Friday, October 31, 2014

How to make walking fun

I made the best purchase last week which I am beyond thrilled with.  Before I go into that though I want to tell you about me and exercise.  I’m not a fan.  If it’s gentle, I’m happy.  But sometimes even then I can’t be bothered which is not a very chic way to think I know.  I love my yoga class when I’m there but if there’s a reason I can’t go, I’m not unhappy about it.

Same with walking, in my mind I am a walker and true, I will happily walk into town (40 minutes) rather than take the bus or car, but walking daily for exercise like I ‘think’ I do, well it gets blown off rather often.

I never took our iPod out walking because it’s quite big, I need a pocket because I was afraid of dropping it and also because I never remembered to.  Plus, I like to work things out in my head whilst walking and music seemed to intrude on that.

Then I had an idea to get a tiny cheap iPod and put only my podcasts/audiobooks/saved audio clips etc on, as I love listening to them for inspiration.  I listen to them when I’m getting ready in the morning, driving in the car, and in the evening when I wash my face.

If I bought a tiny cheap iPod I could listen to my inspiring podcasts more and actually look forward to walking!  So I bought an iPod Shuffle 2GB and it’s SO tiny.  The size of an inch-square piece of Lindt chocolate tiny.  Ridiculously tiny.  But it fits all the podcasts I’d ever want to listen to, and has a little springy clip on the back, so it attaches to my neckline or bra strap and I’m off!

The first day I used it I planned to walk for around 30 minutes, but chose to go down extra streets (and even a nice-looking cul de sac for a look) simply because I wanted to keep listening.  I ended up walking for 50 minutes and it seemed effortless.  And the next day an hour.  Yay!

Even today, a week later I realise I have walked most if not all days since I bought it.

Now I totally understand all those people I keep seeing with earphones in (which used to be everyone except me).  I’m not a technology person, I don’t have a smart phone yet for example, but I totally love it when technology offers me a simple, fun and inexpensive solution.  And I can still hear traffic over the talking so I am safe (plus I always look when crossing the roads).

Working on my mind and body at the same time – love it!

And the unexpected bonus is that I have been using it when I do my housework too, and mind pottering away cleaning our home much less than I used to.  I paid NZ$69 for ours, and I seethey are US$49 in America.  What a bargain for such a handy device.

Here are some of my favourite inspirational listenings (and please let me know your favourites to give me some ideas!):

*        - Tonya Leigh’s blog post audio clips (plus her YouTube soirees – I save them as audio using an online converter then save them to my iPod Shuffle)

*        - The Simple Sophisticate podcasts on iTunes

*        - Interviews with inspiring people as found on iTunes (such as Peter Walsh, Louise Hay and Brian Tracy)

PS.  Promise this is not a paid advertisement…but it should be.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dreaming of the Perfectly Curated Wardrobe

Michael Kors show backstage instructions from Aerin Lauder's Instagram
In my experience, a major roadblock on the path to living your chicest life is being surrounded by too many possessions, and the wrong kind of possessions for you.  Even for those of us who are constantly editing our surroundings by being intentional with the kind of home and personal style we want, there are still areas we want to have feel better.

The change of main seasons twice a year is a perfect time to dive into your wardrobe.  With Spring here in New Zealand, I am excited about washing my merino woolies, sorting out what I want to keep for next year and making a pile to donate that I haven't worn much and seem to always find a reason not to.  There are so many variables - the colour's not quite right, the shape isn't good for you or the feel of the fabric doesn't make your skin happy.

And sometimes, it’s just that an item doesn’t look as good as it used to.  When something is a favourite it’s hard to let it go of, but then when you think about how often you’ve worn it (a lot)…  I came across a great quote on Laura’s blog The Chic Planner which has helped me release a few items:

Last season, I gave away my favourite navy and white blouse. It was worn out looking, and I could no longer wear it with confidence as a best quality item in my wardrobe.

The last part of this quote which I have bolded, helped me immensely when I was dithering over decluttering something.

In my dream quest for a small-size clothing collection, I enjoy editing out the not-quite-right pieces and this allows all my favourites and newer items to shine brightly, making me happy when I slide open the wardrobe (or a dresser drawer) in the mornings.  I actually do this year round and keep a donation box in our guest bedroom which gathers up saleable items and gets donated when full.

To inspire and keep me focused on my wardrobe journey, I have imagined a scenario to keep in mind what I want my wardrobe to have the essence of.

You are in the shining city of Paris.  It’s your first day there and you’ve emerged from your darling little hotel room, showered and fresh, with shiny clean blow-dried hair and light, glowing makeup.  You are meeting a dear friend for lunch later on, but this morning is all yours.

