Spring Clean Your Life

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“Spring cleaning isn’t just about sorting through things, and getting rid of clutter.  It’s about taking stock of who you are, and how others see you.  It’s a chance to redefine yourself, to change expectations, and to remember that it’s never too late to recapture who you were, or to aim for where you want to be.”  ~ Unknown

The snow has melted (Bye, Felicia), the birds are singing, and the cherry blossoms have popped, which can only mean one thing – spring has sprung!  While the season officially arrived over a month ago, here in good ol’ Southern Ontario, we are just now starting to see the hard evidence (you can imagine my shock).

Those that know me will attest to my love for spring, most recently evidenced by the #springspam that has taken over my Instagram account (if you haven’t already, stop by and see me @pearlslaceandgrace).

Spring has been my favourite season for as long as I can remember.  The days grow longer, the light shines brighter, and everything awakes from a long winter slumber to start anew.  When spring arrives, I joyfully shed the weight of winter (literally and figuratively), open the windows and doors, and let the freshness of the season come in.  For me, that is one of the most attractive elements of spring – the fresh start.

With that said, it is no coincidence that one of the most popular activities during spring is based on “freshening” one’s surroundings – yes, that big spring clean.  While I always enjoy giving my home a thorough scrub, this year I have also decided to give other areas of my life a good spring clean as well.

Spring is the opportune time to rid one’s life of stifling physical clutter; however, it is also the perfect time to reflect on the many other subtle ways that clutter takes over our lives, draining us of our most precious commodities: time, energy and peace of mind.

In an effort to get rid of the dust and dirt that keeps us from living our best life, I offer you three ways to give your life a good spring cleaning:

Spring Clean your… Relationships

In spring, many of us will reevaluate the contents of our closet, and discard items that no longer serve us in an effort to make room for those that do.  In doing so, we may even come across long-forgotten items that have eluded us, but now found, make us feel like a new person!  Isn’t it funny that we do this for our closets so regularly, but not for our relationships?

This spring, why not take the time to reevaluate your relationships?  Firstly, check your social calendar.  Does it truly reflect who you are, and the people and activities you value most?  Or, are you too often grumbling about the commitments you wish you had not made?

If you identify with the latter, then I encourage you to take some time (at least as much time as you would give your closet), and make a list of the people in your life (family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues etc.).  Then circle the people who mean the most to you.  Now ask yourself, when did you last talk to or see them?

If the majority or your time is not being spent with those you value most, create a plan for how you can change that.  Maybe it’s setting up a bi-weekly coffee date with your best friend, or having dinner with your parents every Sunday evening.  Yes, to do so, it may mean that you will have less time to spend with that colleague who only drains you, or that acquaintance that only connects with you when it is convenient for them.

Whatever it is that will help you spend more time with those you value most, make it happen.  Set the goal and stick to it.  Schedule a time to reassess your progress in one to three months.  If you are still not where you want to be, sit down and revise your plan.

My friends, this one is important because life is too short, and all too often, we come to that realization too late.

Spring Clean your… Health

During a spring clean, we may come across things in and around our home that are in a state of disrepair.  While some of these things are more of an annoyance, like a leaky faucet, others can be downright dangerous if not attended to, like a broken staircase.

Just as you survey your home for things that may require a little fix or tweak, why not take the same amount of time to survey an equally important thing – your health?  Just as a leaky faucet can eventually turn into a flooded kitchen if left unattended, so too can minor ailments become debilitating conditions if left unaddressed.

Spring is an ideal time to take stock of how you’re feeling and identify where improvements need to be made; however, before you go thinking you need to commit to a full renovation, know that even a few simple changes can improve your overall well-being.

The Body – I know it may sound cliche, but we only get one, so the sooner you learn to look after it, the longer it will last, and as previously mentioned, small changes can generate big results.  For example, why not commit to a simple four-week “spring cleaning”, where you clean-up your diet by eliminating all the blatant culprits – fast foods, highly processed foods, items with a great deal of added sugar, as well as items with a heavy caffeine or alcohol content.  Set them aside for four weeks, and do your best to replace them with things that are blatantly better for you – more water, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

Also, if you have not had a physical since the fall of the Roman Empire, do yourself a favour and make an appointment.  I know physicians can be all kinds of scary with their poking and prodding, but establishing a baseline for your health is incredibly important, even if you are feeling in tip top shape!

Finally, and this is the one I have the most trouble with, get moving – and let me stop you before you start with the excuses, because I literally wrote the book on excuses for not being active. No time, no energy (duh, because you aren’t moving), and so on.  You do not have to go from zero to CrossFit in 60 seconds folks.  If you live a sedentary life, as most of us do, adding a ten minute walk to your day will do wonders.  Explore what type of movement excites you (don’t give me that look).  Maybe it’s dance, maybe it’s rollerskating, maybe it’s yoga, or maybe none of those things, but keep searching.  Us humans were made to move, so if you can, you should!

