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Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life Paperback – May 6, 2004
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About the Author
Author of twenty-four books, Alexandra Stoddard is a sought-after speaker on the art of living. Through her lectures, articles, and books such as Living a Beautiful Life, Things I Want My Daughters to Know, Time Alive, Grace Notes, Open Your Eyes, and Feeling at Home, she has inspired millions to pursue more fulfilling lives. She lives with her husband in New York City and Stonington Village, Connecticut.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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It's obvious that Ms. Stoddard has never actually spent a day without money (or family money), no matter what her claims to the contrary. Her idea of beauty appears to be buying things to make your house more beautiful. I was looking for simple things I could do to uplift my hopelessly depressing surroundings, and got "ideas" like buying fountain pens and expensive European writing papers for jotting down notes because they feel nice to write with. Um... with WHAT money?
It's also obvious that she has no small children in the house, because many of her non-purchase ideas are things like "relax with a book," "relax with a cup of broth," "relax by writing a letter," and so on. As mother of a 6-year old boy, I have long since left "relaxation" in the dust.
Here are a selection of her ideas which, if you actually had some of these things already on hand, might work for you... or not:
Put on an attractive apron and unwind by freshening up the house. (Of course, she suggests Laura Ashley aprons)
Dust and clean your books regularly, changing their jackets to match the season. (I don't even know what this means)
Have a family picture taken once a year and have it framed. (Maybe I can get a cheap frame at Ross and just leave the beautiful people in it?)
Serve simple foods like fresh asparagus or creamy, perfect Brie with French bread hot from the oven. (Simply expensive)
Garnishes can be a part of the recipe -- arrange sliced veal on a bed of braised spinach with thin slices of lemon tucked between the overlapping slices. (Veal is gotten from tortured calves and expensive)
If you love beautiful bed pillows, as I do, stack them two or three deep against the headboard. (Even if you made them yourself this would be about $10-15 per pillow, x 11 pillows (how many she has) = $110 minimum just for BED PILLOWS.)
...even when discussing simple things like not letting the telephone bother you in the evening she manages to slip in the tidbit that "our favorite vacation spot is on a tropical island where the rooms have no phones". While discussing back pain she makes sure to give all the luxurious details about her custom-made Canadian maple four poster with Lattoflex supports. There is a paragraph in the bath chapter discussing how her father was vice president of Elizabeth Arden and how their cabinets were "filled with Blue Grass and all the Arden creams, lotions and powders." Is she trying to impress someone, or does she really think everyone has access to these things?
The kicker for me was this: I wrote her a letter explaining our unfortunate circumstances and my desire to bring more calm and beauty to our home. She was pleasant enough in her response, saying that she hoped things would be better for us soon and to just do what we could for the time being.... but then she said... "Perhaps you are just jealous of those who have more?"
I put the book away and have not looked at it since... well, until tonight in order to write this review. In opening it up and skimming through it again, I see that my memories of the book as being "The Rich Woman's Guide to Happiness" are indeed correct. I have never forgotten what Ms. Stoddard said to me, and I cannot forgive the disconnect it shows between her own life and the majority of the world.
So again, if you have cash to spend on Laura Ashley aprons and no children to be bothered with while having a bubble bath with imported French soaps, then this book is for you.
Now some people have made said some surprisingly strange things about the book. Things like she's out of touch with reality and everything is too expensive. But I was a young single mom at the time, and bold, in my 20's when I read it but I managed to find ways to adjust my lifestyle for me and my children so that we could have a truly beautiful life. No we couldn't have a single hyacinth flower delivered when one of us was sick, so I made sure to find a flower that was free. You don't have to have a private delivery service, but if you do even better! Her books taught me to strive for those things in life, and I have had times prior to the recession where things like that were common place after awhile because I believed in having a quality life by bringing beauty into it. I believed that the beauty in life was in the details sometimes and could sustain us when we were feeling down. it saved me money many times because I was happy with the little things, instead of stuffing myself full of costly junk food and creating addictions, I took a bath and made sure to light a candle and place a flower nearby. Sure the bath salts were $11 for a pound, but think about it, that's not a lot if you use two scoops add your free flower and decide to sit home with your kids and make a salad. Sometimes I would splurge and buy flowers for our salads. I don't eat meat so it was actually cheaper to buy the flowers and my daughter ate her veggies plus got a beautiful experience and learned a little bit about science.
I learned to appreciate beauty that nature provides and bring it into our lives which in turn kept me happy and sober and a non smoker. I smoked for 15 yrs and have now quit for about 15. Knowing what I know now I could not ever be a smoker again because I made the decision to live a beautiful life. I'm telling you it saves me so much money. When you add elegance, order, beauty and joy what more could you want? Money. Ok money, but that comes with being a beautiful person. The more beautiful you are the more abundance you create in your life. You don't have to be the prettiest or skinniest or richest to be a beautiful person. Being tuned in to the beautiful will attract people to you that trust you.
Being healthy and beautiful and attuned to these things, people saw that I had good taste and I received work from people who trusted my opinion without any prior experience. This would not have happened if I had not read these books I think, and tuned into this facet of life. Maybe it awoke something inside of me. I also started an art business recently and I have no experience, but what I do have is this knowledge and insight that Alexandra provided for me. She took the home and motherhood to a whole new level and if I die with nothing else at least I always have those gifts of elegance, order, beauty and joy to pass on to my children.
This is much deeper than it looks, we sometimes underestimate the value in our society. Having a home that is pleasing to the eye will save you so much and give you so much more than going out and wasting a bunch of money. I really wish I had my copies so I could read them again. I'm in need of some inspiration now.
Most recent customer reviews
She is a truly beautiful soul.
Full of Grace and Elegance.