Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Let's be joyful!


As winter rapidly approaches, the days becoming shorter and the weather being gloomier, you may very well ask: what is there to be joyful about? Happiness and joy are, of course, very individual emotions. What makes me happy may not have the same effect on you. If you're a summer person and love to lie on the beach, you're probably dreading the arrival of winter. If, on the other hand, you like to curl up on the sofa in front of a roaring fire enjoying a good book, you may be in your element during the winter months.

2021 hasn't been the easiest of years for many of us, especially with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It's been particularly hard for me as I live alone in Spain and my children all live in London, however I'm grateful for the companionship of my small Spanish dog Lisa, who has saved my sanity - though also driving me mad at times! I'm also fortunate enough to have a computer with internet access, so I've enjoyed Zoom chats with my family as well as with several friends who live in the UK. The highlight of the year though was being able to visit my family in London during October to celebrate my son's 50th birthday and spend time with my granddaughter there, plus going to Lincoln the following weekend for my brother's 70th birthday. 

The Joy Club is one thing that definitely brings joy to my life! I joined at the beginning of this year and found it a life-saver when I was unable to go to the local gym or socialise with friends in person because of lockdown. It's aimed at people who are retired (or semi-retired) and based in the UK, however although I currently live in Spain I have a UK bank account and was able to join. I have enjoyed making new online friends through the activities that I take part in.

If you decide to join, you can get your first month's membership for free by clicking on this link and, by entering this code: JzBCC6wBx1, you can get an additional free month. More than enough time to fill your life with joy by trying out all the activities! In case you're concerned about the cost, you can then enjoy lots of online sessions for only £5 per month. My favourite classes are Creative Writing, Tai Chi, Zumba, Cardio with Jill and Solo Latin dancing with Tracie. You can also take advantage of special offers for members even if you don't want to pay for online classes.

Now that restrictions are easing in Jumilla, the town that I call home, I have the joy of being able to meet up again with both British and Spanish friends for coffee, tapas and the occasional menù del dìa in our local bars and restaurants. Music also brings me joy so I was delighted to see that our local theatre is planning concerts to celebrate Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

Finally, I really enjoy writing and blogging, though I haven't written any posts for a while. I hope that writing this will inspire me to continue with my blog. It's definitely time for me to sort out my winter wardrobe so watch this space for my next capsule wardrobe post! 

To summarise, the key things that bring me joy are (in no particular order!): spending time with family and friends, even if it's only online; keeping myself fit and active through activities such as Zumba, Tai Chi, dancing and walking my dog Lisa; being able to sit outside in the sunshine with friends enjoying a coffee; writing; music and travel. I'd love to hear what brings you joy as well, so please feel free to comment below.


Monday, 28 June 2021

Creating my Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Here it is! I've been sorting out my wardrobe now that summer has arrived and you can see the main items of clothing below. The basic pieces are in olive, soft white, navy and light caramel although my accent colours as you can see below are coral and red. I do love a splash of colour, as my regular readers know, and especially in the summer months. The new trousers on the right below are currently in the dry cleaners being shortened - even though I bought them in short rather than regular. Don't ask!

Basic summer capsule pieces
New linen trousers

It's now officially summer. I know that many of us enjoy going on holiday at this time of the year however, although things have improved slightly due to the rollout of the Covid vaccination programme, some of us will only be having staycations. I would still recommend having a clear out and creating a summer capsule wardrobe though, if only to make life simpler.

There are numerous videos on YouTube, blogs on the internet and even books written about the benefits of having a capsule wardrobe. Many of them dictate exactly what you need to include in this capsule, but what if you never wear little black dresses and don't fancy a white button-down shirt? Exactly!

My advice is to consider all of the following factors when designing your capsule and make it completely your own, not somebody else's vision of what is right.

Lifestyle. Do you still go out to work and, if so, is there a dress code in your workplace? You don't want numerous pairs of jeans if you only wear them at the weekend. Are you a stay-at-home mother or grandmother? Then you probably want casual clothes that don't crease or stain easily when small hands clutch at you.

Style personality. Are you a classic, romantic, dramatic or natural? These are some of the words used to describe your style personality. If you're not sure, look on Pinterest for celebrities whose style you feel drawn to, or pull out items from your wardrobe that you love wearing or that friends have commented on, saying how much they suit you. Capsule wardrobes are often based on the classic style, but if you're a dramatic you'd soon become bored with it. Your clothes should reflect your style personality and your individuality.

Body shape. This is something that I always have to consider, as I'm a rectangle (bordering on an apple at the moment!) and I'm also short, being a fraction over 5' tall. You may notice that there is a bohemian type green and white blouse in my wardrobe. It's not the ideal shape for me, but it's lovely and loose - and more importantly cool! - so that's why I've added it in. I'll wear it with straight-legged white trousers or possibly the green skirt, to keep my silhouette as narrow as possible. Did I mention that rules are there to be broken? If in doubt though, choose clothes that enhance your body shape rather than hiding it. If you are curvy, with a waist, then why not show it off?

Colour. I've saved the best to last. You may have discovered the ideal capsule wardrobe for you through researching the various options, but if it includes lots of black and white and those colours don't flatter you, then please adapt it to include your best colours. I've included several neutrals in my capsule as they are versatile colours and tend not to date, but I know that I'd start becoming bored if that's all I had. You may of course be different, especially if you're a classic or natural. It's often a matter of mood as well. There are some days where I'm happy to wear just navy and white and not stand out. Other days, I need that red or coral to make me feel happy and confident.

Did I mention de-cluttering? That's my next important task, now that I've created my summer capsule wardrobe. As I bought a couple of new pieces, I need to remember my one in - one out rule.

If you want any more inspiration, I highly recommend taking a look at The Vivienne Files for some lovely colour combinations and you can even include 33 pieces (Project 333) if my capsule is too limited for you!

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Creating my Spring Capsule Wardrobe

There's something about Spring that raises the spirits and gives us hope. We've been through a bleak and dreary winter, confined to our homes and unable to see loved ones. It's time to be positive, to look forward to a brighter future - and so I decided to create my Spring Capsule Wardrobe, in the hope that it will be warm enough to wear it when I can meet up with my friends!

I've been watching many Youtube videos about capsule wardrobes (it beats doing housework!) and these have inspired me to create my own version. I have particularly enjoyed the videos of Marie-Anne Lecoeur, who is the epitome of French chic. However a word of caution: do follow the principles of bloggers, youtubers and authors when they talk about capsule wardrobes, but don't lose sight of your own style.

Capsule wardrobes tend to be based on classic pieces of clothing in neutral colours, which is great if that's what suits you. A little black dress, a classic white shirt, a beige trench coat: do you own these? More importantly, must you include them in your capsule? The correct answer is "it depends"! How many women, particularly those of us who are over 60, truly look amazing in black? If you do, and if you enjoy wearing dresses, then a little black dress is a must item. However I don't own any, though I do have one navy dress in my winter wardrobe.  

When it came to creating this Spring capsule I was determined to start with neutrals, as it gives me more options. I went for warm colours, so no bright white or black. My best neutrals are ivory, camel, brown and navy. I also included khaki and other dark greens. This is how my capsule evolved.

First of all, a selection of light coloured tops and blouses. Then I added navy and white stripes plus a couple of green tops.

Next I've included a hazelnut midi skirt, camel trousers, dark brown trousers and 2 pairs of jeans. I then added a dark green cardigan, a brown cardigan, a dark brown jacket and a cream tweed jacket.

The final neutral piece of clothing in the capsule was my copper trench coat. This isn't a traditional capsule wardrobe but I felt that it ticked most of the boxes. There is a mix of light and dark neutrals, the pieces of clothing aren't trendy so won't date and I've had many of them for several years. They will mix and match with each other, creating lots of different outfits. However, there's one thing that this capsule lacks. Can you guess what that is? 

Yes, you're correct: I need some colour! I've added seven further items to complete the capsule, as shown below, and now I have a capsule that I love. I know that I will enjoy wearing all the outfits this Spring.


Sunday, 14 February 2021

Happy Valentine's Day!

No doubt many of you are celebrating today with your beloved, whilst some of us sadly have nobody to celebrate with. My husband John would always bring me breakfast in bed on Valentine's Day, complete with a bucks fizz (orange juice with sparkling wine, which was usually cava) however I haven't managed to train my dog Lisa to spoil me in this way! That being the case, I decided to spoil myself this weekend and I hope that you are all able to do the same, whether or not you have a partner to share the day with.

I was going to buy myself some fresh flowers, but when I went to the indoor market on Saturday morning, the usual florist wasn't there. I suspect that they would have been there earlier in the day and had already sold out - can't think why! Instead, I stopped in a shop on the way home and bought myself a lovely plant, which was probably more environmentally friendly anyway.

I also treated myself to a few beauty products so that I could pamper myself this weekend, which I started doing last night when I relaxed in a bubble bath. I'm going to continue this evening with a pedicure, however that might not be so relaxing as I struggle to cut my nails - I really miss going to my podiatrist! 

No doubt you've already guessed that I bought myself some cava and so I had my bucks fizz at lunchtime. I also bought some macarons to have as dessert with dinner tonight, as they're favourites of mine, so they're part of pampering myself over the weekend. I decided to have my main meal at lunchtime today so I can have a relaxing evening, especially as I'm going to be speaking to my daughters in a Zoom call later on. We may be in lockdown, but I'm grateful for being able to speak to family and friends online.

I have only seen a couple of neighbours and fellow dog walkers when I've been out walking, however I made sure to dress up a little, wearing a red silk blouse with my jeans and a pair of comfortable (but smarter than trainers) boots when I left the house. As it was fairly warm today I wore my short red trench-coat over today's outfit, as it always makes me feel more cheerful, and it also gave me a boost to be wearing smarter clothes. In case you haven't guessed, red is one of my favourite colours. Did I mention that I'm wearing red lipstick too?

What about you? I hope that you are being spoilt today however if not, then please spoil yourself. Even if you are reading this after the event, it's never too late to be kind to yourself. Go on - you know that you deserve it!


Wednesday, 20 January 2021

New Year. New beginnings. New hope.

2020 was a year that none of us will forget, although sadly it was a year that many people would like to forget, for obvious reasons. I'm fortunate in having a few happy memories of 2020, such as being able to spend some time with my family in London in August and meet my new granddaughter Edie in real life, after only seeing her in Zoom calls . I hope that you also have some happy memories.

We have already started a new year, which I believe should be a year of hope after everything we have experienced recently. I am hoping that we will receive our vaccines sooner rather than later and eventually return to a "normal" life. I am also hoping that I will then be able to travel again and ideally be in London to celebrate Edie's first birthday. 

I must admit that I have given up on New Year's Resolutions, though I do think a new year is a good opportunity to start new challenges. I have missed writing my blog posts, but it never seemed to be the right time to do so. This is the beginning of my new determination to continue with my blog, so please suggest any topics that you would like me to write about. 

I joined a new gym last year, where I've been going to Tai Chi, Yoga and Zumba classes - all with health and safety measures in place. I will continue going whenever possible as I believe these classes help me mentally as well as physically. I have also started experimenting more in the kitchen during lockdown and have become a fan of Dr Rupy Aujla's healthy eating recipes, which you can find on The Doctor's Kitchen website. Trust me, as well as being healthy, his recipes are absolutely delicious!

I'm also beginning to declutter my home, which will include every room and not just the contents of my overflowing wardrobe. I will be following the principles of Project 333, which I first heard about on one of my favourite blogs The Vivienne Files. I've just bought Courtney's new book about Project 333, so that will help to motivate me. For those of you who don't know, the idea behind Project 333 is to limit your wardrobe to 33 pieces of clothing to last you for the following 3 months. 

My final hope is that 2021 proves to be a happy and healthy year for all of us. 

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Giving Thanks. Staying Optimistic.

 First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! As a British woman living in Spain it isn't a significant date for me however, in the strange times that we're living in, I welcome any opportunity to be thankful for the good things in our lives. Family. Friends. Having a roof over my head and food on my table too - things that we so often take for granted. 

I've been very quiet on my blog in recent months, for many reasons. Clearly the coronavirus pandemic has affected me in several ways and I've found it difficult to stay optimistic at times. No doubt many of you have felt the same. I also have to confess that I've been lethargic, putting things off until tomorrow, after all we're still going to be in lockdown tomorrow aren't we? So it can wait. This is partly the reason why I haven't been writing any posts and that is why I decided to write something for Thanksgiving, as I know tomorrow will then be too late so I have to write it NOW!

Another task that I've been putting off is sorting out my Autumn capsule. Regular readers will know that I usually create a capsule wardrobe of 33 items for each season, à la Courtney of Be More With Less. I'm also a huge fan of The Vivienne Files for inspirational capsules: click on the link to the right to find out Janice's latest ideas. So it's over 2 months since Autumn began and where is my Autumn capsule? It's nowhere to be seen and I'll soon have to start thinking about my Winter capsule!

I hadn't totally forgotten about the idea of limiting the clothes in my wardrobe, as I took part in a mini challenge with some friends and created the capsule below, which consists of 20 items of clothing. For our challenge, we had to make 20 different outfits over the following 20 days. I thought that I could use the capsule as a starting point for my 33 item capsule, however as it's now decidedly cooler, not many pieces of clothing will be warm enough!

Recently I've noticed several emails in my inbox with the words Black Friday, which is another incentive for sorting out my wardrobe before I'm tempted to make further (unnecessary!) purchases. The idea is to see what I have, discard anything that's past its best-by date and then identify any gaps in my wardrobe. If there are any gaps, I should make careful choices when filling them. Is my new purchase going to go with several other items in my wardrobe? Are the colour and style ones that suit me? How sustainable is the item that I'm about to purchase? 

The forecast for tomorrow is 100% chance of rain, so I'm going to be optimistic and say that it will be the perfect opportunity for me to go through my clothes and pack away anything that I won't be wearing until Spring. I will recycle any clothes that I'm not going to wear again for whatever reason and I will create my 33 item capsule. So now that I've made that positive statement - watch this space!

Saturday, 26 September 2020

My face mask protects YOU!

This is not a political blog, however it is directed towards women of a certain age (though younger readers are always welcome!) and we're living in worrying times, where older women can be particularly vulnerable. Last month I visited my family in London, although most of my Covid-19 experiences have been here in Spain, where I retired over 12 years ago. I had to go into quarantine for 14 days when I arrived in the UK, however it was worth it to be able to see my family, and in particular my new granddaughter, for the first time this year. In both countries the majority of people were wearing face masks in shops and on public transport, plus they were socially distancing wherever possible and were being encouraged to wash their hands frequently and/or use hand sanitiser.

The question of whether we should wear face masks or not is a particularly emotive one. I decided from the start that I would wear one, partly because I didn't want to have to pay a 100 euros fine for not doing so (they've been strict here in Spain), but also because I would hate to be the person spreading the virus to other people who might be more vulnerable than me. Yes, that is the important point to remember: my face mask is protecting you as much as, if not more than, it protects me. 

It seems as if many younger people don't appreciate that fact, so they don't bother wearing a face mask as they feel confident the coronavirus won't affect them. What if they get the virus? Don't they realise that they might pass it on to their parents or grandparents, who might then die because of them? I think more should be done to make the younger generation aware of that fact, as all the youngsters I know are lovely, caring people who would not want to harm others, particularly older family members.

Another issue is how to wear your face mask! I think I have gone slightly overboard in the above photo in ensuring that my nose and mouth are covered, but it still amazes me how many people I see with noses uncovered or, even worse, with their masks under their chins leaving their mouth and nose totally exposed and able to spread germs. Don't even mention the smokers.....!

I am also very aware that there are people who are unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons. I have questioned people who aren't wearing one, but never in an aggressive manner in case they have a very good reason. As an example, when I was sitting on the tube in London I noticed a young woman sitting almost directly opposite me who wasn't wearing one. I also noticed that she was wearing a "Baby on Board" badge, so mentioned this when questioning her. Her response was that she had actually passed out when she'd been wearing a face mask for a while, which was a very scary experience, though she was lucky that people nearby looked after her, and so she had spoken to her doctor about it. She had been advised to carry a face mask with her but not to wear it in case the same thing happened again, especially as she was pregnant so she had her baby to think about as well. She also told me that a few people had been very nasty and confrontational towards her, which I find just as unacceptable (if not more so) as not wearing a face mask in the first place. So please don't be judgmental if you too decide to question other people.

There are several phrases that I could use to finish this post: "Masks save lives.." Wear a mask. Save a life." "Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives." However the words that really sum up the message I'm trying to send you all are: "Let's be kind and considerate towards each other. After all, life's too short."