Friday, December 15, 2017

More Chic Decor on a Budget

Our festive cheery-red Bougainvillea is blooming in time for the holiday season :)
I am excited to show you the rest of my auction finds from the same week I bought our 'new' table recently.

In my dreamy vision for a 'Ralph Lauren on a budget' interior decor style, I knew I wanted to mass paintings on one of the walls of our living room once we paint it in a dark shade.  I am now on the hunt for paintings (that I love) to achieve that.  Without spending much money, of course!

These two paintings below were in the same lot at the auction.  I bid successfully on them and bought them for $30 - for both, I was very happy with that.  They are painted on linen and look quite old.  The frames are handmade from timber.

The next two paintings were in a box lot with a few other less attractive items and, for fun, two  painters palettes just in case I felt like creating my own picture.  I paid $24 for this box lot.  I think the first picture below is my favourite out of all my finds.  It's quite small, the back is made of wood, I adore the picture and the gilt frame is a bit battered.  Perfection :)

This one below is borderline my style, and I know my mum has her eye on it.  If it's missing off the wall, I will know where to find it.  Again, it's very old.

I am in love with the authenticity of these pictures and get why people go to auctions.  I like the idea of looking around antique stores, but the reality is that the prices are often very high.  And I know they have to pay rent and hold stock, I used to own a retail store, but when you're decorating on a budget, I think auctions are the way to go.  It's fun because you never know what's going to come up one week to the next too.

The china below is a cool story.  When we first moved here in July, my mum found some teacups, saucers and sandwich plates in an opshop for $20.  She bought them as a housewarming present for me because the china's name is 'Fiona' (from the Paragon Star china company in England).

At the auction when I bought the paintings I peeked into the box lots and saw more pieces of 'Fiona' - taller coffee cups and saucers, and a beautiful coffee pot.  I had to have it - at the right price naturally.  I couldn't get there in time for the start of the auction, and of course my 'Fiona' box lot was number one - number one for goodness sake!

So mum went and bid for me, and got it for $16.  What a fun score, and amazingly enough, I started out with my teacups and extra saucers, whereas the coffee cups didn't have enough saucers.  When I put them all together I ended up with nine cups in total, and nine (identical) saucers.  I'd say that was meant to be.

 Just in case you wondered what the legs on our 'new' old table were like, here's a picture I found.  Jessica is photobombing, or maybe she is showing the scale of the table.  I don't know.

Have I enticed you to give auctions a go yet?  I can't wait to see what else I can find in the new year for our 'Ralph Lauren on a budget' home.

Now go get organised for Christmas, I know I'm not :)


You can find me here too:
Find 'A Chic and Simple Christmas' here on Kindle or in paperback.

Find 'How to be Chic in the Winter' here on Kindle or in paperback.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chic dining room decor on a budget

It's been exciting times at our house decor-wise.  When we moved in 4.5 months ago, we had minimal furniture.  The only 'good' things we owned were a pair of custom sofas we had made several years ago (and which still look perfect).  We knew we were moving house and towns so made do with what we had.  In addition to that we decluttered... a lot.

We knew we wanted to find a large dining table because we now have the area to fit it.  We'd looked into some furniture shops here and were prepared to buy quality, but hadn't found anything we liked the look of yet.  Our look is relaxed elegant - not too polished, not too rustic.

When we got talking with an interior designer here, she suggested we buy a second-hand dining table for a few reasons - we'd get a far better quality at a much lower price, plus older tables have more character than new ones.  I am all for character (the right kind!), so we started looking at our options.

I couldn't be bothered with Trade Me (our version of eBay here in New Zealand) for something this big, so hunted out two local auction houses and started frequenting them.  We found this ten-seater beauty (it probably seats eight comfortably, but could go up to twelve if we needed to) on our second or third auction showing and loved it.  Happily on the day no-one else bid so it was ours for the reserve.

It has two extension pieces in the middle and a very old looking metal crank handle to wind it in and out (the legs are on castor wheels so it's quick to do).  The price was easily one quarter of a new table, possibly even smaller given the quality of the table.  A few people thought it looked like light mahogany timber.

Also at the auction was a box of china pieces that I wanted, to go with some I already had.  I won that for $16 and it had extras such as nice wine glasses and cutlery.  The cutlery was very handy because we only have eight settings.  The sexy soft-black and bronzey-gold place mats were $2 each from K-Mart.  I love these too! The table napkins I've had forever - off-white linen and cotton, and our table decor iscandles.

