Friday, August 29, 2014

Chic Habits: Laying Out Your Day

Just as you might lay out your clothes for the next morning, why not lay out your day?  You could do it the evening before or you may prefer to do it on the morning of that day.

Whether it’s a day at home or a day at work I find all too often that I don’t get everything accomplished, and if I write out a to-do list I feel tied to it (I have a love/hate relationship with to-do lists I’ve decided).

So I had a thought to lay out my day.  Just take a moment to step through my day in my mind and see myself doing all the things I want to get done at the best times to do them and with time between each task to actually breathe.

Even if every little detail doesn’t go according to plan, the intention is there and it steers me in a direction rather than being subject to whims (both others and my own!)

It seems that this is a useful middle ground which suits me.  Of course if there are really, really important things to be done on a certain day I will have them written in my diary as a reminder so they will get done.

As an example, the night before a day at home I might be lying in bed drifting off to sleep, and I’ll think about all the things I’d like to get done the next day.  I imagine myself waking up at 6am to have a cup of tea while I do some reading on the computer.  I think about the order in which I’ll have my shower, put washing on, do the vacuuming and what things I’d like to have completed before lunch.

Then I think about what I might like for lunch and what my fun lunchtime activity will be.  When I’m eating by myself I like to read at the dining table or watch a movie or tv programme on the sofa.

After lunch I will have some lighter activities at home and then have them all wrapped up by, say 4.30pm when I might choose to go for a 45-60 minute walk around the neighbourhood.  Then of course comes dinner prep and the evening.  I like to keep evenings clear of work, and also the computer if possible.  Sometimes it can’t be helped if I’ve been too busy (or disorganised) during the day, but I like that to be the exception rather than the rule.

Laying out the day really helps direct my focus and I love nothing more than the feeling at the end of the day of a good mix of accomplishment and relaxation which brings about the most amazing sense of contentment.

‘People often complain about lack of time when the lack of direction is the real problem’ – Zig Ziglar

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Serendipitous Evening

Soul Bar and Restaurant at the Viaduct Harbour, Auckland

Last night my husband and I headed downtown to a range viewing after we shut up shop.  The supplier was set up at an apartment down by the Viaduct Harbour, so we planned to have dinner at one of the many lovely restaurants there afterwards.  Unfortunately once we had paid for our expensive parking we discovered we were there the wrong night due to a miscommunication.

Making lemonade out of lemons, we decided that now we had the entire evening to dine, rather than a quick late bite.  Yay!  I had in my mind that I wanted us to go to a luxurious place that the wealthy dine at.  In the past we’d go to a pub and have that kind of food, but last night I wanted to go beyond that with an exquisite experience.

Of course exquisite experiences often come with exquisite price tags, but if you’re not drinking the entire bar and only having one or two courses, it’s manageable.  And we hardly ever go out for dinner so one evening isn’t going to break us.

We strolled along the cobblestones and had a look at a few menus but it wasn’t until we got to Soul (photo above), that I thought ‘here’s where I want to eat tonight’.  Soul is a long-established and well-known bar and restaurant that is one of the places to see and be seen.  It was certainly good enough for Beyoncé and Jay-Z when they visited Auckland.  And of course it's right on the waterfront, so the launches and yachts are right there.

Perusing the menu before we went in, we saw that August is Restaurant Month in Auckland, and Soul were offering a three-course menu for roughly the same price as a main course, with two wine matches for the price of one of their normal wines by the glass.  What fortuitous timing for us!  The restaurant wasn’t full at all when we went inside but we were lucky enough to be offered one of the last tables and before too long every table was occupied.

I had tonic water in a flute and my darling husband was thrilled with the wine matches.  Need I add that our three courses each were glorious.  Such symphonies of flavour and I was so glad I decided to elevate our dining experience.  Soul is consistently opulent, elegant and a little bit sexy too, so we left a few hours later with an experience for the soul (pun not intended).

