Bringing Paris into my life (without actually visiting…)

One of the things I love best about living in England is the close proximity to mainland Europe and the diverse range of cultures on offer. The option of hopping onto the Eurostar train under the English Channel (thus avoiding the hassle of airports) further increases the appeal of nearby nations such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands as potential destinations. Major cities such as Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam have proven to make ideal minibreak locations.

Yet as far as cities go, Paris calls me back more than anywhere else. She will always hold a special charm and magnetism all of its own for me, and I know scores of others feel the same way. My first visit was in my early teens and even then I recall feeling wowed by iconic sights such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe that until then had only been theoretical places featuring in textbooks in French classes at school.

Since then, I have been drawn back several times. Anyone who has been will know that the beauty of Paris extends way beyond the architectural feats of the main tourist attractions. The authentic spirit of the middle ages lives on in her medieval streets, the whole city steeped in history and I can just imagine Bastille day and other events taking place in days gone by…

white concrete building
Photo by Adrienn on Pexels.com

We prefer to stay in the 11th- by Canal St Martin. Popularised after being featured as a filming location in the hit movie Amelie, it feels like a real residential neighbourhood with Parisians going about their everyday lives rather than simply swarming with tourists in the way that some of the central areas tend to be. Bustling local markets abound with discerning shoppers examining the profusion of fresh produce and interacting with loud, enthusiastic stall holders. Previously working-class neighbourhoods on the banks of the canal have been transformed into more bohemian areas, yet maintaining its status as a home for people of many races, religions and different types of employment.

On our last visit, I loved to idle away time sitting on a bench on the bank of the canal, or standing on one of the pretty green Venetian metal bridges, just people-watching and admiring the oh-so-chic French dames as they purposefully stride along the pavements, heels click-clacking away.

top view of paris city and eiffel tower
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Ah, yes. There is so much j’adore about Paris and France in general. My husband and I had begun making tentative plans to revisit Paris next Spring. For various reasons, the trip is not looking likely any more, le sigh. Yet rather than get downcast about the change of plans, I’ve chosen instead to fix my focus on weaving the essence of Paris into my everyday life. After all, a mini break, although wonderful, lasts a fleeting few days. But if I can successfully spritz my lifestyle with a Parisian influence then I can savour the pleasures as often as I wish.

Here are a few of the ways I intend to infuse my life a la Francais:

  • Browse through my ‘Paris 1001 photos’ book- this is kept permanently on my windowsill to pore over when the mood takes me.
  • Play my French cafe music CD and the Amelie soundtrack in my car.
  • Watch French-language films from the library especially ones that were filmed in Paris.
  • Wear scarves tied in different ways and my Breton striped top.
  • Eat French food- There is so much delicious French food. Baguettes are one of my favourites, with the crusty bread paired with Brie and a salad making a tasty lunchtime meal.

Do you aim to infuse your own life with a particular influence in a similar way? If so, I would love to hear about it. Make my day and leave a comment below 😊

Why You Should Do the Thing You Feel Least Like Doing

When the evenings draw in and there’s an absence of light filtering through my bedroom window in the mornings, I must admit that my energy and motivation levels can start to flag. Maybe in a former life, I was a hedgehog who was lucky enough to curl up and hibernate over the winter, blissfully aware of any gloomy weather conditions. It is so tempting to slack off doing things that take a little bit more effort, things that I don’t generally think twice about doing in spring and summer. Perhaps you feel the same?

Some things feel like too much effort…

Some days I can’t be bothered to style my hair properly, just wash it, have a quick comb through and leave the house with it still a bit damp. Other days applying makeup feels like a chore, especially if one of the kids has woken during the night and my bleary eyes don’t want to focus on anything. Or rather than fixing myself a proper breakfast that will energise and nourish me, I’ll grab a couple of sugary biscuits that leave me flagging after the sugar high wears off. All of these examples do occur in my life sometimes, plus more. It’s part of the nature of being an ordinary, flawed human.

Yet if I make a different choice, exert more of an effort and do the thing I feel least like doing, I never regret it later. Never. Pushing myself to do the thing I least feel like doing tends to make me feel heaps better almost instantly after doing it.

