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.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Thirteen

Day 13: Have a spa day (or a spa one-hour)

I’m not a big bath taker, but if you are, start with a bath. I start with a nice long shower in which I exfoliate with scratchy gloves or a body brush, shave my legs and under my arms, wash and condition my hair. Before the shower even I exfoliate my face and put a mask on. This then gets washed off in the shower.

Afterwards I moisturise my body thoroughly. Sometimes rather than use my everyday body lotion I will use a thick body butter or cream, or an extra fancy fragranced body product. On a spa day I let my hair dry by itself and apply very light makeup.

Post-spa activities might include:

Drinking tea
Light pottering
Taking a leisurely walk
Reading through inspirational material printed from websites and torn from magazines
Watching a favourite movie
Tidying and organising
An after lunch nap
Baking muffins
Playing Edith Piaf
Prepping for a cosy dinner

Shannon from The Simply Luxurious Life published this lovely post recently, about making your home a sanctuary. There are lots of ideas in this post which I have noted down, and would do well to be included in just such a day.

Friday, November 12, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Twelve

Day 12: Paint your toenails

French women are renowned for knowing better than most that to make the most of one’s femininity will enrich their relationships with the opposite sex. It is said that men love women to do the things that are the opposite of what they do, in appearance, manner, dress etc. Painting your toenails is just one way to enjoy the results of a feminine beauty ritual every day.

Naturally, coloured toenails are a must for a chic summer look, but don't stop when it comes to winter. I prefer brights or darks (nudes and pales can make my feet look a little... cadaver-like) and I always feel more chic and polished when my toes are.

For some reason toes keep their colour much longer than fingernails. A new pedicure can last me quite a few weeks, whereas working in the shoe shop I don't even get one day out of fingernail polish. For that reason I keep my fingernails mid-length and bare. I'd like to say I buff them all the time (more like once in a blue moon) but the reality is it's enough that I push back my cuticles when I put on handcream.

So I get my colour fix on my feet. Because yoga classes are taken barefoot I'm glad I make the effort. Just a touch of polish makes the female foot look so much prettier and more feminine.

And it doesn't matter that you don't wear open toed shoes in the winter. You will enjoy seeing the fruits of your labour when taking off socks or moisturising your legs after a shower.

Your significant other will probably like it too. When I was a single girl in my early thirties, I lived with my sister and two other housemates. A male friend who sometimes called around to see everyone, said to me once 'I saw that you had a face mask on the other night when you walked from the bathroom to your bedroom. I really liked seeing that you take care of yourself'.

And this guy was one of the most intimidating and slightly rough (on the outside anyway) men in our group of friends! It showed me you can never pick what a male will notice and appreciate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Eleven

Day 11: Enjoy low-cost luxuries

I may not be rich enough to spend a month staying at the Ritz Paris, or eat in silver service restaurants each evening. But I can have one or two nights at a beautiful hotel in my home town a few times a year, dine on petite pieces of eye fillet steak once or twice a month and sip Moet or Veuve Clicquot once in a while.

I have found that you don't need to have tons of money to live well. My husband and I often have this conversation. He concludes that the things we enjoy doing, we can do on a small budget. Yes, we want to buy a house one day, and we are saving hard.

But in the meantime, why live like a poor person? Why not put aside a small amount of money each payday to feed the soul?

Aside from the ones mentioned above, here are my favourite low-cost luxuries, to be enjoyed every so often. Having them all the time would ruin the fun.

A barista-made coffee.
A thick, glossy magazine. I bought October's The World of Interiors recently with Anna Wintour's rural retreat. Divine!
High-cocoa content chocolate.
Having my hair highlighted, trimmed and styled. The head massage while shampooing makes my toes fall off.
A macaron or other French pastry from a fancy boulangerie.
Browsing in an upmarket store, and sampling fragrance and hand-cream on the way out.
A blissfully early night.
A long shower where I do everything (hairwash, facial exfoliant, body scrub, legs shaved) and then smooth on thick body cream.

I feel like there are a million more things that could be on my list. Will you help me? What are your favourite low-cost luxuries?

In the photo above I am reclining in our luxury suite at a fancy hotel last month. It was my 40th, so why not? In my dreams, my ideal French girl's apartment is very different to this (more rustic and sparse, even though it is in Paris), but I wouldn't mind it if my Parisienne maison was decorated like our suite.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Ten

Day 10: Go for a walk

Honestly. Just head down your driveway and go for a walk. You don’t have to put on exercise shoes, but I don’t think you should wear high heels either. Perhaps something in between? Wear your normal clothes and take a walk, either from work, or from home. Even if it’s just ten minutes around the block.

