Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Outing

We had a plan one evening recently to go and see the Christmas lights on a street famous for dressing up its houses (not quite American style though, New Zealand is a little more low-key). There were a few hours to fill in, between finishing work and it being dark enough to see the lights. We didn't want to go home so our plan was to have a drink in a pub nearby, then takeaways at a local park before heading to the light show.

We stopped at a Belgian Beer Cafe. Atlas soaked up the sun, and the compliments of fellow customers. I was asked if I wanted a small or a large beer when I decided on Hoegaarden. I said large, then changed to small. My husband went up to the bar and came back with the bucket that you see above (large). It was 'only' 500ml which he justified by saying it was less than 1.5 small bottles. It's bigger than Atlas!

'Never drink a beer bigger than your head' should be my motto, but I ignored it that day.

Next stop was the park with takeaways and a picnic rug.

Poodle relaxing in the sun once the dishes were washed up.

Back to the car, slowly. It was still very much daylight and we knew the lights wouldn't even be on yet.

Heading down the famous street in search of Christmas festivities.

One of the first of many cutely decorated homes (they must have decided against prettying up the wheelie bin).

Atlas cutting a dash on his Christmas leash (red with snowmen and Christmas trees on).

The sky was beautiful as the earth turned and darkness came.

One of my favourites - very subtle and stylish with plentiful round paper lanterns in varying sizes of yellow, red and orange.

The upper balcony is extremely tasteful I thought, and appropriate for a very hot early summer.


A long shot of the street.

It looks simple enough, but I bet outlining your home in lights is a big job.

Atlas walked all the way down the street (we parked at the top). It was a 10-15 minute walk and he skipped ahead like a puppy, pulling at the leash he was so excited to be out and amongst it all. It was a different story crossing the road at the bottom and walking uphill though. He started flagging and we took turns carrying him back to the car.

He conked out immediately on the drive home. I don't think he's ever had so much exercise in his life before he came to live with us.

Merci for reading How To Be Chic since I started in May of this year. I am looking forward to an exciting 2011, and will be back in January for my next year of living chicly. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Living the Savvy Life - Book Review

I was so thrilled and flattered to be chosen as an early reviewer of a new book, due out next month. Melissa from The Savvy Life emailed me and asked if I would like to be sent an advance copy of her new book Living the Savvy Life. Yes please!

One of my other favourite topics (than French Chic) is personal finance. The two seem quite far apart I know. I worked for most of my twenties for financial planning companies and have continued my personal finance readings up until the present day.

Many of these books can be very dry. My favourite types are ones which have a bit of personality and make being fiscally responsible more fun than running up credit card bills keeping up with the Joneses. Living the Savvy Life makes it fun and chic. It’s much more than just a way to do better with your money, it’s a true lifestyle guide covering home, entertainment, wardrobe, beauty and food.

When I first received my copy in the mail (you can imagine how excited I was opening a parcel in New Zealand that came all the way from California), I immediately read the contents page and flicked to the Wardrobe chapter.

I didn’t mean to start reading it right there at the post office but the friendly and conversational style meant I couldn’t not. I only read one page and then forced myself to put the book back in the envelope and get to work.

Living the Savvy Life really is such a readable and enjoyable book, and inspires and encourages me to want to do better in the areas where I’m lacking, and give myself a Congratulations in the areas I’m doing well in.

Thank you Melissa for including me in your review panel, and I wish you all the best with your launch on Amazon on January 11th. For anyone considering purchasing this book, I think you’ll find it a useful and enjoyable addition to your bookshelf. File it between Anne Barone and Suze Orman!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chic Habits: Having Mystique from your Significant Other

Having mystique at home/from your significant other. I read an article recently about two women who wrote a book on having a happy relationship. Julienne Davis and Maggie Arana have a book out called Stop Calling Him Honey and Start Having Sex. It sort of tells you right there in the title doesn't it?

Apparently there are a number of behaviours which can damage the dynamics of your relationship, and baby talk/names is right up there. By calling your sweetheart, well sweetheart, or darling or dear (even worse they say are baby-talk names like Beanybum or McMuffin Poopencakes - an actual one they came across) you are giving him the same generic nick-name as your barista or child.

I am guilty of this. I use 'sweetheart', but I also call kids in the shop trying on shoes 'sweetheart'. Better to use your husband's *gasp* actual name. Apparently as hard as that sounds (and it does to me, it sounds really formal), it will get easier and 'you'll soon realise you're thinking about him in a different way, and he's responding to you better.'

The authors are not professionals, but say the book is a result of 'ten years of the two of us searching and finally finding what really works to keep a couple's sex life hot'.

One of the authors said 'Looking back, I realised that my own sex life began to disappear when my partner and I started using pet names and baby talk with each other. We seemed like the perfect couple because we truly did love each other's company, but at home, we had so many bad habits going on that feeling sexual with each other was virtually impossible.'

