Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Loving Kate's Look

I think I have a crush on Kate Winslet. I saw photos like these in a magazine last week chronicling the story of her and her new boyfriend. I really, really like her new look.

She looks so youthful and stylish. I adore the clothes she is wearing too: very simple, relaxed and chic, and in the colours I love (non-colours really – black, denim, grey, navy). The magazine I read reported she had lost 4.5kg / 10 pounds. She looks slender and young, but not emaciated. In addition, her makeup is very natural, fresh and polished, and her hair is unfussy. She looks younger than she used to I think.

I admit, after seeing some photos like these for the first time last week I wore a black suit jacket over my jeans and grey knit top to go out in the weekend.

Is it weird to admit I looked up her details? I am happy to say she is a similar height to me and we are both Libra (never mind that she's five years younger). That must mean it's OK for me to copy her look.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thrifty yet chic

I burn candles every day, mostly a little tea-light in a pretty glass with dinner (that's the 'minimum candle requirement'). On a day at home pottering, cleaning and relaxing, I love to light a high-quality scented candle. The only problem with high-quality scented candles though, is the high price.

I have been known to haunt the local L'Occitane shop (gorgeous French body products, as well as candles and incense) and when they recently had a half price sale on some of their candles, I was in. Around the same time I also scored a 30% off Ecoya candle.

In my dreams I burn Diptyque and Jo Malone candles with gay abandon, but I haven't reached those giddy heights yet. So we've established now that I get a little queasy spending big money on candles (which, after all, no matter how pretty they smell you just burn them, right?).

Do you know what upsets me more? Having to throw out the burnt-out base when the last little bit of wick gives in and droops into the molten wax, never to be revived. Leaving a thick foundation of wax with the remains of the walls of the candle also. All that lovely fragrance, trapped and wasted!

Then I started noticing a new product in shops - 'scented wax melts'. They piqued my interest. What if I snapped off pieces of leftover highly-expensive candle and melted them in my rarely used essential oil vapouriser? And do you know what? Just a little chunk of defunct scented candle placed in the vapouriser (no water) with a tealight candle underneath releases the fragrance as the chunk (sorry, 'scented wax melt') liquifies.

After a short while (around two tealight candles, so about 8-10 hours) the wax loses its scent and it's ready to be thrown out. If it was still a candle like in it's former life, it would have burnt away. But in it's new life as a wax melt, it just uses up the scent and stays put. I then leave it to harden and put the whole vapouriser in the freezer. The next day the wax disk simply pops out and I bin it. The vapouriser is left pretty clean too, just a tiny amount of wax to scrape off here and there.

That's how I get fancy candles out of jars too, put the whole thing in the freezer (when it's solid, not just after it goes out) and because freezing shrinks the wax a touch, it should come out relatively easily, sometimes a butter knife is needed.

So I'm here to say to you today, folks, do not throw away your fancy candles when you think there is no hope, because there is!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quiet Time

I've been having quiet time lately.

Hardly any computer at home, lots of reading, sparkling water instead of wine, home-cooking and early nights. It feels wonderful and is just what I need. Quiet time counter-balances the manic-ness that is life in our shop. Trying to keep on top of everything is a nightmare at the moment.

But I do my best and know that when we step in the door at home, it's quiet time. I take the original idea of quiet time from school-children, where the teacher designates a time to slow down, be still and relax. Soft music may be playing to assist. Quiet pursuits like reading are encouraged.

Quiet time is good for the soul, and helps you rejuvenate to face the world again.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Supermarket Supermodel

I picked up this book at the library a while back. It was on the recent releases shelf and the title 'Supermarket Supermodel' made me curious. It is written by Jim Cartwright, who also wrote 'Little Voice' (a play, and a movie).

It was a thoroughly engrossing and rather different book, and what impressed me most was that while the main character Linda was female, the author is male. He totally got inside her head. Linda is an English supermarket check-out operator, and after being 'discovered' becomes a famous supermodel.

One of the parts I really enjoyed reading was when Linda met Jackie Collins at a party. An odd situation, I know. I'm not sure if the author has met Jackie Collins in real life, but I just love his descriptions of her as an ultra-feminine, captivating and focused woman.

Here is an excerpt of the day after the party. Jackie has taken Linda home and gives her a bed for the night (she wasn't well at the party, and could not remember the address of the friend she was staying with). Linda wakes, hung-over, and has breakfast with Jackie.

Those few hours in her company gave me a world of wisdom, though there were no lectures or advice or anything like that. I can’t describe it proper. It was just like she was an education in herself. She was all the education a young woman needed just by being alive.

The way she did things, taking a call, picking a flower, pouring a drink, sharing a joke with the maid, laughing, winking, watching the ocean. She was woman in all her fullness, a rose, beautiful, fragrant, feminine, but that didn’t stop her from being powerful and who she wanted to be. It was like I was gathering it from her, getting the fragrance.

