Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cherishing My Curio Cabinets


Kitamura Cabinet, at Anthropologie

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Finalize Halloween costumes, put up decorations, or clean up after any parties you threw today or yesterday.

  • Spot-clean your kitchen and bathroom floors. Or just use a few cleaning wipes on them. This will make them shine and make your weekend cleanup go faster.

  • Done with the weekend's laundry? It's folded and put away? Bed linens changed?

  • Make meal plans for the week ahead; create grocery list; shop as needed

  • Is there room in your coat closet for actual coats? See if you need to declutter, get rid of unused coats, or move a vacuum to a different closet.

  • Use your fragrance oil infuser, burn a candle, or spray your favorite home fragrance

TODAY'S PROJECT: Curio Cabinets


Faulkner Library Cabinet, at Crate and Barrel

I own two curio cabinets. In both, I store wine glasses, martini glasses, teacups, dishes and keepsakes. Today I'm sorting out both cabinets and dusting. I generally do this twice a year - in Spring and in Fall. (I should dust them more often than that though!)

I'll remove everything, including the glass shelves, and wash all the dishes and stemware - they're all murky and dusty. I have to wash them by hand as they're antiques or fragile fancy martini glasses, so they don't ever go near a dishwasher.

I can't move the curio cabinets by myself to vacuum under them, but I will reach as far behind them as I can with my vacuum attachment. I'll clean the spiderwebby walls behind the cabinets, as far as I can reach, too.

In Spring I got rid of anything I could possibly get rid of, as each cabinet was looking cluttered. At this point I think everything in these cabinets is something I either use frequently for entertaining, or keepsakes I'm too sentimental about (like my great-aunt's handmade decorated eggshells). Maybe after Christmas I'll take another hard look and see if I actually used all my red dishes and goblets during the holiday entertaining season.


Red Stemware, from Pier 1

In the living room cabinet I have martini glasses, wine glasses, a china figurine of a witch I've had since I was a little girl, eggshells my aunt decorated, three or four amethyst glass vases, pink depression glass dessert dishes, a wacky art glass bowl I use to serve M&Ms or peanuts, and a few other miscellaneous pieces of glassware. Almost all need to be washed as dusting alone won't help them. The glass shelves will be washed too, as well as the glass in the doors.

Perhaps I can bring myself to store away great-aunt's handicrafts in my hope chest. ("Hope she doesn't make any more.")

I expect the project to take around an hour per cabinet. I'll turn on the news in the kitchen so I can get updated from the nearby dining room. When I move to the living room, I'll put on The Nightmare Before Christmas" to sing along with while I work.

LOVELY BLOGS: Chronically Vintage


I'm having so much fun exploring this massive blog of lovely vintage retro finds from the 1930s through 1950s. Jessica has been doing an amazing job of blogging every day - today is "Day 301 of Vintage 365."

Recent posts I've enjoyed include Revlon's Cinderella cosmetics ad from the 1940s, a couple pages of 1950s Halloween recipes, remembering The Addams Family, and a fabulous midcentury living room. I know I'll be back to visit this blog often!

Link: http://www.chronicallyvintage.com/

LOVELY WEBSITES: Beautiful Libraries


Take a moment to explore this site full of lovely pics of rich people's home libraries. Instead of envying them bitterly, it inspires me to go dust my existing cabinets, sort and enjoy the books I own in my humble abode.

Link: http://www.beautiful-libraries.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Baking Supplies Storage Organization (Love From the Oven)

Fall Foliage and Flowers (Design*Sponge)

5 Savory Quick Breads for Fall Baking (CHOW)

Healthy Halloween and Fall Favorites (Cooking Light)

Roasted Lemon Chutney (101 Cookbooks)

Home Office Bliss (Decorology)

Spooky and Playful: The Best Halloween Treats for 2011 (TheKitchn)



Read Lovely Living on Facebook

Friday, October 28, 2011

Almost Halloween


Autumn Petit Fours, from Norm Thompson

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Have you tried on your costume and accessories to be sure they fit and look the way you want them to?

  • Need to rake leaves on your lawn yet (or better yet, have a kid do it?)

  • Dust your bedroom really quickly, if needed. I don't know about you, but my bedroom gets dusty so quickly. Maybe it's that our unusually warm weather has let me open the windows so often. I have to dust one bookcase, two night tables, a wooden jewelry box and the "hope chest" my television sits on. And the television itself needs to be dusted, too.

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

  • Have you looked through your city's local events/arts newspaper lately? It can give you really good ideas for fun things to do - upcoming concerts, plays, restaurants to try, etc. Today during my lunch break I'm going to read my copies of "Seattle Met" and "Seattle Magazine" for a little catching up on what's going on in my city.

  • Take inventory of pet food, and do a collar inspection. Are your pet's collars fraying? dirty? Still reflective (for pets who go outdoors)? License, rabies tag and identification still attached and readable?

