Monday, April 28, 2014

Tidying Up and Appreciating Spring

This year my Spring Cleaning has been haphazard. I like to start in March and be done in April, but this year there's been too much going on. And I'm not unhappy that I got to enjoy a week in San Diego for Spring Break, instead of staying home cleaning for a week! This year I'll start my Spring Cleaning on May 1st. That's just a few days away, but I'll get started a little bit right now so I don't get overwhelmed next month.

Are you done with your Spring Cleaning already, or will you follow along with me in May as we refresh, declutter, organize and beautify our homes for the Spring and Summer ahead?

Lovely Living is no longer a daily blog, but I hope to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with projects for the days following.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Did bedding get washed this weekend? Are you and your family members sleeping on clean sheets tonight?

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

  • Do you have a too-large stack of magazines on your couch or coffee table that need to be read, enjoyed, recycled or given away? I do!

  • Look over your calendar for the week ahead. Any birthdays or appointments coming up?

  • Any library books or Redbox DVDs you need to return from this past weekend?

  • Need to drop off any dry cleaning today that you can pick up later in the week?

  • Are you appreciating Spring? Filling your home with tulips and daffodils, opening your curtains to welcome in the morning light, doing a bit of gardening if that's something you enjoy, going out to restaurants to enjoy the longer evenings?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spice Cabinet

It's occurring to me that I didn't go through my spice cabinet last fall when I was doing a big kitchen clean up project to get ready for fall cooking and entertaining. I did a bit of research today about how long you can keep spices - they don't necessarily "go bad" but they lose some of their potency and flavor. This Woman's Day article is full of some helpful tips. I think since I have access to inexpensive Trader Joe's spices, I'll toss everything and start over. Since I haven't shopped for spices in a long time, I'll be able to tell by how empty/full a bottle is, whether or not I really truly need to replace that spice. My chili powder looks like it was opened but not used more than once - and sure enough, I don't remember making homemade chili in the last year!

Time to really be firm with myself and only buy things I need and will really use. It's a fantasy that I'm cooking lots of homemade meals. I'm not - the reality is we eat out at restaurants way too often.

Today I'll be removing everything from my spice cabinet, throwing out everything but the salt and pepper, and creating a very limited shopping list for replacements. And for tonight's homemade cream of mushroom soup I'm making from scratch, I'll stop at the nearby PCC Market to pick up fresh thyme, not dried.

TUESDAY'S PROJECT: Inventorying Cleaning Supplies

Glancing under my kitchen and bathroom sinks, and peeking into my laundry room cupboards, I see that I have a problem with cleaning supplies. I'm either over supplying, or under cleaning - probably both! Why, since I only have a couple of granite countertops in my kitchen (and none in the bathrooms) do I own not two, not three, but four granite cleaners? Have I not been cleaning my kitchen counters often enough, or have I forgotten how much granite cleaner I already had, and bought more on impulse?

On Tuesday, I'm going to remove every cleaning product from every cupboard in the house, count and inventory it, and try to use up things I have too much of. I'll replace cleaning products in places that make sense - no need for wood floor polish in the cabinet in the tiled bathroom, and no need for granite spray under my master bedroom's bathroom cabinet. (I don't have small children in the house, so I store cleaning supplies within reach, but still guarded with childproof cabinet locks in case of young visitors). I feel like this is a good weeknight project - not time consuming, will help me move forward with my Spring Cleaning plans, and it will tidy up the cupboard under every sink in my house as I sort and reorganize.

I've already noticed that I do actually need Windex or some sort of window spray - I used it all up cleaning my kitchen and dining room windows last week!

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Grapefruit Soapy Suds

A long time fan of Bliss's Lemon & Sage soapy suds, I was delighted to smell their newer soapy suds at a recent Girls Night Out shopping spree. Here's what I'll be enjoying using in my shower this springtime! It's slightly expensive so I'm trying to ration it and not use gigantic palmfuls!

Bliss Grapefrut Aloe Soapy Suds, at Sephora

LOVELY BLOGS: Saipancakes

This dad is a math teacher, illustrator, and pancake artist. You'll be astounded at the intricate designs he can make with pancakes: Star Wars creatures, bunnies, sharks that my shark-loving nephews would gobble up in an instant, and wait til you see his Cinderella. I'm really curious about his process and how many "rejects" it takes to get these lovely creations.