Taking care to keep track of the streets and alleys as you look around the arrondisement you are in, you turn up a quaint cobbled side street and look in a boutique window.  As you walk in your senses are immediately assaulted with racks and racks of mismatched clothing in all different sizes and colours. 

You have a hard time imagining that an outfit can be pulled from all these racks despite a plethora of clothing styles and many, many pieces to choose from.  There are shoeboxes stacked up in uneven piles everywhere and other unrelated items for sale also.

Because the boutique is so packed with stuff, it can't be easily cleaned and this lends an overall sense of stagnation and mustiness.  The music being played adds to the 'get me outta here' feeling - you literally have trouble breathing easily with all this happening around you.

You exit the boutique quickly and look at the next one you pass.  Aaah, that looks more inviting.

A gleaming black and glass front door is flanked by potted standard buxus and it shuts behind you as you step across the polished white ash floor and onto a huge, Persian silk rug in shades of black, grey, taupe and cream. The rug is faded and almost threadbare but it looks amazing, and absolutely perfect in this setting.

‘Bonjour Madame’, the slender shop assistant calls out melodically from her counter.

Right in front of you is a large round oak table with an oversized vase of fragrant white and pale pink lilies in the centre, with glossy books, beautiful candles, artisanal soaps and tubes of handcream arranged around it.

You notice the soft level of sultry jazz lounge music playing at a slow tempo which lulls you into a relaxing frame of mind.

As you look around you see there aren’t a lot of items for sale in this store, but everything in there you would happily have in your own wardrobe.  It’s like someone curated the most perfect and deceptively simple capsule collection in expensive-looking muted tones and chic neutrals.

I’ve often daydreamed about having a wardrobe that is like a bijou and chic Parisian boutique and why shouldn’t it be a reality for me?  Why do I need to hold onto everything I’ve ever owned, pieces I’ll never wear again and items in different sizes, just because I’ve spent money on them?

Isn’t it better that all of these things go to someone else who will enjoy wearing them if I'm never going to?  Another great piece of inspiration I came across recently was on Deborah’s The Beautiful Matters blog when she wrote on her experience with Project 333.  The post is fantastic and I also loved what one of her commenters had to say:

I don't think I even have 33 things in my closet. I keep things to a minimal as I can't stand digging through clothes I've grown tired of, never really liked, or they don't fit correctly anymore. When it comes to clothes I'm not sentimental. At the end of a season, if I've loved and worn something a lot, I'm usually done with it so it goes in the giveaway box. If I still love, then I keep for next year. (from Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life).

Isn't that fabulously said?  So simple, and yet more beautiful inspiration to help me pare down to the most perfectly distilled (yet ever evolving) wardrobe which, despite this lengthy blog post, means I can think less about what to put on in the morning, because I've already put time and energy into planning it before then.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle

If you don’t mind a bit of chick lit mixed with a touch of fashion faction (fiction and fact combined), may I recommend to you Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle?  It follows a small cast of characters set in the world of Parisian haute couture.

Thrillingly, Coco Chanel features prominently.  If you are a fan of Chanel, and a fan of Paris, this is a fun book.  To me it’s a cross of chick lit, chic lit and faux history. 

Set in the late 1960s, Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle by Harold Carlton follows the lives of a group of young people who have moved to Paris and are starting out.  It also shows Chanel at work.  One of the young women has started work in Chanel’s workroom and one wants to be a designer.

I read it on our summer holiday a few Christmases back, but I remember the descriptions of Paris, the petite apartments they lived in (petite but chicly decorated, on a budget of course), the aloof discipline of one of the main characters, all intertwined with a mystery surrounding one of the girls which somehow linked her to Mademoiselle Chanel.

I read it in about a day and a half because it was so readable and enjoyable.  There were a few sensually sexy love scenes too.  They were so well written and different to other chick lit love scenes.  The book transports you to Paris, and you can imagine you live among the characters. 

Since I have such good memories of this book, I have just reordered it from our library to read again.  It’s been long enough that it will be like a brand new read to me!

Gosh I love a good read, and even more so when it has chic details that I can soak up and take away.

Have you read this book?  Do you have a favourite that is along these lines?  Please let me know so I can add it to my wishlist.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The French Perspective on High Heels

My new summer sandals

I had to good fortune to hear a brief exchange between two customers over the weekend.  The situation was this.  A kindly Kiwi mum was bringing in a French woman whose daughter was just starting at the same school as her child as they had only moved to New Zealand three weeks previous.

While the daughter was trying on her school shoes, the two women were looking at ladies shoes and pointing out the ones they liked.  ‘Oh I don’t wear heels any more, I live in flats’ said the Kiwi mum, who was very practically dressed.  ‘Why is that, why do you not wear heels?’ asked the French woman, in her musical accent.  ‘If you buy good quality, they will be comfortable, no?’

