Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Update...Neff Australias 50 Best Home Cooks Results!

A couple of weeks ago, I asked friends, family and the blogging community to vote for my Celebration Salad, in the Neff Australias 50 Best Home Cooks competition.
Well, many of you did so, and I am now here to thankyou from the bottom of my heart.
I have been awarded Third prize, which is kitchen appliances of my choice to the value of $5,999, a $100 Mount Zero Olives voucher, and my recipe and photograph will also be featured in an upcoming Neff Appliances recipe book.
I am beyond thrilled!
It's funny. Not so long ago, I was seriously reconsidering continuing with my blog. Life changes, and I sometimes feel that I've said all I needed to say, although my husband might disagree! I don't feel I am ever going to be one of the BIG bloggers. You know. The ones who give up their day jobs and hire a staff of half a dozen to research posts, recruit sponsors, style photographs. And it doesn't earn me more than mere cents in terms of income. It's something I do for the love of it, not for the money!
Then something like this happens. The blogging community and the many, many lovely friends I have made through blogging, rally around, and help me make a wish come true.
I am so very grateful, and so fortunate to have people I have never met, want to support my dreams.
My kitchen renovation is well under way, mostly DIY, so this prize couldn't have come at a better time. You can be sure that my new gas cooktop, oven, and range hood, will be well loved and well used for many long years to come.
Stay tuned for updates and photographs as my Dream Kitchen, comes to life.
Again, my heartfelt thanks to all who voted, or tried to! I know that some of my overseas friends tried to, but found that they were unable due to the restrictions imposed.
Thankyou anyway.
Much love....Mimi xxx

Friday, May 5, 2017

A New You...Reinvent yourself.....

Do you ever consider totally reinventing yourself? I'm trying to reinvent myself this year, as my Motherhood intensive years draw to their natural conclusion with my daughter heading towards the end of her school life and her 18th birthday.
Hollywood folk do it all the time. Of course they have endless money and stylists at their beck and call, but we mere mortals can manage on lesser fodder.
Let's take Robin Wright. She of The Princess Bride in decades past, and House of Cards more recently. She is one of my favourite actors, and a wonderful example of someone who has played a wide range of characters, demonstrating exactly the difference a hair colour, a change of hairstyle, and a bit of wardrobe help can make in the process....even if manufactured by Hollywood.
I could not at first believe that the woman I was watching in House of Cards (above), was the fresh faced beauty I knew and loved in The Princess Bride (below). It was hard to believe. She looks so very different.
There alone, is the proof that a few kilos off and a haircut can turn you into a whole new person!

