Sunday, January 30, 2011

Create Something Day

Sweetheart Wreath Kit, at Paper Source

I declare this "Create Something Day!"

Our society is definitely a consumer culture. Everybody buys, collects, hoards, eats, uses up, and throws things away. Few of us grow, build, make or create. Most of us are very far removed from the methods by which our clothes, houses, cars, food, and possessions are designed, created and built.

I want to counteract this in my own life by creating and producing things when I can. I'm not at all talented at sewing, so I probably won't be sewing my own clothes any time soon. But in the summer I can garden; in the winter I can tend attractive houseplants; I can make handcrafted cards to express affection for family members and friends; and I can cook and bake.

Today I will be creating something.


  • Do a load of laundry, if needed, so you aren't heading into the workweek with loads piling up.

  • Have you eaten a "whole food" today? Something that's not out of the freezer or a box? Perhaps a banana, a tomato, an avocado, a handful of blueberries, a handful of almonds?

  • What's going to stop you from having time to create something? Whether it's errands, an appointment, cleaning or another project, get that done first to free yourself up to enjoy the creative process.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Create Something

Do something with your hands. Make something for yourself. Touch it with your hands, feel the texture, experience the smell of whatever you're working with. Taste it, if you're cooking something. Photograph your creation so you can blog it later or share it in a letter.

Don't run out and buy any supplies - we all probably have way more than we need in the way of groceries, gardening tools, seeds, bulbs, sewing supplies, paper goods, glues, glitters, pens and crafting supplies. Use whatever you have on hand, and let that guide you as to what you might want to create today.

Be present in the moment while you are creating. Turn off the TV, stay away from the computer, and put the cell phone away where you can't hear it or be tempted to answer frivolous texts.

Have your kids help you, work with your partner, or enjoy your task by yourself.

You might bake something (I'm baking sweet breads today), or create a special out-of-the-ordinary meal for tonight. You might sew something if you're good at that, or work on finishing that knit sweater or the felt stuffed animal you were halfway done with. Perhaps you got an indoor herb garden as a Christmas gift - spend time tonight nurturing it.

You might just mess around with your crafts - rubber stamping, scrapbooking, trying to make a soft doll, finishing that beaded necklace, or putting together a photo album. Paint a picture if you have such supplies on hand, or work with your watercolors. Create your own cards for games like "Apples to Apples" or "Taboo," or draw up a silly Monopoly board customized for your family's preferences.

Your creativity might run to writing - create an entry in your journal, write a short story, write a family newsletter, work on your family web page, or write a letter to a relative (I'm writing to my niece and nephews today as well).

Whatever you might choose to do, give yourself the time and space to do it. Put off laundry til tomorrow if needed, avoid wasting two hours in front of the TV (this one is hard for me!) and log into Facebook 1 time instead of 20 tonight.

Create something, build something, whether useful or frivolous. Make something that you put yourself into.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Crafting Projects

Red Paper Roses Kit, at Paper Source

Winter is the perfect time to catch up on our crafting, scrapbooking, writing, baking, knitting, or hobbies. There's no holiday shopping, wrapping or baking to slow us down. Weather in most parts of the country isn't nice enough to tempt us outside.

If we can resist the distractions of our computers, televisions and video games, we can enjoy our handicrafts, rubber stamping, letter writing, knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, dollmaking, sewing, writing, journaling, photography, photo album sorting, or other indoor wintertime pursuits.

It's all about making time and space for yourself to actually do it. (And cleaning up afterwards!)

Martha Stewart Chunky Iridescent Glitter Set, on eBay


  • Do you have any borrowed pots and pans, or food containers you need to return because people brought them over for the holidays? Any pie pans that need to be washed and returned? Find them, wash them and make time to return them. (Even better, return them with fresh baked cookies or pies inside).

  • Make time in your schedule for vigorous exercise. If it's too cold out to walk briskly, put on great music and dance for half an hour. I'm sure I'm not the only person with a little bit of holiday weight gain or a need for some heart-healthy exercise. Luckily I have two very hyper Labrador dogs demanding insistently that I walk them several miles today, even though it's raining.

  • Have you taken your vitamins recently?

  • How are your supplies of firewood, propane, wood pellets or similar heating and ambience supplies? Kindling?

  • Do you use a space heater? Inspect for signs of damage, clothing and curtains too close to the space heater and other hazards.

  • Launder used gloves; remove used Kleenex from jacket pockets and replace with fresh packets.


Campo Marzio Fountain Pens, at Kate's Paperie

Are you planning to do any crafts this winter, while it's too cold to distract yourself with outdoor activities? Inspire yourself by getting out your craft supplies, then organizing them. Read (then recycle or give to a friend) any back issues of magazines you have about your hobby. You might have let a few pile up over the past few months.

