Sunday, February 26, 2023

Weekend Musings: Why Save the Good Stuff For Later

Why save the good stuff for later?

It’s a question that’s been asked a lot in recent years. Our culture is very much aware of celebrating in the here and now, not being willing to save anything for another day. I get it, life is short and we never know what tomorrow will bring. We’ve all probably heard those sad tales of people who saved their good stuff and when loved ones came to sort their belongings, they found it stashed in closets, never worn, never used, never enjoyed, maybe still wrapped in the gift bags they came in, all tucked away for later. We feel the sadness in it. We think such a waste—a person could have been enjoying these things but now, it’s too late.

We declare that we don’t want to end up living that way.

I grew up in a time when we saved things for ‘special’. It was the way in our corner of the world. Maybe in yours too. We had clothes set aside for special: church on Sundays, weddings, holidays, graduations, concerts, visiting our aunties and uncles over Sunday Dinner. And the pretty glassware and good dishes were neatly stacked in the china cabinet, coming out only, along with the lacy tablecloths and certain recipes, when something significant was about to happen. Until those special times came along, we lived most of our lives in the 'every day' mode—wearing our everyday clothes and using the everyday dishes. Even the everyday recipes. Which were also chosen because we liked them, but the everyday stuff was more serviceable, durable. There was a definite distinction between the two.

But then there came a time when I felt a shift in our culture. I was then a young woman poring over women's magazines for tips on living a beautiful and productive life. Home/lifestyle writers began talking about not saving up our special things for just a few times a year, but to bring out the good stuff to celebrate the everyday. I remember Alexandra Stoddard in the 1980s writing about how to live our lives more beautifully every day, making our homes lovely and not just for special occasions. Mary Engelbreit’s lovely comment on Goodreads also speaks to this: "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion."

I loved the idea and started bringing out the china teacups to use more regularly. I bought flowers and arranged them in pretty vases, not just on birthdays, but to lift an ordinary day into something a little out of the ordinary.

While there have been folks in history who were extra zealous at keeping the good stuff for later, who ended up never using it, there have also been many people who've found ways to celebrate their everyday life. And there are many of us who know, from chocolate-y experiences, that indulging in a special treat set on a pretty plate can help us get through a rough patch. Which reminds me of an anecdote I read about author Leo Buscaglia who spoke of the day his father came home after losing his business. Leo was shocked to find, instead of a glum sadness in the air, his mom had set out the good dishes and had prepared a wonderful meal. She said this was the time when they needed to do something special.

Now years later, I’ve started musing about it all over again, especially Mary’s quote from a couple of paragraphs earlier. Just as there are two sides to a coin, I came to see there are two sides to this beautiful idea. I agree 100 percent that being alive on this planet, and playing a part in our human history, is truly a wondrous thing. So yes, we ought to celebrate being alive every day. Being alert to the beauty, using the good stuff, and not letting it molder in the cupboard.

But then I ask the question: If we use the 'good china' every day—and I use that term in a general sense—how then do we mark those events and occasions that are truly extraordinary? If we make everything special, eventually nothing remains special. The lines get blurred between the ordinary everyday and the extra special times. What then shall we do when we want to celebrate and mark these truly special events and occasions?

I really do think we should save some things for special. There should be a happy mix of celebrating every day and saving something for the special occasions: the dress, the good dishes, the champagne.  Sometimes we come home from a hard day and drinking tea from the best china cup is what saves our sanity. But if we do that every day, the treat of it wears off. I know that from experience. Too much of a good thing turns out to be not so good.

I have come to appreciate what Canadian designer Candice Olson once said, as seen on Goodreads:

“I simply adore getting dressed up for a special occasion.
I feel incredible stepping out in luxurious fabrics and a bit of bling.
That’s also how I feel about special-occasion dining rooms. Because
these aren’t everyday spaces, they contain all sorts of drama
for that once-in-a-while ‘wow’ event.”