But even more interesting is this little collection found on Pinterest, of Robin Wright in some of her other film roles. As someone who recently re-watched the film The Pledge, where she co-starred alongside Jack Nicholson, I can vouch for the fact that I did not pick that character as the same woman either.
In addition to her consummate acting skills, Robin Wright seems happy to be magically transformed into many different personas, with or without bad hair days, and dental issues.
She is not beautiful (or so my husband tells me....I think she is) in that typical Hollywood style, but she is arresting, no matter the character she is portraying.
But I digress.
The middle image, showing her in her role in The Pledge, could be me on a (very) bad day. I do not have a chipped front tooth, but I have certainly dyed my hair a similar colour, and been guilty in my more awful moments, of dressing down, if only to avoid attention. It hasn't happened often, but we are all only human. Relationship breakups, grief and financial worries have all seen the best of us having more than just a bad hair day.
But look at the other photographs by comparison. This is the same woman remember. And no matter how she wears her hair, or what she is wearing in other roles, she shines, because she (or her character) looks like she cares. Yes, yes, I know it's a role she is playing, and there are stylists involved. I get that. But the point I am trying to make is one that Helena Rubenstein, makeup entrepreneur herself made, many long years ago.
And I would add exhausted women, stressed women, financially bereft women, women who put everyone else before themselves because they believe that makes them a better person, women who would go without food never mind a haircut if it meant their children could eat.
But those are extremes. And I'm just talking the day to day grind.
We all get lazy sometimes. I do too. The heat, the cold, a few sleepless nights for whatever reason, busy family times, and the aforementioned grief, and worries, take their toll on all of us.
But overall, those very few times notwithstanding, I have found that in my own life, how I look, was the one thing I could control, even when other things were spiralling manically. When my son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, when my Mum was terminally ill, when I had more debts than money to pay them, yes I had the odd 'off' day. But MOSTLY, I got up, decided that if nothing else, I could look nice, and made the effort. Believe it or not, it helped. It still does.
Look in the mirror. Really look. Yes it's hard to do that sometimes, isn't it. Mostly we give our reflection a cursory glance to check that tags on shirts are in, and hems aren't falling down. We do not often really evaluate ourselves. I asked you to do this at the start of the year, and I know that many of you found it a confronting task. Can I suggest that it is only confronting because you feel you will not like what you see? Let's try to remedy that.
How is your skin? We all have imperfections, so don't focus on that. Just how is it overall? Smooth? A few lines? A few little broken capillaries? Eyebrows, do they need tidying? Or dyeing for emphasis? Neckline and d├ęcolletage...would a lush moisturiser give those areas a healthy glow? Hands and arms...could they do with a bit of an exfoliating treatment and some Body Butter? The cheapest exfoliating treatment is to dry off with a rough towel. I have a towel that I deliberately spin on a lower speed in my washing machine. I then lay it out in the sun to dry, and it dries a bit crisp. I then use this to dry off. It's invigorating and gets rid of scaly dry skin on legs and feet too.
Back to looking at your reflection. Is your hairstyle and colour flattering? Is your hair well conditioned and soft? Just having beautifully conditioned, shiny, healthy hair can make a huge difference. Make sure you're getting your Omega 3 oils, found in salmon, avocado, and walnuts to name a few. It's as much about what goes into your body as what you put on your skin and hair, that truly makes a difference. Are you still wearing the same hairstyle you wore 30 years ago? Could a visit to a hairdresser see you losing years in the snip of a scissor and the goodness of a moisturising masque? Could a half hour spent browsing hairstyles on Pinterest see you with a new and youthful hairstyle, knocking 5 years off your true age? Maybe just experimenting with a new up-do would lift your spirits too. Try sleeping on a silk pillowcase to avoid bed hair. Curly hair is terrible for bed hair. I used to have to wash my hair daily, just so that I didn't look like I'd just woken up. A silk pillowcase helps enormously. I love Annabels suggestion over at The Bluebirds are Nesting. She told me years ago, to look out for silk scarves at the thrift stores. She turns those into gorgeous silk pillowcases for just a few dollars. Annabels blog is on my side bar on your right. She's a wealth of wonderful lifestyle tips.
What about your teeth? Uncared for teeth, age us almost more than anything. I hate the dentist too. But I go annually if just for a checkup and a clean. That alone makes a huge difference. My dentist is lovely, and there is rarely, if ever, pain involved. If you haven't been for a while, do that, for yourself. Try using a whitening toothpaste. Colgate Optic White is my personal favourite, and when it's on special at my supermarket, I make sure I stock up. It's one of those products that truly does work. Floss? I used to be a bit lackadaisical about flossing. I'd do it if I remembered. Then my dentist told me that failing to floss, means you actually have decaying food between your teeth. Eeeeeeyew, right? That certainly motivated me to be more fastidious about flossing! This makes for lovely fresh breath too. Let's face it. Nobody wants Dragon breath. Am I right? 
 Think about your skin care and makeup routine? Have you adjusted makeup for a fresh, current look? If you're not sure, visit any department store and see  available now for your skin, your colouring, and your lifestyle. Update your skincare products if you can. I'm not talking Botox and needles here, just a fresh look at self, and the thought that maybe what suited you 20 years ago, isn't doing you any favours now. Or that maybe a dust of mineral makeup and a clear mascara would hide imperfections and open your eye area, giving you a youthful look. My makeup nowadays, consists of a Mineral makeup powder, eyebrow colour, light mascara, and neutral lip colour. A bit of gloss is a great idea for a dewy look too. A smear on the brow bone, the top of the cheekbone, and on the centre of the lips is always flattering. Achieve it with a pearlised powder, or a dab of Vaseline. Both will work. Invest in a skin care regime, even if it's the most basic one. Sorbolene makes great cleanser, removed with a clean, warm cloth or muslin square. And there are plenty of budget friendly options for lotions and potions to keep your face, neck and d├ęcolletage looking fresh. From Loreal to Le Roche Posay, there's something for everyones budget. The best tip for great skin? Drink water, and limit alcohol and caffeine. Try drinking nothing but water for 48 hours, and watch how clear your skin is, and how bright your eyes. I promise!
Step back now, and find a full length mirror and observe what you are wearing today. How do you look? Are you wearing a colour that makes the most of your features? Is your outfit accentuating your best assets, and camouflaging the lesser ones? You might not be the kind of person who fusses about clothing. But can I tell you a story?
In my younger days I had a French boyfriend, Phillipe. Like many men, and particularly French men, he was very particular about his own appearance, and subsequently, mine. This was back in the day when I was a slip of a thing, and could wear whatever I liked. Well. One day I was getting ready to go grocery shopping, and I put on a brand new Velour track suit. Those were all the rage at the time. Poor Phillipe nearly had apoplexy. He said to me 'You cannot wear zis fing! It iz not nice for people'. Translation....'you can't possibly be serious about wearing a tracksuit in public. You will offend the eye of everyone you meet'. He was genuinely horrified. I didn't even really understand what he meant at the time. I just shrugged, thought that if he felt that strongly about it, I'd wear something else, and remained puzzled for a time. I read a book much later, written by an Australian woman who moves to Paris for her Beau, and relates a very similar incident, where her French fella berates her with 'Eet iz not nice for ze baker!'. Then I travelled to Paris myself, and witnessed first hand, that whilst everyone isn't swanning around in Couture garments every day, they certainly are a well dressed lot, and not a velour track suit in sight! They care. They look like they've taken time over their outfit. Their shoes are in good repair. They carry quality (not designer) handbags and wallets. There is just an air of class, in the way they present themselves. Every day. Not just on work days, or for special occasions.
So maybe if you won't do it for yourself, which is a whole new topic, maybe think about doing it for those around you. Your partner, your children, your friends, and the people with whom you interact daily. Make THEIR day, by making an effort with the way you look. Imagine the smiles and the conversations and memories that could ensue. In my suburb, we still fondly remember some twins that turned up regularly at the local shops, dressed like Marilyn Monroe. Another lady always wore a fabulous hat, even when just at the fruit market. I personally know two ladies in their 80s, who wouldn't be seen without their winged eyeliner, and red hair. I love that there are still women in my city, who dress for the theatre, the races, and coffee at the local bistro. There is absolutely nothing wrong with injecting a little old fashioned glamour into your life, and the lives of those around you. I don't always agree that 'doing it for yourself' is enough to motivate us. If that works for you, then go for it. But sometimes I think we fall back on 'I don't care what people think', when really what we mean is 'I don't care any more', and that is terribly sad. If you find that upon reflection, you are falling into the 'I don't care anymore' category, then maybe it's time to start caring. If you suffer with an illness or depression, I know that can be very hard. But it's not impossible, and can actually impact your life positively. See your doctor too, and enquire about supports for your condition. There may be many things from alternative medicine, to networks and online groups that can help you see light at the end of the tunnel. 
Finally, a bit of exercise is a good thing. Again, I do not advocate long gym sessions or overkill in this area, unless you love it. A gentle walk every day is good for heart health, glowing skin, and general wellbeing. I know it's hard when it's raining, or snowing, or hot and humid. Those are the times when I fall back on my yoga DVD's or a bit of dancing to my old favourite tunes. What are your exercise tips?
Over the next three months, let's all try to reinvent ourselves. I feel like I have made lots of progress on the wardrobe front. Now it's time to start tackling a freshen up of self. Lose a few kilos, decide whether I need a new hairstyle, eat more Omega 3s, drink more water. Let's report back at the end of July, and see how we look and feel.
Are you with me?

Monday, May 1, 2017

A New You....Dressing the Petite Plus Size Apple Shape...the finer details...

