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.

Imagine Source

 

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

Image Source

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!

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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.

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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

Mind Your Manners ~ No. 2

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above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom From Want,” 1943. Oil on canvas.

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why…because it’s rude!

Well, the holiday season is in full swing, and this time of year would not be the same without a few staples – festive sweaters, scrumptious goodies, delicious eggnog, and rude Uncle Frank.

For many, December is a whirlwind from beginning to end.  Holiday parties, midnight shopping, dinner after dinner – it is arguably one of the busiest (if not the busiest) months of the year.

Now, what happens when you take busy, add a little sleep deprivation, and finish with a sprinkle of alcohol?  You guessed it – bad manners.

Being on the receiving end of one’s bad manners is unpleasant at any time of the year; however, during the holidays, you will inevitably encounter at least one Grinch before Santa makes his way down your chimney, and while you can’t control the behaviour of others (sadly), the good news is, you can control your own.

Just over a year ago, I published the first installment of Mind Your Manners, in which I disclosed my employment with the “Polite Police”, and offered a few ways to make the world a more polite place.  Continuing on in that same vein, with a festive twist, I offer a few ways to mind your manners during the holidays:

Mind Your… Alcohol Intake

For many, a holiday party just isn’t a holiday party without a few beverages of the alcoholic variety, and while partaking in a few “cold ones” can enhance the celebration, overindulging can lead to hurt feelings, an embarrassing Monday morning, or worse – injury and loss of life.

To (responsibly) keep the holiday cheer flowing, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Eat, Drink and Be Merry – high protein foods such as cheese and nuts help to slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system, so make sure to enjoy some cheese with that wine.  If you are the host and intend to serve alcohol, ensuring Uncle Frank has ample snacks to graze on will save you from having to peel him off your laundry room floor later.

Wine, Water and Repeat – alcohol is a diuretic and can cause or worsen dehydration.  So, after you enjoy that glass of wine, grab a glass of water and keep that merry pattern going throughout the night.  Not only will this ease your head the next morning, but it may also prevent you from sharing your life story with that colleague in the corner.

Call an Uber – securing a sober driver for the ride home is not only the polite thing to do, but more importantly, the safe and responsible thing to do.  No jokes here – just do the right thing.

Mind your… Dinner Conversation

The opinions of those seated around your dining table are sure to be diverse, and with diverse opinions come the potential for uncomfortable conversations (I’m looking at you, Uncle Frank).

While you will know better than I as to what grinds the gears of the people you break bread with, below are few topics of conversation to encourage and a few more to stay away from:

Do…

Discuss Food – begin the conversation by discussing what you like about the food being served, and if everyone is enjoying the same meal, they can share their thoughts as well.  This conversation can evolve pleasantly into sharing favourite holiday recipes or discussing the hottest new cookbook.

Converse about Fashion – (one of my personal favourites) a nice compliment will endear you to others, so find something pleasant to say about someone’s outfit or jewelry, especially if it is festive.  This can evolve into conversations around a favourite retailer, designer or the latest copy of Harper’s Bazzar.

Sound off about Music – most people enjoy some genre of music, so it is generally a safe subject at the dining table.  Share thoughts on your favourite entertainers, composers or a recent concert that you enjoyed.  Who knows?  This conversation could introduce you to your new favourite artist!

Don’t…

Discuss Controversial Subjects – while you may be someone who enjoys starting shit controversy, Christmas dinner is NOT the place to do it (I’m still looking at you, Uncle Frank).  I’m talking about politics, I’m talking about religion.  If you must discuss President Trump and his wall, Kanye West and his wife, or why religion is the downfall of humanity, I implore you not to.  At least wait until the meal is over and find a person who can match you in a debate, or better yet, just save it for another time altogether.

Talk about Medical Conditions – discussions around health problems, especially those that involve in-depth descriptions of bodily fluids, have been known to ruin not only appetites, but friendships too!  Unless you are enjoying a meal with emergency room physicians or nurses, save it for after the turkey has been carved and consumed.

Be braggadocious (al la Donald Trump) – if you want to mention something brilliant your child did, that’s wonderful, so long as you give others an opportunity to do the same.  While this concept can be difficult for some, try not to monopolize the conversation with you and your family’s accomplishments.  Share a few high points and then politely put your listening ears on.

