Monday, June 30, 2014

Day Thirty: You Can Do It


It’s the last day!  I’ve really enjoyed this round of Thirty Chic Days and I hope you have too.  What amazing thing do I have up my sleeve for the thirtieth chic day?  It’s something I learnt from this past month and that’s if you set yourself a deadline, you can do it.  You can do it even if you thought you couldn’t.

I’d struggle to conjure up two posts a month before now, but by putting pressure on myself to come up with thirty in thirty days, I did it.  Whether they are any good is another matter altogether…

Having constant chic thoughts in my mind has also been helpful in remembering my overarching goal of living beautifully.  I had hardly any time of slacking off but I don’t feel like I missed out on that.  And because of this there was not that residual guilt of laziness.

June wasn’t all work, work, work though.  I enjoyed time I had to myself more when I made myself busy with a daily post as well as my full-time job.  Looking forward to my current book(s) was a real treat, as was my nightly tv viewing of a good series like Downton Abbey or a movie.

So even if you don’t write a blog, perhaps you could come up with a small challenge for yourself.  Maybe in a notebook or journal some goals you want to cross off in July, or by a certain date.  I think I will do this with some sewing projects I have been moving slowly on.

With my posts, I can see they are actually a beneficial addition to my life and not just another thing on my to-do list.  Posting daily also helped me enjoy life in a meaningful and in-the-moment way.  Other months fly by and I don’t know where they went.  Not June though!  I really stretched it out, particularly in the middle of the month when I knew I still had so many posts to go and was flagging a little.

My new goal for How to be Chic is to post weekly on a Friday, and possibly a Tuesday but I’ll start with one day a week for now.  Surely I must run out of chic things to talk about (you’d think).  But thankfully for me and my curiosity there are many ways to approach living in a simple and elegant way that I want to explore.

I’m keen to know if you had a favourite post this past month, and have you tried anything from an idea you came across?  There were many things I’ve tried thanks to your wonderful comments.  I loved them all!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day Twenty Nine: Small Talk

When life gets busy and I feel overwhelmed, I hide away and look after myself.  I like to make sure my home and work is organised, tidy and clean because that makes me feel better and more able to handle everything.

I spend my down-time reading, and I snuggle into bed nice and early.  It doesn’t make for a very interesting view from the outside, but I know it’s just what I need.  An acquaintance that I catch up with occasionally asked what I’ve been up to lately.  ‘Oh, working’, I said (because we were at the shop at the time).

She looked momentarily disappointed so I quickly asked her ‘what’s new with you’ and enquired after a big project she told me about a few months ago.  Her smile returned and all was well again.

Maybe it’s because I’m private or because I have a quiet life, but there’s really not that much to tell.  The kinds of things I like to do aren’t that social (knitting, reading, gardening, cooking etc), and I enjoy and need my own company to feel in balance.

I don’t particularly want to go into great detail about our business because it’s my business, not other peoples.  I know it’s a common question, but I find it really intrusive when people ask us ‘how’s business going’.  I would never ask that of someone!  And no-one ever tells the truth anyway.  If we’re going well, I don’t like to sound like I’m showing off, and if things are a bit quiet, I don’t want people feeling sorry for me.

Everyone’s different and I accept that.  But I think that the French way of conversation which is to ask about what books you have read lately, movies/theatre seen etc, rather than business questions are much better.  I know small-talk is important to get a conversation going and make people feel comfortable around you, I suppose it is sort of like kindling in a fire.

So maybe it’s important for me to train myself, just like you can train for anything, on  how to make good small talk.  I've picked up a few tips from people I know who are good at this.

Ask light, non-intrusive questions.  If they have children that’s a great starting point (how are they doing at school etc), or the weather, ‘how’s work going’, do they have any upcoming holidays.  I’ve noticed a lot of people use ‘do you have any holidays coming up?’ so I tried it and it's great.  It’s always good to spark off a conversation.  You can also piggy-back on someone's question if it's a good one and ask them the same one back.  Then put it in your question bank!

