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 #4...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....