Thursday, June 29, 2017

A New You...Dressing the Petite Plus Sized Apple Shape #6....Long and Lean...

I'm half way through my New Year, New You Challenge. That's the one where I decided to educate myself more adequately on what suits someone who is 57 and fat....hahaha!
I'm what is known in figure-analysis circles as an Apple. I thought for the longest time I was an Hourglass. Ha! Fool me!
This misconception led to all kinds of fashion failures. I mean really, we're not even talking 'fashion'. We're just talking 'not looking like a dogs breakfast'.
Anyways, I finally got my act together on this Apple shape bizo, and started re-assessing clothing I had, and making some (very) well chosen purchases.
First on the Wish List was to look more like Caroline Herrera, the Venezualan born designer, seen above left. Yes. Well, I don't have her figure, but armed with the right information, I set about finding something similar in her look, that would suit me.
The skirt on the right, was my solution. It was neutral, had a print that was not floral, and had this lovely piping that tricked the eye into looking at the vertical, thus making me look taller and leaner. was too long, and left at that length, could still make me look frumpy.
I was also, at this stage, still acclimatising to the idea that short, fat people like me (sorry, Petite Plus Size Apples), should, nay... NEED... to create the illusion of height. See, Caroline does this admirably with her schnazzy heels, and her foofy hair.
So the first item on the list was a pair of nude heels, and a pair of black peeptoe heels. Done. These needed low top of foot cleavage to give the illusion of length of leg, and a wearable height as far as heels go. Hobbling is not a good look, short and fat, or not. 
I shortened the skirt. That was not a task for the faint hearted. This is a semi-circular, gored skirt, and it was a job I dreaded, but once done, I could immediately see an improvement.
I paired it here, with a blush pink cardi and scarf, took this selfie, and realised that this scarf (which I previously loved), was adding bulk to my frame in the same way waterfall cardi's had previously.

I exchanged it for this long vintage blush pink glass bead necklace, and look! Doesn't that make me look taller and slimmer already? Who knew, right? Long and lean accessories make YOU look long and lean. Fluffy, fat ones, well, you know...make you look fluffy and fat. Not desirable for most of us.

I popped this Citrus Green jacket on that day too. But it's boxy, cropped style, just makes me look boxy and cropped. Sigh. I used to love that jacket, but it's Sayonara Citrus for now. I've kept it exclusively for wear with dark denim jeans and a jaunty scarf. That's a better look.

 Finally I got the DETAILS right, and paired my altered and thrifted $10 skirt, with a $20 button down shirt in black (black minimises faults remember, white accentuates them...great for Caroline, not so much for me). I added my black slingback peeptoe heels ($150 and many hours on the net searching), and my longed for Baroque pearls.
I think whilst I'll never be Caroline, I'm happy enough with my interpretation on her look, to know that I REALLY CAN DO THIS!

In the picture above right, I look taller, more slender, youthful, but not ridiculous, and more stylish than I did six months ago by far.
I think I'll call that a win!
My Baroque pearls remain my best investment, like, ever. I wear them several times a week, and they elevate everything I wear to 'special'.
Here below, was the inspiration, and under that, the realisation.
I never dreamed I'd own something so lovely, but discipline and 'thinking like a French woman', have seen me change my approach to dressing, forever.
Now when I shop, I shop with a specific item in mind. It must be the right colour, the right shape, the right fit (or be able to be altered for fit...we Apples are hard to fit sometimes), the right length, and so on. If I do NOT find that item, exactly as I've listed, I don't buy anything. Another valuable lesson. The right 'thing' seems to find it's way to me eventually.
The little details make all the difference to whether your look works or not. Who could have imagined that shortening a skirt, wearing (non-crippling) heels, and investing in a fitted button down shirt and a strand of pearls, could make such a difference.
1. Think long and lean, like my glass bead necklace.
2. Vertical stripes (like the piping on my skirt) or features are your friend.
3. Adding height by wearing heels and an up do, like Caroline Hererra or my peeptoe heels,  is another great strategy.
4. Be choosy when you shop and always shop with a list...just like for groceries. I measured where I wanted my pearls to finish on my torso, and sent the lady who was making them, 10 photos of what I didn't want, as well as 3 of what I did. I was very specific.
5. Shoes need toe cleavage to add length to your leg. Nude heels are great, as are peeptoe heels.
6. Knee length hemlines are perfect for Apples. They add length to your leg and make you appear taller.
7. Fitted button down shirts, with a wee bit of stretch are better than boxy t-shirts and jackets. Anything loose or boxy, just makes you look fatter.
8. If you wear scarves, be sure they're not adding bulk to your frame. Silk scarves are better than knit.
Are you getting there? I hope you're finding this as fun as I am!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 value in the home...Setting an Example....

