Saturday, March 26, 2016

Chic on the inside

Image from Tricia Foley's new book 'Life/Style: Elegant simplicity at home'.  I love everything about this photo, in particular the crumpled napkins, seagrass placemats and gorgeously-hued glassware.

Dodo was not, by any means, a beauty but she was so convinced of her own attractiveness that eventually others began to wonder if they were missing something’.  From ‘Trading Up’ by Candace Bushnell 

I love this quote because it reminds me that really, we decide.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been around someone who is rather captivating. You can see that they are quite normal-looking and not a supermodel, but there’s just something about them.  They seem to sparkle and look like they’re having a great time.  You find yourself envious of their happiness and notice that it makes them really attractive.

What is it that they have?  I believe it’s an inner belief that they are enough, that they are worth taking up space on the earth and that they are valued.  Many of us, and I include myself in this, wait for others to validate us.  We wait for them to notice us before we can feel good about ourselves.  It sounds so nutty written out but it’s apparently quite common!

It’s still something I’m working on, and maybe some of us just have this issue always and we get to manage it the best we can.  I’ve written about it before, I know.  But some things, and especially the things that challenge us the most, take some time to work through.  It’s that old analogy of peeling the layers off the onion.  There’s always a new angle to work through.

Putting it like this it sounds like hard work and why would we want to bother, why not just be as we are.  But human beings aren’t wired like that.  In nature, for instance a tree is either growing or it’s dying.  A tree does not stay the same size naturally.  We are the same.  If we’re stagnating, we’re dying inside – barely existing!

It feels so good to conquer something that has bothered us and I think that’s why the personal development world is huge, and growing all the time.  It’s human nature to want to learn things and better ourselves continuously.

So one way I’m bettering myself today is to believe in myself.

Believe in my worth.

Believe that I’m valuable, exactly as I am.

Believe that I’m enough, just because I’m alive.

Believe that I’m worthy, without changing anything about me.

Believe that I’m lovable.

And so are you.  You are all these things too.

Writing this reminds me of another great quote from Stanley Tucci's character Nigel in 'The Devil Wears Prada' movie (which we watched again the other night) -

'Yes, that's what this whole multi-billion-dollar industry is all about... inner beauty'.  He he, I do love that movie.


Chic new interiors book

Before I go, has anyone seen the new Tricia Foley book ‘Life/Style: Elegant simplicity at home’?  Tricia has written many beautiful d├ęcor books, and I particularly love her newest one because it features photos from her own homes over the years.  As well, the text is really inspirational and interesting, including a wonderful foreword by Isabella Rossellini where she relays that the effect of visiting Tricia Foley’s home makes her want to go home and throw everything out and paint what’s left in white.  So cute.  How many of us feel like that when we visit (or view in a magazine) a particularly lovely and minimal home?  I know I do.

The one thing that is quite funny about this book, is that there are a few photos of magazine and book stacks which really stress me out.  I just could not handle them in my home!  It’s the same with an English house and garden magazine I flicked through last week.  One beautiful home had custom made book shelving which went right to the very top of a high-pointed ceiling.  Instead of thinking how nice it looked, all that came to me was a heavy feeling of the weight of all those books and the thought of ‘how would you even read the books right at the top, or dust them?’  I love living light and am becoming more so every year.  If there are books that I don’t think I’ll ever read (or re-read), they are donated.  There’s just no point in having them hang around in my opinion.

I digress though; Tricia’s few stacks in her home office don’t diminish the absolute peace and calm that emanates from every page of this book.  She has such a distinctive point of view and has had it for a long time, even though it has evolved over time.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the first to do ‘shades of white’.

Usually with large format picture books you flick through the pages, but this one I actually read cover-to-cover with a bookmark simply because her writing was so engaging and stories so interesting.  Thank you for a beautiful new book Tricia!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

How to master eye makeup like a professional

My new boyfriend

Where do I start about my fun week? On Wednesday night I had tickets for my Mum, sister and I to attend an event here in Auckland, where NYC-based Estee Lauder global director of makeup design Victor Henao was going to be showing us his magic ways, and new makeup looks. I admit I was more excited about the promised goodie bag to start with, but by the end of the night I was a total Victor Fan.