Mind your…Patience

Joyce Meyer once said that, “Patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you’re waiting”, and I could not agree more.

Packing your patience (a phrase coined by my ever-patient colleague) is the single most important thing one can do during this time of year, as so many things are likely to test those patience.  The unending line at, well, EVERYWHERE!  Screaming children, screaming adults (this happens more often than the children), exhausted employees, the list goes on.

This time of year can bring such joy, but it also brings with it so much pressure and expectation.  Do yourself and others a favour by planning ahead, and then when you get in that line, take a few deep breaths and act your age.  Remember, while you may not be able to control the behaviour of others, you may be able to influence it by example.

Mind your…Tongue

If you mind nothing else this holiday, I beg you to mind this.  As I mentioned, this time of year brings much pressure and much expectation.

For many, Christmas can be a sad time, as our losses tend to be magnified (thanks to my Mom for this piece of wisdom).  Whether it is the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of one’s health, loss is and will forever be a traumatic event.

The last thing anyone needs, whether they have suffered a loss or not, is your negativity.  Do not argue over where Christmas dinner should be held;  do not tell someone that they should have made this stuffing over that stuffing; and most certainly, do not tell someone that the sweater they just gave you isn’t really “in line” with your style.

Instead, mind your tongue.  Be gracious (thanks to another colleague for the appropriate word).  Set that ego aside for the next few weeks and try to remember what is important.  If you have forgotten, here’s a refresher:

What is important…

Family – you never know who will (or won’t) be with you next Christmas

Friends – same as above

Kindness – if I have to explain this one, there is no hope for you  take a peek at this post

What is not important…

Where Christmas Dinner is Held – if Jesus, Mary and Joseph spent their Christmas in a dirty barn, then you can have Christmas dinner at your Aunt Carol’s

The Kind of Stuffing Served – frankly, you should be more concerned that you are eating something cooked in a turkey’s behind and less concerned with the ingredients

The Sweater you Just Unwrapped – it is the thought that counts.  Be gracious, say thank you, and donate it to Goodwill in the new year if its presence in your closet impedes your ability to function in everyday life

While I expect those of you reading this are already connoisseurs of holiday etiquette, take a moment and think about how you can raise your own bar and make this holiday a polite and memorable one!

 

A Few of My Favourite Things ~ No. 4

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[Image Source]

The last time I sat down to write about my current favourites, it was beautifully sunny and a warm June breeze was streaming through my window.

Today, it is cold, gray and I find myself longing for that warm breeze.  Granted, we had quite the heat wave last week in Southern Ontario.  It reached 30 C a few times, and that heat coupled with the stunning fall foliage, was really quite something.  I suppose I should be grateful for that and not so disappointed with Mother Nature today.

Each time I share my current favourites with you (for previous installments – No. 1, No. 2 & No. 3), I note the importance of making your favourite things apart of your everyday, or at the very least, a regular occurrence in your life.  As I have mentioned before, our favourites are determined by what pleases our senses – specifically sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Favourite things not only please our senses, but they have a way of boosting one’s mood, one’s sense of well-being. For example, one of my favourite things to do is sleep in on Saturdays. I allow my body to wake naturally, rather than to an alarm, and then I luxuriate in that quiet time.  I read the news, a current book, magazine and often scroll through my social media to see all that I may have missed out on during the week.  It is a practice that I look forward to, it boosts my mood tremendously, and ultimately, is a practice that helps me to live well.

In the fourth installment of this series, I offer you a glimpse into a few of my current mood-boosting favourites, one to satiate each of the senses:

SIGHT
Westworld – HBO

I must admit, one of my favourite things about autumn is the influx of new television shows to enjoy. While my husband and I have been watching a few new shows, like Designated Survivour (ABC), Secrets and Lies (ABC), This is Us (NBC) and Divorce (HBO), one that has really intrigued me is Westworld.

Based on the 1973 film of the same name, Westworld takes place in a technologically advanced Western-themed amusement park populated by synthetic androids dubbed “Hosts”.  This world caters to high-paying visitors, dubbed “Newcomers” or “Guests”, who can do whatever they wish within the amusement park, without fear of retaliation from the “Hosts”.

