Friday, October 29, 2010

Almost Halloween


Bigelow's Pumpkin Spice tea, perfect to serve to chilled trick-or-treaters

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Have you tried on your costume and accessories to be sure they fit and look the way you want them to?

  • Need to rake leaves on your lawn yet (or better yet, have a kid do it?)

  • Dust your bedroom really quickly, if needed. I don't know about you, but my bedroom gets dusty so quickly. Maybe it's that our unusually warm weather has let me open the windows so often. I have to dust one bookcase, two night tables, a wooden jewelry box and the "hope chest" my television sits on. And the television itself needs to be dusted, too.

  • Fill up with gas for the weekend; visit an ATM for cash if needed.

  • Have you looked through your city's local events/arts newspaper lately? It can give you really good ideas for fun things to do - upcoming concerts, plays, restaurants to try, etc. Today during my lunch break I'm going to read my copies of "Seattle Met" and "Seattle Magazine" for a little catching up on what's going on in my city.

  • Take inventory of pet food, and do a collar inspection. Are your pet's collars fraying? dirty? Still reflective (for pets who go outdoors)? License, rabies tag and identification still attached?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Halloween Preparation

If you're throwing a party, you might have a lot of things to do today.

If you're a mom, you might need to finish shopping or help your kids get their costumes ready.

Need to buy candy to give to trick-or-treaters, if you are staying home? Do you have music and movies ready to enjoy tomorrow night, if you aren't going out to a party?

Need to give yourself a manicure before tomorrow? I'm painting my nails blood red to accessorize my Maleficent costume.

I'm going to a party Sunday, and luckily I just have to bring an easy dish: baked brie with brown sugar, pecans and fig jam. Tonight I'll make sure my "Maleficent" costume fits, and I'll probably practice the makeup I'll wear on Halloween. Then I'll settle in tonight for my yearly tradition, watching " The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ready for a Windstorm


Emergency Candles, at Amazon

Yesterday and today it's been very windy, raining hard, and my lights are flickering. If the power goes out, I won't be able to do my work on the computer, so I'll find other things to do to occupy my time in a productive manner. (But I'll sneak in some magazine reading leisure time before it gets dark outside, too!)

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Kitchen floor need sweeping or mopping? Counters clean?

  • Tidy bathrooms - refresh toilet paper rolls, empty trash cans if needed, wipe down mirrors, sinks and counters, change out hand towels and rugs as needed, for clean ones

  • How is everybody in your house doing for fresh, clean pajamas to wear tonight?

  • Do you have a fall wreath on your front door? If you own an autumn-themed or Halloween doormat, have you swapped it out so it's on your doorstep?

  • Have you baked any delicious muffins or quick breads lately, if that's something you enjoy doing and your family enjoys helping you eat up?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Windstorm Preparedness

Today a powerful storm knocked out power in the Midwest. It's Chicago's worst storm in 7 decades.

I'll never forget Seattle's worst windstorm, in 2006. We lost power for eight days and had to go stay with friends whose power had come back on after the fourth day. During the four nights we spent without power, we were extremely lucky that the outside temperatures didn't dip below 30. (Inside the house it was a mere 40 degrees, brr!)

We were also - I don't want to say "lucky" because I was well prepared - better off because I'd planned ahead. We had three nights worth of firewood, canned food we could heat over our outdoor firepit, plenty of candles and matches, and extra comforters.

Right before the windstorm had hit, I'd fortunately decided it was a good idea to run two loads of laundry, quickly pop some wet sheets into the dryer, and run the dishwasher. This meant we had clean clothes and sheets for the next week, and a dishwasher full of dishes I didn't have to wash by hand in the dark cold kitchen.

Now every year as autumn approaches, I start hoarding firewood, candles, and emergency supplies. I'm lucky I have a big garage to store things in, and I don't let my hoard take over the indoors of my house!

Today I'm thinking about what tasks I could accomplish yet today if my power goes out. My hot water heater uses gas, so I'd still have hot water to do my dishes, clean my kitchen and bathrooms, and mop floors with. The vacuum would of course be useless, but I could use my broom to tidy the wood floors that didn't quite need mopping yet. I'd need a bit of daylight to get any dusting done properly.

Then at night, if the power was still out, I could light a fire, read by firelight and candlelight, and eat a healthy dinner of salad and fruit, cheese and bread. I could still get some housekeeping tasks done - you can fold laundry or declutter by flashlight, and sort out a drawer or a box of paperwork by firelight.

Are you ready for a power outage?

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

LOVELY BLOGS: Granny Mountain


Joycee lives in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. I think you will enjoy her posts about visiting her town's new Ulta shop, making old-fashioned Halloween popcorn balls, and enjoying the warm glow of homes in autumn.

http://grannymountain.blogspot.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: The Good Housekeeping Hostess

I've found another digitized antique book that I'm delighted to read through. "Entertainments for all seasons and occasions," plus "The complete rules of etiquette and social observance for the hostess."

Content includes Social Life, children's parties, weddings, A Dainty June Dinner, A Company Dinner, a Winter Feast, A Literary Dinner, A Corn Luncheon, and a chapter on Halloween frolics. Some of the party activities suggested here are so quaint and adorable!

The Good Housekeeping Hostess, at Google Books

LOVELY FASHION: Faery Wedding Dresses


I accidentally happened across this fairy wedding and handfasting gown site and was so enchanted by the dresses, I wanted to show them to you too. I doubt I'd choose to wear one of these to my next wedding someday long ahead in my future, but I'd be tempted to own one of the lovely attendants' gowns (like this red one) for parties. Just for fun, take a leisurely browse!

http://www.faerywedding.com/

LOVELY MOVIES: The Nutcracker in 3D


"The Nutcracker" has never been a particular favorite of mine. I don't really enjoy the story. But I am always on the lookout for fun children's movies to take my three Seattle nephews to. This one looks like something they will really like. Tt comes out around Thanksgiving - perfect timing!

The Nutcracker in 3D Trailer, at Apple

The Nutcracker in 3D, at IMDB

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Composting in the City (Organic Authority)

Cooking With Pears (Cooking Light)

Felt Crafts (Martha Stewart)

Host a Ghoulish Gathering (Culinary.net)

How to Make Caramel Apples (Cooking Light)

How to Make Ricotta (CHOW)

How to Properly Eat Sushi (CHOW)

Individual Apple Crisps (Cooking Village)

Frightfully Good Treats (Culinary.net)

Lavender Shortbread Cookies (Shut Up and Cook)

Metallic Makeup the Trend for Fall 2010 (She Knows)

Paris' Secret Vineyards (Paris Voice)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last Monday in October


What I'm burning today: Caramel Apple

Daylight Saving Time ends on November 7 this year. Before you go to bed after your Saturday Halloween festivities, turn your clocks back one hour. Now's also the time to replace your smoke detector batteries and flip your mattresses.

Daylight Saving Time

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to buy Halloween candy to give out to trick-or-treaters on Sunday?

  • Finish up your Halloween costume or your children's costumes, if needed

  • Book your travel for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas if you haven't already

  • Need to catch up on laundry you didn't finish over the weekend?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fire Safety

I take fire safety very seriously. I have been in a hotel that was on fire before. Though it was a small fire and I was in no real danger, it's made me extra cautious.