Of course the French woman with her charming accent said the word ‘quality’ with the emphasis on the last syllable to make it sound quite lilting.  I could have listened to her all day.

Now I’m not knocking the lady from New Zealand, as she was dressed just as many other women do around here, very normal.  But I took notice of what the French mother was wearing and she had on slim-cut jeans tucked into brown leather boots that had a slight heel (I would guess between 2-3 inches at most, maybe lower), but still appropriate for a casual weekend look, a pretty top and hair cut in that uniquely French tousled way.  She wasn’t wearing tons of makeup, jewellery or bling, but she looked fresh, pretty and entirely age appropriate.

Naturellement she was a slim and attractive weight.  That seems to go without saying when I pick up a French accent and this is probably their true style secret.

I was so tickled by this chic sighting.  The French woman was genuinely perplexed as to why the other mother had given up on high heels.  And both these ladies looked to be only 30s-40s.  It was almost as if she’d told her she had given up on life!

I’ve been wearing flat shoes and very low heels (that are virtually flats) all winter, so taking the French woman’s advice I chose some higher but still wearable sandals from our new season’s range and will be alternating these with my ballet flats this summer.

Friday, October 3, 2014

On Money, Living Simply and Clutter

Yes, cats have running costs, but I think they are worth the investment in terms of humour, entertainment and company.  Here is Jessica enjoying a special 'for cats' Youtube video on birds feeding.  I have to limit her screen-time or she'd become totally addicted.

Most posts on my blog do not involve spending money.  I am a big believer in living a low-cost lifestyle as much as possible.  For me, it means that I do not have to force myself to work long hours in a business or a job that I hate simply to pay the bills.  Or worse, go into debt to fund a high-maintenance lifestyle.

Yes, life is still a balancing act between income and outgoings and even more so now we have our business.  Before my husband and I opened a shoe store together, we only had to worry about our own finances, but now we have our finances and the shop’s finances to keep straight.

In spite of not knowing who is going to walk in the door next or if someone is going to place an order on our website, I can honestly say I don’t lie awake at night worrying about that.  We had a really ‘interesting’ time during the 2008/09 crash but we came out of it eventually and our business survived.

Warren Buffett says of peoples’ finances that ‘you see who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out’.  Isn’t that a great saying?  Thankfully my husband and I are on the same page regarding living a low-cost lifestyle, living in a home that is just the right size for us and enjoying simple and free activities.

The 2008/09 crash was hard enough at the time and taught us a lot, but we would have found it many times harder if we had an expensive lifestyle that required maintenance.  And if we’d have had a lot of debt that’s where you can come unstuck, real quick.

I don’t find it fun keeping up with the Joneses.  Yes, I’ve spent more than I probably needed to on certain items over the years, but these things have been the exception rather than the norm, and in each case I can think of, aside from our house, we paid with saved cash from our bank account, so we weren’t going into debt for them.

I’ve often thought it would be a great thing if financial literacy was taught in school.  Apart from maths and economics, which both do not touch on day-to-day finances, running a household and living within your means, there is nothing really to help young people out when they move into the real world.

It’s young people who often get into trouble with money, because they don’t have any financial education.  You will pick up how your parents did things, but because people don’t really talk about money, you will more than likely figure out yourself what works – if you’re lucky!

When I think back to my economics classes at high school, the kind of information we learnt was so far removed from my own wallet which is where your own experience with money begins.  It has to start from how you earn, spend, save and invest money and then can move on to how economies function and all those kinds of things.

These days the feeling I get from not buying something is the same kind of feeling I used to get from shopping (but even better, because it lasts).  I feel really happy when I go for a walk around a shopping area or into the city and come back without having bought anything, not even a coffee. I've had a lovely walk and enjoyed a spot of window shopping.  And if I'm lucky, a chic sighting to inspire me.

I also love going to buy something if I actually need it, and only buying that one thing.  I don’t feel deprived at all but feel content that I am living in a light way.  It’s just as much about the clutter as it is about spending the money.  In fact I’d say it’s more about the clutter.

The more I give away, the better I feel, and the less likely I am to want to buy new things.  It’s a wonderful feeling and I know as we pay more of our mortgage off, the more secure we are financially too.  Just the thought of having a free-hold home one day makes me feel very happy and content.

I am interested to know, what were the main influences that shaped your money views?  How have those views changed over the years?  And are you a high-maintenance or a low-maintenance person?  Because even though I am a low-maintenance person, there is no right answer.  If you have the income and investments and love being a high-maintenance person, go for it!

That’s what it comes down to, what is right for you.  Some say ‘there is no cap on what you can earn’ (which is true), so think big, dream big, spend big.  For me personally, I like to live in my own relaxed and simple way, which is a little bit smaller than that.  I talk more about living a small life here, too.
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