Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coffee tables... a window to the soul?

Coffee tables intrigue me. 
Maybe it's because I grew up in a house without one. Maybe it's because they can either be the most lovely piece of furniture or the most hideous. Maybe it's because you can learn a lot about a person from their coffee table.
Think about it. Coffee tables show a lot about someone's personality and their approach to homekeeping. If it's a mess, the rest of the house probably is, too. If it's full of things that seem unique or different, you're probably getting a little snapshot into that person's soul. If the table is bare, it's likely that they either a) have small kids or cats, b) aren't sure what to put out there for display, or c) just really like clear surfaces - all three of which tell you something about the person.
My coffee tables always seem to have that sort of lived-in look - you'll never find a bare coffee table in my house. In fact, my favorite coffee table (shown in the first few photos) always tended to overflow with books, flowers, dishes - all carefully arranged to look not carefully arranged, of course. :) A friend told me once they always loved checking out what was on my coffee table when they came to visit, as it was always changing. Over time, I also discovered my coffee table was a pretty good barometer of my stress level - the more cluttered my brain, the more cluttered my table seemed to get.
Because that round coffee table is on the large side, it doesn't fit in my current living room. I decided to replace it with an old chest I found in a junk store for next to nothing - yes, that was a very good day. :) Because the chest is so much smaller, as you can see below, it makes me keep my coffee table display very simple - usually just books and magazines and flowers. Oddly enough, it also seems to suit my state of mind lately - a desire to pare down.
So, now you've seen my coffee tables. What does yours say about you?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday brightener... Daisy, daisy

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true... I'm half crazy all for the love of you..."

Image from Aziez Ahmed via flickr

Images from audreyjm529 via flickr

OK, so I realize that song (Bicycle Built for Two) is about a woman, not the flower, but it keeps running through my head so I thought I'd share. :)  Someone (possibly my mom) used to sing that when I was a kid and for some reason it has reared its head again. (It could be worse - one time I caught a repeat of Green Acres and for the next couple of weeks couldn't stop singing that wretched theme song).
Anyway, in case you missed my post last week, Tuesdays are just not my favorite days. So, in order to give myself something to look forward to - and hopefully you as well - I'll be posting little "brighteners" each Tuesday - fun, dreamy, beautiful photos that just strike my fancy. This week, I was in the mood for daisies - partly because of that song that has taken up residence in my brain and partly because I am always in the mood for daisies. They are so beautiful and happy - absolutely my favorite flower.  
Enjoy and happy Tuesday.  :)

Image from Tony the Misfit via flickr

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vintage beauty...

Images above and below from Playingwithbrushes via flickr
The photo below is an autograph book from 1888.

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved old things. A fun afternoon for me was (and is) digging around in the attic to see what kind of treasures have been left by generations past. Since the house I grew up in has been in the family for generations now, and dates back to the late 1700s, there were some pretty good things to be found, as no one ever completely cleaned out the attic as the house passed from person to person in the family. On a particularly good day I discovered an old clothes hamper that turned out to be full of fabulous old dishes wrapped in newspaper - it had been up there for years, forgotten.
My love for old things - or "vintage" as a lot of it is called now - has a lot to do with the history of a piece - be it clothes, jewelry, dishes, furniture, whatever. I believe - and this is perhaps solely in my imagination - that these things possess a unique character I can feel. Why else would a person buy cold cream jars from the 1940s? :)  There's a beauty associated with possessions from the past that enchants me. Hopefully, some of these images will enchant you, too.  :)

Images above and below from Sherry's Rose Cottage via flickr

Everything in the above photo may not be officially "old" but it has that vintage feel that I absolutely love. And the pins at the top look just like some of the ones I have from my grandma's jewelry collection.

Thanks for a great party!

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who stopped by to celebrate Christmas in July. I had such an enjoyable time visiting all the other blogs. And a special thanks to the kindred spirits who decided to be a follower, too. I can't wait to get to know all of you a little better.
Thanks again!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Come on in... it's Christmas in July!

