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....
 
http://theneffkitchen.com.au/vote_recipes/stealing-the-limelight-celebration-salad/
 
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.
 
Thankyou.
 
....Mimi...
 
 

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...
 
WE DIDN'T TRY TO IMPRESS OUR FRIENDS.
 
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
 
Body:
 
Loofah mitt
Moisturising body wash
Body moisturiser
Quality razor
Shimmer Tan Oil and application mitt
 
Hair:
 
Moisturising Shampoo
Moisturising Conditioner
Leave-in Conditioner
Curly Mousse/Gel
Toner to remove brassy tones from silver hair
Hair dryer with diffuser attachment
 
Makeup:
 
Mineral makeup powder and Kabuki brush
Eyebrow palette
Blush and brush
Eye pencil
Mascara
3 lipsticks - daytime coral red, nightime blue red, natural shimmer gloss
Lip balm
 
Teeth:
 
Toothbrush changes every six weeks
Whitening toothpaste
Mouthwash
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
Pearls
 
OR
 
Navy shirt
Bootleg jeans
Peeptoe heels
Pearls
 
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...
 
...Mimi...
 
 
 

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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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A New You...Financial discipline and what it gets you...


 
I've wanted a long strand of Baroque pearls ever since I spied some on my honeymoon 20 years ago. We visited Broome in Western Australia for part of that time, and the pearls there were astoundingly beautiful.
 
My husband had gifted me a more traditional strand of pearls as a wedding gift, seen here (as requested in my last post about hats here). But they to me, are not an everyday kind of pearl. The more modern Baroque ones, above, appeal to me as something I could wear constantly.
 
 
Late last year, I stopped frittering my money away on a bit of a sale purchase here, and an op shop purchase there to supplement my wardrobe, and stopped to really take stock. I decided I wanted to transition from my Upmarket Mummy wardrobe, which has served me well admittedly, to something more elegant and chic.
 
Which brought me to Marie-Anne Lecouer and her French Chic Academy. I pondered for a day or two, and finally decided that at my age (57), it was time to invest in myself. And not via retail therapy. I signed up for Marie-Annes course, opting for the monthly payments, calculating that it was no more than I traditionally spent on fabric, patterns, accessories, and so on, and finding that I was really no better off.
 
From the first day, Marie-Anne changed my thinking. All of those principles that I applied to other areas of my life, suddenly made sense in terms of personal presentation too. Why have a wardrobe of clothing to choose from, when a few classic separates, in quality fabrics will serve equally? Why have row upon row of earrings, and necklaces and other accessories, when a quality watch (which I already have), some pearls, and diamond or pearl studs, will suit any occasion admirably? Why have dozens of pairs of shoes (guilty...you too?), when a quality pair of wedges, and one pair of ballet flats will suit any occasion?
 
I immediately ceased spending indiscriminately. Don't get me wrong, I was always budget conscious. But I often didn't give a lot of thought beyond things being the right colour, usually black, and fitting me. A bonus. Dressing the Petite Plus Sized Apple shape is a trial, I tell you.
 
Instead, that money went towards my course with Marie-Anne.
 
I also stopped buying other trivial things, like sushi for my daughters afternoon tea. An insignificant purchase and only once or twice a week, but even that adds up.
 
Instead I transferred that money to my Mad Money account, while I followed Marie-Annes advice on decluttering my wardrobe and making a list of what I needed, including an in depth description.
 
Which is where these pearls came in. I remembered how much the deep lustre and blue violet sheen of those pearls on my honeymoon captured me, and how often I'd wished I could afford some. I wrote down in my journal, a description of my ideal strand of pearls. They had to be large, even oversized, a particular shape of Baroque pearl, a particular length of strand, and a very particular colour. I dreamed for a bit.
 
Then, suddenly, I had that money. $5 here, and $7 there adds up, as many of you probably know. I went looking and found a dealer on Etsy, who could custom make the very pearls I wanted all my life, for a price within my budget. The pearls I'd noted down in my journal.
 
These pearls are pictured at the top of my post. They're yet to be knotted and strung, but these are my pearls. A bonus is that there are pearls left over from the lengths she purchased for me, and she has made these earrings as a bonus for no extra charge. If you'd like some gorgeous pearls, look no further than Laura at JaguarJems on Etsy. She's a darling and couldn't do enough for me.
 

 These are oversized pearls, very modern, and very elegant. And I am thrilled to bits. I cannot wait for them to arrive.
 
Discipline has it's rewards. But then you knew that, right?
 
....Mimi....
 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Recipes in Four Sentences....Nannas Apricot Slice...