It was like the good fairy from the films when I was a kid, don’t remember her giving much advice, it was just her presence made everything better, the touch of her magic got you on the right track and wicked witches and goblins disintegrated at her jewelled feet.

Suze had been a good teacher, she knew lots of things and could teach you stuff and tell you loads, but she wasn’t what she taught, she wasn’t it. Jackie was it. She really was everything Suze worked and strained to be, but Jackie was just it. It didn’t really matter what she said or did but how she was.

We listened to the soul music and now and again she’d say let’s change the track, and it was always right and took us one deeper or one higher or suited the next thing she was going to do. We both did the breath in at one point and smiled.

Too soon it was time to go. She took care of everything, paid for my flight home and got her driver to take me to the airport.

Then I left LA and, resting in Jackie and the soul music, I flew home, flew home on it. I knew what I wanted now, I wanted to be like her. Strong, glamorous, independent, doing what she wanted but still loving and a woman.

Supermarket Supermodel
by Jim Cartwright

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A perfect afternoon on the sofa

I love this photo of Gwyneth Paltrow from one of my favourite movies A View From The Top. I watched it (again) yesterday. It’s just so silly and funny, but at the same time really motivational, AND it includes scenes of Paris. Not to mention Gwyneth’s character is made over during the movie from tacky to chic. Le sigh. No wonder I adore this movie.

I wrote this quote down while watching; it spoke to me (in Candice Bergen’s voice, with a twangy Texan accent):

‘No matter where you’re from, no matter who people think you are, you can be whatever you want, but you gotta start right now. Right this second in fact’.

Candice is Gwyneth's mentor in the movie, a former flight attendant who has retired and written a book. Watching the movie I was thinking to myself, I would really like to read that book. Shame I can't order it from the library.

After watching the movie I am motivated to do better in all aspects of my life - at work, in my slimming efforts, being a good person. The list goes on. I love it when movies do that.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Making your home like a boutique hotel

I found this article over the weekend. It's about the 'staycation', a new-money saving way of going on holiday by staying at home. I'm all for the staycation. As small business owners, we don't get to go away much at all, but our version of a staycation is to spend the night (or even - gasp - two) at a fancy hotel ten minutes down the road from our shop. It still feels like a holiday!

What I like most about this article is that it has lots of lovely ideas on how to make your home like a boutique hotel, and quite novel ways to enjoy your staycation. They may seem a bit silly, but, like the carpet picnic, are actually really fun, and shake up the ordinary. And we all need that sometimes.

I think our next staycation will be at home. And in the meantime I will be using all the wonderful tips on making our home like a boutique hotel. Why not live like this every day?

Here is the article:

Holidaying at Home

This is how my next holiday will go: the husband and I will pack the kids into the car at a civilised hour. We will drive for 10 minutes, have a leisurely brunch somewhere new, then drive for another 10 minutes to our boutique hotel.

It will be spotless and private. There will be flowers on the table, luxury toiletries in the bathroom and plenty of toys for the kids. The beds will be comfortable and configured exactly to our needs. There will be a cosy fire and the mini bar will be full of complimentary treats. Our hosts will have anticipated our every desire.

It will be our own house.

It's called a "holiday at home". Which is not the same as a week off work that you spend at home because the bathroom needs repainting. Nor is it (necessarily) a week spent in front of the television.

A holiday at home means you become a tourist in your own city and transform your home (even just in your mind) into a hotel. That means no work, no chores and no errands. It means abandoning your routine and trying new things: foods, restaurants, parks, attractions.

Yes, it might take a leap of imagination, especially if your home is closer to a backpackers' lodge than a five-star hotel and it rains for the entire week, but if you can pull it off think of the benefits: no expensive airfares, no jetlag, no "are we there yet?", no $9 Mars bars from the mini bar, no need for carbon offsets, no driving in circles in a strange city.

Holidaying at home has caught on so strongly in the US it's got its own buzzword: the "staycation". With the financial crisis and soaring oil prices, staying home has become the new going away.

Like any holiday, a staycation can benefit from preparation. Save for it and set a budget, just as you might for a holiday overseas. Tie up household admin and loose ends before you "go". Use some of the money you might have spent on airfares and accommodation to get gourmet groceries and treats delivered and book a cleaner, a gardener, a lawn-mowing service, a laundry service, a mobile massage therapist and beauty therapist, a dog walker, a nanny - even a personal chef.

Wellington life coach Cassandra Gaisford suggests you pinpoint what you need a holiday from. "What needs to remain the same, what needs to change? If you need a break from walking the dog, or the ageing cat is peeing on the carpet you may want to think about checking them into a pet motel.

"Plan some FTEs - first-time experiences. Rediscover your sense of adventure. Break out of the comfort rut. Your FTEs don't have to be huge - they may be seeing a show or eating something different."