From abbybatchelder via flickr

From Randy Son of Robert via flickr

From arquera via flickr

Greetings, all! Welcome to the Christmas in July party hosted by the fun and funky Just Add Glitter and Stir. To see a full list of participating blogs, go here.
Here at Beauty Does Matter, we'll be celebrating with some lovely photos and recipes to put you in the holiday spirit. We've got our wreath on the door, some holly, a little music playing (per special request from Jenny), Christmas ornaments, a cute gift idea and an even cuter Santa. Not to mention those recipes...
I decided to share one of my favorite cookies to make at Christmas. I wasn't much good in the kitchen growing up except around the holidays. I thoroughly enjoyed baking cookies - probably because I have a terrible sweet tooth. :)  My brothers and sister and I used to make these cookies every year. They're M&M cookies, so they're pretty much good for any time of the year, depending on what color M&M's you use. We always made them at Christmas, though, and we liked them so much we always made a double batch. As a side note, one of the things I loved about this recipe as a kid was that it was so "old" it had a review of The Monkees on the back. Mom had torn it out of a magazine or something years before.

M&M Cookies
(or as the recipe says "The Most Happy Cookies!")

1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plain M&M's 

Blend shortening and sugars. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Sift remaining dry ingredients together; add to the sugar and egg mixture. Mix well. Stir in M&M's. (You may reserve some for decorating if you wish, but we always just threw them all in there and sometimes more besides.) Drop from teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. (Note: After baking, some of the candies may be slightly cracked.) 
Makes 5 to 6 dozen cookies, depending on size.

I also thought I'd share a recipe for sugared pecans. My grandma makes these and sends me a container each year. I keep them tucked away and nibble on them for months. They are so yummy - the perfect combination of sweet and salty. And they are a great holiday treat to bring along to a party, as I have done a couple of times.

Sugared Pecans

2 egg whites
2 Tbsp water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pound plain pecan halves

Beat egg whites and water with wire wisk until light and frothy. Mix in sugar, salt & cinnamon and stir until well mixed. Add pecans and stir until pecans are well coated. Place on a tray that has been sprayed with Pam. Bake at 250 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes and stir occasionally. Cool and store in an airtight container.

If you're not into food gifts, perhaps you'll enjoy some fabulous little soaps like these:

From soapylovedeb via flickr

And, of course, no Christmas party would be complete without a Santa... 

Can't you just hear her saying - why me?  :)  
Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoyed a little bit of Christmas in July! 

Friday, July 24, 2009

One day until Christmas in July...

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow for a bit of Christmas in July. It's my first blog party and I'm very excited. Click on the button on the right for more info. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Open the door to beauty...

Image from Hamed Masoumi via flickr

There is beauty to be found in nearly everything - people, homes, food, clothes, pets, books, etc. Seeking it out and then embracing that beauty only makes your life better. Happier. What on earth does a new coat of paint or buying a pretty scarf have to do with happiness? Plenty.
I'm not saying that choosing to embrace beauty in your little corner of the world is going to solve everything - in your life or anyone else's. But if you doubt that a lack of beauty makes a big difference in life, I encourage you to take a ride through a blighted neighborhood down on its luck - the hopelessness is palpable. Or watch one of the endless makeover TV shows for homes and people. It's not a coincidence that everyone feels a thousand times better after the makeover.
Quite honestly, in our current economy, we could all use more bright spots in our day - and that could start with something as simple as seeking out beauty. Need ideas? Try cooking a lovely dinner and then setting the table with the good dishes for no reason other than to enjoy using them and bask in their beauty. Spend $10 and bring home a lovely bunch of flowers from the grocery store - or better yet, cut flowers and greenery from your yard. Dress like you matter - wear that funky old jewelry or change your purse to go with your outfit. Dig around the house and see what you can do to change things around to be more pleasing to the eye - try furniture in different rooms, move some art, throw the pillow covers in the wash. If you're going shopping anyway, take a moment to check out how some of the things you buy look - if you find dishwashing soap in a cute container that you don't have to hide under the sink (I recommend Method), buy it instead. With time, all these little things build on each other until you are basically surrounded by beauty at every turn. Who wouldn't enjoy that?
So, your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to find one way to embrace a little more beauty in the next few days and report back. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.  :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday brightener... In the Pink

Image from audinou via flickr

I hate Mondays as much as the next person, but I think Tuesdays are the worst. On Monday, I try not to mind so much having to go back to work (though that doesn't stop me from whining) because I just had two days off. Tuesdays are no-man's land, though. I always get out of bed thinking, ugh, I have to go to work again today... and the weekend seems so far away. (In fact, the only redeeming thing I've discovered about Tuesdays is NCIS, which I got hooked on last year.) By Wednesday I'm back in the groove and then Thursday comes along, and well, it's almost Friday so that's OK, and then Friday is here, and that's almost always a good day.
So, in order to give myself something to look forward to on Tuesdays - and hopefully you as well - I'll be posting little "brighteners" - fun, dreamy, beautiful photos that just strike my fancy. For the first week, I went with "pink" as my theme, since it's my favorite color. Hope you enjoy and remember to embrace beauty today.