The Mind – The mind is a little trickier than the body; however, there is a great deal of evidence that shows just how malleable the mind can be.  In my experience, one of the easiest ways to clear out the cobwebs is to do a brain dump.  Quite simply, sit down with a piece of paper, or better yet a journal, and just dump all the worries and frustrations out on to the page – that act alone will do wonders for your mind – I’ve tried it.  Next, with a highlighter or coloured pen, circle all the worries and frustrations that you can actually do something about, leaving behind all those things you cannot control.  Then, over time, create a plan for how to take action or improve those items within your control.  Set goals and establish timelines for yourself in order to assess your progress.

Another highly-recommended practice is meditation.  Now, I myself have fallen in and out of love with this practice many times, because it’s not easy.  While there are countless resources out there for you to access, the goal of meditation is really quite simple – learning how to quiet the mind and/or shift focus.  The ways in which someone meditates are as diverse as the the people on this earth.  What works for one, may not work for the other.  Personally, I have found the most success with guided meditation – two of my favourite apps for this are Headspace and Calm.  I have also had great success with the meditation tool Muse, which my husband kindly gave to me this past Christmas.

While you cannot fix everything that ails your mind and body in one day, taking steps forward is well worth the effort.

Spring Clean your… Finances

Forgive me for returning to the closet analogy; however, indulge me for a moment.  When the warm weather arrives, we head for our closets to take stock of what we have to work with; what fits and what doesn’t.  Well, wouldn’t it make sense to look at our financial affairs in the same way?

Spring is ideal, as it is also tax season, to spend some time organizing and simplifying your financial life.  If you don’t already have a system in place, now’s the time to establish one.  There is no right way to organize one’s finances – ultimately, it has to make sense to you.  So, if you are a spreadsheet guy or girl, have at it.  If you are a paper lover, go nuts! Whatever it takes to gain a greater understanding of your finances.

Admittedly, I am one of the least financially savvy people on this planet, and only over the last few years, have I come to truly understand my finances.  If you are starting from scratch, my first suggestion would be to determine where all your money goes every month.  Using a simple calendar or document, identify when the money comes in and when it goes out.  Next, take a look at the money going out and assess whether that bill is a necessity (like a how a little black dress is essential to any woman’s wardrobe), or if it doesn’t really fit your life anymore (like those purple alligator-print bell bottoms in the back of your closet).  If you are paying bills for services or things that are no longer serving you, say goodbye (provided there isn’t a huge penalty for breaking a contract) and redirect the money to those things that do.

Since, I almost fell asleep telling you about my first suggestion (#notanumbersperson), I have gathered a few more resources to help you in your quest to get those finances squeaky clean:

How to Spring Clean your Finances – Real Simple
Spring is the Perfect Time to get your Financial House in Order – USA Today 
9 Ways to Spring Clean your Finances – Forbes

While spring cleaning may not be everyone’s cup of tea, putting in the effort, whether it be scrubbing that oven or organizing those finances, will pay off in dividends.

Editor’s Note: if you looking for more ways to make the most of this beautiful season, stop my post from last year – Embrace Spring, and if you have cleaned out your closet and are seeking some wardrobe inspiration, stop by my past post – Wardrobe Essentials: Spring.

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The Simplified Workweek

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Editor’s Note: A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to write a guest post for Lauren over at An Organized Life; however, I thought my readers might enjoy it as well!  

Work – we all do it in some capacity or another; and while the nature of that work, and when/where it is accomplished will inevitably vary, one thing I’m sure we can all identify with is the workweek.

For some, their work takes place in a traditional office or corporate setting.  For others, they accomplish their work at home.  Generally defined as “the total number of hours or days worked in a week”, the workweek can be overwhelming, regardless of the type of work you engage in.

Having worked in a corporate environment for the past (almost) decade, for me, the key to a successful workweek is to organize my life in a way that simplifies my days and limits decision fatigue.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, decision fatigue refers to the “deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making”.  In essence, this theory posits that humans have a finite capacity for “good decision making”, and when that capacity runs dry, well, it can lead to all sorts of negative emotions and unhealthy behaviours.

For example, according to a 2011 article published in The New York Times Magazine, prisoners who appeared before a judge and parole board in the morning received parole approximately 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.  The authors argued that the judges had more clarity and objectivity earlier in the day, while those same qualities were almost non-existent by the end.

While I am not accounting for all variables here, what this evidence may suggest is that the fewer decisions we have to make (regardless of the subject matter), the better our decisions will be.  Therefore, the more we organize and simplify those mundane decisions, the more “good decision making” capacity we will have to use on important matters.