LOVELY BOOKS: In With The Old

I don't often read home decor or decorating inspiration books - they just make me depressed about my clutter, lack of budget, muddy paw prints, and the dog hair covering my carpets and couches. But this "Classic decor from A to Z" book is charming and refreshing. It's written by Jennifer Boles, the blogger behind The Peak of Chic blog. I love her idea to incorporate an orangerie into your home - this looks truly possible! For a glimpse at pics from the book, see this blog post.

In With the Old, on Amazon

LOVELY BOOKS: Marigold Garden

Here's a delightful illustrated children's book you can read online for free at the Internet Archive. You can turn the pages right in your browser. Kate Greenaway's illustrations are so charming, and the little rhymes are cute. I'm so glad that someone digitized this old antique book!

Marigold Garden, by Kate Greenaway

LOVELY DISHES: Avington at William Yeoward

I have too many dish sets already, so I can only admire these Avington dishes from afar. I love the colors! It probably would be difficult to purchase just one place setting from each color - I bet they're sold in minimum sets. How fun it would be to set a spring dinner table with an assortment of these though!

William Yeoward Crystal

LOVELY FOOD: Cocktail Truffles

I haven't tried these gorgeous cocktail truffles yet, but I'm dying to! I love the way they look, and how could I not like the flavors: Dark chocolate Lemon Drop, Ivory Chocolate Cosmopolitan and Milk Chocolate Mojito Mint? They're part of Moonstruck Chocolate's Mother's Day collection.

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Bailey's Custard Tart (The Caked Crusader)

Blackberry Custard Cake (Bakers Royale)

An Eater's Eye View of Literature's Most Iconic Meals (NPR)

How to Structure the Ideal Workday (The Atlantic)

A Peek Inside the Mother-Daughter Collaboration That Brought us the 'Little House' Series (Slate)

Rethinking Spring Cleaning: It's an Antiquated Ritual But It's Never Been More Important (Slate)

Women Wear Too Much Makeup Because They Mistakenly Think Men Want Them To (The Atlantic)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Mid-Week Packing and Panicking

No, I don't actually own this adorable Kate Spade Steamline Stowaway suitcase. I wish!

This week I'm packing for the sunny Spring Break vacation I'm taking with my three nephews. I've been squirrelling away new T-shirts and shorts for them, and confiscating their unused (We live in Seattle, and it's April..) swimsuits to pack for them.

I'm almost done packing, but panicking about the condition my house is in for our inbound kindly petsitter. I feel like I keep my house clean and ready-to-go most of the time, but as I look around, I don't feel like this is a luxurious retreat for her. I want her to be comfortable here and enjoy her stay in my home and with my pets. So I'm going to do a few projects before I leave on Saturday to make sure everything here is lovely for her.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to make a pitcher of sun tea/iced tea to get you through the next couple of days?


  • Is there a mid-week load of laundry you should wash (or an already-clean laundry basket you should fold and put away?)


  • Need to tidy your home office desk? (I do! Too many pieces of paperwork are cluttering it up).


  • Have you planned out what you're packing for your kids' lunches for tomorrow and Friday (if applicable?)


  • Time to wash your pets' beds or bedding?

LOVELY BLOGS: Four Pounds Flour

"Historic gastronomy." I'm always intrigued by food history blogs, and have enjoyed this blog's recent posts on the development of grocery stores, ancient hot chocolate, and the origins of Brooklyn blackout cake. Don't miss the MSG podcasts. The blog's author, Sarah, is currently writing a book for Simon & Schuster.

LOVELY BOOKS: The Baby's Opera

This charming book features "old rhymes with new dresses." It's illustrated by Walter Crane. You can read it online at the Internet Archive, for free. The illustrations are charming and beautiful. My favorite is "The Mulberry Bush."

The Baby's Opera, at Archive.org

LOVELY BOOKS: Grandma's Wartime Baking Book

Last fall I went through a real thrifty don't-waste-food phase. (Thrift is highly unlike me!) I became obsessed with World War 2 cooking, ways to re-use leftovers, and the idea of a Victory garden. (The idea is nice, but I'm a terrible gardener). I really enjoyed this wartime baking book, though I didn't attempt any of the recipes in it - I think I more enjoy reading about cooking than actually cooking?