Images from Noel Zia Lee via flickr

Images directly above and below  from Muffet via flickr

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cupcake creations

Above images from clevercupcakes via flickr

I have been on a cupcake bent lately. If you're wondering what cupcakes have to do with beauty, look at those top two pictures again. How delightful are those creations? Even if you insist on sticking to your diet, how can you not smile at the beauty there? 
I made cupcakes last weekend - vanilla, with buttercream frosting for both human and canine consumption - and while they didn't look anywhere near as pretty as the ones above, they were delicious and they did bring a smile to quite a few faces. And that's a beautiful thing in my book.
If you're interested, Martha has a great new cookbook out called (appropriately enough for this post) "Cupcakes." I blow hot and cold on Martha, but this is a definite win for her. It has lots of recipes a regular person can actually make, along with a few more daring ones, and there's plenty of ideas/instructions/templates on how to make gorgeous creations in the realm of what's shown above. Next on my list are the Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes and the Red Velvet Cupcakes.  And maybe I'll even try my hand at those icing creations... after all, anything in the name of bringing more beauty into the world, right?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Your dose of beauty for the day...

Wouldn't you love to have hair that beautiful, all the time? Some days I think it would almost be worth trading in my thumbs.  :)  This is Emily, by the way. And yes, we're pretty sure she does know how beautiful she is. 
Have a lovely weekend, all!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Storage and beauty all in one...

I am one of those people who needs storage. Lots of it. 
Now, I'd love to be blessed with a home full of spacious closets with cubbyholes for everything, but since I have a penchant for old houses, well, that isn't happening. One of the ways I've discovered to organize and hide all my "stuff" is by using beautiful boxes. You can find pretty storage boxes in lots of places - flea markets, vintage stores, TJ Maxx, Hallmark, Ross, etc. - and in all different shapes and sizes. I have used them for keeping letters and other papers, organizing my craft supplies, storing out-of-season purses, wallets and clothes, and have even stacked up several to use as an end-table in the living room. They are a great, easy and affordable way to organize your closets and office - and the boxes are so pretty, you want to display them. 
I have a mixture of old and new boxes, in all shapes and sizes. My friends have even picked up some for me in vintage stores - they usually cost a song. My favorite is the pink box shown directly above - I keep love letters in that one.   :)  I also keep pretty boxes I get from retailers like Vera Bradley. It's just so much more pleasant to organize your stuff when you have such a cute way to do it. 
Practical, useful AND pretty - who could ask for more? (Well, that big closet would still be nice...)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fabric as art

I fell in love with this fabric on a shopping trip with a friend. As soon as I saw it, I thought it was so beautiful it should be hung on the wall, almost like a tapestry. So I bought a few yards and stretched it over a large canvas I bought at an art supply store, stapling around the edges. It hangs in my breakfast nook and goes perfectly with the red table and benches I made (with a little help from some friends). I had a little fabric left over, so I used it to make a cushion for one of the benches.
I thought I'd share this because it was such an easy way to create a unique piece of art. Something to keep in mind next time you're perusing fabric...

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's beautiful, but what do I do with it?

I bought this urn/vase-type thing at TJ Maxx. The colors and flowers and birds caught my eye and I just kept going back to it, so finally I took it home. Six months later, I still can't figure out what to do with it. It's much too big to be an actual vase, but the top isn't wide enough for it to really be an urn. Plus, it's so decorative on its own, I think adding flowers or a plant would be a bit much. It's also on the larger side, so it doesn't fit on the shelves with my other dishes for display there.
In short, I have no idea what to do with this piece. But I still love it, so I'm not parting with it. It may be that it just doesn't go in my current house and it needs to wait its turn. Come to think of it, it would probably look fabulous on a sideboard in my dining room at the house I own on the other side of the country. In fact, looking at it again, I just realized the green is in the same family of green that my dining room there is painted. Maybe I bought it for that room and I just didn't know it. Ideas/thoughts/suggestions anyone?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cheery cherries...

