Friday, February 16, 2018

Motherly Advice...taking a mini break at home...

Do you ever feel like you've just had enough of everyone and everything?
You usually notice it when suddenly the most innocuous request sends you into a flap.
Someone says 'where's my socks', and it's all you can do to refrain from screaming  'they're in the #@&* drawer where they always are if you'd just open your eyes'.
It's then that you know you need a break. It doesn't have to be a long break. Mini breaks are a great tonic for the flagging carer in all of us. And we are ALL carers in our own fashion aren't we? Some of us care for small children, school aged children, offspring in tertiary education or their first jobs, partners, parents, friends and loved ones. Some of us have made a profession of caring for others.
We ALL care for someone in our lives.
And that means that sometimes, we ALL need a break.
We took a mini break recently.
A bit of sand and surf and a pretty view is very rejuvenating.
But we've just as often taken a mini break at home. We simply stop answering phones, turn off the technology, read, sleep, walk, and take it easy.
It takes some discipline, but it can be done. Granted, more difficult with young children, but there comes a time for all of us when we can take time out for ourselves, and instead of feeling compelled to fill our days with busy, it's refreshing to see two or three days of nothing as a good thing.
We enjoy the garden we've spent 15 years planting and nurturing...
We take time to walk our own neighbourhood with all of it's hidden treasures...

..this little creek runs along a gorgeous walking path near our home, but it's a bit creepy walking it alone as a woman (we actually had someone the media named The Bike Path Rapist attacking women around here a year or two ago...he was eventually caught, but nobody ever felt the same about this path...such a shame). But walking it with my lovely husband is a singular pleasure.

It's a great time to get a bit of a head start on some non-chocolate Easter gifts...these little terrarium bowls remain popular, don't they! But that was a pleasure, not a chore. Make sure you have some pleasurable tasks to look forward to.
Fresh fruit and home made yoghurt should be the order of the day for snacks.

And the rest of the time we eat just as simply.
We treat ourselves to exotic cheeses and gourmet potato salad from a local deli.

We roll all manner of vegetables and herbs like mint and coriander (cilantro) into rice paper rolls for another simple meal.
This delectable stuff found it's way onto our platters a few times. The brain never switches off, so of course I've now made my own.
It's just half a red cabbage, cut into ribbons, 2 apples chopped, simmered with a few glugs of vinegar, a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 cloves, a bay leaf, and some chilli seeds. Yummy.

It truly made us wonder why we eat such complicated meals. Especially when we love to eat this way. What a revelation. There is such a difference between eating a full scale meal, and all the preparation and cleaning that goes with that, and simply cutting up a few bits of this and that to enjoy.
Lesson learned. The refrigerator is now stocked with salmon, smoked, fresh, and hot smoked, leg ham slices, home made potato salad and coleslaw, as well as olives, pickles, chutneys, relishes, hard boiled eggs, gourmet mustards and jams, thick Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and leafy vegetables, and home made red cabbage and apple kraut. Dinners are done and dusted in an instant. And brilliant in the heat of our Summer here.
Of course, there's also very little washing up, and this type of eating is so much easier on the digestive system. Kids love it, and there's less drama too in dealing with food preferences. You just leave off what they don't like, and load their plate with things they do.
Of course, we treat ourselves to a coffee here and there. This view greeted us at one memorable spot. We try to find the out of the way spots that engender peace and calm. Not for us the hustle and bustle of the trendy cafes. Not for these mini breaks anyway.
And after just a few days, sanity and calm is restored to our tired brains, hearts and souls.
Sure it's not the same as a 'real' getaway. But frankly sometimes a 'getaway' is more trouble than it's worth. Unfamiliar beds and pillows, traffic and noise, travel and the trials that come with it, can be vastly overrated.
Sometimes, a mini-break in our own home, is just what's needed.
Do you do home mini-breaks?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Authentically You...Try something new...

