Friday, January 29, 2016

The 'Amelie' Technique

Image from Polyvore

One of my favourite books in the French Chic genre is Anne Barone’s Chic & Slim Techniques.  In this book Anne lists ten techniques to assist you in being chic and slim a la Francaise.  I dip into this delicious and petite volume from time to time and pick one technique to read and let soak into my consciousness.

It was from this book that I was inspired to think about my own chic techniques, so, may I present to you my first one:

The Amelie Technique

Most likely you are familiar with the sweet and whimsical movie Amelie, starring Audrey Tautou.  Can you believe it came out in 2001 – fifteen years ago?  Amelie is a very shy waitress at a charming cafĂ© in Montmartre and seems to spend her spare time getting involved in other peoples lives.  She helps a blind man across the street, describing the sights around him for his benefit; she finds the owner of a tin full of memontos that she comes across by chance hidden in the wall of her bathroom; and she looks for the owner of torn-up photo-booth photos that are scattered around train stations.

The movie itself takes you on a tour around the Montmartre area of Paris, and watching it really fills up my heart with Parisian yumminess.  It’s just the tonic on an everyday day.  So just what inspiration could we take from this movie to create the Amelie Technique, which promises to enhance our daily routine with a little French pixie-dust?

Here are a few baguette crumbs that come to mind…

Simple pleasures.  Amelie sinking her hand into a sack of white beans at the greengrocers.  Cracking an egg with care and ease.  Sitting down to a perfectly prepared meal of pasta and tomato sauce topped with freshly shaved Parmesan.  Enjoying the area where she lives, by exploring on foot.  Living in a home that contains just the items she needs and plenty of free space even though her apartment is small.  Embracing analogue (as evidenced by Amelie’s dial telephone and old school alarm clock).

Amelie certainly is the princesse of simple pleasures.

What about our life though?  What simple pleasures can we think of that we can either do more of, or, simply notice when we do them rather than have them pass us by on auto-pilot?  For me it’s climbing into bed at night and relaxing my thoughts, picking up a big bag of library books for the weekend, or pottering around organising my wardrobe…

Routines and rituals.  Sure, Amelie was a little neurotic, but I adored the way she had her routines and rituals and was quite precise and methodical in how she spent her days.  From winding up her alarm clock up at night to shopping for dinner ingredients on the way home, to keeping an orderly and sparsely furnished home; you could tell she lived a simple and uncomplicated life.

We can cultivate and enjoy routines and rituals in our own life too.  Some that come to mind that I love to do are reading with my feet up for half an hour before dinner, having a face-mask and read in our bedroom before bed and my hot tea early in the morning.  Routines and rituals help me feel like everything is under control and life is on an even keel.

Joy and whimsy.  Taking inspiration from Amelie, why not keep our enthusiasm fresh and new, and approach life in a joyous and whimsical way.  We can retain our youth forever if we want to, by having a childlike enthusiasm for everything that we do.  Age truly is a state of mind.

Just like a young child, Amelie plays cheeky tricks on a mean man and then hides and watches.  She takes it upon herself to find out the identity of the mysterious person in the torn-up photos.  Amelie is almost like a kitten or puppy playing with its own shadow, in that she creates her an adventure where others might see none.

I believe it is possible to be this way, and at the same time be a responsible and reliable grown-up.  You can take life seriously whilst simultaneously not taking life too seriously.  For me, I have systems set up such as automated bill payments and set days to do certain tasks etc; this gives me the freedom to be spontaneous because I don’t have to think of those things at other times.  Having a streamlined life and decluttered home helps with this too - your mind feels more free when you have less to look after.

Personal style.  Amelie’s wardrobe in the movie is very stylised and appealing.  She looks quintessentially French with her black bob and red lipstick.  She wears cute little dresses and cardigans in a simple colour palette of red, green and black.  This is carried through to her home which is decorated in similar shades and (quite traditional furnishings).

