Sunday, December 01, 2013

December Begins: Preparing for the Festivities

Poinsettia Stocking, from Pier 1 Imports

Here come the holidays! Today I'm spending my last vacation day decorating my home for the Christmas season. Besides decorating, I'll be making my home clean and cozy for my house guests, and preparing it for the holiday entertaining I'm planning to do.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Small Reindeer Topiary, from Sur la Table

  • Need to pick out your Christmas tree? Find a wreath for your front door? Hang some mistletoe?
  • Pay bills, rent and/or mortgage.
  • Look over your budget for the month ahead. What do you need to put away for savings and for emergencies, what can you spend on Christmas gifts, what bills/obligations do you have, what do you need to budget for food and entertainment?
  • How about your time budget? What holiday festivities, events and outings are important to you, and how will you make time for them?
  • Peek at your list of upcoming birthdays this month. Write cards and mail now - it will get busier this month and you may forget later on. Order flowers, and send gifts if you're planning to.
  • Make room on your calendar for at LEAST one night every week in December where you can stay home in your pajamas, de-stress, and spend time with family. Commit to this time, and keep it open no matter what. Be firm and stick to your commitment to stay home relaxing at least one night per week this month. You'll enjoy spending your time at home, not running around busily to events or errands. Guard this time fiercely for yourself. It's an important gift to give yourself and your family.
  • If you set out an Advent calendar or Advent house, it's time to get it out and stock it with small treats!
  • If you're planning on throwing a holiday party, have you set the date firmly and let potential guests know? It's already December first - your guests, if they're the social type of people, likely already have every weekend evening booked for the next month. Better send out a save-the-date or invitation immediately if you are hosting a holiday party this year.
  • Do you need to make any doctor, dentist, haircut or salon, or veterinary appointments for the next busy 4 weeks? Any appointments you can put off until next month, to keep December saner?
  • Check your inventory of firewood, starter logs, matches, and candles (if needed and if you have a wood fireplace)
  • Bundle up and go for a quick, brisk walk if you didn't get any exercise earlier this week. You can always treat yourself to a hot bath or extra long shower when you get back to warm back up.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Preparations

Embroidered Reindeer Pillow, from Pier 1 Imports

This weekend, do whatever you think you need to do to prepare for the holidays you celebrate. (I'm pretty sure everyone who cares to read Lovely Living is pretty enthusiastic about the holidays!) You might have already put up your tree - if so, I bet you can still find some decorating projects to take care of.

Christmas Sleigh Treat Boxes, from Sur la Table

Start planning your cooking for your holiday party; go Christmas shopping; write holiday cards; shop for baking and entertaining foods and supplies; decorate your home or apartment; put up lights; bake goodies; get out your holiday china; decorate a gingerbread house with your kids or nieces/nephews; whatever you enjoy doing for the holidays.

Holiday Storage, from The Container Store

Today I'll put on some Christmas music (I just throw on Comcast's Christmas music station), wrap a couple of gifts (and label them carefully), go through my candle cupboard looking for seasonal candles and holders, nibble on my holiday peppermint Oreo cookies, and put up garlands indoors. I'll pick which of my two Christmas wreaths I want to put on the front door, and put the other on a wall inside.

Yesterday I worked on putting up our Christmas lights. I put up a lot, but I'm not nearly done. I'll finish up this afternoon, hopefully before it gets dark. After that, I will put colored light strands in all of my front windows, upstairs and down.

Later tonight I plan to email some friends and family members, to make sure I have their current addresses and information for my address book. That way I'll have everything ready for the evenings I'll be settling in by the fire to write my holiday newsletters and cards.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Black Cherry by Philosophy

I am delighted by this new limited edition lotion and shower gel from Philosophy. I definitely love black cherry scented and flavored things, and I'm going to pamper myself with these this month!

Philosophy Black Cherry Italian Soda, from Sephora

LOVELY BLOGS: The History Kitchen

I'm always a sucker for food history writing, so I was delighted when I stumbled onto Tori's blog. I quite lost track of my time today because I wanted to read so many of her recent posts: American Cakes: Cider Cake; Popcorn: A Pop History; A Slice of Pumpkin History; and her article on vintage popcorn balls. You can also check out a couple of videos of her on television talking about food.

http://thehistorykitchen.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Mary Blair's Little Book of Verses

Someone at Animation Resources scanned in the entire Mary Blair's Golden Book of Little Verses from the 1960s edition. There's no text, but you can enjoy the pictures.