So, I thought, why not employ that same line of thinking to improve the quality of one’s workweek?  With that said, today on An Organized Life, I offer you three ways to simplify your workweek:

Assemble a “Workweek Uniform”:

Whether you spend your workdays in a formal corporate setting, running your own business, or minding your little one’s at home, everyone can benefit from the simplicity of a workweek uniform.

The key to avoiding decision fatigue, and to ensure your week runs smoothly is to build a workweek uniform from quality pieces that are sensible for your life.

If your days are spent hopping from boardroom to boardroom, then perhaps five days’ worth of neutral silk blouses along with a few tailored skirt or pant suits will work best; however, if you are a stay-at-home mom, then you may wish to forgo the tailored pant suit for a comfortable but polished pair of slacks and a crisp cotton shirt, knowing that you will be down on that play mat often.

Working in a business casual environment, I tend to prefer tailored, ankle-length slacks and flowing blouses, with a smattering of cardigans for winter – all in neutral shades.  In summer, I tend to opt for dresses, not only for their light-weight appeal, but also because it is so simple to get dressed with one piece.

Currently, I have five pairs of slacks (like these from Banana Republic ) and five blouses (like these from White House Black Market ) in my rotation and when adding to my wardrobe, I have a rule – I must be able to wear each pair of slacks with at least two blouses, and I must be able to wear each blouse with at least two pairs of slacks.  This rule ensures that I can pair outfits quickly during the week and get out that door on time.

Curate a “Workweek Menu”:

On weekends, I take pleasure in perusing cookbooks and enjoy spending time in the kitchen; however, throughout the workweek, I do not have the time or the will to do this.

During the week, I regularly return home from work after six o’ clock, and following a long day of making decisions, the absolute last thing I want to do is make that ever-painful decision – what’s for dinner?

In an effort to make my evenings more enjoyable and avoid that pesky decision fatigue, I developed a workweek menu of sorts.  A collection of simple meals, made from a few (preferably fresh) quality ingredients, which go from refrigerator to table in less than an hour.

To accomplish this, and if our schedule allows, I prefer to do my grocery shopping on Saturday mornings, so that I can prepare my fresh ingredients for the week ahead on Sunday.

Typically, I spend one to two hours washing and preparing my fruits and vegetables for the meals we intend to have that week.  Based on the meal, I then group the ingredients together, label the containers and store them in the refrigerator.  Then, whoever returns home from work first (typically my husband), can easily begin putting dinner together.

While our meals vary enough from week to week that we do not tire of them, they remain simple enough that dinner is prepared, consumed and cleaned up without any stress.

Here are a few recipes that are currently in my rotation:

Chicken Caesar Wraps
Two-Step Chicken Bake
Baked Tilapia
Vegetarian Rice Bowl

Gather Your “Workweek Beauty Essentials”:

I love playing around with different makeup looks as much as the next girl; however, throughout the workweek, I prefer to keep my beauty routine uncomplicated.

Regardless of whether you spend your weeks in the boardroom or the playroom (which can be equally terrifying), we all feel better with a little polish.  To be clear, there is no magic number of products that takes one from gauche to grace; beauty essentials are relative and based on what makes each individual feel their best.

Editor’s Note: a quick tip for simplifying one’s makeup routine is to use “double duty” products – i.e. blush that doubles as a lip tint.

My workweek beauty essentials include:

My workweek makeup essentials are:

The above-mentioned is just a sampling of the many ways one can simplify and organize their lives for a more enjoyable workweek.

How do you simplify your life to avoid decision fatigue?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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A Few of My Favourite Things ~ No. 5

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The last time I sat down to share my current favourites, it was a cold, gray October day, and I was dreaming of spring.  Well, as I sit to write this morning, it is still cold and gray (five months later), we are gearing up for a winter storm in Southern Ontario, and I continue to dream of spring.

During the winter months, I cannot help but feel less like myself.  You know that zest for life that accompanies the spring and summer months?  Well, each year, that feeling gives way to another almost oppressed feeling during winter, and in a way, we are oppressed under the layers and the low-hanging clouds.

While I make a point of enjoying my favourite things throughout the year, it is especially important for me during the winter months, as my favourites help me to feel a little more like…well, me!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, our favourites are often determined by what pleases our senses – specifically sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.  In previous instalments of this series (No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4) I have highlighted my favourites that at that time, boosted my mood and added to my sense of well-being.

In the fifth instalment of this series, I offer you a glimpse into a few of my current favourites, one to satiate each of the senses:

SIGHT
The Magnolia Journal: Issue 2 (Simplicity) – Magnolia Market

Those who know me well, will attest to my love for magazines.  Picking up a crisp, unread issue from my local bookstore or newsstand at the end of a busy week is one of my favourite rituals.  While I regularly enjoy old favourites like Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living and Town and Country, I recently stumbled upon a new favourite that I am devouring – The Magnolia Journal.  

