Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mid-September and the Mid-Autumn Festival

I'm trying to wait until October to start decorating for autumn. I like enjoying each season in its own time, and with it 78 degrees here today, it's still summer to me. Still, I couldn't resist this tricolor planter of mums! I had to splurge on it. It was nearly $30, and I bought it instead of going to a movie and spending money on a drink and popcorn. (There wasn't anything I wanted to see this week anyway!)


  • Are any of your friends celebrating the mid-autumn festival? Wish them a festive one!
  • I'm doing a load of towels to get a little ahead of the laundry before the weekend starts. Can't hurt, can only help!
  • As the evenings are growing colder, I feel more like cuddling up in bed reading more substantial material than my backyard "beach reads" I indulged in. Do you have anything good picked out to order at the library or from your favorite bookstore?
  • Let's spend just a tiny bit of time today on our area rugs and throw rugs. I'm going to vacuum all of mine that can't be laundered, wash the ones that can, sweep under them, shake out the little rubber non-skid mats I have under them, and hose off the welcome mat by my front door. These mats are important, as they trap dirt that might otherwise end up on my floors and carpets!
  • Have you made a little bit of time the last couple evenings for yourself, to read the book by your bedside table? Or are you just dropping into bed exhausted and ready for sleep?
  • Do you have your social plans set for the weekend? Need to make any plans, RSVP to anything, invite anyone to something fun?


This weekend might very well be the last of our nice weather for eating and working outdoors, for months to come. (I live in Seattle). I'll retain my hope that we have lots of warm sunny days all the way through into late October like we did the last couple years. But meanwhile, I want to get some of my yardwork (lawn mowing, weeding, planting fall flowers in my flowerbeds) done while it's still nice. Tonight I'll mow, sweep the front walkway, pull weeds from driveway cracks, scrape moss off the steps, and tidy everything up as best I can until I get sick of it and flee indoors to nicer pursuits. (I'm really not a yardwork person!)

In my back yard, I'm moving outdoor furniture around so I can water parts of the lawn without soaking my furniture.

When I get inside, I want to research why the mid-autumn festival is taking place right now, despite it not being even autumn yet. I think it has something to do with the lunar calendar and tonight's nearly full moon. (The Harvest Full Moon rises September 16, 2016).

Do you have any yard work to do this week or weekend, or are you a lucky apartment or condo dweller where that's taken care of for you? :)


Erin writes, "I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Here, you'll find lightened up comfort foods, weeknight meal ideas, and a few soulful sweets." She blogs from Milwaukee.

Recent posts I've enjoyed here include Apple Oatmeal Cookies; Pumpkin Pasta Sauce; Crockpot Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs; and Pumpkin Pecan Cobbler.

This is the perfect recipe blog for cooking inspiration as we transition into autumn! Take a look.

LOVELY BOOKS: Birthday Cakes

I have a bit of an obsession with cake decorating books, though my own personal cake decorating skills are not quite up to the task of creating any of the lovely things pictured in them. This one is by Britain’s leading baker and cake designer, Fiona Cairns. The cakes are categorized by the type of party you might throw. For example, the Vampire Party has recipes for vampire cupcakes, black cookies, a crystal skull, a strawberry and elderflower cake, a jewel box, and then, inexplicably, robots. There's recipes for cakes for a Vintage Tea Party, including Earl Grey tea cupcakes, and tiny rose and violet creams. The other party themes include Alice in Wonderland, Glamping, and a Gardener's Delight party. I love envisioning theme parties I might throw!

Birthday Cakes, on Amazon

LOVELY BOOKS: Fairy's Album

Here's a charming vintage book you can read online. (Peek at the first page, this was a Christmas gift given way back in 1892!) It features "rhymes of fairyland" and simple, adorable illustrations. I hope you enjoy paging through it.

