Friday, May 26, 2017

How to cultivate a sense of peace and calm

This week we travelled down to Hawke’s Bay and had a look at properties for sale.  Autumn is a beautiful time of year almost anywhere, and my hometown is no exception.  Driving around the countryside with all the trees changing colour was a magnificent experience.

We didn’t know if we would find a house that we would fall in love with on our first proper look, but we did.  The thing is, it already has another offer on it conditional on the purchaser’s house selling.  We were able to put in a back-up offer though, which we did today.  We’ll know within a couple of weeks if we are successful.

The interesting thing is how I am feeling about the whole process.  I love the house and I can see us living there and I really hope we get it, but I am curiously detached from the outcome.  I have a good feeling about the house and think we will be successful, however I know that if this does not go through, it means that an even better home for us will be just around the corner.  I already know that I won’t be devastated if we don’t get it.

As I pondered to myself just how good this feeling of detachment is, I thought that it could equally apply to other areas of a person’s life and be of benefit.

  • When you are focused on losing weight, don’t worry about what you weigh or how long it is going to take; just focus on doing what you need to do each day – focus on being healthy every day.

Focus on the process not the outcome

  • When you apply for a new job, do your best at the interview but know that if you don’t get it, there is an even better job around the corner.

Focus on the process and trust that everything will work out for the best

  • When your husband leaves you and you think your whole world has fallen apart.  It has temporarily, but you will see that it will turn out even better than you could have imagined

I don’t know if there is a secret to life, but I feel like detaching from the outcome (of ‘whatever’) is one of them.  It feels like I have cracked the code with how calm and relaxed I feel.  I just know that everything will work out just the way it’s meant to, whether we buy this house or not.

Even in times when I wasn’t so settled, when I was newly divorced and flatting with three others in my early thirties, not much in the bank; I still knew that I was on the right path.  I trusted that life was unfolding exactly as it should, and all I had to do was my bit – thinking and dreaming of future plans, but living day to day as best I could.

Have you ever had this experience?  I’d like to continue cultivating it and hopefully spread it to every part of my life, because it truly does feel like you have been set free, and gets rid of that feeling of fear and desperation, which lets face it, is never fun.

I’d love to hear of your examples of detaching from the outcome, and also areas where you imagine it could be successfully applied to.

Have a great weekend, whether it’s spring or autumn at your place!


Friday, May 19, 2017

8 Ways to Soothe Yourself

Dahlias in our neighbour's lovely garden

We just found out today that our house is unconditionally SOLD, with the new owner taking over mid-July.  Exciting!  And… unsettling.  All our dreams are coming true – selling our business and then our house and now completing our move from the city to the countryside.  We have been wishing and planning to do for a couple of years now, and as well as a feeling of happiness comes a strange feeling, one of shifting foundations.

I know this is only natural and I’m sure that those of you who have experienced big desired-for life changes will know what I mean.  Or at least I hope you do because then I will feel less bonkers.

I’ve heard it said that moving out of your comfort zone feels uncomfortable, and it’s true.  It’s nice and easy to stay in a job and the same home and not do anything different.  If we didn’t want to experience small-town life we’d likely still be living where we were.

So, even though we are organized and life is not stressful, there is still this underlying movement that is causing me to feel unsettled.  I have been devising an action plan to help, and I think it could apply to any time in life that you feel like you need some TLC.

One. Not look too far ahead into the future.  I think this is the most valuable thought I am keeping in mind at the moment.  I don’t need to worry about where we are going to live or how our sofas are going to get moved so they aren’t damaged.  All I need to do is focus on the next few days or the next week.  What do I need to do now?  Basically, stay in the present moment.  Sage advice at any time but especially right now for me.

Two. Practice exquisite self-care.  I go to bed at a good time – quite early, and I have adjusted my wakeup time from 6am to 7am.  It feels so luxurious getting up at 7 and I am getting plenty of necessary sleep.

Three. Keep hydrated.  I have a large glass which sits on my desk (away from electronics!) and I am amazed that it is constantly empty.  I fill it when I notice, and then when I look again it needs refilling.  Doing this helps me realise that I sip my water constantly without realizing and that if it isn’t there, I’m not getting the hydration.  If I am moving around the house doing things, I keep my glass by the kitchen sink, and have some when passing by.

Four. Be strict on how I am spending my time.  I have been cutting out time-wasting pursuits and focusing on what’s important.  If I don’t do this I can easily feel overwhelmed and frazzled, and the time-wasting stuff doesn’t bring any value into my life.  I can be prone to a thought sending me off on a tangent, so it helps for me to focus my mind on what I was doing in the first place.  A notepad with the day’s essential tasks (not too many, less than a handful) keeps my mind on the tasks that need to be done.

Five. Nourish myself.  I am ensuring I have good food in the kitchen and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  At times like this my natural inclination is to want to eat carbs, carbs, carbs and I have allowed myself a bit of that, but I am also gently steering myself towards health so I feel better.  Using the guidelines in my book Thirty Slim Days, I am enticing and inspiring myself towards choosing healthy options rather than being a dictator (which never works for me).