This publication is a quarterly lifestyle magazine that “promises fresh inspiration for your life and home in each new season.”

Creator, Joanna Gaines (from HGTV’s Fixer Upper and Magnolia Market fame), created the magazine in an effort to:

“…connect with readers from all walks of life, to share content so valuable and so meaningful that you hold on to each issues and return to them again and again.”

The stunning cover, as well as the theme of the current issue – Simplicity – sold me immediately.  With articles like “Joanna’s Capsule Wardrobe”, “A Case for Spring Cleaning”, and “Pretty Spring Salads”, it was as if this issue was made for me!

HEARING
SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II – Bose 

For me, music is absolutely essential to living well, and has been a part of my everyday for as long as I can remember.  In fact, somedays I listen to music so much that I feel my life has an accompanying soundtrack.

Today, we are so fortunate to have devices that allow us to bring our entire music collection with us wherever we go; however, these same devices do not always produce the best sound, which can significantly impact the quality of our tunes.

That’s why I was enthralled when my husband recently came home with the SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker II.  The full, natural sound that emanates from this compact speaker is incredible – you would think you were listening to your favourite song on a large, multi-speaker system.

Fitting in the palm of your hand, this “little speaker that could” connects wirelessly to your smartphone, tablet or other Bluetooth device, so you can enjoy your music, videos or games anytime, anywhere.  You can even take phone calls aloud!

The sleek design (ours is in the colour pearl – shocking!) features a slim docking station and a rechargeable battery that plays up to 10 hours of music.

This little wonder has been following me throughout my home, and I cannot wait to take it with us to the park, to the beach, or wherever else the warmer weather takes us.

TASTE
Mint Majesty Tea – Teavana

If you follow me on social media, then you will know how much I am obsessed with enjoy tea.  Partaking in a cup or two is a daily ritual that I always look forward to.

As of late, I have been choosing Teavana’s Mint Majesty tea quite often, and while many herbal teas can have a harsh and grassy aftertaste, this is not so with Mint Majesty.  The peppermint and spearmint is balanced by sweet citrus notes of lemon verbena (also a favourite of mine), making the tea smooth and refreshing from first to last sip.

To steep:

  1. Heat fresh (preferably filtered) water to 205 F (96 C)
  2. Pour eight fl oz (237 ml) water over sachet in cup
  3. Steep for five minutes.  Stay close to this time for optimal flavour

SMELL
Multi-Active Toner – Dermologica

This past weekend, I had a much-needed spa date with my girlfriend, Kelly.  We met at one of our favourite places, Scape Spa (if you live in Southern Ontario, you must visit), and I indulged in their luxurious Scape Facial.  

Twice during the treatment, my facialist spritzed my skin with the most divine facial mist – the scent was light, fresh and intoxicating.  When I finally came out of my facial-induced coma, I told my facialist that I simply had to know the name of that beautiful mist.  Assuming it was a secret house-blend, I was overjoyed to learn that it was actually a toner by Dermologica.

Known as the Multi-Active Toner, this product was love at first sniff!  This light facial toner hydrates, refreshes and conditions the skin to prepare it for proper moisture absorption.  Made with moisture-binding humectants and infused with lavender, balm mint and arnica, this luxurious mist is formulated without artificial fragrances and colours.

Used before your chosen moisturizer, or throughout the day to refresh tired skin (and makeup), this toner is shaping up to join my holy grail ranks.

TOUCH 
Floral-Lace Trimmed Satin Robe – Ralph Lauren

As a lover of luxurious sleep and loungewear by Ralph Lauren, I am always on the hunt for pieces to add to my collection.  A few weeks ago, as I was perusing their spring collection, I came across this gorgeous Floral-Lace Trimmed Satin Robe that just needed to be mine!

This feminine blue and white floral-print robe, boasts three-quarter-length sleeves, a wrap silhouette and lace detailing, creating a look that is sensual yet sophisticated.  Worn over a chemise or pyjamas, this robe is the perfect addition to my collection, and I look forward to donning it daily during the warmer months.

Whether it’s a magazine, a speaker or a satin robe, I encourage you to make time for your favourite things. Wishing you a lovely week and if you need me, I’ll be on the sofa sipping some Mint Majesty.

 

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Embrace Winter

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Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a walk beside the fire: it is the time for home.

 ~ Edith Sitwell

This past week, the oracular rodents in Canada and the United States offered conflicting predictions on the arrival of spring.  Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees its shadow when it emerges from its burrow on Groundhog Day (February 2), there will be six more weeks of winter.  Conversely, if the groundhog does not see its shadow, then tradition tells us an early spring is on its way.

