Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Cleaning Our Dining Rooms and or Breakfast Nooks

The Lush Decor curtains I'm tempted to get for my dining room windows

Last night I skipped Spring Cleaning and went to Family Night Dinner at our local Olive Garden instead. I was initially annoyed at myself that I didn't tackle a Spring Cleaning project when I got home, but decided after a long Monday workday I was entitled to put my feet up and watch an hour of TV before collapsing in bed. Now I'm glad I gave myself permission to take a project-free night. I've got more energy for the project I'm tackling today!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • If you're a coffee drinker, is it time to clean out your espresso or coffee machine? Run a cycle of hot water and vinegar through the machine?
  • Take inventory of your coffee filters - need to add them to your shopping list? I don't drink coffee but need to check my supplies for guests.
  • Made plans for your kids for Spring Break? I'm currently booking our family Spring Break trip to see some sunshine!
  • Need to water any houseplants, or rotate them into the sun? Need to give up on any dying or ones? (I do!)
  • I forgot to take my Vitamin D this week. Here's our weekly vitamin taking reminder!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Dining Room

I don't have room in my tiny dining room for a buffet, but if I did, I'd be sorely tempted by this Palais 4 door buffet!

Tonight I'm Spring Cleaning my small, narrow dining room. This would be a fairly easy weeknight evening task (since I keep this room so clean on a regular basis) except for my giant curio cabinet that's overfilled with goblets, vases, tea cups and tea pots. I don't want to just dust the outside of it and call it good - I should remove everything, wash the dishes (they get dusty, even in a closed cabinet), dust the shelves, try to think about donating or selling dishes I dont use frequently, dry the shelves and put things back nicely.

*NOTE:* Remember that during Spring Cleaning, we're not just cleaning. We're sorting, repairing, maintaining, and improving. Even if we can't afford to improve things right now, we can make a budget and a prioritized checklist, and refer back to it often in the next year. Therefore, if you're taking down your curtains and notice they're frayed, it's probably time to take a look at your budget and see where you can make wiggle room to buy new curtains. As you're dusting your baseboards, notice if any are chipped, scratched or stained and need to be replaced. While you are wiping down walls, look at how your paint job is holding up - is it time to repaint your dining room? Do all your dining chairs have their foot pads so they don't scratch your floor, or do you need to replace some? Is it time to reupholster your dining chairs? (It is for me.. that will be an upcomin weekend project soon!) Is your heater vent attractive, or is it time to think about replacing it? Mine is tarnished but probably salvageable.

The Mission-style Tiffany pendant chandelier I'm considering buying for my dining room.

Following is my list of things to do to spruce up my dining room before bedtime.

  • 6 Dining Chairs - Sponge off seats, let dry, plus dust chair backs and wood slats thoroughly
  • Artwork - Dust frame and glass.
  • Dining Table - Move to mop underneath; dust thoroughly.
  • Floor - Mop wood, take out rug and beat dust out of it outdoors
  • Curio Cabinet - Remove all the items, wash any dirty glasses or teacups (probably that means most of them), dust cabinet, replace items, try to de-clutter.
  • Chandelier - Dust hideous 1980s gold and glass light fixture, and replace any burned out light bulbs. Look over budget and shop for a lovely new fixture.
  • 2 Side tables - Dust; swap out candle holder for one from storage that looks better for Spring.
  • Heater vents and baseboards - Dust and clean.
  • 2 windows - Wash windows, and use crevice tool to clean inside of window sill (dead flies!)
  • Curtains - Take down and launder tonight, rehanging right before bed hopefully.

I expect this project to take around two hours because of the many items in my curio cabinet. I'm a bit discouraged, but really, mopping the floor only takes eight or ten minutes, dusting the side tables and windowsill only a few seconds, washing the windows that I've washed within the last 2 weeks should take but a few moments, and wiping the baseboards is only about a minute.

After I finish fighting with the chandelier and putting everything back in the curio cabinet, I can look forward to my evening television show followed by book reading! And my dining room will be beautiful, clean and ready for the baby shower being hosted at my house this weekend.

How long do you think it would take you to Spring Clean your breakfast nook or dining room tonight?

LOVELY BABY: Milkbarn Organic Baby Clothes

I've had a couple friends and family members give birth recently and I'm thinking of including a Milkbarn outfit or two in my gift bags for them. It's nice that these are made from soft organic cotton, but what I'm really excited about is the unusual designs. I love the fox print (but probably wouldn't gift it until autumn) and when's the last time you saw a darling hummingbird on a baby's outfit? Some of the other baby outfits feature hedgehogs and geese. I'm not impressed by the whale print - tons of baby companies put whales on their clothing. The outfits include rompers, sleepers, and onesies.

http://milkbarnkids.com/

Milkbarn on Amazon

LOVELY BLOGS: The Wright Table

Elizabeth lives in Belize. She's sharing her efforts to adapt her recipes into something that will work with her local produce and ingredients options. Lately she's been blogging about pork adobo, chicken bacon pasta, slow cooked curried chickpeas (I want to try this one!), and buttermilk banana bread.