I know I'm behind the times. I only just finished binge watching Mad Men. Sorry.
For so long I wondered what the fuss was about.
Now I know.
The dresses. Sigh.
The shoes...swoon.
That hair...envy, envy.
I've always loved the era of the 50s and 60s for fashion. All those pretty dresses. And shoes. And scarves. And big hair. And petticoats. And jewellery.
People cared about how they looked.
And don't give me all that Stepford wife codswallop. I'm not talking about Female Emancipation or lack thereof.
Just that People. Looked. Nice.
Mostly these days, a look like this one below, is considered After Five exclusively. Nobody would dream of wearing this day in, day out.
For at least half of my life, I've bemoaned the passing of that era when women had the nouse to dress up every day.
Now my own family is grown, and we are less busy, I realise that I simply didn't have time to dress up every day for all those years. Not to stay at home. It's a commitment folks. Big time.
When you dress for a career, you're sort of on auto pilot. You wear the same things, with the same accessories, and you get into a nice little routine. Ditto, you don't have sticky fingers, and all manner of bodily fluids to deal with as I have for at least 31 of the past 38 years worth of child rearing, which included raising a totally physically dependant disabled son.
It makes a difference.
So now I have time for me. I've educated myself. I've read. I've experimented.
I've taken on board the wonderful advice from Marie-Anne Lecouer at The French Chic Academy. I've had a year of doing the whole French Chic pared down look. I liked it a lot. I especially like it in Winter when those darker colours, monochromatic schemes and minimalist accessories really work.
But here in the Sub-Tropics, the warmer weather brings new challenges. Especially if you're plus sized and a bit lumpy like I am.
Thankfully Marie-Anne Lecouer deals with how to make prints work for you, and how to disguise a big tummy. And make the most of your better attributes. Really useful stuff.
So having admired the inimitable Christina Hendricks as Joan on Mad Men, and armed with my newfound knowledge on adapting styles to suit my Apple shape, I've been discovering a new Warm Weather Me.
You can do it too.
Rule for Apple shapes...we generally have a generous bustline, slender arms and good legs. Our tummy region is the problem, but you know what? It's all about smoke and mirrors. It's about enhancing our...assets...which in turn, minimises our less desirable features.
Christina has great...assets. She uses them to her advantage.

My assets are not as impressive. But as per Marie-Anne's advice, I can still utilise a scooped or V neckline, and pretty detailing to draw the attention to my face and shoulders, rather than have everyone notice my blobby tum.
Colour and detailing matter too. Christinas dress above, is heavily bejewelled to cleverly draw the eye to her face.
For me, it's a bright colour in my dress, that makes the eyes pop, and a bright lipstick to assist.

Ahhh..the fit and flare dress. How many long years have I wanted to wear these. And how many times did I try them on, but without a savvy stylist to help me accessorise, simply inwardly wept, and decided I could not wear them and look good.
The secret?
Again, it's in the detail.
Look above at Adele. She displays a wide or detailed neckline. Slim fitting sleeves. A full skirt to balance her silhouette. Generous chest and generous hemline gives a faux hourglass shape.
Well, I'll be darned. I can do that.
Scooped neckline above.
Slim fitting cropped cardi that creates a column of colour centre front, magically slenderises.
Slim fitting sleeves make arms look trim and youthful.
Flouncy skirt that finishes just below the knee, and shoes with a low vamp (the top of the shoe) complete the long and lean trick to the onlooker.
Metallic dots on the shoes, echo the dots on the dress, pulling the look together.

Look here at Melissa McCarthy.
Now this would be an ensemble that I'd admire on her, but never would imagine in a million years on myself.
But again....look closer.
This works because:
The colour scheme is fairly monochromatic.
The print in the skirt draws the attention to slim ankles and pretty shoes.
The skirt does not sit ON the waist. It has a wide waistband, sitting ABOVE her natural waist, creating an almost Empire Line effect.
The skirt is not gathered. It's bias cut, giving volume at the hemline, without creating volume at the waist where you least want it.
The top has a V neck, tricking you into seeing long and lean.
It's skin coloured which sort of fools the eye into diminishing a large bustline.
The top also has a pussy bow neck trim, which is NOT tied into a bow, adding volume to the neckline, but rather left long and loose, giving a centre line of focus, and again, adding to a long and lean effect.
Her bird cage shoes, not usually recommended for Apple shapes as they cut our legs off at the ankle, are a nude colour, so she gets away with looking on trend and taller than she actually is.
Well, dang.
I reckon we can do that as well.
I'm working on that one now.
What do you think?
Are you ready to take the plunge and try something new?
Are you going to use these tips to find a gorgeous new self?
I'd love to hear from you.
Send photos to if you'd like to be featured.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Authentically You....every day different...

So you have a role model.
It's Adele, or it's Dita, or it's Kim or Rhianna or whoever. Awesome. Good stuff. It's good to have someone to emulate.
But within that, find a way to be you. That's what this journey is about. Finding a way to condense what it is about the person you've chosen as role model, and making that work for you.

