Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mid-Autumn Festival and Last Day of September


QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Shaggy Throw Rug at Cost Plus World Market

  • Let's spend some time today on our area rugs and throw rugs. I'm going to vacuum all of mine, sweep under them, and sponge-clean the one by my front door. The rug by my back door (the one that gets lots of muddy dog feet on it!) has been hosed off and is hanging to dry on the railing. My bathroom rugs are currently in the washing machine, and my kitchen rug has been shaken out thoroughly and replaced in its spot by the kitchen's back door.


  • Have you made time the last couple evenings for yourself, to linger in the bath, or read the book by your bedside table? Or are you just dropping into bed exhausted and ready for sleep?


  • It's Harvest time. Have you enjoyed a fresh apple or fresh pear this week?


  • Create menus for the upcoming week. Need to think about packing lunch boxes, or refilling your child's school meal account?


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


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

LOVELY HOLIDAYS: Mid-Autumn Festival

Thanking the Moon, on Amazon

I'm not attending or hosting a mid-autumn festival party, but I'll remember my Taiwanese and Chinese friends who are celebrating tonight.

Mid-Autumn Festival, on Wikipedia

Mid-Autumn Festival 101, on Sassy Mama Hong Kong

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Prep

Arbor Dishtowel, at Crate and Barrel

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

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

Pumpkin Covered Casserole, at Crate and Barrel

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

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

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

    Pumpkin & Vine Pot Mitt, at Williams-Sonoma


  • Go through your potholders and kitchen towels and immediately discard any limp, smelly kitchen towels or crusty, stained potholders. Be firm with yourself - don't give in to the temptation to keep an old towel around "just in case." It's ok to transfer old kitchen towels to your Rag pile (I use mine for dusting, cleaning floors and windows, etc.) But then get rid of one of your worst rags for every old kitchen towel you put in the rag pile. It's all about avoiding clutter and weeding out unnecessary items in our lives. Put new potholders and new kitchen towels on your shopping list as needed. You can easily grab some affordable ones next time you are at the grocery store or Wal-Mart, Target, etc.


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


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

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

LOVELY BLOGS: The Slow-Roasted Italian

"Taking complicated out of the kitchen." Donna blogs from the Southwest, creating delicious foods for her family. Recent posts include Maple Almond Granola Clusters; Six Fabulous Fall Cocktails to Ring In Autumn; and Homemade Crock Pot Tomato Paste. (That last one looks especially useful, I'm going to try it!)

http://theslowroasteditalian.blogspot.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Black Sesame Unbaked Snowskin Mooncake (Veganlogy)

Colorful Painted Pumpkin Cookies (Glorious Treats)

Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Mooncakes (Celestial Delish)

Mini Bunny Snowskin Mooncakes (Food Is My Life)

Over the Moon for Homemade Snowy Moon Cakes (Bam's Kitchen)

Passionfruit Snowskin Mooncakes (The Baking Biatch)

Piglet Moon Cake Bento (Mothering Corner)

Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Hole Muffins (Glorious Treats)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (Annie's Eats)

Red Beans Crystal Jelly Mooncakes (Her Frozen Wings)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Baking Day and Kitchen Organization

Autumn Cupcake Stencils, from Williams-Sonoma

I'm going to spend the entire day today in the kitchen, baking and messing around experimenting. I am so excited! I won't stay anti-social all day though, don't worry. I'll go out with friends later tonight - only after I've washed the inevitable flour out of my hair!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

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


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


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


  • Any elderly relatives who might like a phone call from you today?


  • Need to do any tidying up in your garden? I'm going to do some weeding later this afternoon, perhaps while I'm waiting for tasty things to finish baking.


  • Water houseplants, turn them to face the light, empty vases of dead flowers.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Baking Experimentation and Kitchen Organization

Fall Pie Crust Cutters, from Williams-Sonoma

Today I'm going to spend the day baking and experimenting in the kitchen. I tidied the kitchen yesterday to get ready. Now I can put on some music, make a pot of hot blackberry sage tea, and improve my baking skills.

Besides experimenting (I'm trying to improve my skills with cake decorating and fondant) I'll bake up some treats to drop off at various relatives' houses tonight. I'm doing a couple easy quick breads from Trader Joe's mixes - the apple spice bread, for starters. I'll also bake some lemon poppy seed muffins (from a box mix also) for our breakfasts tomorrow.

