Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Chic

Now that Christmas is almost here, have you planned ahead on how you are going to most enjoy the day?

Having been a little bit strict with what I eat and drink in December (just a little, not completely strict, that way it's do-able for the long term), I also plan to not let myself go completely on Christmas day. I have a plan for what I will consume, and while this sounds a bit Bah Humbug, I know I will be happier both during (looking chic) and after (feeling chic and slim).

Something as simple as deciding what you will do beforehand makes it surprisingly easy to resist temptation later on.

For example, I know that sugar makes me feel horrible after I have it and I often end up with a sinusitis headache (which lasts 2-3 days or even more) if I've eaten lots of sugar in one go. You’d think I would learn, and perhaps I am now.

I’m not talking about natural sugars here. I have fresh fruit every day for breakfast and am happy with that. But processed sugar is another thing altogether and I know I am happier with it not in my diet for the most part. But enjoyment of life is important, so I have some sweet treats most days (like two squares of 72% cocoa chocolate after dinner).

So on Christmas day my plan is to enjoy my meal and not pig out on the nibbles beforehand, and have a very small dessert after. Often the first taste is the nicest, and once you have tasted it then what do you need more for? At least that’s what I’m telling myself, and doesn’t it sound more chic than a piled up dessert bowl?

We have two ‘Christmas days’ coming up. I am doing desserts for both Christmas dinners. For the first one on Christmas day, I have been asked to make a Banoffi Pie. This dessert is decadent to the max, so my plan is to have the tiniest sliver after my dinner, so I can have a taste of it without making myself feel sick.

The next Christmas dinner one day later, my plan for dessert is to prepare fresh seasonal fruit and bring a gourmet ice cream to have with it. Doesn’t that sound refreshing after a big Christmas dinner? Remember it is summer here!

I have plans for drinks too. I will be taking along chilled bottles of Perrier and sparkling white grape juice and will sip these from a champagne flute. I don’t drink anymore (that’s a story for another day) but when I did, I would often have only one glass of champagne before dinner and maybe one glass of wine with dinner.

Drinking during the day makes you so tired, even one glass will. I still remember a champagne Christmas breakfast where I had a couple of glasses of bubbles in the morning and felt out of sorts all day.

And to finish off, you may also want to think about plans on how you are going to go about your Christmas day. What time you are going to wake up, how organised you will be, how relaxed and cheerful you are and how much time you will leave yourself to get to places. When I have a social occasion coming up that is a bit out of the ordinary I like to do this and it helps me be calmer, nicer and enjoy it more.

I also pledge to myself that I will have mystique and decorum when I am there, and always, always have a strategy to deal with those that I know may challenge my serenity. I don’t want to stoop to their level so I try to take the high road and don’t do much of the talking myself, that way I cannot be caught out by them. I am pleasant but detached around those I am wary of.

I realise my strategies outlined above may seem like overkill and a bit regimented but they aren’t supposed to be. I just like to think about things beforehand and go through likely scenarios and how I will react to them. I also like to play out dinners in my mind and think about what I will eat and drink. There is a quote about discipline setting you free, rather than holding you back like we think it does, and I try to remember that.

Deciding about things ahead of time really does help me be disciplined and do what I want to do, rather than be carried away by what’s available and what people offer me. You don’t need to make a big deal out of not having something either. If someone offers you something that you don’t want, you can simply say, ‘oh I couldn’t/won’t right now, but I might have some later when I have a bit more room’, or if it’s before dinner ‘oh I’m saving myself for dinner, I might have some later though’ (later may never come but no-one needs to know that!). And of course a simple and polite 'no thank you' with a smile always works too.

I always find it’s easier to resist the first taste of something you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it, than to try and stop that automatic arm shovelling snacks into your mouth.

Lastly, pull your shoulders back and remember to breathe. I have to constantly remind myself of that.

Wishing you a chic Christmas, see you next year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Inspiring Blogs

Coffee-table candles gussied up for Christmas

Ever since I started reading the first blog I came across almost a decade ago, they have been happy places of inspiration and company. Sometimes I will click through to a blog that is new to me and read for a short while before moving on. It is subtle things that can turn you on or off to a blog but the main thing to me is the genuineness of someone’s voice.

I am still reading the first blog that came onto my radar and even though her life is totally different to mine, really, in every way possible, I still gain peace and pleasure from many of her posts.

Others listed below I have also been reading for many years and even if I might have a break because I’ve lost all my bookmarks with a computer changeover for example, I eventually find my favourites again and it’s like visiting an old friend!

