Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holiday Letter Writing

Periwinkle Blue Christmas Tree Cards, from Papyrus Online

Holiday Letter Writing

Tonight I'm writing holiday cards and a brief newsletter I'll tuck into them. Some of what I'm writing seems redundant to re-share with friends who have been following my life this year on Facebook. But I'm sending newsletters to lots of older relatives who don't use computers or refuse to use Facebook. Anyway, I'm looking forward to a quiet night at home drinking tea and writing cards!


  • Need to do laundry? I have a load of kitchen towels to do, and I like to wash my sheets and bath towels on Sundays so they're fresh for the workweek ahead.
  • Clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door pockets in your fridge and in your freezer. This will keep your fridge and freezer cleaned out every single month!
  • Need to add rock salt, kitty litter or driveway de-icer to your shopping list?
  • Check your humidifier filter - does it need to be replaced? Need water in your humidifier? It hasn't been too dry around here, luckily.
  • Clean your dryer vent, if needed.
  • Are you using up leftovers? Are there any you should give up on and toss out?
  • Need to do any more holiday or Christmas related phone calls to relatives before the night gets too late?
  • Make meal plans/menus for the week ahead and create your shopping list?
  • What are you wearing on New Year's Eve? Need to get anything dry cleaned? Pick out your jewelry and shoes ahead of time so you won't be flustered an hour before your fun event?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Cards and Newsletter

Reindeer Christmas Cards, from Papyrus Online

It's long past time to start writing our holiday cards! Perhaps you've been way more industrious than me and you already sent yours out weeks or days ago. This year I put this task off too long. December is almost over, and I'm determined to finish by New Year's Eve. I might have to cut down on the number of my intended recipients. I don't want to just sign my name on some cards - I want to put something personal in every one, sharing something and asking questions of the person. It's quite time consuming, but for many of these people it's the only letter they'll get from me this year. (I hope to change that in the future! I miss being an active letter writer!)

Meri Meri 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' Cards, on Amazon

I find that if I address and stamp my cards all at the same time, I have an easier time forcing myself to sit down and write a few. It really helps to put something silly or fun on the Tivo to listen to while I write: old reruns of How I Met Your Mother, for example, or a Netflix marathon (I'm currently working my way through Season 2 of The West Wing. Or of course you can put on a classic holiday movie in the background if you're not "Christmased out" already.

If you take on this project tonight, make yourself hot cocoa or hot tea while you go about your writing. Perhaps afterwards, a nip of ruby port or a sip of sherry as the night grows colder and later?

10 Tips for Writing a Holiday Newsletter (Grammar/

LOVELY BLOGS: Recipe Reminiscing

Ted posts a vintage recipe once per week. Recently he's posted about a spicy non-alcoholic drink from Norway; shared a recipe for a traditional Norwegian Christmas recipe called Troll Cream, and the recipe for a Danish pepper cookie coffee. I'm intrigued to see what he's going to find and share next!

LOVELY MUSIC: Lady Georgianna


These three ladies perform 18th century music at various festivals and events in the UK. They take their music from antique 18th century music publications, and their group name was inspired by the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Georgiana Cavendish. They've performed, as you can imagine, at the Jane Austen festival in Bath. You can watch a video of them performing "Take Heed You Lovely Maid" and one of them performing live at the Whitby Goth festival.

Lady Georgianna, on Facebook


Here's a charming Etsy shop selling darling vintage and antique collectibles. I've so been enjoying browsing their selection. Check out this vintage Steiff owl, these two vintage head vases, an antique Christmas girl figurine, and tons of vintage jewelry.

LOVELY TV: Downton Abbey Season 5

Season 5 premieres on Sunday, January 4! Who here is having a Downton Abbey viewing party? You can watch a special holiday preview here which has clips from the Christmas special we'll see in a couple months.

Downton Abbey, on PBS


Chocolate Cinnamon Babka Muffins (How Sweet It Is)

Christmas Pie from Leftovers (Our Life's Blessings)

Deep Dish Pizza Muffins (Oh Bite It)

Eskimo Girl Cookies (Haniela's)

Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake (Honest Cooking)

Vintage Cocktail Friday: Green Room - 1960 (The Mid-Century Menu)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

Lovely Living on Facebook

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Making Our Bedrooms Sanctuaries Again

Red Chenille Throw, from Pier 1 Imports

Today I'm decluttering my bedroom, which fell victim to my pre-Christmas Eve Dinner whirlwind. I swooped around the house picking up things that didn't belong where they were, but unfortunately I ended up tossing them all into my bedroom and shutting the door so company didn't see. My bedroom isn't a restful sanctuary at the moment, and I intend to do something about that today!


  • Are you still in the midst of Christmas celebrations or hosting out of town guests? Try to sneak a few minutes just to yourself. Flip through a magazine, hide in your closet with a cup of tea, or take longer in the bathroom than you actually need to.
  • Need to run by the store today to replenish milk, juice, fruit, eggs, lettuce, etc?
  • If you're out and about doing errands, do you need to remember to return Redbox movies, drop mail at a mailbox, drop off plastic bags for recycling, pick up or drop off dry cleaning?
  • Let's not neglect our beauty during this week between Christmas and New Year's. I intend to look fabulous on New Year's Eve, so tonight when I get back from dinner, I'll be applying a mud mask. Need to touch up your manicure, touch up your roots, book a quick trim or hair color for next week, or shave anything?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Reclaiming Our Master Bedrooms

I'm guilty of throwing a bunch of papers and things all over my bedroom this week, in my haste to clean up for Christmas. I've piled up library books, bills, paperwork and junk mail all over the hope chest in my bedroom. Normally this hope chest only has two jewelry boxes and a framed family picture. I've gone and horribly cluttered my bedroom, so it doesn't feel like a sanctuary any more.

