Ning poo tea

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Today I'm using a beautiful set of china from my husband's grandmother. It's Shelley Ning Poo, an art deco design from the 1930s.

A perfect time to sit and peruse the two Cottage Living magazines that I won in Patti's (Magnolia Cottage) giveaway. If you haven't met Patti, please stop by. She has a lovely blog, and is an old movie aficionado. I just got a great recommendation for an old Cary Grant movie from her.

Let's enjoy a delicious Honey Crisp apple or some southern peaches.

This is the pretty bookmark Patti sent with the magazines.

We went to the apple orchard last week and got two bags of Honey Crisp apples. And cider and cinnamon donuts, a must when you're at the orchard. Mr. Beautiful got stung by a bee. They are out in full force when cider is being poured. Thankfully, he doesn't experience any swelling or other issues.


A couple weeks ago, one of my husband's clients invited us to see violinist Itzhak Perlman play at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. It was fabulous. So much talent.

Here's a picture of what they called a "gingersnap pumpkin shooter" that I enjoyed at the pre-concert nibbles and drinks thing-y.

It's crumbled gingersnaps topped with pumpkin mouse and whipped cream, served in tiny little cups. So cute, and seems like it would be easy to re-create.

Speaking of cooking, I made a chicken curry that was so delicious and homemade naan bread last week. Naan bread is expensive in the store, and this was so easy. I'll share some photos and a recipe later.

And I finally got my linen tablecloths organized to my satisfaction. Will share that, too.

Linking with Sandi and Ruth today. Check out some of the loveliest tea parties and nicest bloggers in blogland!

Project 333: jewelry

Friday, September 26, 2014

One last post on Project 333, until December, when I will let you know how I fared with this project and my plans for going forward into the next three months. If you missed my two previous posts on Project 333, click here and here.

This picture doesn't have anything to do with the post, but aren't these beautiful? They are the last of the hydrangeas.
I gave away a lot of jewelry last spring, and sold some gold. I was still left with seven trays of jewelry, plus extra sentimental jewelry stored in a dresser. Sometimes I'd spread out all seven trays trying to decide what earrings or necklace I was going to wear that day.

Too much choice can be overwhelming.

I picked seven items of jewelry to wear for the next three months for Project 333. Over 20 percent of my budget of 33 items is jewelry! I thought when I made my choices I might regret this; I maybe should have put a pair of earrings back, and selected another sweater. But getting a couple hundred pieces down to seven was pretty good, I thought. Next time it will be easier; maybe five pieces of jewelry will suffice.

This is what I (re)learned: always use your best everyday. Just like using my vintage teacups and linens and china every day, I can wear my best every day. My husband has bought me some nice jewelry in 33 years of marriage. Should those pearls just languish there awaiting a two- or three-times-a-year outing? What about the triple strand of freshwater pearls that sits lonely at the bottom of a pile of tarnished trinkets?

Although I selected one piece of costume jewelry, the other six items are all my nicest pieces. And I'm fine wearing my small diamond studs every day. It's easy, always appropriate, and it is a way of acknowledging and appreciating my husband's thoughtfulness in giving them to me.

So, a week or so after I started this project, I packed up all the costume jewelry and put it on an upper shelf of my closet. There are two trays left of good jewelry, plus a few of my favorite costume pieces. Really. That should be enough for life.

Limits are Good

I've thought a lot about limits lately, what with doing Project 333 and being without a car right now, and having a brief time without a computer. Rather than being a burden, these limits have been good.

It's so easy to dress in the morning for one thing. And without a car, I've been able to focus more on my home and projects I have around here, and being creative. And using my husband's computer, and having to "surrender" it over to him in the evenings for a week or so made me realize that it's better to not be on a computer later at night; if I unplug and read or knit instead, I really do sleep better.

I love my new computer; I just have to remember to power off!
Too many choices can be overwhelming, can slow down our decision-making, and add unneeded stress.

I highly recommend the discipline of narrowing your choices a little and seeing how less stressful your life can be.

Teas from the archives

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I got a new computer and am very excited about getting it all set up. I've switched from a PC to a Mac so I need to learn a few things before I'm really up and running.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few tea photos from my archives. Hopefully, by the next post, I'll have figured out how to upload and edit new pictures.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane as much as I did. It's been lovely to share these teas with you, sweet friends.

Linking with Sandi at Tea Time Tuesday

33-item wardrobe

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Last week I shared that I started doing Project 333, a program that has you choose 33 items of clothing to wear for three months. You can read a little more about it here. I promised to share my list of 33 items that will carry me through to the beginning of December, when I can re-select 33 items for the following three months.

clothing to be donated
It took a while to think things through and get my picks down to 33! 

