Friday, January 30, 2015

Mid-Winter Closet Touch-Up

Montauk Round Hamper, at The Container Store

Today I'm tidying up my closet. I sorted it out back in the fall when I switched my sundresses out for winter sweaters and heavier clothing, but it's gotten messy since then.


  • Tidy up for the weekend - Empty or fill dishwasher as needed; wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters (not with the same rag!); refresh hand towels and toilet paper in bathrooms as needed; empty trashcans throughout the house; declutter coffee table and dining table as needed.
  • Need to fill up with gas for the weekend, or pick up cash at an ATM? Stop by a Redbox to rent a movie? Stop by the grocery store for fresh fruit?
  • Finalize social plans for the weekend. If you're going to a Superbowl party, do you need to shop for or cook what you're bringing?
  • If you're hosting a Superbowl party, have you thought out or made a list of your cleaning chores and preparation tasks?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Tidying Up My Closet

The Calvin Klein blouse I'm tempted by, but I'll have to get rid of two other blouses before I can buy it, as I'm self-imposing a "two out, one in" rule for my closet

My closet has gotten a little disorganized since I cleaned it right before the holidays this winter. My bathrobe is buried under a couple sweaters I'm trying to decide on keeping or donating; the laundry basket is overflowing; my nightgowns shelf is in disarray; and several blouses wandered over into the skirts section and need to go back where they belong.

I plan to spend just fifteen minutes or so straightening, folding, rehanging, and reorganizing my closet before I go out to dinner tonight.

I spy with my little eye two pairs of red flats that I promised myself I would donate if I didn't wear them over the holidays. I'm not really supposed to be wearing flats anymore (per my physical therapist and chiropractor) so I suppose I must bundle them up tonight and drop them at a shoes donation bin on the way to dinner, before I lose my nerve!

How is your closet doing? Are you able to find what you're looking for quickly, assemble a cute outfit, and put things away quickly when you're done folding laundry?

LOVELY BLOGS: Vintage Recipe Cards

Here's a fun blog full of often horrific recipe photos, many from the 1970s. This blog would really come in handy should you be tempted to throw an "unappetizing food from the 1970s" type theme party. Currently blogging about nausea-inducing cottage cheese rings, a frightening jellied chicken salad, and a creamed liver loaf that will send you running to the bathroom just from viewing the photo. All humor aside, there's a lot of interesting things here to learn about vintage food history and styles and trends in food in decades past.

LOVELY KIDS: Vintage Valentine Reproductions

These reproductions of old vintage Valentines are listed as "paper dolls" but don't include any actual dolls. I thought it might be fun to cut these out and send to friends who like nostalgia and vintage things. They're a nice alternative for classroom Valentine's too, if you find it unpleasant to think about your little girl giving out too-trendy My Little Pony or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles valentines.

Vintage Valentines on eBay


Avocado Cream Cheese Wontons (The Experimental Spoon)

Baked Avocado Fries (Mother Nature Network)

Baked Egg in Avocado (Style Phantom)

Beetroot and Red Pepper Tartlets (Miss Eco Glam)

Chunky Cucumber, Feta and Fennel Dip (Belleau Kitchen)

Individual Seven Layer Taco Dip (This Ole Mom)

Mustard Soup (Judith's Kitchen)

Omelette with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Avocado (Williams-Sonoma Taste)

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger (Minimalist Baker)

3 Ingredient Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mousse (Minimalist Baker)

Winter Citrus Bars (Sugar Dish Me)

--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Embarking On My New Year's Project for 2015

Orange "Store Anywhere" Boxes, at The Container Store


  • Is your Facebook feed as cluttered as mine? Let's clean ours up a bit today. Take a quick peek at your "Pages I Like", removing any pages you aren't actually interested in hearing from. Add pages you really do want to hear from to your Interests list or choose to Get Notifications from them so you don't miss anything cool or important.
  • Need to do any tossing of leftovers, or make a plan to eat up leftovers tonight? Let's get our fridges emptier going into the weekend so we can grocery shop and fill them with fresh tasty foods.
  • Any mid-week laundry that needs to be done? Towels, clothing you want to wear on the weekend, pet bedding, socks and undies?
  • Are you on track for your exercising this week so far? I didn't do anything yesterday so must redouble my efforts today.
  • What are you serving or having for breakfast tomorrow? I'm planning to build in time to make myself a nice breakfast of oatmeal, hash browns, a half grapefruit and an egg. I might have to go to bed a bit earlier or get up fifteen minutes earlier. Otherwise I'll be eating the same old cold, quick cereal.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Garage Sorting

