Friday, August 26, 2016

Using values as a chic tool to shape your life

When I first started becoming more intentional about the life I wanted to lead, I realised it involved lots of questions.  Many, many questions, otherwise how would I know?  One of the very first was:

What do I value?

When I’d wake up on yet another work day and drag myself out of my cosy bed to have a shower, eat breakfast and then run for the bus to work, I’d think how nice it would be if life were different.  If I didn’t have to get up with an alarm clock five days a week.  If time was my own.  I still think about that actually, how nice it would be not to have to leave the house at a certain time each day, but the difference is I look forward to my days now (and I’m working towards not having to go to an external workplace within the next six months).  A key reason I’m really happy with my life is that I’ve intentionally worked on shaping my days to be full of ease and beauty.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t situations; of course, even someone with the most perfect life in the world would still have stuff to deal with most days that they wish would just go away (for me:  filing paperwork, keeping up with boring admin, doing my tax stuff, getting into a good daily routine sometimes, having days when I do not have a handle on my food).

But for the most part I can honestly say that I enjoy (almost) every moment of my life.  And it all started out working out what I value; it was how I decided what belongs in my life and what doesn’t.

One day I sat down and wrote out everything I value and figured out exactly what belongs in my ideal life.  I came up with a list by asking myself 'what do I value in life?'


Having this list is soothing to read through because it focuses my mind on what matters most to me.  If I had to narrow it down more so that I could keep a handful of values top of mind, I’d probably choose a top three from this list.  I started out with one long list of values but then saw that many went together such as Partnership, Family, Pets - they are all relationships that I value.  So I can narrow down the list by grouping like things together.

Simplicity is number one: if I had to choose a single value to live by it would be simplicity.  Health is up there too.  It's amazing how easy it is to eat differently when your health is at risk.  And it is obvious to me now because Health is a value for me.  As much as I like being slimmer, I don't see 'Being Skinny' on my list so it wasn't as much of a motivator as Health obviously is.

Using this list of values as a springboard is a really useful and fun way of reminding yourself what’s important to you.  Have you ever thought about your values?  If you had to pick one or two off the top of your head, what would they be?  I’d love to hear.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Interview with Shannon Ables of The Simply Luxurious Life

New interview

Recently Shannon Ables of The Simply Luxurious Life and I got together on Skype - Shannon from Bend, Oregon, and me from Auckland, New Zealand.  We had such fun - Shannon is the nicest person ever!

We talked a little bit about my new book Thirty Chic Days and all sorts of things related to living a simple and beautiful life.  I am so excited that her podcast with our chat is out now.  You'll probably already be familiar with Shannon's inspiring blog and podcast The Simple Sophisticate, but if you're not, you are in for a treat!

You can listen to (or download) the interview here, and it's also available on iTunes and Stitcher.  I'm sure you will enjoy, as I did, Shannon's generosity of spirit and genuine friendliness (I was a little bit nervous before the interview!)


New blog

If you have read through my most recent 30 Chic Days series on the blog, you may recall that reader Margaret P received a merit award for 'most comprehensive comments'.  Many of you, including me, suggested (insisted?) that Margaret start a blog to share all her wisdom with us.  Happily, I can announce that she has done just that!

I'd love you to go and have a read and say 'welcome' as Margaret finds her blogging feet at her new 'home' Devon Dreaming.


That's all for now, I'll see you on Friday for another blog post, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy listening to Shannon and I chat - I so wish we could have met in person!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Feminine beauty at home

I’ve been immersing myself in elegance this week.  Not usually one for cut flowers, I even bought myself two bunches of Erlicheer which are now scenting our living area and ensuite.  I was inspired by Mrs Shockley’s lovely Instagram and blog.  We have a mutual admiration of Aerin Lauder’s sophisticated and elegant décor style and also of Jennifer L. Scott’s beautiful books.

In the past I've walked past flower displays and hardly ever bought them.  They seemed extravagant, not really necessary and even wasteful.  Now I think 'feminine and luxurious'.  I'm going to see how it goes to make this a regular thing; I will get a bonus benefit that I am spending a few dollars on flowers instead of  'treat' foods.  There are no calories in flowers!

Something else I did recently which always makes me feel feminine was to pretty up my makeup area.

I took my makeup tray and tipped everything out, then cleaned the tray and put back my makeup items, cleaning each one as I went.  I use a bottle of perfume as the cleaning agent (one of my least favourites to wear but still pretty to sniff) and a clean knit rag (from worn-out tee-shirts).  I clean the outside of the case and even open up and clean the mirror and all around the eyeshadows or blusher.  They look so new when I've finished.

