Timeless

“Things of quality have no fear of time.”  – Unknown

We all have them, certain words that almost make us come out of our skin when we hear them.  The word that arouses such a reaction with me is – “dated.” Honestly, I totally bristle when I hear that word. Understand, I am not shouting for us to do away with indoor plumbing or other wonderful, modern conveniences which are so marvelously helpful.  Nor, do I mean one should keep something which is in disrepair and would be dreadfully costly to repair.  I am though, shouting for the return of common sense, respect of quality craftsmanship, and a sense of appropriateness.

Perhaps, this is why I am so drawn to the French way of life and their design.  A building or home, built in France in the 1800’s, is considered new. When renovations are made to accommodate modern living, great care is taken not to disturb or destroy the character of the home or building – evidence of incredible appreciation of quality and respect for original workmanship. A high regard for the past.  Such appreciation is not only in France. It is prevalent in many other European countries as well.

In the photo above, you will see gorgeous original stone walls.  Hand hewed and honed beams.  A lovely tablecloth, made from mattress ticking or grain sacks. Too many beautiful old homes in our country, with just such stunning workmanship, have fallen to neglect and disrepair.  Ultimately, to the blade of a bull dozier. And, beautiful linens?  Many, thoughtlessly tossed in the bin, along with whatever else was currently not – ‘in.’

 

I have never been one to follow what is ‘currently in.’ One reason, it is costly. Another reason, when you chase after trends you will always be chasing.  Because you can be sure, whatever is ‘in’ today will be out in a year or two.  Nate Berkus hit the mark when he said: “Trends exist to make people feel badly about what they don’t have.”  Truth, isn’t it?

So, what is one to do?  I believe you strive to buy the best you can afford with regard to any purchase.  Purchase classic pieces,”not afraid of time.” Consider the style of your home and purchase with regard to appropriateness. Our living room sofa, for example, is a camel back.  It has rolled arms and Chippendale legs.  This style sofa was made in the 18th century.  A classic, which can still be purchased today. Appropriate for our French Georgian home, built in 1939. Timeless.

 

Trends exist not only in furnishings, but in just about all aspects of home decor. The kitchen is an especially trendy area.  Remember, those avocado green and harvest gold appliances?  Gone.  Kitchen appliances, counter tops, lighting, faucets and flooring are all expensive. Choose carefully and choose appropriately. Choose timeless.

One last and important piece of the puzzle today is – inspiration.  When you are considering any purchase or renovation, educate yourself.  While glossy magazines and design television shows can stir your interest and offer ideas, remember what they are.  Both are in the business of selling.  Read material from decorators/designers that you admire.  Search their work online and proceed slowly with your budget in mind.  Always go with your gut regarding any and all selections. And remember: Your home is your story – beauty is timeless – timeless is never “dated.'”

Thanks for visiting.  Have a Beautiful Week!

Au Revoir, 

Sandra

 

Note:  The follow-up to this post will be:  Consult a Designer or a Decorator?  

 

Photos:  Pinterest

A Sweet Memory

“A party without cake is just a meeting.” – Julia Child

We all have those summertime memories of visiting family and enjoying wonderful times with them.  Of course, food is always part of those memories.  Aunt Jane’s potato salad, cousin Martha’s lemon pie, grandmother’s homemade pickles – special people and fabulous recipes.  

I have treasured memories of spending summers with my grandmother in Mississippi. One especially sweet memory is her Blackberry Jam Cake with Caramel Frosting. To say I was thrilled each time she made this cake is clearly an understatement.This heavenly creation was always made with the blackberry jam she preserved.  She said, “The jam was a reward for her hours spent blackberry picking.”

Just in case you would like to create this sweet memory maker, I am sending along the recipe.  Do put this cake on your list of “things to bake this summer.” I promise your gathering will be a “party, not a meeting.”

Blackberry Jam Cake

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup seedless blackberry jam

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup chopped raisins or dates (my grandmother used dates) 

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease and flour 3 round 8 or 9 inch cake pans. (I use Bakers Joy with flour spray).  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Combine flour, soda, salt, and spices in a separate bowl;  add to the butter mixture alternately with buttermilk; beating well after each addition.  Blend in jam, chopped pecans, and raisins or dates.  Pour into prepared cake pans.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted in the center.  Cool cake in pans on racks for 15 minutes. Carefully invert onto racks to cool completely.

