Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Investing in your face / 2 colour-rule

Inspired by the comments on my last post about massage (many of you have regular facials), I booked myself in for a facial with a French beauty therapist. I last had one with the same woman about eight months ago and before that, I have no clue. In my mind they are extravagant and unnecessary, but the one I had in December proved me wrong. Shame it's taken me this long to realise it.

A French woman would not skimp on care of the skin and body (and hair, but that's for another day) and then spend that same money on crappy snacks, fattening drinks and takeaways. The new and improving Francais me invests in self-care and forgoes anything Sabine, the ideal French girl would say non to.

I found out about my current beauty therapist in a way I'm too embarrassed to talk about (I especially didn't tell her). I was searching for images of 'French beauty therapy salons' and came across a Paris-trained French beauty therapist here in the city where I live.

Of course I had to take a look at her website and found that her prices were very reasonable (about half of what salons in town cost). She does work from a salon at her home, but I also know at least two others who do this, and they seem to benchmark their prices against city salons.

Does how I found about her sound too stalker-ish? I feel a bit like it does, but I'm really not one. What would she say if she knew about my French obsession though?

My second facial was just as good as the first one with her, even better maybe, as I knew what to expect. An organic French skincare range called Centella is used, and every single product smells divine - herbal, floral, fresh. The scents are very concentrated, but in a way that you think there are lots of active ingredients, not in the highly perfumed way.

What I like most about these facials, which is different to any other facial I have had is the massage. She spends quite a bit of time massaging the neck, shoulders, upper-arms and decolletage in big, sweeping, side to side movements.

Then she moves to the face for another lovely long episode of massage. Some of the movements are actually quite aggressive, she slaps and taps along the jaw-line with very quick strokes and then slows to an irregular tap. Part of the massage was fingertips all over my face which felt like falling rain. Amazing.

This time, as last time, my skin looks very poreless, yes, pinkish and shiny as I had no makeup on and I'd just had massage and exfoliation and a mask and steaming, but very fine textured.

I studied her skin as I paid and asked questions. You can tell she's not 20, and isn't trying to be. She definitely looks her age, but the texture of her skin is very fine, no pores anywhere, and plumped up (with hydration rather than dermal fillers). She is a good advertisement for her services and her products.

And, I could listen to her French accented feminine voice all day.

Now, I did something as a service for myself, and for you, dear reader. I possibly made a fool of myself, but I would have been annoyed if I hadn't taken the chance. Normally I don't talk at all during a massage or facial, just rest and relax with my eyes closed.

The therapist picks up on that and it's lovely and quiet. But when she was washing off my floral mask I plucked up the courage to ask her about the two-colour rule, since she is a French woman (I know, not generalising at all).

Do you want to know what she said? She had never heard of it and laughed a little tinkly laugh. She did know what the person being interviewed was getting at though. She said 'people here, they are so...' and then threw her hands up in the air and shook them all around. Basically we wear everything at once. I asked her how it was different in France. 'People are more... classy, classic'.

I felt like a bit of a dill asking her, but now I know not everyone French knows this two-colour rule secret they're not telling us about. If you hear anything, please let me know!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Better than botox

Several years ago, when botox was first becoming popular, I thought I would try it to ensure the fine lines did not become more deepset. My sister wisely told me I would be better to spend the same amount of money on a monthly therapeutic massage, which would relax me and therefore my face. It would also be a more pleasurable way to spend my money than pointy injections. I thought this was a very good idea and found someone nearby.

I enjoyed the massages but the person doing them wasn’t exactly to my taste. She was very sterile and practical and didn’t have the ‘bedside manner’ I required. If she got too warm she would say ‘gosh it’s getting hot in here and turn the heating off’. She did not ask me, the customer, lying there in knickers and a towel (I was the one paying and I was lying there cold). And I didn’t like the way I was in and out within the hour, including changing and paying. Wasn’t an hour long massage an hour long?

I never spoke up though, I simply didn’t go back. I left it a few years without going for my monthly massage, and then on chatting with a customer in our store, discovered she was an aromatherapy masseuse just across the road from us. I booked in with her and haven’t looked back.

I have just had a massage this afternoon and feel so blissed out. She is the polar opposite from my first masseuse. When I arrive the room is warm and dimmed, with soft carpet underfoot. The whole time I am there is a real sensory experience.

She often has a candle, incense or scented oils going, and everything is immaculately clean while still being welcoming and homely. She starts by getting me to take my shoes off and soaks my feet in a foot spa-bath for a few moments and massages in an exfoliating scrub. This is rinsed off and my feet are dried.