We had our neighbours over for dinner on Saturday night, and served dinner like a buffet from our old, smaller dining table in the other room, then everyone brought their plates through to eat.  It worked well!

I put our Christmas tree up on the 1st of December.  Every other year for over a decade we had our retail business and December was a very busy month for us.  This year being our first Christmas since we sold the business I decided that I was having a festive Christmas atmosphere right from the first day of December!

I was planning on not doing any work in December at all but I can't help it, I just love writing so much :)

Our beloved sofas are below.  The table runner I made from a remnant of gold fabric, and the candle glasses were from a charity shop 50c each.  I love finding op shop goodies!  (In New Zealand charity shops are called opportunity shops or op shops.)

Are you a budget decor girl or are you happy to spend a lot?  I don't mind paying for quality, especially if we're going to have pieces a long time, like our sofas (and we saved up for them for years before we bought them).  But I am so happy with our 'new' dining table - quality and a great price.  The fact that we hadn't seen a style we liked in new furniture stores only adds to the fabulousness of our find.

I'm off to another auction showing today... I wonder what will be there?  An older lady who was helping me at the auction last week said 'Be careful, it can get addictive' and I said I was already hooked after only a few weeks.  'That's how I bought the business', she said.  I'd better watch out!

So... dinner at my place on the weekend?  I'll see you there.  Wouldn't that be fun :)


You can find me here too:
Find 'A Chic and Simple Christmas' here on Kindle or in paperback.

Find 'How to be Chic in the Winter' here on Kindle or in paperback.

Monday, November 27, 2017

How to find out what you really need to be happy

I did some really interesting thinking when I was out walking Teddy the poodle yesterday.  It was sparked off by someone talking about listening in to your intuition.  So I was strolling along with Teddy thinking about my intuition and asking 'her' (the higher me) questions.  I asked what she thought of certain things and what suggestions she could offer.

One thought I came to was asking myself as a little girl what I needed to be happy.  I’ve heard of this before, of asking your inner child, or the younger you about things.  Look at what she enjoyed doing when she was little and invite those things into your life now.

It’s a fun way to feel happy, peaceful, grounded and content, and it costs nothing.  Well, I guess that depends on what your little girl wants :)  But my little girl, little Fiona had some soothing words for me when I asked her what she needed to be happy yesterday.

She tells me that she needs:

  • comfort and cosiness
  • routines and boundaries
  • her books and pretty things like her dolls
  • yummy little dinners that also make her feel good
  • to play and to run around
  • to go to the park and the beach
  • her creative time with her pencil and her book

She makes her own fun because she has such a vivid inner world of prettiness and imagination.  She really does love being self-contained and in her own space.  She needs me to make boundaries and routines for her when she’s at home when no-one else is, because otherwise she would, as a young girl might, just wander around from room to room and probably get a bit bored.

But when I help her, when I make boundaries for her and when I put little routines into place, it makes her feel so happy, and it makes her feel safe.  And she lets me know that she needs to feel safe because she has been scared, for no logical reason, but maybe it’s the lack of boundaries and lack of security and lack of routine that makes her feel unsafe.

She just needs me to take her in hand and guide her.  Guide her to her ultimate happiness, guide her to find out what she loves doing the most.  I hear that little girl, because deep inside I’m still the same person, because that’s my soul.

What she wants is to share with the world – her happiness, her creativity, her self-sufficiency; she wants show other people ‘look how much fun it can be when you create your own inner world to inspire you’.  She wants to show other people her world, and share it with her ladies, because she knows those ladies are lovely.  She writes about what she wants to write about, and it makes other people happy too which only adds to it for her.

How about that huh?  I didn’t expect all that when I started thinking as I was walking.  And what I did to capture all this, was turn the voice recorder on my phone and talk into it as I walked.  So it was sort of like journaling, but talking.

If this sounds like a fun exercise to you, ask your younger you what she needs to feel happy, safe, relaxed, whatever sounds good to you.  I’m not sure of her age; I can picture her, she was definitely under ten, maybe under five.

Please let me know how you get on if you do join in, please leave some fun bits or perhaps answers you are particularly pleased with in the comments.

And I'd like to wish you (and your inner littlies) a beautiful week!



You can find me here too:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My French-Inspired Sunday

Montmartre, Paris, France by John Towner
I wrote the following post quite a long time ago... and lost it.  I recently came across it again and wanted to share it with you.  I hope you enjoy it!


Yesterday I made like I was the French girl carrying out her maintenance.  Maintenance of herself and maintenance of her home (and in the process, maintenance of her relationship with her man).

