In transition mode

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I see many bloggers already showcasing beautiful Christmas decor, inspirational DIY crafts, and yummy, festive recipes. And why not? After all, Christmas is coming!

But how do they all do it?

I have to admit, yesterday it made my shoulders sag a little. I was feeling totally wiped out from the Thanksgiving festivities, on the couch, relaxing in the glow of food and family, doing a little knitting and movie watching.

We've had three college guys with us since Tuesday (my son and two of his friends), in addition to extra family on Thanksgiving Day, so I've been cooking most of the time. So thankful I thought ahead and put lasagne, a breakfast casserole, muffins, and pumpkin bread in the freezer to supplement what I've been making this week. Three 21-year-old men can eat a lot of food.

My son's laundry, folded and ready to go back to school (Why is there always an odd sock?) 

The autumn dish towels and potholders, with their yellows and oranges and browns, have been washed and put away. The table linens are cleaned and folded or hung up.

I pulled out my candles for Advent, but haven't found the wreath yet. 

My husband set up both trees this afternoon.

And that's about as far as we've gotten.

Tomorrow, when everyone's back to work and school, I will have a quiet morning on the couch, praying and reading (aka still recuperating), and then I'll be ready to be up and doing. 

Decorating the trees, washing the sheets, getting out the Christmas china. I'll put on some Christmas music and enjoy the peacefulness I hope to cultivate this Advent season.

In the meantime, right now I'll just enjoy what everyone else is posting, and sip a hot cup of tea.

This teacup seems apt for a transition time. Berries and vines and snowflakes. A little odd, don't you think? Fall or winter?

 Maybe as odd as yellow roses left over from the Thanksgiving table next to purple and pink Advent candles. But, really, you can't argue with a Shelley.

I'm also looking forward to setting up a couple puzzle stations for people to enjoy this month. I found these two beautiful 1000-piece puzzles on Amazon.

How are you doing? Are you all decorated yet? Or still feeling the effects of a busy, happy Thanksgiving?

(I'll be linking with Tea Time Tuesday.)

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

from Mrs. Sharp's Traditions by Sarah Ban Breathnach

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Giveaway winner!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thank you to everyone who sent such kind wishes on my one-year blogging anniversary.

The winner of the giveaway is Beth from Beyond the Garden Gate.  Congratulations, Beth! I will be in touch to get your address.

I am busy today cooking and cleaning, as I'm sure many of you in the States are, getting ready for Thanksgiving.

I'll catch up with you on Black Friday, when I'll be staying home in front of a cozy fire and enjoying leftovers! No crazy shopping for me. I'm too easily overwhelmed.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Embroidered by my 12-year-old self

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I have to say when I look at this tablecloth I am impressed. I embroidered this when I was 12 years old as a Christmas gift for my mother. Not sure I could do any better today.

Aqua is a hard color to go with anything, especially in my house, but I'm trying it with my Friendly Village dishes, topped with smaller brown transferware plates. The smaller plates cover up the red schoolhouse on the Friendly Village plates. We don't need any more colors in this mix!

What do you think?

I think yellow roses would be lovely as a centerpiece on this table.

Look what came in the mail last week. I love the smell of beeswax, and a little beeswax votive in front of each place setting is a special touch. 

In the spring, I can highlight the pink daisies in the tablecloth by using pink china.

Here's my tablecloth for tea, with my little brown Hall teapot, and a yellow teacup. The yellow teacup picks up the color of the embroidered maple leaves.

I can't wait to read this book by Marilynne Robinson. I loved her book Gilead. But it has to wait until I finish a P.D. James mystery. A little darker than the usual "cozies" I read, but good. P.D. James wrote Death Comes to Pemberley, which was just recently on PBS.

Don't forget to enter my one-year blogging anniversary giveaway here. Comment by midnight Monday for a chance to win.

Sharing today with Tea Time Tuesday.

Lessons learned from Pandora

Saturday, November 22, 2014

No, not the Pandora's Box Pandora, although there's lessons to be learnt there.

I'm talking about Pandora, the online music streaming service.

If you're not familiar with it, the idea is that you can create your own "radio station" to listen to online based on your music preferences.

I love music from the 40s, and such artists as The Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald,  and Glenn Miller. So I have set up my own station simply titled "40s."