I burn a lot of candles, and I use my fireplace quite often. My stationery merchandise for my business, all made of paper and stored in my garage, would go up in flames if any accident happened. So I have to consciously think every day about minimizing fire risk.

Safety experts always suggest that we test our smoke alarm batteries twice a year, when we change our clocks. They say we should replace them once a year, during the fall clock change. Clock changing time is coming up soon. Let's get our safety related errands done now so we can focus on a fun festive Halloween.

Replace your batteries in your smoke detectors (whether they need it or not) just to be sure you have fresh new ones. Put batteries on your shopping list if you use up your stash during our safety exercise this week.

Empty and clean your dryer lint trap and clean behind the dryer and around the hose if you can. Inspect the hose for wear, and see if you need to have a professional come out to clean the hose. (Chimney sweep companies often offer this as a service they provide as well).

Vacuum or dust all the smoke detectors in your house while you're at it. Is your smoke detector more than seven years old? Pitch it out and get a new one. You can pick one up at RiteAid, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, and even at some grocery stores.

While you're shopping, do you have a carbon monoxide detector?

See if you need to replace your existing fire extinguishers. If you don't have any, now is the time to think about getting one for your kitchen, bedroom hallway, garage, and for each vehicle.

Do you have a flashlight with working batteries next to your bed? Test it tonight in the dark. Can you reach it and turn it on quickly from a lying down position? Is it bright enough?

Do you keep a flashlight in your car? If so, have you tested it in the last week to see if it works?

Spend some time tonight with your family, especially if you have small children, discussing what to do in event of a fire. Practice your fire escape route.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors, at Wikipedia

Fire Safety, at Wikipedia

Fire Safety.Gov

LOVELY BLOGS: Glorious Treats


This blog is by a baker, crafter, photographer mom. I think you'll enjoy looking at her pictures from her recent week in San Francisco, her post on a lady named Maryanne's welcoming fall display, and especially her yummy fall treats recipes.

http://glorioustreats.blogspot.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: The Home and Its Management

I have been so enjoying looking through this scanned-in 1917 book by Mabel Hyde Kittredge. It's old-fashioned, yet so full of useful and practical tips on homemaking. There is a chapter on the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, bedrooms, plus Home Economics topics including marketing, cooking, foods and their values, division of income, preserving fruits, and taking care of children. The book also includes nearly 300 recipes.

I really like her practical advice on home decor - she encourages keeping it simple, uncluttered, clean and pretty. I giggled though, upon reading her advice to always set the breakfast table with doilies.

The Home and Its Management, at Google Books

LOVELY BOOKS: Robert Sabuda's New Pop-Up Book


Besides collecting Cinderella and some fairy tale books, I collect pop-up books. Not just any pop-up, they have to be fairy related, whimsical or especially colorful and lovely. My favorite pop-up artist is Robert Sabuda. I am so excited for his new book, I am buying it today just to make sure it's under my Christmas tree this year. (Yes, I actually plan to wrap it and gift it to myself on Christmas Eve!)

Beauty and the Beast Pop-Up, at Amazon

LOVELY LIVING: The Week Ahead

Last week was "Time For Us" week, where we pampered ourselves, selfishly did things for ourselves only, neglected big housecleaning projects, read books, did crafts, got manicures, and took long baths.

Now it's time to do a few chores, have a fun Halloween, then get back to work. With November comes removal of Halloween decorations, sprucing up of autumn decor, early Christmas shopping, Thanksgiving planning, and getting the guest room ready for houseguests. Time to start thinking about others again!

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Chocolate Cobweb Cupcakes (BBC Food)

Fast and Fearsome Halloween Crafts (Martha Stewart)

Live Fashionably in the Present (Boston Globe)

Madeira Cake (BBC Food)

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (Stone Gable)

Super Speedy Halloween Treats (Better Homes & Gardens)

Three Perfectly Good Ideas for Pears (Chicago Tribune)

Why Sitting All Day is Slowly Killing You (MSNBC)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One Last Day of "Time for Us"


Moonstruck Classic Hot Cocoa: What I'm drinking today while I'm reading and watching movies

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

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

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance cleaning: Thoroughly sort and clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in your fridge or freezer.

  • Vacuum your entire house to freshen it for the week ahead.

  • Need to do laundry? Mine has been a bit neglected during all this pampering. I can put a few loads in today in between my reading and movie watching.

  • Tonight is a good time to telephone relatives for a chat. I only have one grandparent left, and I'm going to have a nice visit with him tonight.

TODAY'S PROJECT: One Last Day of Fun

I'm going to taper off the level of leisure I've been enjoying this week. I'm planning to spend the day reading and watching movies, but that will come after I vacuum the house and play with my puppies in the cold, rainy back yard.

I'll also give myself a manicure and pedicure tonight. Not as pampering as going to a salon to have it done, but I should watch my budget after the shopping I did on Friday and Saturday!

What are you going to do to enjoy yourself today?

LOVELY BLOGS: Paris Hotel Boutique Journal


This blog is by a woman who runs a lovely shop. I enjoy visiting her blog to see the pretty things she finds to share. She doesn't usually post ads for things at her store. Instead, she's blogging about when airline travel was glamorous, groovy stewardess uniforms, and a Halloween artist.

http://parishotelboutique.blogspot.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Paper Blossoms


I just picked up this ingenious book of paper bouquets that I can use as whimsical centerpieces at my dinner parties. It's a pop-up book that's designed to lay flat on your table. There are five different bouquets. I think I'll display the lotus water garden first - perhaps at my next sushi night!

LOVELY HOLIDAYS:


Several holidays are coming up in late October and early November:


LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

At Harvard, the Kitchen as Lab (NY Times)

How to Keep Your Home Always Smelling Fresh (Freshome)

London Cupcake Update (Paris Breakfast)

The Original California Cuisine, Courtesy of Sunset Magazine (NY Times)

Quince Almond Cake (Chocolate & Zucchini)

Tentacle Pot Pie for Halloween (Not Martha)

A Wood-Fired Hot Tub for an Old-Style Soak (NY Times)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Time for Us Week" - Let's Pretend


What I'm writing with today: Lovely gel pens from Paper Source

This weekend it's still "Time for Us" week. No sorting, decluttering, or projects. Just the minimal amount of work you can do to keep your kids clean, rested and fed, your pets happy, and your house from falling apart until Monday when we start our hard work up again.

Today I'd like to invite you to join a game of "Let's Pretend" with me. I don't like to call it "Let's pretend we're somebody we're not," because I intend to pretend I'm a writer. I am a writer; I write every day and I do get paid to write now and then. But I'm not a professional writer, and it's not my job.

I want to pretend, just for today, that I'm a writer for a living. I'll turn off my phones, sequester myself in my cozy light-filled breakfast nook, wrap up in a blanket, make tea, and get to work writing. I plan to write a short story (or at least start one) on my laptop, and work longhand in a much-neglected paper journal.

