Saturday, March 31, 2012

End of the Month and the End of Spring Cleaning

It's the end of the month. Look back over your March, reflecting on how you did on your personal goals. Did you accomplish things you set out to do? Did you create a happy balance between work, family, friends, kids, pets, and yourself? You ate healthily, treated yourself on occasion, exercised, stuck to your budget? Tried new things?

Don't beat yourself up over areas in which you haven't met your goals. Be realistic about it, and then tell yourself you'll do better in April!


  • Use up, eat and enjoy any fruit in your fruit bowl. Around here nobody else other than me will eat fruit unless it's peeled and sliced for them, so I spend time every afternoon preparing ready-to-eat fruit to set out on the kitchen counter.

  • Water houseplants as needed, and turn them around so the other half gets extra light this week.

  • If you're a member of a book club, are you caught up with the book for this month?

  • Make note of any Spring Cleaning tasks you might not have gotten to this month, and put them on your to-do list for April.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Tidying Up for Guests and Packing for My Birthday Weekend

The Ralph Lauren jersey dress I bought myself for my birthday this week!

I'm going to Las Vegas in a couple days to celebrate my birthday. (My 43rd, if you are curious!) It's been very difficult to arrange, since I now have a teenager I'm responsible for and three boy cousins I'm heavily involved in raising. I'm so grateful to the family members who are helping make this possible by babysitting, being emergency contacts, helping me get errands done, and to my cousin who is going on the trip with me.

Tonight I'm packing my bags, doing last minute errands and paperwork, and cleaning my house so I come home (hopefully) to a restful place.

LOVELY BLOGS: House of Earnest

"Interiors and entertaining for the impassioned life." Erin's beautiful blog on home decor, design, and entertaining. Recent enjoyable posts include Candy-filled Linen Bunnies, her house envy of a four story house in Ohio; Spring's Sweet Scents, and an update on her light, bright and airy dining room. Superb photography here!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Drop Off Day

The hideously unattractive picture above is actually of my car crammed full of things for Drop Off Day. I spent just two hours today pulling unwanted things from my garage, piling them into the car, and driving around town to drop them off.

Today I dropped off:

  • Two bags of clean, barely worn clothing at the clothing donation box

  • A brand new, never used Hello Kitty toaster; two baby swings, still in working condition, at the Goodwill van

  • Two cat carriers (why we had four carriers when we only have two cats, I have no idea) at the Seattle Humane Society

  • Six bags of plastic bags at the plastic bag recycling bin at Fred Meyer

  • Two working televisions at the PC Recycle place. (One TV was monstrously big and too old for Goodwill; the smaller one has sat unused in my garage for six years).

  • A stack of gently read paperback books to the book donation bin

It feels SO great to have a Drop Off day, getting rid of things I don't need and won't use again, sending them to good homes (but only things in nearly new and good condition of course) I managed to clear out a nice 4x4 section of the garage that now has nothing in it.

Now the key to maintaining this less-cluttered garage is to stop bringing unnecessary things home whenever possible. Shop less, buy less, and only acquire things I need!

I challenge you to schedule a Drop Off Day for yourself next weekend. It's super easy, you can probably do all the driving in an hour or a bit less, and you'll feel great when you get home to your less-cluttered home.

LOVELY BABY: Gymboree's Strawberry Line for Spring

I think I'm not going to be able to control myself next time I wander into Gymboree if this Too Berry Cute strawberry-themed line is still stocked. It's not warm yet enough in Seattle to dress baby girls in most of these outfits. But come a few sunny days, I'll sure be tempted to pick up an outfit or two for a friend's adorable daughter. Check out the set's matching strawberry crib sandals!

So Berry Cute, at Gymboree

LOVELY BLOGS: Moveable Feasts

"Feasts for the palate, the eye and the mind." This lovely cooking blog features delicious sounding recipes like Orange Yogurt and Polenta Cake, Jasmine Shortbread Sandwiches with Grapefruit Curd, and Yogurt Flatbreads with Barley and Mushrooms. You can tell this blogger not only reads a lot of cookbooks, but actually utilizes them too!

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Paddywax's New Wanderlust Collection

I'm taking one of Paddywax's new travel tins with me on my birthday trip to Las Vegas. I can't decide between Paris, scented with lavendar and mimosa, and London, fragranced with tea leaves and bergamot.

The Wanderlust Collection, at Paddywax


Easter Pancakes (Natalie's Sentiments)

Just for Fun: Lorax Easter Egg (Craftberry Bush)

Lemon Yogurt Cake (One Perfect Bite)

The Lorax Pancakes (It's My Life)

Shaved Asparagus Offers a New Twist on a Classic Spring Vegetable (Fine Cooking)

Spring Asparagus Salad (Binny Cooks)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Cleaning Kids' Rooms

Rugby Duvet Cover, from Pottery Barn Kids

Today I'm encouraging my teenager to Spring Clean her room. I probably won't have much luck getting her to sort anything, organize anything, part with anything or even clear a space in the carpet. But I can try. See what you can get your kids to do to improve their own rooms today, too!


  • Still the rainy or snowy season where you live? Check to be sure you have Kleenex packets in your car, purse, and coat pockets. Same goes for your family members.

  • Need to schedule a gutter cleaning appointment? Is it time to have moss scraped off your roof?

  • Should you do any mopping of floors, laundry, or vacuuming?

  • Have you pampered yourself in a bubbly hot bathtub lately? Taken the time to light candles, fix yourself lemon ice-water, and set out a magazine with pretty pics to enjoy while you bathe?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cleaning Kids' Rooms

Early Bird Owl Alarm Clock, at Land of Nod

I no longer have a nursery in my house. I turned it into a home office the weekend my teenager came to live with me. This is the room I would clean today if I were spring cleaning my kids' rooms. I'll be cleaning my home office this afternoon and desperately trying to encourage (without forcing or fighting about it) my teenager to clean her room too. (Wish me luck!)