Chapters include Victory Cakes; Small Cakes, Frostings & Fillings; Precious Pastries; By Hand or By Sea; No Time for Failures: Quick Breads; Rising to the Occasion: Yeast Breads; Custards and Puddings; and Patriotic Sweets: Cobblers and Other Fruit Desserts.

Grandma's Wartime Baking Book

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Bath & Body Works New French-Themed Scents

For my birthday, my best friend gave me the most fabulous boxed set of mini French and Provence themed candles from Bath & Body Works. I can't find the boxed set online to show you, but I wanted to rave about it. The new scents include Lemon Verbena, Springtime in Provence, French Lavender & Honey, Provence Garden, Citron Cedarwood, French Lavender, Sundrenched Vineyard, Lavender Blossom, and Wild Poppies. This is exactly the kind of pick-me-up I need this Spring (obsessing about how much my house smells like dogs!)

http://www.bathandbodyworks.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Amelia Rope's Dark Cube Collection

I haven't tried or tasted these chocolates yet, but I'm enamored of the way they look. I'd love to gift them to someone for an Easter surprise or Springtime birthday. The Pale collection also looks gorgeous!

Dark Cube Collection at Amelia Rope.com

LOVELY PETS: Chatham Dog House

This luxe outdoor dog bed makes me smile. My wriggly, wrestly retrievers would never stay put in that house, and I'd never spend that kind of money on it. I like looking at the picture though, and imagining someone's small dog snoozing happily away on this up at a lake house or a cabin.

Chatham Dog House, from Pottery Barn

LOVELY SHOPS: American Duchess

I must have stumbled onto this site during a Jane-Austen inspired browsing spree. This shop sells beautiful shoes based on modern designs. They specialize in 18th century shoes, Edwardian era shoes, and 1920s shoes. They also offer some enchanting Renaissance shoes. I'm not a cosplayer, but this shoe store makes me want to attend more fancy balls! Beware browsing here with your credit card too easily accessible!

http://www.american-duchess.com/

American Duchess Blog

LOVELY WEBSITES: The Early Office Museum

I'm fairly certain I'm not the only typewriter and office-supplies obsessed geek here. This website has amassed a large collection of photographs of vintage office machines, including pencil sharpeners, adding machines, copying and tabulating machines, vintage desks, filing machines, dictating machines, and, swoon, pens and pencils. It's stimulated me to remember being eight or nine years old and visiting my father's office, bugging his secretary to death begging to "help" with her tasks.

http://www.officemuseum.com/

TODAY'S PROJECT: Master Bedroom Tidying

Robyn Palampore Duvet Cover, from Pottery Barn

Since I currently have no operational guest rooms, my petsitter will be sleeping in my own bed. She's done this before, and swears my bed is comfortable for her. Still, it puts me into a panic, thinking my sheets aren't fancy or soft enough, wondering exactly how old my pillows are, and wishing I had time to move my home office desk out of the bedroom to make it more of a retreat for her.

Right before I leave for my trip, I'll swap out the sheets and duvet cover for clean ones (I keep a spare set to enable swapping out). I'll also have to vacuum up dog hair right before we leave. Meanwhile, I can scrub the bathroom counter and set out lovely hand towels and candles; dust my bedroom bookcases and night stands; wash the windows; Febreze the curtains; and remove the books-and-papers clutter from my bedside. I also want to tidy up the closet - she'll be hanging a week's worth of business clothing in my closet and using it to get dressed.

While I think I have a perfectly lovely bedroom, looking at it through someone else's eyes (especially the eyes of someone doing me a massive favor for a week) makes me look at it a different way. I'm noticing some things that are shabby, more clutter than I had expected to see, and remembering that it's about time to order a new mattress and box spring to replace my decades old bed.

THURSDAY'S PROJECT: Kitchen Tidyup

Caldrea Basil Blue Sage Household Cleaner

Today I'll overhaul my kitchen really quickly so my petsitter can cook meals for herself easily. Time to toss out the wilting lettuce I won't have time to eat, the molding mushrooms I never made into soup, and clear out random half-drunk beverages. I want her to have lots of room in my fridge to store her food, but I also want to stock some new tasty treats for her week long visit.

Does your kitchen need (as mine does) a sink scrubbing, counter spraying, stovetop cleaning, floor mopping, fresh towels replaced, kitchen curtains Febrezed, throw rug laundered or shaken out?

