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 ( 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 large, 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.

 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?

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 ;-)
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

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.
9. Now the hard part. Leave your hair alone. Do not touch it, or scrunch it, or dry it with heat. Let it dry naturally. My hair takes about 2 hours to dry, so on the days I'm washing it, I get up a little earlier. By the time I get through my morning routine, and drive my daughter to school with the air conditioning gently blowing my hair dry to and from school, 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?
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

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.
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

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 :)
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png