My "resolution" for the new year was to clean up my garage. (Note that I said "clean up" not "clean out.") I have a weird irrational fear of parking in the garage, so even if my garage was 100% empty and swept clean, I wouldn't use it for my car. Since I don't have an attic or basement (basements in rainy Seattle are not a good idea, so builders don't usually put them in) the garage is where I store things. I'm a packrat, not a hoarder, I swear! I can get rid of things, recycle and throw things away. I do have a bit of a shopaholism problem but I've been working on it, and I do throw quite a lot of parties, so I justify keeping party supplies around. Half of my garage is full of boxes of things important to me - books, family photographs, paper letters, some important documents, seasonal decorations (especially Christmas) and the off-season things I store when not in use. (I swap out my bedding, curtains, tablecloths and other linens to match the seasons).

One of my new rules for myself is "No books in the garage." I'm patting myself on the back for getting rid of five boxes of books from the garage. Many went to Half Price Books, a few went into the recycle bin, a few moved onto merchandise shelves to sell in my eBay store, and several found new homes on empty shelves on the bookcases I keep in every bedroom of the house.

I've been sorting 1-2 boxes per night of stuff from the garage, getting rid of the items completely or consolidating 2 or 3 boxes into one. Soon I hope to have all the family photos stored in just two big boxes instead of six or eight medium sized ones. I've been doing a much better job of getting rid of things - realising that I don't have any children to leave things to, and nieces/nephews and cousins who don't seem to care about family history, has made it easier to get rid of or find new homes for handmade dolls, jewelry I don't care to wear, dishes that aren't sentimental to me and not pretty enough to keep, etc. I have been making daily trips to the Goodwill truck in my neighborhood every time I pass by on some other errand.

This is 50 percent of the "merchandise" half of my garage. As you can see if you peer into the photo, things were once nicely organized on the shelves, but have migrated onto the floor and become messy. I can still find a particular item of merchandise within 1 minute of looking for it, but this still isn't ideal. I've got to reorganize, take inventory, and run some massive sales to encourage customers to buy. Now that I'm shutting down my eBay store (as soon as I sell everything) I am no longer buying new merchandise. My dream is to have the use of these shelves within the next 12 months, for things more important to me: my baking supplies and kitchen appliances that aren't used often enough to warrant space in my small kitchen.

So my project tonight is sorting yet another box or two or three. It's something I can easily do in my warm living room in front of the television, a donation box and trash bag and recycle bin handy nearby.

What might you need to sort or reevaluate keeping in your home and in your life tonight?

LOVELY BLOGS: Cook the Books Club

Here's a fun book club - you read the chosen book for each two-month period, then create a recipe based on the book or its theme, photograph your creation, and write up a blog post about it. It's fun to look through the back archive of things that have been created in tribute to the books!

LOVELY BOOKS: Candy Aisle Crafts

Here's a really cute, creative book from Jodi Levine who runs the Super Make It blog. "Create fun projects with supermarket sweets." I love that it includes step-by-step photos. The book covers things you can make with gummies, marshmallows, cookies and cereal, and hard candy.

Candy Aisle Crafts, on Amazon

LOVELY CRAFTS: Paper Japanese Store Models

My current obsession with house-shaped things is making me extra excited about these paper models you can put together. I am not very talented in the crafts department, so might have to recruit some help to complete them nicely. I can't decide which is my favorite, the ramen stand or the sweet shop. They're expensive, so I can only dream of attempting one of the two.

Sweet Store Model, at Japan Trend Shop

Ramen Stand Model, at Japan Trend Shop

LOVELY HOME: Wonderwash Mini Washing Machine

Sometimes I just want to wash a couple pairs of panties and a couple pairs of socks. Or a couple washcloths. I don't want to waste a ton of water and energy using my regular washing machine to do so. I'm so tempted by this WonderWash. It's affordable, but I'd have to find somewhere to store it. I guess I will forego it since I'm not a camper or RV person - situations in which it would be very handy to have one of these hand cranked units.

Wonderwash, on Amazon

LOVELY KITCHEN: Bake a Cake Apron

Isn't this apron cute? I don't really like to wear aprons myself - somehow the ties make me itchy and uncomfy, and I feel like I'm falling out of the sides of the top part. But I might gift this apron to someone I know who bakes a lot - perhaps as a Valentine's Day gift or a hostess gift next time she invites me over. The print is so darling!