Other bad habits include leaving the toilet door open (when you're in there), watching tv with dinner and letting 'bodily noises' hang out in his presence. These things are harmful to your sexual desire for each other. 'Apparently, failing to shut the bathroom door begins a downward spiral that ultimately turns lovers in roommates. "Certain barriers are worth rebuilding. Give yourself more privacy for a couple of weeks. Trust me, you'll feel sexier",' says one of the authors.

It made me think about how I conduct myself when at home with my husband. There are a few things to tweak to ensure our ongoing happy couplehood.

Close the bathroom or toilet door at all times. When I am brushing my teeth or washing my face doesn’t sound that bad, but why show him at all. Rather than see me with a whizzing toothbrush and foaming mouth, why not walk into the bathroom, close the door, then come out with a minty fresh smile.

Same with washing my face, I will go into the bathroom, close the door, before emerging with a fragrant, smooth and clean face. No hairband, no goo on my face, no raccoon eyes as I’m half done.

I mostly shut the toilet door, by mostly I mean if he’s near. But if my husband is downstairs and I am up, I don’t. It’s not a big effort to shut a door, so I plan to do this all the time, even when I am home alone. It’s a good habit to keep my mystique!

The authors say you don't need to dress up in sexy lingerie, you don't need to go see a therapist and 'you don't need to change who you are or spend a fortune to save your sex life. You just need to clear away all the stuff that's got in the way of the sexual dynamic you used to have.'

This is one thing I can start today (in fact I started yesterday) to improve my life with minimal effort and no expense. Just a change in thinking.

If you'd care to join me, please let us know what chic habits you would like to bring into your life, either on your own blog or in the comments here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chic Goals

I've had many lovely emails from readers both during and after my 30 Chic Days of November, and I love reading all of them. In these emails you detail how you are making your life more chic and which parts were your favourites. Ani from California went one step further and made her own list of Chic Goals.

I commend Ani on her candidness. My favourite thing about a good blog is when the writer is honest yet edited. I really enjoyed Ani's list and thought you might too. I would love to hear your list, even if it doesn't reach an impressive 22 items long. Well done Ani!


Ani's Guide to a Chic Life

1. Live all parts of my life with passion and be productive.

2. Eat less sugar and processed foods.

3. Eat less meat and dairy (I'm not going vegan or anything...but I believe everything needs to be eaten in moderation, and these foods are harder to digest.) And, I have given up those lunch meat things. I don't particularly like the look of them, and they have so much sodium and have been linked to increased risk of heart disease.

4. No bingeing (I've actually been good about this...I eat more slowly and if I feel like I'm having a crazy craving I just breathe deeply or do a couple yoga poses, and realize I don't really need chocolate or's just stress.) or mindless eating.

5. Enjoy healthy foods and cook more.

6. Have active lifestyle and enjoy the outdoors-both of these things are instant mood lifters.

7. Be both athletic (not crazy athletic) and graceful.

8. Meditate

9. Journal

10. Be more calm

11. Practice piano

12. Practice Spanish

13. Listen to more classical music or other soothing music (I love Michael Buble, Paolo Nutini, or Carla Bruni after a long day). Or, some holiday music in the spirit of the season! ;)

14. More reading

15. Have gumption-I was inspired by Kate Winslet in the film The Holiday...she's one of my favorite actresses as well. Another scene I love in this movie involves Kate's character exploring Cameron Diaz's house (their characters trade houses for Christmas in the film) When Kate comes across the gym, she kind of laughs and closes the door, almost as if she is thinking...nope, not going to spend anytime in there! Although this is part of the script, it's this reaction which makes me adore Kate. She does watch what she eats and exercise, of course, but she's not obsessed about weight or being thin. She constantly speaks out against airbrushing and emphasis on being thin. And, she's one of the few celebrities without a personal chef and/or trainer. ;)

16. Go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier.

17. Sitting less, moving more. Even if you do formally exercise, sitting for long periods of time is just not healthy. My Grandmother is very European, so her approach to fitness and nutrition is more common sense than my crazy American ways. Her tip is to get up and walk around and stretch after every hour or so of sitting. I'm always really bad about doing this...but when I do follow her advice, it's actually easier when I take a break after I finish studying a chapter or section rather than keeping track of the time.

18. Practicing awareness, being present.

19. Be more consistent with skin care regimen.

20. Volunteer time, contribute to society.

21. Stay informed.

22. Watch less TV (I halved the number of shows I watch a week, and I no longer watch any other TV than those scheduled times) and spend less time on computer.

Other ones I have...I've been influenced by other books and quotes:Enjoy food. Enjoy life. Enjoy moving, being free, being/feeling alive.