I know this is a romanticized version, a fantasy of a day spent as a writer. The real writers I know personally, who actually make a living writing, are lucky to get three hours a day done writing at the most. They're working all day long, but most of it is answering emails, doing research, paying bills, talking to editors and researchers on the phone, dealing with hassles, etc. Not much of that involves butt-glued-to-chair writing. They deal with the same hassles the rest of us work-at-home people do: interruptions, phonecalls, pet fights, ringing doorbells, household appliance emergencies, cat vomit, and the easy temptation of a well-stocked refrigerator and liquor cabinet!


My breakfast nook, where I hope to spend the day writing. Oh, and petting the cat, of course.

And during my "Let's Pretend I'm a Writer" exercise today, I won't have any deadlines, I won't be stressing about selling today's writing for money, and I can quit when I get bored, and go do something else. Instead, I can focus on enjoying my pretense. Perhaps I'm writing holed up in a snowed-in cabin in winter; or I'm an expat living in a chilly studio in Paris. I might take my journal with me to a nearby cafe, wishing I was in Paris but enjoying my local Redmond Washington cafe hangout too.

I realize that my fun "Let's Pretend" day is much easier for me to do than for those of you readers who still have young children at home or husbands/boyfriends who might want some attention this weekend! With my foster kids moved out for college, I have the luxury of time and privacy to do silly things, like setting up a photo studio in the guest room, doing my makeup and hair crazily, and having a friend come over to share wine and take (clothed, by the way!) pictures of ourselves just for fun. (I might do that for my "Let's Pretend" day tomorrow!) Maybe you can only drop the kids off at Grandma's for two hours to get time to pretend something fun for yourself, so maximize your time as well as you can.

LOVELY DECOR: Artists' Studios

Today I did a quick bit of enjoyable web surfing to find these sneak peeks into artists' studios. Not an artist myself, I still have a very messy home office set up with pens, paper, tape, ribbons and wrapping paper at the ready, but I'd be horrified to think of showing a picture of my space to someone.

I really liked looking at the different ways various people have their work spaces set up. See if you have fun looking through these too!


I bet I'm not the only one wishing I had an outdoor studio cottage like Lisa Neimeth's


Mary Engelbreit's Studio

A Peek Into My Studio (Perideau Designs)

A Peek Into My Studio (Karen Fields Gallery)

A Peek Into the Hazelnut Cottage Studio

Christmas 2010 Studio (Robyn Warne Designs)

Cathe Holden's Studio (32 Degrees N)

Fall Virtual Studio Tours (Cloth Paper Scissors)

TODAY'S PROJECT: Let's Pretend

Here's some suggestions on fun ways you might spend your day:

  • A Chocolatier: Spend the day working with your existing chocolate molds and candy molds. Try not to buy anything just for a day of pretend, other than baking chocolate if you don't have any on hand.

  • A baker: Putter around in your kitchen creating fabulous pastries, cakes, cupcakes, pies, or other goodies. Spend tomorrow dropping them off, nicely boxed, at friends' houses. Check out this link about Paris and the film Chocolat for inspiration.

  • An artist: Put on a smock and use up some of your existing canvases, pens, papers, acrylics, paints and other art supplies. Create something fabulous and display it proudly in your home.

  • A writer: Turn off your phones and TV, put on music if it helps you, and glue your rear to a chair. Spend the day writing, whether it be finishing up that short story you started 3 years ago, beginning a new story or novel, jotting down a poem, journaling, or writing letters.

  • A Scrapbooker: Finish your scrapbooking projects until you catch up to this week. If you've started pages on last Christmas, Fourth of July or this summer's vacation, finish them.

  • A photographer or model: Set up a home studio and take family or friends' portraits, put on fanciful makeup and do self-portraits, or go exploring outside taking autumn photos of things you find beautiful.

  • A musician: Bring out your guitar, sit at your piano, or haul out an old synthesizer. Enjoy playing your music, and maybe even write a new song. Or if your talents run to singing, spend the day singing songs you enjoy, practicing as though you have a concert hall full of adoring fans to perform for tomorrow.

  • A seamstress: Get out your old sewing machine, scraps of fabric and trimmings, and create something fun. Even if it's just a dress for your daughter's Barbie, let your creativity out. If you don't like what you make, you can throw it away and just consider the time well spent in enjoyment and practice.

  • A celebrity: Dress up in something fashionable but not fancy. Throw on a hat and pair of dark sunglasses, do your nails, then take yourself out to coffee, a cocktail, shopping, or other things you enjoy. Don't try to fool people or impersonate any existing celebrities, just quietly enjoy your day and see if you catch any stares or people pondering who you are.

  • A kid: Play with your kids' dolls, train set, Legos, or anything else fun that reminds you of your childhood. Don't worry about what your family might think if they catch you! Instead, invite them to join in.

  • A Tarot reader: Dress up in a sparkly gypsy type costume or outfit, just with things you have around the house. Make a big pot of tea and invite friends over to share readings.

LOVELY BLOGS: From Moon to Moon


This is a home decor blog that focuses on relaxed, colorful, bohemian interiors that are lived in and enjoyed. She finds lovely pictures to share, and incorporates photos of her own living space as well. Currently posting about hibernating, cushions, apothecary cabinets, and Le Creuset cookware. Lots of decor inspiration here!

http://frommoontomoon.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Lovely Fall Pumpkin Brunch (Hostess With the Mostess)

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Time for Us Week" - Dinner and Shopping


Icon Grill, my favorite restaurant in Seattle

It's still "Time for Us" week. I'm spending time on me - just doing the bare minimum housecleaning but no decluttering or sorting projects. Tonight I'm going to dinner with my sister, and doing some fun Christmas shopping - well, I guess that's a bit of a project!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Tidy up real quickly for the weekend. Wipe down counters and mirrors, empty trashcans, remove magazines and clutter from the living room. Empty off the dining table and breakfast nook table if they need it. Remove items piled on stairs to be taken upstairs; hang up coats, put away umbrellas and shoes.

  • Fill up with gas for the weekend if needed; visit an ATM to get cash if you need some.

  • Throw out dead flowers; replace with fresh new ones to enjoy

  • Take quick inventory for your shopping list if you intend to go shopping this weekend. Shampoos/bath stuff? Cleaning supplies? Groceries? Light bulbs? Batteries? Fresh flowers? Laundry detergent? Toilet paper/paper towels? Cold medicine? Christmas shopping?

  • Make weekend socialization plans if you haven't already

TODAY'S PROJECT: "Me"

It sounds selfish, but I'm only going to do what I want to do today after work is over. Other than brief tidying for the weekend, not a speck of cleaning. Laundry can wait for Sunday night.

Tonight, I'm going out to dinner with my sister at my favorite restaurant, Icon Grill. I wish their website showed the fabulous decor - lots of pink and glass and quirky antiques. (Take a sneak peek at this blog post).

Before dinner, I'm trying to fit in a little enjoyable Christmas shopping. I hope to have all my holiday shopping done by December first.

What are you going to do to treat yourself to some fun and relaxation tonight?

LOVELY BLOGS: A Charmed Wife


Perhaps I enjoy this homemaking blog so much because of something I have in common with the blogger. She's a housewife with a husband and pet, but no children. Before I got my foster kids (and got divorced) I too was a stay-at-home housewife caring for my husband, pets, and home. I wonder if she gets as many comments as I did then about the need to be at home if you don't have kids to take care of. (Believe me, I found lots to do to keep busy with just a husband and pets!)

