Sunday, March 18, 2018

Authentically You...Role Models...Nigella Lawson...

We've been discussing Role Models this year.
My personal role model is Dita Von Teese, not for her Burlesque talents, but for her inimitable style.
We've also discussed Babe Paley and Adele.
Last week, my friend Suzannah, asked me if I could do a post on Nigella Lawson. She feels that her body type most resembles Nigella's, and wanted some tips on being Nigella-ish.
I was excited to hear this as Nigella is a well known Apple shaped celebrity, so she's a wonderful role model for we Apple shaped ladies. 
As we did with Adele, note at the top of my post, and here below, the transformation that Nigella has gone through since she achieved celebrity status.
She's always been a very attractive woman, but as is the case for us all, she didn't really hit her stride until she had some professional guidance.
I keep saying that the first step in looking your best is to know your body shape.
Above, you can see that earlier in her life, Nigella was focused on being 'fashionable' rather than 'stylishly dressed for body shape'. The pink ensemble in the first picture, although pretty, wasn't really doing that much for her in terms of flattering her shape, and her hair was sort of long and nondescript. A youthful look and pretty at the time, for sure.
In the second pic, she's starting to find her inner glamour puss, and steps out a year or two later in some slenderising black with interesting neck detail. Nice.
Then we see her in this fabulous red wiggle dress. Hair tumbling around her face in a profusion of soft curls, the sweetheart neckline drawing attention to her beautiful complexion and pretty features.
Then back to basic black but with an eye to achieving a figure flattering look for a cold day.

 You see, looking great for your shape, isn't just about wearing figure flattering clothes.
It's about being aware of how a simple hairstyle and touch of makeup draws attention to the features we want to accentuate, whilst playing down the ones we'd prefer ignored.
Above, we see Nigella at her first book signing, looking au naturel and very pretty for it.
But here below, with a whisper of makeup, sparkly earrings, a more open neckline, and a flirtation with hot rollers on her locks, she's an absolute stunner.
Honestly, any of us can do this.

So now Nigellas discovered hot rollers and a neckline that draws attention to her lovely face and hair (and other assets!), and she sets about using that knowledge to her advantage as often as possible.
Here she is on the cover of one of her books.
Open neckline which draws the eye to her face.
Cardigan in a flattering colour creates a slenderising column centre front and covers wobbly upper arms.
Tumbling locks, and a touch of feature enhancing makeup and she's the Nigella we all know and love.

Again, below, the open neckline, a cute cropped cardi to create that all important slimming column-of-colour centre front, and soft curls.
Now just to show how it can all still go dreadfully wrong, see here below, where Nigella has chosen a dress, that according to all the experts, should be an absolute winner for the Apple shaped woman.
But this is a great example of how simple details make a difference.
Nigella looks lovely here, BUT, the shiny fabric, and awkward cut on the neckline, do not do her justice. The shiny satin draws attention to her bustline and not much else. And not in a good way. In fact the dress looks so snug across the bust that it looks like it's the wrong size for her. And the black, just drains her in this dress.
Imagine for a moment, that the neckline on this satin wrap dress was slightly more open, and that the fabric is velvet, not satin, navy blue not black. The effect would be entirely different and far lovelier, yes?
But when Nigella gets it right, she's a star.
I love her in this pretty retro styled dress, with tiny belt...

...continuing that theme with another retro inspired fit and flare style....

