Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Tea

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 
The flowers appear on the earth; 
the time of the singing of birds is come, 
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; 
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, 
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Song of Solomon 2:11-13 KJV

I must admit my ponderings this week were not inspired by Scripture but by the talented pen of Alexandra Stoddard.  Although my thoughts did drift from time to time to the above Scripture... how could it not?  The rains are not over but the early flowers, the singing birds, and the buds of the trees have all appeared.

Alexandra inspires us to make the rituals of our daily life as pleasant and beautiful as possible. How delightful it has been to do dishes while looking at yellow and white daffodils this week, the window open for the first time on those days it was warm enough to enjoy the breeze.  I feel the life returning to my soul in much the same way the earth is renewing in Solomon's poetry.

Like many women, the kitchen sink in my home is its' own kind of altar.  There I enjoy the hot sudsy water while washing dishes in cold weather, rinse vegetables from the garden in summer, and return often for life giving water throughout the day.

In this everyday place of rituals, it could become easy to feel bogged down with the constant work of keeping a family fed as the never ceasing cooking, baking, washing dishes, chopping veggies, washing dishes, making coffee, washing dishes... well, I think you get the idea.  I've often told Stephanie that I think my dishes reproduce on their own in the sink.  :)

Inspired long ago by Stoddard's books, the kitchen is a haven of the stuff of my life... intentionally surrounding myself with  the sights, sounds, and aromas I love.  The hot water and suds in the never ending cycle of dish washing provide aromatherapy when breathing in the scent of Seventh Generation Lavender Floral & Mint... not poured from the original squeeze bottle but from a beautiful glass carafe originally meant for olive oil.

Cooking requires a constant washing of the hands, all made lovely by the rotating aromas of Method hand washing soap... right now enjoying the aroma of sea minerals with the equally beautiful french blue color of the liquid soap

The kitchen received its' first deep spring cleaning in years yesterday with hubby performing the scrubbing of the floor and the pulling out of the refrigerator and other kitchen objects to make cleaning the floor easier.  As he scrubbed the floor, I washed the other items, the window, the shelves, dusted off canisters, and soaked nicky knacks in soapy water.  He even scrubbed the top of the refrigerator which I didn't realize was so scummy... he being the tallest in the family and the only one who can see the top of the refrigerator!  Everything is clean and fresh...

Alexandra writes about Grace Notes... those little things we can do to surround ourselves with Beauty.  I'm not the kind of person who enjoys streamlined kitchen counters.  I like to see my stuff.  Three crocks hold often used kitchen utensils, two of the crocks were rescued from my in-laws garden shed years ago. 

The oils, matching salt shaker & pepper grinder, and my two most often used Mrs. Dash seasonings all have a home in an antique wooden drawer sitting between two crocks and near the stove.  Of course, Precious (my big red Kitchen Aid stand mixer) and the cute red Kreuger coffee maker are nearby as I slice and chop on my favorite cutting board... purchased long, long ago and moved an amazing number of times.

Dishes are dried in the red dish drainer, always on the counter and ready to accept pretty vintage china as well as the often used red and green plastic plates.  The old yellow utility cart holds my Crock Pot as well as the thrifted stock pot and old granite ware colanders snuggle next to my white Goodwill electric juicer.  The red wire basket holding my most-used cookbooks now sits on the old sewing machine table next to the vintage yellow pantry. 

A delightful combination of old and new... red and yellow and deep blue... all coming together to provide the background of the necessary rituals of daily life in the heart of the home.  So thankful for writers who remind us of Beauty in our everyday rituals such as Alexandra. 

Absolutely giving praise and thanks to God that the time of the singing birds has returned again as it has for thousands of years... perhaps appreciated even more so after a long and snowy winter.


Anonymous said...

I hate housecleaning . . . HATE it! Yet there really is such a sense of joy & satisfaction when deep cleaning is finished. The whole house seems brighter and more content. My grandmother trained me to deep clean at her house - curtains, windows, and lemon oil on the cabinets (& unfortunately for me, on the paneled walls).

Thanks for your inspiring words on the beauty of "keeping" a home, not just a house. Your ponderings help me keep perspective in my own home.
-Connie in San Diego

Susan P. said...

I loved your comment ~ "I like to see my stuff" ~ it's the "stuff" we surround ourselves with that brings joy to our heart and a smile on our face. This post was so beautifully written, Brenda. You have such a beautiful way with words ~ they always seem to speak directly to my heart. Thank you for sharing yours, my friend:)

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

It is coming slowly here in northeast Ohio, but lovely spring is definitely returning to the earth. I live very near a heronry in the lovely Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the herons are back to making their rather ungainly nest, and the road past this area has a special off road bit of pavement to accommodate all the people who come to watch and photograph them.