You can visit her family's blog on their relocation experiences at http://thewrightime.blogspot.com/, too.

http://wrighttable.blogspot.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: Brown Eggs and Jam Jars

This book is by the author of the Simple Bites blog ("Whole food for the family table.") The author and her family are urban homesteaders. I love that the book is organized into seasons, featuring "Sugaring Off," Brown Eggs, and Picnics for Spring; backyard grilling, day trips, and a harvest dinner for summer; jam jars, orchard outings and comfort foods for autumn; and holiday gatherings, Sunday dinners, batch cooking and pantry staples for Winter. It was Aimee's lovely introduction that really sold me on this book. See if you can read through it on the Amazon preview.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, on Amazon

LOVELY HOME: Conservatory Roombox

Swoon. I almost teared up when I saw this lovely roombox. I could never afford it, but I so understand why it's so expensive. The hundreds of hours it must have taken; the painstaking attention to detail. This would be an incredible dining room tablescape or coffee table conversation starter. Kept under glass or Lucite, of course, to prevent naughty children from spoiling it. (I sound like the cranky old lady I could become if I don't watch out, don't I?)

Conservatory Roombox, on Etsy

LOVELY SHOPS: TaniaFelt

This crafter from Ukraine makes the most adorable needle felted creatures and flowers to be worn as brooches. There are fruit-themed, bird-themed, and mouse brooches.

I rather wish this needle felted blue poppy was a hair accessory instead of a brooch!

TaniaFelt on Etsy

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Avocado and Blush Orange Salad with Yogurt Miso Dressing (Rachel Phipps)

Carrot Cake Bars (The Taylor House)

Five Spring Cleaning Tips (The Two Seasons)

Lemon Meringue Bars (Pretty Plain Janes)

Our 10 Best Tofu Recipes (The Guardian)

Red Beet Eggs (Crafty Cooking Mama)

Skinny Sugar Snap Pea Soup with Miso (Pickled Plum)

Twice Baked Cheese and Bacon Mashed Potato Casserole Recipe (Roxana's Home Baking)

Zucchini Crusted Pizza (Apron and Sneakers)


--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

www.lovelylivinguniversity.com

Lovely Living on Facebook

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Cleaning: Garage, Attic or Basement

Sterilite Storage Bin, at Target

Today my Spring Cleaning project is to clean and organize my garage. It's half full of family keepsakes, Christmas decorations, and kitchen/home decor storage; and half full of merchandise for my eBay business. I actually have done a good job of sorting lately and have cleared about 25% of the garage. I'll never be able to park my car in it (there are boxes of photos and Christmas ornaments I can't ever imagine myself parting with, and I don't have a basement or attic or storage room), but I am creeped out by garages anyway and don't mind parking in my driveway.

My goal today is to move every box out of the garage (weather permitting - I don't want them getting rained on in the driveway), peeking in to see exactly what's in there, sweep and possibly mop the garage floor under them, sort and organize, and return the boxes I'm keeping back into the garage in an organized fashion. I expect this to be an all-day project, sigh.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • If you didn't clean out your fridge yesterday during the kitchen project, do you need to clean out one drawer or one shelf today in both your fridge and freezer to keep on top of things?
  • Pamper your hands after you're done with cleaning projects today. Use a sugar scrub on the back of them, give yourself a manicure, freshen polish, and apply lotion and moisturizer as needed.
  • Know what meals you're sending with your kids in their lunchboxes this week? Plan menus and pick up groceries if you have time today.
  • Set out the clothing you'll wear to work tomorrow so you won't have to rush so much in the morning.
  • Laundry done for the weekend? Folded and put away? I intend to not let my regular Sunday routine (washing sheets and towels) collapse just because I'm doing a huge Spring Cleaning project today too.
  • Can you book some down time for yourself tonight, to relax, snuggle up on a couch with a blanket and perhaps a pet, read a magazine, or watch a half hour comedy?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Garage Organizing

Evercare Corn Broom, at Target

So .. my garage.. is really, really cluttered and messy. (Except for the 20% path I've been able to clear by decluttering! And the half of it devoted to merchandise is nicely sorted and organized, because I need to find my items quickly in order to ship fast and keep customers happy.)

I'm a pack-rat but not a hoarder - I can throw things away, but I do cling to things with sentimental value. Things such as porcelain dolls my mom made, family photographs, two boxes of my old record collection, and three or four boxes of handwritten letters that friends and family have sent me over the years. I'm proud to say though that in the past six months, I've made great strides in getting rid of things. I've removed photographs from their bulky old albums (though they're now terribly disorganized, tossed in a Sterilite tub) which cleared out about three tubs worth. I donated my childhood dollhouse and also my best friend's childhood dollhouse (with her permission). I started slowly selling many of the Madame Alexander dolls my mom and I collected (keeping a few favorites, and selling the rest at a loss just to clear up space in the garage).

There are some useful things I can't imagine ever parting with, though I can help the situation by not buying any more Christmas decorations, for example. I have around 13 tubs of Christmas decorations and lights, though I may pare that down in coming years if my nephews don't come over here for Christmas any more. The rest of what's stored in my garage are kitchen appliances, extra dishes, and some belongings of my former teenagers are in four Sterilite tubs.