http://animationresources.org/?p=2162

LOVELY WEBSITES: Paper Thin Personas

This blog offers free printable paper dolls you can download and print out on your own computer. You can then cut them out and play with them, though some of them need to be colored in first. How fun! I love that you don't have to sign up for anything or give your email to download the dolls, nor is it a huge advertisement to buy anything. These are really cute - my favorite is Mia the Garden Fairy.

http://paperthinpersonas.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Christmas Holiday Baking: Why You Should Use a Food Scale (Gingerbread Snowflakes)

Christmas Wreath Cookies (The Bearfoot Baker)

Moving Black Friday Up a Week Could Save Thanksgiving (Consumerist)

Pear Riesling Compotes (Annie's Eats)

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes with Marshmallow Cloud Frosting (Sweetopia)

Pretty, Round Snowflake Cookies (Haniela's)

Recipes for Ginger Sweets and Desserts (CHOW)

Setting Up an Easy Hot Cocoa Bar (Love From the Oven)

7 Delicious Ways to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers (Baking Bites)

Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls (Bakingdom)


--Copyright 2013 Carrie Carolin

Lovely Living

Monday, March 11, 2013

Preparing for My 2013 Spring Cleaning

Mondays are a busy workday and errand day for me. By the time we get home from my teenager's tutoring session, we're starving and eat dinner right away. We're not left with a whole bunch of time in the evening for projects, so I'm keeping tonight's Spring Cleaning project very simple. Mostly I'll just be gathering supplies and taking inventory of my cleaning products.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Honeysuckle Counter Spray, by Mrs. Meyers

  • Make menu plan for the week ahead; create grocery list
  • Need to do any hand washing of laundry? Stockings, Spanx, fragile lingerie or other linens? I like to set things in the sink for a nice soak, then go finish them and hang them to dry during a commercial.
  • Will you be sleeping in a freshly laundered nightgown or pajamas tonight?
  • Try to toss out one tired old T-shirt tonight. This will make room in your dresser for something lovely. I bet we all have five or six ratty old T-shirts we could get rid of if we were determined enough!
  • Slice fresh fruit and leave it out on the counter for yourself and your family to enjoy tonight.
  • It only takes about 3 minutes to stir a box mix of muffins or banana bread, 10 seconds to pop it into the oven, 10 seconds to take them out when done, and a couple minutes to clean up and recycle the box. Have you baked fresh muffins for your family lately?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Planning Spring Cleaning and Collecting Supplies

Basil Blue Sage All-Purpose Cleaner, from Caldrea

Tonight I'm mostly going over my multiple cupboards where we store cleaning supplies, taking inventory and trying to consolidate them. We do have childproof locks on my cabinets, but I'd prefer to have all my cleaning supplies in one place, ideally. I might still stash a countertop cleaner under the kitchen sink next to the backup dish soap and the dishwasher detergent, but there's no reason to have Windex and toilet cleaner stored there!

I'll see if there's anything I have too much of (did I buy too many cans of Orange Pledge, or have I just been neglecting my dusting lately?) Then I'll make a shopping list for any cleaning products or supplies I might need. I know I definitely need another scrubber sponge or two.

After I'm done taking inventory, I'll see if there are any items I can get rid of to declutter (I recently got rid of my rarely used Swiffer stick). Then I'll make a plan for the rest of my Spring Cleaning. I want to do quick and easy projects on weeknights, and major projects on weekends.

And this year I'm focusing on not just cleaning and maintaining my home, but replacing and renewing. If I have grotty looking old towel hangers in the bathroom, it's time to replace them with new ones. If the wood molding in a bathroom is looking dingy and scuffed, it's time to think about tearing it out and installing new molding. I'm not up for any big home renovation projects, but so many things are easy to replace right away - inexpensive lamp shades, heater vent covers, filthy stained light switch plates, etc.

What cleaning supplies are you low on?

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Tea Forte's Garden Harvest White Tea

I'm so excited to try Tea Forte's new white teas for Spring 2013. The new flavors include Peach Rhubarb Preserve, Tupelo Honey Fig, White Cinnamon Sage, Wild Apple Ginger and Tangerine Rosemary. They sound so tasty!

