Friday, July 29, 2011

Make the Most of a Beautiful Summer Weekend


"Summer," by Alphonse Mucha

Don't just sit inside in front of the computer or TV (or both!) this weekend. Make the most of your summer. Go outside! If you don't have the budget for a restaurant, movie, club, shopping or other treats, do something fun and free - visit a park, go to the library (something indoors that counts as "going outside" your house!), go for a walk, go blackberry picking, or visit a friend's house.

This fall and winter when you're stuck indoors due to rain, cold and snow, you'll wish your summer had been longer and you'd spent more time outside in the warm sun!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:


The Ralph Lauren dress I am currently coveting, though I don't normally go for bold florals!

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

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

  • Do you have a good charge on your cell phone for this weekend's activities?

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

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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Vacation

My efforts to keep my house "ready to go" and well maintained have paid off. Today I'm leaving for a weekend vacation in a friend's mountain cabin. Other than emptying the dishwasher in the morning, sweeping the floors of dust tracked in from my dogs, and making my bed, I won't have any housework to do.

I can enjoy my weekend away, knowing my roommate will come home to a clean house, take good care of my dogs and cat, and clean up after himself. I can enjoy my friends, reading, hiking, the hot tub, and relaxing without worrying about my home. Love it!

There's always time to clean and work on home projects when I return.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Apron Archives


"Vintage traditions in today's homes and kitchens." Though this blogger only posts a few times a month, I thought you'd enjoy her posts on Florida key lime pie, Italian clove cookies, and homemade chewy granola bars.

http://theapronarchives.com/

LOVELY COSMETICS: Bobbi Brown's New Tortoiseshell Line


I'm looking for a new eyeshadow palette (mine is over three years old, yuck!) and I'm tempted by this one. It reminds me of my mom's makeup kit in the 1970s. Vintage nostalgia and the perfect eye shadow colors to complement my skin - I think I'll pick this up for myself soon!

Bobbi Brown Tortoiseshell, at Saks Fifth Avenue

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Beat the Heat: Throw a Sprinkler Party (Martha Stewart)

Key Lime Fruit Salad (Becoming Betty)

White Chocolate Key Lime Pie (Haute Apple Pie)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Home Maintenance - Little Things


What I'm burning in my home lately: Fleur Cherie, from L'Occitane

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:


Owl Lunch Bag, at Paper-Source

  • Refresh your home: Open doors and windows to let in sunshine and fresh air. If you have air conditioning or central air, do this later tonight when it's cooler anyway. Even if you have a ventilation system, there's nothing like an open (preferably screened) window to let in a breeze you can feel on your skin.

  • Is it time to think about back-to-school shopping yet? Maybe time to make a list of what your child will need?

  • Run upstairs and look at your dresser (or whatever large wooden piece of furniture you have in your bedroom). Find two items that doesn't belong there (or more, if you have time). What could be removed to prevent a cluttered look? Put the item elsewhere, recycle it, throw it or give it away, or try to sell it on eBay/etc. (List it immediately so you won't forget!)

  • Have you made and enjoyed a fresh fruit smoothie lately?

  • Do any quick work that needs doing in the kitchen. Microwave wiped inside and out? Stovetop wiped? Counters cleaned? Floor mopped? Dishwasher loaded or unloaded? Sink scrubbed?

  • Social plans made for tomorrow night and the weekend? Need to call anybody to make plans? Any friends or relatives you haven't seen for a couple months?

  • Need to wash your car this upcoming weekend? Mine is looking quite dusty and dirty.

  • Have you enjoyed fresh summer berries in the last week or so?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Home Maintenance: The Little Things


The curtains I recently ordered from Kohl's. I'm going to install them in my downstairs living room for the rest of summer.

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

  • Fix broken screen on my patio door. I have the crimping tool, rubber and new screen, so this should only take 5 minutes.

  • Replace dead outdoor light bulb on back patio.

  • Put up new curtains; clean and put away fall/winter curtains.

  • Change batteries in two toys I keep for visitors' children.

  • Tighten screw and hinge on loose kitchen cupboard door.

  • Wash dirty feather duster and let it dry in the sunshine and breezes.

  • Remove annoying old plant hanger from upstairs living room, using a screwdriver. Then spackle/paint the two holes it will leave behind.

  • Cut hairs out of vacuum brush. (Yuck!)

  • Fix sagging curtain rod in downstairs living room.

  • Call paint recycling service and schedule an appointment to get rid of old paint cans.

What are some annoying home maintenance chores you might want to get out of the way today and this weekend?