She then leaves the room and I change and hop up onto the table. The oil column heater in the corner is heaped with clean towels for her to use, and the towel on the table to cover myself with is toasty warm. As she massages my back, my legs etc, towels are replaced with hot ones, and once she has done with each foot they are wrapped in a warm hand-towel for the remainder of the massage. Can you imagine how wonderful this feels?

She uses a different mix of oils each time. Today I had patchouli, geranium and ylang ylang, and the hour is finished off with a rose oil facial massage.

All the while relaxing meditative music is playing softly.

I've not tried botox yet, and I'm so glad I took the good advice to indulge in regular massage instead. And if you think it's indulgent, just flick through all the other things you spend money on - as I've discovered, some things sneak into your budget uninvited, whereas others, like a regular massage are well worth the investment.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rest, and Yoga

At the moment I’m feeling a bit like a rest. And rather than try and make myself snap out of it, I’m just going with the flow. I realise now there are times when I enjoy going hard and decluttering/cleaning/organising/crafting/cooking at home, and times when the exact right thing to do is read the new Tori Spelling book I have out of the library for an hour (or two). I can’t tell you how much I love Tori and her books and DVDs.

I don’t know what it is, she’s supremely tacky and such a self-promoter, but she’s just so funny and enjoyable to watch/read. I have terrible, really trashy taste in tv and books sometimes. Where else except our house would you find Keeping Up With The Kardashians sitting next to Two Days in Paris and various French arthouse movies.

So I’m enjoying the quiet time right now. On my last day off work (Wednesday, since I work Saturdays) I wasn’t much in the mood for being productive, so I did what I have to do - make the bed, wash the clothes and towels and hang them out, empty the dishwasher, prep dinner and then... I put some chocolate brownies in to bake (from scratch) and watched a couple of Kardashians episodes while filing my nails.

Being slothful and trashy is blissful sometimes.

I actually don’t know what the point of this post is except to say that it’s OK not to be ‘on’ all the time. Part of being human (and being female) is having restful time too. And be gentle on yourself.

My arms and shoulders feel deliciously worked out from yoga yesterday – we had to attempt (everyone else – all four of them - ‘did’, I ‘attempted’) a handstand or half-handstand. The half-handstand involved doing a downward facing dog pose (pictured above) with your feet against the wall, and then walk your feet backwards up the wall until they are quite high up. Yes really. It was so hard. But apparently it will get easier and I will be quite proficient at walking backwards up the wall one day. Yay.

In spite of the description of this exercise I am still really enjoying yoga, and even though it is strenuous, I always look forward to it (unlike the gym). The room has no music, it is peaceful and serene with a gas heater going (it’s winter here) and sometimes incense. Everyone is very friendly and normal and it’s a pleasure to attend.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chic Habits: Talking Less and Listening More

My last Chic Habits post was quite beneficial. Although I wasn't perfect at it, I noticed I did stop and think more about speaking in a positive, rather than a negative way, whether it was self-talk, speaking of others etc. A couple of times I spoke ill of others, but I think it was well-deserved. Is that a justification? Not perfect, but making the effort. This will be ongoing for me.

My other chic habit from last time was picking up and tidying as I go. I have been doing this more too. Not perfect again, but noticing and doing, more. As with all of my chic habits so far (perhaps with the exception of the early face-wash, I still can't get into that habit), I hope to keep them up as time goes on.

My next chic habit I want to focus on is:

Talking less, and being a better listener. I come from a family where the women are well-known for their talking prowess, and I am not joking. I'm really scared I will become like that too and I have asked my husband to tell me honestly if this starts being the case.

So in the meantime, I am trying to babble less, talk when I actually have something intelligent to say and not just fill a gap.

Also to consider what the other person is doing. I have spouted out a long-winded, one-sided conversation to my husband in the car and at the end of it when I get no response he snaps back into it and says 'sorry, I was just listening to that radio interview'.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, was he too polite to say? Did I not notice him leaning into the radio speakers to hear over me? Should I have tested the water with a sample question? Was I just sitting there in the car going blah, blah, blah with every thought that ever came into my head spewing out of my mouth?

The listening better side of it should go hand-in-hand with talking less. I have a terrible habit of interrupting people when they're talking, it is to do with what they're talking about and adding to the conversation but I still do it, recognise it and then feel bad.

I got the shock of my life once when the person I was talking to stopped abruptly every time I spoke. And because I interject things, this was often. It was quite disconcerting and I haven't forgotten it. It felt like she was trying to show me up, but really she was just being polite by letting me speak. I still cringe when I think about that conversation.

I think it comes from growing up in a talking family (the female side, my dad talks about once every three months) - you have to get your words in where you can. If you didn't interject you'd never get your point across. So now when I'm talking with 'normal' people, I try to modify this.

