Sunday, October 26, 2014

Autumn Closet Sorting on a Relaxing Sunday

Today I'm flying to Vegas, but first I'll sort out my closet so it's nicely organized for when I get back from my trip. I'll be packing lightweight summery dresses (as it's in the 80s and high 70s in Vegas this week) and otherwise storing away all my summer clothes. Front and center in my closet needs to be sweaters, leggings, tunics and warm dresses.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Mrs. Meyers' "Baby Blossom" Detergent, on Amazon

  • Need to do any laundry? I generally wash my sheets and towels on Sundays, and a load of clothing for the workweek ahead if I can get to it.
  • How are your bathroom hand towels looking? How about the hand towels you use in your kitchen? Need to wash them and replace them with fresh ones in the meantime?
  • What does your house smell like today? (Mine smells like dogs). Do you need to open windows to air out the house, light candles, vacuum carpet with freshener, boil cinnamon in a pot of water on the stove? Or does your house smell nice and fresh as is?
  • How are your houseplants doing? Need to fertilize them, water them, or adjust them for more light?
  • Who else here besides me needs to declutter a mail table? I want to process and file the mail, not just move it around from place to place.
  • Are you remembering to take your vitamins? I notice my fingernails have grown longer and stronger since I've done a better job of taking my vitamins lately. Bonus!
  • Fridge and freezer maintenance: Clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door pockets in your fridge and freezer today. This way your fridge and freezer get cleaned out completely about once every month or six weeks!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Closet Sorting

The new Alfani sweater dress I treated myself to for autumn

Tonight I leave for a three day trip to Las Vegas. (Yay!) My cousin is coming to stay and dogsit for me, so I need to put my house back in order nicely for her. I just had carpet installed, so I have three bedrooms full of furniture to replace and dust, and my clothes need to be put back in the closet. (They're currently draped over a couple couches!) I'm a bit stressed out by this project, and wish I had an extra day or two between the carpet installation and my departure. Oh well! I'll put on some music and start trying on some clothes. I can pack my suitcase while I work to restore my closet. And as always, I'll try to weed out any clothes I'm not actually wearing, making a nice pile to drop off at Goodwill when I get back.

Here in Seattle, I'll be wearing lightweight sweaters (under a light jacket) for most of Fall, and then heavier sweaters under a heavier coat in winter. (Luckily we rarely get below 28 degrees here!) I stored my sweaters away in the summer, to make more room in the closet for sundresses. Now I'll be swapping them, hanging the sweaters up and folding the sundresses carefully away in my storage boxes.

I got rid of two limp, faded, pilling old black sweaters and replaced them with this new Calvin Klein black sweater which I expect to get a lot of use out of in the winter months.

As I get out my sweaters, I'll be inspecting them for wear, fading, missing buttons, dust and dirt, and scent. I put them away clean at the start of summer, but if they smell musty when I take them out of their storage box, I'll have to get them cleaned again. I'll hang the sweaters and my fall dresses up in the place my sundresses used to hang.

For now I am going to leave my shoes alone, I'll sort them when I get back from my trip. I wonder if I will do some shopping while I'm there and bring home more clothes and shoes? Hopefully I can control myself a little bit.

It's time to put away bathing suits (other than the two I'm taking to Vegas with me), skimpy tank tops, shorts, and sandals. It's still too early to get my holiday gowns out of storage in my guest bedroom closet, so I have a bit of extra room in my closet for now.

I also need to tidy my basket of bras, basket of underwear, and the folded piles of tshirts and nightdresses I sleep in. Next week when I am home for an evening, I will watch TV while sorting my sock drawer and basket full of nylons, Spanx and pantyhose.

I really like this scroll print dress, but can't stand the overly pushy salespeople at WHBM, so I'll have to do without.

I expect this project to take about four or five hours. I'll be carrying clothes up to the closet an armload at a time, stopping to lay them out on my bed, inspecting them, trying them on, putting things aside for the charity box, and hanging clothing back up. I confess I'm a bit stressed about trying to get this big of a project done before heading to the airport!

If you sort your closet tonight, be sure to lay out something special to wear tomorrow. How about something you haven't worn in a long while that looks pretty on you?

LOVELY BLOGS: Pretty Prudent

This blog is co-written by Jacinda, Jaime, Colleen, and Sonya. They focus their efforts on writing about travel, style, family, and crafts. And babies, of course. This is an absolutely gorgeous blog, with lots of lovely and useful tips as well. There are a lot of DIY projects here. Today it's Fabric Friday as well as Flower Friday. One of the authors is celebrating her DIY post about making cozy things for babies. I have a feeling many of my Lovely Living readers are really going to respond to and enjoy this beautiful and helpful blog!

http://prudentbaby.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Brown Butter Walnut Pie with Sour Whipped Cream (Saveur)

Browned Butter Pear and Walnut Tarts (Yummy Workshop)

Fall Soups & Stews (Saveur)

A Festive Diwali Dish: Indian Butter Chicken (Srumpdillyicious)

Fried Maple Leaves are Now on the Menu in Toronto (Whitecourt Press)

Kabocha Squash Toasts with Miso Jam (Amour Foud)

Leek Soup with Shoestring Potatoes and Fried Herbs (This is Glamorous)

Maple Glazed Oatmeal Doughnuts (Oh Bite It)

Pecan Brownie Buns with Espresso Glaze (The Sugar Hit)

Pumpkin and Asparagus Quiche (Orgasmic Chef)

Pumpkin Spice Custard with Maple Brown Sugar Mousse (Hint of Vanilla)

Pumpkin Week: Pumpkin in Every Meal (Sweet Potato Chronicles)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Time for Us Week - Let's Pretend

Peacock Fairy Wings, from Elven Creations on Etsy

This weekend it's still "Time for Us" week. We will not be engaging in any sorting, decluttering, cleaning or house projects. We'll just perform the minimal amount of work necessary to keep our kids clean, rested and fed; our pets happy; and our houses from falling apart until Monday when we start our hard work up again.

This is a good time to be firm and stern with your partner, spouse, or children's other parent if applicable. You work really hard to maintain a home and take care of children (especially if you work full time too!) and you need this weekend break to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the upcoming crazy busy holiday season.

Today I'd like to invite you to join a game of "Let's Pretend" with me. See the "Today's Project" section for details.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Brite Swing Lid Cans, at The Container Store

  • Get your home ready for the weekend's fun activities. Empty trash cans, empty or fill dishwasher, sweep or vacuum front hallway; sweep front porch.
  • Need to drop off or return any library books, pick up or drop off dry cleaning, or stop by the store for fresh fruit and bread on the way home?
  • Whisk away soiled hand or bath towels in your bathrooms, swapping them out for clean. A quick swipe to the mirror and counters, replenishing toilet paper and trading out bath mats for clean ones will refresh your bathrooms for the weekend.
  • Need to fill up with gas or stop by an ATM for cash for your weekend splurges?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Let's Pretend

Prismacolor Artists Pencils, on Etsy

I think it's perfectly ok, for one day, to pretend we live a different life than we really do. That doesn't mean we're dissatisfied with the lives we've chosen to build for ourselves. It's just fun to try on a different lifestyle for a moment. Something playful, nothing harmful (don't suddenly become a drinker or smoker if you're not!) Immerse yourself fully in your Lets Pretend chosen project, as much as you can given children, household and family constraints. Try not to rush out and buy too much of anything (if you are spending the day as a Chocolatier, you could run up quite a bill on supplies, for example)

Here's some suggestions on fun ways you might spend your day tomorrow:

A Chocolatier: Spend the day working with your existing chocolate molds and candy molds. Package them up and bring to neighbors and friends.