Duff's Pink Fondant, at Michael's

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

When's the last time you organized a kitchen cupboard or two? Made a fun mess in the kitchen? Baked up some treats, whether from scratch or a box mix?

LOVELY BLOGS: The Mid-Century Menu

This blogger (Retroruth) and her husband recreate one weird vintage recipe every week and eat it for dinner. They share their experiences (both tasty and bad ones) here on the blog. Recent posts include a 1977 recipe for cream cheese sticks with Kix; a 1965 Seaway Float; and a gross sounding sausage apple noodle casserole which turned out to be not so bad. I love this concept, and I find it so funny that Retroruth sometimes includes pictures of her husband's face after he tastes the food.

http://www.midcenturymenu.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Alice in Wonderland Shortbread Cookies (Sweetopia)

German Potato Salad (Stylish Cuisine)

The Great Pumpkin Cookie Makeover (The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle)

Homemade Wheat Thins (Smitten Kitchen)

Pumpkin Pie Refrigerator Oatmeal (Stylish Cuisine)

Pumpkin Rose Cupcakes (Your Cup of Cake)

Sesame Street Cookies (Bake at 350)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kitchen Tidying - Just a Bit

I get a kick out of this Nostalgia Electrics microwave, though it wouldn't match well in my kitchen.

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

With two Family Night dinners per week, my kitchen is getting a lot more use than usual. I want it in tip top shape for the next dinner party. I think I will get the kitchen tidied up. That way it's ready to get totally messy tomorrow if I have friends over for dinner!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Visit an ATM for cash for the weekend; drop off or pick up dry cleaning and library books; fill up with gas as needed.


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


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


  • Any friends you haven't seen in a while that you might like to catch up with? Call them up today (for that added personal touch - don't just ping them on Facebook) and try to set a date to meet up.


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


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


  • Have you made your front porch homey with a potted mum or other autumn plants and flowers?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Kitchen Tidying

Dualit Retro 2-Slice Toaster in Mint Green, on Amazon

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

I'll start by lighting my kitchen's "Mexican Pumpkin" candle. Next I'll turn on Food Network on my small kitchen TV so I have some background noise to listen to while I work. I mopped the kitchen floor yesterday and it's held up well, but I do need to wipe down the counters.

I'll want to make as much counter work room as possible for tomorrow night when I'm cooking. Some decluttering is in order. I'm not using the rice cooker tomorrow, so I should put it back into the cupboard. I need to unload the dishwasher, fill it with dirty dishes, then scrub the kitchen sink. The microwave needs cleaning inside and out, and the toaster needs crumbs removed and a good wipedown.

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

Next up: Taking out the recycling and checking my fruit basket for moldy food. I'll finish by removing pictures and magnets from the fridge, wiping and drying it and returning the photos. The last thing I'll do is wipe down the outside of my dishwasher.

I'm now ready to make a nice dinner for family tomorrow!

LOVELY BLOGS: Cooking by the Seat of Our Pants

"The joys of cooking without a recipe, and sometimes without a clue." Here's an easy to read blog with fun recipes such as this Spooky Silhouette Chili Recipe; an Americanized version of Colcannon; and a recipe for Halloweenies.

http://cbsop.com/

LOVELY SHOPS: Shabby Apple

While the Shabby Apple doesn't explicitly come out and say they specialize in retro or vintage style looks, their clothes here remind me so much of 1940s and 1950s styles. I appreciate how feminine and modest the clothing here is. (At my age I really don't need to be showing off my luckily-still-gorgeous legs with really short skirts!) Browsing the site is a pleasure, as collections are divided up into collections with evocative names such as "Highclere Castle," "Lighthouse," "Twin Palms," and "Tinsel Town." Check out the nice modest ladylike swim apparel, too. I think you'll enjoy the photos here too. Browsing this site is really enjoyable.

http://www.shabbyapple.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Balenciaga Florabotanica Review (Now Smell This)

Balthazar's French Onion Soup (Cupcakes and Cashmere)

The Best Ever Cutout Cookie Recipe (The Decorated Cookie)

Chocolate Mascarpone Cupcakes (Your Cup of Cake)

DIY Vintage Inspired String Holders (Handmade Charlotte)

Drinking Lesson: Absinthe (Cornichon)\

The Genius Egg Trick (Honest Cooking)

Looking Back at the Summer Through Fruits and Sweets (She Who Eats)

Mermaids the New Pop Culture Trend (Fashion Tribes)

Raspberry Martini Mousse Shooters (Bakers Royale)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup Recipe (Cranberry Morning)

20+ Ways to Use a Pumpkin Cutter (The Decorated Cookie Blog)

What is Bread Flour? (Baking Bites)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Take Time For Yourself

Vanilla Verbena Bath Soak, at Bath & Body Works

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

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

What are you going to do for fun for YOU this fall? Long, dark evenings, cold rainy or snowy weather, and beckoning warm fireplaces encourage homey activities. Will you take a class, join a book club, join or create a dinner party club, write, journal, blog, work on your scrapbooks, go see fall movies in the theater, actually use that gym membership, work through that pile of books by your bed, rubber stamp and do paper crafts? Paint, knit, crochet?

Will you save up your Starbucks money for a month, drinking coffee at home instead, so you can treat yourself to a professional massage instead of overpriced hot beverages every day? Might you take your best friend out for a cocktail and a manicure, leaving your kids at home with their father or your best friend's husband and kids?

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

Uchida Pens Set, on Amazon

In my case, I've given up most television shows in order to buy myself time for enriching and stress relieving activities. (Although TV is fun for me to watch!) What I need to do is buckle down, carve out time and religiously enforce it: "This is my crafting afternoon." "This is my cooking Sunday." "This evening, I will craft while I watch TV." "Tomorrow night, I will enjoy attempting to create handmade Halloween cards."
"I can't answer the phone, I'm enjoying reading a book right now."

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

Think about your entertainment time budget. In my case, I get mostly done with the bulk of my work every day around 4pm. I take a break, read magazines, eat a snack, do my nails, do laundry, whatever. By 5pm I'm cleaning, and by 6pm I'm cooking. After a 7pm dinner and twenty minutes of cleanup, I have maybe two hours left before bedtime. At least one of those hours is spent working on my business. So basically every night I probably can count on just one hour for entertainment. How do I want to spend it? I'm limiting the number of fall TV shows I am going to watch.

As you start taking more time for yourself, your family members may initially resist and complain. Just keep smiling and firmly insisting that you need your Mommy time. Set kids up in the other room with crafts of their own, or make Daddy do something fun with them for an hour every week.

Make sure you have something extremely important for your creativity, health, and peace of mind: UNINTERRUPTED time just for YOU. Value yourself enough to give yourself this necessity.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Emporium Black Collection

I'm already obsessed with MOR's products, and now they had to go release a new line with even more beautiful packaging and several new tempting fragrances. I'm going to have to find an excuse to pick up the Blood Orange hand wash. I've smelled the Lychee products at a trade show and found them lovely but too sweet for me. I'm thinking Candied Vanilla Almond would be a fabulous fragrance to gift at Christmastime. For fall gifts, I'd suggest Black Cherry Plum. There are soaps, lotions, candles, hand washes and body butters in this heavenly product line.

Emporium Black Collection, at Mor Cosmetics

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Fever Tree Sparkling Lemon

Fever Tree is finally bringing their Sparkling Lemon mixer to the US. While I wish they'd come out with it before summertime, I think I'll still stock up on a pack to use for making festive citrusy cocktails at my holiday parties.

http://fever-tree.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

The Boneyard Project: Airplanes as Art in the Arizona Desert (Jaunted)

How to Organize Your Accessories for Fall (Woman's Day)

Ireland: Leprechaun Luxury (National Geographic Traveler)

Models and Photographers Teach You How to Take Awesome Profile Pics (The Budget Fashionista)

Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond Pecan Parmesan (Oh She Glows)

Three Ways to Wear Metallics This Fall (The Globe and Mail)

Tiny Canvas Makes Cents for Penny Artist (Today Show)

Whatever Happened to Contempo Casuals? (The Budget Fashionista)

Why Some of the Best Universities are Giving Away Their Courses (Seattle Times)

World's Most Beautiful Universities (Travel and Leisure)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mid-Week in Early Fall

The last dahlias of summer; stores near me no longer have any available for sale. These are on my dining table.

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

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

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


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


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


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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Dusting

Pledge Orange

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

Next come the three televisions in my home (living room, family room, and kitchen). I won't just wipe off the screens, I'll dust the sides and backs too. Then it's time to dust the mail table, dining table, coffee table, curio cabinets and side tables.

Upstairs, I'll dust two nightstands, the hope chest in my bedroom, and the several bookcases we own.

I'll skip the window sills as they get cleaned at the same time I do the windows, and they don't look visibly dusty right now. Instead, I'll finish by dusting my three standing lamps, six bedroom lamps and the lamp in the family room.

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

LOVELY BLOGS: Chronostyle

Chronostyle is "any act in which an individual revives some aspect of a previous time and successfully integrates it into a contemporary mode." Recent posts I've enjoyed include Raiders of the Lost Arts: Letter Writing; Peach Boysenberry Pie with Vodka Cheddar Crust and a post on 1960's inspired fashion. There aren't many posts here, I hope they'll continue and post more often!

http://chronostyle.wordpress.com/

LOVELY ENTERTAINMENT: Cirque du Soleil "Totem"

This touring show from Cirque du Soleil "traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly." Currently touring to just three cities (Washington DC, Miami and Atlanta). I hope it makes it to the West Coast, I would love my three boys to see an amazing show like this if we could afford it!

Totem, at Cirque du Soleil.com

LOVELY TELEVISION: The Paradise

I really hope this costume drama comes to the US sometime soon. It's a romantic drama set in Britain's first department store, in the 1870s. Though we here in the US aren't allowed to watch the first couple episodes online at the BBC site, there are at least several gallery pics to browse through. I'm so looking forward to seeing this!

The Paradise, at BBC

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

After School Snacks: Baby Carrots Planted in Little Pots (Spoonful)

Devilish Eggs with Spiced Mustard (Chatelaine)

Eleven Hard-To-Get-To Hotels Worth the Trip (Concierge)

Fall 2012 Fashion Trend Report (Elle Canada)

Floating Homes of the Future (Forbes)

Global Bacon Shortage Unavoidable (CBC News)

Maple Syrup 101 and Sweet Maple Syrup Recipes (Canadian Living)

Mom, May I Have More Spinach? (Babble)

Nine Hot Trends in Kitchen Design (Boston Globe)

Pound Cake is Anything But Boring (Canoe Lifewise)

Stylish Autumn Recipes (All About You)

10 Cosy, Rustic Rooms (House Beautiful)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Autumn's Chill Finally Arrives

This Blue Dahlias quilt is too old-fashioned for my home decor style, but I'm thinking of adding it to my collection of summer quilts for picnics and outdoor stargazing nights.

If it's getting chilly in your area, then today it's probably time to swap out your summer bed linens for your fall and winter ones. Here in Seattle, it was cold enough last night to remind me it's time to get out my faux down duvet. Away go my cream colored summer sheets with flowery embroidery trim. Out come my cranberry flannel sheets and warmer bedding.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Juniper Berry Scented Candle, from Crate and Barrel

  • Mop or sweep kitchen floor as needed


  • Need to sign anything for your kids to take back to school tomorrow?


  • Keeping on schedule for your book club (if any?)


  • Need to dust any rooms really quickly? I have a dusty master bedroom that I can't stand any more.


  • Any birthdays this last week of the month coming up? Do you need to make dinner plans, buy a gift, send a card, order flowers for anyone?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Getting Out Fall Bedding

Ralph Lauren Bedding, at Macy's

Launder your summer sheets and blankets before folding them away for storage. Smell your replacements to see if they smell fresh. Mine are a bit musty smelling from the closet, so I want to wash them before putting them on the bed. Use linen spray, if you like, to help freshen your beds too. Do you use matching accent pillows? How do they smell? My cranberry velvet pillows that I've just taken out of storage bins need to be Febrezed or linen sprayed a little bit.

Repeat the process for your children's rooms or guest room, if applicable.

I'm getting out a quilt for the foot of everyone's beds. I also keep an extra blanket or two in each bedroom closet (laundered every couple of months to keep them smelling fresh and dust-free).

Also, it might be time to get out your throws to toss around your couches and living rooms. Freshen them too, if needed. There's nothing like snuggling up in front of a deliciously mindnumbing fall TV show with a soft throw on a chilly autumn evening.

LOVELY BLOGS: Rationing Revisited

This blog asks, "Can a modern family of five learn and gain anything from 1940s rationing?" I am still very interested, lately, in learning to budget my food more carefully and less wastefully, so this blog grabbed my attention right away. It's written by a mother of three who lives in the UK. Their family embarked on this experiment not only to downsize and be thrifty, but to try to eat more healthfully as well.