Why it’s worth doing them anyway…

Let’s return to the examples in the paragraphs above. When I’ve washed my hair in the morning and just get straight on with styling it, either blow drying and straightening it or trying out a different style, it looks so much better which gives me an instant lift. The same thing goes for applying my makeup. Although I go for a pretty understated, natural makeup look it evens out my skin tone and helps emphasise certain features. This makes me feel so much more positive about getting out there and facing the world, even if it only involves the school run. A tasty, healthy breakfast of eggs, muesli or fruit and yoghurt provides slow-release energy throughout the morning. A few weeks after I’d had my youngest child by C-section as well as having fought off sepsis contracted through the surgery, I had to resume the school runs again when my husband returned to work and left the house early. On reflection, I still wasn’t feeling very well at all but even so, when I took the time to apply makeup and fix my hair I felt infinitely more human and functional (even if I’d only snatched 4 hours sleep…). Taking the time to do that was a very worthwhile investment for me personally.

The same can be said of so many other things in life, too. Some have far more significant and wide-reaching impacts, also. Making the effort to exercise when you really don’t feel like it. Making the effort to separate your recyclable packaging from non-recyclables. Walking instead of driving for short distances.

How about you?

What do you think, reader? Which things do you do, either small or large, that you sometimes don’t feel like and have to muster up the motivation but are always glad you did afterwards? Please do drop a comment below to let me know 😊.

The reason why so few women are as stylish as they desire to be…

What is the reason for the lack of style of many women in the UK? While flicking through a local free magazine* recently, one article discussing just this caught my attention. Ruth Essex, a stylist and style writer, pondered the reasons why so many women are not the stylish, elegant dressers that if asked, they claim they desire to be.

Lack of cash?

Despite money or lack thereof being the obvious barrier, lack of cash is actually not the real problem. Money does not always equate to good taste in attire, as endless red carpet faux-pas can attest to.

A less than perfect Figure?

Dissatisfaction with one’s figure doesn’t cut it as an explanation, either. You only have to look to countries such as France or Italy, where the majority of plus-sized ladies make the best of themselves and present an elegant image out and about.

Nope. Two little words are the culprits…

Nope. Ruth rightly pinpoints the problem down to two little words: “only” and “just”. How many times have we all discounted the need to make an effort with our choice of clothing, hair and make up because we are “only” doing the school run, or “just” going to the shops for a pint of milk, or “only” meeting a friend in an informal cafe for lunch. Hands up who has succumbed to this way of thinking? I know I certainly have and can easily slip back into it if I’m not careful. Why do we diminish the importance of these singularly small events, that when pieced together form the bulk of our days and actual lives?

woman holding disposable cup
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

How to break the habit?

Why not challenge yourself to remove those “just” and “only’ words? See how the sentence becomes reframed? I am doing the school run. I am going to the shops. Now, these events sound worthy of making a little more effort for, don’t they?

Ruth Essex explains that the “just” and “only” type thinking is called “faulty” thinking by psychoanalysts but we can re-learn it. It is about reminding ourselves that spending a little extra time on coordinating an outfit each morning, applying a little makeup and styling our hair is something that we deserve to do and that because it makes us feel good about ourselves, it contributes towards our wellbeing. Don’t you notice a huge difference on those days when you have invested a little more time than usual on getting yourself ready to go out, in terms of what a boost it gives you, even if no one else notices the outward difference?  A glance around the centre of any Italian or French city will certify that the donne and femmes of the respective lands have cultivated this mentality and strive to present themselves at their best on a daily basis. In fact, the grandmother of the boy I was an au pair for in Italy dressed and made herself up beautifully every single day, even though she rarely chose to leave her home. Taking pride in her appearance was second nature given that she was in her seventies.

So Remember…

The old adage “life is not a dress rehearsal” is an apt reminder that the seemingly ordinary everydays are what make up the bulk of our existence. So: pull out those lovely items in your wardrobe that you save for best, remove the sealed wrapping from that eyeshadow you purchased months ago and give yourself permission to use them and enjoy them.

*The article was called ‘”Only” and “Just”: The Death of Style’ by Ruth Essex in Eastlife magazine

Decorating the House for Autumn

I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying autumn so far? Or the arrival of spring, for any southern hemisphere readers! Even though recent years have seen me gain an increasing appreciation for the beauty of autumn in all her colourful splendour, this year I have striven to bring some of the colour into my home. I have taken a lot of enjoyment from both researching decorative ideas and then setting them up in our home.