I have also noticed this with others (people I'm not related to this time). There are some folk who simply like the sound of their own voice. They can happily speak monologue for thirty minutes plus (it feels like hour) and you literally will not have said one word. When you do, or ask a question, it's ridden over and ignored.

These people may wonder why they are often avoided by others, it's because the other person doesn't want to get 'caught' and 'trapped'! Please dear God shoot me if I ever become like this. The starting point is in my genes and I have to manage it.

So, in summary, I am attempting to undo 39 years of talking and listening behaviour. Wish me luck. Forgive me if I sound like a drama queen today.

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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Great Wardrobe Declutter

Today I started. And it wasn't as hard as I thought. I didn't need to try anything on as I already knew what I didn't want to keep. I found myself waking up last night thinking 'I'm going to get rid of that denim jacket', so really, I was decluttering in my sleep.

I started with clothing I had previously removed from the wardrobe in my bedroom. I cleared everything out of the office/sewing room wardrobe which was put there to 'think about' months ago when I first read La Bella Figura. I kept a handful of items, the rest went into a (decent-sized) suitcase for donation.

There were pieces I was tempted to keep but then remembered I never wore and didn't want to. A denim jacket which wasn't big enough in the shoulders so always sat funny, another jacket where the sleeves were too short. Tops that were scratchy, not comfortable. Out, out, out. It was so easy and unemotional I thought I mustn't be doing it right.

I also made a decision to declutter all skirts. None have escaped so far. I love how feminine skirts are, but in them I just feel frumpy. Dresses are different for some reason. I love the few dresses I have which I wear on special occasions. But in skirts, perhaps it's my body shape, I'm either too corporate or just plain dumpy.

It was very freeing to skip past the skirts without even a thought. Janet from The Gardener's Cottage made me think about this with her comment a few days ago noting 'right now hanging in my closet are 3 summer skirts that i never wear. why is it that i keep them?'. Thanks Janet for the nudge.

What kept me on track was thinking of my tiny Paris apartment (the one of my dreams, you know it, the breezy, sparse apartment with filmy curtains at the windows). Would Sabine, my ideal French girl have all of this unworn clothing clogging up her home?

And it's not like I'm wasting it, someone else will wear it if it's at their house, not mine. It's easier to live with it hidden away than to declutter it, but like most things in life, the easy way is not the best way.

I thought I would start out with the 'satellite' wardrobes before tackling the main one, work into it if you like. Stephanie from C'est Si Bon wisely began with cosmetics (starting with clothing is quite a tall order). But really, the main wardrobe I don't think will be so hard either. I've run out of time today (late afternoon is the start of relaxing, reading and dinner time) but I didn't think I would get it all done in one day. I'm not that good.

I did get quite a lot done today though, here is my list of Sunday Accomplishments:

Made chicken stock
Vacuumed the house
Changed the sheets on our bed
Did two loads of washing and hung on the line
Washed and ironed cloth dinner napkins
Tidied and picked up the house
Decluttered wardrobes in guest bedroom and sewing room/office
Washed makeup brushes
Renovated a pair of yoga pants that had a really annoying bunchy waistband

The next parts of The Great Wardrobe Declutter are:

Main wardrobe in our bedroom

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Week 8 Update

I feel like a bit of a fraud this week. My blog should be called 'how to be chic - not' or 'how to not be chic' or 'how to be unchic'. I've been backsliding into potato chips and gained a kilo since my first post. And the past few days I've had a horrid headache that even painkillers can't budge. I try and fix it with food (sensible, I know) and eat stuff I think will make it go away. Hot chips with aioli doesn't help and neither do fruit jelly sweets apparently.

Beating myself up about it isn't going to do much good but I hope to be more successful with a chic diet so I have something more upbeat to report next week. If I can't do a better job I may have to knock my weekly updates on the head for the time being. Feeble excuses week after week are not that inspirational.

My exterior decor is chic though. I feel well-dressed today in black fitted shirt with lilac singlet top underneath, my new flare-dy jeans and black leather heeled boots, french twist hair, pearls and pink lip gloss.

I attended my third yoga class and while I felt good afterwards, it wasn't as enjoyable during. It was hard! At one point I felt like my shoulders and arms were going to snap off, like the vampire fight scene in Eclipse. All for a good cause though, and I'm looking forward to becoming more flexible and stronger week by week.

Tomorrow I plan to start The Great Wardrobe Declutter of 2010. Perhaps a good bout of decluttering can distract me from junque food consumption.

Friday, July 16, 2010

French style inspiration

One of the things I love about Bastille Day is the focus on French themes in media around the world. One such article I came across was an interview with expat Marie about her 'uniquely French sense of style and how she incorporates it into her everyday life'. Yay!

