cookie cutters to those shapes, so I'll keep the nicer, non-rusty ones.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fireplace and Candles

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


This is my "candle cupboard." To prevent candles from cluttering up the rest of the house, I've stored them all here in my downstairs bathroom. Problem is, it's so messy and hard to find things, I don't end up finding the right scent or color of candle I want when I'm looking. So candles go unburned and that makes me sad because I love decorating with candles. Especially in autumn. So today I got motivated to clean up this mess.


Lately I'm into organizing things in baskets, so even though nobody but me will likely see into the candle cupboard, I bought some inexpensive, attractive little baskets for this project. I know to be wary of the trap of "buying more storage container in order to get better organized," but in this case it seemed the perfect solution. I'm probably not ever going to stop buying or burning candles, so as long as I force myself to only buy as many as I can use and enjoy, and only let candles build up in this one cupboard, I should be ok.



Halfway done. I have one basket entirely full of tea lights (you can see that I won't need to buy any more teal tea lights when I pull out my summer decor next year!) My four taper holders stand against the side of the cupboard, and my autumn hand soap is in front ready to go as soon as the one by the sink is used up.


The finished project! It still looks messy, but I can easily find my basket of tapers, the two beaded candle garlands I use in autumn, my wooden incense burner, and the one large candle platter I use under my biggest candle. In front are two sparkly candles I'll put on the mantel and dining table as part of my Christmas decor, as well as a burgundy hurricane I'll use in the upstairs living room for December through March.

I feel so good about finishing this project, and about the eight cruddy old votives I threw away (you can't put that type of glass in the recycling bin here in Seattle). I'm going to easily find some lovely candles to burn tonight when I'm making my house cozy during this rainy day.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Little House in the City

A writer in Brooklyn is fixing up her one bedroom apartment and invites you along into her efforts. Currently posting about homemade iced tea, vegetarian recipes, a boat shaped bathtub, and her hallway closet makeover.

http://thelittlehouseinthecity.blogspot.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Moonstruck Chocolates Fall Collection


I'm so excited to see Moonstruck Chocolate's fall and Halloween collection. Their truffles are SO adorable. I didn't expect them to come out with so very many new styles for the season. Besides all the cool Halloween items, I'd like to try the Liquid Caramel collection. I'm actually really relieved they don't take Paypal, as I have money sitting in that account I'd probably blow on these adorable chocolates.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Are You Wasting Money on Brand Names? (Today Show)

Favorite Tailgating Recipes (Martha Stewart)

How to Make Ranch Dressing (CHOW)

How to Volunteer in a Community Garden (Slate)

Rosh Hashanah Recipes and Menus (Epicurious)

Vegetarian Lasagna for Your Next Family Meal (Today Show)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September Begins


A Pier 1 pillow I am sorely tempted to buy for autumn!

A new month begins. We're easing into fall, and slowly saying goodbye to summer. Today I take my outdoor umbrellas down, bring in the outdoor furniture, and change out my seasonal curtains and linens. Time to burn up the last of my lavender scented candles - almost time to get out the pumpkin-scented ones.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Look ahead on this calendar at the upcoming month. Do you need to schedule any salon, pet grooming, dentist, doctor, optometrist, or other appointments for yourself or any family members?

  • Look at any upcoming birthdays this month. Get ready to send gifts, cards, flowers, or make phone calls as needed.

  • Take some time to look over your budget for the month of September. Not just your financial budget (which is very important too) but your time budget. Do you have time for gardening, homemaking, work, projects - but also time for family, friends, pets, and very importantly, yourself?

  • Eat some of the last of summer fruit before we move into enjoying autumn's bounty. Slice up melons, make fresh squeezed lemonade or limeade, or eat some ice cold watermelon.

  • Ready for Labor Day weekend? Packed, if you are traveling? Provisioned, if you are hosting?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Easing Into September

It's still nice enough to sit outside, supervising my dogs while I read a magazine. But I'm wearing a sweater, and my seat is slightly damp from some early morning rain. Today I'm making time to take down my outdoor umbrellas, put away my outdoor candles and dishes, bring inside some wicker furniture, and put away some decorations I had in the yard.

I'll also begin changing out my light summery lacy curtains, putting up chocolate brown organza curtains in the dining room instead. My hot pink and orange living room cushions will be replaced with chocolate-brown-and-light-blue pillows downstairs, and my fall green decorative pillows upstairs. I'm not ready to go full-out fall decorating (hauling out my decorative pumpkins, autumn wreath, etc) yet though.

On my mantel, the last of my summery candle scents are burning merrily away (lavender, Marine, and lemongrass). Tomorrow I'll light my fall-scented pomegranate candles left over from last year.

I'm looking forward to autumn, but sad to leave summer behind. And I'm a bit dreading a long cold winter with two hyperactive Labrador puppies trapped in the house much of the time!

LOVELY BLOGS: The Art of Living Beautifully


A lovely blog that I enjoyed browsing through today (though I was annoyed to have to scroll all the way down to the bottom, hunting for a way to turn the automatically playing music off). This blogger, Bella, celebrates the beautiful things in life and wants to share pretty things with her readers. She posts about home decor, delicious looking food, her pets, and some nice etsy shops she finds. You'll find this a relaxing and cheerful place to look around.

http://beautydoesmatter.blogspot.com/

LOVELY MOVIES: Easy A


This movie looks very silly - and seems it would be better as a "renter." But I'm eager to see it - I need something light and silly. Maybe I'll make time for a "chick flick" outing with a girl friend. It opens September 17.

Easy A, at IMDB

Easy A Trailer (EW.com)

Easy A Movie (Official)

Easy A, at Wikipedia

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

How Stuff Works: Organic Food Prices (Seattle Times)