The Fairy's Album, at The Internet Archive

LOVELY FOOD: Apple Cider Cupcake Mix

Though I shudder to think about what chemicals created the color, I love the hue on these apple cider cupcakes! I also rely heavily on box mixes with my busy life. Today before I go out to dinner, I plan to bake a batch of miniature loaves in my new Wilton mini loaf pan. They'll create tiny loaves that are just three or four bites. They'll technically be "cupcake loaves" and I'm delighted to do something different than just trendy round cupcakes! I'll drop off a couple at the neighbors' and gift one or two to my cousin. Later tonight when I'm watching Netflix and drinking my caramel hot black tea, I bet I'll be nibbling on a little apple cider loaf!

Apple Cider Cupcake Mix, on Amazon


Apple Cinnamon Muffins (Brown Eyed Baker)

Building a 13th Century Castle in the 21st Century (The Atlantic)

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms and Collards (Country Living)

Ginger Bourbon Smash (Baking Bites)

How to Dry Herbs (101 Cookbooks)

Mom's Italian Cream Cake (Bake at 350)

Orzo Salad with Roasted Cauliflower (Annie's Eats)

Roasted Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta (Alexandra Cooks)

See a Harvest Moon Eclipse, The Last Until 2024

Tomato Soup (Bakers Royale)

Two Millenniums of Chinese Tradition Come to Life at Mid-Autumn Festivals (LA Times)

Wild Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta (Connoisseurus Veg)

--Copyright 2016 Lovely Living

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Things I Learned on Vacation This Summer

Our charming rental beach house in Plymouth, Massachusetts


  • Look over the week and weekend ahead on your calendar, noting appointments and events. Make socialization plans for the week.
  • Create dinner and lunch sack menu plans for the week if you haven't already.
  • Does your pet bedding need laundering? My dogs have two sets of beds - one each for the living room and one each for the bedroom. If I wash a set of two dog beds each week, then each bed only gets washed once every two weeks - probably not often enough! Into the laundry goes a set today.
  • It's still iced tea weather here for me, and my carafe I keep in my fridge is empty! Time to refill it and "cold brew" another batch. How about you?
  • It's warm enough here I can eat dinner outside. Soon the evenings will be too chilly. I mustn't forget, or give up and eat dinner in front of the TV or computer!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Putting What I Learned on Vacation Into Practice, or At Least Thinking About It

I learned something on my East Coast beach house vacation this summer, and I'm mulling over a bit of a lifestyle change.

Our rental house was a 15 minute drive (30 round trip) from a little Stop and Go grocery store and a handful of restaurants. While that was very convenient, we didn't always feel like leaving the restful porch overlooking the sea, or stopping our beach walk or swim time in order to go to the store. I noticed my friends and I ate what was in the house, what we'd already purchased, instead of going to the store for more. I found it very freeing, actually, while planning dinner on the nights it was my turn to cook.

Also, the kitchen was well organized, and had just the right kinds of items we needed, and not a single item more. (I did feel the need to buy a pitcher for iced tea, and left it behind for the next guests!) Because the kitchen wasn't cluttered or full of specialty kitchen items, it was easy to grab what we needed, cook a meal, clean up and put things back. We were able to bake an apple pie, bake bread, roast potatoes, and make cookies.

I'm putting some thought into organizing my kitchen better (I don't need to declutter much, as I lost many items due to smoke in a small kitchen fire I had earlier this year). But I may rethink the way I shop for groceries - hoarding lots of things "in case" of emergencies, spontaneous dinners and last minute parties. It might be nice to reach into the organized, nearly empty pantry for the only jar of spaghetti sauce and only box of pasta and know what I was having for dinner - or suck it up and drive to the nearby store for something different.

I'm thinking about it.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Lipton's New Black and Herbal Teas for Autumn

I'm trying all of Lipton's new black teas: Amazingly Grey, Daring English Breakfast, Stirring Ceylon, and Irresistible Lady Lipton, but I'm skipping their chai due to my cinnamon allergy. Their new herbal teas include Peach Mango, Lemon Ginger, Berry Hibiscus, and Apple Cinnamon. So far I didn't find the Amazingly Grey very flavorful, but I did like the Daring English Breakfast and the hint of citrus in the Irresistible Lady Lipton. I like that these come in individual packages (though that isn't as friendly for the environment) so I can offer them around in my tea chest after a dinner party, for guests to select a flavor to try.

