Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Happy anniversary to my blog!

I started this blog just over a year ago, when I decided to participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I do have another blog, Spain Uncovered, which was set up with the help of my publisher as a way to promote my book, "Retiring the Olé Way". However on impulse I decided to start a new blog, where I could indulge myself talking about fashion, beauty, travel, life in Spain and whatever else I fancied - all of it aimed at other women over 60. Thus "Over 60 and Over Here" was born, and I posted my first thoughts in the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July 2012. I started the challenge late and only managed 22 posts, but I enjoyed my new blog and continued writing posts for it over the next eleven months.

Fast forward to July this year and I received an invitation to participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge again. This time - once this post has been published - I have succeeded in writing 31 posts and I have to admit that I am feeling a teeny bit smug!

It's amazing how many other blogger are out there in the great blogosphere. When posting on the facebook page set up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, we are asked to comment on the two blogs above us on the comment list. This proved to be an interesting exercise as some of the blogs were, if I'm being completely honest, of absolutely no interest to me. I tried to wait until I saw a couple that I thought I might enjoy reading but, if I was too slow in posting the link to my own blog, I would see to my horror that other people had also posted and I was stuck with a really boring post to comment on.  I am guessing that some of the people who commented on here thought exactly the same as me!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the other participants for a fascinating month's reading. There are some brilliant bloggers out there and others who are - dare I say it? - definitely average. I would like to think that maybe I come somewhere in between, but that of course is the ego of the blogger. After all we are all writinh our blogs in the belief that somebody, somewhere out there, might find our meandering thoughts of interest.

In particular I would like to thank everybody who visited my blog and was kind enough to comment. I'm not just talking about visitors from the Ultimate Blog Challenge here - in particular I am talking about my regular readers who leave their comments on my posts and reassure me that I'm not just talking to myself! You know who you are and you constantly make my day.

Children: a blessing or a curse?

There will be many over 60s who are parents, some will also be grandparents and there will be others who are childless. I come into the first category and, before I say anything else, I would like to make it clear that I consider my three children to be a blessing (just in case one of them decides to read their mother's blog!) So today's question is: are children a blessing or a curse?

What got me thinking about this topic was a conversation at our weekly Spanish-British intercambio. María wanted to practise her English because she is going to work as a volunteer in Nepal for three months. How exciting is that? However she commented on the fact that she is in her late thirties, single and is wondering if she will ever have children. Her friend Ana has two daughters aged 17 and 21 and agreed with me that children are a constant worry. My own children are all in their forties and I still worry about them at times! María has been to many different countries and leads a very fulfilling life. She realises that she wouldn't have been able to do half of these things if she had had children. Both women seem happy with their lives, even though they are going in different directions.

My generation was fortunate, as many of us had our children at a young age. I never really thought about whether I wanted children or could afford to raise a family: the norm was to marry and then start your family. By the time I was twenty-five I had three children and I have absolutely no regrets about this. My children were already adults when I was in my mid forties and I was lucky to be in a good job, so I was able to travel around the world (even though I have never visited Nepal!) I guess that I have had the best of both worlds in having children like Ana and also travelling like María.
On the whole young people nowadays marry (or start living together) at a later age than we did and if they decide to have children they've usually thought it through. So far so good. However nothing can prepare you for the joy of holding your child for the first time. You look down on that tiny baby with a mixture of love and fear. You (and your partner) are totally responsible for the welfare of this child and seeing him or her safely to adulthood. That's what you think in the early days - you assume that your role will cease once your son or daughter leaves home. I'm sorry to disappoint any young parents who may be reading this, but your children will be constantly in your thoughts and you will never cease worrying about them until the day you die. That is the joy of being a parent!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

My Summer 33 revised

The cold winter and cool, wet spring fooled me into thinking that our Spanish summer wouldn't be too hot this year. Granted we haven't had the high temperatures of last year, but it's still well over 30 degrees centigrade in the day-time and pleasantly warm at night. Over the last six weeks we have been enjoying a series of concerts in local bodegas, most of which have finished well past midnight, and guess what? I haven't needed to wear a cardigan or jacket at all, even late at night. I'm slowly building up to an admission that I got my summer 33 totally wrong!

For the benefit of any new readers, I'm taking part in Project 333, where you have a wardrobe of 33 clothes to last you for 3 months. The really dedicated participants include shoes and accessories, but at the moment I'm allowing myself 33 items of clothing for each season. My summer 33 included - wait for it! - three cardigans and three jackets. Whatever was I thinking of?!

This is the link to my original summer wardrobe: summer 33. I have now removed all the cardigans and jackets, plus a long-sleeved top that also hadn't been worn, and replaced them with a short dress, a pair of shorts and four sleeveless tops.

I have found this a really enlightening exercise. In previous years my wardrobe would have been stuffed full of clothes for the summer and I wouldn't have realised that I wasn't wearing half of them. Now there is a lot more room, I am more aware of  what I'm wearing and, as a bonus, I am having fun creating new outfits with the clothes that are there.  What about you? Do you wear all the clothes that are hanging up in your wardrobe?

August is one long party

One of the joys of living in Spain is the number of fiestas that you can enjoy throughout the year. The month of August is the busiest fiesta time in Jumilla, with the Feria y Fiestas de Agosto taking place between 9 and 18 August this year. I will be posting full details of the festivities on my other blog: Spain Uncovered, but I thought I would share some of the highlights here.

The opening events on Friday 9 August will start outside the Town Hall, where a rocket will be fired from the balcony at 21.00, accompanied by lively music and cheers. Following this will be the inauguration of the Fuente del Vino (yes, that does mean fountain of wine!) in the Jardín del Rey D. Pedro at 22.00. The final event of the day will be a folk evening starting at 24.00. No, that's not a typing error - this is Spain and evening events start very late!

The good news is that there will be another folk evening on Saturday 10 August, this time starting at the more civilised hour of 22.00. The even better news is that both performances are free. Earlier on Saturday, the popular mini wine fair will take place between 12.00 and 15.00. Last year we paid 3€ for a wine glass then we wandered around the stands of over a dozen bodegas, tasting some of the best Jumilla wines, with a few nibbles to stave off any hunger pangs.

The highlight on Sunday 11 August will be the grand parade of the Moors and Christians. Music, dance, drama and amazing costumes are just some of the ingredients of this spectacular event. In the past they held two separate parades, but because of the financial crisis they have had to combine the two.

Monday is children's day, with 2 x 1 on the fairground rides, a children's procession at 20.30 and free entry to the festival of youth bands, starting at 22.30. I am looking forward to the drama at 22.45 when the Moors and Christians have their annual skirmish on the Paseo. When their swords clash, sparks literally fly and young children beat a hasty retreat. Last year they even had a horse charging down the Paseo, so I can't wait to see what they will do to entertain us this year.

The procession on Tuesday 13 August is one of my favourites. The peñas (local associations) walk along the main streets of Jumilla wearing traditional costumes and carrying baskets of grapes. At 21.00 they will offer the grapes to the Nino de las Uvas, which will be followed by the customary treading of the grapes as part of the Fiesta de la Vendimia.

