Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taking it easy

I've had such a lovely relaxing and productive day at home today. As you can see above, Jessica is feeling contented too. Yes it's only a two-seater, but if she unfurled her rabbit feet, she could almost stretch the whole way across it. Can you see her tail along the cushion back?

And below: contented snoozer. Jessica is quite a snuffly breather so I can hear her cat-snoring softly while I fold washing and dust the coffee table.

Catching up on housework and making our home a haven is what I have been up to the last few days. From moving into our place four months ago, there are still areas which items had been thrown into (literally) to get everything unpacked. I didn't have the time, energy or inclination to do it in an organised manner.

I redid the kitchen cupboards today though, cheered on by a blog I came across a few days ago called The Quiet Home. I have been particularly enjoying the Housework and Home Sweet Home tags and found my attitude towards housework was changed to something altogether more positive. This lovely lady's enthusiasm really is contagious!

I started by emptying out just one cupboard, a big corner deal with pots, pans, the slowcooker and loads of other items in it. It was a bit of a bother having to reach all the way to the back to get something I used often and there really was no rhyme or reason where things were placed. Still, I have been putting up with it since last October so it obviously didn't bother me that much, or perhaps I'm just a little 'busy' (or lazy?).

Of course that led onto other cupboards and finished up including the pantry. In the end all items were placed in clean-wiped and dried cupboards that made the most sense regards usage. Little used items are at the back, and there is a frequent use cupboard so we don't have to open the big hinged door of the corner cupboard to get out the vegetable steamer pots which we use 6 nights out of 7 at least. I'm now really looking forward to cooking tonight!

I was talking to my husband on the weekend and we both agreed that we are still a bit out of sorts and not really in a routine yet. With moving house, the shop being busier and employing a part-time staff member, we need time for things to bed in.

Even though all this change is positive, it can still be unsettling. We charge into something new (or perhaps are just following the road of our life) and expect our body and mind to be fine about it! So I'm soothing my soul with routine and small jobs done well, and knitting, reading and movies for leisure.

We saw The Descendants after work on Sunday and it was so enjoyable. After originally seeing the preview and deciding it looked too depressing, it was thanks to my Mum who said it was a good watch. And it was. George Clooney does his humour so well.

So nothing ground breaking today, just wanted to stop in and say hi.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recipe for a good night’s sleep

Gosh, time just flies between posts for me at the moment.

We have finally employed someone apart from my husband and myself in the shop. She is wonderful and with us three days a week, but it still seems like I am always catching my tail.

Yesterday I had a day off at home to bless our abode with cleanliness and order. Looking forward to a day such as this, where I go nowhere and see no one (except for Miss Jessica, who is my little shadow), makes me realise how much I love living a routine and simple life.

When life gets hectic, I realise I invariably end up going to bed too late. Often it is not from doing a job which needs to be done, but just because I am fluffing around. Perhaps if I feel rushed and busy, going to bed early makes me feel guilty because there is something else I could be doing?

I like to make a conscious effort to take these steps in order to have a good rest and wake refreshed the next day.

- Early dinner (served around 7 is early for us), 1 glass of wine maximum, or sparkling mineral water
- Computer turned off before dinner/no computer after dinner or at least 1 hour before bedtime (not only does the lit screen wake up my brain, but I find myself click-click-clicking my time away)
- Read after dinner instead of the computer or tv, with a cup of tea
- Take plenty of time for my bathroom routine – makeup removal, cleansing and moisturising, brush and floss teeth.
- Lights out well before 10pm

Any tips you could add to the blissful-night's-sleep list?

Friday, February 10, 2012

What to wear at home

I have always been interested in how to live a life of style covering all parts of my life. I don’t just want to look stylish when I go out though and be a slob at home in a house that is dull and dirty.

I want to be like those magazine articles that describe what off-duty models wear, and also the ones that interview famous, fashionable faces.

These interviews ask many questions and the famous, fashionable person describes how their typical day might run, how they decorate their home, what they wear when they do their errands. There are little pictures scattered around of their favourite things too. Have you noticed there is always a Diptyque candle pictured in these spreads?

Often the stylish people are described as wearing a practical day-to-day outfit and a face scrubbed of makeup. Come on. They have spent hours getting ready!

One of the topics that interests me though is how to be stylish when at home with my loved one, to be comfortable and practical but sexy and not frumpy.

Once upon a time when I was first married (to my first husband) I remember in the winter wearing tracksuit pants with gathered ankles (and a gathered waist), a sweatshirt and socks at home. The only boxes it ticked were comfortable, practical (and frumpy). Not sexy or stylish.

No wonder that marriage bombed (I sound like I am taking marriage too lightly, I’m not, it wasn’t the track pants that were to blame, not entirely anyway).

Over the years I have been refining my home ‘lounge wear’ two ways: firstly by using items of clothing that are no longer good enough to wear to work or out (but are still in good nick) or by purchasing inexpensive but good quality basics for the express purpose of wearing them at home (first photo at the top of this post).

I haven’t bought anything for a while, and I was becoming in danger of slipping into frump zone. A friend gave me a pair of leggings that I thought I would never wear (due to having worn them in the 80s and apparently you should never wear a trend twice, and also the fact that my bottom is very round).

However, one day I slipped them on with a clingy long-sleeved t-shirt and found that not only were they much warmer than my wide-leg yoga pants (there was no air getting up the legs) but my husband’s eyes almost fell out. ‘Oh’, he said ‘those look very sexy on. You should wear leggings more, they really suit your figure and are so flattering.’