A Baker: Putter around in your kitchen creating fabulous pastries, cakes, cupcakes, pies, or other goodies. Spend tomorrow dropping them off, nicely boxed, at friends' houses.

An Artist: Put on a smock or old T-shirt and use up some of your existing canvases, pens, papers, watercolors, acrylics, paints and other art supplies. Create something fabulous and display it proudly in your home. Or if things don't go well, it's ok to chuck it in the trash and have a chuckle at yourself.

A writer: Turn off your phones and TV, put on music if it helps you, and glue your behind to a chair. Spend the day writing, whether you are finishing up that short story you started 3 years ago, beginning a new story or novel, sketching out your project for your upcoming NaNoWriMo attempt; jotting down a poem; journaling; blogging; or writing letters.

A Scrapbooker: Finish your scrapbooking projects from past months. If you've started pages on last Christmas, Fourth of July or this summer's vacation, finish them. Sort and organize your scrapbookin supplies (that's always fun) but do try to actually complete something. This may mean taking a break from the phone and Internet today.

A photographer or model: Set up a home studio and take family or friends' portraits, put on fanciful makeup and do self-portraits, or go exploring outside taking autumn photos of things you find beautiful. Experiment with food photography for your blog, if that sounds fun.

A musician: Bring out your guitar, sit at your piano, or haul out an old synthesizer. (Does anyone here still have a piano in their home?) Enjoy playing your music. Maybe you'll feel like writing a new song? Or if your talents run to singing, spend the day singing songs you enjoy, practicing as though you have a concert hall full of adoring fans to perform for tomorrow.

A seamstress: Get out your old sewing machine, scraps of fabric and trimmings, and create something fun. Even if it's just a dress for your daughter's doll, let your creativity out. If you don't like what you make, you can throw it away and just consider the time well spent in enjoyment and practice.

A celebrity: Dress up in something fashionable but not too fancy. (Real celebrities don't walk around the mall wearing ball gowns). Throw on a hat and pair of dark sunglasses, do your nails, then take yourself out to coffee, a cocktail, shopping, or other things you enjoy. Don't try to fool people or impersonate any existing celebrities, just quietly enjoy your day and see if you catch any stares or people pondering who you are.

A kid: Play with your kids' dolls, train set, Legos, or anything else fun that reminds you of your childhood. Don't worry about what your family might think if they catch you! Instead, invite them to join in. I personally love playing with my vintage paper dolls.

A Tarot reader: Dress up in a sparkly gypsy type costume or outfit, just with things you have around the house. Make a big pot of tea and invite friends over to share readings.

A travel agent: Spend the day creating fanciful travel vacations for yourself or pretend clients. Figure out where your client would go, what fabulous hotel they'd stay in, what restaurants they might eat in. Dream, but don't be dissatisfied with any inability to pay for or go on fancy vacations. Not everybody can do that (I sure as heck haven't made it back to London in 20 years!) and it's ok to dream.

What other fun ideas do you have for spending a day pretending?

I realize that my fun "Let's Pretend" day is much easier for me to do than for those of you readers who still have young children at home or husbands/boyfriends who might want some attention this weekend! With my foster kids moved out, I have the luxury of time and privacy to do silly things, like setting up a photo studio in the guest room, doing my makeup and hair crazily, and having a friend come over to share wine and take (clothed, by the way!) pictures of ourselves just for fun. I can make a big mess in the kitchen and nobody will complain.

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Glazed Apple

I'm excited about The Body Shop's new line of bath & body products for fall. There's a body butter, a shower gel, home fragrance oil, hand cream, soap, a lip balm, bath jelly, home fragrance spray, and body polish. How delightful! This will help tide me over until it's Christmastime when I start wearing and using their Cranberry products.

Glazed Apple, at The Body Shop

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Jasmine Pearl Teas

Here's my current favorite brand of loose teas. They come packaged in little paper "tins." I love the flavors, and the sheer variety of teas offered. They have some intriguing things here - Red hot hibiscus, Ruby nectar, Licorice Mint, Dark Forest blend, etc. It's a bit pricy, so I use each infuser twice. (I never mind watered down tea on the second cup!) I'm currently stocking their Puehr, Jasmine Pearls, and English Breakfast. I think I will pick up one tin of their Cranberry Sencha and one of Amaretto Spice to serve for the holidays. I'm eager to try their Blackberry Fig right now too. Oh thank you universe, they take Paypal!

http://www.thejasminepearl.com/

LOVELY BLOGS: Goodie Godmother

Mary blogs about her love of cooking, crafting, and traveling. Her blog is divided into sections for Appetizers & Snacks, Beverages, Salads, Soups & Stews, Breads, Main Dishes, Desserts, and a section on business tips she learned from her time running Goodie Godmother Bakery. She's currently sharing recipes for crockpot apple sauce, Cilantro Lime Aioli, and Rosemary Garlic Oven Roasted Potatoes. Yum!

http://goodiegodmother.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Classic Household Hints

I've been enjoying Susan Waggoner's vintage Christmas how-to books lately. Now I want to check out her household hints book. The household hints (cleaning, organizing, food thrift) are accompanied by charming vintage illustrations from the 1920s through the 1960s. I like to read books like this not only for the information they offer, but I get inspired to clean and organize after reading them. (Or after a "Hoarders" marathon!)

Classic Household Hints, on Amazon

LOVELY HOME: Autumn Harvest Products for Kitchen and Bath

Michel Design Works has a new line of products for autumn: Potholders, oven mitts, bath soap, lotion, kitchen sink soap, wooden trays, cachepots and planters, room spray, placemats and napkins. If you decorated with all these products, it would be a bit much. The pattern is busy, and it could get overwhelming. But having a few of these pretty things in your kitchen or guest bathroom could be quite lovely this fall or Thanksgiving.

Autumn Harvest, at Michel Design Works

Michel Design Works Autumn Harvest on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: Tea Collection

I am so enamored with this children's clothing shop right now! They describe it as "globally inspired." It reminds me of a muted down Oilily or a more chic Hanna Andersson - in a good way! My favorite collection here right now is the Alpine Adventure set. Everything is so cute. I can't wait to pick up a couple pieces for two babies I know that will be born after January!

http://www.teacollection.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

The Best Sour Cream Banana Bread (Neighbor Food Blog)

A Brief History of the Straw (Bon Appetit)

Buckeye Fudge (Damn Delicious)

Chicken Florentine Artichoke Bake (Damn Delicious)

Healthy Fall Desserts (Better Homes & Gardens)

Moroccan Spiced Lettuce Wraps (Simply Scratch)

October Cookbook of the Month: The Book of Jewish Food (CHOW)

Serving Bite Sized Garlic Bread Will Change the Way You Think About Garlic Bread (Epicurious)

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Stew (Kitchen Living with Coryanne)

21 Creative Ways to Cook with Root Vegetables (Bon Appetit)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Time for Us Week - Dinner and a Movie

It's still "Time for Us" week. I'm spending time on me - just doing the bare minimum housecleaning, but no decluttering or sorting projects. Tonight I'm going to dinner with my nephew and then watching a movie I rented from Redbox after he goes home.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Tidy up real quickly for tomorrow's workday. Wipe down counters and mirrors, empty trashcans, remove magazines and clutter from the living room. Empty off the dining table and breakfast nook table if they need it. Remove items piled on stairs to be taken upstairs; hang up coats, put away umbrellas and shoes.
  • Take quick inventory for your shopping list if you intend to go shopping this weekend. Need shampoos or bath stuff? Cleaning supplies? Groceries? Light bulbs? Milk and bread? Batteries? Fresh flowers? Laundry detergent? Toilet paper/paper towels? Cold medicine? Christmas shopping?
  • Make weekend socialization plans if you haven't already.
  • Don't forget to make time to read your ballot if a vote is coming up in November in your area!