Bake a Cake Apron, on Amazon


Almond Orange Mexican Wedding Cookies (The Artful Desperado)

Applewood Bacon Shortbread Cookies (Sprinkle Bakes)

Baked Pecan Crusted Chicken Fingers (Sally's Baking Addiction)

Blood Orange Ricotta Cheesecake with Red wine Glazed Figs (The Artful Desperado)

Blood Orange Curd (A Cozy Kitchen)

Buttermilk Cake with Blood Orange Frosting (The Vanilla Bean Blog)

Buttermilk and Chive Biscuits (Williams-Sonoma Taste)

Buttermilk Pasta Sauce (Created by Diane)

Buttermilk Rosemary Donuts (Adventures in Cooking)

Cheesy Buttermilk Herb Bread (Mrs. Happy Homemaker)

Chocolate Stout Peanut Butter Cups (The Beeroness)

Dips and Spreads for Superbowl Sunday (One Perfect Bite)

Egg Sandwich with Spinach and Gouda (Annie's Eats)

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha Honey Glaze (Creative Culinary)

The Logic of Long Lines (The Atlantic)

Rhubarb, Millet and Almond Crumble (London Bakes)

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse (Love and Olive Oil)

Tuna and Avocado Tartine (The Chronicles of Home)

--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beautifying with Color in Winter

These $1.50 primroses are an inexpensive, long-lasting way to add color to my front porch during dreary, rainy wintertime


  • I was really lazy this weekend and let my kitchen slip into messiness. Then I cooked up a big batch of spaetzle last night and didn't do a good job of washing and drying my pots and pans before I went to bed. How's your kitchen looking?
  • Look over your calendar for the few remaining days of this month. Any appointments coming up? Any bills coming due?
  • If you're a member of a book club, have you finished your assigned reading for this month?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Adding Color to Cheer Grey Wintertime

I've purchased several inexpensive potted primroses to adorn the steps leading up to my front house. For now I'm letting the moss grow, finding it pretty. Later I'll have to scrape it off to prevent people from slipping on my steps.

What can you do to add a pop of color to your home, inside and out, this winter? Your efforts might include adding plants outdoors if you live somewhere that isn't too cold; or you might choose a couple inexpensive new houseplants to keep indoors. You might swap out heavy red and green pillows and tablecloths from Christmas, for lighter pastel or fresh white pillows, curtains and decor.

Mirrors at Z Gallerie

You might add light to your home with silver and gold accents, silver trays on tabletops, or extra mirrors. Polish your chandelier to let more light shine into your dining room.

Colorful Ramekins from Now Designs, on Amazon

Warm up your kitchen with colorful utensils, teakettles, pots and pans, and baking accessories whenever possible. Try tossing a colorful scarf over the top of your coffee table or a bookcase to add color in sun-starved rooms.

Today I'll be dusting and wiping lamps and light shades, light fixtures and light bulbs to make sure as much clean, fresh, warm light is in my house as possible. What might you do to enliven and add color to your home?

LOVELY BLOGS: Butter and Brioche

Thalia blogs from Brisbane, Australia. She's a Francophile and self-taught baker. Recent recipes she's shared with her softened, muted, dreamily gorgeous photography include Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookie Layer Cake, an intriguing guest post recipe for Pink Grapefruit and Rosemary Madeleines, and Pink Pomelo and Rose Tarts with Honey Meringue.

LOVELY BOOKS: The Art of Stage Dancing

This charming book by Ned Wayburn was published in 1925. I am personally not at all interested in dancing or related topics, but found browsing through these illustrations and antique photographs immensely diverting.

The Art of Stage Dancing, at Project Gutenberg

LOVELY BOOKS: Rainbow Tarts

I am trying not to acquire too many cookbooks to take up space on my kitchen bookcase, but I think I need to prioritize room for this one! "Rainbow Tarts" features 50 tarts, each with its own gorgeous photograph. There are recipes for savory tarts as well as the sweet ones. The author runs the Griotte's blog. You can read an interview with her about the book here. The book comes out in the US on March 10. You can see a gorgeous preview of the book here.