Your kids should be cleaning their own rooms if they're old enough, but Spring Cleaning is a more advanced task that Mom needs to do a lot of. Have your kids pick up their rooms and leave their beds made on the day you are doing your Spring Cleaning. It should take just two hours per room if you and your kids keep their rooms maintained. This is easily something you can get done after dinner and before bedtime.

Here's my checklist:

  • Move furniture and vacuum room thoroughly. Sprinkle carpet freshener if needed.

  • Wash down walls.

  • Wipe baseboards (a great job for kids - they're closer to the ground!)

  • Dust furniture and return it to its place.

  • Clean out closet. Remove everything, sort and inspect, return things that fit and will be worn. Donate, throw away or recycle the remainder depending on condition of the clothes and shoes.

  • Dust light fixtures, check for damaged cords, replace any burned out light bulbs.

  • Wipe wall switches and electric switch plates.

  • Dust ceiling fan, if any.

  • Strip beds and launder everything including mattress pads. Evaluate if it's time to buy new fresh sheets or bedding.

  • Test fire/smoke alarm and replace batteries.

  • Flip mattresses.

  • Dust and declutter nightstands and bookshelves.

  • Sort dresser drawers and dust the top.

  • Empty trash can - put trash can on shopping list if there isn't one in the room.

  • Wash windows.

  • Launder any floor rugs and curtains as needed.

  • Sort toys - is there anything you can donate or should throw out?

  • Put everything away and neaten the room back up.

If your child has helped you eagerly with their room cleaning, reward them with an extra story or longer book at bedtime tonight.

LOVELY BABY: Cherry-Themed Shoes for Spring

Momo Baby Soft Cherry Shoes, on Amazon

Each season I try to sneak a little room in my budget to gift a friend's baby or toddler a seasonal pair of shoes. Right now as I'm looking out at the blossoming cherry tree out my window, I'm in the mood for cherry-bedecked shoes for little ones!

Eggi Soft Cherry Shoes, on Amazon

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Twinings' New Herbal Teas

I really need to add some more herbal teas to my tea cupboard. I am lucky enough I can get away with drinking caffeinated tea until about 8pm (one and a half hours before my bedtime). Not everyone can do that, so I do need to stock more decaf teas to offer guests after dinner. I'm excited to try the new herbal teas from my favorite tea company, Twinings. They just introduced a bedtime blend, a Wild Berries blend, plus a summery Pomegranate and Raspberry and an enticing sounding Camomile, Vanilla & Honey. I think I'll pick up the assortment box so I can try all the flavors without overfilling my small cupboard I keep teas in.

New Teas from Twinings USA


"Where practical meets pretty." This is a nice lifestyle blog with a good balance of decor, design, and recipe posts. Recent posts include Styling Ideas for Family Photos, a recipe for sour cherry oatmeal cookies with pistachio, and snippets of decor inspiration.


Chocolate-Cherry Cookies (One Perfect Bite)

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake (Bake or Break)

Coconut Cream Marshmallow Eggs (A Farm Girl's Dabbles)

Creamy Orange Spiked Wheatberry Pudding (Running to the Kitchen)

Mocha Rum Bundt Cake (Baker Street)

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars (Crumbs and Cookies)

Salad for a Crowd (Coconut & Quinoa)

Strawberry Bread (Feral Kitchen)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Last Week of March

Chocolate Bunnies, from Williams-Sonoma


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

  • Choose an evening or two this week to stay at home, an evening to invite friends or family over, and an evening to go out if possible. A balanced social life is a happy social life.

  • Go for a walk around your neighborhood looking for evidence of spring. Don't forget to take your camera with you!

  • Speaking of cameras, have you had professional Easter portraits taken of your children? Whether you take them to see the Easter Bunny at the mall, drop into a Wal-Mart photo booth or take them to a professional photographer, please consider making this a priority. It's a gift to your children's grandparents, yourself, and your children's future adult selves.

  • Speaking of Easter photos, do you have your children's Easter outfits purchased yet?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning the Master Bedroom

Candied Fruits Home Perfume, at L'Occitane

Today I'm focusing on cleaning my bedroom. I'll be returning it to a haven of relaxation, rest, and coziness. I'm not just cleaning, I'm creating my nest, my safe space, my reading nook, my costume drama home movie theater, my space to give myself manicures and sugar scrubs and beauty treatments.

Want to peek at my to-do list?

  • Move all furniture, then vacuum under it.

  • Replace furniture, dusting each piece as I go.

  • Take down curtains and drop them off at dry cleaner. Remind self not to walk around naked in front of the bedroom windows tonight and tomorrow!

  • Wash windows, paying special attention to the dirty window jams.

  • Clean light fixtures and lamp shades, inspect for damaged cords.

  • Wipe down baseboards, light switches and electric outlets.

  • Dust television, sanitize phone.

  • Clean metal floor heat register with Brasso.

  • Wash walls.

  • Sort out nightstands, keeping only what's necessary and used often.

  • Sort bookshelf and the pile of books and stationery next to the bed.

  • Flip and rotate mattress.

  • Launder dust ruffle, mattress pad, duvet and cover, as well as sheets.

  • Inspect pillows for soil and comfort level. With nice new pillows just $15 at Costco, I throw out old pillows every 3 years, and replace the ones in my bedroom about every year. I'll convert my current pillows to guest room pillows and throw out my 3 year old guest room pillows.

  • Make a list of anything that needs to be repaired - mouldings, baseboards, walls, door, drawer handles, book shelves, etc. Put this on to-do list for the handyman.

  • Finish by spritzing the room with my favorite Candied Fruit home spray.

LOVELY BLOGS: Memorie di Angelina

"Italian home cooking made easy." Recent tasty-looking recipes include Risotto Primavera, Zuppa Inglese, and Gratineed Fennel.


