Sunday, September 28, 2014

Easing Into Autumn

The trees in my neighborhood are slowly beginning to change colors, just a little bit, hinting at the riot of color soon to come

It's cold in the mornings now, here in the outskirts of Seattle. That prompts me to drink lots of hot tea and cuddle up with a dog and my overheating laptop while I get computer work done. Afternoons are warm and sunny, making me long for summer to stay just a little longer. I love fall, and look forward to pumpkin season, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. But it's so hard for me to say goodbye to long summer evenings, warm weather, and sunshine.

An electric stove similar to the one I picked up at Fred Meyer today to add ambience and cheer to my cold kitchen in the mornings

I'm dreading the dark days ahead. That's making me a bit of a shopaholic right now, stocking up on candles, batteries, fire logs, matches, and treating myself to an electric fireplace to make my kitchen or guest room extra cosy.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

This tree near my house is trying really hard to turn orange!

  • What chores do you tend to do on Sunday? I wash all my sheets and towels so they're fresh for the week ahead.
  • Know what you're making for your kids' lunches and after school snacks this week?
  • What is everybody wearing to school and work tomorrow and in the days ahead?
  • Clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in both your fridge and freezer.
  • Set aside some time, if possible, for just you tonight. Recharge, relax, and prepare for the week ahead with some quiet time. Even if you can only snatch 15 minutes to zone out to TV or flip through a magazine, take a longer bath or shower, or pet a dog or cat while drinking herbal tea.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Putting Away Summer Things

Colorful flowers greet guests on my front porch

I'm doing what might be my last lawn mowing of the year (unless we have awesome weather all through October like we did last year). After that, I'm feeling cranky because it's time to bring my outdoor living room back inside. My wicker love seat, two chairs and footstool are getting rained on too often, and I'm not sitting outdoors using and enjoying them. Time for them to come home to my kitchen, where guests can relax and chat while I'm cooking meals.

This isn't that easy of a project - I want to sweep and then mop the kitchen floor before hauling the furniture in; I want to wipe down the furniture and remove cat hair from, then Febreze, the cushions; and the furniture is not necessarily heavy but is quite awkward and unwieldy. I'll want to dust the side table I keep in my kitchen, set out the coaster I keep there to protect the wood, and find some fresh flowers from the yard to tuck into a little vase.

I expect this project to take about an hour; then I can relax with a book and TV before bedtime tonight!

What summer items are you no longer using that need to be put away? (I'm guessing - your barbecue grill?)

LOVELY BLOGS: The Kitchen Paper

This blogger, Mary, is originally from Oregon. Recently she's been exploring southeast Asia. I've been enjoying her recent recipies for Orange, Tomato, and Turmeric Coconut Soup, her flourless chocolate torte and her Fried Egg on Toast with Smoked Paprika and Maple Chard.

http://www.thekitchenpaper.com/

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Bath & Body Works' Pumpkin and Autumn Scented Candles

With October so close, I'm finally letting myself purchase (and burn) autumn scented candles (pumpkin, caramel, wood smoke, apple, etc). I'm usually not that big of a fan of food-scented candles (they're too sweet, or make me constantly hungry) but I have to admit my current favorite is Pumpkin Pecan Waffles. I think Bath & Body Works has sort of overdone it with their pumpkin offerings this year - Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pecan Waffles, Pumpkin Cupcake, Pumpkin Caramel Latte, Pumpkin Sugared Doughnut, Caramel Pumpkin Swirl, Vanilla Pumpkin Marshmallow, and Pumpkin Cinnamon Bun. I can barely tell them apart in the store. Luckily they have other scents - Sweater Weather, Autumn, Mahogany Teakwood, Fireside, Leaves, Autumn Mums, Harvest Gathering, Autumn Night, Salted Caramel Corn, and more.

Bath and Body Works

LOVELY KITCHEN: Le Creuset Burgundy

I can't justify investing in a Le Creuset quite yet - I'm still practicing with the inexpensive red Dutch oven I got from Cost Plus World Market. And I am not cooking for as many people in my house as I used to.

My kitchen is currently a teal theme, so I wouldn't be able to get these burgundy dishes anyway. But that's not stopping me from drooling over them - they are gorgeous and I daydream about all the tasty meals I'd want to cook in them!