Garden Harvest at Tea Forte

LOVELY BLOGS: My Custard Pie

"Honest food, fresh ingredients, and a slice of life in Dubai." I find this blog SO fascinating! Sally originally was from Gloucestershire, England, and relocated to Dubai a few years ago. I am really enjoying her posts - lately an Italian restaurant review, a review of Nigella Lawson's "How to Eat" book, and her experiences at a Women and Wine event.

http://mycustardpie.com/

My Custard Pie on Facebook

LOVELY CRAFTS: Paper Source's Easter Crafts

Right now Paper Source is featuring so many adorable Easter and Spring craft kits you can make with your kids. There's a bunny garland, an egg garland, a paper bunny kit, an Easter place card chicks kit (does anybody use place cards anymore though?) and die-cut eggs and bunnies. Also check out this intriguing paper carrot box.

Easter Crafts, at Paper Source

LOVELY HOME FRAGRANCE: Maison Luxe from Archipelago Botanicals

I'm always a sucker for beautifully packaged candles, so I was excited to see this new line from Archipelago Botanicals. I finally got to smell these in person at the Seattle Gift Show recently. I didn't personally care for "Manor" (Sandalwood, Raw Vanilla and Amber) but I loved "Palazzo" (Permission, White Nectarine and Olive Wood) and "Chalet" (Bergamot, Lemon Leaf and pressed flowers).

Maison Luxe at Archipelago Botanicals

LOVELY MOVIES: Somewhere in Time

I admit it, this sappy 1980s movie is one of my favorites. This website is a lovely resource for the film. I just learned here that "Somewhere in Time: The Musical" is debuting in Portland Oregon this Spring. I'd love to go see it if I could slip away! Check out the galleries for behind-the-scenes photos and nice photos of Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve.

http://somewhereintime.tv/

LOVELY SHOPS: Bellflower Bay

I wanted to share this vintage and antique jewelry Etsy shop with you. I don't know the owner and they didn't ask to be featured, I just have enjoyed browsing here so much. This is exactly the style of jewelry I prefer to wear: vintage Victorian pieces. I love the geometric shapes of the gemstones and the delicate touches. I haven't bought anything from here yet - I doubt dainty Victorian rings will fit on my age-fattened fingers, sadly!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/BellflowerBay

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Chickpea, Fennel and Citrus Salad (Bon Appetit)

Hazelnut Coffee Cupcakes (The Cupcake Project)

Kahlua Chocolate Decadence Brownie (Worth the Whisk)

Keeping Books Alive (Martha Stewart)

Mango Pineapple Salsa (Brown Eyed Baker)

Pumpkin Pineapple Spice Muffins (Foodess)

Sweet and Sour Citrus Chicken Stir Fry (Our Best Bites)

Time-Saving Tips to Get That Hour Back (Organized Island)

20 Irish Recipes for St. Patrick's Day (Bon Appetit)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Happy March - Spring Cleaning Begins!

Mrs. Meyers "Radish" Scented Cleaning Products

I normally begin my Spring Cleaning on March 1st or as close to that as I can get. But this year, I had a houseguest visiting to attend Emerald City Comic Con with me. I did have to (choose to) do a lot of cleaning before she arrived. I get nervous about how much dog and cat hair is all over my house, whenever someone visits who isn't a pet owner.

Now, today, I'm ready to start my Spring Cleaning. I'd rather do all my heavy cleaning and organizing for the year, right now while the weather is bad. (It's been lovely and sunny lately though, but it's Seattle, so I anticipate some rainfall in our immediate future.) Cleaning now will will free me up for sunny spring walks with my dogs in April (in between our rain showers) and lolling with a book on a sunny patch of carpet instead of washing windows and working hard on the house a few weeks from today.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Look over your budget for the rest of the month. This month you might be spending extra for cleaning supplies, organizing supplies or replacements of old towels, pillowcases, etc. How much can you budget for these things, if they're important to you?
  • Look over your list of upcoming birthdays this month. Write cards tonight and mail them in the morning for anybody with a birthday this week. For further-out birthdays, order flowers, and prepare to send gifts for those people you plan to do that for.
  • Do you need to make any doctor, dentist, vet, haircut or salon appointments for yourself or family members? Any appointments coming up this week you don't want to forget about?
  • Is it time to lube and oil your car or take it in for other maintenance tasks?
  • Are you attending any plays, musicals, concerts or symphonies this spring? Buy tickets now if you haven't yet.
  • Do you know where you're going for Spring Break (if you have kids and are planning to travel). Travel booked and paid for? Arrangements made?
  • Take some time to look over your budget for the next month. Need to budget for any birthday parties, a St. Patrick's Day party, an Easter Brunch or other festivities? Don't just do your financial budget (which is very important too) but make your time budget. Do you have time for gardening, homemaking, work, projects - but also time for family, friends, pets, and very importantly, yourself?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Beds

"Jocelyn" Floral Duvet Cover, from Pottery Barn

My first Spring Cleaning project involves all the beds in my house. I'm going to strip all the sheets, duvets and comforters to launder. I'll even take off the dust ruffles and mattress pads to launder, too. I plan to vacuum the mattresses, flip them, and Febreze them a bit as needed.

