Friday, September 30, 2011

Last Day of September


Fall Mosaic Candle Holders, at Cost Plus World Market

Do you have all the things you'll need for fall ready? Are they stored where you can easily find them when needed? Fire logs, matches, rain boots, raincoats, leaf bags, a rake, caramel or pumpkin scented candles? Kleenex packets for coat pockets? Caramel for dipping apples as an occasional treat? Decorative pumpkins, gourds and ornamental corn?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • It's the end of the month. Let's look back over our September and quietly reflect on how the month went. Did we budget well, exercise, eat healthy, take our vitamins, spend time with family and friends, make quiet time and alone time for ourselves, do something charitable, maintain our homes in a lovely manner, try new things? Remembered all the birthdays you needed to? Called and wrote relatives to stay in touch? Wrote in your journal, painted or drew in your sketchbook, worked on your knitting or craft projects? Read your book for your book club? Tried cooking something new? Rather than beat ourselves up for any failures or missed opportunities, let's vow to do better next month!

  • Take inventory of fall supplies such as firelogs and matches, and add anything you need to your shopping list.

  • Start thinking about making a Christmas shopping list. My Christmas shopping is usually done by November 15, or December 1 on bad years. I sincerely enjoy all my extra relaxing leisure time in December that comes from not running around frantically to finish my shopping.

  • Plan a quiet evening at home into your schedule for next week.

  • Do you need to make an appointment (or schedule time yourself) for someone to come clean your gutters?

  • Tidy up for the weekend. De-clutter the living room and mail table (or your kitchen desk where you keep bills and papers), empty the dishwasher and put dirty dishes in it, wipe kitchen counter and sink, empty trash, wipe down bathroom mirrors, counters and sinks.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Prep


Antique Rose Lattice Print Kitchen Towel, at Cost Plus World Market

As the days grow colder, our appetites and our cooking styles change with the new season. New types of produce become available at the farmers' markets and grocery stores. We begin to crave different foods - hot soups, crusty breads, pies, apples, pears, and hearty vegetables.

Those of us who live in cold weather climates might find ourselves going out to restaurants less in the upcoming months, staying home for quiet meals, even having just two or three other people over for dinner. (Plus in this economy it's probably a good idea to eat at home as much as possible to save money).


Le Creuset Dutch Oven in Aubergine, at Williams-Sonoma

It's time to start gearing up for fall cooking, baking, feeding overnight guests, and entertaining. Time to sort and organize our kitchens, take inventory, and stock our pantries with necessities.

Even if you hate cooking personally or don't consider yourself a cook, you'll need to get your kitchen in order so someone who does the cooking in your household (your husband, boyfriend, child, grandmother, mother-in-law, or good friend who comes over and commandeers your kitchen?) has all the tools and supplies they need.

Go through your stack or folder of takeout menus from various restaurants. Throw away duplicates or out-of-date menus, and organize your collection. Store near the phone for easy access. There'll probably be a few cold nights when you're too tired to cook and don't want to go out, so those menus will come in handy. Get in the habit of grabbing a take-out menu whenever you're at a restaurant you like that offers them. Plan ahead for those cold, rainy, snowy nights.

Go through your potholders and kitchen towels and immediately discard any limp, smelly kitchen towels or crusty, stained potholders. Be firm with yourself - don't give in to the temptation to keep an old towel around "just in case." It's ok to transfer old kitchen towels to your Rag pile (I use mine for dusting, cleaning floors and windows, etc.) But then get rid of one of your worst rags for every old kitchen towel you put in the rag pile. It's all about avoiding clutter and weeding out unnecessary items in our lives.


Seasonal Striped Potholder, at Williams-Sonoma

Put new potholders and new kitchen towels on your shopping list as needed. You can easily grab some next time you are at the grocery store or Wal-Mart, Target, etc.

If you have guests helping you in your kitchen often, please be sure to have plenty of clean, soft, dry towels for people to dry their hands with. I can't tell you how often I end up with red, chapped hands from helping do dishes at someone else's house and not being able to properly dry my hands; or from drying my hands on very rough scratchy thin towels. It's nice to have a few absorbent terrycloth towels for guests to use. Speaking of towels, check your paper towel inventory and be sure you have a good supply.

Get yourself in the fall cooking mood, if you at all enjoy cooking magazines, by treating yourself to reading one or two today. Pick up Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Cooking Light or even just the fall Williams-Sonoma catalog. Or you can just read their websites to save money. Have a nice cup of coffee or tea and something to munch on as you browse - looking at beautifully photographed food makes me so hungry! Visit fun food, cooking and home-decor webpages tonight during your nightly Internet browsing time. Drool over kitchen gadgets you don't need and can't afford, impractically beautiful expensive dishes, and amazing mail-order pastries. Get on your TIVO and look for cooking shows that are coming up to record, if you like such a thing.
(If you absolutely despise cooking and are angry at me for even mentioning the topic, go to your favorite fashion website and drool over fall fashions instead!)

Have fun looking at beautiful things today, because we have a lot of work to do tomorrow and next week!

LOVELY BLOGS: Suzy's Artsy Craftsy Sitcom


Suzy blogs with lots of humor and spunk. Through this blog, you'll read about her home and family life, see her interesting finds from Etsy, and benefit from her crafts tutorials. Check out her amazing Quilled Starry Night.

http://www.suzyssitcom.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Apple Bread (Southern Pink Lemonade)

Apple Themed Dinner Party (Entertaining/About.com)

Grown Up Pink Lemonade Cocktail (Spoon Fork Bacon)

Make Handmade Meals in a Muffin Pan (CHOW)

What You Should Know About German Beer (CHOW)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Take Time For Yourself


Lavender Lime Aromatherapy Candle, at Lather

Women are the caregivers of the world. We take care of our husband/partner, children, relatives, friends, and pets first. Only then do we stop to take care of ourselves. But if we don't take good care of ourselves, we'll have nothing left to give to others.

