Friday, July 25, 2014

Ways to Bring More French Chic Into Your Life

Séduit par Géraniums by Roxanne Steed.  Roxanne's blog has so many of her gorgeous paintings. Click here to see.

I often like to remind myself of my original excitement for the French Chic lifestyle and make little notes to bring my thoughts back to that.  These corrections from time to time keep me happy with my simple life and ensure I am on the track I want to be on.

It’s really going back to basics, but sometimes that’s fun to read about too, and as I said above, this reminds me of the early days of my enthusiasm about the world of French Chic.

Here are my ideas:

Eat as if in France – real, good food and perhaps look up the principles of the Mediterranean diet for ideas.

When I have a coffee or a cold drink, don’t eat at the same time (French girls don’t snack between meals).  When I first started this, it was hard.  I associated a morning cafe au lait with a muffin or something similar.  Now I don't even think about eating anything, the coffee is enough mid-morning.  I am now working on eliminating a snack at my after-work/pre-dinner drink time!

Enjoy yoghurt daily and a small piece of cheese every now and then.

Decorate like we live in a Parisian apartment – neat and tidy, streamlined and sparse, in a chic and stylish way of course.

Dress how I would imagine a French woman would – small, precise, quality wardrobe of limited colours which are best for me.  A recognisable style which others can see easily is ‘me’.

Keep hair regularly trimmed and coloured.  Wash hair every second day and do not be tempted to stretch it out to a third.

Keep makeup light and fresh.  Use the tiniest amount of foundation and spend time on my eye makeup.

Play French music at home, both old and new to keep that feeling of French charm and lightness within me.

How I act/my demeanour:  To put a spring in my step, imagine my name is Dominique and I live in Paris.  Pretend I am her as I go throughout my day.

Knit, crochet and sew – be creative.  I read on a long time ago that having a handcraft to do prevented mindless snacking as you couldn’t knit or do needlepoint if your hands were sticky from chocolate or greasy from potato chips.  I always like to have my hands busy when I’m watching tv or a movie so try to keep a project by the sofa.

Read, both the chic-lit I enjoy plus books which challenge me a little.  Also read more classics.  My mother alternates writing styles – something fun and then something a bit more meaty so she has a good balance.  In the past year or so I've read some thriller/crime mysteries and really enjoyed them.

Be light-hearted and channel Audrey Hepburn.  She didn’t take herself too seriously yet was a beautiful spirit.

Be slim and slender.  Yes, spend time on our menus and creating good food, but don’t make food a huge part of my life.  Once I have sorted that day’s and perhaps the next day’s food, I can forget about it.

Watch a favourite movie or tv programme set in France.  I have fond memories of the Peter Mayle tv mini-series A Year In Provence (based on the book) from the 90s and now have it on dvd.  John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan star, and it has such a lovely warm feeling about it.  Definitely comfort tv a la Francaise!


What would you add to this list?  What’s your favourite way to bring more French Chic into your life?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Downton Abbey

I’m finally up to date in the world of Downton Abbey.  I’ve been ignoring it for a while but couldn’t miss someone raving about it seemingly every corner I turned.  Even though I usually avoid period dramas like the plague, I knew I would have to watch Downton Abbey to see what all the fuss was about.

It was amazing.  Such a well-written drama, witty dialogue and laugh out loud funny moments (mostly over Dame Maggie Smith’s lines which were delivered in her inimitable way).  Julian Fellowes, the writer, is a very clever man.

It’s hard to choose a character, but if I could most choose one to be like, it would be Lady Mary Crawley.  I adore the way she speaks, in a low, slow voice and it’s rare to see her flustered or over-excited.  She is very calm and measured.  All the women are elegant and gracious and inspire me to be more lady-like.

Amongst the backdrop of their very privileged (and endangered) lifestyle, I love that the women in the family cultivate simple pleasures such as needlepoint, reading and taking tea.  Everyone speaks quite formally to one another, and if there is a cross word, it is either said straight, or in some cases couched in very witty and clever phrase.

The women dress very modestly but still fashionably.  As the series progress, seeing the twenties fashions were a real treat and I’d happily wear those today.  The women in the family always have their hair either in a chic updo, or styled into a faux bob.  You realise just how long their hair is when they are dressing for bed at night time, but it is never down and loose in public (and by public I mean the rooms of the house where the men are, as well as outside the house).