Then I will move the beds, vacuuming under them and removing any items that shouldn't be under there. (I keep a flashlight and a telephone under my bed, and that's about it nowadays).

"Colette" Bed, from Crate and Barrel

This year I'm paying extra attention to the condition and quality of items in my home. (Last year was more about decluttering). Is it time to upgrade or replace any of my bed and bedding related items? I don't have a headboard or bed set - is it time to get one, or am I happy without one? New nice, clean, comfortable pillows cost just $12 or so at Costco or Target. When's the last time you bought new pillows for your beds? I try to replace mine every year, shuddering and thinking of a year's worth of dust mite buildup in them. I keep some of the older ones for guest pillows, but usually we don't end up using them. Is it time for a new dust ruffle, a new mattress pad, or a new mattress entirely? How old IS your mattress and box springs?

Damask Stripe Sheets, from JC Penney

Are your sheets torn, faded, tired looking or pilling? Time to get new sheets? Do you have just one set of sheets, or do you have seasonal sets like I do? (Flannel for fall and winter, cotton for spring and summer?) Sheets can be a really big investment, so I only replace them every five or so years. I recently bought a set of damask stripe burgundy sheets from Bed, Bath and Beyond for my winter bedding set, but they tore right away in my washer, and they look wrinkly, so I'm kind of frustrated.

Tonight my household members will go to sleep in freshly cleaned beds. My washing machine is sure going to get a workout!

LOVELY BLOGS: The Harried Homemaker Preps

I'm enjoying this blog on homesteading, survival and being prepared. I don't tend to gravitate towards "prepper" blogs, but I find this lady's info on gardening, food storage, and canning to be really helpful in my own quest to economize more and create more things myself.

Recent posts include Perennial Vegetables for Your Survival Garden; Indoor Seed Starting; and how to know how much to plant.

http://theharriedhomemakerpreps.blogspot.com/

LOVELY CRAFTS: Fabric Dollhouses

These are adorable! I'm wondering if I'm actually brave enough to attempt one for my niece. She'd most likely love it and carry it around with her everywhere, if I could actually make myself sit down and try it!

Fabric Dollhouse Tutorial from UK Lass in the US

LOVELY FOOD: Moonstruck Chocolates for Easter

I always look forward to seeing what Moonstruck Chocolates is offering for their seasonal Easter collection. This year there's the usual adorable colorful Easter Egg truffles, a dark chocolate rooster, some cute calico bunny chocolates, and a gorgeous hand-painted artisan egg.

Easter Chocolates, at Moonstruck

LOVELY HOME FRAGRANCE: Sheet Spray

Not everyone here is going to want to spray chemical fragrances on their sheets. I personally really enjoy doing so. My favorite from this line is "Beach Days," with "Line Dried" a close runner up. When you're mid-week and it's not time to wash your sheets again already, it can be really comforting to freshen them up with a lovely spritz or two.

Sheet Sprays from The Good Home Co.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cobb Salad with French Dressing (Fructose Free Me)

A Crunchy Granola Recipe to Welcome Maple Syrup Season (Chatelaine)

Double Chocolate Stout Mousse Cake (Sprinkle Bakes)

Etiquette Redefined in the Digital Age (NY Times)

Homemade Yeast Doughnuts (Calm Optimism)

Lemon, Rosemary and Zucchini Bread (Tastebud Temptation)

My Lazy Gardening Secret (Slate)

Potato and Rosemary Pizza (Williams-Sonoma)

Raspberry Neapolitan Party Cake (Sweetapolita)

Soda Bread: Sugar Added, Fairies Optional (NY Times)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Being Honest With Ourselves

The cheerful, colorful primroses that greet me at my front door each day

Today I've picked out several small sorting projects that I can do while watching the Academy Awards. I don't want to just veg out in front of the TV for a few hours and not have anything productive to do. I'll be sorting three bathroom drawers of cosmetics and nail polishes, plus a box of crafting supplies I've neglected for the last four or five years.