Cooked Caramel Frosting

3 cups packed light brown sugar

2 Tbls. corn syrup

3 Tbls. butter

dash of salt

3/4 cup of heavy cream

1 tsp. vanilla

In a large saucepan, combine ingredients and mix well to blend.  Bring to a boil; cover and cook 3 minutes at medium heat.  Uncover and cook until a soft ball forms when dropped in cold water.  I use a candy thermometer and soft ball is about 238 degrees on the thermometer.  Cool for 3 minutes.  Beat until thick and spreadable. The mixture should begin to lose its glossiness.  Spread on layers and sides of cake.  If the frosting becomes too stiff as you are working, add just a little hot water. Also, dip spatula in hot water to smooth frosting as needed.

Listed below you will find a second frosting recipe.  This one is delicious, wonderful on the cake – but is easier to prepare.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 Tbls, butter, softened

1/2 cup purchased caramel sauce – such as Smuckers

1 tsp. vanilla

3 1/2 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy.  Add the caramel sauce and vanilla; beat until well blended.  Add 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed of mixer until blended.  Add more confectioners’ sugar, if needed.  Increase mixer speed and beat on high for about 2 minutes.

Thanks for visiting.  Enjoy the recipes!

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Photo:  Pinterest

The Love of Toile

“…Because every picture tells a story…” – Unknown

I love toile.  Toile patterns are marvelous storytellers, and they have been embellishing homes the world over for centuries.  They are treasured for their beautiful floral, gentle wildlife and idyllic bucolic images.  Toile (pronounced – twal) in French means, canvas or cloth.  Toile de Jouy means cloth of Jouy.  Jouy is the town outside of Paris where the fabric was first manufactured.   

Toile is available in a wide variety of patterns and in a multitude of scales and colors.  Toile lends itself beautifully to many areas of home decor such as: Window treatments, duvet covers, pillows, upholstery, and wall coverings.   Toile can absolutely lend unmatched charm to a room.  However, I would suggest proceeding slowly when considering it for a wall covering.  It can lose its appeal when it is overused.

 

Toile also mixes happily with other fabric selections, such as stripes (especially ticking stripes), checks and some soft florals.

 

So, why do I love Toile?  Ah, it is the charm, the romance and the stories.  Each pattern tells a story.  Stories such as those of barn yard characters, children at play,  and my favorite – courting couples.  Don’t you just love the way the gentleman is completely star struck while admiring his lady?  So romantic.

Additionally, there is Chinoiserie Toile.  In Chinoiserie Toile we see Oriental stories. It is considered to be a classic decorating staple among leaders in the field of interior design.

So, perhaps you are wondering:  Does she have toile in her home? Oh yes! Everywhere from the kitchen to the bedrooms and in between.   Below you will see our kitchen window treatments.  You will notice I chose a ticking stripe, as a coordinating fabric for the Toile.  I decided to make a pleated  edge to serve as trim.  Trim is the jewelry for window treatments, pillows or just about anything.  It is the finishing touch.   

I love to design draperies (another post), it makes my creative side happy. Working with Toile is such fun, because you can see the stories come to life and in turn, enjoy them in your home on a daily basis.  Also, from a design standpoint, nothing changes a room quicker than fabric. Because of the dramatic statement Toile makes,  it transforms a room instantly.

French design is very romantic.  The French appear to enjoy surrounding themselves with romance and a bit of whimsy.  And, this romance and whimsy is the very essence of Toile.  Don’t we all want this?  Romance and whimsy add to our “Joie de Vivre.”  Perhaps, do you have a spot for some toile?

Hope this finds you enjoying a beautiful week.  Love to you and yours !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

  

Photos:  Pinterest and M.Lambiotte

A Treasure From: “My Little Book of Special Things”

 

For many years I have kept, what I refer to as, “My Little Book of Special Things.”  I suppose you could say it may be somewhat like a journal.  This little book is a treasure, full of wonderful things and beautiful words.  In going through this book a few days ago, I came across this lovely piece, written by Dr. Kent Nerburn.  Clipped no doubt from a garden magazine, this piece touches me now, just as it did so many years ago.  So, on this lovely Sunday in June, I thought you might enjoy it too.