Dressing the petite plus sized Apple shape is challenging.
The 'fashion' industry do not cater for us. We simply get sizes 2-12, upsized for our body shape, leaving all sorts of inadequacies, from waistlines that do not accommodate little tums, to darts appearing in the wrong places, bodices that are too long or too short, skirts that make us look like a cake topper...the list goes on.
One alternative is to do what I have done for so long, and simply wear flowing shapeless garments, which mind you, do have their charm in the right context, and give up trying to look sleek and lean, at all. Because for many of us (most of us?), 'sleek and lean' is the goal. Not necessarily thin, but just taller and with a lithe silhouette. And guess what? You don't need to be a skinny Minnie to achieve it.
Which brings me to another alternative. You might remember that I've invested some time in educating myself on the topic of how to dress my short, cuddly self. I've not regretted this for a moment, and I've learned so much from Marie-Anne Lecouer and her French Chic Academy, since I joined in December last year. The first thing she taught me through her Apple Shape e-course, was that the details matter. A simple idea like keeping our hemlines at, or just below our knee to lengthen the leg, or the tip that low cut shoes that show a little 'toe cleavage', and shoes in a nude shade, make ones legs appear longer, and thus we appear taller, makes the world of difference.
I've also learned that wearing navy blue as seen above, is softer and more flattering than black (my perennial favourite), and long necklaces like my new strand of Baroque pearls custom made by Laura at JaguarJems on Etsy, also seem to lengthen the torso, drawing the eye to the vertical, a slimming illusion.
Two years ago, I attended my brothers wedding. It was a casual affair, in one of our lovely parks where I live. Aiming for the look on the left, I misguidedly wore my interpretation...a light floral cotton shift (aforementioned shapeless garment to the rescue), and my much loved Lanvin ballet flats.
I was happy enough when I looked in the mirror at home, but in all of the photographs, I look short and dumpy...lol!

Here is where I made my mistakes:
The dress was light and comfortable for a steamy hot day, but pink all over, is not flattering on me, and the light colour actually adds bulk to my frame, as do the gathered sleeves and neckline. I'm not usually a fan of prints, but this one seemed appropriate. Now I see that it's just Granny-ish...definitely NOT a look I am trying to cultivate.
The dress on the left, has waistline detail, giving at least the illusion of a waistline, whereas my pink dress did not. The model on the left, wore high heels with low toe cleavage to make her legs look longer and to give her height. I wore ballet flats with top of foot detail, shortening my leg, and making me look even more height challenged than I already am at 5'3" tall. The hemline of the models dress just hits the knee lending length to her leg, mine is below the knee, cutting me off along my shin. She wears her hair up, to lengthen her neck and lend a sense of occasion and again, height. I wore mine down, making me look a bit half-hearted, and short. I wore no jewellery, believing the floral pattern to be 'busy' enough, so at least I was on the mark there.
Since taking some advice from Marie-Anne Lecouer though, my favourite Special Occasion dress is the black wrap dress you see above here on the right. I'd heard how wrap dresses were flattering for the Apple shape, and I had this one. But I couldn't make it work for me. Again, the devil was in the detail. Instead of tying the wrap ties around my waist, I tied them under my bustline. This gives a curvy silhouette, rather than just a rectangular one. Instead of filling the V neckline with a necklace, I added dangling Baroque pearl earrings, adding length to my torso and neck. I stopped trying to wear Ballerina Flats with everything, and found some heels that I could tolerate, and abandoned the idea of ankle straps in all forms, as they just make my legs look shorter. If I wear this dress now, I also usually wear my hair up in a French Chignon, to give the illusion of a long neck and cleavage, and to draw the eye upwards.
Think 'heels, hats, and hair in an up-do, to add height' for we Petite Plus Sized Apple shapes.
I think these strategies make a huge difference. I have to add that I wouldn't wear the pink floral fascinator just anywhere. It was an addition for a Raceday event. I would however, entertain other hair accessories and styles, to continue that illusion of length and height.
As for the crime of covering all ills in flowing fabric, yes, guilty. What about you my Apple shaped compatriot? It seems such an obvious solution really, until you look back and digest how you really looked.
I cultivated a sort of grey, vaguely arty look for quite some time during my Mummy years. The short bob haircut was part of that too. This look below wasn't all bad, but my hair is not at it's most flattering at this length, I see that I badly needed a bra fitting (high chest is a youthful chest!), and that even my bag, wasn't doing me any favours. You see, it isn't just about scale with bags as many fashion advisors would have us believe. It's also about not adding bulk to our silhouette, for we Apple shaped ladies. A slim envelope clutch has remedied this dilemma nowadays. Round hoop earrings add a 'round' illusion to the figure, whereas a long dangling earring add length to the neck, so now I prefer a longer earring, like my baroque pearls, to hoops.
The wrist cuff, similarly does me no favours, cutting the length of my arm, and yelling 'shortie'! too. So much again, for the idea of 'scale'. Bracelets for us, should be statement, yes. But not necessarily cuffs that shorten the arm. Softer chain and link style adornments, that sit down low on the hand when you hang your arm down, is another body lengthening trick of the eye.

As for my hair, well I've found over the years, that length is good for me. Shoulder length or longer is the most flattering and slims my face. Above, I look quite round in the face, and heavy in the body, thanks to the Empire line shroud type garment that I previously believed was flattering, the shorter hair, and the accessories as detailed.
Below, I look more slender, taller, and the navy blue flatters my fair complexion and silver hair, as opposed to the grey clothing and artificially dyed hair, seen above. Pearls are known to add a glow to anyones complexion, and the bootcut jeans, slim fitting shirt, and elbow length cardi, are just right for every day wear.

One last before and after look. I've shown you the photo on the left here before. This was my favourite every day Mummy look just five short months ago. The shirt is silk, and I quite loved my ripped 3/4 jeans, I am ashamed to say. Now my favourite every day Mummy look, is more like the one above, or this one here on the right. Black slim cut, full length pants, a black fitted button down shirt with a bit of stretch, a simple black bolero with a small frill around the edges, and black patent leather ballet flats. The only jewellery here is pearl studs and a pearl bracelet (thankyou A for that gift). No arm shortening cuffs, no necklace here, as the frill adds interest, and an up-do to add a bit of a dressy note.

I feel all grown up these days. Now if I shop for clothes, I have a detailed list, or I don't bother shopping. I've given away all of my 3/4 pants and ripped jeans. Again, this is advice I'd seen before, but not really taken much notice of, until starting my French Chic journey. I've added comfortable heels and wedges to my wardrobe of shoes, and as much as I love scarves with a passion, I've come to accept that wearing them up around my neck, is not flattering either. Long scarves with tails, or Infinity scarves are key for Apple Shapes. Again, remember you're looking for looooong and lean.