New Black and New Herbal Teas, at

LOVELY BLOGS: Brewing Happiness

Haley blogs from Los Angeles about healthy eating habits - but the occasional indulgence too. "Brewing Happiness is a place where we celebrate the strength it takes to choose fruit instead of a candy bar. Brewing Happiness does honor the fact that some days are salad days and some days are French fry days."

Recent posts I've enjoyed here include Mango Basil Hot Sauce - Saucy Sunday; Poke Nachos; Crunchy Hazelnut Chocolate Pudding and Orange Blueberry Balsamic Sauce.

LOVELY BOOKS: Ladurée Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living

I can't wait to dive into this book! "Stunningly illustrated with specially commissioned photographs and illustrations, the book offers practical tips and inspiration on such varied topics as how to prepare and have breakfast the Ladurée way, how to be a good host and a good guest, how to dress for the theater, and how to pack for stylish travel. It is the ultimate guide to knowing how to live well, the French way." I really enjoyed the Madame Chic advice books, and I suspect I won't be bored of yet another "Live like the French" lifestyle book.

Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living, on Amazon

LOVELY DISHES: Sur La Table's Woodland Creatures Collection

As we head into autumn, I'm doubly tempted by the cute woods-and-forest themed dishes, candles and decor from Sur la Table's new fall collection. There are foxes, raccoons, owls, and squirrels. The collection includes salt and pepper shakers, dishes, platters, an almost irresistible owl-shaped ice cube tray, kitchen items, and home decor. Plus a couple candles that go along with the theme. Also, the good news is, many of these are already on sale!

I daren't buy even a single item as I'm trying to declutter my decor and tablewares as it is! Shoot! Hope you enjoy looking through these.

Woodland Creatures Collection, at Sur la Table


I like to use pear-scented bath and body products and burn pear-scented candles in the harvest season. This NEST Fragrances Wasabi Pear Votive Candle "is a blend of anjou pear and fresh, ozonic watery notes that are infused with the essence of wasabi." I don't know what ozonic watery notes means, but I like the way this smelled when I tested it at a local store.

Wasabi Pear Votive Candle, on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: Miss Poppins and Me

This Melbourne, Australia based shop specializes in crafting delicate, beautiful paper flowers made from books. There are wedding bouquets, boutonnieres, single paper flowers, corsages, and the occasional paper hair accessory. I think it would be so romantic for some bride to carry a paper bouquet made from a couple's shared favorite book!


Almond Butter and Jam Bites (Poppy Deyes)

Basil Lemon Verbena Pesto Recipe (Cooking on the Weekends)

Breakfast Baked Sweet Potatoes With Almond Butter, Banana and Chia (Ambitious Kitchen)

Chicken and Corn Chowder (Jo Cooks)

Cucumber and Avocado Sandwich (2 Peas and Their Pod)

Hatch Honey and Carolina Porch-d'-Oeuvres (Young Austinian)

How to Build a Reading Corner In Your Home (Huffington Post Canada)

Inside the World of New York's Vintage Girls (Harper's Bazaar)

"Jackie" Natalie Portman Movie Review (Collider)

Pesto and Parmesan Bread Sticks (Honest Cooking)

Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad (Thirty Handmade Days)

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Soft Pretzels (Southern Fatty)

10 Mostly Healthy After-School Snacks (Love and Lemons)

Zucchini and Lettuce Soup with Pesto (Serious Eats)

--Copyright 2016 Lovely Living

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Sounds of Summer

A pretty but slightly messy and goofy looking pot of flowers I got to brighten my front door and steps.

While they're still available, I'm making sure to be conscious of and listen to the sounds of summer that I love. I love to hear the sound of a nearby neighbor's lawn mower (as long as it isn't before 8am!); the sound of a fan in my bedroom window whirring me to a nice cool sleep; the refreshing sound of sprinklers watering my lawns; the happy noises my dogs make when they race around playing in a sunny backyard. Soon these noises will disappear, as the weather grows colder, I swap out room heaters for fans, windows get closed for the season, the lawnmower and sprinklers get put away, and my dogs are kept indoors to race around playing throughout the house instead!