While there appeared to be a consensus among two of Canada’s most well-known groundhogs, Ontario’s Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam, both of whom predicted an early spring, their American cousin Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, was not so optimistic, claiming we are in for six more weeks of winter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love those little fortune-telling critters; however, I have experienced 33 Canadian winters so far, and early spring prediction or not, we have a ways to go before those spring showers and flowers show up.

Admittedly, I am not winter’s biggest fan; we have never really seen eye-to-eye on much.  While I enjoy warm temperatures, long, bright days, green leaves, barbecues and beaches, winter seems to prefer short, dark days, cold (at times face-numbing) temperatures, and copious amounts of snow and slush.

If I’m being completely honest, I have cursed winter more times than I care to admit (not very Pearls, Lace and Grace of me), and have struggled with the season ever since I can remember. That was, until this past November, when I decided that being perpetually irritated for five months of the year was not a healthy way to live, and unless I wanted to permanently relocate to the equator (ok, a little dramatic), I thought it best that I find a way to embrace the season.

In previous posts, I offered readers ways to Embrace Spring, Embrace Summer, Embrace Autumn, and now, I conclude the series by offering you five ways to embrace winter:

Choose to See Winter’s Beauty

All seasons offer a unique beauty that one cannot necessarily experience throughout the remainder of the year.  So, rather than curse the harshness of the season, why not find the beauty in it?  When you enjoy rather than dread what’s around you, your optimism will begin to trump your negativity and you will inevitably feel happier.

Rather than ruminating over your numb fingers and toes, or worrying about that next blizzard that will have you shovelling for hours, shift your focus to something more positive, like sipping hot chocolate next to a crackling fire, or witnessing the whimsical dance of a light snowfall at midnight.

There is so much beauty to be found in winter, and I encourage you to find it!

 

Don Luxurious Winter Fashion

While I haven’t always enjoyed the number of layers that a Canadian winter requires, as a fashion lover, I have not only learned to tolerate the change in my wardrobe, but look forward to it.

My winter work uniform consists of cashmere and silk-blend sweaters (similar here), light, wool-blend slacks (here), and for a more casual look, an oversized cardigan (here) paired with thick leggings (here) and riding boots (here).

My winter home uniform is much simpler – a pair of full-length pyjamas (my favourites are by Ralph Lauren – similar here), a robe (here) and slippers (here).

For the outdoors, I look forward to donning my knee-length parka (similar here), warm mittens (similar here), earmuffs (so as to not ruin the hairstyle – similar here), a luxurious wool-cashmere scarf (similar here), and a pair of durable winter boots (similar here) that can withstand even the coldest of days.

Enjoy a Winter Activity

In order to fully appreciate what the winter season has to offer, I encourage you to find an activity that is specifically “winter”, something that you cannot partake in the rest of the year.  There is really so much to do:

Skiing (alpine or cross-country)
Snowboarding
Ice skating
Ice hockey
Tobogganing or Tubing
Snowshoeing
Ice fishing
Snowmobiling

Try a  few and see what works for you.  The activity should be enjoyable, not a chore.

Take a Winter Walk

If the above activities are simply too ambitious for you (they certainly are for me most days), then why not take a winter walk?

Maybe you have a favourite trail that you enjoy exploring during the other months of the year?  If so, take a walk on that same trail now to appreciate how this season changes the landscape.  The slumbering trees, kept warm by a layer of snow that rests on its limbs (if you did not know, snow is a fantastic insulator), or luxuriate in winter’s silence, as the birds have made their way south, and the streams have taken a rest from flowing so fiercely.

A winter walk not only allows you to maintain your fitness regimen, but a walk, especially on a sunny day (yes, there are a few), will give your body the vitamin D that is craves.

Get Out of Dodge 

When all else fails, and you simply cannot spend one more day on the frozen tundra, then my advice is to get out of dodge.

According to a study in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, taking a trip, or even just thinking about taking one in the future, can make you happier.

If you are able to spare the funds, head to a place where the residents have never heard the phrase “minus 20 with the windchill”.  Those few days of sun and sand will surely lighten winter’s load.

If you cannot get away right now, then maybe plan a trip for late-spring or summer.  Take some time daily or weekly to research and plan.  Even seeing that beautiful destination and knowing you will eventually be there, will surely make those slushy commutes to work a little easier to manage.

However you choose to embrace winter, cheers to a crisp and cozy season!  If you need me, I’ll be by the fire.

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A Modern Lady ~ No. 1

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For some, the concept of being a “lady” can be difficult to relate to, as it has strong ties to the past.  In fact, because of those ties to a time, that by today’s standard was oppressive to women, many steer clear of the concept altogether, and do not even entertain the idea of a “modern lady”.

To be clear, when I speak to the concept of a modern lady, I’m referring to a lady in the courteous and decorous sense, rather than a woman of superior social position or noble birth.