....and then returning to the Wiggle dress, which I think is a win for her no matter what the colour...
...basic black.. snorting red...
...or magical shape changing midnight blue...
...they're all stunning.
Two short years ago, I did not dream I could style a wiggle dress to suit me, but here I am now...
I'm no Nigella, but I'm trying folks.
Here are some tips to be more Nigella-ish...
1. Use the magic figure enhancement of shapewear. That stuff has come a long way, and a well fitted (strapless if necessary) bra, and hip and tummy huggers, will give you a more sculpted silhouette.
2. Keep your fit and flare and wiggle dresses just above or just below the knee, especially for we ladies under 165cm (5'3"). You need to show the bottom of your legs to add the illusion of height to your frame.
3. Use open necklines to draw the eye upwards to your lovely face and hair. Sweetheart, open V, square, boat, scooped...they're all great and make the most of your other 'assets'.
4. Use the illusion of sparkle or pearl earrings to keep the attention around your facial features.
5. Use the faithful cardigan or little fitted jackets to create a centre column-of-colour to trick the eye into 'seeing you slim'.
6. Likewise a slightly longer hairstyle, softened with tumbling curls, can be flattering if you can manage and maintain it. Otherwise, use long dangling earrings to slim and frame your face. Having longer hair also gives you the versatility to scoop that hair up and away and enhance your lovely neck and shoulders.
7. Nude shoes with a heel, or nude wedges are your best friend. They add height and give you a long and lean look.
8. If your upper arms, like mine, are no longer sleek and toned, then cardigans, bolero jackets, wisps of chiffon as wraps or features on an evening gown like the gorgeous blue one seen above on Nigella, can all disguise this fault. Wearing chain type bracelets can also draw attention to your dainty wrists and away from upper arms.
9. Be aware that simply changing a neckline, or the length of a chain store dress, can take it from meh to WOW! If you're not much of a seamstress, then a good dressmaker can help.
10. Note also that fabric choice can make or break a look. Satins are not necessarily friendly to Apple shapes. Velvets, crepe, cottons, linen, and especially more structured fabrics like satin brocades can be wonderfully flattering, skimming our curves and maintaining the shape of an outfit. I tell you this from experience!
Here's a satin brocade dress I purchased recently...
... I am the same weight I was a year ago, but when I wear this dress, everyone thinks I've lost ten kilos (22lbs)!
You see the structure of the's very stiffness... helps the dress hold it's shape, rather than moulding to my lumps and bumps. And unlike plain shiny satin, the embroidery on the brocade, disguises a multitude of figure faults. It's brilliant I tell you.
I'm short at 163cms (5'3").
I weigh 84kgs (185lbs).
I am an Australian size 16-18.
I'm wearing wiggle dresses and fit and flare dresses like there's no tomorrow.
You can too.
Do it. Life is short.

A New You....Dressing the Petite Plus Sized Apple Shape #2...the Shoe...

Can I tell you why this could be the shoe that I've been searching for my whole life?
I love a gorgeous shoe. Nay, I have a passion for gorgeous shoes.
Way back when I was a fab young thing, I'd spend a disproportionate  amount of my earnings, on shoes.
To this day, when dressing each morning, I spend more deciding which shoes to wear, than anything else.
An increasing waistline, and a number on the scales that still surprises me (and not in a good way!), means that for the most part, I had abandoned my shoe fetish, and resorted to 'anything that doesn't cripple me'.
But a recent revelation from some more savvy fashion folk than I, made me zoom in on my keyboard, searching 'Medium Heel Peeptoe Shoe', like there was no tomorrow.

See, first up, we curvy girls of the 'under 5'5" range, need a bit of height to lend a slender illusion to our frame. But frequently, that means tottering around in heels that see us looking more like an oversized body on a pair of pins, than we would prefer. A gentler look, and one that sees us walking more elegantly, is a wedge heel, or a conical or block heel. We still gain height (AKA long and lean), but we walk more gracefully, and do not look like we're walking on chopsticks in the process.
Additionally, we seek an open look shoe, without straps, ankle straps or T-bars, that would shorten the look of our feet, to add that much needed loooooong look to our feet and legs. But plain old court shoes (pumps) can be a little granny-ish in a lower heel, yes?
A cute peeptoe cutout is one answer I've found. Keep the peeptoe cutout small, to give your feet a dainty look, and aim for some 'toe cleavage', where the joins between your toes, show in the open part of the shoe from top view. This gives that lovely loooooong look that we petite curvy girls need.
A slingback as opposed to a closed in heel, is a nice youthful look that will take you anywhere.
This style of shoe, will allow me to wear skirts and dresses with confidence (so long as they are knee length, or just below and no longer), knowing that I have my bit of height, and a long and lean look to carry it off.
I found my dream shoe online eventually, staying focused, checking heel heights, and looking for just that perfect combination of toe cleavage and peeptoe. I was finally rewarded as you see by the pictures here. This style is by Gino Ventori and it's called Foxy Black. I bought mine from Style Tread here in Australia, and they were $169.95. I call that a bargain for the number of times I plan to wear these little pretties!