I have gained so many fabulous ideas and ways to live well from all the blog posts that I have read over the years, and a lot of them I have printed out to make my own wonderful books. My favourite early-bedtime reading is one of these binders. They soothe me like nothing else does.

Of course you have to have your own mind and decide the direction you want your life to take and what you want in it, but I do really enjoy having places I can visit when I am lacking in motivation or need inspiring. I think the one thing that these blogs share is that they tell me I am good enough exactly as I am, whilst also making me want to be the best version of myself possible and be nice to others at the same time. Isn't that grand?

I’d like to share with you a few of my long-time favourites. Some of them are religious and many are focused on the home, and living in a beautifully simple way. Seeing them listed now, I don’t really follow style blogs it seems. I feel like I should but I don’t! I find fashion blogs can make me feel anxious and like I'm not trying hard enough. I have my own classic way of dressing that I tweak over time to stay au courant (that's what I tell myself anyway). By not having too many clothes, it means when I do purchase something it is from the current season so I don't worry about that really.

In no particular order, my long-time favourites:

Charming The Birds From The Trees

Home Living

Pleasant View Schoolhouse

Domestic Felicity

The Gardener’s Cottage

And some newer (to me) ones I am enjoying at the moment:

Down To Earth

Posie Gets Cozy

The Quiet Home

The Enchanted Cottage

And then there are the blogs which have been deleted or are no longer being written on that I treasure the wise words I have saved and printed out. I can’t say thank you to all those people individually, but perhaps by sending it out into the atmosphere now, it will reach them in some way. Please accept my sincere thanks and appreciation for your thoughts and ideas. Your words have helped me in more ways than you will ever know.

I would love to hear your all-time favourite and perhaps longest-time reading blogs? I’m always open to new ones (even if they aren’t new at all!)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wardrobe Decluttering

The donation pile

In the journey around my house where I am decluttering and organizing little areas at a time, my wardrobe drawers came next.

I have three large drawers in my dresser where I keep my non-hanging clothes. Imagine my horror when I found a dead moth in the bottom of the drawer that holds my fine merino knit tops and jerseys. None of them were expensive, but still, I don’t want any holes in them!

In the winter I don’t wash my merino tops every time I wear them as I will always have something else on underneath and I think overwashing ages them quicker. But now it’s the end of the cold season here in New Zealand, I will do a dark wool wash and a light wool wash and have all my knits clean and ready for next year.

I also sprayed Yardley lavender liberally throughout my drawers and will sew up some lavender bags with dried lavender that I already have. Moths don’t like the smell and lucky for me I do. My drawers smell wonderful now.

Short-sleeve t-shirts and a few long-sleeve t-shirts with lots of lovely room to breathe!  Yardley Lavender spray stashed in the corner so I'll remember to use it.

In the process of sorting through my wool tops to wash, I tried a few on that I hadn’t worn much or at all and confirmed that they looked frumpy dumpy on me. That is not the look I am going for. I put them in a pile to donate. Since I won’t be donating for a week or so I don’t need to think too much about it. If I did I would probably put some back, but I know I’ve made the right decisions. If I’m dithering over getting rid of something, it probably means it needs to go.

I also sorted through my short sleeved t-shirts, long-sleeved t-shirts, active wear and home loungewear. Around the house I like to wear light-weight palazzo style pants and a coordinating t-shirt or singlet (vest) top in the summer.

Casual skirts and denim shorts, long-sleeve tops and empty space for merino tops once they are washed

One of the characters in the movie Sideways which we had on the other night was wearing satin floral drawstring pants with a lacy sleeveless top and little scuffs at home. My husband commented that it would be a nice home outfit for me and noted that silky and fine fabrics are very feminine and attractive for women. That helps me clean out some of the utilitarian but not very feminine clothes I have been wearing at home!

In my bedroom I took all three drawers out and put them on the floor, then stacked all the piles on my bed, quickly sorting through and refolding items I like and know look good on me. The ones that I don’t like and that don’t look as nice on me I put in a donate pile. After spraying my drawers with Yardley lavender I stacked everything back neatly, in piles where like is with like. All my woolens were put in the laundry basket.

Home lounge-wear, walking clothes and sleepwear

I was so happy to see that my folded tops did not even come halfway up the sides of my drawers. Having too many clothes is worse than having not enough clothes to me. And I know that someone else will enjoy my donations more than I do and probably look better in them as well.