What I love about this interview and the way Marie speaks, is that she isn't a fashion plate. She's an everyday French woman. Here are some of my favourite parts of the interview.

French women are celebrated for their sense of style; why do you think this is?
Seduction and beauty awareness are an important part of the puzzle of French society. You learn this as a child. A sense of style is maybe a matter of being aware that someone is looking at you and maybe judging you. So it is just an awareness that you must please whoever looks at you.

What's the one thing everyone should have in their wardrobe?
A nice simple jacket, well-cut, that can be casual or dressed-up according to what you are wearing under it.

What is your beauty routine?
I am addicted to Dr Hauschka products. So, cleansing milk every evening and morning, and day cream. I use only organic products for my skin and my hair. And masks once a week. I try to keep it simple.

The one rule you always dress by?
The two-colours rule. Except for July 14, where I wear blue, white and red!

You feel best wearing?
Stretchy, comfortable light clothes.

How would you describe your style?
Simple, plain, classic.

How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
It depends on what you call getting ready. For me, physical beauty comes from how you feel, so I start my day at 6am with 45 minutes of yoga. After taking my daughter to the bus stop I go for a walk on the beach in the rising sun. That's what I call getting ready for a beautiful day. It helps me feel at my best to wear whatever will please my mood of the day.

I love that she calls her style simple, plain and classic. The two colour rule has me thinking about what I wear. I am torn though, as one of my favourite combos is denim with a grey marle top and tan accessories. Is this three colours, or do accessories not count? Help!

Also, yet another serene and sensible person (of course I don't know her, but she comes across that way in the interview) who does yoga. I really have been ignoring the signs for too long.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

And so it begins...

I'm in the mood for a rest. I think I have a big decluttering episode coming up and I want to be in top shape for it. You know how you can feel it coming on? When Stephanie at C'est Si Bon was madly decluttering I loved reading the posts and revelations, but I knew it wasn't my time yet. Now it's my time.

I want to start with my wardrobe as it's really been bothering me. In a comment in my last post I said I was waiting until I was skinnier to do this, but really, that day may never come. I might decide to be the weight I am and eat as healthy as I can and do my yoga and walking to tone up.

Because of 'waiting until I'm skinnier', I feel like things are on hold. And if I have decided not to diet, the decluttering will never commence. I have decluttered my wardrobe and drawers before, but 'stuff' creeps back in, and then there is the clothing I have kept, undecided about. So I'm back to square one.

I have a suitcase under the guest bed with out of season clothing and 'undecideds'. My goal is to have all my clothing, for every day of the year in my main wardrobe and drawers. So that suitcase will be empty and possibly even donated. We have more suitcases than we need. A few special occasion pieces and jackets I will keep in another wardrobe.

Where I live definitely has four seasons, but they are not as pronounced as other places. We don't get snow, and it doesn't get ridiculously hot. I live in a temperate sub-tropical climate, so I can really wear most of my clothing year-round. So having every piece of clothing I own will be useful, as I layer lighter pieces when it's colder.

I can only declutter my own clothing. My husband has some clothes he never wears but doesn't want to get rid of. Perhaps I will inspire him with my actions. But really, the bulk of it is mine.

I also want to declutter my makeup and be honest with myself and decide what makeup types (cream blush) and colours (green or blue eyeshadow) I don't wear. Anything that I will definitely use will be staying, I can't be quite as ruthless as Stephanie who decluttered all but one lipstick and all but one fragrance but I can be inspired by her to pare down.

I am getting down in fragrance numbers and it will be a happy day when I do only have a few to choose from, not a dozen. I love having a couple of fragrance choices, but it becomes stressful to muse 'I should wear this one, it's older' because they don't last forever. Do you think my ideal French girl Sabine thinks that thought as she spritzes herself with No. 5?

Other personal care items I will group like together. I visited three different skincare factory shops when my mum was here. I bought items I need (a body brush), items we use every night (candles), and items I use every day (honey-vanilla soaps and lovely scented body lotions). I will be storing the soap and body lotions with my other soaps and body lotions.

Yes, I know it sounds like I have a few, and I have. I don't mind so much though, as they are used up. It's things that don't get used up that stress me out (I have to decide what to do with them, where to store them...). My Nana used to ask for consumable gifts as she said she had enough 'stuff', and I have been too. I'm hoping to discourage knick-knacks and ornaments.

I always enjoy going 'shopping' in my bathroom cupboard when I have used the last of something. And because I buy them here and there on special I've never paid full-price (and they are nicer quality than supermarket ones).

The trick is to only buy things you will use (the lavender talcum powder I bought on a previous factory shop trip is still languishing) and keep an eye on your 'stock levels'.