What I hope to be using several of today, for things that can't be recycled or donated

Today I will try to throw away, give away or recycle as much as possible, then organize the rest. I'll pay special attention to my merchandise - I need to take inventory and reorganize it so it takes up less space. I've had some big Spring sales this month, and that's helped clear out some of the old inventory.

As I work, I'll remind myself that it's important to not add to the problem. Stop acquiring. Use and enjoy what I have. Replace it if it breaks. Get rid of 1-2 items before bringing in something new.

Today is going to be a very long, dirty, spider-infested day! I hope late tonight around 10pm I can collapse in front of the TV with a beer and put my feet up and successfully report cleaning out my garage wonderfully!

I challenge you to spend today cleaning your basement, attic, garage, or wherever you store your "stuff."

LOVELY BLOGS: Whisked Away

Jamie is a mom of four who moved from Arizona to New Zealand with her family. (You can follow their New Zealand Adventures at her other blog, The Young and the Restless). She's sharing her experiences cooking with new unfamiliar ingredients, which I find fascinating. Recent posts include a battered ciabatta ham and cheese melt, baked salted caramel popcorn (baked?), apple orchard bars, and tortellini chicken noodle soup.

http://justwhiskedaway.com/

Whisked Away on Facebook

LOVELY BOOKS: Floral Emblems

I can only assume the gorgeous floral illustrations in this 1825 book were hand tinted, since color printing hadn't been invented yet? I don't know much about the provenance of this book, but I thought some of you (especially the arts-and-craftsy types) might enjoy getting inpsiration from the flower pictures here. This is an early example of the "Language of flowers" that was so popular in Victorian times (this book was written during the Regency era). Skip over the boring text and head straight for the pictures, I say!

Floral Emblems, on The Internet Archive

LOVELY BOOKS: Homemakers: A Domestic Handbook for the Digital Generation

Author Brit Morin walks you step by step through the rooms in your home, giving advice on how to fix them up with DIY projects and modern technology advancements. The introduction also has a nice history of homemakers. I almost have to wonder if she's old enough to have actually made a home long enough to offer much useful advice, and I don't mean that in a snarky or negative way. This is a really "maker" focused book and could be really inspiring if that's your thing.

Homemakers Book, on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: Mia Piccina

This Latvian crafter creates exquisite, adorable baby booties, mittens and knitted caps. There are bees, strawberries, Spring tulips, christening shoes and knitted summer sandals.

I'm having a really hard time choosing a pair for a friend's newborn baby girl - perhaps I will end up selecting these orange and green summer sandals.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MiaPiccina

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cake-Themed Origami Paper (Random Good Stuff)

Five Things I Learned When I Said Yes to My Daughter for 24 Hours (Huffington Post)

The History of the Toe-Cap on Shoes (Look Online)

How to Perfect Roast Chicken (BBC Food)

Raspberry Ricotta Cake (Orangette)

Snow is Delicious, But Is It Dangerous to Eat? (NPR)

13 Cute Plus-Size Jackets for Spring (The Gloss)

What Different Diamond Sizes Look Like on Real Girl Hands (PopSugar)


--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Cleaning: Kitchen

Pear Blossom Agave All Purpose Cleaner, from Caldrea

It's Saturday, a perfect day to take on a larger Spring Cleaning task than I would on a weekday. Today I'm tackling the Spring Cleaning of my kitchen and its breakfast nook. I can make today fun by watching a movie on my kitchen TV, playing fun music, and drinking glass upon glass of delicious iced tea.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • While you're already in your kitchen doing your spring cleaning project, take inventory of your cleaning supplies. See how well you're stocked up on dish soap, hand soap, paper towels, scrubbers and sponges, and dish towels. What do you need to add to your shopping list?
  • Look around your kitchen. Do you see anything broken that needs to be repaired, or anything that's broken and needs to be thrown out? Soiled, limp, ugly dishtowels that should be replaced with inexpensive colorful ones from Target?
  • Will you and your family members be sleeping on clean sheets tonight? If needed, start a load of laundry. Take a break later from the kitchen to throw things into the dryer.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Spring Cleaning the Kitchen

Pear Blossom Agave Countertop Cleanser Spray, from Caldrea

Do you remember that in the fall we worked on our fall holiday kitchen preparations and it took four days? That's because we did those days mostly on weeknights. This time I plan to get it all done in one long Spring Cleaning day today. I sure as heck won't let my spring cleaning cut into my evening socializing time though. I'll finish in plenty of time to dress for dinner and go out!

Enamel on Steel Tea Kettle, on Amazon

Want to peek at my to-do list?