What sparked the idea in my mind…

Although I have gradually come around to the notion of decorating the house for Halloween in recent years (heavily influenced by the presence of excitable young children), I must admit that the prospect of decorating the house in a general autumn theme had never really occurred to me. In truth, it was seeing Ann’s beautiful decorations in her home on her blog www.ournewvista.com that sparked the interest in my mind. Since then, I’ve enjoyed taking part in Dee’s ‘Welcoming Fall 5-Day Challenge’ which sparked plenty of ideas.  A number of shops here are also brimming with beautiful rustic items in appealing, rich shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. They reflect the stunning hues that nature begins to bestow upon us at this time of year.

Borrowing a few items from the outdoors

Tempting though the countless shop displays were, with their wares of cushions in autumn-themed prints, animal lamps and ornaments, I decided to attempt a simple homespun decoration in the first instance. Thankfully, the branches of several shrubs in our garden were foisting inspiration upon me, in the form of bright, ripe berries dangling heavily from branches in vivid hues of red and yellow. After snipping off a few small branches I arranged them in a white vase and was pretty pleased with the result. Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will have seen the images the day that I filled my vase.

autumn bedding 2018-10-02 20.58.54 copy

Autumn Bedlinen

I have two main sets of bed linen- a spring/ summer set and an autumn/winter set. With the temperature steadily dropping, the time felt right to switch to the autumn/winter set. Even though we have owned it for at least five years (and it was only a budget buy at a supermarket even then), it raises my spirits each year when I make up the bed with it for the first time. As you can see from the pic here, it depicts deer, rabbits and other winter animals in red on a paler background.

Vignette Displays

Then I wandered onto Pinterest to fuel further decor ideas. There, I fell in love with the idea of using pumpkins and gourds as table centrepieces and sideboard displays.  Alas, I am months too late to have planted my own, but sourced some artificial ones from an eBay supplier. I also bought a pack of artificial leaves in a variety of autumnal shades, which I’ll be able to reuse year after year. What do you think?

autumn pumpkins 2018-10-02 11.10.33 copy

Here is a little mock berry and pinecone candle holder that I couldn’t resist buying:

autumn candle holder 2018-10-02 11.10.50 copy

 

How about you?

Have you grown your own pumpkins or gourds before? I’d be interested to know how easy or difficult it is. Perhaps I can add it to my list of things to try next year…

I would love to hear or see pics of any autumn decorations in your home that the moment. Feel free to add a comment. Hearing from readers makes my day 🙂

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Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self

As a long-time subscriber of Shannon Ables’s The Simply Luxurious Life blog, I love the way her regular blog posts provide a steady stream of inspiration on everything from book and film recommendations to recipes and thoughtfully expressed advice for elevating various aspects of our lives.

Having enjoyed Shannon’s first book, Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life a few years ago, I was pleased to hear that a second book was in the pipeline. Naturally, I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of the book to review here on Live Chic and Well.

The blurb of Shannon’s new book, Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self  (see image above) states it will help you learn how to:

  • Recognize your innate strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to nurture your best self
  • Identify and navigate past societal limitations often placed upon women
  • Strengthen your brand both personally and professionally
  • Build a supportive and healthy community
  • Cultivate effortless style
  • Enhance your everyday meals with seasonal fare
  • Live with less, so that you can live more fully
  • Understand how to make a successful fresh start
  • Establish and mastermind your financial security
  • Experience great pleasure and joy in relationships
  • Always strive for quality over quantity in every arena of your life.

There is a huge amount of content to digest, given that it spans everything from small details to uplevel our everyday lives, to making potentially life-altering decisions such as career changes or relocating. And so, I have spent a number of enjoyable autumn evenings curled up on the sofa poring the almost 400 pages to reap the full benefit of the advice.

I appreciated the ever-practical and easy-to-implement suggestions on ways to improve my own everydays.  The reader is gently probed to examine aspects of their lives that they may be dissatisfied with and to consider how to take steps to make improvements and inch closer to the lives we dream of. When we adopt a different perspective and take positive action, anything seems possible, don’t you think?