I love reading about your kitchen "rituals" and things out which give you such joy to see. This works for me too. I have Beatrix Potter figurines on the window ledge (at the moment) and beautiful handmade Hungarian plates on each side of it. And too many things out! But it gives me joy.

matty said...

Glad you are having a lovely weekend! I love Stoddard's books and find great inspiration in her approach to homemaking.

Have you ever noticed that homes take on the smell of the people who live there? I don't mean the "icky" kind, but the rather esoteric scent of love, happiness, and contentment. Funny how even the most well decorated home can feel bleh.

Wishing you warm sudsy water and lots of daffies... Matty

Sunshine said...

You inspire me to live a more beautiful life. I absolutely adore your blog and appreciate you sharing your life with us. Sunshine

Malinda B said...

Spring greetings from Colorado!
Like you, I am a reader Alexandra Stoddard's books. My mother introduced me to her in the 80's and has gifted me about six of her books.

As a Godly mother, she challenged me to embrace the beautiful sentiments and ideas that were biblical and discern through some of Alexandra's "other" philosophies.

My husband and I even gave our oldest daughter Alexandra's name (as our daughter's middle name).

I have been practicing and re-reading Mrs. Stoddard's books throughout my almost eighteen years of being a bride and then a mother. Now, my teenage girls are reading her too. We have attempted to fill our nest with beauty.

Thank you for your lovely post, your examples from your own life and introducting readers to Alexandra Stoddard, if they had never been introduced.

Living a beautiful life makes living, even when it's challenging, deeper and more satisfying.

Under His Wings,
Malinda @

Joy for today! said...

What book by Alexandra Stoddard are you referring to? It sounds like a book I need to read right now. I am struggling with any job in the kitchen. I am so frustrated with meal preparation and I need to be refreshed with a good book that will speak truth to me.Thanks!

La Tea Dah said...

What an inspiring post! I would love to see your kitchen! Although I sometimes get overwhelmed with kitchen work, I do love to putter ---- but especially when it comes to COOKING and BAKING!

Bess at Fixing My Thoughts said...

At this very moment I'm in the kitchen at the table, reading and writing on my laptop. The dishes are done (for awhile!), the windows are up, the sun is lowering but still therapeutic (sp?), and there is a lovely hum from the neighbor mowing his lawn. It's bliss. And you say it so well. Thanks, Brenda. Bess


I was very influenced by Alexandra Stoddard, when I was a young wife (ages ago.) Also loved reading with it, Edith Schaffers "Hidden Art" ~ which provided the Christian perspective. A perfect combination of books.


Bess at Fixing My Thoughts said...

Just wanted to add that I agree with Malinda that one should be discerning when reading Stoddard and Sarah Ban Breathnach, etc., and learn from what is true, pure, noble, God-pleasing ... and ignore what isn't. Bess

Brenda Leyland said...

It must have been such a treat to sit down to Sunday Afternoon Tea after such a productive day in your kitchen. There is great BEAUTY in making our places and things sparkle again.

Love that verse from the Song of Songs. We're SO glad for spring too!

Vee said...

I am ending my day with your blog. At some point, I was trying to remember what you had written for Sunday Afternoon Tea and then realized that I had been called away just as I started to read much earlier in the day. Phew. I'm glad that I'm not completely losing it. I like how you describe the sink as an altar of sorts. Mine definitely has become one as I'm sure most gals' sinks have.

Your hubby sounds like a peach to help out with the big chore of hauling out the fridge and such. Mine helps me, too. Otherwise it'd not get done.

It is always a pleasure to read one of your posts. You live a beautiful life, Brenda. You truly do.

Mrs.Rabe said...

I learned a long time ago, from Emilie Barnes to make your work spaces beautiful. I have daffodils in a jar on the back of the sink and so many of my tea's and red accessories out on the counters.

I used to have small oil lamps on the back of the sink too, especially nice for evening dishwashing...

Pen Pen said...

I accidentally "found" Alexandra Stoddard last week at the thrift store. I had not even heard of her until I found a book written by her for $1. I read it cover to cover, in no time at all, and then went to the library to see what else I could find. I love her!!!! Such an inspiration!

joyce said...

I love Alexandra Stoddard, too! I have several of her books, and they are the kind of books I keep around and re-read from time to time. I love the quotations in the margins of some of her books. Years ago, when I wasn't working (doing my intern teaching with very little money coming in) and hardly had an extra dollar to spend, her writings inspired me to purchase for 25 cents, a pretty cup and saucer from a thrift store. The set was kind of a modern design, with pastel flowers in pink, blue, and yellow. It always made me feel good to drink coffee or tea from my special cup, and I felt much "richer" than I acutally was! Stoddard's writings inspire me, as do those of Sarah Van B------I can't spell her last name, but she wrote Simple Abundance!