Before I go to a movie with friends today, I'm dusting my bedroom, vacuuming, making my bed (my most hated chore!) and clearing off the clutter. I can't just move the clutter to other spots, I must deal with it. That means paying, then filing bills; recycling junk mail; mailing out Christmas cards; returning library books; and finding a proper home for the library books I'm currently reading and using. (A lot of them are for Lovely Living University).

Next, I'll take the two tea mugs and two water glasses cluttering up my room, to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher. A quick emptying of my bedroom trash can and I'll be done with this project!

I'll finish by spraying my beloved L'Occitane "Winter Forest" home fragrance spray in my bedroom. It will smell fabulous when I get back from my adventures today and collapse into bed with a book, a mug of tea and my cat.

Is your bedroom a relaxing, clean, clutter-free sanctuary you'll look forward to returning to and refreshing in?


I'm not much of an apron wearer - I tend to get all wet and floury and quickly dash upstairs to change before guests arrive. But look how gorgeous and stylish these aprons are! Perfect for hosting elegant cocktail parties or retro-themed parties. My favorite is the "praise Aqua." Don't miss the "Grace Red" and the ruffly "Just Black." The website lists stores in each state where you can purchase the aprons. You can also find a few of them on Amazon.

LOVELY ACCESSORIES: Kate Spade Rocket Clutch

I always look forward to seeing what sort of clever, wacky novelty purse Kate Spade will come up with each season. This time it's the "Over the Moon" rocket-shaped purse. Probably not too functional (how much can it hold?) but so cute!

Over the Moon Rocket Clutch, at Kate Spade

LOVELY BLOGS: Jill on the Hill

Jill blogs from the MidWest, where she's a wife and the mother of four children and two dogs. I'm enjoying her posts on home management, food, and saving money. Recently she's posting about Quick and Easy Beef Stew, Crockpot Favorites and Christmas Prep. Check out her Make Your Own Fire Starters post!

LOVELY BOOKS: Jane Austen Cover to Cover

Here's my next coffee table book! You can take a peek at some of the covers in the gallery. My favorite is the peacock cover, and I almost teared up at the first edition of 'Sense and Sensibility.' This would be nice to pass around during your next tea party!

Jane Austen Cover to Cover, on Amazon

LOVELY KIDS: Paper Dollhouse

This is so darling! It's a thick paper dollhouse from Lille Huset. Kids are encouraged to make their own furnishings and decorations for it from paper and craft supplies - but it does come with a few paper cutouts for the walls.

Paper Dollhouse, from Paper Source


Caramelized Onion and Thyme Quiche (Garlic and Zest)

Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Hashbrown Casserole (Its Yummi)

Chocolate Covered Cherries (Six Sisters Stuff)

Egg, Cheese and Chive Tartlets (CHOW)

Happy Holiday Breakfasts (CHOW)

How to Raise Grateful Kids (Time)

Pickled and Spiced Cherries (Feast Wisely)

Sparkling Drinks for New Year's Eve (Boulder Locavore)

Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

Friday, December 26, 2014

Leisurely Post-Christmas Cleanup and a Relaxing Vacation

My kitchen got thoroughly trashed on Christmas Eve. I've done most of the hard clean-up stuff, and now I'm slowly taking my time with the dishes that must be washed by hand

Are you still surrounded by family or out of town visitors today? Still celebrating? Or working hard to clean up after a festive meal or two?


  • Garbage control! I don't know about you but I have a ton of recycling piled up in my kitchen that needs to go out; plus a pile of shirt gift boxes that can go in the recycling bin. The trash cans in all my bathrooms, and especially the one in my kitchen, need to be emptied too. How about you? Think of how fresh our houses will smell with all the trash gone!
  • Speaking of fresh, I'm going to spritz a round of cranberry scented room spray about my house today.
  • I feel a bit overloaded with heavy, rich foods. Today is a fruit and salad day for me, how about you? I still have some yummy rich food leftovers to snack on though, but I will make sure I have fresh fruit cut up and available.
  • Anybody you weren't able to call or text on Christmas? Let's do our catch-up phone calls today.
  • I challenge you to really quickly take on one five-minute task to beautify something in your home today. Hang a picture that's been propped against the wall for weeks; thoroughly clean out a vase that has unsightly plant residue in it; shine a copper kettle with lemon and baking soda; scrape candle wax off your mantel or floor where it may have dripped; etc.
  • Have you taken holiday or Christmas cards around to your neighbors yet?
  • Need to water your Christmas tree? Mine is looking dry!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Christmas Cleanup

My Christmas tree the way it looked a couple days ago, before a tornado of small boys attacked their presents joyously!