Oh yes, I know that feeling of coming into a room that is dressed up for a party. I love creating a room like that...with the special things set out signaling something out of the ordinary is about to begin. And when we catch a whiff of delicious smells of recipes used only for those once-in-a-while occasions, then we know we are in for a 'wow' event. Our spirits are lifted. Our hearts thrill with anticipation.

Life is short. Fleeting. So yes, celebrate by using and doing nice things every day. With family, friends, and occasionally the good dishes. And then, save a few things for the truly special moments in life. It’s what adds the sparkle to our eyes and hearts.

Wishing you, my beautiful friends, a wonderful day!

Photo credit:
(Top) Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

Friday, February 17, 2023

Five on Friday: Shopping Spree Finds

"One of the secrets of a happy life
is continuous small treats."

I don't go out for days, don't buy anything for what seems like ages, and then one day, something inside says, I need to go out today. I need to see something new, chitchat with people who are out and about, look for something that surprises my creative soul, teases my senses, and makes me feel part of the human race. I don't suppose you ever feel that urge? Earlier in the week, I had some Valentine's Day shopping to do, and so for Five on Friday today, I delight in sharing a few shopping spree finds with you.

~  ~ ~

One - Small Potted Plant

A pretty potted plant to fill an empty spot on the kitchen window sill. This plant will never require water, although it will need dusting on occasion. I love the tiny purple flowers.

~ ~ ~

Two - 'Rose Lilac' Hand Soap

Can't wait for my old bottle to be done so I can start this new liquid hand soap that comes all the way from France. As you can imagine, it smells wonderful.

~ ~ ~

Three - Ceramic Wall Container 
I was drawn to this cone shaped ceramic piece. I loved the shape and the bright floral design painted on it. Made in Spain, the label was marked 'for the garden'. Our garden is still several feet under snow, and anyways, I have no intention of putting it out in the elements; I've got just the spot for it in my study. The poppies I've had for years; I still love their lush, blowsy look. When I tucked them into this beautiful holder—just to see the effect—I felt a jolt of joy. It makes me feel happy to see it when I come in here.

~ ~ ~

Four - Only A Few Books

I stopped at the book/stationery store to look for a Valentine's card for my 'sweet baboo'. It didn't take me long to scoop these book treats after a quick browse. Over the last couple of years, I've enjoyed reading off and on Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti police novels. Set in Venice, these mysteries have a delightful literary flavour as Brunetti and his wife, Paolo, discuss the books they're reading and eat yummy Italian meals—so deliciously described as to make the reader drool—all while he's puzzling out his investigations.
Rilke's Book of Hours is Rainer Maria Rilke's book of love poems to God, written when he was a young man. I've enjoyed Rilke's more well known book Letters to a Young Poet, so I look forward to dipping into this particular work. I haven't read Julie Sutherland's Bright Poems for Dark Days, but the quick browse promises an anthology of poetry 'to lift the spirits'—it's paired with Carolyn Gavin's winsome illustrations, thus making it all the more lovely to read.

 ~ ~ ~

Five - New Notebook 

Love this sweet notebook with its 'Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' cover. Edith Holden's wonderful illustrations never grow old. Haha—when I went to add it to my stash of waiting-to-be-used new notebooks, I found I'd already bought this notebook sometime ago. I didn't even remember. But, one can never have too many notebooks, can they? And of course, one can always share it with a kindred lover of pretty notebooks. 

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Bonus - A Valentine's Watercolour

As I mentioned, it was the day before Valentine's Day, and I needed to do a little shopping for my Valentine. I thought, what about something for his office? I was pleased to find this small unframed watercolour by Canadian artist Gregg Johnson. I love the colours and the composition, and I had hoped he would as well, which he did—we share similar tastes in art.

I came home happy with my purchases. What is it about buying something new for oneself or someone else or for one's house that fills the heart up with happy?