The Cabalgata Tradicional del Vino starts at the reasonably early time of 20.30, however it takes a long while for the floats to make their way around town as the participants hand out wine and sangria to the eager spectators. The peñas compete to create the most original float every year: I particularly liked this one.

Thursday 15 August is dedicated to the celebrations for Jumilla's patron saint, Nuestra Señora La Virgen de la Asunción. There will be a mass in Our Lady's honour in the morning, with a solemn procession at 20.00, where her statue is carried through the streets.

It looks as if we will be having a fairly late night on Friday. I always love watching the horses and carriages, which will be parading around town at 20.00, so that is a must. I have also noticed that the horseriders' peña is having a Fiesta Flamenca on the Paseo starting at 22.30, which is very tempting - especially as it's another free event!

However we will probably leave Saturday night's festivities to the youngsters, plus the young at heart with plenty of stamina. The notorious Gran Cabalgata del Vino is due to start at 19.00 and rumour has it that it continues into the early hours of the morning. The floats are piled high with red wine, which is thrown or poured over the participants, who dance through the streets all night. They do get to drink some wine too, but judging by the state of their clothes more goes over them than into them! I suspect that we will watch the procession set off then retreat to the safety of our own home, where we can drink a glass of wine in comfort.

Don't wear your best clothes!
We have decided to start the celebrations early by hosting our own fiesta this Saturday, however I'm sorry to disappoint you: it's by invitation only!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Crowning glory or another story?

One of the best ways to update your look is to get a new hair style, and one of the easiest ways to look way older than your years is to have an unflattering style. This is true at any age, but even more so when you are over 60. Before I continue with a few of the common faux pas, I would like to make it clear that there are always exceptions to any rules and if you can get away with breaking the rules, go ahead and do so!

1.  Wearing your hair too long

You think having long hair will make you look more youthful, but that is rarely the case. If you have any facial lines that are drooping in a downwards direction, long hair will drag them down even more. Long straight hair can be particularly unflattering, even on the gorgeous Nicole Kidman! Imagine what that hairstyle would do to a less than beautiful over 60s woman.

2. Dyeing your hair the wrong colour

One of the most common mistakes is to dye your hair too dark. Stark almost black hair next to an ageing skin is never going to be a good look. If the colour flattered you in your 20s and 30s, the chances of it still looking good in your 50s or 60s are probably nil.

However, as you can see in the above photo, this is one rule that I habitually break! My hair is naturally very dark and I still think I look better with darker hair. Living in Spain, I have found that the sun bleaches my hair after a couple of weeks even though I don't sit  out in the sun, however when I go to the hairdressers every six to eight weeks I insist on her using a darker tint to restore my "natural" look.

Some older women go the other way and become blonde, assuming that will automatically make them look younger, but even going blonde can be hazardous if you pick the wrong shade. The most flattering look is to choose a shade that suits your natural colouring and  have highlights. Be guided by your hairdresser on this one.

3. Using too many hair products

One of the problems for many over 60s is thinning hair, so the temptation is to use as many products as possible to add some volume. My hair has always been fine, though luckily it was thicker when I was younger so it's still not too thin, but I do use volumizing products to add some body to my hair. The danger though is, if you use too many products, the sheer weight of them will drag your hair down. A better solution may be to have layers in your hair - again, this is something to discuss with your hairdresser.

4. Permed hair and the helmet effect

Nothing is more ageing on an over 60 woman than stiff, permed hair. I'm talking about the sort of hair style that doesn't move, even in a gale force wind. A natural style, with plenty of movement, is so much more flattering. British readers may recall the character Bet Lynch, played by actress Julie Goodyear in the soap series "Coronation Street".  This is one hair style that over 60s should definitely avoid!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Summer in the city

It's hot here in Spain, and it will be even hotter in the city, so I am sitting indoors where it is cool and I have no plans to venture into the nearest city of Murcia to do any shopping, even though the Sales (Rebajas) have started!  Instead, I have been playing with Polyvore again, as Fabulous after 40 are running another Pinterest competition: What to wear on a European vacation.

I have created two outfits this time.  The first outfit is for sight-seeing in the city, featuring a cool blue linen blouse over cropped lightweight trousers and flat shoes. If you are visiting Paris and want to blend in with the Parisians, you might want to wear Converse trainers instead of these sandals! I have deliberately chosen a top that isn't too revealing in case you want to visit any churches, though quite honestly nowadays anything seems to go.
The second outfit is for shopping in the city and, if I owned any of these items, I would be happy to wear this for a shopping trip to Murcia. This dress is ideal for slipping on and off when trying on clothes. I chose ballerinas as I prefer flat shoes for traipsing round the shops, however it would also look good with wedges. The linen jacket wouldn't be needed for shopping in most Spanish cities, as they are so hot that you welcome  the icy air conditioning, but you might appreciate it in other cities, especially when eating your lunch in an air conditioned restaurant. 
The floppy sun hat might be enough to keep the sun out of your eyes, but I would ditch the hat and wear my shades instead. What do you like to wear for visiting cities in the summer time? Do you have any tips for keeping cool in the city?

Friday, 26 July 2013

Belle of the Ball

Having discussed wrinkles last weekend - or "lines of distinction" as reader Penny called them - I thought it would be timely to talk about covering them up with make-up.  My advice is to take care when "putting on the slap". Nothing ages you more quickly than a thick layer of make-up, which tends to highlight your wrinkles rather than concealing them. Add dark lipstick, even darker eyebrows and over use of a powder puff, and what do you get?  Baby Jane! Take a look at the photo below and be warned: Over 60 ladies, this is NOT what we are aiming for.

This seems a good moment to dip into "Parisian Chic", to see what advice Inès has to give us. She is of course a glamorous French model so she obviously doesn't need as much help as the rest of us, however I suspect that you will trust her advice more than mine!

Inès' tips: choose a liquid foundation that is slightly lighter than your skin tone and apply sparingly; apply mascara to the top lashes only: choose a flattering lipstick or gloss, but don't line your lips unless you do it subtly; use natural matte eye shadows; avoid glittery eye shadows and harsh black eye-liner.

I would add that you should highlight your eyes or your lips but not both - look at Baby Jane again if you're not convinced. The aim is to look as if you're hardly wearing any make-up - leave the bright blue eye shadows and dark orange lips to the youngsters.

I have become a great fan of BB creams that contain SPF protection, which are ideal for a natural day-time look. I only use foundation now when I am going out at night. Although I don't try and match eye shadow or lipstick colours to my clothes, I tend to use warmer shades when wearing clothes in warmer colours and cooler tones if the colours of the clothes I am wearing are cool. Having said that, if I'm in a rush it's whatever comes to hand!

My best beauty tip (which is one I share with Inès) is always to wear a smile. Even if it doesn't hide your wrinkles it still makes you look years younger - and you will definitely be the belle of the ball!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

It's too darn hot....

It's summer time - at least for those of us who live in the northern hemisphere - and our main concern fashion-wise is to keep cool. Many of us moan about the long, cold, wet winters and then as soon as we have the sunshine we craved we start moaning about the heat!