“The Gift of Garden – Kent Nerburn, Ph.D

I have not always loved gardens.  They seemed too controlled and futile.  It took a friend of mine, a Jesuit priest, to open my heart to their beauty.  He was a deeply learned man and had spent his life in pursuit of ultimate issues:  What is God, what is the nature of good and evil, what is the meaning of life?  But as he grew older, he had turned his attention to the creation of a Japanese garden.

Inside a small yard, day by day, on hands and knees, he would lovingly pluck a leaf, bend a twig, place a stone, or trim a branch until a new and unexpected shaft of light showered down and danced upon the earth.  He now spent more time with his garden than he did with his books.

I once asked how he had come to this.  “I still ask the large questions,” he said.  “But I no longer seek large answers.  A flower, or the space between a branch and a rock, these are enough.”

He bid me get down to where he was carefully removing a leaf from a small plant. “Look here, he said, as the leaf released and fell softly into his hand.  “This looks like nothing more than an insignificant shrub.  But in fact it is a small tree, strong and full, with a rich and private life than no one knows or sees.”

He pointed to a sliver of sunlight beaming down upon its branches.  “I opened this to the sun last year.  See how the branch is turning to the light?  This took months. But I knew that by allowing the smallest bit of light to shine upon this plant, it would slowly turn its face toward the sun.”

He turned and smiled at me.  “Are any of us so different from this tree – strong, full, with a life almost unnoticed?  And who among us does not grow and prosper when someone shines even the smallest bit of sunlight upon us?  What more do I need to know of God and faith?”

He stood and walked slowly back into his library.  “If I cannot see the face of God in a flower or a shaft of light, why should I expect to see it in ideas and books?”

I have never since ignored a garden.  They are, in all their richness, the bearers of great truths.  A well-placed rock is a statement of eternity.  A flower in bloom is creation made whole.

Life, death, earth, and sky all come together in the intimacy of a garden’s space.  At least once a day, I try to contemplate a garden.  The season does not matter.  The weightlessness of snow, the timelessness of rocks, the time-bound mutability of plants, the fragile immediacy of flowers – somewhere within is a lesson that will touch my heart and link me, if just for a moment, with the universal rhythms that are the source of all true peace.

I reach down and touch the delicate leaf of a plant.  My friend’s words rise up in my heart.  “Everything lives, everything dies, everything leans to the light.”

If I knew only this, it would be enough.

Wishing you and yours a beautiful day, full of light and love !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Photo: Pinterest

A Bit of Je Ne Sais Quoi

“It is in the smallest details that the flavor of life is savored.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

What exactly is it that gives a home or a certain place just that bit of “je ne sais quoi” – the intangible quality which makes something distinctive or attractive? Perhaps you, too, have entered someone’s home or a place and were seduced by such charm.  Charmed by a certain something you couldn’t quite explain. A charm so sweet, it cast a bit of a spell over you. This has happened to me many times, and I imagine it has to you as well. 

For one to be so  charmed, the home or place need not be extravagant  – but the details must be huge.  Truly, that “certain something” is all in the details.  While the room in the photo above has a fabulous chandelier, the remainder of the room is fairly unadorned.  However, the details make it grand.  The chairs are lovely and the beautiful floral fabric is not only on the fronts, it is on the backs as well.  There are gorgeous flowers on the table.  Attention to detail, and the detail is stunning. Don’t you want to see more of this home?  Sure, you do.  I do.

It is my opinion, such charm is also most often visible on the outside of a home. One notices that certain something,  from the moment you arrive at a property. You simply know, “This is going to be special.”   Maybe you wind through a lovely flower lined walk, or your attention is immediately caught by wonderful architectural details of the home or, just maybe, you notice a plaque on the front of the home.  And you realize, oh my goodness the house has a name.  Absolutely, you must see more.  Once inside, you are not disappointed.  