TODAY'S PROJECT: "Me"

This movie looks absolutely terrible. But Kristin Wiig! I couldn't resist renting it.

I'm watching my nephew tonight while his mom has a work dinner. After he leaves, it's Me time. I'll watch this movie, read magazines, and ignore the laundry for tonight. After the movie, I'm going to indulge in reading the silly new book I bought this week (more on that later). I will, however, be sorting out one thing - the ice creams in my fridge! I probably should test every pint to be sure they're ok :)

What are you going to do to treat yourself to some fun and relaxation tonight?

LOVELY BLOGS: Missy Vintage

Kerry likes to blog about "vintage meets modern fashion." She's currently invited a few guest posts, as she's too busy entering university and preparing for Norwich Fashion Week to write on her blog right now. The current guest post is on the history of makeup - specifically lipstick pads. I'm enjoying Kerry's past posts on trifle in summer, the "Vintage is for Everyone" guest post; and her outfit posts.

http://www.missyvintageblog.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Shopaholic to the Stars

Oh, this is perfect timing! I was so delighted to see that this continuation of the "Shopaholic" series came out just in time for "Time for Us Week." I love this fun, frivolous series. You don't need to use a lot of brain cells to read it, just enjoy! It's a really fun read - and I identify quite perhaps too closely with the shopaholic main character!

Shopaholic to the Stars, on Amazon

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Greek Chicken Pie (Three Squabbling Asians)

Green and Yellow Bean Salad with Ricotta (Apple Crumbles)

Halloween Monster Cookies (My Baking Addiction)

Ricotta Made at Home (Voltaire's Garden)

Steak Pie with Flaky Puff Pastry (The Proof of the Pudding)


--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Time for Us Week - Another Day of Pampering

What I'm reading this week in my extra leisure time

Today I'll tidy up the bathrooms, do a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, and then that's it for chores for tonight. Plenty of time to clean in the upcoming festive holiday months. Now it's time to spend some time and energy on me!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to tidy bathrooms or do laundry?
  • Have everything you need from the grocery store? Fresh fruit, milk, butter, eggs, bread, lettuce, tomatoes?
  • Thanksgiving is a little over a month away. Do you know where you're going, whether you're hosting or going to someone else's place, or if you're traveling? Need to make any plans? If you're traveling or going to someone else's house, do you have a hostess gift?
  • Any old friends you wish you could catch up with? Treat yourself to a nice long distance phone call tonight, if your friend has time.

TODAY'S PROJECT: One More Day of Pampering

After I'm done working today, I am going to lie around on the couch, in front of a merrily burning fireplace, with several cups of tea, magazines and a couple books (on my Kindle) I'm eager to finish reading. I have a pileup of Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Seattle magazines, and half of "The Miniaturist" to finish. I also have a couple Halloween cards that should have been addressed and mailed days or weeks ago. I think this is a lovely plan considering it's raining so hard - otherwise I'd be tempted to go out to my favorite luxury movie theater, iPic to see a movie.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Cinnamon Plum Tea

Are you getting a little pumpkin-spiced out? Here's a festive holiday tea that can carry you through the autumn and winter hot beverage season. The plum makes it seem a little late summer-early autumn to me. As with all Republic of Tea products, it's a little on the pricy side though.

Cinnamon Plum Tea, at Republic of Tea

LOVELY BLOGS: The Ice Cream Informant

I'm one of those people who still eats ice cream even in the dead of winter. I love hearing about new types of ice cream I've never heard of, and seasonal updates from ice creams that are available to me. The Ice Cream Informant posts a couple different reviews every week. Sometimes I have to admit it's torturous to hear about a tasty new treat I can't find in the stores near me! Ice cream will definitely be part of my self pampering for "Time for Us Week."

http://www.theicecreaminformant.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: The Cocktail Club

"A Year of Recipes and Tips for Spirited Tasting Parties." I love the idea of starting a cocktail party club. It might be a little difficult to pull off in my circle of friends right now, since everyone has small children. Maybe someday when the kids are older, we can plan regular book club style cocktail club evenings. The book suggests highlighting one type of spirit or one kind of drink every month, and features hors d'oeuvres pairings.

The Cocktail Club, on Amazon

LOVELY BOOKS: Costume Design and Home Planning

Here's another charming vintage book you can look through for free online. Published in 1916, it features a female author and female illustrators. The fashion illustrations are fascinating, and I bet you'll like the home planning sections as well. The "Choice of Furniture" chapter is my favorite.

Costume Design and Home Planning, on The Internet Archive

LOVELY FOOD: Mistletoe Mint Gelato

My favorite gelato maker is coming out with a seasonal flavor for the Christmas holidays: Mistletoe Mint. Apparently it will only be available at Whole Foods Market. I love mint ice cream and gelato, but I can see how that wouldn't be for everyone.

http://ciaobellagelato.com/

LOVELY PETS: Trixie Cat House

My cat prefers hiding in the closet or crouching under my desk to living in an expensive cat house. I guess I'm lucky in that regard! If I did have a cat who actually used their scratching post, climbing tree, or cat house, I'd be tempted by this Trixie house. It's so unusual and so cute! It wouldn't be an eyesore in the living room, either.

Trixie Cat House, on Amazon

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

A Classic Apple Pie (A Cozy Kitchen)

Clear Clutter from 8 Hidden Areas (Housekeeping/About.com)

Fruity Lentil Salad with Persimmons and Avocados (Kalyn's Kitchen)

Mini Sticky Toffee Lincolnshire Puddings (The Belleau Kitchen)

Potted Cheddar with Bacon and Shallots (Nourished Kitchen)

Roasted Acorn Squash with Smoked Paprika (Aggie's Kitchen)

Rustic Cabbage, Potato and White Bean Soup (The Simple Veganista)

Simple Sweet Potato Havarti Soup (Cheeky Kitchen)

Swirled Vanilla Cheesecake and Chocolate Brownie Bars (Plating Pixels)

Top 10 Ways to Enjoy an Autumn Walk (Walking/About.com)

Vegetable Tofu Lo Mein (Hello Little Home)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Time for Us Week - Treat Yourself

Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin Mini Candle, at Bath & Body Works

Let's treat ourselves to just a little special something material today, as well as some time alone or time to do something we enjoy. Even if you only have as little as $5, you can pick up a delicious beverage, a naughty snack, a new nail polish, a scented votive candle, or a simple, pretty bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe's.

And we'll take a break from housekeeping - the mess will always be there this weekend after our Time for Us week is over!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Need to run the vacuum really quickly through a couple rooms? We can pamper and treat ourselves this week, but we can also certainly spare five minutes to vacuum or sweep our homes so they don't get out of control.
  • Any trash cans need emptying?
  • Dishwasher need to be filled, or emptied?
  • When's the last time you snuck a truffle or a caramel? Livened up your morning coffee with a dash or two of flavoring from your pantry?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Treat Yourself

Glazed Apple Home Fragrance Oil, at The Body Shop

As part of "Time for Us Week", do something nice for yourself today.

