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 😊.

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.

 

5 Ways to Cherish Memories of Good Times

Every day presents a fresh opportunity to explore, discover, and most importantly, to experience. Shared experiences, whether they be school days spent with what end up being lifelong friends, holidays with family members or evenings spent at hobby-related clubs or classes with like-minded people, forge a sense of connection with those people we spend time with. They improve our sense of well being, too.

Experiences of the cultural variety also broaden the mind. Seeking out the arts in the form of a theatre, operatic or ballet performance will feed and excite the brain cells and keep you buzzing for far longer than spending the equivalent amount of money on a new item for clothing, for instance. Spending your money on experiences rather than things is more likely to induce a lasting sense of contentment.

So it makes sense that we cling on to precious memories and keep them fresh in our minds for as long as is humanly possible. Thanks to modern technology, there are more options for doing so than ever before. Here are a few of them:

1. Photobooks

Hands up who takes plenty of photos but hardly prints off any of them? This used to frustrate me, because even if we diligently stored all our photos digitally it still created a barrier to physically sitting down and looking at them.

These days, we make a concerted effort to produce at least one photobook per year, to include a selection of pertinent occasions and moments from January through to December. Being able to add captions and wording is a bonus to act as extra prompts of the details of the days.

There are several companies that offer printed photo books, such as Photobox and promotional offers are frequently available.

close up of flowers
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2. Keeping a Journal or Diary

Yes, for many of us the maintaining of a daily diary invokes recollections of pouring our teenage angst out onto paper.

That doesn’t have to be the theme, though. I try to carve out a few minutes each day to write a diary entry and usually the focus is on gratitude. We’ve all heard before that taking the time to reflect on a few brief positives of our day promotes a sense of contentment, and I can attest that to be true.

Often I do record key events of the day as well- such as details of day trips or particularly humorous moments.

Personally, I like using the ‘Day One’ digital diary app as typing seems easier than scribing. Plus, your online entries are organised and easy to find when you want to read back on them. It is easy to add photos taken on the day, too, for added interest and taking photos of event tickets and other memorabilia turns it into something resembling a scrapbook if so desired.

3. Create an Activity Jar

Children are famed for uttering that dreaded phrase: “I’m bored”, particularly during the school holidays. Most adults would admit to moments of boredom, too. To counteract it, why not set up an activity jar? You simply need an empty jar and some small slips of paper. Ask each member of the household to jot down ideas of a few activities they could do when boredom strikes at weekends or in the school holidays. These could include riding your bikes to the park, make microwave popcorn and watch a movie in the living room with the curtains drawn or play one of the board games in the cupboard. These types of experience, while cheap and simple, foster a sense of togetherness and long-lasting memories. I know I have fond memories of playing board games and other basic family pursuits from my own childhood.

4. Tell Stories

Verbally sharing stories about the ordinary and extraordinary days in our lives, and encouraging those stories to be repeated from time to time helps ensure that they don’t get forgotten. This plays a large part in keeping your family history intact. My late father related some amusing tales of the mischief he got up to as a child and teenager and it helped me to see him in a different light. Recalling those tales still makes me smile when I think of them today and in time I will relate them to my own kids.

activity adult barbecue bbq
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

5. Make Videos

I bet I am not alone in disliking seeing myself on video, but in many years to come we tend to be relieved that they were made. They capture a glimpse of how we and those around us used to be. My parents purchased an early-model camcorder when they were fairly new to the market back in the mid 1980s when I was about six years old. That camcorder trailed us on virtually every family day out, as well as plenty of ordinary days based at home, too. These home movies were originally saved to VHS tape (for those of you old enough to remember them!) and I found someone who successfully converted them to DVD a few years ago. From time to time we gather to watch them and it is my own children who find them the most amusing. They find it fascinating to observe their mummy as a little girl!

My husband and I asked a friend to record our wedding ceremony and snippets of the rest of our wedding day and ten years later we enjoy watching it occasionally, as do- you guessed it- the kids.

How do you tend to preserve your own memories?

Perhaps you use some of my methods, or have a new one to suggest? Please let me know in the comments, I would love to hear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple luxuries of summer

Indulge in Simple Luxuries In The Summer

What are your simple summer luxuries? You know, those little pick-me-ups that perk up your day in the summertime. I know I have written about simple pleasures to be enjoyed during the winter before, so decided a summer equivalent was called for.

Summer Fruits

Even though all types of fruits, even exotic fruits, are available in shops year-round these days, nothing beats eating locally grown, fresh fruit that tends to be abundant during the summer months. I am hoping to take my kids strawberry or raspberry picking this year so they get to experience the joys of carefully selecting the ripest, juiciest fruits in the field and cheekily popping one or to in their mouths to enjoy the burst of flavour. We take to the hedgerows in late August to track down blackberries growing wild which is usually a rewarding pursuit.

