Friday, 24 June 2016

30 Chic Days - days 11 and 12

I'm finding the 30 Chic Days challenge very helpful in making me aware of what I'm doing each day and reminding me what I want to achieve. Fiona was the inspiration for me deciding to take part and I'm delighted that Juhli is also joining in.

Day 11 (Tuesday)


Outfit - day 11
I suspect that when I weigh myself on day 15 I will discover that I need to cut back and eat sensibly for the rest of the month. The reason I say this is that on Tuesday we went out for a friend's birthday meal, where a lot of good food was eaten and several glasses of wine were drunk. This has been a common theme since I started doing the 30 Chic Days challenge! We are certainly enjoying the good life here in Spain, but it's not so good for my waistline.

The skirt I was wearing didn't have an elasticated waist, so it helped me make fairly sensible choices from the menú del día. I had fried goats cheese with wine jam for my starter (a local favourite), plus we had a salad to share. My main course was grilled swordfish with vegetables, which left a teeny space for my dessert of pan de calatrava (another local dish, which is like a caramel flan with a base of bread). Yummy!

Lunch lasted a couple of hours as we were all chatting away to each other and having a good time. That is my excuse for not reaching my daily target of steps: I only managed 8,984 steps, though I did go up 5 flights of stairs over the course of the day. Our apartment is on the second floor, so I have started walking up the stairs instead of using the lift, unless we have been shopping.

The focus of the day was on trying to make sensible choices when it comes to eating out.  It doesn't help that I don't like tomatoes so I didn't choose Gazpacho for my starter. My reading was mainly news and views on the upcoming UK referendum on the EU. I'd already cast my postal vote, but wanted to see what others were thinking and any new arguments for Remain or Leave.

Day 12 (Wednesday)
Outfit - day 12
First of all, my total number of steps on Wednesday was 12,142, which helped to make up for Tuesday's deficit. Bearing in mind the blog I read on Monday about how to be as chic as a Frenchwoman, I wore neutrals today: a navy top and shoes, with white cropped trousers. My pop of colour was the turquoise necklace, however I probably lost marks for not wearing a scarf!  I don't know whether the gold I wore on Tuesday counts as a neutral, as I could claim that my only pop of colour was my blue top, however I suspect that it doesn't. A birthday lunch though is a celebration, so I think bright colours are called for.

Lunch was a pitta bread with hummus and tzatziki dips, followed by delicious local apricots. For dinner we had some fresh pasta with vegetables followed by a chocolate truffle. I'm eating up the chocolates that we bought for our guests and that I (conveniently!) forgot to offer them. If my eating mindfully doesn't do the trick with my waistline, I may have to cut out the chocolates for a while.

Wednesday is when the Spanish magazine Mia is published, so I read my latest copy. As an aside, it's amazing how many English expressions appear in Spanish magazines, particularly in the fashion pages. This week's issue talked about El Look "Total White". As you can see in the photo above, I only got it half right!

The focus again was on trying to make healthy eating choices, which means when dining at home, as well as when eating out. We are fortunate to live in an area where we can buy fresh vegetables and fruit that are grown locally. I eat fish (though not meat) which comes direct from Santa Pola, about an hour or so from where we live. It's good to be supporting Slow Food too.




Wednesday, 22 June 2016

30 Chic Days - days 9 and 10

I'm now a third of the way through the 30 Chic Days challenge, and finding it very helpful both in making me aware of what I'm doing each day and reminding me what I want to achieve. Fiona was the inspiration for me deciding to take part and I'm delighted that Juhli has decided to join us.

Day 9 (Sunday)

Outfit - day 9

I don't wear dresses very often, however we were going out for lunch at Salones Pio XII and it was also Father's Day (in the UK, though not here in Spain) so I thought I should dress up a bit for the occasion. I've had this dress for over nine years so, even though I don't wear it often, I guess its value per wear must be improving. I decided to wear these summer sandals with the dress - they happen to be very comfortable and don't rub my feet (yay!) - because I knew that there'd be dancing after the meal.