In order to customize a station, you have the option of clicking a thumbs up or thumbs down for a piece of music when it plays. The station doesn't just play artists that you have selected; they continually add "similar" artists into the mix.

If I don't click a "thumbs down" on an artist that doesn't fit my 40s theme, even if I like that artist, pretty soon my 40s station can turn into 70s jive and funk. True story.

You probably can guess where I'm going with this. It really has so many applications I just can't resist.

Take Project 333 that I've been blogging about (see here for an intro). If I have selected two basic colors for my wardrobe (navy and gray), with two pops of color (pink and lavender) plus white, I have a pretty curated wardrobe, easy to mix and match.

But what happens when I spy a gorgeous red top, and buy it? And then succumb to some lovely brown boots?   And so on? Nothing wrong with that, but now I have to deal with the fact that getting dressed is no longer an easy exercise. My carefully curated closet is gone, and I am going to have to spend more time in the morning mixing and matching.

Same thing for other things you let into your life. Let's say you have determined not to drink soda anymore and stay away from processed foods. Okay, no big deal if you happen to have a few Doritos at a party, or a diet Coke at a restaurant on occasion. But it often begins a slippery slope that ends in you looking in your pantry and wondering how the Cheetos, M&Ms, and Oreos got there!

Where'd these come from?!

These are minor detours compared to some of the bigger issues of life. How often do we fail to give ourselves a thumbs down when we're tempted to respond with a sharp word, listen to just a little bit of gossip, fail to appreciate our loved ones, or compromise our standards on something we tell ourselves is no big deal? 

Now there's nothing wrong with Marvyn Gaye, but he doesn't belong on my 40s station. If I enjoy listening to What's Going On, and fail to give it a thumbs down, before you know it, my station is on a completely different trajectory than what I had planned.

So often those little things seem harmless and fun, but one choice leads to another and then another, and we find ourselves somewhere we hadn't planned on being.

Project 333 update and anniversary giveaway

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Beautiful Matters is one year old! Read on to enter my celebration giveaway.

Some of you know I've been doing Project 333, a plan to wear just 33 items of clothing for a three-month period. If you're not familiar with the concept, you can read more about it in my posts here, here, and here.

Even though my three months isn't up until the end of December, I thought I'd share with you what I've learned so far.

Within two weeks, I switched out my fancy 4-inch Coach stilettos for a more practical 3-inch sturdier heel. I'll save the stilettos for a party or dinner out, but the other shoes are much more comfortable for church wear (which is almost the only time I wear heels anymore).

I had two hanging clothes bags and two small boxes of stuff packed away (besides my summer clothes in another closet), and after about six weeks I "broke the rules" and looked at what I had packed away.

I got rid of more stuff, until there really wasn't a lot left, and hung the rest up in my closet with the 33 items.

Right away, I noticed something. I had too many clothes. I probably only added about 15 items, and it was too much. I had gotten used to getting dressed easily, and now I stood in my closet debating about what to wear.

That really was a big surprise. I realized that enough was enough. 33 is really enough.

I got rid of these three tops . . .

. . . and replaced them with this.

I loved the first top on the left. Comfy, the right color, perfect for going under cardies. But it is hopelessly pilled. Hard to see, but lots of little white pills all over it. The next one is fun, and such a pretty color, but despite adjusting the shoulders to raise the neckline, it's still too low. And those sparkly sequin-y things are really itchy.

The final top, on the right, has never been worn. It's just not me. Don't know what I was thinking. I would so feel like a disco ball in it. And it's way too low cut. It's in my daughter's closet now.

The plain charcoal shell that is the replacement has everything -- comfort (it's made of organic cotton and hemp), a higher neckline, and a color that will go with everything in my closet.

I've gotten rid of two more pair of high heels (I still have plenty!) and two pair of flats that just weren't comfortable. I bought a pair of blue suede flats from Ann Taylor Loft a couple years ago in a half size too small because they didn't have my size and I loved them. Figured they'd stretch. No. No. No. Every time I wore them they hurt.

I really hate to think of all the money I've wasted on poor clothing choices.

I'm getting super picky, and buying much less.

In the future, any clothing I purchase has to be:

* In my color palette (navy, gray, pink, lavender, and white), so everything in my closet can be worn together (warm weather color palette is slightly different)

* The right style for my shape (note to self: skinny jeans don't work on pear shapes!)