LOVELY BLOGS: Stylish Cuisine


Diane, blogging from Manhattan, loves to cook. Unfortunately, her four boys don't have adventurous palates. She shares her recipes (and her husband's gorgeous food photography) for things such as Italian Lentil Salad (I want to try this one soon!), pomegranate and mint sorbet, and Key Lime Pie Ice Cream. I like this site so much, it's going in the permanent blogroll on the right.

http://stylishcuisine.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Exotic Citrus Truffles


I just spied one of these adorable lemon-shaped truffles at a chocolate shop. I didn't want just one, I hoped to find a box, so didn't pick it up at the time. I'm excited to order a few boxes of these to give as hostess gifts as I travel this summer. Not everyone appreciates key lime and citrus flavors though, so I will gift carefully.

Exotic Citrus Truffles, at Moonstruck

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

DIY Summer Camp (Brown Paper Packages)

Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes (Katie Brown)

Orange Custard Cream Cupcakes (With Milk and Flour)

Key Lime Pie (Taste for Adventure)

7 Ice Pops That Break the Mold (CHOW)

Sour Cherry Streusel Cake (Cookbook Shelf)

Strawberry Bruschetta (The Boys Made Me Do It)

10 Ways to Jazz Up an Outdoor Summer Dinner Party (AZ Central)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Viewing Your Home Through Someone Else's Eyes


A charming vintage copy of a British homemaking magazine, on eBay

Sometimes I use creative little tricks to inspire myself to keep my home clean and well maintained.

For example, I imagine I suddenly have to move and sell the house in a month. While this isn't actually a very likely scenario (at least let's hope so), it does horrify me into doing more weeding, sorting the closet more frequently, washing down the walls more often, and tackling my messes.

There's no way I can pretend I'd actually be able to realistically stage the house myself, just by removing personal photographs, putting away the Kleenex boxes in every room, and storing some decorative clutter.

Mostly, walking around my house looking at things as though I'd have four weeks to move, helps me throw things away and plan home maintenance projects.

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

What might you pretend in order to inspire you to clean your home differently or more frequently?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to do any loads of laundry? Clothing, towels, or bedding?

  • Throw out any dead houseplants; get rid of any empty plastic gardening pots that old plants might have come in.

  • Need a trim on your summer haircut? Roots need updating? Hair need a conditioning treatment?

  • Throwing any outdoor parties this weekend? Have you called to invite your friends, and made your grocery shopping list and menus?

  • Made a pitcher of sun tea, or fresh lemonade lately?

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

Wander through your house pretending a Bravo film crew just showed up, or Oprah Winfrey, your favorite actor or actress, or your mother-in-law, or a houseguest taking refuge for a week.

What do you see? Are you happy with what you find, or are there things you would like to change? What do you notice, what do you hear, and what do you smell?

Try this experiment next time you drive up to your home or apartment. Approach it like you've never been there before. Walk into the front door and sniff, listen, and look.

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

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

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

LOVELY BLOGS: Down to Earth


Rhonda's blog teaches you to live a simpler life. Besides sewing, cooking and homemaking, she posts about growing and preserving food, being part of a community, slowing down, and building a strong family. Recent posts I've enjoyed include making simple soap with four ingredients; striking a balance between work and rest; and her post sharing pictures of her gardens.

Down to Earth

LOVELY KITCHEN: Bread Box


For quite some time now I've been hoping to find an attractive bread box I could use to store my bread in. I'm currently the only person in my household who eats bread, and it takes me more than a few days to eat up a loaf. I keep throwing away moldy loaves, which is really wasteful and discouraging. I don't like the taste of bread that's been in the refrigerator, so I need to find a way to store it safely on the counter.

I love the retro stylings of this new Wesco Grandy brand bread box. It comes in three colors - red is my favorite, but doesn't go with my kitchen. I guess I'll settle for the white one, and just be prepared to wipe fingerprints off it constantly.

Wesco Grandy Bread Box, at Williams-Sonoma

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes (Bakerella)

Grilled Turnips With Garlic (The Bitten Word)

Key Lime Donuts (Edible Perspective)

Mood Food (Trend Central)

Make Lunch Fun and Healthy (Williams-Sonoma)

Make Marshmallow Fluff at Home (Bon Appetit)

The Many Melons of Summer (NPR)

NY Grocery Turns to Scent Marketing (The Early Show)

Summer Entertaining: Pitcher Drinks (Bon Appetit)

Triple Layered Rocket Pops (Detroit Free Press)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What to Clean on Incredibly Hot Days


When it's too hot to burn a candle for fragrance, I spritz my home with Green Tea Lemon Body, Room and Linen Spritz

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

When it's in the 80s or higher, it's too miserable to think about doing heavy housekeeping that might make one break a sweat, or using machinery that might heat up the house. Vacuuming, for example, is banned until evening.