You will get some vitamin D from the sun, a bit of fresh air (don’t worry too much about vehicle pollution unless you are walking along a motorway) and move the blood around your body.

You will connect with your neighbourhood and have time to think. If you can combine an errand with a walk, so much the better. I never feel more French than when I walk to the post office or bank, or to pick up a library book.

Now that I have rescued poodle Atlas, I look for excuses to take short walks. Everyone needs to see how handsome he is! We’ve had more takeaway coffee this week than any other week in history I think.

So grab your sunglasses, put on a bit of lipstick and take a stroll, just like your ideal French girl would. Mine, Sabine, has been around a lot lately!

And even though you are unlikely to be strolling the streets of Paris, just imagine you are. It's almost as good.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Nine

Day 9: Go to bed early

It’s an often quoted fact that the later you go to bed, the fatter you are likely to be. It seems to be a couple of factors at play – staying up late makes you more tired the next day so you look for a high-energy fix to keep you going, and the body has biological functions that happen at night when you are resting. If you aren’t asleep at the time they happen, you miss out.

Does that sound right? I’m not a scientist (far from it), but I choose to believe them. It’s so easy to say up and noodle around doing nothing, and then go to bed late. And then read. And then turn the light off when it’s really late. And then wake up late. I think you see where I’m heading here.

So I’m reminding myself (and you, if you want) that to go to bed early is divine (and something else, you know the saying). It will keep you youthful and fresh-faced for longer. You will also not believe how good a mood you are in all the time.

I always wash my face just before I go to bed. It’s much more pleasurable to remove my makeup meticulously and apply all the nourishing goodness in a careful manner when it’s 9.15pm, rather than when I’m tired out at 10.30pm.


Monday, November 8, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Eight

Day 8: Give up soft drink

No good can come of soft drink or soda. It’s addictive and revolting, and makes you fat and unchic. And whether it's sugar or diet, they're both bad news (diet's even worse in my opinion).

I’m doing pretty well with my transition away from unstylish drinks. And I don’t really consider fruit juice to have much merit – why not just have a piece of fruit? My goal is to get down to a core of drinks, inspired by the French girl:

Tea/herbal tea (hot and unsweetened)
Coffee (ditto)
Hot chocolate
Maybe a cold cider or beer on a hot day

Fizzy drink, fruit juice, spirits and flavoured waters are all unnecessary. Maybe I’ll have my favourite brandy and dry or a g&t on a special occasion, but it won’t be my everyday drink. Sweet soft drinks make it too easy to have more as they are so delicious.

To not want an alcoholic drink when I get home from work, I have stocked our fridge with sparkling mineral water. It really is quite different to still water and it’s entirely calorie-free. Anything sparkling is still corrosive though so I only have one glass of an evening.

I try and do negative-association with food items I want to avoid. So I imagine someone trashy, not classy and unhealthy guzzling down litres of fizzy. Most of the time it works!

I have even managed to order a sparkling water in a cafe when I am out. Normally I would think to myself 'well, it's only water, I may as well pay the same price for something that has stuff in it, like fruit juice or an organic lemonade'. Wrong answer! I feel way more chic and French when I sip on my sparkling mineral water when out for lunch.

One of my all-time favourite feel-good books is Jemima J by Jane Green. In it the main character Jemima is transformed from a severely overweight girl into a slender, fit one. The thing that changes for her is that she changes her mind. She decides one day she's sick of being fat, starts exercising, changes her diet and off she goes.

The day she decides to do better, she goes out after work to a bookstore to browse the shelves. On the way she stops at a cafe, and instead of her usual order of a high-fat sugary coffee which would have more calories than a rich dessert, she chooses a mineral water and sips it outside, watching the people go by. Choosing the mineral water symbolises the new her.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Seven

Day 7: Have a day of rest

Give yourself a break. Like those of you with high standards (both of ourselves and others) I find that I get so wound up with not having done everything perfectly (and sometimes just having just ‘done’ everything. I am so behind with my work at the moment) and stressed out. This is not good for tranquillity or a wrinkle-free face.

I have to tell myself relax - nothing is life or death. Write a list out and see what’s important. Do those first. And relax again. Slow down.

I heard this quote on the radio last week. It imagine it would probably be true.

‘A shift in consciousness results in a shift in biology’. – Deepak Chopra

By worrying, I am not doing my body or mind any favours. It could actually be making me unwell and older. Most of the time you don’t have to do ‘everything’, just the important things will suffice.