I love these little activity books, easy to slip in your purse or laptop bag. They're great for travel, or for whiling away some time while waiting for an appointment or at your kid's school. There's Sudoku, crosswords, word searches, number puzzles, Hangman, brain games, and puzzles based on literature such as Jane Austen and William Shakespeare.

I love the beautiful decorative covers! These make great stocking stuffers or extra gifts tucked into birthday gift bags, too.

They're also sold on Amazon.

Pocket Posh, at Andrews McMeel Publishing


Cookbooks Used to be for Cooking, Now They are For Looking (Boston Globe)

Deviled Cranberry Creme Eggs (NPR Food)

Dimpled Apple Cake (One Perfect Bite)

Easter Brunch (Food & Wine)

Five Kings, One Chicken: Game of Thrones Dinner Party (Epicurious)

14 Festive Mini-Appetizers (Southern Living)

How to Host an Easter Egg Hunt (Epicurious)

How the Hunger Games Costume Designers Let Me Down (Slate)

An Interview with Mad Men's Costume Designer (Slate)

Making Easter Candy with Jacques Torres (Epicurious)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Cleaning; Garage, Basement or Attic

The view of my neighbor's cherry tree, during yesterday's beautiful spring afternoon

Today my Spring Cleaning project is to clean and organize my garage. It's half full of family keepsakes and kitchen/home decor storage, and half full of merchandise for my eBay business. No room for a car in here, but I've never liked parking in garages anyway. Too dark and creepy!

My goal today is to touch every box, peeking in to see exactly what's in there, then sort, organize, sweep and clean.


  • If you didn't clean out your fridge yesterday during the kitchen project, do you need to clean out one drawer or one shelf today to keep on top of things?

  • Are there any relatives you need to call tonight? Sunday nights are usually good times for that sort of thing.

  • Pamper your hands after you're done with cleaning projects today. Use a sugar scrub, give yourself a manicure, freshen polish, and apply lotion as needed.

  • Know what meals you're sending with your kids in their lunchboxes this week?

  • Set out the clothing you'll wear to work tomorrow so you won't have to rush so much in the morning.

  • Laundry done for the weekend? Folded and put away?

  • Can you book some down time for yourself tonight, to relax, close your eyes, read a magazine, or watch a half hour comedy?


Smart Store System Tote, at The Container Store

I'm a packrat but not a hoarder - I can throw things away, but I do cling to things with sentimental value. Dolls my mom made, bulky photo albums, two boxes of my old record collection, and the collectible dolls my mom and I gathered together are all things I am not able to get rid of. (I've managed to give away two dolls recently though!)

I also store seasonal decorations (two boxes for Halloween, one for Fourth of July, and six for Christmas), kitchen appliances, extra canned food, and some belongings of my teenagers in the garage.

Today I will try to throw away, give away or recycle as much as possible, then organize the rest.

I'll pay special attention to my business merchandise - I need to take inventory and reorganize it so it takes up less space.

It's going to be a long day!

I challenge you to spend today cleaning your basement, attic, garage, or wherever you store your "stuff."

LOVELY BLOGS: Wearing History

Here's a lovely fashion and costume history blog by a woman living in San Diego. She also has a pattern shop and sells vintage pieces and vintage knitting books in her Etsy shop.

Recent posts I've enjoyed here include her showing a 1910 white blouse from her collection; a darling pic of her wearing a vintage red dress for Spring; and a collection of family photos from the 1900s showing what real people wore.


Easter Crafts (Family Crafts/

In Pursuit of the Perfect Tomato (National Gardening Association)

Inside the Home that Inspired the Web Site Houzz (NY Times)

Lemon Cup Cupcakes (Cupcake Bake Shop)

Shaking it Up With the Classic Toy Etch-a-Sketch (NY Times)

10 Shortcuts to Beat Parental Stress (Parents/Huffington Post)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Kitchen

An orange begonia I picked up at Trader Joe's to cheer up my kitchen for Spring

Today I'm tackling the Spring Cleaning of my kitchen. I'll be thorough, but I won't stress about it or agonize over it. I can make today fun by watching cooking shows on my kitchen TV, playing fun music, drinking delicious iced tea, and switching to my favorite white wine later in the afternoon as I work.

Keep in mind that in doing our Spring Cleaning, we're not just housekeeping. We're homemaking. And as the kitchen is the heart of the home, today's is the most important spring cleaning project of all!


  • While in the kitchen for your spring cleaning project, take inventory of your cleaning supplies, dish soap, hand soap, and dish towels. What do you need to add to your shopping list?

  • Look around your kitchen. Do you see anything broken that needs to be repaired, or broken and needing to be thrown out? Soiled, limp, ugly dishtowels that should be replaced with inexpensive colorful ones from Target or the like?

  • Are your family members sleeping on clean sheets tonight? Start a load of laundry and take a break later from the kitchen to throw things into the dryer.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning the Kitchen

Babycakes Pie Pop Maker, at Sur la Table

You may remember that in the fall we worked on fall kitchen preparations and it took four days. That's because I did those days mostly on weeknights. This time I'll get the whole kitchen all done in one long Spring Cleaning day.

Want to peek at my to-do list?

  • Wash windows, inside and out

  • Take down kitchen curtains, launder them, and re-hang

  • Wipe down walls; dust baseboards

  • Mop floors thoroughly

  • Have my teenager help me move the oven and refrigerator to sweep and mop behind and underneath them

  • Thoroughly clean appliances inside and out - refrigerator, oven, microwave, toaster oven, dishwasher, and rice cooker. If you keep up with weekly fridge and freezer maintenance, the fridge shouldn't be overwhelming today.

  • Wipe and dust outsides of all cabinets

  • Remove dishes from all cabinets. Check for wear and tear, throw out any cracked or broken dishes you don't enjoy using, and try to de-clutter. Wipe down cupboards and replace dishes in an organized fashion.