  • Tidy up real quickly for the weekend. Wipe down counters and mirrors, empty trashcans, remove magazines and clutter from the living room. Empty off the dining table and breakfast nook table if they need it. Remove items piled on stairs to be taken upstairs; hang up coats, put away umbrellas and shoes.

  • Throw out dead flowers; replace with fresh new ones to enjoy

  • Take quick inventory for your shopping list if you intend to go shopping this weekend. Shampoos/bath stuff? Cleaning supplies? Groceries? Light bulbs? Batteries? Fresh flowers? Laundry detergent? Toilet paper/paper towels? Cold medicine? Christmas shopping?

  • Make weekend socialization plans if you haven't already

TODAY'S PROJECT: Halloween Preparation


Beaded Pumpkins and Gourds, from Z Gallerie

If you're throwing a party, you might have a lot of things to do today.

If you're a mom, you might need to finish shopping or help your kids get their costumes ready.

Need to buy candy to give to trick-or-treaters, if you are staying home? Do you have music and movies ready to enjoy tomorrow night, if you aren't going out to a party?

Need to give yourself a manicure before tomorrow? I'm painting my nails blood red to accessorize my Maleficent costume.

I'm going to a party on Saturday, and luckily I just have to bring an easy dish: mummy hot dogs. Tonight I'll make sure my "Maleficent" costume fits, and I'll probably practice the makeup I'll wear on Halloween. Then I'll settle in tonight for my yearly tradition, watching "The Nightmare Before Christmas.

LOVELY BLOGS: Multiply Delicious



I could spend weeks exploring the lovely high-quality content here. There are sections about food, kids, and moms. Check out her recent post on Halloween crafts for kids.

http://www.multiplydelicious.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

All That Authenticity May Be Getting Old (NY Times)

Apple Cider Donuts (Shugary Sweets)

Banana Cake with Malt Chocolate Ganache (Amanda's Cookin')

Candy Corn Striped Madeleines (Sugar Swings)

Carrot Cranberry Sheet Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (Gingerbread Bagels)

Childproofing: Crawling Your Way to Safety (NY Times)

Chocolate Devil's Fire Cupcakes (Cupcakes Take the Cake)

Don't Forget the Laundry Room (Design Fabulous)

DIY Halloweeen Decor & Craft Links (Wix.com)

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls (Bakerita)

Red Lentil and Squash Curry Stew (Oh She Glows)

Sweet and Savory Apple Recipes (CHOW)

Trick or Treating in the Rich Neighborhoods (CHOW)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Windstorm Preparedness


A sight like this makes even a mundane daily trip to the post office joyful

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Kitchen floor need sweeping or mopping? Counters clean?

  • Need to wipe dust and hair off the felt pads on the legs of your barstools and dining chairs?

  • Tidy bathrooms - refresh toilet paper rolls, empty trash cans if needed, wipe down mirrors, sinks and counters, change out hand towels and rugs as needed

  • How is everybody in your house doing for fresh, clean pajamas to wear tonight?

  • Do you have a fall wreath on your front door? If you own an autumn-themed or Halloween doormat, have you swapped it out so it's on your doorstep?

  • Have you baked any delicious muffins or quick breads lately, if that's something you enjoy doing, and if your family enjoys helping you eat them up?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Windstorm Preparedness


Liquid Emergency Candle, on Amazon

I'll never forget Seattle's worst windstorm, in 2006. We lost power for eight days. We toughed it out for a few days, but then had to go stay with friends whose power had come back on after the fourth day. During the four nights we spent without power, we were extremely lucky that the outside temperatures didn't dip below 30. (Inside the house it was a mere 40 degrees, brr!)

We were also - I don't want to say "lucky" because I was well prepared - better off because I'd planned ahead. We had three nights worth of firewood, canned food we could heat over our outdoor fire pit, plenty of candles and matches, and extra comforters.

Right before the windstorm had hit, I'd fortunately decided it was a good idea to run two loads of laundry, quickly pop some wet sheets into the dryer, and run the dishwasher. This meant we had clean clothes and sheets for the next week, and a dishwasher full of clean dishes I didn't have to wash by hand in the dark cold kitchen.

Now every year as autumn approaches, I start hoarding firewood, candles, and emergency supplies. I'm lucky I have a big garage to store things in. But I don't let my hoard take over the indoors of my house!


Cyalume Safety Light, on Amazon

Today I'm taking inventory of my flashlights, batteries, candles, firewood, matches, Cyalume light sticks, canned soup, the pan I cook with outdoors, and other emergency supplies. I'm also making sure I could get ahold of those things quickly in an emergency.

Also, I remember driving to various locations to charge up my laptop, cell phone and camera batteries. Are you able to locate your chargers and any power-related accessories, should you have to go elsewhere to recharge everything?

Are you ready for a power outage?