We really can't forego our housecleaning entirely for the summer, but we can find things to do around the house that won't make us too miserable in the heat.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cleaning Despite the Heat

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

So on hot days, I'm doing chores that won't break a sweat. I'll put off vacuuming til evenings (with three dogs and a cat in the house, vacuuming is a daily necessity here).

Here are my suggestions for things you can do when it's miserably hot:

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

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

  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher isn't too sweat-producing. Wait until the dishes have cooled, though, before opening the door. Just be sure not to run the dishwasher until evening - mine heats up the kitchen counter and adjacent area.

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

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

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

  • Declutter a drawer, cupboard, or closet.

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

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

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

  • Realphabetize your DVDs/BluRays.

What other hot-weather cleaning ideas do you have?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Simplicity


Vintage Sunflower Postcard

This week I'm striving to simplify my home a bit - removing some of the possessions I own and prioritizing those items that are truly useful, beautiful and enjoyable.

I'll be going through every room in my house (except the garage, that's too big of a project!) looking for things I can edit, declutter, remove and give away.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Does your family eat eggs? If so, consider a quick project of making boiled eggs to use through the rest of the week. It just takes less than 20 minutes to make a panful of hardboiled eggs. You can slice them up on salads the rest of the week, tuck them into lunchboxes or eat them at snack time. Or make an egg salad sandwich for your own lunch one day this week as a treat.

  • Make meal plans for the week; create grocery list

  • Look over the week ahead. Do you have time for family time, time for yourself, time with friends, alone time with each of your kids, exercise time, time to read and write?

  • What appointments do you have coming up this week? Any birthdays you need to send cards and gifts, make phone calls or go out to dinner to celebrate?

  • Grab a cloth and wipe down all the light switches in your house. This five minute project really helps keep your home looking neat and clean, you'll be surprised at the difference!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Simplifying


What I'm burning in my bedroom today as I work in bed: Honeysuckle Candle by Claus Porto

I own too many things. Way more than I need. There are books falling off my bookshelves, clothes spilling out of my closet, multiple candles and perfumes on my bathroom counter, dishes stored under beds and in the garage. I have too many shampoos to choose from during my shower, and more stationery than I could use up in five years of solid daily letter writing.

I'm not a hoarder, but I'm definitely a shopper. I use the fact that I entertain frequently to tell myself it's ok to keep all those dishes, serving pieces and table linens - even the ones that haven't seen a table for two years.

I've definitely been able to cut down on the shopping lately (except for items that do get used up, like candles and lotions). But now it's time to edit, prioritize, and make my life simpler by having fewer items to worry about, dust and care for.

I already started in the linen closet recently, deciding I didn't need 9 extra sets of guest sheets and didn't need quite so many beach towels. Today I will work in my bedroom, guest room, and bathroom.

Counting all the "items" that are visible in my bedroom (furniture, accessories, etc) definitely shocks me and makes me want to prioritize what things really need to be here. Two nightstands definitely belong here, I need all three lamps, an armchair, my hope chest, a bookcase, and the TV need to be here. But two boxes of stationery, a huge stack of papers and magazines (they should go in my office!) and six decorative pillows instead of just two or three, means I have too many items in the room. In the bathroom, there are some extra towels I can put away out of sight, a box of kitty litter that should be moved under the sink, but the bathroom scale I use every day must stay.

By tonight there should be many fewer items in these rooms, whether I give them away, repurpose, throw away, recycle or attempt to sell them.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Citrus Shower Gels


I just used up a bottle of summery shower gel, so I'm off to Bath and Body Works to see which of their new citrus shower gels I might like to take home for tonight's shower. I suspect the pomegranate citrus will be my favorite, but you never know - perhaps the peach citrus will call to me. I'm intrigued to smell the apple citrus one, but I don't normally like to smell like apples after a shower.