On a Sunday morning my husband and I have been enjoying for a while our little routine of Sunday paper(s) in bed with English Breakfast tea.  We get the papers delivered so my husband goes down to the gate to get them while I make the tea.  I don’t like to sound like the ideal consumer but we got the idea off an ad for Twinings English Breakfast tea.  It showed Nigella Lawson taking her big mug of tea back up to bed of a morning, with the papers. 

When we’re sick of reading the papers and our backs are getting sore from sitting up in bed we head down for breakfast.  Often I will make something a bit treat-y for Sunday breakfast.  We used to go out for brunch but our business being open seven days a week stopped that for now.  So we recreate it at home.  And actually I prefer it.  There are no other people (I really don’t like ‘other people’ most of the time, I like my own space) and it’s a fraction of the cost.  And we can be as healthy or unhealthy as we like.

Today we had virtually no breakfast foods in the house (bacon, sausages) so I made scrambled eggs with cream and dill and baked beans on wholegrain toast.  Quite an English breakfast I think!  With that we had coffee freshly made in the Bialetti.  I make a good strong brew and pour a shot into the cup then top with warm milk for a homemade cafe au lait.

Then after I farewelled my husband to work after the kitchen was tidied and the dishes were done I put some clothes in the washing machine.  Vacuuming and mopping comes later.  I got down our Le Crueset lidded casserole and set it going with chicken carcasses from the freezer (from roast dinners) and hot water to simmer for stock all day.

And as for my body maintenance, firstly I gave myself a pedicure.  I had only my second professional pedicure last month when I was visiting my mother.  The first one about 15 years ago I have blocked from my memory as it hurt so much.  She really hacked into my cuticles and so I have never had another one.  The second one, my mother had been given a gift voucher for an hour long deluxe pedicure but didn’t want to show anyone her ‘ugly toes/feet’.  Isn’t that the point?

I wasn’t arguing though, and before too long I was sitting up on a beauty therapy bed in a serene, dimly lit room.  My feet soaked in warm water before being exfoliated and massaged (up to the knees - blissful) then cuticles were pushed back and nails painted - ‘Paris’ red, but of course.  The therapist said ‘choose a colour’.  When I saw they were named after cities, I had to look for Paris and luckily I loved the colour – a bright, cheery orange/red.

I am removing the polish and doing my own pedicure today.  I will remember to use the pink foam toe separators as they made such a good job of my toes.  And I filed rather than clipped my nails.  I have normally clipped my toenails and they are too short.  Following on from the pedicure I will file them.  They look so much nicer slightly rounded and level with my toes.

Everything I am doing has Carla Bruni playing softly in the background, to really put me in the mood to channel Sabine.

Next comes the shower, with scrubby body gloves and shower gel, hair wash and legs shaved.  I slather myself in sweet-scented body lotion and then paint my toes (with toe separators).

For lunch I made macaroni cheese (from scratch using real ingredients and herbs from our garden) and had a small portion of this (maybe two inches square) with... a salad.  I can’t not have a salad now.  I had a craving for macaroni cheese and bought some macaroni elbows yesterday.  In today’s Sunday paper – a recipe for macaroni cheese.  Being Autumn I probably can’t take credit for that coincidence – every man and his dog probably had macaroni cheese for lunch.  It was one of my favourite meals as a kid, and we often had it for Sunday lunch.

I will be enjoying the leftovers for lunch at work as well.

After some folding of washing, and vacuuming my husband arrived home, and I relaxed with a wine and the rest of the Sunday papers.

The best thing about a day of home and self-maintenance is that it is entirely free.  I think it is very chic to be thrifty.  Any old fool can go out shopping for lovely new things with their credit card, but it takes effort and imagination to spend (and enjoy) a day of cleaning and beautifying.

Rather than look at housework as a chore that I begrudgingly half-do, I try to keep in mind to enjoy the process while I do it and also know who I am doing it for – the peace and well-being of my husband and I.  My husband has been working hard all day and I love that he exclaims how inviting our home looks when he steps in – every single time.


Wishing you a wonderful week, and Happy Thanksgiving to my USA friends!


PS.  Christmas will be here soon, and I wanted to remind you about my book 'A Chic and Simple Christmas'.  If Christmas stresses you out every year, can I invite you to look at it in a different way?  One reviewer said of this book 'A very non-traditional Christmas book - but thought provoking' and another 'Used the ideas to have probably the best, low stress, Christmas I have ever had.'  Yay!

Check out the Amazon 'Look Inside' function to see if 'A Chic and Simple Christmas' is your cup of tea.   Available in paperback and on Kindle here.
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