  • Shine floor heat vents with Brasso; do the same with the four door handles on my kitchen's two doors

  • Dust the two wood doors in the kitchen

  • Vacuum cat hair off the four cushions in the breakfast nook

  • Dust wicker loveseat, chair and ottoman

  • Dust and clean the two bar stools; replace the pads on their legs, which are hairy right now.

  • Reorganize drawers, utensils and kitchen tools.

  • Wipe down counters and try to re-home as many items as possible so I have more counter space clear.

  • De-clutter front of refrigerator, prioritizing just a few favorite photos and drawings, preferably recent ones.

  • Organize kitchen calendar, desk, whiteboard, telephone, phonebooks, emergency phone number list, and any other organizational and office tools kept here.

  • Finish by making yourself and any helpers a tasty snack, pouring a delicious beverage, and sitting down to relax with your favorite cooking magazine.


A "cool finds" blog that covers fashion, home, mobile phones, gadgets, beauty, and pets. Recent fun posts include Blush Up Your Kitchen with the Hello Kitty Pink Microwave, M.A.C.'s Cook Gourmet line of makeup; and for the geek girls, a Star Trek the Motion Picture phaser replica. I love coming back to this site every day to see what fun new things they've found.


Kosher-for-Passover Breakfast Recipes (CHOW)

Sesame Almond Brown Rice Balls (101 Cookbooks)

Stocking Your Baker's Pantry (Baking/

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Family Night

Blooming Wreath Flower Kit, from Paper Source

Tonight I'm going to Family Night, eating pizza with cousins, watching a kids' movie, baking a cake with the kids, then watching a grownup movie if the kids fall asleep (Let's hope!) So my Spring Cleaning tonight will be nonexistent. There's always the weekend - Family Night comes first!


  • Gas up your car if needed, drop off outgoing mail and return any DVDs, stop at an ATM for cash

  • Take 60 seconds to grab a broom and sweep your kitchen, entryway, front porch and any other floors that need it.

  • Spruce up for the weekend - empty or fill dishwasher as needed, wipe down kitchen sink, empty trash cans, take out recycling, change pet litter, locate remotes and game controllers that have wandered away and replace them on your coffee table, etc.

  • Do your hands and nails look clean and pretty for the weekend? Remove polish, add polish, file and shine, or give yourself a manicure as needed.


I won't be doing any major housecleaning projects today. Instead, I'll tidy up a bit so when I come home from Family Night I won't stress out about the condition of the house. I know I have two big Spring Cleaning projects coming up this weekend!


Chelsea used to be a floral designer. Now she shares her inspirations and her work as a commercial floral artist and prop stylist. You'll find gorgeous photos here. Check out her recent post on an easy Spring bouquet.


Bedtime Beauty (My Little Apartment)

Best Spring Pasta Recipes (Busy Cooks/

Natural Easter Egg Decorations (Epicurious)

On Beds and Perfectionism (The Nesting Place)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Carpets

Spring Daisy Flower Kit, from Paper Source

Today I'm getting my carpets cleaned. Now that my family room has been redone in laminate flooring, I only have carpets in the living room, hallway and bedrooms.


  • Do something today to bring spring into your home. Switch out your tablecloth or towels, get out your spring bedding or curtains, spritz a spring-scented room spray, or put out a vase of colorful fresh flowers.

  • Take two quick minutes to peek at your vitamins. Check the expiration dates, see if there are any vitamins you should add to your shopping list, throw out any expired vitamins, and make sure your vitamins are accessible so you'll remember to take them every day. Same goes for baby aspirin if you're a daily aspirin taker.

  • Check your family's supplies of deodorant, shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. Do you need to add anything to your shopping list? Or do you need to throw out and recycle several containers that only have half an inch left and obviously nobody is going to use the last bit?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Carpet Cleaning

Today the carpet cleaners are coming to do my living room, bedroom, office and hallway. With two large, muddy-footed dogs running around the house all winter, I've had to budget for more frequent carpet cleaning. We're now having it done every 4 months instead of every 6. It helps that I've put laminate flooring in downstairs so there's one less carpeted room to have cleaned!

Though the carpet people will move light furniture for you, I prefer to just move everything myself, so half an hour this morning was spent getting everything possible off the floor. My bedroom lamps are now standing in the bathroom, my nightstands are piled on beds, stacks of stuff from my office have been relocated to other areas, and the coffee table is perched precariously on the kitchen counter. It's funny how one's household turns into utter chaos in the process of getting everything to look better.

My project tonight is getting everything back in place after the carpet dries. With my carpets clean and lovely again, my house will be restful and pleasant and I'll feel I can throw a dinner party again!

Do you need to schedule a carpet cleaning appointment, or rent a carpet cleaner at your grocery store and do it yourself? Any spots on your carpet you need to work on with a carpet stain remover?

LOVELY BLOGS: This is Glamorous

A design and lifestyle inspiration blog with an international flair. Currently spotlighting a Hong Kong city guide; sharing storage decor inspiration; and featuring lovely spring shoes. The photos here are gorgeous - I'll bet you can tear yourself away from Pinterest for half an hour to browse here!


How to Cook Asparagus (Local Foods/

Rye Crumble Bars with Jam (Orangette)

Spring Clean your Garden (Gardening/

Ten Spring Wardrobe Must-Haves (Chatelaine)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Linen Closet


  • Have your plans set for Spring Break, if yours is still upcoming?

  • Have you purchased, and served, some of spring's delicious bounty? Snap peas, asparagus, new potatoes, green peas perhaps?

  • Next time you're waiting for an appointment, or waiting to pick up your kids from something, clean out your purse. I can't believe how fast receipts accumulate in mine!

  • Need to send out any birthday cards or gifts to friends or family with birthdays in the last part of March?