I chose a basic color palette of three neutrals (navy, gray, and white), with pink and lavender as my colors.  So here's The List:

2 wrap dresses
1 gray skirt
1 cobalt blue skirt
1 navy twill pants
1 jeans

1 long-sleeved navy silk blouse
2 sleeveless blouses to go with cardigans, white and gray
4 cotton, 3/4 length sleeve cardies, pink, pale lavender, multi-colored (cobalt, periwinkle, and          lavender), and gray
2 long-sleeved knit tees -- navy striped and gray with ruffled front
1 blue and white striped sweater
1 gray stretch knit blazer

1 long white sweater (can be used as light fall "coat")

2 scarves, pink and lavender multi

1 heels (pewter)
2 flats (blue suede and multi-colored)

strand of pearls (anniversary gift)
diamond and white gold necklace (another anniversary gift)
diamond studs (ditto)
my grandmother's pearl earrings
2 pair of  silver earrings
long lucite and silver necklace made by a friend

winter coat in brown      
snow boots in brown

leather grayish/lavender bag      

// 33  

(This does not count my gloves, sunglasses, undergarments, socks, pajamas, or workout gear. The official rules would have you include the gloves and sunglasses, but not the rest. So I'm really at 35. I think it's dumb to count sunglasses; they're prescription and necessary for driving. But hey, I think I did great -- many people don't count jewelry or scarves or shoes at all.)

It would be wonderful to have a gray or navy winter coat and boots so that everything goes together, but I have brown, so they will have to do for now.

One reader didn't understand why I'd want to box up a bunch of clothes for three months. You wouldn't be able to wear them and they would get all wrinkled. The beauty of boxing things up for a season is to show you how little you really need, and find out what you really do need {I can see I definitely need these two pair of comfortable flats way more than all my high heels. I really only need maybe two or three four or five pair of heels (I'm just not there yet!)}.

I imagine many of the items that are boxed up will end up being donated. I can see after a few rounds of Project 333 that I will not be boxing up any clothes. I can see myself having 33 items in my closet for fall/winter, with 33 spring/summer clothes in the guest room closet, with a handful of transitional pieces (like a lighter coat for spring, for example) and a few extra scarves, jewelry, or sweaters/T shirts.

The best thing about this, only being a week into it, is how easy it is to get dressed. No thinking required. Everything goes with everything else, and everything fits well and is comfortable. It's so freeing. And I know I'm going to save a lot of money.

I've become really aware that when I buy clothing in the future I need to be sure to buy well-made, workhorse clothing items. If I'm going to wear a skirt or a cardigan once or twice a week until it wears out, it has to be able to go the distance. I will think long and hard about any clothing purchases. I will ask:

  • Is it in my color palette? Will it go with all the other items I have?
  • Does it fit well?
  • Is it well made, and the best I can afford? (not necessarily the most expensive but the best quality)
  • Is it comfortable? (for example, wool makes me itch, and I have to face the fact that I need to pass on those adorable 4-inch stilettos)
  • Do I absolutely love it?

The cobalt skirt in my list really only goes with the cardigan with the cobalt in it. I could wear it with the gray, I guess. It fits well, and I really didn't want to part with it yet, but I can already see it being donated in the next round or two. I purchased it because it was a trendy color, but it's not really my color.

The rule will be, bring something in, take something out. And like replaces like. A navy cardigan starts to pill or wear out; I replace it with another navy cardigan. Not a sequined fuchsia top that catches my eye, and will get worn once. I figure nail polish, makeup, and an occasional trendy (cheap) piece of costume jewelry will help me get my fashion fixes. Along with rotating in my  collection of scarves, which I am hanging on to.

I'm very aware that this "problem" is one of affluence. A first-world problem. As I sorted through my clothes, it seemed an embarrassment to have so many. Someone commented on the Project 333 website that she wished she had 33 items of clothing.

Next week I'll share what this project has taught me about my jewelry.

Several of you mentioned you wanted to try this. Please share; I'd love to hear from you.

*** GIVEAWAY *** winner

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I had a lovely tea post to share with you today, but my computer has died. I'm borrowing Mr. Beautiful's laptop. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble uploading new photos onto his computer. So, until I get a new computer or figure out the problem on his, I will have to blog photo-less (or re-cycle old photos). Hoping this won't be for long.

So, in the meantime, I can at least announce the winner of my *** GIVEAWAY***!

Congratulations to Lorrie of Fabric Paper Thread. I will be contacting you, Lorrie, for your address.