 
Quick and Easy Apricot Slice
 
Soak 200gms (6 ozs) diced, dried apricots in hot water for two hours. While they're soaking, measure out 2 cups of self-raising flour, 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup dessicated or shredded coconut, and set aside , along with 2/3 cup butter in a microwaveable bowl or jug, so you can melt it. Drain the apricots well, and add all of the other ingredients, including the melted butter, and combine well,  pressing into a 30 x 20cm tray (disposable foil ones are perfect), and baking in a 180C fan forced preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until firm to touch in the middle. Remove from the oven and chill before cutting, or let the family slice their own according to preference ;-)
 
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A New You...Tips for Curly Girls...



 
I've had a love-hate relationship with my curls for my whole life.
 
I hated them when I was a teen, pre-curly mousse and diffuser days.
 
Then I loved them for quite some time. Products made curls easy, and diffuser driers made styling a breeze.
 
The arrival of hormonal changes meant more than fatigue, irritability and an Apple shaped figure. It also spelled the end of easy curls. Suddenly my curls frizzed, and flattened, and did anything but behave in the springy fashion to which I mistakenly felt entitled!
 
I did what any self respecting frizzy haired lady would. I straightened it.
 
First like this. This was also the beginning of letting my over processed blonde hair, go naturally silver. Seems odd I know, but my natural colour at this stage was quite dark, with some silver strands.
 
 
Over a period of about three years, I progressed to this. Silver, and straight. I loved this look, but ultimately, the endless blow drying and straightening wasn't doing my hair any favours.

 
So a Curly Hair Artiste was found, and she is now in charge. I sat patiently for two hours recently, while she coaxed my frizz back into curls and swirls, whilst at the same time, complimenting me on my silver hair, and calling me 'lucky'. Well. I never! That's a first!
 
 
So apart from a very interesting cutting technique which involves cutting the hair dry, what else was new?
 
This method advocates a moisture, moisture, moisture approach. So a sulphate-free shampoo, good conditioner and a couple of styling products, are key.
 
You will need a sulphate-free shampoo, a good quality (thick) conditioner, a styling gel, and a leave-in conditioner or conditioning mousse.
 
 Here is the method:
 
1. Wet hair, and apply suphate-free shampoo to the roots of your curly hair. Using your fingertips, massage the scalp well. Curly hair is susceptible to product build-up on the scalp as we don't use a brush on our hair. Work the shampoo gently down to the ends of your hair. Do NOT pile your hair up on top of your head and swirl, like I always have. All you're doing is scrambling your curls, which results in frizz.
 
2. Keep the hair soaking wet, and using a about a large thumbnail sized blob of good quality conditioner, start working the conditioner into your hair starting at the ends, and using your wet, and  flattened palms to work the conditioner up towards the roots. Do not rub. Just use your fingertips and palms to gradually disperse the conditioner. Conditioning the roots of your hair is unnecessary. Do this in sections, until your hair is thoroughly saturated with conditioner.
 
3. Mentally separate your hair into four sections. Side, side, front and back. Flip your head over, and adding a little water to the hair with your palms, start sliding the conditioner through 'ropes' of hair strands (each section might be about 4 ropes if your hair is fine like mine...more if it's thick). Slide your hands from scalp to hair ends, like you're pulling on a rope. You're looking for your hair to feel like a wet noodle if that makes sense. So keep sliding till you achieve that feel, then move on to the next section. The first time you do this, it may take several minutes, but the more you do it, the less time it will take. You're looking to close the hair follicles, and lock that moisture in. Heat opens the follicles, the roping and the conditioner, helps to seal them.
 
4. Trickle rinse the hair, slowing the water pressure so that most, but not all, of the conditioner rinses out. Keep the hair soaking wet and stay in the shower.
 
5. Apply your styling crème, or leave-in conditioner with flat palms, the full length of your hair strands. Just slide it along. This should take no time at all.
 
6. Emulsify a coin sized blob of gel, and apply this the same way. You might need more than one blob.
 
This sounds like a lot of product, but you are only using coin sized blobs each time, emulsifying them with a little water to make them easier to spread.
 
7. Leaving the hair as wet as possible, flip your hair over, and blot with a microfiber towel. Do not rub, and do not coil longer hair on top of your head, twisting it into a towel, like I always do. Just blot gently, and leave it as wet as you can stand it.
 
8. Using little butterfly clips, clip sections up into little loops near the scalp. You're just pushing the hair upwards, and clipping it near the roots to form loops that will add volume when your hair is dry. Think of an inch worm. Pick up a curl, inch worm, clip. Yes, it looks a little silly. But it works. Alternatively, here is an old trick from the 80s when curly hair truly was the rage. Bend at the waist, and flip your hair upside down. Using a hairdryer with a diffuser, and without touching your curls, gently direct the heat at the ROOTS of your hair, close to the scalp, massaging with your fingertips to dry the scalp and roots. You want to encourage a little lift at the roots (as you are with the clips) without frying the rest of your hair. You even want to very gently 'tangle' the roots, to encourage that lift. So massage very gently until you feel the roots drying, and move your fingertips in tiny circles to facilitate that volume. Remember, just the roots NOT the curls. Leave the rest of your hair to air dry. This works really well, and is especially effective when you want your wet hair to look public-presentable in a hurry. My curly hair takes about 4 hours to dry, so this is a good way of speeding up that process without drying out the rest of my hair.
 
