Friday, August 31, 2012

What's Ahead for Lovely Living

Three inexpensive potted plants I picked up from Trader Joe's to decorate my front porch. I smile every time I come home and see them.

September 2012:

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

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

  • Enjoying the last of the warm and sunny summer weather.

  • Fall and early Christmas shopping budgeting suggestions

  • Fall home decorating; fall wardrobe switchover and closet cleanout

  • Fall kitchen organizing, autumn cooking

  • Stocking Up for Fall

  • Stocking your bar for fall parties

October 2012:

  • Halloween shopping, costume preparation, and party ideas

  • Dinner party tips, recipes and suggestions

  • Preparing your guest room for fall and winter holidays


August Comes to a Gentle Close

Green Tea and Lemon Candle, from The Body Shop

August is over, but that doesn't mean summer is gone. Here in Seattle, it's pleasant - maybe not sunny, but dry and in the low 70's. I'm so hoping we have a relatively sunny and warm September and October like we did last year.

Look back over your last three months. Have you fully enjoyed your summer? Did you grasp every opportunity to go outside, savor sunshine, eat outdoors, picnic, attend outdoor concerts, go to an outdoor movie, hike, camp, and spend time in your garden if those are things you enjoy doing?

Did you live a lovely life? I hope so!

If not, you can put some thought and soul searching into what to do differently next year. How will you maximize your happiness and your enjoyment of summer next time around? How will you prioritize your time and resources to take advantage of the warm sunny months?

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

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


  • Fill up with gas for the weekend if you haven't already.

  • Need to run the dishwasher - or unload it?

  • Run through your house quickly whisking it into shape for the weekend. Empty trash and recycling; remove drinking glasses, dead flowers, empty Kleenex boxes, magazines and newspapers from living rooms; wipe down kitchen sink and counters; refill toilet paper holders as needed; sweep kitchen and entryway; shake out throw rugs.

  • Need to do any special grocery shopping for back-to-school meals or for Labor Day weekend?

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

  • Need to return any library books?

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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Maintenance Organization

Bold Boxes, at The Container Store

I'll do just a short quick project today after getting my home ready for the weekend. Then I can go out and enjoy this summer evening.

Pick a drawer, cabinet, shelf, closet or cupboard and remove everything. Clean and dust, sort and throw things away, then replace items in an organized manner. Add to your charity or recycling pile if possible. (I'm choosing one of my bathroom cabinets, which has gotten out of hand lately. It's where I store toilet paper, sunscreen, lotions, a hair dryer, candles, feminine supplies, and my humidifier.) It won't take too long to do this very needed sorting and organizing project, then I can go play!

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Ravissant at L'Occitane

I'm eager to use up (and enjoy) my existing two shower gels that I alternate between every day. Then I can treat myself to L'Occitane's new fragrance, Ravissant. I went down in person to smell it because L'Occitane's scents are hit and miss for me. I either love them immensely or can't stand them. This one has bergamot, Damascene rose, and citrus notes. So refreshing! I'll probably pick up the shower gel but not the lotion, as I already have plenty of lotion to get me through September.

Ravissant, at L'Occitane

LOVELY BLOGS: Yesterday on Tuesday

A pretty, upbeat, colorful blog on crafts, recipes, style, and vintage finds. So much fun stuff to look at here! I've enjoyed her recent posts on autumn banners (the kind you hang around your home, not the kind for websites!); an apple stamped pencil pouch craft; and some inspiring blog-party type "craft soirees" including this lovely one: "Greens and Blues." I can tell I'll be coming back here a lot when I need a little visual pick-me-up.

LOVELY BOOKS: Happier at Home

I am so excited to read the sequel to The Happiness Project. This followup is titled Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life. This time, Gretchen is focusing on her home: making it a calming, energizing place that makes her feel safe. She focused on possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood during a September-May school year, and encouraged her family to adopt and attempt some resolutions too. I can't wait to read this!

