Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Clearing out the home office

Dreamy home office Image

One space in our home that needs constant vigilance that it not turn into a dumping ground is our home office.  When I say ‘our’ home office I really mean ‘my’ home office because it contains 99% my stuff and the other 1% is my husbands. 

We are fortunate enough to live in a spacious three bedroom home – we have the master bedroom upstairs and a guest bedroom and ‘the’ home office downstairs (they are next to each other).  I try to keep both rooms clear and pleasant to look at but because we don’t have a garage there are a few things that get stored in there that can’t go anywhere else.  They are:

  • A few extra framed pictures

  • Two clothing racks for drying clothing indoors

  • A huge and beautiful gilt mirror that needs specialised hanging equipment because it weighs a ton and that’s the reason excuse why it’s not been hung since we moved in almost four years ago.

I also took possession of my spinning wheel recently which was living in my mum’s garage.  I didn’t realise she still had it and I used to really enjoy spinning so thought I’d have another go at it.  I actually took spinning lessons a long time ago, maybe when I was about 12 or 13.  Can you imagine today’s tweens taking spinning lessons?  It sounds like I am straight off Little House on the Prairie. 

I even carded my own wool then too.  These days you can buy it already carded.  For those of you who don’t spin, uncarded wool looks like a shorn fleece straight from the sheep whereas carded wool is all combed out and clean and ready to spin.

There are also a few spare furniture items such as a small square table and a set of plastic drawers (mmm, attractive, but they are useful).  Usually these items live in the guest room but when we have guests to stay they get moved to the home office.  And then other things get stacked around them ‘just for the time being’.

Before too long you can’t even enter the home office easily and any thoughts of doing some sewing, ironing or choosing a book from the book shelves becomes too stressful.  Last week was the tipping point.  My only answer for a situation such as this was to empty everything out.  I was at home by myself so I took all the items that shouldn’t have been there out into the hallway.

I could then have a proper vacuum (everywhere including the corners), appreciate the useful space that the home office is and then start putting things back.  I have a filing drawer that contains my style files.  These are pruned on a regular basis because I always have new things going in them.  Those new things were stacked haphazardly and now they are in with their subject matter friends.

I also decluttered a number of items including our Christmas tree – that will be donated closer to Christmas.  My plan is to purchase a small faux Christmas tree – the type with fibre-optic lights.  My parents-in-law have one and I love it, plus it’s simple, no decorating required.  I was going to donate all our decorations too but remembered that we might want to have a real Christmas tree from time to time so kept them for now.

It’s so nice to have space to move in the home office now and everything is neat, tidy and dusted.  Definitely worth a few hours of time as it feels so good afterwards.

Do you have a room that scares you at the moment?  Tell us all about it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How not to snack

Image from parisperfect.com

Any list of French people habits includes the fact that they don’t snack.  They eat three meals a day and maybe an afternoon tea or drink around 4pm and that’s it.  Doesn’t it just sound so easy in practice?

At various times in the past I have been a champion snacker.  Snacking is fun, it makes me feel better, it helps a boring day along, so many reasons why I’d snack…  I class snacking as any unnecessary food and of course it is always processed/ convenience foods.  It’s not like I’d snack on apples all afternoon is it?

A library book I’m loving at the moment is You Can Be Thin by Marisa Peer.  She’s a UK hypnotherapist and so much of what she says in her book I can relate to.  She talks about emotional eating.  Of course by its very name, emotional eating is not rational.  I can say I’m going to be French and chic all I like but that’s my rational thought.  Emotional eating comes up from behind you and takes you by surprise.

One thing that has often derailed my chic eating habits in the past is emotional eating.  Eating when I’m bored or feeling insecure, eating to recreate good times in the past - they are all habits that don’t do me any favours.  But when something’s in your mind, it’s in your mind and it’s a tough thing to over-rule.

Here is a passage from You Can Be Thin that has changed the way I think about emotional eating:

Overeating generally stems from an inner feeling of lacking something and emptiness.  One of my clients described it to me as a feeling of being hollow inside.  Therefore we need more food and more material things to compensate for the lack we feel and to fill the void within us.

Instead of filling that void with food and purchases you need to understand that the void exists only in your mind and you have the power to close it.

When you know and believe you are enough you don’t need more.

When you feel and believe you are not enough you will always want more.

Those words really stunned me with their simplicity.  That empty feeling is all in my mind! 

Marisa went on to say that telling yourself ‘I am enough’ and any variations on a similar theme such as ‘I am always enough’, ‘I am more than enough’, ‘I have enough’ and ‘I have had enough’ have really helped her curtail unnecessary eating.

I know, I know, it sounds a bit new age, but it really works for me, and for that I am grateful.  If you can get Marisa’s book out of the library and see if it works well to change your mind, I would recommend it.  There is a cd in the back of the book too which is a hypnotherapy session on being slim.  I’ve been listening to it every day and love the messages she puts across.