9. Now the hard part. Leave your hair alone. Do not touch it, or scrunch it, or dry the curls with heat. Let it dry naturally. My hair takes about 4 hours to dry properly, so on the days I'm washing it, I get up a little earlier. By the time I get through my morning routine, drive my daughter to school, and go for my morning walk, it's dry.
 
10. You can now gently and carefully remove the clips from your hair, and give it a final gently once over with a diffuser dryer if you wish. Do not disturb the curls. Just gently scrunch to break the 'cast' of the gel and crème, and allow your curls to look their best.
 
Now this sounds like a lot of trouble, but I find that if I do this one day, I can get away with a mist of water from a spray bottle, a bit of leave-in conditioner to refresh the curls, and not much else for 3 or 4 days, so it's well worth the trouble.

 
I'm happy with my new Curly Girl method.
 
Will you try it on your own curls?
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nannas Recipes in Four Sentences....5 easy peasy meals, short and sweet...

 
Chicken Salad Dinner...Throw a punnet of cherry tomatoes on a lined baking tray and roast for 20 minutes in a moderate oven. Pan fry a chicken breast cut in half lengthwise to make it thinner until cooked through. Shred the chicken once cooked, and toss it with a tin of chilled and rinsed Cannelini beans, some rocket, red onion, and a punnet of Cherry Tomatoes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

 
Lamb Biryani...Cook 1-2 cups brown rice, drain and set aside, and while that's cooking, brown 500gms diced lamb leg in a hot pan and add a cup of frozen peas and half a cauliflower cut into florets. Add 1 teaspoon each Turmeric, Ground Cumin, Ground Coriander, Ground Powdered Ginger, and 2 beef stock cubes dissolved in a cup of boiling water. Add the cooked rice, stir well, and cover with a lid, steaming for 20 minutes. Serve with natural yoghurt mixed with chopped fresh coriander, parsley and mint.

 
Lemon Tarragon Chicken and rosy red angel hair coleslaw... Poach a chicken breast using the method found below. Use a mandolin to thinly slice one quarter of a red cabbage, and grate one peeled carrot. Shred the cooled chicken and mix the cabbage and carrot with whole egg mayo. Serve with lemon wedges.
 
Mimi's Nannas Poached Chicken Breast:
 
Poached Chicken Breasts...Bring 6 cups of chicken stock to a high simmer, and add a bouquet garni. Add 3 chicken breast fillets, or a whole small hen, return to a high simmer (not a rolling boil), cover the saucepan and switch the hotplate off, removing the pan from the heat source. Allow the chicken to poach for 20-30 minutes without lifting the lid. Slice into a breast after 20 minutes and if it's cooked through to the middle it's ready to be served.

 
Two minute wraps for Breakfast or Lunch...Put each wrap on a microwave safe platter in the microwave and heat for 20 seconds. For each wrap, throw a handful of diced bacon into a hot pan and crack 2 eggs directly into the pan, swirling with a spoon to combine the white and the yolk. Flip like a crepe, and slide onto the warmed wrap. Top with slivers of avocado, a slice of cheese broken in half, and a handful of rocket or spinach.

 
Middle Eastern Lamb Salad...Marinate lamb leg, lamb rump or lamb fillet in Middle Eastern spice mix for 2 hours. Sear the meat in a medium hot pan, and cook 6 minutes one side, 4 on the other. Rest in foil for 10 minutes. Slice the lamb, and serve over a salad of rocket, feta, red onion and tomato, with a Tzatziki topping.
 
Enjoy!
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Friday, March 3, 2017

A New You....Choosing the right Hat for You...

 
I haven't worn a hat in years.
 
That is to say, I've been known to wear a stylish fascinator now and again, or a bit of frou-frou in my hair when the occasion warrants.
 
But hats...nah. A bit remiss considering I live in a Tropical climate, and a bit of shade on ones face is almost compulsory if you don't want to look like a prune by the age of 40.
 
Nonetheless, I have sailed a fair ways past 40 now (17 years past as a matter of fact), and thanks to judicious applications of sunscreen, the old visage hasn't suffered too much.
 
I did wear a hat on my wedding day. And opera length gloves, and damask shoes. It was an Aussie Bush style wedding in the country, with thick steaks cooked on an open air barbecue, and King Prawns for lunch, and a live band. But I saw no reason to skimp on the glory of being a bride!
 