 Thanks to all of you who generously offered advice on responding to blog comments. There was a variety of preferences, so after reading through everyone's advice, this is what I've decided to do: try and visit bloggers who leave a comment, and try to respond to non-bloggers by email, or, if they are no-reply, in my blog comment section. I am sorry not to routinely respond to people in my comment section; several people expressed that preference, but I will only do that if I can't contact you another way. 

This is actually what I've been doing all along, but I had started replying to every comment by email and visiting and commenting on the person's blog. That was just too much to do with every comment. I do like the occasional personal interaction of an email, but have to let myself off the hook of feeling obligated to do that all the time.

{I know my computer is five years old, and in computer years, that makes it ancient. But don't you think they should last a little longer?}

Book exchange fun

Friday, September 12, 2014

 Stephanie from The Enchanting Rose hosted a book exchange some weeks back, and I had the fun of participating. I received a couple of wonderful items from her mom, Debbie, who blogs at She Graces her Home in God's Beauty.

I'm sure many of you have met this wonderful mother and daughter. Stephanie takes lovely photos and shares crafts and recipes she makes, and always leaves the most encouraging and sweet comments. Her mother's blog, fairly new and started after Stephanie encouraged her to, is full of wisdom for Christian women. If you have not met these two ladies yet, I encourage you to stop by their blogs for a glimpse of loveliness and graciousness.

We had the opportunity of letting Stephanie know what types of books we like, and then she passed that info along to whoever got our name. I got Betty, who is interested in vintage books, so that was easy! Well, easy to find, but hard not to want to keep myself!

This book from Debbie is full of hours' worth of perusing for kitchen decorating ideas. I only got a quarter way through and already had a couple good ideas for my own kitchen.

Debbie says this builders' supply magazine was in her father's collection. It is from the 50s, and the ads are the best part. All the women are wearing dresses and pearls and high heels. And have their nails done. And the ads for "modern" kitchen innovations are really interesting: counter-mounted blenders, and intercom systems.

Thank you, Stephanie, for this fun exchange. Stephanie also hosts teacup exchanges. I'm hoping to get in on that fun, too. Because books and tea just go together. Be sure to visit her blog; maybe we'll end up exchanging teacups!

A minimalist wardrobe?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

To enter my *** GIVEAWAY ***, please click here. Thank you all for the thoughtful comments on my blogging question. I will announce the winner on Monday, September 15. I'll also announce the unofficial "results," which are unclear at this point as there have been some widely varying views.


Perhaps some of you have heard of Project 333. It's been around for several years. The basic idea of it is to choose 33 items of clothing and accessories and wear only those for three months. Everything else you own is boxed up and put away. Three months later, you can re-assess, based on what did or didn't work, or on seasonal needs, and choose your 33 for the next three months. And so on.

My scarf collection is getting out of hand. 

The original project idea is that the 33 items include all clothing, accessories like jewelry and scarves, shoes, and outer wear. It does not include jewelry that you wear every day like a wedding ring or other sentimental item, underpinnings, pajamas, or workout gear.

Before you freak out, or click away, bear with me.

Have you ever stood in front of a closet full of clothes, frustrated because there is nothing to wear? When you are going somewhere special, do you routinely try on several outfits, unsure of which works the best? Do you find yourself buying clothes on impulse or because of a trend, and later wondering what you were thinking?

I am working toward this 33 items at a time, and believe me, it is a brilliant idea. Brilliant, I tell you.

No one could ever accuse me of being a minimalist. Just look at the number of teacups and linens I own. Or books. 

But I also really dislike clutter and disorganization and waste.

I think this system will work for me because:

** I no longer wear anything that is uncomfortable, doesn't fit, is the wrong color on me, is too young for me, or shows more skin than I want. All of those clothes have been donated. Bonus: everything in my closet fits and makes me smile.

I love this bustier, but let's face it; I'm at a point where less skin is more. But it's cute! I paid good money for it! I only wore it twice! But . . . I have a picture of me wearing it, and it has hung there, unworn, for several years now. It's time to let it go. Somebody else will be happy to have it. 
** I've learned to stick to a color palette that allows a lot of mixing and matching. Many people find black, gray, and white, with two pops of color (say red and cobalt) works for them. I am working with navy, gray, and white as my primary colors, with pink and lavender as accents.

** I'm staying away from cheap clothes that pill and fade, and saving up for the best I can afford that will be workhorses for me. One beautiful sweater that lasts for years and looks and feels wonderful on, is so much better than 10 cheap and trendy tops.

** I have started to feel okay about wearing something a couple times a week. That's what I did before anyway, when I had hundreds of things to choose from. Don't you find yourself reaching for the same things? They should be part of your 33.