So here I am, a third of the way through my New Year, New You learning. I am really proud of how far I've come, and I hope so very much, that I've encouraged you to reassess the way you present yourself. I can tell you that I have found a whole new self-confidence at the age of 57, and I am starting to see that my days of looking my best, are ahead of me, not behind me.

What about you? Tell me everything....

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Motherly Advice....try something new...

I've never really been involved with our local Winter (or Spring) Racing Carnival, but it's a huge event in our city. Alas I've been too busy being a Baseball Mum, a Basketball Mum, a Wheelchair Boccia Mum, and a Dance Mum. Where does one fit in time to be fashionably attired for the Races amongst all that lot?
The Fashionistas go ga-ga trying to outdo one another for staggering prize pools and public worship at these events though, and it's all enormous fun and frivolity.
My friend Flora Fascinata, Milliner, Cook Extraordinaire and all round gorgeous person, recently invited my Diva child, she of the red hair, and never ending limbs, to model some of her frippery for the Hoi Polloi ahead of the aforementioned Racing calendar.
Well, not being one to turn down an opportunity to have a captive audience, the Diva said yes, and so did I, seeing it as a second only opportunity, to wear my own Flora assisted Fleur, fashioned some two years ago at a Flora Fascinata make-your-own-fleur workshop.
Now much as I love my baby pink Fleur headpiece, wearing it to the local shops is not an option. People point and stare, and whilst I'm all for fabulosity in all forms, that's probably not my modus operandi. I prefer something a little more low key. Basic black with red toenails. That kind of thing.
So attired appropriately, both of us in black, and with my Flora Fascinata-MimiFrimi headpiece attached securely, off we went.
The high tea was to-die-for....

The fashion, outstanding...
The lady above has amassed $200,000 worth of prizes for her Fashions on the Field efforts...whaaat?

This lady with her very Carmen Miranda style ensemble won me. LOVE the turban!
And this dear man just about outdid the ladies with his red jacket, gold fleur pin, and burgundy Homburg Hat.
Of course, the highlight was seeing my lovely daughter, looking her most glamorous yet. I think she's made for hats. Don't you?

And the obligatory selfie with Proud Mama. Patiently tolerated.
Now I admit that I was somewhat nervous about this event. It was something new for me. I fretted about a dress, and ordered one online, which then failed to arrive in time. I fretted about my naturally grey, naturally curly hair. I fretted about my weight, my legs, my shoes, my bag, my makeup, what I'd say if someone asked me the usual 'so what do you do?' kinda question. Which incidentally, they didn't.
 I lost sleep over it.
And guess what?
Whilst the Fashionistas were out in force, at least half of the crowd were lovely normal folk like me. Most did not even have a Flora-assisted-Fleur to wear. Most were there for the High Tea and a looky-see. Just like me.
In the end my Little Black Dress and Italian heels looked just glam enough. My makeup was fine, my curls were admired, grey or not, nobody thought I was fat except me, sheer stockings covered any perceived faults with my 57 year old legs, I found my silver bag underneath my car seat, and I laughed at the idea that I'd lost sleep over having such a fun afternoon. Very fashionable folk spoke nicely to me, even wanted to sit near me. They looked incredible and untouchable, but you know...they weren't. They were just lovely people, who adore dressing up, and hanging out with other folk who adore dressing up. Me? I loved seeing people who had gone beyond 'making an effort', and who had embraced being daring, and glamorous, and divinely chic. More of that please.
My advice?
Don't miss out on life because you think you're not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, funny enough, fashionable, or accomplished enough. Don't miss out on a fun day because you think you don't have the right thing to wear, or say, or because someone might *shock horror* SPEAK to you. Grasp every opportunity to have a new experience, and run with it. Life is so very short. I know that as someone who at 57 years of age, feels the pressure of making the most of every day, every year, every moment.
Dress up, be crazy, be glamorous, wear the heels even if they make your feet hurt. I sat down in mine for two hours, so it didn't matter in the end. Go to the High Tea, talk to strangers, smile mysteriously and pretend you don't speak English if that's beyond you....lol.
And my daughter?
My daughter was impeccable. She looked like something out of a Film Noir. She made me so very proud. If you haven't seen the photos yet, then you just weren't paying attention, because I swear I shared them EVERYWHERE...lol!
I cannot believe that I almost didn't go. I almost surrendered my ticket to someone who wanted to be there for very different reasons to mine. In fact, I offered, but was thankfully, rejected. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I can't wait for the next one. And yes, I'll be at the Winter Racing Carnival. Perhaps with a fetching new Flora designed bit of Frippery on my grey curls.
Do it. Don't wait. Life is short.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Neff Australias 50 Best Home Cooks..will you please vote for my Salad?

Friends, I am a bit excited.
I've entered a competition. One of only a handful in my lifetime.
But you see, this one is just my thing, and I think I have half a chance of winning at least a little something. I think a voucher for some locally grown gourmet olives is at the lower end of the prize pool, and that would be just fine and dandy :)
What would be even better though, would be to win a new oven, cooktop and rangehood for my kitchen renovation... my 'this is the kitchen for the rest of my life' renovation... at the end of this year.
You know how sometimes, things just drop into your lap at the right time?
I wasn't looking to win anything, and generally shy away from competitions, thinking them unwinnable. But I had been looking longingly at some high end ovens and wondering how I could ever convince my very frugal self and husband, that a $4000 cooker was necessary, when a $1000 one would suffice. After all, that is our life mantra!
Suddenly yesterday, this competition came up on my Instagram feed. Wow. Well....how could I resist?
Because friends, I can guarantee I won't be spending $4000 on a new oven, cooktop and range hood, BUT winning one? Well, that's different, isn't it?
So, I don't think I've ever asked for anything from my blogging friends or followers. I hope though, that over the years, I've offered you advice, a recipe, a tutorial or a gift idea, that made a difference to you.
Would you do me the honour of voting for me, to help me earn something that will make a difference to me?
You can find my Stealing the Limelight Celebration Salad, under my real name, not my blogging one, at....
I'd so love your help.
And if you decide you'd rather enter the competition yourself, well, that's okay too. I'd vote for you to return the favour.
Or perhaps some other worthy photograph will catch your eye and you'll give them your vote. I can graciously accept that, as well. All is fair in love and kitchen appliance competitions ;-)
Please don't just click away. It will take less than 60 seconds of your time to vote.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Motherly Advice.....I tried to show you....

