Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The End of February


Spring Fling Truffle, at Moonstruck Chocolate Company

Happy Leap Day!

February is ending. How did you do with your goals this month? Did you remember birthdays, pamper yourself a couple times, go to any parties, throw any parties yourself, read your book club book, exercise, spend time with your family and pets, spend time with friends, create something, keep your home clean and lovely? What will you work on improving in March?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Pay and mail any bills that are due tomorrow.

  • Set aside some time tonight to read a book or your favorite magazine. Winter is perfect for catching up on enjoyable reading.

  • Spray your sheets with fragrance - I have a nice chamomile sheet spray that doesn't make my sensitive skin itchy. It just makes my bed smell so nice when I finally get to come curl up at bedtime.

  • Reach out to any distant relatives you haven't managed to make time to talk to this month.

TODAY'S PROJECT: A Quiet Evening


I can feel myself getting stressed and a bit depressed, so I'm staying in for a quiet night tonight. Part of living a lovely life is knowing when you need a break and allowing yourself to take the time to do that.

I'll make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for me and my teenager tonight - a nice hot comfort meal. I'll take a hot bath and settle in with the book I'm currently reading - Midnight in Austenland. Hopefully a cat or two will come snuggle nearby while I enjoy my quiet time.

LOVELY BLOGS: Thrifty Decor Chick


"Sharing simple, inexpensive ways to decorate your home." You can follow along as Sarah decorates and improves upon her home. Lately she's made curtains; she's remodeling a new laundry room; she invites readers to share peeks at their closets; and shares how she redid her pantry to get rid of wire shelving. The back archives of posts here are immense and extremely valuable. I'm going to bookmark this and check her related posts whenever I start a new home project.

http://thriftydecorchick.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

It's Time to Bring Back the Pressure Cooker (Slate)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Last Week of February


Birdhouse Cookies, from Dean and Deluca

What shall we do with our last week of February? Spring is coming slowly, and it's not yet time to put away winter.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Start the day off by finding two things to throw away. Old cosmetics? A mismatched sock you despair of finding the mate to? Recycle a magazine you intended to, but know you won't get around to reading?

  • Take inventory of your firewood, fireplace matches, and kindling supplies. It's still cold at night - would your family members like to come home to a cheerful, cozy fire tonight?

  • How are your supplies of coffee, tea, hot cocoa, hot cider mix and other warm wintry beverages?

  • Are you hosting any upcoming parties or festivities? A dinner party, Easter party, child's birthday party maybe? If so, time to get out a pen and paper to make notes and lists and get your party organized!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Coat Closet


Rain Jacket, at Eddie Bauer

When guests visit, do they have somewhere to hang their coats? They wouldn't in my house, as the coat hook on my wall is full of purses and dog leashes; and my coat closet is cramped and in total disarray.

Tonight after dinner, I'm going to put on a silly TV show (maybe Frasier) on in the background, and then tackle my coat closet. I'll remove everything from the closet, vacuum the carpet, then sort and organize things before I put them back inside. I expect this project to take not much more than twenty minutes.

I've already discovered a lightweight purple jacket I'd forgotten about. Now I'm trying to remove things that logically don't belong in the coat closet. It's ok for a couple game boxes to sit up on the shelf, and for gloves, scarves and knitted hats to be here. But why did I find an old fashioned video camera and video tape in here? And a part to a vacuum I haven't owned for five years?

I'll have to decide if I really use my Swiffer sweeper enough to keep it in the closet - it keeps falling out and annoying me. Am I just keeping it around because it's long shape makes it difficult to throw away in my trash can?

Tomorrow I'll be reaching into an orderly closet when I grab my coat before going out on errands!

LOVELY BLOGS: Everyday Occasions


Jenny is a home entertaining and lifestyle expert. Her mission is to help readers make everyday occasions (family meals, intimate dinners for two, and cocktail parties) special. Her blog posts fall into the categories of recipes, baby, travel, home, and entertaining. Come peek at her beautiful recent posts, including some DIY flower arrangements for a baptism; a lovely baptism brunch; and a Valentine's Day table setting.

http://jennysteffens.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 24, 2012

Frosty Friday

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Get ready for the weekend! Fill up your car with gas, visit an ATM for cash, stop by a Redbox for a movie, drop Netflix returns into your outgoing mail, stop by the library to pick up or drop off books.

