Friday, May 16, 2014

Lovely Weekend in Late Spring

I don't have any cleaning projects scheduled for myself this weekend. Instead, I'm taking my 8 year old to a nearby city to visit family and attend Stars on Ice. There will always be time to clean when I get back! Meanwhile, I'm packing and freaking out a little bit because I've never taken my dogs to a pet friendly hotel with us and wondering what to bring and how they'll react.

Enjoy your weekend!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

    Tidy your home for the upcoming weekend. Make it smell fresh, look lovely and feel relaxing.

  • Empty trash cans in bedrooms, bathrooms, living room and kitchen, as needed.


  • Water houseplants as needed
  • Toss any vases of dead flowers; replace with fresh flowers if you happen by a store today and have room in your budget.


  • Set out fresh fruit on your kitchen counter


  • Empty or fill dishwasher; declutter kitchen counter.


  • Spritz your home with your favorite home fragrance


  • Shake out your front doormat and any throw rugs or doormats elsewhere.


  • Replace bathroom towels and shower mats as needed with fresh clean ones.


  • Whisk away any newspapers or magazines or mail that need to be recycled or dealt with.

LOVELY BLOGS: Domesticated Desk

"Creating space for creative living." I work from home, and love reading about ways people organize their work and creative spaces. This blog encourages us to be "Slowing down life to celebrate the art of reading, writing and reflection." The posts here provide inspiration on paper, writing utensils, desks, office supplies, etc. Check out this intriguing post on The Pursuit of Well-Being.

http://domesticated-desk.blogspot.com/

LOVELY FASHION: Anne Klein Banded Dress

I'm loving this dress for Spring! Or even a little summery evening dinner outing. I can't usually get away with wearing stripes, but I think this dress would be flattering.

Anne Klein Banded Dress, on Amazon

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Voluspa Vermeil Candle Assortment

When I'm not entirely sure of someone's fragrance preferences, I like to give them gift sets with multiple assorted scents. I'm a big fan of Voluspa candles, and think this Vermeil candle assortment would make a fabulous birthday gift for a friend or mother-in-law. The fragrances include Chestnut Vetiver, Champagne Rose, Ponderosa (whatever that means!), French Bourbon Vanilla, Branche Vermeil (Huh?) and Clove Pomander.

Voluspa Vermeil Candles, at Beauty.com

LOVELY TABLE: Animal Geo Melamine Plates

This quirky animal plates won't be to everyone's liking, but I wanted to show you in case they were appealing to some of you. I'm always on the lookout for interesting melamine plates, since I entertain outdoors so frequently. I don't think I'll be picking up a set of these, but I appreciate how different and unique they are from other outdoor dishes you find in the stores.

Animal Melamine Plates, at West Elm

LOVELY SHOPS: Gentleman's Gazette

If you have any gentlemen in your life who enjoy dressing up nicely, check out this source for bow ties, boutonnieres, pocket squares, and scarves. They also carry some distinguished leather goods and high quality socks.

http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/shop/

LOVELY WEBSITES: Take Them a Meal

I discovered this extremely useful website last week when an acquaintance friend had tragedy strike and her closest friends were organizing the bringing of meals to her home. The website gives you a private link you can use to organize which friend is bringing which exact meal on which date and time. What a lovely way to help out. However, I hope none of my friends have any illnesses or tragedies where we'll need to use this website!

http://www.takethemameal.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Baking Simulator Video Game (Laughing Squid)

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (Sally's Baking Addiction)

Cherry Limeade Ice Cream Float (Yellow Bliss Road)

Jane Austen Cookies for a Jane Austen Tea Party (Tikkido)

Margarita Cheesecake Bars (Baking Bites)

Organize Your Baking Ingredients (Cheryl Shireman)


--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Enjoying Surprisingly Hot Weather

A colorful pot of flowers I bought to bring cheer to my back deck

This week Seattle has been surprised with beautiful sunny weather in the 80s. I'm making the most of it - I threw a backyard hot dog barbecue (tofu dogs for me!) for family on Monday; working on my laptop outside in my "outdoor office" in the evenings; getting some gardening done in the mornings before it gets too hot; and going on a long walk into town for dinner tonight with a friend. Tomorrow evening I'm looking forward to just spending time in my backyard with my dogs and a book. Soon enough the May and June rains will return, greening up my yard and making sure my lawnmower gets used often.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Take time to drink your morning tea (or coffee) out of a beautiful teacup instead of just slopping it into a big stained mug. Use and enjoy your beautiful things.
  • We're mid-week. Do you have a load of laundry that needs to be done? (And folded and put away?)