Here they are. Sweet, eh?
 

Hats haven't figured largely in my day to day life since that day, nearly 20 years ago. They squash my curly hair, they're unwieldy in even a small breeze, and there aren't too many hats I like, quite frankly.
 
But there comes a time when one must face up to the fact that a hat makes sense. It helps preserve whatever bloom of youth one may still have. It's built in shade. It's easier to wear a hat than to carry an umbrella for personal shade, which I have been known to do from time to time. Not only that, but invariably one just needs a hat to wear to a Raceday event (hats are de rigeur at the Races), the beach, or even a wedding. Who wants to be racing out (no pun intended), overspending on a hat that you're only going to wear once to Cousin Nellies wedding, or the Back-of-Bourke Races?
 
I've suddenly realised that life is short, and I cannot bemoan the passing of the Age of Glamour (including hats, gloves and gorgeous shoes), when I am not personally upholding that Age of Glamour. It's time for that to change. Who cares what anyone thinks? I want to be remembered for being the Glamorous Granny, so here goes!
 
The black hat I've chosen above, ticks all the right boxes for me. It's broad brim and wired edge, make it easy to shape into a flattering face frame. It's snug without being tight. It's what we used to call a Picture Hat, and it's similar in many respects to the one I wore on my Wedding Day. Sure it flattens my hair a little, but not so much that it bothers me, and styling products these days cure a multitude of Hat Hair ills.
 
Most importantly, my black picture hat will see me looking stylish whether at the races, the beach, or on my morning walk. It fits the criteria of Chic...simple and elegant with no unnecessary embellishment. If the mood takes me, I can attach a bit of frou-frou in the form of a flower, ribbon, a scarf, or hailspot netting to glam it up a little. It's a great base from which to work.
 
Buying a more fancified hat, would not give me that flexibility.
 
Strangely, the day after I purchased my black picture hat, my darling son, gifted me this hat for my birthday...
 
 
I swear that boy reads my mind sometimes! I love this one too, and the addition of the jumbo rick-rack around the brim, makes it no less versatile.
 
Lucky me. I now have two perfect hats.
 
What about you? Do you wear hats? Is now the time to find the perfect versatile hat to add to your accessories list?
 
Here are my tips for finding the perfect hat for you....
 
1. Stick with a neutral colour. Try natural straw, white, cream, black or tan.
 
2. Find a material that suits the climate in which you live. The tropics dictate straw or straw like construction. Cooler climes might prefer felt, leather, or even faux fur.
 
3. Find a shape that frames or enhances your face. This style suits me, but might overwhelm someone with more pixie like features.
 
4. Consider the shape of the crown section as these too, can change the look. Note that my first hat has a traditional domed crown, whereas the hat my son bought me, has a flat Sombrero like crown. Believe it or not, this makes for an entirely different look.
 
5. Find a brim size that balances your silhouette. Too big and it will overwhelm you. Too small and it will look like it was made for a child.
 
6. Decide how you will wear your hat? Will it sit front and centre? Or will it perch jauntily to one side. Further forward? Or sitting more backward? These details will help you choose a hat that truly flatters you.
 
7. Browse hats on Pinterest, and find a few that catch your eye. Then try to determine what the common denominators are. Is it the shape? Is it the colour or the embellishment (or lack thereof)? Is it the way the model is wearing it? Does it hark back to a particular era? List the commonalities as these will help you in choosing your own perfect hat.
 
Do you favour Picture Hats like mine? Or do you lean towards Fedoras like this one below?
 
 
Maybe you like the look of the cute Trilbys that have been everywhere the last couple of years...
 
 
Or maybe you're a Downtown Abbey fan and adore Cloche hats. This little straw one is gorgeous, and would be as versatile as my black ones...
 
 
 
8. Decide how you will wear your hair under your hat, and wear it this way when you shop. Will you wear your hair long and loose, or sleek and neat? The way a hat looks when worn with long hair, will differ from the way it looks if you've secured your hair into a sleek bun or ponytail.
 
9. What will you wear your hat with, and where? Try to picture these outfits or events when trying on hats.
 
10. Avoid too many embellishments. You will gain more wear from your hat by choosing something simple, and adding your own embellishments as the occasion dictates.
 
I'm a fan again. I love my new hats, and wear them daily in the heat here in Australia. Soon the weather will cool, and I just know I'll be looking for my very own Cloche, or Fedora to see me through Autumn and Winter.
 
I look forward to my hats livening an outfit, dressing up a lunch date with my friends, giving me shade or keeping me warm (you lose a lot of body heat through your head!), and just making me feel a little more glamorous.
 
Will you seek out the perfect hat for you? Where will you wear yours? Do share :)
 
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