It's time to face up to the fact I'm not using many of the lovely things I've purchased, not crafting with my supplies, not wearing my cosmetics or finger nail polishes. It's time to let go, stop buying things I don't need and won't use, and stop cluttering up my home.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to do laundry for the upcoming week? Sheets, towels/washcloths, a load of clothing?
  • Clean one drawer, one shelf or two door shelves in both your fridge and your freezer. This is an easy project you can do in between Oscar commercials.
  • Create menus for the upcoming week's meals and lunchboxes.
  • Write up your grocery/shopping list.
  • Glance over your appointment calendar for the next week. Any upcoming birthdays? Appointments?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Being Honest with Myself While Decluttering

Tonight I'm being honest with myself as I sort through this box of crafting supplies. I have not made a single craft with these items, nor used any of the rubber stamps or inks, in the past four or five years. I've been saving (hoarding?) these items because of unrealistic fantasies: "I'll use these rubber stamps to embellish all my outgoing eBay shipments;" "I'll handcraft beautiful personalized greeting cards, adorn them with these stickers and mail them out;" "I need all these pens because I write so many letters and I really need every one of these colored inks."

It's time to admit the fantasy is over. If I haven't used anything in this box in the past four or more years, I'm not ever going to. Fortunately I've stopped my shopaholic tendencies when it comes to craft supplies - I haven't bought any pens, papers, stickers or stationery in over a year.

This box of rubber stamps, mostly all unused, is going up on eBay. I'll do a bit of research tonight during Oscars commercials, to see what a fair price I should set them at. It's not about making a profit though, I want to get rid of the whole lot. Meanwhile, I'll be sorting out the pens, papers, dried up glues and inks, and getting rid of unusable craft supplies. I will see if there are a couple sticker books my friends' little girls might enjoy, but I can't make my clutter someone else's problem.

After I'm done sorting this box, I will wipe it clean and give it to a friend who is moving and needs some organizing supplies. This will free up a 3 foot by 1 foot space in my garage that no longer will need to be used to store items I will never likely touch or use or enjoy.

What can you sort tonight and be honest with yourself about?

LOVELY BLOGS: Tartan Tastes in Texas

This blog initially caught my attention because it focuses on Scottish cooking. I'm Scottish, and don't know much about my family's food heritage other than to avoid haggis completely. Angela is an ex-pat from Scotland who now lives with her family in Texas. I've enjoyed her recent posts on making over a chest of drawers, her Flower Jammy Dodgers recipe, and her Scottish macaroon bars with cherry that look so scrumptious! I appreciate that she includes step-by-step pictures as you work your way through her recipes. You can also follow her Pinterest boards.

http://www.tartantastesintx.com/

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Jo Malone's Sugar and Spice

Next time I'm in my favorite department store, I plan to head over to the fragrance counter to sample the new limited edition Sugar & Spice fragrances from Jo Malone. I don't quite need a new perfume, but if I were to convince my cousin to take home a couple of my perfumes she's enjoyed borrowing from me lately.. I'd feel ok about treating myself to one of these for Spring. The scents include Redcurrant & Cream, Lemon Tart, Elderflower & Gooseberry (the least tempting sounding one to me), Ginger Biscuit, and Bitter Orange & Chocolate. What a fun collection!

Sugar & Spice, at Jo Malone

LOVELY HOME: Italian Lemon Dishes

Again I wish I had the courage to redo my kitchen in yellow. These bright, cheerful Italian lemon dishes would be perfect for my spring and summer entertaining. I'm enjoying looking through the adorable serving pieces here, too, such as the lemon-shaped sugar bowl. I'm sure my food would taste even better if displayed and presented on such lovely plates!

Italian Lemon Dishes, from Sur la Table

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes (Petit 4 Chocolatier)

Caramelized Winter Vegetables with Polenta (Two Blue Lemons)

Cream Puffs with a Quick Boozy Raspberry Ssauce (Gimme Some Oven)

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Banana Muffins (Picky Palate)

Ginger, Lemon and Thyme Tonic (Petite Kitchen)

Lemon Thyme Pots de Creme (TasteFood)

Roasted Vegetables with Caper Vinaigrette (Apartment Dining)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hints of Spring

The first snow drops have arrived in my yard!

Spring is surely arriving soon - these snow drops give me hope. Meanwhile, I'm greeting spring in my own home. I'm putting away the red-and-white decorations (candles, tablecloths, placemats, fluffy throws, decor, pillows) I had up for Valentine's Day. I'll replace them with my pastel pink, green, blue and yellow Spring and Easter decor this weekend.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

A bud vase I slipped a few baby roses into, then tucked into a windowsill for spring cheer

  • Prepare your home for the weekend. Empty trash/recycling throughout the house; sweep front porch (if you have one); empty the mail table; clean off the dining table and coffee table; freshen houseplants and throw out any vases of dead flowers; bring in fresh flowers if you can; empty or fill the dishwasher as needed.