Emergency Supply Checklist (Ready.Gov)

Emergency Preparedness Checklist (FEMA)

Take Winter by Storm

LOVELY BATH & BODY: L'Occitane's New Shea Butter Scents


I rely on shea butter for my hands every day. Now my favorite company's come out with scented shea butter lotions and body butters, too. I'm excited! So far Hibiscus Flower is my favorite, and I'm not impressed with the powdery scent of Desert Rose.

Shea Butter, at L'Occitane

LOVELY BLOGS: Leap of Taste


I spent more time exploring this cooking blog today than I intended. (Oh well, the vacuuming will still be waiting for me later today). Recent delicious sounding recipes include Harvest Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, Chocolate chip banana cupcakes with cashew buttercream, whole wheat spiced apple cheddar muffins, and I think very soon I'll try making hearty roasted tomato sauce.

http://leapoftaste.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Apple Cider Ice Cream (Amanda's Cookin')

Corn Dog Muffins (Shugary Sweets)

Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Ganache (Shugary Sweets)

Warm Egg Salad Sandwich with Provolone (Worth the Whisk)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Stocking Up for Autumn


Pink and white Gerbera daisies currently adorn the side table in my living room

Today I'm hitting a couple of my favorite grocery stores (Trader Joe's and Whole Foods) to stock up for fall. I'm bringing my shopping list, list of pantry foods I inventoried this week, and my fall food budget notepad.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Water houseplants if needed; rotate them into more light today as needed.

  • Have you sliced and eaten fresh fruit this week?

  • Look over your budget for the next three weeks. Plan for bills, birthdays, Halloween candy, Halloween costume, savings, travel money, Christmas shopping, holiday parties, food, pet expenses, and other things you need to keep track of.

  • Do a quick whisk around your kitchen, if needed, putting away clutter, wiping down counters, shining your sink, laundering kitchen towels, restocking paper towels. We worked so hard on our kitchens this week, let's make sure our hard work still shows.

  • Need to replace any light bulbs in your home? I'm about to go stand on a very scary tall ladder to change one in my kitchen.

  • Take just two quick minutes to clean out your purse and wallet if they need it. Receipts seem to accumulate in mine, as well as lipsticks I'm not wearing.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Stocking Up for Fall


Wolfgang Puck Hearty Vegetable Soup, on Amazon

Now that we have neatly organized pantries, and we've looked over the foodstuffs we have left, we can restock our food supplies for fall. I love having a well stocked pantry. Not only for emergencies and power outages, but also for those cold, dark, rainy nights when I don't feel up to going out to the store.

I also love being able to throw a fun cocktail party or host a dinner party at a moment's notice because I have so many foods at my disposal. It's easy to prepare gourmet foods taken out of my pantry and accentuated with fresh fruits and veggies I keep stocked. I'm lucky I live within a three minute drive of a PCC Natural Market, too. It's also nice that I have easygoing friends who are happy to come over to a simple meal of soup, bread and salad sometimes when none of us feel like whipping up a gourmet meal, but all of us feel like socializing.


Almond Poppyseed Muffin Mix, at Krusteaz

Add things to your grocery list, but split it up amongst the next two or three trips if you can't afford to buy everything all at once. Check to see if you have enough food for your emergency supply, and if you have things you can cook or prepare if the power goes off.

However, none of us should become hoarders, either. Our stocked up foods shouldn't take over or clutter our homes, and they shouldn't become a huge burden or responsibility for ourselves or others. We should only buy foods we can use up and enjoy long after the threat of a stormy winter is over. We should be able to find things we need to cook a meal in the pantry, not have boxes cluttering up the view and cans falling out on our feet every time we open the pantry door.

Baking:


Cherry Chip Cake Mix, at Betty Crocker (My favorite!)

Do you have a couple cake mixes, some shortening, flour, cake flour (if you bake cakes from scratch), sugar, brown sugar, salt, soda, baking powder, a tub of frosting in case of a birthday cake emergency, cocoa, pancake mix, chocolate chips, muffin mixes, corn starch, corn meal, a scone mix, and other baking staples? Do you have a cornbread mix or two? Yeast, if you bake bread? Pie crust mix in a box, in case you are in a hurry and don't have time to mix up pie crust from scratch? Graham cracker crumbs in a box, for lining tart shells or cheesecakes?

Condiments:

Besides what's currently in your refrigerator, are you well stocked on things you are likely to use up in the next two months? Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, honey, maple syrup/pancake syrup, salad dressings, balsamic vinaigrette, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, virgin olive oil, tabasco?

Pasta:


Cellentani Pasta, by Barilla

Do you have spaghetti, penne, lasagna, macaroni, and other pasta basics, plus several jarred sauces? Do you have an alfredo sauce for a dinner guest who doesn't care for a tomato based sauce?