Yes, a name does give a home charm, a bit of “je ne sais quoi.”  Both of the homes my husband and I have owned have been given names.  Our current home took me quite a while to name.  I had thought about it from time-to-time, but nothing I thought of made my heart sing.  That all changed one spring day while I was working in the garden.  The name, The Garden House, simply floated into my mind. Yes, that would be the name – but with a twist.  

I know you are asking, “what is the twist?”  Our sweet home is an old French Georgian.  It was built in 1939, is loaded with charm, has wonderful architectural details, and it well deserved a name. But the name had add to the charm.   So, because of the home’s French architectural  style, the many French details on the interior, and our last name being French,  I decided the name would also be in French.  “Maison De Jardin,” translated – The Garden House.

Ah, now you finally understand the name of this blog.  The “flavor of life truly is savored in the smallest of details.”  I smile every time I see the lovely plaque on the front of our home.  It adds that certain something.  And, the day the plaque was secured in place, truly our home stood a bit taller.  To me, on that day, I will always believe our home knew she was being recognized as special.  She knew she was loved. 

So as you roam about your castle.  Be sure to let it know it is loved.   And remember, that “certain something,” really is, all in the details!  

Thanks for visiting, have a beautiful week!

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Additional Information:

 – Surveys indicate homes with names have a higher value and sell easier (our former home sold in 18 days).  Go to Danthoniadesigns.com for further reading. This web site also gives many ideas for home names.

 –The Bee Cottage Story,” by Frances Schultz – Frances Schultz is an interior designer, author of several books, former House Beautiful magazine columnist and for six years was on-air host of the award-winning cable television show “Southern Living Presents.”  Her latest book, The Bee Cottage Story, released in July of 2015, is a book devoted to the many reasons she named her cottage and how she chose the name.  A lovely and informative book.

Photo:  Home Bunch/Pinterest

And The Winner Is…

“The smallest things warm the heart.”  – Unknown

 

Today, I am happy to announce the winner of my recent Giveaway. The winner will be receiving a pair of Saphyr Pure Linen Pillowcases. These lovely pillowcases, pure French linen,  will only improve with age and love.  So, without further chatter –

The Winner Is…

Nancy 

Congratulations, Nancy !

Nancy:  Please click on CONTACT at the top of this page.  Leave your full name and mailing address at this section of the blog.  Your information will be sent to me directly by email and will not appear on the blog.  Your pillowcases will be shipped via US Mail by Friday, June 2, 2017.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this Giveaway.  There were many wonderful entries, making the decision difficult for the judge.  Be sure to follow along, there are more fun Giveaways planned for the future. 

For further information regarding Saphyr Pure Linen go to:  http://www.saphyrpurelinen.com 

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Please note:  The winner was selected by someone other than myself, and the entry names were deleted.

Photo/Pinterest

Memorial Weekend

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.  And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.” – John F. Kennedy

Memorial Day Weekend is a special time of remembrance across our land.  It is also the unofficial start to summer and a busy time for many families.  There are cookouts, family gatherings, lake time and beach time.  All translated to, little kitchen time.  So today, I am sending along two wonderful recipes.  Both are easy to prepare and transport, should you need to provide a dish for a gathering.

 

Macaroni Salad (recipe from a Mississippi cookbook)

1 pound elbow macaroni

4 celery hearts, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, grated (1 cup)

1 cup chopped sweet pickles

1/2 small onion, grated

1 (4oz.) jar chopped pimientos, drained

6 hard-boiled eggs, grated

2 cups Hellmann’s mayonnaise

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1 Tbls. cider vinegar

4 dashes Tabasco sauce

2 Tbls. chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbls. granulated garlic

4 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. salt

Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions.  Drain well and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the celery, carrots, pickles, onion, pimientos, eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, vinegar, Tabasco, parsley, granulated garlic, sugar, pepper, salt, and dry mustard.  Taste:  You may want to add  a little more salt.  Add the cooked macaroni, toss until well coated.  Refrigerate overnight for flavors to mingle.  Note:  It is important to add the macaroni to the mayo mixture while the macaroni is still warm, so the noodles absorb all the ingredients and flavors.  