Browse and enjoy a few webpages about your favorite kind of crafting, but don't spend so much time online looking around that you don't have time to actually DO your craft.

If your craft supplies are in a shambles, now's the time to invest $7 or so in a storage container (or maybe you'll need more than one). Then you can really get your supplies put away in an organized fashion. This way it will be easier to bring supplies out, do crafts for an hour, and put them back away again. I don't like to have my dining table covered in rubber stamps, ink, and paper for days at a time. Instead, I put my supplies away neatly in a particular box when I'm done playing in the evening. Then my dining table is neat and ready for my roommate to eat his breakfast there in the morning.

Make a vow to not buy any more craft supplies until either you've used up several items from what you already have, or until you've completed a specific number of your projects. Finish knitting your sweater before buying that luscious soft pink yarn for the next. Find a creative way to use up some yarns, fabric or ribbon you've been storing for years. Throw out that old dried up tube of fabric paint and really evaluate before replacing it with a new one in the same color. Winter crafting is not about shopping for more craft supplies - I bet everyone reading Lovely Living right now already has more than enough crafting supplies squirreled away - possibly even overflowing our closets! I do know that shopping for supplies is the most fun part of any hobby for me. I just have to hold off and control myself and not shop in any more crafts shops this wintertime.

If you're taking any online classes or participating in any book groups, have you done your reading assignments for the week? If you keep a blog or online journal, have you written in it in the last few days? You can't force yourself to write, but if you have some ideas of things you want to talk about, give yourself the time to enjoy doing it.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Quick Tidying

Between grocery shopping today, walking my dogs in the woods for a few miles, crafting this afternoon and socializing with friends later tonight, I don't have a lot of time left for cleaning. That's ok, because I've been good this week at "keeping up" with the messes and taking care of them as they happened. So I'll just do some quick tidying today.

Walk quickly through your house dealing with any problem areas. Empty small trash cans, remove clutter and dishes from your living room, straighten or replace hand towels in your bathrooms, refill toilet paper rolls if needed, empty or fill dishwasher, empty and scrub kitchen sink, wipe down bathroom and kitchen counters.

Need to remove any piles of items on the stairs, or shoes by the front door? Any stray items that need to go back into your children's bedrooms? Any house plants that need to be watered or thrown out? Any piles of packages or items that need to be mailed out?


This is a "Show and tell" type blog with beautiful design and decor inspiration. There's also some interesting food and style content, too. You'll love browsing the finds and photos here!

LOVELY BOOKS: Open Studios

I'm so looking forward to reading Open Studios. It was supposed to be released on February 23, but has been pushed back until March 23. I'm looking forward to peeking into the studios of all those artists, designers and crafters. (I wonder if they tidied up a bit before the photos were taken, or if they photographed them As Is?) The studios featured are in New York, Tokyo, Copenhagen, and other cities.

LOVELY HOME: Colored Vases in Winter

Orange Vase, from Crate and Barrel

I had such a fun time browsing Crate and Barrel yesterday. I decided I needed a little inexpensive dash of color for my home, so picked up this little orange vase for my kitchen. I'd just bought some orange-and-yellow tulips, so chose three of them to cut smaller to fit into this vase. Set into my kitchen window, it seemed to smile at me every time I walked into the room today.


Bartenders Tap New Inspiration: Beer Cocktails (Seattle Times)

Dumplings, Rolls and Ribs: Lunar New Year's Treats (Epicurious)

Mushrooms fill in the Blanks for the Meat-Free (NY Times)

Singapore Stir-Fried Noodles (Delia Online)

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Try Something New Week" Continues

Pink Heart Jewelry Box Cake, at Dean & Deluca

It's still "Try Something New Week." Have you challenged yourself to try new things?


  • Do you know what friends you're spending time with this weekend? Get on the phone, Facebook, or your email and make some fun plans!

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

  • Any end-of-the-month bills you need to pay today?

  • Tidy your house for the weekend - Empty or fill dishwasher, wipe down kitchen counters, take out recycling, empty trash cans, de-clutter living room and mail table, wipe bathroom mirrors and counters, replace toilet paper, change hand towels.

  • Can you clear one item off your kitchen counters - finding it a permanent home out of sight elsewhere?

  • What are you wearing tonight? Something black and chic? something colorful? Set out something to change into that makes you feel pretty - even if you aren't going out tonight!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Try Something New

It's still "Try Something New Week." If you're participating along with me, how are you enjoying your experiment?