I would heartily recommend this book to any woman who is keen to welcome positive changes in her life. Does that sound like you? With Shannon’s seasoned wisdom and gentle guidance, you are likely to unearth a fresh sense of enthusiasm and appreciation for savouring the joys of everyday life. Oh, and a long list of scribbled-down ideas you intend to put into practice from the pages of this book. I know I certainly have!

The book is available now from Amazon UK. However, wouldn’t you prefer a signed copy, a simply luxury gift and a 40% discount off the first book? I thought you’d like the sound of that! Head directly to The Simply Luxurious Life website to take advantage of this great offer.

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A 95 Year Old Stranger – How He Inspired Me

You know how every so often you happen to encounter a special individual who fills you with awe and a fresh perspective on life? Well, that happened to me recently.

A couple of weeks ago we returned from a (very relaxing and enjoyable) cruise holiday to Spain and Portugal. Part of the cruising experience is making conversation with your fellow passengers and we did indeed chat and get to know some pleasant and interesting people. However, one particular person held greater fascination to me than any other…

One afternoon, my parents-in-law kindly offered to look after our kids so that my husband and I could experience the Afternoon Tea in the formal dining room. On arrival, we were allocated a table adjacent to an elderly gentleman seated alone. Shortly after we were served delectable little crabmeat sandwiches and the most amazing, homemade sausage rolls in the world. Then the man looked up from his own plate of delectable goodies, smiled at us and enquired whether this was our first trip on that particular cruise ship. We replied that it was, to which he informed us (with a hint of pride) that it was his fourth voyage on the ship…this year!

He added that he was hoping to book an additional cruise holiday for the Christmas and New Year period. He affirmed that he always travels alone and enjoys the feeling of being well provided for and having minimal worries on a cruise holiday. As did I, I hasten to add: it was sheer heaven not having to think about cooking any meals or wash clothes for twelve blissful nights.

Appreciate What You Have

With a shadow of sadness on his well-lined face, the man confided that he had been travelling a lot since his wife passed away three years ago. He told us wistfully that he counted himself very fortunate to have been married to a wonderful woman for over seventy years, most of them enjoyed in good health and the last few he nursed her at home after she developed terminal cancer. He recounted proudly how their friends and acquaintances had all scoffed that their relationship would not last when they initially united. They had the last laugh though when they received messages from the Queen after 50, 60 and finally 70 years of marriage.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Looking directly at my husband Paul, the gentleman proclaimed that his secret to a happy marriage was to keep his wife happy and give her whatever she asked for, wherever possible, and always making her wellbeing and happiness his top priority. After his late wife reportedly experienced “a bad time” giving birth to their only child, he was adamant that she would not suffer in the same way again or put her life at risk attempting a second birth.

Be Spontaneous and Take Chances

He recounted how he and his wife once went for a week-long holiday to Torquay in Devon. On passing a small hotel with a ‘for sale’ sign displayed outside, his wife quickly became excited and animated about the prospect of buying and running this hotel. Her enthusiasm proved to be infectious, because they went ahead and bought it and instantly handed in their resignation letters to their respective workplaces. This was despite a complete lack of any experience in running a hotel, I was told! That story did resonate with me and made me decide to be open to more opportunities to be spontaneous and follow my gut instinct. Granted, this is not as easy as it used to be now that I have three small children, but you never know what is around the corner and if something piques my interest I aim to at least consider trying it rather than immediately ruling it out.

Travel and See The World

This particular gent said himself that he had left it late in life to travel the world and see the sights on cruise ships spanning the continents. Ruefully, he expressed regret that he and his wife had not travelled more extensively when they were younger and both in good health. His bank balance was apparently “very healthy” but our physical health cannot ever be assumed in the future. I must admit that since losing my own dear father prematurely five years ago and gaining more of a sense of my own mortality, I have felt greater resolve to travel and enjoy nice holidays even with young kids in tow. I know I would regret leaving it too late and missing out on the chance if my (or my husband’s) health later failed.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

Despite the sad circumstances of having to travel alone after losing his wife three years previously, the man presented as fairly upbeat. He clearly enjoyed chatting to my husband and I and described his humble one-bedroom apartment that he called home (at least, when he wasn’t on one his many cruises!) with affection and explained that it met his needs perfectly. He mentioned simple pleasures that enhance his life such as playing bridge and doing the daily newspaper crossword.