I must admit, my soap levels are quite high now, but (I know I sound like I'm trying to justify myself here!) while I love using soap, I don't love supermarket soap which strips your skin. So if I can purchase soap made with good ingredients (and that smells divine) for not much more than supermarket prices by buying irregularly and in bulk, I will.

Part of my decluttering will involve tidying and organising also, which I am really looking forward to. I have been throwing things in any old place lately.

Sabine would never do this. Her Paris apartment is breezy, sparse, feminine, fragrant, carefully edited, welcoming, calm and a true haven to come home to.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shopping Chicly

I had the best day yesterday. My mum is in town, and we both met my sister and niece for late lunch and a spot of shopping.

Yes, yes, it was all very nice spending time with my family, blah, blah. What really got me excited though was my clothes shopping. I haven't bought clothes in such a long time from the combined reasons of 'use what I have', 'save money' and 'not skinny enough'.

I bought a pair of jeans, as this is what I wear. I've decided to embrace denim rather than fight it, at a place which makes great, but pricey pairs. They had a sale table with every conceivable style on it. I tried on 75% of the ones in my size. I ended up with a pair reduced from $289 to $69.

I have reconfirmed that skinny leg jeans aren't for me. I have thighs. In skinny leg jeans my legs look like ice cream cones. And of course since I carry extra weight on my top half more, I then look like an ice cream in a cone. I loved the look of them bunched at my ankle above my high heel, but not as my eye travelled further up. And my bum is very round when viewed side on.

I asked for my mum and my sister's honest impressions as I tried on each pair rapid-fire style. I did not once apologise to them for being more curvy than I would like or say things like 'imagine these with five kilos less'.

The style I chose I didn't have on my first try-on pile. They are wide leg flares. As soon as I put them on I knew they were the ones. They fitted my hips and thighs closely, flared out from the knee and all this balanced out the round bum and top half. I'm very happy with them.

Amazingly, they were the same size I've always bought - a 12 here, which is a US size 8. My husband noticed this and said 'see, told you you were still the same size'. He's a doll.

I was going to buy a second pair which were a slightly different flared style in grey denim. My sister looked unsure about them. When I said to her I wanted another pair 'just for work', she replied 'is that really what you want?' as in don't settle for them. Such wise words, I put those ones back.

If I'd bought both it would have been the blue ones I wore most and they grey ones would have languished, not quite right.

I also bought a top from a different store, a soft, slinky t-shirt knit with no sleeves and a scooped hem a bit like a men's business shirt. The shoulder area is slightly shoulder-padded and ruched. But it's the colour I love best: orange-red. The warm red really suits me if I do say so myself. This was also reduced, from $89.90 down to $11.90. And again, I have not gone against what I wear and try to change myself. This top doesn't need to be ironed and it's a bit dressier than a t-shirt.

If I was going against what I wear and tried to change myself, I would have bought a cotton fitted shirt. Then only worn it once a month when I was in an ironing mood. I do want to find a new white cotton fitted shirt as I don't have one at the moment. That is the only exception I am going to make.

I have a hard time trying to think about the purported French way of shopping, by purchasing at full-price and being picky. I do think you can sale-shop and be picky too. And I was incredibly picky yesterday.

Out of at least a dozen pairs of jeans, I took one, and out of the same number of dresses and tops, I bought one top. I also did not buy a pair of earrings, as I wear the same faux diamond plain studs, pearl studs or small gold hoops every day. No other earrings are ever worn, and if they are, I feel uncomfortable in them.

My husband and I own and work in a retail shoe store. When we reduce items, it doesn't mean they are terrible. It simply means the kind of customer that wears them doesn't shop with us, or we bought too many, or it's a seasonal style only and we now have a broken size range. Or sometimes in sale time (twice a year at the end of winter and summer) we reduce just about everything, including classic styles.

Sometimes it's our favourite shoes in the shop that we have to reduce to get them moving, and it's just because the kind of customers we get are different to our own personal style. A French woman purchased a pair of a gorgeous style that we reduced once. I loved the shoes but they hadn't sold, so we reduced them.

She exclaimed over them and bought a pair, couldn't believe they were on special. They looked great on her and she wore them exactly how I would have (I was thrilled!) She was so stylish and chic, and it really brought it home to me that everything that is on sale isn't 'unwanted and picked over'. The French woman was canny in her shopping in that she knew her style, knew a bargain and knew quality.

I hear customers giving helpful advice to their friends like 'don't buy it just because it's on sale' which I would say too, but I think don't be suspicious of items on sale. I wouldn't have bought the jeans or top at full price yesterday, but only because I have clothes I can wear.