I had a busy day working, running errands, transporting kids to appointments, and exercising my dogs. After an easy-to-cook dinner of lentil soup, bread, apples and cheese, I have a couple hours until bedtime.

I bet I can get my linen closet sorted out in under an hour, which leaves me plenty of time to enjoy a hot shower and a nice long reading session in bed tonight.

Part of the ease of this is because I did such a good job sorting and organizing my linen closet last fall. However, as you can see in the above picture, it needs to be reorganized. I'll remove everything from every shelf, inspecting my placemats, tablecloths, towels, curtains, washcloths and other linens for wear, tear and usefulness. If I find any non-seasonal linens I can't remember using since fall, I'll put them in a separate pile and try to decide if I truly need to keep them. (I haven't used my Spring tablecloth in over 9 months, but I'm about to put it on the table tomorrow so that doesn't count!)

I own more than ten tablecloths but I have only one dining table. Surely I have enough tablecloths for each season. I use one for Christmas, one for Spring, two pretty brocade ones for Asian dinners, two family traditional cloths for Family Night, one for fall, and a couple others for entertaining. If I can get rid of one unnecessary tablecloth, it will free up room in the linen closet.

Any linens that I notice a musty smell or dust on, I'll launder tomorrow. I like to keep my linens "ready to go" in the closet. You never know when I'm having an overnight guest, a dinner party, or when I'll take a whim to swap out some curtains for a different look.

A difficult task for me is going to be deciding whether to get rid of my decorative napkin holders. I truly haven't used any in about a year. Perhaps the use of napkin garnishes is outdated and I need to donate these.

Next time I go to the linen closet for a clean towel, fresh bedding, or placemats, I'll be selecting them from a nicely organized, prettily folded, yet still-overcrowded closet!

LOVELY BLOGS: The Heritage Cook

Here's a huge resource from Jane in California: a cooking blog with tons of recipes. The archives include casseroles, parties/entertaining, salads, sides, grains/legumes/pasta, dairy-free, comfort foods, snacks, soups, vegetables, and so many other categories. I've placed this in a special bookmarks folder so I can easily come back to it for reference when I need help with meal planning and execution.

Recent posts include Easter Eggs: How to Cook them, Naturally Dye them and Devil them; Hoosier Chocolate Cake with White "Gravy" Icing; and Corned Beef and Potato Soup with Irish Soda Bread Rolls.


An Experiment in Cooking with Wine (Epicurious)

Egg Hunt Party Ideas (Martha Stewart)

Farro Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Currants and Mustard Greens (Alexandra Cooks)

Top 10 Spring Crockpot Recipes (Busy Cooks/

Vegetable Garden Guide: Prep Your Garden (Martha Stewart)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy First Day of Spring

Decorative Bunny Centerpiece, from Cost Plus World Market

Late last night while we slept, was the vernal equinox. Today is the first day of Spring. I'm hoping it's another sunny day here in Seattle - it will encourage me to do my work faster in hopes of taking my dogs to their sunny dog park for a run!

Do something to celebrate Spring today. Go for a walk, wear a pink flowery dress, buy tulips or daffodils for your home, or nibble on an Easter treat.


  • Is it time to change your home heating system's filters? Mine is getting dirty, so I'm off to Home Depot after work today.

  • Time to connect your garden hoses back up?

  • Sweep front porch and entryway if needed. I worked so hard on my spring cleaning projects yesterday, I neglected normal household maintenance. I don't like stepping on grit or dirt when I'm walking barefoot on my wood floors!

  • See if you can work $3 or $4 into your budget this week for some bright daffodils to perk up your living room.

  • Go outside your house, standing as far out as the street curb. Look at your house carefully. Do you see any problems? Is your paint holding up well? No cracked windows, no burned out light bulbs? Any gardening issues you need to put on your to-do list? Weeds growing in cracks in the driveway? Moss that needs to be removed? Make a list of things to take care of so your home is beautiful from the front as well as on the inside.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Laundry Room Spring Cleaning

Bamboo Laundry Basket, from Cost Plus World Market

Here's a room of my house that gets used every single day. It's a combination laundry room, bathroom, dog food and toy storage room, and cleaning supplies storage area. Our dogs' water bowls are stored in this room, and their constant running in and out to drink (and slop water) means the laminate floor gets wet and dirty often.

The washer and dryer are seemingly running all day long, and we usually aren't perfectly good about putting away our clean laundry or the stockings we've hung to dry.

My project tonight is to thoroughly overhaul, clean and sort the laundry room and its cupboards. I expect the project to take just an hour.

I'll need to scrub the toilet and sink (even though I cleaned them thoroughly a week ago during my bathroom spring cleaning - they could sure use cleaning again), mop the floor, dust the baseboards, tidy the candle storage cupboard, sort the dogs toys, empty the trash can, and wipe the bathroom mirror. I'll have my teenager help me move the washer and dryer to sweep behind them, and wipe down the walls.

Next I'll sort and organize my laundry detergents and the toilet paper and paper towels I have stored in this room.

Last, I need badly to sort the cleaning supplies cupboard. There's nothing I can throw out, but I can note if I have too much of a product (does owning 3 cans of dusting spray mean I'm not dusting often enough, or buying too many products?) or need to add anything to my shopping list.

Caldrea Ginger Pomelo Linen Spray, on Amazon

How are you doing on laundry detergent, stain remover, linen spray for your sheets and towels to smell nice, fabric softener if you use that, dryer sheets, etc?

Tomorrow when I do laundry (a load of darks, a load of whites and probably some towels) I'll be doing them in a sparkling clean, organized laundry room - although by then it will probably have some more dog drool on the floor! That's life.

