Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Interview with Shannon Ables of The Simply Luxurious Life

New interview

Recently Shannon Ables of The Simply Luxurious Life and I got together on Skype - Shannon from Bend, Oregon, and me from Auckland, New Zealand.  We had such fun - Shannon is the nicest person ever!

We talked a little bit about my new book Thirty Chic Days and all sorts of things related to living a simple and beautiful life.  I am so excited that her podcast with our chat is out now.  You'll probably already be familiar with Shannon's inspiring blog and podcast The Simple Sophisticate, but if you're not, you are in for a treat!

You can listen to (or download) the interview here, and it's also available on iTunes and Stitcher.  I'm sure you will enjoy, as I did, Shannon's generosity of spirit and genuine friendliness (I was a little bit nervous before the interview!)


New blog

If you have read through my most recent 30 Chic Days series on the blog, you may recall that reader Margaret P received a merit award for 'most comprehensive comments'.  Many of you, including me, suggested (insisted?) that Margaret start a blog to share all her wisdom with us.  Happily, I can announce that she has done just that!

I'd love you to go and have a read and say 'welcome' as Margaret finds her blogging feet at her new 'home' Devon Dreaming.


That's all for now, I'll see you on Friday for another blog post, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy listening to Shannon and I chat - I so wish we could have met in person!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Feminine beauty at home

I’ve been immersing myself in elegance this week.  Not usually one for cut flowers, I even bought myself two bunches of Erlicheer which are now scenting our living area and ensuite.  I was inspired by Mrs Shockley’s lovely Instagram and blog.  We have a mutual admiration of Aerin Lauder’s sophisticated and elegant décor style and also of Jennifer L. Scott’s beautiful books.

In the past I've walked past flower displays and hardly ever bought them.  They seemed extravagant, not really necessary and even wasteful.  Now I think 'feminine and luxurious'.  I'm going to see how it goes to make this a regular thing; I will get a bonus benefit that I am spending a few dollars on flowers instead of  'treat' foods.  There are no calories in flowers!

Something else I did recently which always makes me feel feminine was to pretty up my makeup area.

I took my makeup tray and tipped everything out, then cleaned the tray and put back my makeup items, cleaning each one as I went.  I use a bottle of perfume as the cleaning agent (one of my least favourites to wear but still pretty to sniff) and a clean knit rag (from worn-out tee-shirts).  I clean the outside of the case and even open up and clean the mirror and all around the eyeshadows or blusher.  They look so new when I've finished.

I simultaneously went through my under-bed storage container too, which is where my makeup overflow is kept as well as travel items and hotel items from our trips.  I don't have much makeup overflow anymore since I don't work at Dior plus I've decluttered all shades that don't work for me.  But I still have multiples of blushers and eyeshadow palettes (about 4-5 of each).  Some are ones I've bought and a few are still Dior.

I swapped out a couple of eyeshadow palettes and kept out two blushes out to use (a cooler pink tone and a warmer rosy tone).  I switched one eyeshadow compact and it seemed brand new to me, both in cleanliness and because I haven't worn it in a while.

After I put back my selected, clean makeup items, I washed all my brushes in the basin with warm water and hand soap, then rinsed them all in clean warm water and laid them out to dry on a towel after squeezing the water from them.  They all dry overnight.

I couldn't wait to put my makeup on the next day with my 'new' makeup and brushes.  Doing this gives me such a feeling of well-being that it definitely deserves a spot on my 'what makes me feel high-frequency' list so that I can build up a reservoir of happiness activities.

Clockwise from top left: A gorgeous scented flower my mum gave me - it comes with a rose perfume spray to refresh it; my makeup tray; jewellery and hair pins/elastic; camellia and fern in our ensuite before I put Erlicheer in there

Plus it's thrifty because I've not bought anything!  When I'm sick of my colours and the containers are all dusty inside and out, nothing seems exciting to use and putting on my makeup in the morning seems a bit of a drag.  The shiny new makeup counters in department stores always seem so enticing, but have you noticed that the girls who work on them are always cleaning and polishing, wiping around lipstick tubes etc?  I see it all the time and when I worked at Dior it was said over and over to the counter girls to clean and polish their counters, displays and products every day.

Since I did this, I have been wiping items as I put them away (a clean tissue works well) and sharpen eye pencils if they need it so they are nice and new for next time.  All my makeup seems so new, and again, this is what makeup counter ladies do daily.  It really takes no more time, and it is such a pleasure to use my makeup, even more so than usual.