He made up three models, and while he was doing that he encouraged us to throw questions at him. I have not experienced anyone more humble and down-to-earth at the same time as being so talented in a while. And funny! I think I fell a little bit in love and I know I wasn’t the only one in the room to do so.

If Victor ever does an event at your town, promise me you’ll go, you won’t regret it.

Now, about me and makeup, we definitely do get on and I love wearing makeup, but sometimes I can become lazy and complacent and just do the bare minimum to get me out the door. A beauty blogger I will never be, but after an hour watching Victor perform his skills on the models, I couldn’t wait to practice the eye makeup techniques that he’d taught us for myself.

The next morning with my new Estee Lauder eyeshadow palette (the goodie bag was amazing) I took the time to do my eye makeup remembering Victor’s words. Here are my results:
My own efforts

My mum is visiting from out of town at the moment and we were in the city on Thursday where we saw a big poster of Victor at the Estee Lauder counter. He was going to be doing makeup appointments the following day, so I asked if they had any bookings left. Sadly they did not, but I was encouraged to leave my name in case there were any cancellations. Half an hour later my phone rung - someone had pulled out, and the appointment was mine if I wanted it!

So yesterday I had my own personal makeup session with Victor, and he kindly allowed me to record him as he did my eyes (because when someone’s putting eyemakeup on you, you can’t see what they’re doing!) I can’t wait to watch it and practice, because eye makeup makes such a huge difference and I find it the hardest thing to master. I don’t want to look totally over-the-top and dramatic but I know that being fair in colouring and of a certain age means that having more defined eyes is definitely a good thing.

He was all finished within fifteen minutes - oh, imagine being able to create such a look in that time! – and I strolled back into work feeling quite the bombshell (my husband confirmed that yes, I was a bombshell, and referenced ‘smokey eyes’, his favourite term for its overuse on Project Runway).

Makeup by Victor Henao (how cool to say that for one day!)

To round off my Victor Fest, here are my favourite tips and tidbits that I picked up from the glamorous event evening and my makeup appointment yesterday:

Finish your eyes with bronzer. Once you’ve done your eye makeup, sweep a little bronzer over the lids to warm the whole look up and blend it into the rest of your makeup and put a tiny amount under your eyes over top of the eyeliner too. I tried this the next morning and loved the result.

Start your eyeshadow from the lashline. I noticed when he was doing the models’ eye makeup that he starts applying lid eyeshadow along the lash line and brushing up. This is the opposite of what I do, so I’m going to try this (I’d usually brush eyeshadow horizontally across my eyes). Starting at the lashline means the shade is concentrated along the lashes and creates a nice blended wash as it goes up towards the brow bone.

Look after yourself. He rightly stated that many women are so busy looking after everyone else that they cry ‘I don’t have time to put any makeup on/take time with my eyes/do my hair etc’. He said go to bed fifteen minutes earlier and wake up fifteen minutes earlier and put some makeup on and do your hair. When I have sufficient time to do this in the mornings I always have a better day because I feel happy with how I look.

Because he does not wear makeup himself, his way of looking after himself is to make a really good breakfast in the morning when he’s at home in NYC. He likes to make poached egg and avocado on toast, or poached egg, truffle oil and parmesan on toast. Yum!

Foundation brush or fingers? I asked two questions at the event; the first was about using a foundation brush versus fingers when you are applying liquid foundation. He said to use fingers when you want a sheer application, and a foundation brush or sponge when you want more coverage.

I bought myself an inexpensive foundation brush a few months ago and from day one I was hooked. I did notice it was easy to put too much foundation on though, so I have been trying to put less and less on each day as I get used to the brush.

The gorgeous lady Julia who did my foundation yesterday before Victor did my eyes used a foundation brush and used hardly any product, but just kept blending and blending. Victor said to put fine layers on and build up where necessary rather than one thick coat. My first attempts at the foundation brush were definitely one thick coat but I’m getting better!