Pineapple Cake

Note:  I have made this recipe sine the early 1970’s.  The recipe was distributed in the school district where I worked, by the school nurses association.  You will note there is no butter or oil in the cake.  Also, it is so easy to prepare because you mix it by hand, you use only one bowl and you don’t even have to grease the baking pan.  It doesn’t get any easier and it is delicious. It tastes very much like a Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  It is a wonderful cake to take to a gathering, just cover with foil and go.

Preheat oven to 350

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 (20 oz.) can of crushed pineapple, undrained

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

Be sure to mix this cake by hand.  In a large bowl, beat eggs, with a fork.  Stir in sugars and undrained pineapple.  Stir in flour and baking soda. Mix well.  Pour into an ungreased 13×9 inch baking dish.  Bake in preheated oven at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Frosting

3 oz. cream cheese

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups confectioners sugar

Mix cream cheese and butter with mixer.  Add vanilla, gradually add the sugar. Spread on cooled cake.  Note:  This makes a thin layer of frosting, but enough.  If you prefer a thicker frosting, simply double the frosting ingredients.

This weekend take a moment to remember, and be grateful, for the many who have sacrificed to ensure our freedom.  

  Have a beautiful weekend, and be safe in your travels.

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Photo:  Pinterest

The Allure of Beautiful Linens

“To love beautiful linen, is to love fair weather, fair weather that one can acquire and carry home.” – Louise DeVilmorin

I have always been in love with beautiful linens, specifically French linens.   And, finding them over the years while antiquing would always make me giddy as a school girl.  However, I rather like to think they found me.  I believe when we have an appreciation for specific things, they somehow work their way onto our path so we can “carry them home.”

Today, I want to share a beautiful find – Saphyr Pure Linen, French linen. 


 
Saphyr photos

The person behind Saphyr Pure Linen is Rory O’Mara. Rory was the Director of International Fashion Marketing at Cotton Incorporated  for many years. During  her years of traveling she learned Europeans are fond of, and have the luxury of dressing their beds with beautiful linen. Nothing compares to the softness of French linen.

 

Linen is made from the fibers of the flax plant, and just as a point of interest, Saphyr is the common name for the bloom on the plant.  Rory obtains the linen for Saphyr from the area it is grown and milled, specifically from the coast of Belgium, into France, and on through the Normandy region. Upon the touch of French linen you immediately know you have something quite different and special.  The more linen bedding is used and washed, the softer, stronger, and more supple it becomes. In other words, it becomes better with age.  Also, linen is mildew and moth resistant, non-static, and lint-free.  While it is more costly than cotton bedding, if properly laundered,  it will serve you well for decades.  

The French not only spoil themselves by dressing their beds in beautiful linen, they also dress them quite differently than many Americans.  Actually, they are artfully layered, paying great attention to detail.  First, a stuffed and quilted mattress pad tops the mattress, followed by two flat linen sheets (the French are not accustomed to fitted sheets).  Last, a blanket covered by another sheet.  In the winter months the blanket is replaced by a couette (comforter) which is filled with duvet.  Duvet or down, comes from the soft feathery underbellies of geese.  The couette has its own covering, often referred to as a duvet cover.  When the middle sheet is folded back, it most always reveals an embroidered monogram or family crest.  This is embroidered with great care in order for it to be easily read standing at the foot of the bed.

A French bed would not be completely dressed without un traversin – a long firm pillow (round bolster) which spans the width of the mattress.  The traversin may also be wrapped in a blanket cover or in its own, specially made case and will always support European square pillows (26″ x 26″).  Additionally, the European square pillows are often embellished or monogrammed.

 

The French are famous for their love of home and striving to acquire the best. They will save their pennies for fine workmanship, rather than to quickly squander their funds on anything not of quality. This very attention to detail is what makes Saphyr Pure Linen special.  So today, I am offering you a treat.  A GIVEWAY !  A standard/queen size set of Saphyr Pure Linen pillowcases in fresh white.   To enter:  Complete one of the following sentences.

A.   I love linen because…  

B.  I am interested in linen because…

All entries must be received by Friday, May 26, 2017.  Leave your answer to the sentence, along with your first name under the comment section of the blog.  The winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.

Thanks for visiting, enjoy your week !