Anyway, I like her spirit. I thought you might like peeking into her life and reading her tips on traveling with pets, rental cars, cooking, and hiding power cords in your bedroom.

http://www.acharmedwife.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Holiday With Matthew Mead


This holiday tips and inspirations book is due to be available in late October. It costs $15.95, and I'm so dazzled by the photography samples seen here, I'm going to order one.

With 144 pages of holiday inspiration - featuring well-known and admired designers, bloggers and top-notch stories - and printed on beautiful paper (while not drowning in ads!), we consider Holiday with Matthew Mead part book/part magazine - a publication that you will keep from year to year and add to your collection of Holiday decorating, crafting and cooking magazines and books.

Matthew Mead is a style editor and contributes to Better Homes & Gardens, and Victoria Magazine.

http://www.holidaywithmatthewmead.com/

LOVELY MUSIC: Loreena McKennitt's New Album


I'm so eager for my new Loreena McKennitt CD to arrive after it's November 16 release date. I often play her music in the background at dinner parties, and I enjoy listening to it on long rainy drives to visit family across the Cascade mountains. "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" is a new album of traditional Celtic songs. I can't even ask for this for Christmas because I'm so excited, I already bought it for myself!

The Wind that Shakes the Barley, at Quinlan Road

LOVELY TV: Sound of Music Cast on Oprah


Next week, on Friday October 29, the Sound of Music cast will be reunited on the Oprah show. This is the first time in 45 years they've shared the same stage. I'm so excited. This movie is a family favorite, and I can't wait to hear the singing that will no doubt occur towards the end of the Oprah episode.

Sound of Music Cast, on Oprah.com

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Designing a Home: Mary Engelbreit Style (Houzz)

Fall Appetizers from Sweden (Martha Stewart Radio Blog)

Food Celebrity Halloween Costumes (CHOW)

Glow-in-the-Dark Spooky Drinks (Gourmet Mom on the Go)

Halloween Cupcakes (52 Cupcakes)

Halloween Recipes: Treats, Not Tricks (Epicurious)

Is Being Too Clean Making Us Sick? (Chatelaine)

Rhubarb Cobbler Cocktail (Belvedere Vodka)

Tricked Out Caramel Apples (CHOW)

Pizza Cupfakes (Willow Bird Baking)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time for Us Week - Another Day of Pampering


Republic of Tea's Hot Apple Cider Tea

Today I'll tidy up the bathrooms, do a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, then that's it for tonight. Plenty of time to clean in the upcoming festive holiday months. Now it's time to spend some energy on me.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to tidy bathrooms or do laundry?

  • Have everything you need from the grocery store? Milk, butter, eggs, bread, lettuce, tomatoes?

  • Thanksgiving is a little over a month away. Do you know where you're going, if you're hosting, if you're traveling? Need to make any plans? If you're traveling or going to someone else's house, do you have a hostess gift?

  • Any old friends you wish you could catch up with? Treat yourself to a nice long distance phone call tonight, if your friend has time

TODAY'S PROJECT: One More Day of Pampering

After I'm done working today, I am going to lie around in bed with tea, magazines and a couple books I'm eager to finish reading. I have a pileup of Cooking Light, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Oprah magazines, and the last three or four chapters of "Mini Shopaholic" to finish. I might write a couple letters, but only the fun kind, not "chore" letters like birthdays and holiday cards.

Tomorrow I will go to Target to begin my Christmas shopping. Every year, I try to have all my Christmas shopping (and the bulk of the wrapping) done by December 1st. Because I spread my shopping out over several months, beginning in August, I have more "fun money" left in December than I would if my entire December spending money budget had to go towards gifts.

That way in December I can still afford to go out to dinner, buy myself a holiday party dress, and treat myself to the occasional book, magazine, candle, or new lipstick.

And every year when many of my friends and family members are braving snow, wind, cold, rain, and crowds at the mall the third week in December, I'm sitting in my cozy home, with a cup of rum-infused hot cocoa in front of my fireplace, watching TV and reading books and relaxing; all the while staring at the lovely wrapped pile of presents ready to be given out to my loved ones. I'll admit to feeling quite smug every time!

LOVELY DECOR: Alsace Tablecloths


These lovely new tablecloths at Williams-Sonoma were based on an antique French fabric. I'm having a hard time controlling myself from buying one - I already own more than enough seasonal fall tablecloths. I just love the colors and flowery design on this one so much!

Alsace Tablecloths, at Williams-Sonoma

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Bewitching Black Rooms (House Beautiful)

British Sticky Toffee Pudding is a Comfort Tradition Americans Should Embrace (Pacific Northwest Magazine)

Coastal Colors: Citrus (Coastal Living)

Halloween Decor That Isn't Tacky (House Beautiful)

Halloween Parties Both Scary & Scrumptious (Dallas Morning News)

17 Frightfully Good Halloween Cupcakes (Better Homes & Gardens)

16 Seasonal Squash Recipes (Babble)

Spooky Glam Halloween Decor (AZ Central)

20 Cozy Fall Decorating Ideas (Daily Candy)

World's Best Hotel Boutiques (Concierge.com)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time for Us Week - Treat Yourself


Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to run the vacuum really quickly through a couple rooms? We can pamper and treat ourselves this week, but we can also certainly spare five minutes to vacuum our homes so they don't get out of control.

  • Any trash cans need emptying?

  • Dishwasher need to be filled, or emptied?

  • When's the last time you snuck a truffle or a caramel? Livened up your morning coffee with a dash or two of flavoring from your pantry?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Treat Yourself

As part of "Time for Us Week", do something nice for yourself today. It doesn't have to involve spending money, but it does have to involve spending time on yourself.

If you do have a little room in your budget, splurge on a hot drink at Starbucks, a fall candle at Pier 1, a new shower gel at Bath & Body Works, or perhaps a potted plant at Trader Joe's? Maybe you'd like to buy a new paperback at your local bookstore, or spend just $6 on a couple new magazines to peruse.

No room in the budget? Make your partner take care of the kids this evening (if you have any). Treat yourself to a Lifetime movie today, re-watch a favorite DVD, or play with your crafts supplies. Perhaps you'll spend the hour you would have spent housecleaning, reading a book or knitting while listening to music instead. Take a long bath, give yourself a manicure or pedicure, scrub and moisturize your skin. Go through old photos, if that's fun, or get out old children's books to enjoy for yourself. Write in your journal or diary, or work on a short story or poem you've been creating. Paint, or do something else creative that you enjoy doing. Write a letter to someone, go through old letters people have sent you, or try on some goofy makeup and hair styles.

Make someone else cook dinner, whether that be your partner, one of the kids, the microwave, or a takeout restaurant or fast food place. You'll have plenty of time to cook for your family and friends in the upcoming busy holiday season.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

30 Simple, Festive Holiday Decor Ideas (Real Simple)

Your Guide to a Foolproof Thanksgiving (Real Simple)

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Time for Us" Week - Pampering


"Fizzbanger," Lush's Candy Apple Cinnamon Bath Bomb

For the last few weeks we've been working to clean and organize our homes for our families and to welcome guests. Now it's time to turn inward, to pamper ourselves and enrich our own lives.