Don't punish yourself with workouts/masochistic routines. Dance, run, skip, play, laugh!

Also, don't punish yourself with nasty food or overeating.

And, lastly, I love this quote by the chic Audrey Hepburn. "You have to be as relaxed as possible about food and fitness and the rest of it, or you'll be a slave to your beauty may have great skin, but you'll be a robot."

by Ani, from California

Holiday Chic

I've been enjoying Lenna's Holiday Chic series, which started on 1st December. Lenna is showing us ways in which we can feel more serene, organised and in the Christmas spirit. I need prompting and have found her ideas so far very useful.

I think you might like her series too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Atlas J. Poodle - The Update

It’s been a month now since I had a serendipitous conversation with a customer and ended up adopting a 12 year old toy poodle named Atlas. Now, I cannot remember how life was before the little fellow came to live with us.

I have learnt that some dogs watch tv (below). He also likes to check himself out in the mirror in the shop, often.

He really is such a sweet little dog, and has adapted amazingly well to his new life. Atlas thinks nothing of hopping into the car (with a little assistance) and going to work, harnessed in with his doggy seatbelt (safety first).

He is perfect in the shop too. You won’t hear a peep out of him, no barking or whining. He has his five-metre long leash which gives him almost free run, but stops him running outside and into the carpark. Customers love him too, one said he ‘gives flavour to the place’ when I suggested that it was unusual to find a dog in a shoeshop.

Below he is showing how he can stand up to see over the box barricade I constructed, before the leash purchase.

Now he has his long leash he is ready to greet customers almost at the front door.

This is Atlas working from home, when I was updating our shop website one day. He was quite relaxed about it.

And here is he relaxing on his glamorous flock dog bed, elevated on an arm chair so he can feel part of the family.

On a sunny weekend afternoon Atlas likes nothing better than to take a walk through a leafy and green park. Here we are on the way to the park.

Happiness is running off leash, although it is slightly illegal. He should have waited until he was in the leash-free area. There was no-one else around though so he took the risk.

Since he is almost like a cat, Atlas sleeps on the bed with us, just like our two dearly beloved and now gone to cat-heaven cats did. He is no problem during the night, lies exactly where you left him, no snoring even. In the morning however, he likes to sleep right up until the time we leave for work, so I have to make the bed last thing.

It's such a stressful life being a poodle.

Yesterday was just another day in the life of Atlas. He met his friend Zoey the tiny toy black poodle for lunch. Zoey's mum is the lovely customer who brought the existence of Poodle Rescue to my attention. And the rest is history!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Thirty

Day 30: Put it all together

I thought I would end this series by asking you to choose one or two of your favourite Chic Days, or a chic habit you would like to cultivate to improve, beautify or enjoy life more with, and put it into practice.

Have you ever found you are forever researching and gathering information? And you don't have time to read back through the computer files saved, magazine articles torn and documents printed out? I do this all the time. It wasn't until I started going through what I had gathered, weeding out the rubbish and actually putting into place that I started making headway into my chic life.

I'm not saying I've suddenly turned into Audrey H, Amelie or Carole Bouquet, but a lot of the time I find myself making good decisions towards being a chic and stylish woman. Lots of the things I have written about in 30 Chic Days I already do (or partially/sometimes do and want to do more often). And it's only by dreaming, writing and reading about them that I have brought them into my reality.

By choosing a chic habit like wearing my nice things and using my nice dinnerware, in fact enjoy all the lovely items I already own, I can elevate my day to day life right now. If I decide to moisturise my body every single morning with the beautifully scented body lotions I have in my bathroom cupboard, all it costs me is a little time, and I have a 10 minute pampering session to start my day, and silky soft skin all day.

Focus on one thing and add to it as time goes on. What are you going to add to your daily routine or way of thinking to make your life more chic, starting right now?

Going into this holiday season which can be a bit nutty, my plans are to be very organised both at home and at work, go to bed earlier more often than not, limit drinks to very little (choosing sparkling mineral water) and generally look after myself well. Oh, and read lots or knit while listening to calming music. Delicious.

A chic life is what you make of it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Twenty Nine

Day 29: Use your good stuff

If there's nothing else you take from 30 Chic Days please take this: use and wear your favourite everythings. Last year when I was drying myself after a shower I wondered why, when we had beautiful new organic cotton towels which we had received as wedding gifts, was I using a towel that while being 'good enough', I had zigzagged along the edges to halt the fraying.

Immediately that day I sorted through our linen cupboard, downgrading those towels to gym towels and gym towels to cleaning towels. Now we have a lovely selection of thick, fluffy towels in shades of white, cream and chocolate, and it didn't cost a cent as we already owned them.