Six. Do fun things every day.  Sometimes we go out for lunch (nothing fancy).  I also make sure I have time to put my feet up with a book, even for just a little while.  Between my own books, library books and my Kindle, I always have something to read.

Sometimes I’ll go for a bit of chick-lit, I am currently re-reading Jemima J on my Kindle a little bit at a time in between other books, sometimes I’m in the mood for non-fiction (Bright Line Eating is quite illuminating) and even a psychological thriller to keep me awake at night (it took me only 48 hours to read Behind Her Eyes, omg, so good and I’m still thinking about it weeks later).

Yes, reading makes me happy.

Seven. Keep our home nice.  We have had to keep our home looking good for the open homes, but it’s amazing how I can let it all hang out when we don’t!  Keeping things put away and having our home tidy soothes my mind.

Eight. Be excited planning for our future home.  I am also excited about deciding what we are going to take with us and what we are going to donate before we go.  My goal is to take only what I would welcome into my dream new life.  There will be a few exceptions but these items have an exit strategy once we are there.

Overall, I am working on settling the butterflies and keeping calm, whilst at the same time turning anxiety into excitement for the future.

Are you strange like this?  I feel strange even saying all this stuff, but that’s what I am all about.  Helping you feel normal if you ever have these feelings :)  Plus, working stuff out for myself at the same time.  If you have any tips you have found helpful, please share!

Me: *makes big plans then freaks out when they start coming to fruition*


PS.  A gorgeous new blog called Fleur de St. Louis recently featured Thirty Chic Days.  Thank you Lauren!  You can read about Lauren’s 'Tres Chic Morning Routine' here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

What to wear at home: Part 2

I'd found a bit of a gap in my wardrobe which I've been working on filling, and it involved what to wear when I was at home, which is most of the time these days.  Now that I am no longer working in our retail store since we sold it at the end of last year, I spend a lot of time in my home office writing/planning/thinking/dreaming, as well as doing all the other daily things such as housework, organising, grocery shopping, going to the library, etc.

My main work uniform was jeans, jeans and more jeans, which I love, however jeans are not the most comfortable thing for hanging out at home in, or sitting and writing in.  No matter what I'm wearing, late afternoon I change into my loungewear, which at this time of year is leggings and a long-sleeve tee-shirt.  I first wrote about what to wear at home here, and it is currently the most popular post on my blog - of all time - so I know it is something that many of you are pondering as well - what the heck do we wear at home?

I know it's hardly finding the answer to world peace, but I know if I am comfortable in an outfit as well as being happy with the way I look, I am more productive and content in my home life.  I also would like these outfits to be low-cost, good quality and easy to take care of, plus suit my personal style.  Yes, I know I am asking a lot of clothes here.

So, with this gap in my wardrobe I took myself off shopping for some new home pieces.  In the past I've had good luck with a few items I bought at K-Mart so I went back there.  Yes, I am a thrifty girl at heart.  What a bounty they had too!  And guess what, it was late Friday afternoon/early evening and there were so many young, hip, slim and stylish people in their homewares section (I drifted over there).  It gave me confidence that I wasn't shopping at the wrong place.  I also thought it would be a fantastic place to meet people if you were young and single.  Maybe K-Mart is the new supermarket fruit and veggie section.

The items in the top photo are both new from K-Mart: black 3/4 length jeggings in a thick twill stretch, and an overlong, loose black and white striped top with cuffed bracelet-length sleeves.  I have never bought jeggings before (and even the name puts me off a little bit, lol) but I am so happy I did.  They are a good in-between for my clingy, fine loungewear leggings, which don't leave the house, and jeans.  I still treat them like leggings though, where the golden rule is 'my bum must never be seen.'  Bottoms don't look the same in leggings as they do in jeans.

Below, is another new pair of pants from K-Mart, and they are a ponte knit with a kind of scratchy pattern on them.  I had the idea to stretch out the wear of my favourite chambray summer dresses and double them up as a tunic.  I actually wore this out to lunch with these heels and was very happy in it.  My husband said I looked hot too, so that's a bonus.

And my second pair of jeggings below, this time full-length, and in a dotty/line print black and white.  They are actually really comfy and cozy, but I am under no illusions.  I know that anything with stretch, even expensive denim or other fabrics, will eventually stretch out.  To counteract this somewhat, I chose fabrics that felt quite firm and of reasonable quality.  Even in a store where everything is inexpensive, you can get a feel (literally, and with your eyes) for what is going to be cheap without looking cheap and at least hold its shape for a little while.

The top with my dotty jeggings is from Zara, and is quite drapey with a deep-V front and back.  I think I wear it back-to-front, well, the label is in the front the way I wear it, otherwise the V is far too cleavegy for my liking but I love it with the deep-V to the back.

