Friday, April 29, 2011

Anticipating a Lovely Spring Weekend


The new dessert from Trader Joe's. I'll be serving these to my three little cousins tonight at Family Night.

I have several fun things to look forward to this weekend - Family Night, lounging around watching old episodes of Mad Men with my housemate, the possibility of walking my dogs in sunshine instead of rain for a change, going out to dinner Saturday with friends, and a 5k where you're served doughnuts at the end of the race!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Did you stay up late last night to watch the Royal Wedding? If so, do you need to build in time for a nap today? Did you leave a mess of snacks, tea or cocktail glasses on your coffee table that need cleaning up?

  • Tidy the house before you go out tonight. Give the worst room (if any) a quick vacuum. Empty bathroom and bedroom trash cans; replace toilet paper rolls as needed; swap out hand towels; wipe down sinks and mirrors in bathrooms. Empty or fill dishwasher and laundry machines as needed. Declutter mail table and coffee table. Take things up the stairs if there are piles on the landing.

  • Fill up with gas and visit an ATM for cash for the weekend on your way home if needed.

  • How is the top of your refrigerator looking, and for that matter, the sides and front? If you need to remove everything and wipe down the top of the fridge, this is an easy five minute project. Can you find 1-2 items to declutter off the top of your fridge? I managed to rehouse a box of colored ice cream cones and a box of Malt-O-Meal.

  • Make socialization plans for the weekend if you haven't already.

  • Need to start thinking about Mother's Day? Order flowers, buy a gift, get a card ready to mail?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spice Cupboard

This afternoon as I was searching my spice cupboard for nutmeg (I'm baking doughnuts with my cousins tonight), I discovered that most of my spices should have been thrown out over a year ago. I thought I'd kept on top of this better.

Since herbs and spices lose their peak flavor within six months (professional chefs would say within one month!) it's time for me to throw out the old and buy just those few new spices I know I will actually use on a regular basis.

I've kept a jar of sesame seeds I definitely remember buying recently, and some ground cumin that Trader Joe's thankfully put a 2012 expiration date clearly marked on. Mostly, I'm going to have to start over. After all, I don't need this humongous old jar of paprika for the few rare occasions every year I serve deviled eggs. And I now use Trader Joe's crushed garlic instead of garlic powder, so I won't be replacing that particular bottle.

I'll stop by Trader Joe's for a few inexpensive basics (red pepper flakes, coarse ground black pepper, basil and rosemary). After that, I'll try to only buy herbs and spices on an as-needed basis when I'm actually cooking frequently.

This was a quick, easy 10 minute project (including jotting down shopping list, wiping shelf, and emptying the trash can). That leaves me plenty of time to change clothes, put my dogs away in their crates, and hit the grocery store before I go to Family Night.

LOVELY FOOD: Eleni's Gardener Mother's Day Cookies


I always highly look forward to seeing what Eleni's will come out with for each holiday season. For Mother's Day, they're offering garden-themed cookies: a bee, rubber boots, cauliflower, corn, carrots, and ladybugs. My mother is no longer living, but I might send these to my aunt who adores gardening (and who adores me!)

The Gardener, at Eleni's

LOVELY HOME: Trio Beverage Dispenser


I love this idea for summertime outdoor entertaining! Offer guests one of three refreshing drinks, varying the colors for visual impact. I'd offer pink lemonade, yellow lemonade and cranberry juice; or iced tea, cucumber water and sparkling Orangina.

Trio Beverage Dispenser, at Z Gallerie

LOVELY BLOGS: Dainty Chef


"The culinary journey of a twenty-something newlywed." A fun and pretty food blog. You can see her experiments and recipes she's learning right along with her. Recent posts you might enjoy include Mimosa Cupcakes, At Home Naan, and Italian Dressing.

http://daintychef-krissy.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Mother's Day Ring Cupcakes (Hoosier Homemade)

Queen Elizabeth's Drop Scones (Simply Recipes)

Stiletto Shoes Cupcakes for Mother's Day (Hoosier Homemade)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cleaning Up After Easter


Enjoying C.O. Bigelow apple salve for my rough hands, knees and elbows lately

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make menu plans for the week; create grocery list

  • Still using your fireplace on cold evenings or rainy days? I am! Need to clean out ashes and wipe grime off any glass or brass? (I do!)