Citrus Shower Gels, at Bath & Body Works

LOVELY BLOGS: The Colors of Indian Cooking


"A Hollywood screenwriter, a Bollywood kitchen." This blogger doesn't offer her name on her 'About me' page, nor does she sign her posts, so I had to sleuth out that her name is Kathy, from her Contact page. Kathy has been cooking Indian food for 20 years, and shares her recipes for delicious dishes such as kaffir lime mousse and gluten free cookies. I love her step-by-step photographs, I feel I learn so much more that way, and her photographs are beautiful. Don't miss her recipe for gluten free roti.

http://www.thecolorsofindiancooking.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Gourmet Sugar Co


This shop sells delightfully shaped (and vegan) sugars. They're shaped like stars, shells, and hearts. If you buy some to stock up on for tea parties, be sure not to store them in a humid area such as your kitchen. Why isn't regular sugar vegan, you ask? Read this page if you are curious.

http://www.gourmetsugarco.com/

LOVELY MOVIES: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


I enjoyed reading the book, so I was looking forward to seeing the film. I'm sure it will be a lavish spectacle with beautiful costuming and scenery. However, I'm discouraged that the Rotten Tomatoes rating is only 17%! I suppose I'll have to wait until this is on Redbox so I will only invest a dollar and a bit of my time if it turns out to not be an enjoyable movie, sigh!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Trailer

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Becoming a Knitter (Mama in Progress)

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup (Bon Appetit Hon)

Cheeseburger Pie (Veronica's Cornucopia)

The El Bulli Dish Name Generator (Slate)

Laundry Room Design Progress (The Decor Scene)

Lunch at Disney Cruise Line's Enchanted Garden (Brownie Bites)

Orange White Chocolate Ice Cream (Flavors of Mumbai)

Raspberry Brownie Bites (Daily Bites)

Rhubarb and Rosemary Creme Brulee

The 36 Most Common Cooking Mistakes (Cooking Light)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot Summer Sunday


One of my dogs, happy and tired after swimming in the river and running around at the dog park

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:


Too lazy to squeeze lemons and strain raspberries today, so this is what I'm serving my household today as we relax outdoors.

  • Make a pitcher of sun tea, squeeze your own lemonade or limeade, or set out even a storebought juicee for your family to enjoy on this hot day.

  • Check over your supplies of ice cream and popsicles. I don't usually eat ice cream, but it's summertime and I might not want to run out. You never know when you're going to want to serve guests some nice sorbet, too.

  • Sunday is a great time to phone relatives, and it's something you can do indoors in front of a fan or air conditioning. Anybody you haven't called in a while that you'd like to catch up with?

  • I'm spending half an hour trying to clean out my email inbox. I bet it will take longer than that as I've neglected this so long!

  • Make sure your pets have plenty of clean, cool water to drink today.

  • Write in your journal or diary this evening when it's cooled off a bit and you might have some quiet time.

  • Spritz your sheets with a nice sheet spray - lavender, perhaps, or chamomile?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Mowing and Gardening


I really need to work on weeding the rose garden, which you can see on the right. Note the lack of blooming roses due to my neglect!

I don't hate mowing the lawn - it's just a chore, not something I dread very much. I do love the way the lawn looks when I'm done, and I like relaxing with a glass of iced tea after my post-mow shower.

Gardening, however, I don't really enjoy. There's not much I can do about it - I have to weed and garden today. I prioritize the front yard (the one neighbors are forced to look at every day).

I took care of the front last weekend, so today I'm making my backyard back into a relaxing haven. I work outside here on nice days, and spend most summer evenings reading and talking on the phone out here. Those activities will be a lot nicer and lovelier with freshly mown grass and tended flowerbeds.

When I'm done I'll pour a glass of wine, grab the book I'm currently reading ( A Discovery of Witches) and lounge around in a pretty sundress, enjoying the rest of my summery Sunday.

LOVELY BLOGS: Green Food, Green Thumb, High Heels


Lindsay, a blogger from Sarasota, Florida, shares her efforts towards good health and cooking healthy. Recent posts include info on juicing, bikram yoga, and an honest post about her juicing blunders. I find her a very inspiring writer and I'm sure I'll check back in often.

http://www.greenfoodgreenthumb.com/

LOVELY DRINKS: Caramel Cake Tea


It's still cool in the evenings here in Seattle, cool enough I switch from the iced tea of my afternoons to hot tea in the evening. I'm eager to try the new movie tie-in tea from Republic of Tea - I love caramel! I wish it weren't a black tea (caffeinated) though, as I would prefer to serve it as an after-dinner dessert tea. My guests, I know, would not want caffeine late at night.

Caramel Cake Black Tea, at Republic of Tea

LOVELY FOOD: Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream


I just picked up the newest limited edition ice cream from Haagen-Dazs. Not everybody likes crust crumbled into their ice cream, so this might not be everyone's favorite. I personally can't pass up the opportunity to sample any kind of blueberry ice cream! This limited edition flavor will disappear off store shelves in December.