Today is a work day for me, but a light one. I work at home, so I am taking breaks every hour to stretch, refill my water or teacup, and do a quick cleaning project. My projects today include:

  • Finishing cleaning up the kitchen from Christmas Eve dinner.
  • Vacuuming dog hair out of carpets and off of laminate flooring.
  • Cleaning up wrapping detritus from the living room.
  • Boxing up presents to drop off at friends' houses.
  • Making the bed in the guest room with fresh sheets for tomorrow's incoming overnight guest.
  • Baking a batch of gingerbread cookies for guests to enjoy before we all get tired of holiday cookies! I put this task off last week, oops.
  • Tidying the family TV room.
  • Resetting the bar and "drinks fridge" so they're ready with sparkling clean glasses, alcohol offerings sorted and easy to find, and mixers at the ready in the garage fridge.
  • Cleaning all three toilets and four bathroom sinks in the house.
  • Swapping out bathroom hand towels and bathroom floor mats for fresh clean ones.
  • Starting my thank-you notes for gifts!

Here's where I confess I've been putting off my Christmas Eve cleanup for too long! I know if I would just go in and get it done, it would be over with. I just seem to be wanting, for now, to do a little here and a little there.

All the food got put away, and we've run a few loads in the dishwasher already so we have enough dishes to eat off of and the kitchen isn't smelly. I just used so very many "hand wash only" fancy dishes for that meal, that there is a lot of hand washing ahead of me. Not just plates, but wine glasses too! I'm going to try to make it pleasant - light a Christmas candle (I'm trying to use up and enjoy my green candles - red I can save to use again for Valentine's Day), pour a glass of wine (just one glass for young ladies who have a cold coming on!) and play Christmas music (which I'm not sick of yet!)

To improve my attitude today, I'm rereading this part from "At Home with Madame Chic" (which is our Lovely Living Book Club book for March 2015):

"Rather than thinking about it as a chore, incorporate the cleanup into the flow of the day. The usual energy of the morning is bubbling and filled with excitement. Use that energy. You might as well tackle it with a positive attitude. Sing while you do it. Dance while you do it. Choose to be happy with what you are doing now." (p. 133).

I don't normally like to be home alone on a Friday night if I can help it. But tonight I feel like I have a little cold coming on, and want to lie around relaxing and go to bed early to kick it. Tomorrow I'm taking friends to a 21 and up movie theater to see The Imitation Game. I'm so looking forward to it, and if staying home tonight and going to bed at 8pm is the price I have to pay to enjoy it, I'm game.

LOVELY BLOGS: Lessons From Yesterday

Ana lives in an old farmhouse with her husband and four boys. She blogs about "living a richer, more joyful life by learning from the past, and using the modern tools we have to simplify our lives." Recent posts I've enjoyed include "Our Civil War Christmas Tradition," a peek at what she's reading in December, her post on "Natural DIY Skincare That Really Works", and how she decorates her two Christmas trees. (I usually do that too - two trees - one silly one for the kids and one elegant one for me!)

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Dresser-Shaped Candle Tins

Oh my gosh! These are so charming! I already am a big fan of Seda France's candles. Now I've discovered they have a line of candle tins shaped like vintage boudoir dressers! So cute. The scents include L'Ambre (amber), French Tulip, and Japanese Quince. Oh I wish I had seen these before Christmas so I could have gifted a couple to good friends who might find these as darling as I do!

Boudoir Collection, from Seda France

LOVELY WEBSITES: What's That Book?

If you have fond memories of a book but can't remember its title or author, use this resource to help you find it. The book lovers here help you find long-lost books in the children's book genre, science fiction and fantasy, fiction and non fiction areas. Or if you know a lot of books and want to lend your expertise, browse around and see if anything sounds familiar!


The Case for Square Pie (The Atlantic)

A Christmas Day Cocktail: The Clementine Sour (NY Times)

Classic Christmas Dishes for Academics (Oxford American)

Couscous Hanukkah Fritters (

Fruit Cake Fritters (Mario Batali)

Gingerbread Cookie Pie (A Cozy Kitchen)

How to Turn Candy Canes into Peppermint Syrup (Mystery Lovers Kitchen)

A Look Back at a 29 Year Old Issue of 'Better Homes & Gardens' (The Atlantic)

Random Acts of Coffee (The Atlantic)

Trend Watch: House-Shaped beds for Kids (Apartment Therapy)

12 Fun DIY Ways to Use Up Leftover Wrapping Paper (Gleam It Up)

What Can Be Done About the Inefficiencies of Giving Gifts? (The Atlantic)

Why Thoughtful Gifts are the Worst Gifts (Washington Post)

Winter Shandy Punch (101 Cookbooks)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

Lovely Living on Facebook

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mess of Christmas

These recently-tested Christmas lights are waiting for my Christmas tree to arrive, but they look messy. I need to put them in a plastic bin or go get my Christmas tree and put them on ASAP!

My recent Christmas decorating has made my house messy and cluttered. Time for me to put away the decorating supplies I'm not going to use, finish decorating, and clean up so my house is lovely again!