  • Recycle any newspapers or magazines you've read (or you know you won't read) that are piling up, if any

  • Do you need to wash and soak your dog or cat's collar, then dry it, so it smells better? I do this at a time I know my dogs won't be going outside so they can do without their identification for a couple hours.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Post-Easter Cleanup

Three little boy cousins and their mom joined me for Easter. We had a long day (11am to 8pm) of brunch, an egg hunt, story reading, TV watching, playing with dogs, and a bonfire.

Throughout the course of the day, every room in my house got messy somehow. The playroom has toys thrown all over it (unfortunately these family members have not taught their kids to clean up before you leave someone's house); the living room has grubby hand marks on the wood furniture; the bathrooms have spills and dirty towels to clean up; the kitchen was the scene of a gigantic brunch with messy bacon grease spills; and someone took all the dog toys out to the yard and didn't bring them back in.

My project today is to dust, vacuum, continue cleaning the kitchen, retrieve dog toys, straighten the playroom, and clean bathrooms. It sounds like a lot of work, but really it's just putting things back to rights. I think I will be done in plenty of time to sit down in front of my TIVO episode of "Upstairs, Downstairs" that I missed last night due to cleaning up the kitchen after everyone left.

LOVELY KIDS: Whimsical Rockers


I can no longer remember quite the allure of our grandmother's rocking horse, but I do remember fighting bitterly and passionately with my younger brother over taking turns riding it. I wish I knew who had ended up with it after her move to a nursing home.

These Goose Creek rockers are so unusual, I've never seen things like them in the stores. There are unicorns, pigs, fanciful winged horses, and colorful paints. So darling! If I were a grandmother I would snap one up so my grandkids would have something to ride - and fight over, truth be told - when they visited!

Goose Creek Rockers, at Mommy Couture Designs

LOVELY BLOGS: Old Fashioned Living

I am certain you will enjoy this blog with tips and info on living an old-fashioned life. "Advice for home and hearth 5 days a week."

Recent posts I've enjoyed include Old Fashioned Easter Party Ideas, Polish Food for Easter, and Old Fashioned Spring Greens Recipes. I think you'll appreciate her writing style as well.

http://oldtips.blogspot.com/

LOVELY MOVIES: The Help


I haven't read the book, but I will probably make it a priority to see this movie. So many of my female friends are very excited about this film. I'm not a big fan of Bryce Dallas Howard, but I will give it a try. If this turns out to be this decade's Steel Magnolias or Fried Green Tomatoes (films I often rewatch with female family members) I will be glad to have enjoyed it in the theater.

The Help Trailer, at Apple

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Orange and Asparagus Salad (Rachael Ray)

Recipes for Mother's Day (Martha Stewart)

Royal Wedding Party Ideas (Pam's Party Planning)

Sweet on the Royal Wedding? Try These Desserts (Today Show)

10 Cinco de Mayo Margaritas (Food Network)

What To Do With Leftover Easter Eggs (CHOW)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Preparing for an Early Spring Road Trip


Wish I was packing this pretty blue dress from Modcloth in my suitcase for my trip, but alas I don't own it yet!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • In the last 2 months, have you driven home through a different route in your neighborhood? Walked your dog along unfamiliar trails near your home? Practicing this is a good idea in case of emergency - a road blockage, felled tree, car accident, traffic jam, natural disaster, etc. It's good to not only know different routes to and from your home, but to practice them so they're second nature and you aren't stressed some night driving home on a dark night in bad weather.

  • Dust off DVD player, TV, music players and any other electronic equipment that might need it.