But if something comes up that you know is your style on special, I say grab it. When we were leaving the jeans store, my sister told me the jeans I chose were very 'relaxed French chic' in style. I don't think she could have said it better to make me to glad of my purchase.

Worn with high heels and my new red top, or with a Breton top, I can channel Jane Birkin in the 60s/70s.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Week 7 Update

Now I know why people go on about yoga. It's so good. I admit I've only attended two classes so far, but they have both been wonderful. It's strenuous and relaxing all at the same time, and after the class I feel like I've had the biggest and best stretch of my life.

I also feel taller, leaner and longer. I am seriously thinking about going twice a week, and maybe doing my own practice at home. I'll want to learn the positions correctly first though, no point in practising at home the wrong way.

When I thought about going twice a week I considered that it will a bit of an outlay, every week. The frugal side of me said this. But really, I would spend the amount of the cost of a class on other, less worthy things without a second thought. I need to get my priorities straight.

I love every part of my class, even the bits that hurt a little (like stretching beyond my comfort zone, or holding a pose for a while). The final ten minutes is worth getting to: you lie on your back with a bolster under your knees, warmly tucked up in blankets and with a rice-filled eyemask on while the teacher takes us through a relaxing meditation. It is simply bliss.

And in other breaking news, the french twist hairstyle has me in its grip. I simply cannot stop wearing my french twist/sheer soft-red lipstick/pearls combo. I am hoping people won't mistake me for a dotty old English duchess, fallen on hard times and living in denial, going around all grand in her pearls and chignon (whilst really working in a shoe shop with jeans on every day).

There's not much to report foodwise. I have been enjoying good, real food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and always a salad with lunch. But I have been having unchic snacks at drinks hour sometimes. What can I say, I'm relaxed about it right now. C'est la vie.

I did have a thought the other day, and it was quite an exciting one. What if I stayed the same weight I am now, for the rest of my life. If I didn't try to lose anything and just relaxed. I would still focus on chic eating and healthiness, and walk and do yoga, but for enjoyment and not weight loss.

It is actually quite a thrilling proposition.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chic Habits: Speak and Think Positively, Tidy Up as You Go

I only managed to score one out of three with last week's Chic Habits list. A very poor turnout Fifi.

I struck 100% with grooming, managing to shave my legs three times in the week, body exfoliation 2-3 times and total body application of lotion every day. I have been keeping this up beyond the week too, so the habit is getting more... habitual.

As for going to bed early, maybe twice I managed that. I probably had more late nights than usual. I was rebelling against myself!

The last one, my new 'early face wash' I just kept forgetting to do, and then it was bedtime when I do it anyway. So I'm not going to worry about that for now. Even though I did read somewhere else it was a good thing to do. I just couldn't find the webpage with the reason why. Dang old links.

This week my two chic habits I will be cultivating are:

Speak and think positively. This will be more pleasant for me and the people around me. It will also be quite a challenge. I can at times be cynical and sarcastic. I don't like these qualities in others and wish to minimise them in myself. Rather than notice a bad point about someone (whether I verbalise it or not) I will pick out a good point and focus on that. Whatever you think - positively or negatively becomes more over time. I want my life to be heading in the positive direction.

Tidy up as I go. Both at home and at work. Picking up and putting away, tidying and cleaning as I go makes for a calming and easy to live with home and work environment. If I notice something, fix it. Don't just walk past and let it be noticed a second or third time. I know that each time you do that, a tiny wee bit of energy leaks out of you, and yet I still do it!

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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Needlecraft as a form of meditation

I've remembered how to crochet.

Ever since I was quite young (maybe ten) I've loved handcrafts. Not only for the outcome but often because I just enjoyed doing it. Crafts such as knitting, sewing, crochet, tatting, patchwork, quilting, weaving and embroidery were what filled my school holidays.

Sometimes they made it into actual, useable pieces. I was in my element in the 80s when country cottage style was chic (so many patchwork pillows!) and chunky handknits were all the rage (I made myself a bright yellow bat-wing jersey with primary-colour houses on front and back, and rainbow striped bands at age 15 - I buried my cat in it six months ago, she was very cosy. My mum said 'oh no, not the house jersey', like I'd ever wear it again).

I still enjoy creating these days. The trick is keeping my patchwork and knitting fresh and modern. I'm so glad it's trendy to be crafty. My sister sells a bit on Etsy. Authors like Debbie Bliss and Erika Knight have some very simple and chic knitting and crochet books out.

Unfortunately somewhere along the way I forgot how to crochet. It's been awhile. I kept starting off a practice piece but always became stuck. Two days ago I remembered. I printed out instructions off the fabulous The Purl Bee (blog of Purl Soho, purveyor of fine and pricy craft materials, where I am surely headed when I have the good fortune to visit NYC) and now I'm away.