With clothing, I periodically downgrade going out/to work clothes to home loungewear, and beyond that it is given to a thrift store if it's still in good nick and I just don't like (or fit) it, or cut up into rags for cleaning if a little threadbare. That means I only wear my favourite, newest and nicest clothing.

One thing I never hoard are beautiful soaps. Everyone I know knows that I love good soap, and I often receive it as a gift. Additionally I always scan a sale table at the chemist or places like L'Occitane, and check out markets with handmade soaps. And of course I always stick the last tiny piece to the new bar. I don't like to waste lovely soaps.

Also, I use all my good dishes and glasses. Last year in my decluttering fit, I got rid of my clunky everyday dinner set and used my two good ones (plain white, and white with a dark-Greek-blue inch-wide rim) which I alternate and inter-change. I also enjoy using our Krosno expensive wine glasses. I put them in the dishwasher too.

The soap pictured top and above is a gift from Adrienne from The Rich Life (on a budget). Adrienne is one of the most thoughtful, kind-hearted and generous personages in the blogosphere. She posted me from California to New Zealand a gift package which included a bag of Vanilla Cookie flavoured dog treats for rescued poodle Atlas, and some 40th birthday goodies for myself.

Unfortunately our border security confiscated Atlas' American dog treats. He can't really argue with biosecurity though; he respects what they do, but it's a shame they didn't get here.

What did arrive safely here was a divinely scented Sonoma Lavender soap, a gauzy bag filled with lavender, beautiful boutique chocolate and the piece de resistance, purchased-in-Paris '40 and sexy' sign in French. It now graces our fridge. Adrienne bought it for herself, and once she turned 41 took it down and it has been tucked away for a year or two. How lovely that she thought to pass it along. I vow to do the same when I leave 40 for the lush pastures of 41.

The dark chocolate, oh my goodness. It was amazing (and I hope I don't use that word lightly). It was just the ticket with a cup of steaming tea of an evening.

Below is Atlas keenly opening the parcel at work. He's a handy little dog with a Stanley knife.

Merci beaucoup Adrienne!

Guest Post at Une Vie Chic

Recently Kalee at Une Vie Chic invited me to write a guest post for her food month. Kalee is doing a fantastic job at showing how good cooking at home is, and I particularly like her lists of kitchen essentials. She's anti-most-gadgets like I am.

Have a look at her entire month of November while you're there.

Thank you Kalee for asking me to be part of your food month!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Twenty Eight

Day 28: Don’t talk about being chic

Nothing is less chic than someone constantly speaking or complaining about their appearance or some other aspect of their life. Practice the art of mystery. If someone compliments you on a top you are wearing, say ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m glad you like it’. You do not want to say ‘oh, I’ve had this for ages, but it’s getting a bit old now’ or ‘I just bought it today, it was on sale’.

I had birthday drinks with a friend recently, who in detail explained to the entire group how her new diamond earrings given to her by her boyfriend came from a cut price place AND she got them cheaper because one of them was bent. Now I’m all for a bargain, but it’s for you to know and them never to find out. Whenever I see her in her diamond earrings, do you think I’m going to remember ‘Cut Price Discount Store’? Or if she had only said they were a lovely gift, I would look at them and think ‘lucky girl’.

Also, do not in conversation bring up your current diet or insecurities. You are only drawing attention to parts of you that you don’t want people to see or know about. By pointing them out you are shining a spotlight on them. Much better to glide into a room confidently and serenely, and make conversation with people by being interested in them and asking questions.

Of course I am doing exactly what I am saying not to do on this blog, but this, along with your closest girlfriends in a private setting, are the exceptions. In all other cases French-style mystique is the goal.

30 Chic Days - Day Twenty Seven

Day 27: Look after your skin

I have read that at the age of 13 or 14, a French girl will be taken to her local beauty therapist by her mother and asked to prescribe a skincare regime, which the young girl will then use.

A regular twice daily routine is the best thing you can do for your skin from a young age (as well as wear sun protection).

Even though I’m not French, I was lucky enough that my mother did the same thing for me. In my early teens she took me to a department store and helped me choose a good quality three-step cleanse, tone and moisturise regime.

More than 25 years later and I still do these three steps twice a day.

I am often complimented on my skin and who knows if my skincare routine helped. I have actually had people stop me on the street and say I have beautiful skin.

I wasn't a big sunbather and I think that has been beneficial. And even though I dabbled with cigarettes in my teens, I have never been a smoker. That's a huge one. I don't care what the French say on smoking.

The photo above was on our wedding anniversary last year, age 38 and a half.

Friday, November 26, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Twenty Six

Day 26: Embrace thrift

You may or may not know that my husband and I own a small retail footwear business which we work in every day. You'd think I'd be the last person to advocate not spending money. People spending money sort of keeps us going.