  • Wash all four kitchen windows, inside and out
  • Take down curtains, launder and dry them, and re-hang
  • Wipe down walls
  • Dust kitchen baseboards
  • Mop floors thoroughly
  • Have neighbor help me move the oven and refrigerator to sweep and mop behind and underneath them
  • Thoroughly clean appliances inside and out: Refrigerator, oven, microwave, toaster oven, dishwasher, and rice cooker. (If you keep up with our weekly fridge and freezer maintenance, the fridge shouldn't be overwhelming today!)
  • Wipe and dust outsides of all cabinets
  • Remove all dishes from all cabinets (Sigh, this is quite a project for me). Check for wear and tear, throw out any cracked or broken dishes you don't enjoy using, and try to de-clutter. Wipe down cupboards and replace dishes in an organized fashion.
  • Shine floor heat vents with Brasso; do the same with the four door handles on the kitchen's two doors
  • Dust the two wood doors in the kitchen, remembering to reach up to the top of the door frame too.
  • Vacuum cat hair off the four cushions in the breakfast nook (another lengthy project I'm sure!)
  • Dust wicker love seat, chair and ottoman
  • Dust and clean the two bar stools
  • Reorganize drawers, utensils and kitchen tools.
  • Wipe down counters and try to rehome as many items as possible so I have more counter space clear.
  • Declutter front of refrigerator, prioritizing just a few favorite photos and drawings, preferably recent ones.
  • Remove books from my two cookbook bookcases, dust books and shelves, return books in an organized fashion.
  • Organize kitchen calendar, desk, whiteboard, telephone, phone books, update emergency phone number list, and any other organizational and office tools you might keep here.
  • Clean and sort anything else you have located in the kitchen.

I'll finish by making myself and any helpers a tasty snack, pouring a delicious beverage, and sitting down to relax and chat. I do expect this project to take up much of the day. I'll probably be too tired to sort out the pantry (taking absolutely every item out, checking expiration dates, wiping down the counter and organizing everything as I put it back) so I may have to do that one weeknight next week.

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

LOVELY BLOGS: Stonegable

Yvonne's lovely, inspiring blog is based on her farmhouse living lifestyle. She's an empty nester (me too and loving it. High five!) with exquisite taste in home and garden decor and DIY projects. Check out her recent posts on 5 Things to Do Now for Spring, the pretty boxwood wreath in her foyer, her Creative Ideas for Setting the Best Easter Table Ever, and check out her recipe for Mason Jar Lid Chocolate Raspberry Tarts.

http://www.stonegableblog.com/

Stonegable on Facebook

LOVELY BOOKS: Buttercream Dreams

The owner of the Smallcakes cupcakery shares recipes for iced cupcakes, ice creams, and sweet treats. I probably don't need any more cupcake cookbooks, but this sure looks fun. It will be released the first week in May.

Buttercream Dreams, on Amazon

LOVELY BOOKS: Old-Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, Cordials, and Liqueurs

Here is Helen Wright's book from 1874 that we can all read for free online. "Old-time recipes for home made wines, cordials and liqueurs from fruits, flowers, vegetables, and shrubs." (It's the 1922 reprint). I'm probably not ambitious enough to make my own wines at home, but I might be up to making liqueurs or cordials. In this book you can get recipes for apple wine, "apricock" apricot wine, beer and ale made from pea shells, blackberry wine (yum!), something called "Fine Brandy Shrub," British champagne, cherry bounce, and a wide variety of ciders. I'm thirsty just reading through a few pages here!

Old-Time Recipes, on Archive.Org

LOVELY FOOD: Colorful Spring Pasta

I love to serve pastel colored pastas in Spring. These are made with vegetable dyes. They're known as "little ears." I wouldn't discolor them by serving them with a tomato sauce, but they're nice with a creamy Alfredo (I wouldn't drench or stir the sauce in too much so you don't obscure the lovely color). These are absolutely perfect for spring pasta salads with white balsamic vinegar so you don't stain the pretty pasta.

Donne Del Grano Orecchiette Pasta, on Amazon

LOVELY OUTDOORS: Lotus Belle Tents

Let's begin with: I do not go camping. I feel like I'm living a perfectly lovely life without that experience in it, ever again. But, should I really get my arm twisted by a favorite cousin or a bunch of nieces and nephews, I guess I'd have to suck it up, work up a good attitude, and go have fun. I'd prefer to go glamping, of course. They could tempt me with one of these beautiful, unusual Lotus Belle tents - only with a near $2000 price tag when all is said and done, none of us can afford one! Still, I wanted you to experience the same kind of lovely daydreams I had while perusing the website. Swoon.

http://lotusbelle.com/

LOVELY SHOPS: ChatterBlossom

This North Carolina based Etsy shop carries "Accessories with a story to tell." There are some lovely jewelry pieces here (necklaces, brooches, rings and earrings) but my favorite part of this shop is their Hair Accessories section. There are beautiful floral hair clips, leafy headbands, floral headpieces and fascinators.

It's ever so hard to choose just one favorite, but I suppose if pressed I'll say it's this Poppy hair wreath.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChatterBlossom

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Cheesy Baked Cauliflower (A Beautiful Mess)

German Chocolate Oatmeal Bars (Confessions of a Cookbook Queen)

Rigatoni with Tomato and Onion (CHOW)

Strawberry and Avocado Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans (Chelsea's Messy Apron)

13 April Fool's Day Food Pranks (The Decorated Cookie Blog)

Vanilla and Earl Grey Tea Cookies (Butter and Brioche)

Veggie, Tofu and Shrimp Pad Thai (Foodess)

Yogurt Scones (Chocolate & Zucchini)


--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Lovely Living University

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Cleaning: Freshening Up Bathrooms on the First Day of Spring

Some flowers I picked up to bring some Spring into my living room

It's the first day of Spring, officially finally. It's sure seemed like spring around here lately with our warmer-than-normal weather. Today here in Seattle it's a bit cloudy with some raindrops. Cherry blossoms are falling off my tree at random moments.