Ideas for trying new things today and this weekend:

  • If you normally drink a certain type of tea or coffee (my favorite is Earl Grey) switch it up and try something different. Green tea? Hibiscus? Trader Joe's new Vanilla Cinnamon?

  • Try an unusual ethnic restaurant tonight.

  • Drive home from work using a different route than you normally do - even if it takes a few minutes more. Pay attention to the scenery and differences from your regular way.

  • Read a different genre of book in bed tonight. Normally read mysteries? Try a sci-fi book that might be laying around your house.

  • Watch a different news station than you normally do tonight.

  • Plan something different to serve for breakfast tomorrow. Normally do pancakes on Saturday? Try homemade hash browns, dust off your waffle maker, or serve crepes instead.

  • If it's nice enough weather tomorrow, take your kids (or pets) to a different park, farther away from home than you normally frequent.

  • Plant an unusual bulb in the garden - you'll surprise yourself come spring and fall next year.

  • Bake up something interesting in the kitchen, maybe something you haven't tried making before.

LOVELY BLOGS: Magical Days With the Mouse

An Anaheim mom shares her love of Disneyland. She makes frequent mid-week trips to the beloved amusement park, and often sees things casual tourists might miss. I love looking at blogs like this on cold rainy dark Seattle days - I can daydream that I'm at Disneyland checking out It's a Small World's new show. Sarah is an excellent photographer as well - you'll enjoy seeing her photos.


Beautiful and Creative Storage Solutions in the Kitchen (Apartment Therapy)

5 Cool Color Palettes to Steal From Design Hotels (Casasugar)

5 Winter Foods and What to Cook With Them (YumSugar)

How to Decorate Your Home With Prints and Colors (Chatelaine)

Kate Spade's Glitter Cake (Sweet Tooth) via Not Martha

Make Your Own Baby Food (CHOW)

Pug Cupcakes (Cutest Food)

Our 5 Favorite Recipes to Make After a Thundersnow (Bon Appetit)

Rum Cocktails (BBC Food)

10 Essentials to Update Your Wardrobe (Chatelaine)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Projects: Photograph Albums


Do you have several messy, disorganized boxes of old family photos that desperately need to be sorted, labeled, annotated, documented, and put in nice acid-free albums? I do!

Is your laptop full of new pictures you've offloaded from your digital camera? Are those pictures sorted, labeled, or backed up onto another computer, onto CDs or memory sticks? Are your relatives anxiously waiting for pictures of your children because they haven't gotten any in several months?

Winter is an excellent time to get your photograph albums in order. There isn't any beautiful sunny weather outside to distract you. Long dark winter nights lend themselves to beautifully creative projects. You can even sort photographs while you watch TV and movies, listen to music or visit with friends.


Your photograph albums are a gift to your future family members (even ones you haven't met yet), and to current family members who are very young right now. When you're long gone, your nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and cousins will be able to document their family history in part because of your albums. It's especially important to label photos with names, dates and locations, because someday you'll forget, or you won't be around to tell people that important info.

This blog post is certainly not the place to go into all the technical aspects of photo preservation (Acid-free paper, not using magnetic photo albums, acid-free inks, not writing on the back of photos with ballpoint pens, etc), but the Internet has a wealth of information on that topic.


For my fellow shopaholics who read this blog, I implore you to try to avoid using photo storage and preservation as an excuse to buy more stuff. You probably already have a few archival quality photo albums and photo storage boxes around the house as it is. Wait until those are filled before buying others. You'll spend too much time and money if you allow yourself to go shopping for photograph albums and supplies. Instead, just sit down and get to work with what you have!

Don't fall into the trap of wanting all your photo storage boxes and photo albums to match, either. If you're buying one or two boxes at a time, even if you go back to the same store next year, you might not be able to find the same exact kind of box. So what. Let it go, and spend your time worrying about actually sorting your photos.


I personally do not scrapbook my photos. I think scrapbooks have a very low ratio of photos-to-pages. If I'm going to have several big, bulky albums physically taking up room on my bookshelves, I want them to hold lots and lots of photos. Not two or three on a page, surrounded by a bunch of cute stickers. I'm thinking that scrapbooking should be done with duplicate pictures, not single originals.

I'd personally rather have a well put together album with typed documentation next to each photo. Who are the people in the photo, when and where was the photo taken, what was the occasion? Any other pertinent information could be on a small typed white card. Although purists scream at the thought of writing on the backs of photos, even with archival inks, I tend to want to do that on every one in case they ever, in the distant future, fall out of their albums or get separated from their card.


Both my grandmothers are already gone, and for the past few years they had already forgotten many of the names and faces on our oldest family photos. I need to sit down with my grandfather and ask him who all the people in those black-and-white pictures from the 1930s are. We'll write them on the back (with the correct kind of archival pen!) and add a documentation card to the album too.