* Comfortable (no wool or acrylic for me)

* Age-appropriate (not too young, but also not matronly)

* The best I can afford (not necessarily expensive, but good quality)

*Something that I really love and feel good in

If you would love to have a small, carefully curated wardrobe that makes dressing a breeze, I really recommend Project 333. I'm definitely staying with it.

 So, on to the giveaway . . .

(The Beautiful Matters's birthday is actually November 29, but I wanted to do this before the holiday rush.)

Please just leave a comment, and be a follower for your chance to win.  Also, make sure I have some way of contacting you. I will do a random drawing, and announce the winner next Tuesday, November 25. You will receive two cute Christmas dishtowels and a tin of Republic of Tea Holiday Spiced Plum tea, a green tea with cinnamon and spice . . .

. . . and a Christmas dishcloth knitted by yours truly.

I have really loved this first year of blogging. When I started I had all kinds of plans to monetize my blog and get lots and lots of followers. I quickly realized that that didn't feel right to me. I have enjoyed, rather, getting to know a smaller community of like-minded women in a more intimate way. The friendships I have made, and the wonderful people I've met, and all the interesting things I've learned, have confirmed my choice.

I was welcomed right away by so many generous bloggers, so many who encouraged me, and I truly appreciate that. And ever since, week after week, post after post, your visits and comments have been  a blessing to me. Thank you!

xo, Deborah

Tea spoons and consignment china

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Little tea spoons I've collected over the years . . .  on vacation and at tea shops. There are also several heirloom spoons in this collection.

One of these things is not like the other . . . 

 . . . the baby fork and the baby spoon to the left of it was a baptism gift to one of my children. 

This was my great-grandmother's baby spoon.

It has a script "A" on the back for her last name Ames.

I have an arrangement of plates on the wall near my kitchen table that I switch out according to season. I was so happy to find six of these plates for a dollar each at a consignment store. They are perfect for my autumn/Thanksgiving arrangement.

There are three different designs, and although a couple of them are showing their age, I still love them.

Four of them are on the wall with a Limoges dinner plate and four of these plates from my husband's grandmother . . . 

I think the olive greens of the two patterns go really well together.

I also found the white dishes below at the same consignment shop. Six dinner plates, six salad plates, and six coffee mugs. We are having overnight guests over both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I thought these could supplement our every day white dishes since I only have service for eight. I have lots of vintage china that we will use for our holiday dinners, but these will work for breakfasts and sandwiches/snacks. 

My youngest son will probably also appreciate having enough every day dishes on hand so that he doesn't have to hand his college buddies a frou-frou flowery plate to have snacks on during a football game!

I really didn't need the extra mugs, but they came with the set. Now they're my favorite, as they have a very comfortable handle.

I like the raised fruit detail on these. So I am having a "mugga" rather than a cuppa today. Is that a word?

With my tea I'm enjoying a little cupcake pulled from the freezer earlier today. Small blessings that make me happy.

Hope you're all staying warm!

Joining with Sandi for Teatime Tuesday.

10 ways to beat holiday stress

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I am making this month about Thanksgiving, and enjoying pumpkins, my brown transferware dishes,  crisp, cool nights, and turkey and apple pie. The Christmas decorations won't go up until after Thanksgiving, and I'm saving Christmas carols until then, so I can enjoy them even more.
A lovely November sky at dusk.
Behind the scenes, though, I am planning not only for Thanksgiving and weekend guests, but for Christmas and all that entails. I have to, if I want to enjoy it when it comes. So how do I get everything done while keeping in the forefront the true meaning of the holidays?

I've made a list for myself, of things I hope to keep in mind. Some are second nature; some I have to keep reminding myself of. I'll let you take a peek at it. Maybe you can add some of your own ideas in the comments section.

My "Happy Holiday" Strategy

1. Stay out of the malls. You know it makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed at this time of year. Remember the year you wanted to strangle the poor little drummer boy? You didn't think you could stand hearing his "pa rum pum pum pum" over the mall loud speakers one more time? Don't go there! Order gifts online instead or visit our small, local shops downtown.