It doesn't have to involve spending money, but it does have to involve spending time on yourself. If you do have a little room in your budget though, splurge on a tasty hot drink at Starbucks, a new lipstick at the drugstore, a fall candle at Pier 1, a new shower gel at Bath & Body Works, or perhaps a potted plant at Trader Joe's?

Maybe you'd like to buy a used paperback at your local bookstore, or spend just $6 on a couple new magazines to peruse, or load your Kindle with a new ebook. You might stop by Redbox and pick up a $1 DVD rental?

No room in the budget? Make your partner take care of the kids this evening (if you have any). Treat yourself to a Lifetime movie today, re-watch a favorite DVD, or play around with your crafts supplies. Perhaps you'll spend the hour you would have spent housecleaning doing something much more fun: reading a book, experimenting in the kitchen, or knitting while listening to music instead.

Take a long bath, treat your hair to a special conditioning treatment, give yourself a manicure or pedicure, scrub and moisturize your skin. Go through old photos, if that's fun, or get out old children's books to enjoy re-reading for yourself. Write in your journal or diary, or work on a short story or poem you've been creating. Paint, or do something else creative that you enjoy doing. Write a letter to someone, go through old letters people have sent you, or try on some goofy makeup and hair styles.

Make someone else cook dinner, whether that be your partner, one of the kids, the microwave, a takeout restaurant or fast food place. (I'm personally hearing the siren call of Taco Bell!) You'll have plenty of time to cook for your family and friends in the upcoming busy holiday season.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Dragon Jasmine Tea

Jasmine tea is one of my favorites, though not what I immediately turn to in the mornings (That would be Earl Grey or English Breakfast). This week, since it's "Time for Us Week" I treated myself to a lovely tin canister of this hand-rolled tea. I'm taking care to brew it properly and drink it out of a beautiful antique teacup, not just slopping it into a mug of water that's been microwaved.

Dragon Jasmine Tea, by Harney & Sons, on Amazon

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Jim Beam Maple

I decided to treat myself to a small bottle of Jim Beam's seasonal bourbon for "Time for Us Week." I won't drink it all by myself in just a week, don't worry! I'm finding it overly sweet, but that was expected. You probably wouldn't want to drink it with a sugary mixer like a soda. It's best straight up, on the rocks, or with club soda if you can't handle it straight. I didn't get tired of the nice maple flavor, but the sweetness made me worried about a hangover if I had more than one drink of this.

http://www.jimbeam.com/maple

LOVELY BLOGS: Va-Voom Vintage

Here is Brittany's fabulous blog on recreating vintage hair styles and wearing vintage style fashions. Check out her fun recent posts on V for Victory, "This is Halloween," Little Quirks, and How to Cut a Pineapple from 1950s Hawaii. I ended up reading way more posts here and spending more time than I had allotted myself tonight, because I was having so much fun!

http://www.vavoomvintageblog.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette

"A Guide to Gracious Living" is the subtitle of this quaint 1957 book. Her advice covers weddings and ceremonies, honeymoons, anniversaries, courtships, engagements, funerals, dress and manners, home entertaining, household management, correspondence, family and children, public life, and travel etiquette. I feel like I am fairly polite but have room for improvement, so I should pay a lot of attention to this book. Reading it sounds like both fun and work, though, so I will set it aside for next week when it's no longer "Time for Us Week."

Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette, at The Internet Archive

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Apple Slab Pie (Brown Eyed Baker)

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup (House of Yumm)

Cornbread Tamale Pie (Bon Appetit)

Cranberry Sauce Mini Cheesecakes (Sweet Peas and Saffron)

DIY Faux Halloween Lantern Light (Real Housemoms)

The Lost Art of Making Popcorn From Scratch (Maria's Farm Country Kitchen)

Maple Pecan Apple Crisp with Bourbon (Ambitious Kitchen)

Pumpkin Spiked Horchata (Slim Pickins Kitchen)

Savory Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Harissa Eggs (The Bojon Gourmet)

Simple DIY Skull Garland For Halloween (The Kitchn)

Simple Sundays - Parsnip Apple Soup (Kitchen Confidante)

Spooky Spider Brownies (Dinners Dishes and Desserts)

12 Favorite Kale Salads (Cookie + Kate)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Time For Us Week - Pampering Ourselves

One of the books I intend to read while snuggling a dog in front of the fireplace in the evenings this week

For the last few weeks, we've been working very hard to clean, beautify and organize our homes for our families and to welcome guests. Now it's time to think about ourselves, turn inward a bit, to pamper ourselves and to enrich our own lives.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Long winter nights are approaching. Consider joining an online book club or book reading group if that's something you'd enjoy.
  • Make yourself a manicure, pedicure or hair appointment for this week, or just go get a walk-in service. (Or whatever would make you feel pampered!) If your budget is tight, just make room in your schedule to give yourself a manicure or pedicure at home using your own nail polish.
  • Can you make plans to have lunch with a friend this week? Or perhaps you two can go to a movie some evening. Working on a tight budget? Re-watch an old favorite DVD or find something intriguing on cable. Then pop in a tasty but high calorie frozen dinner or pizza you already own and have been storing in your freezer. Also, how about ice cream for dessert?
  • Make a list of fun things you'd enjoy doing this week. Definitely take your budget into consideration, but spoil yourself a bit if you can.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Pampering

Mango Bubble Bath, at Sephora

Whatever pampering means to you, see if you can treat yourself to some of it tonight. Get your partner to give you a massage or foot rub maybe (or something more fun, if you aren't too tired!) Take a long, hot bath with iced lemon water to sip and a book or a magazine. Watch a TV show that isn't very good for your brain but is deliciously fun to watch. (I recommend "Below Deck" on Tuesday nights).

Go out to dinner, or grab fast food (something I try not to do too often) for a one-time treat. Think just about yourself, doing the bare minimum you can do tonight to keep your house in order and your family happy and fed. Then go off by yourself for some YOU time. Remember that a happy wife and a happy mom makes for a happy household.

Let's be a little selfish. Make time for yourself. Demand it, you deserve it! Ask your partner to spend time with the children while you get a manicure - or drop the little ones off at a grandparents' or friend's house for a few hours. You can always trade babysitting with a neighbor mom nearby.

Encourage your spouse/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend to go out with their friends, so you can go out with the girls or just have a few quiet hours at home alone. Read that book you've been dying to finish (uninterrupted! Imagine that!); lazily leaf through magazines enjoying the pretty and unrealistic pictures; take an extra long bath. Linger just a bit longer over your morning hot beverage of choice. Play dress up with your closet, makeup, hair and jewelry, and take selfies just for you!

LOVELY BLOGS: Eat Cake for Dinner

Here are Jenn's recipes for baked goods as well as entrees and savory dishes. Recently she's shared a cute spider web dessert pizza, Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken, white chocolate pumpkin bread with a streusel topping, and Pumpkin Molasses sandwich cookies.

http://www.eatcakefordinner.net/

LOVELY KITCHEN: Autumn Wreath Bundt Pan

Here's an example of me displaying some self control and not buying something I want (for a change). I really, really want this Nordic Ware pan. Imagine all the wonderful cakes (and maybe Jell-os?) you could make with this! Envision the festive ice ring you could make with this, to float in a larger punch bowl! I have to face the reality though - I don't bake Bundt cakes all that often (despite no shortage of molded pans for them) and I don't have a large family to feed treats to any more. (My neighbors, I suspect, are wearying of my proffered baked goods). While I could afford the $26 or so this costs (though that takes away from my manicure or movies budget), I can't afford the shelf or cupboard space. Alas, I have to move on and let it go!

