Saturday, January 21, 2017

A New You....Learning to love yourself...

Have you determined your body shape yet? Did it surprise you?
And what about your proportions? Was that a revelation too?
Now dear Reader, before I go any further, can I just say this. If you are perfectly happy with your appearance and your wardrobe, perhaps what will follow over the coming weeks and months with my New You posts, will not be for you. I promise to continue to post on gift creation, and my other favourite topics, regularly and often. If you are fortunate enough at 'a certain age' (usually 40+), to be the same size you were at 20, then I'm thrilled for you. But what will follow over the coming weeks and months, may not be useful for you either. What truly saddens me though, is that so many of us lack self esteem for whatever reason, and I can assure you that nurturing our self-esteem will figure largely in the discussions here as well.
It goes without saying though, that at least initially, I'll be focused on we ladies, who were once the well presented type, and now we're not, or at least not as well presented as we'd like, so that's where we'll start.
So...I had this idea for years, that I was an Hourglass shape. That was the closest I could come to with my unusual petite plus sized figure. I had a bustline, hips and a little kink in my sides, where my waist used to be. Then I wondered why oh why, the recommendations for Hourglass figures didn't suit me. A belt to accentuate my waist? Goodness, no. What waist? Sure I had one 30 years ago, but my tiny waistline is no more. Dresses a la 1950s with full skirts and tight bodices...eek! Awful for me, just awful. Ditto to the advice on wrap dresses, ruched bodices (supposedly to trick the eye into thinking my middle was ruched, not fat...nobody is fooled by that!), and padded shoulders to balance my silhouette. What??
So I did what we all do when we are lost and frustrated. I gave up. Not completely. There was still a little of the Glamour Girl in there, and she wouldn't shut up. Instead I refused to indulge in the hideous prints and ugly nightgowns found in the so-called 'Plus Size' specialist stores, and haunted thrift stores for special finds, whilst hiding in my sewing room with miles of fabric, praying for inspiration.
Then a couple of years ago, I started to think I was more of an Apple shape. I recalled my Mums figure being more of that ilk, and figured, that surely genetics would be playing a part in this game. I forget who introduced the Apple shape into the mix. Maybe one of the reality TV gurus. That piece of information has flown the coop, I'm afraid! 
I attacked Pinterest and Google with a vengeance. Sadly, advice for any Apple shaped lady (and I do mean 'lady'), of a certain age, is thin on the ground. Some of the recommendations by Sweet Young Things on how we more mature and wise women should adorn ourselves, were, and continue to be, utterly laughable. What's one to do? I was back to being exhorted to wear belted dresses with full skirts and wide legged pants. Both of those on me, just made me look like I'd forgotten I was fat!
One course of action was to enter into the never ending cycle of weight loss and gain, that so many of us fall prey to once we've entered and exited the Menopausal years.