  • Empty out burned-down candles, scrape wax out of any candleholders that need it, then replace with fresh candles or put your empty candleholders away out of sight.

  • On your next sunny, dry day, no matter if it's cold out still, bundle up and take an extra long walk through your neighborhood, preferably with a pet or family member or both!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Packing and Readying for a Short Trip


Stevens Pass, between Seattle and Leavenworth

I'm going to visit family for just three nights, a quick trip that's long overdue. My dogs and I will drive over a snowy mountain pass, so I need to have emergency supplies in my car (a blanket, shovel for snow, rock salt, food and water for all of us) as well as my suitcase and computer.

Here's my checklist:

  • Underwear and nightgown

  • Toiletries, shampoo and conditioner, makeup, etc.

  • Bathing suit - my aunt has a hot tub!

  • Three sundresses (After passing through the snow, it's warmer over there than here in Seattle)

  • Sweater and pants for casual day

  • Sandals and mud shoes for walking dogs

  • Computer, charger for it, phone charger

  • Food and water bowls for the dogs; extra treats for the ride

  • Music I haven't listened to in a while, to keep the trip fun

  • Extra blanket for the dogs in case of emergency

  • Water and snacks for me in the car

  • A book or two since my aunt's house doesn't have Internet

  • Earrings, rings and a bracelet to match each sundress I've packed

I'll pack up everything tonight so tomorrow won't be rushed. I'll have time to eat a nice breakfast and tire the dogs out in the yard by playing a bit before we hit the road.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Home Guru

Nicki Woo is striving to create a home where her family is well organized, her home beautifully decorated, her meals nurturing and her garden ablaze with color. She lets you peek into her efforts to accomplish this wonderful dream.

http://www.nickiwoo.com/

LOVELY COSMETICS: Spring Nail Polish


I'm almost tempted to pick up the newest release from OPI. I love the light pink polish for spring, but the other colors are so bridal themed, it makes me hesitate. I'm not going to be a bride any time soon, and I wouldn't wear that white polish to someone else's wedding. Yet I'm tempted by the freshness of the look of these light, bright polishes. It definitely puts me in the mood for spring!

Femme de Cirque Nail Polish, at Amazon

LOVELY DISHES: Limoncello Glasses

With summer coming in a couple months, I'm looking forward to doing more outdoor entertaining. I sometimes serve limoncello after dinner, and while it's perfectly tasty in the plain chilled glasses I serve it in, I'd so love to serve it in these pretty green-stemmed limoncello glasses. The fact that they're dishwasher safe is extra tempting!

Limoncello Glass, at Sur la Table

Monday, April 11, 2011

Use it Or Lose It Week


Instead of just slopping these beautiful pink muscat grapes into an old Tupperware on the counter, this week I'm serving them in my beautiful pink Depression glass pedestal

This week I've declared it to be "Use it or Lose It" week at my house. I'm decluttering and simplifying a bit, but mainly trying to appreciate the things that I already have.

I shouldn't lust over antique teapots on eBay when I rarely use the six I already own. Instead, I pour water out of a kettle into a boring old mug. I could just as easily serve myself tea in an elegant porcelain cup, poured from a beautiful vintage teapot.

My closet, even after all my fall and spring sorting, still is half full of dresses I don't wear and shoes I think I will need but have never worn.

While I don't strive for a life of "simplicity" (I simply like shopping and decorating and entertaining too much!) I definitely need to have less items sitting around in my home. A few well-curated treasures, the items I use every day, and well chosen furnishings should be the only things one's eyes wander onto when walking into any of the rooms in my home. I have some lovely things, and I should be using them and enjoying them more often.

This is what I'm thinking about this week - I hope you'll join me in examining your own lovely things and seeing what you should use more of or what you should find a new home for.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make menu plans for the week; create grocery list

  • Serve dinner tonight on your best china. Use it or lose it!

  • Try to remove one item, permanently, from your bathroom counter and from your nightstand. Whether you throw the item away, give it away, or store it somewhere else, you'll be making your life a little less visually cluttered.