This autumn, give yourself permission to be a little selfish sometimes. The more relaxed you are, the better a mom you will be. The healthier you are, the better you can take care of your elderly parents. The more you laugh, the more fun you'll have with your children. The more time you spend making yourself happy, the more happiness and joy you'll bring to your friends and family.

What are you going to do for fun for YOU this fall? Long, dark evenings, cold rainy/snowy weather, and beckoning warm fireplaces encourage homey activities.
Will you take a class, join a book club, join or create a dinner party club, write, journal, blog, work on your scrapbooks, go see fall movies in the theater, actually use that gym membership, work through that pile of books by your bed, rubber stamp and do paper crafts? Paint, knit, crochet? Save up your Starbucks money for a month so you can treat yourself to a professional massage instead of overpriced hot beverages every day? Take your best friend out for a cocktail and a manicure, leaving your kids at home with their father or your best friend's husband and kids?

What will you have to do to be able to indulge yourself in some fun activities? What will you have to give up? If you have children, you'll need to budget for babysitters, or budget time to swap with your children's other parent, or perhaps trade off with a friend or neighbor. What will your activity cost? If you take a class, you'll need to budget money for the class, materials, and gas - plus budget your time for the class, moving housekeeping chores to another timeslot or letting some slip by temporarily.


Martha Stewart Pen and Ink Set, on Amazon

In my case, I've already long ago bought the colored pens, rubber stamps, stickers, paper, magazines and books I want to play with and enjoy this fall. I should never, ever go into a craft store for the next three years. What I need to do is buckle down, carve out time and religiously enforce it: "This is my crafting afternoon." "This is my cooking Sunday." "This evening, I will craft while I watch TV." "Tomorrow night, I will enjoy attempting to create handmade Halloween cards."

I'm not going to force myself to read, craft and cook if I am not in the mood that day. But I really enjoy doing all those things. Rather, I'm going to make myself watch less TV, go out to fewer dinners, and spend less time goofing off on the computer (such as checking Facebook repeatedly). Then I have more time to spend quietly by myself enjoying creating some things at home.

You'll also need to think about your entertainment time budget. I get mostly done with the shipping part of my work every day around 4pm. I take a break, read magazines, eat a snack, do my nails, do laundry, whatever. By 5pm I'm cleaning, and by 6pm I'm cooking. After a 7pm dinner and twenty minutes of cleanup, I have maybe two hours left before bedtime. At least one of those hours is spent working on my business.

So basically every night I probably can count on just one hour for entertainment. How do I want to spend it? I'm limiting the number of fall TV shows I am going to watch.

Your family members may initially resist and complain. Just keep smiling and firmly insisting that you need your Mommy time. Set kids up in the other room with crafts of their own, or make Daddy do something fun with them for an hour every week so you have something extremely important for your creativity, health, and peace of mind: UNINTERRUPTED time just for YOU.

LOVELY BLOGS: Sarah Jio


This magazine writer and mother lives in Seattle. She blogs about writing, books, and occasional delicious looking recipes like this twice baked butternut squash. I think you'll also enjoy her photo inspiration posts.

http://www.sarahjio.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Chestnut and Herb Canistrelli (Chocolate & Zucchini)

45 Meatless Comfort Food Recipes (Martha Stewart)

Knitted Scarf Projects (Martha Stewart)

Lentils with Feta, Corn and Tomatoes (About.com/Cheese)

Mushroom House and Fairies Cake (About.com/Entertaining)

Nutmeg-Spiced Pear and Walnut Cake (Baking Bites)

Penne and Cauliflower with Mustard Breadcrumbs (Bon Appetit)

10 Cheery, Colorful Rooms (House Beautiful)

Top 5 Foodiest School Lunches (Bon Appetit)

Wild Rice Recipes (CHOW)

Monday, September 26, 2011

A New Week in Autumn


My new tradition for several years now is to buy celosia from my local Trader Joe's and put it in my front yard in autumn. Love the electric colors!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make meal plans for the week; create grocery list

  • Look ahead at your week. Are you spending quality time with family, socializing with friends, but also having a couple quiet nights at home?

  • Sweep kitchen and front entryway if needed. I find I can easily complete this task while water heats for my tea in the morning.

  • Check on houseplants, watering, pruning and turning as needed.

  • Need to sweep any autumn leaves off your driveway, sidewalk, front or back patios?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Dinner Party


This bouquet sits on a table in my living room, bringing a bit of cheer and color

Tonight I'm throwing a small dinner party for a few friends. We're watching the first episode of Pan Am, thanks to my DVR. (The aired at 10pm last night, too late for a worknight viewing). I'm serving a themed meal, based on 1960s Pan Am menus.

I've already cleaned my kitchen yesterday, plus gotten cat hair off the breakfast nook furniture. I got the dining table and tablecloth ready, and last night I set out the dishes I'll be using. I couldn't quite set the table yet as my roommate likes to eat breakfast at the table in the morning.

So today all I have to do is grocery shop, make my tomato soup, cook the rest of the meal, then vacuum and sweep at the very last possible minute. (This is a three dog two cat household!)


I just cleaned cat hair off this chair in preparation for tonight's party; looks like I'll have to give it another quick swipe just before dinner!