Let's be a little selfish. Make time for yourself. Demand it, you deserve it! Ask your partner to spend time with the children while you get a manicure - or drop the little ones off at a grandparents' or friend's house for a few hours.

Encourage your boyfriend to go out with the guys, so you can go out with the girls or just have a few quiet hours at home alone. Read that book you've been dying to finish; lazily leaf through magazines drooling at the pretty pictures; take an extra long bath. Linger just a bit longer over your morning hot beverage of choice.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • With long winter nights ahead of us, consider joining an online book club or book reading group.

  • Make yourself a manicure, pedicure or hair appointment for this week, or just go get a walk-in service. (Or whatever would make you feel pampered!) If your budget is tight, just make room in your schedule to give yourself a manicure or pedicure using your own nail polish.

    See if you can make plans to have lunch with a friend this week, or perhaps you two can go to a movie some evening. Tight budget? Re-watch an old favorite DVD or find something intriguing on cable, then pop in a naughty frozen dinner or pizza you already own and have been storing in your freezer. Ice cream for dessert!

  • Make a list of fun things you'd enjoy doing this week. Definitely take your budget into consideration, but spoil yourself a bit if you can.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Pampering

Whatever pampering means to you, see if you can treat yourself to some tonight. Get your partner to give you a massage maybe. Take a long, hot bath with lemon ice-water to sip and a book or magazine. Watch a TV show that isn't very good for your brain but is deliciously fun to watch. (I recommend Weeds on Monday nights).

Go out to dinner, or grab fast food (something I don't normally do) for a one-time treat. Think just about yourself, doing the bare minimum you can do tonight to keep your house in order and your family happy and fed before you go off by yourself for some YOU time. Remember that a happy wife and mom makes for a happy household.

LOVELY BLOGS: Luxury Interior Design Journal


A Canadian interior designer shares her finds, furniture store recommendations, and browsings. I just love looking at the furniture she showcases here - such interesting pieces! Check out these interesting chandeliers, too.

http://www.laurabielecki.com/blog/

LOVELY WEBSITES: The Baldwin Online Children's Literature Project


"Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children." This is a fabulous resource for parents, teachers, and lovers of children's literature. Dozens upon dozens of books have been scanned or otherwise digitized, and presented in a manner that it's actually pleasing to read them on the screen (unlike many Gutenberg etexts). You can click on separate chapters to jump straight to your favorite part of an old book.

Sadly, the "What's New" page doesn't show anything new added since April 2009, so I hope this isn't an abandoned project. From the website, here's more info:

"The Baldwin Project seeks to make available online a comprehensive collection of resources for parents and teachers of children. Our focus, initially, is on literature for children that is in the public domain in the United States. This includes all works first published before 1923. The period from 1880 or so until 1922 offers a wealth of material in all categories, including: Nursery Rhymes, Fables, Folk Tales, Myths, Legends and Hero Stories, Literary Fairy Tales, Bible Stories, Nature Stories, Biography, History, Fiction, Poetry, Storytelling, Games, and Craft Activities.

"We offer these resources at no charge and grant permission to individuals to print copies for personal and educational uses. The texts are formatted so that attractive copies can be printed easily, in larger type for younger readers and smaller type for older ones, with illustrations included where possible."

My favorite resource here so far is The Blue Fairy Book.

Pamper yourself tonight with a long luxurious browse through this archive, if you love children's books.

http://www.mainlesson.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Apple Walnut Cupcakes (What's Cooking, Chicago?)

Baked Olives in Cheese Appetizer (Worth the Whisk)

Booze, Coming to a Starbucks Near You (CNN)

Give Brussels Sprouts Another Chance (Chatelaine)

Make Your Own Candy Bars (CHOW)

Pomegranate Recipes (Cafe Fernando)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Curio Cabinets


Cranberry Joy home fragrance spray, new from The Body Shop

Today I'm still enjoying spending a lot of time with family, but I will have time to do one small project when I get home tonight. My curio cabinets are extremely dusty - more so because I'm opening my doors more often than usual due to my puppies. I think I can dust them thoroughly and sort their contents while I watch Mad Men and Desperate Housewives tonight.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Finalize Halloween costumes, put up decorations, finish party plans

  • Spot-cleaning your kitchen and bathroom floors, or just using a few cleaning wipes on them will make them shine and make your weekend cleanup go faster.

  • Done with the weekend's laundry? It's folded and put away? Bed linens changed?

  • Make meal plans for the week ahead; create grocery list; shop as needed

  • Is there room in your coat closet for actual coats? See if you need to declutter, get rid of unused coats, or move a vacuum to a different closet.

  • Use your fragrance oil infuser, burn a candle, or spray your favorite home fragrance

TODAY'S PROJECT: Curio Cabinets


An example of the items I store in my curio cabinets, Pier 1's Purple Luster stemware

I own two curio cabinets. In both, I store wine glasses, martini glasses, teacups, dishes and keepsakes. Today I'm sorting out both cabinets and dusting.

I'm removing everything, including the glass shelves, and washing all the dishes. I have to wash them by hand as they're antiques or fragile fancy martini glasses, so they don't go near a dishwasher, ever.

I can't move the curio cabinets by myself to vacuum under them, but I will give them a good dusting and reach as far behind them as I can with my vacuum attachment. I'll clean the walls behind the cabinets, as far as I can reach, too.

I'll see if there's anything I can get rid of, as each cabinet is looking cluttered. But unfortunately I think everything in these cabinets is something I either use frequently for entertaining, or keepsakes I'm too sentimental about (like my great-aunt's handmade decorated eggshells).

In the living room cabinet I have martini glasses, wine glasses, a china figurine of a witch I've had since I was a little girl, eggshells my aunt decorated, three or four amethyst glass vases, pink depression glass dessert dishes, a wacky art glass bowl I use to serve M&Ms or peanuts, and a few other miscellaneous pieces of glassware. Almost all need to be washed as dusting alone won't help them. The glass shelves will be washed too, as well as the glass in the doors. I think I spy a never-used teapot I can donate, and perhaps I can bring myself to store away great-aunt's handicrafts in my hope chest. ("Hope she doesn't make any more.")

I expect the project to take around an hour per cabinet.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Fairy Tale Cupboard


For some reason I always enjoy reading fairy tales in autumn, and I make that a priority over the other books on my waiting-to-read shelf. So right now I'm especially enjoying this blog of fairy tale books, authors, exhibitions, poems and performances. I am so delighted to find out about Enchanted Times, a fairy tale newsletter, from this blog. I know I will come back here often to see what's new and make sure I'm not missing out on the fabulous things she shares.

http://thefairytalecupboard.blogspot.com/

LOVELY MUSIC: Sugarcubes "Birthday" Cover


I am enjoying listening to this shoegaze-style cover of my favorite Sugarcubes song. The cover is by Foxtail Somersault. Nobody of course can attain Bjork's level of vocals, but the Foxtail Somersault vocalist has a beautiful, dreamy voice. I thought you might like something pretty to listen to this morning.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Austrian Vineyards are All in the Family (NY Times)

Creepy Cookies for Halloween (Martha Stewart)

Moroccan Preserved Lemons (NY Times)

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad (101 Cookbooks)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Life's Celebrations


Fall Foliage Cookies, from Eleni's Bakery

This weekend a few family members are flying and driving in to visit each other.
We'll go out to dinners and movies, get massages, browse at Pike Place Market, explore downtown Seattle, and catch up over coffee and tea.