Autumn Wreath Bundt Pan, on Amazon

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Breakfast Sandwich Stackers (Amy's Cooking Adventures)

Carrot Cake with Cider and Olive Oil (Smitten Kitchen)

Cream Cheese Apple Coffee Cake (Yammie's Noshery)

Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and CheesE (The Comfort of Cooking)

Crispy Baked Butternut Squash Fries (Foodess)

Cute Pumpkin Cookies (The Bearfoot Baker)

Fall Gourd Cake Pops (Pint Sized Baker)

Grilled Tomatillo Guacamole (A Spoonful of Thyme)

Kahlua Holiday Fudge (Worth the Whisk)

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Bread (Love From the Oven)

Pink Velvet Swiss Roll (Garnish & Glaze)

Pumpkin Gingersnaps (Juniper in Her Hair)

Spinach and Spaghetti Squash Fritters (The Bitten Word)


--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Lovely Living on Facebook

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Fragrance Sorting Friday

Jo Malone Cologne Collection, at Nordstrom

Today I'm sorting through my perfumes, making sure I am not hoarding things and cluttering up my house with perfumes I don't actually wear or enjoy. I did this extensively last year, and didn't acquire more than one or two perfumes as gifts since then, so I shouldn't have to spend too much time doing this before I head out on my Friday night adventures.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Let's get ready for the weekend - Need to visit an ATM for cash, go to Redbox to pick up a movie, drop off or pick up library books, or fill your car with gas?
  • Tidy up quickly so your home is nice to come home to tonight. Remove extraneous shoes from your entryway, empty trashcans, empty or fill dishwasher, wipe down kitchen counters, declutter stairs, vacuum or sweep as needed. Dance through your bathrooms real quickly, refolding hand towels or swapping them out for fresh clean ones, hanging up or laundering any towels your kids threw on the floor, changing toilet paper rolls if needed, and tidying.
  • Does your microwave need cleaning? Mine does, despite thoroughly cleaning it during our kitchen preparations last week. I can wipe it down and sanitize it in under two minutes.
  • Sort through and read, then recycle any catalogs which have shown up this month. Right now quite a few catalogs are flying into my mailbox, despite me never signing up for them. Because I have recently ordered in some items from Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, I've gotten their catalogs in the mail.
  • Perhaps tonight before it gets dark, you might like to take your children, partner/spouse, roommate or neighbor on a nature discovery walk. Look for fall leaves, pinecones and acorns. Let the children bring a few home to arrange on their dresser or in a windowsill.
  • Make weekend restaurant reservations or social plans.
  • Tidy up your mail table. Recycle junk mail, read and recycle catalogs, pay bills, and respond to letters.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fragrance Sorting

Acqua di Parma "Rosa Nobile" at Sephora

Some of you might not ever wear fragrance or use scented products. So today instead your project might be to instead, sort out your unscented soaps, bath products, etc.

SORTING:

Sort out your perfume counter, drawer, box or cupboard, preferably in a room with an open window. Sniff and smell every perfume, but only try on those you really are unsure about ever wearing again. (Wash yourself off before family members come home so they don't get overpowered!)

Now normally when I sort several things out and throw or give many of them away, I let myself get a new replacement or two. But in the case of perfume I will not go shopping or replace these any time soon. I usually get given two or three perfumes over the holidays or for my birthday as gifts. I won't need to buy perfume for years to come.

RE-GIFTING:

Unless your perfume is old, funky or discolored, you probably won't want to throw away something perfectly nice that you just know you won't wear. If it's unopened or not obviously used, you can re-gift it. Just be sure you know for sure who gave it to you - so you don't regift it to that very person! I like to trade or gift perfumes outside my direct circle of close friends. Or sometime after Christmas, I'll host a ladies' Perfume Trading party to find new appreciative homes for our fragrances we all don't prefer.

KEEPING AND DISPOSING:

Acrylic Vanity Trays, at The Container Store

For perfume you are keeping, put away or store your spring and summer perfumes (The citrusy and flowery ones). Keep out the perfumes you like to wear in autumn - perhaps the more woodsy, amber or warm ones.

Getting rid of some perfumes? Here's the hard part: Perfumes deteriorate more quickly than you might think. You don't want to hand off a half-used bottle of perfume to a friend (and certainly not to Goodwill or another charity). It's rude to donate items that aren't in pristine condition.

If you're not going to use it, don't let perfume clutter up your home. Throw it away. We're not supposed to throw perfumes in the trash or pour them down the sink or toilet, as they are flammable and can contaminate water. Instead, we're supposed to open them and let the fumes dissipate. I've found that's not so easy - several of my old perfume lids were difficult or impossible to remove without breaking the bottle. Frustrating! It could take a long time for an entire half a bottle of perfume to dissipate, too. Try doing a quick Google search on the best way to dispose of unwanted perfumes.

Dust off and clean your fall/winter perfumes, then arrange them attractively on a counter or dresser. Be sure they're not exposed to direct sunlight. To avoid clutter, only display four or five of your perfumes. Store the rest in an easy to find place. Sometimes I rotate which perfumes I keep out so I don't forget to wear favorites.

SCENTED LETTERS:

If you're a letter writer, think about choosing a perfume to spritz very gently and minimally on your outgoing letters - but only if you are sending them to people who aren't fragrance sensitive.

PERFUME ETIQUETTE:

Let's all be aware of perfume etiquette: Don't wear any if you are spending time with someone with asthma or allergies; don't wear any if you are riding on an airplane (your seatmate may find it oppressive), don't spritz any on before a dental visit or massage, anything where a person has to be very close to you; and put very very little perfume on at all to begin with. We should be dabbing, not spraying, for the most part. There's never a reason to spray more than once directly on our clothes, hair or bodies. Less is more! I've also read that you shouldn't ever wear perfume to a wine tasting, as it can affect the taste of wines for some people.

HOME FRAGRANCES:

Bitter Orange and Cedar Home Fragrance Mist, at Thymes.com

Sort out your room sprays and home fragrances, tossing out any your spouse, boyfriend, kids or roommates have complained about or don't like. Get out any mulling spices - the kind you boil on the stove to scent your house, and actually use one of them up today. Pay special attention to your potpourri - if it's old and dried and doesn't look nice, toss it. If it doesn't smell strong, use your potpourri recharge oil or get rid of it. Is anybody even using potpourri anymore? It seems so 1980s.

Spritz your house with your favorite home spray. Or you might like to boil a cinnamon stick in water for a nice holiday scent (though it's more Christmasy than autumny, I suppose).

LOVELY LIVING: In the Weeks Ahead

Next week is "Time for Us" week. I love blogging about, and living through, this week. I designed this concept in order to relax myself and any readers who accept the challenge, before we enter the busy holiday season. We've been working our butts off to clean up our homes, cook for our families and loved ones, and decorate things all pretty for fall. What's coming up in November and December? We'll be working even harder to get our houses ready for company, parties, holidays, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, houseguests and the like. Plus we hopefully will be finishing our Christmas shopping long before December 15th.

