Friday, 21 September 2012

Corners of comfort . . .

“And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep/In blanched linen, smooth and lavender’d.” ~John Keats 

When I lived in Canada,  there was a show on the television regularly called “Martha Stewart Living.” We’d only get it in Canada early on Sunday mornings.  It was early enough that I used to be able to watch it before I left for church.  Martha . . .  who has been a great North American icon for a very long time, despite her time in prison . . . would lead us all through the merits and niceties of house-wifery in a wonderful way. I know that she was not every woman’s cup of tea, but she was mine.

 I always loved to see her neat and orderly drawers, everything all lined up and organized . . . indeed with a place for everything and everything in it's place. Her kitchen shelves were orderly as well. Everything in her home was neat and orderly actually, but my favourite part was her linen closet. All of her linens were  neat, pressed, folded and sorted according to size and color.

All the bath towels were stacked neatly and together, as were the face cloths, pillow cases, sheets, etc. It was a wonder to behold. Lace edged, deep wooden shelves  holding  row after row of neat and tidy willow baskets piled high with perfectly folded sheets, fluffy blankets, soft terry towels, crisp tea towels, pillow slips . . . some antique, others not.

Although I could not smell it through the television, I just knew it had to smell as wonderful as it looked. Crisp and fresh . . . however, with five children running about, . . . four being in their terrible teens, as well as having a very active toddler to care for . . .  it was hardly something I could accomplish for myself, and I knew it deep down in my soul.  I was happy with it being just a dream . . .

Now, there are only two of us here . . .  Todd and myself . . . and I do aspire to have something close to that. I have a large airing cupboard.  I think it's actually a closet in the spare bedroom . . . but since we rarely ever use that room for sleeping or anything else (although it is set up as a guest room), I have designated that closet as our airing cupboard.   For the past two years I have been determined to pick the lavender from our front garden to hang in this airing cupboard to help scent everything delicately with it’s lovely smell, but each year I have waited too long. (I’m not sure I know exactly how to do it at any rate, and if anyone could tell me how, or what to do, I’d much appreciate it, so that I know what to do for next year.)

When we first got married I think Todd had about 3 bath towels along with  two sets of old threadbare sheets. I suppose as a bachelor, he really didn’t see the need for having any more than that. It was a situation that soon changed with my arrival, however, and I have spent the past twelve years gathering towels and sheet sets so that we now have a comfortable number, and are quite prepared should anyone come to visit or in the case of an emergency.

I determined early on, that I only wanted white towels and sheets. I do so love to see beautifully white sheets and towels lined up and folded neatly . . .  and I just adore crawling into bed between crisp white sheets that are free from wrinkles, smooth and cool . . .  and oh so comfortable. Sadly none of them are antique and lace festooned, but one can dream . . . and I often do.

I have always wanted a set of pillow slips with dainty ladies embroidered at the edges, wearing beautiful and lacy crochet skirts and big southern bonnets. I do have a huge bundle of lace that I bought on sale once upon a time . . . and perhaps one day I will be motivated enough to sew it on the edges of some of my flat sheets and pillow slips . . .  but for now, I am quite busy with other things it seems.   I do have a favourite set of pillow slips though. We bought them at one of the larger department stores when we were living down south . . . and while they are not totally white, having a pale blue panel on the tops . . .  they do have the most lovely silk  ribbon embroidered flowers scattered across the white bit. I love seeing them, all freshly ironed, laid out on the top of my bed, wrapped around my plumped up pillows.

 I don’t think men ever really understand a woman’s fascination with fine linen’s and airing cupboards. I know Todd could care less about where our sheets come from or where they are stored . . .  or even what colour they are, just so long as they are clean and on the bed.   I do the laundry in this house, as I am very pedantic about how it is done . . . I also hang it up to dry for the same reason.  He would hang it up any way . . . I like to snap the wrinkles out of things first and line them up just so . . .

He does do the ironing (I know, I’m a lucky woman) and does a super job at it too, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convince him that the sheets and pillow cases need ironing, and lets not even get started on the kitchen towels. I did have a burst of energy one afternoon a month or so back and take out all the kitchen towels and iron them up, and they did look really nice all stacked neatly in the kitchen towel drawer. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to do the same thing with the sheets and pillow slips.   A few weeks back we organized all the towels and face cloths. They are all sitting neatly on the shelves on one side of the airing cupboard, now all I have to do is organize my sheets and pillow slips.

I think I will always have an eye for pretty things and I’ll always aspire to have them all neatly laid out. I get such comfort in surrounding myself with dainty feminine things . . . lacy doilies adorning the table tops, pretty bedspreads on the beds, crisp, white linens in the airing cupboard, little pockets of potpourri in crystal bowls placed here and there.

I guess it is a female thing . . .  the nesting instinct kicking in. How well did Keats know . . . “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” and that applies to linen closets and other hidden corners of our lives.

It looks like rain out there today . . . it's actually not been a very nice week weather wise.  We are off into the city this morning to pay a few bills and I am going to stop into that gallery to see what they have to say.  Wish me luck with that!  I think we'll treat ourselves to  some fish and chips at our favourite fish and chips place for lunch as well . . . I always get a small piece of fish for myself and then pinch a couple of Todd's chips.  It's cheaper that way and we are both happy.  I get a little taste and I don't blow the diet completely out of the water!

Wherever you are going and whatever you get up to today . . . I hope you find and feel the joy.

"Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.  It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you had everything to do . . . and you've done it."
~Margaret Thatcher

Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . An Autumn Salad of Fresh Plums, Ham Hock and Lentils.


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