What's your perfect shoe?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Motherly Advice....Streamline your space...Calm your mind...

I avoid decluttering for the sake of it.
Now and again, one or the other of my favourite bloggers will have a Decluttering Challenge. I avoid them like the plague. I am the sort of person who becomes attached to my 'stuff', and every time I get enthused about tossing a few things, I suffer terrible grief and remorse afterwards. I still almost cry when I think of the time I threw out my Nannas button tin. Sob...

So this leads to lots of stuff, and I just have to be in the mood for a cleanout to do something about it.

I usually try to motivate myself by buying a treat, and then sternly telling myself I cannot have it or use it, until I've done my declutter.

This week, I had a couple of treats in store for myself.

First of all, a new gold and white keyboard, mouse and mouse mat for my computer desk. Look here they are....

Both are available at here.

I would have also liked a white monitor, but that will have to wait for now.

Meanwhile, that was the kick I needed to clean up my desk, which up to this point was groaning under a mountain of un-filed paperwork, pens and pencils and various other bits and bobs that just never found their way to their real home.

Now I always believe the Universe provides, and I'd been wanting a Ghost chair like this...

...since forever. I have a glass computer desk and I just knew this was the right chair for me. Well lo and behold, as soon as I'd tidied my desk area, one turned up at a local thrift store for $20. Thankyou Universe.

Now these are usually styled with a white faux fur throw rug over them. This is because the acrylic isn't the most comfortable thing to sit upon for long periods. The throw feels very luxurious by comparison.

But being that I don't go around making my own life difficult, as I've mentioned here and here, I chose instead to have a soft cocoa coloured throw, sourced at IKEA in the clearance section for $45 some months ago. It's been on my daughters bed, but sorry kiddo, it's mine now!


Now the funny thing about a good tidy and toss, is that suddenly things you don't normally notice are cast into high relief. See above that dreadful tangle of cables and cords. it was annoying me.'s a curse, I tell you.
None of the recommended solutions for cable tidying were relevant here as they all involved hiding a wire basket or channel of some sort under the surface of the (timber usually) desk, and my desk is glass. So then I decided to just put a screen in front of the cable and cord mess to hide it. A fire screen sprung to mind but upon searching, I realised that they're just a framed picture on feet. I had a framed feet...but it fitted nicely under my desk, effectively hiding the cords. Not a Man solution, but a good Woman type one!
As time goes on, I know the Universe will provide me with a more suitable screen...perhaps something also white, that would be nice. I'm patient.

Meanwhile we're looking better than we were. I have my DIY Chanel art on the wall, an Eiffel Tower poster purchased in Paris in 2008 in front of me, another Eiffel Tower print at my feet to hide cord clutter, a Ghost Chair with lambswool  throw, and gold and white paraphernalia on the way.
Total cost? About $40. And much peace of mind achieved.
 While I was at it, I also tidied our bookcase. It's now a haven of tidily organised fiction reads, sandwiched between two ends of cookbooks, anthologies, and Aromatherapy tomes.

Serenity Reigns.
I find that when I do a decent which I mean tidying and tossing that which is no longer useful NOT discarding family heirlooms...I feel lighter somehow. 
I also feel more motivated to tackle other tasks, as if my brain has had a Spring clean.
What about you?
I can't wait for my new keyboard, mouse and mouse pad to arrive now. I've earned it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Motherly Advice...Don't make your own life difficult...Part 2...

For years, I'd heard that you didn't need many clothes. Just a few basics and some clever accessories. Have you heard that too? Invest in accessories, go for quality basics...blah-blah-blah.
I could never quite bring myself to do it. I've lived on a strict budget for most of my life, and the thought of spending the equivalent of a weeks wages on a single dress when I could have ten for that price, just didn't factor in to my thought processes.
Well perhaps it's a stage of life, thing, and you know I mention that often, but suddenly I get it.
We buy, buy, buy...and lets face it, even at thrift store prices, we're still buying and consuming, aren't we...and we still have 'nothing to wear', or 'nothing to eat'. What the hey??
I've been making my life difficult, haven't I...
A revelation
I have to credit a lady named Marie-Anne Lecoeur with changing my thinking in many respects. She has a website called The French Chic Academy, and in 2016, I signed up for her online course in styling the French Way.