I'll have to drive home a couple times during the day to check on my dogs, exercise and cuddle them. I won't spare a thought for the work I still have to do before Monday, nor the housecleaning tasks I could conjure up a to-do list for.

Late at night, it will be so nice to come home to my clean, orderly home that's decorated cozily for autumn.

Remember, as you set out your homey fall decorations and give your home a personal decorating touch over the weekend, that our homes do not need to look like the latest Pottery Barn catalog, fabulous though it is.

Pottery Barn has $75 an hour stylists to help them decorate, an army of house cleaners, brand new undirtied, unblemished furniture, plenty of accessories to work with, and talented photographers to make their tablescapes and rooms look exquisite.

The Pottery Barn photography team doesn't have children tramping through the house with muddy shoes, there are no pets to run through their home vomiting and depositing hair everywhere, and they don't have people living in their show houses generating clutter and mess.

Your home will look gorgeous once you are done giving it your personal touch, so don't put yourself under pressure to make it look like a fantasy out of a magazine. The reality is we read books in our living rooms and leave one or two lying on a coffee table next to a box of Kleenex and a cup of coffee. Reality is you asked your child to tidy up the playroom and they did, but there's still a puzzle box sticking out from under a table and they forgot to vacuum the carpet. Reality is you just finished cleaning the kitchen five minutes ago, and someone's already deposited a plate on the counter, and left a half-sliced apple - plus the knife they cut it with - on the cutting board. It's ok.

Our lives shouldn't revolve around cleaning our homes. Instead, our clean homes should enhance our lives. Our homes should be lived in and enjoyed, not kept like pristine museums or waiting for Architectural Digest to visit. We shouldn't live to clean, and we shouldn't use house cleaning as an excuse to escape family duties, socializing with friends, or tasks we're not in the mood to do. Let's not let our lives pass by while we hold mops in our hands.

Let's do enough cleaning to get our homes lovely, sanitary and cozy, but not so much cleaning that our homes are sterile, time-sucking, and uninviting.

Shall we enjoy our weekend to the fullest?

LOVELY BLOGS: The Scoop


This is a "findings" blog where the author plays fun games of "Let's Pretend." She pretends she has unlimited room in her closet and shows beautiful shoes she'd buy. The blog showcases home decor finds as well as fashion. She showcases a lot of modern design type stuff (not my favorite style) but I love her fabulous taste. I'll be back, I can't wait to see what she finds next!

http://www.orangebeautiful.com/blog/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

How to Get a Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg (Fun With Jane and Dick)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall Fragrance Friday


If nobody picks up on my subtle yet greedy hints and gets me the new Prada Infusion d'Iris for Christmas, I'll buy it for myself in January. Love it!

Earlier this month, I sorted out my candles and room sprays, putting away summery scents and getting out autumn ones. Now I'm moving on to my perfumes, home fragrance oils, incense and bath products.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to visit an ATM for cash, go to the video rental store or Redbox, drop off Netflix DVDs at a mailbox, or fill your car with gas for the weekend?

  • Tidy up real fast so your home is nice to come home to tonight. Empty trash, empty or fill dishwasher, wipe down kitchen counters, declutter stairs and entryway, vacuum as needed. Whisk through bathrooms refolding towels, changing toilet paper rolls if needed, and tidying.

  • Does your microwave need cleaning? Mine does, despite thoroughly cleaning it during our kitchen preparations last week. I can wipe it down in under two minutes.

  • Sort through and read, then recycle any catalogs which have shown up this month. I got a Crate and Barrel, CB2, L'Occitane, Pottery Barn, Sur la Table and West Elm. I'm still anxiously waiting for the new Williams-Sonoma to arrive.

  • Perhaps tonight before it gets dark, you might like to take your children (if any) on a nature discovery walk. Look for fall leaves, pinecones and acorns. Let the children bring a few home to arrange on their dresser or in a windowsill.

  • Make weekend restaurant reservations or social plans.

  • Tidy up your mail table. Recycle junk mail, read and recycle catalogs, pay bills, and respond to letters.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fragrance Sorting


Harajuku Lovers Wicked Style Fragrance Set - So cute!

(If you don't ever wear fragrance or use scented products, instead sort out your unscented soaps, bath products, etc.)

SORTING:

Sort out your perfume counter, drawer, box etc, preferably in a room with an open window. Sniff every perfume, but only try on those you really are unsure about ever wearing again. (Wash yourself off before family members come home so they don't get overpowered!)

Now normally when I sort things out and throw them away, I let myself get a new replacement or two, but in the case of perfume I am going to avoid it. I usually get given two or three perfumes over the holidays as gifts. I won't need to buy perfume for years to come.

RE-GIFTING:

Unless your perfume is totally old and gross, you probably won't want to throw away something you know you won't wear. If it's unopened or not obviously used, you can re-gift it. Just be sure you know for sure who gave it to you - give the perfume to someone they don't know so you won't get caught! Or set it aside in a special box and have a Perfume Trading party after Christmas. Invite close girlfriends and trade new or barely-used perfumes you got as gifts (again, be sure none of the perfumes you are trying to trade away were given to you by anybody on your guest list).

KEEPING AND DISPOSING:

For perfume you are keeping, put away or store your spring and summer perfumes (The citrusy and flowery ones).

Getting rid of some perfumes? Here's the hard part: Perfumes deteriorate more quickly than you might think. You don't want to hand off a half-used bottle of perfume to a friend (and certainly not to Goodwill or another charity).

If you're not going to use it, don't let perfume clutter up your home. Throw it away. We're not supposed to throw perfumes in the trash, as they are flammable and can contaminate water. Instead, we're supposed to open them and let the fumes dissipate. I've found that's not so easy - several of my old perfume lids were difficult or impossible to remove without breaking the bottle. Frustrating!

Dust off and clean your fall/winter perfumes, then arrange them attractively on a counter or dresser, as long as they're not exposed to direct sunlight. To avoid clutter, only display four or five of your perfumes. Store the rest in an easy to find place. Sometimes I rotate which perfumes I keep out so I don't forget to wear favorites.

SCENTED LETTERS:

If you're a letter writer, think about choosing a perfume to spritz gently and minimally on your outgoing letters - but only if you are sending them to people who aren't fragrance sensitive.

PERFUME ETIQUETTE:

Let's all be aware of perfume etiquette: Don't wear any if you are spending time with someone with asthma or allergies; don't wear any if you are riding on an airplane (your seatmate may find it oppressive), and put very very little perfume on at all to begin with. We should be dabbing, not spraying, for the most part. There's never a reason to spray more than once directly on our clothes, hair or bodies. Less is more! I've also read that you shouldn't ever wear perfume to a wine tasting, as it can affect the taste of wines for some people. I had no idea.