Yesterday I was wearing shorts and a loose top (thanks to all of you who gave me the thumbs up!), whereas  today I am wearing a sleeveless top with long, loose linen trousers. Both outfits are comfortable and help to keep me cool. Linen is perfect for a hot summer's day: I possess three pairs of linen trousers plus a short skirt. I don't have a linen dress though, so I decided to have a look on Polyvore and see if I could create a suitable outfit using a linen dress.
Perfect for the summer heat
I love the look of this dress: it's in a bright summery colour, it seems to be loose but not baggy and it's short, but it doesn't appear too revealing. In other words, it ticks all the right boxes for over 60 women. I also love the look of midi and maxi dresses, but they just don't work on someone as short as me. I have included a pretty hat though I'm not a hat person, but I'm trying to encourage my readers to be more careful in the sun than I am!

Living in Spain I would add one more key accessory, which all Spanish women carry around with them during the summer months.
My must-have accessories
Honestly, I don't think I would survive the summer months without having a fan in my bag!  Lastly, but the most important items of all, don't forget to add a high SPF sun-tan cream or lotion before you leave the house and have a bottle of water handy. Keep cool!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A right royal fuss!

Why should I be different? Everywhere I look there are comments about the new British Royal Baby - yes, even living here in Spain we can't escape it! - so I thought I should add my tuppence worth.

I deliberately added the word British, in case there are any foreign readers who haven't heard the news, though I very much doubt it. According to Spanish TV - who were hanging around outside St Mary's hospital before, during and after the happy event - there were press representatives from as far afield as Australia. However, just in case you haven't already heard the news: the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby boy in St Mary's hospital in London yesterday. Splendid news!

I guess that I shouldn't have been surprised that Spanish TV cameras were there, after witnessing the reaction in Spain to the Royal Wedding.  We had gone out for the day with some British friends, and we planned to have lunch near the coast.  There was an unanimous vote to avoid any British bars, especially when we saw the boards outside them splattered with Royal Wedding deals. Don't get me wrong - I'm not an anti-monarchist, but neither am I a huge fan of the Royal Family. My friend Lesley and I agreed that we would quite like to see the dress (sorry, that should have read "THE Dress"!) but we didn't really want to watch the whole ceremony.

We sat down in a Spanish bar and ordered our meal before realising that the wedding was on Spanish TV too! A quick flick through the papers confirmed that every channel was providing coverage, so there was no escape. I just find it slightly bizarre that foreign media are so obsessed with royalty from a different country.

I thought that the fervour over the royal birth had died down today. The Pope's visit to Brazil was on the front page of ABC, the Spanish newspaper that we bought this morning. However closer inspection inside revealed that several pages were devoted to the "niño de Los Duques de Cambridge". Are Spanish people so interested in reading about this baby that they need five pages of information?

They say that good news doesn't sell newspapers, but in this case it obviously does. I admit that I'd far rather read about a new baby than some of the dreadful things happening in the world every day. I wish the parents well, of course, and I would like to congratulate William and Kate plus any other new parents out there. However excuse me if I say that I don't really care what name the third in line to the British throne is given. Why don't they just call him Prince?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Beware of the 16/61 look!

In case you haven't heard of this expression, it refers to looking like a 16 year old from behind but 61 from the front. I'm not saying that you should never wear youthful styles of course, but I guess that this is another variation of the phrase "beware of mutton dressed as lamb".

I confess to wearing a pair of shorts today when I went down to the shops (shock! horror!).  Some of you may think that a woman in her 60s shouldn't be walking around town in shorts, but they weren't skimpy ones and my loose top wasn't revealing, so it was a comfortable outfit on a hot summer's day. It also passed the critical husband test: "Do I look ok in these shorts?" "They're fine." I doubt if anyone walking behind me would have assumed that I was 16 from what I was wearing, so I didn't have to worry about looking like a woman in her 60s when seen from the front.

I do have other options, but my loose linen trousers are in the laundry basket, it was far too windy to wear a demure knee-length skirt (a woman in her 60s doing a Marilyn Monroe impression is not a good look!), my dresses are a bit too dressy for everyday wear, so I went for the shorts.
Is this a good look for over 60s?
I know I would have looked better if my legs weren't so pale, but whenever I've tried fake tan it has looked - well, if I'm being honest - a bit fake. I didn't spot any children running away from the sight of my legs, and nobody laughed outright, so hopefully I got away with this look. What do you think?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Shoe watching in Spain

I had a shoe success story last night! In my post earlier this month about the number of shoes that I possess, I mentioned the pair of shoes shown below. I stated that they were fairly new and I really liked them, however I couldn't wear them for long periods of time or on long walks. Although I own many pairs of shoes, the number that I can actually wear is fairly low.

Last night we went to a concert in a bodega and I opted to wear this long brown dress, which I've had for five years.  My only problem was what shoes to wear with it. I had decided against wearing heels as we had to walk there and back, and I knew that these ballerinas would go well with the dress, but the key question was how comfortable would they be?
60th birthday dress - bring on the bling!
Please note that the excessive jewellery was because the theme for my birthday was "Bring on the Bling!" Last night I wore a simple gold necklace and watch and carried a beige tote.

 Awarded a gold star for comfort!
I sprayed inside these shoes with dilatador de calzado before I put them on and they felt fine but, not wanting to risk having to hobble home later on, I slipped an old pair of flat shoes into my tote bag.

We left home at eight o'clock and returned home about five hours later, a bit tired but very happy, having enjoyed an amazing evening. Fortunately chairs had been provided, which meant that I could rest my feet as we listened to the first act (the talented Amarela and her group), while sipping wine and feasting on a variety of delicious tapas.  However we couldn't  resist the lively music from Al Golpe, the second group to perform. As soon as they launched into their flamenco version of "Bolero" most of the Spanish audience leapt to their feet and I soon persuaded John to join in. It was only after we were safely back home that I realised that my feet had been happy all evening, even when I was dancing, and the old flats were still in my bag.

While sitting there in my comfortable shoes, I couldn't help noticing what shoes the other women were wearing. The majority of the young "chicas" had chosen style over comfort, with staggeringly high heels, though one or two had sensibly gone for stylish flats. On the other hand most of the señoras of a certain age (including yours truly) were wearing flat shoes, some of which were stylish - though the majority came under the category of sensible, comfortable shoes. I've already mentioned the difficulty of finding shoes that are both comfortable and stylish here in Spain.  After shoe watching last night I wondered if this was because of lack of demand, and whether Spanish women just give up on fashion once they turn 50 or 60. Do you agree that most shoe manufacturers seem to pander to younger women and ignore those of us who would like to be stylish but not at the expense of comfort?

Wrinkles or laughter lines?

I have to thank Staness of The Menopause Makeover for providing me with inspiration for today's post. Although she's more than ten years younger than me - far too young to be worrying about wrinkles in my view! - she lives in L.A., where there's huge pressure to look young.  Staness describes how she visited her dermatologist for an irritating skin condition and at the end of the appointment she was told " I can make you look 10 to 15 years younger with some Botox and fillers." Staness' response was "I love my wrinkles, dammit!" Good for her. I applaud her attitude and her vow that she's going to commit her life to more important things than wrinkles. 