Compliment someone on something they are wearing, or their hairstyle etc.  I sometimes compliment a man on his tie if it’s distinctive or his watch (I always notice cool watches) or a colour a woman is wearing if it’s lovely on her.  I never lie, so if there is nothing much to compliment, I will talk about something else.

Be enthusiastic about what they’re saying.  A friend of my husband’s is known for being super-positive, to the point of ridiculous.  He’s not putting it on though, it’s just him and the way he has always been.  My husband says he would never take a restaurant recommendation from him because even if he'd had the worst meal of his life there, his friend would rave about it.  Funnily enough, everyone loves him, because they feel loved by him, I think.

I don’t think small talk is ever something that will come naturally to me, simply because I am too concerned with seeming nosy or crass so I limit myself to the types of questions I can ask.  Sometimes it’s really hard to think something up!  But just knowing that others are in the same boat and probably feel really awkward too, well that makes me feel a little more relaxed.  And, the more I practice it the easier it gets so I just get on with it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day Twenty Eight: Be Regal

Queen Elizabeth's newest and most delightful portrait, by David Bailey

I recently finished viewing a 2012 dvd called ‘Our Queen’.  No matter what your opinion on the English monarchy is, the thing that really impressed me watching this documentary was Queen Elizabeth’s demeanour.

She had no airs and graces in her interaction with people - both staff and guests, and was warm and friendly whilst still maintaining her distance somewhat.  I don’t believe she thinks ‘I’m royal and I’m Queen and you will run around after me’, she is simply doing her job to the best of her ability (and expects her staff to do theirs) and has been for more than sixty years.  You can tell she definitely takes her duties very seriously.

Watching her throughout the documentary in different situations was quite inspirational.  Words that come to me about her are uncomplainingly hardworking (she handles mail every day of the year except for Christmas day and maybe, if she’s lucky, her actual birthday) and good fun, as evidenced by her agreeing to participate in the James Bond skit for the opening of the Olympic Games.  Her grand-daughter Eugenie was interviewed and said they had no idea she was doing the skit until it screened.  When she asked ‘Granny’ about it later, the Queen said ‘oh well, I’ve got to show I’m keeping up with the times’.

Another royal who came across well and I like her more because of it, was Sophie of Wessex.  She seemed down to earth and genuinely nice.  She said that even now she is quite terrified walking into big banquets as they always have to accompany a guest in, so she is in charge of knowing where to go.  One time she said she couldn’t find her seat and the Queen was waiting to start her speech as Sophie was wandering around the hundreds of chairs trying to find her place name.

The Queen was filmed at Buckingham Palace as well as her other castles (such beautiful scenery and stunning places!).  She decamps to Sandringham each summer but the work follows her, she just does it in a different place.  I love Sandringham, it’s very homey and has tartan carpet.  My Scottish ancestry really comes out when I see places like that in the highlands.  And the tartan carpet, be still my heart.  I'd love a country retreat with tartan carpet.  Who wouldn't?

She looks like a little old lady, and really she is, quite tiny, and 88 years old currently, but watch her in a meeting with the Prime Minister or a group of financial men and she can hold her own.  Not in a try-hard way though; she sits there listening and adding considered comments from time to time.  I often find it difficult talking in groups, worrying I’ll say something stupid, not talking enough or talking too much.  The Queen does not look like she has those thoughts.  She is there, listening, responding and being sensible, calm, measured and stoic.

The inspiration I took from this documentary was to hold yourself in high esteem but not at the expense of others, to do your jobs (both paid and unpaid) to the best of your abilities and show yourself to be a person who can be relied upon.  Keep yourself to yourself and only let in those closest to you.  Others you come into contact with be polite and friendly but don't give everything away.  Have that Queenly mystique!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day Twenty Seven: The Six O'clock Club

I picked up the above book from the Red Cross shop for $1 and enjoyed it immensely.  Published in 1951 ‘How I Raised myself from Failure to Success in Selling’ by Frank Bettger is, as you could tell from the title, a book on sales.  I read it because I own a retail store, but also because I love reading old-fashioned, slightly cheesy, seemingly folksy books like this and they are a good positive inspiration for me about life in general.