Come up with a sorting system that makes sense for you. For me, I can't throw a bunch of photos all over a room and sort them over the next few weeks. My cats would ruin the pictures, they'd get stepped on, and I'd miss the use of my living room. So I'm sorting photos first into individual boxes by person or by era (1930s, 1940s, etc). Next I will move the photos into albums in the coming days. That way I can keep everything, including the smaller photo boxes, in a couple large Sterilite boxes. This keeps them all together, and I can haul them out every time I can grab a couple uninterrupted hours to sort. Which isn't very often!


Probably people younger than me don't have a bunch of physical photo albums laying around. Lately all the pictures I take are digital, so I'm archiving them on multiple computers and in CD folders. But I do tend to print out a lot of pictures so I can frame them and look at them around the house. I also prefer looking at photos together with family sitting on the couch flipping through albums, rather than huddled around a laptop to stare at the screen.

Give your family the gift of memories. Sort and store your photos properly, then go out and have fun taking lots of new pictures!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Add Happiness and Color to Your Life

Lately I've been reading a lot of books about happiness: The Happiness Project and Alexandra Stoddard's Choosing Happiness book most recently.

Though I enjoyed the many tips on living a happy life, I wondered why I bought these books. I'm pretty happy (though there are a few things in my life I'm working to fix. Like the being single part!). I wonder if unhappy people gravitate to buying these books, or if already-happy people read them to validate ourselves. Maybe happy people are open to learning more ways to be even happier.

What I learned from all the Happiness books I read this week (besides the obvious - eat right, exercise, surround yourself with happy energetic people, and get enough sleep! - is it's all in your attitude. Happiness also takes work - conscious, mindful, daily work.

I can affect my happiness with the choices and decisions I make. I can choose to sing while I fold laundry; look out the window at my beautiful rainy, green backyard while I do the dishes; enjoy my favorite tea while I work on the computer; play with my dogs energetically; and make plans to visit with friends often.


  • In the last 2 weeks, have you gone to lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch with your best friend? If not, drop everything and make an appointment with her to do so ASAP. We shouldn't all be "soooo busy" that we don't have time in our lives for fulfilling friendships.

  • We can't air out our houses right now due to the cold winter air, so what can we do to keep our homes smelling fresh? Launder your bedding, towels, area rugs or floor mats; spritz sheets and pillows with lavender; boil a pan of water and cinnamon sticks on the stove; or perform your own favorite homemaking fragrance trick tonight.

  • Check over your fruit bowl - anything you need to discard? Do you have fruit you can slice to eat tonight? What do you need to put on your grocery shopping list? Right now I'm delighted to find blood oranges in stock in the stores.


Tonight do something that makes YOU happy; and plan to do something tomorrow to make someone else happy.

Also - are you surrounded with beautiful bright colors? Do you have something colorful to wear tomorrow? Pretty stationery in a bold color you can write a letter on? A vivid mug or cup you can drink your tea out of tonight?

LOVELY BLOGS: Color Sizzle

This is designer Kelly Porter's inspiring, beautiful blog about using color in your home decor. She's currently posting about fiery red, wasabi green, peacock blue and smokey grey, and honeysuckle. I think you'll have a delightful time browsing all her finds and ideas!


I just discovered this playful, colorful line of makeup. It was designed by a New York City makeup artist who couldn't find cosmetics colorful enough for her taste. She hired chemists to help her create extremely bright eyeshadows and lipsticks. I love the playful names of her eyeshadows - "Dragon Scales," "Cupcake Thief," "Mischief Managed" and "Abracadabra." My favorite lipstick by Lime Crime is "Centrifushia."


5 Romantic Valentine's Day Desserts (Real Simple)

How Do You Make Clam Chowder? (Worth the Whisk)

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins (Slush)

Self-Sorting Laundry (Little Birdie Secrets)

20 Complexion Boosters (Handbag)

Valentine's Day Cake Pops (Bakerella)

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Try Something New" Week

Matcha Japanese green tea, at Teavana - I'm trying this green tea that you whisk into your near-boiling water. It tastes a bit like grass, but I'm going to try to drink the whole cup!

It's a New Year. Let's open our lives to some new things!

I don't want to be stuck in a rut, boring and predictable, always following the same routines. I don't want to grow up to be a 90 year old fussy, intractable elderly woman who has to have things a certain way and can't be flexible. Flexibility is the key to youth, happiness, and not driving your family crazy.


  • Need to pick up or drop off any dry cleaning?

  • Make menu plans and create grocery list for the week

  • Did you exercise your pets over the weekend? Do they need to go for an extra long walk today?