One of the things I love most about where I am in life, is that I have so many opportunities to set a good example in the way I run my home.
I try to set an example with what we grow in the garden, what we store in the pantry, and what we save in the craft cupboard and sewing room. Much of that activity, is largely guided by my own memories of my Mum, Nanna and other significant adults, in my own life, and the wonderful example they set for me.
In this day and age of chasing eternal youth and the next notch in our belt as far as fitness goes, of houses that are bigger than big, and credit card debts to go with, and retirees busy spending the kids inheritance, I think it's important to remember that there was a time when adults really did, set the example.
When I was a child, the adults around me worked hard.
And by that I mean physically hard, not in an air-conditioned office. Dads and Grandads, and Mums and Grandmas all worked very hard to establish a comfortable lifestyle, and their idea of comfort was very different to ours.
If you had a roof over your head, a Kelvinator fridge with a tiny freezer just barely big enough for a 'brick' of ice cream, and a cozy bed, you were doing just fine.
TV was a luxury, and even when it became more commonplace, they were tiny things about the size of a modern day microwave. And the pictures were black and white. Television broadcasting commenced at 9am with Romper Room or Playschool for the children, and halted at about 9pm after Pick A Box and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were over. We were then treated to a holding pattern on our screen, and a high pitched hum that woke many of us from a peaceful slumber on the couch.
The Milkman, The Fruit Man, The Baker, The Soft Drink Man, The Fishmonger, The Butcher and The Grocer all delivered, or had a truck that did the rounds every day, and you'd just wander down to have them weigh what you needed in their big swinging scales. They always threw in a bit of extra, be it some imperfect apples, or an extra fish, or the shank from the lamb, and garnered a loyal customer base in the process. No haggling. It was respect both ways.
Being a little self sufficient was important
Everyone grew stuff and many kept chickens. I don't recall ever in my life living in a house that did not have at least a Mango tree and a Macadamia tree, and usually there was a Mulberry, a Lemon, sometimes a Peach tree, and often a Banana tree. My childhood knew no pre-packaged snacks apart from a very occasional packet of chips and that was usually in a showbag (also known as a sample bag) from the annual Show, which was like a sort of Carnival on steroids and greatly anticipated. No theme parks back then either. Afternoon tea consisted of an hour of grazing on what grew in the back yard. Sometimes that was an hour spent cracking Macadamia Nuts, sometimes it was picking Chokoes and steaming them to enjoy them dripping in butter, salt and pepper. Never did it mean something in a plastic cup, unless it was a Tupperware cup with cold, icy milk and 3 spoonsful of Milo. You'd get the Milo barely wet with milk, by stirring it in, then enjoy eating the crust of Milo granules that would settle on top.
Everyone knew how to insulate themselves from financial hardship
My grandparents had a Strawberry farm and picking the berries was back breaking work and they didn't earn a lot of money from it. But they also grew a choko vine, a passionfruit vine, a fig tree, and raised their own chickens, geese, cows and lambs. Grandpa would be up early to milk the cows. Nanna would rise and make Semolina for breakfast, and she'd serve it with a little of the top cream from yesterdays milk, brown sugar and cinnamon. She'd spend the morning collecting the eggs, pruning things in the garden, baking, and even sometimes slaughtering a chicken for the dinner pot. This would entail a process that would send some of you screaming from the room if I were to detail it, so I'll keep mum on that one. Suffice to say, I certainly understood the Food Chain from an early age!
Nanna and Mum both cooked, sewed, embroidered, knitted, crocheted, baked, made amazing cakes for birthdays, christenings and weddings, grew food, grew flowers, made do, made from scratch, and generally conjured up life from nothing more than fresh air and water, or so it seemed at times.
Not for them fretting about lines, or freckles, or excess weight, or what their resting pulse was, or who knew who and what their 'connections' might be. Yes, they looked after themselves, but it was a less conscious thing. Exercise routines were embedded in their day, so no gym membership was necessary.
As far as occupations went, nobody cared if your were a doctor, lawyer, tinker or tailor. In fact, mostly people felt sorry for doctors as they were frequently called upon at all hours to tend to all injuries both great and small. Emergency treatment in big, shiny hospitals was a few years off. I still remember when an accident at the local train station had the adults talking in whispers for a full week. Our doctor was asked, with no support or well lit hospital operating room, to tend a man who was so badly injured, he would not survive. I don't think he was ever his jovial self again after that. Life was cruel sometimes.
Teachers were a bit scary, headmasters more so. The local Methodist priest, scariest of all. But relatively speaking, the strange occupational hierarchy that exists now, was a long way off. Back then, so long as you paid your bills and were a good, decent person, that was enough.
Mums and Nannas, Dads and Grandpas, neighbours and teachers were, and continue to be, my example in life.
What worthy examples they turned out to be.