I will always try my best, in a non-pushy way, to help someone find the perfect pair of shoes. But I can’t help but think sometimes that people should just put their wallet away and go home.

It can be a slow boat to turn around, but once you stop spending it's actually quite hard to start again. The best way I found to stop spending (apart from when I was younger and couldn't pay my credit card bill) was to start decluttering. When you start making piles of 'good' stuff to get rid of, you begin to rethink just how much 'fun' shopping is.

Cherie from Renaissance Garden had the best quote on her blog recently:

"Every increased possession loads us with new weariness."
~John Ruskin

Truer words have never been spoken. I’d not heard it before but immediately had to write it down in my quote book.

Nowadays I find pleasure in shopping for an item I actually need. And that's after I've exhausted all avenues finding something at home that I have already to fit the purpose.

My mythical ideal French girl Sabine wouldn't cruise the mall after work on a Friday because she is bored and wants to buy something to excite her. Sabine doesn’t spend more than she earns and then faint when the credit card bill comes in. Nor does she squander and fritter hard-earned cash on trinkets, baubles, chocolate bars and cheap tops.

Non, she shops a couple of times a year, buys good quality at bargain prices and, when she does pay top dollar, it is for a classic, dark denim pair of jeans that fit her like a glove, and she wears them for many years in the future.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Twenty Five

Day 25: Plan ahead

At this time of year there are many social events on. In the past I have found it quite helpful to plan ahead what I am going to consume, both food and drink, either on a normal day or going to a party or family gathering.

It's so easy to look forward to an outing as an excuse to eat (and drink) to merry excess, and be fatter the following week. I have had success walking myself mentally through an outing and planning what I am going to eat (or not eat) and what I will drink (or not drink).

For example, this Christmas day which I will spend with my inlaws, I am thinking about not eating any snack foods, chocolates or sweets, no matter what might be nestling enticingly in bowls. That way I will enjoy my mid-afternoon Christmas lunch and dessert.

And because it is likely to be quite warm, I will drink plenty of water and only a few glasses of wine over the meal. I often find wine on Christmas day, a glass here, a glass there, over the day ends up making me feel blah and slothlike. Definitely not drunk, too much time has passed between each glass, but it makes you want to go to sleep.

I've been rereading my Anne Barone 'Chic & Slim' printouts from her old website (unfortunately she took all her supplementary writing down when she redid her website recently) - specifically the section on surviving Christmas in a chic and slimming manner.

She has some great ideas, like imagining you are a chic French woman spending the holidays where you live. You have been invited to a New Year's eve party at the home of some locals. Anne says to think about this role, how you act at the party, how you are picky with the buffet, avoiding the processed foods (which you don't understand, being French), and tasting tiny bits of different foods to see what you like.

Because you are French, you don't eat with your hands, so everything you do choose to partake in has to be eaten with a knife and fork, so, sitting down. You will also remember to keep your posture perfect, and not eat anything that might smudge your lipstick (potato chips can make lipstick disappear within minutes). You will also think about what current events, latest books or movies you wish to discuss with people.

I also like Anne's thoughts on drink: 'Being French, you will also opt for a small glass of beverage of your choice, sipping slowly from it all evening. You won't want to overindulge because then you will not feel well the next day. And especially you will not look your most attractive, if you drink too much alcohol. A healthy look is the basis of an attractive look.'

Some of information in the printouts is from her books, which, if you don't have, I heartily recommend. I have reread mine over and over (and over), and love them. The first three (Chic & Slim, Chic & Slim Encore and Techniques No. 1) are all worth having, but unless you really want more, I wouldn't bother with the other two unfortunately.

I wish I liked her 4th and 5th books more but they are just not enjoyable reading. They seem like they are from a totally different author. If anyone has them and loves them, please point out what I am missing here! I would love to love them.

This planning ahead technique also applies to the everyday. I find it quite helpful if I sit down at breakfast and plan what I'm going to have for lunch and dinner, along with fresh fruit (making sure there is some available in the fridge at work) and even things like choosing green tea over black tea, or coffee.

I create a picture in my mind of a day of chic eating and look forward to and enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Twenty Four

Day 24: Be grateful, be compassionate, be interested in the world around you

I was planning to include an item on gratitude in 30 Chic Days, as I think being grateful for all we have is a very chic way to live.

Today there was a tragedy in New Zealand. 29 men died in a coal mine explosion on the West Coast of the South Island. Talking about chic things pales in comparison to such an awful event. I have been thinking about their families a lot.

I am grateful every day for having a home to live in, a loving husband, wonderful family and friends and a job that pays the bills, but today I am grateful to still be on this earth.

May these men rest in eternal peace.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Twenty Three

Day 23: Do something creative

I love handcrafts like sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, quilting and patchwork. Often these pursuits can look old-fashioned and fusty though, so I work out ways to enjoy creating in a modern and simple way.