  • Start the week with fresh sheets on the beds and fresh towels in the bathrooms.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Try Something New; Do Something Different

I don't want to eat the same foods all the time (though I don't think my french fry cravings are going to go away any time soon). I don't aim to do the same things every week. I try not to always go to the same places. Convenience and familiarity tempt me though, especially on cold rainy nights - why drive around looking for a new restaurant when I know where my favorite cozy family-run Chinese place is.

While it's not okay to constantly crave new things so you never appreciate what you already have and own, it's also not ok to be stuck in a rut or predictable.

Rituals and traditions are nice - my grandfather predictably watches Lawrence Welk and eats popcorn for dinner on Saturday nights. The difference between a ritual and a rut is how you feel about it, as well as how it affects others around you. If my grandfather isn't bored doing the same thing every Saturday night; if he still looks forward to his routine, and it makes him happy, that's wonderful. But if he is doing it out of boredom or lack of creativity to think up something new to enjoy, it's not good.

When you can't modify your ritual, when your insistence on doing your ritual makes you miss out on a new opportunity, or when it upsets you to not be able to partake in it, then it's a problem. My grandfather can forgo his Saturday night Lawrence Welk tradition every so often in order to see his great-grandchildren's school plays, or go out to dinner with a visiting relative on a Saturday night. And I suspect he doesn't just sit there spending the whole time wishing he were home in front of Lawrence Welk.

I have a hard time modifying my "Desperate Housewives" Sunday ritual, but thanks to Tivo I can postpone my trash TV watching until later.


This week I am going to try several new things.

The easiest, most obvious place to start is of course with the foods I eat. This week when I go out to dinner, I won't go to my good old standby Italian, Greek, American or Chinese places. I'll try something new - Vietnamese, Afghan, Korean or Trinidadian. I'll be more adventurous with my palate.

At breakfast this week, I'm drinking refreshing tangerine juice from Trader Joe's instead of my regular grocery store orange juice. I'm eating oatmeal instead of dry cereal. That doesn't sound much like I'm switching it up, but it will help me with baby steps towards doing things differently.

I'm also trying to rearrange some of my home decor. I think I pretty much have the house the way I want it - but I don't want someone walking in 10 years from now and seeing the same old furniture sitting in their usual places, the same unburned candle sitting on my coffee table, and the same tablecloth on the dining table. It helps that I have a new roommate, and I've had to make room for his furniture and belongings so it feels like his home too.

I don't need to buy any more decor or furniture for a long time, so I'm just going to rearrange a few things to see if I like it better.

I could be really brave and get a new hairstyle, but I am too chicken, just as I was last year when we tried this experiment. I might try wearing different lipstick, rouge and eyeshadow (as long as it's flattering) and something more exciting than my normal boring pale beige fingernail polish.

I spent my Christmas gift card at Macy's on a new style of clothing I haven't tried before. I love it! I will remind myself to wear some of my lovely earrings I own and not just keep the same boring cubic-zirconia studs in every day.

What's something you might do to shake things up a little bit this week?

LOVELY BLOGS: Vintage Kids Books My Kid Loves

This is a fun blog to browse through - I see so many books I enjoyed reading myself, or to nieces and nephews. Posts often feature multiple pictures from inside the book, which is fun to see. I enjoy that this isn't an affiliate blog so you don't have to suspect books are only featured to make money. Instead, this is a labor of love for this mom, blogging since 2007!

LOVELY WEBSITES: Amanda Magazine

A new online magazine devoted to entertaining, interiors, food, travel, shopping, and well-being. It's absolutely gorgeous, with many interesting posts to read. Current features include pears roasted with dessert wine, an article on transforming an Italian apartment, field mushroom and thyme soup, and a month spent in Venice. The magazine's overall focus is on positivity. I think you'll indeed enjoy browsing here.


Comfort Food: Pot Pies (Seattle Magazine)

An Edible Garden (Epicurious)

Valentine's Day Crafternoon Party (Martha Stewart)

Wine Works Fine for Superbowl Gatherings (Seattle Times)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Peaceful Winter Day

Even though it's still a bit cold out (41 degrees), we have a bit of sunshine here in Seattle. I'm glad to see it! Today I'm mostly resting around home, doing a few things but also reading books and magazines, visiting with the neighbors, and making phone calls. I'm glad I don't have anywhere to rush around to today.


  • Grocery stores in many areas now have tulips and daffodils available. If you like spring flowers, pick yourself up some. You can generally get a bouquet of several tulips for less than $6 and daffodils for less than $4. It will bring a little early feeling of spring to your home.