Blueberry Crumble, at Haagen-Dazs

LOVELY MOVIES: Dolphin Tale


I normally don't really go for sappy animal movies. However, I love so many of the actors in this so much (Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Harry Connick, Jr.) And it will be nice to have something I can take my nephews to that's not just an animated or 3D movie. I'm definitely putting this movie on my entertainment calendar for the fall.

Dolphin Tale Trailer, at Apple

Dolphin Tale, at IMDB

Dolphin Tale, at Warner Brothers

LOVELY TV: Bar Rescue


Normally I don't watch any shows on the Spike channel, but I am intrigued by this one. I usually can't resist a show about the business side of restaurants and entertaining. Professional bar consultant Jon Taffer visits struggling bars in California and tries to help the owners turn their business around. I bet it will make me very thirsty watching this show!

http://www.spike.com/shows/bar-rescue/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Coconut Buttercream Frosting (Jeanne Benedict)

A History of Air Conditioning (Slate)

Martha Stewart's Frozen Chiffon Rainbow Cake (Perpetually Engaged)

Rainbow Cake (Katie's Kitchen)

Redcurrant Recipes (BBC Food)

Roasted Beets with Fromage Blanc (Amy's Food Room)

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese (Inspired Kara)

Roasted Red Beet Hummus (Kitchen Tested)

Shrubs Make Gardening Easy (The Star)

Spumoni Terrine (Perpetually Engaged)

You are Making Your Biscuits Wrong (NY Times)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Beauty and Primping


What I'm wearing on my eyes tonight: Moonshadow Palette by Sephora

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

I'm primping today, preparing to go out to dinner tonight with the girls. We'll be eating in an outdoor cafe, so I'm using my foundation with the highest SPF. I can't wait to drink iced tea and wine, and catch up on gossip.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Are you going out tonight? Lay out the outfit you plan to wear. Don't forget colorful, fun summery earrings and bracelets. Have a fun pair of sandals or espadrilles you'd like to wear? Are your toenails nice enough to show or do you need to work on them?

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

  • Wipe down outdoor patio or deck table so it's ready to use this weekend.

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

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

  • Vacuum the room that needs it the most.

  • Visit an ATM or gas station if you need to before the weekend starts. Stop by a Redbox if you need a movie and don't have any Netflix arriving.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Summer Beauty

This sounds selfish, but today I am focusing on myself. I haven't felt pretty lately so it's time to do something about it. I have a good self confidence, so this is an issue of beauty hygiene and maintenance not low self esteem!

Today I'm touching up my roots, using a mud mask on my face, giving myself a manicure, putting a topcoat over the salon pedicure I got two weeks ago, giving myself a sugar scrub, shaving my legs and applying a nice layer of my new almond body butter. I'll also call to schedule an eyebrow wax appointment.

Tonight when I'm out at Girls Night I will feel lovelier and I'll enjoy wearing a sundress, fun jewelry and my favorite espadrilles!

What are you doing tonight and what will you wear? Need to do any beauty touchups?

LOVELY BLOGS: Alexandra's Kitchen


I'm really enjoying this blog by a food obsessed photographer. Her food looks so lovely and tasty, it helps inspire me to get into the kitchen and try her recipes. Recently she's blogged about an apricot almond tart, zucchini fritters with tzatziki (I'm making those tomorrow night!), and buttermilk-blueberry breakfast cake.

http://www.alexandracooks.com/

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Lolita Lempicka "Si"


I wasn't going to buy another fragrance for myself this year. I wear one of three fragrances every day in summer time, and I'm happy with them. I don't want to clutter up my bathroom vanity with any more attractive bottles.

But I didn't know a new Lolita Lempicka was coming out! And this one has my favorite notes - citrus, green and floral. Unfortunately I allowed myself to go smell it - thinking I could innocently just see what it's like. And now it's sitting on my bathroom counter, waiting to spritz me before I go out tonight!

Lolita Lempicka "Si," at Sephora

LOVELY HOME: 30 Bags in 30 Days

The blogger over at Whimsy Love has set herself a task of getting rid of 30 bags of garbage (or recycling) in 30 days. This reminds me of the "A Box a Day" project I attempted (and mostly succeeded in) a couple years back. I'm going to peek in every few days to get inspired by her progress.