We live well. But we don't spend a lot of money living well.
We decided long ago what was important to us, and devised a way of including our little luxuries in our life, whilst still managing to save for the bigger ones.
That means that now, as we approach a deservedly early retirement, we can continue to live comfortably, without worry and strife.
Twenty years ago, when my husband and I first married, we decided what our priorities were. In no particular order, here they are:
Have a property portfolio that allowed us to generate an income in our retirement
Travel while we are still young and healthy enough to enjoy it
Provide for our children and grandchildren, and particularly our disabled son
Have a lovely home and garden
Have a beachside home for holidays and short stays
We have achieved all of those things, and to this day, we have friends who scratch their heads and wonder how we did it.
Granted, we had a successful small business. But despite what people think, 'having your own business' is no picnic. There are good times, there are lean times, there are times when for one reason or another, clients don't pay, or companies go bust leaving unpaid creditors, and we never see our money, or we get cents on the dollar. It can be very, very stressful and takes discipline to make it work.
The thing that has got us through, always, was to always live on the least amount of money possible.
We don't have new cars every two years, we drive the same ones for ten.
We don't spend $400 a week on groceries, if we can feed ourselves well for $150.
We don't eat out three nights a week like many of our friends do.
If there is a way something can be DIY-ed, we DIY it. Between the two of us, my husband and I have DIY-ed home extensions, painting, floor finishing, furniture restoration, cabinet building and installation, gardening, propagating, landscaping, concreting, paving, dog washing, car washing, cleaning, tiling, grouting, property maintenance, sewing of home furnishings, upholstery cleaning, carpet cleaning, gift making, clothing alterations, baking, carpentry and joinery, high pressure cleaning, growing our own produce and herbs, jam making, sauce and marinade making, celebration cake making and decorating, manicures, pedicures, haircuts and other self maintenance needs, the list goes on. We've been teased, laughed at, made fun of, and ridiculed. We educated ourselves, online, at courses, and took advantage of community classes in everything from Building permits, to Cottage Gardens, to Cake Decorating and Photo Editing. It all made a difference. Whenever we (or someone we knew) needed something done, chances were, we knew how to do it.
Meanwhile friends laughed when we couldn't go out to dinner or brunch, because we were learning, or practising, or just plain 'doing'.
But who's laughing now?
Who's coming to us, and saying things like 'Your home is so beautiful, I could never do this'. 'I could never have imagined that that's how your garden/living room/kitchen hutch (insert DIY project over 20 years), was going to look. I wish I'd done that now', 'I wish we had the money/time/skills to do what you've done'...well...you did, but you didn't want to make the effort, did you?
One of my favourites is 'Oh I tried that once and it didn't end so well, so I never bothered again'.
Wow. Really? You tried ONCE? Goodness. I tried that 27 times before I got it right. But then I got it right 27 or 270 or 2,700 more times and saved myself a fortune in the process. Trying things 'once' and giving up, is not a recipe for success.
You know what? At the end of the day, although ALL of those things we did were important and contributed to where we now stand, there was one thing that was more important than anything else. Here it is...
It's that simple. Everyone else we know, has spent the last twenty years, spending up big on flash houses in the 'right' suburb, upgrading cars, boats, phones, technology, clothing, handbags, and home furnishings, with alarming regularity, while we made do, shopped frugally, made our own, checked out the thrift stores for any needs or wants before going retail, and maintained all of our possessions judiciously, before upgrading only when absolutely necessary.
Many times over those twenty years, I tried to show friends our way of living, and how it could help them achieve their dreams. But mostly we continued to be laughed at and in the end, I just gave up.
One friend shopped at Aldi once, and declared it not worth her while to save $50 a week on her grocery bill, if she had to pack her own groceries. A bit precious I thought. That couple are now divorced, with all of their possessions, and including their two beautiful children, divided between two homes. And yes, financial pressures were one of the main reasons for the split. How very sad for all of them.
Another declared that she'd never set foot inside a thrift store because they 'smelled funny', but continues to spend up big on antiques for her home. Frankly, they smell a bit funky too.
Look, each to their own. And the fact that these people are all still my friends, says something about the ties that bind us, despite our differences on the topic of frugality and finances. I love them all the same.
I could weep for them though, when here they are, all approaching their own retirement, with nothing but a collection of Louis Vuitton handbags and label clothing, to see them through. Yes they'll look fabulous, I'll give them that much, but the lifestyle that has seen them spend, spend, spend in order to maintain the illusion of prosperity, will be the one that sees them having to curb that lifestyle significantly in their twilight years.
Me? I'll continue to bake, garden, DIY, mend, alter, shop at the thrift store first, make do, make my own gifts and celebration cakes, grow produce and herbs, and generally make a career out of being a homemaker. It's stood me in good stead to this point, so why wouldn't I?
And if you need me to show YOU, how we've done it, then this blog is a good reference point for you. I've blogged about all of those things and more. Whether you're 20, 30, 40 or 50, you can start NOW, to plan the life you truly want. Start doing the things that will make a difference. And owning a new designer handbag, and a European car, isn't it.
The only person you need to impress is....you.
And whatever you do, don't come to me in twenty years and ask me how I did it. I tried to show you....
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Friday, March 31, 2017

A New You....Beauty Essentials...this is not an ad...Know what you need!