Cinders Bath Bomb, at Lush

I don't know about you, but I'm going to take some time this next week for ME. I'll be pampering myself, taking extra-long hot baths with lovely bubbles and fragrances, indulging in a few food and beverage treats, reading and watching TV and movies that I enjoy. I'll go to a movie or two by myself, something I enjoy doing when I can't convince a friend to go see a particular picture with me. I've already taken four cooking classes, so that won't be something I'll do next week. I'll catch up with the two books I'm reading for my book clubs.

I still have to go to work, keep my house clean, do errands and take care of my pets. But I'm going to not obsess over cleaning or do any major projects other than moving some things so new carpet can be installed. Since I've worked so hard lately to "maintain" the house in good shape, the truth is I don't have a ton of cleaning jobs that need doing right now. There's plenty of time in November and December for being hard working, unselfish and helpful.

Right now, I'm going to be a little bit selfish. Want to join me? Can you arrange some babysitting time (if applicable) so you get some time to yourself? Can you do a little extra work on Monday so you can sneak a couple hours on Tuesday to pamper yourself or do things just for you? If you can't convince your spouse or partner to spend time with kids so you can sneak out for a pedicure, can you drop your kids off at a friend or relative's house for a couple hours? Trade babysitting with a neighbor?

LOVELY BLOGS: Jessica Gavin

Jessica Gavin is a certified culinary scientist. Here on her blog, she shares recipes, restaurant reviews, and lifestyle insights. Check out what she's up to in her test kitchen. Today I'm reading her posts on pumpkin pecan streusel coffee cake, her cute Halloween Graveyard Brownie Cupcakes, and her Apricot Almond Granola Bars.

http://www.jessicagavin.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Triplets

This 1899 book compiles three children's books with lovely Walter Crane illustrations. You can read "The Baby's First Opera," "The Baby's Bouquet" and "The Baby's Aesop." Most of the book is comprised of music sheets of quaint nursery rhyme songs for babies.

Triplets, at The Internet Archive

LOVELY FRAGRANCE: Paddywax's Mixology Collection

I keep forgetting about the Paddywax candle company. I love their candles, but don't often run into them in stores near me. Here's their fun Mixology collection, with retro keepsake jars and cocktail-themed scents. The fragrances include Sazerac, Negroni, Old Fashioned, Dark and Stormy, and Mint Julep. I'm thinking this might be a perfect hostess gift for a couple cocktail-loving dinner-party-throwing ladies I know.

Mixology, at Paddywax

LOVELY TV: Peter Pan Live

Last year NBC showed a live performance of "The Sound of Music." This year, they're airing "Peter Pan Live" on December 4. Starring - ooh, I am so excited - Christopher Walken as Captain Hook!

Peter Pan Live, at NBC.com

Peter Pan Live Info on Today.com

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

The Best Lipstick Colors for Fall 2014 (Elle Canada)

Curried Tomato Gruyere Fondue with Spiced Arancini (Katie at the Kitchen Door)

Monster Eye Asparagus Gruyere Tart (Pizzazzerie)

Sauteed Sweet Potatoes (Sisterhood of the Simmering Pots)

Savoury Gruyere Green Onion Drop Scones (Scrumpdillyicious)

Spooky and Creepy Halloween Wreath (The Thrifty Groove)

Why People Love Costco Sized Portions (The Atlantic)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mid-October Wednesday: Taking Stock of Our Medicine Cabinets

Fall Abundance Wreath, from Williams-Sonoma

We're now halfway through the month. Only a couple more weeks until Halloween!

Have you decorated your home for fall yet? Is there an autumn wreath on your door, a fall welcome mat on the front steps, pumpkins and squash on your mantel or on your front porch? Have you set out orange, cranberry, brown, black or dark green candles around your home?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Pay any mid-month bills coming due, as applicable
  • Need to order any stamps online? You'll need them if you pay bills via check still (I do!), and for upcoming holiday cards and newsletters you'll send out.
  • I drove home in a dark rainstorm last night. Do you have a flashlight in your car, tucked into your purse, by your bed, in the garage, and in your kitchen? Do your flashlights have fresh batteries, and have you tested the flashlights at night to be sure they still work? Do you have a flashlight on every floor of your home? In the living room in case the power goes out while you're sitting watching TV? Test ALL of your flashlights tonight in the dark and see if the batteries need replacing. Is the light bright enough to actually see? Can you get ahold of the flashlight easily if it's pitch black in the room?
  • Put out any remaining Halloween or fall decorations you haven't gotten around to yet. I've been too lazy to put out my Halloween lights, but I'll do that tonight, because I do love seeing them in my windows when I drive home.
  • Finalize Thanksgiving travel plans, book your airline tickets if you haven't already, or finish inviting guests if you are hosting. People need to be reassured they have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving. So if you're hosting, please invite people as soon as possible so they can anticipate next month's holiday.
  • Look over the next two weeks. What appointments are coming up? Can you build in time for socializing, but also for alone time? Schedule some quiet nights at home, exercise, make time for nightly walks if the weather is good, reserve special time with your kids, and special time with your significant other?
  • Any mid-week laundry that needs to be done so it doesn't pile up for the weekend?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Medicine Cabinet

Feel Better Soon Medicine Cabinet Gift Set, on Amazon

Let's be sure our medicine cabinets are well stocked for winter colds, flus, upset tummies, headaches and other maladies. Today I'm removing everything from both medicine cabinets in my house, cleaning and dusting the shelves, checking expiration dates, and organizing the medicine. Later today I'll go shopping at a drugstore or Target for things I might need for the upcoming season.

EXPIRATION DATES: I'll carefully check expiration dates and throw out anything that's outdated or expired. I have a hard time "decluttering" when it comes to up-to-date medicines, because I want to be sure I have something on hand to solve every possible problem. But I don't have a problem throwing out anything I'm unsure of the expiration date on!

STOCKING UP:

Do you have headache remedies, sinus remedies, fever remedies, cold/flu medicine (both liquid and capsule form), anti-diarrhea medicine, something for upset stomachs, something for gas and/or acid heartburn, sore throat and cough lozenges, and something just simply for coughs?

Do you have aspirin AND ibuprofen, both Tylenol AND Advil? Any Benadryl on hand in case of allergic reactions? Do you have the good kind of Sudafed if your family tends to get congestion in the ears?

If you have children, do you have children's medicines (or have you read the recent warnings against giving cold medicine to children under 4?) How about Vicks VapoRub? I stock Children's Tylenol, children's cold medicine and children's Benadryl just because my nephews visit so often.

Medicine Cabinet Organizer, from The Container Store

OTHER SUPPLIES:

In addition to the medicine cabinet, do you have plenty of Kleenex/Puffs, more than one box? You might have a bad cold, go through a box quickly, and not feel up to going to the store to replenish. Do you have crackers, bouillon cubes, chicken noodle soup (or vegetarian alternative), several kinds of bottled juice, graham crackers, and other foods for sick people? What about jarred lemon juice and whiskey - I swear by hot toddies!

Also, do you have a good supply of hot water bottles/packs, cold packs, bandaids, gauze, and other first aid and comfort supplies?

Just to be well prepared - What if you unfortunately developed an extended period of illness where you and other people in your household weren't able or feeling up to to going to the store? Do you have plenty of toilet paper, pet food, laundry detergent, dish soap and other supplies you might not be able to go out and get for yourself? (Hopefully you have a supportive network of friends who would shop for you in emergencies too!) Let's hope nobody gets sick and you won't need it, but it's better to be prepared.