If you've ever made anything you will know the feeling of satisfaction which is gained by bringing an item into existence from a ball of wool or a piece of fabric.

You don't have to learn how to cast on knitting stitches to be creative though. My Auntie literally cannot sew on a button to save herself, but keeps a beautiful and welcoming home, and throws dinner parties for big groups in a relaxed and capable manner (the food's pretty good too).

Some other ways you might choose to express your creativity:

Tend your garden or a potted garden
Bake scrumptious goodies
Cook a delicious dinner, try a new recipe
Decorate your home in a manner pleasing to yourself and your family
Rearrange the furniture every once in a while, move artwork and decorative items around
Paint a picture, choose a couple of acrylic tester pots and be inspired by artwork in home magazines
Look at new ways to combine clothing items, jewellery and accessories
Write in a journal that no-one else will see

Pictured above is the quilt I made for my niece A's first birthday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Twenty Two

Day 22: Have a dress-up day

Maybe once a week, have a day where you take extra time with your appearance. If you wear a uniform to work maybe add high (or high-ish) heels. If that’s not possible, wear earrings if you normally don’t, style your hair differently or wear a scarf tied just so.

Even just choosing something from your wardrobe that you’d normally save for ‘better’. I’m not talking ‘best’, like a dress you would wear to a wedding, but wearing some of your nicer everyday clothes.

On a day at home I try to take the time to put on a tiny dab of makeup, spend five minutes more on my hair and spray on a little fragrance. Just because I'm not going out doesn't mean no one is going to see me. The most important person in my life is going to see me!

When I have taken a little extra effort (and normally it’s more about effort and only a little bit about time) my husband comments, people are nicer to me and the world is a sparklier and brighter place. I think it’s a combined effect of my outer appearance but also my inner radiance which comes from that. Conversely, on a day when I’m feeling frumpy and grumpy, my outer and inner Fifi produce the results you would expect.

I love this Laura Bennett quote (that type-a lady from Project Runway, the one with red lipstick and an architect husband):

"Get dressed everyday a little bit nicer than you would have and see if it makes a difference in your day. See if you feel better. See if people treat you better."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Twenty One

Day 21: Spend more time on your eye makeup

Being fair in colouring, I need more eye makeup than I think. Oftentimes I put on a bit of mascara and maybe some eyeliner (along with neutral eyeshadow) and think I look OK. Then I am at work in the loo and realise under the harsh lights that I look so naked and washed out. It's like I put nothing on at all.

Since I began making a concerted effort to put a bit more on around the eyes, I have been less shocked and disappointed at what's in the mirror. It's still not tons but I feel happier. I remember a boss about 10-12 years ago tell me I should 'wear eyemakeup'. At the time I was a bit miffed because I did!

It's taken me a while to follow the alcoholic old tart's advice. Better late than never though.

The great thing about wearing more eyemakeup is that I don't need as much of the other stuff. I only wear a dab of foundation which I put on areas which look awful first. When I run out of the tiny blob on my hand I don't allow myself any more.

This looks much better to me than a full coverage of foundation (which I have worn since I was about 14). A light dusting of loose powder, blush and a neutral pinky lip gloss is almost all I need.

The final bit of making up my eyes is brows. They are so important. Brows really frame your face. I watched an Oprah ages ago with Anastasia the brow queen from LA. Watching her work her magic I really wanted to visit her salon, alas I haven't been to LA lately and I bet she charges a fortune too.

I listened to her tips though and now do my own. I don't go to a professional brow plucker or waxer, I tidy my own every couple of days. It's just a matter of keeping them in a neat, natural shape and don't take too much off. Her claim to fame is the slight arch to the outside centre of the eye which supposedly makes you look wide-eyed and youthful.

I also use an eyebrow pencil which I sketch in lightly and then brush up the eyebrows. Finding the right colour is really important. You don't want to look like a freak. I find blonde ones can be a little orange for me, and grey ones (like at Bobbi Brown) are better. It must be because of the ash tones in my hair.

I don't have a favourite mascara brand but I prefer 'wet' lengthening mascaras over dry and flakey volumising ones. It's a matter of trial and error. And my best makeup tip is to have cotton buds handy for tidying up. A cotton bud and tiny bit of liquid foundation is perfect for erasing mascara where it shouldn't be. Finally dust under your eyes with a clean blusher brush to sweep away any fallen particles of eyeshadow or eyeliner.

Believe me you will feel tres French with your piled on mascara that flicks up at the sides.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Twenty

Day 20: Write a list

Part of living your own life is deciding what you want in it. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself just floating along taking whatever turn is offered to me, not actually making decisions for myself, either little ones or big ones.

I am a big fan of going with the flow, but I also think you need to direct the flow.