30 Bags in 30 Days.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

The Best Pinot Grigios to Drink This Summer (Epicurious)

Blueberries Galore (Martha Stewart)

Can You Have a Fun Vacation at Home? (Chatelaine)

48 Hours in London for Bargain Hunters (Reuters)

Gorgeous Green Greekish Salad (Worth the Whisk)

Harry Potter Backyard Movie Night (Party Wishes)

Healthy Homemade Pink Ginger Lemonade (Chatelaine)

Keeping Cool, Fashionably (NY Times)

Luxury Playhouses: Child's Play, Grown-Up Cash (NY Times)

Resurrecting Moleskine Notebooks (Newsweek)

Summer Breeze: Cool Meals for Hot Days (Dean & Deluca Gourmet Food Blog)

Six Steps to Clear Skin This Summer (Lucky Magazine)

10 Tips to Find Your Own Artistic Voice (Fine Art Tips)

Travel Savvy Tabletop Decor (Victoria Magazine)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rainy Summer Day


Marimekko Umbrella, on Amazon

Here in Seattle, we know we can't gripe about summertime because so many people are suffering from a heat wave elsewhere. So I won't whine about not being able to wear a sundress, and having to stay indoors today. I'll try to think of the positives - for example, my cousin was planning to come over to help me garden. Now we can watch a movie instead!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Tidy kitchen for the day if needed, so you come home to a clean one after work. Empty or fill dishwasher, wipe counters and sink, wipe refrigerator handle, empty trash, sweep floor.

  • If your children have a craft table, drawing table or playroom, how is it looking? Need to have them help you tidy it up? Today's rain makes me think of a crafting day, and I am going to tidy my own workspace.

  • Need to return any library books you or your kids have checked out this summer?

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

  • Have you written in your journal or diary lately?

  • Check your supplies of juice, milk, bread and anything else you might want to pick up from the store on your way home today.

  • If you use sheet spray, have you sprayed your sheets recently to freshen and scent them with a lovely fragrance?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Bookcases


A bouquet I treated myself to at the Wednesday Farmer's Market

This rainy day makes me want to light a fire in the fireplace (I know those of you in the Midwest's heat wave are grimacing at the very thought right now!) and cozy up with a book. So I think the perfect project for today is tidying and dusting my bookcases. I'm a book hoarder, so my shelves are quite overwhelmed with books.

I've recently done some sorting and organizing projects, so today I'm just dusting the books and shelves, enjoying the smell of the lemon wood oil, and pulling out a couple things to add to my nightstand to read later. This will be an easy, nice-smelling project to do tonight after work. Having shelves of nicely arranged, interesting books is exactly what I want to make my living room and bedroom cozy.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Sun Verbena


I'm having a hard time choosing the one item from L'Occitane's new summer "Sun Verbena" line that I'll allow myself as a treat. I suspect the Fresh Face Mist won't be good for my skin, and I don't really need a sunscreen or a new perfume. So I'm leaning towards the lotion - always something I use up a lot of and enjoy wearing on my skin. It's advertised as a unisex floral citrus scent, but I won't share it with my boyfriend!

Sun Verbena, at L'Occitane

LOVELY BLOGS: Meals I Have Eaten

This is the blog of a woman who recently moved from Chicago to Philadelphia. She lets you follow along as she explores her new city and enjoys meals at fabulous restaurants. She's recently posted about a 4 course Running with the Bulls meal, a dim sum restaurant, and exploring the Gettysburg Farmer's Market.

http://mealsihaveeaten.blogspot.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Dragonfly Cakes


These adorable petit fours can be ordered online and shipped either to your lucky gift recipient, or yourself! There are cakes for spring, summer, fall, baby showers, weddings, and birthdays. I keep this site bookmarked in my "quick gifts" folder in case I need to send someone something pretty and tasty.

http://www.dragonflycakes.com/

LOVELY HOME: Caldrea's New Fragrance


If I'm going to be slaving away scrubbing the kitchen, mopping the floor, and wiping down counters, I might as well enjoy a nice fragrance while I do it. I love the new Hibiscus Yuzu fragrance - lime and citrus are always my favorite. I own enough dish soaps, hand soaps and lotions, but definitely needed counter spray, all-purpose cleaner and wipes that smell better than Lysol!