At the moment I don't actually have a specific project in mind, I'm just enjoying the meditative repetitiveness of crochet stitches. I've tried meditating the 'think of nothing for 20 minutes' way and just can't get it. I find walking is good meditation - the footfalls let my mind wander and rest, and knitting or crochet is the same.

I was inspired to get my crochet mojo back by Faux Fuchsia. She has crocheted a rug for herself and also for her niece and nephew. They look so colourful and cute in her favourite brights.

Some of the added bonuses are: you can't eat and crochet/knit. You can watch a tv programme with your husband with a project on your lap. You can still sip from a glass of wine (or brandy) with a hook or set of needles in your hand(s). Just not too much though or you have to pull the stitches out from time to time when it gets a bit wonky.

If you've never done anything of this sort ever, it's really not that hard. You may not be able to learn and watch a movie at the same time, but one day you will, and in the meantime you will have simultaneously relaxed and created something.

And that's what gives the satisfaction. The creating. Like cooking a good meal, there is great satisfaction to be had from giving a gift to a friend's newborn of a knitted cot rug, which apparently is much better than a woven rug in that you can pull it around the baby and tuck it in snug, and the knit fabric grabs and holds - it doesn't come undone.

My favourite 'knit without really thinking about it' project is this baby rug (or it could be a throw rug to have on the sofa for when it gets chilly).

Fifi's Craft Corner - Baby Rug

You need:

10 x 50g balls of 8 ply/double knitting wool
4mm and 5mm needles, 5mm crochet hook

Size will be approx 75cm across and 1m long

Cast on 125 stitches with 4mm needles. Change to 5mm needles and knit every row until you've used up nine balls of wool. Join new balls at the end of a row if possible, and then sew in ends later. Cast off when rug is correct length. Crochet around the edge of the rug.

Now that I've remembered how to crochet, I plan to use up the scraps of wool I inherited from my Nana, and make up rugs that could be gifts, donated or kept. I'll decide when I've finished. For this first one I am using up the colours of blue, cream and aqua. And practising my crocheting at the same time so I don't forget again.

My sweet husband, knowing my crochet frustration noticed I was crocheting rather than knitting last night. 'You remembered how?' he said, 'I'm so impressed! You're so clever with your hands.' He's a man who doles out praise lavishly.

Are there any other handcrafters around who would care to out themselves? I know LuxeBytes is a whiz with the needles. Or would-be handcrafters with a desire to learn?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Serenity of Orderliness

Daily domestic tasks like making the bed each morning I really enjoy. Even if it is a rumpled mess, a mere five minutes and order is restored. And a nicely made bed is calming as you come into the bedroom throughout the day, or when you get home from work.

A little story about the front-most cushion on our bed (above). When on my first (so far) trip to Paris in 2001, my travel companion and I walked up the steep streets of Montmatre to visit the Sacre Coeur cathedral. A little fabric shop on the way had small tapestries, less than a foot square. I think I bought six different ones, and carried them back with me.

When my Nana visited Paris (years before me), what she loved most about her trip was the Sacre Coeur. So I made her this cushion with the church featuring in the top right hand corner. She died in April and my mum gave the cushion back to me. It now sits on our bed (which is also made up with her bedspread - it is really quite Francais in a white woven thick-cotton floral texture).

When I first brought the cushion home, I removed the cover to wash, and out fluttered a little newspaper clipping. It was a travel column recommending good places to stay in Montmatre. In her last few years she was getting a bit mixed up and must have thought this was as good a place as any to store the clipping.

It's an obvious choice really.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Week 6 Update

This week I have a cold (it's winter where I live). And as much as the start of the week up until Thursday was chic in its eating, on Friday the wheels fell off. I embraced the medicinal properties of Doritos, brandy and Nestle Scorched Almonds. Friday and Saturday there was no salad with lunch. So shall we talk about chic improvements in other areas this week instead?

Thursday lunchtime I attended my first yoga class ever. And it's all thanks to LuxeBytes. Marsi's enthusiastic post extolling the virtues of yoga had me thinking (a lot) about going. In the past I've dismissed yoga simply because it's trendy. If everyone else is on the bandwagon, I'm no-where to be seen. Thankfully these people have moved on (maybe to Pilates?), and yoga is now just a fabulous and gentle exercise option.

It was Iyengar yoga, because apparently there are different types.

I am so pleased I went! There were only four of us in the class, so it was almost like a private lesson. The teacher is Swiss, and she was very helpful in a caring yet firm way. I have decided to go once a week at this stage and am really looking forward to next Thursday.