Are you a snacker?  Find it hard to stick to three meals a day?  I am quite envious of those who don’t eat between meals, it’s always been a struggle for me.

Let’s say it all together now – I am enough!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My normal and imperfect ‘chic’ life

 ‘Perfection is not the goal’
Denise Duffield-Thomas

I’ve often wanted to write a post about my whole life, not just the chic part.  I’ve never felt brave enough to share though, because I thought it might break your spell of me (haha). 

But the favourite posts I’ve read of other bloggers is when they show me ‘behind the scenes’ and I can see that we are all the same underneath.  I thought that you might not think I was chic if you saw some of the things I’m writing about today.  But I want you to know, you can be exactly as you are and a chic person if you want to be.

Saying you can never do ‘whatever’ to be chic means there is that insidious goal of perfection hanging over you.  And that’s what we rebel against in my opinion.  So I want to show you that I am imperfect and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Even though I write about and adore all things chic, I am not chic 100% of the time.  And nor do I want to be.  I believe we can embrace all facets of our beautiful selves without trying to fit into a labelled box.

Many a time I might be doing/saying/eating something and my husband laughs ‘if only your readers could see you now’ or ‘put that on your chic blog’.  Him saying that doesn’t bother me at all because I know he is a person who only wants the best for me and I like that we can josh each other without either of us being overly sensitive.

I also like that I am not a one-dimensional chic doll who has one facial expression and one set of French-style clothes to wear.  Even though I am ‘mostly’ Francais and chic, there are other parts of me too…

I am secretly a cowgirl who enjoys country music and would happily live in a tiny country town where the entertainment was playing pool in a bar on a Saturday night.

Laughing is one of life’s great joys and I love toilet humour and terrible television shows like Benidorm.  I also adore Californication and more recently Ray Donovan.  I have many Kardashian series on dvd (the earlier ones are more fun).  I also have Newlyweds:  Nick and Jessica among my bad taste dvd collection.

I love to feel comforted by old television programmes so you will find box sets of Cheers, The Love Boat, Kate and Allie, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place at our place.

None of these things you will find in a how to be chic manual and I wouldn’t expect them to be.  But neither do I believe you should give up your quirks and guilty pleasures (and why should they be called guilty anyway?) to fit an ideal.

I want us to have permission to love what we love and be happy with that.  No, I might not shout it from the rooftops but I’m not ashamed either.  We all have our own unique view on the world and I think that’s a good thing.  All my so-called guilty pleasures are what shape me, along with the circumstances in my life and my thoughts on those circumstances.

So, now I’ve shown you my cards, won’t you share with me your craziest ‘nuance’?   I dare you, and please don’t leave me sitting out on this branch alone!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Chanel Life

Every time I wear one of my Chanel perfumes or visit the Chanel website or read someone's blog post on Chanel, I feel so stylish and chic and inspired.  I then vow to myself that I am going to get rid of any non-Chanel perfumes and wear only the three Chanel ones I have, dress in black, cream and white (and navy and white stripes for casual) and have a home decorated in black, cream and burnt ochre with gold touches.

Yes, I am prone to thoughts of extreme actions.

I won’t be doing any of that though, because I enjoy variety too much, but Ms Chanel does inspire me enough to make a list of my Dream Chanel Life which will help me not get sucked into the trashy side of things (such as reality television, low-quality foods and gossipy websites etc).

She is also an inspiration to stop looking around at what others are doing and do it for myself.  I highly doubt, if the Daily Mail website had been around when Coco was alive, that she would have read it each morning with her café crème.  Non, Coco would have been starting her day, deciding if she was going to go horse riding, meet a friend in a café or head straight to her atelier to start another design.

Rather than read about someone else who has started a successful business, she would go out and start her own successful business, such as her first boutique in Deauville.  She was a person who made things happen.   

So in honour of Mademoiselle Chanel, here is my Chanel life dream list:

My Chanel Life

I am full of confidence for my own creativity.
I know that I can create a good living for myself with my creativity if only I would believe in myself and stay the course.
I am not swayed by others opinions of what I can or cannot do.
I remain focused on the kind of lifestyle I can create for myself.
I dare to dream, and dream about big ideas.
I do not waste time on unimportant things that do not need my attention.
I do necessary jobs that don’t thrill me in the quickest possible time, and I do them well.
I remain positive about what I am adding to the world.
Food is delicious and nourishing, and mealtimes are social, but food is far down the importance scale for me.  I eat well, then I forget about food until the next meal.
I focus on one thing at a time, I do not multi-task.
I work at something until I have finished it.  I do not let my mind wander if a part becomes difficult.  I persevere until it is done.
Quality comes above all.  If something is worth me doing it, it is worth me making a good job of it without being a procrastinating perfectionist.  If it’s not worth quality work, then, well, why am I doing it?
I am never afraid to put my work out there, take courage and show it to the world.