Happier at Home, $15.58 on Amazon

LOVELY DISHES: Diane von Furstenberg's Twirl

Repeat after me: "I don't need any more dishes. I don't need any more dishes." Boy, I'm sorely tempted by these. I have some vintage 1960s amethyst glass that's in a similar swirl shape, though I probably wouldn't want to combine the two types on the same table. Still, I often set my table with black and purple dishes and tablecloths, so I'm eyeing this drinkware as a possibility for the future. I'd have to give up a different set of dishes to make room in the cabinets for these though. (They also come in a lovely blue and a hideous 1970s amber).

Diane von Furstenberg Twirl Drinkware, at Bloomingdale's

LOVELY ENTERTAINMENT: How to Train Your Dragon Live

I have three little foster boys who loved the movie How to Train Your Dragon sooo much. I think they'd definitely enjoy seeing this live spectacle. It will be in our area around December 7. I think I'll save up for tickets and make it a priority in my December schedule to attend this with them. I just hope all the noise and commotion of the dragons isn't too scary for the seven year old!


Squash Softies Puffball Crafts, at Spoonful

Chocolate Caramel Sweet Rolls (Lady Behind the Curtain)

A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full (NY Times)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enjoying Summer as Much as Possible

My outdoor living room, made from indoor-outdoor furniture I borrowed from my breakfast nook. Doesn't it look inviting?

I've added an outdoor living room to my outdoor office. This is where I sit to read magazines, browse catalogs, text people, and drink tea while watching my dogs play. I try not to do any work in this area - if I need to write or pay bills or work on websites, I go sit at the nearby outdoor patio table. I want to be able to relax in this space and enjoy the summer.

Are you enjoying summer? Going on long walks, eating dinner outdoors, picking berries, going to the lakeshore or beach, stargazing?


  • Make socialization plans for your Labor Day Weekend. Who are you spending time with? Are you hosting a party, going to someone else's house for a barbecue, picnicing, camping?

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

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

  • Need to rent movies at a Redbox, or return some of your Netflix discs?

  • Take a quick look at yourself today. Need to touch anything up? Nails looking good? Need to remove any chipped nail polish (don't forget your toes?). Need to give yourself a manicure or pedicure today, and possibly shave your legs real quickly? Need to make a color appointment or dye your roots this weekend? Are you wearing something that makes you feel pretty?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Bathroom Touchups

Method Home Bathroom Cleaning Kit

I'm having visitors over on Sunday for Labor Day weekend. While the rest of my house is pretty much "good to go," I do hesitate to invite people to use any of my three bathrooms. So today after work I'm going to do something about that.

It should take less than ten minutes per bathroom (mostly because I'm skipping scouring the tubs and showers, since the guests won't be using them). Instead I'll do a quick swish in each toilet, a wipedown of the toilet tanks, empty the wastebaskets, switch out a handtowel and bathtowel here and there, launder my and bathroom rugs.

Next I'll work on my bathroom counters, sinks and mirrors. I'll tuck my toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and hairbrush out of sight in their proper place in the top drawer.

I'll finish by mopping the three bathroom floors, which won't take long because my bathrooms are so tiny.

Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena Room Freshener

Right before company comes on Sunday, I'll spritz the bathrooms with just a little bit of lemon verbena room freshener.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Citron Honey Coriander

I don't care for the taste of coriander, but I sure love the way it smells, especially when blended with citrus! The summer line from Crabtree & Evelyn includes a bath/shower gel, hand lotion, body lotion, hand wash, and body scrub.

Citron, Honey and Coriander collection at Crabtree & Evelyn

LOVELY BLOGS: A Place for Everything

Here's a nice practical housecleaning tips blog by a woman who lives in a row house in Brooklyn. I've really enjoyed her recent posts on house cleaning strategies for people with ADHD; afternoon tea while in costume; and her efforts to replace a water heater. Not every post here is about housecleaning - you also get a glimpse into this woman's lovely life.

LOVELY BOOKS: The Great Food Series

Check out the absolutely gorgeous old-fashioned, retro covers on these important cookbooks and food reference books! I am tempted to give away my regular versions of these books and slowly replace them with these lovely ones - they'd look fantastic on my kitchen cookbook shelves. I'd want to face them all out though!