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Asparagus, Wild Mushroom & Goat Cheese Bruschetta (Rhubarb and Honey)

Couple Buys Abandoned French Chateau, Start Blog to Share Their Journey (Messy Nessy Chic)

In Bars and in Books, American Whiskey is On the Rise (Publishers Weekly)

The New Domestics (NY Times)

Rhubarb Recipes Both Savory and Sweet (CHOW)

Risotto Primavera (A Beautiful Mess)

Strawberry Rhubarb Sangria (The Candid Appetite)

31 DIY Ways to Make Your Backyard Awesome This Summer

Monday, April 07, 2014

Lovely Living Returns

Mrs. Meyers' Bluebell Counter Spray

With my last foster child moved out, I live alone again and find myself finally with a bit of spare quiet time again. I'm hoping to bring back Lovely Living - I want to document my efforts to redecorate and maintain my home in a lovely manner, plus share with you the parties I'm throwing this year and the activities my three nephews and I are enjoying this summer. Let's share our Spring Cleaning efforts together and make our lives lovelier!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • 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? In the evenings, once a week, I like to set things in the sink for a nice soak. Then I go scrub them together, rinse 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!
  • When you get home from work today, take three or four quick minutes to slice fresh fruit. Leave it out on the counter for yourself and your family to enjoy tonight, either before or after dinner.
  • 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?

LOVELY BLOGS: A Garden for the House

This blog contains Kevin Lee Jacobs' home and garden inspiration, cooking tips and recipes, flower arranging guide and household tips. Recently he's posting about the best lemon tart in the world; sharing pics from his early April garden tour; sharing his list of April garden chores and sharing the recipe for a fougasse aux herbs de Provence he recently baked.

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Frostings

I just added Courtney Dial Whitmore's beautiful "Frostings" book to my cookbook collection. While I'm not much of a cake baker and wouldn't attempt the glorious cake on the cover, it does inspire me to flip through the pages and swoon over the delightful cake pictures.

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Jo Malone's City Rain

I'm so tempted by the new spring fragrances from Jo Malone. I might splurge on one as my birthday present to myself - they're quite expensive, so I'll go visit in person to see if I enjoy White Jasmine & Mint better or Wisteria & Violet.

Jo Malone City Rain at Nordstrom.

LOVELY SHOPS: Miniature Waldorf Dolls

These adorable soft felt Waldorf dolls are sold in the Gigi in Stitches Etsy store. I'm tempted to pick up a couple of colorful ones to surprise friends' young children with, to celebrate Spring. Don't miss the Strawberry doll and the Daisy Doll.

TODAY'S PROJECT:

I've already begun my Spring Cleaning, thanks to throwing a massive Spring party last weekend that made me panick and do a major cleanup. However, there's no shortage of projects to do around here to keep my home lovely, fresh and clean. Today I'm taking time off work to mow my lawn and that of my out-of-town neighbor. Today's rare 68 degree warm Seattle weather is something I don't want to waste. I can make up my work tomorrow when it's raining again!

If you have any yard work, gardening, patio tidying or houseplant watering to do, how about get started today? Spring Cleaning isn't just about the inside of our homes - it involves our gardens, yards, patios and entryways too!

TUESDAY'S PROJECT:

On Tuesday I plan to tackle my master bathroom. The guest bathrooms are in great shape due to the scrubbings I gave them before and after my party. The Master bathroom, hidden from visitors' prying eyes, is a terrible mess. I want it to be lovely for my cousin who will be staying over to dogsit for me during Spring Break. Here's my list - does your Master Bathroom need a touchup?

  • Scrub shower and tile floor


  • Scrub toilet


  • Windex mirror


  • Sort and organize medicine cabinet


  • Dust wood cabinets


  • Wash and replace bath towels and floor mat; switch out to clean ones the evening before my cousin arrives.


  • Finish by burning up the last of a Pine Balsam candle leftover from Christmas, to freshen the bathroom.
LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Apricot Almond Coconut Snacks (Pint Sized Baker)

Florentine Cookies (Sweetapolita)

Hand Pies for Easter (The Bearfoot Baker)

Hot Cross Bun Eclairs (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Peeps Recipes and Ideas (Love From the Oven)

Three Bean Chili (Smitten Kitchen)