HOME FRAGRANCES:

Sort out your room sprays and home fragrances, tossing out any your spouse, boyfriend, kids or roommates don't like. Get out any mulling spices or the kind you boil on the stove to scent your house, and actually use one of them up today. Pay special attention to your potpourri - if it's old and dried and doesn't look nice, toss it. If it doesn't smell strong, use your potpourri recharge oil or get rid of it.

Spritz the house with your favorite home spray (if it's not going to overpower the next person who comes home today!) Or you can boil a cinnamon stick in water for a nice holiday scent (though it's more Christmasy than autumny, I think).

BATH PRODUCTS:


Spiced Vanilla Bath & Shower Gel, new from The Body Shop

In my bathroom, I've discovered I have not, for once, been hoarding too many different shower gels. I might actually have an excuse to go buy a new one - just one - at The Body Shop this weekend!

LOVELY LIVING: In the Weeks Ahead

Next week is "Time for Us" week. We've been working our butts off to clean up our homes, cook for our families and loved ones, and decorate things all pretty for fall. And what's coming up in November and December? We'll be working even harder to get our houses ready for company, parties, holidays, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, houseguests and etcetera. Plus finishing our Christmas shopping long before December 15th.

So I don't know about you, but I'm going to take some time this next week for ME. I'll be pampering myself, taking extra-long hot baths, indulging in a few food and beverage treats, reading and watching TV and movies that I enjoy.

I still have to go to work, keep my house clean, cook for my family and take care of my pets. But I'm going to not obsess over cleaning - and since I've worked so hard lately to "maintain" the house in good shape, the truth is I don't have a ton of cleaning jobs that need doing right now.

There's plenty of time in November and December for being unselfish and helpful. Right now, I'm going to be a little bit selfish. Want to join me? Can you arrange some babysitting time (if applicable) so you get some time to yourself? Can you do extra work on Monday so you can sneak a couple hours on Tuesday to pamper yourself or do things just for you?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stocking the Bar for Fall


Stirrings' Bar Ingredients: Blood Orange Bitters

Today I'm checking my liquor cabinet to see what I need to stock on for the upcoming holiday season. I throw a lot of dinner parties, cocktail parties and movie parties, and I'd rather not have to pop over to the store at the last minute to get something. Also, a really snowy winter is predicted for Seattle this year. I don't want to be snowed in for eight days and run out of tasty port wine or sherry!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Do you have any herbs in your garden you need to dry for later use this winter? With our mild weather here in Seattle, my outdoor herb garden is still producing a lot of herbs. I need to cut my peppermint, rosemary, and mint and dry them. They'll go in an old spice jar or two I have washed for reuse.

  • Take extra time with your dinner preparations tonight (if you're eating in). Treat yourself and household to a nice, non-hurried meal. What do you have to give up, time-wise, tonight to make this possible? Can you ask for a helper to assist you with the meal?

  • Maintenance cleaning - Dust one room of your home, including baseboards, furniture, windowsills, door frames, and light fixtures. This can be done in less than ten minutes. My home is extra dusty right now because the weather's been nice enough to leave my doors and windows open all day still.

  • Surprise a family member or long distance friend this week, for no reason. It's not their birthday, you're just thinking of them. Send flowers if you can afford to, a handmade card, or a small gift. Send stickers or a fall-themed book to a young niece or nephew, with a small handwritten cheery note. Maybe send a recently taken digital photo of yourself to your grandmother? I like trying to do this before the holidays arrive. The holidays shouldn't be the only time I think of far-away relatives.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Stocking the Bar


The new Riedel Platinum Band barware I'm coveting, at Williams-Sonoma

If you entertain often and serve alcohol, it's time to check your supplies for upcoming fall parties. If you don't serve alcohol, you can still stock up with fruit juices, interesting sodas, and yummy hot drinks to serve your guests.

LIQUOR:

If you do serve alcohol in your home, you'll need a variety for upcoming cocktail parties, dinner parties and holidays. To keep your life uncluttered, and a few bucks left in the bank, I recommend you don't try to have every possible alcohol covered. You don't need to be able to make any possible unusual drink a guest asks for.

But if you do consider yourself an enthusiastic entertainer, and if entertaining well is important to you, you'll want to have the basics covered, plus a few extras.

I try to have several types of alcohol (vodka, whiskey, gin, rum) needed for mixed drinks, but I've stopped stocking tequila. We just simply don't drink it up. It just sits there in my cabinet. I also never buy vermouth anymore. In the eight years I've lived in this house, only one guest has ever asked for a classic martini.


If you can spare an extra $20 or $30, think about picking up the latest fancy flavored vodka just for fun. Your guests might be delighted to try something new rather than just plain old Grey Goose or Absolut in the regular flavor. Surrpise guests with the new Belvedere IX or Absolut New Orleans, for example.

I don't bother with cognac, bourbon or scotch, as very few of our guests in my friends' age group request those. I stock Triple Sec and Chambord, but rarely ever more expensive liqueurs like Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Drambuie. I do stock Kahlua or Bailey's for guests who might enjoy that in their coffee. For special occasions, I'll make a trip to the store the day before for Midori or specialty liqueurs, but I don't clutter up my liquor cabinet with those usually. I don't want a bunch of weird liqueurs hanging around the house taking up room, if they won't be used or tasted for months at a time.

BEER:

I keep only a few beers on hand, since few of our friends drink beer and the types of food I serve at parties are better suited to wine. I do keep a twelve-pack of Sapporo in my garage fridge, for sushi nights though.

I'll go to the store the day before a dinner party if I know we have guests coming who would enjoy some beer. I do keep the odd emergency Guinness or two on hand as well.

WINE:


Founders' Wine Trough, at Pottery Barn

Wine is something I stock a good amount of, as I have many friends who enjoy wine. I keep "emergency" wine around, for when we have a short-notice party, drop-in visitors, or a windy, rainy night requiring a fire, candles and wine. I try to have a sparkling wine (usually Asti or Prosecco, not champagne); a couple bottles of white (usually Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc, not Chardonnay); a dessert wine like a Gewurztraminer or a Muscat; port; and several bottles of red (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, red Zinfandel, etc). However, I don't feel the need to have a wine cellar or wine refrigerator with dozens of bottles of wine. I don't want to take up that much space, I'd rather go to the store more frequently to select new bottles if we drink a couple at a party. It doesn't have to be expensive wine, just well chosen. I really enjoy the wine selections at Trader Joe's, and it's surprising how many affordable bottles are on offer at Whole Foods.

MIXERS:

Take inventory and see how you are doing on lime juice, Grenadine, sweet and sour mix, bitters, vermouth, cocktail onions, and cocktail cherries if you tend to make drinks that require those ingredients.

Check your mixers. Do you have enough Coke, Sprite, club soda, tonic water, bitter lemon, orange juice, and cranberry juice? Add things to your shopping list, and clear an organized space to put them away. Because my fridge or cupboards would get too full, I try to limit the amount of mixers I store. I can always run to the store for tonic water or club soda or whiskey sour mix if I have a party planned.

