Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Remnants of a Lovely Summer


Easing into autumn with Slatkin's new Apple Crumble candle

Today is the first day of high school for my foster daughter. It's still summery here in Seattle; she will most likely wear a t-shirt to school, and not need a coat or umbrella. Just one of the trees along the road has turned orange.

I love autumn dearly, but I'm not ready for it. I want to read outside, picnic outdoors, and walk my dogs in the sunny dog park a few more times. I'm looking forward to lighting fires in my fireplace, but glad for warmth and sunny evenings. I hope to have a few more days to leave windows open to let in fresh air.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Look back over your summer. Did you get to do everything you wanted? Did you go berry picking, make lemonade, sit in the sun reading a book, go to a lake or beach, have a picnic in the park, take your dogs to an off-leash park, attend an outdoor concert, go to the farmer's market? Anything summery you can plan to enjoy this next week or so, weather permitting?

  • Our cooking and eating styles will soon change for autumn. There's still time to eat heirloom tomatoes, slice up watermelon, prepare some fabulous summer corn, make a fresh berry pie, serve a summer melon, and drink an ice cold martini on the porch in the evening.

  • Finalize plans for your Labor Day weekend. Going somewhere and need to pack? Having company over and need to grocery shop and clean?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Closet Cleaning

Pick a closet other than your bedroom clothes closet: under the stairs, perhaps, the hall closet, or the guest room closet. Remove everything, sort, declutter, and try to get rid of as much as possible. Give the carpet a quick sweep or vacuum, wipe down any walls as needed, dust off any shelving, then replace your items in an organized manner.

Today I'm doing this with my under-stairs closet. This is where I keep my board games (I already threw away one that's missing too many cards and pieces), outdoor pillows, outdoor umbrellas, tools, blank CDs, cables and gadgets, picnic basket and vacuum.

I'll turn the TV on while I work, and let the dogs play in the fenced backyard while I keep an ear open to any mischief they might get into. This will be a good opportunity to leave the door open and let lots of fresh air (and admittedly a bit of dust) flow into the house.

What closet can you sort tonight after work? I bet you can do it in less than 30 minutes! Try to throw at least four things away (or recycle; donate, etc) if possible!

LOVELY BLOGS: Daily Unadventures in Cooking


Here's a food blog designed for the home cook. It features simple recipes for delicious things such as warm and spicy cashew and tomato soup, banana chocolate chip muffins and a creamed kale side dish. Reading through here really makes me want to get into the kitchen to cook!

http://www.dailyunadventuresincooking.com/

LOVELY KIDS: Portobello Road at The Gap


Today I'm enjoying browsing one of the new fall baby clothes lines at The Gap. I really enjoy the mix of warm fall colors (chocolate, cream) with hot pink. (Check out the flower strap ballet flats). I don't have a little one of my own to shop for, but I might have to pick up a pair of polka dot tights and a cardigan for a friend's baby - these are so cute!

Portobello Road Collection, at The Gap

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

7th Swan's Beautiful Pantry (Canning Across America)

Beat the End-of-Summer Blues - Ice Cream Social (Epicurious)

Celebrating Labor Day (Martha Stewart)

Decorating with Fall Colors (Martha Stewart)

Grilled Peaches and Tomatoes with Whole Grain Pasta (Blue Kitchen)

Preserving Brandied Peaches (Well Preserved)

Restaurants Setting Minute Limits for Dawdling Diners (Today Show)

Dining Aboard the World's Toughest Restaurant (MSNBC)

Marilu Henner's Spicy Tomato Salad (Marilu.com)

Packing a Healthy School Lunch (Nutrition/About.com)

Spicy Tomato Jam with Peaches (Delicious Days)

10 To-Do's Before School Starts (Single Parents/About.com)

The 20 Best Summer Drinks (Food and Wine)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August Comes to a Close


Sandalwood & Ginger Candle, at The Body Shop

August may be over soon, but that doesn't mean summer is gone. Here in Seattle, it's pleasant and sunny in the 70s. I'm dreading another long cold rainy, snowy winter. An Indian summer would be fine with me!