I plan to begin my Spring Cleaning today. This year I'm going room by room. Since I want to go out to dinner and a movie tonight, I have to pick a quick chore I can get done early this evening before I go out. I pick: Bathrooms!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

Are these hollyhocks? Stock? I couldn't resist another bouquet or two of Spring flowers for my home.

  • Do you have bags of books or clothing for charity laying around? Put them in your trunk today and drop them off while you're out doing errands. I need to do this too - I keep tripping over a couple bags of donation shoes.
  • Any other errands you can do on your way home from work today? Dry cleaning and Redbox dropoff/pickup, grocery shopping, a visit to the gas station or ATM?
  • If you have time today, can you go for a long walk, if the weather in your area is nice enough, watching for signs of Spring's return to your neighborhood?
  • Here's a suggestion: Invite someone over to Sunday lunch or supper as a short notice kindness.
  • Do a quick wipedown/sanitize of your family's remote controls, video game controls, telephones and cell phones. Those are all things that will probably get a lot of use in the upcoming weekend, am I right?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Bathrooms

Ink Blue Bath Towels, from Cost Plus World Market

Today I am Spring Cleaning my home's three bathrooms. Luckily I have kept them maintained in pretty good shape, and panicking before houseguests stayed in the last couple weekends made me clean them up even more than normal. I shouldn't have to spend too much time Spring Cleaning them today.

I have three toilets to scrub, one bathtub, four sinks and two showers. I'll also sort out three medicine cabinets, three cabinet drawers, and the 4 cupboards under all four sinks. Hrm, this is starting to sound like a bigger project after all. But I think I remember back when I did my fall preparations for guests and holidays, I sorted things out pretty well. I just have to hope I didn't clutter them back up much in the five months since November!

I'll try to make this a more pleasant task by burning my favorite scented candle in each bathroom while I work, and putting on some fun music to listen to. (I'm sort of stuck in the 1980s, I have to admit!)

Regency Bathroom Canister Set, from Z Gallerie

Spring Cleaning bathrooms doesn't just mean cleaning them up really thoroughly and decluttering them. That should actually be on our weekly task lists. Here's the difference: during Spring Cleaning we take care of problems and work to improve things, fix anything broken, and leave our bathrooms in a well maintained state, not just sparkling clean.

This is the time to evaluate your bathrooms from a functional perspective as well as from an aesthetic perspective. Take steps to get rid of that ugly bathroom light fixture that's been bothering you; finally make that call to the plumber to fix an annoying link under one of your sinks. Instead of just dusting off an ugly ancient wooden towel rack and making do with it, we should be actually measuring the rack, then making immediately plans to go to Home Depot over the weekend to buy a new inexpensive, more attractive towel rack.

Now's the time to repaint a bathroom in fresh colors (a chore that would only take one day this weekend); replace cracked bathroom floor tiles; totally replace limp faded old bathroom towels with new ones (something you could do for under $100 easily); and finally replace the rusted old sink or bathtub fixture. Need a new showerhead? This is your perfect weekend to buy a new one, or call a professional to come install one next week for you.

Owls Shower Curtain, on Amazon

Is your shower curtain moldy, limp, and torn at the top in several places? Time to toss it and buy a new one - they're not expensive.

If your goal is to aim for living a lovely life instead of just plodding through life cleaning and making do, then Spring Cleaning your bathrooms, fixing problems you've been living with, sprucing things up, and leaving your bathrooms better than you found them is the way to go. If you don't have the budget for a plumber, new tiles, a new curtain or towels right now, at least put them on a list so you can budget for them in the next six months. A few small things like a new towel rack would cost less than $10 though.

Let's not forget to launder our bathroom towels and rugs if they need it; wipe down our bathroom scales; dust the baseboards and wash down walls; clean and sanitize our emptied bathroom trash cans; wipe down light fixtures and light bulbs; sort out medicine cabinets; and spritz our bathrooms with a lovely home fragrance just as we finish our tasks.

Tonight after our hard work Spring Cleaning, let's make time to treat ourselves. When you return from your evening's entertainment, take an extra long hot bath in your beautiful bathroom and clean tub, use fluffy clean towels to dry yourself off with, and relax with a paperback or magazine while sipping an ice cold bubbly sparkling water (or champagne!) Sound like a good plan?

LOVELY BATH AND BODY: Orange Blossom Shower Gel

In spring I really like to use light, fresh fragranced bath and body products, such as lemon, orange, and cherry blossom scents. I particularly enjoy orange blossom, but it can be a tricky scent to get right. Here's one I've enjoyed in the past: shower gel by Les Couvent des Minimes. I've treated myself to a bottle and it should be arriving today! After my Spring Cleaning tonight I will indulge in a long bath using this shower gel. It won't bubble up like bubble bath, but I can lather up right before I hope in the tub for a good soak. Looking forward to it!