  • Need to sweep leaves off your front porch or back deck?
  • Does your entryway or front hall need sweeping or vacuuming? Mine has leaves and muddy dog footprints on it.
  • Any Redbox movies to return? Christmas cards to mail out? Need to pick up a movie for the weekend?
  • Any library books that need to be dropped off?
  • Fill up with gas for the weekend; pick up cash at an ATM if you need pocket spending money.
  • Is there fresh fruit in a bowl in your kitchen or on your dining table, waiting to be sliced and eaten?
  • Do you have tissues in your purse, car and coat pockets?
  • Tidy your house for the weekend. Empty or fill dishwasher; wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters; swap out for clean hand towels and kitchen towels; empty trash and recycling bins; refill toilet paper as needed; toss out dead flowers and replace with fresh if possible;

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cleaning Up After Christmas Decorating

My mail table is only supposed to have outgoing mail, incoming mail, library books and DVDs, car keys and one decorative candle on it. This is not ok!

This year I am taking my sweet time decorating for Christmas. I'm hosting our family Christmas Eve this year again, but not throwing a massive party like I did last year. Because I'm not throwing a big party, I'm not panicking and rushing to decorate. I'm getting a few things out here and there and setting them up. But in the meanwhile, my house is becoming cluttered by half-full decorations boxes, strands of Christmas lights laying about, tape and rolls of gift wrap, and piles of yet-to-be-wrapped gifts. I also have an unofficial "staging area" in the kitchen of holiday foods I intend to bake or cook. Those should be put away in my cupboard! I suspect I'm afraid I'll forget to make them if I don't keep them in sight. An entire guest bed is covered with clean towels I need to fold, sheets I need to put on the bed, and several gifts I need to wrap - plus the supplies to wrap them.

I think that perhaps because I'm taking my time, my house has gotten messier than it would have if I had simply devoted an entire weekend to decorating and being done with it. Then I would have cleaned up all the mess of Christmas decorating.

My dining table is not supposed to be covered in stuff! Time to clear it off so it's usable for meals again!

So my project today is cleaning up my Christmas decorating mess! I'll finish decorating, put unused lights back in their storage containers, and put storage bins back in the garage. I can always pull them out if I suddenly feel the need to add more decorations as Christmas Eve approaches. I'll clean off my kitchen counters, clean off the dining table, restore the mail table to its normal functionality, and get lights off the floor of my living room. I'm babysitting a friend's kid tonight so can't take the time to go get a Christmas tree. But I should be able to accomplish all these - plus wrap some gifts and restore my guest room to ready-for-company status, in under an hour.

I'll be better able to look forward to my Christmas Eve hosting if I know I have a lovely, uncluttered house to welcome people into!

Do you have any Christmas related messes to tidy up?

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Salted Caramel Tea

When I think of a delicious tea I enjoy, the word "salty" never enters into my mind. But I'm curious to try this seasonal tea, since I like caramel so much! Since I don't care for peppermint and I'm allergic to cinnamon, this is about one of the only seasonal teas I can enjoy.

Salted Caramel Tea, from Bigelow Teas

LOVELY BLOGS: The Best of This Life

This blogger (Emily, from Ottawa) concentrates on gluten-free and vegan cooking recipes, healthy living, travel, parenting, and hosting parties. She also has a helpful section on journaling. There are a lot of sponsored posts and giveaways here though, it's a bit distracting trying to find actual content such as this nice post on 3 ingredient chocolate cornflake clusters.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Old Design Shop Vintage Image Treasury

This blog offers one really lovely vintage image every day. They're out of copyright, of course, and the blog curator has really great taste. It doesn't feel like they're just repackaging old images from clipart CDs or whatnot. In fact, I'm quite impressed that the blogger posts the source of their image (which vintage magazine it came from) nearly every time! Posts lately have been seasonal images like this one, but recent posts also include Victorian images and some recipes. What an extremely useful resource!

LOVELY FOOD: Duncan Hines Holiday Velvets

My nephews and I just made a similar layer cake using a mix by Duff. It tasted good and was nice and moist, but I suspect the Duncan Hines one would be even moister - I have had good experiences with their mixes. I may whip up a cake like this for our Christmas Eve celebration!

Duncan Hines Holiday Velvets Cake Mix, on Amazon

LOVELY HOME: Method Home's New Seasonal Scent

I'm almost positive the other shoppers at Target could hear me exclaim two or three aisles away, when I discovered a shelf of Method Home's new Honeycrisp Apple products. I was delighted to sniff them and not be overpowered by a cinnamony scent. This is clean and fresh and crisp apple, not disguise-your-pet-scented-home apple. I picked up the laundry detergent and have been using it enthusiastically on my many loads of weekly laundry. I also got the countertop cleanser as that gets used a lot around here, but I skipped the hand soap - due to my eagerness for seasonal scents, each bathroom is more than well stocked with hand soap at the moment.