What not to do? My second question I asked him if there was anything he saw on women that he wanted to go up to them and say ‘don’t do that!’ when it came to makeup. Victor exclaimed that he would never tell a woman not to do anything with her makeup because he believes that we should all feel free to express ourselves in the way we want. So I rephrased my question and asked if there was anything he would say that a woman could improve upon.

His answer was the word ‘research’. He encouraged us all to research new products, new techniques and new looks. At the start of each season it’s a great idea to have an appointment with a makeup counter and see what’s new. And not just with makeup either, but with clothing and fashion (see what’s new in the shops and in magazines).

You might not necessarily buy a new wardrobe each season (I certainly don’t) or replace makeup colours unless they are used up, but by looking around and updating incrementally you won’t find yourself stuck in a makeup rut. As I mentioned before, my rut is probably laziness rather than being stuck in the past.

Eye makeup for mature ladies? Another lady asked Victor what he would recommend for women who were not eighteen-year-old models and whose eyes weren’t so youthful. His belief is that makeup is not age-related, that you can wear anything at any age. The more important factor was confidence – he said the more confident you are with eye makeup, the further away you can go from your eyes, and the more conservative eye makeup stays closer to your eyes, which makes total sense.

Apply eyeliner on the inside. My other favourite technique which looks so different to how I was doing it is to apply eyeliner on the inside of your eyelashes. I’d always drawn on the top of my eyelid very close to the lashline but it still looked thickly drawn (so I’d smudge it away with eyeshadow on a cotton bud/q-tip). To apply it under the lashes you almost close your eye and run the pencil along the underside of your lashes – it’s actually easier to do this than the inferior way! There is hardly any pencil on your eyelid but you can see how defined your eyes look. Genius. I’d heard this before but never got the hang of it and it’s actually really easy.

Writing this post it occurred to me that I love having each morning as another opportunity to refine my makeup skills. Like those pads at the beauty counter where a face is printed on the page and the consultant shades in the colours you have used (it’s like a glamourous colouring book), we get the chance to tear that page off each day and start again with a new look and a more polished skill the more we do it.

A pesky thought that came to me though, is that makeup is frivolous and unnecessary and that we should have more altruistic and cerebral things on our mind. That did actually come to me as I was writing and feeling excited about putting colour on my face. Those thought gremlins are really annoying aren't they? My response to myself was to list all the benefits of makeup:

Putting makeup on is an artistic expression.

It’s taking time for yourself and showing yourself that you are worth doing that.

Applied well, it can make such a huge difference to the way you look.

It’s a fun part of life.

It doesn’t really cost that much for the boost you receive.

You can practice and get better at it every day.

It’s proven in studies that people who look better are treated better (whether we like those study results or not, they are true) so why not look as good as we can.

You don’t have to go all out – but you can if you want to: ie. 'le no makeup look; is just as valid as 'smokey eyes bombshell'.

You can create a different feeling for a different day.

I’m sure it must be good for your health, because being mindful and focusing on doing a beautiful job whether it takes five minutes or twenty-five minutes forces you to slow down and be present with what you’re doing.

When you know you look good you feel good.

You are showing respect for those around you, whether it’s family, co-workers or people who serve you at the bank or the supermarket, by being as well-turned out as you can be – this is the French point of view. You are showing that respect yourself as well.

Can you tell I'm in love with makeup again? Not that I wasn't before, I just think I was maybe taking it a bit for granted. Thank you so much Victor, for being a fab person and generous with your lovely energy. Your enthusiasm for makeup is contagious!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

How to have star quality

When I think of someone having star quality, I wonder What makes them that way? What made George Clooney the way he is, or Audrey Hepburn or Martha Stewart? So I’ve been having a think about this and have teased out some attributes that those with star quality possess, and that I’m enjoying playing with for myself.

The number one attribute I’ve decided, is confidence. No-one can bestow confidence on you – you have to claim it for yourself. If you believe it, you’ve got it, it’s as simple as that. All those confident people you see around didn’t magically become that way. Well, maybe a few were born confident, but the rest come by it with a blend of courage, daring, acknowledgement of things they do well, gumption and testing the waters. Imagine doing everything you do in a normal day from a complete state of confidence that it will turn out well, wouldn’t that be something. Why not try on confidence for a day and see how much it suits you?