Three babies under the age of two are attending, so I'll get out a couple of my stored toy baskets with toys appropriate to their age. I only have one high chair, so I'm not sure how their parents will manage the babies' meals.

Because I have a dishwasher, I expect after-dinner cleanup to take only 15 or 20 minutes. Perfect for a school and worknight party!

LOVELY BLOGS: Modern Retro Woman


This fun blog features "Theatrical Thursdays" (vintage commercials and school films, "Midcentury Charm School" (retro beauty and fashion tips), "Friday Finds," and "Retro Wordpower." There are also a huge amount of posts on home economics - cooking, "decorating liveable homes," etiquette, entertaining, and the art of homemaking.

The blogger's name is Dr. Julie-Ann, a special education teacher for 25 years. She is "Trying to live like my grandmother Lois (1908-1979) in a modern world (with a little bit of June Cleaver, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly thrown in, too, for good measure)." I think you'll enjoy her practical and non-preachy advice on homemaking here!

http://modernretrowoman.com/

LOVELY HOME: Autumn Table Linens


I'm tempted to pick up a new set of table linens for autumn. My existing set is getting a little ratty, worn and tired looking. I'll throw it out if I do succumb and buy new linens - no need to clutter up my linen closet with old linens that won't likely get used in the future.

Harvest Embroidered Suzani Napkins, at Pottery Barn


Harvest Suzani Table Runner, at Pottery Barn

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Autumn Activities for Kids (Over 30 Mommy)

Autumn Soups and a Taste of Autumn (Just Cook)

Autumn in New York (The Flexitarian Cook)

Chocolate Button Tree Cake (Bakingdom)

Fall DIY Ideas for the Unemployed Homeowner (Our House on the Corner)

Honey Mustard Pumpkin Soup (A Lady in France)

How I Know Autumn is Here (Acorns on Glen)

Papercraft Owl (3 Eyed Bear)

Spoiled by Summer? Kids May Need an Autumn Attitude Adjustment (Today Show)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kitchen Organization and Baking Day


Devil's Food Baking Mix, at Crate and Barrel

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Fridge/freezer maintenance cleaning: Thoroughly clean one shelf, one drawer, or two door shelves in both your fridge and freezer. Doing this every week means your whole fridge gets cleaned every month, rather than twice yearly like most people's.

  • Make menu plans for the week ahead; create grocery list and shop as needed.

  • Need to pick up or drop off any dry cleaning? Return library books, mail out Netflix mailers, or drop off rented DVDs?

  • Any elderly relatives who might like a phone call from you today? I find Sunday afternoons and early evenings a great time to catch people at home.

  • Need to do any tidying up in your garden? Today's a great day for that.

  • Water houseplants, turn them to face the light, etc.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Baking Experimentation and Kitchen Organization


Barefoot Contessa's Chocolate Ganache Cake Mix, on Amazon

Today I'm going to experiment in the kitchen. I tidied the kitchen yesterday to get ready. Now I can put on some music, make a pot of hot tea, and improve my baking skills. Besides experimenting (I'm trying to make cake doughnuts and learn to make frosting from scratch) I'll bake up some treats to drop off at various relatives' houses tonight. I'm doing a couple easy quickbreads from Trader Joe's mixes - the apple spice bread, for starters. I'll also bake some lemon poppyseed muffins (from a box mix also) for our breakfast and lunch box tomorrow.


I also want to experiment with the new red fondant I picked up yesterday, so I might bake a cake to drape it over.


My mini cupcake pan is ready to go, filled with cute lime green and purple polkadot mini cupcake liners from Sur la Table


Mini cupcakes I baked to drop off at relatives' houses as a surprise

After I'm done baking and cooking, I'll need to do dishes, scrub the sink, wipe the counters and mop the floury floor. All in all, I bet I will have enjoyed a wonderful, happy time puttering around in my kitchen on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

When's the last time you organized a kitchen cupboard or two? Made a fun mess in the kitchen?

LOVELY BLOGS: Gimme Some Oven

Ali's fun baking blog, where she shares recipes for granola M&M cookies, zucchini pizza with roasted garlic sauce, carrot and zucchini muffins, and zucchini, arugula and white bean soup). (I sense someone's garden produced a whole bunch of zucchini this year? grin).


http://gimmesomeoven.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts (101 Cookbooks)

Budget Dishes that Taste Rich (CHOW)

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake - A Southern Cake for the Groom (Worth the Whisk)

Easy Hot Breakfasts in 15 Minutes (CHOW)

Our Favorite Brownie Recipe (Bon Appetit)

Salt & Pepper Desserts (Bon Appetit)

Shred Your Inhibitions and Embrace a Surprising Slaw (NY Times)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kitchen Tidying


Enamel Utensil Holder, at The Container Store

I don't want to spend all day today cleaning. I'm going out to dinner and cocktails tonight. So other than my daily vacuuming and a quick folding and hanging of some laundry that's fresh out of the dryer, I'll just do a small project today.

I know I'm going to spend a bit of time tomorrow baking in the kitchen, so I think I will get the kitchen tidied up. That way it's ready to get totally messy tomorrow!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Plan something to do this weekend just for you. If you can steal two hours, treat yourself to a movie out (whether by yourself or with a friend), a two hour window shopping excursion, or a long book-reading session. If you can only steal one hour, try a hot bath, a quick shopping trip errand by yourself or a walk alone. If you can only carve out 15 mins for yourself, try dancing to two fun songs, or sitting in complete silence, eyes closed, relaxing.

  • Any friends you haven't seen in a while that you might like to socialize with tomorrow? Call them up today so they have plenty of notice.

