Sunday, July 31, 2011

More on Slimming

‘French women appreciate that Rome wasn’t built in a day (and neither was France), but rather ‘little by little’. The progress of your life towards peak experiences in all aspects of living will take time.

Changes made drastically or all at once are often the sorts of modifications that don’t stick. Like New Year’s resolutions, they are upheld proudly for a little while, but then we fall back to our old ways. Arrive at your new ways gradually, and you will leave your old ways too far behind for easy return.

And if you slip up a bit, you won’t feel a failure; you will know how to get back on track because it isn’t all or nothing. It’s a game of inches.’

- Mireille Guiliano, French Women For All Seasons

This is how I am thinking about my weight loss journey. I arrived at the halfway mark pretty promptly and directly, and have been having a more relaxing time of it for quite a few weeks now. I feel ready to tackle the second half.

I love being slimmer, of my clothes looking much better than they used to, of my legs looking slimmer and my stomach looking (a little) flatter. I love that I feel sexier and more like the chic Parisian femme I know I am in my mind. I love looking like someone who gives a damn and cares about what they look like (I didn't often feel like that when I couldn't fit my clothes).

I have been ignoring my Weight Watchers tracker book for more days than I have written in it though, and as a result have found myself on the slippery upwards slope by a kilo or two.

I am keen to carry on becoming my most ideal self weight-wise. One thing I do know is that writing everything down that you eat and drink definitely helps if you’re wanting to slim down. It might be via a method like Weight Watchers or you might just jot down what you consume and in what quantities. All Weight Watchers does is help you know the 'price' of things.

You could do it after the fact or before, by planning out what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and morning and afternoon tea that that day. Getting into this habit will help redirect and refine what you eat. Planning ahead is the best way of course, but even knowing I’m going to be making a note of what I’m eating will help me be aware of it.

Sometimes I’ll eat ‘whatever’ anyway, but on writing it down, I realise it can be accommodated in the day, if most other things are healthy. Isn’t that how our French sisters do it?

Last night I wrote out my to-do list for today (a day off work and I will be at home). The first item on my list is ‘Be slim’. Normally my lists are a little more practical but why not be whimsical for once Fifi.

First thing in the morning, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil for tea to sip in bed with the Sunday paper (one of life’s little pleasures), I read a few pages from the above book.

It was enough to get me back into my chic mindset and look forward to being disciplined with my diet as a pleasure and enjoyable, rather than that I am depriving myself.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chic Habits: Lower Your Voice

Lower your voice. In an interview about beauty, the iconic actress Jane Russell said ‘The director Howard Hughes took all of us – Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and myself – and said, “LOWER YOUR VOICE!”… Lauren Bacall still has the lowest voice of anyone I know to this day. The actresses of today all have these high-pitched baby-girl voices.’

When speaking, I try to make my voice soft and feminine and was aware it could be a little high pitched and girly. After reading this quote, I now consciously try to speak with a lower voice. Not abnormally low that I would sound like a man, just lower in my normal range.

I have to say I feel more chic when I speak in a lower voice. After all your voice is part of the entire package you present to people. Along the same lines I also try to slow down my speaking voice, as I often trip over my words in a rush to get everything out. Not chic!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being ‘French’

I've been thinking about whether I have actually put into my life what I love to read about. Have I been walking the walk? I'm sure there are women living in Paris who would laugh at the 'French girl' descriptions, or perhaps they really are all like the books say.

I love reading, thinking and writing about the idealistic French girl. Whether it's actually true or not really makes no difference to me. I am inspired to be a better (and better-groomed) person and that's the important thing. So here are ways I have incorporated some French-inspired ideals into my life.

Walking. I sometimes walk purely for exercise, where I put on my running shoes, a t-shirt and a pair of knit pants and walk for an hour, briskly. Lately though I have been blending my exercise walk with errands. Previously, I would walk for an hour, get back and then drive to the supermarket, bank, post office etc.

Now I often have gone out for a walk in my normal clothing, just adding a pair of comfortable walking shoes (not running shoes) and carrying a tote bag that slings over my shoulder. I can then walk to the bank, post office, shops. As long as I'm not buying too much I'm OK. Obviously for a big supermarket shop I take the car.