If you look at yourself from the outside in, viewing yourself as you would another person, would you respect the frazzled, martyr-ish stress freak, or the relaxed and calm person who glides about their day, ticking things off their list.

Not all days are like that, but with a change in mindset, I'm sure most of them can be. I'm starting today.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Six

Day 6: Read a book translated from the French

I have loads of books written about the French lifestyle by American, English and Australian authors (both fiction and non-fiction), and more. For a real French perspective though, I suggest reading a book translated from the French language.

May I recommend the fictional Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda if you’ve not already read it? I borrowed it from the library a while back and was so enthralled I eventually bought a copy for my own personal library.

There are three main characters living together in shared accommodation in Paris. Their stories become intertwined as you might imagine. You may or may not expect the ending, and I loved it. The entire book has a magical quality, mixed in with the mediocrity of the everyday.

It is quite an enchanting story and has stayed with me. It will be one I re-read on a regular basis.

My next book to read which has been translated from the French is the classic Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I’ve been meaning to read it for, oh, about a million years, but library books keep getting in the way. My mother has been nagging me to read it and I promise I will, soon, before the end of the year.

Friday, November 5, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Five

Day 5: Breaking News

In the back of my mind, my ideal French girl Sabine walks her poodle along the Seine river and often sits outside a cafe with her black coffee, poodle at her feet. After all, what is more French than a pet poodle? I even mentioned poodles in my make-believe magazine interview when I first started this blog.

I knew I would never have a poodle though, no matter how stylish I thought they were. The reason is that I could never have a 'bought' pet, when there are so many unwanted ones that are waiting for a home at rescue shelters. And in my days of volunteering at the SPCA (every month for four years until we opened our shop) I never saw a poodle in the dog adoption area once. Mostly they were bigger dogs, and the little ones were snapped up immediately.

A customer in our shop on Monday of this week was carrying the most delightful tiny toy (more a teacup really) poodle as she was trying on shoes. I fell in love with the wee dog but told her what I've just told you, no fancy bred dogs, only rescued ones etc. Not judging her, just said I couldn't do it.

She then told me about an organisation called Poodle Rescue. Can you believe such an entity would exist? Apparently they deal with poodles that need to be rehomed due to situations such as marriage breakups, changed circumstances and elderly owners not being able to care for them anymore.

I asked her to keep me in mind for the future as that sounded like it could be something I could do one day.


Yesterday this same lady called me to say the Poodle Rescue person had called her to ask her if she knew anyone that could give a home to a 12 year old small poodle whose elderly owners had gone into hospital. What she was worried about was the owners had already surrendered him to the SPCA who were planning to put him to sleep despite his good health, because they considered twelve too old to rehome.

Naturally I could not let this happen, and luckily my husband agreed. So this morning I met with the Poodle Rescue woman and the lovely lady who introduced us, at the SPCA to uplift little silver poodle Atlas.

Here we are blogging about it tonight.

Poor little Atlas has had a big day (a big week really, spent at the SPCA on death row) and is quite tired. He really is a sweet boy, so gentle and affectionate. If he could spend all day asleep on someone's lap he'd be happy.

You will note he doesn't look particularly poodle-ish, because he hasn't got the traditional poodle grooming with short cropped bits and longer bits like a top-knot on the head. I think he looks really lovely with a short clip all over, but I reserve the right to change my mind and have him made over into something worthy of a pen drawing on the cover of one of Mireille Guiliano's books. If you've got a lovely curly coat, why not have a little fun with it I say.

And he gets to be a shop dog too! Atlas will be travelling into work each day with us. He will have a little bed out the back, and can venture into the shop once he gets used to his surroundings. We have a grass lawn out the front, and a park (with a fenced leash-free area) just around the corner.

Some days I believe in serendipity more than others. Today was a good day for combining French Chic fantasies and helping a homeless dog.

Normal programming for 30 Chic Days will resume tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Four

Day Four: Wear a Beret

On a morning when it’s rainy, windy and cold, I pull on my beret. I have two traditional felted wool ones – in black and camel. I wear the camel one more often as it’s softer on my colouring.

Not only does it keep my hair tidy and frizz-free, it keeps me warm, and it lets me add a bit of Parisian style to my outfit. Sabine, my ideal French girl is thrilled she’s been let out for the day.

A woollen beret is less expensive than you’d think too.

Don’t worry if you think you’ll look like a French caricature. Loads of (really normal) people wear them. I even saw an old man walk past in one recently. He may have been French though.