Transforming your surroundings can also help you relax into holiday mode. Ponsonby interior designer Fiona McLeod suggests you ask yourself what it is about a luxury boutique hotel that's appealing.

"For me it's tranquility and minimalism. Get everything off the floor except your furniture and your feet, and completely clear the kitchen bench except for a bowl of fruit. If you have a fireplace, light it, and add to the ambience with candles and aromatherapy.

"Treat yourself. Buy a pile of magazines and fan them out on your coffee table. Buy luxury bath and shower products and splash out on a few extra accessories, like designer cushions, new towels or an ornamental bowl, to make your home slightly different from the norm."

As with any good holiday, a staycation is about eating fun food. If holidays mean lobster and fresh mango, put them on your shopping list. If you regard cooking as a chore, don't do it. Go out for meals at restaurants and cafes you've never tried, or live on "room service" (home-delivered takeaways). If you enjoy cooking, buy gourmet and unfamiliar ingredients and create new dishes.

After our family staycation, we will return home at leisure, perhaps stopping at a cafe on the way to transition out of holiday mode. We will be rested and stimulated. And the bill will be very reasonable.

The rules of a staycation

1. Set a departure time.
To help you make the mental switch to holiday mode, and declare an end date. Get excited.

2. Switch off the world.
No phones, no email, no mail, no internet and definitely no work. Tell your boss you're holidaying in the Sub-Antarctic Islands and can't be contacted.

3. Abandon routine.
Eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired, drink whenever you declare it to be cocktail hour. Let the kids play Scrabble until midnight and give them chocolate for breakfast and Weet-Bix for dinner.

4. Hire "staff"to do your chores.
Do not go on errands or do housework.

5. Diet be damned.
If you even touch that packet of mixed veggies in the freezer, you're disqualified and have to go back to work immediately. Daily icecreams are compulsory.

6. Go on day trips and try new things.
Be a tourist: think dolphin-watching, a harbour cruise, a wine tour, a drive in the country, the Auckland Harbour Bridge walk, shopping somewhere new for something fun. Hire a luxury car, do a wine-tasting course, try something creative, go to the theatre or learn a new sport.

7. Avoid familiarity.
Take the children to playgrounds and parks they've never been to before. Play tennis (if you don't usually). Walk or cycle as much as possible.

8. Spend your holiday allowance frivolously.
Buy a good book and new toys for the kids (and you). Turn your home into a day spa.

9. Send postcards.
Take photos, make videos, buy souvenirs.

10. Host cocktail hour.
Serve your friends daiquiris from coconuts. Better still, invite them for the weekend - even if they live nearby.

- Of course I don't agree with the point about sending your pet away. That to me is the best part of the staycation, you get to enjoy your pet's company too. -

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fashion Homework

I’ve been doing my fashion homework lately. Normally with clothing I would just buy the odd thing here and there and add it to my wardrobe. I always get a bit stuck in summer with what to wear (we’re just coming into spring in the southern hemisphere).

My autumn, winter and spring look of jeans, a fitted shirt and flats or heels doesn’t quite work when it’s too hot. I tend to move into jeans, a summery top and more open sandals (and am still a bit warm).

In trying to branch out in what I wear I have been doing two things:

- Actually reading the fashion pages in magazines, taking note of the looks I like and where the clothes come from (mostly I just skip the fashion pages), and

- Observing what other people are wearing. Whenever I see someone stylish, with clothing on that I think I would like to wear, if possible I compliment them on their look and ask them where they got a particular item from. So far people have been happy to tell me. I do this is a conversational way, not in a ‘whip out my clipboard’ way.

I am planning on doing a few shop visits where I take the time to check out their stock. Since I’ve been saving money for so long now and wearing what I have, this is new for me. Thanks to the stylish people that have come across my path I have some new places to browse through.

I have also considered of some favourite pieces in my wardrobe, taking a pattern from them and having a go at making my own. I have two blouses which are fitted and have bracelet-length sleeves. I love them to bits mainly because they give the look of a fitted shirt but are made of a fabric which doesn’t need ironing. The shop I bought them from doesn’t do them anymore. I’m going to wear one into a big fabric store and see if I can get something similar, then have a day with my sewing machine.

We’re not lucky enough to get Brooks Brothers in New Zealand, so I’m a bit reluctant to order online one of their wonder shirts (small considerations like knowing what size and style to order). Maybe I’ll get brave and risk it. Our dollar is quite good against the US at the moment.

For those of you who dress more casual (working in a shop I think I wear clothing like a stay-at-home or work-at-home mother, much less corporate than when I worked in an office), what do you wear when it’s really hot? I’m not so much into three-quarter pants, shorts or skirts, so that just leaves me with longs. I thought perhaps a lightweight denim or linen?

Should I be reconsidering skirts? I just never know what top to put them them.

Maybe I should be summer-ising my winter uniform?
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