Even if I won the Euromillions jackpot I wouldn't waste my money on botox and fillers, though I do admit to recently buying some L'Oreal day and night creams with the tantalising name of "Revitalift". I am hoping that this means it will revitalise my skin at the same time as giving me a face lift. To be honest it wasn't the name that really attracted me - nor the claim that it would target the 10 signs of ageing - it was the price (a lot less than my favourite Clarins' creams) plus a special discount if you bought two products. Sold to the pensioner on a tight budget!
Showing my laughter lines at the age of 65
I remember many years ago asking my aunt what was the secret of her youthful looking skin and being told that all she used was cheap Nivea cream. Thinking about this, I have just realised that I was in my early twenties so my aunt would only have been in her mid forties, though at the time I had considered her positively ancient. I suspect that good genetics had a role to play here, but it was reassuring to be told that cheaper products could be as good as top of the range expensive ones.

I love this quote from Inès de la Fressange in "Parisian Chic": "I pay no attention to wrinkles. I just stand back from the mirror!" Exactly. One of the advantages of getting older is that, with failing eyesight, you can't see your wrinkles without your glasses. I keep my glasses next to the PC and not next to the bedroom mirror for that very reason.

One of the pluses of being a blogger is that you get to choose your most flattering photos, however if someone else posts pictures of you on-line you can get a nasty surprise. It's even worse when a much younger friend tags you (wrinkles and double chin fully revealed) on facebook. The worst photos of me recently have been when my face has been turned sideways, revealing a saggy jaw-line as well as those tell-tale laughter lines. Excuse me while I check the ten signs of ageing that my new skin creams promise to target.  Good news! Take a look at numbers two and three below: this should sort out my saggy jaw-line.

  • Minimizes fine lines + wrinkles
  • Firms sagging skins
  • Tightens facial contours
  • Restores elasticity
  • Hydrates dryness
  • Smoothes skin surface
  • Softens rough texture
  • Brightens dullness
  • Strengthens skin's density
  • Fades discolorations

  • If my facial contours miraculously become tighter and my sagging skin does become firmer, I will post before and after photos on my blog, so watch this space!

    Do you wear your wrinkles with pride? Or have you too discovered a new miracle cream?

    Friday, 19 July 2013

    Are you in good shape?

    This is a loaded question, as being in "good shape" can mean different things to different people. As someone who has enjoyed participating in various sports in the past, I tend to assume that there's an element of fitness involved and that it means being slim as well. At the moment I'm not at my fittest or slimmest, even though I walk a lot and enjoy dancing whenever I have the opportunity, however I am still comfortable with the shape that I'm in. What about you? Are you in good shape - and did you make the same assumptions as I did about the meaning of this question?

    The on-line dictionary definition of "to be in good shape" is "to be prepared", giving the following example: "All our bags are packed, and we don't have to leave for another hour, so we're in good shape." However pick up any women's magazine just before the holiday season and their idea of being in good shape is to be slim and tanned, with numerous articles to help you achieve this. Packing your bags in plenty of time just doesn't come into it!

    This obsession with being slim and tanned when you hit the beach is a modern phenomenon. Look at Rubens' models - not a skinny tanned wench amongst them! Pale skin used to be fashionable until the days of cheap travel and then everyone wanted to come home sporting a tan from their holiday in the sun. Hopefully the tide is turning though as we start to recognise the dangers of spending too much time in the sun.

    I'd like to make it clear that I'm not saying pale skin is better than dark skin - after all I'm freckled, which is a mixture of both! I'm happy to see so many plus size bloggers on the internet, who are stunning ladies and positive role models; on the other hand if you are naturally skinny you are just as gorgeous. I think the media have a lot to answer for, encouraging women to try and change themselves instead of celebrating who and what they are.

    Of course once we are over 60 it doesn't matter, as the media practically ignore us. I've lost count of the number of magazines who run features about women of different ages: when you actually read them. it will be women in their 20s, 30s and 40s or (if you're lucky) 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. Hello! There are lots of over 60s out here in the real world and some of us enjoy reading magazines too.

    I know that I will never be a tall, slim blonde. I can change the colour of my hair if I choose, but I'll always be short and I don't intend starving myself to become slimmer - I enjoy my food way too much. I also accept that I'm never going to be young again.  I may feel as if I'm still twenty something, but unfortunately my mirror never lies!

    Slim or curvaceous; tall or short; blonde, brunette, redhead or (dare I say it?) grey; pale, tanned, women of colour or freckled faces; young or old: we are all beautiful in our individual ways and we are all in great shape. Yes, that includes you.

    Thursday, 18 July 2013

    A quiet night in?

    Last night was going to be a quiet night in at home, especially with two possible late nights on Friday and Saturday. We live in Spain however we haven’t adopted the habit of taking a siesta yet, preferring to have early nights beforehand.

    We don’t expect to be too late on Friday as we are going to a 14th birthday party, although it doesn't start until 21.00. Did I mention that we live in Spain?! Children here seem to stay up as late as adults do. I noticed on my recently acquired programme for the August fiestas that there is a musical aimed at young children on 11 August that doesn't start until 23.00!

    Saturday night though is the latest concert in the Música entre Vinos summer events, where concerts are held in various bodegas, followed by lots of wine and local dishes. The evening will begin at 20.00 with a tour of the bodega, however the concert in unlikely to start until after 21.00 and I can almost guarantee that we won’t get home until the early hours of Sunday morning.

    So last night we bathed early and sat in our pyjamas to watch a bit of TV before the planned early night. We looked like a couple of pensioners - oh, that’s what we are! -  which made it even more embarrassing when the doorbell rang. We looked at each other in surprise: we weren't expecting anyone. I opened the door warily to see a group of our Spanish neighbours standing outside. They explained that they could smell gas, and they know we have a gas water heater.  John checked in the kitchen then outside at the back and said he couldn't smell anything. It was obvious that our neighbours were nervous, even when we told them that the heater had been serviced last month. Our friend Isabel was saying that it was "peligroso" (dangerous), so we agreed to turn the gas completely off in order to reassure them all.

    We were just thinking it was time to switch off the TV, when we heard sirens outside. Peering over the balcony, we could see two fire engines with lights flashing, plus a local police car. We weren't surprised when our doorbell rang not long afterwards. This time there were four firemen, a policewoman and even more neighbours outside!  The firemen came into our apartment and then went outside to check the water heater. Eventually they came back in, told us everything there was ok (as we had expected) and left us in peace.

    Well, it was almost in peace, as we could still hear lots of noise outside the front of the building as various neighbours returned home, while the firemen pulled up covers loudly, presumably looking for gas pipes and associated leaks. At the same time people were emerging from other parts of the building curious to find out what was going on and to add their voices to the racket.

    After all this I think we eventually went to sleep at about 01.30, which was a lot later than planned.  I am now wondering what the chances are of a good night’s sleep tonight!

    Wednesday, 17 July 2013

    What's your fashion personality?

    I was reading an on-line article this morning, in which the fashion writer described four different fashion personalities: classic, romantic, trendy and casual. I was surprised that she only described four, as having looked at several other fashion blogs I would have included vintage, quirky and dramatic if not more. Then there are some of us who have several different fashion personalities lurking in our wardrobes so schizophrenic is probably the closest match for us!