Hibiscus Yuzu, at Caldrea

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Big Batch Summer Cocktails (CHOW)

Camp in Your Backyard (Martha Stewart)

French New York (National Geographic Traveler)

Harry Potter Painted Marshmallows (The Decorated Cookie Blog)

Homemade Rocky Road Ice Cream (Baking Bites)

Peach Desserts (Bon Appetit)

Poolside Glamour (Handbag.com)

Walking Southwest England (National Geographic Traveler)

Ruffled Birthday Cakes (Bakingdom)

$39,000 Backpacks and Other Summer Fashion Trends to Avoid (Slate)

Veggies at Their Peak (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Zucchini Fritters (Dishes and Details)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Starting the Week


from a vintage illustration by Paul Berthon

It's the start of a new week! Time to work hard, but also carve out some time every evening for relaxing.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make menu plans for the week; create grocery list

  • Start the week off fresh - empty all trash cans and recycling, as needed

  • Take a look over what you (and your kids) plan to wear this week. Clothes clean, pressed (if needed), buttons all on, threads snipped, the right socks and shoes handy?

  • Think about something you're looking forward to this week, and what you have to do to make it happen.

  • Need to put your pet's bowls and dishes in the dishwasher to sterilize them?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Catching Up

I just got back from a vacation, and I'm still working to tidy up the house. I have lots of vacuuming to do, mail to sort, floors to mop, and bathroom counters to wipe down.

I won't spend all evening cleaning - it will take just an hour or so to finish these projects. Then I can settle in with my feet up to catch up on some shows my Tivo recorded while I was away.

LOVELY BLOGS: Did Someone Say Party?


Here's an inspiring blog about hosting parties and entertaining. Recent ideas have included a sushi party, a beach party, an easy baked potato bar, and a helpful post on the best deviled eggs to bring to parties.

http://www.didsomeonesaypartysite.com/

LOVELY HOME: Vinegar Uses and Tips

Did you know you could use vinegar to polish brass, kill weeds, and make your dog smell better? Check out all the uses for vinegar here at the Vinegar Institute. It made me run to the store and pick up another bottles to use in my housecleaning this week.

Versatile Vinegar.org

LOVELY SHOPS: The Little Happyshop


If you love Japanese and Korean stationery, paper goods and little gifts, but hate buying them from unknown foreign sellers on eBay, here's the store for you. This shopkeeper imports all her adorable goods from various Asian countries, and resells them to you on her US-based website. Besides the paper goods, she offers drinkware, foodware, plus little gifts and toys. Check out the cute Snow White suitcase!

http://www.thelittlehappyshop.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

5 Cruise Ships for Food Lovers (Epicurious)

Goat Cheese and Spinach Omelet (Nothing But Country)

The Paperback Game: Fun With Literary Opening Lines (NY Times)

60 Summer Crafts (Martha Stewart)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Returning From a Lake Vacation


I spent the week at a lake house in eastern Washington, admiring this amazing view

I'm refreshed and relaxed from my vacation with friends at a lake house. Now that I'm back, though, I must confess I'm stressing out a bit at catching up with work, housework and laundry.

I'm going to a birthday party later tonight, so I'll tackle a couple quick projects that will make me feel more relaxed. Then I can return home and rest easy this evening before tomorrow morning's workweek begins.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Sort mail, pay any bills that have arrived, burn or shred documents.

  • Do any weeding, mowing or gardening that you have time to do on this Sunday afternoon.

  • Need to do any end-of-weekend laundry? Beach towels, picnic blankets, socks and underwear loads? Sleeping on clean sheets tonight?

  • Phone any distant relatives you haven't visited with in a while. Sunday afternoons and early evenings are great for this.

  • Need to clean pet feeding bowls, water dishes or bedding?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Master Bedroom

I left my bedroom clean, bed made and carpet vacuumed. But I came home to a week's worth of dirt tracked into the carpet by pets; my bed's obviously been slept on by both a dog and a cat in my absence; my nightstands and bookshelf are dusty from me leaving my window open; and worst, my bedroom floor is full of a half-unpacked suitcase, stacks of magazines, and pillows I've tossed off the bed.

I'll return my bedroom to a restful, relaxing haven today. After washing windows, dusting furniture, laundering my bedding, vacuuming, unpacking my suitcase and putting away magazines, I'll feel a lot better. I might even sneak in some time to write a quick note or two on the peacock stationery I picked up while I was away.

LOVELY BLOGS: Life of a Foodie and Her Family


"Life of a foodie" follows Lynn, a stay-at-home mom and baking, crafting enthusiast. I've enjoyed her recent posts including soft pretzels, lime sugar cookies and chocolate mud pie. I love that her posts are often picture-heavy, showing step-by-step images of the food as they work on it.

http://punkaroonie.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Double Chocolate Banana Ice Cream Cake (Sweetapolita)

Fruity, Savory, Creamy, Fruity Ice Pops (NY Times)

Garlic and Sage Broth: Good for a Hangover or a Light Supper (NY Times)

Giving Busyness the Business (Hollywood Progressive)

Kohlrabi, Fennel and Blueberry Salad (The Bitten Word)

Jalapeno Lime Coleslaw for a Crowd (Worth the Whisk)

Margarita Recipes (CHOW)

A Nautical Urban Kitchen (House Beautiful)

Friday, July 01, 2011

First Day of July


A pink flower I spied on a recent walk

The second month of summer begins! It doesn't really feel like summer here yet in Seattle. It rained a bit yesterday, my heater is still on, and I lit a fire in the fireplace for cheer a couple gloomy evenings ago. I'm longing to wear a sundress and sandals without feeling chilly.