  • Need to check your supplies of pet food? I was getting a bit low on cat food so made a quick trip to the store to remedy that. They would certainly have kept me up all night crying if I'd forgotten!

  • Have you enjoyed any of autumn's harvest foods this week? Peaches, pears, apples, apple cider?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Kitchen Tidying


Melamine Mixing Bowl Set, at Crate and Barrel

I am not ready to do a full-on fall kitchen cleaning. That comes next month, according to my internal homemaking schedule. For now, I want a clean, clutter-free, cozy atmosphere to work in. So I'm whisking through the kitchen and my former breakfast nook (which is now a sitting area) making everything look nice.

I'll start by lighting my pumpkin cinnamon candle. Next I'll turn on Food Network on my small kitchen TV so I have some background noise to listen to while I work. I'm going to skip mopping the floor in here since it will get floury tomorrow, but I need to wipe down the counters.

I'll want to make as much counter work room as possible for tomorrow's cooking fest, so some decluttering is in order. I need to unload the dishwasher, fill it with dirty dishes, then scrub the kitchen sink.

I've kept up with my regular Sunday fridge/freezer cleaning habit, so I only have one shelf to clean today. I'll have a nice sorted, organized fridge to work with tomorrow.

Taking out the recycling and checking my fruit basket for moldy food is next.
Decluttering counters is paramount. I'm trying to prioritize things that get used every day, and put away other things that are used only once a week or so. I'd love to find a way to get my oils, vinegars and cooking sauces up off the counter. Some of them get used every day (such as the olive oil) but I never know what I'm going to need until I start cooking dinner. The shelves above the counter aren't strong enough for the weight of so many bottles, but my pantry is too far away and too deep to make storing oils there convenient. Definitely a dilemma!

LOVELY BLOGS: A Pretty Life in the Suburbs


"Tackling fabulousness one project, one recipe, and one glue gun burn at a time." Current posts include this hilarious Spooky Eyeball Wreath, some gorgeous fall photos, her recipe for sweet and sour meatballs, and a peek at her fall-inspired mantel.

http://www.aprettylifeinthesuburbs.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Friday, September 23, 2011

First Day of Autumn


Large Marble Pumpkin Candleholder, at Crate and Barrel

Happy Autumn Equinox!

With our still-warm weather here in Seattle, I'm struggling with what to wear every day. Mornings and evenings are chilly, so I want long sleeves, but our afternoons are very warm or even hot. It's not time for a coat, and a sweater is even a bit much after 10am. It's time to get out lightweight sweaters and cute wraps to layer with.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Put on some music that makes you think of fall. To me this means Loreena McKennitt, Mediaeval Baebes, Miranda Sex Garden, Throwing Muses, or Stevie Nicks to me.

  • Get some exercise. Take a long walk, run briskly in the mall from sale to sale, put on some music and dance, mow your lawn, or go for a bike ride. Exercise staves off depression and gloom as we move into the darker, rainier part of the year.

  • Catch up on emails tonight. I've gotten my mail email box down to 65 - instead of saving all these, I should reply, archive or delete them.

  • Need to wash your car today? This might be my last non-rainy chance to get my car looking decent. It takes me less than ten minutes to thoroughly wash and dry the car.

  • If you celebrate autumn equinox, have a special family dinner tonight using harvest-themed foods. Have a bonfire, donate to a food bank, express gratitude and thankfulness for all you have.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Closet Organization


Thinking about adding this Alfani shirt to my business wardrobe

I've done two small closet organization projects on weeknights lately: One to put away sundresses and get out fall dresses and sweaters; a second to sort pants and skirts. Tonight I'll finish up, doing an overall sort, getting rid of donation items, tidying my shoes, throwing out an old suitcase, and finding new homes for two or three boxes that don't belong in here.

Time to put away bathing suits, skimpy tank tops, shorts, and sandals. It's still too early to get my holiday gowns out of storage, so I have a bit of extra room in my closet for now. As I put things away, I'll inspect for damage, wear and tear, and see if any clothing needs to be dry cleaned first. I don't want to put away dirty clothing.

I also need to tidy my basket of bras, basket of underwear, and the folded piles of tshirts and nightdresses I sleep in. Luckily I've recently sorted my sock drawer and stocking drawer, so my task tonight is a short one. That gives me plenty of time to go out with friends, dressed in something pretty I'll find in the closet today.

If you sort your closet tonight, be sure to lay out something special to wear tomorrow - something you haven't worn in a long while that looks pretty on you.

LOVELY BLOGS: Positively Splendid


"The art and soul of a handcrafted lifestyle." This mother and sewing enthusiast blogs about cooking, sewing, paper crafting, home decorating, and the DIY spirit. Check out her many interesting tutorials, including this honeycomb nursery wall canvas tutorial, a lovely calla lily wreath, and a ruffled autumn leaf tee.

http://www.positivelysplendid.com/

LOVELY BATH & BODY: The Thymes' Bergamot Vert


I'm excited about The Thymes' new fall line. I love the taste of bergamot in my tea and I generally enjoy products scented with it as well. This also has jasmine (one of my favorites) and citrus scents, plus a touch of red currant. The line includes a body wash (that I'll probably pick up), a lotion, soap, bubble bath (I miss my bathtub!) cologne, home fragrance candle (that tempts me too) and a hand wash for the kitchen or bathroom sink.

Bergamot Vert, at The Thymes

LOVELY HOME: Retro Ice Bags


I'm thinking of stocking one of these in my bathroom cabinet. Not only can you use it cold for headaches, bumps and bruises - you can also fill it with hot water for tummyaches or aching muscles. I'd have a hard time choosing which of the four I would purchase, they're so cute.