While a modern lady shares some traits with her predecessor, she has evolved greatly.  For me, a modern lady is not silent nor is she subservient.  She exhibits a subtle strength, is assertive while maintaining diplomacy, and can “run with the boys” without compromising her femininity.  She is well-educated, informed, emotionally intelligent and refined, both internally and externally.  She is independent, but does not allow her ego to hinder relationships with others and is kind to all she encounters.

In what I hope will be a continuing series on the blog, I explore the first trait of a modern lady, and discuss how this trait contributes to her success.  Without further ado, a modern lady always…

Behaves in a Decorous Manner 

There is a strong possibility that the last time you heard someone utter the word decorous, you were streaming an episode of Downton Abbey on Netflix, and while the word itself may have waned in popularity since that time, I would argue its importance to the modern lady has not.

Decorous behaviour is essentially behaviour in any situation that is marked by propriety and good taste.  While the current meaning of the word dates back to the mid-17th century, it was originally derived from the Latin word decorus, an adjective created from the noun decor, meaning beauty or grace.

Now, before you make a snap judgement about the importance of decorous behaviour for the modern lady, and pack this blog post away like you did your grandmother’s doily, allow me to elaborate on why behaving in a decorous manner is essential to a modern lady’s success.

Put simply, decorous behaviour matters because first impressions matter.  One’s success, both personally and professionally, often hinges on one’s ability to foster and maintain relationships, and whether or not those relationships begin and/or continue is often based on a first impression.

Humans are hard-wired to want quick answers to a few vital questions – is this person an ally or a threat?  Are they part of my tribe, or a stranger?  Are they a potential mate?

According to Nick Morgan, frequent contributor to Forbes Magazine, our conscious minds can handle roughly 40 bits of information per second, so we have evolved to allow our unconscious mind to handle first impressions, while our conscious mind is busy with other things.

When someone comes into view, our mirror neurons begin to fire and match the emotions of the other individual precisely, so if that person is nervous, we become nervous.  As Morgan says, “we literally leak our emotions to one another.”

You may be asking, so how does a first impression help or hinder a modern lady’s success?  To answer that, let us look at this question through a professional lens.  If one walks into an interview, spouting profanities and displaying aggressive body language, those mirror neurons are going to start firing and you will most likely agitate and annoy the interviewer.  The interview will most certainly end promptly, if it is allowed to begin at all.

Conversely, if you enter the room with a subtle confidence, a calm and pleasant demeanor, using words found in Webster’s Dictionary, those mirror neurons will fire, leaving the interviewer feeling calm and confident in your abilities.  You will most likely impress the interviewer, and maybe even land that corner office.

Mirror neurons are not the only psychological element to consider when discussing first impressions – we must also pay mind to what’s referred to as The Halo Effect.  The Halo Effect is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about their character.  Essentially, one’s first impression of an individual can significantly impact one’s evaluation of said individual in future.  For example, in a 2014 study on this effect, when a prospective employer viewed the job applicant as polite and courteous, they were also more likely to hire this individual and rate them as intelligent, competent and qualified in ongoing assessments.  This study alone confirms that the importance of first impressions cannot be minimized.

While I hold myself to certain non-negotiables when it comes to decorous behaviour (as illustrated here and here), ultimately the key to behaving in good taste as a modern lady is to know your audience.  You will inevitably encounter situations throughout your day that will require you to shift your behaviour accordingly.  A formal business meeting versus a coffee date with an old friend, for example.  While your behaviour during the business meeting should be in keeping with the professional etiquette of your organization (i.e. professional courtesy /codes of conduct), you may wish to dispense with the rigid professionalism for a more casual rendezvous with your friend.  Make no mistake, one should still behave in good taste even in the most casual of situations.

Editor’s Note  – Ladies, put those cell phones away when you’re having coffee with your girlfriend(s).  Show genuine interest in them, in the conversation and leave social media or that text (unless it is an emergency) for another time.  

Essentially, to be successful personally and professionally, a modern lady educates herself on what decorous behaviour means in different situations, and given the global nature of our world, a modern lady is not so naïve as to assume that what is considered decorous behaviour in her country or culture inherently translates into decorous behaviour in another.  For example, in some countries (including Canada), not tipping your waiter or waitress following a meal would be a behaviour considered in poor taste; however, in Japan, tipping at restaurants is actually considered rude, as superior service is expected without an added incentive and is calculated into the bill.  Know your audience, and if you don’t, get to know it so that your first impression is the best it can be.

While there is no doubt that behaving in a decorous manner is key to a modern lady’s success, there is so much more to a modern lady, and I look forward to exploring this exciting woman further.

