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Monday, January 9, 2012

Southern Living Indeed

When I lived in Knoxville, my good friend/pretend big sister always had issues of Southern Living lying around her home. As a New Englander/Midwesterner, I tend to stick to geographically vague periodicals and was a bit suspicious of a magazine produced below the Mason-Dixon line. However, I always enjoyed leafing through the issues at her house.
Recently, this same friend treated me to a gift subscription of Southern Living. For the sake of good recipes and decorating tips, I was willing to set aside my New England allegiance. Only two issues in and I am not only hooked, I have learned a lot. 
First, to be a truly classy professional decorator in the South, you have to give your children pretentious and/or ridiculous names. The designers interviewed usually have kids named Tinsley, Sterling, Cashmere and so forth. I tend to like more simple, classic names, although I do like the name Finn for a boy and Evan for a girl. Those may qualify. I may fit in yet.
Second, good Southern decorating means covering every inch of your home in...stuff. Thus far, there are no modern, minimalist designers featured. The rooms the magazine features are beautiful, but there is furniture, knicknacks and wall art covering every inch of every space. I find that claustrophobic personally, but it makes for a beautiful photo spread. Most importantly, it gives you a plethora of examples on how to mix and match textures, shapes and styles.
Third, it is good style form to pick three colors, generally one neutral and two bolder hues, and decorate your entire home in them. I feel like this must not include your kids rooms, though. Your daughter wants to paint their room orange? Too doesn’t go with your Old World Caribbean theme. Your son is into Cars and Batman? Too bad...his room is getting aqua wallpaper with a coral motif. I think exceptions are probably made here.
Fourth, Southern Living is published for busy people, probably mostly homemakers with kids. It was a bit of a scandal, after years of subscribing to Bon Appetit, to see recipes that include cans of cream of mushroom soup and canned green beans, but most of the recipes are actually really delicious. I’ll probably still make my own cream of mushroom base and will always be faithful to fresh (in a pinch frozen) produce, but the end result will be the same: good, hearty food. And anyone, Southern or otherwise, can appreciate that. 
I may not want to exactly copy everything I see in the pages of Southern Living (moose antlers above my bed? No way.), but it is full of inspiring craft, decorating and cooking ideas. If you haven't checked out this magazine before and are sitting in an airport or hanging out at a bookstore coffee shop, I highly recommend picking up an issue. It just may surprise you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beauty and the Bathroom

I’ve decided that much of my love for accessories revolves around my love of ritual. 

For example, I have long wanted a dressing table/vanity. I enjoy my morning ritual of putting on makeup, choosing jewelry and applying perfume, and a vanity is the perfect way to streamline these acts. Instead of bouncing back and forth from the bathroom to my bedroom, a vanity provides a single, designated space in which to primp.

I'm pretty sure I'd look more like these ladies if I had a dressing table.

Since entering my mid-twenties I have also developed a pre-sleep skin care ritual (I love  Botanics products) that I find incredibly enjoyable. It's almost therapeutic to wash away the day's grime. Removing my makeup, washing my face and applying lotion are as important to my nighttime routine now as brushing my teeth. And, of course, accessories make this process all the more enjoyable. How, you ask? Let me explain...

Last month I found a lovely soap dish and shower curtain that have the clean, simple look I like in my bathroom. I like soap dishes. They are both practical and aesthetically pleasing. And a nice shower curtain can really set the tone of a bathroom (in my old apartment I opted for a fun fish I’ve gone with white). 

Now I am now looking for a decorative container for the little cotton pads I use to remove my makeup. Popping the lid off a pretty jar is much more appealing then the nightly rustling of plastic packaging.

 Bed Bath and Beyond offers a variety of simple bathroom accessories, but for 
a more unique look I prefer using repurposed or found objects.
This mercury glass jar from Anthropologie is filled with a candle,
but once the candle is used would make a great storage jar for the bathroom. For a fun project you can also learn how to 
make your own mercury glass objects.

At $91.99 this onyx jar by Selamat is out of my price range, but antique shops and estate sales often have similar items at much lower prices.

Never mind that I don’t like clutter and will therefore keep the jar out of view in the cabinet. In fact, my boyfriend thinks I’m crazy. If it’s hidden why bother shelling out the extra money? But I don’t care. It’s kind of like wearing your favorite one else can see it but it just makes you feel good. 

Maybe I’m just overcompensating for having little personal space, finding power in having control over my daily rituals and their attending accoutrements. Or maybe I just like pretty things. Whatever the reason, when it comes to my rituals, I'll opt for beauty every time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years Resolutions

I don’t make New Years resolutions, at least not in the traditional sense. 
Towards the end of the year I often make a list of things I want to accomplish (as I did in September’s post “The Land of Misfit Projects”). But I do not pledge changes to my lifestyle. I will not pledge to eat healthier or take up yoga, join a book club or take the extra 30 minutes to walk to work instead of drive. These are all worthy causes, but if we are really serious about improving ourselves we wouldn’t procrastinate until December 31st to take action. 
For example, a few years ago I vowed not to use any “voluntary” products (aka makeup, household cleaning agents, hair and body care, etc.) that test on animals. I really don’t think cats and dogs need to be poked and prodded and hurt just so my mascara is less clumpy or my hair can be shinier. It’s something I really cared about, so I didn’t wait until December 31st of that year to make the change. I just did it. 
I’m sure we all have such examples. If something really grabs us as important, we make the change ASAP. As such, the vows we make as New Years resolutions are probably things that thus far haven’t been important enough for us to bother with. So why do we feel that a new calendar year will suddenly imbue them with new value?
Let’s be honest: the reason we make New Years resolutions is because the holidays make us feel guilty. We spent too much money. We ate too many cookies and mashed potatoes. We killed too many forests to make our presents look beautiful. However, these excesses are a fundamental part of what make the holidays special. It is our indulgence that sets the holidays apart from the rest of the year. If we are generally healthy and financially prudent the rest of the year, why not give in to a little temptation?
Guilt-driven resolutions are hard to stick to. Once we hit February and our holiday guilt has been swallowed up by the more pressing concerns of everyday life, our resolutions suddenly don’t seem as important anymore. And we shouldn’t feel bad about this! January doesn’t have magical powers, so let’s not start the year off by lying to ourselves about who we are. When it becomes truly important to us, we will make the resolution and stick to it no matter what date the calendar boasts.
So if you are thinking about making New Years resolutions, make sure they are being made for the right reasons. Guilt: bad. Genuine caring: good. 
Happy New Year!