Honeycrisp Apple, at


Cranberry and Mint Rum Punch (Foolproof Living)

Cranberry Apple Crisp (Baking Bites)

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins (Bright Eyed Baker)

Gingerbread Surprise Beignets with Spiced Mocha Hot Chocolate (Half Baked Harvest)

Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles (Alexandra Cooks)

Kahlua Hot Chocolate Marshmallows (Bakers Royale)

My Christmas Meltdown Came Early (The Life of Bon)

The Non-Skiiers Guide to Ski Towns (NY Times)

Pecan Linzer Cookies (Annie's Eats)

Slow-Rise Panettone (CHOW)

The Three Best Types of Cookies for Mailing (The Kitchn)

What Happens When Kids Don't Have Internet at Home? (The Atlantic)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

Lovely Living on Facebook

Lovely Living University

Thursday, December 04, 2014

December Begins - Gift Wrapping Day

Felt Santa Claus, from Cost Plus World Market


  • Need to de-clutter and clean out your car? I do this every time I find myself sitting in it for a few minutes while waiting for someone. Otherwise my car gets really out of hand! Do you need to restock things you might keep in your car, such as Kleenex, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a cell phone charger, mints, lipstick, and hand lotion?
  • If you're wearing slippers at night a lot, do you need to launder them? They can get sweaty and a bit smelly. How about your family members slippers?
  • Need to catch up on any vacuuming or laundry?
  • Are you mailing out a Thanksgiving thank-you card? Do you have time to write a few Christmas or holiday cards today?
  • Have you eaten fresh fruit in the last two days? An apple, banana, strawberries, melon of some kind?
  • Do you use Redbox or do you exclusively stream movies? If you use Redbox, I suggest popping over today to grab one before the boxes get depleted for the weekend. Right now their new releases include "The Hundred Foot Journey" which I highly recommend, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and "It's a Wonderful Life."
  • Put away any remaining autumn crafts or crafting supplies. It's time to switch to winter crafts.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Gift Wrapping

Snowy Day Wrapping Paper, at The Container Store

Tonight I'm wrapping the gifts I've bought so far. (I'm usually done shopping by December 1st, but this year got a super late start on my shopping!) I'll wrap the gifts I have so far (mostly books, games and puzzles, plus a few festive outfits for babies) while I watch some shows I saved up on my Tivo. Tonight is serving as my "down time at home night" and I'm looking forward to a fireplace, hot tea, television, snuggling with dogs, and wrapping gifts.

I'll label the gifts carefully so I know who to mail them to or which gift pile to put them in in my home. After they're wrapped, I'll store the gifts in a Sterilite bin in my closet. This protects them from the cats, who like to chew on the corners of boxes that look or smell intriguing.

I'm looking forward to adding some special touches to my gift wrap. I want to make my inexpensive gifts more fun and exciting to open. I'll add some sequins and sparkles to some of the gifts, and glue some fake Swarovski crystals onto some of the ribbons I'm tying around the gifts. I tuck small inexpensive acrylic ornaments into the bows sometimes too.

Vintage Santa Wrapping Paper, from Paper Source

How much gift wrapping can you get done tonight, assuming you've shopped for some gifts already? Won't it be nice to have festive gifts under your tree (or hidden in a closet if that works better in your particular family situation!) and not have to stress about getting things wrapped as the month wears on closer to Christmas?

I am going to be very strict with myself and make sure my tape, scissors, ribbons, bows, tags, stickers, and rolls of wrapping paper are put completely away by the end of this evening. Even if I think I might do some more wrapping tomorrow. I am determined not to let the trappings of Christmas take over my house. Decorative items can take over, but not the supplies and tools of the holiday season!

LOVELY BLOGS: Old Fashioned Girls

Rachel and Miranda blog together about their shared passions: good books, afternoon tea, letter writing, knitting, black and white films, and stylish clothes. Recently they're blogging about re-reading "Little Women" at Christmastime (something I do some years too!), an update on what they're reading in their book club, a peek at the lovely Christmas cards they're sending out, and what they're reading this winter.

LOVELY BOOKS: Kitchen Creamery

I think I am going to treat myself to this book for Christmas. I'm really into the idea of making my own yogurt, cheese, and butter at home. That way I can be sure they don't have too many additives or chemicals, and I can add whatever herbs and flavors I want to customize them with. The book doesn't come out until late January, which is perfect since I'll be too busy with Christmas celebrations to be puttering around in the kitchen experimenting with yogurtmaking anyway!

Kitchen Creamery, on

LOVELY FOOD: Reindeer Noodle Soup

I love specialty shaped pastas! This one isn't vegetarian, so I can't enjoy it myself, but I will serve it to my nephews when they come visit this weekend. It will be good to have something filling and salty in their stomachs before we dive into all our Christmas cookie baking!

Reindeer Noodle Soup, on Amazon

LOVELY KIDS: Wooden Greenhouse Gift for Christmas

Here's a really cool gift for children growing up in a family of gardeners - their own adorable little wooden greenhouse. It comes with 49 pieces - plants, flowers, shelving, a watering can and other accessories. I just wish they offered Asian and black gardener figures as an add-on option.

Wooden Greenhouse by Goki, on Amazon


Oh how fun! This is vintage antiques and collectibles store Ruby Lane's magazine on vintage collectibles and the vintage lifestyle. You can read each issue for free. Currently, the Winter 2014 issue features articles on The Vintage Tree, decorating the mantel, All That Glitters stocking stuffers, the holiday table, plus holiday finds and wish lists. This is fun to flip through during my morning hot tea break!

Ruby Read, on Issuu

LOVELY SHOPS: Christmas Jul

This Etsy shop specializes in Christmas fabrics and Christmas crafting supplies. There are several adorable Michael Miller fabrics here, including Yule Critters; plus some quilt patterns, embroidery and quilting supplies. The Christmas fabrics include over 200 different styles!