Canned foods:


Tipsy Olives, on Amazon

Do you have cocktail party staples such as olives, pickles, pickled mushrooms, pickled beets or baby corn? Do you have plenty of soups, stews, and chilis? Refried beans? Canned whole tomatoes? Salsa? Canned beans and corn? Jarred bruschetta topping or tapenade spread?

Staples:

Do you have olive oil, cooking oil, dry beans, several varieties of rice, couscous, and dry lentils? Do you have a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese for an emergency in case a child comes to visit? Do you have peanut butter and jelly? Do you have cereal, oatmeal, granola, raisins, and nuts? Do you have several canned or jarred soups you can open and heat easily? Enough for every person in your family for three days?

Liquids:

Do you have an emergency supply of bottled drinking water, as well as your day-to-day drinks? Party supplies such as cranberry juice, fruit juices, 7-Up, mineral water, orange juice and other mixers? Hot cocoa and plenty of tea? Chicken, beef and/or vegetable stock for making soup?

Chocolate and Ice Cream:

The most important staple in the house! Do you have chocolate? Do you have ice cream?

LOVELY BLOGS: Modern Parents, Messy Kids


"Resources for playful families." They blog about design, fresh finds, playtime and parenting. Check out recent posts such as Montessori cooking for newbies, counting down to birthdays with kids too young for calendars, and autumn inspiration finds.

http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Adapting Julia Child for Ereaders (Seattle Times)

How Do You Like Them (Cooked) Apples? (NY Times)

Make To-Die-For Salads from The Mozza Cookbook (Today Show)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Fall Kitchen Prep Part 4


Cuisinart Frozen Dessert Maker, in Red, on Amazon

Today is our last day of kitchen organization. After tonight, we'll be ready to throw holiday parties, bake yummy fall treats, cook comfort foods, and entertain guests. From here on out, we just have to maintain our kitchens in good condition, consistently put items away where they go, keep ahead of messes and clutters, and keep our sinks and counters wiped down and dishwashers emptied.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Has it been cold enough to use throw blankets at night? If so, do you need to launder any? I'm washing a cream throw tonight, as it has an accumulation of dog hair and smells a bit doggy and dusty.

  • Do you have orange juice in the house? Milk? Bread?

  • Clean off and declutter mail table if needed

  • Take 5 minutes to sweep or vacuum any floors that need it.

  • Need to use a mud mask or moisturizing treatment on your face tonight?

  • Do any mid-week laundry so you're caught up by the weekend.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Kitchen Appliances


KitchenAid Stand Mixer, in Ice Blue, on Amazon

Thoroughly clean the appliances in your kitchen inside and out. Start with the big ones (oven, stove, dishwasher). Then move onto smaller appliances (coffeemaker, espresso machine, deep fryer, panini grill, waffle maker, iced tea maker, mixer, crockpot, rice cooker, Cuisinart, bread maker, juicer, ice cream maker, etc). Hopefully this won't take too very long - we should be putting our appliances away clean after using them each and every time.

Besides cleaning the appliances on your countertops, don't forget to take appliances out of your cupboards, pantry and closets too. Don't assume something is clean just because it's been in a cupboard. It may have gotten dusty, or not been cleaned thoroughly before being put away.

SAFETY CHECK:

Before cleaning and disinfecting your appliances, check for wear and tear on electric cords.

CLEANING:


Method Home All Surface Cleaner, in Lavender, on Amazon

Run the self-clean cycle on your oven. Run a load of white vinegar through your coffee maker and then another load of plain hot water through it to clean it out. Run a load of white vinegar through your dishwasher, too. Clean your dishwasher filter. Freshen your garbage disposal by grinding half a lemon through it. (Use the other cut half of the lemon to flavor your water or tea today). Clean the vents at the bottom of your refrigerator.

AMOST DONE:

Wipe down your counters again and put the appliances back where they go. See if you can clear off your kitchen counters a bit more - can you find new homes for appliances that sit on the counter but don't get used every day? (Right now I have a rice cooker taking up room on my counter. I tend to think we use it every day, but it hasn't been used in about 5).

Put some thought into getting rid of appliances you honestly don't use. (Tortilla maker? Electric iced tea maker? Ice cream maker? An old Beaba Babycook you no longer use now that your toddler grew up?) You might have a friend or relative who would like to try out the bread machine you've only used twice, your ice cream maker you don't seem to make time to use, or your espresso machine now that you quit drinking coffee.

SCENT YOUR HOME:


Lavender Candle, from Williams-Sonoma

Spritz your kitchen with your favorite home spray. Perhaps you left a fragrant candle burning this whole time while you were cleaning. Or you can boil a pot of cinnamon, water and citrus peels to make the kitchen smell nice. (I love how inexpensive cinnamon at Trader Joe's is, it makes filling your home with cinnamon scents very affordable!)