  • Another mid-week project I like to be sure to do is vacuuming my house. (Two dogs, one cat, three nephews run around here!)

  • Do you have a pile of miscellaneous things piled on your mail table, desk, coffee table, or stairs? If so, bring the things up or downstairs as needed; put any outgoing items that need to be dropped off into your car (library books? rental DVDs? friends' belongings? recycling?) and declutter desk as needed.

  • Need to water any houseplants?

  • Take your vitamins and cut up some fresh fruit to put out for your family to enjoy.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Kitchen Bookcase

My project tonight shouldn't take more than about thirty-five or forty minutes. I'm going to remove all the vases from the top of my cookbook bookshelf, then remove every book. I'll dust the books, dust the shelves, and replace the cookbooks in an organized manner. I'll have to control myself to not linger over revisiting every fabulous book in my collection. I have a long walk to go on tonight, and I need to get started. I don't dare leave this project for when I get back from walking in the heat - I'll be tired and likely flop down on the couch to catch up with the shows I've DVRed this week.

I intend to set out just one cookbook though, selecting a recipe to try making over the weekend. I need to use and enjoy my cookbooks, not just have them on shelves collecting dust.

THURSDAY'S PROJECT: Breakfast Nook

Tomorrow before I go out to enjoy my sunny backyard, I'll work on tidying my breakfast nook. This will finish up Spring Cleaning for my kitchen. My breakfast nook contains a love seat, two armchairs, a side table and a footstool, plus four windows. It won't take much time at all today to vacuum and Febreeze the couch cushions, dust the furniture, mop the floor, and wash the windows. There's a throw rug that I need to take outside, shake and beat the dust out of, then hang to air in the sun. I'll wipe down the baseboards too, and shine the heating vent. Also, I suspect I will need to wipe down the walls. All in all, I don't expect this project to take more than an hour - a perfect worknight project.

To make my chore more pleasant, I'll play music in the nearby living room, and light the new Pomelo Lime candle I picked up at Target yesterday.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Desiree Vodka

I haven't tasted any of these dessert-themed vodkas yet. So far I'm intrigued by the packaging and flavor selections. There is a high potential for these to taste really overly sweet or kind of gross, but I am to find out! The flavors include Cake, Brownie Batter, Red Velvet Cake, and Creme Brulee. These might be nice for a girls weekend or bachelorette party.

http://www.desireevodka.com/

LOVELY BLOGS: The Geeky Hostess

This blog combines two things I'm passionate about: geeky stuff and entertaining! The blog just celebrated its fourth anniversary. Check out recent posts on a nerdy tea company, Star Wars themed measuring cups, cupcakes that use Nerd candies, and Game of Thrones drinks that use Jagermeister.

http://www.geekyhostess.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: A Flower Wedding

This darling 1905 book was illustrated by Walter Crane. I thought you'd enjoy turning the pages and admiring the flower illustrations and fashions depicted here. My favorite dress is on page 16. Drop a comment if you enjoy seeing antique books like this here at Lovely Living!

A Flower Wedding, at Archive.Org

LOVELY FASHION: Ann Taylor Events Collection

Ann Taylor has come out with a line of special occasion dresses. I'm excited (although her clothing is usually too tightly tailored to work well for me now that I'm plump). There's nothing drop dead fabulous here, but everything is classic, attractive, and well made. This might be a good place to find a dress for attending a wedding, going out to a special dinner, or picking up an all purpose classy cocktail dress. The collection includes some dressy handbags and some costume jewelry.

Events Collection at Ann Taylor

LOVELY HOME: IKEA Lantern

I thought this was a darling little lantern for Spring. You can use it with a tealight or a votive. Set it on a table, or hang it from a hook. (Don't forget to blow it out before leaving that part of your house though!)

Gottgora Lantern, at IKEA

LOVELY KIDS: Tree House Bed

I had fun today daydreaming about having this cool tree house bed in my house for visiting nephews to enjoy on a sleepover. The reality is my guest bedroom ceilings aren't big enough to accomodate this, nor are the bedrooms big enough, and I can't spend this much $ on furniture. But the pictures of the treehouse beds are really fun to look at!

Tree Fort Bed, at Pottery Barn Kids

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Amish Creamed Corn Casserole (Just a Pinch)

Brigadeiros: Brazilian Fudge Balls (Stylish Cuisine)

Bacon and Cashew Bourbon Caramel Corn (Brown Eyed Baker)

Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Cupcakes (Love From the Oven)

Red Velvet Cake: From Gimmick to American Classic (NY Times)

Strawberry Cheesecake with Speculoos Crust (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars (Smitten Kitchen)

Strawberry Shortbread Bars (Pint Sized Baker)

10 Best Things to Christen Your Grill With on Memorial Day (Houston Press)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Spring Cleaning Our Kitchens

A hydrangea now graces my dining room table thanks to an impulse buy at the grocery store

Today I'm tackling the Spring Cleaning of my kitchen. I should have started this project on Sunday, but instead I took the kids to see Disney Nature: Bears. I should have started this project on Monday, but I cooked a Cinco de Mayo themed dinner for multiple family members instead! So tonight, with a filthy kitchen from last night's party, I absolutely must start my kitchen overhaul.

I'll be thorough, but I won't stress about it or agonize over it. I can make tonight's project fun by watching cooking shows on my kitchen TV while I work, playing fun music, drinking delicious iced tea, and switching to my favorite white wine later in the evening as I work.

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

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Jessie Steele Polka Dot Potholder in Blue, on Amazon

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

Look around your kitchen. Do you see anything broken that needs to be repaired, or broken and needing to be thrown out? Soiled, limp, ugly dishtowels that should be replaced with inexpensive colorful ones from Target or the like?
Stained, burned and encrusted pot holders that you can easily replace for just a few dollars?

Take a quick minute to sort and wrap up all those extra plastic grocery bags we seem to accumulate - even those of us who regularly bring our own reusable shopping bags to stores can still end up with quite a bit of a mess under the kitchen counter. Toss your plastic bags into your car so you can drop them off at your nearest plastic bag recycling bin tomorrow. Mine's at my local neighborhood PCC Market or I'll stop by Target on the way to my nephew's track meet.

Though we are spring cleaning, we shouldn't fall behind on our regular daily tasks. Start a load of laundry if needed, and take a break later from the kitchen to throw things into the dryer.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning the Kitchen

Dualit 2-Slice Toaster, at Williams-Sonoma

Perhaps if you're a longtime Lovely Living reader, you may remember that in the fall we worked on fall kitchen preparations and it took four days. That will probably happen to me again this week because I'm separating what should have been done on a long Sunday, into four or five weeknight projects. Except I'm going to two films at the Seattle Cinerama science fiction film festival this week, so I may have to stretch my project out a little longer. Or just work faster!

Want to peek at my to-do list?

  • Wash kitchen windows, inside and out
  • Take down kitchen curtains, launder them, and re-hang
  • Wipe down walls; dust baseboards
  • Mop floors thoroughly
  • Have my neighbor help me move the oven and refrigerator to sweep and mop behind and underneath them - I'll go over to his house and help him move his own as well.
  • Thoroughly clean appliances inside and out - refrigerator, oven, microwave, toaster oven, dishwasher, and rice cooker. If you keep up with weekly fridge and freezer maintenance, the fridge shouldn't be overwhelming today.
  • Wipe and dust outsides of all cabinets
  • Remove dishes from all cabinets. Check for wear and tear, throw out any cracked or broken dishes or miscellaneous mismatched you don't enjoy using, and try to de-clutter. Wipe down cupboards and replace dishes in an organized fashion.
  • Shine floor heat vents with Brasso; do the same with the four door handles on my kitchen's two doors
  • Dust the two wood doors in the kitchen
  • Vacuum cat hair off the four cushions in the breakfast nook
  • Set cushions out in the sun for a few hours if possible this week
  • Dust wicker loveseat, chair and ottoman
  • Dust and clean the two bar stools; replace the pads on their feet, which are hairy right now.
  • Reorganize drawers, utensils and kitchen tools.
  • Wipe down counters and try to re-home as many items as possible so I have more counter space clear.
  • De-clutter front of refrigerator, prioritizing just a few favorite photos and drawings, preferably recent ones.
  • Organize kitchen calendar, desk, whiteboard, telephone, phonebooks, emergency phone number list, and any other organizational and office tools kept here.
  • Finish by making yourself and any helpers a tasty snack, pouring a delicious beverage, and sitting down to relax with your favorite cooking magazine.