TRAVEL:

How well are you stocked when you travel? It seems the older I get, the more "just-in-case" medicine I have to take with me. Airport gift shops nowadays sell convenient little packets of aspirin and Tylenol etc, but hotel gift shops aren't often open during the hours you need them. And I don't always stay in the type of hotel that even has a gift shop. Better to bring a little kit of medicines with you. I put it in my checked luggage so I don't have to hassle with airport security and my carry-on. They're not prescription medications, either, which makes it easy. I almost never need access to medicines in-flight, but I've certainly gotten to my destination and really been glad I had diarrhea medicine or stomachache medicine with me so I didn't have to look for a drugstore in an unfamiliar city.

GUESTS:

Do you keep medicines available in your guest bathroom too, so guests don't have to be embarrassed and come ASK you for diarrhea medicine?

SAFETY:

Are your medicines stored out of the reach of children and pets?

I expect this sorting project to take less than half an hour tonight, leaving me plenty of time to drive over to my sister's for Family Night Dinner!

LOVELY BLOGS: Drizzle and Dip

This is Sam's recipe, food and travel photography blog. I've been delighting in her recent posts on Easy Butternut Scones with Cheese and Chives, Truffled Mushroom and Taleggio Cheese Toasties, Easy Fridge Pickles, and her Pea and Asparagus Risotto.

http://drizzleanddip.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Costumes of All Nations

This is a really intriguing book from 1888 that you can read online for free. Flip through the pages and check out the beautiful portraits, vintage hairdos, and costumes. (It's interesting that you can only see the top half of the outfits). You can also download this book as a PDF to read on your computer later.

Costumes of All Nations, at The Internet Archive

LOVELY KITCHEN: Freshware Silicon Cake Molds

Lately I've been enjoying using Freshware's silicon molds for my cakes and chocolates. They're so much lighter and easier to drag in and out of my cupboards than my heavy old metal cake pans are. I'm eyeing this cathedral Bundt pan for Christmastime...

Cathedral Bundt Pan by Freshware, on Amazon

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

All Hail King Whiskey (The Atlantic)

Brown Butter Butternut Squash Spaghetti Bake (The Kitchen Paper)

Caramelized Onion and Spinach Artichoke Quesadillas (Neighbor Food Blog)

Easy Witch's Cauldron From A Yoga Ball (Instructables)

"Fried Chicken" Cookie Pop Cake (Raspberri Cupcakes)

Ghost Lollipop Bouquet (A Beautiful Mess)

Ginger Pumpkin Soup (Handmade Mood)

Halloween Witches Cauldron DIY (Princess Pinky Girl)

Healthy Luscious Potato Leek Soup (Feasting at Home)

Leeks and Lentils Vinaigrette (Bread and Breakfast Blog)

Pear and Ginger Muffins (My Homespun Home)

Portobello "Steak" Strips (Amuse Your Bouche)

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream (Handmade Mood)

Simple Coleslaw (Cookies or Biscuits?)

Sweet Potato and Chicken Enchiladas (Lets Dish Recipes)

Sweet Potato Strata with Smoked Gouda and Leeks (The Muffin Myth)

Three Cheese Calzone Pumpkins (Hungry Happenings)


--Copyright 2014 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Lovely Living on Facebook

Friday, October 10, 2014

Stocking Our Home Bars for Autumn Festivities

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey, at Total Wine & More

Today I'm checking my liquor cabinet to see what I need to stock on for the upcoming holiday season. I throw a lot of dinner parties, cocktail parties and movie parties. While busy cooking and cleaning for a party, I'd rather not have to stop and run to the store at the last minute to pick up something tasty to serve my guests. Also, I like to have port wine and sherry on hand for stormy nights or snowstorms!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Do you have any herbs in your garden you need to dry for later use this winter? With our mild and still-warm weather here in Seattle, my outdoor herb garden is still producing a lot of herbs. I want to cut my peppermint, rosemary, basil and mint and dry them. They'll go in some old spice jars I washed and saved for re-use.
  • Take extra time with your dinner preparations tonight (if you're eating in). Treat yourself and household to a nice, non-hurried meal. What do you have to give up, time-wise, tonight to make this possible? Can you ask for a helper to assist you with the meal?
  • Make meal plans and create grocery shopping list for the workweek ahead.
  • Surprise a family member or long distance friend this week, for no reason. It's not their birthday, you're just thinking of them. Send flowers if you can afford to, a notecard or better yet a paper letter, or a small gift. Send stickers or a fall-themed book to a young niece or nephew, with a small handwritten cheery note. Maybe send a recently taken digital photo of yourself to your grandmother - print it out for her? I like trying to do this before the holidays arrive. The holidays shouldn't be the only time I think of far-away relatives.
  • Look over your calendar for the week, noting upcoming appointments and social events coming up.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Stocking the Bar

The Whiskey Companion book, on Amazon

If you entertain often and serve your guests alcohol, it's time to check your supplies for upcoming fall parties. If you don't serve alcohol, you can still stock up with fruit juices, interesting sodas, and yummy hot drinks to serve your guests.

LIQUOR:

If you do serve alcohol in your home, you'll want a good balance between variety, standards, and wasteful overstocking. To keep your cabinet uncluttered, and your bank account from being emptied at the store, I recommend you don't try to have every possible alcohol covered. You're not required to be able to make any possible unusual drink a guest asks for. If you do consider yourself an enthusiastic entertainer and take pride in your hosting, and if entertaining well is important to you, you'll want to have the basics covered, plus a few extras.

I try to have several types of alcohol (vodka, whiskey, gin, rum) needed for mixed drinks, but years ago I stopped stocking tequila. We just simply don't drink it up, and it just sits there in my cabinet. I know Oprah swears by it. I've also been traumatized ever since I learned how many calories are in margarita mix! One of the other alcohols I never buy anymore is vermouth. It could be my circle of friends, but in the eleven years I've lived in this house, only one guest has ever asked for a classic martini.

UV Salty Caramel Apple Vodka

If you can spare an extra $20 or $30, think about picking up the latest fancy flavored vodka just for fun. Display it out where guests can see it, if the bottle is pretty or unusual. Your guests might be delighted to try something new rather than just plain old Grey Goose, Smirnoff, Belvedere or Absolut. Surpise guests with new seasonal vodkas, such as UV Salty Caramel Apple, Spiced Pumpkin Vodka from Crop Organic or CranApple vodka from Pinnacle.

I don't bother with cognac or scotch, as very few of our guests in my friends' age group request those. I stock bourbon for myself and a few guests who appreciate it. I stock a higher end Triple Sec, but rarely ever more expensive liqueurs like Chambord, Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Drambuie. (I feel like Chambord is something you drink in your late twenties and early thirties and like it's sort of "out" right now). I do stock Kahlua or Bailey's for guests who might enjoy that in their coffee. For special occasions, I'll make a trip to the store the day before for cherry brandy or specialty liqueurs, but I don't clutter up my liquor cabinet with those usually. I don't want a bunch of weird liqueurs hanging around the house taking up room, if they won't be used or tasted for months at a time. I try to avoid bar trends like the current cinnamon "Fireball" craze.

BEER:

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat Beer

I keep only a few beers on hand, since few of our friends (usually it's the guys) drink beer and the types of food I serve at parties are better suited to wine. Besides a few intriguing IPAs, I keep a twelve-pack of Stella Artois and a few Guinness on hand. I used to regularly stock pumpkin beers, but found guests only wanted one per person and I'd be stuck with them after the first of the year.