That’s your homework for today. Go out and find yourself a beret for the winter. You will be amazed at the French jaunt it adds to your step.

Edited: I changed the image to one of me on holiday in Queenstown a few years ago. That perfect fake looking background is actually real. Gosh Queenstown is a beautiful place. My beret is pulled waaaay down, to keep my ears warm. You can see the snow on the mountains, right?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day Three

Day Three: Eat Fresh Stuff

Since making sure I have at least one piece of fresh fruit, a raw salad and steamed or stir-fried fresh vegetables every day, I've felt a lot more energetic and vibrant. I either have my piece of fruit in the morning or the afternoon, the salad with lunch and vegetables with dinner.

On days when I’m busy or lazy and don’t, I really miss it. In New Zealand there is a ‘5+’ campaign on tv encouraging five plus servings per day of fresh produce.

My fruit intake is one serving, and I would have at least two servings of vegetables in each of my lunch and dinner. And no, hot chips (fries) are not a vegetable serving. Jamie’s Food Revolution has just started on tv here. It’s rather shocking what people eat, and what is served in schools under ‘strict nutritional guidelines’.

You don’t need guidelines, you just need to eat real, good food. And I don't believe the advertising that says canned/frozen/dehydrated foods have just as much goodness as fresh. Nothing beats a bright green head of broccoli or a crispy carrot.

Now, there's no way I’m a saint, and there are certainly days when I have a fraction of the fresh food I need. But if I stick to my routine portions most of the time, I’m pretty happy with that.

All images from my kitchen tonight.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Chic Days – Day Two

Day Two: Put hand cream on

Many times a day. Every waking hour of every day if possible. Find one that is not too greasy and that sinks in quickly so you won't mind using it. As well, get a really thick and creamy one for night time and apply before bed, working into your knuckles, wrists and cuticles.

Wear gloves for washing the dishes, scrubbing the floor and when gardening. Yes I know I’m being bossy but it’s really important. Your hands will thank you. My ideal French girl Sabine would never have rough and chapped hands. Her hands would be silky and soft, and used expressively in conversation.

A skin-care professional once told me to use up the bit of left-over facial moisturiser (from doing your face) by putting on the backs of your hands. Apparently someone he knew did this but only on one hand to show the difference it made. He said the comparison was astounding, but I don’t know why you’d want one wrinkly, age-spotted hand and one smooth and lovely. Just do both OK?

I have handcream everywhere. On the desk at work, a little tube in my handbag, in the car (only for when I’m a passenger though, do you think I have a death-wish?), by my tv chair, in the bedside drawer and probably ten other places. They are all different too – I like a bit of variety.

I read ages ago that Joan Collins applies a little foundation to the backs of her hands when she goes out. I think that’s very cool. She’s one well-groomed lady.

Pictured above is one of my many hand creams. This is a particularly rich one that takes a good ten minutes to sink in, so it's one that I use when I have time, rather than an 'on the go' one. It smells rather divine too.

I am lucky enough to have a L'Occitane shop in the city where I live. I asked a staff member when I was in there one day if they sold the gadget that crimped the end of the metal tube so you didn't waste any (I'm geeky like that). They didn't, but said anytime I want to bring my tube in they'll crimp it for me. How nice are the staff at L'Occitane? Of course I took my tube in the very next week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Chic Days - Day One

There's something about a new month that allows one to start afresh. It's like a mini-new-year, but you get twelve of them, and with less pressure.

In the lead up to the holiday season with all the Christmas advertising just starting, I plan to put some tranquility into my life by remembering thirty of my basic chic principles, one day at a time.

Day One: Create a French headspace

Even though I shall likely never live in France, this doesn’t stop me dreaming about being a French girl and living a chic life. I may be working on the computer or lining up at the bank, but in my mind I am living in a small garret in Paris, tripping down cobbled streets in my high heels to pick up a baguette from the boulangarie.

Yes, I know this mythical girl may not even exist, but that's not the point. The point is that whatever inspires me, inspires me. It may sound trite, but why not elevate my day-to-day life by dreaming? And I can strive to be a little bit more chic while doing all my necessary errands.

Whatever makes you happy, non?

In the photo above, of my first and hopefully not only trip to Paris almost ten years ago, I am channelling Sabine, my ideal French girl. Rather than look like a tourist, I wore a black skirt, charcoal merino knit top, faux-fur scarf and high heels. Of course I saved the obligatory Metro map and used tickets for my album.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...