I've learnt to pace myself when we go for meals at this venue as there is so much food. When we first sat down, we had individual plates with cold meats, cheese and nuts, plus plates of salad in the centre to share. I quickly off-loaded my meat to John and a male friend and accepted a piece of cheese in exchange.  Soon the waiting staff were bringing plate after plate of delicious seafood: grilled cuttlefish, shrimps and huge red prawns. Eventually we had to tell them not to bring any more, as we still had our main courses (salmon in puffed pastry with vegetables for me) and desserts to come. We had a selection of wines and other drinks with the meal, coffee afterwards, and did I mention the cava? Just a small glass, por favor! We didn't need any food in the evening after this feast. I did have one chocolate before going to bed, but that doesn't really count, does it?

Luckily there was dancing after the meal to burn off a few calories. I only managed 6,813 steps on Sunday however I was in credit after Saturday's exertions and I definitely worked hard on the dance floor!

Day 10 (Monday)
Outfit - day 10
It was a fraction cooler on Monday, with a refreshing breeze, so I wore a thicker t-shirt with my patterned leggings and added a lightweight scarf that blends well with the leggings. It was a fairly leisurely day after the weekend activities: out for coffee in the morning, a bit of shopping, a couple of walks with our dog and writing blog posts.

I read a few blogs too, including one that gave me the three essentials for dressing like a Frenchwomen. Obviously I should give up any thoughts of looking as chic as a Frenchwoman, even though I am wearing a scarf in this photo (that is essential number 3). I guess that I'm close to meeting essential number 2, which is "well tailored clothing", as I'm wearing slim pants and a fitted top rather than baggy clothes.  Where I'm a total failure though is with essential number 1, which is "colour - or lack of it". I should be dressed in black, charcoal or navy apparently, with maybe a pop of colour in a scarf. At least I got my shoes and bag right by choosing navy, but my top and trousers are definitely more than just a pop of colour.

Lunch was scrambled egg with smoked salmon and we finished off the cherries. We have a bag full of apricots to eat next, freshly picked by a friend who lives in the countryside. We're spoilt for choice as we live in an area where many different fruits are grown, including grapes for the famous Jumilla red wine. Dinner was fresh pasta with vegetables and grated cheese.

The focus for these and the following few days is organising my summer wardrobe plus putting away the rest of my winter clothes for the next three or four months. I have to admit that there are still a couple of winter items hanging up in my wardrobe. With endless sunny days bright colours seem to be appropriate, however if I want to look casual chic instead of just casual, I should make sure that I have the balance right between neutrals and accent colours.



Monday, 20 June 2016

30 Chic Days - days 7 and 8

I'm taking part in the 30 Chic Days challenge, along with Juhli (there's a link to her blog under "My Blog List") and Fiona. Click on this link to Fiona's How to be Chic blog for more details.

Day Seven (Friday)
Outfit - day 7 
It must be summer as I'm carrying a summer bag in this photo! As you can see, I'm bringing pieces from my summer wardrobe out of hiding now that the forecast is for lots of sunshine and temperatures between 27 and 35 degrees celsius. The white cropped trousers in the following picture had their first outing of the year too.

You're probably bored with hearing about my yoghurt breakfast, so you can take it for read that I'll be having it every day unless I say otherwise. Lunch was pittas and hummus followed by fresh cherries with a dash of yoghurt on top. I made up a large salad for dinner, with the idea being that we would finish it for lunch on Saturday, so I didn't add any dressing to the salad leaves, feta type cheese, avocado and other ingredients in the hope that the leaves would still be crisp the following day. You can also take it for read that dinner will be accompanied by a glass of wine, with a piece of dark chocolate for afters. 

My focus was on making healthier choices. Note to self, making up a salad is as quick and easy as putting a pizza in the oven! I have decided to improve my balance by standing on each leg with my eyes closed for as long as possible every day and trying out similar exercises. I've never had a great sense of balance anyway and I gather it becomes worse as we age so it seems a sensible idea to start doing something about it now. I have also decided to make a conscious effort to sit up straighter - especially when using my PC - and not slouch. My total for the day was 9,999 steps - I know, just one step short!