Rainbow Tarts, on Amazon

LOVELY FOOD: 3 Minute Focaccia Mix

Yes, I am too lazy to actually measure and mix my own bread ingredients. I do rely on boxed mixes, or else nothing in my home would get baked. I've lately been bringing focaccia to parties, with great results. Everybody gobbles it up! You need a can of sparkling water or club soda to make each mix. When I use the rosemary mix, I try to pinch off fresh rosemary from one of the potted plants I keep in my kitchen herb garden. So far I've only tried the savory focaccia mixes, not yet the chocolate or raisin ones.

3-Minute Focaccia Mix, on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: Agnes World Rolling Pins

This store, based in Poland, sells the most incredible rolling pins! They're designed to emboss your cookies with particular shapes (especially holiday-themed ones). I'll have to get better at learning to prevent cookie spread before I invest the money and cupboard space for one of these, but I'm certainly tempted. My favorite rolling pin here so far is the one with folk patterns.

AgnesWorld on Etsy

LOVELY TV: Death Comes to Pemberley

I resisted seeing this when it first aired on PBS. I typically don't enjoy mysteries, especially not murder mysteries. This morning when I saw the show was available on Netflix, I went ahead and gave it a try. Oh my, have I been missing out! What a fun watch. It stars Matthew Rhys (who I've been enjoying watching in "The Americans") as Mr. Darcy. I put this on this morning in order to have some background noise while I worked, but found myself stopping what I was doing to watch the show more often than not! It's a three-episode miniseries, so it's easy to indulge in a brief binge watching session tonight!

Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC Official Site


Belle, Beast and Enchanted Rose Cake (Between the Pages)

Blood Orange Mojitos (Annie's Eats)

Butterbeer Hot Chocolate (Bakingdom)

Cheesy Skillet Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Baked Bread (I Am Baker)

Creamy Poblano Stovetop Mac and Cheese (Annie's Eats)

11 Pastas for Riding Out Winter Storm Juno (CHOW)

50 Bite-Sized Game Day Appetizers (This Gal Cooks)

January Cleanses and Detoexes (101 Cookbooks)

Lemon Ginger Crinkle Cookies (Lemons and Anchovies)

Mixed Berry Cheesecake Crumb Bars (Bakers Royale)

108 Super Bowl Recipes (Brown Eyed Baker)

Slow Cooker Gigante Beans with Tomatoes and Pancetta (Alexandra Cooks)

Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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Lovely Living University - Free online art, literature, and vintage homemaking classes and book clubs!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Keeping Things Fresh in Mid-Winter

Fresh pastel pink flowers that freshen up my living room

Before I go out to dinner and a movie this evening, I'm doing a few quick tasks to make sure my home is fresh, smells nice, and is welcoming to return to later tonight. What quick tasks might you be able to do to keep your home lovely this winter?


  • Tidy up for the weekend. Throw out dead flowers, clean vases, replace with fresh flowers if possible; sort out fruit bowl; sweep front entryway and front patio, porch or steps; empty wastebaskets from each room of the house as needed; empty or fill dishwasher; empty dryer as needed; de-clutter stair landings, coffee and dining tables; hunt down missing TV remotes and replace them where they belong; swap out hand towels in the bathroom.
  • Need cash for the weekend, or to fill your car with gas for weekend adventures?
  • Finalize weekend social plans as needed.
  • Need to launder any pet bedding tonight? My dogs are getting their muddy paws and hair all over their beds. I think it's time for a mini project!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Freshening Up in Winter

Japanese Cherry Blossom Home Fragrance Spray, from Bath and Body Works

Today I'm freshening my home, opening windows to air it out. (I'm paranoid that my house smells like dogs, so I do something about it often!) It's currently 50 degrees here in Seattle. I've shut off the heater completely, and opened most of the windows in my home. I'll wear an extra sweater for an hour and keep myself warm with vacuuming and sweeping and mopping chores. An hour from now I'll close up all the windows and turn the heater back on. It won't take long for the house to warm up again. Since I'll be gone so long tonight (dinner and a movie), I'll let the heater stay lower than normal while I'm gone. When I get home later I can easily snuggle dogs under a blanket while the house catches up a few degrees warmer.

Other things I'm doing to make my house seem and smell fresh for winter is setting out bouquets of fresh flowers; removing Christmas-themed magazines from my coffee table; laundering my tablecloth and setting it out fresh on the table; refreshing all the curtains with some Febreze; lightly spraying Japanese Cherry Blossom home fragrance in a few rooms; sweeping ashes out of the fireplace; mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors; laundering pet bedding; and decluttering surfaces. Combined with the quick tasks I'll do before I leave for dinner, I know I'll come home to a fresh, tidy, welcoming home. And all these chores should take me less than an hour if I work quickly!