Au Revoir

Sandra

Notes:  This post was not sponsored by Saphyr Linen.  Although, I greatly appreciate their assistance with photos and information regarding Saphyr.  All photos used in this post are with permission of Saphyr Pure Linen.  To order from Saphyr Pure Linen or to visit their website go to:  https://saphyrpurelinen.com/  You will be glad you did!

 

 

Recipes for the Weekend and ….

“I want to put in an order for two bottles of champagne and some morel mushrooms – that’s what I fancy for some reason…”  – Claude Monet, to his wife, in a letter from Italy.

While the morel mushrooms and champagne do sound lovely, today I am sending along an appetizer and a quiche recipe.  Both are easy to prepare and nice for the weekend.  The appetizer recipe is from,  “Monet’s Palate Cookbook.”  The appetizer and a salad make for a lovely dinner, by themselves.  And, served in the garden – quite special.

 

Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese, Thyme and Chive Spread (“Monet’s Palate Cookbook.”)

Note:  If serving this as an appetizer, I would suggest a light sparkling wine such as Prosecco.  Should you be serving this to go along with a salad for dinner – see the suggested quiche wine parings wines below.

1 1/2 cups fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

3 Tbls. half-and-half

2 Tbls. snipped fresh chives

1 Tbls. chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp. finely chopped lemon peel (I used zest of 1 lemon)

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/4 pound Norwegian smoked salmon slices, roughly chopped

1 baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Place goat cheese, half-and-half, chives, thyme, lemon peel, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, mix well.  Add salmon and fold in.   Spread onto toasted baguette slices. Note: Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Crustless Bacon and Gruyere Quiche

6 slices bacon

1/2 cup chopped green onions (green parts included)

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 large eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 crushed pepper flakes

fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 375.  Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy.  Remove from skillet and drain, reserving about 2 Tbls. of bacon grease in skillet. Crumble bacon and set aside.  Add onion and garlic to skillet.  Cook over medium heat 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Combine eggs and milk in a large bowl; whisk until well blended.  Add bacon, onion mixture, cheese, salt, and pepper flakes.  Spray 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Pour mixture into pie plate.  Bake for 30 minutes or until egg mixture is set.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.  Garnish with basil leaves. Note:  I bake this on the next to bottom rack in the oven.

Bon Appetit !

Quiche,wine suggestions:  Josh Sauvignon Blanc or Whispering Angel Rose

Special Note:  Be sure to read next week’s blog post.  You don’t want to miss, some exciting news!

Thanks for visiting, have a beautiful weekend !

Au Revoir

Sandra

Photo:  starsmasquerading.tumblr.com/pinterest, photo of quiche/pinterest

“Beauty Inspires Our Joy of Living”

“I feel very strongly we are spiritual beings in a physical body, and we should make our surroundings as beautiful and soulful as possible.” – Alexandra Stoddard

Has something ever occurred in your life, which surprised you, resulted in you taking a second look or perhaps made you think, “Was this meant to happen?” Certainly, it has happened to me – many times.  But, one such particular instance was life changing for me.  

One day, while I was browsing in my favorite book store, a book fell from the shelf just above where I was standing.  I am certain I was meant to read this particular book, “Open Your Eyes,”  along with many others written by the fabulously talented, Alexandra Stoddard. You see, Alexandra’s writing speaks to me.  And,when you come upon an author who makes you feel as though he or she is in the room, speaking only to you, well,  you have magic.  A connection. But, the day the book fell into my hands, I had no idea of  the connection Alexandra and I would actually make several years later.

My goodness, her wonderful book, “Open Your Eyes,”  did indeed, open my eyes to the importance of beauty in our daily lives.  Through this book, I learned the extraordinary impact beautiful details make in our homes.  Also, I became completely aware of the significant difference such details add to our daily rounds, and by our attention to these details we also enrich the lives of those we love. But most of all I would say, “Alexandra opened my eyes and my heart to the joy of beauty.” Something I was aware of, but did not fully understand or realize its significance.  Although, in time I would learn.

Going forward a few years:  My husband and I returned to the small town in West Virginia where we both were raised.   Once settled, I became active in a local garden club and was asked to serve as programs chairperson.   As I began to think of interesting programs for our club, I felt it was also necessary to schedule programs which related to the specific mission of a garden club.  And that is:   To educate its members and the public, by encouraging beautification of home and community.