  • What are you wearing tonight? Put some extra time and thought into your outfit - look fun and fabulous tonight! I'm struggling with how to look cute and still stay warm in our 38 degree weather.

  • Tidy the house so you come home to a clean cozy home tonight after your evening's entertainment. Sweep front hall if needed; vacuum living or family room as needed; empty or fill dishwasher; wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters; replace kitchen towel and bathroom hand towels with clean ones; empty trash cans.

  • Treat yourself to some fresh flowers to enjoy over the weekend.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Family

I refuse to spend my entire life cleaning - it's important, and I do some every day, but it's not the center of my life. Instead, the center of my life is family. No cleaning projects tonight - I'll be visiting relatives who are here from out of town for just one day, and going to Family Night tonight at another family's home.

LOVELY BLOGS: Surroundings


A beautiful and inspiring home decorating blog by interior designer Linda Merrill. She's recently been posting about furnishings in Downton Abbey, and an interesting article on follies.

http://chameleon-interiors.blogspot.com/

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Do Three Things for Yourself


Do three nice things for yourself today. You'll know what they should be. For me, I'm taking an extra long shower; stealing 30 minutes to leisurely read a magazine; and taking extra time at lunch to make my favorite sandwich - and savor it - instead of just gulping down a bagel at the computer.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Have you put away your Valentine's decorations? Time to get out your Spring, St. Patrick's Day or Easter themed decor, if any?

  • We're almost through the workweek! Anything you need to do so you're entering the weekend with a clean home? Vacuuming, mopping the kitchen floor? Sweeping?

  • Make social plans for this weekend so you and your friends have a bit of notice and advance planning.

  • Will you be eating dinner on a clean tablecloth tonight? Be sure to change yours if it is soiled or crumby.

  • Plan a special Friday lunch for your kids (if you are the one who packs their lunch boxes.) It will be easier to surprise them with something special tomorrow if you plan ahead today.

  • Anything you need to pick up from the dry cleaners tomorrow? Maybe on the way to or from work? If so, drop off any clothing that needs to be cleaned, since you're already there.

  • Need to pick up any milk, produce or fruit juices on your way home today?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Do Three Things for You

Do three things, even if they seem selfish or indulgent, to treat yourself today. Maybe not pigging out on ice cream if you're worried about your weight, or neglecting tasks that will make you feel guilty later. Just do something you enjoy, something that will make you feel nice, something to honor yourself.

LOVELY BLOGS: A Cozy Kitchen


Arianna's Los Angeles-based blog features beautifully photographed recipes, often involving breakfast foods. Recent posts include corn carrot pancakes, chocolate banana bourbon crepes, and maple bacon cake doughnuts.

http://acozykitchen.com/

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thank Yourself Today


Easter Bunny Truffles, from Moonstruck Chocolate

Let's face it - Most of the time, mothering and homemaking is pretty much a thankless job. Even if you have the world's most unselfish children, and a tender, communicative, appreciative husband or partner, you just aren't going to hear "thank you" as often as you deserve it.

After you serve everyone a particularly delicious meal, you might hear kind words about your cooking, or a thank you for the tasty food. Once or twice in your marriage your husband might let you know how much he appreciates coming home to a clean house, or always having clean laundry to wear. In your dreams, you might overhear him telling someone how lucky he is to come home to a comfortable, well appointed house he can be proud of.

But there are so many little things you do every day that nobody else but you probably notices.

The windows are always clean, because well, you clean them every month. The bathrooms never look dirty - did little magical elves come in last night and scrub the toilets? Wow, there's always lots of good things to eat in the pantry - some fairy must have gone to the store and made thoughtful selections. And do you think anybody but you will notice that recently all the light switches in the house were de-fingerprinted, and if you run your hand along the top of the wood trim over your doorway, it won't come away dusty? Did pixies come in the night and dust the baseboards? Nobody else probably notices, but you can see them gleaming.

THANK YOURSELF


Jacquard Floral Bath Towels, from Pottery Barn

Go ahead today and give yourself some mental pats on the back for your hard work. (Quietly, no muttering under your breath!) Walk through a room you've worked on lately that you're proud of. Sit in one of your cozy, restful rooms. Open your linen cupboard and look at your carefully arranged stacks; peek in your well-organized pantry and admire your food stocks. Peep into your children's rooms (only if they're clean though) to see the safe haven you're providing for them. Put your feet up for a few moments, relax with tea and a magazine or catalog, and honor yourself and your home efforts.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Empty or fill dishwasher if needed. It feels so nice to have cupboards full of clean dishes; or an empty kitchen sink because you've put everything in the dishwasher.