Natural hair and makeup. I have always worn makeup, however now I wear less. I want a subtle glow, and long, dark lashes. I use a sheer, water-based foundation and use a very light hand with powder, blush, lipstick, eyebrow pencil, eye shadow, eyeliner and mascara. Often on a day at home when I wear just tinted moisturiser and even smaller amounts of the above I think how pretty the effect is. So as time goes on I can see myself wearing less and less - but always some.

With my hair, I had it my natural colour for many years (medium blonde), but now with greys creeping in it has started looking a little... drab. Bearing in mind advice not to stray too far from your natural colour, I have been having blonde highlights and my own colour lowlights together. I have read that French women embrace natural hair colours rather than anything too extreme.

Clothing. What I have taken from the French woman is to wear what I like and what suits me, regardless of what's in fashion. I still try new things, but have come to get a better idea of whether it will suit me or not.

I also know now that I don't like floaty boho pieces, but feel altogether more polished in simple, fitting shapes in soft or bright colours paired with neutrals and not too much black. The process of thinning out my wardrobe is ongoing, distilling the pieces down into ones I love and wear and which look great on me.

Using my good things. I light expensive gift candles, eat off our good plates, and enjoy one of the few bottles of good wine we have stored away for a special occasion. My husband has said this to me more than once that he loves that I use my good things.

We have four gorgeous small glasses rimmed in 24 carat gold that have to be hand washed (I learned that after putting two in the dishwasher - it used to be a set of six). I never used them because... they had to be handwashed. A few months ago, I got them out of the cupboard, hand washed them and used them that night. It felt like such a treat! They really are beautiful glasses and I don't mind looking after them.

Same with some wine glasses which were a gift. When I broke one and had to replace it, one glass cost $30. It put me off using them for a while, but now I do again. I put these ones in the dishwasher. If they break, they break. Better to enjoy them than keep them for, what? The day that never comes?

My Nana died last year, and she was famous for keeping her good clothing in the wardrobe and wearing old clothing around the house. She bought beautiful, expensive clothing but didn't want to wear it (it was 'too good'). Now her daughters and grand-daughters are walking around in her lovely tops and scarves.

She also had boxes of scented body lotions and perfumes stored under her bed, with cheap supermarket body lotion in the bathroom. Perhaps that comes from growing up during the Depression. I'm just sad that she didn't get to enjoy it.

So now when I look into the bathroom cupboard after my shower in the morning, I use my most expensive body lotion first. It doesn't last forever you know. Even if all I'm doing is going to work or staying home. I don't have that many big nights out to save it for.

One such day last week when I had moisturised top-to-toe in rose-scented Crabtree & Evelyn my husband commented how nice I smelt when we hugged. And even if he's not there I enjoy it too.

What French-inspired things are you doing with your day?

Image from Studio Nate on

Monday, July 11, 2011

Being feminine in everyday life

One of the things I love most about being born a girl, is the chance to indulge in the daily expression of being feminine. The ideal French woman is the ultimate in sophisticated elegance and femininity.

Here are some of my favourite ways to feel feminine every day:

- I remind myself to walker slower and more elegantly. I imagine I am a chic woman in a movie. Channelling Amelie or another movie character is fun if I am feeling in a frump. It immediately makes you lighter on your toes and more expressive, in a non-over the top way of course.

- Wearing soft, pretty colours near my face. Or softening a dark top with pearls or a scarf that throws a flattering light onto my complexion. Wearing a bright colour feels very feminine too. Not a clown of brights though, one bright colour with a neutral is my favourite way. Red with white, denim with Kelly green, black with soft blush pink/beige.

- Standing up straight, imagine a string pulling me up from the crown of the head. Imagine you are a ballet dancer when you move.

- Wear lightly applied makeup in soft, sheer tones that flatter my colouring. Ensure there are no hard lines and that everything is well blended.

- Eat and drink in moderation. Indulge in chic foods I could imagine a svelte Parisian woman eating. Sometimes if I am stuck for a lunch idea I ask myself, if I lived in my bijoux Paris apartment, what would I make? And I must admit, as much as I enjoy relaxing with a tasty brandy, I always feel more feminine with a sparkling mineral water.

- Doing daily stretches and going for gentle exercise walks. I do errands on foot if they are near. A tote bag is used including sunglasses, and a fold-up umbrella if the weather is inclement.

- Let not one critical word come from my mouth, either about myself or others. This is an ongoing challenge for me. I am working on overruling negative thoughts with positive ones. And trying not to be so instantly judgemental.

