Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A New You....a pop of colour....

I've been a fan of the monochromatic look for many years now.
That's a kind way of saying I always wear black and grey!
Over the last 8 months though, I've been slowly replacing many black items in my wardrobe, with navy blue ones. I've been pleasantly surprised at how navy blue can still be a neutral, and be much softer on the complexion that flat black or grey is.
I've also realised that navy blue pairs well with most other colours, especially bright ones, thus rendering it another 'neutral'. I'm happy to say, that these days, black is NOT my wardrobe staple, and that navy and brights are finding their way into my repertoire with pleasing regularity.
Now this was daunting at first. Abandon my basic black? Never! But as my confidence has grown, and the compliments have proven, there's something to this whole Navy and Brights idea.
I decided to be a little methodical in my approach however, rather than just going at it like a bull at a gate.
Here's a great colour wheel I found online, that not only shows the traditional basic colours, but also variations in tone and shade of those colours:
As with colour schemes in d├ęcor, it can be useful to use a colour directly opposite the one you are styling, remembering to keep the depth of colour similar. So pastel with pastel; vivid or bright with vivid or bright. Looking at the circles on this colour wheel, your strategy would be to try to choose shades of colours from the same circle. Thus, not a vivid green with a pastel lemon, and not a navy blue with a pastel pink.
That said, if you listen to the Seasonal colour experts, they have a different opinion again, so maybe be guided by your own preferences. I'm not trying to confuse you by saying that. I'm just trying to give you options. I've never been entirely convinced on the Season thing. I've been classified as a Spring, a Cool Winter and a Bright Summer at different times, so I don't have a great deal of faith in that particular! 
Personally, I've found that the colour wheel, and the idea of using an opposite colour for contrast, or colour choices in a triangle from any point, is  a great strategy for stretching my wardrobe ideas.
My recent purchase of an orange tailored jacket, has seen me pair it with a turquoise clutch, seen above...
...this tropical print silk scarf, with vivid pink, orange and turquoise print, and lime green and vivid pink trim...
...and this Pucci scarf, a graphic profusion of lime, turquoise and fuschia pink...
I used to be a fan of pastel scarves, especially that pale peach colour, often referred to as Ballet Pink. Here I am in my Basic Black cardi and jacket, with a Ballet Pink silk chiffon scarf. I still like this look, but can see the difference a bright pop of colour makes now.
I have learned that vivid colours are better next to my face, and I now have a growing collection of crazy bright scarves and accessories, that are far more flattering and, dare I say, youthful.
If like me, you're closer to 60 than 30, it may interest you to know that one of the best ways to look ten years younger, is to simply wear a bright colour. Not necessarily all over, but in a scarf, a solid coloured jacket paired with an otherwise neutral outfit, a cute clutch or bag, or a bright lipstick.
When doing this, I've learned to keep everything else simple. Especially for we cute and cuddly, Petite Plus Size Apple shape ladies, it's best to keep the jacket free of unnecessary embellishments, keep the rest of the outfit in a single tone and a solid colour, do not go over the top with jewellery, and minimise ruffles and frills and other frou-frou. This achieves the most streamlined, slender, flattering and youthful silhouette possible. You've heard the expression 'don't gild the lily'? That's what we're trying to achieve. WE want to shine in our outfits. We, as short and cuddly types, don't want the outfit to overwhelm us.
So now if I wear Navy Blue, I know that bright orange is a flattering contrast on me, rather than the usual Nautical style of red or white, and it's certainly a softer look than black. Looking at the colour wheel, that's actually an obvious choice (providing it flatters your colouring), and I prefer it, as red on it's own, has never really been kind to my colouring. The orange however, adds a pop of colour and harmonises with my gold skin undertones. As with the difference between wearing black or navy, so it seems the subtle difference of wearing orange instead of red, is a good decision for me.
This orange jacket was not expensive, having been purchased at the end of season sales. But I am so enamoured with it, that I am now on the lookout for other brightly coloured jackets, as we move into Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
What do you think? Do you like bright colours? What about navy VS black? Tell me all...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Super duper easy Moana Te Fiti cake...