Look back over your last three months. Have you enjoyed your summer? Did you grasp every opportunity to go outside, savor sunshine, eat outdoors, picnic, attend outdoor festivals, and spend time in your garden if that's something you enjoy?

Did you live a lovely life?

If not, you can put some thought and soul searching into what to do differently next year. How will you maximize your happiness and your enjoyment of summer next time around?

Not everything is under our control, but we can make choices every day to live a lovely life.

Tomorrow I'll look ahead through the month of September and also into the upcoming wonderful autumn and holiday season. I'll anticipate, savor, and plan.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to do any special grocery shopping for back-to-school meals?

  • Or have you purchased your child's cafeteria card or gotten cash ready for their meals this week?

  • Any grocery shopping you can do now to prepare for Labor Day Weekend?

  • Take inventory of your basics. Do you have lightbulbs, matches, toilet paper, garbage bags, Ziplock bags, tape, paper plates, Kleenex and paper towels? Add anything needed to your shopping list.

  • Need to return any library books?

  • Toss out or recycle any old magazines that are from before June and probably won't get read. (This is a particular challenge for me as I'm a magazine hoarder!)

TODAY'S PROJECT: Maintenance Cleaning

Pick a drawer, shelf, closet or cupboard and remove everything. Clean and dust, sort and throw things away, then replace items in an organized manner. Add to your charity or recycling pile if possible.

I am going to pick my office closet. It's a disaster with extra airpop bags, packing peanuts, tissue paper, photography equipment, and items that don't make sense or belong in my office.

LOVELY FOOD: Blueberry Passion Sorbet Bars


New for summer from my favorite ice cream company (Ciao Bella): Blueberry Passionfruit sorbet bars. I'm stocking up a few boxes in my freezer in case they stop making them before Seattle stops having hot days!

http://www.ciaobellagelato.com/

LOVELY WEBSITES: Lip Glossiping


Not just a blog, this website is a wealth of resources on lipsticks, lipglosses and cosmetics in general. There's even an entertaining section called Food Friday. Nail polishes have their own section as well. It's hard not to rush out to the store and buy pretty new cosmetics after enjoying this blog for half an hour or so!

http://www.lipglossiping.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Kahlua-Glazed Peaches and Vanilla-Kahlua Yogurt (Worth the Whisk)

Lillet Buttermilk Shakes (101 Cookbooks)

Plain Vanilla Ice Cream No More: Ice Cream to Swoon For (NPR)

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's Ahead for Lovely Living


Autumn Hurricane Candle, at Pier 1 Imports

August 2011:


  • Labor Day Weekend entertaining: reminders; links to recipes and party tips; staycation ideas

  • More back-to-school reminders and projects

  • End of summer reminders and summertime wrapup

September 2011:


  • Tips and resources for starting a book club or tasting club for your friends, neighbors, family, etc.

  • "Back to School For You" - Encouragement to take college courses, cooking classes, online classes, writing classes, and to join online book clubs

  • Fall and Early Christmas shopping budgeting suggestions

  • Fall decorating; fall wardrobe switchover

  • Fall kitchen organizing, cooking

  • Stocking Up for Fall

  • Stocking your bar for fall parties

October 2011:


  • Halloween shopping, costume preparation, ideas

  • Around the World project - ethnic decor, style, recipes, cooking, themed parties, literature, etc. for many countries.

  • Continuation of Halloween content, links, ideas, news

  • Dinner party tips, recipes and suggestions

Looking forward to enjoying autumn with you!

-Carrie

Friday, August 26, 2011

Scents of Summer


Fire Lily and Amber Home Fragrance Oil, at The Body Shop

Are you fully enjoying the smells you associate with summer? Are your windows open to let in fresh air and breezes - even if you have central air conditioning? Even if you have to dust extra long from leaving windows open?

Do you have a large bowl of oranges, limes or lemons on your kitchen counter or dining room table? They won't smell strongly, but they visually remind you of summertime's pleasures.


Citrus Verbena Summer Fragrance, at L'Occitane

Wearing your favorite summer perfume, whether it is grapefruit, marine, cucumber, mango, orange, verbena, lime, or coconut-based?