Phew, now I DO feel ready to take on the world!  Merci Mademoiselle!

It seems to be a cliché to write a Chanel post because there are so many, but she was a truly visionary lady who has impacted fashion and even the way we live, all these years later.  To be as gutsy as she was now would be something, but back then?  Outstanding.

Before I go, one of my favourite Chanel books is ‘The Gospel According to Coco Chanel’ by Karen Karbo.  I’ve read both the paper copy and also have it on audiobook which I love to listen to.  The author is so dry and funny and it’s much more interesting than some of the many straight historical books on Chanel.  Do you have a favourite Chanel book?

The photo above came from the divine ‘Coco Chanel: Three Weeks/1962’ by Douglas Kirkland, such a beautiful and elegant book.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Live an Expensive Life

 There’s a lottery here in New Zealand that promises that if you win, you can live the life of a rich person.  You will win a house, a European car and a boat, and many other things.  Even though I am happy with the house and car I have, and don’t have any interest in owning a boat, it still appeals more than winning ‘just’ a big money prize.  I don’t know why this is, but it just does!

A L’Oréal competition I entered a few years ago had a roll-call of different prizes for the lucky winner that included:

Fresh flowers delivered every week
A cleaner
A fancy car lease
Regular facials and massage
Along with quite a few other services that you could have for the year.

I think it was the total package that appealed.  I could just step into a lifestyle of ease and beauty.  The visuals they chose were attractive too – a beautiful home and well-tended garden, a serene lady in the photos.

Even when I didn’t win, I kept the entry form just to drink in that feeling.  It’s silly I know, but I still enjoyed the dream.

So since I didn’t win (dangit), I thought I’d list down ways in which I can feel like I am living a wealthy life, on our moderate household income, in the medium-sized normal house that we live in, in the middle of suburbia.

Visit art galleries for an exhibition.  Even though I am a total philistine when it comes to culture (there are many other things I would choose to do instead), whenever I visit an art exhibition I come away feeling so uplifted and remember why it is that art is so important to us and has been for thousands of years.

Stay the night at a fancy hotel in your own town.  My husband and I do this once or twice a year.  We go for quality over quantity.  Our favourite five-star hotel is such a pleasure to stay at.  We take our nicest clothing and best fragrance and dress up for drinks.  We definitely get good value for money because apart from the experience of spending twenty-four hours there, I return home refreshed and re-inspired to live a beautiful life.

Remember chic mentors and think how would they act in certain situations.  This helps me out when deciding what to have for lunch or avoiding junky snacks at the supermarket.  It helps me drink plenty of water during the day and also to keep my speaking voice soft.  Remembering my chic mentors helps me take the non-lazy path when I am tempted to be a slob.  They help me sit up straight too.

Eat fruits, salads, and protein, drink unsweetened herbal tea or mineral water – rich ladies are often slim and this is what I imagine they would eat.  I read in a couple of different interviews with Joan Collins that she eats a whole avocado with her lunchtime salad every day.  Ms Collins is 82 now and looks pretty good, so I have started eating more avocado too. 

One of my loveliest and most elegant friends is of a certain age, very wealthy and very slim.  I have noted she eats small portions of food when we are out for lunch and drinks tea but never coffee, and never eats sweet things.  She told me if she cooks dinner for one when her husband is out she has a small piece of salmon and some steamed vegetables or a salad.  I have started doing this too.  It is much more chic and you feel a lot better than taking that same night at home by yourself to pig out on your ‘favourite’ junk foods.

Visit wealthy areas to window shop and absorb the atmosphere.  Take note of what others are wearing and how they hold themselves.  I often observe that they are quietly confident in doing their own thing and not looking around wondering if others are watching them or feeling self-conscious.

Declutter so that you only have your favourite and very best, be it crockery, blouses or craft supplies.  Donate the rest to charity.  I promise you will feel wealthier when you next open your wardrobe door, pantry or craft cupboard.

I did this with my knitting yarns a while back.  I have a small stash of wool, and then I was given my grandmother-in-law’s giant amount when she moved into a rest home.  I was the only knitter in the family so I got it all!  I donated all the colours I did not like to two different animal shelters to make toys to sell, plus to make blankets for the cat cages and jerseys for the small dogs. 

I did a few sifts and I suppose I must have done a big one and forgotten about it, because when I went looking for some yarn to knit a toy mouse recently (as you do), I had hardly anything left!  Just one small sized storage bin with all the nicest and best balls of wool yarn.

I was a bit shocked at first but then I realised I would have to make a toy mouse from something nice, not the unattractive colours and acrylic yarn.  I’d forced myself to take my own advice.  I sometimes think I declutter in my sleep.  I might think to myself ‘I’ll donate that item, I haven’t used it in ages’.  When I go to look for it I realise I’ve already donated it…

I’d love to know, what does your expensive life contain?