I simultaneously went through my under-bed storage container too, which is where my makeup overflow is kept as well as travel items and hotel items from our trips.  I don't have much makeup overflow anymore since I don't work at Dior plus I've decluttered all shades that don't work for me.  But I still have multiples of blushers and eyeshadow palettes (about 4-5 of each).  Some are ones I've bought and a few are still Dior.

I swapped out a couple of eyeshadow palettes and kept out two blushes out to use (a cooler pink tone and a warmer rosy tone).  I switched one eyeshadow compact and it seemed brand new to me, both in cleanliness and because I haven't worn it in a while.

After I put back my selected, clean makeup items, I washed all my brushes in the basin with warm water and hand soap, then rinsed them all in clean warm water and laid them out to dry on a towel after squeezing the water from them.  They all dry overnight.

I couldn't wait to put my makeup on the next day with my 'new' makeup and brushes.  Doing this gives me such a feeling of well-being that it definitely deserves a spot on my 'what makes me feel high-frequency' list so that I can build up a reservoir of happiness activities.

Clockwise from top left: A gorgeous scented flower my mum gave me - it comes with a rose perfume spray to refresh it; my makeup tray; jewellery and hair pins/elastic; camellia and fern in our ensuite before I put Erlicheer in there

Plus it's thrifty because I've not bought anything!  When I'm sick of my colours and the containers are all dusty inside and out, nothing seems exciting to use and putting on my makeup in the morning seems a bit of a drag.  The shiny new makeup counters in department stores always seem so enticing, but have you noticed that the girls who work on them are always cleaning and polishing, wiping around lipstick tubes etc?  I see it all the time and when I worked at Dior it was said over and over to the counter girls to clean and polish their counters, displays and products every day.

Since I did this, I have been wiping items as I put them away (a clean tissue works well) and sharpen eye pencils if they need it so they are nice and new for next time.  All my makeup seems so new, and again, this is what makeup counter ladies do daily.  It really takes no more time, and it is such a pleasure to use my makeup, even more so than usual.

I recently bought a Beauty Blender sponge to try (I love it, but it does use more liquid foundation than I’d use with my fingers).  I viewed a couple of YouTube videos to pick up any tips and after one lady had done her foundation she moved onto contouring.  I don’t have any contour products but I kept watching because she was quite engaging.  She had a wind-up contour stick that she was applying to her face and I could see that the black plastic tube it was in had brown contour colour smeared all over it.  It looked gross!  After having just cleaned up all my makeup I wanted to grab a clean rag and clean her contour stick for her.  I was fixated on it!

If you're a bit bored with your makeup, may I suggest a cleaning session to polish everything up?  I promise you it will be like you have all new products when you go to use it the next day.  I love being my own makeup counter manager.  Wouldn't it be great if you could get a mini version of the tester displays they have so you could put your makeup in it on the top of your dresser?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Chic advice for my younger self

A reader writes:

Dear Fiona,

I'm in my mid-30s but most of the style blogs I read are written for someone 10-20 years (or more) older than me. What advice would you give to the woman who wants to age gracefully / beautifully / chic-ly? What advice would you give to your 35-year old self if you could send a message now?


Dear chic friend,

This may not be the answer you want to hear, but I’d pretty much give the same advice to me at 30 or 35 as I would to me now, at 45, truly!  These are all things I’d advise my younger self to consider; however they are equally applicable to me today.

Relax.  There is no cartoon metal anvil hanging over your head that you don’t know about.

Worry less.  Worry is really bad for you!  I have borderline high blood pressure which is hereditary, and I’m working on being more sanguine so as to help myself be healthy (and I've also cut out added salt at dinnertime).

Keep on curating.  There will always be another clothing sale, don’t worry if you miss one.  You probably don’t want the clothes in that sale anyway – wait until there’s something you really want and buy it even if you have to pay a little more.  You’ll value and wear it more than all those cheap garments.

Seek to find your own personal style.  It’s actually right in front of you and you’ve always known what it was.  Look back to what you loved to wear when you were younger.  For me, it was the classics.  I felt boring sometimes and tried other styles, but I always came back to the classic pieces.  Look to fashion for inspiration, but always follow your own taste; it will never let you down.

Work on eliminating your bad habits.  It won’t get any easier as you get older; they catch up with you then.

