Saturday, November 22, 2014

Music for Dinner & Dancing

When I wrote about our personal style of how we like to dine and entertain at home, I mentioned we usually play soft classical music, and I also like to play music that coordinates to theme dinners--Italian, etc.

These are my fave music selections for dinner and parties:

Vivaldi on the Terrace is my very favorite and it goes with any style dinner you're serving!  Everyone has different taste in music, but I find it easy to listen to time and again--it's my fallback CD if I just can't decide what music to play for a gathering.

I like Tuscany: A Romantic Journey, too.

And Dinner in Italy is so festive and fun!

The soundtrack from the movie Midnight in Paris is also one of my fave dinner party CDs.

Henry Mancini fans, we played the Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack for our Tiffany party this summer.

Moonlight in Paris is nice, too.

Provence:  A Romantic Journey is great for an outdoor backyard summer dinner.

Here are some  more dinner/entertaining CDs  I'd like to try sometime.

Do you play music at home when you dine or have parties?  If so, what are your favorites?!

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn :) 

Entertaining Angels Unawares in Your Home at Holiday Time

Are you busy with excited anticipation in getting ready to entertain family and friends in your home for the upcoming holidays?  Or are you frazzled and overwhelmed at the thought of all the preparations?   

To help you out, I just totally updated my Entertaining Resources & Recipes page on my website, freely sharing many of my own secrets and tips and lists I've used beginning when I was a young bride of 21 and hosted my first bridal shower in our 400 SF newlywed cottage.  

Be sure to download my Master Entertaining Checklist so you don't forget a thing!

Speaking of entertaining angels in your home...

After I wrote about  When Three Marines Came to Our Home for Thanksgiving Dinner, my hubby and I began talking about other guests we'd hosted in our home over the years.  Now here's a (pardon the pun) entertaining story like no other! ...

"Remember cute little Helen when we lived in tiny Valentine, Nebraska as newlyweds?" my hubby asked me recently.  I smiled and nodded.  We attended the same tiny Episcopal church, St. John's, and since Helen was alone one holiday, on a whim after church we invited her to have dinner at our home with us and my husband's parents who were visiting.  At the time, she was in her 80s, we were 21 and 23, and our priest told us six months later she still hadn't stopped talking about coming to our home for dinner. Now mind you, we lived in a very humble cottage at the time, and while I've always tried to set a nice table and cook a great meal, our home was no palace.  But then, that's just the point.  You don't need to live in a McMansion to share your home lovingly and artfully at table with others.  And you never know when you invite someone interesting like Helen to your home, just who's really at your table ...

After my hubby's comment, I decided to do what any journalist worth her salt would do in the year 2014 when they wonder whatever happened to so-and-so:  I Googled our long-ago guest Helen.

Oh my.  Turns out, Helen lived to be 113 and at the time of her death in 2007, she was the world's 4th oldest person!  And the oldest person to have lived their entire life in Nebraska.   And the second oldest American!  According to her cousin Bob, age 70, she was healthy almost 'til the end, never had a drivers license, walked everywhere, was always slender, was healthy and on an even keel most of the time, and never complained about living in a nursing home for many years.  He also said she was a gracious lady whose Episcopalian Christian faith was important to her.  "One time I (Bob) said, "Helen, do you say your prayers every night?"  And she said, "Indeed I do."

Talk about aging with grace.  And entertaining angels unawares at your dinner table, as the old cliches go.

I still remember cute Helen in her spiffy little blue and white dress and perfectly combed silver hair, walking to church every single Sunday, rain, shine, or snow.  (Have you ever experienced a western Nebraska winter?!  If so, you know why I moved to California!)  Helen was faithful, fun, and feisty.  When an older gentleman constantly offered her a ride home from church, she'd politely decline and then say under her breath to me, "I don't need some old man giving me a ride home!"  And then we'd both giggle. :)  

What special guest is coming to your home this year for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner? 

Make it special and memorable, in your own way, okay?  And remember to use my checklist!

Happy Holidays!

Kathryn :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

My Home Entertaining Secrets, Tips, Pix, & Resource Links

To help you tap into your own style of holiday and other entertaining-at-home creativity,  I recently spent one whole day updating my Entertaining Resources & Recipes page with new links, pix, tips, and (some of) my never-before-shared and affordable secrets about how my hubby and I have entertained many guests in our small homes from the time we were just newlyweds 34+ years ago.  Looking back now, what wonderful memories our guests gave us!

I hope you find my entertaining-at-home info. useful, fun, and motivational.   At the very least, be sure to download my Master Entertaining Checklist to help make your holiday hosting preparations stress-free.  (Or less hectic, anyway.)

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn :) 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pantry Pizazz for Small Space Storage

Do you ever wish for more storage space in your home?  If so, here's an easy and economical solution we've used for the (4th!) time now.

We downsized to our 710 SF one bedroom apartment 1 1/2 years ago, and since I cook homemade meals from scratch regularly from my tiny kitchen, I recently decided I wanted more pantry space for grocery storage so I can better take advantage of dry goods sales plus have easier visible access to my staples too.