The titles in the series include Elizabeth Acton's The Elegant Economist, The Well Kept Kitchen, The Joys of Excess, The Chef at War, and M.F.K. Fisher's Love in a Dish. Fabulous!

The Great Food Series, at Penguin Books

LOVELY SHOPS: Studio Patro

This shop sells lovely cloth tea towels, aprons and market bags. Their textiles are hand printed, with ink on cloth. Their tea towels have leaf patterns, or stripes and dots, or cake+pie sayings, or a rustic look. Clean, simple and quite lovely.


Apple Oat Muffins (Good Housekeeping)

Back-to-School Bake Sale (CHOW)

Cooking With Eggplant (Cooking Light)

5 Lunchbox-Friendly Back-to-School Cookies (Baking Bites)

25 Double Duty Tips for Common Household Items (Good Housekeeping)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Time for Back-To-School Shopping

"Exploring at Sea," the outfit I plan to get for my six year old's first day of First grade

It's time to get the kids ready to start school again! I suspect your kids, like mine, will miss summer's freedom, but secretly anticipate their return to routine and friends.


  • Make time this week for a quiet evening at home; or if you ALWAYS have quiet evenings at home, try to plan one fun evening out this week. Maybe go out to dinner after back-to-school shopping?

  • Do you have any fruit or veggies in the house that will be going bad soon? Slice up the fruit and eat it today, and plan to use the veggies at your next at-home meal. Check your bread to see if it's moldy (we can't eat a whole loaf fast enough in this house, sadly). While you're at it, do you need to check the expiration dates on the milk and eggs in your fridge?

  • Have some cranberry juice - it's good for preventing uncomfortable bladder situations.

  • Need to bathe or groom any pets this week?

  • If your kid takes a lunch to school, have you planned out their lunch menus? Grocery shopped for after-school snack items?


Owl Lunch Bag, at Paper-Source

This time of year makes me quite nostalgic for my school and college years. Now that I have four foster children, I can indulge in back-to-school shopping again. Though I'm on a tighter budget than I'd like, it's still fun. So many cute clothes, adorable lunchboxes, colorful pens and inviting notebooks!

Scented Highlighters, at Paper Source

The only thing I don't like about back-to-school shopping is that I'm not ready to think about fall yet. All the back-to-school ads I see in magazines and on TV make me start thinking about autumn and all the lovely things that come with it.

I adore fall, but right now I am so enjoying the warmth and sunlight of summer. I feel privileged when I can leave my windows and screen doors open to let fresh air in all day long. I love running out of the house in sandals, not worrying about grabbing a coat on the way out. I'm entertaining outdoors, and walking my dogs without freezing or getting rained on.

If you haven't done your school shopping yet, it's time to get started. Target, K-Mart, Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, Office Depot, Staples and other stores with office supplies are having amazing sales right now. Just about every department store has huge clothing sales, too.

It's very crowded in the school supply aisles of all the stores right now. You might want to try going in the morning, rather than the afternoon if possible; or later at night after dinner.

Don't have any kids of your own, but havee a tiny bit of room in your budget? Buy fun little gifts for your nieces and nephews, who are probably eagerly anticipating their return to school. Pick up little glittery pencils, tiny sets of markers at the Dollar Spot at Target, or an inexpensive set of stickers. Mail them as a surprise. It's a little way you can be supportive of their educational efforts, from afar.

If you have a close friend or relative who has more than one school-age child, you can offer to babysit one of the children while the parent takes the other out shopping. I know I would have loved not having to have my little brother tag along while my mom took me back-to-school bra and panty shopping!

The Prismacolor pencils I'm coveting, on Amazon

I usually also go "school supply" shopping for myself a little bit - I stock up my home office with fun colored papers, glittery notebooks, and pretty pink portfolios to keep my torn-out recipes in. Hopefully I can encourage myself to use my supplies to write letters and to organize my office better. I no longer buy colored pens, Sharpies or gel pens - I have more than enough to last me several years, due to past pen shopaholic problems!

Owl Outfit, from Oshkosh B'Gosh

You might not particularly have time to shop today, but make a plan, get organized, take inventory of your children's clothing and existing school supplies, and check everything against the teacher's supply list.