Day Eight (Saturday)
Outfit - day 8 (daytime)
The reason I'm showing two outfits is that we were going out in the evening and I knew we would be outdoors, so I would need to wear warmer clothes than during the daytime. The colours in the top shown above are slightly brighter in real life than they appear here. It's a useful item to pack for holidays as I can wear accessories in colours such as turquoise or coral to go with it to change the look as well as bottoms in different neutrals

The outfit shown below doesn't tell the full story. We were going to a concert held in a bodega on Saturday night and the bodega is outside Jumilla about 5kms from our house. We had booked a taxi to bring us home but decided to walk there as it would still be daylight and we knew that it would be safe to do so. I wore trainers for the walk, changing into the navy loafers after we arrived.  I also carried a lime cardigan that matches the top and was very grateful for it once the sun went down!

Outfit - day 8 (evening)
We finished the salad for lunch - the leaves were still crisp - and had a bowl of cherries with yoghurt afterwards, knowing that there would be plenty of food (and wine!) provided by Bodegas Luzón: another good reason for deciding to walk there. I don't eat meat and don't like tomatoes, however I knew that there would be more than enough tapas for me to choose from. When we arrived we were given a glass of white wine, and there was a good selection of tapas including my favourite goats cheese and quince jelly ones. Hubby John is my official taster and told me that the tuna empanadas were tomato-free and tasty, so I had one of those as well.

The evening started with a tour of the winery, however we were excused this because the staff know we have visited it many times in the past - in fact the comment was made that we probably knew more about it that they did! After the tour everyone went outside for the concert and we grabbed a couple of chairs as we knew it would be a long evening. There was plenty of food and wine outside as well, so we definitely didn't go hungry.

Stolen Cover Band
The band played a mixture of hits from the past even going back to the 60s (anyone else remember "Black is Black"?), as well as several Spanish hits that we didn't recognise. The focus of the day was definitely on having fun! Our taxi arrived exactly at 23.30 as agreed, We could have stayed a bit later, however to be honest I couldn't have eaten any more and had enjoyed several glasses of wine by that stage, so it was good timing.

Guess what? I forgot to put my fitbit back on after getting changed! I knew that we had walked almost 5k and it had taken us 55 minutes to do so, therefore I added these figures into the fitbit programme, which calculated a daily total of 18,691 steps.  More than enough!


Saturday, 18 June 2016

30 Chic Days - days 5 and 6

I'm taking part in the 30 Chic Days challenge, along with Juhli (there's a link to her blog under "My Blog List") and Fiona. It's not too late to join us. Click on this link to Fiona's How to be Chic blog for more details.

Day Five (Wednesday)

Outfit - day 5
You may recognise the trousers in today's outfit, as I also wore them on day two.. Sadly, fashion companies don't send me new clothes to write about on my blog, so I have to dig into my own wardrobe to create every outfit. I think the trousers looked better with my red top (in spite of the top not being tucked in properly!) This top is a soft white, but still a bit stark, and the proportions of the outfit are close to 50-50 as the trousers aren't full length, so almost cutting me in half. I've added a turquoise necklace to brighten it up a bit.

I had my yoghurt mix for breakfast, pittas and hummus plus fruit for lunch, cheese and crackers followed by fish and vegetables for dinner. Chocolate? Yes, one piece after dinner. I did mention that dark chocolate is good for your health, didn't I?  With my dinner I usually have a small glass of red wine, which is also supposed to be good for your health. Have you read The Wine Diet by Roger Corder? My copy is very well thumbed, and the Salade Niçoise that I make is based on the recipe in his book.

Not much time for reading as it was a busy day, though I did browse quickly through the Spanish magazine Mia, that I buy every week to help with my Spanish. We met our Spanish friend Juana María for our usual Wednesday coffee and chat, sitting outside in the sunshine. Afterwards we bought some food and drink for Thursday's get-together as well as shopping for dinner. With lots of coming and going over the course of the day, I managed 14,657 steps.

Day 6 (Thursday)


Outfit - day 6.

I've had these trousers a couple of years and I love them as they are so comfortable and versatile. They have a side zip (smoother over my stomach) and don't crease, so they'll definitely be in my case when we go on our summer holiday! I wore a silver pendant as contrast against the navy top and also to draw the eyes down in the hope that I will look slimmer. I should mention at this stage that, even though I often refer to looking taller and slimmer, I'm pretty happy with the way I am. My aim over the 30 days is to keep healthy and be content with my life, though if I lose a few kilos it will obviously be a bonus.