Take good care of your health and seek a second opinion if you feel it necessary.  The spot on my leg that I had two doctors look at and both told me it was harmless.  I was less sure and paid for it to be removed.  It was melanoma (all gone now).

Don’t hang around on Someday Isle.  Life will flash by quickly if you put things off.  Make exciting plans and take action on them.  Keep moving, you don’t want to be stuck in a stagnant stream.  That’s when I turn to ‘fun’ food to liven things up (such a great plan.  Not).

Find chic mentors.  If there are ladies around you that you aspire to be like, be friendly with them and ask them out for lunch or coffee if appropriate.  If they’re that bit too far removed to do that, simply observe them from afar.  I have ladies (and a few guys) in my life who both a similar age and older who all inspire me to be my best.

Learn to enjoy good, real food.  I’ve let this slide over the years and am still cleaning up my eating habits.  It’s easy to keep putting things off and thinking you’ll deal with them later, but later never comes.  Why not be healthy and happy now?


So, what would you say to your younger self?  I know there is lots of wisdom in your head that we can share and learn from.  Whether we would have listened at a younger age is another story altogether, tee hee.

Wishing you a wonderful and chic weekend.

Friday, August 5, 2016

How to bring romance into your day

I’m not a really flossy person, not on the outside anyway.  But on the inside I’m a true romantic.  I love to dream up all the delicious ways I can live a dreamy life, at the same time as being practical and getting things done of course.

The fabulous thing about creating inspiration in my head and letting it flow out from there, is that I am not relying on anyone else to behave in a certain way before I can feel like I have romance in my life.  Instead it’s the opposite: simply by me creating it for myself, I feel good, and that affects those around me in a positive way also.

As an aside, when I talk about romance and feeling romantic, it’s not just about a love affair with the opposite sex, I’m talking about romance in all aspects of my life; perhaps living in a fanciful and fun way is a better way to describe it.  I just know that it feels good.

Synonyms for romance are: enchantment, fascination, amour, flirtation, intrigue, love and passion.  For romantic: adventurous, exotic, visionary, chivalrous, picturesque and extravagant.  Ooh la la, don’t we all need to whip up more of these delicious ideals in case our lives start to feel a little pedestrian?

There are many ways I can bring about the feeling of romance into my every day, and these are just a few of them:

·         Playing Rod Stewart’s American Songbook albums.  Standards always appeal, and Rod’s way of doing them makes me feel so relaxed and like I’m sipping a cool drink in a hotel lobby bar
·         Nostalgia – good feelings come flooding in when I treat myself to a favourite movie from a long time ago (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf which I saw at the movies in the early 90s with a girlfriend comes to mind), indulging in memories of Laura Ashley style in the 80s and spritzing on Estee Lauder’s Beautiful perfume when I’m out browsing
·         Lighting candles, even if it’s daytime, even if it’s summer
·         Reading Victoria magazine, Jane Seymour’s Guide to Romantic Living book (it’s a little dated but has many great ideas) and old-fashioned novels from authors like Grace Livingston Hill (I've only read Crimson Roses so far of hers, and it was lovely, very sweet and chaste)
·         Dressing in flowing garments such as palazzo pants at home in the summer.  I recently bought a new winter nightgown and it’s so soft and lovely to wear, in pale pink stripes (and still fits with my ‘sexy and sophisticated’ nightwear essence words).
·         Cooking a nourishing and nurturing meal for my love and myself
·         Romancing myself with kind words, noting what I’m proud of and congratulating myself on both big and tiny achievements
·         Going for a walk outside – an after dinner stroll is my favourite way to feel romantic if I can con my husband into it (if I’m lucky I can cajole him into an after dinner stroll a few times a year)
·         It may sound strange to say ‘doing something by yourself’, but one of my favourite ways to feel romance is to go to a movie by myself during the day (likely a French subtitled movie since my husband is not a huge fan of subtitles) or going for a window shop and coffee with my journal in a chi chi part of town
·         Buying flowers is an easy one, however since I’m only comme ci comme ça on cut flowers, I either pick them from our (very basic) garden or occasionally buy myself a potted indoor plant or punnet of annuals to plant in a terracotta pot outside

I believe we’re here to celebrate every day, even the ordinary days, especially the ordinary days.  Life really is too short to wait for something special to come along.  Making today special, every day, is how we can most honour the time we are given.

What about you?  What makes you feel romantic?  How do you like to bring romance into your life?
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