Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Health Schedule

I have been thinking lately about how I can be more pro-active about my health. Now that I am ‘forty plus’ I want to not take my health for granted. I plan to live a long, healthy, happy and vibrant life.

To address the ‘healthy’ part of the equation I have always been interested in good nutrition, and including incidental exercise in your day etc. The other side of things though is medical check-ups, and catching something that might start out small but if not detected could be a big problem later on.

I had a mole on my leg removed privately a couple of years back because it bothered me. More than one medical professional, including a skin surgeon told me it was nothing to worry about. When the results came back it was a melanoma. I had one more surgery to take more surrounding tissue, and thankfully it had not spread.

This scary incident taught me to trust my own instincts, but also now I have a twice a year skin check. My skin Doctor sends me a letter every six months and when I see it in the mail I think ‘is it really six months already?’ and then get around to ringing him for an appointment and then it’s another four weeks before I can see him.

The one car that my husband and I share, without fail has its service every July when its warrant of fitness is due. I actually make sure that happens but I let my own appointments slide, and a car is certainly more replaceable than a body!

Yes, health appointments can be quite bothersome and cost money too, but I have now made a decision to ‘just do it’. Book them in and go. Don’t think about if I ‘want to’, because who ever does?

To assist myself in this I have made up a schedule so that I know when I have to book myself in for.

September – full Doctor checkup
October and April – skin checks
March – full dental checkup

In New Zealand, it’s only recommended that a woman has a smear test every three years, but about ten years ago a Doctor I visited said he recommended annually to his patients, as sometimes the results weren’t that clear, and if you only went every three years, it could be six years between readings and he considered that too long.

My current Doctor also recommended I add an eye checkup to my list, not only for seeing, but also for eye health. I read in a magazine that every two years is recommended and that some optometrists have special machines that check the eye very thoroughly.

So apart from scheduling in my reminders to make appointments each year (and I have already bought my 2014 diary so I can do that right now), is to investigate an optometrist to go and see.

I feel really good about making a schedule and making the appointments myself to do something in a certain month. By not waiting for the reminder letters:

a) I am not relying on them to remember - sometimes reminder letters are lost or not sent out. b) I don’t begrudge the appointment because I am the one that has made it.

I think I have all things covered, is there anything else you can recommend I add to my schedule?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Guest Post: Chic in Japan

It is my pleasure to introduce a guest post by Karabella, a lovely reader and email friend who was lucky enough to travel to Japan with her husband recently. Karabella was struck by the chic-ness of Japanese women, so of course I begged her to put some notes down so we can all be inspired.

With great excitement may I present to you Karabella’s guest post. Merci Karabella!


It was my third visit to the Land of the Rising Sun. During this most recent visit I had time to observe and savour every moment. Please note this post is plainly my observations and views, which may be a little clouded by my crush on the Japanese culture.

I noticed that the Japanese were very much like the French; looking good (evidenced by the galore of mind boggling beauty products); good quality of everything (including snacks...yes, they do snack); impeccable manners and excellent service.

Japanese ladies are the epitome of girlish and womanly femininity. They embrace their womanhood.

Most of the petite and very slim Japanese ladies boast flawless fair skin. But yes, there are those with tan skin too. With the endless beauty products in their drug stores and pharmacies, one did not need to ponder long how they achieved such flawless baby skin.

I wouldn't say they had effortless makeup, as you could tell they had on blush, lipstick and definitely eye makeup. I loved their eyeliner. Most emphasised with their eye makeup, some with false lashes.

But one can't help respecting and celebrating their beauty; as they make a concerted effort to look pretty, rather than good, if that makes sense.

I love that they celebrate their femininity. I love that they don't make any apologies for being a woman. And there seemed no judgement on being vain, in looking pretty and dressing up ALL the time.

Most had dyed feminine long hair. It's sometimes styled with womenly and romantic curls, and a plait here and there was a common sight too. They did not have highlights - it was usually a block colour. Mahogany brown, dark blonde etc.

Even those with short hair looked feminine. Of course, it was very interesting to see those with other hair colours like blue, green, pink... It showed off their individualistic personalities.

Yes. I did see many older ladies sporting long hair too. And always with makeup.

Incidentally, I saw an impressive woman of a certain age, who had super-short spiky hair dyed bright green wearing a very sharp, white skirt suit, finished off with a bright red lipstick, shopping with a very erect posture. I was blown away.

I know on paper it doesn't sound right; but this strong Japanese lady knew who she was and dressed accordingly. She managed to still rock femininity, and be chic and polished, all at the same time. One can't help but be in awe. She could pull it off. That was essentially her. A powerful lesson for me - to dress me as me.

Many wore lace; frills; skirts and because it was late summer, many still wore very pretty wedges... and I saw many wore rocket high heels; wedges to Osaka Universal Studios... full make up... I did wonder how they managed to go for all the rides, but they did with all their glory. Amazing!

I also noticed many do not wear sunglasses.