With a star-studded cast (Sir Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris and James Marsden to name a few), the series’ debut on HBO garnered the network’s highest viewership ratings for a premiere since the first episode of True Detective in 2014 (also a series I highly recommend starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson).

For me, the intrigue of this series is twofold. Firstly, and without giving too much away, the series brings up the highly controversial subject of artificial intelligence and what that means for the human race, as these beings become ever-increasingly “human”.  Secondly, it also brings to light the social implications of a world “without consequence”, and the justification of those behaviours because they are being carried out on those deemed inhuman.

With each episode, I have become more intrigued and invested. If you enjoy a program that makes you think, then this one is for you!

HEARING
Day Breaks – Nora Jones

Those of you that follow the blog will know my affinity for Nora Jones. I have been a fan of Miss Jones since her debut in 2002, and her music has been a part of several milestones in my life, most notably my wedding (my husband and I danced our first dance as husband and wife to Come Away with Me).

Well, Miss Jones has done it again with the release of her sixth studio album, Day Breaks. The album features nine new songs, three covers, and for me, is a welcome return to the piano-driven sounds of her earlier work.

With songs like Burn and Flipside, this album has been on heavy rotation in my home lately and will continue to be a favourite of mine for years to come. I highly recommend taking a listen.

TASTE
Peach Tranquility Full Leaf Sachets – Teavana

If you follow my Instagram, then you will know how much I am obsessed with enjoy tea. No matter the season, I tend to savour at least two cups daily, and am always searching for a new flavour or variety to add to my collection (much my husband’s chagrin).

I tend favour certain flavours during autumn and winter (i.e. chai, chocolate and ginger); however, lately I have been loving a flavour that is quite the opposite – Peach Tranquility from Teavana.

While I could try to explain the taste, I much prefer Teavana’s words:

Sweet peach and tropical pineapple are enhanced by the subtle herbal notes of chamomile and lemon verbena.

The blend of peach, chamomile and lemon verbena, coupled with apple and rose hips is simply delicious. The taste is incredibly smooth from start to finish and would also be nice as a tea latte.

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

Add a cup of this to your favourite blanket, a good book and have yourself a lovely moment.

SMELL
Blackberry & Bay – Jo Malone

For me, scent is such an important part of my daily life. Whether it comes from the candle in my bedroom, or a pot on the stove, I always do my best to take a moment and appreciate the scents of life (well, the pleasant smelling ones at least).

Scents can be calming, invigorating or evoke memories and feelings – they are are such a lovely luxury.

Again, if you follow the blog, you will know my adoration for Jo Malone scents.  In fact, I am slowly building a (small) collection of fragrances that speak to me. Throughout the spring and summer, I alternated between Nectarine Blossom & Honey and French Lime Blossom; however, with the arrival of cooler temperatures, I was itching for a scent that suited both my taste and the current season.

So, I made a trip to my local Jo Malone counter at Holt Renfrew, and while I could have gone home with their entire collection (maybe one day), I decided on Blackberry & Bay.

Again, while I could attempt to articulate the scent, Jo Malone pays someone quite a lot of money to do that for me:

Childhood memories of blackberry picking…a burst of deep, tart blackberry juice, blending with the freshness of just-gathered bay and brambly woods. Vibrant and verdant.

The deep, rich notes of this fragrance scream autumn and I have been enjoying a spritz or two every morning.

TOUCH
Silk Cashmere Drapey Front Pullover – Banana Republic

While I love summer, come October, I am ready to trade in my day dresses for cozy sweaters. When it comes to sweaters, I am quite particular about the style and fabric – I know, me particular – shocking!

I have always been quite sensitive to harsher fabrics, particularly heavy wool, and have also never been much of a fan of sweaters that are too bulky or thick, so when I found the Silk Cashmere Drapey Front Pullover from Banana Republic, I absolutely fell in love.

This luxuriously refined sweater is comprised of 85% silk and 15% cashmere, which for me, is the perfect blend. The classic crew neck (also available in a lovely crew cardigan) with long sleeves can be dressed up or down, and the neutral colour selection is beautiful – periwinkle, grey sky and preppy navy.

While I would love to have all three in my collection, I selected grey sky first, and am so glad I did, as it pairs beautifully with several pieces in my wardrobe.