Well. I used to think, and indeed was encouraged to believe by magazine articles and other bloggers, that living the French Life, meant wearing lots of black, eating Brie, having flowers in the house, and owning a list of 10 Must Have Items of Clothing...including things I'd never wear in a pink fit.
Marie-Anne taught me otherwise. Living a French Life means dressing for your body shape, not wearing a list of ten capsule wardrobe items.
Living a French Life means appreciating the good things in life, but not to excess.
It means valuing hearth and home and preserving the skills of our goodness the French are good at that!
Living French means aiming for quality over quantity. And it means being true to self, not following fashions or trends. Being 'stylish' in clothing, manner, how you stock your kitchen and what you feed your family, what you gift and how it's presented. It's a mindset, not a list of must-have wardrobe items.
It's aiming for Baroque pearls, not a drawer filled with $2 costume jewellery like I used to have.
Now a lot of that wasn't a huge leap for me. I had European grandparents, and I learned a lot of that stuff at a tender age. I just had to get back to basics and be who I am deep down, and not be influenced by what everyone else thinks.
Have you done this? Have you looked around your home, or in your wardrobe or pantry, and realised that social media and consumerism, has turned you into someone you're not? It happens to the best of us, believe me.
Move forward
So having savagely culled my wardrobe AND my accessories, I moved to other areas of the house.
You see, in being the Earth Mother and Keeper of the Hearth, I'd amassed a house full of stuff that was actually making my life more difficult. I had ingredients that I'd used once to try a new recipe. I had half empty containers of this and that everywhere. I had a disorganised pantry full of pretty vintage canisters with a system of filling them that nobody but me understood. Things like "the small set of rainbow canisters that doesn't have a red one, has all the teas in it, and the shiny set has all the sugars". If someone else had to cook in my kitchen, it was a nightmare. Not because it was untidy, but because I'd set it up to make life difficult. Even multiple 'teas', and 'sugars' is a silly state of affairs. There are whole shops devoted to tea and sugar now. Don't buy into it.
Lesson's the new pantry. Some vintage canisters preserved, but what's on the canister label, is exactly what's in the canister.
Accept the conditions of your location in life...geographical and chronological

Years were spent here, trying to grow roses without much success. Not in my garden. Not in my climate. Not at my stage of life. I was so busy trying to make the roses work, that I ignored my other favourite, French Lavender. Once I knew I could grow that, I was off and running! Success feels good.
Accept your stage of life. I mention this often.
Don't take on a lifestyle that's not compatible with your family and it's needs.
Don't fill your home with the accoutrements of a skill that will mean stress and space issues. Don't, as some people I know have, buy a new home to house your hobbies.
Be realistic. Find your own success.
Stick with what works for you
Trying out new recipes? Well, I don't so much any more.
Once upon a time, I got paid to try out new recipes and frankly, it wore me out. Master a few good basics. A lasagne, crepes, a pie, your own special muffin blend, or something else that is authentically you. Perfect it. Serve it often. Have people talk about your Fish Mornay, or Berry Pie in awed tones. Don't make life difficult.
Learning new skills? Well I've done my learning. Now I'm into perfecting. And when I say 'perfecting', I mean expanding upon them. NOT aiming for a false perfection.
I bet you have some great skills too. Can you expand upon them, improve them, make them desirable to others?
This might mean you have to....
Know yourself
I'm a who loves all things French. I was a Francophile before it was trendy. My home is not, however, filled with Eiffel Towers and faux French furnishings. I have a little tribute here and there...
...but I live my life French in other ways.
Abundance in my garden and kitchen makes me happy, and is quintessentially European, and French to me. Everyone I know is aware of this.
What do people say about you? What do you say about you? How would you describe your best self?
Work towards making your inner self, compatible with your outer self. Simplify. Be true to you. Don't fall prey to what other people say you should be.
Me? I bake cakes. I gift them. I conjure up fancy ones for my grandchildren and my family at large. What is your special skill? What is the thing that you do well, that has others come to you needing that skill? As much as I urge you often to 'learn something new', that can mean, as I've mentioned above, expanding upon an existing skill, enhancing a skill.