WINE GLASSES:

Last, check your supply of wine glasses. You really don't need to have different glasses for brandy, for bourbon, for merlot, for burgundies, etc. It does make sense to have two different shapes for reds and for whites. You do need champagne flutes if you serve champagne often, as it really does promote the flavor.

Casual gatherings of friends mean you are free to serve in mismatched or unusual wine glasses - that's part of the fun. If you entertain formally, however, you'll need matching, unchipped glasses. Martini glasses for cocktails and highball glasses are needed too, but only for frequent entertainers. Really, most people are happy to drink a lovely beverage out of whatever you hand it to them in.

Sort out your glasses, discard anything chipped or mismatched, clean if dusty, and put back in your cupboards in an organized fashion. Treat yourself to a little sip of something nice when you're done tonight!

LOVELY BLOGS: Man of the House


I'm rather enjoying this blog designed to give advice to men. Topics include home repair, home organizing, upkeep, cleaning, and keeping up with the lawn and garden. Other topics include cooking, technology, grooming, family and parenting, and relationships. Even though the site is geared towards men, I found great advice in recent articles on restaurant tipping, Internet privacy, and transitioning your home from summer to fall.

There are also how-to videos on carving pumpkins, cleaning small appliances, and doing laundry.

http://www.manofthehouse.com/

LOVELY TV: Sherlock


This week, PBS will begin showing the three Sherlock Holmes episodes that BBC aired in August in England. BBC hopes to produce more episodes soon. Meanwhile, we here in the US can enjoy them this fall. I'm looking forward to watching them, fire lit, cup of tea at the ready, puppies snoozing at my feet.

The series begins October 24 with "A Study in Pink," continues on Halloween with "The Blind Banker" and concludes November 7 with "The Great Game."

Sherlock on PBS

Sherlock TV Series, on Wikipedia

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Great Gourds: A Whole New Level of Pumpkin Carving (Today Show)

How to Find $500 by Christmas (CNN)

Ramen Basics for the Noodle Novice (CHOW)

Making the Most of the Last of the Corn (Epicurious)

Punch, the Drink of Dickens, Redeemed (NY Times)

Treat of the Week: Vosges Chocolate Chip Cookies (Epicurious)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mid-October Wednesday


Autumn Garland, at Cost Plus World Market

We're halfway through the month. Only a couple more weeks until Halloween!

Have you decorated your home for fall yet? Is there an autumn wreath on your door, a fall welcome mat on the front steps, pumpkins and squash on your mantel or your front porch? Orange, cranberry, brown, black or dark green candles around your home?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Pay any mid-month bills coming due

  • Need to order any stamps online? You'll need them if you pay bills via check, and for upcoming holiday cards and newsletters you'll send out.

  • Do you have a flashlight in your car, by your bed, in the garage, and in your kitchen? Do they have fresh batteries, and have you tested the flashlights at night to be sure they still work? Do you have a flashlight on every floor of your home? In the living room in case the power goes out while you're sitting watching TV? Test ALL of your flashlights tonight in the dark and see if the batteries need replacing. Is the light bright enough to actually see? Can you get ahold of the flashlight easily if it's pitch black in the room?

  • Put out any remaining Halloween or fall decorations you haven't gotten around to yet. I've been lazy to put out my Halloween lights, but I'll do that tonight, even though it's raining!

  • Finalize Thanksgiving travel plans, book airline tickets if you haven't already, or finish inviting guests if you are hosting. People need to be reassured they have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving, so if you're hosting, please invite people as soon as possible so they can anticipate next month's holiday.

  • Look over the next two weeks. Can you build in time for socializing, alone time, quiet nights at home, exercise, nightly walks, pet care, special time with your kids, special time with your significant other?

  • Take inventory of laundry detergent, dryer sheets, bleach and other laundry supplies. Throw out anything you don't actually use (a bleach pen? starch? baby detergent for your baby who is now a kid? Swimsuit or hosiery cleaner you never actually use?)

TODAY'S PROJECT: Medicine Cabinet

Be sure you are stocked for winter colds, flus and other maladies. Today I'm removing everything from both medicine cabinets in my house, cleaning and dusting the shelves, checking expiration dates, and organizing the medicine. Later today I'll go shopping at a drugstore or Target for things I might need this season.

EXPIRATION DATES: I'll carefully check expiration dates and throw out anything outdated. I have a hard time "decluttering" when it comes to up-to-date medicines, because I want to be sure I have something on hand to solve every possible problem. But I don't have a problem throwing out anything I'm unsure of the expiration date on!

STOCKING UP: Do you have headache remedies, sinus remedies, fever remedies, cold/flu medicine (both liquid and capsule form), anti-diarrhea medicine, something for upset stomachs, something for gas and/or acid heartburn, sore throat and cough lozenges, and something just for coughs? Do you have aspirin AND ibuprofen, both Tylenol AND Advil? Any Benadryl on hand in case of allergic reactions? Do you have the good kind of Sudafed if your family tends to get congestion in the ears?

If you have children, do you have children's medicines (or have you read the recent warnings against giving cold medicine to children under 4?) How about Vicks VapoRub?

OTHER SUPPLIES: Outside of the medicine cabinet, do you have plenty of Kleenex/Puffs, more than one box? Do you have crackers, bouillon cubes, chicken noodle soup (or vegetarian alternative), several kinds of bottled juice, graham crackers, and other foods for sick people?

Also, do you have a good supply of hot water bottles/packs, coldpacks, bandaids, gauze, and other first aid and comfort supplies?

If you unfortunately develop an extended period of illness where you aren't able or feeling up to to going to the store, do you have plenty of toilet paper, pet food, laundry detergent and other supplies you might not be able to go out and get for yourself? (Hopefully you have a supportive network of friends who would shop for you in emergencies too!)

Let's hope nobody gets sick and you won't need it, but it's better to be prepared.

TRAVEL: How well are you stocked when you travel? It seems the older I get, the more just-in-case medicine I have to take with me. I put it in my checked luggage so I don't have to hassle with airport security and my carry-on. I almost never need access to medicines in-flight, but I've certainly gotten to my destination and really been glad I had diarrhea medicine or stomachache medicine with me so I didn't have to look for a drugstore in an unfamiliar city.

GUESTS: Do you keep medicines available in your guest bathroom too, so guests don't have to be embarrassed and come ASK you for diarrhea medicine?

SAFETY: Are your medicines stored out of the reach of children and pets?

LOVELY BLOGS: Eat, Live, Travel, Write


This blog is by an elementary school French teacher living in Toronto. I'm really enjoying reading her posts on cooking, food, wine, parties, events she attends and road trips she takes. Her food photography is wonderful and I love that she posts more than one photo per recipe she's sharing.

http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/

LOVELY TV: Private Chefs of Beverly Hills


I haven't gotten a chance to check out this show yet. I'm intrigued by the concept: The reality show follows six chefs hired from Big City Chefs, a private-chef placement agency in Beverly Hills.

I'm eager to see the "Seance Sautee" episode, but I think I can skip the Lorenzo Lamas show.

Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, at Food Network

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Caramel Apples 6 Ways (Food Network)

DIY Halloween Disguises for Adults (Martha Stewart)

French Onion Soup With Porcini (Rachael Ray)

Lentil Soup (Food Network Canada)