Remember that you aren't just shopping for clothing, crayons and pencils. Your child will need a backpack if last year's is worn out or filthy; lunch box or lunch sacks if they don't eat at a school cafeteria; snacks for their lunches and afternoons; and breakfast cereal for the mornings.

Your child may have some sports-related clothing and equipment they will need for their extracurricular activities, too. Your older children may need to purchase software or a memory stick for their computer. Your teenagers may need a gas card, a lube job for their car, and other travel-related expenses. Your college student will need their dorm room furnished or updated.

Does your child need a haircut before school starts? Enough days ahead so that the "new haircut" look has time to go away? What other appointments do you need to make while it's still summer and your child's time is more flexible. Doctor appointments? Vaccinations? Dentist visits?

If you don't have children, use today's project time to organize your home office or computer area.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Decluttering Day

Colorful storage footlockers from The Container Store


  • Need to change or scoop cat litter? We sure do - both of our cats are turning up their noses at both of our litter boxes.

  • Made Labor Day weekend plans yet? Inviting people over, or going somewhere yourself? Finalize your plans and let people know what's going on.

  • Take inventory of your paper supplies: How well are you stocked up on toilet paper, paper towels, Wet Wipes, Kleenex and Puffs for the upcoming cold season? Or do you have too many of such supplies, and you need to remind yourself not to buy any more for a couple months?

  • Wipe down microwave inside and out if needed. This took me less than 30 seconds, so I should do it more than once a week! This is a nice weeknight chore you can get over with quickly.

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

  • Have you eaten fresh summer berries this week?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Decluttering Day

Today I am taking a walkthrough in every room of the house, decluttering as needed. I just took several magazines to the recycling box. Next I'll empty wastebaskets, move my stack of mail off the coffee table onto my desk, and carry stray dishes and water glasses to the dishwasher. As I walk through the house, I'll put various items I find back into their proper homes in closets, cabinets, and on shelves. Mystery items will get thrown out or recycled, to the horror of my teenager.

The dining table is clutter-free, and I'm proud I am good at keeping it that way. My outdoor patio table (where I work on sunny days) needs incense and spent matches removed, and dead candle ends thrown out.

Next I'll head into my downstairs living room for damage control. Remote controls need to be put back in their holding tray; there should only be one pen and notepad down here; two DVDs need to be reshelved; and a couple drinking glasses need to go to the dishwasher.

In the laundry room, I have a load of white towels that need to be folded or hung up and put away.

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

Tonight while I watch TV, I plan to sort through a box of unused stationery. I hope to write a couple letters, but I really need to give this stationery away or recycle it, I have far too much of it.

What little steps can you take to declutter your own home tonight after work?

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Absolut Cherrykran

I'm thinking this is the perfect drink for easing out of summer and into autumn. It's flavored with cherry (which makes me think of summer) but also with autumn fruits like plum and cranberry. Yum! Picking some up next time I visit the liquor store.

Absolut Cherrykran at

LOVELY BLOGS: The Bennet Sisters

This blog celebrates all things Pride and Prejudice. Currently blogging about the author of Fifty Shades of Mr. Darcy; a review of Dear Mr. Darcy; and a review of Death Comes to Pemberley.


Now that I'm doing better at carefully sticking to a thriftier budget, I'm doing my nails at home more often. No more paying for manicures! (I occasionally still can't help but treat myself to a pedicure for the relaxation factor). I'm tempted to pick up a bottle of Scotch Naturals (eco-friendly, non-toxic, and water-based) to try. Of course, since this is Decluttering Day, I have to promise to give away or throw out two of my existing nail polishes to make room for this. (I think I won't actually be wearing a couple of the weird blue shades I picked up a few years ago). I love so many of their colors here, I am not sure how I would pick one. But I definitely would stick with the pink or red tones so it's something I'd wear every time.


Fava: Greek Yellow Split Pea Puree (Worth the Whisk)

Outside-the-Box Breakfast Sandwiches (CHOW)

Pickled Corn (Bon Appetit)

Quick Pickled Corn (Martha Stewart)