I’m thrilled the Universe sent us out for dinner with our incorrect shoe-purchasing appointment.  An evening of casually luxurious fine dining turned out to be just what we needed (when would it ever not be though)!  Having a think about it, my lessons from last night are:

- Don’t be grumpy when plans go wrong, look for the silver lining
- Enjoy going somewhere different to normal
- Drink in the surroundings around you as much as the food and drink in front of you
- Take that luxurious feeling home and make it last as long as possible by copying some of their special touches that you notice (elegant table settings, stylish décor, bright, smartly-dressed wait-staff and beautiful bathrooms with scented flowing soap and little stacks of paper towels to dry your hands were just a few I noticed)

Have you been out anywhere heavenly lately?  Please share - I’d love to visit there virtually!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Self-Sabotage Solution?

Dahlia Sweet Dahlia by Marcia Baldwin from here

During my radio interview with Ingrid Talpak last week, I was so impressed with, not only how nice she is, but also the quality of her interviewing.  Being a first-timer I was pretty nervous and hoped I would say the right thing, and Ingrid helped enormously by always having well-thought out questions and helpful remarks in between.

Ingrid’s insightful knowledge of all things chic and French made me think she could have instead interviewed herself equally well!  One of the questions Ingrid asked towards the end of the interview has had me thinking over the past few days, and it’s about how we sabotage our chic selves.

I knew immediately what she meant because I do it sometimes, and maybe you do too.  I never understood exactly why I could happily be running along my chic path, easily choosing the healthy food option and feeling good about things. 

Then one day the crappy ‘foods’ and laziness I’d left behind would knock on the door and invite themselves back to stay, like unwanted and unmoveable guests.

Whenever I was in a good space I’d have this niggling fear in the back of my mind that I couldn’t sustain it and had no control over it.  I’d be waiting for ‘bad Fiona’ to resurface.  Honestly, I felt like there were two of me sometimes.

Well, I think I’ve finally worked it out.  Even though I am a calm and carefree, fun person on the surface, I can be very critical of myself underneath.  I honestly think this is where all our dieting angst, which is epidemic, comes from.  We separate our mind and body like they are two different beings, but they are together, fused for eternity.  I know that, but I didn't know that.

Is it any wonder I felt like there were two Fionas?  My mind was constantly picking on my body saying things like:

Don’t be lazy, get out for a walk

If you eat that icecream you’re going to get a sinus headache, don’t be stupid

It’s your own fault your clothes don’t look good, look at what you eat

You’ll always have a fat roll, just face it

You’re a lazy slob

Can you imagine a loved one talking to you like that?  Or you talking to a loved one in that manner?

Now, what do you do if someone well-meaning (or not) gives you unsolicited advice.  Do you take it and say 'thank you' then do what they suggest?  Maybe.  Or do you think ‘eff off, I'll do what I want thanks’ and go back to more of what you've been doing.  Exactly.  That’s what I was doing to myself - rebelling against my own well-meaning but badly formed 'advice'.

I’ve read for years about ‘accepting yourself’ and ‘loving yourself’ but it just sounded like a load of new-age-softie-doesn’t-work to me.  Except… it does.

By treating myself like a good friend or a loved family member (which I am both actually) I feel more calm and don’t feel the need to rebel against myself.  The self-sabotage is dropping away because there’s not this internal push and pull.

Whenever I get the old feeling inside me and I’m being hateful towards myself, I remember my new way of being and think things like:

I’m ok, everything’s good (just like you’d soothe a child)
My body is perfect for me (I tried ‘my body is perfect’ but it just made me think of supermodels, so I added ‘for me’ and that mantra sinks in easily now)
I choose whatever I want, I make the choice
I am slim and healthy today and always
I am safe today and always (I say this one a lot, it helps me not worry about that big bad world and scary looking people)
Thank you - just repeating thank you over and over feels peaceful.  It can be 'Thank you for all that I have' or 'Thank you' and then list all the things that come to mind, or just plain and simple 'Thank you'.

I also think of myself as if the thought is coming from someone who loves me, and imagine them cuddling me and appreciating me, imperfect body and all.  And in fact, my body’s not imperfect, it’s perfect for me.

There are certainly many ways we self-sabotage ourselves, but for me, my main issues are with food and exercise so that's what this post focuses on.

The beautiful thing about directing my thoughts towards being nice to myself rather than the opposite is that my mind is not searching for ways to wreck things.  It’s not wandering around while I’m looking the other way, digging up a craving for crappy snack foods.

No, my mind is happy and non-critical, meaning I can carry on with a normal life and eat normal foods.  Such a seemingly small mind-shift and it has huge results.