What are your favorite summertime sounds? What will you miss hearing when we're in the dead of winter?


  • Launder sheets and towels if this is part of your Sunday ritual (it is for me!)
  • Need to do any laundry so you and your family members have clean clothes for work and school for the week ahead?
  • Clean one shelf, one drawer, or two door pockets in both your fridge and freezer today. Doing this faithfully each week means your entire fridge gets cleaned out every month!
  • Make meal plans and create grocery list for the week ahead.
  • Need to make lunches or direct your children to do so, for tomorrow?
  • Do you do any ahead-of-the-workweek cooking on Sundays? I do. I'm making a baked pasta dish, a cold pasta salad, and I'm roasting some potatoes and veggies to use as sides in the week's meals.
  • Look over your week and weekend ahead. Any appointments, parties, or events coming up you need to remember? Made your plans for next weekend yet?
  • While it's still nice weather, let's take advantage of the ability to go on a nice evening walk, without snow, rain or cold getting in the way of our enjoyment!
  • Budget some time tonight for yourself, if possible, to just sit and do nothing, or read, or have some quiet time over a cup of tea. Ask for help from your partner, a neighbor, or your older children, if need be, to create a quiet twenty minutes for yourself.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Overall Tidying

New Apple Cider scented cleaning products from Mrs. Meyers! I am excited!

I've been out of town again (I went to San Diego to help a friend celebrate her birthday) My housesitter took good care of the house while she was here, of course. Now that I'm back, I want to take care of some neglected chores. I always have lots of dusting to do (mostly because I leave my doors and windows open as often as possible). I have my regular laundry to do so I keep on my self-appointed schedule, plus the laundry from my suitcase. I want to unpack, store the suitcase away, and then make my home pleasant for the workweek ahead. I'll empty trash cans, water houseplants, tend to my patio herb garden, sweep the front patio and back deck, mop the kitchen floor after I'm done cooking and baking today, and remove some clutter I have deposited on my mail table and coffee table.

I work at home and want a clean and tidy environment to work in - plus I don't want to come home to a messy house when I go out to dinner or a movie and come back too late at night and tired to do anything about it!

What is your housecleaning project for today?

LOVELY BLOGS: Thoughts From Alice

"Finding beauty in imperfection." Alice shares her thoughts on DIY, home decor, and life with her little ones. While you're visiting her blog, you can take a tour of her 1930s fixer-upper home, visit her DIY crafts tutorials area, and visit the link parties she participates in.

Recent posts I've enjoyed include The End of Summer and New Beginnings; her Dollhouse Princess Girl's Room reveal (part of a Dollhouse Therapy challenge she's taking part in); and her recipe for Pesto Asiago Flatbread Panini.

LOVELY BOOKS: Dainty and Artistic Desserts

This charming 1915 book has been scanned in and put online at the Internet Archive for all to read and enjoy. I really like how simple the recipes are. There are things here I wouldn't have thought to try making, such as Syrian Parfait, milk sherbets, and some of the vintage candies. This little cookbook booklet was written to encourage people to use Burnett's colored pastes for cooking and baking, but that doesn't spoil this vintage book nor make the recipes less appealing.

LOVELY BOOKS: Mind Your Manors

Perhaps I just miss watching the servants in Downton Abbey tend to a beautiful home, but I'm really excited to read this book on British housecleaning tips. Chapters include The Household Cupboard; Dust; Laundry; The Kitchen Sink; Bringing Up a Shine; Pets (boy do I need some tips here!); and The Water Closet. This book recommends tried-and-true cleaning techniques using natural cleaning products like lemon instead of harsh chemicals like we tend to use today. However, peeping through the book a bit, I refuse to use "Bullock's gall" to clean anything!

Mind Your Manors, on Amazon

LOVELY SHOPS: The Painted Cottage

Here's a charming furniture shop based in Collingswood, New Jersey. They specialize in white French cottage-style or "shabby chic" furniture. They sell cabinets, bookcases, night stands, dressers, and lots and lots of different styles of beds. There are, of course, other colors offered besides white - and I find their black furniture stunning! Browsing this shop makes me wish I had a little cottage to buy their furniture for!