I recently bought a Beauty Blender sponge to try (I love it, but it does use more liquid foundation than I’d use with my fingers).  I viewed a couple of YouTube videos to pick up any tips and after one lady had done her foundation she moved onto contouring.  I don’t have any contour products but I kept watching because she was quite engaging.  She had a wind-up contour stick that she was applying to her face and I could see that the black plastic tube it was in had brown contour colour smeared all over it.  It looked gross!  After having just cleaned up all my makeup I wanted to grab a clean rag and clean her contour stick for her.  I was fixated on it!

If you're a bit bored with your makeup, may I suggest a cleaning session to polish everything up?  I promise you it will be like you have all new products when you go to use it the next day.  I love being my own makeup counter manager.  Wouldn't it be great if you could get a mini version of the tester displays they have so you could put your makeup in it on the top of your dresser?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Chic advice for my younger self

A reader writes:

Dear Fiona,

I'm in my mid-30s but most of the style blogs I read are written for someone 10-20 years (or more) older than me. What advice would you give to the woman who wants to age gracefully / beautifully / chic-ly? What advice would you give to your 35-year old self if you could send a message now?


Dear chic friend,

This may not be the answer you want to hear, but I’d pretty much give the same advice to me at 30 or 35 as I would to me now, at 45, truly!  These are all things I’d advise my younger self to consider; however they are equally applicable to me today.

Relax.  There is no cartoon metal anvil hanging over your head that you don’t know about.

Worry less.  Worry is really bad for you!  I have borderline high blood pressure which is hereditary, and I’m working on being more sanguine so as to help myself be healthy (and I've also cut out added salt at dinnertime).

Keep on curating.  There will always be another clothing sale, don’t worry if you miss one.  You probably don’t want the clothes in that sale anyway – wait until there’s something you really want and buy it even if you have to pay a little more.  You’ll value and wear it more than all those cheap garments.

Seek to find your own personal style.  It’s actually right in front of you and you’ve always known what it was.  Look back to what you loved to wear when you were younger.  For me, it was the classics.  I felt boring sometimes and tried other styles, but I always came back to the classic pieces.  Look to fashion for inspiration, but always follow your own taste; it will never let you down.

Work on eliminating your bad habits.  It won’t get any easier as you get older; they catch up with you then.

Take good care of your health and seek a second opinion if you feel it necessary.  The spot on my leg that I had two doctors look at and both told me it was harmless.  I was less sure and paid for it to be removed.  It was melanoma (all gone now).

Don’t hang around on Someday Isle.  Life will flash by quickly if you put things off.  Make exciting plans and take action on them.  Keep moving, you don’t want to be stuck in a stagnant stream.  That’s when I turn to ‘fun’ food to liven things up (such a great plan.  Not).

Find chic mentors.  If there are ladies around you that you aspire to be like, be friendly with them and ask them out for lunch or coffee if appropriate.  If they’re that bit too far removed to do that, simply observe them from afar.  I have ladies (and a few guys) in my life who both a similar age and older who all inspire me to be my best.

Learn to enjoy good, real food.  I’ve let this slide over the years and am still cleaning up my eating habits.  It’s easy to keep putting things off and thinking you’ll deal with them later, but later never comes.  Why not be healthy and happy now?


So, what would you say to your younger self?  I know there is lots of wisdom in your head that we can share and learn from.  Whether we would have listened at a younger age is another story altogether, tee hee.

Wishing you a wonderful and chic weekend.

Friday, August 5, 2016

How to bring romance into your day

I’m not a really flossy person, not on the outside anyway.  But on the inside I’m a true romantic.  I love to dream up all the delicious ways I can live a dreamy life, at the same time as being practical and getting things done of course.

The fabulous thing about creating inspiration in my head and letting it flow out from there, is that I am not relying on anyone else to behave in a certain way before I can feel like I have romance in my life.  Instead it’s the opposite: simply by me creating it for myself, I feel good, and that affects those around me in a positive way also.

As an aside, when I talk about romance and feeling romantic, it’s not just about a love affair with the opposite sex, I’m talking about romance in all aspects of my life; perhaps living in a fanciful and fun way is a better way to describe it.  I just know that it feels good.

Synonyms for romance are: enchantment, fascination, amour, flirtation, intrigue, love and passion.  For romantic: adventurous, exotic, visionary, chivalrous, picturesque and extravagant.  Ooh la la, don’t we all need to whip up more of these delicious ideals in case our lives start to feel a little pedestrian?