  • Sock sorting day! Grab a sock drawer that needs it and start sorting. If the drawer belongs to someone else other than an infant, give that drawer to that person and race them with your own drawer. Give up on any mismatched socks, tossing them into the rag bin. Your family likely has more than enough matching pairs to get you all through the next year without you needing to hold onto holey socks or socks with no mates.

  • Are you hosting an Oscars party this year? (The Oscars air on Sunday, February 26)? If so, have you sent out invites, set your menu, made your lists for shopping and cleaning?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Guest Room Checkup

Remember how hard we worked back in November to get our guest rooms ready for the holidays? Well that was over three months ago, and my guest room is a bit dirty and messy again.

I don't have any overnight guests coming that I know of - perhaps just three little cousins over the weekend. But life is full of surprises, so I want my guest room to be ready to go.

I'm washing windows, laundering the curtains, dusting the nightstand, dusting the lamp (and bulb), making sure there is a coaster for a glass of water, putting out a fresh box of Kleenex, dusting the baseboards, vacuuming, laundering the sheets and bedding (they're dusty from sitting out for over a month unused), removing a box of keepsakes that should be stored in the closet, and removing clutter that wandered in here.

I'll finish by spraying a "fresh linen" scented room spray in the room.

LOVELY BLOGS: A Good Appetite


This blog is by a couple in Minneapolis. They blog about interesting, tasty looking foods, such as pancakes with brie and cloudberries; potato, onion and endive tart; and something called drunken pig chocolates.

http://agoodappetite.blogspot.com/

LOVELY COSMETICS: Estee Lauder's "Mad Men" Line


Estee Lauder is launching a line of "Mad Men" show-inspired cosmetics just in time for the new season in March. So far the line only includes a lipstick and a creme rouge (both are colors I absolutely love). I hope they add a few more options.

Mad Men, at Estee Lauder

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras


Red Peacock Feather Mardi Gras Mask, on eBay

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • How are your supplies of shampoo and conditioner doing? I like to keep a spare set in the house during wintertime so I don't run out during a snowstorm or a flood when I can't leave the house. I just put my last Herbal Essences conditioner into my shower, so its replacement is now on my shopping list for tomorrow.

  • Have time to jot a quick note or set out some special stickers to slip into your child's lunchbox tomorrow?

  • Celebrate Mardi Gras tonight in your own way, even if you can't go to a party or because you have to work tomorrow. Sip a tasty drink or eat a naughty chocolate treat. It's Fat Tuesday!

TODAY'S PROJECT: All Over Cleaning

Today almost every room in my house needs something done to it. Here's what my list looks like:

  • Kitchen - empty dishwasher, scrub kitchen sink and floor, empty trash can, take out recycling, water houseplants

  • Living room - throw out vase of dead flowers, vacuum, sort mail on mail table

  • Bathroom - wipe mirror, empty trash, scrub sink

  • Bedroom - clean cat pee (Sigh), recycle the magazines I read last night

  • Family room - sweep dog hair

  • Laundry room - remove stockings I hung to dry, hand wash sweater

LOVELY BLOGS: The Galley Gourmet


Nicole blogs about the tasty things she cooks in her Illinois galley kitchen. Recently she's posting about her homemade beignets, her recent Louisiana-style Sunday supper, her lovely Mardi Gras King cake, and her Cajun chicken and sausage jambalaya she made recently. I love that she cooks seasonally and according to themes and holidays!

http://www.thegalleygourmet.net/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Baked Beignets with Chicory Coffee Ssauce (Serious Eats)

New Orleans Beignets Recipe (Brown Eyed Baker)

Taking Care of the Little Things


Carbon Monoxide Detector, on Amazon

Even the most well-maintained home has a list of several small, annoying things that need to get done. If we let all of these pile up, soon we are left with a disorganized home, a disappointing day or two spent doing annoying errands, and maybe even a sense of dread.

Today I'm working on a few "little things" that need doing. It will feel so good to have them checked off my list.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • When's the last time you sanitized your telephones, keyboards and remote controls? Take a couple quick minutes to grab a Clorox wipe and wipe down your landline, cell phones, Blackberries, keyboards, video game controllers, and keyboards.