And so, my hubs and I talked over the best storage solution options and we decided to buy another simple white pantry cabinet from Target for our dining area that is just like the two cabinets we already have in our bedroom that store my writing work and personal file binders, and a third cabinet houses our medicines.

Sure, I'd much rather have had a lovelier antique cabinet like this one, but I wanted more storage sooner than later, and it takes a lot of perusing to find just the right antique cabinet, at the right price, and the right size, yada yada, so we went with this new cabinet m.o. instead and customized it a bit to our liking.

We changed out the boring plastic white handles to these knobs.  Hardware handles are NOT standard size when it comes to the holes already drilled in the cabinet, so instead of trying to find new handles that were the right size, we used these antique-looking knobs, and we actually liked how they looked better than handles anyway--gave it a more unique look and nobody knows but us. (And you!)

Neither my husband nor I like hard-edged modern furniture, so after the new antique-style knobs were put on, I styled the top of the cabinet a bit with some soft greenery, books, and a picture so that the eye would go there instead--to the pretty stuff--instead of to the stark white cabinet.  The styling helped tie it into our existing antique furniture/decor look more too, so "decor mission" accomplished on that end.

These little cabinets hold a LOT!  I was able to put my overflow pantry foods in there, plus some bins of candles and entertaining napkins, and a couple bulkier bathroom items too. You can also stack cans three-high, which really saves room.   I still have plenty of room to add more things as I stock up on groceries. The shelves are sturdy and a good height between shelves too--so far nothing has been too tall to fit.

My hubby had to assemble the cabinet, (and drag it home from Target, bless his DIY-husband heart!), but it only took about an hour to put together and he told me it's easy to do.  (Easy for him anyway, since he's the handyman sort who likes that kind of thing and I'm...NOT! So anyway, take into account your level of assembly skills if you buy one of these.  Seriously.   Me?  I'd likely still be holding the screwdriver and reading the instructions.  And/or crying from sheer non-assembly frustration while hankering for a spa-day and a Perrier!)

The other thing I love about these cabinets is that these cardboard photo boxes fit just perfectly on the shelves as you can see here in our medicine cabinet pantry in our bedroom.  With the lid actually on the photo box, they stack three high on the shelves, making it even easier to separate medicines from bandages etc.

Pantry pizazz, my friends!

All in all, I am happy with how this project turned out but I do still plan to buy a pretty antique-looking new urn with a flowy green plant in it to stand beside the cabinet to hide the ugly-to-me outlet and soften that corner decor-wise a bit.  But that can wait until spring garden sale time.

If you need more storage in your kitchen, bathroom, or garage,  these dandy little cabinets are really great, especially for the price.  (And no, I don't work for the manufacturer.)  Also, they would work well for storing linens and serving dishes, books, or you could stock it with beverages and decorative glasses and open up the doors like a fab at-the-ready "bar" that looks something like this, (but costs lots less), for when you entertain at home.

Here's how I organized my pantry in our last apartment.  When we moved, I now have a similar, but smaller pantry in our new little kitchen, so we took the pull-out drawers with us since we bought them.   (Most of the drawers) fit fine in our new home and the ones that did not fit worked in our bathroom cabinet.

Need more small space organizing and storage ideas for your home and office?  You can find oodles of them here.

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn :) 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Descriptor Words to Make Your Lifestyle Choices Easier

What's your lifestyle choice M.O.?

When I revamped my website and blog awhile ago, I added a tagline to my header, "Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living" because I felt it's an apt summary descriptor of  how I have lived and worked for a long time as I consciously craft my journey called LIFE.

What does that mean, anyway?

For me, it means that when I make choices in every area of my life, if I immediately filter my chosen descriptor words "simple, charming, elegant" through my conscious mind as I make decisions, evaluate opportunities, and consider invitations, then I can quickly choose to only do and buy and experience those things and activities in life that bring me the most joy, the least stress, and that I feel will also add something positive to others' lives too.

Does that mean my life will always be perfect? Hardly, since no life is.  But, my descriptor words act as a positive guide along the way, and when tough stuff happens, they enable me to get back to my positive inner center as quickly as possible.

I love how describes my chosen lifestyle descriptor words:

Simple:  Not complicated  (I've never liked complexity or excess, so I choose accordingly.)

Charming:  Pleasing; delightful  (I'm drawn to genuinely charming places and kind people.)

Elegant:  Gracefully refined and dignified; fine  (My tastes have always leaned toward high-quality places, things, and people, and I've never liked anything crude--even as far back as when I was a young child.)
If you have never thought of this before, then why not choose three descriptor words for your life today?  In spite of a swirling world, we still do have some choices in life, you know?! Play around with three chosen words until you find the words that you like best, and look them up on too before making your final choices.  Use them as your lifestyle filter for a year, and see how it changes and enhances your life!

Celebrating the art of simple, charming, elegant living!

Kathryn :) 

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