LOVELY BLOGS: The Culinary Cellar

Debbie is a passionate cookbook collector, with hundreds of cookbooks stored carefully in her basement. She blogs about vintage recipes, cooking and food (as one would expect!) Recent posts include vintage Italian recipes from a 1973 magazine; Superbowl food, and a recipe from Around My French Table. You can also peek at her travel journal if you're interested.

LOVELY BOOKS: BabyLit's The Secret Garden

I'm a huge fan of BabyLit's colorful board books based on classic literature. Therefore, I'm supremely excited for their new "Flowers primer" to come out. By "Little Miss Burnett," it will be available on March first. Just in time for Spring! I suspect I'll pick up two or three copies for friends' babies that happen to be born this spring.

The Secret Garden, on Amazon

LOVELY FOOD: Leila Love Macaroons

I think these colorful, pretty French macarons are a perfect mid-winter perk-me up. I also like to gift them in Spring, for Valentine's Day or for Easter. The packaging is gorgeous, too. I love that they take PayPal!

Leila Love Macaroons on Amazon

Leila Love Macarons on Facebook

LOVELY SHOPS: Bookcooks Etc

Here's a dangerous store for me to be browsing - a fabulous vintage cookbook store! They have several categories for ethnic cookbooks, but seem to specialize in Americana. My favorite item here so far is The Ice Cream World of Baskin-Robbins. I bet you'll have fun looking through here!


Avocado Amandel Cupcakes (Dulce Fresa's Keys)

Blueberry Scones (Handle the Heat)

Curl Up With Winter's Greens - Chicory, Endive, Radicchio (SF Gate)

11 Soup Recipes to Keep You Warm and Kick the Winter Blues (CHOW)

7 Things to Do When You Cut Your Hair Short (

A Simple Carrot Soup (101 Cookbooks)

Wilted Green Salad Warms Up Winter Menus (Chicago Tribune)

Why I Am Not a 'Maker' (The Atlantic)

--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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Lovely Living University Classes for February 2015

Join us this month for one of our free online courses. This month we're presenting courses in the areas of literature, film and media, and children's literature.

Literature 101: The Life and Works of Jane Austen - Prepare to re-read one of Jane Austen's six novels during this month. We'll also look briefly at the life of the author.

Media Studies 101 will be a fun class where we look at depictions of housewives in the media, past and present.

Art 106: The Life and Works of Lois Lenski - We'll learn about the award-winning children's author Lois Lenski, and read a children's book or two of hers.

In addition, in February 2015 our book club is reading M.F.K. Fisher's "How to Cook a Wolf" book on wartime rationing and cooking tasty meals with very little to work with.

To join us, sign up for your free account at Follow us on Facebook to keep up with news and upcoming events!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tidying Up Outdoors in Winter

Chalkboard Style Valentine Gift Bags, at Paper Source


  • Make meal plans for the week ahead; create grocery list; shop as needed
  • Clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door pockets in both your fridge and your freezer. Doing this faithfully every weekend means your fridge and freezer both get cleaned out every month!
  • Need to do any laundry so you and family members have clean clothes going into the work/school week ahead?
  • I generally wash my sheets and towels on Sundays, then fold them and make beds in between watching Downton Abbey!
  • Have fresh fruits for the week ahead, for snacking and lunch sacks?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Tidying Up Outdoors

This is the dead plant graveyard that currently resides on my back patio. Even though it's a bit cold and rainy today, I've decided to give my dogs some extra outdoor time, bundle up and go out and play with them a bit, then clean up this mess. I'm a bit grumpy about doing this today, as it's 49 degrees. I wish I had been able to tackle this project on Friday when it was 58 degrees and sunny, but alas, I was working.

I'll be taking the dead plants over to the compost pile in a hidden corner of my yard, then rinsing out the plastic plant pots to put in my recycling bin. I'll try, of course, to salvage any plants that might be left alive, but I'm sort of doubting there are many.

Next, I'll sweep the patio, dust and wash the vases and lanterns I keep out here, and try to scrub some of the dead leaves and mold off the deck. It's only going to rain and possibly snow again during the months of February and March, but at least there will be less of an eye sore when I look out my kitchen and dining room windows.