2. Toss all the catalogs in the recycling bin right away. You don't need to spend hours thumbing through them. Turn off or mute commercials. Resist all attempts by marketers to get you to buy, buy, buy way more than you need or even want.

3. Set a budget and stick with it. It's so easy to go overboard.

4. Don't try to do it all. The internet is full of gorgeous crafts, recipes, and decorating ideas. Pick a couple if you want that you'd really like to try, a recipe here or a simple craft there, and just enjoy window shopping the rest. You'll make yourself insane trying to replicate a Pinterest-worthy holiday.

5. Be prepared. Make a list of everything you need to do, buy, bake, mail. Everything. Check it over twice, and eliminate anything that's unreasonable (get all the boxes in the basement sorted? ha! Who's going to be looking down there anyway?). Do a little every day, even if it's just baking a batch of muffins to put in the freezer, or wrapping a couple gifts.

Banana pecan muffins to enjoy for a leisurely holiday breakfast. Note I left two out for tea time!
The freezer in my basement is ready to house casseroles, muffins, and cookies for the holidays. I keep a list of everything I put in, and cross off when I remove. Looks like I have some baking to do!
I have a notebook dedicated to the holidays, with separate pages for menus, lists of cleaning chores to be done, lists of stocking stuffers and gifts and packages to mail, Christmas card list, and more. I keep  the lists from previous years as a reference. And after gifts have been received and opened, I add names to a list of people to send thank you's to.

This gives me great peace of mind as I'm not worried about forgetting anything, and I can work on checking as many things off as early as I can.

When you're prepared, you can: 6. read, play board games, do puzzles, watch a holiday movie. You want to spend time with family and friends, not rush around trying to cook and clean and do last-minute shopping when guests are here.

7. Eat healthy foods. Allow for some holiday treats, but stay on track with healthy eating. Remember too much sugar or processed food will make you fatigued, cranky, and ill.

8. Give. To the Salvation Army, the local food bank, and others in need. Don't forget the lonely and broken-hearted; call, invite them to tea, or send a card or small gift. It is indeed more blessed to give.

9. Be still. When you're super busy, you might not think you have time to sit with a cup of tea and rest. A short break usually allows you to be more productive later. As you sit and relax, you may think of a more creative way to do something, or get a brilliant idea for a gift for that hard-to-shop-for loved one.

10. Remember why. Share what you're thankful for around the Thanksgiving table. Read an Advent devotional, put up the Advent wreath. Go to a Christmas concert. Purpose in your heart that you won't forget to thank God for His blessings to our country, and for the gift of His Son.

Do you have any suggestions for keeping the holidays sane and peaceful? Please share.

Harvest tea

Sunday, November 9, 2014

 I walked into the mall on Saturday to get my hair done, and was met with Christmas music and decorations, and even Santa! Later, at CVS, there were rows of Christmas candy on display, with fall and harvest decor already 75% off.

Wait . . .  what?

But why am I surprised? This happens every year.

Even though I am working behind the scenes to get ready for Christmas (stashing away some gifts, making my lists of baked goods to freeze ahead of time), I want to celebrate autumn and Thanksgiving first. It seems summer was just a few weeks ago. I don't want to rush things.

Dried day lily pods.

I love a fruit motif on china, and what better way to celebrate autumn harvests? I bought this Fitz and Floyd teapot in the early 90s.

I think these Johnson Brothers plates go well with it. I have five of them, four square ones in blue, pink, yellow, and green, and a round one in pink, all with different fruits on them.

Oops . . . I see cookie crumbs on this plate!

These little almond cookies are like the "windmill" cookies you've probably seen, and are good for dunking in tea. The top cookie is a rooster.

I know I was just complaining about Christmas coming too early, but these cookies are sold year round here, and I forget they actually are St. Claus cookies. 

Honey Crisp apples, my favorite. I could eat a couple every day, and sometimes do.

Someone was wondering last week if people actually sit down and enjoy the tea parties they post, and I'm here to tell you I do. Mr. Beautiful had one eye on the football game, however.

I've been thinking about how to plan for all the guests we'll be having over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and how to truly enjoy and appreciate both holidays and their true meanings. I will be posting my "10 ways to beat holiday stress" later this week. It's more a note to self, a reminder to me; maybe you can share your suggestions, too.

Have a beautiful week, friends.

Linking with Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage.
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs