Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017...a pictorial review...

 
2017...a Senior formal...

 
...a newly licensed driver in the family...

 
...a kitchen appliance win, which spawned a kitchen renovation...

 
...Moana cake for the Granddaughter...

 
...newly crafted chopping boards for the newly crafted kitchen by Husband...

 
....an Arty birthday cake for Daughter...

 
...a year for me, with a New Me evolving over the year...starting above, with a skirt and ballet flats...

 
...becoming  a shift and nude flats...

 
...adding a hat for Summer...

 
....finding my mojo in peeptoe heels and slimming silhouettes...

 
...adding new nightwear from my fabric stash, and mastering bias binding, bullion rose embroidery and pintucks...

 
....finding time to master the Mitred corner for teatowels to gift...

 
...splurging on some Baroque pearls...

 
...and pairing them with navy blue for everyday wear...


...reorganising the pantry in the renovated kitchen...
 

 
....adding a new wall of cabinetry, taking the kitchen wall from this above...

 
...to this...

 
...and finally to this...


...proudly seeing our daughter finish her high school years, and successfully audition for a place in a tertiary Performing Arts course...
 

 
...discovering colour in my wardrobe again...

 
...discovering dresses and nude pointy heels in my wardrobe again!

 
...adding gingham and slim jeans for a chic shopping outfit...

 
....learning to master the selfie from heavenwards!

 
...and scarves...
 
...remember me at the start of the year in neutrals and black...
 
 
...and me now in colour and fab red lippy...
 
 
...for celebrations with daughter who looks fabulous with her naturally peaches and cream complexion and zero makeup...

...I reckon I've got this...

 
...In the last week I added an even better hat, and oversized sunnies...

 
...and a lavishly beaded print Kaftan and matching sandals for New Years Eve by the beach.
 
2017 has been a year of self discovery, change, both welcome and not so welcome, and acceptance of a new stage of life for us all as a family both large and small. It's been jolly hard. I've had to reinvent myself many times over, and sometimes that hasn't been pretty. I've done my best to share with you honestly as one woman to another, to show what you too can achieve by challenging yourself to just. Be. Better.
 
I've learned self discipline, I've learned what my limits are as a Mother, a Wife, an Aunt, a Sister and a Grandmother. I've had energetic times and times when I was so tired I could barely move.
 
I know not what 2018 holds for me, except that I feel immensely fortunate to be surrounded by loved ones, to be in relatively good health, to be safe, and to have the luxury of choice. Not everyone has those things.
 
I welcome you to a new year at A Tray of Bliss in 2018, not knowing exactly yet which way the wind will blow me, or what our focus will be, but knowing that whatever the New Year holds, I have you to share it with.
 
Thankyou all so very much.
 
...Mimi...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Inexpensive last minute Christmas ideas....

 
Last minute ideas? Got 'em.
 
Above, Home Made Rocky Road, packaged in gold noodle boxes with gold foil ribbon and gold jingle bells. Just chopped marshmallows, chopped nuts, dried fruit, stirred into as much melted chocolate as you can stand and poured into a lined slice tin. Cut into chunks and package as you wish. Easy peasy.
 
DIY Beeswax wraps? Squares of sheeting, sprinkled with beeswax pellets, and ironed on a towel on the ironing board, sandwiched between two sheets of baking paper. A bit messy, but oh-so-worth-it. I made mine Gingham, and tied them with fat satin ribbon. These are expensive to buy, but literally cost cents to make. As an environmentally friendly alternative to cling wrap, they are brilliant.
 
 
Solid perfumes in lip balm containers are just half beeswax, half sweet almond oil, and 20 drops of fragrance or essential oil. That's enough for four little solid perfumes. I used an oil called Memories that smells like Christmas.
 
The fat, squishy marshmallow recipe is here. I packages mine generously in cellophane bags, and topped them with the gold ribbon too.
 
Spritz cookies are fun and easy and make the most enormous amount from a batch of dough. You do need a cookie press, but I scored mine at a thrift store for $12. Lucky me! If you can be bothered, cooking stores have them for $25-$65. Coat them in sugar or leave them plain. Mine are gluten free, and I used this recipe here.
 
 
A Basket of Sunshine was an easy gift for some favourite teachers. Just anything yellow or gold packaged together in a large basket.
 
Simmer scent packages are simple. A couple of cinnamon sticks, some cloves and some dried orange slices (oven or sun-dried), in a pretty bag or box, with instructions to simmer in a small pan of water for instant Christmas Scent.
 
Tiny gingerbread men, were packaged in Cellophane bags, and also used as toppers on cupcakes. These were welcomed big time! Again, a batch of Gingerbread dough makes an amazing number of gingerbread men, especially miniature ones! I use this recipe here.
 
Snowman face cupcakes are just Vanilla frosted, dipped in caster sugar (superfine sugar), with dark choc chip eyes and smiles and white choc chip noses. These were a huge hit.

 
Next, a tote bag from a tank top. I forget where I saw this tutorial, sorry. But it's just a tank top...the sort with wide straps and a similar scoop front neckline and back, turned sideways so the armholes become the bag handles, and stitched across the bottom. I added a velvet flower. This is a beach bag for my daughter. Strappy camis won't work as the straps can't handle the weight of the contents of the bag. Cute, huh?
 
And of course, last but not least, embellished pillowcases, a favourite of mine. I saved some ribbon from a favourite retro dress shop of daughters, and trimmed pillow cases with it. The others are cotton lace trim and chiffon. I don't hem the chiffon, I let it fray. Really pretty. Again, don't forget to package them prettily.
 
That's it from me!
 
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and thankyou from the bottom of my heart for your attention and comments this year.
 
Love,
 
Mimi xxx

Monday, December 11, 2017

Softest, squishiest, fattest Marshmallows....no glucose or corn syrup...

 
If you're stuck for a quick, easy, inexpensive foodie treat for adults and kids alike, look no further than these big, fat, squishy clouds of marshmallow. You can tint them any colour, add little embellishments and package them prettily and they look truly gourmet. I've seen little bags of fat marshmallows selling for $22 for 4, so there's no need to feel like you're gifting anything but the best.
 
 



 
 
Here's the recipe in a few sentences:
 
3 cups white granulated sugar in a large bowl, 2 heaped tablespoons gelatine dissolved in 1 1/2 cups boiling water added to the sugar. Beat with an electric mixer till sugar is completely dissolved. Add food colouring and 2 teaspoons vanilla essence. Pour into lined square tin. Allow to set. Cut into squares and toss in cornflour and icing sugar sifted together.
 
Yummy  :)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A New You....End of year musings....

 
When I started 2017, declaring it my New You year, I had no idea where my journey would lead me.
 
My daughter, seen above, youngest child and only daughter, was finishing high school, and would have her drivers license very soon, and then what? Where to start finding me again?
 
 
I knew that my look needed an overhaul, so that my transition from School Mum, to New Retiree would see my facing the world at my best.
 
I paid to join Marie-Anne Lecours' French Chic Academy...a worthwhile investment if ever there was one, and starting shedding my frumpy School Mum clothing for something fresher and more flattering.
 
I started with a simple look of a skirt and top. I did not own a single dress at this stage. A skirt and top was confronting enough. I had no idea how to wear a skirt and shirt, how it should be styled or what sort of shoes to wear.

 
But at least I knew what I didn't know. I knew that this was going to be a tough, sometimes tearful, always brain bending time in my life.

 
From Marie-Anne Lecouer, I learned what length of skirt and dress suited my Apple shape. I learned how to wear a V neck and a long necklace to give an illusion of a more slender silhouette. I learned to wear heels or wedges to give myself a taller, leaner look. I learned that a button down shirt fooled the eye into seeing you slimmer, and that any vertical detail, like the piping on my skirt, did the same.
 
I treated myself to some real Baroque pearls, and some nude shoes (although these were not the nude shoes I should have bought...not low enough vamp, and not high enough heels, but still, an improvement), and shortened my skirt, and got to here...
 
 
Then I found out what a difference a low vamp (the top of the shoe), a peeptoe feature and a good heel can make, and how even a broad brimmed hat can give a flattering silhouette to an Apple frame, and got to this...
 

The difference was pleasing.
 
But I was still wearing a bit of this on outings...the comfortable yet shapeless dress (dresses remained my nemesis...my lack of know-how in this area was embarrassing), and the too low heeled  nude shoes.

 
Let's not forget too, the ripped 3/4 jeans, loose shirt, and Birkenstock sandals that were my stock standard daily uniform around the house. After all, who saw me, right? Wrong. I saw me. I saw me looking like I didn't care any more. My daughter saw me putting herself last, and my husband saw me turning into a frump. Not good.
 
 
My confidence grew with the lessons from The French Chic Academy. Within a few months, this below was my new shopping outfit, and I was wearing clothes that were slim fitted, instead of flowing, and destined to age me and make me look heavier than I really am.

 
Casual at home became a pleasure once I realised that it was okay to look nice for ME. I wore my new pearls as often as I could, graduated to Navy over black, and found ways to wear clothing that made me appear 5 kilos lighter, even though I hadn't lost any weight.
 
Meanwhile, I embraced my grey curls...


...and practised new updated beauty regimes, including 'no make-up' makeup...

 
By mid year, I was sporting a confidence not seen by my family in years. Winter saw fitted jackets, pearls and scarves become my 'uniform'...

 
...and Spring saw me purchase my first After Five dress in years for my Daughters Senior Formal. Well informed now, thanks to Marie-Anne Lecouer, I knew that this dress would be perfect for me, and I felt very glamorous indeed.


 By this time I'd saved a fair bit of money up to splurge on a New Me, and one purchase after another led to styling opportunities that I would never have considered one short year ago.
 
This orange jacket with it's simple styling, gives me a 'column of colour' centre front, a great slimming strategy for we Apple Shaped Ladies.
 