As I move into the latter half of my life, I find I am more and more drawn to simpler living, and a way of life that upholds the lessons learned at my Nannas knee. Perhaps it is the pleasure of spending time with my own grandchildren that transports me so fiercely and vividly to my own childhood, and beckons to me invitingly.
Whatever it is, I am determined to ensure that I live my life as an example. Not by collecting accolades, awards and celebrity status, but by demonstrating the joy of a life that is unencumbered by the expectations of others. A life that says something about who I have been in my time on the Earth.
Society needs examples.
What sort of example are you setting?
My granddaughter has visited for Sleepovers twice in two weeks. Both times, I gave her my undivided attention. I remember my Nanna giving generously of her time to me at the same age. She died when I was 11, and I miss her still. My memories of her have not faded one bit in the ensuing 46 1/2 years, and I feel her example in my life, every single day. From rising early, to baking from scratch, to growing figs and mulberries, and teaching my granddaughter to embroider. She is right there with me.
Likewise, Mum, now gone nearly 15 years, was a teacher of so many important life lessons. The one that said don't live beyond your means. The one that said that friends who want you to spend money you don't have, be it on clothes, cars, homes or gifts, aren't friends. They're competitors in some weird life game, that you shouldn't feel compelled to participate in. And the one that said, no matter what it was, We Can Make That Darling. And she was right.

Already my 17 year old daughter makes gifts and cakes for her friends as seen here above. This gift was 100 Happy Thoughts in a jar, some individually wrapped chocolates, a sweetly customised wrapped soap, and some dried rosebuds. How beautifully she wrapped it too.

My eldest granddaughter who is 5, loves nothing more than to bake and pick flowers in the garden when she visits. Exactly as I did at her age with my Nanna. What a joy it is for me, to recreate that experience for her and my younger granddaughter, her sister.

Our times together are spent happily baking, creating, reading, crafting, colouring...

...and she loves nothing more than to imitate what I do. Her hand embellished dinner plates are a joy to behold, and she tried so hard to imitate my kitty kats above.
Pipe cleaners are fashioned in to Tiaras....

And finally, she tells me it's time for a cake and a cup of tea, and brings me a book to read.

We don't go out for gourmet meals much either. Sure I can rustle up something pretty swish when the mood takes me, but mostly it's simple, tasty, and warming at this time of the year in the Southern Hemisphere!
Corned beef and roast vegetables one night, becomes Corned Beef Shepherds Pie the next. The lesson of planning the meals to ensure minimal waste, another wonderful example.

Fast food here means tinned beans forming the base of a Winter Stir Fry, with the addition of bright vegetables, cubes of Chorizo, and a little seasoning. Ready in 7 minutes. That's less time than it would take to drive to the local takeaway.

Excess fruit becomes jam, which in turn becomes these gorgeous Crostadas, enjoyed as dessert, afternoon tea, and gifted for a housewarming. One simple recipe, used three times, three different ways. And at a cost of around $1 for 12, a real lesson in the value of home made. We'd seen similar Crostadas, one third the size, in a posh deli that day, at a price of $13 for 12.