    When I worked in an office most of my clothes were classic, though I generally preferred trouser suits to skirt suits, as I've always been a bit of a tomboy. Anyone who has seen my Winter wardrobe for Project 333 will have noticed that there was one winter dress, two skirts, five pairs of jeans and trousers, plus a trouser suit. Now that I don't work outside my home I have developed a distinctly more casual style, though I do like to wear smart skirts or dresses occasionally. The outfit above is what I wore in Paris when we went out for a meal on my 65th birthday.

    The following outfit though is what you are more likely to see me wearing. It underlines the fact that if you had to define my current style using one of those four categories it would be casual.

    I've hardly ever worn romantic fashions, as being 5'1" too many ruffles and frills would overwhelm me, plus I'm not really a girly girl. I wouldn't describe myself as a trend-setter either, though if the latest trend is one that I like I may buy into it, in small doses.

    It is also worth considering the negative connotations of the four fashion personalities. Classic can easily become boring. Romantic may verge into fussy or dowdy. Trendy is in danger of becoming a fashion victim. As for my casual personality, I must take care that I don't become too sloppy, which is why I aim for casual chic.

    I think it can be useful to define your own style and it certainly makes it easier when you go shopping. On the other hand you don't want to get stuck in a style rut. In "Parisian Chic", Inés de la Fressange says that she often dresses in black or navy with a white shirt, but sometimes on a whim she will surprise everyone by wearing a fuchsia pink blouse. For me, it's that surprise element that makes fashion so much fun.

    Tuesday, 16 July 2013

    Mixing it in the office

    It's a long while since I worked in an office - over five years, in fact - unless you count sitting in front of the PC at home. After yesterday's fun mixing and matching in Polyvore, I thought I would continue playing today, but with an office environment in mind. I decided that the starting point would be a classic and comfortable skirt, but it took me a long while to find one that I would have been happy to wear to work. Mini-skirts? No, not even in the fairly relaxed office where I used to work. Midi-skirts? Definitely not, as they aren't a flattering look if you're 5'1". Finally, I found one that was suitable, which I decided to wear with the coral jacket that took my fancy yesterday. 

    Next I looked for a classic white shirt to wear with my office outfit. I spotted one that I liked the look of, but then I discovered that it was dry clean only! Hello? Who would want to buy a white shirt that has to be dry cleaned? I was also surprised by how many white tops were cropped (another definite no!) or far too frilly for my taste. I eventually had to settle for a short-sleeved white top, and I also chose a striped top for an alternative look.
    This time there are only two items that cost more than 100€. No peeping: decide which two items you think are the most expensive ones before scrolling down. 

    I ruled out trainers (our office wasn't quite that casual) but ballerinas make a second appearance, albeit in a different shade. It's summer so I've included a pair of shades, though in the UK I probably wore a light jacket and bright scarf as often as I wore sun glasses even in the summer months.

    The pair of kitten heels from  L.K.Bennett is the most expensive item at 185€ and the Chesca Linen Skirt from John Lewis costs 135€.  I could be tempted by those heels as they are just the right height for walking round the shops, but I would definitely need to give them a test drive first at that price! I have shown a few different accessories to illustrate how easily you can change your look, and many of the items in the previous post could also be worn with this skirt. I think we are on our way to building a capsule wardrobe! 

    Monday, 15 July 2013

    Mixing chic and cheap

    In my previous post I talked about fashion faux pas at 50+ and how wearing too many luxury labels wasn't a good look. Luckily with my wardrobe budget I don't have to worry about that! I thought it would be interesting to play around on Polyvere choosing items from various price ranges and create an outfit or two by mixing chic and cheap.  Most of us will already own a pair of navy denims, so that was my starting point. I have included some classic pieces plus others like the Paris sweater to add a bit of fun.  Here's my chic and cheap look - I hope that you like it!
    Would you like to play a little game? Go on, please humour me! The idea is to decide which of the above items are the most expensive and which are the cheapest. Don't read any further until you have made your mind up.

    The most expensive item here is the striped jumper, which is a mix of cotton, silk and cashmere, and which costs 305€. If I was going to spend over 300€ on a top I would make it this one, as it is a classic item and a good investment piece.

    Next is the aqua crystal bracelet on the left costing - wait for it! - 205€. It's a lovely bracelet and would look equally good with a more glamorous evening outfit as well as with this casual look. If someone else is paying, I'll have it - otherwise I would buy a few of the bracelets on the right, which cost 11€ each.

    Finally, the Tory Burch tote costs 190€ and is another buy that won't date and that will look good with both casual and smart outfits. I bought a similar (though a lot cheaper!) tote recently, that proved its versatility when I went on holiday for ten days. My tote went well with all my outfits, no matter what colour I was wearing.

    At 35€ the Paris sweater is a lot cheaper than the striped one, but I probably wouldn't wear it as often and might eventually get bored with it, so it wouldn't be as good an investment. The chain necklace on the other hand would go with many other items in my wardrobe so is a definite bargain at 19€.

    The Converse trainers and Pretty Ballerina shoes are fast becoming classic items and most Parisians would snap them up, according to Inés de la Fressange in her book "Parisian Chic"! If you are planning to go on holiday soon, they would be good purchases.

    Last but not least, what about the two jackets? Clearly the leather jacket  at 140€ would be a bargain buy if you don't already own one, but I have my eye on the coral blazer.  It's by Wallis and the price is 52€. Not everyone will be tempted by this, but it's one of my favourite colours and it's available on-line. Must go folks!

    Sunday, 14 July 2013

    Vive la France!

    Well it is Bastille Day so it seems appropriate to write about France and in particular about French fashion. There are several excellent blogs about French style  - links to a couple of my favourites are in the right hand column.   Just before my trip to Paris last year to celebrate my 65th birthday, I bought the book "Parisian Chic", which I have featured in an earlier post, on the recommendation of another blogger. Written by Inès de la Fressange - model, fashion muse and fashion designer - this book is as charming as Inès herself.

    What is it about Frenchwomen that makes the rest of the world want to emulate them? Why is it that the words Parisian and Chic seem to go together so well? Maybe we can get a few clues from "Parisian Chic".

    As we get older our style should evolve. What suited us at 30 or even 40 probably won't look as good once we are 50 or 60. It may be a simple matter of wearing skirts an inch longer or choosing less bright colours. Inès suggests that the following are faux pas at 50+: ethnic prints; mini-skirts and micro-shorts; neon colours; fur (she says that the "wrinkled trophy wife" look can be very ageing. I say that there's no need to wear dead animals at any age!).

    However she does encourage us to follow fashion, so long as we use the latest fashions in a subtle way. If leopard-skin is in fashion please avoid wearing a leopard-skin jumpsuit if you are over 60, however a bag or ballerinas in leopard-skin will keep you looking up-to-date. If wide-legged trousers are the latest look, and if they are right for your shape, go ahead and buy a pair. Ripped jeans or studded thigh boots on the other hand are best left to the youngsters.

    The other good tip for anyone over 50 is to mix your chic, more expensive buys with cheaper labels. Apparently fashionable Parisians don't wear an excess of luxury labels and shun anything too ostentatious, which is good news for us over 60 pensioners on a budget!