I also sew things, and I have a stab at occasional crochet and embroidery too. This magics up gifts for my stash out of virtually nothing and saves lots of money. I check out expensive homewares stores and boutique gift shops for inspiration. Many of the gifts I generate, would be worth hundreds in a retail store. I don't make life difficult by overspending to impress anyone. I teach myself how to replicate simple things, and package them well.
Parisian themed teatowels... lingerie embellished with embroidery...

...and hand tinted muslin facecloths, edged with lacy crochet...
...which start off as seen above, and finish up looking like this below...
...none of it hard. I don't do 'hard'. I just don't. I don't make life difficult.
Other things I don't do, include making a lot of clothing because that does mean being a perfectionist and I'm not good at that. I can manage costumes, nightgowns, small projects.
But for now, accepting the conditions of my location in life, that's it.
I don't make pastry...I'm not good at it. Making pastry would make my life difficult, when I can just go buy some.
I don't start large projects, because I have a short attention span. I stick to small things with close to immediate gratification.
I stick what works for me. I'm true to myself.
Be honest with your own capabilities. Look for small successes. Build your confidence with those.
To summarise:
Find your own revelation...your a-ha moment, your mentor.
Move forward.
Accept the conditions of your location...physical, social, geographical, chronological.
Don't try new things just for the sake of it...stick with what works for you.
Look for small successes and confidence building projects.
Be true to self.
Don't be a follower. Follow your own path instead. It's a lot more fun. It makes life easy.
Don't make your own life difficult.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Motherly Advice...Don't make your own life difficult...Part 1...

Stop making your own life difficult. Honestly.
Don't plant rosebushes, when you can plant oleander.
Don't plant things you don't eat, grow things you do.
Those are two things I've learned the hard way.
Do you too, find yourself dreading the washing, the baking, the ironing, the gardening, the cleaning, the tidying sometimes?
Maybe you feel weighed down by all you have to do in a day. Maybe you work full time and spend the entire weekend preparing for the week ahead, and then wonder where your weekend went.
We've all done it.
Here's a lesson I learned first from my Mum, then from my clever Husband.
Don't make your own life difficult.
Sounds obvious doesn't it?
We all imagine that home as an extension of self, needs to be full to the brim of supposedly 'unique' items and routines that define us. But not only do these things define us, we sometimes find ourselves a slave to them.
Here are some ways we do this:
  Make life difficult by: Furnishing the home with high maintenance furnishings...things like white carpets or tiles, plush pile rugs, hard to clean lounges and chairs, multiple cushions and soft furnishings.
Do this instead: Accept your stage of life.
This means, that no matter how fashionable it may be, you don't install white or pale neutral floor coverings if you have dogs and children. You don't pave your outdoor area with white tiles if you live underneath trees that drop debris, you pave with natural stone instead. It's liberating to get rid of plush pile rugs and invest in colourful low pile Turkish or Federation style ones, or to have none at all. Consider saving for quality leather couches...these actually improve with wear...or make sure your soft furnishings can be easily cleaned. Go easy on the cushions, curtains and throws. These all need washing and replacing regularly to not be a haven for dusts mites and allergens. Remember you don't want to be a slave to your 'stuff'. Look at where you are, and plan and furnish accordingly.
Make life difficult by: Displaying multiple knick-knacks that are your 'thing', but that require ongoing dusting or cleaning.
Do this instead: Search for singular statement pieces that say something about you. A piece of artwork, a sculpture, a fabulous clump of orchids in a Chinoiserie bowl, a lamp, a unique table, an ever changing vase of garden cuttings be they flowers or greenery. Something that when people see it, they say 'oh that's so YOU', instead of something the chain stores convinced us all was a necessity, so they keep churning them out for under $10. If you have a collection, be it pink porcelain piglets, or custom made cow cushions, assemble them altogether in one spot and make a feature of them. There's no need to spread them from one end of the house to the other. I'm afraid that Pinterest has a lot to answer for in the realm of us seeing things that we never knew we wanted!
Make life difficult by: Buying and wearing high maintenance clothing.
Do this instead: Wash your clothing on the Gentle cycle and a low spin, then hang directly on to hangers and in the sun or under cover to dry. I haven't ironed in years using this strategy. Not even a school uniform. You can smooth more crinkled items with your hands, and here's another secret...if you have a clothes dryer, a tumble in the dryer with a dampened cloth will 'iron' most things bar the most delicate. Just a few minutes, then whip it out while it's still warm and give it a shake and you're done. It works, I promise! If you simply MUST iron, at least this strategy does a lot of the hard work for you too.
Make life difficult by: Having a labour intensive routine in the home.
Do this instead: If you work full time, or have young children, save up for a robo vac, a steamer instead of an iron, a slow cooker, a sandwich press. Things that make life easier. Don't go splurging on a Mixmaster or a Kitchenmaid or a Thermomix if having those appliances is going to make you feel like you have to use them, when you wouldn't normally. There's a season in life for being the Earth Mother, and for some, that season never arrives. Save it for when you can accommodate that in your day to day routine. If on the other hand, acquiring those appliances actually makes your life easier, then go for it. I couldn't live without my Mixmaster, my clothes dryer, my oven and cooktop, my cookie press. I use those things weekly and sometimes more often. Others could never own those items and never miss them. Assess what appliances or routines will HELP you, not hinder you, or make you feel guilty through lack of use.