Chestnut Chocolate Bread Wreath (Domestic Gothess)

Chicken Alfredo Pizza Bites Wreath (Bubbly Nature Creations)

Christmas Wreath Macarons (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Crab Manicotti with Bechamel Sauce (The Stay at Home Chef)

Cranberry Mustard (The Painted Apron)

Cranberry Cheesecake Bars (I Married a Milkman)

Cranberry Chocolate Scones (Decor8)

DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater Ornaments (Aunt Peaches)

Easy Penguin Cookies (The Bearfoot Baker)

Mashed Potatoes & Clouds (101 Cookbooks)

No One Agrees on Who is Doing Domestic Chores (Forbes)

Thai Tortellini Fritters (Just a Pinch)

The Toys That Send Kids to the Emergency Room (The Atlantic)

Where to Move in America If You Want a Job, More Money or Lots of Single People (The Atlantic)

Wreath Recipe Book Review (Christina Williams)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Pep Talk for 2014

Here's my Thanksgiving pep talk for this year. Hope you'll take some comfort from it, if you're nervous, stressing, or feeling overwhelmed this Thanksgiving morning!

Think positive.

We can do this!

We're lucky to have family and friends to spend time with (even if they drive us crazy) and fortunate to have food to eat at our feasts today. We have good friends who may be delighted to spend time with us later this weekend. They'll celebrate with us and listen to our stories about our more colorful relatives and their antics today.

Let's not stress ourselves worrying about how our Thanksgivings will go. Whether we're traveling, hosting, or spending the holiday at someone else's house, let's try to have the best day possible. We can let the stressful parts roll off of us gently, and laugh about them later.

Nothing has to be perfect today.

Thanksgiving is about being with family and friends. If you undercook or overcook the turkey, that's ok - people will happily eat your mashed potatoes and stuffing instead. If old rude Uncle Bill starts in on you about politics, that's ok, you knew he would. Sigh inwardly and try to change the subject. Your tablecloth is stained or a bit ratty? Who cares - it was put on the table fresh and clean, right? The furniture your relatives are sitting on has cat-scratch marks on it? Oh well, it means you have pets you love. Stains on your apron or clothing from cooking? Good, that means you worked hard to make something nice for your family. June Cleaver isn't here in her pearls and heels and immaculate freshly starched dress.

If something spills, wipe it up with a smile. Laugh if something breaks. If someone cries, hand them a tissue, and give them a hug. If that person is you, have your cry for a couple minutes but don't let it ruin your day, and don't let yourself contribute to or escalate family drama.

There are some things that will never change. There are some things we can't control. No, our houses will never be as clean as our mother-in-laws' homes. I won't be able to cook food anywhere near as delicious as my boyfriend's Swedish mother does. We will likely never have a nicer car or as big a house as our brother-and-sister in law do. We're good cooks, but there's always an Aunt Edna or a Grandmother known for being the best cook ever. That's ok, let them enjoy that title. We still still make our own delicious food.

It's all going to be ok. We can do this.

We'll take care of ourselves first this morning. One thing that helps a lot is having some quiet alone time today, even if it's just for a few brief minutes. Try to do something relaxing in the morning (Read a few pages in your book? Browse a magazine? Go for a quick walk? Play a quick Facebook game?) to de-stress before the stress even starts. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself, so you can give more of yourself as the holiday begins.

Delegate! Thanksgiving is not all about you, and you can't and shouldn't be the Queen of Thanksgiving. If someone offers to help, let them. If someone offers to bring a dish, let them. (Worried Aunt Edie will bring her nasty sugary marshmallow yams? That's ok, let her and be grateful she's not bringing her mushy overcooked cold mashed potatoes).

One of the things I usually do every year to emotionally survive the holiday is this: I throw a special after-Thanksgiving casual movie night on Saturday night for any friends who are still in town. I'll clean up my house a bit, but not stress over it. We'll wear comfy sweats or pajamas, eat leftovers or fresh fruits and veggies, and watch fun movies while relaxing. Friends are the family you choose, and I choose to be around happy, fun, easygoing people on my four-day weekend. This year I'm going to a Friendsgiving instead of being around family, so I might not need to throw a de-stress party. Still, there are some friends returning from stressful holiday travel who might need to be cheered up and tell stories to a sympathetic listener.

Now for a special note to anybody reading this who might be spending their Thanksgiving alone. It's ok, it happens to all of us. Not everybody has family close by, or the ability to travel. Sometimes we get sick right before Thanksgiving and choose not to share our germs with loved ones. Sometimes people have to work on Thanksgiving or the day after. On more than one Thanksgiving in years past, I absolutely couldn't face the whole thing and voluntarily stayed home alone. I truly did have a good time. Instead of sitting there feeling sorry for yourself for being alone, think of all of your friends who are stuck in airports and freezing cold in winter snowstorms! Make yourself a special delicious treat to eat, watch a movie or put on your favorite music. Enjoy your relaxing alone time. If you are feeling a bit blue, skip the alcohol and have hot cocoa instead.