As you may well know, that in itself is exhausting and demoralising, and can severely impact how you feel about yourself. I, for one, focus now on being healthy and fit, and if that ultimately means that I am several kilos heavier than I was 30+ years ago, then so be it. That's not to say you should take risks with your, no, no! This idea does not mean it's a free-for-all and you can eat and drink what you want, and not exercise, all under the umbrella of 'accepting yourself'. That's a copout too.
Embracing a healthy lifestyle, with a clean diet, an occasional treat, and a daily gentle walking, swimming or yoga programme, will work wonders for your internal wellbeing, your cardio health, your skin, and your general attitude.
I'm saying though, that the focus shouldn't ALWAYS be losing weight. To a certain degree, I believe it's empowering to embrace how you look NOW, and learn to make the most of that picture, no matter your dress size.
I am doing this very thing. Sure I'd like to lose 15 kilos (about 33lbs), but I'm not going to live my life based on some point in the future, that I may never reach. I want to reclaim my Glamorous self today, now, not tomorrow or next year.
If this sounds like you, then welcome. I hope we can enjoy this journey together.
Having made that decision, I searched for resources, to enable me to make the most of me as I am right this minute. Not next week, next month, next year, or when I lose 15 kilos. Now.
I finally found some advice that went like this....
"Apple shapes can wear empire line, wrap tops, and A-line skirts...BUT...not if you are a plus sized Apple. These styles will only emphasize your round tummy."
"Apple shaped women with round tummies should not wear belts at all".
Because you see, there are Apple shaped women out there who are slender enough for the belts, the wrap dresses, the A-line skirts and the fitted bodices and flounces. But they are not short waisted petite plus size Apples, like me.
Light bulb moment! So really, the rules DO change if you are plus sized, and even moreso if you are petite and short waisted. Honestly it was like a weight off my pun intended.
Here's another thing. Have you ever admired an outfit on someone else, be it a friend or a model in a magazine, bought the same outfit, and then wondered why you don't look as fabulous? There could be a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, your body shape and proportions are completely different to theirs. Secondly, perhaps there are elements in the outfit that are not to scale for your figure. Thirdly, is it possible that the style is actually a little complicated in design, fabric, colourway, or fit, and that it was only ever going to look good on a model? I'm thinking number three is the most likely. This has happened to me often in my life. You too?
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll talk about this more. As I said, I have now discovered that I am a Petite Plus Sized Apple shape, and most of my posts will be dedicated to this most neglected body shape. I know there's more of you out there, so hi!
Let's learn something new about ourselves this year. I am currently studying Marie-Anne Lecouer's e-course, titled The French Chic Academy, and I'm astounded at what I have already learned. If you can find the dollars in your own budget, I can highly recommend the course to you. For me, now that my daughter has scaled back her extra-curricular activities to focus on her final year of school, I find myself with a little spare cash to invest in self. So I am fortunate in that respect.
Marie-Annes recommendations have also led me to create a new Pinterest board, solely dedicated to Petite Plus-Sized Apple shape women like myself. You can find that here.
If you do not find yourself currently in a position to join Marie-Annes French Chic Academy, do at least read her blog, and also investigate another blog that is an eye opener for we, the style deprived, called Inside Out Style. Whilst Imogens advice is not specific to French Chic, and her blog takes a little more effort and energy in seeking what you need, there is still much helpful information to be found.
Meanwhile, knowing now your shape, and your proportions, I am going to ask you to do something that may help you appreciate how lovely you already are.
Each and every one of us, has many qualities that are beautiful. Yet as we age, and perhaps gain weight, we forget what those qualities are. Instead we worry about our lost youth, and settle into a premature old age, dressing and presenting ourselves to the world, likewise.
When you shower or bathe tonight, stop and look at yourself in the mirror. I mean really look. Don't give a cursory glance (possibly cringeing as I do), and race to dress in your nightgown. Take a moment. Love the body you're in, and thank it for what it does for you. It breathes, it loves, it gives you the ability to care for yourself and your family, it mobilises you.
Is your skin particularly lovely? Are your eyes the most beautiful shade of blue? Do you have especially long eyelashes, or elegant hands, or beautifully manicured nails? Maybe your ankles are particularly pretty, or you love to show off your wrists with bangles and bracelets (we often unconsciously adorn ourselves to draw attention to our best features without even realising it!), or you have enviably long fingers that you use to play the piano beautifully or curl your childrens or granchildrens hair. Is your own hair your best feature? Perhaps it's an unusual colour or you use a shampoo that makes everyone think of sunshine or apples. Do you have a signature scent, perfume or body lotion, that instantly makes you memorable? Are you proud of the condition of your skin, facial and body-wise? Do you have athletic shoulders, or well defined calves, or sweet earlobes that you like to adorn with pearls or other pretties? Is your d√©colletage` smooth and glowing, or are your particularly proud of your toned upper arms, made that way through gardening, or caring for your loved ones? Do your eyes crinkle at the edges when you smile, or do you have sweet dimples? Maybe you're proud of your stretch marks or your Caesarean or other surgical scars, as they are evidence of a life well lived and children gifted to you and your husband. In this day and age, it's not unusual to have a special tattoo that celebrates a date or a person or other significant event in your life. I'm not a tattoo person, but I make no judgement of those who love them. Acknowledge each of your special features, one and all.
Get out the journal I suggested you have at the start of the year. If you don't have your journal yet, just use a slip of paper, but make sure you keep it! Note down as many positive features as you can. LOOK for things to write down. Don't be shy! This is not vanity, and is not for viewing by anyone but yourself. It has nothing to do with being fabulously good looking or not. This is about giving thanks for what you've been gifted in this life, and moving forward from there.
Here's a sample of my list...
Well moisturised skin
Long slender hands
Naturally curly hair
Well looked after fingernails and toenails
Strong shoulders
Large eyes
Small wrists
You get the idea. It's not about blowing my own horn, or gloating about what I have compared to someone else, or conversely, lamenting what I do not have. It's about consciously seeking those elements of my appearance that are a positive.
You can do this too.
Let's start on this positive, and stay there. Even on our worst days, let's open our journals, look at our lists, and remind ourselves that whilst we are not perfect, (and who is!), we have much for which to be thankful, no matter our financial status, age or stage of life, or body shape.
Let's learn to love ourselves. Whether for the first time or the second, third or fifty-third. Let's be comfortable with who we are, and how we arrived there. Let's celebrate our curves and crinkles, and make the most of them. Most of all, let's find our inner joy, and let our most beautiful selves, glow from within. That alone is better than the most expensive designer outfit.
See you Monday with your body shape and proportions in one hand, and your journalled loveliness in the other.
I'll be offering inexpensive ways to pamper yourself, and a routine for self care that anyone can implement.
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

Friday, January 20, 2017

A New You....The First Step...