LOVELY BLOGS: Martha Stewardess

"Living at 34,000 Feet." This flight attendant shares news from the world of professional air travel. I find her articles really fascinating, from 10 Ways to Avoid Being That Annoying Airline Passenger to Yes, Your Airline Seat May be Bedbug Infested and A Survival Guide for Flying Village-Class." She's also recently posted about 5 smart phone apps you should fly with, and breastfeeding on planes while making your child wear a boobie beanie. If you travel more than occasionally, I bet you'll really enjoy this blog.

LOVELY FASHION: Kate Spade Debut Watch Collection

Kate Spade has just introduced a line of watches for the first time. There are many different styles, but my favorite are the Carousel bangles. However, I sheepishly have to admit I'm not great at telling time on analog watch faces. I need a digital watch, so I probably won't be springing for any of these lovely watches. I'll just sigh and enjoy looking at these pictures instead.

Watches, at


Carrot Cake Pancakes (Smitten Kitchen)

Crispy Popovers with Dark Chocolate Irish Creme Sauce (She's Becoming DoughMesstic)

Easter Around the World (Epicurious)

How Organizing Your Home Saves You Money (Good Housekeeping)

Is It Safe to Play Yet? Going to Extreme Lengths to Purge Household Toxins (NY Times)

Kalamata Olive Savoury Shortbread (Raspberri Cupcakes)

95 Favorite Spring Recipes (Brown Eyed Baker)

Persian Jeweled Rice Recipe (NY Times)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Living Room

Peter Rabbit Easter Cupcake Kit, on Amazon

Yesterday we worked on spring cleaning our family room. Today we'll work upstairs, on the lovely light-filled living room we like to spend time in during early mornings and Sunday afternoons.


  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - We can't neglect our weekly fridge maintenance just because we're doing a big spring cleaning project today!

  • Take half an hour or so tonight to phone a relative you need to catch up with. Let's give them our full attention - no texting, watching TV, cleaning or flipping through a magazine while we chat.

  • Plan menus and make grocery list for the upcoming week

  • Need to run to Home Depot, Costco, Target or the like today after you're done with your cleaning projects?

  • Set aside some time to relax after your hard work.

  • Give your hands a nice moisturizing scrub and lotion treatment tonight - they might need it after all your hands-on work this weekend.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Living Room Spring Cleaning

Crochet & Crewel Floral Pillow, from Pier 1 Imports

We might not have a very time-consuming a project today, as this upstairs living room is kept in pretty good condition. We use it to entertain, sitting guests down in front of a cozy fire, and serving appetizers and cocktails on the coffee table. I keep it ready to go at all times - you never know when you're going to throw an impromptu party!

Today we're moving two couches, the coffee table, two side tables, the mail table and a TV stand in order to vacuum under them. I'm taking down the curtains to send them to the dry cleaner (something I do once a year). We'll wash the big bay window and two side windows, and we'll carefully get up on ladders to dust the wood trim around the windows.

Next up: baseboard dusting, dusting of all the furniture, fluffing of cushions and pillows, laundering throw blankets, and sorting the magazines sitting on the coffee table.

I'll hand launder the decorative Spring placemats I keep on the coffee table and side tables, then set them out to dry while I dust the light fixtures. (I dusted them last week, but they already need it again).

Some of the walls in this room need to be washed down, and while we're at that we can wipe the light switches and electric outlets.

Tonight when we relax, we'll do it upstairs in our clean living room, fire burning merrily away, snacks and a fun beverage on the coffee table. I'm already thinking ahead to the next lovely party I'll throw!

LOVELY BLOGS: Lady Behind the Curtain

"Bringing the simplicity of entertaining into your life." Recent posts include Root Beer Cupcakes, Pear Dutch Pancakes, and several ideas for Easter entertaining.

LOVELY DISHES: Yellow Beehive

I adore this sunny, spring-themed set of tea things from Sur la Table. There's a teapot, matching sugar and creamer, and matching serving plate. This would work well even in late summertime tea parties or outdoor dinners.

Yellow Beehive, from Sur la Table


Decorating for Easter (Martha Stewart)

Kahlua Chocolate Chip Brownies (Worth the Whisk)

Moroccan Mint Tea and Pastries (Epicurious)

Recipes for Passover (Epicurious)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Family Room

Egg-Shaped Easter Candles, from Williams-Sonoma

Today we're moving furniture to do a thorough cleaning on the family room. Since this is the room that features our biggest TV and our surround sound system, a gas fireplace and our comfiest couches, you can imagine how often this room gets used. Therefore it's more worn out, dirty, and tired looking than our other rooms. It's also the room our dogs spend the most time in, so there's more mud on the floors and more pet hairs, despite my daily sweeping.

So this room will take more time than some of our other projects. It's a perfect project for a Saturday.


  • Energize yourself with a brisk walk today before getting started cleaning.

  • Make a special breakfast for you and your helpers - but one that doesn't make too much of a mess, as you have other things to be cleaning up today!

  • Plan a special reward for yourself and any helpers who work hard today. A movie later tonight, root beer floats, a family game played around the dining table?

  • Start a load of laundry (pet bedding? blanket throws? towels?) that can get going while you're working doing other things.


Basketweave Cotton Throw Blanket, from Williams-Sonoma

We have several pieces of furniture to move today in order to vacuum under them: Two couches, a chaise, two bookshelves, and the coffee table our TV stands on top of.

This room also holds our two massive dog crates, which need to be moved outside to be hosed out.

My family room furniture is slipcovered with wonderful washable suede slipcovers. Our dogs aren't allowed on furniture but somehow manage to get their fur everywhere, so I'll be laundering all the slipcovers today. We'll vacuum the bare furniture and fluff the couch pillows. I wish it were a dry sunny day so we could air the pillows in the sun outside, but alas.

After we've mopped the laminate floors and replaced the furniture and cushions, we'll be washing windows, taking down curtains to send to the dry cleaners, dusting baseboards, wiping light switches and utility switches, dusting lamp fixtures and the overhead lighting, then dusting the TV and electronic components.