A special challenge:

Try to be there "in the moment" during the entirety of your Thanksgiving meal, plus during the preparation before it and recovery after it. What do I mean by this? Put your phone down. Don't spend your time texting your friends; don't spend all day on your cell phone talking to people who aren't there in person. (Call a few relatives to wish them a happy Thanksgiving, sure, but keep your calls brief so you can pay attention to the people directly in the room with you). You can talk to your friends and text them all day long some other time. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about reconnecting with family who you don't see often. Give them respect by giving them your full attention. Unless you're an emergency room doctor, there really isn't a reason for your cell phone to be at the table or even in the room with you on Thanksgiving.

This is obviously quite a pet peeve of mine. I implore you to try, if you can, to spend quality time (not texting time) with the people who took time out of their busy lives to spend today in person with you, celebrating with you face to face. Your text buddies will be there tomorrow and always.

Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving for you!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Preparing for Holiday Guests

Are you ready to host your holiday guests? Even if you don't have any immediate plans for family or friends to visit, you might want to check to be sure your guest room (or pull-out sofa) is ready for company. You never know who might drop in, or if weather will suddenly strand someone overnight at your house. Or perhaps someone might need to stay the night after over-imbibing at your cocktail party!


  • Look over the remaining few days of this month. What appointments do you have coming up in the next few days, if any? Who has a birthday coming up? Do you have a quiet night at home booked in and solidly enforced (That means if someone calls to invite you somewhere last minute on that night, you firmly say no, sorry that's my quiet time?)
  • Anybody in your household need to go get a quick haircut so they look nice for Thanksgiving?
  • Sniff your house. Need to spray some home fragrance, burn a pot of cinnamon sticks on the stove, or light some candles?
  • Do you have your bags packed and host/hostess gift ready, if you're traveling or going to someone else's house for Thanksgiving?
  • Anything you need to start cooking or preparing before tomorrow?
  • Pay any end of the month or beginning of the month bills you have laying around, in case you forget during the holiday festivities.


Plum Chenille Throw, from Pier 1 Imports

Today I'm thoroughly cleaning my guest room. I've kept it pretty clean, but it's been unused and I worry about it smelling dusty or feeling "closed up." Also, I've kept the door closed most of the time, but pets have wandered in - I'll want to be sure they haven't left anything behind (pee, fur, bones and chew toys).

I'll launder the bedding so it's fresh smelling, and I'll Febreze the curtains and throw pillows.

Next I'll vacuum the carpet, give the baseboards and closet doors a quick dusting, wash the windows and sill, dust the nightstands and bookcase, and wipe down the lamps.

Let's check - Is there room in our guest room closets for guests to hang their clothing? Or do we have it cluttered up with stuff we're storing?

I'll make sure there's bottled water in the room for guests to drink, and a box of Kleenex within reach.

I have two lamps and an alarm clock next to the bed. I keep a selection of four different firmnesses of sleeping pillows on the bed for someone to choose between.

Have you ever slept overnight in your guest room so you know if the bed is comfy, the blankets adequate, the pillows restful, the lighting good for reading in bed, and the temperature in the room ideal? We won't have time to experiment with this before the holiday begins, but it's something to think about before the December holidays.

Are you hiding clutter in your guest room (under the bed perhaps?) I used to store my holiday dishes under the guest bed, but last year I moved them to a bin in my storage area in the garage instead.

Right before guests actually arrive (perhaps as soon as next weekend) I'll spritz the room with just a tiny bit of cranberry or cinnamon-scented room spray, put fresh flowers in the room, and set a thoughtfully curated collection of magazines on top of the bookcase.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Spice Train

This blog focuses on recipes that celebrate spices. Nicole blogs from the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. Currently she's sharing recipes for pumpkin spice desserts for Thanksgiving; her recipe for Hummus with sumac; and her inventive Nutmeg Sweet Potato Stacks.

LOVELY BATH AND BODY: Almond Glazed Shampoo/Shower Gel

I may set out a bottle of this new shower gel in my guest bathroom for holiday guests to enjoy. From Philosophy, it's a limited edition that can be used as a bubble bath, shower gel AND shampoo. I think it's a nice transition scent between fall and winter.

Almond Glazed Shampoo and Shower Gel, at Sephora

LOVELY GIFTS: Monarch Desk Calendar

I like to think there are a few people out there besides me who still enjoy paper calendars and allow them to take up space in our homes. I love this 2015 Monarch desk calendar that's made to stand up on your desk like an easel. The calendar is by Rifle Paper Co. The artwork features female monarchs from a variety of countries, including Tonga, France, Scotland, Hawaii, India, Nigeria, and more. The illustrations are gorgeous! I was thinking this might be a nice gift for your stylish aunt, history or fashion loving sister, or that fabulous gay uncle.

Monarch Desk Calendar, on Amazon


Chart: How Black Friday Invaded Thanksgiving (Mother Jones)

Chocolate Caramel Apples (The Bearfoot Baker)

Cranberry Pie with Thick Pecan Crumble (Smitten Kitchen)

How Famous Artists Would Plate Thanksgiving Dinner (This Is Colossal)

How to Keep Your Cool Traveling with 41 Million People (Time)

Is Turkey Actually Good For You? (Time)

Let it Snow and Make a Pot Roast (The Culinary Cellar)

Southern Side Dishes for Thanksgiving (Homemaker in Heels)

Surviving Holiday Small Talk (The Atlantic)

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes (101 Cookbooks)

Watch How Macy's Creates Their Holiday Windows (CNN)

Why Americans Call Turkey 'Turkey' (The Atlantic)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

Lovely Living on Facebook

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Getting Our Dining Rooms Ready for the Holidays

Confession time - this is the current state of my dining table! Luckily I'm not hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Besides Thanksgiving, there's a busy season ahead with upcoming parties, gatherings, holidays, visitors, and perhaps (dare I hope?) some impromptu game nights. Let's get our dining rooms ready for the meals and festivities ahead!