Celebrate what’s different about you and love what you love. Trying to blend in with others and homogenise yourself is the opposite of having star quality. When you think about your favourite superstars, whether they are an actor, singer, performer or celebrity – I’ll bet they are famous for aspects that are quite unique to them. They probably haven’t followed a trend – rather, they created their own trend based on their strengths and passions.

Tagging on the last point, someone with star power has often made their strengths and passions their business. They’ve worked out a way to bring their creativity to the world and be compensated beautifully for it. They really are living the dream life, being paid to do something that they love so much they’d do for free.

Don’t apologise for your (perceived) weaknesses. In fact, superstars don’t often remember what their own weaknesses are because they’d rather spend their time and energy thinking about the good stuff. How can you create amazing things in the world if you’re constantly looking into your shadows and worrying about them? Turn to face the sun instead and soak in its energising rays as you focus on all that is well and happy in your world.

You keep a high vibration and your star power bright by doing things that make you feel good – eating nutritiously, keeping hydrated, spending time with people that make you feel happy and saying non to things that drain you. When you are in a high frequency you feel light and joyful – it’s a wonderful place to be.

You dress like you are playing ‘you’ in a movie. You have a curated wardrobe that reflects the character you are playing. Sometimes I get dressed in an ordinary, slightly bored way, and then other days I dress like I’m playing my character. It might be similar clothes from the same wardrobe, but it just feels different. I think it’s the intention behind it that matters. Everything seems sunnier on those days.

Having a starry state of mind means you rise above pettiness, jealousy and gossip because you are cultivating loftier thoughts such as fun projects, future goals and delicious plans.

You know that your physical body is literally your vehicle to get you through your whole life, so you treat it like the precious jewel that it is. Would you spend a lot of money on a European sports car and then fill it with cheap, low-grade fuel? We are lucky, our body was given to us and it is priceless; we need to honour it with appropriate portions of high-quality fuel that it deserves.

As someone with star quality, you have sacred boundaries. Others know that you will not accept poor behaviour, and you respect your own boundaries as well. It’s a two-way thing.

You have mystique and are careful about how much you give away about yourself. You are not an open book for just anyone to flick though. Being this way lights you up from within – you positively glow.

You have charisma. You are warmly interested in other people – you remember names and make them feel like they have an important contribution. You are an expert at listening with interest and also in how to wrap up a conversation in an easy and beautiful way.

As someone with star power, you got to be the way you are by always looking for ways to uplevel yourself, at the same time as being completely and blissfully happy with your life. It seems a weird dichotomy – just how can we be accepting and striving at the same time? But it is possible and there is a different energy behind it. If you are looking to better yourself because you don’t feel happy with how you are, it’s quite a needy and grasping energy. When you have a deep and complete love and acceptance of yourself however, you naturally want to improve things around you (and it seems more effortless).

Every day you wonder in awe at how lucky you got. You love your life and are joyful and extremely appreciative of your good fortune.

So there you have my thoughts on how to become someone with a bright and twinkling star quality. I think it’s quite doable, and really, it’s all between the ears (like they always say!).

Sparkle bright, dear readers.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

How to be chic when those around you are not

It’s all very well to decide that you want to uplevel yourself and be a more refined person with chic habits and a stylish way of living, but what about the other people you share your life with?

Maybe you’d like to have elegant four-course dinners when your family would prefer to eat in the front of the television.  Maybe you try to keep a positive mindset but your husband is discontent, cantankerous and moody.  Maybe your family dresses in sweats when you go out but you want to try dressing up more.

I know my mum used to despair when she tried a new recipe and her ungrateful children would say ‘ooh yuck, what’s this’.  She is a champion soup maker and tried Gazpacho on us once which is meant to be served chilled.  You can imagine how that went down – ‘cold soup???'  Poor mum, she really tried to educate us...

So here are my four tips on being chic, when those around you are not.

