It's true. I am an absolute sucker for Martha Stewart and her ilk. I gulp down every single page of those magazines and articles. I just love them.
Unfortunately, the reason I love them so much is that I like a good laugh. Nothing causes me more innocent hilarity than to read Martha solemnly (and she doesn't seem to have much sense of humor, does she?) telling me that to change my life, I should get down on my hands and knees, refinish my floor, and then carefully stencil it and draw freehand ranunculus (ranunculi, I guess) around the edges. After I get home from work and cook that four course meal and clean up after it, naturally. You can hear my crows of delight for blocks in any direction.
So I was thrilled when I ran across an old lifestyle book while cleaning bookshelves. This one is by a gal named Alexandra Stoddard, who used to be a Martha type some years back - the book is dated 1986. The title of the book is "Living A Beautiful Life," and I was particularly charmed by some of her suggestions for doing so in the kitchen. At the end of each chapter of this tome, you see, she makes you a nice little list called "Grace Notes" to let you know exactly how beautiful your life can be. Some of her kitchen Grace Notes are:
Try keeping a small bunch of flowers in the refrigerator. Surprise pleasures delight the most. (And are the most likely to get you hauled off to the loony bin. I love fresh flowers in the house, but who the hell decorates the inside of the refrigerator?)
Put strawberries in a bowl and leave two, with stems on, on the table next to the bowl. Take a flowering sprig and place it off-center in the bowl. (And the next person who walks by is going to put those strawberries right back in the bowl where they belong and toss out that grubby bit of twig. That is, if the cat doesn't decide the berries are toys and knock them on the floor to be mashed into the linoleum.)
Serve tea from a porcelain teapot that has been hand-decorated in colors that are attractive with your cups and saucers. Keep it ready on a tray for spontaneous tea rituals. (A spontaneous tea ritual is when I open the cupboard, see the tea, and think, that would be nice. Then I stick a mug in the microwave.)
Make a ritual of buying or baking fresh bread and leave a whole loaf out in view, on a wooden cutting board. (Make a ritual of throwing away a lot of bread, since that should ensure that it becomes rock hard in about an hour.)
Use an old Welsh dresser, English baker's cabinet or French armoire in the kitchen to store dishes and silverware. (How BIG is this kitchen? And how much was that piece of furniture?)
Turn a plate of fresh fruit into a still life and place it in your bedroom to feast the eye and satisfy a late-night craving. (Then you can name every one of those cute little fruit flies and make them adorable outfits.)
I could go on, but it's fairly clear to me that I will never be living a beautiful life. I shall just have to muddle on as best I can, even if I'm not quite sure how I'll survive without decorating the inside of the refrigerator.