  • Need to fill your car up with gas for the weekend? Should you stop by an ATM for cash?


  • Drop off/pick up Redbox or Netflix movie rentals?


  • Drop off/pick up dry cleaning?


  • Finalize your social plans for the weekend. Throwing an Oscars party? Do you have your grocery shopping done, plan in place for cleaning and prepping? If you're attending an Oscars party, what will you wear?


  • Don't forget to book some quiet "me time" for yourself this weekend though, where you can take a bath or read magazines or write in your journal for an hour uninterrupted.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Freshening Up for Spring

This planter of spring primroses greets visitors to my front door

Before I begin my Spring Cleaning projects in March, I'm decorating my home for Spring. I'm not hosting the family Easter party this year (I'd like to give someone else a turn to enjoy being Hostess) so I will tone down my Easter decorations. But I'm delighted to decorate with fresh light Spring colors and burn spring-scented candles in my home this month.

I'm replacing my red Valentine's Day decorations with pink or lavender placemats, throw blankets, decorative pillows, throw rugs, tablerunners, candles, and decor items. I'll clean and carefully put away the items I'm replacing. As I'm storing them away, I'll evaluate if I really need to keep them. Can I do without a couple items, so I'm storing less items in my home? (I just watched another episode of "Hoarding: Buried Alive" last night, and it traumatized me!)

When I'm done decorating my home for Spring today (after a run to Trader Joe's for fresh flowers and houseplants) I'm settling in for a quiet evening at home to enjoy some downtime and cozy up in my clean, fresh, inviting home. I'll burn a fire, watch a couple movies and catch up with my pile of library books.

What are your plans for this evening?

LOVELY BATH: Method's Spring Hand Wash

I'm replacing the hand washes in my bathrooms (as soon as they're used up this week) with Method's new Spring-scented foaming hand washes. Their two refreshing scents are Watermelon or Daffodil. I like to use seasonal scents in both my hand washes and dish soaps. With so many Family Dinner nights, visiting cousins, and house guests, my hand soaps get used up frequently enough I can indulge in this practice and keep the scents relevant to the season. Almost all my Winter and Cranberry scented hand washes are ready to be rinsed out and recycled.

Spring Foaming Hand Wash, at Method Home

LOVELY BLOGS: Jelly Toast

Emily's lovely blog presents refreshing recipes such as Rosemary Lemon Shortbread with Rosemary Lemon Spritzer; Roasted Tomato and Garlic Whole Grain Bread; and tasty recipes such as salted caramel chocolate biscotti. You can also visit the Jelly Toast Pinterest boards.

http://www.jellytoastblog.com/

LOVELY HOME: Home Sweet Home Decorative Prints

Suzy Ultman's adorable, cheerful prints were inspired by New England landscapes. This book of 12 posters contains bright apple orchards, homespun townscapes, sunlit harbors and lively forests. Frame them to your liking and use them to brighten up your home.

Home Sweet Home Decorative Prints, on Amazon

LOVELY KITCHEN: Le Creuset "Soleil"

I'm not sure I have the guts to change over my red kitchen into a yellow-themed one. But every Spring, I start wishing I could freshen up my kitchen with cheery bright yellow accents: yellow and blue curtains, a bright shining yellow teapot, and yellow cookware. This month, Sur la Table announced their exclusive new shade of yellow enamel cookware from Le Creuset: Soleil. I've so enjoyed dreaming over the cookware pictures here. It's made me want to cook a lot of soups, stews and casseroles!

Le Creuset "Soleil" Collection, at Sur la Table

LOVELY SHOPS: Newtknees

This shop sells adorable needle felted Easter toys and decorations. (Plus other seasonal gifts such as Christmas Santas and gnomes).