  • Check over your kitchen gloves, bathroom gloves, sponges and scrubbers. Anything getting worn out or holey? Need to toss anything and buy new supplies?

  • Take just two minutes to grab a sponge, a cloth and your stainless steel cleaning spray and really make your kitchen sink shine (if it needs it).

  • What are you doing for fun this weekend? Make plans with your friends and family before the weekend begins.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Taking Care of the Little Things


Kitchen Fire Extinguisher, on Amazon

What's on your list of little (yet necessary) things that you need to do around the house or get done for yourself? Take some time today to either get these things done, or make a concrete plan to get them done over the weekend.

Some of your things might require taking time off work (ie, waiting for an electrician, the cable guy or a plumber), so plan far ahead. If you have a child home sick from school anytime this winter, use that day at home with them to schedule last-minute appointments, if possible, with carpet cleaners, plumbers, home maintenance professionals, etc.

What's on my list:

  • Fix a broken shelf on one of my bookcases.

  • Send in my payment to get my tabs renewed

  • Drop off my dry cleaning

  • Stop by a pet store to find a dog backpack so my dog can haul his own water on our long walks

  • Replace two extremely ugly forced air heating vents with new brass ones. This is a bit difficult as they're not a standard size. I'll have to take them personally to Home Depot and see if they can help me. My home will look better with two brand new shiny brass heating vents instead of the old dirty ugly beige ones.

  • Replace my 20 year old fire extinguisher with a new one.

  • Buy and install a carbon monoxide detector

  • Replace my extremely old smoke detector

  • Replace the soiled moldy old shower curtain in the guest bathroom.

What's on your list of annoying little things that need to be done so your house isn't slowly crumbling down around you?

LOVELY BLOGS: Chateau & Bungalow


This decorating blog is run by an interior design company in Rhode Island. The blog features interesting finds on Etsy; inspiring posts such as Monochrome Living in a Multi-colored World; and intriguing posts like Collectible Iconic Designs.

http://chateauandbungalow.wordpress.com/

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Don't Be Afraid To Use Your Most Beautiful Things


I own many beautiful things, but also some items that are more functional than beautiful. Lately I've been reminding myself to use and enjoy my beautiful things. Today I'm not just slopping my morning tea into a mug I just microwaved. Instead, I'll pour it into a delicate Art Deco teacup I bought on eBay a few years ago and display proudly in my curio cabinet.

Later today when I go out to do errands, I won't just throw on my boring errand clothes. I'll put on a cute skirt and some new leggings to keep me warm in our cold Seattle weather. I'll take the time to select some pretty earrings, instead of going bare-eared.

Are you using and enjoying your most beautiful possessions? Or are they gathering dust while you use boring, ugly blankets, dishes, table linens, towels or clothing instead? Let's appreciate what we have, take good care of our lovely possessions, and add beauty to our lives wherever possible.


Waterfall Blue Stemware, from Pier 1

Tonight, don't be afraid to put your best goblets on the table, even if you're just serving water in them. Put Grandma's quilt at the end of your bed - that's what she made it for. Read bedtime stories out of your antique copy of Grimm's Tales, instead of out of a paperback or on your Kindle or Nook. Cherish and honor your beautiful possessions by allowing them to be used and enjoyed.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance: Clean one drawer, one shelf or two door shelves in your fridge and freezer both. Doing this each weekend means your whole fridge and freezer get cleaned out every month!

  • Grocery shop if needed. While you're out, see how many errands you can get out of the way in one trip. That way you can go do other fun things or return home and relax at the end of the day. Bank? Post office? Library? Costco? Dry cleaning? Hardware store or Home Depot? Dropping off clothes or books at a donation box? Returning borrowed items to friends' houses?

  • Clean out your car if needed. Mine needs me to wipe the dashboard, vacuum the floors quickly, de-clutter the trunk, and wipe dog kiss marks off the back seat windows.

  • Don't just spend the weekend camped in front of the TV, enjoyable though that is! Plan something fun to do tomorrow out of the house, whether it's elaborate and expensive or simple and free. We're going for a long walk in the woods with our dogs today, everyone bundled up warmly.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Dusting


Lemon Pledge, at Pledge.com

Normally I don't like to dust on a Sunday - I prefer to reserve Sundays for much bigger housecleaning projects. Dusting is great for quick weekday projects. But with our doors open so often for the dogs, the house gets super dusty, and I can't stand it anymore! Today's the day.