Recent posts I've enjoyed learning from include When Rations Get Scarce; making a quickie strudel; and a recent wartime inspired menu.

http://rationingrevisited.com/

LOVELY MOVIES: Steel Magnolias Remake

I'm not sure Steel Magnolias needed to be remade. But I admit due to Queen Latifah's presence in this movie, I'm going to check it out! It airs on Lifetime on Sunday, October 7.

Steel Magnolias, on Lifetime

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Asparagus Mini Quiches (The Yellow Apron)

Everyday Avocados (Epicurious)

12 Favorite Fall Recipes (Good Housekeeping)

Lobster Mushroom and White Chanterelle Pizza (Albion Cooks)

12 Makeup Mistakes that Age You (Good Housekeeping)

Uncomplicated Desserts for Home Bakers from Recent Cookbooks (LA Daily News)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Readying Your Candles and Fireplace for Autumn

Jonathan Adler 'Destination' Candles, at Macy's

Tonight I'm planning to clean out my wood burning fireplace so it's ready to use on chilly nights. It's still too hot in the evening here to even think about burning fires, but at least my fireplace will be ready to go.

If it's still nice and warm where you live, make time in your schedule to enjoy the outdoors. Even if it means recording your TV shows or skipping them all together, putting housework off for another day if you have to, or spending less time on the computer tonight.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Tupelo Amber Pillar Candles, at Crate and Barrel

  • Have any left-over laundry or vacuuming that didn't get done on the weekend?


  • Need to spend time grooming your pets tonight? Luckily all four of mine (two dogs and two cats) enjoy their brushing time, though it makes the dogs a bit too hyper.


  • Do you need to call for your yearly fireplace inspection? Chimney cleaning?


  • Along the same lines, do you need your heater and water heater checked, cleaned, drained, or filter changed?


  • See if you can throw away (or use, give away, recycle) two things you've had laying around for five or six months. If you haven't used them (or read that book; worn that blouse; read that magazine) by now you probably aren't going to..

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fireplace and Candles

"Spiced Cake" Filled Mosaic Candle, from Pier 1

I'm getting my fireplace ready for the season. We use it almost every night during fall and our long Seattle winter. Time to make an appointment with a chimney sweep, clean the fireplace and its glass, and stock up on firewood and the Duraflames I love so much. (I use the Duraflames to help get the real wood started aflame).

The left side of my candle cupboard - the Before picture! I need to rinse and recycle that empty detergent container, but the housekeeping gloves have to stay.

I'm also sorting my "candle cupboard." To prevent candles from cluttering up the rest of the house, I've stored them all in my downstairs bathroom. Lately I'm into organizing things in baskets. Even though nobody but me or my teenager will likely see into the candle cupboard, I like having it neatly organized.

Another "Before" picture - the right side of my candle cupboard

I have a basket for tea lights, a basket for tea light holders, a basket for votives, and a basket for taper candles. It looks like I need a little basket for the seven to ten home fragrance oils. I could just dump them in the basket with the tea lights, but it might be hard to find them when I need them. I'm not sure what I will do with the gigantic box of incense I discovered in my garage. I do burn a stick or two every day but this sure is a lot.

Mexican Pumpkin Votive Candles, from Cost Plus World Market

Several of my votive holders need to have wax cleaned out of them. I shouldn't put them away like that - I wish I had taken the time to put away clean holders. I'm probably not ever going to stop buying or burning candles, so as long as I force myself to only buy as many as I can use and enjoy, and only let candles build up in this one cupboard, I should be ok.

Tonight my teenager will come home to candles burning merrily in the living room and kitchen, scenting our home with pumpkin, cranberry and baking smells.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Pumpkin Pie Vodka

I can think of sooo many uses for this Pumpkin Pie vodka! It's a new flavor offering for fall. I wish they sold a smaller size though - I have a lot of pregnant or nursing friends who can't drink right now, and it might be hard to use up a whole bottle of this flavored vodka before autumn is over and I switch to Christmas holiday themed cocktails.

Pinnacle Vodka, on Facebook

LOVELY BLOGS: The 1940's Experiment

I've been interested lately, due to my own efforts to improve my home economics and food budgeting (now that I'm doing multiple Family Dinners per week for people who don't even live in my house) in World War 2 era rationing and kitchen thriftiness. I was delighted to find this blog today.

Last year Carolyn decided to try losing 100 pounds by living on a World War II ration diet. She's interested in cooking simple healthful food, and "making do or making without." Eleven months in, she's lost an incredible 75 pounds. I don't normally link to weight loss blogs, but I love the intersection here of retro housewifery and modern health efforts.