I only just managed 10.200 steps - by volunteering to take Lisa out for her last walk of the day even though it was my husband's turn! Having said that, I was very active the whole day with shopping, cleaning and preparing food for the get-together. We managed to take Lisa for a coffee in the morning, before doing our final shop.

Today's meals: yoghurt mix for breakfast as always, with a microwave meal (did I mention healthy?) of rice with seafood for lunch, plus a banana. Dinner was a selection of tapas that we had put out for our friends to enjoy, though I didn't eat any of the cold meats. I had made up some tapas with soft goat's cheese on small pan tostados (toasted bread) topped with quince jelly, which proved very popular. The spread included a selection of cold meats, different cheeses, smoked trout and tuna, various dips (including several small bowls of local olive oils) with fingers of pitta bread and slices of baguette for dipping, olives and other nibbles. A couple of my female friends helped me drink a bottle of cava - that's what friends are for! - which made a change from my usual red wine.

The focus of both days was preparation for friends coming round for tapas as well as enjoyment of their friendship. This also includes our Spanish friend Juana María whom we met for coffee, who has been an amazing friend since we first met her not long after we moved here. The only reading I managed was a quick look at emails plus messages on facebook!




Thursday, 16 June 2016

30 Chic Days: days 3 and 4

A quick recap: I am taking part in the 30 Chic Days challenge, which means recording:
  • what you wear
  • what you eat
  • how you move
  • what you read
  • your focus of the day
It's not too late to join in. Click on this link to the How to be Chic blog for more details.

Day Three (Monday)


Outfit - day 3
Summer is the hardest time of the year for me style-wise. I'm short and rectangular, so during the cooler months I like to wear a column of colour to look taller and slimmer. This could be navy trousers and cardigan with a contrasting top underneath or a grey top and trousers with a contrasting cardigan or jacket on top. Simple. But what to do in summer? In the day 3 outfit above, my pendant matches the colour of my trousers and shoes, but it's far from ideal.  More importantly, I'm wearing a light top and linen trousers so I feel cool, even though I may not look slim. I have to admit that for me comfort beats style, especially in the heat!

Breakfast was the same as on previous days, Lunch was scrambled eggs on toast with a banana for dessert. Dinner was a piece of pizza with vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and potatoes). I know pizza isn't ideal, however it was a very hot day and we had a Spanish class in the evening, so neither of us fancied cooking when we got home!

I don't usually have any problems with reaching my target of 10,000 steps as we go out walking several times a day. In the mornings we either meet friends for a coffee or walk to a local cafeteria on our own with our dog Lisa. She enjoys this as the staff know her name and always make a fuss of her. Apart from Sundays, when the supermarkets and food shops are closed, we shop on a daily basis. On Mondays we go to our Spanish class, so that adds to my daily total. However I do spend a lot of time on the PC, so my focus for the day was to have more breaks, including going out with John and Lisa for an extra walk. My total number of steps was 10,865.

Today I read part of a kindle book called The Champagne Diet. Living in Spain it's more likely to be cava for me and, as I said before, I prefer to concentrate on healthy eating rather than diet foods. This book though is suggesting the same, so I'll report on it later in the month.

Day Four (Tuesday)

Outfit - day 4


Callie, take a look at my skirt! It looked fine when I checked it in the mirror and also when I saw it on my camera. I'm just hoping that I didn't spend the whole day walking around like this. Did I tell you that I'm an amateur fashion blogger compared to the others in the blogosphere? I think this photo proves it! I am wearing the same pendant as on day 3, partly because it matches my skirt and partly because I was running late when I got dressed.  Note to self: decide what you're wearing the night before like the professional fashion bloggers do, and make sure that your skirt isn't turned up on one side when you put it on. By the way, what do you think of my hat? I'm not really a hat person, however my hair has been feeling a bit dry so I thought I should wear a hat to protect it from the sun.