LOVELY BLOGS: Habitually Chic


An interior designer from New York City blogs about art, architecture, design, fashion, photography, and books. Enjoy her current posts on Spring 2012 fashion inspiration, a chic apartment in Chicago, and a colorful chic triplex. Lots of beautiful visual stimulation here.

http://habituallychic.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes (Bakingdom)

Fall Color and Autumn Leaf Viewing Guide (Forestry/About.com)

Fall Pumpkin Soap and Candle Making (Candles and Soap/About.com)

50 Colorful, Cozy Spaces (Coastal Living)

100 Healthy Soups (Cooking Light)

The Plump Pouf, Decor's Fall Fave (AZ Central)

Quinoa: Tiny Seeds Pack Nutrition (Chicago Tribune)

Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies (Fancy House Road)

Sweet and Savory Recipes Made with Beer (CHOW)

10 Morning Timesaving Tips (Babble)

20 Festive Fall Mantels (Tater Tots and Jello)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Fall Kitchen Prep, Part 3


Rubbermaid Food Storage Set, on Amazon

Today is our last really big push to organize our kitchens for the upcoming fall months. (I still have a couple minor kitchen projects coming up this week though).

I saved the biggest project for tonight - the pantry.
I'm not going to any dinner parties tonight, so I have plenty of time to get lots of work done this evening.

I plan to have a pen and paper ready to inventory my foods before I put them back in the pantry. With the busy holiday season coming up, I want to be very prepared. I don't want to waste money at the store buying supplies I already have enough of at home, too.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to spend any time grooming pets tonight? All three of mine need to be brushed.

  • Do you use felt pads on the legs of your chairs or barstools? If so, do you need to wipe them to get rid of hair? Mine tend to collect lots of dust and pet hair every week.


    Barefoot Contessa Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix, on Amazon

  • As you begin pulling things out of your pantry to sort, grab something you KNOW you've had around a few months, and bake it for your family. We shouldn't pig out on desserts all the time, but the occasional mid-week treat as a surprise is delightful. Perhaps you have a scone mix you haven't made time to bake yet, or a box of brownies, or in my case a box of apple spice bread mix. It will only take you a few minutes to get the mix stirred and the oven preheated, and you can enjoy smelling the goodies bake while you finish the pantry.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Pantry


Kitchen Wrap Organizer, on Amazon

Time to get our pantries organized, food sorted and grocery list created!

LABELS:

I don't want to be too obsessive/compulsive about my pantry, but I've fallen into the habit of using labels and stickers on some of my canned and boxed foods. Most food should already come labeled with an expiration date, but some things don't. It's also easier for my aging eyes to see the dates on the stickers than the little tiny Best By date on some products.

Try pre-writing a few labels (not too many so you don't waste some) marked October 2011. Then you can easily stick them onto your boxed and canned food as you unpack things from your grocery bags.

PANTRY SORTING:

Remove everything from your pantry and any food out of your other cupboards. Wash down the cupboards, and put in new fresh shelf paper if needed. Wipe dust off of cans with a dust rag.

Examine your cans for "Best By" dates. Discard any food you know you won't eat, or anything that's too old. (Throw them away, don't donate nasty or old food to food banks!)

Consolidate foods if you can - I have two storage tubs, each half full, of basmati rice. Time to pour the rice from one into the other, then rinse, dry and use the second tub for something else.

Arrange the food back into the pantry the way you prefer it. Quickly write down the food and quantity as you put each item back into the pantry and cupboards. You'll use this info as you stock up your pantry for the upcoming holidays, festivals and house guests.

SPICES:


18 Bottle Spice Rack, from The Container Store

Pay special attention to your spice collection. Spices do get old quite quickly, much more quickly than you'd think. While they won't poison you, they won't taste as good as fresher spices.

Chefs would tell us to not use herbs out of jars, but sometimes we have to. They'd also tell us to get rid of spices every 3 months, but I tend to go with the 6 month rule instead.

Discard spices you bought once for one recipe, spices you bought on impulse but didn't actually cook with, and spices looking old and cruddy. Open and smell and taste them if it helps you decide which to keep and which to get rid of. What about your paprika - did you buy a huge container, only to find out you only use it for deviled eggs, and you only make those twice a year?


Revolving Spice Rack, from Crate and Barrel

If you've gotten rid of any extremely important spices that you know you'll use frequently, put them on your grocery list for this week. If you are brave enough, toss out ALL your spices and start over with fresh ones. You can get newer, fresher spices at Trader Joe's for $1.50 a jar. It's affordable enough you should be able to budget that in twice a year.

Don't forget to inventory your salt and pepper, too. Do you have kosher salt and sea salt as well as regular iodized salt?

HOT DRINKS:


Halloween Hot Cocoa, at Crate and Barrel

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the teas, coffees and hot chocolate mixes you might have on hand. Maybe you also stock hot cider mix.

We'll all be drinking lots of hot beverages in the upcoming months, I imagine, and we'll need them to serve to guests as well.