"The smallest of things can make you feel
like something is special about today."
SUSAN BRANCH, Distilled Genius

  Wishing you a beautiful day,

Photo credits: 
Top Image by Aleksey Kutsar from Pixabay
All other images in this post are mine

Saturday, February 11, 2023

About the Question, 'What's new with you?'

"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
(as seen online)

To be honest, I really dislike the question, 'So, what's new with you?' For whatever reason, that question blocks my creative energy — and stymies me from responding with anything remotely intelligent or interesting. While my brain is wildly looking for something sparkling to say in response, the words that often come out are, 'Not much.' Which sounds a bit boring. Maybe it is true on one level, because my life is quiet and uneventful most days. Some folks would probably say that's boring.

Yet, in my simple life, as each day arrives, there are many ordinary, everyday things that I look forward to and think about. The ponderable lines I read in a book earlier in the day. The winter sunshine glinting off dried rust-hued leaves on the tree I see out my study window. The scent of coffee brewing as it wafts up the stairs on a cool morning. But how does one put into ordinary words such gentle thoughts to that typical question? It's not really conversation fodder, at least not as an intro. 

I have tried over the years not to get piqued about it, but I try to prepare my mind instead with more interesting possibilities to the question. Of course, in casual chatter, perhaps the best response still is to reply with 'Not much' and just leave at that. The other party is often more than willing to fill in the blank air when my own introvert answer is not forthcoming.

Interesting then to come across a poem by British poet Wendy Cope titled Being Boring that feels apropos. It appears she finds it difficult as well to answer the query, 'What's new?' The poem comes from the author's 2001 poetry collection If I Don't Know. The complete poem is available HERE, but I've included the first few lines to get you started:

Being Boring

'May you live in interesting times.' Chinese curse

If you ask me 'What's new?', I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it's better today.
I'm content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring. . . .

for the rest of the poem, click HERE

One thing I could tell you quite happily if you asked me that question today, we're heading out for lunch shortly to our local Italian Centre where their lattes are always an enjoyable experience. I take pleasure sitting in the busy cafĂ© where spoons clatter into saucers and people chatter and faces look happy to be together. The ambiance is warming and cozy. 

On that note, I shall wish you a beautiful weekend. The morning here has dawned sunny and mild tempered - we'll be enjoying a lovely spring like Saturday. Take care. Stay safe.

Heart hugs,

(Top) Photo credit: Image from Pixabay

Friday, February 03, 2023

Five on Friday: Musings on a February Morning

One - Outside my window

"A sharp, sugaring frost"
ROGER DEAKIN, Winter Anthology with Melissa Harrison

Our January was mild for the most part, and we enjoyed many days of this sharp, sugaring frost, aka as rime frost. I didn't realize it's different than hoar frost—rime frost isn't something we often see in our dry northerly climes. We enjoyed the winter wonderland it created for many days. The days are noticeably lengthening, and I feel a lift in my spirits to see these earliest hints of seasonal shift. Weather forecasters told us to brace ourselves for some nastier weather in February and, yes, the last few days were feisty, with cold temperatures, snow-rain, and roaring winds. But this morning, we woke to a calm, blue-skied, sunny day—the winds had blown away the cold and brought warmer weather for the weekend. Happy face here!

~ ~ ~

Two - A new cube shelf

In December I said I'd show you pics of Christmas decorating, my new Christmas pencil tree, the new IKEA shelf in my study. I'm sorry it didn't happen. At this stage, we'll give the Christmas things a miss, but above, finally, are a few poses of the new cube shelf in my study. I'm so pleased - it was an early Christmas present from Santa. It's set against the wall behind me when I'm sitting at my computer (a great backdrop if I ever want to zoom-video where I write. I always love to look at what people have on those backdrop shelves in videos, don't you? It didn't take long to fill; the books you see here are mostly new purchases made with Christmas money. I'm having great fun reading them one by one. Although I haven't got everything set up as I might want, it's a start. 