Let's take a few moments to look back through our past month of June. Did you get your housecleaning projects done, appointments kept, sorting and decluttering? Did you spend time with family, time with friends, time by yourself? Summery activities enjoyed?

What things did you miss out on, what do you want to schedule for July, and what do you want to do more of before summer is over?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:


Strawberry Pop Mold, at Williams-Sonoma

  • Pay bills, rent, mortgage

  • Finalize Fourth of July plans, invitations, etc.

  • If you own specialty ice molds, need to make ice for this weekend? Whether you're making strawberry-shaped ice pops, star-shaped ice cubes or special ice cubes shaped for cocktails, be sure you have your ice ready to go in time for the festivities.

  • Look over your birthday list or calendar for the month. Any birthdays coming up? Do you need to send any flowers, write and mail any birthday cards, shop for and send birthday gifts, or perhaps plan parties?

  • Need to make any dentist, doctor, or vet appointments this month?

  • Is it time to book yourself a haircut, dye, manicure, pedicure or massage? Family members need summer haircuts? Pets need a summer shave or haircut?

  • Look over your budget for the month, preferably together with your spouse or significant other (if any). Are you doing ok on paying bills, paying off debt, depositing into savings? Can you budget in room for entertainment, dinners, fresh fruit, fixing things around the house, gas for going to summer activities, and the occasional movie night or small retail therapy treat?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Provisioning


Weatherproof Fourth of July Bunting, on Amazon

Today I'm doing a few errands, in between working and cleaning up my house to get ready for the Fourth of July.

I'm not doing a whole ton of shopping - just enough to have what I need, but not so much I'm cluttering up my nice home with any junk. I'm getting a few Fourth of July decorative buntings, some paper plates for my party, extra toilet paper with the party in mind, fresh condiments because I recently tossed my old ones out, hot dogs and hot dog buns and corn to serve at my party.

I've also recently cleared out the refrigerator I keep in my garage. There's room for lots of sodas I plan to serve at my Fourth of July party. I don't normally keep soda in the house, so one of my errands today is to pick up orange and grape sodas, some Cokes, a few root beers, and maybe a few novelty sodas for fun.

I'm also stopping by the pet store for bones to keep my dogs busy and happy on the Fourth, a new collar for one of the dogs, and wet food for a treat for the cat.

The last thing I want to pick up is a colorful pot or two of flowers for my front porch for the party.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Blueberry Body Butter


I'm currently enjoying the new limited edition blueberry body butter from The Body Shop. I took it in my suitcase on a recent weekend away, so now every time I use it and smell it on my skin, I feel like I'm on vacation!

LOVELY BLOGS: Kitchen Simplicity


Here is a nice cooking blog by a Canadian expat mom who lives in Norway. Recent posts I've enjoyed include her colorful layered milkshakes, her maple walnut cake for Canada Day, her chunky cucumber salad and homemade Egg McMuffins. Everything looks delicious and it inspires me to get into the kitchen and cook!

http://kitchensimplicity.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Ben and Jerry's New Ice Cream Flavors


New for summer, Ben and Jerry's has come out with a yummy Red Velvet Cake, Australia-themed Bonnaroo Buzz, and Late Night Snack (which features vanilla bean, caramel swirl, and salty potato chip fudge clusters). Yum! I'm serving each flavor at my upcoming Fourth of July party.

http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

A Few More No-Bake Fourth of July Treats (Love From the Oven)

Fourth of July Cookie Pinwheel Cupcake Toppers (Bakingdom)

Homemade Strawberry Julius (Baking Bites)

How to Assemble a Cheese Platter (French Basketeer)

Inside Out Neapolitan Cupcakes (Sweetapolita)

Vodka Slushes: My Favorite Summer Beverage (The Devilish Dish)

Red Lentils, Tomatoes and Mushrooms - a Hearty Bowl of Vegan Eats (Worth the Whisk)

Whipped Cream Vodka: A Summer Fling (Grin and Bake It)