What are your thoughts on the concept of a modern lady?  On decorous behaviour?  Agree or disagree, I would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

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Organize Your New Year’s Resolutions

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Due to the overwhelming success of my first guest post (thanks again to my lovely friend, Anina Belle – @lechefswife), I thought why not keep the party going and feature another person who inspires me – my friend, Lauren Tucker. 

Famously-known (I say this because Lauren’s Instagram took off like a rocket last year) as @an_organized_life on Instagram, we bonded over an obsession love for organizing.  Since then, Lauren has expanded her account to feature everything from planning, budgeting, cooking, baking, frugality and minimalism (with a few glimpses of her daughter here and there – a sight that brightens even the darkest days).  Ultimately, Lauren tries to infuse her every day with beautiful and simple pleasures. 

With the arrival of 2017, some of you may be well on your way to accomplishing your goals and resolutions – and for those who are, I salute you!  Contrary to my typically hyper-organized tendencies, I have had a million goals and resolutions swimming around in my head, and quite a lot of difficulty organizing and prioritizing them.  If you and I are in the same boat maybe we should find a new boat, have no fear!  With Lauren’s help, we are going to organize those goals and resolutions for a productive and accomplished 2017. 

Without further ado, I give you An Organized Life…

2017 is now truly in full swing, and you may be looking at your list of New Year’s resolutions and goals wondering where to start!  Well, below are five steps to organize, execute, and keep your goals on track for 2017!

Step 1 ~ Identify your goals and resolutions

Take a notebook dedicated to your 2017 resolutions and goals, or, open a new Word or Google document.

Editor’s Note: a new planning page to help you organize your goals and resolutions is now available under the Printables section of Pearls, Lace and Grace, entitled Intentions for 2017 (Word or PDF).

At the top of each page, place the goal or resolution you would like to achieve for the new year. Under the goal, write down all of the reasons why you want to accomplish them. This list will be incredibly helpful when you start losing your motivation and drive to achieve it! It becomes an amazing reference to motivate you.

Step 2 ~ Break it down

Looking at your list of goals, write down the steps you will need to take in order to achieve them, and treat these steps as mini goals. Your goals will be achieved because of the small mini goals you set for yourself. This, in my opinion, will (and should) take the most time when organizing your goals and resolutions for the new year.

Step 3 ~ Assign a completion date

Next to the list of mini goals, write down an approximate (and appropriate) timeline. This is important – don’t stretch yourself too thin! Give yourself plenty of time to achieve these mini goals. If you try and get too much done at the same time, you will be the opposite of productive – overwhelmed. You have (in most cases) a year to achieve these goals!

Step 4 ~ Celebrate the victories

As you work through your mini goals on the way to accomplishing the big ones, be sure to take some time out and celebrate your accomplishments! You are working extremely hard to tackle your objective, and deserve to celebrate the steps involved to make your dreams happen. This could be something small, like a celebratory coffee, or something larger like a dinner out with friends. Totally up to you, your budget, and your goal.

Step 5 ~ Give yourself grace

So, fast forward – it is now July and you have fallen off the wagon with one (or all) of your goals. It’s okay! Take time to acknowledge that you have become apathetic or lost your ambition and motivation, and take a second to figure out why. Did you set to lofty a goal? Were your mini goals not spread out enough, causing you to feel overwhelmed? Did life just get in the way? These are all totally common problems, and all you need to do is find that motivation to get you back on track! Now is the time to refer back to that list you made in the beginning as to why you wanted to achieve these goals! (I told you there was a reason for it). Find that motivation and drive again to tackle your goals one-by-one.

Remember, you can do whatever you put your mind to. The key to success is found in the hard work and organization you put in before you even start tackling your goal or resolution.

Happy New Year!

Lauren
An Organized Life

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A Fabulously Chic French New Year’s Eve

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I am thrilled to bring to you, for the first time on Pearls, Lace & Grace, a guest writer – Anina Belle Giannini.  Known as Le Chef’s Wife (@lechefswife) on Instagram, Anina Belle and I became fast friends sometime ago, bonding over the shared pursuit of a life well lived (and all things lovely).

A little about my friend – Anina Belle is a Canadian/American Luxury Hotel Executive who fell in love with a French Chef (@chefsebastiengiannini) while on a University exchange to Nice, France – fairy tale or what? They were married and lived in the south of France for nine years before relocating to Montreal, Canada, and then most recently, to Washington, DC.

Anina Belle’s Instagram features delicious food, sometimes created by her talented chef husband, decadent wine and stunning glimpses into her travels.  She is truly a beautiful soul and I am so glad to know her.

In the next few days, we will say au revoir to 2016, and bonjour to 2017 (that’s about the extent of my french), and with all her time spent in the south of France, who better to guide us on how to have a fabulously chic French New Year’s Eve than Anina Belle?