Whether it’s a fragrance, a television show or a cozy sweater, I encourage you to make time to for your favourite things. Wishing you a lovely week and if you need me, I’ll be on the sofa with a cup of Peach Tranquility.

For the Love of Lists

“List simplify, clarify, edify.” ~ Tom Peters

If your daily schedule or inbox leaves you in a perpetual state of paralysis, frozen by the sheer number of things you have to do, take a deep breath – you are not alone.  For most of us, there is simply too much to do and not enough time to do it.

That unending “to-do” list , coupled with the pressure of being the perfect spouse, the perfect parent, the perfect employee, the perfect child – I could go on, but I’m starting to feel a little stiff – often leaves us feeling overwhelmed at best.

You know the saying, “different strokes for different folks”?  Well, different people employ different methods to combat the chaos, and while not all are socially acceptable or legal; one method that is both (bonus), is list-making.

It may surprise you to know (who am I kidding), that I have been a lover of lists since I was a child (right alongside my toy Dustbuster – for more on my tidy childhood click here).  I would make lists of toys, books, friends, family, things I liked, things I disliked, my thoughts, my feelings – you name it, I made a list about it.

While obsessive list-making isn’t for everyone, research has revealed a number of benefits to making even the occasional list.  Don’t believe me?  Well, allow me to list some benefits for you (no pun intended).  Lists can help to:

Create Order

Simply put, creating a list is one of the most effective ways to order or organize anything.  With the help of a list, projects and ideas, no matter the size, can be broken down into manageable steps.  The abstract can become concrete, the intangible can become tangible.

Whether you’re looking to build a skyscraper or organize a child’s birthday party, lists  help take a project from inception to completion in an orderly fashion.

Prioritize

Have you ever found yourself with so many tasks and deadlines floating around in your head, that instead of actually tackling any of them, you decide now would be the perfect time to organize your sock drawer?  While I am all for an organized sock drawer, a better way to prioritize is to make a list.

By visually seeing all your tasks and deadlines at a glance, you can more effectively determine what needs to be done first and what can wait until later.  It is important to note that as priorities change, so too will that list – the key to success is flexibility.

Be Accountable

Psychologically, the act of actually writing something down brings with it a certain level of accountability.  Once you have written a task, a deadline or a goal down, you have given life to it and are more inclined to develop a plan to accomplish it.

Feel Productive

If you are already a list lover like me, then you will know the extreme gratification that comes from checking something off your list.  Crossing an item off your list, no matter how small, gives you the control, which is quite powerful from a psychological standpoint.

Scientific evidence has shown that for many, crossing an item off a list releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine.  That feel-good hormone feels, well so good, that arguably you will be motivated to continue checking things off your list to keep that feeling alive.

While lists do offer a number of benefits, the type of list or the way you make one is entirely up to you.  Perhaps you aren’t a fan of paper and prefer making lists via the notes function on your smartphone or tablet.  On the other hand, you could absolutely detest electronic devices and choose to create your list on a notepad or in a notebook.

Whatever your preference, know that as your tastes change, your lists will evolve.  Over the years, I have kept lists in many different ways – on my phone, in a Moleskine notebook, in binders, planners and notepads.  One thing that has never changed; however, is that I prefer lists that are pretty (I can imagine how shocked you are by this).

Lately, I have enjoyed designing a few of my own lists and thought, why not share them with all of you?  Over the coming weeks, I plan to continue adding lists to the blog.  Feel free to print as many as you like and use them to organize your life, or as inspiration to create your own lists.

Handy Hint – if you complete similar tasks daily or weekly, laminate the checklist and cross those items off with a dry erase marker.  

As I am a big fan of homekeeping (this post is full of shockers), I thought that would be the perfect place to start, so below you will find both my daily and weekly homekeeping checklists.  I have created a deluxe or blank version, to suit different preferences, and welcome recommendations or requests as to what types of lists would be helpful to you.

daily-homekeeping-checklist-deluxe
daily-homekeeping-checklist-blank
weekly-homekeeping-checklist-deluxe
weekly-homekeeping-checklist-blank

Happy Listing!

Lessons from Tiffany and Co. ~ No. 1

tiffany-and-co-box1Those that know me well, will attest to my love for Tiffany & Co.  My adoration for Tiffany’s began just under a decade ago, when I lived in Toronto while attending university.  I was fortunate to reside just around the corner from the most luxurious stretch of shops located on Bloor Street.