Our bookshelves (full of DVDs and Blu-Rays) need to be dusted, sorted and organized. I'm sure we can find 2-3 unwanted or duplicate DVDs to give away, freeing up a bit of space on the shelves. I'll dust the red acrylic tray we use as a coffee table to hold our remotes and drinks, and I'll wipe down all the remotes with antibacterial wipes.

Aloe and Soft Linen, from The Body Shop

My last step will be to light my home fragrance oil diffuser to make the room smell lovely. I'm currently enjoying Aloe and Soft Linen.

Tonight we'll be watching a movie in a fresh, sparkling, clean and cozy little den!

LOVELY BLOGS: Cassie Craves

This blog has featured so many recipes I've been itching to try. (I clearly need to prioritize more time in my kitchen!) Currently she's posting about mocha snack cake with peanut butter, Mexican spinach dip, Greek Beef tacos, and banana coffee cake with toffee crumb topping. Everything here looks so yummy!

LOVELY BOOKS: The Annotated Emma

Last year I struggled through my reading of Jane Austen's Emma. I've never enjoyed this book, and really tried hard to like it and understand it when my book club read it last summer. I wish I'd had The Annotated Emma to guide my reading. Having more info on the context of the novel, and literary analysis would have helped me a lot. Maybe this will never be one of my favorite Austen works, but I might have gotten more out of my reading of it and discussed it more intelligently with my poor long-suffering book club members.

The Annotated Emma, on Amazon

LOVELY HOME: Miniature Tangerine Tree

I'm very tempted to try growing this miniature tangerine tree in my sunny kitchen, come spring. I'm terrible with houseplants though, and I would feel guilty if this tree died. I'm sure it would take much longer than I think to produce actual fruit, but I love the concept so much! The shop also sells blood orange patio trees and Mexican key lime trees. These would make great thinking-of-you or birthday gifts for friends with patios or sunny windows, too.

Miniature Tangerine Tree, from Sur la Table


How to Build a Paper Caravan (Jacqueline Wagner)

Lemon Cake Recipes (Martha Stewart)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Entryway

Springtime Nest with Chocolate Eggs, from Williams-Sonoma


  • Spiff up your home for the weekend. Empty or fill dishwasher as needed; wipe kitchen counters; empty trash can and take out recycling; wipe bathroom sinks and counters; replace hand towels in bathrooms and kitchen. De-clutter entryway, mail table, coffee table and dining table as needed. Toss out dead flowers, line up remotes neatly, fold throws and blankets, make beds.

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

  • Make weekend socialization plans if you haven't already. Build in some down time for yourself too though.

  • Lay out something pretty to wear tonight or tomorrow when you go out.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning: Entryway

Charge and Sort Entryway System, from Pottery Barn

Today I'm cleaning and organizing the entryway to my home. As this is the first thing family members and visitors see when they enter my home, it's a very important area. I work hard to enforce standards so that it's not cluttered up every day, but there are still some tasks that should be done during Spring Cleaning.

I'll begin by cleaning the two brass outdoor lights on either side of my garage, and replacing a burned out light bulb in one of them.

We keep our shoes in baskets under the mail table. Those will be shaken out, aired, and the mail table dusted before the baskets are replaced. The mail table needs to be moved so I can sweep and mop under it - there's likely a ton of accumulated pet hair there.

I'll dust baseboards, wash walls, clean the mirror hanging on the entry wall, and mop floors. The entryway rug and door mat will be shaken and beaten outdoors, then replaced on the cleaned and dried floors.

The mail table's three drawers need to be sorted and decluttered, and mail sorted, processed and filed away. I need to remove the collection of cell phone, laptop, Kindle and camera chargers that has accumulated near the plugs in this room.

Next, an end table that holds candles, framed photos and houseplants needs to be dusted, cleaned and de-cluttered too. The last thing I will do is sweep the steps leading up to my porch, and the porch itself.

I'll finish by spritzing a refreshing spring room spray throughout the entryway. We'll come home after dinner tonight to a fresh smelling, welcoming home.

LOVELY BLOGS: Orange You Lucky

Helen Dardik is an illustrator who draws the most adorable things! She has an Etsy shop offering her cute, colorful prints and watercolors, and a website showcasing her talents. I don't know the last time I've been so enamored of an illustrator's style. This is truly fabulous, and I think you'll enjoy looking through everything here.


A Saint Patrick's Day Tablescape (Between Naps on the Porch)

Spring Cleaning: Closet

In order to buy this striped Ralph Lauren dress I've been hoping to add to my spring business wardrobe, I'm making myself get rid of three dresses I no longer wear.


  • Tidy up your home for the weekend (either before you leave for work or right after you get home tonight). Empty wastebaskets; take out trash and recycling; wipe stove and kitchen sink; straighten mail table; remove items off stairs and/or dining table; de-clutter coffee table; straighten and organize newspapers, recycling old ones; remove shoes from front doorway as needed.

  • Need to fill up with gas for the weekend, stop by an ATM for cash, pick up a Redbox DVD?

  • Make plans for your weekend socializing if you haven't already.

  • Can you build in some quiet time, some down time for yourself this weekend?


A lovely dress for Spring that I have my eye on: Melon Ball dress from Anthropologie

Tonight when I get home from dinner, I'm going to pour a glass of wine (or hmm.. whiskey!) and then take everything out of my closet and throw it on the bed. I'll examine each piece of clothing for wear and tear, attractiveness, and whether or not I've worn it in the last six months since I sorted my closet back in the Fall.

Any items I'm not sure about will need to be tried on; items I've worn recently and know I enjoy can go right back in the closet.

By the end of this evening, I expect to have an orderly closet full of clothes I'm likely to wear; a pile to donate; a pile to dry clean; and a few ratty Tshirts and things not nice enough to donate, sitting in my trash can.