Les Couvent des Minimes Orange Blossom Shower Gel, on Amazon

LOVELY BEVERAGES: My New Spring Iced Tea

I'm not a very big fan of guava - in fact, I slightly detest it. So I was surprised that I liked the flavor of this iced tea! I guess maybe the pineapple drowns out the yucky guava taste for me. Anyway, I think this is the perfect iced tea to serve this Spring. Refreshing and fruity!

Pineapple Orange Guava Green Tea, from Republic of Tea

Pineapple Orange Guava Iced Tea, on Amazon

LOVELY BLOGS: My Favorite Aunt

Introducing my new blog! Brand new, with just one post as of this morning. I've been wanting to start this blog for a long time, and only just succumbed to the temptation on Monday. You're welcome to follow along as I develop my voice for the blog and figure out exactly what it is I want to do with it. Mostly I want to share the cool events, activities, ideas and toys I find in my web travels. I'm delighted to be the "favorite aunt" to many nieces, nephews and friends' children. That doesn't just come from handing out candy and buying them milkshakes, it comes from spending quality time with them and actively taking an interest in their lives. But I have to admit I have a very well stocked playroom that keeps them all begging to visit often! I hope you'll stop by from time to time and see what's going on. I intend this to be very different than the wonderful community for aunts, grandmothers and people who love children over at SavvyAuntie.com.

http://www.myfavoriteaunt.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: The Fringe Hours

"Making time for You." There are several "Oh, I'm sooooo busy" complainers in my life that I would like to give a good booksmacking to. That's where you hit them over the head (gently and lovingly) with a book you wish they would read and really spend some soul searching time thinking about. I'm also going to read this book and hopefully absorb some of the lessons within, but I feel like I have a pretty good balance in life and treat myself to downtime often. That's more possible now that I don't have four foster children in my life. I'll never forget those time-crunched evenings when I finally got home at 8:30 pm and realized I had only about 45 minutes before I should be in bed asleep. Sigh.

Anyway, I really love the idea of this book. I hope that people who really need to read it badly will discover it and give themselves permission to reprioritize time and do nice things for themselves more often.

Chapters include Pursuing Balance, Letting Go of Self-Imposed Pressures, Eliminating Guilt and Comparison, Shifting Your Perspective, Identifying How to Care For Yourself, Finding Your Time, Prioritizing Your Activities, Using Your Time Efficiently, Embracing Help, Overcoming Obstacles, Cultivating Community, Finding Rest, Living Well.

I am so tempted to set this as our Book of the Month club pick over at Lovely Living University! Maybe this summer we'll find time - no, make time to read it together?

LOVELY ENTERTAINING: Flower and Leaf Shaped Sugar Cubes

I throw a Spring tea party (or two) every year. I absolutely have to have a couple bowls of these beautiful sugar cubes set out. Maybe for the baby shower (for a baby girl) being thrown at my house next weekend, too! They're from Wishingwell Art on Etsy.

Flower and Leaf Sugar Cubes, on Etsy

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

The Best Bechamel Sauce (Brown Eyed Baker)

Coconut Cream Cake with Cream Cheese Icing (Bake at 350)

Doris Raymond "LA Frock Stars" Interview (Smithsonian Magazine)

Gorgeous Porch Inspiration for Spring (Decorology)

Grassy Green Egg Cups (Aunt Peaches)

The Long Con: A Fake It Till You Make it Guide to Your Best Home Ever, Eventually (Apartment Therapy)

Marbled Espresso Pound Cake (Bakers Royale)

Summer Cucumber Jalapeno Margaritas (Annie's Eats)

The Top Ten Small Streets Worth Visiting (Smithsonian Magazine)

25 Fabulous 1950s Spring Fashions to Inspire Your Wardrobe This Season (Chronically Vintage)


--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Lovely Living University

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Preparing for Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning Sponges, from Ocelo, on Amazon

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Look over your list of upcoming birthdays this month. Write cards some evening this week, and mail them ahead of time to anybody with a birthday in the upcoming week. For further-out birthdays, order flowers, and prepare to send gifts if you're planning to.
  • Do you need to make any doctor, dentist, vet, haircut or salon appointments for yourself or family members?
  • Is it time to lube and oil your car or take it in for other maintenance tasks?
  • Are you attending any plays, musicals, concerts or symphonies this spring? Buy tickets now if you haven't yet. I am still upset that I missed "Beauty and the Beast" the musical because I forgot to buy tickets a couple months beforehand!
  • Taking your kids somewhere for Spring Break? If so, do you have your travel planned, tickets purchased, pet sitting arrangements made? Or if you aren't traveling, what's your plan for entertaining your kids (or having them babysat) for that week? Time to make some plans!
  • Take some time to look over your budget for the next couple of weeks. Need to budget for any birthday parties, an Easter brunch or party, or St. Patrick's Day festivities? Don't just write out your financial budget (which is very important too) but take a look at your time budget. Do you have time for gardening, homemaking, book reading, crafting if you do that sort of thing, work, projects - but also time for family, friends, pets, and very importantly, yourself?