As I made my way to and from school each day, I would stroll past these shops in awe; however, surviving on a meager student budget, I assumed I would never be able to afford anything they were offering and thus, never ventured inside.

On a June day in 2008, I recall submitting my last paper for the coursework portion of my Master’s degree, and then wandering around for a while, unsure of what to do with my new-found freedom.  As I made my way home, I passed those beautiful shops again and then something happened that would truly change my life – I came upon a Tiffany & Company window.

From what I remember, it was a simple window; black velvet, two or three crystal goblets and a few, long strands of pearls, but the way those pearls flowed out of those goblets and across that velvet will be etched in my mind forever.

At the time, the flagship store in Toronto was very simple – covered in what appeared to be polished granite and adorned with a modest, but proud statue of Atlas.  I stood at that window for sometime before deciding whether to enter.  As I opened the large, heavy doors, it was as though I had walked into a dream.

“Welcome to Tiffany’s”, said a smartly dressed gentleman with a warm smile. I thanked him, as I made my way past pristine glass cases filled with sparkling diamonds and vibrant gemstones.  I finally stopped in front of a case that housed a silver medallion etched with a delicate script (this would eventually become my first piece from Tiffany’s).  I looked up as a woman with long, dark hair asked me, “may I help you find a special piece?”, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Since that day, Tiffany’s has become such an integral part of my life.  I have visited several of their boutiques in different cities and countries, often choosing a special piece to mark the occasion.  For the last few years, I have celebrated milestones like my birthday, with a visit to Tiffany’s, and each time I walk through those doors, I feel the same way I did nearly ten years ago.

While I’m sure you know that Tiffany’s produces some of the most exquisite jewelry in the world, did you also know that one can learn a great deal about life from Tiffany’s?  Well, I certainly have.  In the inaugural post of what will be a reoccurring series on the blog, I offer you the first of the many Lessons from Tiffany and Co.:

Lesson No. 1: 

“Great success often comes from humble beginnings and usually does not  happen overnight.”  

In 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany and his school chum John B. Young, established a small stationary and gift shop in New York City with a vision and a $1000 advance from Tiffany’s father. While the opening day sales grossed a mere $4.38, two years later, Tiffany and Young were still in business, having expanded their wares to include porcelain, cutlery, clocks and you guessed it – jewelry.

While a European design aesthetic reigned at the time, Tiffany and Young took a risk, departing from the norm, and developed a new style.  Inspired by the natural world, the two young men committed to patterns of simplicity, harmony and clarity, standards that continue to guide Tiffany’s today.

Fast forward 179 years, and that little shop has turned into over 200 stores, making Tiffany’s one of the most recognizable and successful luxury brands in the world.

You may be wondering what the life lesson is here?  Well, the way I see it, the lesson is that great success often comes from humble beginnings.  So often, people have dreams and aspirations that never come to fruition, because they don’t feel like that have enough – enough money, enough time, enough strength, enough knowledge, enough (insert excuse here).

What Tiffany’s teaches us is that you do not have to start with “enough” to become something great; all you need is a vision and a little help.

Ok, I lied.  To be successful, you also need a great deal of patience because, as Tiffany’s also teaches, success does not happen overnight.  The opening day sales for Tiffany’s was less than $5.00, and I am certain that the next day was not much more.  In fact, it may have been even less.

If you look at the timeline of any success story, there are ebbs and flows – periods of growth followed by periods of decline.  The key is to stay committed to your vision, but be flexible enough to allow that vision to evolve as you do.

This lesson really hit home for me.  Last year, I embarked on this blogging journey with a vision and a little (tech) help from my husband.  The readership on my first post was small and the next one was even smaller.  I began to think I did not have “enough” of whatever it takes to be successful; however, I stayed committed to my vision and continued to write posts that I believed in.

In June of this year (ten months after my debut post), I hit my highest readership to date – almost 2000 beautiful people visited my blog that month.  Had I given up on my vision after that first decline, I would have missed out on connecting with all of those wonderful readers.

While I still have a long way to go before I find my yellow diamond, like Charles Lewis Tiffany, I will stay committed to my vision until I do.

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