Spray your sheets with a summery sheet spray, if you have one, and spritz your kitchen counters with counter spray. Burn incense, or light your favorite summery home fragrance oil in a diffuser. (Chemically sensitive people are going to want to skip out on my advice!)

And for free, you can enjoy other smells of summer - crank up the lawnmower and mow your grass, light the barbecue, bring fresh cut flowers from your garden into the house, and dry your wet beach towels on a railing in the sun.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Get ready for the weekend. Empty trash cans, fill or empty dishwasher, wipe down kitchen and bathroom sinks, declutter mail table.

  • Sweep any wood floors in your house. I can do my kitchen/breakfast nook, dining room, and front entryway in less than 2 minutes.

  • If you have time tonight, grab a magazine or catalog and read it in a sunny spot, while enjoying iced tea, a fruity popsicle, or cold fruit juice.

  • Out of popsicles? Make some with fresh fruit, and refill any fun-shaped ice cube trays while you're at it.

  • Are your fans getting dusty? Mine are. I currently have one in each bedroom, one in the living room and one in the kitchen. I'm going to grab some wet paper towels and dust them off really quickly. But I won't spend TOO much time, as your life isn't over if your fans have dust on them!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Box Sorting

This is something you can do before or after you go out to dinner or your social plans tonight.

Grab a box from your closet, attic, basement, garage, or storage unit if you have one. Remove everything and give all the items a careful, but quick, evaluation. What can you throw away, recycle, give away, sell, or put out to use? What must you keep, or put out where you can see it to remind you to use it more often?

Try to get rid of as much clutter as possible. When you're done, recycle or re-use the box, but try not to put the box back in the attic, basement or other place it came from.

I'm personally going to sort a box of books and be really tough on myself. If I haven't read the book, I should immediately add it to my bedside table "waiting" pile. If I don't want to read it this week, I should put it in my car and immediately (this weekend) sell it at Half Price Books, donate it to the library, or find a friend who wants it.

With books I've already read, do I really need to keep them? Will I really re-read them again? Are they truly treasured books, or am I clinging on to them for some emotional reason and I should let them go? I have WAY too many books, so I am going to have to be firm with myself.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to School for Yourself


Matryoshka Lunch Bags, at Paper Source

With September on the way, most kids in my area are back in school. I live right next to an elementary school, and every morning I hear their excited little voices as they are being dropped off.

I'm so jealous. I want to go school supply shopping; take notes in a fresh notebook; pore over a syllabus of upcoming readings. I want to sit in a classroom soaking up interesting knowledge. I might even look forward to a teensy bit of homework (as long as it doesn't involve math!)

If you at all have room in your life, see if you can make time this fall for some enriching classes you will enjoy. Be a lifelong learner, and continue to explore your interests. Whether you take classes at a cooking store, community college, karate school, yoga center, or online, give yourself the gift of knowledge. Maybe all you can fit in is a weekend workshop this fall, or an online course you do at night when your kids are in bed.

You may have to trade babysitting with another mother, arrange to leave your children with your partner one night a week, or barricade yourself in your room for an hour a night to finish an online course. You might have to give up TV two nights a week, or limit your daily computer time until the class is over. If it's important to you, you'll find and make the time for yourself.

I know it's hard if you're working, to find time after you get home tired every weeknight. Even if you don't have kids! But you do still have weekends!

10 Universities Providing Free Writing Courses Online

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • When's the last time you personally visited a library?

  • Wipe down kitchen sink and counters; fill or empty dishwasher as needed

  • Take out trash if needed, or make someone in your household help you

  • Declutter and vacuum living room really quickly so you have a nice fresh home to come home to tonight

  • Take a quick inventory of your baking cupboard. Do you have fall goodies on hand, like buttermilk biscuit mix, scone mixes, flour, sugar, muffin mixes, apple crisp topping, cake mixes and cookie ingredients? Add anything missing to your shopping list.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Sign Up for a Class

If you can carve out the time in your life and you're interested, see what kind of class you can sign up for. Your class might be a one-shot cooking class at your local cooking store or health food market; or you might have one night a week to take a writing class at the local community college. Maybe you have a small child at home, so you'll barely have time to take one quick online course.