By writing a list, not only are you putting ‘it’ out there (into the Universe, for magical things to happen), but you are reminding yourself what is really important (these are the same things actually, I have realised).

And the great thing about your Perfect Life list, is that you can add (and subtract) as time goes by, thus tweaking your desires to reflect the changing you.

I know all this doesn’t sound terribly French, but I am reminded of the French Chic yahoo group’s welcome message. It includes the motto ‘A French woman consciously designs her life, and makes daily choices to carry out that design.’

I named my list ‘C’est Moi’ and started it on the computer, but then printed it out and carried on adding to it in pen. It has sections for different areas such as looks, manner, home, dining, personal style, personal grooming, travel, finances, creative life and inspiration, relaxing, going out, health, important people and beauty tips.

Under the headings I listed things I like about myself and ways I would like to be. For example, my ‘home’ heading has under it:

Uncluttered and organised
Tidies up often
House – breezy, calming, relaxing, bookshelves
Boudoir – spare, calm, sensual
Inspired by others homes
View of the ocean
Leafy back yard
Courtyard off bedroom
Home traditions
Relaxes / eats in courtyard under pergola, trees and ivy around – cool and serene
Small dressing room/walk in wardrobe in boudoir
Home is like a boutique hotel suite
Simple, luxurious

Some of these things I already do in the home sector, such as candles, bookshelves, home traditions, and a tidy, spare bedroom. Others I would love to have, like a courtyard off the main bedroom (french doors, old brick cobbling, zinc table and two chairs surrounded by private trees/bush) and a small dressing room.

It is quite a fun exercise to compile these lists (if you are a list-maker like I am), and reading them later on is even more enjoyable.

Friday, November 19, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Nineteen

Day 19: Moisturise your body

A while back I made the commitment to moisturise my entire body every morning. Not just lower legs once a week and not just when my elbows felt dry. Every morning, the whole body. Even if I was running late, even if I couldn’t be bothered.

I told myself it would become a habit, and it has now. If I miss a day (maybe once a month when I’m really late) I notice it. It would be like not brushing my hair or teeth before leaving the house.

After my shower and moisturising my face, I apply sunscreen to the décolletage area (summer and winter), then start on body lotion – arms and shoulders, lower legs, feet and knees, thighs and even bum cheeks. Sometimes I do my stomach, but mostly not. It seems to be the extremities (arms and legs) rather than the torso that lose moisture the most.

I feel très French and chic doing this self-care routine every day, and all the massage must be doing something. My skin will be smooth and my blood will be flowing around delivering goodness to every cell.

At first it may feel like it takes forever, you’re wasting valuable time, you’re late... but persevere and do it every day, and your skin and your serenity will thank you. Maybe you’ll get quicker at it or maybe you’ll just get used to the time it takes. Like hair washing and shaving your legs, it will become part of your personal care regime.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Eighteen

Day 18: Make notes

A few days ago I met a real live French person. She was tiny, with a petite bust and a pixie haircut light-brownish-red in colour. Having just moved to New Zealand she was moving into a new place with her husband and children, and at that moment buying shoes for her children.

You can bet I took lots of notice of how she spoke, what she said and how she presented herself. What did she wear you ask? A pair of lightweight dark-indigo straight-leg jeans with black flats and a soft cotton blouse in a similar indigo-blue colour.

Her earrings were like little silver starfish and I think she wore only her wedding rings, no other jewellery except perhaps a watch. Her makeup was very natural to the point that I wonder if she had any on.

It was so charming listening to her and her children talking to each other in French. I even picked up a few words. I noticed her children were very well-behaved in a nice, friendly way, grown up as in normal, not being silly and making fools of themselves.

Did I mention this woman was tiny? I’m not sure if French women are just naturally petite (slight shoulders, dainty wrists) or if it’s food-loving people like me who feel like a giant next to them.

There is a fantastic chapter about halfway through Lunch in Paris, which I am reading at the moment, where the author describes the women in the French family she is marrying into. ‘They don’t diet’, she observes, ‘they just don’t eat’. At last, the secret.

The most interesting thing I found about our brief conversations in the shop was hearing why her and her family decided to leave France to travel a long, long way to settle in New Zealand. She told me when she was growing up her family travelled a lot and she had lived all over the world. When she went back to France she said she didn’t feel French anymore, as they were all so insular and thought France was the best at everything.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your country of course, but she said not being open to other ways of doing things got to her. And of the books I’ve read I would add that there are prescribed ways of doing things in France.

Also in Lunch in Paris, the American author’s French fiancee told her he always wanted to be a film director but when he went to a guidance counsellor he was told ‘you won’t make any money from that and it’s hard to get in’, and was given a list of alternative careers to pursue instead. They lived for a bit in New York City where he was encouraged by his fiancee to send out demos, which got great feedback and some good leads. This showed him how different America was to France.