Kaleidoscope Bistro Table, from Pier 1 Imports

I'm bribing myself to perk up my attitude by envisioning the small bistro table I might put out here. During the warmer sunnier months, I eat most of my meals outdoors, but have to trek across the deck and over the grass to my outdoor patio table to do so. I often, due to that, eat breakfast indoors. I bet if I had a cute little bistro table in this sunny spot, I'd eat my yogurt, eggs or cereal out here and enjoy this spot more!

I expect this project to take just a little over half an hour. When I'm finished I'll reward myself with a giant mug of hot tea to warm up! Maybe I'll even upgrade to hot cocoa!

LOVELY BATH & BODY: Thymes' Agave Nectar

This is my favorite revitalizing scent for winter at the moment! I got "Christmased-out" and I'm bored of evergreen, cinnamon or peppermint scents. This one is refreshing and light. The fragrance includes guava, grapefruit, lemon blossom and aloe leaf. I couldn't manufacture an excuse to add the body wash or lotion to my already crowded bathroom, but I did legitimately need a new bar soap for the shower, so splurged on it. The line also includes bubble bath, a candle, cologne, and home fragrance mist.

Agave Nectar, from Thymes


This is a really fun blog! "Culinary creations inspired by books." Some of the recipes here are inspired by cookbooks, but the rest are inspired by novels and fiction. There are also a lot of reading challenges posted here, and you'll learn a lot about current books that just came out.


Banana Raspberry Muffins (Everybody Loves Pretty)

Cheesy Roasted broccoli with Crispy Breadcrumbs (Big Girls Small Kitchen)

Grapefruit Brulee With Black Pepper (Drizzle and Dip)

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette (Cavewoman Cafe)

Italian Eggplant Bake with Cashew Parmesan (Wander Cookie)

Pot Roast Tacos (ChinDeep)

Raspberry and Limoncello Ice Cream (Drizzle and Dip)

--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Tidying Our Powder Rooms

Freshening up my bathroom with fresh freesia

My two guest bathrooms really got a lot of use over the holidays, with extra guests and visitors and houseguests. Time to freshen them up - not only cleaning and sanitizing, but making them look pretty and part of a welcoming home.


  • Are you the member of a book club? If so, are you caught up on your reading for this month?
  • Any leftovers you should eat up (or throw out) so you're going into the weekend with a clean fridge and room for new groceries?
  • How are your manicure and pedicure doing? Do you need to touch anything up ahead of the weekend?
  • I keep forgetting to take my vitamins - how about you?
  • Tidy your home for the weekend - wipe down kitchen sink and counters, empty or fill dishwasher; declutter coffee and dining tables if needed; sweep front porch, patio or entryway; wipe down bathroom mirrors and counters; swap out bathroom hand towels for fresh ones; throw out any dead flowers; get rid of burned down candle stubs as needed; take out trash.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Tidying Up Bathrooms

Today I'm making sure my bathrooms are nice enough for guests. I'll save the shower and bathtub scrubbing for another day (I'm going out to dinner tonight so need a quick project). But I have time to swish around the toilets, scrub the sinks, wipe mirrors, clean counters, mop the floors quickly, launder and replace bathroom mats and hand towels.

I'll check to be sure my bathrooms have beautiful accessories (but aren't cluttered) and see if anything needs to be done maintenance wise. Do all the faucets and spigots work? Does the toilet do anything wonky when it flushes? Is there a plunger nearby for the hapless guest who needs one? What kind of shape is the medicine cabinet in? Does the bathroom smell fresh and clean? What might a guest see if they peek behind the closed bathroom door or into a cupboard or drawer?

Peek into your guest bathroom and see if you'd be comfy having a guest drop in and use your bathroom tonight during a visit.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Warming Joy, by Tea Forte

There are a few people I erm, forgot to get Christmas gifts for. It happens! So in a couple cases, I will send out this lovely boxed set of tea infusers from Tea Forte, as a sort of winter "thinking of you" gift. This "Warming Joy" set includes Rum Raisin Biscotti, Sweet Orange Spice, Winter Chai, and Spiced Ginger Plum. I'm allergic to ginger and cinnamon so haven't tried any of those flavors, but they seem perfect for a cold winter's morning.