Check out Carolyn's recreated 100 Wartime Recipes section! There are so many retro recipes here I'd like to try.

http://1940sexperiment.wordpress.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

How Chickpeas Got Their Name (Bon Appetit)

Lasagna: Another Way to Eat Your Vegetables (Bon Appetit)

Make-Ahead Dishes (CHOW)

Milk Chocolate Cupcakes (Bakingdom)

Retro Golden Circle "Coral Reef Pie" (Lucy Violet Vintage)

Whole Grain Yeasted Banana Bread (Chocolate Carrots)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday in September

Does anybody know the name of these delightful orange ball-shaped flowers? I couldn't resist a couple bunches when I saw them at the market today.

After a busy weekend with lots of fun socializing, I'm looking forward to some quiet down time this evening!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean, sort and sanitize one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in your fridge and in your freezer. Doing this faithfully every week means your fridge and freezer get cleaned out once a month.


  • Are there blackberry bushes near your home? Have you picked any this summer? I just filled a Tupperware container with berries, intending to make little pocket pies. I was surprised to still find usable berries on the bushes, this late in the year.


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

    Deciding where to put my vase of these lovely orange flowers


  • Sunday nights can be a good time to relax with family, make phone calls to relatives, and write letters to friends and family.
    Maybe play a quick board game with your kids?


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


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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Taking Care of Me

Dragon's Egg Citrus/Bergamot Bath Bomb, at Lush

It's been a stressful week, full of kids' Curriculum Nights at school (My kids are in four different schools, so that means.. four different Curriculum nights.. all on worknights!). This time of year is also an extra busy time for my job, my eBay store and my blogging efforts. I'm tired and grumpy.

So I'm taking some "Me" time today. No cleaning, no sorting, no organizing, no projects (other than Quick Things To Do Today). Just fun things. Things I want to do.

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

Finally decided on a place for these - my upstairs living room, where I watch evening news, light the fireplace, read magazines and pay bills in the morning.

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

LOVELY BLOGS: Once Upon a Cutting Board

Natalie blogs from Canada about healthy eating. I totally want to make her Greek Quinoa Wraps with Tzatziki. Other recent recipes include Autumn Fruit Ginger Crumble Pie, Eggplant and Zucchini Pasta with Chickpeas; and Earl Grey Vanilla Tea Cake. As always, I appreciate when bloggers include step-by-step photos, as does Natalie.

http://www.onceuponacuttingboard.com/

LOVELY FASHION: Kate Spade's Polka Dot Handbags

Child of the 1980s that I am, I adore polka dots, especially black-and-white ones. So I'm really enjoying looking through Kate Spade's fall purses. Check out this unusual bow tote, too. None of these fit in my shopping budget, so I'll still make do with the Nine West purse I bought myself last Christmastime.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Boysenberry Memories (Myanderings)

Green Olive Coleslaw (In the Pantry)

100 Pictures of Vintage Stoves, Refrigerators and Large Appliances (Retro Renovation)

Plum, Rosemary and Brandy Cakes (Desserts for Breakfast)

Spicy Green Tomato Relish (Life's Ambrosia)

Sweet Dijon Chicken Salad (Take Back the Kitchen)

20 Fall Pumpkin Projects (Tater Tots and Jello)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Day of Autumn 2012

Autumn mum baskets greet visitors at my front porch

Happy Autumn Equinox!

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

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

The mail table at the entrance to my home - uncluttered and tidy, with just a candle, flowers, cell phone, and our change bowl

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


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


  • Tidy the entrance to your home. Put away shoes, mail, magazines, clutter, drinking glasses, unnecessary items.


  • Catch up on emails tonight. I use three different email addresses and in each, I keep too many now-unimportant messages. I should reply, archive or delete them.


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


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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Family Dinner

Pale pink dahlias I picked up to adorn my upstairs living room. Guests sit in here nibbling appetizers before we go into the dining room for dinner.

Tonight I'm cooking a family dinner not just for my household but also for some cousins who live across town. That means much of my afternoon will be taken up with grocery shopping and cooking. Because I keep my house in ready-to-go condition, I don't have to do any cleaning before they arrive. I will just set the table beautifully and hopefully have hot dishes ready to serve at 6pm sharp.