I know right. We've all seen these posts come up on our blog following lists and invariably, they're one big long, sponsored post. This one, however, is not, so never fear!
This is more about knowing what your needs are, in order to tailor your products to your budget, stage of life, schedule, and personal preferences. I've divided my list into categories, so that you can perhaps (if you don't already!), tailor your list in a similar fashion. I'd certainly be interested to hear what you consider your essentials. It's also about not being swayed by the 'latest thing' and knowing what works for you. I don't use a serum (except for my own DIY one), or a primer (I use Aloe Vera Gel instead), a body scrub, exfoliators, cuticle creams, eye creams or any one of a plethora of other things the beauty industry tells me I need. I eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink herbal tea and lots of water, and take gentle exercise every day.
I'm 57. I look okay for 57. I've looked after my skin. My European mother taught me that from an early age. She knew that teen breakouts were a blessing because my oilier skin would stand me in good stead later in life. She was right. I have few lines, although I do wish I'd stayed out of the sun more when I was young. That's life as an Aussie of the 60s and 70s!
I'm not pretending for a moment to be a Glamour Girl. I'm well past that thanks. I am however, trying to show you, that no matter your age or circumstances, you CAN invest a little time and money in self, and it will reap rewards for you in the longer term.
Here's me *shock horror* with freshly washed face and hair, no makeup, just a bit of lip balm. Not too scary for an old girl.
I've gone through stages of using the high end skin care, plummeting to using supermarket or DIY when the mood takes me, or when the budget dictates a nip and tuck of the bank account. But I have always, always looked after my skin. And by that I mean face, neck, arms, hands, legs, and feet.
I'm a fan of the DIY foot scrub and a bright pedi. I love a good lemon scented hand scrub and a pretty manicure. I treat my hair with good products for dry, curly, silver hair, and if anything, this is where I'll splurge. I cannot stand a bad hair day. I adore a nice faux tan for a flattering bit of colour, a face mask once a week, a DIY eyebrow tint fortnightly, and a scrub with a loofah mitt, in the shower at least that often too.
This makes me feel good, in control of my life and the way I look. It makes my family feel good to see me look after myself. If I care about me, then I am better equipped to care for them, right?
Feeling in control of your own life, is a skill and a talent not to be underestimated. If you feel you can at least control how you present yourself to the world, the rest of life can often fall into place more easily. Even when terrible things have happened in my life, I've felt that this was one area that nobody could steal from me. It's been a godsend in many respects, I can tell you that.
So without further ado, here are my Beauty Essentials. No advertisements I promise.
Hands and Feet:
Light moisturiser applied several times a day
Heavier moisturiser for bedtime application
Nail wraps and applicator kit or nail polish and accessories
DIY olive oil, sugar and lemon essential oil hand scrub
Face and Neck:
Age appropriate cream cleanser
Day cream
Night cream
Sunspot cream
Loofah mitt
Moisturising body wash
Body moisturiser
Quality razor
Shimmer Tan Oil and application mitt
Moisturising Shampoo
Moisturising Conditioner
Leave-in Conditioner
Curly Mousse/Gel
Toner to remove brassy tones from silver hair
Hair dryer with diffuser attachment
Mineral makeup powder and Kabuki brush
Eyebrow palette
Blush and brush
Eye pencil
3 lipsticks - daytime coral red, nightime blue red, natural shimmer gloss
Lip balm
Toothbrush changes every six weeks
Whitening toothpaste
Dental picks
This may seem like a long list to some, and one not long enough for others. But I wanted to give you an overview of what I use, to keep my Self-Maintenance programme up to date.
My early morning and before bed evening routine pretty much revolves around my Self-Maintenance Programme, as it has for 44 years. I don't stray too much, because I have a certain paranoia that if I neglect myself for one night, it may well become a habit. That's highly unlikely, but clearly my Mother drummed this into me, and it's stuck!
Okay, so this next bit is not an advertisement. It's merely a way of making a point. I'm not saying you should personally race out and buy any of these. Stick with me.
Of course, one cannot mention self-maintenance without mentioning a lovely scent. I adore Chanel No 5, Ombre Rose, Red Door, Emeraude (now discontinued), Far and Away Gold, Femme by Rochas (now discontinued too), and Shalimar. I know that I lean towards gorgeous heady Vanilla-Rose-Oriental based scents that I wear in moderation, each and every day.
Knowing your favourite scent 'notes', can help you choose wisely from the thousands of fragrances available these days, and prevent you making costly mistakes. Make sure you know your favourites. Don't buy a single floral (Rose, Jasmine, Gardenia, Violet), if what you love is Orientals (Cinnamon, Clove, Vanilla, Nutmeg), or Woody (Mossy, Earthy) or Fresh scents (Citrus, Green, Grassy, Water, Oceanic). Go and try a few. See what you like most, and ask the salesperson what the 'notes' are in that scent. Then do some research and find a fragrance with similar notes, that suits your budget and your 'nose'. When I couldn't afford Chanel No 5, I bought Panache. When my budget did not stretch to Red Door, I made do with Tabu. When for years, I could not find Femme, I used Vanilla Fields (which I actually still love!). They're not the same, but they are similar enough for you to feel you're treating yourself.
I consider all of these items absolute essentials. The brand and price of them varies enormously from time to time, but I am never without them. It's worked for me, and perhaps it can for you too, no matter your age or stage of life.
So tell me. What are your beauty essentials? I'm dying to know.
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A New You...When I don't know what to wear....