  • Need to clean out your purse or car so you're starting the workweek fresh?

  • Pop a load into the laundry if you didn't finish your laundry this weekend.

  • Look over your calendar, seeing what's coming up in your social life, with birthdays, holidays, events and appointments this week and this month.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Floors

Though I cleaned this weekend, our rainy weather, three dogs and one cat have furred, muddied and tracked things onto all the carpets and floors of the house. Today I'm vacuuming every carpeted room (probably something I'll have to do tomorrow as well!) plus mopping the kitchen floor, laundry room floor and entry. I can skip the dining room and breakfast nook because the forest of tables and chair legs prevents the dogs from running in there with muddy feet!

It will be nice to walk barefoot on the carpet without cringing from stepping on sharp twigs!

LOVELY BLOGS: Cafe Cyan


Here's a lovely cooking blog written in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Read along as she makes stone beer soup, creates a baby shower for her sister, and makes black bean burritos with mushroom and onion. She also reviews restaurants and markets in her local area.

http://cafecyan.blogspot.com/

LOVELY DISHES: Vintage Style Dishes

These modern reproductions remind me of the juice glasses my grandmother would serve us her homemade grape juice in, and the bowls she'd pour our Cheerios into in the morning. Cute, colorful and perfect for spring!


Vintage Juice Glasses and Bowls, at Fishs Eddy

-Carrie

Copyright 2011

Lovely Living

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

April Showers Indeed


Meri Meri Easter Treat Bags, at Sur la Table

True to its promise, April has brought rain and plenty of it. I have three very bored large dogs whining in my house and tracking in mud when they come in from outdoors. To cheer myself up, I burned a fire in the fireplace last night, lit candles, and made sure I sat in front of the window as much as possible yesterday to soak up whatever light I could get before the sun went down.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • If you celebrate Easter, do you have something nice picked out for you to wear? You might have already gotten your children something precious to wear that day, and neglected your own spring outfit!

  • How are your supplies of pet food, pet medicine and, on a related note, carpet cleaner?

  • Find a beautiful spring tree and have someone take your picture in front of it this week. You will then have a pretty picture to send relatives, put on Facebook or keep for yourself for good memories.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Outdoor Furniture Update


I've been saving up money to replace my dirty, mossy, faded old outdoor furniture cushions with fresh new ones. Unfortunately my set of chairs, bought around eight years ago, are not a standard size. So it's taken me a while to find something that would (mostly) work. These inexpensive cushions will enable me to quickly freshen and brighten my outdoor seating area - important since I spend so much time working outside and entertaining in the summer.

I drove up to Walmart yesterday and bought one cushion to try. I knew I could take it back if it didn't fit properly. Since it works, feels comfy, and I like the way it looks, I'm off to Walmart again today to buy the other five. When I get home I'll be throwing out the old cushions (they won't all fit in the trash this week, so the rest have to wait in the garage until next week) and cutting off tags on the new ones. Since it's raining heavily, I'm storing the becushioned chairs in my outdoor shed for now.

Mainstays Chair Cushion in Aqua, at Walmart

LOVELY BLOGS: Kitchen Trial and Error


Kate blogs from Rochester, New York. I love that she enjoys attempting to make things from scratch: bread, butter, ice cream, even Oreos. You might enjoy her recent posts on Orange Clementine Pudding, Creamy Barley with Tomatoes, Chicken and Spinach, and Mushroom Stroganoff. I am getting really hungry looking through her lovely food photographs!

http://kitchentrialanderror.blogspot.com/

LOVELY FASHION: Kate Spade Bridal


Kate Spade has generated a ton of excitement this Spring, as they've come out with a line of little white dresses for brides (mostly the going-away variety not the wedding-gown kind) and colorful accoutrements for showers and bridal soirees. There are gorgeous shoes, feathery barrettes, bridal jewelry, colorful rings and clutches, and even some perfume. Even though I'm not a bride (nor soon to be one at all) this is a delightful site to browse through, admiring pretty things.