Warming Joy, on Amazon

LOVELY BLOGS: Kelli's Kitchen

Kelli blogs from Oklahoma. You'll find canning tips, food and DIY tutorials, and lots of recipes. Recent posts include maple and caramel brown sugar blondies, Aunt Pat's Classic Devil Food, a recipe for creamy crockpot chicken and rice amandine soup, and Ham and scalloped potatoes.

Kelli's Kitchen on Facebook


I'm hoping to make time this weekend to go to Crate and Barrel and check out these trays. I like to use trays instead of coffee tables in my family room - they hold mugs of tea, lotion, reading glasses, magazines, remote controls, and Kleenex boxes. I suspect I'll have trouble picking a color, but I'm leaning towards red!

Zuma Trays, at Crate and Barrel

LOVELY SHOPS: Smile Mercantile

I think many of you will enjoy browsing this shop full of rustic home decor. The shop also sells craft supplies - buttons and notions, millinery supplies, and papier mache shapes.

I am in love with this papier mache house-shaped box. You can custom decorate it with your own whimsical style. What a great way to present a gift!

Don't miss the Vintage Treasures part of the store, too!


The Benefit of Recess Before Lunch (The Atlantic)

Butternut Squash Tahini Spread from Jerusalem (Figs in My Belly)

Cherry-Lemon Mini Cheesecakes (My Bare Cupboard)

Darling House-Shaped Birdhouses for Winter (Auction Shopaholic)

How to Take Food Photos Like a Pro (Door to Door Organics)

One-Pot Orzo Pasta with Feta, Olives, and Artichokes (The Kitchn)

Rainbow Chard and Mushroom Twice-Baked Potatoes (Carolina Girl Cooks)

Rye Crepes (101 Cookbooks)

Rye Toasting Bread with Dried Cherries and Pumpkin Seeds (The Kitchn)

Tangy Greens and Apple Juice (CHOW)

13 Sauces and Condiments to Help You Get Through January (Food52)

--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Projects: Journaling

Gustav Klimt "The Kiss" Writing Journal, on Amazon

Today I'm reminding myself to make time to enjoy one of my winter hobbies: journaling!


  • Time for mid-week maintenance so our homes don't get completely trashed before the weekend! Need to do any vacuuming, laundry, decluttering of mail table or desk, decluttering of dining and coffee table? Empty trash, pick up bedrooms, refresh bathrooms?
  • Make socialization plans for the upcoming weekend. Who do you want to spend time with and what fun things will you do?
  • Halfway through the week - are we meeting our exercise goals for the week?
  • Figured out what you're packing for your kids' lunches tomorrow? or for yourself?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Bookshelf Sorting and Dusting

A pile of books waiting to be sorted tonight.

In winter, when it's dark, rainy, and cold at night, I find that I'm able to spend more time sitting quietly and reading. I read a lot in the summer too, but that time of year there are more distractions from visitors, neighbors, pets and children playing noisily outdoors, airplanes flying overhead, etc. In fall and winter, it's quieter and I can enjoy reading for longer stretches of time.

My bookshelves are a terrible mess. Every few months I completely sort and organize them, but then they get messy and cluttered again. It's helped a bit that the only books I've purchased in the past three months are on my Kindle or were gifts that I gave away. I use the library a lot more, and constantly have a pile of books waiting on my mail table by the front door to be returned.

As part of my New Year's decluttering project, I've made a new rule - no books can be stored in the garage any more. Period. (Unless they're merchandise for my eBay store). Books should be in the house where I can use, enjoy, and inspect them, not ignored in a box in the unheated garage.

So yesterday I hauled inside two of the four or five huge Sterilite tubs of books and started sorting. I've had to recycle a couple dirty paperbacks that I can't imagine anybody wanting, and I started a pile for Sell at Half Price Books, a pile for Sell on eBay, a pile of "Read now" by my bed; and the rest have to find homes in my bookshelves.

IKEA Borgsjo Bookcase with Glass Shelves


If you have overflowing bookshelves, like I do, take some time today to organize. While I'm sorting, I will dust the bookshelves too.

Do all the bookcases in your house if you have time. You can easily dust and sort one shelf during commercials if you're watching TV tonight. Every little bit of organizing you can sneak in helps.


See if you can bear to part with any of your books, especially paperbacks you've already read but you suspect you'll never re-read them. You don't need to keep every book forever. Be firm with yourself and honest about your book reading habits.

Pick up each book and ask yourself, "Have I read this yet? How long have I owned this unread book? Am I really going to read this book in the next six months? Is this a beautiful coffee table book, or a reference book I need to keep around? Is this a sentimental book? Did someone special give this to me? Is the flyleaf inscribed?"