** I've begun to think of my life as it really is, rather than how I picture it. Do I really need two dozen pairs of heels when I only wear them once, maybe twice a week for a few hours? Just because they're super cute and on sale, doesn't mean they should come home with me.

** It's low risk. You don't have to get rid of everything. In fact, don't. It's only three months. All your other clothes are safe and sound, just boxed up for now. No need to panic.

Perfectly good clothes, but they didn't make the cut. I'll look at them again in December.

** It's flexible. The whole point of this is not suffering; it's freedom. Some people count 33 items of clothing only, and don't count accessories or shoes as part of the 33. Do what works for you.

The interesting thing about this project is that people report that the longer they do this, several things happen: 

* they shop way less, saving oodles of money
* their closet becomes even more curated (and thus, perfect for them) over time
* dressing becomes easy and quick, freeing them to focus on other things
* they actually receive more compliments, I think because they have more style and confidence

There are a number of websites out there with helpful information and encouragement. 

 Project 333 is discussed here. A very helpful website, especially in seeing how a palette of five colors can work together, is The Vivienne Files here. If you really are hardcore, find out how a stylish Francophile lives with a 10-item wardrobe at The Daily Connoisseur here.

I only just embraced this concept after a couple years of hearing about it, and a lot of research on colors and styles that work for me. I still have a ways to go. The time you spend up front, though, is more than paid back in time and money saved later.

I will show what my 33-item wardrobe looks like next week. I've even worked the jewelry and shoes into the total number, which has me panicking a little. (Is this all I get?)

Anybody want to join me?

The very best chocolate chip cookie ever

Sunday, September 7, 2014

To enter my *** GIVEAWAY *** leave a comment at my post here.

My daughter recently discovered a chocolate chip cookie recipe on Pinterest to end all recipes.
Some things that make them so good: these gourmet cookies take cake flour and bread flour, instead of regular all-purpose flour. The dough needs to be refrigerated at least 24-36 hours before baking. No Tollhouse or no-brand chocolate; use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate chips. Sprinkle them with coarse salt  (like Kosher) before baking. I'll post a link to the recipe further down.

The recipe says to use 1/3-cup measures to measure out the dough. That's a 5-inch cookie! My daughter didn't make them that big.

She was taking them to work for a party, but was nice enough to leave some for Mr. Beautiful and me.  I am one that thinks a piece of pie or a couple cookies, with a cup of coffee, is a good breakfast. 

my dear grandmother hand-painted this little tray

I broke the cup but kept the pretty saucer

a friend gave me this vintage copy for my birthday this year

Lest you think all I do is eat carrot cake and pancakes and chocolate chip cookies . . . 

Ha! It just struck me that the picture of the book Sense and Sensibility is perfect for this post! Fruit and vegetables (Sense) and chocolate chip cookies (Sensibility). There's room for both.

The cookie recipe can be found here.

Linking with . . . 

Blogging question and *** GIVEAWAY ***

Friday, September 5, 2014

I have a question for all you readers, bloggers and non-bloggers alike. And I'm sweetening the deal with a lovely *** GIVEAWAY*** for those who help me out.

My question is about responding to comments on my blog.

This is what I've been doing. Someone comments on a post and I email them a response. I also try and visit their blog.

The problem with responding by email, of course, is that many bloggers are "no reply bloggers," and there is no way to respond to them. In this case, I make sure I visit their blog.

If the comment is from a non-blogger, and I can't email them back, I'll respond in the comment section of my blog.

I rarely respond in the comment section of my blog for two reasons: 1) I don't want my readers to be burdened with having to return to the post to see if I've responded, and 2) I don't want them to have to deal with a bunch of emails in their inbox if they check the "notify me" box after they've commented. 

This is what I do when I comment: I take a look and see what the blogger does. Does she respond to comments on her blog? If she does, I will check the "notify me" box. If she doesn't, I don't check it. When I check the "notify me" box, sometimes I'm happy to get all the subsequent comments and replies in my email because it is a topic I'm interested in. Other times I just look for a response to my comment in my email box and delete the rest as they come in.

Okay, so here's my question, if you're still with me.

Would you like me to continue the way I'm doing things (emailing responses, and just figuring out what to do with "no-reply bloggers"), or would you prefer me to respond in the comment section of my blog?

I am thinking I might want to switch to responding to readers right in my comment section. Sometimes the most interesting part of a blog, the real action you might say, takes place in the comment section. But I don't want to burden my readers either.