This plate is perfect for summer, isn't it? So cheery and bright - it's just begging to be laden down with something delicious. I love switching out some of the dishes I have on display according to the seasons (and my mood). I'm like a little girl playing with her Barbie dolls when I'm playing with my dishes and puttering around the house. This plate is currently on display in my kitchen after being tucked away over the winter. It's so cute, it just makes me smile to see it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Even coasters can be pretty...

Aren't these adorable? My best friends found them for me in a little seaside shop. I use them as both coasters and mini plates for snacks, tea time, etc. They are delightful. Proof that even something as mundane as coasters can be beautiful... and brighten your day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Knitting the day away... (I wish)

It seems like an odd choice for a summer project, I realize, but I've been working on knitting a new scarf the last couple weeks. I found this beautiful pink and cream variegated yarn and thought it would make a fabulous addition to my wardrobe. It's coming along nicely, and using the loom the project simply flies, especially considering I only have a little bit of time to give to it each day. (In case you're wondering since you can see I'm using a round loom, you just sew the ends together at the bottom after you've reached the length you want, and add some fringe if desired. The scarf is automatically two-ply because of the round loom, so it is extra soft and fluffy.)
I made a scarf last year on a slightly larger round loom – they're called "Knifty Knitters," I believe, and I found mine at Michael's. Anyway, the scarf I made last year turned out pretty good, especially considering it's the first thing I ever knitted in my life. I did it in an autumn blend (see below) and it looks great at that time of year. It's very soft and warm and LARGE, since I used nearly two skeins. I decided my next scarf would be smaller, so I chose a smaller loom this time and am only using one skein. I'll post a photo when I'm done; it should be pretty cute.
Once I'm done with this, I'm going to take a knitting class and learn how to knit the old-fashioned way like my Grandma always has. I'd love to graduate to making a shawl, and then a blanket. Another way to bring more beauty and warmth into the world, if you will.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Flowers for your table...

Fresh flowers always bring a bit of beauty to any table. I love cutting the roses from bushes here at the house, even when they're not perfect. There's something in the imperfection that I find lovely. Other times, I treat myself to a bundle of whatever strikes my fancy, like below. Don't you think they really add beauty to the tablescape? 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tie me to these apron strings...

I came across this apron on one of my hunts for everything and nothing in Ross. I didn't have an apron and I figured, hey, aprons should be beautiful, too, so I snatched it up. (It was less than $10, which also helped). But because it is so pretty, I'd rather see it than have it tucked in a drawer. I decided to break up the wood of our massive pantry doors in the kitchen and hang it there. Not only does it cheer the space, but it makes it easy to grab, too. Beauty and function all in one - I love it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The beauty of cookbooks

I am in love with cookbooks.
It's a fairly new love, only acquired in the last year or so. And I'm sure the admission would shock my family (who live on the other coast and haven't seen my kitchen for awhile), since growing up I was the one who had no interest in really learning to cook. Which now I realize is a shame, because I'm sure I missed out on learning lots of good stuff, as there are a number of really good cooks in the family. I picked up enough to be able to feed myself, and I did actually learn how to bake cookies, etc., as I've always had a sweet tooth. But I missed out on a lot, mostly because in my naivete I thought all that stuff was silly - women could do so much more than stay at home, and I was going to have a career. 
Lately, though, I've come to see how much beauty there is to be found in the kitchen - in the ability to cook a lovely meal and create delicious desserts and treats to nourish both the body and soul of yourself and family. How I wish I had more respect at the time for the knowledge I had available to me. Since I missed my chance, I started perusing cookbooks in bookstores. I love books in general, so it was to my delight to discover how gorgeous cookbooks are these days. That led to me joining a cookbook book club, and now I spend time trying to figure out how I can fit more cookbooks into my kitchen (I can't). But I doubt that will stop me, since it never has before. And if anyone has any cookbooks to recommend...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Fourth

Wishing everyone a beautiful and safe holiday weekend. Eat well, enjoy the company of friends and family, go to the beach if you can, see some fireworks and remember to thank a soldier. It's great to be an American.  :)