Think we can do all that in the next 3-4 evenings? I think we can!

LOVELY BLOGS: Gluesticks

This crafty, creative blog is by Brandy, a mother of four. She shares her project gallery, kids' projects, recipes, home and garden tips, and holiday and seasonal projects. Recently she's posting about 3 step caramel truffles, a personalized ABC book, colorful DIY cabochon flower rings, and sharing her efforts to make homemade croissants for the first time. Inspiring!

http://gluesticksblog.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Longbourn

I picked this book up from the library last week, a bit skeptical since I enjoy Pride & Prejudice literary fan fiction but I've read some bad ones lately. I got tired of the same boring explorations of "What if Lizzie had said Yes to Darcy sooner" or "What if Lizzie had met Bingley first instead of Jane" or practically pornographic retellings. "Longbourn" is a wonderful departure from the same overused cliche situations. It follows the storyline of the book from the viewpoint of the servants belowstairs. The main viewpoint is from the housemaid Sarah, but you also hear from housekeeper Mrs. Hill. I'm finding this almost a pageturner - not from suspense, just from wanting to know more of what the servants are going through while helping the Bennets live their lives. I'm reading this as fast as I can because there are 35 other people in Seattle waiting on hold for my copy from the library!

Longbourn, by Jo Baker, on Amazon

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Cuppa Cake Teas

Lately I've been picking up these delightful (but a bit pricy) cake-themed teas to tuck into gift baskets for Mother's Day, Easter and Spring. So far Lemon Chiffon has been a big hit (too coconuty for me though). They also make a Blueberry Bundt that's made with rooibos and licorice flavors, and a Caramel Vanilla. Plus, the packaging is gorgeous so it will look nice sitting in someone's tea cupboard or pantry.

Cuppa Cake Tea, at Republic of Tea

LOVELY SHOPS: The Retro Recollection

I adore this vintage retro Etsy shop. They specialize in forties, fifties and sixties vintage dresses and hats. Check out this 1960s era daisy whimsy hat and this stunning turquoise brocade dress and jacket.

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

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

15 Mother's Day Brunch Recipes You Can Make in a Muffin Tin (Homemaking Hacks)

My Make-Ahead Menu for a Bright & Colorful Mother's Day Brunch (The Kitchn)

Strawberry Coconut Cream Pastries for Mother's Day (Our Ordinary Life)

7 Tasty Ways to Use Up Green Onion (CHOW)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Taking Advantage of Surprisingly Warm Weather

We've been getting my yard ready for summer - here's my outdoor office and my dogs' swimming pool. I need to mow my lawn!

This week we've been experiencing unusually warm weather - in the 80s - for Seattle in April. My eight year old eagerly helped me get out and set up my outdoor chairs and cushions, outdoor table and umbrella, and the inflatable swimming pool I keep for my dogs to splash in. It's been so lovely working on my laptop outside and eating dinner outdoors! The rains will come again soon, so say the forecasters, so I'm taking as much advantage of the warm and sunny weather as I can right now. No TV until it's dark, dragging myself away from the computer at lunchtime to eat outdoors instead, and enjoying a waterfront picnic last night.

Today, however, it's time for me to start my Spring Cleaning, which I'd have preferred to be done with by now!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Master Bedroom

No, my bedroom doesn't actually look this lovely! It's an inspirational photo from Z Gallerie

I don't spend enough time in my bedroom (aah Sleep, I miss you!) but when I do, I want it to be pristine, comforting, relaxing, welcoming, and organized. This is Spring Cleaning, so it won't be enough to just tidy and vacuum and make the bed. Instead, I'm overhauling this bedroom completely in the next three days.

Tonight's a worknight/school night, so I'll take on some uncomplicated tasks. I'm switching out my heavy red velvet curtains I use in the Fall and Winter, for the spring/summer silver-and-blue flowery set I use. I'll take down the curtains and put up the new ones, then switch out my bedding. I don't want to put my existing red flannel bedding away dirty, so I'll launder it then put it away in my linen closet. I will get my summery bedding out of storage, but it will likely smell like the plastic Sterilite storage tub I kept it in, so I'll have another load of laundry to do tonight too. While I'm waiting for the first load of laundry to finish itself, I'll clean the two windows and sills in my bedroom, so that I'm putting up fresh curtains on sparkling windows.
That will likely keep me busy and be enough projects for the evening!