Retro Ice Bags, at The Container Store

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Almond Joy Cupcakes (Cookies and Cups)

Celebrating Autumn Equinox (School of the Seasons)

The Joys of Cooking with Enameled Cast Iron (Shelteriffic)

Make the Perfect Mexican Meal with Tantalizing Tamales (Today Show)

Rustic Lemon Curd (Tomayto Tomaaahto)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Family Emergencies


I brought these orange dahlias home from the Pike Place Market to cheer us up. They're in my upstairs living room, the first thing we see every time we come home from our errands.

In late July, a relative died suddenly, leaving her teenage daughter orphaned.

I was away with friends at a remote mountain cabin with no cell or Internet access when it happened. The moment we returned and I found out, I knew the teenager's life had changed forever, and I knew mine would too.

Without a doubt, I wanted her. Her sister had lived here with me for several years, and her brother has spent a lot of time here in my home. Her mother had in the past expressed a wish that if anything ever happened to her, the girl would live with a female relative. But nothing had ever been put on paper, and no plan spelled out expressly. With the girl's adult siblings all busy in college and working to support themselves, my home was the best choice, we decided, after a series of stressful family meetings.

In the space of a few days I went from a single lady who could go out and drink cocktails with my girl friends, stay up late and sleep in, go out to dinner every night, throw dinner parties at home, travel and have a long distance relationship - to a stay at home working single foster mother of a grieving teenager starting a new school.

And she went from living with her sick mother in a very small town, leaving behind her pets, friends, school and boyfriend, to come here and live in unfamiliar surroundings with a relative who is mostly a stranger to her, my roommate she'd never met before, my boisterous dogs, extremely unfamiliar foods, and a brand new high school. What a difficult change to go through so immediately after one's mother dying.

I hope you never go through a family emergency like this. But I have some questions for you.

  • If you have children, do you have a plan in writing, preferably filed with your attorney, for what should happen to them if you die?

  • It's hard to plan ahead, but if you know for certain you would become the guardian of your niece, nephew, grandchildren, or other family members, have you thought about what that would mean?

  • How much time can you take off work during a family crisis? The process of getting ready for the funeral, attending the funeral, caring for the teenager, bonding with her, moving her in, school shopping, getting her enrolled in school, etc. consumed three weeks where I absolutely could not get my work done.

  • How much money do you have in your emergency savings account? There are so many expenses related to funerals, even for a family member not paying for the funeral. Unexpected air fares, hotel rooms, dinners out (you won't feel like cooking), funeral clothing and shoes for your kids, retail therapy sprees at bookstores, visits to Starbucks for comfort beverages while you're waiting in between appointments, surprise expenses, flowers, potluck meals, and all that time off of work. I can only begin to describe how much my savings account took a hit during this last month.

  • Do you even know how to get ahold of family members during a crisis? I have local family's home and cell phones, but we had trouble locating some more distantly related people to invite them to the funeral.

To protect her privacy I won't blog very much about her anymore after this post, but I know the posts I make to Lovely Living will be slightly different than before, as my life has changed quite a bit for now. So many things I hadn't had to worry about or be responsible for until now - someone else's doctor and dentist visits, school Open Houses, schoolbus schedules, after school programs, tutoring, etc.

And although you can't plan, predict or ever be ready for something like this, I thought I'd share a little of what it's been like, just asking you to think about what you'd do if it were you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Morning


White Pumpkin Candles, at West Elm

Monday mornings can be a total blur of activity mixed with multiple interruptions. If the phone rings one more time, I am going to scream. I implore you, if you know anybody who works full time at home, please, please don't phone them up "just to say hi" and don't text them during work hours unless it's an emergency. And there shouldn't be a "but" at the end of your sentence beginning "I know you're working right now.."

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make menu plans for the week and create grocery list. Think about the lunchboxes you might be packing this week, too.

  • Visualize what you and your children (if any) will be wearing to work and school this week. Need to do any laundry, enforce some hang-up-your-clothes rules, set out anything for tomorrow, drop off or pick up any dry cleaning?

  • Upcoming holidays: Rosh Hashanah on September 28; Yom Kippur on October 7.

  • Pull out some fabulous jewelry (even if it's costume and inexpensive) to spice up your fall wardrobe this week. It's easier to decide to put on nice things in the morning if you've handled them recently.

TODAY'S PROJECT: General Homekeeping


Basil Blue Sage Countertop Cleanser, from Caldrea

I'm planning to throw a Pan Am TV show themed dinner next Monday night. I want to make sure my house is in beautiful condition before inviting friends over. While there are some things that will get dirty in the next week (the carpets will need to be vacuumed, furniture dusted and floors swept right before the party), I can get my house "mostly ready" today. Then I don't have to freak out the rest of the week, and I can concentrate on my themed menu.

Today I'll be swapping out the white summery curtains in my downstairs living room. We'll be watching the show in here, so I'm relying on my burgundy velvet lined curtains to keep the light out and the warmth in next Monday night.

I'll dust some cobwebs off my walls and ceilings; wipe hand prints off of light switches; wash dog nose marks off the lower parts of my windows (a task I'll have to do again next Monday); remove some clutter from the mail table; and sweep out my fireplace.