    Saturday, 13 July 2013

    When in doubt, say nowt

    I've never been slow in giving my opinion, even when it's not been asked for. I suspect that most of my fellow bloggers are the same, and that's why we like to express ourselves on-line: it's my blog and I can say what I want to! However as we grow older - and hopefully start acting in a more mature way - we learn that there are times and places where it's best to be circumspect before saying what we think.

    I believe that if an honest opinion has been asked for, then an honest opinion should be given. Having said that, sensitivity should be a factor too. I remember years ago my neighbour showing me her new baby boy. I felt that a comment was called for and desperately tried to think of something positive to say, as I could not lie and tell her that her baby was lovely when he wasn't. I settled on "He's the image of Al!"  She smiled at me sympathetically, recognising my dilemma, and replied "I know, he's ugly isn't he? I'm just hoping that he will improve with age!"

    I don't have this dilemma in Spain, as all babies and young children are "guapo" or "guapa", depending on their sex. There is no question of them not being beautiful: it's the only word that you may use to describe Spanish babies. For a particularly beautiful baby you can of course add a few superlatives, and they are always appreciated.

    There are, as I said earlier, times and places when you shouldn't say anything. I was horrified when I was told about the following recent incident. A woman - let's call her Linda - was in the house of a friend whose 70 year old wife had just died that morning.

    "I never liked Janice and she never liked me!" Linda announced in front of Janice's grieving husband and daughter. I don't believe in being hypocritical, and I can understand her not wanting to say anything about being sad to lose a great friend if that wasn't the case, but - and a big BUT - was that an appropriate comment to make in the circumstances? Couldn't she have found something less harsh to say, if she felt the need to say anything at all? A sympathetic hug would have been fine. Knowing all the people involved, I was appalled and saddened by this incident. The following day Linda attended the funeral of the woman she didn't like, which to me was definitely a bit hypocritical.

    Do you agree? Should honesty be applauded or should Linda have bitten her tongue and said nothing?  By the way, all names have been changed to protect the guilty party.

    Friday, 12 July 2013

    Siesta time

    Although we've been living in Spain for over five years now, I've never taken a siesta.  Unless you count dozing off on the bus back to Jumilla, after having had a good lunch in Murcia with several glasses of wine?

    Since moving here we have adopted several local customs. We go out for desayuno (breakfast) with a Spanish friend several times a week, having a cup of coffee and some toast at 11.30. This is actually my second breakfast, as I start the day with a very English cup of tea and bowl of breakfast cereal. I like to have the best of both worlds!

    Lunch is usually taken between 2 and 2.30, whether we have gone out for a menú del día or we are eating at home. Whereas the Spanish tradition is to then have a siesta after lunch, we usually take our dog out for a walk during the cooler months. However, when it's very hot outside in summer, we are sensible and stay indoors during the heat of the afternoon, but we still don't take a siesta. John usually watches sport on TV or reads a book, while I may read a book, browse my favourite blogs or write my own blog. We also enjoy going to our nearby supermarket during summer afternoons and making the most of its air conditioning and also the comparative peace.

    Dinner at home may be any time between nine and ten, depending on whose turn it is to cook and what we've been doing that day. When we go out for tapas or a meal with Spanish friends, we usually arrange to meet them at 9.30 pm, but they rarely turn up before 10.00. I'm not sure whether they take a siesta, but they always seem to be a lot livelier in the evening than we are, so I suspect that they do.

    So far, so good. We are definitely adjusting to life in a foreign country. However I have been looking at the programme of events for the forthcoming Feria y Fiestas de Agosto, between 9 and 18 August. Ten days of celebrations, with folk music, processions, a festival of bands, Moors and Christians re-enactments, flamenco music and dancing, jazz and lots more: August is definitely going to be party time. There is just one slight problem - most of these events don't start until 10 pm or even later, and that is assuming that they actually start on time.  Have we got the stamina to cope with so many late nights?

    This may be a good opportunity to start copying what our Spanish neighbours do and have a siesta - what do you think?

    Thursday, 11 July 2013

    Do you remember what's-her-name?

    I am sure that most women of a certain age will have given a nod of recognition at the title of this post. As we get older, and our short-term memory deteriorates, we do start forgetting names and losing things for the simple reason that we can't remember where we put them. In our house we have a small bowl on the table near the front door, which is where we always deposit our keys when we come in - apart from 50% of the time when we forget to do so.

    Walking home today after meeting a few friends for coffee, we bumped into a friend of a friend and had a brief chat with him. As we continued on our way home, I asked my husband John what the man's name was.

    "I was going to ask you the same thing!" was his helpful reply.

    We carried on walking, with me trying hard to think who it was, when I suddenly remembered that his first name was the same name as a local musician - if only I could remember what he was called! Then the name popped into my head and I proudly announced "Andrés!"

    As we were getting close to home I had a bright idea for the subject of today's post . The only problem was that by the time I got home and sat down at the computer the bright idea had gone. Hopefully I will have remembered it in time for tomorrow's post.

    Although he is over three years older than me, my husband is generally far more aware of what's going on than I am. He will spot one of our neighbours when we're out shopping, for example, when I've just walked straight past her. I'm not sure whether this is really an age thing, as I have always been a bit scatter-brained and at times I have been totally unaware of my surroundings. I put this down to my creativity: my head is constantly full of ideas for writing articles or blog posts, as well as scenes for a crime novel that I am planning to write one day. I do warn friends that if I walk straight past them without saying anything, it's not that I'm deliberately ignoring them, it's just that my mind's on other things.

    I remember when I was a child being told to tie a knot in a handkerchief as a reminder of anything important, but I don't think it would work quite as well with the paper tissues that most people seem to carry nowadays. For many of us, we already know that we've forgotten something, so a knotted hankie wouldn't help to solve the problem of what it is that we can't remember.

    Being forgetful isn't restricted to over 60s though. A friend of ours who is just over 40 had a "senior" moment a few days ago and we had to remind her what was happening this week. I would go into the incident in a lot more detail if only I was able to remember the actual details.

    Having got this far with my post, I suddenly remembered that I had written something on a similar subject last year. Oh dear! Have I repeated myself? I've had a quick look and it's not exactly the same, so hopefully regular readers won't mind:

    How's your memory? Have you got any tricks to make up for your bad memory? If so, can you remember what they are?

    Wednesday, 10 July 2013

    Mixing and matching

    When you have a capsule wardrobe, especially if there are no more than 33 items of clothing, it's important to change the combinations if you want to avoid boredom. Be aware that boredom often triggers the urge to shop and we are trying to cut down on unnecessary purchases! It's all too easy to always grab the same bottoms when you decide to wear a particular top and I'm as guilty of that as anyone.

    In yesterday's post I wore the yellow striped top with my blue skirt for the first time, as I usually wear it with one of my two pairs of linen trousers. I rather liked the result of mixing and matching, so I thought I would look at other possible combinations.

    The yellow top would go well with the three pairs of trousers and stone skirt above, giving me a total of five outfits. Changing my accessories and jewellery will create even more new looks.

    The blue skirt can be mixed with many other tops in my wardrobe, including the ones show below.

    This gives me eight more outfits, but if you then mix these tops with some of the trousers or with the stone skirt you have even more permutations (around 30) - not forgetting the option to ring the changes with accessories and jewellery. Remember that I am only showing 14 out of a possible 33 items and with them I have more than enough outfits to wear something different every day of the month.