This morning after breakfast I'll thoroughly dust the dining room, mail table, and upstairs living room. I won't just be swishing a feather duster around - I want to do a thorough job.

Besides dusting the furniture (and removing books from the bookshelves to dust under them), I'll be dusting the window sills and wood window frames.

I'll make my task more pleasant by burning incense and watching the news while I work.

When I move downstairs to dust the family room, I'll light the gas fireplace to make it cosy, and put on one of my Tivoed TV shows. The family room should take less than ten minutes to dust, and the downstairs bathroom cupboards about a minute, so I'll be able to relax and finish whatever show I started.

LOVELY BLOGS: Modern Mrs. Cleaver

"Old fashioned living with a modern spin." There are fancy recipes for wine poached pears on creme anglaise, simple recipes like Reuben melt with a twist, and recipes with an international flair, like coconut green curry chicken stew.

http://modernmrscleaver.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Sauteed Chard with Garlic and Lemon (Worth the Whisk)

Sweets for Coffee Lovers (CHOW)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday, Deep in the Heart of Winter


My snowdrops have come up! I'm so grateful to whoever planted these in my front yard so many years ago

It's a new week, and I'm trying to have a good attitude about the rain, cold and winter. I do love winter, so I will try to appreciate some of the nice things it brings. Still, I'm excited to see snowdrops appearing in my yard. Daffodils will be next!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Are you ready for whatever you need for your Valentine's Day tomorrow? I can't find a red dress to wear, and I need to wrap the presents I'm giving a friend and my sister.

  • Have you checked your child's online grades in the last couple weeks?

  • Can you think of any relatives you should give a cheerful phone call to tomorrow? In my case, my grampa is probably going to be missing my grandmother tomorrow. She died a year ago and this would have been their 70th Valentine's Day together. I bet he'd love to hear from his favorite granddaughter - so I'd better remind my sister to call him (hehe).

  • Do something to add love or color to your house today. Whatever that may mean to you and your family.

  • Any leftovers from the weekend your family should eat up or toss out tonight?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Winter Homemaking



I picked up these unusual flowers for $2.49 each at Trader Joe's today.


These are called Calceloria.



I'll put them in my kitchen, which features orange, rust and yellow colors.

Today, do something to take care of several of your possessions that make winter tolerable. Dust off a bookcase; wipe off your rain boots; clean out the fireplace; dig old wax out of your votive holders and install fresh new candles; sort out your tea cupboard; launder a fluffy throw; wipe off your crockpot; scour your baking sheets; clean out the cupboard where you store your baking supplies.

A little time and care spent now ensures you can continue to enjoy winter's comforts while still awaiting the delights of Spring.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Way the Cookie Crumbles


Bridget's beautifully clean, inspiring baking and cooking blog. Recent posts I've enjoyed include yogurt hollandaise (that looks so good!); her recipe for sausage and spinach stuffed shells; her gorgeous heart-shaped chocolate sugar cookies; and her marinated roasted tofu will probably make an appearance on my dinner table very soon.

http://www.crumblycookie.net/

LOVELY FASHION: Kate Spade's New Japanese Floral Pattern


I can't really afford anything from Kate Spade, but I don't feel bad about it. I'll just treat myself to five minutes of browsing the lovely new Japanese floral pattern introduced this month. It's being used on jewelry, purses, clothing, and shoes. So modern and fresh looking!

Japanese Floral Harmony Patterned Items, at Kate Spade

LOVELY FOOD: Cremes Parisiennes


I'm always on the lookout for an unusual dessert gift to send to friends or family. I don't want to send a boring box of chocolates, a stereotypical gift of boxed cookies, or the like. Here's a lovely and unusual gift you can order shipped to your next relative with a birthday, or for an Easter celebration. I've never tasted fondant creams, but I'm willing to risk that these are tasty enough to surprise someone with.

Cremes Parisiennes, at Dean & Deluca

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cottage Pancakes (101 Cookbooks)

Hazelnut Hearts (Good Housekeeping)

Lasagne Recipes for Everyone

Urban Farming: Don't Count Your Eggs Before They've Hatched (NPR)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Freshening Up Winter


A lovely, simple, $3.99 bouquet from Trader Joe's now adorns my upstairs living room

Today I'm doing a few small things around the house to freshen it up. Not quite ready for Spring or Spring Cleaning, I still want a sense of cleanliness, crispness and fresh air.