There are many ways I can bring about the feeling of romance into my every day, and these are just a few of them:

·         Playing Rod Stewart’s American Songbook albums.  Standards always appeal, and Rod’s way of doing them makes me feel so relaxed and like I’m sipping a cool drink in a hotel lobby bar
·         Nostalgia – good feelings come flooding in when I treat myself to a favourite movie from a long time ago (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf which I saw at the movies in the early 90s with a girlfriend comes to mind), indulging in memories of Laura Ashley style in the 80s and spritzing on Estee Lauder’s Beautiful perfume when I’m out browsing
·         Lighting candles, even if it’s daytime, even if it’s summer
·         Reading Victoria magazine, Jane Seymour’s Guide to Romantic Living book (it’s a little dated but has many great ideas) and old-fashioned novels from authors like Grace Livingston Hill (I've only read Crimson Roses so far of hers, and it was lovely, very sweet and chaste)
·         Dressing in flowing garments such as palazzo pants at home in the summer.  I recently bought a new winter nightgown and it’s so soft and lovely to wear, in pale pink stripes (and still fits with my ‘sexy and sophisticated’ nightwear essence words).
·         Cooking a nourishing and nurturing meal for my love and myself
·         Romancing myself with kind words, noting what I’m proud of and congratulating myself on both big and tiny achievements
·         Going for a walk outside – an after dinner stroll is my favourite way to feel romantic if I can con my husband into it (if I’m lucky I can cajole him into an after dinner stroll a few times a year)
·         It may sound strange to say ‘doing something by yourself’, but one of my favourite ways to feel romance is to go to a movie by myself during the day (likely a French subtitled movie since my husband is not a huge fan of subtitles) or going for a window shop and coffee with my journal in a chi chi part of town
·         Buying flowers is an easy one, however since I’m only comme ci comme ça on cut flowers, I either pick them from our (very basic) garden or occasionally buy myself a potted indoor plant or punnet of annuals to plant in a terracotta pot outside

I believe we’re here to celebrate every day, even the ordinary days, especially the ordinary days.  Life really is too short to wait for something special to come along.  Making today special, every day, is how we can most honour the time we are given.

What about you?  What makes you feel romantic?  How do you like to bring romance into your life?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The dream daily schedule

In Day 30 of my most recent 30 Chic Days Series, chic reader Ann left a comment that started me thinking about this post.  Ann said:

I realized yesterday how during the summer ( here ) off from school I try to cram so much my to do list in and get distracted by all there is to do... I realize this will be the case when I retire, too. So with your inspiration I am going to try to make a new "schedule" where I make more time for me, and not all the things that need to be done, or that I want to get finished. More reading, more writing in my journal, want to write down all family memories with old photos...etc.

I’ve thought about this too.  I imagine one day in the future when everything is 'perfect', I’ll have all the time in the world to do everything I’m putting off today because I am too busy.  But what makes me think I’ll have time for them in the future?  Sure, if I’m able to work from home instead of going to a workplace I’ll have more time at home, but I have days off at home right now, and it’s rare that I get time to sew or do something I imagine myself doing in that shimmery mirage perfect future.  Yes, I get to knit, but it’s snatched pieces here and there in front of a movie or television programme.

When I think I to myself ‘I’d love to get stuck into a juicy sewing project’, my mind immediately shuts me down with ‘finish what you’ve started, you want to write your next book, there’s washing to be folded, you have to start dinner soon' etc.  And all of those things are true, but if I always put things off, then I will always put things off.

Creating an ideal schedule and practicing it sounds like a fun way to address this, because it would be helpful to learn how to experience the days I dream about having in the future – I don’t think they happen by accident.

How we are now is how we will be 'one day' – when we have more time, when we retire etc.  We need to do all those things we think we'll do, and be the way we think we'll be now, otherwise we'll still be the same rushing person in the future.  How we are today is how we will be in the future because we are building our future with today.  It's such a huge realisation.  It still doesn't make change easy, but if we work towards it we will succeed.

Who’s with me?  Are you ready to practice your ideal daily schedule?  Or perhaps you’ve got everything down pat now and only need to make a few tweaks for improvement?

I think what I will do is commit to my next day off jotting down an ideal schedule and seeing how I go.  I’ve resisted many forms of scheduling in the past and sometimes I’ll have a lovely to-do list written out the night before which I then completely ignore the next day… I really wonder what’s wrong with me at times!

But an ideal schedule sounds different – much more appealing for one.  Usually with a to-do list it’s all your chores – fun projects and reading are not on that list for example.  If I created an ideal schedule it would have a few chores, but it would also have time marked out for lunch, a bit of relaxing, something fun etc.  That sounds way better!

The above is a screen shot from our local library website.  I was so thrilled to see my new book listed! If you live in the Auckland region of New Zealand and would like to borrow Thirty Chic Days, you can place your name on the library holds list.

I do all my library book ordering online then pop in to collect them; it's such a fantastic service.  If you'd like to read Thirty Chic Days and don't have a copy yet, ask your local library whether they can order it in. One of our librarians told us once that they love it when library users request books because that way they can see what people want to read and it also helps them with their book ordering.

Do you use your local library? If you haven't been in a while, you might be surprised at just how many books, cds, dvds etc you can borrow.

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