    Why not take a look inside your own wardrobe and see if there is a combination that you've never tried before? In fact, here's a challenge for you (you know how I love challenges!): next week try and create a new outfit every day, either mixing and matching your tops and bottoms in a different way, or through adding accessories and/or jewellery. Please comment on here to let us know how you get on and if you can send me a photo of your new outfit I will be happy to post it.

    Tuesday, 9 July 2013

    Waist not, want not

    We bloggers do love a bad pun, don't we? For any readers who aren't British and don't know - the actual saying is "Waste not, want not". I guess that I could also have named this post "Getting waisted" - the point being that I am referring to my waist, or what was my waist many years ago.

    Anyone who has seen my photos in previous posts may have noticed that my usual outfit consists of a top, which skims the area where my waist ought to be, combined with a skirt or pair of trousers. This is deliberate, as it helps to disguise my muffin top. However as a pseudo-fashion blogger I need to challenge myself occasionally and create a few different looks, so this is what I wore a couple of days ago.
    When I first tried this outfit on I wore the top over the skirt as usual, but because the skirt has a fair bit of volume and the top is pretty loose too it wasn't a flattering style. Especially as I am only 5'1" and need to try and create as long and lean a look as is possible given my body shape. I decided to risk tucking the top in and wearing a belt. I wasn't unhappy with the result, although as you can see it emphasises the fact that my waist has seen better days. Yes, I know the pose is slightly strange but I wanted to be honest about my shape here, so I resisted the temptation to cross my arms defensively across my middle!

    This is an alternative look, which I have worn many times before. You could say that it's my default look, and I was tempted to change into these linen trousers, however on a warm sunny day I thought it would be good to wear a skirt for a change. What do you think? Was it worth risking something different?

    There are several factors to take into consideration when deciding on your outfit of the day. Comfort tends to come top of my list, plus I like to wear flattering colours near my face so that the wrinkles don't show up too much. Like many over 60s I'm not as slim as I was, so I usually avoid clothes that cling too closely and reveal all those lumps and bumps. On the other hand clothes that are too voluminous on both the top and the bottom halves - also known as the sack of potatoes look - aren't any better. I also have to take into consideration my lack of height, which means I'm never going to look like a model!  

    What I hope to achieve with my blog is to encourage all of you non-models out there to find a look that suits you, especially the over 60s. As I like to say, we may be past 60, but it doesn't mean that we are past it!

    Monday, 8 July 2013

    What makes a winner?

    Yesterday was a great day for British (and Scottish!) tennis.  I've always enjoyed both playing and watching tennis, however sadly my winning moments haven't been as numerous as Andy Murray's. I think though that there are lessons to be learnt from the three significant winning occasions that I can still remember.

    1. When I was at school.

    I never made the tennis team, even though I was in both the hockey and netball teams and quite sporty. My fate was sealed early on, when I was in the first year. We had to hit the ball backwards and forwards, with six or even eight of us sharing a court, while our PE teacher walked past glancing at our attempts. I clearly wasn't deemed good enough at that early stage, so every year after that I was banished to the no-hopers courts while the better players had the opportunity to play actual tennis.

    In spite of this, I spent a lot of time hitting a tennis ball against the wall beside our garage. It was made more challenging by the fact that the drive-way was made of stones, so the ball would frequently bounce at difficult angles. I guess that this improved my tennis skills more than hitting a ball against weak opponents in our tennis lessons at school.

    My significant winning occasion was years later, when a friend who was in the tennis team asked me if I'd like to play a few games of tennis with her.  I won! She was as amazed as I was and said that I should be in the team too, but I wasn't interested by that stage as I preferred to spend my weekends horse-riding rather than playing tennis.

    The main lesson here is that if you are dedicated enough and practise regularly you can improve - and we're not just talking tennis here, as it applies to any skill in life.

    2.  When I played against my first husband.

    My first husband Chris was good at badminton, so when we decided to have a few games of tennis on the local courts it was clear that he expected to beat me. He had racket skills and he was a man, wasn't he?! I don't think his game was helped by the fact that there were some teenage boys hanging around the tennis courts, and they were cheering me on. A couple of times he thought his ball was in, but they were shouting "out!"  Yes, I beat him easily. I tried to console him by saying that my tennis was good but my badminton was rubbish, and that clearly each game required different skills. Funnily enough, I can't remember us playing tennis after that.

    The first lesson is obviously never to under-estimate your opponent's abilities. The second lesson is not to let yourself be distracted by outside factors. Novak Djokovic was prepared for the highly partisan crowd in his Wimbledon final against Andy Murray though so I don't think the reason he lost was because he allowed himself to be distracted by Andy's supporters.

    3. When I played against my Mum

    My mother firmly believed that children need to learn to be good losers at an early age. She would happily beat us at Scrabble, at cards and also at tennis, though years later we suspected that she might have cheated at times - but only in the interests of us learning to lose gracefully!

    Mum really loved tennis, and when Wimbledon fortnight was on we knew that she would be sitting in front of the TV whenever we returned from school. For 50 weeks of the year she would look after our needs, but for those 2 weeks we had to fend for ourselves! She also loved playing tennis and eventually persuaded my father to create a grass court in the back garden.

    Growing up I was used to Mum beating me at tennis and I remember that she was particularly good at returning the ball into the far corners of the court. Maybe not quite up to Andy Murray's standards, but she was still good.

    I was married with three children, and living in Welwyn Garden City. I had started running regularly, taking part in 10k races and the occasional half-marathon, so my stamina was very good.  Mum visited us one summer and not surprisingly she wanted a few games of tennis.

    I'm not sure which of us was the most amazed when I managed to beat Mum. In her defence, she was 25 years older than me and in her 60s, probably the same age I am now. She still had the ability to place the ball well, but the difference was that I was fit enough to race backwards and forwards across the court to return the ball. I think she was quite impressed by my stamina and, of course, she was a good loser. In our family we know how important it is to be a good loser!

    The main lesson here is that it's important to consider all aspects of any game or activity where you want to succeed. Work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths. His increased fitness levels and mental strength have helped Andy Murray to succeed. Although I didn't start running to increase my stamina and beat my Mum at tennis, it was an added bonus of my decision to become fitter.

    Do you have any good tips for becoming a winner?

    Sunday, 7 July 2013

    Reader, I embarrassed myself - twice!

    Living in another country can be challenging, even if you don't have the additional problem of learning another language. We have been living in Spain for five years and, although our Spanish is gradually improving, we are far from fluent.  Having said that I do know my numbers, as it's one of the first things you need to learn in a foreign country.  Or so I thought.

    Last night we went to the latest concert in the Música entre Vinos series of summer events.  It was held in one of our favourite bodegas, Viña Campanero, so John and I were both looking forward to it. We were pleased when our friend Sheila said she had tickets and was bringing one of her visitors along, so we knew there would be at least four Brits amongst all our Spanish neighbours.
    World Music at Bodega Viña Campanero
    Only a few days earlier, I had said that it was a long while since I had won anything in a raffle.  Last night they announced that there would be a prize draw, the prize being dinner for two in a favourite restaurant of ours, San Agustín. I was listening carefully as the numbers were called out, looking at our tickets, and I was convinced that I heard "405". Yes!