Enjoying an Evening Drink in the Garden

There is something verging on the magical about sitting in the garden soon before dusk falls. A sense of peace fills the air and the only sound to be heard is melodic birdsong. We are fortunate in that although we live on the outskirts of a town, there are no main roads or railway lines close by so you could easily believe you were in the countryside. I usually pour a glass of sparking elderflower and read a book while soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Flowers From The Garden

As you know, I adore fresh flowers all year round but at this time of year I can acquire a plentiful supply from my own back garden. Amongst my favourites are lilac and hydrangeas. Some years we grow sweet peas which I adore for their heavenly scent and vivid shades.

feet summer dress sandals
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Strappy Sandals

Warmer weather calls for lighter footwear and I am always happy to don my sandals. Personally, I find a mid-height heel or an inch or so to be more comfortable than flat shoes a lot of the time and I often opt for sandals that have a bit of pretty detailing with beads. Then I get to enjoy glancing down at them as I walk, naturally with painted toenails to finish the look.

Eating Al Fresco

Somehow, just carrying our dinner plates outside to enjoy eating al fresco elevates the experience. It feels akin to eating a meal on holiday in a warmer country and anything that induces that holiday feeling is to be encouraged in my book!

Ice Cream Treats

Admit it, when you hear the word ‘summer’ ice cream is one of the things that first comes to mind. Or perhaps it’s just me! There aren’t many better ways to cool down that enjoying a cool ice cream or lolly. Alas, authentic handmade Italian gelato may not be an option for me right now, but I have recently discovered the joys of Magnum’s Praline Minis, with chopped hazelnut pieces on the shell and Belgian chocolate ice cream in the centre. At a mere 152 calories each they are not overly sinful, either.

Please do share: what are your favourite simple summer pleasures? Whether they are the same as mine or different ones I would love to hear.

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Finding Contentment While Spending Less Money

Recently, I have come to realise that my level of spending has  pared back significantly over the past months. This has been partly deliberate, as we have been adjusting to living on one income and partly unintentional. Spending less makes you more mindful of the simple pleasures in life, I find. Read on for a few examples of the areas in which our spending has been reduced and how I and my family have felt about it.

Eating Out

We used to eat out at least once (often twice) per weekend. Often we went for brunch on a Sunday for our favourite Eggs Benedict or Eggs Royale. This ritual mainly stopped because finding cafe tables for a family of five including space for a buggy isn’t always easy, plus when I gave up my job the family income meant that making cutbacks on things such as eating out made sense. I’ve substituted the meals out and takeaways with home-made yet still feel like ‘treat’ or cafe-style meals (such as paninis in our panini maker) and we often enjoy eating in our garden during the warmer months. It actually feels more relaxing to do this than dine out with our young kids as it takes the pressure off my husband and I when we don’t have to worry about the kids misbehaving or whining that they are hungry. As an added bonus, my eldest child is now showing an interest in helping to prepare some of the meals and gladly carries out simple tasks such as grating cheese, stirring sauces etc. Kids are never too young to learn to cook and I hope that my other two begin to express a similar interest before long.

My husband and I only rarely go out for date nights these days- mostly for logistical reasons. Family members have started giving us restaurant vouchers for birthday gifts which is appreciated as it gives a nudge to make us get on and book a meal out rather than having a vague notion that we should but never seeing to get around to it.

Reading Material

Then there’s my reading habit, which has always verged on the voracious. I’ve always loved books and have bought at least some from Amazon and charity shops even though I’ve long been a regular user of the local library. Recently though, I’ve cut out buying books completely and started reserving and ordering books online that I really want to read in to my library to collect from our local branch. Happily, this means I remain stocked with plenty of reading material. If there are any that I read from the library and desperately crave to keep, I ask a family member to give me a copy of it for Christmas or my birthday.

Last year I also discovered the RB Digital app which allows registered library users to read a wide range of magazine publications online for free. How did I not know about this sooner?! As well being available in my local area I have been informed by friends in different areas of England that it is available countrywide. This can represent a significant saving on spends for any magazine fan.

Children’s Clothing

Even though I restrict my own wardrobe items and prefer to keep a pared down, semi capsule wardrobe, I must admit that I have a weakness for buying the kids too many clothes. Children’s clothes are so cute, with colourful appliques and designs. Still, when I changed over their clothes at the end of seasons, I felt bad when I sometimes discovered items that had never been worn even once. I really should know better on this front! The best solution I have found to this issue is to keep a simple spreadsheet on the computer and record every clothing item I acquire for the kids in different sizes. I do tend to stock up on good quality clothes in the sales, even in sizes several years too large at times, but if I forget that I have those larger sizes stashed away it’s too easy to end up buying a similar item later on. This spreadsheets also assists with guiding relatives who ask what clothing items the kids would most benefit from being given as part of their birthday presents. Whenever I find myself tempted to buy cute clothes for the kids, I force myself to check the spreadsheet first to see whether the item is genuinely needed or not.

What do you Gain Most out of Spending on?

Finding cheaper or free alternatives to the things we used to spend money on feels rewarding because it means that we can funnel our money towards things that matter more to us- such as holidays. We love going away together as a family, both in the UK and in European countries and we hold some wonderful memories of times spent on past holidays. Everybody’s priorities for their finances will be different, but being mindful of them and having more funds available to direct to them instead of being frittered on things that we are less bothered about makes a lot of sense.

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