LOVELY BLOGS: Domestically Speaking


This woman blogs about making her home beautiful and efficient, raising her kids, and being careful with her finances. You have to unfortunately scroll past a lot of huge "giveaway" type posts to get to the really fantastic content here, but it's worth it. You'll see her informative posts on updating her bathroom, printing on burlap, and the adorable crafts she's made.

http://www.domestically-speaking.com/

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Jo Malone's Wild Bluebell


My favorite fragrance maker, Jo Malone, just came out with a new line meant to evoke England's wild bluebells. There's a body cream, a cologne, body wash, hand wash, and home fragrance candle. I have more perfume than I can wear, and enough body lotions, but I might treat myself to the candle. I can't resist any opportunity to make my 3 dog, 2 cat home smell lovelier.

Wild Bluebell, at Jo Malone

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Bacon, Cheddar and Pear Panini (Alexandra Cooks)

Chickpea and Roasted Cauliflower Stew (Rachael Ray)

Cinnamon Caramel Apple "Pumpkins" (Bakingdom)

DIY Autumn Bloom Belt (Withywindle)

DIY Autumn Leaf Headband (Fine and Feathered)

Easy Chili Recipe (Cooking for Kids/About.com)

Fluffy Baked Eggs with Roasted Vegetable Hash (Everyday Dutch Oven)

Focus on Flowers, But Don't Forget the Lawn (Flowers/About.com)

How Will Today's Texting Teenagers Compete? (The Daily Beast)

Making and Buying Bagels for Yom Kippur (Epicurious)

Sweet Peppers, High Altitudes, and Here Comes Autumn (Food Preservation/About.com)

TV Dinners: Menus Inspired by Our Favorite Fall Shows (Epicurious)

Udon with Mushroom Broth, Cabbage, and Yams (Bon Appetit)

Vegetable Desserts are Suddenly Haute (San Jose Mercury News)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday in September


Faux Harvest Fruits Wreath, at Pottery Barn

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • If you didn't do this yesterday - Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean, sort and sanitize one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in your fridge and in your freezer. Doing this faithfully every week means your fridge and freezer get cleaned out once a month.

  • Are there blackberry bushes near your home? Have you picked any this summer? I just filled a Tupperware container with berries, intending to make pie. But I suspect my household will just gobble them all up in the next hour or so!

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

  • Sunday nights can be a good time to relax with family, make phone calls to relatives, and write letters to friends and family.

  • Are your kids going to school with clean clothes tomorrow? Need to do any laundry tonight? Are you sleeping on clean bedsheets?

  • Need to refill your kids' cafeteria lunch cards or meal accounts? Or what are you putting in your kids' lunch boxes tomorrow morning?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Taking Care of Me


"All That Jasmine" bath bomb, from Lush

It's been a stressful week, full of kids' doctors appointments (everybody's ok!), babysitting an energetic 2 year old while his mom visited her divorce attorney, and taking three young cousins to say goodbye to their dying grandma. I'm wiped out, physically and emotionally.

So I'm taking some Me time today. No cleaning, no sorting, no organizing, no projects. Just fun things. Things I want to do.

I'll read one of my library books; browse through magazines; putter in the kitchen; play with my dogs; borrow a bathtub for a good long soak with my favorite bath bomb; and finish this eight page letter to a good friend. I might pop in a movie and make a cocktail while I'm at it.

This is made possible because I take such good care of my house on a daily basis; doing daily maintenance with kitchen, sweeping and vacuum projects; and doing one project every day. My house is ready to be viewed, lived in, enjoyed, or entertained in, so I don't have to touch it today.

LOVELY BLOGS: Decor to Adore


This blogger (I love that her name has "Laura Ingalls" in it!) writes about interior design, home decor, flea market and antique store finds. She's written recently about sorting out her childhood home, packing up a lifetime of memories, and a daisy chair she rescued. Feast your eyes on the lovely photos here and enjoy.

http://decortoadore.blogspot.com/

LOVELY TV: Sweet Genius


I'm trying to watch a lot less TV, and the TV I watch should be lovely or positive in some way. I might try out this new pastry competition show as it seems to be relatively drama-free. I am looking forward to seeing the pastry food porn shots. It premieres on Thursday night.

Sweet Genius, at Food Network

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Budget Dishes That Taste Like You're Filthy Rich (CHOW)

Kitchen of the Week: Warm, Cozy, and Autumn-Inspired (Houzz)

Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie (Fall in Love With Cooking)

What if the Secret to Success is Failure? (NY Times)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mid-September Weekend


Glass Pumpkin, at Pier 1 Imports

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Start a load of laundry; fold and put away any clothes that might have been on top of dryer

  • Maintenance clean one shelf, one drawer or two door pockets in your refrigerator. Mercilessly throw out anything you know you won't eat by next Friday (got any weird condiments that should go? I have some 6 month old Vietnamese soup base that needs to be chucked)

  • Make phonecalls to any relatives you haven't seen or talked to in a while

  • Take a quick look around to see what fall decorating you might want to do soon. Any particular decor, candleholders, or pillows you want to put out?

  • Try to consolidate your errands and get them done today so you can relax tomorrow. Stop by the hardware store on the way back from the grocery store; swing by the post office and library before you make it all the way home, etc.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Doors and Windowsills

Today I'm digging dead flies and bees out of the many windowsills in my house. The windows have been open almost all summer, so they're buggy and dirty. I'll dust the windowsills afterwards.

I'll dust the wood doors next, doing both sides of the door as well as the wood trim around them.

While you work, take notes on any chipped windowsills, chipped frames over the doors, or peeling paint. Need to add anything to your home fix-it list or your repainting schedule?