Breakfast was my usual summer yoghurt mixture. I enjoy it and it stops me getting peckish mid-morning, so why would I change?  Lunch was sardines on toast plus a banana. Feeling guilty about our pizza the day before, I made a smoked salmon omelette for dinner, which we had with a selection of vegetables. On both days we had some crackers with cheese and vegetarian paté as our starters. Did I mention my chocolate for dessert? I'm having 70% chocolate and only one piece, so it counts as "healthy" in my book.

It was my turn to walk Lisa before breakfast, so that was a good start to the day.  We met British and Canadian friends for coffee in the morning, sitting outside in the sunshine. It's not a bad life, living here in Spain! As it was so hot we walked around our local area, keeping in the shade as much as possible, instead of in the countryside. My daily total was 11,077 steps. Although I have always kept pretty active, it can be more difficult when temperatures rise. I do have a couple of DVDs, including my favourite Zumba ones, so if it's too hot outside I'll put on one of those for my exercise fix.

The focus for the next couple of days is tidying and cleaning our house, as we have friends coming round for drinks and tapas on Thursday.  The main problem is lots of white dog hairs!




Sunday, 12 June 2016

30 Chic Days: days 1 and 2

I read about 30 Chic Days on the How to be Chic website. If you are interested, click on this link to find out more. I'll warn you in advance that I may not be posting every day and that I won't be going into as much detail as Fiona is. I'll be giving you my excuses as we go along!

It's a while since I've done any challenges, and this one sounds a bit more complicated than previous ones as it's not just clothes-related. The idea is to log the following over the 30 days that you participate:
  • what you wear
  • what you eat
  • how you move
  • what you read
  • your focus of the day
I'm hoping that some of you may be tempted to join me in this challenge, which I think is a particularly good one for this time of the year. Many of us will be planning our summer holidays and wanting to be in our best possible shape for enjoying our break. Or maybe we have a wedding that we want to look good for - Mother of the Groom anyone? Please note that I'm not talking about going on a diet: what I'm suggesting you do is think about what you eat and how you move so you make healthier choices. Once you're over 60 (and even if you're a bit younger) your priority should be a healthy body and not a skinny one.

Day One (Saturday)


Outfit day 1

It was a hot day (I live in Spain and it's June, therefore hardly surprising!) so I'm wearing a lightweight outfit to keep cool. We were doing a fair bit of walking, including walking to the far end of town, which takes roughly half an hour, to look round the Mercado Medieval. The brown shoes I'm wearing are from the sports company Decathlon and I can wear them without socks so they're ideal for walking in summer. I wear a fitbit to log my steps and my daily target is 10,000 steps: on day one I reached 12,948 steps, which was a good start.

My breakfast during the warmer months (it's usually porridge in winter) is a mixture of greek yoghurt, oats, honey and nuts, plus a small orange juice and a cup of English breakfast tea. My lunch was hummus and a pitta bread, followed by a kiwi fruit. I drink camomile tea at lunch-time to cut down on caffeine. Dinner was a couple of crackers with cheese, then a large helping of salade niçoise, accompanied by a glass of red wine. Did I mention that I usually treat myself to a piece of chocolate after dinner? If I was dieting I'd have to exclude the crackers and cheese, red wine and chocolate, so it's lucky I'm not on a diet! I should also add that I drink water regularly over the course of the day, though I admit that I don't specifically count how many glasses.

The focus of the day was relaxation and recovery, after a busy day on Friday going to see our tax adviser in Alicante, which involved two buses there and back. Plus the stress of finding out that over 1,000€ in tax will be leaving my account at the end of this month. Part of my relaxation was reading the July edition of the UK magazine Good Housekeeping, which I had bought in Alicante.

Day Two (Sunday)


Outfit - day 2
Today's outfit was also chosen to be cool as well as comfortable. I'd tucked in the top slightly, but as you can see I should have looked in the mirror before the photo was taken as the line wasn't quite straight. I don't have a waist, so I never fully tuck my tops in for that reason. The navy trousers are wider than my usual slim or straight styles, but it was good to be wearing a loose pair in the heat. When we took our dog out for a walk I changed into trainers, though these navy brogues are actually comfortable even without socks. Footwear is a huge problem for me as my feet rub so easily. I always walk around the shop when buying new shoes, but occasionally I make bad decisions and my shoes end up in the clothes bank.