Almond Butter Zucchini Muffins (Family Food on the Table)

Baked Zucchini with Spicy Tomatoes (Sunday Supper Movement)

Baked Zucchini Rounds (Apples for CJ)

Caramel Apple Slab Pie (A Spicy Perspective)

Cheesy Baked Tomato, Spinach and Mushroom Gnocchi (Crafty Cooking Mama)

Cheesy Baked Turkey Meatballs in Marinara (Joyful Healthy Eats)

Easy Cheesy Baked Oregano Omelette (I Knead to Eat)

How to Have Cheesy Baked Pasta on the Table in Under and Hour for Busy Weeknights (Food Network)

A 1960s Housewife's Cleaning Routine (The Modern Day 50s Housewife)

Parmesan Baked Zucchini (Flavor Quotient)

Slow Cooker Apple Spice Cake (Canadian Living)

Swabian Potato Salad (Andrea's Recipes)

Whole Wheat Apple Pecan Spice Doughnuts (Dishing Out Health)

-Copyright 2016 Lovely Living

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Saturday, September 03, 2016

September 2016 Free Online Classes at Lovely Living University

It's a new month and as we head into fall and our kids return to school, I wanted to invite you to go back to school this month as well. Sign up for one of our free 30-day online classes, designed to require just an hour an evening (or less) for you to read articles, watch videos and explore our lovely topics. Here's a brief introduction to our five classes this month, if you'd like to take a look:

Art 105: The Life and Art of Beatrix Potter

We'll look at the life of the artist, including her childhood and education, peer a bit into her secret love affair, learn about her marriage and happy life at Hill Top Farm. We shall learn about how she got her first book published, and we'll read several of her charming children's books together. There are a few surprises about her life we will explore as well. We'll learn about her contributions to the Lakes District, and about her 150th birthday celebrations taking place this year.

Sign up here:

Home Economics 104: Back in Time for Dinner

This is perhaps our easiest and least time-consuming course. We'll watch six episodes of "Back in Time for Dinner." We'll meet the Robshaw family, and learn about five decades of British food and home lifestyle history. As the course progresses, we'll learn about food history, vintage recipes, post-wartime rationing, recent food trends, and look at the future of food in Britain.

Sign up here:

Home Economics 105: Sunday Suppers

In this class, we'll learn about the Sunday Supper tradition, as well as the Great British Roast traditions and the Italian Sunday Gravy tradition. We'll collaborate and brainstorm about ways to throw an affordable, stress-free (or at least as little stress as possible) regular Sunday Supper gathering for our friends and families on a regular basis. We're likely to exchange a lot of recipes and tips for cooking for a crowd, too!

Sign up here:

Media Studies 104: The Sound of Music

For many of us, watching The Sound of Music in the fall has been a family tradition. Join us this month to re-watch the movie (in our own homes), find out more about the real history behind the story and the film, learn about the making of the film and learn trivia from behind-the-scenes. We'll also find out what the Von Trapp Family's descendents have been up to - yes, some of them are singing and performing!

Sign up via this link:

Music 106: The Life and Music of Kate Bush

In this class, we'll listen to all of Kate Bush's albums, read over her lyrics, chat about her videos, and learn about the singer and songwriter's life and career. Join us during one of our Live Chat events for this class to listen to her music together and chat about her songs.

Sign up here:

Visit the Lovely Living Facebook Page for more updates and news on other upcoming classes!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Mourning Summer in the Beginning of a New Month

I am really going to miss my warm leisurely summer nights, reading magazines outdoors in the fresh evening air!

I really like to enjoy each season in its own time. I don't rush to the store to buy Halloween things before or even soon after Labor Day Weekend. I'm allergic to cinnamon and ginger so I'm not part of the whole "pumpkin spice latte" craze that happens every year around this time. I look forward to autumn, but I want to enjoy summer as long as possible. I'm sad that I've already had to turn the heater on at night, and I'm struggling to decide if I should leave my outdoor office and dining table set up or not. We still could have weeks of warm weather, or we could have weeks of rain. The furniture is heavy and annoying to move in and out of the garage, so I don't want to move it too early or too late!