Chantal Yellow Teakettle, from Crate and Barrel

I might want to accomplish a couple "new beginning" type projects too - obtaining a set of new pillows for my bed, perhaps; finally replacing a broken teakettle with a new colorful one; and a bright, cheery colored throw pillow for the couch that sits in my kitchen.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:


Oahu Pineapple/Cilantro Scented Candle, from Crate and Barrel

  • Shake out throw rugs, doormats, and any other rugs you have at the entrances and exits to your home.

  • Light a nice fresh-smelling scented candle in your home tonight. Added "freshening" points if it's a cheerful color.

  • Do your kids have their classroom Valentines ready to go? Do you need to pick up supplies today so you can help them write or craft them over the weekend?

  • Are your pets eating and drinking out of clean bowls today?

  • Need to return any Netflix DVDs so you'll get more in the mail next week? Want to stop by a Redbox to pick up a movie for the weekend before everyone rents all the good stuff?

  • Need to catch up with a load of laundry so you don't go into the weekend with huge piles of laundry to wash?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Freshening The Home


Green Flowers Pillow, from Pier 1 Imports

Do some things today to make your home seem fresh, clean, new and refreshing to be in. Some suggestions:

  • Use your favorite room spray - but sparingly - in each room of your home.

  • Shake out doormats and entry rugs.

  • Use carpet freshener (if you don't mind using chemicals) on your living room carpet.

  • Turn down your heater and open windows for a few hours, if it's warm enough where you live. (Seattle had two days over 60 this week so I was delighted to have fresh air in the house).

  • If you use Febreze or other fabric refreshers, spray your curtains, throw rugs, throw pillows, and fabric couches as applicable.

  • Buy a bouquet or two of spring flowers - tulips, daffodils, etc. to display on your dining table and in your living room.

  • Make a pitcher of fresh iced tea. It's probably warm enough in your house to enjoy a glass without freezing yourself. It will make you think of spring and summer.

  • Cook something lighter tonight, or serve an ice cold salad.

  • Swap out your bedsheets for a clean, lighter, crisp set.

  • Add slices of lemon or cucumber to your family's water glasses at dinner tonight, if they enjoy such things.

  • Empty all the trash cans and recycling bins throughout your house.

  • Water and snip houseplants as needed. Pick up a cheerful, colorful flowering plant next time you see something you like at the grocery store, too.

  • Change out any dead light bulbs, dust off lamps and lampshades. Dust your dining room chandelier if needed.

  • Wipe any grimy windows - letting maximum light into your home is crucial this dark time of year.

  • Set your table with colorful or pastel spring placemats if you already own such.

  • Wear a light colored sweater today - I tend to pile on too many dark colors in my winter clothing this time of year.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: L'Occitane's New Cherry Princess Line


Yesterday I treated myself to this new Cherry Princess hand cream for my purse. I enjoy this fragrance so much more than their disappointingly weak Cherry Blossom line. I'm saving up to add the Cherry Princess shower gel and body lotion to my bathroom stocks, too.

Ceriser Princesse, from L'Occitane

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Raspberry Rose Hibiscus Tea


This is Republic of Tea's spring seasonal offering, with packaging clearly suggestive of Valentine's Day. This caffeine-free tea features raspberries and rose petals, as well as Nigerian hibiscus. If only the petals could stain the tea water pink!

Raspberry Rose Hibiscus Tea, from Republic of Tea

LOVELY BLOGS: AmyBites


Amy's blog features so many interesting recipes that I'm eager to try. They look doable too, at least by me - some recipe blogs are so busy dazzling readers with their gorgeous photographs and gourmet foods, they aren't realistic for busy home cooks like myself to use for week night meals.

Some recent posts here include pizza-stuffed waffles, spicy chickpea burgers (I'm vegetarian, so looking forward to trying this one), banana muffins, and turkey Sloppy Joes.

http://amybites.com/

LOVELY HOME: Spring Placemats


Rona Sage Placemat, at Crate and Barrel


Magenta Napkins, at Crate and Barrel

Yesterday I made an executive decision to replace my tired old Pier 1 spring placemats with a new fresh set. I don't feel like I "splurged" on these, as they'll get used often for years to come. Still, it wasn't cheap to buy six placemats and six napkins all at the same time. This is an investment in my spring breakfasts, brunches, springtime lunches and dinners for years to come.