Without further ado, I give you Le Chef’s Wife…

One thing that resonated with me during my years living in France is how simple it is to do things well.  The French are masters of the art of simple elegance, and with a few guidelines, you can be the effortlessly chic hostess of a fabulously chic French New Year’s Eve party.

My favorite New Year’s celebrations in France were always the ones where we celebrated in someone’s home. A carefully curated group of people with just the right mix of new and old friends. Everyone dressed up, yet the vibe remained laid back and intimate. It truly is the best way to ring in a New Year!

Depending on the size of your party, you can choose to serve the meal seated at a dinner table, or buffet style so that people can mix and mingle. I recommend inviting guests to arrive anytime after eight o’clock. You don’t want your New Year’s Eve party to start too early and have the champagne (and the ambiance) fall flat before midnight!

Le Champagne

A must! The French enjoy Champagne all year round, but New Year’s Eve is truly a time to drink Champagne all night long!  Now, in France, there is a much larger selection of Champagne at varying prices than is available in North America.

For those of us who do not want to spend a fortune on Champagne for the evening, I suggest starting the party with a “Kir Royal”.  Splash a little bit of Crème de Cassis (available at any liquor store) into a glass of dry sparkling wine, et voilà! You have yourself an elegant and festive cocktail that feels oh so French.

Les Huitres

The French love their oysters and swear by the ones from Brittany and the West Coast of France. Fortunately, we have a wide variety of exceptional oysters available to us in North America. You should have seen my French husband’s face when I brought him to Vancouver for the first time to try Kusshi Oysters! Ooh la la! He was in Chef’s Heaven!

I recommend preparing six to eight oysters per person and please, do yourself a favour and enlist the help of strong friends with good knife skills and lots of patience to help shuck the oysters before the party begins. You don’t want to be alone in the kitchen wielding an oyster knife and splattering bits of shell and brine all over your best party outfit.

Oysters take time, so plan accordingly and then put the little rascals on ice while you pour yourself a glass of champagne.

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Le Saumon

There is something so beautiful about a slice of smoked salmon on a perfect little blinis with a dollop of crème fraiche. The richness of the food marries perfectly with crisp, dry champagne. You can either buy ready-made blinis at the grocery store, or else they can be made in advance. Essentially, they are small, bite-sized pancakes that are served chilled. Top each pancake with a slice of smoked salmon and finish with a dollop of crème fraiche (or sour cream).

Now, here is where you can get creative! Arrange the smoked salmon pancakes out on a tray and then alternate the garnishes. Perhaps you want to add some fennel on top?  A mini slice of lemon? Caviar? Amusez-vous!

Le Foie Gras

Un grand classique! Finding good foie gras is difficult in North America, but not impossible. Go to the deli selection of the finest grocery store in your area and look for a jar of “Foie Gras Cuit” (cooked foie gras). Some specialty butcher shops also carry good foie gras that they make themselves.

For Christmas I was unable to find a good foie gras at our local Whole Foods, so I settled on Chicken Liver Mousse, which is an agreeable alternative. Place the foie gras on a cutting board surrounded by an assortment of crackers and some fig jam, et voilà!

Le Fromage

A well-designed cheese platter is an art form; however, like many things French, if you understand the guidelines it is easy to excel! I usually aim for four to six cheeses on my cheese board – a nice mix of soft and hard cheeses, with varying degrees of staunch.

The French are less enthused by all the condiments we North Americans like to put on a cheese board, and really just like to keep it simple. Good cheese, a crusty baguette and maybe some honey or fig jam as accents, c’est tout!

Start with a good fresh Chèvre (Chèvre Frais), then add a hard but mild cheese such as a Tome de Savoie or a Comte. Now add a strong cheddar or a Mimolette and place a spoon in to a Mont D’Or. Add a wheel of ripe Camembert and finish it all with a slab of Roquefort!

Most importantly, cheeses need to be room temperature. Make sure to take them out an hour before your guests arrive. Yes, the place may smell of cheese, but oh, what cheese!

cheese

Les Macarons

Last, but certainly not least, do yourself a favour and order “Une tour de Macarons” , or Macaron Tower, from a pastry shop. The multi-colored pastel pastry morsels will be a party favourite and are immediately Instagram-worthy.

Macarons have become very popular in recent years – I have even seen Macarons available at Safeway!

Now, there are macarons, and then there are Ladurée Macarons. If there is a Ladurée in your area, I encourage you to go and taste the difference. These macarons melt in your mouth and are not too sweet.

macaroon

Et voilà! As you can see, hosting an elegant New Year’s Eve Reception “à la Française”, is less about being a Michelin-starred chef, and more about assembling the right ingredients.

I encourage you to host your own French New Year’s Eve party and tell me all about it at lechefswife@gmail.com, or tag me on Instagram at @lechefswife.  

Bisous,
Le Chef’s Wife

le-chef

 Le Chef & Le Chef’s Wife