Check out this adorable felted wool egg with chick toy!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/newtknees

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

2013 Oscar Party Planner (Epicurious)

Beets with Red Onion Vinaigrette (Worth the Whisk)

Blueberry Pull-Apart Buns (The Vagabond Baker)

Blueberry, White Chocolate & Lime Muffins (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Cameo/Silhouette Cookie How-To (Sweetopia)

Cucumber Mint Raita (Easy Cooking)

Elegant Snacks and Drinks for Your Oscars Cocktail Party (CHOW)

Foolproof Soft-Boiled Eggs (The Bitten Word)

Homemade Lemon Curd (Martha Stewart)

Marjoram Sauce with Capers and Green Olives (101 Cookbooks)

Mashed Potatoes with Greek Yogurt (The Faux Martha)

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies (The Bearfoot Baker)

10 Free Knitting Patterns for Adorable Baby Shoes (Blissfully Domestic)

A Trio of Recipes for National Margarita Day (Imbibe Magazine)

White Chocolate and Blueberry Bread Pudding (The Lush Chef)


-Copyright 2013 Lovely Living

http://www.lovely-living.com

Lovely Living on Facebook

Thursday, February 07, 2013

February Begins - Another Festive Winter's Season

The heart-shaped wreath on my front door welcomes us home

February teases a hint of spring. Here in Seattle we enjoyed a beautifully sunny, relatively warm day yesterday. I took advantage of it and brought my dogs to the dog park for an hour of play in the fields and river. I paid the price for taking off a couple hours in the afternoon, stretching my workday into Friday evening, but it was worth it.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to buy any stamps? The rate just went up again, to 46 cents. Many of us are paying bills online now, but you still need paper stamps to mail Valentines, lovely handwritten letters and personalized notecards.
  • Review this past January in your mind. How did you do on your New Year's resolutions (if you made any?) Have you been eating well, exercising, making time for friends and family, spending quality time with your partner, kids and pets? Made time for charity, stuck to your budget, read a book or two you enjoyed, kept up with the news? What will you do differently in February?
  • Look over upcoming birthdays for the month of February. Write cards, and arrange to have gifts or flowers sent as applicable.
  • Pay bills, mortgage/rent, etc.
  • Make upcoming doctor, dentist, veterinarian, and salon/haircut appointments for the month for yourself and family members.

Meri Meri Valentine Cake Box, on Amazon

LOVELY HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS AND FUN:

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fireplaces

Aspire Metal Fireplace Screen, on Amazon

Each winter finds me using my fireplaces quite often - just about every night. They don't heat my home, but they make it cozy and cheerful. My foster daughter and I study and eat dinner in our upstairs living room by a cheerful fire. Later in the evening, though the fire is dying by then, I enjoy a cup of chamomile tea in front of the fireplace, pets clustered around me snoozing! If we're watching TV in the chilly downstairs basement, the gas fireplace there helps us keep warm in our blankets. (No, we don't wear those horrible Snuggies!)

Sadly, my upstairs fireplace has a broken glass door, and the downstairs one is having trouble with the pilot light. So this week I need to prioritize making a repair appointment for both of them. Today my project is to make sure my fireplaces and surrounding area are in great condition, ready for our first wood fire and gas fire after the maintenance company leaves.

Panacea Fireplace Tools, on Amazon

I'll clean out the ashes, vacuum the carpet around the fireplace, and wash the glass fireplace windows (at least the non-broken ones). Next I'll dust off the fireplace tools, and straighten my fire logs in their basket I keep next to the fireplace. I also keep a basket of small firestarters and kindling wood next to the fireplace as well, and that will need tidying and vacuuming underneath too. The tiles in front of the fireplace and surrounding the opening need to be wiped down.

I'll dust off both mantels, then replace the two burned out red candles on the mantel with two fresh new bright cheery red pillars, for the upcoming Valentine's Day. I had the chimney sweep visit us in the fall, so everything is ready to go other than the minor repairs needed.

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

LOVELY BLOGS: Geeky Hostess

Here's a really fun blog by a woman named Tara. Like me, she lives in Seattle and well.. is geeky! She loves entertaining, and her blog is full of fun ideas for parties, geeky home decor, and serving related themed foods. Right now she's posting about some cute Dr. Who cookie cutters; some Valentine gift suggestions; and introduces some interesting cosmetic companies I'd never heard of. I can't wait to see what she finds next!

http://www.geekyhostess.com/

LOVELY TV: Dukes of Melrose

I'm looking forward to checking out this new show when it debuts on March 6. I don't have a lot of room in my life for TV, but I can't resist this show about boutique owners trying to find vintage couture treasures.

http://www.bravotv.com/dukes-of-melrose

Monday, January 28, 2013

Use it or Lose It Week

Four plastic devices for microwaving eggs

Last year I created "Use it or Lose It" week in my house in order to de-clutter and really prioritize space in the house for items we actually use. I'm instituting this again for 2013. I'll go through my house a room or two at a time, looking for items I really don't use and can do without.

I've started in the kitchen, and the first things I will recycle are three of these microwave egg containers. You crack an egg into one, pour in a tiny bit of salt and pepper, perhaps some butter, stir with a fork, then microwave for 50 seconds. Sounds gross or like a cheap shortcut, but it works pretty well. Plus you end up with a much smaller container to clean out than if I used a frying pan. It turns out I use them less than once per week, and never needed to use four at a time. The plastic is fortunately recyclable, so I've just tossed three of these into the recycle bin. It only cleared up a tiny bit of space in one of my kitchen cupboards, but I'm just getting started!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Make meal plans for the week ahead; create your grocery list
  • Find two things to throw away (or donate, or recycle) right this instant. De-clutter!
  • Look over your calendar for this week. Any appointments you need to go to? Any birthdays you should send cards, gifts or make a telephone call to celebrate?
  • Enjoy one of your beautiful possessions today. Pour your morning cup of coffee or tea (or your evening cocktail) into a beautiful antique cup (I know you own one!) instead of just a mug. Serve your evening wine or cocktail in a gorgeous goblet, not just a plain wine glass.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Use it or Lose It

Torrance Magazine Basket, from Pier 1 Imports

Pick a room to de-clutter (your bedroom? Kitchen? living room?) Look over the objects there, including furniture, decorations, useful items, gadgets, and accessories. Touch each item and be truthful with yourself: do you use the item often? Is it useful, or beautiful?

If you find things you haven't used in the last month, definitely stop to decide whether it's worth keeping that item around. I have a chair I haven't sat on for a couple months in my living room, but I know it will come in handy next time I have a dinner party. I'll keep that, but I have a stack of magazines I haven't read since Christmas. Those need to be recycled.

The more items we own, the more stressful our lives in some ways. Items require care, cleaning, maintenance, and may have costs associated with owning them (in both time and money). Be sure the items you're spending your time on are useful, used often, or beautiful.

This week I challenge you to sort your kitchen (gadgets), DVDs/movies, bookshelves, garage, crafts room, attic/basement, linen closet and other places where unused goods seem to make permanent homes. Find new homes for your items by donating, recycling, or throwing away items not good enough to donate.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Bingley's Teas

I hesitate to recommend these teas to you, since I haven't tasted any of them. I'm just getting a kick out of the fact they are Jane Austen inspired. There's a tea here called "Compassion for Mrs. Bennet's Nerves," (made with chamomile, as you might suspect) and one called "Marianne's Wild Abandon." "Longbourne Wedding Tea" has a champagne flavor, "Mr. Darcy" evokes leather, chestnut and plum. The packaging is elegant - the teas come in little book boxes. How fun!

http://www.bingleysteas.com/

LOVELY BLOGS: Premeditated Leftovers

I don't normally enjoy frugal advice websites. This one, however, I've found immensely useful. Practical and not at all preachy, it offers tips on living fully while spending less. There are a lot of useful cooking tips here, plus tips on frugal living (don't buy fitted sheets, for example) and gardening. As I'm trying to make food stretch to feed more people in my household lately, I'm sure I'll find this blog useful to check in on every week or so.

http://premeditatedleftovers.com/

LOVELY DESSERTS: Chocolate Jewels

These jewel-shaped chocolates are just gorgeous! I might not send them as a Valentine's Day gift, but I'd love to offer some at my next fairytale or pirate themed party. (I throw parties like that for grownups, not kids!)

Chocolate Jewels at Dean & Deluca

LOVELY SHOPS: Dolls and Daydreams

This Etsy shop sells PDF sewing patterns you can use to make a variety of absolutely adorable soft dolls and toys. I'm not sure my sewing skills are advanced enough to attempt this cute Snow White doll, and I'm scared this site would inspire me to go out and buy even more craft supplies that I will end up never using. Check out the cute Wizard of Oz doll patterns!

Dolls and Daydreams, on Etsy

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Buttermilk Cinnamon Chip Scones (Give Peas a Chance)

Cinnamon and Sugar Roasted Chickpeas (Adventures in My Kitchen)

Easy Cinnamon Puffs (The English Kitchen)

The Incredible, Edible, Perfectly Cooked Soft Boiled Egg (Eat Drink Better)

Magic Winter Squash and Bean Soup (Edible Living)

Maple Glazed Cinnamon Buns (Sasaki Time)

Raspberry Meringue Hearts with Chocolate Pudding (Flour Arrangements)

Ten Deliciously Edible Stadiums for the Super Bowl

WikiCells - Edible Food Membranes (Little Bits of Intrigue)