If your pantry or beverage storage area is crowded, you'll want to get rid of old drink mixes. And you might consolidate down from several boxes, cans or packages into one box whenever possible.


Pumpkin Spice Tea, by Bigelow

Teas also get less tasty with age, so be firm with yourself and throw out ones you know you've had a long time and nobody ever chooses them. I am going to throw out a pear green tea that nobody here ever drinks.

If you actually find you don't have very much tea, coffee and hot chocolate, add these to your grocery list for the week.

EMERGENCY FOODS:


Cream of Tomato Soup, from Amy's

Look over your canned and boxed soups, boxed mac and cheese mixes, and other "emergency" easy-to-make type foods. Be thoughtful and careful while you take inventory of these. You could end up having soup a few nights in a row this cold winter, so just having two or three cans on hand probably won't do it. Consider stocking chili for heartier meals, and have plenty of pasta and rice on hand.

Do you have foods you can make if the power goes out? Do you have food on hand when guests unexpectedly arrive late at night and you need to cook supper in half an hour? Make sure you have at least one box of Kraft macaroni and cheese - great comfort food for kids and sick people.

BAKING SUPPLIES:


Banana Nut Muffin Mix, by Krusteaz

If you are at all a baker or dessert maker, check over your supplies of flour, sugars, shortening, cake mixes, muffin mixes, scones, brownies, bread machine mixes, raisins, chocolate chips, oatmeal, etc. Be sure you have enough for the upcoming months - dinner parties, festivities, gifts, etc.

FINISHING UP:

After replacing your foods in your cabinets, sit down with something yummy you just baked and a delicious hot drink. Look over your inventory list. Use this to plan your grocery shopping for the next week. If you need to buy too much to spend in one week, make a list for next paycheck too and split the groceries between them.

If you've read through any cooking magazines or cookbooks this weekend, you might have an idea of the kinds of foods you'll be serving over the next month. Pick your recipes and figure out which ingredients for them you'll need to add to your grocery list.

I expect my pantry cleaning to take just over an hour. Afterwards, I'll do my baking and cook my household a nice dinner.

LOVELY BLOGS: Stylebeat

I'm so glad I happened across this blog by a former style editor for "O at Home" magazine and House Beautiful. She finds beautiful home decor inspiration, furniture, and home accessories. Use her extensive tags list to explore her blog further if you enjoy it.

http://stylebeat.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

All Hail Kale (Epicurious)

Butter-Fried Oysters (Seattle Times)

The First Pear Salad of Fall (NY Times)

Man Caves - Men Crave Their Own Spaces (Slate)

Savory Pies and Tarts for Dinner (Martha Stewart)

Yom Kippur: Best Ways to Break the Fast (Epicurious)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Fall Kitchen Prep, Part 2


Pumpkin Loaf Pan, at Williams-Sonoma

I'm doing another kitchen organization project today. It's something I can fit in after I get back from a dinner party I've been invited to. I'll have time to work on the kitchen, and a bit of time to read a book in bed before my 9:30 bedtime.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to process some mail today? Declutter your mail table or inbox where you keep incoming paperwork? Scoop papers off a desk in your kitchen and actually get them sorted? Let's recycle our junk mail and finish paying any first-of-the-month bills that are due.

  • How is your doormat looking? Time to shake it out, vacuum or sweep it? While you're examining it, need to sweep your front porch, patio or steps?

  • Take inventory of pet food - do you need to make a trip to the pet store?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Organization Part 2 - Refrigerator and Cupboards

Tonight, I plan to tackle my two refrigerators (I keep one in the garage in addition to the kitchen one) and my cupboards. Because I keep up with my weekly fridge and freezer maintenance, this part won't take me much time tonight. I'll take just a few minutes to sterilize, sanitize and dry my fridges and freezers. Then after I get back from dinner, I can tackle my cupboards.

Let's make this fun! Put on music in your kitchen - do you have a portable boom box, MP3 player dock, or radio you can drag in? Or do you prefer a television? Though I don't often use it, I keep a television in my kitchen so I can watch cooking shows or listen to the news while I work. I can't see it while I'm working but I can listen. Put on Food Network, a favorite DVD movie, or TV Land for fun (you might catch some I Love Lucy, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie reruns).


Pumpkin Candle, from Sur la Table

Light a fragrant candle, make coffee or tea, or pour yourself a glass of wine. Try to make it fun and the time might just zoom by.

  • Clean out the entire refrigerator and freezer. If you have been keeping up with doing it one shelf at a time on weekends, this should go quickly. Toss old food, wipe and scrub shelves, dry them off, etc. Quickly take inventory of what's left on a notepad you'll carry in your purse, so you can plan what to replace. If you think of something you need, immediately add it to your grocery list.

  • Thoroughly clean the outside of your refrigerator too. Now is a good time to have someone in your household come help you move it to clean and vacuum under it and behind it. Wash the wall behind it and on the sides of it too, if you can get to it. There's bound to be a lot of accumulated dust and grime there.