Le Creuset Burgundy, at Sur la Table

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Autumn: 5 Recipes for Using Up a Glut of Apples (Made by Mrs. Jones)

Blackberry and Apple Loaf Cake (Floral and Feather)

Blackberry Cheesecake (Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt)

Crockpot Pumpkin Spice Latte (See Aimee Cook)

The New Yoga Pot Stew (Green Kitchen Stories)

Plum Pie (The Artful Gardener)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pudding Shots (That's So Michelle)

Taco Pasta Bowl (Framed Cooks)

Weeknight Foods: Brown Sugar Glazed King Salmon with Cabbage Salad (A Half Cup)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Photo Post: More Arabian Nights Party Pics

About a week before the party, I started staging the tents in the back yard, practicing putting them up. I didn't want to leave them out because of our summer Seattle rains, and I couldn't leave a rug sitting on the grass as it would kill it.

This party took an incredible amount of provisioning, with trips to craft stores (for faux flowers and fabrics), items arriving from Amazon, and lots of trips to Cost Plus World Market. I kept the party supplies in the playroom, staged on a card table and piled everywhere. I had to keep the door shut so my dogs wouldn't get into everything! Sadly, this staging room rendered my playroom unusable for the children who visited in the meantime - but we at least had a summery sunny backyard to enjoy instead!


This is what my two buffet tables (one borrowed, one purchased at Wal-Mart - I'll use it for Thanksgiving and Christmas) looked like once the food was set out.

Here's what my backyard looked like during the child-friendly daytime portion of the party:

Here are my three tents as they looked in daylight. I don't have very many pictures of the way they looked at night, lit up with lanterns and fairy lights, because I was too busy running around hostessing the party!

At the end of the night my dogs were exhausted from all the extra attention and petting lavished on them. They helped themselves to crashing out in one of the tents!
They know a comfy spot when they see one.

The hostess, me!

This was the party that took the most time to prepare, plan and set up. I probably will never do a party that takes this much work again, but I'm so glad I did it - what a blast. I can only hope my guests had fun too - that was the whole point! You can bet I spent the next two or three days cleaning up, resting, sleeping, cleaning up some more, and eating leftovers!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Photo Post: Preparing for my Arabian Nights Party

This is what my Costco cart looked, two days before the party. While it was my only Costco trip I made for supplies for this party, it certainly wasn't my only grocery store run!

This is what my two refrigerators looked like right before the party - plus I had a couple frozen things stored at the neighbor's house and a few things at my cousin's house down the street! There really was no rhyme or reason to where I stashed things in the fridge, nor any organization. I just shoved things in! I ended up totally forgetting to serve two bags of frozen mangoes and two bags of dates. I was really disappointed in myself for forgetting that detail; plus I am now stuck with four bags of fruits I don't personally enjoy eating! Must find a date and mango loving friend to hand these off to!

Here are several of the new potted flowers I bought to decorate my back yard and deck for the party. I was really nervous, buying them three weeks to a month ahead of time, about if I could keep them alive and nice for the party still!

A week before the party, I experimented with little sorbet cups (in colorful acrylic shotglasses) I planned to serve guests. Could I scoop and then freeze them ahead of time so they would be ready to serve quickly amidst party chaos? Yes. Was the texture still good? Yes. Were the little candy balls on top good? No, too crunchy and hard to eat after being frozen.

In my next party post, I'll show you how the tents turned out!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Going Back to School For You and Me Too

I treated myself to an inexpensive "Sorbet Peach Melba" viola plant to brighten my front steps

Now that Labor Day is over, kids in my area are back in school. I live right next to an elementary school - every morning I hear children's happy, excited little voices as they are being dropped off. Now that my nephews have moved away, I no longer go next door every day at 3:25 pm to pick someone up, give him a snack, help him with homework, take him home and fix dinner for him and his brothers. It makes me a little sad to hear the school bell every day, missing him. But then again, now that I'm not spending all those hours every day doing those things for him, I have time to take some classes myself.

I'm so jealous! I want to go school supply shopping; take down notes in a fresh new notebook; pore over a syllabus of upcoming readings. I want to sit in a classroom soaking up interesting knowledge. I might even look forward to a writing assignment or two.

If you at all have room in your life, see if you can make time this fall for some enriching classes you will enjoy. Be a lifelong learner. Continue to explore your interests and passions. It doesn't have to be something related to your job or career.

Whether you take classes at a cooking store, community college, karate school, yoga center, or online, give yourself the gift of knowledge. Maybe all you can fit in is a weekend workshop this fall, or an online course you do at night after your kids are in bed.

You might have to trade babysitting with another mom, ask a family member for one evening a week to yourself, arrange to leave your children with your partner one night a week, or barricade yourself in your room for an hour a night to finish an online course. You might have to give up TV two nights a week, or limit your daily computer time until the class is over. If it's important to you, you'll find and make the time for yourself.