Make life difficult by: Preparing elaborate meals.  Oh my goodness. Don't get me started. Grrrrrr to TV chefs and competitive cooking shows. They've convinced us all that we have to serve meals worthy of a five star restaurant every night. Why, why, why?

Do this instead: Have a simple ongoing menu plan. One that allows for family preferences, family routines, your budget, and the climate. Why folks insist on even turning the oven on for a roast dinner in the 38C heat is beyond me. Those are the days when a simple platter will do. In fact, during Summer here, that does on most days. Here we have our top 12 favourite meals, and those are what we eat. If I happen to see something that is a bargain to sock away for either a special occasion or that is an ingredient for one of those 12 meals, then I snaffle it up. Otherwise, no. Don't go buying up big on something that's a bargain, that you won't use.

Make life difficult by: Investing in somewhat capricious claims such as 'treating yourself to flowers will make your day/make you more French/dust you with some indefinable style'. What rubbish.
Do this instead: Having said we have a thriving garden, Husband is still a romantic at heart, and often arrives home with flowers for me. I can hardly complain. But it needs to be said that arranging flowers to get longevity from them, and maintaining them in vases, is still a task, and in the context of this discussion, it is making life more difficult. I've trained him to think 'quality' not 'quantity', and to choose things that are clean and easy to arrange. Chrysanthemum are a nightmare although long lasting, so maybe not. Roses...easy but short lived, so only in cooler weather. Lilies...shed their pollen and give us hayfever, as much as I love them. Carnations are great, as is Gypsophila (Babies Breath), so they're my favourites.
If you must have flowers, then one bunch of roses can be arranged all over the house if you're clever. And in singles in separate vases, they last longer. Win.

For value and longevity, when you can get carnations in every colour of the rainbow, including this deep scarlet...well, why wouldn't you buy them?
Alternatively, grow something. Agapanthus are deemed a pest in some areas, but not here. I adore them. That colour. And even when the petals drop and you're left with a stalky head, they still look fabulous amassed in tall vases.

Failing all else, especially in the Tropics, even a couple of humble Ixora tucked between some green apples can look very pretty. You don't need to go overboard.
French Lavender, my favourite, will grow just about anywhere, and one plant alone, can yield dozens of little propagated Lavenders.
Have flowers. Don't make them a chore any more than you would anything else.
Are you getting the hang of it?
There's more. I'll update further on Wednesday. But meanwhile, can you identify some areas of your own life where you might unintentionally be making things more difficult than they need to be? I'd be interested to hear what they are, and your potential solutions.