  • Make some time to think about must-have items for your freezer. For me, I don't let myself run out of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, frozen edamame and frozen corn, or frozen stir fry veggies. I also stock puff pastry and some sort of frozen berry in case I need to whip up a quick puff pastry dessert. Also, I'm never, ever without one or two frozen appetizers like Nancy's frozen quiches and Trader Joe's mushroom turnovers for impromptu cocktail parties.


    Blue Stripe Contact Paper, on Amazon

  • Cupboards - Remove all your dishes (yes, every one of them!) and wipe down your shelves, especially if they have contact paper. If your contact paper needs to be replaced, add it to your shopping list and make this a priority for next weekend.

  • Examine your dishes for dust. If you're like me you have some goblets around for entertaining that don't get used too often. Those can get quite dusty at the back of the shelf. Clean any dishes that need it, then replace in cupboards.

  • Reorganize if necessary, or find new homes for things like paper plates, plastic cups, and paper napkins. I store mine out in the garage in a Sterilite box specially marked for that purpose, so I have more room in my cupboards for my glass and china. I haven't bought paper napkins in a few years, and we're steadily working our way through using them up.

  • If applicable, examine baby utensils, Sippy cups and baby dishes for wear and tear. Discard and replace if necessary. Or get rid of them entirely if your kids are grown and you don't often have little kids visiting at mealtimes.

  • Examine your pans, utensils and cooking gadgets. Toss anything that looks broken, and clean anything dirty. If you can possibly admit to yourself you have a kitchen gadget you will NEVER use, now is a really good time to own up to that and come up with a plan for disposal of that gadget. (Sell on Ebay, put in your Yard Sale box you save in the garage for the spring, give to a friend, donate to charity, or simply throw it out).


    Wilton Halloween Witch Cookie Cutters, on Amazon

  • Cookie Cutters - Do you have an overwhelming amount of cookie cutters that you rarely use? I sure as heck do. Sort and inventory them. Consider storing them in some sort of Ziplock bag or plastic box or container to make them easier to find. It might be helpful to store them along with your cake and cookie decorating sugars and related items. Perhaps that will help us actually use them more often. As always, see if you can get rid of unneeded or duplicate cookie cutters. It's not a sin to throw a $1.75 cheapo, old, rarely used cookie cutter in the trash.

  • Add to your shopping list if you notice anything you are majorly missing that you absolutely need and definitely will use. You probably have all the pans and dishes you need, but how are you doing on plastic storage containers, kitchen sponges, cleaning supplies, dishwashing detergent, kitchen hand soap, etc?

  • Gadgets - Over this next week I'd like to challenge you to get out one kitchen gadget you haven't used in over four months and actually use it. Try a different one every day. Get that breadmaker out, clean it off and actually use it to bake bread. Find your tortilla or quesadilla maker and enjoy piping hot, cheesy quesadillas for a snack. Use your totally unnecessary heart-shaped muffin pans to make muffins today, instead of the normal round-shaped muffin tin you normally use. Use your Cuisinart to actually make fresh salsa, or see if you can get your hand mixer to mix up a nice batch of mousse. Get out your creme brulee ramekins and your blowtorch and actually make Creme brulee and caramelize the top. Why do we have all these gadgets if we aren't going to use them to make our lives even more lovely?

  • Tonight, after you are finished, reward yourself for your efforts with some sort of favorite activity that won't bring you near a kitchen. Take a long bath, watch a movie, read a book, flip through magazines, or goof off on the Web. After you've spent time fixing up your kitchen, make someone else cook for you tonight!

Tomorrow and Wednesday will bring another kitchen project. They'll be the perfect mini projects for a weeknight - just enough time you get things done, but not so much you're exhausted or struggling to finish before bedtime.

If you work a lot today, and a little every week night, your kitchen will be completely ready and organized for the fall and winter months ahead!

LOVELY BLOGS: Our House in Umbria


"Inspired living in Italy." Follow along as Michelle and Lewis build new lives in an ancient country house in the Martoni mountains of Italy. They're currently sharing their autumn chores, showing off their collected fallen figs and plums, and showcasing their friend's beautiful hand made soaps. Check out the roses in their garden, too.

http://ourhouseinumbria.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Almost Vegan Zucchini Bread (Joy the Baker)

Chocolate Kahlua Zucchini Bread (Worth the Whisk)

Caramel Apple Jelloo Shots (That's So Michelle)

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze (Bon Appetit)

DIY Pumpkin Decor (Chocolate Shavings)

Easy Arrange Your Outdoor Planters (They Call Me Jammi)

Easy Sparkly Apple and Pumpkin Marshmallow Pops (The Decorated Cookie Blog)

42 Candy Corn Ideas (Cute Food for Kids)

Gwennie Striped Scarf and the Arrival of Autumn (Project Hallway)

Maple Buttermilk Pie (101 Cookbooks)

Maple Oatmeal Scones (All Things Girl)

Oatmeal for Dinner (CHOW)

Pumpkin Muffins (Lolo Magazine)

Pumpkin Pie Cookies (Bakers Royale)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Fall Kitchen Prep, Part 1


Vine Tea Towels, on Amazon, from Working Class Studios

As the days grow colder every autumn, our appetites and our cooking styles change with the new season. Different types of produce become available at the farmer's markets and grocery stores. We crave different foods - hot soups, baked potatoes, pot pies, casseroles, chilis, crusty breads, pies, apples, pears, and hearty vegetables.