TODAY's PROJECT: Getting Ready to Spring Clean

Ginger Pomelo Countertop Spray, from Caldrea

Today I'm hauling out all my cleaning products from my cupboards (children don't live here so I can keep chemicals under bathroom sinks, but I still have childproof openers on the cupboards anyway). I'll take stock of what I have - what do I need to buy, and what do I have too much of? Why do I have three bottles of Windex - does that mean I've been buying too much Windex, forgetting I have it already? Or does it mean I haven't been cleaning my windows often enough? I suspect I need more wood/laminate floor cleaner, and I bet before I look in my laundry room that I have more than enough bathroom cleaning products.

I'll also get out my cleaning supplies - rags, which I have plenty of; a broom; the vacuum; the dusting brush I use on bookshelves; and the long extension pole I use to dust high surfaces. I don't use a mop or Swiffer any more - I just kneel on the floor with rags and a bucket. I know I don't need any kitchen sponges, but I suspect I need a new bathroom scrubber or two.

I'll take some time to organize my thoughts and make a plan for tackling Spring Cleaning. I don't want it to be a huge overwhelming stressful chore. I'm happy with myself for keeping up with my regular home cleaning and maintenance so Spring Cleaning shouldn't be too time consuming. Mostly I just need to get some help with moving heavy furniture to dust behind it, vacuum under it, clean the walls behind it, etc. I'm definitely dreading moving the refrigerator and oven - last summer when we moved them for the painters, we found several dead mice. Ugh!

Usually when I Spring Clean I have done related projects, one per evening. For example, one night I cleaned and polished all the wooden doors in my house; the next day I washed all the windows; the next day I cleaned all the baseboards; on the weekend I cleaned all the light fixtures. This year I want to approach this differently. I'll try doing one major room cleaning at a time. I'll do easy rooms like a bathroom or an already-pretty-clean guest room on weeknights/worknights. I'll save big projects like the kitchen, my master bedroom closet, the messy playroom, and the garage for weekend projects.

What's your plan for your own Spring Cleaning this year?

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Jiva Cubes

I'm not a big fan of coffee, but I'm intrigued by these Jiva Cubes. Drop them in a mug, stir in hot milk or hot water, and you're good to go. They seem really convenient and not very messy. They're vegan and gluten-free, as you'd expect a bunch of ground up coffee beans to be. They're already sweetened (with cane sugar), too. Flavors include mocha, French vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, hot chocolate, and classic. These might be a nice gift for someone you know is facing a huge Spring Cleaning chore!

Jiva Cubes, on Amazon

LOVELY BLOGS: The Gunny Sack

Tonia's blog is full of recipes I'd actually really like to try making - and recipes I think I could succeed at. Some of the blogs I run into have far too fancy, difficult foods. I'm up for a challenge, but my real life busy schedule makes it hard to experiment. Recent posts include oven roasted pork chops, a refreshing looking citrus salad, a lovely Easter cake, and a recipe for slow cooker blueberry bread pudding.

She also offers a section on Mason jar gift suggestions - nice things you can cook or tuck away into a Mason jar and then gift away. There's also a nice crafts tutorials section. Overall a nice pleasant blog to look through and learn from.

http://www.thegunnysack.com/

LOVELY BOOKS: The Cottage Kitchen

This nice old antique cookbook doesn't offer illustrations, but I'm loving reading about the recipes people cooked back in 1883. I'm browsing through blanc mange, "pic-nic dishes," puddings, porridges, griddle-cakes, jams and marmalades, cheese dishes, and "fruits, stewed and baked."

The author also included several helpful "familiar talks," including one on table manners, one on flies, one on soups and stock pots, and one on "maids of all work."

I love these old cookbooks you can read for free online! Take a peek and see if you enjoy this one too.

The Cottage Kitchen, on Archive.Org

LOVELY FOOD: Vosges' Easter Chocolates

I'm having a hard time deciding which lovely box of delicious Vosges chocolates I might want to gift to a certain family member's household this Easter. I'll probably go with the Easter egg-shaped box, but I bet they'd also enjoy eating the peanut butter eggs too.

Easter Chocolates and Gifts, at Vosges Chocolate

LOVELY SHOPS: Colette Bream

Colette Bream creates lovely soft pillows and housewares from Scottish Lambswool. I adore her house-shaped pillows. There are also some cute animal-shaped toys here as well. Check it out!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ColetteBream

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Beet Panna Cotta and Meyer Lemon Mousse (Bon Appetit)

Cheerful and Charming Butterfly Baby Shoes for Spring (Auction Shopaholic)

Cup of Cocoa Cake Pops (Bakerella)

Family Easter Brunch Ideas (Amy's Party Ideas)


--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Monday, March 09, 2015

Awaiting Spring and Welcoming Guests

Here's the lovely view out my front window right now: My neighbor's cherry tree in full bloom. I have to admit it can be quite distracting when I'm trying to write. Good problem to have!

I've felt like it was Spring ever since March 1st! We've had unusually warm, sunny days here in Seattle. I know it won't officially be Spring until March 20, but I've still decorated my home for spring, changed the clothing I wear to lighter and more floral colors and prints, and I've begun to change the way I eat. (More salads, fruits and fresh veggies; fewer soups, stews, casseroles and chilis).

I had planned to start my Spring Cleaning on Sunday March 1st, but entertained a houseguest that weekend instead. I have more guests coming, so I plan to start some small Spring Cleaning projects on weeknights this week and do big projects on the weekend. I don't dread Spring Cleaning, and I'm looking forward to refreshing and reinvigorating my home!