We can apply this to our own personal style by viewing ourselves from the outside as others do.  What does the way we present ourselves say about us?  Does it say what we’d like it to say?  If you were going to have a movie about you, called (in my case) Fiona, would you want to watch it or would it be a boring story with a boringly-dressed main character?  It would be fun to create the capsule wardrobe for your own movie.  You’d want the wardrobe to capture your sparkling essence, naturellement.

And my home?  Can I view this as an outsider might, to see if there are cluttery areas I’m turning a blind eye to?  What do I want my home to say about me and can I be more intentional in portraying who I want to be?

I heard a great piece of advice in a personal development seminar I listened to a while back.  The speaker basically said to the audience that when they went back home they would need to change their environment, because going back into the same enrivonment would draw them back into how they were, and drag them back into their past stories.  The speaker referenced changes such as getting rid of pictures or clothes, for example, that brought back unhappy memories or made you feel bad about yourself.

I think that’s why having a big decluttering and/or organising bonanza feels so amazing because the process does literally change how you feel and act, from the inside out.  You can’t help but change and go in the direction that your environment dictates.

It’s fun to take inspiration from a movie or book and make changes based on that – you could take literal inspiration (such as when I made my own clothes inspired by Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink when that movie came out in the 80s) or simply be inspired to have more of your own point of view when it comes to a look (like watching Amelie does for me).

What did you get from the Amelie movie?  Can you think of any additions to the Amelie technique?  I'd love to hear.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A weekend must-read

I read such a great book this week and I wanted to let you know about it, because it’s available for free on Amazon at the moment.  I haven’t read anything by this author before and the book caught my eye because it was number one in the Kindle Free Store when I downloaded it.  And for good reason!

It’s a sweet and simple story about a girl and a boy.  She’s studious and he’s a boy from her town who is now a mega-movie-star.  It was fun reading behind-the-scenes about his life and from the celebrity's aspect.  Aside from the love story though, it has surprising plot twists and a tense back story that is not revealed straight away, so it's a really meaty story whilst also being light and easy to read.

I started the book on Monday afternoon and finished it Thursday night.  That’s really fast for me, but I wanted to find out how the story ended, at the same time as not wanting it to end because I was enjoying being privy to main character’s Chloe's story so much.  Don't you love those kind of books?

This is the first full-length book I’ve read on my Kindle and I’ll be honest, I didn’t know if I could get through a whole book on a screen.  But I did and I was tap, tap, tapping the pages away because I was so engrossed in the story.  As I got closer to the end I felt sad that I would have to leave their world; so imagine my happiness when the final page announced the sequel.  Yippee!

So if you’re looking for something, fun, light and happy-making to read for the weekend, I’d recommend you download this (free! yay!) book now.  I already have the sequel in my Kindle ready to go so I’m a contented girl.  It’s the little things in life don’t you think?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Chic and petite goals

January is such a fun month.  Like all fresh starts, but particularly this new year I feel so inspired to create a beautiful 2016.  I have health and writing goals for this year (they are more like exciting plans which I’m extremely enthusiastic for), and I also noted down some projects that I want to work towards in 2016, which include:

KonMariing our home.  This is long overdue because I feel like I am suffocating under disorganised stuff.  I’ve just started listening to the audiobook of Marie Kondo’s book again so I’m going to do this according to her plan (I also ordered her second book Spark Joy to take a look).

Something I always like to do for a project such as this too, is start gathering inspiration to boost my enthusiasm, much like catching a wave into the shore instead of relying on your own swimming horsepower only.  I’ll do things such as google decluttered spaces and pin them on my Pinterest board, read inspiring decluttering quotes and revisit Peter Walsh too.

Reading the five-star reviews for books such as Marie Kondo's and Peter Walsh's also is a great place to find inspiration.  Readers are so fired up that their enthusiasm is infectious!  Stoking up the fire beneath me pays dividends because instead of thinking ‘ugh, I’ve GOT to declutter’, I think ‘yay, let’s start NOW!’.  It makes doing it quicker and more fun.  