WINE:

Chateau Diana Halloween Wines, on Amazon

Wine is something I stock quite a few bottles of, as I have many friends who enjoy wine. Besides my own tasty stock, I keep "emergency" wine around, for when we have a short-notice party, drop-in visitors, or a windy, rainy night requiring a fire, candles and wine. A few times a month I bring a bottle over to the next door neighbors for an hour to catch up, chat, gossip, and soak up their advice on families and home maintenance.

I try to have a sparkling wine (usually Asti or Prosecco, not champagne); a couple bottles of white (usually Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc, not Chardonnay which I don't personally enjoy drinking); a dessert wine like a Gewurztraminer or a Muscat (though many of my guests have sophisticated wine palates and no longer enjoy sweet wines); port; and several bottles of red (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, red Zinfandel, etc).

However, I don't feel the need to have a wine cellar or wine refrigerator with dozens of bottles of wine. I don't want to take up that much space. I'd rather go to the store more frequently to select new bottles if we drink a couple at a party. It doesn't have to be expensive wine, just well chosen. I really enjoy the wine selections at Trader Joe's and the PCC Natural Market down the street. Also, it's surprising how many affordable bottles are on offer at Whole Foods.

MIXERS:

Fever Tree Mixers Sampler Pack, on Amazon

Take inventory and see how you are doing on jarred sweetened lime juice (though I prefer to use fresh squeezed whenever possible), high quality Grenadine, sweet and sour mix, bitters, vermouth, cocktail onions, and cocktail cherries if you tend to make drinks that require those ingredients.

Check your mixers. Do you have enough Coke, Sprite/7-Up, club soda, tonic water, bitter lemon, orange juice, and cranberry juice? Add things to your shopping list, and clear an organized space to put them away. Because my fridge or cupboards would get too full, I try to limit the amount of mixers I store. I can always run to the store for tonic water or club soda if I have a party planned.

WINE GLASSES:

French Wine Glass, at Crate and Barrel

Last, check your supply of wine glasses. Unless you are a really huge and well studied oenophile, you really don't need to have different glasses for brandy, for bourbon, for merlot, for burgundies, etc. That's just a way to overclutter our cupboards and make more work for us. It does make sense to have two different shapes, for reds and for whites. You do need champagne flutes if you serve champagne often, as the shape of the flute really does promote the flavor of the bubbly.

Casual gatherings of friends mean you are free to serve drinks in mismatched or unusual wine glasses - that's part of the fun! If you entertain formally, however, you'll need matching, unchipped glasses. Martini glasses for cocktails and highball glasses are a must if you frequently serve people who drink martinis and whiskys. Really, most people are delighted to drink a refreshing beverage and aren't going to look askance at the glass you handed it to them in.

Sort out your glasses, discard anything chipped or mismatched, clean if dusty (so they're ready to use at a moment's notice!). Put everything back in your cupboards and cabinets in an organized fashion. Treat yourself to a little sip of something nice when you're done tonight!

RELATED LINKS:

The Best Way to Store Vermouth (Serious Eats)

Pumpkin Beer History: Colonial Necessity to Seasonal Treat (Serious Eats)

These Are the Best 21 Pumpkin Beers, In Order (Huffington Post)

When to Say Goodbye: The Expiration on Wine and Vermouth (The Alpha Cook)

LOVELY BLOGS: Sumptuous Spoonfuls

Like me, this blog's author Ann doesn't always have a lot of people to cook for. So I love that her recipes make just enough for one, two or three people. Ann is an engineer and health freak who loves to cook. I've been enjoying her recent posts on her Tomato Basil Gorgonzola Soup, Ricotta Fig Crostini with Pecans, and her inventive Jalapeno Popper Heirloom Tomato Pie recipe.

http://www.sumptuousspoonfuls.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Come to the Table

I wanted to share some of the quotes from this wonderful book I just checked out at my local library. "Come to the Table: A Celebration of Family Life" is subtitled "Rekindling the flames of traditions, togetherness and wonderful times." I've found it really inspiring, and it's made me nostalgic for childhood family meals. I'm not ashamed to say I've cried a few happy tears while reading this and remembering my grandmothers' meals. Since I'm childless and won't have any grandchildren, I can only hope my young nephews will someday look fondly back at my cooking or at least a meal we shared together at my table.

Chapters in this thoughtful book include "Celebrations," "Sundays," "Teenagers and the Table," "Winter Comforts," "Communities, Neighbors and Friends," "Holidays," "The Children's Hour," "Summer Pleasures," "Family Reunions," and "Reaching Out."

"I would kneel on a kitchen chair, my arms dusted with flour and one of Mothers aprons encircling me. It'd be just the two of us, baking together. The warmth of the oven, the gentleness of her tone, and the nose-prickling aroma of hot cinnamon all blended to transform our modest little kitchen into a soothing and magical place where I felt wonderfully snug and secure" (p. 117-118). "Remember listening to the muffled snores of the uncles who had fallen asleep watching football, or the music of your mother's laughter as she lingered at the table, sipping coffee with your favorite aunt. These are the things that stay with us forever, not whether the dishes were mismatched or the bird overcooked." (P. 105)

"Unlike bears, we humans approach our winter slumbers armed with knitting, needlepoint, newspapers, magazines and books, to say nothing of cinnamon toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, and homemade Snickerdoodles fresh from the oven. There are few experiences in life as luxurious as that first winter's nap on a raw Sunday in January, when the house is warm and quiet and the sky is an ominous gun-metal gray." (p. 76).

I highly recommend checking this book out from the library and reading it on a rainy day, or gifting it to a relative you share fond holiday memories with!

Come to the Table, on Amazon

LOVELY HOME: Roux Maison Laundry Detergent

I recently discovered this laundry detergent, and though I'm happy with my Method Home detergent, thought I'd give it a try. I love that it's hypoallergenic, as I have sensitive skin. I can handle fragranced detergents though, and enjoy both their Ambrosia and Sweet Tea scents. I think I'll stock up on a bottle or two to use for my sheets and towels this autumn.

http://www.rouxmaison.com/

LOVELY SHOPS: Leif

Here's a lovely home and accessories store I wanted to show you. Their jewelry isn't to my personal taste, but I think several of you with better taste than me will enjoy it. They also sell some intriguing modern tabletop accessories, charming stationery, plus some colorful modern purses and scarves. My favorite section here is their apothecary with lovely soaps, bath oils, scrubs and toners for the face. Also check out their Bathtub Tea!

http://www.leifshop.com/

LOVELY SHOPS: Yawahada Marshmallow Shop

I wanted to show you this Japanese shop full of darling edible marshmallow decorations, though it looks like the process of ordering their items to the US is rather complicated. "Cafe Cat" can float in the top of your hot cocoa or coffee. They also sell cute Latte Paws.

http://yawahada.ocnk.net/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Apple Cider Pomegranate Mocktail (The Merrythought)

Chickpea Nicoise Salad (Eats Well With Others)

Fig, Bacon, Goat Cheese & Thyme Crostini (The Merrythought)

9 Desserts to Make With Beer (CHOW)

Pear Clafoutis (Guess Who's Cooking)

Pumpkin, Chickpea and Red Lentil Stew (Better Homes & Gardens)

Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup (101 Cookbooks)