Donate books to the library; donate to charities that send books to the troops; mail books (if they are in good or very good condition, only) to penpals, or sell them on eBay or Etsy if you already have storefronts there. You can also try selling them to a used bookstore near you, but don't expect to get more than a few dollars for a bag full of books.

Maybe some of your friends might be interested in a book or two of yours. Offer some books around, but don't make your book clutter someone else's problem too.

Do you need multiple copies of the same book? I am winnowing out my extra duplicate copies of Pride and Prejudice and The Secret Garden. Those should be easy to find new homes for!


Organize the books that are left, dust the bookshelves and replace in an organized manner that makes sense to you.

Make some time tonight, even if you can only find 10 minutes, to enjoy a book you've been looking forward to reading.

LOVELY KITCHEN: Cherry Blossom Cupcake Wrappers

These are so cute! I think they're perfect for when you're bringing cupcakes to a spring party. I might make some cupcakes to share with the neighbors over tea, and bake them in these colorful wrappers.

Bella Couture Cherry Blossom Cupcake Wrappers, on Amazon


J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink, on Amazon

I like to do fun projects throughout the year - That way my life does not solely focus around work and housekeeping. My projects make sure my life has more fun things in it besides my beloved friends and family. I love throwing parties as one of my main hobbies, but I like to do some things just for myself, too.

In summer it's difficult to drag myself in from the outdoors, so I do most of my creative projects during cold, dark, rainy fall and winter nights.

Enjoy writing? One possible project you might begin this winter is journaling.

Erte "Winter Flowers" Notebook, on Amazon


Journaling can take many forms - diaries, letters, writing exercises, fan fiction, recording your dreams, and travelogues of your adventures.

It can serve many useful purposes - stress relief, spiritual discovery, memoir development, writing improvement, grief recovery, healing, catharsis, life planning, a record of cooking experiments, a family history, creative stimulation, or confession.

Your journal can be in an old notebook, a beautiful hardbound leather blank book, a blank journal you've creatively decorated, or it can even be a blog. You can also just write using your word processor on your laptop; or the old fashioned way: an inexpensive pen and a paper college-ruled notebook.


I am very bad at remembering to journal every day. I tried techniques like keeping a hardbound journal next to the bed or in my purse. Neither way seemed to remind me, so now I've given myself permission to write only when I feel like it. Luckily, I feel like it every few days. I've found if I create a fun project to write about, I'm much more likely to actually write in one of my journals than if I just sit around waiting for inspiration.


If you prefer to try something more creative than recording your day-to-day life, try one of these:

  • Write a fake diary pretending to be a celebrity, then write about your fictional experiences on the set of a nonexistent movie.
  • Write a fan fiction story based on your current favorite television show or movie.
  • Write a different ending to your favorite Jane Austen novel; or create a mashup story based on two of your favorite classic pieces of literature.
  • Develop a travelogue to somewhere you've never been (Use the Web for research to make it more accurate). Write a journal from the viewpoint of a time traveler, sharing your wild experiences as you visit different eras. You could write a journal as though you're an employee at a fancy hotel in Paris (even though you really aren't) making up stories about all the weird rich people that stay there overnight.
  • Write a pretend letter from one fictional character to another. Or from one historical figure to another. It's fun to mix and match people who couldn't actually have known each other: Have Neil Armstrong write to H.G. Wells, for example. Or have Jane Austen send a witty letter to fellow author Danielle Steele or Anne Rice, just for fun.
  • Write a diary from the perspective of Snow White's stepmother, or Cinderella's stepsister, if you like fairy tales.
  • Write a letter to your architect describing every detail of the dream home they are designing for you.

The idea isn't to lie to or defraud your readers (if you choose to share your journal). Rather, it's just to have a little fun and stimulate your creativity.

Art of Instruction Botanical Journals, at Paper Source


If you enjoy writing, make time for yourself to write in your journal as often as you feel like it. Treat that time as sacred, and make it known to family members how important it is to you to have that fifteen to twenty minutes to yourself uninterrupted. Turn off your phone, log out of Facebook, and turn off the TV. Go in a room and shut the door if possible (that only seems to enrage my cat more though, causing even more noise and distraction!)

You might have to actually remove yourself from the house once a week to a coffee shop to get your writing time in, if you can arrange your absence.


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Journal for

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