Friday's Project:

I'm going out to dinner and a movie, but before I do, I'll make time to thoroughly dust. My bedroom contains a bookcase, two nightstands, a hope chest dresser, my bed, and a computer desk. Because this is Spring Cleaning, I'll stoop down and dust all the baseboards, too.

Saturday's Project:

Velvet Medallion Pillow, at Pier 1

I'm attending the Science Fiction Film Festival at the Cinerama (excited to show my 13 year old nephew "Back to the Future") so I'll have to do my major project in the afternoon after we get back. I'll be moving every piece of furniture in my bedroom to vacuum thoroughly under it and probably wash down the walls behind it. I also need to dust my lamps and inspect their lamp shades to see if they need to be replaced. My curtains and bedding are only a year old, so I won't worry about inspecting them for damage or budgeting to buy new ones (something I thought about every Spring Cleaning until last year when I broke down and splurged on new textiles).

It's time (twice yearly) to flip the mattress over and rotate it. It's also a good idea to launder the bed skirt, Febreze the mattress (if you aren't scared of fragrance chemicals) and let some sunshine get on it from your window if possible. If you have allergies, it's time to vacuum the mattress and base with your HEPA filter fitted vacuum if possible. Do you need to flip and rotate your mattress, change out bedlinens, and remove items from under your bed?

Next, I'll have to be firm with myself and declutter a lot. I have too many books on my bookshelf, too many unread magazines on my hope chest dresser, and too much clutter inside the nightstands. I'll sort and hopefully be able to toss out or give away several items, recycling magazines, and making sure my bedroom is a comforting, relaxing haven. I expect this project to take only about two hours, including moving my bed to vacuum under it. That frees me up to go back to see another movie at the festival later in the evening with a friend.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Body Shop's New Raspberry Scent

I can't find an excuse to pick up one of the new Early Harvest Raspberry shower gels, since I'm still enjoying my Satsuma Mandarin from this same company. But when I run out, I'm eager to try the products in this new line: There is a shower gel, a body butter, a body scrub, a body lotion and an eau de toilette.

Raspberry Harvest at The Body Shop

LOVELY BLOGS: Food History Jottings

I'm quite fascinated by food history, so I enjoy checking in on this well-written blog from time to time. Currently posts involve how to roast a pike based on some 17th century papers, a long and thorough post on a medieval meal, and a fascinating post on Macedoine jelly.

http://foodhistorjottings.blogspot.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Flower Children

The adorable illustrations in this 1910 book by Elizabeth Gordon were drawn by M.T. Ross. Each page has a different charming flower child. I bet you'll find it relaxing flipping through this little book!

Flower Children, The Little Cousins of the Field and Garden

LOVELY FOOD: Les Fleurs de Chocolat

These beautiful chocolates from Vosges feature edible flower petals. Flavors include Siam Citron, Violette, and Mirabelle Orange.

Les Fleurs de Chocolat, from Vosges

LOVELY FOOD: Spring Velvet Cake Mixes

I rarely bake a cake for my three nephews, but when I do, I'm not ashamed to use a boxed cake mix. I'm also not tooo worried about the chemicals used to dye these hilarious velvet cake mixes, since we eat cake so infrequently. I am just getting a kick out of these colorful cakes. Duncan Hines offers a pink velvet cake mix, a pink and yellow Spring Velvets cake mix and a blue velvet cake mix. Red Velvet cakes are so outdated now!

LOVELY SHOES:

I was so excited to discover these shoes last week. I prefer not to wear leather, so I often end up at Payless buying cheap shoes. I'm not supposed to wear flats any more because of my back problem, but hate to wear heels - I'm tall enough already, and they make me worry I'll turn my ankle. So when I tried on these vegan (man made materials) Bernie Mev shoes, and found them delightfully comfy with memory foam soles, I bought six pairs. Two black, a bronze, two silver, and a plum pair. This isn't an affiliate endorsement, I am just so happy to finally have cute and comfy shoes that don't look like crap from Payless!

Bernie Mev Shoes, at Nordstrom

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Banana Bars (My Baking Addiction)

Cinco de Mayo Recipe Roundup (For the Love of Cooking)

Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream (The Sugar Hit)

How to Make Whipped Feta (Whole Yum)

Salted Lime Tequila Shooters (Sweet C's Designs)

Tangerine Margarita (CHOW)

What We Lose in Losing Ladies Home Journal (The Atlantic)