The Disney movie 'Moana', is taking up where it's predecessors Frozen, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and The Beast, have left off. If you haven't seen or heard of it, you've probably, like me, been living under a rock.
So when my almost 4 year old granddaughter started asking for a Moana cake for her upcoming birthday, I actually had to go away and watch the movie to have any clue of what she was on about!
Here is the story of how I turned 3 $4 mud cakes, some Betty Crocker frosting, dessicated coconut, green food colouring, and purchased sugar flowers into the pretty cake you see above. Apparently a HUGE hit with the 4 year old set :)
You need:
3 purchased cakes, any flavour. Or of course you can bake your own.
2 tubs prepared buttercream frosting or again, about 3-4 cups of your own recipe.
Green food colouring
About 200-300gms of Dessicated Coconut
A small quantity of Green fondant
Sugar flowers, small light and dark pink and yellow, and medium frangipani and hydrangea blossoms or any other you like
Cake board
Bamboo skewers
Start by tinting the coconut green. This is not difficult but it is a bit tedious. I was adding about a teaspoon of green food colouring at a time, and just smooshing it around to break it up and mixing it through. It took about 5 minutes to add enough, and distribute it evenly, to achieve the depth of green I was after.
Take the first cake, and turn it upside down onto the cake board. Because mine were already iced with Glace` icing, there was no need to fix them in place with fondant or buttercream. The icing just grabbed onto the cakeboard.
You can see the icing reflected in the cake board here!
Empty a tub and a half of the frosting (about 2-3 cups) into a medium mixing bowl. Add 2-4 teaspoons of green food colouring.
This sounds a lot, but I was surprised at how much I needed to get the depth of green I was after.

Cover the entire cake with the green buttercream. No need to get fussy with smoothing because this will soon be completely covered in coconut and you won't see it.
...You don't even need a crumb coat with this cake, as the coconut will hide all ills...
Now start applying the green coconut. Sprinkle it liberally over the top...
...and spoon it into your cupped hand...
Pressing it gently on to the sides with your palm. You will lose a lot to the bench at this stage, so be prepared for a clean up later!
Keep going until the cake is covered, then gently angle the cake and the board over the bowl of green coconut and use your fingers or a pastry brush, to brush the excess coconut from the board and the base of the cake, back into the bowl.
Take your other two cakes...
...and trim about 5-7 cms (2-3 inches) from the outer edge to make 2 slightly smaller cakes. I was fortunate to have a cake tin just the right size to use as a template...
Just trim roughly. Again, it will all be covered with buttercream and coconut, so you won't see any irregularities.

 Sit the next cake, upside down again, on the first layer, top with buttercream, and sit the third cake, upside down on that one.
Fix the cakes in place with the three bamboo skewers, and trim the to the surface of the cake with a pair of scissors. Remember to remind anyone cutting the cake, that the skewers are there.
Completely cover the two top layers with your green buttercream.
Apply the green coconut to the two top layers, the same way you did with the first layer.
Take a piece of green fondant about the size of two thumbs, and roll it into a rough snake shape.
Press the shape of the Heart of Te Fiti into the front of the twin layers of your cake. Remember, it's not actually a swirl. Starting from the bottom, it's sort of a rough wave shape, with a curve over the top of it. If that seems too hard (and really it's easier than a swirl), do whatever works for you. There seems no limit on the variations of this idea, really. If it looks right to you, then it will look right to your child.