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

A colorful Spring salad I served on Family Night a couple evenings ago

  • Have you picked up some of Spring's bountiful fruits and veggies yet? Snap peas, perhaps; new potatoes; colorful carrots?
  • Look over the week ahead. Any appointments coming up? Birthdays? Outings?
  • Make menu plans for the week ahead if you haven't yet.
  • If you possibly have any sunshine streaming through some windows, I highly recommend sitting quietly in the window for a few minutes, arms outstretched, taking the sun onto your skin and enjoying the warmth! Some of you readers are still in the land of snowstorms though, so I feel bad sharing my happy sunshine activity I engaged in today!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Cleaning up After Guests

Calvin Klein Bath Towels, at Macy's

I had houseguests this weekend - very tidy ones! They put their water glass in the sink, hung their towels and washcloths they'd used, and remade their beds before leaving. All I have to do to get my guest room ready (I like to keep my guest bedrooms "ready to go" at all times) is to launder their sheets and towels, do another quick dusting of the furniture in the bedroom, air out the room on a sunny day (like today), and dustmop the floor.

I'll replace the towels on their racks once they've been laundered, and I'll sanitize the bathroom for the next guest. This won't take long - something I can do in between commercials and remaking the bed.

I have overnight guests coming to a movie and pizza party on Saturday, and someone is throwing a baby shower at my house later this month, so I need to keep my house well maintained and clean this week. I won't personally mess it up, but I know I will have lots of pet fur to vacuum up as the week goes along!

If you have a guest bedroom, you might peep in tonight to see if it needs tidying. Do the sheets need refreshing (if they've been on the bed collecting dust for a few months since you've washed them?) Otherwise, you have a night off from chores that I don't! :)

LOVELY BLOGS: Retro to Go

You might have noticed that I love retro things very much (perhaps a bit too much?) So of course when I came across this blog I was very excited to delve into its current and past content. They do a lot of blogging here about retro furniture (especially Mid-Century Modern). I really enjoyed the recent post on this pretty Skandi kitchen and homeware collection. Their retro kitchen posts are especially fun to look through.

http://www.retrotogo.com/

Retro To Go on Facebook

LOVELY BOOKS: Les Fleurs Animees

I thought you might enjoy flipping through this gorgeous 1867 French hand-colored antique book. I don't read French very well, but it appears to be a "floral fantasy" type of fashion book. The flowers are depicted as women wearing flower-themed dresses. I don't think they are meant to portray flower fairies, as the women have no wings. It's just a lovely way to spend about 10 minutes while drinking your tea or coffee tonight.

Les Fleurs Animees, at The Internet Archive

LOVELY FOOD: Shamrock Shaped Sugar Cubes

These are just darling. I don't think I'm having a Saint Patrick's Day party, but maybe I'll treat myself to these or give them as a host gift if I attend a St. Patty's Day fete. Check out this seller's other adorable shaped sugar cubes on offer, too.

Shamrock Shaped Sugar Cubes, on Etsy

LOVELY KIDS: AnnLoren's Spring Outfits for Little Girls

I've never heard of this boutique girls' clothing line before, but I really found these spring outfits adorable. So ruffly and colorful! Sadly I don't have a little girl to dress them in. These might not be formal enough for Easter dinner or pictures, but they'd be cute for Sunday brunch or Saturday outings to the zoo or whatnot. Most of these are easy-to-wear pants or shorts sets with little tunic style dresses to go on top of them.

AnnLoren on Amazon.com

LOVELY KIDS: Origami Playhouse Craft

I thought this might be a fun rainy day (or in many of your cases, snowy day!) indoor project for kids. What a neat concept - origami paper furniture you make to play with in your paper dollhouse! It's probably best for older kids who are able to sit still for longer and work gently with their little hands.

Origami Playhouse, on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: Cookie Pixie

I am having so much fun looking at these edible pictures you can place on top of cookies before serving or gifting them away! The shop owner gives directions for what size/kind of cookie to bake and how to best place the wafer image on top of your cookie.

There are all sorts of lovely vintage-inspired designs for Easter, Valentine's Day and other holidays. Plus there are wafer papers for vintage cars, flappers, birds and bees, and animals. There's a section for Medieval and Renaissance designs, and a section with cute nursery rhyme and fairy tale wafers.

My favorite item here is the Pride and Prejudice cookie wafers. I'd love to bring these to a book club sometime (even if we weren't reading P&P).

Cookie Pixie, on Etsy

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Beef and Rice Cabbage Rolls Rewind Recipe (Bev Cooks)

Browned Butter Raspberry Pie Blondies (Buns in My Oven)

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Healthy Mama Cooks)

Fruit and Cream Cheese Sweet Rolls (Sup Sweetly)

Italian Lemon Almond Cake (Delicious on a Dollar)

Lemon Sponge Cake (Lustrous)

Lemon Sweet Rolls (Love Bakes Good Cakes)

Slow Cooker Cauliflower Cashew Soup (Yankee Kitchen Ninja)


--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

www.lovely-living.com

Lovely Living on Facebook