When I don't know what to wear....I mostly freak out and consider not leaving the house! Seriously.
How do these ladies do it? How do they manage to just 'know' what to wear?
Caroline Herrera has this quality in spades. That elusive combination of class and confidence that spells  'Chic'. Grace Kelly had it too, as did Audrey Hepburn, and more recently, Australias own Nicole Kidman. Note that these woman are more about 'style' than 'celebrity'. They are two very different things.
The inherent ability to know what works for you and what doesn't, and how to use that to work magic on the way you present yourself each and every day, doesn't seem to come easily to many of us, but you can learn! This is after all, a skill, as much as any other, like driving, baking, embroidering, or learning to use technology. You have to 'learn' the skill, you practice, you might fail a couple of times, and finally you master the skill. For some of us, this takes a lifetime, and we only master it when we accept that looking good every day, isn't the domain of celebrities. It's within everyones reach.
It's a common misconception that you have to be wealthy or of a certain ethnicity or culture to know how to look good. Granted, the French do seem to be 'born' with the ability to look Chic, but that's a whole other topic. Caroline Herrera is Venezuelan, not a culture that immediately springs to most peoples minds (rightly or wrongly) when one imagines a stylish look. My point is, that we need not feel defeated before we start, just because we're Australian, or South African or from New Zealand or Canada or Russia. We can stop settling for less than lovely, by acknowledging that our place of birth or where we live, be it country, city or suburb, does not have to dictate the way we dress or how well groomed we are, when we step out the door each day.
So, step number one. Stop telling yourself that you are too old, too fat, too tired, too frumpy, too financially constrained, or that you live in the wrong suburb, the wrong city, the wrong country or that your friends will think less of you, because you suddenly decide to look your best. Stop it. Now. And promise me you won't do that any more. The first eight are just demoralising and aren't true anyway, and the ninth says that maybe you need new friends! Or as someone wise once said to me, 'when two people meet, one will be the influencer, and one the influenced...which will you be?'.
My Mum repeated this often, in a different way. She would say to me 'don't lower yourself for anyone Darling'. Yep. That's right.
Second step, what's wrong with being the best dressed person in the room? Why is that considered a no-no all of a sudden. Once upon a time, that was the aim. Why oh why, do we all suddenly want to be less than we can be? It's so sad.
When I was composing this post, and searching for images to accompany it, this quote from Caroline Herrera jumped out at me. Because at the bottom of the attitude that 'I don't matter anymore', which translates to 'I don't have time' and 'my friends will think I'm getting above myself' and the plethora of other excuses we use, is perhaps this one simple idea...
"I don't know how".
Dress codes used to be very cut and dried. People knew what to wear because social mores spelled it all out quite clearly. Even when I was a child there were rules. I remember being so excited to get Cherry Red patent leather shoes with a small heel to wear to church on Sundays. The Cherry Red was a concession to the fact that I was no longer a small child (I think I was actually about nine years old by then), and the small heel, even more so. Prior to that, I wore little white Mary Janes with white frilled socks for Sunday Best. Wearing Cherry Red Patent leather with a heel, with hosiery, was very special and grown up. Nowadays, toddlers wear black, and teens wear whatever they want, and it's all quite liberating, I'll grant you that.
But back to you and me, and the "I don't know how".
In the last little while, I've acknowledged that I've used all of the abovementioned excuses, and finally decided that enough was enough. I matter. I need to set an example for my own daughter, now entering her young adult life. I need to show that I care about ME, as much as I care about her, and my family. That's a very important lesson.
So here I am. Decluttering, and reimagining myself as I wrestle with the end of my child rearing years, and face what will happily be a long and prosperous retirement with my beloved.
I accepted that maybe, despite what I thought, I could learn a thing or two, so I signed up for Marie-Anne Lecouers French Chic Academy. I'm taking the full Academy course, but you can also opt to tackle it piece by piece, commencing with the module to dress your shape here.
So, thirdly, accept what you do not know, and work on that!
Getting to know my body shape and what suits me has been a huge learning curve and an extremely valuable one. I highly recommend you do the same. It will change the way you think. I promise. It is in fact, one of the key reasons that French women truly do always look chic. They know their body shape and dress to suit. No fashions and fads and trends. Just what suits them, each and every day.
If you are unable to invest the money in Marie-Annes courses at this time, there are plenty of other resources to support you online.
Try here for a Body Shape Calculator.
Try here for measuring your Body Shape Proportions.
Then educate yourself. Pinterest, blogs, books from your local library...they can all help.
Do it. For you.
So. Here's my question...When you don't know what to wear...what do YOU choose?
Last year, I was choosing ripped jeans, ballet flats, loose shirts and empire line dresses. I had a wardrobe full of things I didn't wear, things I was hoping I'd fit into one day, and things I'd worn once and decided I didn't really like. I had 23 pairs of shoes, and so many necklaces and pairs of earrings, I could have opened my own accessory store. Don't get me wrong, in the middle of all that was some stuff I really liked that was quite stylish. I'm not a complete dead loss! But it was time. Time to let go of my Mummy wardrobe, and emerge as the person I'd wanted to be for at least a decade, but didn't really know how.
I've educated myself by taking the French Chic Academy course, and by doing lots and lots of online reading. I'm getting better at this, I think.
This year, when I don't know what to wear, and bearing in mind my Petite Plus Sized Apple Shape, I'm choosing:
Black wrap dress
Peeptoe heels
Navy shirt
Bootleg jeans
Peeptoe heels
I've had my hair cut, and I spend time on it every day rather than racing out the door with it scraped into a messy bun, which was acceptable, but not ideal. I've invested in some products to help me style my hair well, and learned how to use them properly, by finding a hairdresser that specialises in curly hair. This means I can stop torturing my hair with the hair straightener, and learn to love my curls all over again. Remember, it's about learning, practising, mastering.
I lay my outfit out the night before, including appropriate accessories, and make sure I have made choices that are flattering, not just convenient. 'Convenience' has been a big part of my wardrobe repertoire for far too long.
I'm making ME a priority. You should too. We deserve it.
Here's me 'doing a Caroline'. She's my new style icon, and four short months ago, I would not have imagined I could model my wardrobe on hers. But here I am. Not Caroline. Not even imagining I could be her, but making her style work for me in my own way.
I've adopted her neutral colour scheme, a semi A-line skirt, her button down blouse, minimalist accessorising, her peeptoe heels with red toenails, and her confident stance. I'll be perfecting my French Chignon next, and working on a good self tanner for my legs a la Caroline, so it really is baby steps, isn't it. But it just goes to show, that you CAN adapt these looks for your own shape and colouring, once you deal with the "I don't know how" issue.
You can do it too. Make your number one task for the next month, to find two outfits, one every day, and one special occasion, that can be your go-to, when you don't know what to wear. Determine your body shape, find your own style icon, and go for it.
We can work our way up from there.
Love ya...

Monday, March 27, 2017

A New You...Favourites Old and New...Dressing the Petite Plus-sized Apple Shape #3...