When's the last time you hosted a weekend or weeknight meal for guests outside your immediate family? Even if it involves grabbing takeout instead of cooking, I recommend the experience. It helps you stay connected with family, and it's great for kids to see their cousins or your friends' kids.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Pumpkin Spice Tea

Warm up your guests with Republic of Tea's pumpkin spice tea for 2012. (They come out with a slightly different version every fall). This one is a black tea (so it has caffeine) and features cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

Pumpkin Spice Tea, at Republic of Tea

LOVELY BLOGS: The Glamorous Housewife

Bethany's blog on fashion, cooking, entertaining, domestic design, crafting, and beauty. Recent posts include a Vegetarian Rosh Hashana Dinner (check out the gorgeous table settings); Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies; How to Have a Good Marriage, Part 4; and a really great link roundup with lots of vintage and retro related links. There's really great positive energy here and lots of things to read.

http://talesofaretromodernhousewife.blogspot.com/

LOVELY COSMETICS: Chantecaille's New Elephant Palette

I was really hoping these colors would suit me, but I'm afraid I would never use the green (not my favorite color, and not flattering on me) and the browns are just a bit too rich/dark for my Seattle-pale skin. Five percent of proceeds from this item are donated to an elephant preservation trust in Kenya. I just love the way the compact looks!

Chantecaille Elephant Palette, at Chantecaille.com

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Diana Vreeland Fashion Documentary: The Eye Has to Travel (Slate)

Filigree Cookies (The baking Sheet)

A Good and Versatile Autumn Cabbage Casserole (Estelle's)

Macadamia Coconut Cookie Brittle (Baking Bites)

Saffron-Vanilla Snickerdoodles (101 Cookbooks)

What Is It Like to Date or Marry a Fashion Model? (Slate)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ready for a Summery Weekend

Lavender roses I treated myself to. They're adorning my bedroom this week.

I'm tidying up my house a bit so when I come home tonight it's restful, clean and relaxing. I don't want to spend my whole weekend cleaning, so I'm glad I've been keeping up with things lately.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

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

  • Drop off any outgoing Netflix or Redbox rentals; pick up a movie for the weekend if there's something your family will enjoy seeing.

  • Walk in your front door and see what needs tidying up. Shoes put away? Mail center cleaned off? Coffee table and dining table empty of clutter? Dead flowers removed? Living or family room vacuumed? Porch swept? Kitchen counters cleared?

  • Freshen your home by taking out trash and recycling. Open a window to let in a breeze, or at least fresh air.

  • Lay out something special to wear tonight, even if you're staying in.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Tidying Up

I want to enjoy tonight, so I'm just doing a few straightening and tidying projects tonight before I head out. I'll work in the kitchen a bit; dust a spectacularly dusty upstairs living room; put last night's freshly laundered tablecloth back on the dining table; hang up some clothing that's been sitting on a chair in my bedroom for 2 days; and shake out some throw rugs. Then it's off to a movie for me, and a return to a nice home later.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Vineyard Peach

I just saw this "online exclusive" (meaning it's not in the shops where we can sniff it) from Bath & Body Works. I admit I'm sorely tempted. I generally do like peach scents, and I am truly in need of a new body scrub. The shower gel I can't splurge on, as I already have enough shower gels waiting for me to use every night. I sort of wonder why they didn't release this a bit sooner, as it's more of a late summery scent than autumn.

Vineyard Peach, at The Body Shop

LOVELY BLOGS: Fun Home Things

Katie's lovely blog on crafts and cooking. I've enjoyed several of her posts lately: Creamy Pumpkin Soup (which I'll make with vegetable broth, since I'm vegetarian); DIY Autumn Spice Sugar Scrub; How to Antique a Picture Frame; and 10 Fall Wreath Ideas. I really, really appreciate her step-by-step photos!

http://www.funhomethings.com/

LOVELY MOVIES: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

I was so happy to be able to take my little foster boys (who had never been shown the wondrous E.T. film) to see it on the big screen, at the Seattle Cinerama. They found it as enjoyable and magical as I'd hoped. Now I find I don't actually own this movie in my video collection - I'm surprised, and I plan to remedy that when the Blu-Ray comes out on October 9.

E.T. Blu-Ray, on Amazon

E.T. Movie on Facebook

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Autumn Breakfast Bagels with Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese (Chin Deep)

A Break-The Fast Feast: Yom Kippur Recipes (Epicurious)

11 Quick and Easy Ways to Cook Kale (Bon Appetit)

Is Restaurant Service Getting Worse? (Bon Appetit)