I'm trying to seize any sunny opportunity I still have to go for walks, serve meals outside, work outdoors on a laptop in the shade, and enjoy summer's breezes. Fall will come too soon for me I'm afraid.


  • It's the beginning of a new month - do you have any bills to pay today? Look over your upcoming month. What family responsibilities do you have? Upcoming doctor or vet appointments? Need to schedule any dentist, doctor, vet or salon appointments for family members?

  • What upcoming birthdays are there this month? Do you need to purchase and mail birthday cards and gifts, arrange to send flowers, or plan parties?

  • Let's think about our financial budget for the month ahead - are we still doing a bit of back to school shopping? Saving money for emergencies? Going out to some dinners? Throwing any dinner parties? Doing any traveling? Early Christmas shopping?

  • I want to also look at my time budget for the month ahead. Do I have time for alone time for myself (reading books and magazines, cuddling with my dogs and watching Netflix), time for friends, a night each week for Family Night? Time for volunteer work?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Using Up Summer Things

French Lavender candle, at Bath & Body Works

I like to live seasonally, and burn appropriate scents that match the seasons. (I don't burn lavender during Christmastime, opting instead for peppermint, pine, cranberry scents, etc). Today I'm gathering up the stubs and whatever remains of the many, many candles I lit outdoors this summer. I'll take a little visual inventory, and be sure when I light candles tonight as I do every evening, I'm using up and enjoying summer-themed scents. I have a pineapple candle, a couple lavenders that smell refreshing now but might be weird once pumpkin spice season starts, and some Brazilian Orchid candles I got for my Olympics viewing party.

I don't want to be showering with Lemon Verbena in the middle of autumn when I could be enjoying caramel, creme brulee, pumpkin or apple cider scents. So I'll be sure to use up my citrus, lavender and rosemary bath and shower gels over the next few weeks. I won't rush to use them up - that would be wasteful - but I'll be mindful that I can't buy any new autumn scents until I've used what I already own!

I'm also harvesting from our garden, eating lovely things we've grown and using my herbs as much as possible while everything is still around and fresh and growing. This winter I'll dearly miss being able to run into my back yard and grab fresh tomatoes and lettuce for a salad.

The last thing I will do today is pick the last of summer's useable blackberries. I can make a pie, some tarts, and probably have enough leftover for jam, if I spend enough time picking.

What summer things is it time for you to use up, put away, or enjoy one last time before the rains come?

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Plum Pomegranate Green Iced Tea

I'm enjoying this iced tea lately. It's a nice bridge flavor between summer and fall. The plum trees in my back yard didn't produce fruit this year, so I had to find another way to enjoy plums this season! I can occasionally find this at Whole Foods, PCC and my local Target.

Plum Pomegranate Green Tea, at Tazo

Case of Plum Pomegranate Green Iced Tea, on Amazon

LOVELY BLOGS: Dessert First Girl

Anita blogs about food (especially desserts) and travel from her Bay Area home. She also shares some San Francisco restaurant reviews that might come in handy if you're planning a visit.

I've enjoyed her recent posts including Strawberry Pistachio Frangipane Tart, Heart of Summer: Peach Rose Tart, and Cinnamon Chocolate Monkey Bread.

LOVELY SHOPS: Songbird Salvation

This shop is so fun to browse through! It's full of darling, whimsical and adorable antiques and retro items. They sell toys and games, vintage paper ephemera, vintage clothing, antique Halloween items, books and jewelry, and retro Christmas items. I'm really enjoying looking through the vintage paper items in particular, and thought you might also have fun checking out this store.


Duck Egg Victoria Sponge Cake (Lavender and Lovage)

Fall Quesadillas with Apple Radicchio and Pomegranate (Camille Styles)

The Last Long Weekend (Joy the Baker)

Late Summer Corn Tortilla Soup (How Sweet Eats)

Perfect Peach Pie (Pint Sized Baker)

Sushi Cookies (Haniela's)

Taco Casserole (Love From the Oven)

Whisky Peach Alexander (Hungry Girl Por Vida)

--Copyright 2016 Lovely Living