- Make my thoughts positive – it softens the face. It really is incredible how facial expressions (on a seemingly neutral face) can make you seem hard or soft.

- Washing hair more frequently. Men love clean, fresh-scented hair.

- Take an extended bathroom spa time on the weekend. Exfoliate thoroughly over my whole body, apply lotion, polish toe-nails.

- Part of my coming home routine in the evening is to remove all jewellery. But I sometimes leave something on, ie pearl earrings. Just to be pretty.

- Lightly spritz with a feminine fragrance every now and then.

- Surrounding myself with feminine colours. Not just in clothing and makeup, but everything in my life – home furnishings, stationery etc. Some of my favourite colours are soft beige-pinks, creamy whites and silvers, dove grey, ethereal seaglass blue-green.

- Playing music as a background, much like movies do. Gentle classical pieces and relaxing spa music is fabulous for having on low as I go about my day. French hotel sounds such as Buddha Bar, Six Senses and Hotel Costes are a enjoyable alternative that instantly make my everyday life seem much more cool. They are often very sexy too. And that’s never a bad thing.

- Having softness around me – mohair rugs in the winter or soft, cool cotton palazzo pants in the summer. One of my favourite ways to make a difference to the bed is to place a light-weight duvet inner under the sheets as a kind of mattress topper. It makes your bed feel very luxe and cloud-like. And it stays in place under the fitted sheet, even without straps or elastic. I like that I can wash it regularly too, unlike my mattress, which doesn't really fit in the machine.

- Being a domestic goddess. It's true what they say about a home needing a woman's touch. As I enter or leave a room I try to do one thing to straighten or tidy. I open the windows every day, even in winter if only for an hour or two, so that our house smells airy and fresh. Making your home a peaceful retreat for you and your family is a very feminine thing to do.

I’m sure I’ve not listed many other details. What are your favourite ways of being feminine?

Watercolour by Beverly Brown

Monday, July 4, 2011

Guest Post: French Chic Rules

A dear friend of mine wrote this piece which I wanted to share with you. It follows on from my last post. Enjoy.

French Chic Rules, by Coco:

After reading Fiona's post this morning, it gave me inspiration. A question was answered on how to maintain French Chic and a wonderful answer followed. It was brilliant because it's different for all of us, and what inspired the change in this woman first is what Fiona steered her back to for more inspiration. This is so true!

For me, hands down it was first the book Entre Nous, then the French Chic group, then I found Anne Barone. Other books followed after that, but these were the triggers for me, the ones that got me truly excited. It was like opening another door that showed it's possible to live this way. I think it changed me forever, (in my mind). Implementing those changes into my daily life has been much harder than I thought it would be.

This post will explain why I'm going to once and for all make permanent changes in my own life that align with French Chic rules. These are my rules. They may be different for someone else, but I'm choosing what is important to me.

What I've learned is that French Chic is more than a mental epiphany that you agree with. If you want to live it, you must decide and then take small daily steps toward that goal. It's not a grand sweeping gesture or a one-time makeover.

There is never a perfect time when the stars will align for your start date. If you are resolved to stand on your own and live this lifestyle, you must give in to daily effort. Effort needs to be planned, scheduled and eventually, bad habits will be replaced with good ones. It's all about finding your own personal road map.

For me, it's been very stop and go and that doesn't work. This all or nothing approach is like dieting, you either are on it, or you are not. It's temporary if you are not resolved to personal change for good. I have finally realized I'm going for a permanent lifestyle change. Change takes a bit of reprogramming, especially as women who tend to analyze and think too much.

I feel like I'm on the verge of something great and important to me. It's as if there is hope and a chance to improve my life in ways that truly matter to me. I'm ready to be honest and kick my bad habits to the curb. I'm ready to reclaim my life and live exactly how I want to live, down to the last details. It will require giving up some things that comfort me. Here are just a few of my bad habits, consider yourself warned:

-being lazy-couch surfing-watching too much reality tv-hiding behind my fat-letting trashy influences in my life-gossip-anger-fear-pity-eating junk food-eating fast food-eating out too much-shopping out of boredom and with no real plan-worrying what others think-fear of criticism-bad grooming habits-frumpiness-being ordinary-dressing safe-boring shoes-not having a signature look-rarely going out-instant gratification-not finishing projects-not having a hobby-eating in front of the tv-eating in secret-overspending on impulse-not participating in life-not seeking pleasure-insecurity-sporadic flossing :)-in general a lack of regular maintenance-lack of exercise-and the list goes on and on and on and on...