My breakfast on day two was the same as for day one. We went out for a coffee just after mid-day (I usually drink decaffeinated, which here in Spain tastes like the real stuff i.e. a decent coffee flavour) and ended up having a drink and some tapas as well. Note to self: check your weight half way through the month, see how many "extras" you've had and, if necessary, cut them out! Lunch was a slice of wholewheat toast with some sardines and a banana to finish. Dinner was using up some salad ingredients from yesterday's meal, with the addition of feta cheese and olives. You can take it as read that I'll have a glass of wine with my dinner and a small piece of chocolate afterwards - for health reasons, of course! - unless I say otherwise.

My number of steps was down today (just over 9,500), partly because it was so hot. Although I'd put trainers on before we took our dog Lisa out, we decided that we should walk around our local neighbourhood instead of walking into the countryside, so that we could keep her (and me) in the shade, so the walk ended up being shorter than usual.  Also, being Sunday, there were no trips to the shops. However with yesterday's high total, the average for two days was still well over my target of 10,000 steps.

The focus again was on relaxation - well it is the weekend after all.  I read some Spanish magazines that come free with the Sunday paper. I guess if I'm being really honest, I looked at the pictures and then read those features that interested me. We've improved our Spanish a lot in the eight years that we've lived here, but we're still far from being fluent, so I like to read interesting articles in magazines to help me improve. Finally, some light reading of my favourite blogs to finish the day!





Sunday, 5 June 2016

Travel capsule - part two

I was back home from London for four days - just enough time to wash a few clothes and work out my next travel capsule - before heading off for my second holiday in May.

As you can see in the following photo, I took a LOT more clothes than on my previous trip! This was partly because this time I was going to be away for nearly two weeks and partly because we were travelling by train so didn't have the same luggage constrictions. Again, the plan was to buy a few things to bring back to Spain, so I made sure that there was enough room in my case to do so.


You will see many different colours in this photo, though my jeans and trousers were neutrals, with the addition of sand trousers, as were my shoes and bag. This works for me, however I know that many bloggers tell you to stick to mainly neutrals when travelling, which is good advice. I try to do the same - honest! - but somehow the colourful tops creep into my suitcase.

I'm sure you've spotted the cobalt jacket on the left, which was an impulse purchase on my first trip to London. I'd brought it along to try and find a dress to go with it. I know! - you should never buy something new unless you already have several items that will go with it - I'm sure I've preached that to you. Trust me, it went well with the white top and jeans I was wearing at the time of purchase. It also matched the green and blue top that I took with me and looks lovely with my gold top. (I wore the blue jacket and gold top flying back from London, though I was mortified to realise that I was wearing Monarch airline colours when I boarded my Monarch flight!)  On this trip I was looking for a dress to wear to an important wedding and, as I had decided that I wanted to wear my new jacket for the wedding as well, it made sense to have the jacket with me.

As London had been so warm at the beginning of the month, I included a skirt for going out in the evenings. I never wore it, even in Barcelona! When I checked the forecast for the first week I knew it was going to be a bit cooler however, ever the optimist, I decided that it might warm up for the second week.  It didn't, but luckily I had a light down jacket with me as well as the new cobalt jacket. I wore the warmer jacket nearly every day as you can see here:


You may spot a famous tower in the distance.  Did I mention that we stopped in Paris as well as Barcelona?

I haven't forgotten that I promised to tell you about a new book called Travel Chic by Ali Martine It's aimed at American readers however, as a Brit living in Spain who likes to visit other parts of Europe and particularly France, I did finds lots of useful nuggets in it, especially the good advice about travelling light (see top picture!). Ali mentions pre-pay options through your hotel, for example for visiting the Louvre in Paris. We've done this in the past, booking a visit to the Alhambra Granada as well as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Apart from saving money, you can skip past the queues of people waiting to buy their entrance tickets, feeling a teeny bit smug.

The safety tips in Travel Chic are well worth reading. At this point I should mention the couple of days we spent in Paris on our trip. We noticed a few more police around, especially in railway stations, but we felt perfectly safe and the Parisians seemed particularly welcoming on this visit.  I will definitely be back there next year for my big birthday! Whether I follow Ali's advice about travelling light though awaits to be seen.