So what am I trying to tell you here with my real French person sighting? a) my ears are always peeled for any hint of a French accent, b) observe everything about the person when you do detect one and c) living in France is not the be all and end all (oh, but imagine those cobbled streets and wooden front doors on Parisian side streets...)

Do as I do and take what you like best about France and the French, and adapt bits and pieces to make your own life, exactly where you are right now, as chic as you like.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Seventeen

Day 17: Start a personal style journal

One of my 'books' I enjoy reading the most is my style journal. It has been grown over the years with torn out pages and advertisements from magazines, printed out blog posts and website articles, handwritten quotes, photocopied book passages and more.

The image above is an example of a snippet.

Interestingly, there are very few pictures of clothing in my style journal, and if there are they are quite classical. It's always been words and feelings that get my mind and inspiration going rather than pictures. I think that's why I don't get fashion magazines often, but string some evocative words together and I'm in heaven.

I don't read my style journal every day, but save it for every so often. That way it doesn't get stale. I throw away pages sometimes and add in new ones too.

Another reason why I don't have tons of pictures in my style journal is that I consider personal style more than just what you wear. I love reading articles or interviews of famous (and chic) people in which they detail the way the live.

What they do with their time, what they read, little things like perfume worn and their views on varying topics to name a few. Personal style to me is the whole package, and by creating my own style journal over time, it gives me a reflection back of what's important in my life.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Sixteen

Day 16: Tidy up as you go

On Sunday I had a long over-due day at home while my husband was at work. It was just me and the poodle. I pottered and tidied and did laundry and it was wonderful. I had missed my previous day off as a day-at-home because little Atlas had his vet check-up. We only have one car so I drop my husband off to work and pick up him afterwards. So my day at home included the home, but not me.

This meant nothing got done and because we’ve been busy at work I haven’t felt the motivation to get stuck into doing things when we’ve arrived home. Evenings are for relaxing! Not so relaxing though when the table by my armchair (under the reading lamp) has magazines piled piggledy, a layer of dust, extraneous extras (such as a knitting pattern I printed out for a ‘small dog’ jersey, our rescued poodle feels the cold being so thin).

Not to mention laundry accumulating and the bed haphazardly made.

I woke on Monday morning after such a good sleep, and a clean and tidy house only added to my well-being as I got ready for work. When a home is organised and neat, it’s so much easier to put something away. When I let things slide, what’s one more thing on the ‘to put away’ pile?

I am now being very diligent with tidying up as I go, as I have a few more of my days off work in the future where I won’t be able to be at home.

Just a simple thing like clearing out the living area before we go up to bed in the evening, putting remotes and tv guide in the basket by the sofa, wiping off the coffee table, putting cloth napkins in the washing basket, tea cups in the dishwasher and straighten my end table, removing things that should not be there. It’s much nicer to come down to in the morning.

Monday, November 15, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Fifteen

Day 15: Act as if

Something I try to remember on a regular basis is ‘Act as if’. By pretending you are the person you want to be in certain situations actually helps you become that person. You must have heard the great advice that says ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’? Acting as if goes along with that.

To stand up for yourself act as if you are more confident than you already are.

To become slimmer, act as if you already are by making slim-person food choices and identifying yourself with slender people rather than overweight ones.

Some ways I 'act as if':

When I am overwhelmed at work with many tasks to undertake along with a ringing phone, customer emails and actual customers in the shop, I try to remember to act as if I was the most organised and charming person in the world, carrying off everything with ease.

If I come home after work tired and grumpy, ready to pour the wine and blob, I act as if I am motivated and chic, putting away whatever we’ve brought home with us, tidying up, changing into my relaxing clothes, starting dinner and pouring a glass of sparkling mineral water.

In the morning feeling too lazy to iron a cotton shirt even though I love the look, act as if I am my ideal French girl Sabine, breezily ironing in her Paris apartment (with lavender-scented air coming in the metal window frames overlooking the Parisian courtyard of her building), before getting dressed and running out to catch the Metro to work.

If you’ve read even one post of this blog, you’ll know I like to daydream and make up pretend-Paris scenarios in my head in order to motivate myself to live my chic dream life.

I would love to hear how you might turn around a dreaded task, situation or time into an enjoyable one and what you might do. How would you act as if?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Fourteen

Day 14: Make your husband, and sex, a priority

I don’t really have much to say about this subject as I’m quite a private girl and I would be blushing. A romance writer I am not. Just do it often and have fun.

Some sexy French inspiration is available from two books by Kirsten Lobe - Paris Hangover and the rather more racy French Trysts (Secrets of a Courtesan). Goodness me, this American author will make your hair curl, but she’s funny and tells a great story of living in Paris.
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