  • Can you find primroses for your garden? I don't generally plant mine in January, but I put several containers of them on my front porch for a colorful welcome home.

  • Fridge/freezer maintenance - Clean one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves in your fridge and also in your freezer.

  • Check your supply of liquor, wine and beer if you keep those sorts of beverages around. Did your supplies get depleted during your holiday parties? Add to your grocery shopping list if needed.

  • Take inventory of your paper and plastic products. Do you need more Kleenex, paper towels, toilet tissue, garbage bags, sandwich bags? Add anything you need to your shopping list for the week.

  • Do you have any library books due to be returned this week? Any movies you need to return to Netflix or Redbox?

  • It's a new year - does your child need their allowance adjusted for cost of living increases and their age? If this isn't something you review around their birthday, this might be a good time to discuss it. Also, it may be time to adjust chores around your child's older age, new skills they've acquired, or new schedules they've taken on at school.


Thoroughly clean a bathroom (or two if you have time and more than one bathroom needs cleaning).

Pay special attention to the shower and/or bathtub. Mop the floor and change any cat litter boxes (if applicable). Change and launder towels and rugs. Replenish toilet paper, hand soap, and toiletries as needed. Sort any and all medicine cabinets, under-sink cupboards or cabinets, throwing away items you don't need. De-clutter and prioritize. Can you remove three or more items from your bathroom counter?

If you keep houseplants or a vase of flowers in your bathroom, water and tend to the plant and throw out any dead flowers. I like to keep a vase of colorful tulips in the bathroom in winter if I can.


Spend some time tonight with your family. But also give yourself time to work on your crafts, writing, classes, book reading, fun cooking projects, sewing, photo sorting, and other activities. Enjoy tea, coffee or wine, and treat yourself to a fire if you have a fireplace. Enjoy some quiet time without rushing around from errand to errand.

If you've socialized on Friday and Saturday night, it's good for you to maybe take it easy and stay home tonight enjoying family time and alone time.

LOVELY BLOGS: House Tweaking

Dana lets you peek into her house and into her life as she shares her decor, organization, and kid-friendly homemaking tips. She's currently cooped up with her kids due to a snowstorm; sharing her lovely winter mantlescape and de-cluttering her basement. I know I'll be a frequent visitor to this nicely photographed, well written blog.


Celestial Come-Ons and Other Booze-Selling Ploys (NY Times)

Eating in India (Worth the Whisk)

Ginger Ale is the New Hotness (Bon Appetit)

The Love Affair With the Fireplace Cools (NY Times)

A Quick, Sunny-Side-Up Brunch Recipe For This Weekend (Bon Appetit)

A Sniff of Home Cooking for Dogs and Cats (NY Times)

Top Up-And-Coming Restaurants in America (Today Show)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday's Finally Here

Peppermint Chocolate Red Tea, new from Republic of Tea

Time for some relaxation and socialization! Tonight I'm doing only the bare minimum household chores before I go out. I'll just tidy up a bit!


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

  • After all the holiday cooking last month, do your knives need sharpening? Do your scissors need to be sharpened after all the gift wrapping you did? This is an excellent chore to pass off to a man - they actually like sharpening knives!

  • If you are a blood donor, have you made an appointment for this next quarter's draw?

  • Empty wastebaskets in bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms and kitchen if needed.

  • De-clutter living room and family room, empty off dining table or breakfast nook table if needed

  • Spray some home fragrance if you like that sort of thing.

  • Put out fresh flowers or plan to pick some up at the store tomorrow.

  • Rent movies for the weekend, or update Netflix order for the next couple weeks.


I just got back from two mini-vacations in a row, so I should be more relaxed than I am. But catching back up with work and housekeeping after being gone over a week sort of stressed me out. So tonight I'm either going to go out to dinner and a movie with friends, or just stay home, rent a movie and lounge by the fireplace.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Barefoot Kitchen Witch

Read along with this blogger as she cooks, makes quilts, and creates a lovely home for her family. She's participating in the cooking challenge Fridays with Dorie and working on her own Cookie Cutter Project of 2011.


I gave this book to a couple male family members for Christmas this year. I thought they'd get a kick out of the interesting old-fashioned know-how presented here. Wood splitting, fishing, canoeing, fixing things, and leadership tips.

How to Build a Fire, and Other Things Your Grandfather Knew

I didn't buy the Grandmother version of the book for anyone else. I just gave it to myself as a present. I'm really enjoying reading about cooking and gardening, plus the chapters on Thriving and Nesting.