Whatever you sign up for, give yourself time and energy to learn something for yourself. We shouldn't stop learning just because we're done with high school or college.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Leaving Town on a Friday


I'm so tempted by this lovely Juliette pillow that I absolutely don't need

We're going to a family reunion this weekend. Portland is just a three hour drive away, but traffic can be bad on Friday afternoons in the summertime. We'll leave as close to noon as possible. As with any road trip, there's a lot of packing up of the car, finding of music and snacks, and preparations before we can leave.

Because this is a family reunion, last night found me charging up camera batteries, raiding old paper photo albums for pictures, and searching for old family videos.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make weekend socialization plans

  • Need to clean your coffeemaker or espresso machine? Then it will be ready to go for the weekend!

  • Fill your car with gas if needed, and grab cash at an ATM for a bit of pocket money

  • Take a quick look at yourself today. Need to touch anything up? Nails looking good? Need to remove any chipped nail polish (don't forget your toes?). Time to give yourself a manicure or pedicure today, and possibly shave your legs real quickly before you go anywhere tonight? Need to make a color appointment or dye your roots this weekend? Are you wearing something that makes you feel pretty? (I currently have on a limp tank top and faded shorts, so I'm about to go put on a dress!)

  • What will you be doing a week from today when Labor Day weekend starts?

    TODAY'S PROJECT: Bathroom Touchup

    This morning I gave each of the three bathrooms in my house a quick cleaning. We will come home at the end of the weekend to clean bathrooms to shower in!

    It took less than five minutes per bathroom because I've been keeping up nicely with my maintenance cleaning. I'd already mopped the floors recently, and scrubbed one of the showers last week. So a quick swish in each toilet, wipedown of the toilet tanks, emptying of the wastebaskets, switching out a handtowel and bathtowel here and there only took two minutes.

    Next I worked on my bathroom counters, sinks and mirrors. This took around three minutes per bathroom - most of that clearing things off. The first priority was sanitizing, then decluttering. I had too many perfume bottles sitting out on my own counter. Now there's just a candle (Bath & Body Works' Sea Island Cotton), three perfume bottles, a lotion, an empty vase awaiting flowers, and my stack of clean washcloths. My toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and hairbrush are tucked out of sight in their rightful place in the top drawer.

    Now when I get dressed to leave today, I'll be doing it in a bathroom that's not only clean, but fresh, beautiful and relaxing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Decluttering Day - Not Exciting, but Necessary

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to change or scoop cat litter?

  • Made Labor Day weekend plans? Inviting people over, or going somewhere yourself?

  • Inventory your paper supplies. How well are you stocked up on toilet paper, paper towels, Wet Wipes, Kleenex and Puffs for the upcoming cold season? I never want to be that lady who has an entire shower stall or linen closet crammed full of toilet paper rolls. But I also want to have enough on hand that I don't have to run to the store if I'm sick or snowed in.

  • Wipe down microwave inside and out if needed. This took me less than 30 seconds, so I should do it more than once a week!

  • Wipe down front and sides of refrigerator (and top if you can reach it) with the same cloth or sponge you just used for the microwave.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Decluttering Day

Today I am making a sweep through every room of the house, decluttering as needed. I just got rid of two boxes of junk in my office. Next I'll empty wastebaskets, move my stack of magazines off the coffee table onto a waiting bookshelf I've cleared, carry stray dishes and water glasses to the dishwasher, and put items back into their proper homes in closets, cabinets, and on shelves.

The dining table is clutter-free, but my mail table needs some work. The small end table in my kitchen sitting area has a couple magazines on it that shouldn't be there.

Next I'll head into my upstairs and downstairs living rooms for damage control. Both have some miscellaneous items that have crept out where they don't belong (shoes, fingernail polish remover, books, various pens and pencils).

In the laundry room, I have one load of towels that need to be folded or hung up and put away. Next, I want to wash my bedding - it gets extra dirty this time of year from the cat tracking in pine needles and burrs from the yard, and the dogs' muddy feet. I have two empty detergent bottles that need to be rinsed and go to the recycling bin.

In the kitchen, I'll empty the recycling bin, fill and start the dishwasher, and try to see if I can remove some clutter from my kitchen counters.