Dita Von Teese is my chosen role model. I admire her glamourous outlook, her attention to detail, and her determination to be herself, no matter what anyone thinks. It's nothing to do with her profession as Burlesque actor. It's about Dita just finding her inner mojo, and sticking with it. I want that.

 I used to think that if I had a 'look', I had to stick with that unreservedly, not even wearing my hair differently. I've changed my mind on that. I've discovered a new joy in experimentation, not perfection.
In a single week, as seen in these photos, I can be 60's Mod, 40's glam, Monochromatic with dramatic red, and 70s mint with pearls. I never dreamed that getting dressed in the morning could be such an adventure!
I've practised using heated rollers, hair ribbons, curling wands, gel, mousse, sprays.
I've found that I like mineral makeup, eyeliner, mascara, and nude or red lipstick.
I know the difference between blonde and brown eyebrow pencil, and that I can't use liquid eyeliner to save myself.
Experimenting has shown me that I can engineer a French braid (given sufficient time!), a Chignon, and a bun with a donut...nothing to do with sugary sweets and cakes!
I even know what a 'rat' is and how I'll use it when I find one in my silvery hair tone.
Look! Here's some donuts AND some rats. Gruesome looking, but very useful things, hair-wise.
I've worn new colours, new styles, shown off my previously hidden arms and legs, worn my hair pulled back severely instead of wispily framing my face, and decided I like it all.
Basically I stopped worrying about what others would think, and started having fun....always with an eye to dressing for my shape.
Life is so very short, friends.
Stop putting yourself second, third or fourteenth down the list. Who wants to get to their dying breath, and be saying .... 'I wish'.
I want to get there and be able to say 'I'm glad'.
That's where I am.
Can I encourage you to come along with me?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Authentically You....Role Models...Adele...

This week, Christy, a long time follower and reader of  A Tray of Bliss, shared with me that she has chosen Adele, as her role model for our task for 2018. She feels that she is a similar body shape and height to Adele, and that emulating her style is an achievable goal.
Adele is a great choice.
Now Adele, back in 2008, as seen above, was a pretty girl with beautiful skin and hair, but once she was in the public eye regulary...wowsers! She became a stunner. And surprisingly, I believe it has less to do with weight loss (despite what everyone thinks), and more to do with just simply finding what suits her body shape including hairstyle and accessories, and some clever makeup tricks!

I've known, as someone with a full face, that pixie cuts and flat hair....well...we just don't do well together. Pixie cuts with a fringe (bangs)....never. The flat hair and the low fringe (bangs) just make a round face look rounder. Sure it's easy, sure it's cute. So if you just want 'cute and easy', no worries!
But if you're looking for 'flattering', then look at the difference a long ponytail seen left, or a 1940s, glamorous, Jean Harlow sort of style, seen in the middle pic below, achieved really simply with heated rollers, can do. And if you're after cute and easy, then practice as I've learned, mastering the messy bun on top of your head, a French chignon, or a low ponytail with a bit of teasing at the crown, to give a look as seen in pic number three, adding height to your frame, and sophistication to your ensemble.

If you simply must have a pixie cut, make sure you get a hairdresser who knows how to do one that suits you...
Here's Dame Judi Dench with her rounder face and a pixie cut. Check the small nuances. She has a bit of texture, softness and height. She does not have a fringe (bangs), except for a bit of a tufty feature centre front of her hairline. These two things make her face look longer and slimmer, and expose her beautiful bone structure and fine features. She has a uniform colour to reflect light and draw attention to her piercing blue eyes. And she makes sure her makeup is also soft and flattering.

Looking again at the comparison between these two pictures, what else do you notice?
Here's a few details and differences that I picked out:
The eyebrows are more defined and arched. This draws attention to the eyes, and overall gives the illusion of more open eyes and a longer face.
The eyeliner is limited to a winged effect on the top of the lashes, and a mere hint under the eye. Previously, Adeles eyes were made to look smaller with a ring of eyeliner all the way around.
Her browbone has been highlighted to open the eye area as well, and there's a little contouring going on beneath the cheekbones and around the jawline. Contouring is not new. We were sucking in our cheeks and filling the space with darker blush back in the 70s!
The hair is longer in the second shot, giving a similar column effect to wearing a coat over a dress for we Apple shaped ladies. The additional length of the bob cut, gives a column of attention, framing her face and making it look slimmer.