All this being said, in a club board meeting, ideas were being tossed about for an event.  A special event, not only for our members, but one which the club would also open to the general public.  The board members wanted someone who could speak about beauty and its importance in a community.  Clearly, I do know you felt the earth shake a bit on that day several years ago. Because, that was when I spoke up and said, “How about engaging Alexandra Stoddard as a speaker?”  And, as the saying goes, “The rest is history.”

On a magnificent day in April of 2008, in Clarksburg, West Virginia, our humble garden club presented – “An Afternoon With Alexandra Stoddard.”  Truly, it was beautiful, I wish you could have been there.  Glorious flowers were everywhere, lilacs were at every entrance to the building and lovely music played softly in the background. This memorable affair was attended by over 250 people and drew attendees from all over West Virginia, neighboring Pennsylvania and Virginia.  And, all these wonderful people came to hear Alexandra’s talk , “Beauty Inspires Our Joy of Living.”

  

Was it a coincidence that the entire weekend was perfectly beautiful?  I think not. You see, God sent an angel to deliver a message and she did.  As I looked around the auditorium, I did not see too many dry eyes as everyone sat attentively, listening to Alexandra speak. Because she is so real, her sincerity and knowledge comes streaming through, right to your heart.  She touches you in a way that is unforgettable.  

Alexandra is all about beauty in our lives, our homes, the way we live, how we treat others – she radiates beauty!  Not only does she completely understand the joy of beauty, she is magnificent at teaching it as well.  She really is a gifted soul and God showered his blessing on me, by placing Alexandra in my path.

The weekend spent with Alexandra and her husband, Peter, was a magical time for myself and my husband.  Following her talk, the four of us enjoyed a long, marvelous dinner together.  It was wonderful hearing about their lives and the people, places and things they hold dear.  Such a grand time. I gained much more than I am capable of putting into words.

I have remained in contact with Alexandra. And, my heart beats a little faster when I see that French blue envelope in our mail.  I also keep up with her through her monthly newsletter on her website, www.alexandrastoddard.com.  She lives in her cherished village of Stonnington Village, Connecticut, where she remains ever so busy writing her next book. Soon, I hope we know a few details.  

Sadly, Alexandra lost her beloved Peter on September 25, 2014.   He was 92.  But through their deep and great love for each other, she continues to “Love and Live Happy.”  She once said, “Let there be happiness in my soul, and let me share it with the world.”  She has and she continues to share happiness every day.  

So, if you have ever wondered why I stand on my little box and preach about beauty and the ripple effect it can have in our world, now you know.  I had, and continue to have, a magnificent teacher.  A teacher who is endless inspiration.  So, from Alexandra, to me, to you, and so on and so forth – beauty can and will change the world.   It is our responsibility to make it happen.  So, as my mother would say, “We must get to it.” 

PS:  Do yourself a favor and read anything by Alexandra Stoddard – you will be happy you did.  (A very short bio of Alexandra Stoddard is listed below)

Priceless Photo: Alexandra at the book signing, feeding her beloved Peter a cookie. I wish you could have seen them together  – pure LOVE.

Thanks for visiting – Have a Beautiful Week!

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Photos: Book cover and Alexandra in her garden, Pinterest

All other photos by, Michael S. Lambiotte

Short Bio of Alexandra Stoddard

Alexandra Stoddard is a philosopher of contemporary living, an interior designer and author of over 25 books. Alexandra has a passion for gardens, flowers and is an inspiring teacher of how beauty adds to our joy for living.  Alexandra believes we each have a responsibility to do all that we can to enrich our communities.  Her unique insights reveal the small but significant things we can do to change our attitude, heart, and environment.

Alexandra was the first recipient of a full scholarship at the New York School of Interior Design, and was the first female member of the Board of Directors of  Fieldcrest Cannon, Inc.  She has decorated the interiors of mansions, embassies and cottages throughout the United States and Europe.  She was the owner of Alexandra Stoddard, Incorporated, a Manhattan, New York based interior design firm.

She is the mother of two grown daughters and was married to Peter Megargee Brown, until his death in 2014.