Clutter prevention principles tell us to throw out (or give away) something for each new item we bring into our homes. So I obediently have given up on my tired old wrinkly, stained beloved Pier 1 spring placemats I've been using for an astonishing 11 years. They're in the trash where they belong (not donated, as they're in bad condition). I'm thankful for the many years use I got out of them, and looking forward to serving meals on my new cream, sage and purple berries placemats for years to come.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Carnival, Cajun Style (Epicurious)

Mardi Gras Recipes (Rachael Ray)

Mocha Scone Nibbles (Worth the Whisk)

9 Chocolate Beers to Drink for Valentine's Day (CHOW)

Valentine's Day Cupcake Recipes (Martha Stewart)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

First Day of February


Meri Meri Valentine's Cupcake Decorating Kit, on Amazon

Happy St. Brigid's Day!

LOVELY HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS AND FUN:

Imbolc - February 1 and 2

Candlemas - February 2

Superbowl Sunday - February 5

Valentine's Day - February 14

President's Day - February 20

Mardi Gras - February 21

Easter - April 8

Which holidays and celebrations are you looking forward to taking part in? Are you hosting any parties or events?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to buy any stamps? Many of us are paying bills online now, but you still need paper stamps to mail attractive handwritten letters and personalized notecards.

  • Review January in your mind. How did you do on your New Year's resolutions (if you made any?) Have you been eating well, exercising, making time for friends and family, spending quality time with your partner, kids and pets? Made time for charity, stuck to your budget, read a book or two you enjoyed, kept up with the news? What will you do differently in February?

  • Look over upcoming birthdays in the month of February. Write cards, arrange to have gifts or flowers sent.

  • Pay bills, mortgage/rent, etc.

  • Make upcoming dentist, doctor, veterinarian, and salon/haircut appointments for the month for yourself and family members.

  • Mid-week laundry done? Do you have clean clothes, empty laundry baskets and a clean, tidy laundry room?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fireplace


Accent Fireplace Screen, on Amazon

Each winter finds me using my fireplace quite often - probably every night. Not to heat my home, but to make it cozy and cheerful. My foster daughter and I study and eat dinner in our upstairs living room by a cheerful fire. Later in the evening, though the fire is dying by then, I enjoy a cup of chamomile tea in front of the fireplace, pets clustered around me snoozing!

Today my project is to make sure my fireplace and surrounding area are in great condition for my next fire this evening. I'll clean out the ashes, vacuum the carpet around the fireplace, and wash the glass fireplace windows. Next I'll dust off the fireplace tools, and straighten my fire logs as they rest in their holder. I keep a basket of small firestarters and kindling wood next to the fireplace as well, and that will need tidying and vacuuming underneath too. The tiles in front of the fireplace and surrounding the opening need to be wiped down.

Cleaning the glass fireplace windows is the most time consuming part, as they get quite smoky. I have to be quite careful as I recently broke one of the panes of glass during a cleaning. When I'm done washing the windows, I'll load wood into the fire ready to light later tonight. Next I'll replenish the wood, kindling and matches I keep next to the fireplace. I'll take inventory and probably buy some more Duraflames and firewood at Home Depot today during my errands.

I will replace the two burned out burgundy candles on the mantel with two fresh new bright cheery red pillars, for the upcoming Valentine's Day.

Do you have a decorative fireplace screen that needs to be cleaned off as well? I use fireplace screens in the summer or when guests bring their small children over.

LOVELY BLOGS: Anatomy of a Dinner Party


This sophisticated blog covers restaurants, parties, recipes, travel, and fun finds. They're currently blogging about Mardi Gras, setting up the bar for a Superbowl party, and Superbowl decorations. I look forward to seeing their next ideas for celebrations!

http://anatomyofadinnerparty.com/

LOVELY HOME: English Cucumber


I'm freshening my home for Spring with the new English Cucumber products from Williams-Sonoma. The hand soap and hand lotion await guests in my guest bathroom; the dish soap is being put to use in my kitchen already; and I'm enjoying burning the boxed candle in the kitchen while I work. The fragrance makes my home seem crisper and cleaner than it is in reality - nice trick!

English Cucumber Collection, from Williams-Sonoma

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cheesy Sausage Penne (Cassie Craves)

Easy Weeknight Vegetarian Main Dishes (CHOW)

Five Dollar Dinners - Southern Beans and Rice (The Godless Housewife)

Mardi Gras Around the World (Epicurious)

The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World (Flavorwire)