Today is the first day of a new you.
Let's work together to be better.
Let's stop throwing on the first thing that comes to hand because we're only going to be at home today, and nobody is going to see us. Let's put a stop to driving the children to school in our pyjamas or gym gear because it's just easier. Let this be the last time you wear your gym gear to the supermarket, because you're in too much of a hurry to shower and change before leaving the gym.
 Does this sound familiar?
Let me say this....
I want today, to be the last time you put yourself at the bottom of the list.
You have to believe it though. I can almost see some of you nodding and agreeing, knowing that in a minute, you're going to get up from the computer, and forget everything you've just read.
I would like to say to you, that if you start today, by this time next year, you may well be a very different person. Not only will you look better, you will feel better. Your relationships will improve, your self esteem will too, and you may well find an inner peace, because you'll no longer be putting your own needs on the back burner in order to fulfill everyone elses.
Women are notorious givers. We think of others before ourselves, often with consequences that affect our health, well-being, and self-esteem. So we get to 'a certain age', and find that the hopeful young thing with a spring in her step, who never left the house looking less than her best, and who saw a lazy day at home as a reason for a self-pampering session, has up and left the room.
Many of us use having children as a reason to pay less attention to self, and certainly child rearing in the early years, say, birth through to school age, has it's challenges. I know. I've been there four times! I know it's hard to find a minute to even shower, never mind take any additional care with your hair or what you wear. I accept that.
But this stage of intensive Mothering does pass, and for some of us, those habits formed during that era, never leave us, and we remain forever stuck in the 'that's good enough' frame of mind when it comes to self. For some of us, husbands and partners may even encourage this, as it allows them too, to relax with their appearance and well being. Dare I say, having a wife who has relaxed her own standards of appearance, helps them feel more secure. That's not to say ALL men are like that, but I've certainly met quite a few who were in my lifetime! Be honest, I bet you have too. And that applies to children as well. It's human nature to feel threatened by change, and you, looking your best, exercising, trying a new hairstyle or colour, or dressing well all of a sudden, can be confronting for them for all kinds of reasons.
The thing is, that it's about having a long, healthy life too. It's not just about looking nice in what you wear. My family are a bit notorious for telling me that I'm not fat, and that I'm beautiful 'just the way I am'. Well. That's lovely of them, but I refuse to use that as an excuse to stop exercising, eating healthfully, and looking after myself. Neither should you. The sentence 'My husband/family love me just the way I am', has become a bit of a catch-phrase for giving up. If that's the case, then your husband and family will continue to love you no matter what. That's implied. So why not give them the best version of yourself?
Today, I want you to make a promise to yourself, that just for the next 12 months, you will prioritise YOU. That by this time next year, you will look in the mirror, and like LOVE what you see. This is not about losing weight, or changing yourself completely. It's about making the most of who you are, and being the best you can be, no matter your age, weight, body shape or budget.
Todays task is to determine your Body Shape.
Here is a Body Shape Calculator...
Then I'd like you to try to determine your Body Proportions by using this guide...
This will help you decide whether you are short waisted, petite, long waisted and so on. All of this makes a difference, and the lack of this piece of information, is one of the reasons I've been so confused myself, for so long. Imogens blog at Inside Out Style, and Marie-Anne Lecouer at the French Chic Academy and her Facebook group at French Chic, have opened my eyes!
Find a journal, a blank book, or something else to record your thoughts and revelations in, and let's get started.
Work out your body shape, and write that in your book, along with your current weight. Then record your body proportions.
Tomorrow we'll discuss body shape further, and move on from there, and I'll share how the nude wedged sandals, envelope clutch, and pendant at the top of this post, have changed the way I dress and how I feel about myself.
I'm so excited. I've already learned so much this year, and I'm reaping the rewards. I hope I can help you do the same.
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Internet outage....

Hello everyone.

I am completely without internet and have been for several days.

We will commence our year of Self-Nurturing as soon as my connection is restored.

Meanwhile can I suggest that your first step should be to determine your body shape, as this will be the first issue we work on. There is ample information online to assist you in this task.

I hope to see you soon!