Set a Goal

On revealing his impressive age of 95, the man curved his mouth into a smile and his eyes twinkled as he said that he really wanted to reach the age of 100 to receive an additional message from the queen. Perhaps that determination helps prolong his health for longer? It certainly got me thinking that if a 95-year old sets goals in his life, then it is worth those of us far younger being intentional about the things we desire to achieve the most and figure out the most effective way of attaining them.

We never even got around to exchanging names with that inspirational gentleman, yet somehow he made a lasting impression and has encouraged me to find a fresh appreciation for all that I have in my life. In particular, I include my marriage to my husband. We have recently marked our 10-year anniversary but I hope there will be many more decades of happiness for us.

How about you, reader? Have you met any inspirational older people and if so, which life lessons have you learned from them? Please do let me know in the comments below.

 

7 Reasons to Enjoy September

As a recent convert to the joys of Autumn, having previously been a lifelong spring and summer fan, I find myself increasingly aware of the abundant joys to be savoured at this time of year. They say that what we focus on increases, whether positive or negative, so let’s dwell on the finer details of the pleasures to savour of September.

The Bounty of Harvest

In early September, my family enjoys foraging for blackberries growing wild on bramble bushes. Simply delicious baked in a crumble. Apples, pears and plums drop from the trees, signalling their readiness to be consumed at their best. There is nothing like taking that first bite of ripe, juicy fruit bursting with flavour at the start of Harvest season. My grandmother used to have a huge walnut tree in her garden and I have fond memories of I excitedly gathering handfuls of them up with my cousins before cracking the shells.

red green fruit in close up photography
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Crisp Mornings

As autumn begins, I love the pearlescent quality the sunlight takes on at sunrise, a muted version of the harsher summer rays. They reflect to highlight the shimmer on the droplets of dew that suddenly appear on the grass most mornings.

The Autumn Wardrobe

As the temperatures dip, I am sure I am not alone in eagerly pulling out my autumn and winter clothing from storage. Cord dresses, tights, boots, cardigans… I love colder weather clothing and always feel more chic wearing it.

The sense of a Fresh Start

Having spent ten years as a school teacher (as well as many years of being a student), for me the start of the academic is strongly associated with the opportunity to carve out a new start, often having taken on brand new classes, areas of curriculum responsibility etc. Even now that I am no longer in teaching, that sense of starting afresh remains. Making resolutions or goals to make improvements in my life holds greater appeal in this month than in depressingly grey January. Perhaps now is a good time for you to consider setting one or two of your own, or at least taking stock on the progress you’ve been making towards goals you set yourself in January?

The Anticipation of Autumn and Winter Festivities

We have a couple of family birthdays in September and October which are great excuses to gather the extended family around and catch up on recent news in their lives. Plus Halloween is just around the corner. Before having children, Halloween came and went almost without my noticing, but now I’ve fully yielded to participating in the fun it brings. My kids adore choosing and dressing in suitably spooky costumes, knocking on a few neighbours doors to ‘trick or treat’ and taking a trip to the pumpkin patch to play with the mass of pumpkins and pick out one to take home. This year, I quite fancy cooking something from the pumpkin flesh for the first time. Do any readers have any suggestions I could try?

Bonfire Night with its firework display spectaculars closely tail Halloween, and before we know it the anticipation of Christmas dangles within tempting reach…

Snuggling on the Sofa with Blankets

During September I avoid switching on the heating if possible, but on those slightly chilly evenings a supersoft, fleecy blanket is the perfect solution to keep me warm as I watch TV or read on the sofa.

cat lying on cloth
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

The Return of Routine

Of course, the summer holidays are a time to luxuriate in lazy mornings and take life at a leisurely pace. But there is a lot of comfort to be found in the routine that school days provide. My kids also thrive on the extracurricular activities that only take place during school term time. On a slightly selfish note I get more of an opportunity to sit down and focus on writing. I’ve really missed being able to write regularly during the summer, both blog posts and my book, and can’t wait to dive back into it.

What do you enjoy the most about this time of year? I’d love to hear about it, so please drop me a comment below 🙂

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