How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew


The Basics: How to Make Rice Pudding (CHOW)

Brussels Sprouts: America's Most Hated Vegetable (Slate)

The Exercise System That Swept Europe in the Early 1900s (Slate)

Make Your Own Potato Tots (CHOW)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back From Vacation

Me, at lunch with my cousin on her birthday


  • Need to take laundry out of the dryer to fold and sort?

  • Pet maintenance - Need to wash pet bedding today? Sanitize their food bowls? Clean the floor around said food bowls? Bathe or brush your pet? Inventory any pet medicine to see if you need a refill for them?

  • I like to give my kitchen floor a quick mid-week mop. How is yours looking?

  • What are you doing for fun this next weekend? Check with friends and make plans ahead of time if possible.

  • Carve out ten minutes today to just sit by yourself in a room with your feet up, and treat yourself to wine, coffee or tea and a magazine. (Enlist your partner's help if your children make this ten minute reprieve difficult to attain).

A restaurant on the beach during my Huntington Beach/Newport Beach vacation this week. I'm a shameless 41-year-old cougar, watching college-age boys play volleyball!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Mid-Week Maintenance

I've been gone for six days, so I have quite a bit of housework to catch up on. My roommate helps out - I came home to freshly vacuumed carpet, empty trash cans and a clean kitchen. But there are all those little things that need attention - televisions dusted, curtains to be Febrezed quickly, coffee table de-cluttered and dusted, a lightbulb changed, etc.

After doing a quick sweep through of the house to de-clutter and collect drinking glasses, empty recycling and sort my mail, I'll probably do some maintenance cleaning in the kitchen. I'll clean the microwave, stove and oven, and sort out a cupboard that is really getting out of control. Not the most exciting project in the world, but one that my home will be better for after I'm done.


There are several opportunities in the weeks ahead for you to throw a fun party. You can throw a delightful party without an excuse, of course, but I do like to throw parties centered around a particular theme.

Check out this list and see if you get inspired to host your friends, treating them to an enjoyable time.

LOVELY BLOGS: Storybook Woods

A lovely blog on homeschooling, nature walks, cooking, children's books, crafts, and dinner parties. The blogger has also written a book called "Wren Bay" on making her home.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Snowy Sunday with Fire, Cocoa and Letter Writing

Robert Sabuda Pop-Up Cupcakes Cards, on Amazon

I did a bit of housecleaning this morning - just enough to keep the house from becoming a disaster zone. I vacuumed the entire house (including wooden floors), did a load of dark laundry, emptied the dishwasher, and washed some dishes by hand.

This afternoon I'm visiting my sister to sit in front of her fireplace, gossip, drink the deliciously honeyed-blackcurrant tea she specializes in making, nibble cookies, and watch the BBC's Persuasion film.

Whenever I watch a Regency era period film, I inevitably become inspired to write letters. I expect when I return home tonight, I'll light a fire, watch Downton Abbey, and settle in to write several thank-you notes, cards, and letters to friends and family.


  • Fridge and freezer maintenance: Clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in your fridge and freezer.

  • Make meal plans for the upcoming week; create grocery list

  • Make evening phone calls to relatives you haven't spoken to in a while

  • Lay out any clothing or children's clothing you might need to for tomorrow morning

  • Know what lunches you're sending to school with your kids, if applicable?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Enjoying a Wintry Lazy Day

Today I'm watching a couple movies, drinking cocoa, lounging by the fire, and writing letters. That's it! There will be plenty of time tomorrow after work to do more chores.


I'm eager to watch the four-episode miniseries Downton Abbey, which premieres in the US on PBS tonight. The incredibly fabulous Maggie Smith plays the dowager Countess Violet in this Edwardian country house drama. I'm mostly interested in the plotlines surrounding the servants - perhaps I'm missing "Upstairs, Downstairs" a bit.

Downton Abbey, on PBS


Arbiters of Style See it, Post it and Share It (NY Times)

11 Tricks to Cutting Travel Costs in 2011 (NY Times)

100 Extensive University Libraries from Around the World that Anyone Can Access (Marcy and Mac Design)

Taking Time off for Marriage (Wall Street Journal)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Celebrating Winter After the Holidays Are Over

Crystal Orchid Flower Stem, at Z Gallerie

I really miss my Christmas lights, the outdoor ones that greeted me on dark rainy nights when I returned home. It made me sad to take them down, but Christmas and New Year's are over. It was time to carefully roll and wrap my lights and store them away for next year.

With all the holiday festivities, parties and events over, I was a bit sad yesterday with no festive holidays to look forward to other than stupid Valentine's Day - not my favorite holiday now that I'm single. It's cold, dark and rainy right now, and even my upcoming Las Vegas vacation has a forecast of a chilly 50 degrees.