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Three - Surprise email

Out of the blue, back in November I received an email from the author of the lovely book Foxgloves and Hedgehog Days, Secrets in a Country Garden by Daniel Blajan. You may recall, it was a book I highlighted during my Pressing My Books Into Service series during Covid lockdowns in 2020.

Surprised was I when he reached out to me, all the way from the Netherlands, to say he'd happened upon my post about his book during a google search and wondered if I'd be interested in an autograph. Oh my goodness, would I like an autograph, oh yes please! We enjoyed a couple of lovely email exchanges. And then one day before Christmas, a lovely note in a seasonal greeting card arrived in the post with his autograph. Daniel mentioned the prickly fellow on the card was one of the hedgehogs he wrote about in his book back in 1997.

His autographed note is now safely tucked inside the book. And my secret hope is that one day, when I'm no longer here, and perhaps many years hence, there will be someone who discovers the book with enclosure on a dusty bookshelf somewhere. And she will be as delighted to find such a treasure.

I was so pleased for this little flurry of excitement that came out of the blue and made my day.

~ ~ ~

Four - Something from Jan 2020

I came across something I jotted in January 2020 about housekeeping:
I undertook a major cleaning of every square inch of my house. It took me weeks to go through every nook and cranny, but when I was done, there wasn't anything in my house that I didn't love or need. And more importantly—for smooth household running—everything had a home and like items were stored with like. It stayed tidy and in order for a long time, because for the most part I'm good at putting things back. But time eventually unraveled the pristine orderliness and things needed taking in hand again. . . .

(In my notes, I say): So, if I do a thorough job this January (2020), and if all goes well, and if I work at putting things back when I'm finished using them, I shouldn't need to do this major deep cleaning again until, say, January 2023. Wish me luck?"
Well now here it is 2023. And you know what, that major deep clean held its own for a long time. I'm much better disciplined than I used to be at tossing, sorting, giving away, and putting things back. So this January, yes, I spent several days putting away Christmas, cleaning, sorting, and packing things for the thrift store. But it was a much simpler job than it had been several years ago. I hope to carry on and be able to say that in future Januaries. 

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Five - A few lines from Twitter

I found these lines back in 2020. It's from author, podcaster, and joie de vivre dispenser Joy Clarkson who wrote them on Twitter one day. Her words sparked courage and joy that day—they did the same as I reread them this week.
"The world has always been on the cusp of disaster, the globe shall eventually be consumed by the sun, and all men do die in their time. Don't let this knowledge paralyze you. Live a valiant life, love deeply, create beauty, seek the things that outlast death. Don't be afraid.

This is what I remind myself of when the news makes me anxious. We're all going to die eventually. You weren't promised an easy life. You can't control the times you live in, but you can live well in your complicated times. And I have a sneaking suspicion love outlasts death.

And then I eat fish and chips because life is short and little pleasures must not be eschewed."
JOY CLARKSON, Twitter, 2020

 ~ ~ ~

Bonus - My commonplace book

You may recall that last January I started a pint-size five-year diary, in which I planned to write short, pithy quotes that I came across each day. As I mentioned then, we are often bombarded with information coming from every direction. And as the old saying goes, it tends to go in one ear and out the other—with hardly a tracery of its message left on our minds.

So, this venture continues and I've now started Year 2. My aim remains: to watch for the special 'word' and write down at least one notable thing each day. Sometimes it's a quote, a line of poetry, a phrase from a song, a comment seen on social media, a sacred passage. It could be a comment that expands my mind, thrills my soul, makes me LOL, cheers me up, reminds me to take care of myself. For the most part I have been faithful to this little ritual. Here are my January 1st entries:

Jan 1, 2022
"Every good poem fulfills a longing
and puts life back together."
attributed to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet

Jan 1, 2023
"i don't have to explain why i need a break,
not even to myself.
I do not have to earn rest."
Yasmine Cheyenne, as seen on social media

Thank you for stopping by. Wishing you a beautiful day.
Heart hugs,

(Top) Photo by Dr. Georg Wietschorke from Pixabay
All other photos are mine