Each and every one of these could be a post on its own. This is important to me, as if my future depends on it. Before I always thought French Chic was something I could dabble in, but never become. Now I get it, I can change if I really want to. It's sort of like bringing your Inner French Girl to the forefront of your life and morphing into her. She's not someone you keep hidden away only to prance her out every once in a while. What's the use in keeping your best hidden?

My first role model is Coco Chanel pictured above. I admire her drive and determination to create a life. She had her own look, her own ideas, and she didn't waver. She fought for her own vision and was successful. She also overcame a tragic childhood to become a confident strong woman. I think she had fantastic instincts.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reader Question

Wendy from Canada wrote and asked me -

"How do you regain your chicness when you have "fallen off the wagon"? For example, last Fall I bought some new clothes, improved my hair and makeup, lost a few pounds and had been doing a lot of interesting reading about the chic lifestyle. I felt really good!

Now I am feeling blah- don't feel chic at all. Just received some recent photos of myself from a family dinner where I look terrible (of course my sister circulated them widely.)

Does this happen to you? How do you get the chic feeling back?

How do the French gals keep feeling chic consistently? Constantly buying new things and treatments is not an option for me.

I think this question is such a great one. I know exactly what you mean about things being blah. I highly doubt French girls buy new things and have treatments to feel better. They don't throw away their money like we (I) do (used to).

In your family photos do you mean you look unchic because you have gained weight and your clothes don't look as good as you imagined? I usually find this is the main thing - I have been slack with my chic eating and kilos sneak on. Well they don't sneak on, but I ignore them for a while. Or sometimes the way I've done my hair is not flattering (usually from doing the least I can get away with - terrible!).

Just as you have listed what you did last year - buying some new clothes, improving hair and makeup, watching what you eat and becoming a bit slimmer in the process and keeping up with your reading, I think you may have answered your own question. You probably won't need to spend any money though - you already have the new clothes, it's just a matter of fitting better into them.

I think for me I get all enthused at a change and after a while it becomes routine, but rather than let it stay as my new 'French-inspired regime' I slip back to old habits. We have to remind ourselves constantly, and re-remember what it was that inspired us - go back to the books or websites you read.

Anne Barone is where my initial excitement for the French life came from and I still get a thrill picking up one of her books. It brings back to me that magical feeling that I had from discovering something new and fun.

Printouts I have kept, magazine articles I have torn out and books I have in my home library all remind me and re-excite me too. Can you remember where it was first that you heard about chic French women, the European way of life, being chic and slim? Try going back there.

And of course, maybe you are just tired out and a bit overwhelmed if you have a lot on your plate. It’s amazing how fast good intentions of chic changes fly out the window when life happens. In that case it’s a matter of dealing with what you have to and making the most of what little energy you have left. Keeping up with the basics of self-care is a good goal during busy times.

Making lists of how I want to be is a great inspirer too. I make lists of the attributes that my most elegant self possesses, my ideal Paris girl wardrobe, how my dream home looks and functions, just to name a few. Reading through them helps me want to be that way and resist temptation or make the extra effort. At the very least I can daydream.

Think of yourself as a project and advise yourself accordingly as if you were a wise, older (probably French) girlfriend. What would you say? It is so easy to give others advice, and it is quite effective to view yourself from without. I always come up with really good ideas for myself (whether I take them on is another matter altogether).

Even at the end of the day it’s not too late to start afresh. If your day has been frazzled and stressful, why not choose an early night over opening a kingsize bar of chocolate and reality tv. How much more nicer (and infinitely more chic) would it be to wash your face and then read in your tidied-up bedroom with soft music playing.

And then, there is always the option of being realistic. It’s quite a relief to think ‘I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am. I can make the most of what I have and be happy with that.’ After all, what is more attractive than a big smile and healthy self-confidence about a person. Sometimes when I’m sure people are looking at me thinking ‘who does she think she is’ (and I am feeling suitably intimidated), how are we to know they are not thinking the exact same thing?

Wendy, I hope these ideas have been helpful. I would also ask my lovely readers if they have any suggestions for Wendy and the rest of us. How do you get that chic feeling back when you are feeling less than motivated?

Image from Paris Daily Photo
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