I'm working hard on my New You French Chic goals for this year. I'm a long way from being where I'd like to be, but I'm proud to say I've already made some significant changes. What about you? I'm also still perfecting the art of the flattering full length selfie, but I thought it important to update you, since you've come along on this journey with me.
So far I've decluttered my closet, my underwear and sleepwear, my shoes, and my jewellery. There is now nothing in my wardrobe or jewellery box, that I will not wear with pride.
That is a huge thing for me. I am a bower bird of the highest order, so letting go of my enormous collection of costume jewellery, belts that do not suit my Petite Plus size Apple frame, and shoes of all kinds, was actually very difficult for me. I had to sit down and dig deep, and journal the reasons why this was so emotionally draining. Having been raised in a large family, where sometimes there wasn't a lot of money for new clothes or shoes, is a large part of that. A little voice in me is constantly saying 'but what if you never see that item again, what if you need it sometime and have to go and buy it again, what if you MISS OUT!'.
Fear of missing out  has guided many of my purchases over the years. Not just of clothing and accessories, but of homewares, linen, gifts and a plethora of other items. It's only as I've grown older, that I've come to realise that 'things' are always available. Yes, even the so called 'rare' things like vintage kitchenalia, antique furniture, and embroidered linens. Everything goes in cycles, and this years 'must have', is next years thrift shop fodder. Even if it came from the thrift shop originally.
I have to credit this in part, to Marie-Anne Lecouer at The French Chic Academy. Her course has helped me in more ways than one, and much of it, nothing to do with French Chic, as such. I've always prided myself on my European outlook, courtesy of my Nanna and Mum, but Marie-Anne has helped me take that outlook to an entirely new level. Check out her blog, if nothing else. She's the 'how-to' in this journey, I'm the willing student!
So having decluttered according to Marie-Annes guidelines, I then wrote a wish list for myself. I had in my hand, her guidelines for my Petite Plus-sized Apple Shape, and was stringent in my list of requirements. I want bang for my buck. Whatever I buy from hereon in, has to be the best I can afford, versatile, and flattering. I looked at images of outfits I liked, and asked Marie-Anne personally (yes that's part of the course!), how to adapt these looks for my shape.
To my enormous surprise and pleasure, looks that I had thought unachievable for my shape and height, CAN work for me, with a few tweaks.
At the top of my post, is a recent accomplishment. Yes, an accomplishment. Why shouldn't looking good, and feeling good about yourself, be as much of an accomplishment as anything else? I loved the outfit that designer Caroline Herrera wears in the small top picture. I showed this to Marie-Anne, and asked her if this was a flattering look for my shape. She responded that yes, it was possible, and gave me a few tips. The result you see, is on the left. Not identical, admittedly, but certainly close enough to make me very happy. I have believed for years that this look was no longer for me, but a slim fitting shirt with a V neck, the right gentle A-line skirt in a heavy quality fabric, a pair of low cut peeptoe heels, and a long strand of pearls, knotted to give another V shape, rather than left 'rounded', all contribute to an illusion of height and length, that make a huge difference. See, it's all about 'illusion'. I am not tall, nor am I slender any more. But heels with 'toe cleavage', V necklines, long necklaces that end in a point, and skirts that have weight that stops them floating, and that have a hemline between just above and just below the knee, work magic for me.
I have decided that in preference to buying randomly, I want to assemble a series of complete outfits by the end of the year. So each month I will focus on one complete outfit. That means that between now and December, I will have assembled ten completely new outfits, with the proviso that each purchase I make, will enhance or supplement the previous purchases in some way.
To achieve my look for March, top to toe, I decided I needed the following:
-Neutral solid coloured, short sleeved, button through shirt with V neckline
-A-line skirt, black, ivory or white, in a heavy fabric, just above or just below the knee, maybe with assymetrical hemline
-black peeptoe heels. Conical heel for comfort, slingback, low cut on the top of the foot to add length to the leg, with some 'toe cleavage'.
-Long Pearl necklace and pearl earrings
-Good haircut
-Manicured fingernails and toenails
I found a good Curly hair specialist, and treated myself to a new haircut, and some fab products to nurture my curls, instead of torturing them with the straightener. Total outlay $240 including products. I will not need to see her for a trim or products for 4-6 months.
I scoured shoe stores and online shoe outlets to find my perfect heels. It took some time, but I eventually found them, for $160.
My daughter-in-law introduced me to Jamberry, where I've made significant savings by doing my own nails with their heat activated nail wraps. Each manicure and pedicure costs $11 in total, and manicures last up to three weeks, and pedicures up to 6 weeks. Total outlay initially of $96 including the little heater and a selection of wraps and application accessories that will last at least 8 months.
And finally, my big treat, a custom made strand of blue-white, oversized Baroque pearls with a crystal embellished enhancer clip/fancy clasp, to which I can attach different enhancers (pendant attachments) to give me that long, lean 'V' look, rather than the traditional 'round' pearl necklace look. Purchased from an Etsy dealer, Laura at JaguarJems who went above and beyond to manufacture the pearl necklace of my dreams for my budget of $500AUD (about $380US), including the enhancer drop and a matching pair of earrings.
My skirt I found at Big W, in a gorgeous heavy fabric, and is perfect for me. On sale, $12 (a lucky buy!).
My shirt also from Big W, on end-of-season sale also, just $7. I will be looking for a similar shirt in a better quality fabric as I go along. This one looks lovely, but I imagine it won't last more than a season at that price.
This brings my total investment in myself, since the beginning of December 2016, to $895 or $56 per week. I am being brutally honest, both with you and myself, when I say that I would have previously spent that much a week on random thrift store purchases, without thinking twice, because they were all 'bargains'. If I didn't wear them more than once, I felt justified in discarding them for the very same reason. If only I'd realised sooner, that I was going about things all the wrong way.
So, here below, is a before and after, of my favourite 'lunch with friends' ensembles.
On the left, is a favourite silk shirt, over casual, so called 'on-trend' ripped jeans in 3/4 length. I would wear this with my favourite Birkenstock Gizeh sandals which I love for comfort. Many of my friends would dress similarly. There is nothing really wrong with this sort of outfit here, especially in the middle of a Queensland Summer, but here are the reasons why I won't be dressing like this any longer.
The colour is not flattering and drains my face of glow. Ripped jeans are not 'chic', nor are they 'elegant', which is how I would now like to present myself. The long shirt is not figure flattering, but merely hides the bumps and lumps. The 3/4 pants just make me look shorter and fatter, because the length between the bottom of the shirt hem and the bottom of the jean hem, just makes me look stocky. The Birkenstock sandals do the same, by not adding height to my frame, and by having a surface that covers my foot from toes to ankle. Just as importantly for me, this is not what one might consider 'French Chic'.

On the other hand on the right, this black shirt is fitted without being figure-hugging, enhancing my waistline, and giving me a more flattering silhouette. The black is slimming too, and the V neckline, gives an impression of length. The pearl necklace (not my new pearls, but rather a thrifted $5 strand for now), knotted, also enhances a V rather than a round shape, lending further length and a slimming illusion to my frame. My new skirt skims my outer legline, flaring gently at the bottom to make my waist look trim. The skirt is A-line with a very subtle asymmetrical hemline that again, adds a long and lean look. The gap between the bottom hem of the skirt and my feet is longer, giving the illusion of height. The shoes, add length to my leg and foot, and a couple of well needed inches to my 5'3" (163cm) body. Lastly, this is far closer to my idea of embracing French Chic and making it work for me.
Can you see how a few simple illusions and tricks can make a difference? I had no idea that such easy little tweaks, could alter the way I look and feel so substantially.
Now if I can just work out how to take a full length selfie that doesn't have a double chin, I might be happy...lol!
What do you think? Can my lessons be your lessons too?
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