This goal is my main focus, but I also have some little creative projects I want to play with:

Knitting simple ballet-style slippers for home.  I want to find a nice pattern and do this, because I love wearing something on my feet (I could do cotton ones for summer) that I can then put my feet up on the sofa (unlike shoe-type slippers or house shoes that I would never put up on the sofa).  I am such a slipper/house shoe fan and am always looking out for the perfect pair. If I owned a boutique in Paris (the home of beautiful niche boutiques), I'd have a - you can probably guess - house shoe and slipper boutique.

A sewing project:  making denim napkins and placemats.  I saw in a Ralph Lauren ad, a styled picnic shoot and the napkins looked like the softest indigo slightly-washed denim or deep blue linen.  They were gorgeous!  This gave me the idea to make some cloth napkins from my softest denim (I have quite a collection, both bought pieces and jeans) and placemats or even a runner from the sturdier denims.

I love denim in decorating ever since I had a soft denim-type fabric duvet cover and pillow-cases which looked so good on my bed with crisp white sheets (and I had blue and white plaid flannelette sheets in the winter – so cosy).

Creating warming and healthy winter lunches.  I love a big salad with protein in the summer, but last winter I didn't plan ahead as much and ended up either freezing cold eating cold salad for lunch (tres depressing) or buying something stodgy and hot (not slimming).  I want to create a bank of healthy, cosy and warming winter lunch ideas/simple recipes that I can take to work to heat up with a side salad.  Along the lines of frittata, soup, oven bakes etc.

None of these projects are out of this world big so I think I'll be able to achieve them.  I am excited for a creative and fun year.  Do you have any petite and chic projects you want to work on this year?

Friday, January 8, 2016

KonMari-ing my home

I’ve been thinking about doing a really thorough and liberating declutter for months, but always put it off for many reasons excuses, including but not limited to:

I have other more important things to do – work and writing
I don’t really have that much clutter
What if I get rid of things I need
What if I get rid of too much
But I spent money on it
And so it goes on

Mid-2015 I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic ofTidying Up.  I don’t know if I wasn’t ready for it at the time, if I expected it to be like some kind of miracle so my expectations were too high (I didn’t feel the lightening bolt) or if Marie’s method just didn’t resonate with me.  I’m still not sure.

What I do know is that I am super keen to have a streamlined home that is a joy and pleasure to be in.  So whether it’s Marie Kondo or Peter Walsh (my first true decluttering love) or maybe a mixture of both, I’ll be making changes.

This could be a lengthy project, I don’t know.  I don’t want to let that stop me though; I want to honour the feelings I have inside that I desire to live a life of freedom, ease and space.  To achieve this I can see a lot of trips to my favourite charity shops (to donate, not purchase!)

Are you feeling like you want your home to be more elegant and simple?  I think it’s a combination of January feeling like such a lovely clean slate that I want our home to reflect that, and having just come back from our annual holiday.  My husband and I spent five nights on the Gold Coast in Australia and it was divine.  So sunny and relaxing.

More importantly though, holiday accommodation doesn’t have everything you own crammed into it so it feels very easy and peaceful to live in.  It’s a stark contrast when you arrive home and, even though you’re really happy to be home (because it’s my favourite place in the world), you can’t help but feel a little bit suffocated.

And I know that sounds so ungrateful when my home and its contents would be considered a palace by some, and that they wished they had my 'problem'.  So to start with, I'm changing my moaning to being thankful to the Universe that I have all that I do.  Every time I catch myself being negative about some part of our home that dissatisfies me, I immediately change it to saying thank you for that exact thing (or the positive part of it).  

It really works and helps me feel better, and it's helpful because you can't change something from a place of being unhappy it, you can only change it if you feel good about it.  Weird huh? FYI it's the same with your body - you can't change your shape by hating your shape.  By accepting your shape you are more open to change (see a previous post here about that).

But back to decluttering.  I'm getting started this month!

The audiobook version of Marie’s book has just arrived, so I’m going to take her on my walks and let the message soak in that way.

Let me know if you’re in streamlining mode too.  We can support each other!
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