Even the basic lesson of serving food on nice platters is an important one. You might notice that whilst restaurants serve meals on large plates, usually only the very centre is utilised, allowing for lots of space around the food to enhance the presentation. Large plates aren't for filling up with unnecessary calories. They're to give you space to make the food look appealing. A little lemon zest, a sprinkle of chopped chives, a spring of rosemary, a dusting of paprika or freshly ground pepper. These things go a long way towards giving your food that restaurant look, without the price tag. I don't think my Nanna and Grandpa ever visited a restaurant in their entire life. But they knew the value of a beautifully set table.

Mum and Nanna also knew how to make just about anything. There was no internet, but women talked. Over the fence and at church mostly. Recipes were exchanged, hardships shared, love celebrated, and tragedies grieved.
Foods like Cottage Cheese were a by-product of a simple life. If you had excess milk from your cow, you had to find a way to use it. Someone else's Nonna or Nanna or Ya-Ya always had the recipe you needed to use up what you had too much of, or to stretch what you needed more of.
When you realise that you can make Cottage Cheese/Ricotta, from nothing more than milk, salt and either lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid, you'll be wondering what's with the hefty price tag. Especially when you realise it's something that came out of avoiding food waste!
Once you appreciate the joy too, of growing just a few fragrant herbs in pots or in your garden, you'll likely be wondering the same thing. There is a special happiness in clipping some chives from your own sunny porch to stir through scrambled eggs or freshly made cottage cheese....

Here's how I made a cup of delicious, creamy cottage cheese of my own the other day. My granddaughter helped. She didn't appreciate the cheese, calling it Yucky Nanna, but she loved the process.
To one litre of Reduced Fat Milk, I added a 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/3 teaspoon of Citric Acid. You can find Citric Acid in the Baking aisle with things like Baking Powder.
Line a kitchen sieve with muslin or paper towel, and set it over a jug or bowl where the whey can drain.
Bring the milk and additives to a fast simmer, and remove it from the heat.
Let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
It will form curds which you then scoop out with a slotted spoon, into your waiting lined sieve.
It will look a bit like this.
Keep the whey if you wish. It makes great skin toner, and can be added to shakes, smoothies, chutneys, and sauces. I sometimes keep it, and other times I don't bother. It doesn't keep indefinitely though, so make a plan to use it up, or discard as you see fit.
Allow your curds to drain for up to one hour. I changed my paper towel three times to get my cottage cheese to this consistency. This is quite firm and scoopable, and I can add herbs to it and use it as I would feta, haloumi, or grated tasty cheese.

Chopped mint and chives makes a lovely fresh tasting cheese.
I served this as a salad one day...
..and as a sautéed vegetable medley the next. Planning to use things up, like the corned beef I mentioned above, is an important example too. Waste not, want not!
These two meals used exactly the same ingredients, but one was served cold with the mushrooms marinated as a salad, the other stirred in a hot wok for a few minutes as a delicious Saute`.
Another lesson learned.

What lessons did you learn at your Grandmothers knee?
I'd love to hear.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Motherly Advice...Pretty pictures do not a pantry make....

Are you someone who adores spending time on Pinterest? On Instagram? I know I am. I love a pretty picture, and confess that I am greatly influenced in what I achieve in my day, by how visually pleasing the effect will be, when I am done.
I love the gleam of my hardwood floors when they're freshly swept and mopped (yes that is my new Falcon oven peeking at the right hand edge of this shot...delivered yesterday...

....and so too, the gleam of my beautiful Tasmanian Oak laminated beam bench and buffet tops....

..I love looking from my kitchen bench, across the living area, to our bank of louvres and out into our shady tropical garden. It's a special pleasure...

....and in the Master Bedroom, I love the soothing ivory and blue colour scheme, with my hand embellished faux Moroccan blanket...

...and toning throw rug, fringing elegantly draped over the antique blanket box that I bought with my very first pay packet 41 years ago. The framed photograph was produced by a local primary school class, for their school fete. I won it by Silent Auction, for just $50. Isn't it the sweetest?

So, when it came to my kitchen, I was similarly influenced by how darling it could look. Over a period of years, and aiming for this sort of idea, below...
...I assembled an extensive collection of vintage Harlequin kitchen canisters. Different types, but mostly full sets. The anodised metal one at front right you see in the next picture, being the exception. I had some wild idea (not entirely misguided), that I would find mates for that one in my thrift store shopping expeditions. I augmented this with my collection of recycled jars, seen bottom right, which I topped with a rainbow of crystal door knobs. I loved them. Husband less so. He says he doesn't mind a bit of Vintage Charm in the kitchen, but I think he means!
On the occasions when Husband, or my lovely sons or daughters-in-law cook for the family, it's been difficult for them to navigate my Rainbow canisters. The canisters say Flour or Sugar, but which one is Plain Flour or Rice Flour? Which is Raw Sugar and Caster Sugar? Where is the Quinoa? And which canister holds the teabags, and where is the filter coffee kept? Sigh. It sure was delightfully dreamy looking at those sorbet hued canisters, but jeez...not easy to find stuff.