Kate Spade Bridal Trousseau

LOVELY HOME: Parasols


Though I don't carry a parasol for fashion or to keep the sun off of me, I love to decorate with parasols inside my home and outdoors when I entertain. A parasol really lends a whimsical, colorful, fun mood to a party, and they're so easy to prop up, hang or otherwise display. Some of my favorites here include the Balinese Festival parasols and the unusual shaped parasols. Just remember to bring them in at night so they don't get wet!

Parasols, at Luna Bazaar

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

All Star Desserts (CHOW)

Citrus I Have Loved (The Quinces and the Pea)

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cake with Ganache Drizzle (Sweetapolita)

Panda Rice Balls (Cutest Food)

Pink Lemonade Sorbet (Cake, Batter and Bowl)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Cleaning Up After My Birthday


The beautiful cherry tree I can see outside my window every day

My birthday was on Saturday, and I celebrated it all week long. I went to movies, dinners, parties, and then a big celebration on Saturday night. I had a wonderful time, but this meant I mostly neglected my housekeeping duties. My bedroom is so messy I can hardly stand it, and there's lots of little things to catch back up with!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Pay any remaining beginning-of-month bills, rent/mortgage, etc.

  • Need to make any dentist, doctor, veterinarian or salon appointments for your family this month?

  • Plan menus for the week and create your grocery shopping list.

  • Look over your calendar for the next two weeks, checking for upcoming birthdays. Plan gifts, write and address cards.

  • Plan to plant some flowers this year? Pick up some flower seeds at the grocery store if you haven't yet already.

  • Does your coffeemaker get used a lot? Is it time to run a cycle of white vinegar through it, then another cycle of hot water, to clean it out a bit?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Catching Up

I've put my birthday gown (a purple velvet one I got on sale at Neiman Marcus, a store I can't usually afford to shop at unless there's a huge sale) into the dry cleaning pile, put away my shoes, hand washed the glittery Kate Spade stockings I wore with it, and unwrapped my gifts.

Today I need to write thank you notes for the gifts and also to the people who came out to my birthday dinner; clean, declutter and sanitize my bathroom counter which got makeup all over it during my preparations to go out; wash my bedding as a sick cat has been sleeping on my bed and getting extra fur all over it; wipe down all the kitchen counters; vacuum the house thoroughly; sweep out the fireplace; clean the microwave and stovetop; and a few other tasks like that which got neglected during my last week of going out to dinner every night.

LOVELY BLOGS: Souffle Bombay


Colleen's beautifully photographed, tasty looking recipes for everything from prosciutto and cheddar quick bread to roasted pineapple and browned endive with lime butter. Since I happen to have fresh endive and some limes in the house, I might try that one today!

http://soufflebombay.blogspot.com/

LOVELY DRINKS: Matcha Green Tea


I've been trying for a while to find the same delicious green tea they serve me at my favorite local sushi restaurant, Kiku Sushi. There are all sorts of delicious green teas (and boy have I tried so many!) but the tea from this restaurant had a particular flavor I just loved. I tried making matcha tea myself with the whisk and green powder, but it just tasted disappointingly like grass.

So last week while touring the new Uwajimaya store in Bellevue, I decided to pick up Republic of Tea's canister. Delighted that it tastes the way I was hoping, I've been greedily guzzling three or four cups a day since!

Double Matcha Green Tea, at Republic of Tea

LOVELY MOVIES: Bridesmaids


This just looks like a fun, silly comedy - something colorful and cheerful to look forward to seeing in May. "Bridesmaids" looks like a perfect movie to see after lunch on a Sunday with my sister!

Bridesmaids Trailer, at Universal

LOVELY TV: Upstairs, Downstairs


Don't forget that this Sunday, April 10, PBS is airing the first of three episodes from their new version of "Upstairs, Downstairs." I can't wait to see what this is like.