Now that I'm not being an over-critical, perfectionist nagger to myself, most of the time I happily prepare healthy meals and don't crave the gross stuff as much.  I have had one craving so far, which was still there after a number of hours, so I bought a single-serve portion and ate it without guilt then went back to normal.  Score!

I also look for ways to fit a 30-50 minute brisk walk into most days.  And I've exhumed my weekly yoga class which has had a lengthy hiatus.  Thankfully it's still there, and the same lovely ladies I'd see each week welcomed me back again.

So my encouragement to you, is be nice to yourself.  Filter everything you say in your mind through a question like 'would I speak to a dear friend like this?'.  If the answer is 'no', try changing your thoughts to something you would say as/to a kind and supportive friend.

I promise you, even though this may feel a bit fake to start with, you'll soon get used to it and it will even begin to give you a warm and loved feeling, because that's what you're doing.  And while that's happening, self-sabotage will be quietly exiting your life, knowing it is no longer welcome or wanted.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to be Chic Interview

Vintage poster from

Well this is a first for me.  Delightful Canadian lady Ingrid Talpak emailed a few months back to ask if I'd like to be interviewed on her web radio show.  Wow!  So we finally got organised and she interviewed me by Skype last Thursday.

Here is the link to my interview on Ingrid's show 'Living with More Style Than Cash':

How to be Chic interview

It's available on iTunes too:

iTunes version

Ingrid also interviewed Tonya Leigh earlier this year.  Such a fabulous interview!

Tonya Leigh interview

Ingrid has a new guest each week on her radio show, so check each Monday for some fresh inspiration!

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Twenty Ideas Method

Image from

A great technique to come up with our own inspiration is to set yourself a question that you’d like answered and then come up with twenty answers to that question.  It could be your key problem or your most pressing goal.  Or, just something for fun.

Don’t think too much about the answers, just write.  By asking yourself a question, your mind automatically starts generating answers.  It can't help itself!  Write down everything that comes to mind even if outlandish, as there might be a gem of an idea in that answer. 

I learned the idea from Brian Tracy and he attributed it to Earl Nightingale.  In my head I called the technique Twenty Questions but it wasn’t until ages later I realised it’s not twenty questions, it’s twenty answers… and when I re-read my original notes it was called The Twenty Ideas Method.  I do worry about myself sometimes.

The first ten are easy but the second ten not as easy, as you’d imagine.  If you start running out of ideas, look back at your answers already written and write the opposite of any that this can be applied to.  Try and get to twenty even if it's like getting blood out of a stone (Brian's words) as that's when the magic happens.

I’ve written out a number of lists so far and find them very inspiring and motivating.  They also calm me and make me feel happy.

Here is one of the questions I asked myself and the answers:

How can I live a more simple life?

1.  Have less possessions
2.  Have only those possessions that I need and that bring joy to and have meaning for me.
3.  Not require much money to be content
4.  Be less material
5.  Go to bed early
6.  Eat simple and clean foods
7.  Do not replace items once they are used up if I won’t miss them
8.  Be realistic about what crafts I want to carry on with
9.  Be realistic about what books I want in my life
10.  Be honest with others about what I want
11.  See/keep in touch with the people who are important to me more – make a list of those people, both family and friends
12.  Simplify the colours I have in my life, both home furnishings and what I dress myself in
13.  Live away from the city
14.  Live right in the city
15.  Think about something before I bring it home, even if it is just 50c at the Salvation Army
16.  Not be afraid to let go belongings from my life so they can benefit someone else
17.  Be serene and calm
18.  Enjoy the refreshing cool water we have available to us by drinking several glasses daily and having one when I feel hungry between meals
19.  Drink herbal tea
20.  Clear out the paper clutter at home and at work
21.  Be up to date with my work and spend time on the computer productively
22.  Spend less
23.  Spend more (fewer items/higher quality)

I got to 23!  I also have other questions that I’ve dreamed up such as:

What excites me most right now?
How does my perfect lifestyle look?
What do I want to be known for?
How can I use my time wisely today?

Brian says if you do a question with twenty answers each day, you’ll have thousands of new ideas a year.  Even if you do it for just one month you will have six hundred new ideas.

What is the first question that pops into mind for you?  Answers too if you’re happy to share them!
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