Both men and women dress very formally and take the time to make themselves look attractive.  It’s not all about comfort – no-one slouches around in track pants and ugg boots there.  I’m not saying I want to go back to corsets, but we have gone quite far the other way which is a shame.

Their huge castle must be freezing, and the way they dress in this environment is quite impractical, but that’s the wonderful thing about Downton Abbey, ‘practical’ doesn’t ever seem to be in their vocabulary.  They dress up in beautiful clothing, change for dinner every night and have a valet or a ladies maid to help them dress.  You don’t have to do your own laundry and every little thing is done by someone else.  All you have to do is enjoy your life (until the money runs out of course).  Apart from the finance thing, doesn’t that sound glorious?

I believe watching this programme has had a positive effect on me.  Having it as a mind influencer makes me feel more ladylike myself, more feminine and gracious.  I do not want to swear or raise my voice.  I am content to be serene and feminine and fill my life with good jobs and a life well lived.

Are you a Downton Abbey fan?  What’s your favourite ‘takeaway’ from this series?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Kitchen Declutter

Three white orchids in one pot - two have flower shoots coming up - exciting!

I love browsing homes for sale online, as you never know what perfect gem might turn up.  Plus I find staged homes very motivating.  They look so magazine-like and inviting.  I love the way staged kitchens have nothing on the bench apart from one or two items.  This was my goal when I decided to declutter, organise and clean our kitchen.

The kitchen hasn’t had this much attention since I posted about it in February 2012 so a bit of focused organisation was long overdue.  Being a place that is used 3-4 times a day (at least) to prepare meals and hot drinks, it is no wonder things migrate around and stuff gets jammed in the same old place even if that place is already full.  Items that are used frequently are also left out which adds to a messy, non-magazine look and that is not the look I am after.

Here we go, and I hope the Before photos are not too upsetting for you.

Pantry - Before

Pantry - After

Our kitchen is more than twenty years old but I don’t care, I still want it to look stylishly simple.  I love to keep it clean and organised, and even though we’re still paying off our mortgage, I think of it as mine.  If it was all new and wonderful that would be amazing of course, but I truly am just as happy with it as it is right now.

First up was the pantry.  The glasses, cups and plates on the top shelves were good, they were recently sorted through earlier in the year here.  The bottom three shelves (which includes the pantry floor) had everything taken out.  The shelves were wiped clean - I use Huggies unscented baby wipes for lots of jobs and they were great for this.  Usually I would use Spray & Wipe and a clean cloth.  I put what was going back in an orderly fashion.  Coralling like items in baskets is my preferred method.

Then it was onto the cupboards.

Frequent use cupboard - I didn't take a before picture as it was nice and tidy then, but I kept only the daily use items in this cupboard and put the plastic containers in the bottom (from the pantry).  I use these containers for taking food to work, making freezer portions and organising my pantry.

Large corner cupboard - Before

Large corner cupboard - After.  I was cooking with my orange Le Crueset when I did this, so had to shuffle to fit it in after dinner!

I weeded out items as I went.  Items that we hadn’t used in forever went straight to our guest bedroom which is my decluttering outbox ready for re-distribution.  Firstly I check with family members if they want any of it and then the rest is donated to a charity shop.

Here's a lovely long view of the kitchen.  It looks quite bare afterward (without the cat biscuit and vitamin decorations) but I can't tell you how luxurious it feels to get everything out to prepare dinner and there is bench space galore.

Kitchen - Before

Kitchen - After

Microwave area - Before

Microwave area - After.  Isn't that a thing of beauty?  It's my favourite transformation in this little project.  The plastic drawers were handy but oh so ugly.  They are now in the bottom of the pantry and may go altogether.

I was so enthused by my kitchen project that I couldn’t wait to take Before photos, as I knew the After photos would be here soon enough and look fabulous.

Underbench area at the other end of the kitchen - Before.  Cat biscuits and vitamins on display.

Underbench area at the other end of the kitchen -After.  And breathe out.  So calming

And in exciting news, I picked up my copy of TheLife-Changing Magic of Tidying book from the library today.  It couldn’t have turned up at a better time.  I’m only up to the preface and am already seeing that this will be a very motivating title.  Yippee!

This little ceramic dish was a 50c op shop find which is perfect for keeping the soap, sanitiser and lotion neatly in one spot by the kitchen sink.  I'm sure Martha Stewart would do exactly the same thing.

Have you been streamlining an area of your home lately?  Do share.
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