That was last winter. Now it is summer here and too warm for heavyweight full-length leggings. So I went shopping and spent not much at all for my new summer home loungewear.

Last night I debuted a pair of black leggings, ¾ length with ruched sides (at the hem), and a frog/grass green long singlet/tunic top. It comes down over my bum and almost looks like a mini-dress over the leggings. It clings becomingly around my ribs, without being skin-tight. I tried a larger size than normal but it just looked the dreaded frumpy. And a long top balanced out my short-waist.

(picture below, in new lounge wear, grey marle and green)

I was comfortable all evening, could curl up in the armchair like I imagine an off-duty model or actress might (that’s the thing that might inspire me to be slim, being able to curl up that way, because I put on weight around my stomach!) and my man’s first words? ‘That’s sexy’, said appreciatively.

Not frumpy! I am not doing frumpy at 41, I am doing sexy (sexy at home, just for him, I’m not going out to the pub in this just so you know). And I’m not exactly thin, just a good solid medium size. But with a comfortable bra on, one that I don’t mind wearing at home (the underwire doesn’t dig in, hoorah!) and the slimming qualities of the legging waistband I didn’t have any undesired lumps and bumps and could almost pass for slender.

I also bought the ruched ¾ leggings in grey marle, and ankle length pairs for Autumn in navy and black. My other singlet tops were bought in black and navy. Lots of mixing and matching can go on and I will always have a clean set.

I wash my black/dark clothing separately in ‘black wash’ too, which keeps it looking fresh and new. My legs encased in black leggings flecked with white is not good at all, but that will never happen. The thrifty me says ‘throw everything in together, then you’ll only have one wash’ (warm water, power cost etc), the French Chic me counters ‘don’t you want to look after your clothes properly and have them looking nicer for longer?’

So I do it.

An added bonus of feeling chic and elegant and Parisienne was being more mindful of the amount and quality of calories I put in my mouth. I was still comfortable, but aware of my figure. A winning combo for me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reader Question

Dear Fiona,

There is magic in everything you write. It is more than just sharing how you choose to live your life. I noticed that every time after reading your post I feel emotionally uplifted/lighter, calmer, happier and more optimistic… I would like to learn how to maintain an authentic positive vibration.

There is something that makes me very sad sometimes. It is relationship dynamic with my parents. They were too busy living their own lives when I was growing up with grandparents. Now when I am almost 37 they need more space in my life than I am available to offer. It takes me to very dark place emotionally and has a negative effect on my productivity.

How to start over and be happy regardless of what past was like? How to protect yourself emotionally from relatives that make you sad? How to build healthy boundaries while still remaining polite?

Thank you.


Dear Anonymous,

Since you left this comment on the 7th of January, I have been thinking about what kind of answer I could write. I feel reluctant to actually advise someone as it seems such a big responsibility. I will give it a try though.

My main thought is to tell the truth. Tell your parents how you feel, how they make you feel, and that you want to change the way things are in the future.

If you don’t feel brave enough to start this conversation face to face, do it in an email or a letter. That way you can edit what you want to say before you ‘say’ it, and they can get a chance to digest it. Hopefully then it will lead onto a worthwhile conversation.

I sent my Dad an email a few years ago about something that was bothering me. I felt sick when I had sent it, but we had a good conversation afterwards and I felt infinitely better.

Anything big to talk about is always going to be hard, but worth it. It will feel like a weight has been lifted from you.

If you worry about what to say to them, just say the truth. Say you have been feeling sad about them and feel pulled between them and your life. Let them know they weren’t there for you then and that you have made your own life without them because of this.

See where that leads. If they aren’t willing to change, then there’s not much else you can do, but at least you tried to fix the problem. Hopefully they will be willing to meet you half way (or better still, more than half way) and this could be a brilliant new phase of life, for all of you.

Remember, we only have one life as us, why let it tick away with regrets and unhappiness. If there is something bothering us about our life, it is in our best interest to try and fix it.

To address your other question about maintaining an authentically positive disposition. I try to keep my energy level positive by not dwelling on unpleasant or sad things.

Because I am very sensitive, as I can probably imagine you are, these sorts of things really get me down. It could be a tragic newspaper article, a sad situation about someone I know, or good people struggling to make ends meet.

I still live in the real world, but if there is something I have no control over, I try not to think about it.

I read books that make me happy: spiritually uplifting ones, chick lit, my French Chic library and many more.

Our mind is like a garden some say – if we don’t plant flowers (good thoughts), then the weeds will take over (negative thoughts). If a weed pops up, replace it with a flower to crowd out that weed. As time goes on the flowers will regenerate naturally, as positive thinking is just as much a habit as negative thinking.

Make time for things you do that make you happy. A few examples of my own:

Yoga classes
Walking outside
Carrying out my household chores with plenty of time to spare so I am not rushed and can enjoy doing them
Going to see a movie by myself
Reading at any time of the day
A home spa day or evening
Quiet time to myself
Sewing, knitting, needlework, patchwork, crochet
Window shopping and seeing what is new out there without spending a cent, except perhaps for a cold drink or a coffee
Early nights
Planning ahead and being organised
A tidy, clean, orderly, peaceful home
Having a pet

Make your own list and do these things more.

If anyone reading this post has any thoughts for Anonymous, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I would be grateful as I feel a little out of my depth here!
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