Harness the chic energy.  When you come across a new and exciting concept or are inspired to do things differently, it’s easy to get carried away with enthusiasm.  That’s fine, but keep the fun to yourself to begin with.  It’s so very tempting (and I know because I’ve done it) to trumpet your new thoughts to your family and try and get them to do it with you.  Whether it’s a chic and healthy eating plan, walking after dinner every night, deciding to dress up a bit more or decluttering the house, it is easy to be excitable when a thought is new and fresh.

A far better method is to keep all that lovely energy contained and let it power you to make the changes you can’t wait to implement.  Have you ever found that when you share a plan, it loses some of it’s fizz?  And then you might not even carry it through because your enthusiasm is gone.  I truly believe that talking about something lets out some of the magic.  It is exactly like a bottle of Perrier losing its sparkle once you’ve opened it.

Know that you can only change yourself.  Nagging at people will not make them want to change to be more like you.  It will only make them dig their heels in.  Think about it from the other perspective – do you thank people who make ‘helpful’ suggestions as to how to better yourself?  Or do you think ‘I’ll do exactly as I want thanks, feel free to keep your thoughts to yourself’.  I know I do.  Even if it’s a really good suggestion, I still would rather come up with the idea for myself.

That's supposed to be the secret too, by the way, of successful people - they get other people to do what they want, but the other person thinks it's their own idea.  When I've mastered this I'll let you know!

Lead by example.  Since the only person you can control is yourself, show others what you’re doing rather than telling them.  Don’t say what you’re going to do, just do it with pleasure.  They will notice, they will see you’re having fun and getting results and they may wish to join you, or they may not.  Either way it is their choice, but if you look like you're really enjoying yourself, they'll probably want to come along too.

If your plan involves other people, say it’s going to a French-subtitled movie, you could offer a trade-off.  Say to them ‘I’d love to see this, would you be happy to go with me, then you can choose a movie that is entirely your choice another night?’.  I do movie turn-about with my husband, so it's my choice one night and then... spy thriller another.

Another plan that involves others is eating dinner at the table.  I admit, most of the time my husband and I eat in front of the television.  However, if I’m feeling in a chic mood I might set the dining table nicely and light candles.  ‘Ooh, are we having guests?’ might be the question when he gets home.  ‘No’, I say, 'I just felt like being fancy tonight’. And he’s happy to go along with it.  Maybe you could have Fancy Friday or Set the Table Saturday in your home and introduce eating at the table thin-end-of-the-wedge style.

At home when I was growing up we ate dinner at the table, and maybe on the weekend we’d be able to watch a Disney movie eating dinner on the coffee table in front of the fireplace.  Happy memories!

As far as dressing up goes, if it feels good for you, just wear it.  Don't worry if you think you don't 'fit in' with those around you.  Every day in the shop I see many different people - most dress smart casual like I do, but some really dress up - ladies in a pretty frock and high heels, and men in smart suits with a sharp tie and nice watch.  It's really nice to experience and it definitely makes me feel like lifting my game, so you never know who you will inspire around you if you dress to please yourself.

Infuse yourself with positivity and chic inspiration.  I feel fortunate that my husband is very easy-going and has a happy disposition most of the time but what if your other half is a bit of a grump or very negative?  The main thing you will want to do is infuse yourself with goodness so that you are protected from the negativity somewhat.

Every day I listen to podcasts.  I read books that uplift me, both fiction and non-fiction, and I read blogs with a positive message.  I don’t read the newspaper or watch the news very often, and I notice how much better I feel for this.  I write happy thoughts in my journal and look for all the ways I am so very blessed.  There's tons!

By filling myself up with happiness and chic motivation, I am not relying on others around me to dictate how I feel.  And, I can even affect how they feel.  I know if I come home in a foul mood I infect my husband with it.  And a bad mood is my choice, I don’t have to give in.  So more and more I choose the path of ease and forgiveness – it feels better for me and those around me.  It’s better for your health too!

These are just a few of my tips on being chic when those around you are not; I think it all comes down to feeling the confidence to do what you do.  Are there any thoughts you like to add to this conversation?  I'd love to hear them.
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