LOVELY BLOGS: The Single Nester


I love this! Carmie isn't married and doesn't have kids, but has given herself permission to prioritize nesting in her own home. She cooks, crafts, and makes her home beautiful - all for herself, but without being what we'd think of as "selfish." This sort of reminds me of one of my favorite Sex and the City episodes, where Carrie registers for shoes for herself because she's never had a baby shower or wedding shower.

Recent posts I've enjoyed here include September Signifies a Fresh Start, a Mango smoothie she made; and her post on art she made with paint chips.

http://www.thesinglenester.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Eleni's Fall Cookies


I adore leaf-shaped cookies and chocolates. When I make them myself, sadly, they don't turn out anywhere near as lovely as these. If you're looking for a gift to surprise someone with (in-laws, grandparents, co-workers, a best friend who needs a pick-me-up) I'd suggest a box of these gorgeously decorated autumn cookies. Their Fall Harvest cookies are adorable, too.

Shades of Fall, at Eleni's

LOVELY HOME: Seda France's Autumn Candle


New for autumn from one of my favorite candle companies: Plum Chypre, scented with opmegranate, raspberry, currant, freesia, jasmine, patchouli and pink peppercorns. I love the beautiful pagoda packaging when I'm giving gifts, but I don't hang onto it if I buy one of these candles to scent my own home.

Plum Chypre, at Seda France

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cocktail Nerds Rejoice: Real Quinine-Flavored Elixirs (CHOW)

Creamy Curried Celery Root Soup (NY Times)

For Waterlilies, an Odd Refuge in Texas (NY Times)

110 Fall Trends (NY Magazine)

Quick Breads: A Solution to Summer's Bounty (NPR)

Tortilla Salad (101 Cookbooks)

World's Most Amazing Hotel Pools (CNN Travel)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday in Mid-September


One of my dogs enjoying playing "King of the Hill" on the dog park's newly delivered autumn bark pile

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • It's mid-month. Need to pay any bills? Make any doctor, dentist or vet appointments? Anybody in your house need a trim on their haircut?

  • Drop off any Netflix or Redbox DVDs and pick up your weekend's movie entertainment as applicable. (Or are you streaming everything nowadays?)

  • Drop off any library books, dry cleaning, and plastic bags to be recycled.

  • Fill up car with gas for the weekend; stop by an ATM for cash if you need some.

  • Tidy house for the weekend. Vacuum living room if needed; empty or fill dishwasher; wipe kitchen and bathroom counters; empty trash cans from each room; dust off coffee table and declutter as needed; swap out a new tablecloth on your dining table.

  • Finalize weekend socialization plans. Which friends are you going to see this weekend?

TODAY'S PROJECT: More Closet Sorting


The Alfani dress I'm thinking of trying on and buying for this year's Christmas and holiday cocktail parties I'm likely to attend. I'll make myself give away two dresses I'm not wearing in order to "earn" the closet space to put this.

I'm doing about an hour of closet sorting before I go out to dinner and a movie tonight. It's not like I'm setting a timer and sorting constantly until the hour is up. I just sort of know after all these years how long it takes to get out my fall skirts, shirts and pants, inspect them, try them on, sort and hang up the keepers. I went through my skirts pretty well recently, but need to figure out how many shirts I don't use and how many pants I need to buy. I suspect I need another two pairs to get me through fall. I'm mostly a dress wearer, but on really cold days you can't beat a pair of velvet pants!

LOVELY BLOGS: Tartelette


I'll bet you've seen this gorgeous food blog before, or that you're a regular reader. But just in case, I wanted to revisit this site to enjoy her recipes, stunning food photography, and the inspiring food styling.

http://www.tarteletteblog.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: The 1950s Kitchen


Since I'm such a dork for retro living and nostalgic for old fashioned homemaking, I adore this book on the kitchens of the 1950s. I can't fathom putting a 1950s style kitchen into my 1980s English style home, but I can at least look at the pictures and drool.

The 1950s Kitchen, on Amazon

LOVELY HOME: Marimekko Tablecloths for Autumn


You probably either really love, or really don't care for, the Finnish design company Marimekko's designs. They're modern, colorful, and often floral or nature-based.

Marimekko "Kumina" in Brown


Marimekko "Kumina" Orange Tablecloth

I'm intrigued by their fall tablecloth (and matching napkins) offerings at Crate and Barrel. They're too modern for my existing style of home and decor, so I can only admire them from afar. They'd go great in a contemporary condo - I'd use them for Thanksgiving dinner.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Back-to-School Weeknight Dinners (Food Network)

Braised Fennel (The Bitten Word)

Buttermilk Ice Cream (Stylish Cuisine)

Favorite Fall Soups (Fine Cooking)

Five Things You Spend On, Then Never Use (The Street)

Food Detective: The Power of Pastel de Choclo (Chicago Sun-Times)

Sweetcorn Fritters with Homemade Ketchup (BBC Food)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not Quite Fall After All


Pumpkin Chai Tea and Apple Cider Herbal Tea, at Crate and Barrel

Seattle is enjoying an extended summer, though we have cloudy gray mornings. I still haven't had to turn my heater on, and we still run fans every night to cool the house. I drink iced tea in the daytime still, but crave hot tea at night.

I am in the mood to bake, but it's too hot in my kitchen today. It's too hot to take my dogs to our favorite dog park - they'd just run themselves into heat exhaustion. My autumn decor looks a bit silly right now when I think about it.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Check your fruit bowl - anything that needs to be thrown out? Something tasty you can enjoy as part of your lunch or dinner today? Need to make a trip to the store for some fresh fruit, or maybe some heirloom tomatoes?

  • Need to vacuum a room or two today? I'm making myself vacuum both sets of my stairs today, a much-hated but much-needed task.