One idea I took from it was ‘The Six O’clock Club’.  The author heard that many successful people including Benjamin Franklin considered themselves ‘members’.  How does one join you ask?  One rises every day at 6am, including weekends and days off.  I have often heard we give ourselves a form of jet-lag by rising early to go to work but sleeping in a little on our days off.

Even though it feels wonderfully luxurious at the time it’s going against our bodies.  By getting up early even on days off I feel so refreshed, have more time to do things and sleep well at night.  I make sure my light is off by 10pm, so I get eight hours – but even if I don’t get into bed until 10.30 or 10.45 I will get up at 6am, just make sure I’m in bed early the following night.

The times I have slept way past my alarm I feel quite sluggish.  And what does one do at 6am?  My favourite thing to do is make a big cup of hot tea and read.   I read in bed in the winter with the lamp on, either a book or some magazine articles I have been saving up, or I get out the laptop and read blogs or the news.

In the summer I do the same things but at the dining table, or I might potter in my sewing area.

I think Frank Bettger and Benjamin Franklin probably used their time for more worthy pursuits – like planning their day or getting a headstart on work.

The key to a good day for me is plenty of time in the morning to get ready.  Before I leave for work I like to have a minimum of 1.5 hours to shower, breakfast and dress.  I can squeeze it into less but why would I want to?  If I can stretch it out to two hours I’m in heaven.

Giving myself time to have a leisurely and relaxing start to my day is the best reason to get up at 6 o’clock, and I don’t find it a hardship at all!

What time do you get up in the mornings?  Do you like a sleep-in or do you rise at the same time every day?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day Twenty Six: The Personal Menu

Image from Flickr

Imagine, having won the lottery of course, that you employ a personal chef who creates delicious and nourishing meals for you three times a day, and has nutritious snack options for your 4pm afternoon tea if needed.  He or she has a list of your preferences and then goes to work creating your personal menu which keeps you happy and healthy.

I sometimes dream about that, about having my own personal chef like the super-rich do.  In my movie-star life I’d never have any weak moments where I eat something that ‘I feel like’ rather than the more health-giving option that is better for me but not yet prepared or even thought of.

But even if I did have more money than I could ever spend, even if I had a personal chef on call, I would still have to tell them what I wanted to eat, at least to start with.  They would have to know that I don’t like too much dairy apart from yoghurt, I don’t eat pork/ham/bacon and that I don’t like bready meals such as hamburgers.

Coming up with the ideas is the hardest thing about feeding ourselves don’t you think?  The most bothersome part about making dinner at home is dreaming up something to make that is yummy, healthy, not too expensive and quick to prepare.  After that it’s easy, once you know what you’re having.

Sometimes when I’m having a particularly moreish lunch or dinner I think to myself I must write this down so I remember it as an option.  Particularly in the case of things I used to make but then forgot about.  When I re-remember them I don’t want to forget again.  That way I don’t fall into the rut of the same few meals that I repeat over and over so that there is no danger of forgetting about them but there is a danger of dying of boredom.

All this gave me the idea to build my own personal menu.  I can start with the household favourites and fallbacks, and add on as time goes by.  There are the healthy weekday meals such as a beef mince stir-fry, the weekend meals that take a little bit longer (like roast chicken) and the treat meals such as homemade fish, chips and coleslaw or spaghetti bolognaise.

I’d add to it as we come across meals we’ve enjoyed, and when we’re stuck for inspiration we can peruse the menu to see what we’d like.  I can jot down ideas for seasoning or sauces and of course try tweaking things too to use up items I already have.  You don’t actually need a huge amount as there are only seven days in a week, but I think building up a menu of fourteen dinner options would be a good amount.

I’m talking about dinner here, as breakfast is pretty easy and so is lunch.  It’s always the day of that you think to yourself ‘what are we having for dinner?’ and your mind goes blank.

I have an inexpensive school notebook in my handbag that I can make notes when I think about them.  Not having a fancy one means I am happy to write down anything and I can tear pages out as I’m done with them.  This is where I write down meal ideas as they come to me and work on formulating my personal menu.

It’s an idea that I am actually really excited about putting into practice.

So, what do you have planned for dinner?
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