Upstairs, Downstairs on PBS

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

America's Top 10 New Sandwiches - Veganized (Endless Simmer)

Apple Butter (Radishes and Rhubarb)

Chocolate Matcha Olive Oil Brownies (Passionate About Baking)

Crepes (Curious Confections)

Grilled Cheese + Onion Marmalade (The Urban Baker)

Household Binder Project (I Heart Organizing)

No Grandbabies? Try Grandpuppies (CNN)

Peanut Butter Cookie Cups (The Urban Baker)

Raspberry Lemonade Bars (Handle the Heat)

Welsh Cakes (Curious Confections)

What Women Over 40 Should Pack for Paris (Worth the Whisk)

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Secret Garden


The Annotated Secret Garden, on eBay

Every spring for several years now, I take time to re-read the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, "The Secret Garden".

Although her other well-known book, "A Little Princess," is actually my favorite, there's definitely a wonderful rainy-day air about "The Secret Garden" that makes it perfect for reading in April. Winds whistling across the moors, a lonely girl exploring a large house full of antiques and mysteries, and a walled garden waiting to be lovingly tended by small hands...

My favorite part of the book is the chapter where she finally finds the key and unlocks the gate to the hidden garden:

"The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and hopped about or flew after her from one bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he were showing her things. Everything was strange and silent and she seemed to be hundreds of miles away from any one, but somehow she did not feel lonely at all. All that troubled her was her wish that she knew whether all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather got warmer. She did not want it to be a quite dead garden. If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be, and what thousands of roses would grow on every side!


The Secret Garden Cookbook, on Amazon

Someday if I have a young child, I'd like to set aside a portion of the yard for a secret garden they can keep all their own. If we're still living in the house I own currently, there's a few tucked-away areas we could wall off with an attractive small fence (giving the child the illusion of privacy). Or there are a few flowerbeds that could be dedicated to a child's garden.

If you enjoy gardening and have space in your yard, why not consider letting your child have a space to make all their own. It wouldn't take much: they would need a spade small enough for their little hands, a small watering can light enough for them to carry, and tiny gardening gloves. But they don't need kneeling pads, gardening hats (Use any old hat or cap), fancy boots (their other boots will do just fine), or expensive potting chairs. (Resist the temptation to run down to Target or Pottery Barn Kids and buy all the adorable children's gardening supplies.)

Just let them have a few colorful packets of seeds, a few starter plants, some potting soil, and a bit of your attention and help at first. Know when to help, and when to back off and let them get dirty, make a mess, and create their own garden plan.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Fill up with gas, stop by an ATM, and pick up or drop off Netflix or Redbox movies as needed

  • If you're traveling early in June this summer, it's time to make reservations for flights, hotels, rental houses, rental cars, etc.

  • Empty trash cans throughout your home

  • Have everything ready for Easter, if you celebrate it? Eggs, dying supplies, candy, special outfits for your children? Camera batteries charged? Ready to take pictures?

  • Give the kitchen a quick freshen-up. Empty or load dishwasher, change out dishtowels, wipe down counters, scrub sink, mop floor. This should take less than 15 minutes.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Closet Cleaning Again

I'm finishing up the Spring Cleaning project I started yesterday on my closet. I still have a few dresses to try on - I need to decide which dress to wear to my birthday party tomorrow! And 35 pairs of shoes or so wait for me to sort them out.

LOVELY BLOGS: Far Out Flora


This is Megan and Matti's beautiful blog about their gardening efforts in San Francisco. They've recently blogged about the S.F. Flower Show, their visit to Outerlands Succulent Gardens, and updated us on their lovely houseplants. Check this blog out if you are a gardening enthusiast!

http://faroutflora.wordpress.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Baseball Stadium Foods (Food and Wine)

Organize Your Spring Planting (Old Fashioned Homemaking)

Pretzel-Crusted Fried Cheese Recipe (Food Network)

Spring Hors d'Oeuvres (Food and Wine)

Starting Your Veggie Garden (The Local Dish)


Secret Garden Paper Dolls, on eBay