Those of us who live in colder, rainy or snowy, darker climates might find ourselves going out to restaurants less in the upcoming months. We might stay home for quiet meals, or have just two or three other people over for dinner. We might be trying to save money in this difficult economy, by cooking at home or entertaining just two or three guests instead of many.

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

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean, sort, sanitize and organize one shelf, one drawer, or two door pockets in both your fridge and your freezer today.

  • Do you put up Halloween lights indoors, outdoors or both? Is it time to put them up?

  • Make menu plans and create your grocery list for the week.

  • Life can't be just about doing housework or homemaking! Go to a movie tonight after today's project is done; get out a book; go out with friends; take a bath; listen to music; or catch up on your backlog of DVR shows.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Organization, Part 1


Marrakech Oven Mitts, from Working Class Studio, on Amazon

I prepare my kitchen for autumn in manageable chunks. I'll put in a huge amount of effort today, on a Sunday, but leave myself time to relax and enjoy my weekend evening. I'll continue my efforts with about an hour of work each evening this week. I'll make it fun, by turning on the little TV I keep in the kitchen, playing music in the living room, and enjoying tea or wine while I work.

Even if you hate cooking, or if you don't consider yourself a cook, you'll need to get your kitchen in order. That way someone who does the cooking in your household (perhaps your husband, boyfriend, teenager, grandmother, mother-in-law, or good friend who comes over and gets bossy in 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 will no doubt be cold nights ahead when you're too tired to cook and don't want to go out. 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, immediately discarding 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." 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.

  • Put new potholders and new kitchen towels on your shopping list, as needed. Don't forget to grab some next time you are at the grocery store. Many stores are actually carrying attractive seasonal towels right now (as opposed to some of the hideous monstrosities I see at other times of the year), so you should easily be able to find something you like. It's a small expense that makes your home cleaner, cozier and prettier, so don't be afraid to skimp somewhere else in your budget in order to afford $10 worth of new kitchen towels.

  • 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 towels.


    Seasonal Contrast Striped Dishcloth, at Williams-Sonoma

  • Speaking of towels, check your paper towel inventory (if you use those). Be sure you have a good supply.

  • Take a look around your kitchen and see what needs to be done to make your kitchen clean, usable, enjoyable and efficient. Can you declutter items off the counters? Any appliances you don't use every week that you can store elsewhere?

  • You won't want to be sorting and organizing in a dirty kitchen. So today is the day to empty and fill the dishwasher, scrub the sink and counters, wipe down all the cabinet doors, and mop the floor. Empty the trash can and take out the recycling. Wash windows as needed. Sort through fruit bowls and get rid of anything rotting. Wash fruit bowls and replace back on the counter, preferably with fresh fruit you'll pick up at the store today.

Done with your preparations for the rest of this week's kitchen projects? 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 or even just the fall Williams-Sonoma catalog - or 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.

Have fun looking at beautiful things today, because we have a lot of work to do in the kitchen tomorrow and the rest of this week.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Beginning of October


A little plant (is this a Gerbera daisy?) I picked up to give a family member on Family Night

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Pay rent, mortgage or other bills due today

  • Throw something away. Something that's difficult for you to give up. Find something you know you won't use in the next month, the next season, the next six months. Get rid of it.

  • Take a moment or two to flip through your calendar for the next month. Notice any upcoming birthdays, anniversaries or other celebrations you should be part of. Make plans to send cards, buy gifts, send flowers, or whatever else you might want to do to express your appreciation for someone else.

  • Plan your fall and holiday symphonies, concerts, plays, and other things you might attend this season. Look at your budget and see if you can afford to do some of those fun things this fall and winter.

  • Do you need to make any October salon, dentist, dermatologist, eye doctor, vet, or other appointments?

  • Reflect over the last month. Did you have time for yourself, your partner, your kids, friends and family? What will you do differently this month?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Birthday Celebration

I'm helping my sister celebrate her birthday all day today, so I won't be doing any housework. That's ok, because I kept up with my maintenance cleaning so well all week long. I will come home to a mostly tidy house today after my sister's party. I'll hang up my party dress in a tidied, organized closet, and I'll go to bed in a comfy bedroom.