Because I work to keep my closet fairly organized and clean every week, and because I so thoroughly sorted back in the fall, I expect tonight's project to only take two to three hours at the most. (I'll work on my shoes tomorrow).

I'll finish by vacuuming the carpeted floor of the closet and replacing the only four items that should be on the floor: my suitcase, my overnight bag, my laundry bin and a plastic storage bin of off-season clothes.

LOVELY BLOGS: Architect Mom

"Drafting a life." This working mom lives in the Pacific Northwest (as do I). She admits to not being much like Martha Stewart (I can respect that!) and shares her cooking triumphs and recipes. Recent recipes include Greek meatballs with orzo and a Greek salad; the divinist apple crisp ever; make your own papier mache octopus and a recipe for a "revelatory caramel cake" for Martin Luther King's birthday. I love her spirit!


Celery: The Younger, the Better (Epicurious)

Kid Food that Adults Will Love (CHOW)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Cleaning: Bathrooms


  • Do you have bags of books or clothing for charity? Put them in your trunk today and drop them off while you're out doing errands.

  • Make menu plans for the week ahead; create grocery shopping list

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in both your fridge and your freezer.

  • Get your errands done early today so you can relax and enjoy the rest of your weekend without running around town like crazy. Do your dry cleaning dropoff/pickup, grocery shopping, Home Depot run, clothes shopping with kids and other errands you might need, all in one big fell swoop.

  • Bundle up and go for a long walk, if the weather in your area is nice enough. Even though it's raining, I'm walking my dogs - they'll be miserably bored if I don't.

  • Try to get rid of at least two bad, old, fraying pairs of socks or underwear for each family member. If you need inspiration, imagine being caught wearing them by an emergency room technician, ambulance driver, fire fighter or your favorite celebrity.. grin. Remember that you can easily buy a new fresh pair of socks, underwear or the like at JcPenney for less than $4 each.

  • Invite someone over to Sunday lunch or supper as a short notice kindness.

  • Do a quick wipedown/sanitize of your family's remote controls, video game controls, telephones and cell phones.


Simonetta Botanical Bath Towels, at Pottery Barn

Today I am Spring Cleaning my home's three bathrooms. I have three toilets to scrub, one bathtub, two showers, and four sinks. In addition, I'll be sorting out three medicine cabinets, three cabinet drawers, and the 4 cupboards under all four sinks.

My least favorite household chore is the bathrooms, so I'll try to make this a more pleasant task. I'll burn my favorite scented candle in each bathroom while I work, and I'll put on some fun music to listen to.

Spring Cleaning bathrooms doesn't just mean cleaning them up really thoroughly and decluttering them. That should actually be a weekly task. The difference is that during Spring Cleaning we take care of problems and work to improve things, fix anything broken, and leave our bathrooms in a well maintained state, but also preferably better than we found them.

This is the time to get rid of that ugly bathroom light fixture that's been bothering you; this is when we finally break down and call the plumber to fix the annoying leak under one sink. Instead of just dusting off an ugly soiled old wooden towel rack and making do with it, we'll actually measure the rack, drive down to Home Depot before the weekend is over, and install a nice new inexpensive towel rack. Now's the time to repaint a bathroom in fresh colors (a chore that wouldn't take both days this weekend); replace those cracked bathroom floor tiles; totally replace limp faded old bathroom towels with new ones (something you could do for under $100 easily); and finally replace the rusted old sink or bathtub fixture. Need a new showerhead? This is your weekend to buy a new one, or call a professional to come install one next week for you. Is your shower curtain moldy, limp, and torn at the top in several places? Time to toss it and buy a new one - they're not expensive.

Marimekko Wisteria Bath Towels, at Crate and Barrel

If you want to aim for living a lovely life instead of just plodding through life cleaning and making do, then Spring Cleaning your bathrooms, fixing problems you've been living with, sprucing things up, and leaving your bathrooms better than you found them is the way to go.

At the end of tonight, my bathroom towels will be in the laundry; the bathroom scale will have been wiped down; my sinks, floors, tubs and showers freshly scrubbed; my walls have been washed down; baseboards dusted; trash cans emptied and sanitized; fresh flowers set in vases in each bathroom; and bathrooms sprayed with lovely fresh scents.

Tonight after our hard work Spring Cleaning, let's make time to treat ourselves to extra long hot baths, with nice bath bombs or bubble baths to soak in, clean fluffy towels to dry ourselves off with, and fun magazines to read while we relax.

LOVELY BLOGS: A Field Journal

"A beautiful compilation of things old fashioned, timeless, simple and lovely." Lovely recent posts include Wintering, Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons, and Holiday Card Display.


I already own too many teapots and tea sets, so I can only drool at this from afar. I don't dare buy it and risk cluttering up my curio cabinet. Still, I love the delicate freshness of this pink, so evocative of Spring. The teapot is also available by itself on Amazon.

Pink Sophie Conran Tea Set, at Stash Tea


New for Spring from my favorite home fragrance company, Votivo: Pink Mimosa. It's scented with strawberries, mimosa and vanilla rum. This is what I'm burning on the mantel in my family room, where we gather to watch TV in the evenings. It's making my house smell like Spring, even though spring isn't quite here yet.

Pink Mimosa Candle, from Votivo

Pink Mimosa Candle, on Amazon


Altoids Mint Chocolate Cookie Bites (The Decorated Cookie)

Crustless Quiche Loaded with Kale (Alexandra Cooks)

DIY Greek Yogurt (Annie's Eats)

Easy Lego Pops (Gourmet Mom on the Go)

High Heel Shoe Cupcakes (Cupcakes Take the Cake)

Lemon and Walnut Soda Bread (Baking Bites)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Tart (Cake, Batter and Bowl)

Roasted Red Potatoes with Bacon and Cheese (Everyday Dutch Oven)