My recent win of kitchen appliances, gave me a whole new viewpoint. Suddenly I didn't have to make do with pastel canisters, and a sorta, kinda half French Farmhouse, half 50s Retro kitchen any more. The centrepiece of my kitchen would now be my Falcon Range...
 ...and I could fulfill my dream of a true French Country Farmhouse kitchen.
Cupboards were emptied....eee-yew...scary what gathers in there over the years...
...cleaned and painted white...

...even cutlery drawers were before...
 ...and here, below, after...
...and new clear canisters sourced for just $8 each set of three in graduating heights. 
Fifteen sets of three in all, plus some chalkboard style labels and a white pen, saw my kitchen changed from chaos to calm...

 My favourite pink vintage canisters and bread bin were retained and given pride of place. They still make me smile...
...and now a calm, harmonious arrangement is in place for my extensive array of cooking ingredients. No matter who the designated chef is, ingredients can be found easily, levels checked instantly, shopping lists made simply, and order reigns supreme.

It's been a real lesson for me. I was so focused on having a Pinterest Perfect idea of a kitchen, that I neglected to appreciate who uses the space, when and how it's used, and why it needs to be a space where anyone can walk in and find what they need. Sure, it needed to be an area in which I loved to work, but I am not the only one working there!
It's now time to pretend I've had a windfall of a longed for appliance or piece of furniture in other rooms of the house, and evaluate those space for functionality, and not just the pretty picture they make.
After all, this is my home. Not a Pinterest board. Right?
What about you? Are you influenced by the plethora of pictures with which we are bombarded these days? How do you keep your home, yours, in the era of Pinterest and Instagram?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nannas recipes in four sentences...Crepes and Crepe Stacks

Light as air crepes...
In a large jug, whisk one cup of flour, one egg, one tablespoon of oil or melted butter, a pinch of salt, and enough milk to make the batter resemble the consistency of pouring cream, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Heat a non stick pan over medium-high heat, and barely moisten it with some oil wiped over with a paper towel. Pour in a scant quarter cup of batter and swirl it to spread the batter thinly, allowing it to dry out and lift at the edges, before flipping. Slide from the pan to a waiting platter and repeat with remaining batter.
I like to layer this to form a sort of cake, using Nutella, Jam and Cream or even just lemon or lime juice (freshly squeezed) and caster sugar between the layers. Yummy!
Some tips for crepe perfection...
1. Only use a non stick frypan.
2. Find yourself a stainless steel spatula with a squared off edge. Plastic spatulas with rounded edges make it very hard to lift and flip your crepes neatly.
3. Do not use too much oil. A light smear or spray is all that's required.
4. Don't use too much batter per crepe. You only want a couple of tablespoons of batter to give you enough to swirl for a side plate sized crepe.
5. Don't make the crepes too large, as they'll be hard to flip, and won't look as pretty when stacked.
6. Make sure the crepe is dry and frilly around the edges and bubbly on top, before you try to flip. It should be virtually cooked on the top, and only require browning once flipped.
7.  Serving variations are only limited by your imagination. Savoury fillings can include leftovers, vegetables, meat, fish or chicken in a white sauce rolled inside cigar style, topped with cheese, and baked in a moderate oven. Sweet fillings can be fruit, mousse, spreads or simply citrus juice and fine sugar. 
8. Start with the pan on the highest setting, and be prepared to discard the first crepe in each batch as you get the technique and temperature right. Reduce the heat to medium high after the first crepe.
9. Crepes make a great substitute stacked as a sort of layer cake, used instead of lasagne sheets (especially for those who eat gluten free), and served as an inexpensive and elegant brunch or breakfast.
10. Roll them like cigars, fold them into little half circles or quarter circles, or simply enjoy layered with sugar between the layers.

How will you enjoy your crepes?