What do you all think? Leave a comment with your opinion and I will randomly select one of you to win the tea, linen napkins, and spoon. I'll leave this open for a week, and announce the winner on Monday, September 15.

some tea, perfect for cooler weather, which I picked up at a little tea store in northern Michigan this summer

two vintage luncheon napkins, in fall-ish colors

and a new little tea spoon

Thank you, friends. You truly are the best part of blogging.

Again, the question. Would you rather that I:  respond to comments by email, as possible, or respond in the comments section of my blog?

Pancake makeup?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Couldn't think of a title for my post today, so I hope you get what I mean by "pancake makeup" by the time you finish this . . . By the way, did you know that the original Max Factor Pan-Cake makeup was used by 1 in 3 women in 1940? Which actually doesn't have anything to do with this post.

I have more respect for food stylists since I started blogging. These pancakes were delicious and I thought they looked beautiful on my plate, but after looking at the picture, I noticed one of them is "wrinkled." I don't think a food stylist would have let that get by.

I also noticed in my pictures smears of butter on my butter dish, sticky maple syrup marring the edge of a plate, and a carton of orange juice magnified ludicrously behind a bottle of sparkling wine.

So while the pictures aren't perfect, the breakfast itself was. 

Breakfast is usually catch-as-catch-can around here, but occasionally we'll have a nice brunch, especially on a holiday morning, like Labor Day. This was fairly simple; pancakes and fresh fruit, with mimosas for my husband and daughter and sparkling cherry juice for me. And lots of hot coffee, of course.

What makes any meal extra special, for me anyway, is using beautiful linens and china and silver. And always a candle or two.

My mother-in-law's silver and crystal. The champagne glasses are 65 years old now.

I found this little dish at a recent tent sale at our local antique mart. It's perfect for butter. I just cut the stick in half.

Mimosas are, of course, made with champagne and orange juice. But cheap champagne gives Mr. Beautiful a headache, and expensive champagne is, well . . . expensive. So I picked up this bottle of sparkling wine, mostly because it had a pretty label. It's called "Sofia," by Francis Coppola, the director, after his daughter Sofia, who is also a movie director.

from my Great Aunt Esther's coffee set

Chocolate chip pancakes, oh my . . . 

So after this lovely carb fest, I was ready to settle down with a good book and perhaps take a little nap later on. But my daughter wanted to catch some of the sales, and convinced me to go along.

A couple hours later, on our way to the mall, I realized pancakes and coffee were not going to carry me through a long afternoon. Didn't want to spring for a lunch out, and a Mrs. Field's cookie or something similar would just make me feel sick. I really need to keep some almonds and a protein bar in my purse.

But look what I found . . . 

Hard boiled eggs. That, with a pomegranate iced tea, got us through an afternoon of shopping.

I opened this tin to show you these chocolate-covered peppermints that I found at the counter. I haven't tried them yet, though.

Update: I just tried one. For blog research, you know. Quite tasty.

And while we looked at shoes and bags, it ended up being a makeup kind of day (get it? -- pancake makeup? sigh . . . I know). We went to the M*A*C store, and felt like kids in a candy shop (at least I did). I picked out four shades to customize a little eyeshadow palette. I only have browns, and wanted something different.

Lavender is supposed to go well with green eyes, which I have, and I like pink.

I wouldn't have picked these colors just by looking at them. But after sampling a dozen or so colors, I could tell these were my favorites, and would look good together.

As you can see, the pink in the upper right of the palette, which is the second to the left on my arm, is much lighter than you would expect. I can use the darkest one as an eyeliner as well as a shadow.

L to R: Yogurt, Da Bling, Blackberry, and Shadowy Lady
At Sephora, I got this pretty eyeliner pencil in Rockstar by Urban Decay. A nice change from the brown I've been using. I guess it's hard to tell, but it is a soft purply color. Above it is a swipe of Marc Jacobs Twinkle Pop Eye Stick in Honey Bunny, a pink shimmer-y color my daughter got. Both are super pretty and very easy to apply.

In addition to the Twinkle Pop Eye Stick (how fun is that to type?), my daughter got a shading brush and Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer . . .

I have watched lots of makeup videos, and if I've learned anything about eyeshadow, it's blend, blend, blend. So I practiced today. I wasn't going for a smoky eye look, which is really popular, but way too much for me. I wanted something subtle and pretty for every day. The Da Bling went on the lid, the Blackberry in the crease, and the Yogurt in the inner corners of my eyes. I didn't use the Shadowy Lady today. After applying the new liner, I was quite pleased with the result.

Because I am car-less these days, I am "all dressed up with nowhere to go." But it is fine. I really do think it's important to feel pretty just for our own selves. And besides, Mr. Beautiful will be home later. ;)
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