 
My previous 'Summer Jacket' had been my old faithful denim one, but Marie-Anne Lecouer helped me to see that whilst this is comfortable and a timeless look where I live, that it is not a flattering shape for me, adding bulk where I least need it. Ditto to the Birkenstocks, though I love them. I limit these now to home wear, and wedges are my chosen footwear for outings of any kind.

 
The simple change of a bright stylised jacket and some heels, is a pleasing one I think...


 Becoming a student of 'what suits me', rather than 'what's in fashion' then led me to this lemon printed, fit and flare dress, the most perfect nude heels, and the rediscovery of a far more suitable denim jacket for me, in the back of my wardrobe. This dress was not perfect when I purchased it, but a nip and tuck, a few darts, and a bit of seamstress magic soon fixed that. It's now a firm favourite. I would not have DREAMED that I would be wearing a dress like this, twelve short months ago...
 
 
I learned that I could still wear some loose comfortable clothing, if styled well as seen below. Long beads, high hair, dark full length jeans, nude Birkis all add up to a far more stylish me than my previous 3/4 length ripped jeans and flowy shirt.

 
Another dress found me. This time a graphic printed shift. I've always loved shifts, but never found one that flattered me. Well here it was. I styled it with my new dark, simply embellished denim jacket one day...

 
...and my new orange one another day, giving me two very different outfits. Again, using long necklaces to add a long and lean look.

 
Of course, I rediscovered my scarves. I had a collection already, and now I knew how to wear them to enhance my DRESSES, and add a stylish look to my silhouette. Previously I'd worn them tied around my neck with little short tails, visually shortening my body significantly. The correct way for an Apple shape to wear scarves, is to create a V neck with a scarf ring (to avoid bulk) and leave the tails hanging long, to trick the eye into seeing you taller and more slender. Believe me when I say this works!

Hermes with $2 eBay trio scarf ring...

 
Hermes-a-like with Hermes-a-like chevron scarf ring, both thrifted...
 
 
Hermes with cocktail ring worn as scarf ring...

 
Hermes with Fleur de Lys scarf ring...
 
 
Hermes with trio scarf ring, mixed prints and Aurora Borealis brooch. You CAN mix prints and it's a great way to confuse the eye and disguise other body faults. You just need to make the prints different, so it doesn't look like you tried to match and failed, echo the colours and add a solid colour to the outfit, as you see I've done here with my navy cardi.

 
The same scarf with a bumble bee scarf ring look completely different with this olive linen dress...

 
...and this navy blue version of the exact same dress, looks very different with a vivid Pucci scarf, and Aurora Borealis pin...

 
I'd also learned a bit about selfies by last month. Taking shots from above is flattering. Who knew, right?
 
Below, sky high curly bun, and neutral Hermes-a-like scarf, gave my navy blue dress from the day before, a whole new look.

 
I keep saying I love scarves. Nobody ever has to ask 'does my bum look big in this scarf?'.
 
I bought a few more dresses. Three went back, three stayed with me, but ALL needed alterations. I'm still working on that one! I was learning that little alterations like a new neckline, or the length of a skirt, can take a dress from 'no way' to 'yes please' very easily.

 
I love this dress, but the neckline is awful on me. A scarf does the trick temporarily, but it really needs a scooped neckline. Stay tuned.

 
This dress is fabulous, but needs to be taken in slightly. For some reason, this neckline is okay, with my Baroque pearls to add length to the look, and hair worn up to add height.

 
This dress was an online purchase, and whilst this is a horrible phot of my hair (humidity begone!), I love, love, love the dress and the fabbo pointy toed nude heels. Again, I would NEVER have worn this dress a year ago. Today it's one of my favourites. Remember I didn't own a dress this time last year!


Now there's a New Me nearly every day.
 
Casual Me in shift, neat charcoal jacket and long necklace...

 
Mad Men inspired me in fit and flare floral dress, sassy bun, and customised long beads...

 
Nanna Me in Nautical striped dress with customised vivid pink beads...

 
and High Tea Me in sunny print Review (brand) dress and pearls...

 
...and that's just this week.
 
Remember, one short year ago, almost to the day, I did not own a dress. Or maybe I had one, but never wore it. I lived in jeans and flowing shirts and Birkenstock Gizeh sandals. I had absolutely no idea how to wear a dress and hadn't bought one in years. I was lost. A friend and I admired some pretty dresses and she said to me 'yes but that's a look you have to sustain. You can't wear a pretty dress one day and not another'. At the time, I took that as a flat 'no, YOU can't wear dresses because you're old'. But really I should have taken it as a challenge. As in 'well, let's just see if I CAN wear pretty dresses every day'. I think I've just proven her wrong ;-)
 
How has the New Year, New You challenge gone for you. Did you challenge your ideas on who you are, and how you can look your best, this year? I've been thrilled to have you along for the ride, and can't believe how much I've changed. I hope I've inspired you to do the same.
 
...Mimi...