I know it's hard if you're working, especially if you're a working parent, to find time after you get home tired every weeknight. But you do still have weekends, and people in your life to trade favors with, and an Internet and TV that will still be there after you turn them off for two hours a night.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • When's the last time you personally visited a library? Even if you don't check out any books, you can enjoy sitting in peace and (hopefully) quiet for half an hour or so, thumbing through magazines, browsing the shelves, and soaking in the atmosphere.
  • Wipe down kitchen sink and counters; fill or empty dishwasher as needed
  • Take out trash if needed, or make someone in your household help you
  • Have any magazines you need to finish reading and then recycle or give away this weekend?
  • Clean one shelf, two door shelves, or one drawer in both your fridge and your freezer.
  • If it's still nice weather in your neighborhood, take a long walk this evening while you still can.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Sign Up for a Class

Gorgeous Windsor Writing Set on Amazon

If you can carve out the time in your life and you're interested, see what kind of class you can sign up for. Your class might be a one-shot cooking class at your local cooking store or health food market; or you might have one night a week to take a writing class at the local community college. Maybe you have a small child at home, so you'll barely have time to take one quick online course.

Whatever you sign up for, give yourself time and energy to learn something for yourself. We shouldn't stop learning just because we're done with high school or college.

I'm taking four classes this month at the PCC Natural Market near my house. Each class is just three hours during the evening. I'm also teaching three online classes myself this month, so I'm a bit stressed about only having three "at home" or socializing nights every week. But I'd rather be busy than not, and rather be learning than staring at the TV (especially some of the dumb shows I succumb to watching, like Below Deck.

Resources:

Class Central

Coursera

Craftsy's Free Online Classes

EdX

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) List

MOOC.Ca

Open Culture

Writing University

LOVELY ACCESSORIES: Lulu Guinness Backpack

Since I'm taking classes online, and not actually leaving my house to go to a nearby campus, I don't actually need this backpack. Sigh. So I'll just have to admire the picture of it!

Hands Backpack at Lulu Guinness

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Wary Meyers Soaps

I haven't smelled any of these soaps yet (the scents include Lemon Verbena, Grapefruit & Clementine, Oud Wood, Violet and Sea Air) but I love the way they look! They remind me of those horrible tasting, but lovely, licorice square and rectangular candies. These are made in small batches by a couple in Portland, Maine.

Wary Meyers Soaps, at Shop Pretty Mommy

LOVELY BLOGS: Paper and Salt

"Paper and Salt attempts to recreate and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction." Nicole blogs from NYC. She's currently writing about Ezra Pound's spaghetti recipe; Edna St. Vincent Millay's wild blueberry pie and Hunter S. Thompson's huevos rancheros. I love the mix of literature and cooking here! Really intriguing blog to read.

http://paperandsalt.org/

LOVELY BOOKS: Puffin in Bloom

I am so delighted by the new Puffin in Bloom series of children's books. They're illustrated by artist Anna Bond of the Rifle Paper Co. They just came out last week. I definitely need these lovely books on my shelf. I might skip "Heidi" though, I don't really enjoy that book. I definitely need to get "A Little Princess" as that was my favorite children's book of all time growing up.

Puffin in Bloom, on Amazon

LOVELY CHALLENGES: Give Something Away Today

Last week when my house painters were here, I found myself working really hard to empty the curio cabinet my dishes are stored in, so the men could move it to paint behind it. Piles and stacks of dishes were on my dining room table. As I looked over them, fantasizing about future Family Nights and dinner parties I'll throw this autumn using these dishes, I did feel like I own too many things. I looked through and decided I hadn't used this lovely teapot at all in the last year other than during a spring tea party. I have other teapots that are lovelier and more sentimental. This one was inexpensive, doesn't hold any particular meanings or memory for me. So I put it in the car to take it to The Salvation Army. On the way I stopped by the bookshelf in the garage where I keep my autumn decor and dishes. I scooped up four pretty IKEA glass plates I never use, and found FOUR "tea for ones" in great condition to donate. (Not sure why so many people have gifted me tea for ones over the years. It's a nice thought, but I never end up using them!) I never donate anything chipped or cracked, so I carefully inspected these all for damage before donating them. There's a Salvation Army truck parked in the parking lot of my local Fred Meyer, so on my very next errand day I dropped everything off. It took less than 30 seconds to interact with the friendly donations man.

I challenge you to give away something today!

LOVELY WEBSITES: School House Craft

"Schooling you in the business of craft." The classes here aren't free, unfortunately. But if that's what it takes for them to present high quality classes for crafters, that's ok. This business is located in Seattle - they offer real world classes, not online classes. I'm tempted to take a couple of these even though I'm not a crafter. Upcoming classes include Braking Into the Handmade Wholesale Market, Getting Started Selling Online, Subversive Craft, and Turning Your Creative Ideas into a Book.

http://schoolhousecraft.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Autumn Sipping: Make Your Own Personalized Pumpkin Spice Latte (Plum Deluxe)

Baked Avocado Eggs (The Baking Fairy)

Baked Nutella Turnovers (Barbara Bakes)

Baked Omelettes in Bread (Full Fork Ahead)

Baked Pasta Tart with Smoked Tofu (Gourmandelle)

Crispy Baked Chicken Croquettes (The Kitchen Whisperer)

Mini Maple-Dipped Glazed Pumpkin Muffins (Diary of a Recipe Collector)

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti Recipe (Cully's Kitchen)

Spotted on Shelves: Chobani Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice and Apple Cinnamon Greek Yogurt (The Impulsive Buy)

Troubles With Life in the Big House (WSJ)

Monday, September 01, 2014

September Begins - Sliding Back into School and Work

The flowerbed I'm going to have to weed tonight, like it or not!

Have I ever mentioned that I really, really, really don't enjoy gardening? Yet I love having pretty flowers in my yard. I have got to force myself to weed out these horrible nettles or thistles, whatever they are, out of the bed I worked so hard to plant and my cousin worked so hard to clear out and weed a few weeks ago. If I don't keep up my garden, I should be living in a condo not a home. So off I go with a whiskey and lemonade, a blanket to sit on, ugly gardening gloves and a bucket to carry the yard waste to my bin in. Not a bad way to spend my sunny Labor Day afternoon and early evening, I suppose!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Is school starting for your kids tomorrow? Prepare a special dinner, help them pick out what they're wearing, make their lunch etc.
  • Make meal plans for the week ahead.
  • Is everyone sleeping on clean sheets tonight?
  • Clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in your fridge and freezer today. Doing this makes sure your fridge and freezer both get completely cleaned out every 4-6 weeks (depending on how many shelves you have).

TODAY'S PROJECT: Flowerbed Weeding

Some dahlias that miraculously have survived the summer in my neglected garden

I have to suck it up and go tend my poor flowerbeds. I bet I can get the whole thing done in just half an hour. The sooner I start, the sooner it will be over and I can curl up and watch Houdini on the History channel!

LOVELY BLOGS: The Fashionable Hostess

Amanda's styling tips for home, wardrobe, and babies. Recent posts include September Beauty Essentials, a post on strawberry water, a project for making DIY champagne party favors, and how to host a champagne celebration. The photography here is gorgeous!

http://www.fashionablehostess.com/

LOVELY BLOGS: Silver Screen Suppers

I usually only review one blog per Lovely Living post. But I don't want to neglect mentioning this awesome blog that specializes in Hollywood-themed parties and vintage celebrity recipes. They're currently blogging about Vincent Price's Pepitas a la Curry, Jane Wyatt's beer bread, and the Louella Parsons cocktail. It's refreshing not to have anything from modern trampy young celebrities here, focusing instead on old Hollywood glamour!

http://www.silverscreensuppers.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Ben & Jerry's New Cores Flavors

I refuse to stop eating ice cream just because summer is ending and the weather is a teensy bit chillier! I'm excited to try the new Cores flavors from Ben & Jerry's. The deal is, down the center of the pint, there's a core of fudge, caramel or raspberry jam. I wonder if it's tasty, or if the texture is weird. One way to find out!

Cores, at Ben & Jerry's

LOVELY HOME: Hidden Passageway

Wouldn't you love to have a secret hidden passageway leading to a tiny room in your home that nobody else knows about? Creating Home Engineering specializes in things such as this for people who can afford it. I can't, so I'll just have to make do with my not-very-secret storage space under my stairway. Anyway, browsing the gallery is pretty fun.

http://hiddenpassageway.com/

LOVELY KIDS: Jane Austen Paper Dolls

I think I need a set of these! I'm not ashamed to be an adult cutting out and playing with paper dolls. Especially when they're based on my two favorite Jane Austen novels, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I have this categorized under Kids, but I don't think actual children (most likely not having heard of or read these books) would care to play with them, with the old fashioned costumes and characters they've never heard of.

Jane Austen Paper Dolls, on Amazon

LOVELY KITCHEN: Coffee Pod Ferris Wheel

I don't use coffee pods - heck, I don't even drink coffee - but I couldn't resist sharing this adorable storage device. So amusing! It definitely would be allowed to take up space on my kitchen counter if I used coffee pods regularly.

Coffee Pod Ferris Wheel, at Pottery Barn

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Acting French (The Atlantic)

Blackberry Rose Gin and Tonic (The Picky Pantry)

How Not to Make a Peach Pie (A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn)

When Labor Day Meant Something (The Atlantic)

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Waffles (Zen & Spice)