Her lighter hair colour is so much more flattering and draws attention to her gorgeous face and eyes.
These are all really simple things that any of us can achieve. Yet look at the difference they can make!
My new favourite secret is heated rollers. I had these back in the 70s and loved them. I'd forgotten though until now, what magic they weave. I just purchased a set for $35, brand new, rolled my hair into them...just like getting on a bike after 30 years...and...
...just look at these lovely, soft, loopy curls. No secret. About 14 rollers and 15 minutes to achieve. If I can do it, so can you. I roll my hair, hop in the shower, and by the time I've dried off, they've cooled enough to be taken out. I don't even brush. I just put a bit of hairspray on my palms, and run my fingers through my hair to arrange it, then a light spray of hairspray over. I pin it back inconspicuously where required to get the front to sit right if necessary.

This isn't my best 'messy bun', above left, but it does demonstrate, what a difference it makes to ones face shape compared to hair freshly washed and worn loose as seen on the right...*cough*. Note too, the comparison between a photo taken from skywards, and one taken looking slightly down. I look completely different. Ahhh....thanks to the Millenials in my family for that selfie!
Another great photo photo secret, is to simply remember to kind of push your head forward, lift your chin, and tilt your head slightly to one side or the other. This elongates the face and neck, and avoids your having multiple chins. If you look closely, you'll see celebrities doing this all the time.
So...back to Adele as a role model. Above here she looks fabulously feminine.
In this photo, she's magic-ed herself slimmer by using these visual tricks:
Hair is bouffant and away from her face, lending height and a slimmer look overall.
Her sleeves are fitted, and cover her arms (always a tricky one for we full figured ladies), also lending a lean look to her frame.
The colour and print are flattering and hide any figure faults admirably. She has ensured that the rest of her look is simple and pared down, to offset the busy print.
The skirt of the dress is full and balances her silhouette perfectly.
She wears high heels, with pointed toes and a low 'vamp' (that's where the top of the shoe sits), adding length to her legs.
And she also poses perfectly, elbows out to give a pleasing line to her shape in the photo, and ankles crossed to slim her down.

This look above, is my favourite though I think.
Here's why:
The dress has simple lines, and slim sleeves, rendering her neat, classic and stylish.
Although the neckline is high (not normally flattering on cuddly shapes), she carries it off by swooping that hair up into another gorgeous bouffant up-do, and topping it with a bit of soft frou-frou in the shape of a fascinator, to draw the eye upwards.
She's kept other accessories to a bare minimum, or they're non-existent.
The dress is the perfect length for her. Enough in the skirt to create the illusion of volume and height, and enough leg showing to enhance that illusion.
Dark hosiery slims the legs.
I daresay she's wearing heels to give her additional height too!
The deep jewel colours are gorgeous against her alabaster skin.
The fabric has a low sheen that just says 'luxury'.
Simply stunning.
These are all little tricks that Christy can use to give her Adele style makeover a kick start. Very easily achieved, with minimal fuss.
Let's just recap our Adele look:
Adele is full figured with a rounder face. Nowadays she sports longer hair, no more flat pixie cuts, and either wears her hair loose, to slim her face, or swept into a variety of bouffant updos creating a taller, more slender shape overall.
Adele wears heels with a low vamp, to lend height to her frame, length to her legs, and sophistication to her ensembles.
She primarily wears fit and flare type dresses in flattering colours and prints, keeping all other accessories to a minimum.
She can also be seen wearing casual ensembles featuring trim jeans or leggings, and sleek, minimalistic tunic tops with A-line coats, to streamline the extra bulk that Winter woollies create.
 Boots with a heel, again create that longer and leaner look, even for casual wear.
She also frequently employs the monochromatic colour scheme to avoid dividing her silhouette, and does so with great success.
She makes sure that her hair is a colour that flatters her looks.
She wears her hair in different styles according to the mood she is trying to strike with her outfit.
She emphasises her beautiful eyes with subtle eyeshadow, shading, eyeliner applied appropriately, and lots of mascara and/or false eyelashes. False eyelashes aren't just for dancers and models, you know!
Her perfectly groomed eyebrows frame her eyes and give oomph to her pretty face. A box of Eyebrow dye costs around $20, lasts up to 20 applications, and can do the same for you.
You can use these tricks too. It has nothing to do with how much you spend. You just need to be as savvy as Adele. Or as Adeles stylist ;-)
I love Adeles look too. I foresee some Adele days in my future as well Christy. Thanks!
Who's next?
Who is your style idol?