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

A new year is a fresh start. It's like a new baby, rosy cheeked and full of potential.

What will you do in 2017, that will make you proud by December 31?

What will change you? What will enhance your life and the lives of those around you?

2016 was my Homespun Year. You can read my Homespun posts on the designated page at the top of my blog. You might also like to check out Budget and DIY, and even Motherly Advice.

I am proud of what I achieved in 2016, and I hope that I encouraged you to stretch your imagination and creativity, so that you too, feel you've achieved something special. Congratulations. It's not easy learning a new skill, or understanding that creating and gifting home made, is something of which to be proud, if you've always been committed to a big spend up for celebrations. Did I help you see gifting and celebrating in a new light? Did I help you to see that you are talented, in ways you never imagined? Were your treasures welcomed by family and friends, be they baked, grown, crafted or stitched? Can you now see a future where you've gifted generously, but you're not facing Credit Card debt come January each year? Because that is my greatest wish. Well done, you.

2017 will be my Nurturing Year.

Will you join me as we nurture ourselves first and foremost? For unless we do so, we cannot give of our best self to the ones we love most.

My aim will be to see us looking after our mind, body, spirit, diet, consciousness, and dress sense, in a way that will see us changed for the better.

I want to see us zhooshing up our neighbourhoods with our personal fabulousness. We can be the bright light in someones day, the face the shopkeeper looks forward to seeing, the smile that lights up the room, the person of whom it's said, 'they always look lovely, no matter what'.

Let's make it a year of rising that little bit earlier to take more care with our appearance. The year of adopting a gentle exercise programme that can be acted upon come rail, hail or shine. The year of eating more healthfully, shunning the foods that we inherently recognise are not good for our body, no matter how good they taste, and embracing the fresh, the foods bursting with nutrition. The year of allowing ourselves time for a home made beauty treatment once a week. Of viewing ourselves honestly in that full length mirror, and acknowledging that we can be better, trimmer, healthier, more at peace with ourselves, our lot in life, and the world at large.

I'd like to see us stepping out our front door each day, bursting with confidence, knowing that whilst we may not be Zsa Zsa Gabor (God rest her gorgeous soul), we can live life to the full, inspiring others with our gentle demeanour, good manners, and impeccable grooming and dress.

We Aussies, myself included, are a bit guilty of the 'that's good enough' attitude (also known as 'she'll be right, Mate) when it comes to our appearance. In my neighbourhood, I see many women who just look tired and frazzled, shopping in their workout gear, or tracksuit pants and a t-shirt. I have nothing against either of those things, in their place. Workout gear in the gym, tracksuits likewise. Or at worst, as something to keep you warm in the depths of Winter in your own home. And even then, is there not something more flattering that will keep you just as warm?

I know we all have days when we just can't be bothered. But aren't those also the days when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror as we walk by, and cringe slightly? Yes it's nice to have a pyjama day, or a casual day, but even then, could your pyjamas and casuals do with a little makeover? Then at least Pyjama Day or Casual Day still sees you looking fabulous, not frumpy, and that glimpse of self that catches your eye in the mirror, sees you with a spring in your step, pride in your heart, and a smile on your face.

As with everything here at A Tray of Bliss, this has little to do with spending money. It's about knowing how to care for yourself, and your wardrobe, so that you make the most of both. It's about not letting fashion or celebrities dictate how you choose to dress. But it's also about not dressing down to make others comfortable. That's for the birds. It can be about finding your own style, or dressing to reflect the things in life that are important to you. Even then, however, we can find ways that do not end with us looking less than our best.

I want to show you how a pair of shoes or a scarf, can change the way you see yourself, and how others see you. We can talk about how to have a good hair day, every day. The words 'Dress - Formal' on an invitation will no longer strike fear into our hearts. And a trip to the supermarket will see our demeanour, smile and dress sense, put a smile on the faces of all who we meet.

My secondary goal is to continue my Homespun theme, making it more about nurturing home and family. I'd like that. A sense of continuity is good.

Are you with me?

Let's start on January 14th.

That allows you two weeks to collect the following items...

A full length mirror (available at Dollar stores and Variety stores for around $10)
A journal
A camera and/or selfie stick
Your favourite home outfit
Your favourite daytime shopping/out and about outfit
Your favourite after five outfit
Your favourite shoes and bag

Be honest. Do not contrive to make those outfits anything other than what they are. Your favourites. No judgement. Even if they are workout gear or tracksuit pants and a t-shirt. From there, you can only enhance your self esteem and personal presentation, so there are no rules.

Let's start two weeks from today, and see what we achieve by December 31, 2017.

Happy New Year!

 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png