One white cotton Ralph Lauren t-shirt that I was given as a gift I never felt good in because the neckline was very high and the sleeves were quite tight. The high neckline did not flatter my biggish bust and the sleeves made my arms look more sausage-like than they are. No-one needs that. So I googled ‘how to change t-shirt neckline’ and followed one girl’s instructions. It came out well!

I then cut off the sleeve hems and rolled/folded loosely the raw edge, tiny under the arm and half an inch on three folds at the top centre and tacked them with a couple of stitches in those two areas. I have a few other t-shirts where this has been done (by the manufactuers, not me) so it must be the thing at the moment. The white RL still isn’t my favourite t-shirt but it’s a vast improvement on what it was so I will keep it for now and see if I wear it this summer.

Remodelled white cotton RL t-shirt

So I now have a decent stack of donations (maybe a dozen items), winter knits to launder, check for holes and de-pill with my lint shaver and lovely, airy, roomy drawers. It really is a thrill getting dressed the next day when you do something like this.

I’m glad I enjoy a simple life and that it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

And meanwhile, in the living room... sleepy afternoon cats, with one fancy sofa each. Do you think ordering a three-seater for each cat was too much? I don't like to have them cramped.

Nina, showing that a paw is a good shield from bright sun

Jessica, sleepy dozing

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Simple Christmas

What excites me most right now is living a simple life, and decluttering and organising to aid in this quest. I’ve been doing this with many areas of my home and life as I come across them, and a few months ago I thought about Christmas.

Even though it is a time of year I look forward to, there are parts of it I don’t like. These things are others expectations and too many gifts. I know I can be a bit of a control freak and that’s what I’m working on, not being bothered by what other people want or do. I am going with the flow and know that the only person I can control is myself and also the way I deal with things.

I have issues with gifts because even though they are genuine and meant well, I find them stressful because if they are something I wouldn’t use or don’t like or will clutter my house, I feel like the person who has given me the gift has wasted their money, and being from thrifty Scottish stock that upsets me. My brother calls gifts ‘knick knacks and cloggers’ and tells us not to give him any. The way he says it always makes me laugh.

And I don’t believe you have to give gifts to show love for your family and friends. Little kids, yes, I know get excited about Christmas presents, but as we get older I am more than happy to receive not a single one and just spend time with the people I care about. Last year for the first time my brother, sister and I did not swap gifts and it didn't make Christmas any less special.

So I sat down to make a list of how I can have a simple Christmas and really enjoy this magical time of year. Here is my list.

How can I have a Simple Christmas?

1. Make a choice to have a simple Christmas
2. Make lists and look at ways to make them easier/less
3. No unnecessary rubbish
4. Don’t swap presents with those that agree
5. Leave time to recharge the batteries
6. From 1st December switch into Christmas mode – put the tree and decorations up, feel relaxed and Christmassy, watch Christmas movies and tv, don’t eat too much crap – eat good food and feel well
7. Don’t stress about what others will do – take them for who they are and be happy with that
8. Look at all my Christmas blessings – a wonderful husband, comfortable and happy home, loving family, financially stable, our own business that we happily run together
9. Think of others at Christmas that I can reach out to – (and I’ve got a few people listed).

I put our tree up today, and Jessica is posing with it above. She is such an obliging model-cat. Nina was too busy tearing around to stop for a photo. She never stops! Up and down the hall, in the cat-door and straight upstairs, s-shape from the dining area, down the hall and into the guest bedroom and many other routes. I wonder if it’s because she grew up from kitten-age in a crowded cat shelter until past the age of 2 with no room to run around – she’s really making the most of all this space with just her and Jessica now!

With my decluttering enthusiasm lately, I even managed to declutter my Christmas tree decorations. I tell you, there is no part of my home that escapes decluttering at the moment! I realised the purple decorations I bought a few years ago which I thought would zazz up my Christmas tree were a big mistake. I am not a purple girl. I am classics and I am neutrals.

So I took out all the decorations I love and put them in a smaller container and bagged up the purple hanging baubles and purple tinsel and put them with the coloured fairy lights. I donated these to a charity store today when I went out. When I want something gone, I want it gone.

Now my tree has every single Christmas decoration I own on it, in silver, gold and a touch of red, and white fairy lights. I also have a few decorative items around my coffee table candles and apart from these, just a small wreath in our entrance way (and I’m even a bit half-hearted about that so it could be donated soon). And that's the extent of my simple Christmas decorating.

I would love to hear any thoughts you might have about simplifying Christmas.
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