The Japanese women that I saw always dressed well. At the airport; shopping; subways... everywhere. Dressing well and looking like the beautiful women that they are is their birth right.

There were many pretty and very young mothers. Many did not look like they are out of their 30s... and they always have very adorable Japanese babies... they are so cute! They may just look young... I am not sure... Who knows? They certainly still looked after themselves after having kids. No letting go...

The very slim Japanese do snack... especially when I was in Osaka. Takoyaki... a ball-like Japanese snack with diced octopus in it, is very popular over there. They do eat standing up... and they love their coffee. In many restaurants, there are baskets on the floor, for you to put your bags in. It is legendary that there are many creative innovations in term of food and objects created cleverly by the Japanese.

In Japan, the clean restrooms even have buttons for you to push to dispel any unladylike restroom noises... I love that the seat is heated and they even have washing ‘facilities’. In some departmental stores' restrooms, there are baby seats for you to put your baby in the cubicle while you do your thing.

Once, my husband bought a whole wardrobe of shirts in a shop. After paying up, he wanted to carry the many, heavy shopping bags, but the petite salesgirls smiled and denied him vehemently to flex his muscles; as they insisted to bring the shopping bags and walked us up to the entrance of the shop, before passing us the loot and continued to keep bowing and smiling and thanking us, till we were out of sight. Impeccable service indeed! You just feel so justified spending all that money.

Once I was shopping alone and got lost. I approached randomly a staff in store; and you won't believe it, she not only came out of the store to direct me but actually walked half the way to my destination! And she kept bowing. Even when I tried to tell her I knew my way, she insisted on walking with me till the half-way mark. I was so impressed and humbled by her kindness and extreme politeness in this case.

It was also very safe for me to walk alone. Of course, I learnt a few essential Japanese terms. Essentially, ‘Ikura’... It means how much!

All in all, the lovely Japanese ladies really inspired me to passionately embrace my femininity.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On living a low-key life

I read a book called My Friend Michael by Frank Cascio a while back, about Michael Jackson.  His life sounded so glamorous as it was filled with first class travel, the money to buy whatever he wanted, fabulous hotels where he booked out an entire floor, not to mention being an international celebrity.

But sadly we all know how Michael’s story ended.  As he grew bigger and bigger he began taking prescription medicines just to cope with the stress of it all.  Part of me wonders why he didn’t downsize his life and just enjoy what he had, but as it was all he had known from age 5, that thought probably didn’t occur to him.

Besides, you don’t get to be an international pop superstar by being a relaxed person who takes things in their stride.

As a side note, it was a fabulous book and I was really impressed by Michael’s goal-setting and visualisation that the author described so well.  The book is a good motivational tool.  I made heaps of notes!

I have a cousin who, having just turned 30 is an extremely successful businessman that lives literally all over the world.  He has two homes (Miami and London) and probably spends more time in hotel rooms and airplanes than he does in those.

He commented to a family member a while back that he feels sorry for me to be ‘stuck’ in our shop every day and never going anywhere.  I was quite astounded when I heard that as I have never felt this way and don’t consider our shop to be any different from other jobs I have had where I was obliged to show up at the office each day.  It’s just what I do.

An international life sounds glamorous and fun in theory, and I am definitely guilty of daydreaming when I see the celebrity photos of all the stars striding out from the airport gates (I have to process what they are wearing – cool sunglasses, check, leggings or skinny jeans, check, great jacket and loopy scarf, check).

But I am a home-loving person at heart who relishes routine and early nights, nesting and home-cooked meals.  If I even have too many late nights I am all out of sorts.

And to do all these things that I love you have to have a job or lifestyle that means you can live in the one city and be home at a reasonable hour.  I love that I spend each day in a familiar place and come to the same home each night.

When I go away on a rare holiday I just cannot wait to get home.  Heck, even when I am out for the day I cannot wait to get home!

So I guess it’s lucky I am not an international jetsetter then isn’t it?  But in the meantime I will enjoy perfecting the superstar travel uniform, just in case.

Image from

Monday, September 2, 2013

How To Look Expensive

I love thinking about the concept of dressing yourself in a way that conveys wealth and class in an old-fashioned sense.  Of course even money is no guarantee you will look good.  As we all know, extremely rich people can still look cheap.  There are plenty of walking testimonies, celebrity or otherwise, that you can look tacky even having spent plenty.  And there are those without much money but an innate sense of their own style who can look fabulously upmarket.

So what are the elements that make someone look quietly expensive?  Just for fun, here are my favourite ideas, gathered from internet searches over time, and also my own notes on when I feel good.  I have a few posts planned on this topic, with this first one focusing on our personal style.