Afterwards I felt exhilarated yet calm, in a positive mood and nicely worked out without being completely wrung out. And once I know the moves and poses I can challenge myself more. I could feel that I had had a workout the next day, which is quite amazing considering it's not jumping up and down on a step or lifting weights.

I chose a class which is within walking distance of our shop. It is approximately 25 minutes walk there and back and I'm really glad that the walk will be part of my yoga class too. No-one there had fancy dri-fit clothing on either, which I'm really happy about. Making this observation I remembered the saying 'Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes' by Henry David Thoreau. I think about that saying a lot for some reason.

So, go the yoga, and merci beaucoup to Marsi at LuxeBytes.

On a totally more superficial level I have been wearing my hair in a French twist/chignon more often. Practice makes perfect, and I need the practice. I normally wear a sheer-ish pink-ish gloss lipstick, but with the chignon you must wear red.

With my fair colouring I don't want to be a caricature, so I choose a soft sheer red. And when I do this I automatically reach for my pearls. So two days this week I wore my hair in a chignon with red lipstick and pearls. Even in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt I felt tres chic.

I really want to practice this hairstyle to have it be second-nature for me to do. I asked my husband whether I looked 'Paris girl or old lady' when it did it the first day. 'Paris girl' he said without missing a beat. Correct answer. He would always tell me if it was old lady though.

Sometimes when I ask him about an outfit he'll hesitate and say something diplomatic. He's a Libra after all. We Librans are known for our diplomacy (if I haven't bored you with this before, my husband and I were born on the same day of the same month, one year apart. I'm the older woman/cougar. It's fun having our birthday on the same day. Rather than buy each other a gift we do something like stay the night at a fancy hotel or go all-out for a posh dinner even though we're on a strict budget, ordering everything on the menu).

I learnt something this week. A valuable lesson. My winter cold started on Wednesday and by Thursday I was feeling much better as I had been bombarding my system with high doses of vitamin c (10,000 mg per day). This has worked for me in the past and seemed to be working for me this time.

We had a regular dinner date out with a small group of friends (7 including us) where we meet up once a month on a Thursday for dinner at a BYO restaurant. We would all take turns organising the restaurant so everyone had a chance to visit their favourite, and you would discover others favourites too.

The person who chose this time had made sure three weeks earlier we all knew the date. On Thursday, the day of the dinner we received a call half an hour before the time we were to meet to say 'bring a jacket, we're sitting at an outdoor table'. It is clear to me now that the person in charge of booking had not actually booked until the day, or possibly the day before, to be charitable to her.

My first thought was 'there's no way I'm going out with a cold, to sit outside on a chilly and rainy winter's night for dinner'. Then my husband and I decided we couldn't let them down at the last minute and went. We sat outside and froze. What made it worse is that the person responsible came a full one-hour late.

The next day I felt worse again, and it's only today that I'm starting to feel better. I know cold temperatures can't make you sick, but it can't be good for a body that is trying to recover to be subjected to low temperatures. Warmth is helpful.

As my Uncle T would say 'what would you do differently next time'? Next time I would put myself and my health first, not worry about putting someone out (even if they didn't bother themselves too much with organising the dinner) and sit this one out.

I was seriously annoyed with this person, and also at myself for going. I only thought afterwards that my ideal French girl Sabine would not have gone. She would have practiced self-preservation. A valuable lesson was learnt.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quoting in the Book

'Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners'. - Emily Post

I have an A4-size spiral bound hardcover notebook that sits on my bookshelf among my books. A pen hangs in its spiral binding, ready for a quote inscription. When I'm reading a book and want to remember a passage I write it in this notebook. It can be a piece of poetry (even though poetry's not my favourite thing, sometimes the bits are good). I write the date too which is quite helpful and interesting.

'I have never had anything to do with the kind of fashion that is influenced by the press or identified with the spirit of the season. My clients come for me, they come back each season for my spirit'. - Georgio Armani

Everyone once in a while I have a flick through this notebook and are newly re-inspired. The kind of quotes which might be lost if noted down on a piece of paper because they are so small, these are the quotes this book houses. And reading through them they give me a sense of what is me.

'What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it - would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have'. - Ralph Marston

I'm sure to others they would mean almost nothing, but that's the beauty of the personal notebook. You don't have to explain why you enjoy a certain collection of words.

'It is true that some manifestations of the slow philosophy do not fit every budget. But most do. Spending more time with friends and family costs nothing. Nor does cooking, walking, meditating, making love, reading or eating dinner at the table instead of in front of the television. Simply resisting the urge to hurry is free'. - 'Slow' by Carl Honore

What I like most about gathering passages that speak to me all in one place, is that even though they can seem quite disparate, reading through them at a later date I can see the common thread that links them all.
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