  • Are you attending any plays, musicals, concerts or symphonies this winter? Buy tickets now if you haven't yet.
  • Do you have fresh fruit and the fixings for salad on hand? In the next few days we'll likely get tired of heavy, rich Thanksgiving leftovers and crave fruits and fresh veggies, I bet!
  • Light and enjoy your harvest and autumn scented candles. Time to burn them up so we can switch out for Christmas and winter scents!
  • If you're going to someone else's house for Thanksgiving, write your thank you note today. You can leave it on their mail table or somewhere they can find it after you leave their home at the end of your celebration.


Briar Table Runner, from Crate and Barrel

Let's get our dining rooms ready for the upcoming holiday entertaining season!

As you can see from my picture at the top of this post, my decision to no longer have a home office is sort of backfiring. (I chose to keep a playroom, since I have so many children visiting constantly, and I wanted two guest bedrooms for guests). Stuff has been piling up on the dining table - magazines and things I use for work and research. Time to haul them off, find a corner to store them until I can process them, and maybe rethink having a home office in a corner of one of my guest bedrooms.

Whether or not you are throwing Thanksgiving at your own home, you'll want a lovely, clean, organized, enjoyable dining room to eat dinner in during December, the festive season. You might throw impromptu cocktail or dinner parties, or you might invite friends over for a soup-and-salad meal. Maybe you'll do late-night or rainy-day crafts, or put together puzzles, spread out on your table.

I'll start my 45 minute project today by removing cobwebs from the ceiling and corners, then using the same broom to sweep the floor. Mopping is next. I'll make a cup of tea and drink it while the floor dries.

Next I'll wash my two dining room windows and the glass door that leads to the kitchen - it always gets kid hand prints and dog nose prints on it.

I'll hang freshly cleaned curtains at the windows (I love washable curtains! Curtains get so dusty!)

Next up are my upholstered dining chairs. I vacuum them with the upholstery attachment, then sponge them off. This takes just about 1 minute per chair, and I have six of them.

I'll dust the table, windowsills, and baseboards in this room. I'm going to dust the wood slats on each chair, then dust the outside of the curio cabinet that sits in my dining room. I cleaned out the curio cabinet last month, so it's looking nice.

The Tiffany style pendant chandelier I'm coveting, on Amazon

Don't forget your light fixture or chandelier. Mine is grimy, dusty and needs some light bulbs replaced. Climbing on a chair and dusting this is the most time consuming part of this project today, I think.

When I'm done, I'll put a clean harvest-themed tablecloth on the table. Just a few more days until I'll swap out this tablecloth for a Christmasy one! For table decor, I'll set out a fragranced candle (but that's something I'd want to remove before serving food). I always put fresh flowers on the table, and finish by spritzing the room with an autumn-themed room spray.

LOVELY BLOGS: The Culinary Life

Steph's goals for her blog are to "teach you how to cook, to improve your health alongside your relationship with food, to make sure you enjoy your time in (the) kitchen." This week her posts include how to cook pheasant, sharing her simple chicken stew recipe, and sharing her blackberry pie recipe.

LOVELY BOOKS: Literary Eats

I love the concept of this book! It's a compilation of recipes by literary greats, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner, Harlan Ellison, Ursula Le Guin, Benjamin Franklin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Eudora Welty, and Walt Whitman. I want to try making Louisa May Alcott's "Berry Pudding Without Eggs" and Emily Dickinson's "Black Cake." This might make a wonderful Christmas gift for your foodie bookclub friend.

Literary Eats, on Amazon

LOVELY FOOD: Krusteaz Flatbread Mixes

If you're a regular Lovely Living reader, you know I'm a lazy cook, and perfectly willing to open a box mix so I don't have to measure. I'm pretty excited about these new flatbread mixes from Krusteaz. You can use them to make pizza crust, or just a nice tasty flatbread to dip into good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I'll probably skip the whole wheat one (boring!) and try the garlic & onion mix first.

Flatbread Mixes, at


Asparagus with Tomato and Feta (A Fork in Each Hand)

Bacon Apple Gorgonzola Bites (Sumptuous Spoonfuls)

Chicken Etoufee - Crockpot Edition (Healthy Lifestyle Journey)

Fresh Whole Cranberry Sauce (Delicious on a Dollar)

Iced Oatmeal Cookies (Life Made Simple)

Pork, Sage and Macadamia Bites (Belly Rumbles)

Presence, Gratitude, and Gorgonzola Grapes (French Foodie Baby)

Southern Pecan Pie (Served Up With Love)

Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites (The Gunny Sack)

We Buy An Obscene Amount of Clothes - What it's Doing to Thrift Stores (Huffington Post)

--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

Lovely Living on Facebook