Firstly, I think colour plays a big part.  To me, ‘expensive’ colours are neutrals, worn together.  Think a whole outfit in tones of caramel and cream.  Black and off-white or black and caramel are very stylish too.  In general black, navy, winter white, beige or caramel and red, and adding soft, muted tones of blush pink, sea-foam green, Tiffany blue and other such shades depending on what suits your colouring.  Colours I do not think are luxurious and wealthy are the lurid brights – neon pink, bright purple, yellow, orange.  Especially when paired with black.  I remember Trinny and Susannah saying once that putting black with a bright colour makes both look cheap.

Fabric-wise, I always think woven, or structured knits look more expensive.  Going the other way are floppy t-shirt knits or floaty boho type clothing.  Again, this is my personal taste in clothing coming out, but I always feel more pulled together in a pressed shirt and dark fitted jeans or a semi-fitted dress with simple lines.

Wearing classic styles, I consider to whisper money.  Luckily I love the classics and never feel more at home in a pair of well-cut jeans and a white shirt (to me, the Hamptons look), or in tailored black pants and a tuxedo front shirt or flattering black top with high heels if dressing up.

Shoe-wise, I love the classics too – the black leather ballet flat, white or navy canvas Converse sneakers (low-tops please, I’ll leave the hi-tops to the youngsters).  A perfectly pointed stiletto heel never goes out of fashion.  I always think chunky heels make a leg look chunky, even on skinny starlets.  Wedges ditto but there are some very cute wedges out there that are a bit finer, not so extreme that look pretty and well-bred.

I know tattoos are a big trend currently but I just think they look so vulgar.  In my opinion, there is no way anyone with class and style would have a tattoo, even a hidden one.  My husband often says a good business idea to get into would be tattoo removal, because there will be a lot of people wanting that in the future, and I have to agree.

Consider where you are going.  When I visit a dear friend in an old money part of town, I love dressing up in my most classic outfits, clothing I imagine I might wear if I lived there.  Without fail I always feel richest in my classic clothing.

Take notes on what others are wearing when you visit wealthy areas.  There is nothing I love more than (after dressing up) than taking a stroll around the shops, maybe try on some clothing or just have a look through the stores in fancy areas.  I notice the outfits and details others are wearing on the streets.  Funnily enough I am more interested in what the older ladies are wearing, I don’t know what’s up with that.  There is a different vibe in wealthy areas.  I like to absorb it and take it home with me.

Wearing big sunglasses I think imparts an air of mystery and glamour.  I have gotten out of the habit over winter but need to polish my favourite ones and start wearing them every day.  Plus they protect your eyes from the sun, which is important for both the eyes themselves, and also preventing wrinkles.  I adore aviators too, they look very luxe to me.

Attending to grooming is très important.  Even when at home by myself, and especially when out.  I have been perfecting my grooming regime over time, and by making myself do it even when I couldn’t be bothered it’s now become a habit, much like brushing my teeth, that I do it automatically.

I exfoliate and shave my legs in the shower every two days and wash my hair every second day on the alternate days so I don’t spend too long in the shower.  I apply body lotion every single morning on every part of my body I can reach.  Sometimes it is plain, and sometimes it matches my perfume.

I always wear perfume, even on a home day!  I wear it for me, so I am never without it.  Currently I enjoy having a variety to choose from.  I still enjoy my Chanel No. 5, and more recently Chanel Coco Noir (softer than you would think), however I have a wardrobe of inexpensive fragrances too, for everyday wear.

Painted nails suggest you have plenty of time to lounge around being attended to, but they also suggest you take care of yourself.  I always do my toes in the summer (I gave them a break this winter), but I haven’t done my fingernails in years as working in a shoe shop meant they chipped within one day.  I am inspired to try again with my fingers though.  I read that Butter London polishes are different and don’t chip, so I will try one of their colours.

For makeup, the wealthy look is le no makeup look, with not too much around the eyes.  A polished, natural glow, and a bit of bronzer.  Being so fair, I always look too orange with bronzer (even pale ones), which is a shame as I love the look on others.  So I go the peaches and cream route with a tiny amount of foundation and concealer, a dusting of translucent powder, pinky blush and glossy lips.  Groomed brows and a little eyeliner and mascara completes my look.

As I said before, even when I am at home I wear perfume and a little makeup (less than if I’m going to work).  Somehow it affects the way I act and how efficient I am throughout the day.  Even though I can’t see myself unless I pass a mirror, I feel like less of a slob!

Lastly is jewellery.  Keeping my real jewellery very clean ensures its sparkle and therefore the wealthy look.  If you don’t have jewellery cleaner, dishwashing liquid and a clean toothbrush will make it look beautiful.  Use on gold and all precious stones except for emeralds.  I squirt a tiny amount of dishwash on the toothbrush, clean my ring or necklace (including the chain) carefully and then rinse in warm water and dry.  You will be amazed how good they look.  Pearls just need a polish with a soft cloth and plenty of wear, as the oils in your skin keep them nice.

Actually, clean is probably is one of the biggest things in looking expensive.  Think pristine light coloured clothing, just-washed bouncy hair, sparkling jewellery and polished, clean shoes.

What else would you add to this list?
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