  • What are you doing for fun this weekend? Today's a great day to make plans so people have enough advance notice to join you in an activity.

  • Do you keep a diary or journal? Do you need to update it with your adventures from the past two weeks? It takes me only ten minutes to update my diary usually - the hard part for me is carving out the alone time to make a cup of tea, sit down and actually reflect and write.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Dusting


What I'm using on everything I'm dusting today other than my wood furniture: Pledge Multi-Surface. It works on wood, but I prefer to use furniture oil on my wood furniture.

In addition to my daily maintenance tasks that I do in order to keep my house in its normal condition (vacuuming, a load of laundry, emptying or filling dishwasher, emptying a trash can, and wiping down counters) I do one project every day.

Today's project is dusting. I'll start with my pictures, paintings, mirrors and artwork or anything else hanging on the walls. Several of them are visibly dusty, so that's what sparked my attention to this particular project today. Both fireplace mantels need attention, as do the staircases and wooden railings in my home.

Next come the four televisions in my home (living room, family room, bedroom and kitchen). I won't just wipe off the screens, I'll dust the sides and backs too.

Last, I'll dust my two curio cabinets, two nightstands, the hope chest in my bedroom, DVD bookcase, Blu-Ray bookcase, five bookcases, one coffee table, and two end tables.

I'm skipping the window sills as they get cleaned at the same time I do the windows, and they don't look visibly dusty right now.

I'll finish by dusting my three standing lamps, six bedroom lamps and the lamp in the family room.

I expect this project to take just thirty minutes out of my day. I think it will be quite pleasant actually, traipsing around the house rubbing my beautiful wood furniture with lemon-scented spray, while I listen to music I've put on in the living room.

LOVELY BLOGS: Bright, Bold and Beautiful


Laura's blog about color inspiration and design, art and fashion, and holiday decor. Currently blogging about how to make a magnetic memo board, citrus color inspiration, and what she's currently painting in her studio.

http://brightboldbeautiful.blogspot.com/

LOVELY KITCHEN: KitchenAid's New Artisan Copper Stand Mixer


This doesn't go with my kitchen decor at all, and I don't use my stand mixer enough to leave it out on the counter where people can see it. But I can think of several people who are going to be very excited about this new copper finish. For people who care that their kitchen appliances match their specific decor theme, this will open up a lot of possibilities. It would work great in a steampunk kitchen too.

Copper Kitchenaid Mixer, at Crate and Barrel

LOVELY TV: Changing My TV Diet

I've changed my diet of television shows drastically over the past two months. Don't get me wrong.. I love TV. I find it very relaxing and therapeutic after a long day. I use it to help me get through the boredom of sorting, organizing and housecleaning.

But one evening as I was watching some Real Housewives bickering (I was enjoying it, too) I suddenly had an uncomfortable thought: "Who am I to be writing a blog about lovely living when I'm spending so much of my time watching other people's negativity, drama, and useless lives?

I quickly flipped through my archived shows on Tivo. Tons more "housewife" drama, some competitive cooking shows, a show about a ghost and vampire living with a werewolf, and a very entertaining show about very shallow people.

All this combined with my new sleeping schedule and spending time with my new foster teenager, means I have very little TV or recreation time. I've never been one to just have the TV on in the background at all times, nor have I been a channel flipper. I like to have a plan when I sit down to watch something - and I like to have something else to do (laundry folding, blogging, magazine reading) while I watch.

I decided to spend my one hour a night before bedtime reading the lopsided, falling-down stack of books at my bedside instead. I deleted all the crappy negative junk off my Tivo, deleted some subscriptions, and sat down with a copy of Entertainment Weekly to figure out if any of the new fall shows were positive and promoted happy living at all. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not a "positive" airy fairy person either! I just don't want to watch people screaming just before my bedtime).


I will stop watching whiny housewives; no more competitive cooking shows - I'd rather learn to cook from lovely pleasant shows like Barefoot Contessa; I might watch the occasional Kitchen Nightmares as while there's screaming, it's well intentioned and business-focused; no more The Apprentice backstabbing; I won't watch the manufactured drama in competitive singing or dancing shows; and I'll avoid the temptation to watch dark shows like Grimm and The Secret Circle. (Nothing wrong with those shows; just not promoting loveliness).


I think I'll keep watching How I Met Your Mother as it's a lighthearted comedy with kind people and good friends; I watch True Blood with a group of friends and can't imagine quitting doing that; I'll throw some Pan Am-themed dinner parties; I'll still watch Mad Men; I might occasionally enjoy an episode of Mad Fashion to see the pretty clothes, if it's not nasty and snarky; and I will see if my teenager likes watching Once Upon a Time with me, but only if it's not too dark.

I've just listed quite a few hours of television I expect to still watch - I know that's cutting into my book reading time. I think at least I'll be watching shows with less yelling and bickering, and more pretty costumes and light comedy! This is something I'm doing for myself; I'm not criticizing other people's TV viewing habits, by the way!

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Beautiful Cushions (French Chic & Shabby)

Before and After: Sunny Yellow Bedroom Redo (Design Sponge)

Devil's Food Cake with Black Pepper Boiled Icing (The Bitten Word)

The Evocative Nature Photography of Nicolas bell (Decorology)

How to Live a Beautiful Life (Gala Darling)

"Just a Housewife With a Blog" (Mommy Moi)

Kid and Guest Bathrooms (House Tweaking)

The New Easy Bake Oven: Share Your Memories (Epicurious)

Owl Cookie Pops (Celebrations)

A Romantic California Vineyard Wedding (Hostess with the Mostess)