Dark Hot Cocoa, at Crate and Barrel

I need to perk up my attitude and find things to celebrate this winter. There aren't any festive holidays, so I should throw a fun cocktail party. I should light glittery candles all over the house against the darkness, burn cozy fires in my fireplace, and spend long dark nights reading deliciously thrilling books. I'll add color to dreary dark days with colorful accent pillows, bright candles, and curtains thrown open to admit light. Weekends can be more festive with family brunches, a bottle of champagne opened at dinnertime just for fun, and meeting friends at cafes for lazy leisurely afternoons. What better excuse to have a nip of port wine or sherry in front of the fire while watching it rain out the window?

What might you do to make your winter more magical?


  • Look over your calendar for this month. Do you need to make any doctor, dentist or veterinarian appointments for you, your family members and pets? Any upcoming birthdays you need to plan parties for, send cards or gifts, or order flowers for?

  • Do you need to make any hair care appointments for yourself or family members? If you color your hair, do you have roots showing? Does your hair need a trim you didn't have time for before the holidays?

  • Do your carpets need cleaning after the holidays?

  • If you made New Year's Resolutions, make time to think about them, review goals, and do them. Write them down for posterity.

  • Buy fresh fruit next time you are at the grocery store - Apples, pears, bananas, strawberries, or oranges. Slice and serve the fruit to yourself, your family and roommates before the weekend is over.

  • Need to update the copyright notices on your webpages or blogs to 2011?

  • Need to upload any pics from your New Year's to Facebook or your blog?

  • Make weekend socialization plans.

  • Fill up with gas before the weekend, and get cash if you need pocket spending money.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Calendar Updating

Pixie Kin Calendar, on Amazon - What I'm using in my kitchen this year

Today I'm copying over birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates from my old 2010 calendars into my new 2011 ones. I do like to use paper calendars - visible in an instant - rather than just keeping track of dates on my computer.

I keep a paper wall calendar in my kitchen, one in my office, and a small diary in my purse. I do use Yahoo reminder services to email me about birthdays. Just because you have a paper calendar with dates in it doesn't mean you'll remember to look at it!

Besides noting that it's someone's birthday, I try to add what age they'll turn on that day, whenever possible. I also note down people's anniversaries, but I don't often send anniversary cards - many people like to just celebrate their marriage quietly and privately without a big fuss being made. I'll save my big fusses for friends' birthdays!

I need to make a conscious effort to check my calendars each month and each week for upcoming birthdays. That way I'll have plenty of time to order flowers, send a gift, send a card, or schedule in time to make a congratulatory telephone call.


I love the idea of these mugs with tray. I'm not sure I'd actually use the tray to serve all six mugs at the same time - am I coordinated enough to carry it without spilling? I love the colors, and I do often try to remember to serve coffee or tea after a dinner party.


Cabbage Recipes That Make You Forget They're Good For You (Dallas Morning News)

Dark, Dense Nordic Bread, Made for Butter or Cheese (NY Times)

Don't Call it "Home Ec" (Seattle Times)

In Season: Blood Oranges (BBC Food)

New Year Noodle Soup (101 Cookbooks)

Will Resolutions Last This Time? (Seattle Times)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Happy New Year 2011!

I think today is a lucky day - 01/01/11. That's a lot of ones! I think one symbolizes new beginnings - perfect for today and this new year.

Let's strive to have a fabulous year!

May our year be full of good health, time with family, fun times with friends, quiet time at home, travel, trying new things, tasty healthy food, happy pets, learning experiences, vacations, volunteering, taking advantage of opportunities, crafting, cooking, cozy homes, good books, beautiful music, enjoyable movies, and lots of fun parties and gatherings.

I don't just want to live my life. I want to live a lovely life.

What's Ahead:

  • "Try Something New Week" challenges me every year to be open minded, step away from my usual foods and routines, and be more adventurous.

  • Every year I try to accomplish something during Create Something Day.

  • I make time for enjoyable winter crafting projects

  • This month I'm trying to accomplish "A Book a Day" in January. I have a huge pile of work-related books I really need to read, learn from, and then resell on eBay. I need the knowledge the books contain, but it will also be nice to clear off my overstuffed bookshelves. I read fast, and learn a lot when I take notes, so I do think I can read a book every single day this month. I think I'll have better success if I make reading the book a priority in the morning, not leaving it for night when I'm tempted to watch TV or go to bed instead.

  • I'm also trying a new project, "Use it or Lose It" this January. I'll be de-cluttering and getting rid of things I don't actually use: craft supplies, clothing I don't wear, dishes I don't use, and food I'm not going to eat or cook with.

Join me this month as I strive for a fresh start, a new way of doing things, and as always, a lovely life!