And with some ballet flats for a different look, plus a chunky gold/silver chain necklace.

Coming from K-Mart, these pieces were tres inexpensive as you'd imagine.  Between $10 and $15 each.  I am so happy with my little shopping trip.  What I saved in money I invested in time.  I was in the store for at least 1.5 hours, firstly seeing what they had, selecting my pieces to try on then having to try on six at a time because of their security rules.  I think I had close to twenty pieces to try all up (some were multiples of sizes).

I truly believe you don't have to spend a lot of money to look good.  If think if I had to, I could have replaced my entire wardrobe from K-Mart and been happy with it.

Are you a high-low girl or a thrift shopper (I'm both)?  Does the thought of finding a bargain in K-Mart excite you, or maybe it makes you break out in a rash...  I'm the first type, but I know my sister is the second!


PS.  If you live in the southern hemisphere like I do, it's coming into winter.  Today it's pouring with rain with no sign of letting up!

I would love to share my book with you, called 'How to be Chic in the Winter: Living slim, happy and stylish during the cold season'.  I wrote this book for myself initially, because I found I kept doing the same unhelpful things over and over each year to cope with the cold weather - eating sweet and stodgy fattening foods, feeling lazy and unmotivated, being grumpy and generally an unfun person.  I started gathering all my thoughts on living an ideal chic winter and this book is a result of that.

Included are my favourite winter recipes, because that was my biggest hurdle - coming up with meals that felt comforting and hearty, but which were also healthy.  They are all very simple to make, but also very importantly they don't take too long to put together.  I like to keep prep time to a minimum because I would rather go for a walk or read a book than spend too long fussing around in the kitchen.

Below is a description and list of all the chapters and recipes so you can get an idea of what's inside.  You probably already know this, but you can preview the book on Amazon by clicking on the cover image, and read the first few pages there (I think they show you approximately 10% of the book).  You can also receive an excerpt from this book and all my others too, by subscribing to my weekly posts by email.  You can do that here, and receive all your free goodies straight away.


"Late summer heading into early autumn/fall is a such beautiful time of the year. You can feel everything growing still and soft; nature is slowing down and people are getting cozy. The most stunning colours can be found outdoors at this time.

Despite the natural beauty, despite your looking forward to the coziness of winter, you find that a few short months later yes, again, things have gone awry. You have ploughed headlong into winter without design or plan; you are wearing the same clothes as last year because you have not put thought into your wardrobe; you have put on weight from indiscriminate eating and you are complaining in your head, or worse, out loud that ‘it’s cold today’. This was me!

Many warm-blooded creatures hibernate when it is cold out and go with their natural instincts by doing so. They do not enter the spring season stressed out; rather, animals waking up from hibernation are coming to sleepily, well rested and ready for the warmer season; so, why don’t we?

We would not go to sleep for months on end, but perhaps we can take a leaf out of their book and make each winter a mental spa time of rejuvenation, beauty and pleasure.

I decided to write this book as a kind of insurance, to remind me of my exciting winter plans. It is easy to be enthusiastic about the winter season when the leaves are turning. Fall fashions are always fun to look forward to, even for a non-fashionista like me – the September issue of Vogue! I can rekindle my love for the colours of plum, navy and camel at this time of year. But a few months later the novelty has already worn off.

This book is also a toolkit of all the ideas that have worked so well in previous winters, as well as new ideas I want to capture. I started this book in autumn, and am now finishing it up in spring. I am so pleased to have tried all my ideas out in a ‘test’ environment!

Read ‘How to be Chic in the Winter’ to discover my strategy for not just surviving, but thriving this winter; on how to have a chic and beautiful winter season and emerge, like a butterfly ready for a gorgeous spring and summer."



Chapter 1. Know that winter is a different season
     Start winter with a goal
     Be ahead of the game
     Look forward to winter

Chapter 2. Create a winter menu plan
     Breakfasts that are warming, filling and healthy
     Lunches for work and home
     Dinners – tweak the winter classics
     Fiona’s favourite winter recipes
        Red Lentil and Tomato soup
        Pumpkin Soup
        Vegetable soup
        Spaghetti Bolognese
        Savoury mince
        Shepherd’s pie
        Roast chicken
        ‘Bangers’ (sausages) and mash
        Parmesan chicken
        Crumbed chicken
        Pasta Bake
        Rice Bake
        Apple and Boysenberry Crumble
        Bliss Balls

Chapter 3. Break up the long winter
     Learn something or have a project to complete
     Keep active
     Be social

Chapter 4. Work on feeling good
     Home as your winter sanctuary
     Dress in clothes that make you feel good
     Be cozy when you are at home
     Take care of your grooming
     Keep well

Chapter 5. Keep your motivation up
     Do things quickly
     If you are a summer person
     Make plans for the next six to twelve months

Chapter 6. Create your ideal chic winter season
     Bonus journal questions
     To finish


You can order 'How to be Chic in the Winter' here on Amazon.  Thank you for reading down this far!
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