    I showed my "winning" ticket to my friends and the Spanish woman sitting in front of us for confirmation, and nobody disagreed with me, so off I trotted to the stage, excitedly waving my ticket at the organisers. We all kissed each other Spanish style and posed for the cameras as they announced that I was the winner.

    It was at this point that my embarrassment started, as another woman came up to the organisers, and she was clutching the winning ticket! I definitely know the Spanish words for the numbers 4, 0 and 5, but obviously I must have misheard. The organisers quickly said that there would be two prizes of dinners for two, which the audience approved of and loudly applauded the decision, but I managed to have a quiet word with Pedro from Restaurante San Agustín afterwards and said that it was my mistake. He kindly suggested that we could go to his restaurant for some tapas anyway. Lovely man, Pedro!

    This morning we were on our way to buy the Sunday papers when we heard lots of loud bangs, and a band playing music. Of course, it was the pasacalles for San Fermín, where the statue of the saint is carried around the San Fermín barrio accompanied by music and noisy fireworks. I had my camera in my bag, so I followed the noise while John continued to the paper shop.

    I soon tracked the procession down. It looked as if they were having a rest, as the statue was on the ground, while a press photographer was taking photos of the group. Unfortunately for me I was recognised by someone who was keen to get me to join the group. I tried to say "no" as I felt like an intruder, and all I wanted to do was take a couple of photos . My acquaintance, who was acting as if he was my best friend, wasn't having any of it, as he took my camera and then ordered the group to pose for another photo with me in it. Somebody muttered "extranjera" (foreigner) to add to my embarrassment, however help was at hand. "Hola Sue", a voice called out and I spotted Toñi, who is a friend of mine, standing at the back.  She came over to embrace me and announced in a loud voice that I was a "Jumillana" - in other words I'm a local, so I was entitled to be there. Lovely woman, Toñi.  Gracias amiga!

    Spot the embarrassed Brit!
    Photo taken, I hastily retrieved my camera and went in search of my husband, to tell him about my second embarrassing moment of the weekend. Since then I've kept a low profile - two embarrassing experiences in one weekend is more than enough.

    Saturday, 6 July 2013

    Analysing why we shop

    I've already discussed the fact that many of us feel the urge to go shopping even when we don't really need something new. We don't "shop our wardrobe" - often because it's so crowded that we can't see everything we own! I am proud of the fact that most of the outfit that I wore to my niece's wedding has been in my possession for several years and that I resisted the temptation to go shopping in search of something new. I did buy a new bag to take with me, but that was after several old ones had been thrown out for various reasons: a couple were too scuffed, the zip on another one had broken. I deliberately chose a bag that was a neutral colour and will go with most of my clothes. Maybe, at last, I am developing better shopping habits.

    I blame my father for my love of clothes shopping - it's always handy to be able to blame your parents, isn't it? Shoes had to be "sensible" and practical, with bright colours being off-limits. I remember as a teenager falling in love with a pretty green winter coat, and trying to persuade my father to buy it for me. He insisted on buying a camel coat instead, as it was a classic colour and cut and would "last". I wasn't impressed by this argument and stubbornly refused to wear it unless I really had to.  Fast forward a couple of years until I was in my twenties and had left home.  Visiting my parents I found the camel coat at the back of the wardrobe in my old bedroom and realised that it was actually a very nice coat (and hardly worn!) I decided to take it back home with me and started wearing it.

    Similar to the rejected camel coat!

    My favourite colour as a teenager

    The problem when I was growing up is that I didn't have a lot of say in what clothes my parents bought me. For a few giddy years in my early twenties I was able to buy exactly what I wanted: a bright green kaftan springs to mind, and a shocking pink top with a purple mini-skirt. Or how about a mustard coloured trouser suit? I think this period of buying brightly coloured clothes was a reaction to years of wearing safe (and boring!) clothes.

    Once I was married, with three growing children to clothe, there was very little money for me to indulge myself in buying clothes unless it was absolutely necessary. When my youngest brother married, and there wasn't anything suitable in my wardrobe, I spent hours searching in the charity shops until I found a lovely red dress in Oxfam. Mainly for budgetary reasons, I had to reign in any impulses to buy new clothes in those days.

    It's hardly surprising that, now I am able to choose my own clothes and have enough money to be able to indulge myself, I have been revelling in this freedom. What I need to do however is find a balance. I'm hoping that understanding the reasons behind my shopping habit will help me to control it better.

    There are plenty of websites and challenges out there to assist those of us who have become addicted to shopping, including the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge as described in yesterday's post. I highly recommend taking part in Project 333: This has had an amazing effect on the number of clothes left in my wardrobe, and if you join the facebook group you will find plenty of support and lots of great ideas.  I have also found Jill Chivers' website very helpful:  Again, you can join her facebook group for additional encouragement.

    Have you bought any clothes that you didn't really need or been tempted by the sales to spend money unnecessarily? If so, do you have any favourite websites that have helped you?

    Friday, 5 July 2013

    Clothes rationing

    The summer sales have already started here in Spain and will continue for two whole months, which is a long time to resist temptation! I'm not sure whether I am prepared to go cold turkey and give up buying new clothes for as long as a year, but I definitely want to stop purchasing new clothes on a whim, just because  a pretty dress or colourful top in a shop window catches my eye and especially just because it's a bargain.

    I have to thank Juhli of A Boomer Girl's Guide for first bringing the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge to my attention.  I think it's an ideal opportunity to monitor and think about what clothes you're buying. The idea is that you have 66 coupons to last the year, which was the allowance in the UK during World War II. If my Mum and Grandmother could do it, so can I!

    As I am starting the challenge from 1st July, I will allow myself 33 coupons until the end of the year. This doesn't mean I can buy up to 33 items of clothing though, as everything had a different value.  A dress, for example, cost either 7 or 11 coupons, depending on what fabric it was made of. This is the link for the rationing chart, showing the number of coupons needed for various items: womenswear.

    I now have a confession to make, especially to fellow Project 333ers: yesterday I bought three sleeveless tops from Aldi (in my defence, they were only available in packs of three!) The weather has suddenly become very hot and I realised that I have only a couple of sleeveless tops after my last wardrobe purge, although most of the short-sleeved tops are lightweight. These new tops will replace two of the heavier tops and one of the cardigans, which have now been put away until autumn. Not too bad for Project 333, though I will need to find another three items of clothing to discard after this latest purchase. However it is bad news for me on the rationing front, as it means I have already used up 15 out of my 33 coupons.  Luckily the tops have been certified as organic cotton otherwise it would have meant an extra 3 coupons, giving a total of 18.

    If you are interested in trying this challenge to help you become more aware of what clothes you are buying, click on this link. What I like about the challenge is the fact that it is encouraging us to buy sustainable/eco fabrics, and particularly to buy second-hand and vintage items.  If I have run out of coupons by October, I will be trawling all the second-hand and vintage shops when I visit London, as we don't have any here in Spain! Do you think it would be cheating if I allow my husband to use some of his precious coupons to buy me some clothes for my birthday?