Us a piece of silicone baking paper and a fondant smoother to flatten the swirl out a bit if you wish.
Smooth the buttercream with the baking paper and smoother as well if you like, but it's not necessary.
Start applying your light and dark pink flowers, using mostly dark as far as you can to replicate Te Fiti in the movie.
Again, the flowers are going to hide any imperfections, like this dent you see in the right side of this photo. That was just from applying the swirl, and without scooping the icing off, I couldn't make it smooth for the life of me. It didn't matter at all. Te Fiti actually morphs into a hilly island, so islands have hills and valleys, right?
I just kept applying flowers until the dent was basically unnoticeable.
These little hydrangea blooms were wired (and were only 95c each!), making it easy to fix them wherever I wanted them.
Frangipani flowers were added to the top, and I was done.
This ingredients for this cake were as follows. Prices are approximate:
3 x premade mud cakes $4 each = $12
2 tubs frosting $5 each = $10
Supermarket small sugar flowers $3 each pack with lots in them = $12
Green food colouring $2
Green prepared fondant $3
Coconut $2
Fancy sugar flowers from a cake decorating store $17
Cake board $2
Total outlay : $60
BUT, I have plenty of ingredients left for another identical cake (my daughter wants one for her 18th in January!), including re-using the larger sugar flowers, so the next Te Fiti cake I make will only require an outlay for the cakes, frosting and a cake board, which will total $24.
So I could realistically make two Te Fiti cakes for $84, or just $42 each.
Try getting a professional cake decorator to make this cake for you for that price!
Other ways of reducing the costs might be:
Bake the cakes yourself
Make the buttercream yourself
Make your own cake board or just use a serving platter or dinner plate
Make marshmallow frangipani flowers for the top
Make pineapple flowers for the top and the base
If you used all of these ideas, you could reduce the costs of making this cake to around $20-$25, and THAT is overestimating.
I could have done any or all of these BUT, I had limited time as I'd already had three fails for another cake idea I'd had, AND my new range hood was being installed that day, and I could not get to my oven!
Things we do for our grandchildren, honestly ;-)
I hope you've found this tutorial helpful.
Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A New You....Progress through the year


 My year of finding a New Me has been an interesting one.
I started by investing in the French Chic Academy, and all I can say is, it's been a total game changer for me.
Seen above left, is a skirt I liked very much, worn at the start of the year, with a black t-shirt and patent ballet flats. I actually thought this looked okay, and it wasn't too awful. But using the very lovely Carolina Herrera (top right) as my inspiration, and the advice of Marie-Anne Lecouer of The French Chic Academy, I have found a more flattering length for this very same skirt, including peeptoe heels, a button down shirt, a hat and a strand of pearls to lend height and length.
Gone are my shapeless shifts, three-quarter ripped jeans, and flat shoes...
...which I had previously felt entirely comfortable in. What I didn't see was that these items were totally unsuitable for my height and shape, and that I really wasn't doing myself any favours by continuing to wear them.
I stopped shopping at the nearby upmarket thrift store. I was previously a weekly, if not twice weekly visitor, justifying my spend-ups by comforting myself with the idea that if I only wore the items once, it didn't matter. Meanwhile by wardrobe was bulging with clothing, and I still had 'nothing to wear'. The savings of $50+ per week, were channelled into paying for my French Chic Academy course, and investing in some genuine Baroque pearls, an item I'd longed for since my honeymoon twenty years ago.
A sleek hat was procured for those days when I might require a little shade on my nose, which here, is most days. This was far more flattering than the tennis style visor I'd previously worn, and has served me well, from beach to lunch events for many months.
Learning from Marie-Anne Lecouer and The French Chic Academy, I've become a student of 'what suits me'. Not what is fashionable, or what looks good on someone I pass in the street or see in a glossy brochure. Me. Just me.
I've learned to use prints and optical illusion to magic myself taller and slimmer...

 I've reassessed my ideas on what is 'dressy casual'. Previously the aforementioned shapeless shift had been a key item in my wardrobe. Again, not entirely terrible, but not fabulous either.
Now it's more likely to be skirts and pearls and heels. I've learned that I really can wear a small heel most days, and it was more a case of getting out of the habit of wearing them, that made them uncomfortable.
Little button down shirts have found their way into my wardrobe too, and I am enjoying showing off my silhouette, in preference to hiding it under swathes of fabric.
My passion for black is slowly being tempered with quite a few items in Navy blue, and I am finding that yet again, Marie-annes advice is sound. It's softer and more flattering for certain.

Those pearls have been one of the best purchases of my year. I try to wear them daily if I can, and feel wonderful no matter what I pair them with.
I even learned that switching accessories with this single outfit, can make a difference
The look here with nude heels and pearls,
is different to the same skirt with a long scarf and cardigan,
and that even the cardigan over the shoulder, with pearls, is better sometimes exchanged for the cardigan worn properly with a longer glass bead necklace to add length to the torso. A subtle difference in the accessorising, but a dramatic one in the wearing!

My latest purchase, having enjoyed success with my skirt and shirt combo, is this dress. Not something I would have looked at twice a year ago, but which now I am confident, I can carry off successfully.

 And likewise this one here as well.
These both need a little tweaking and adjusting in length and neckline, but again, I've learned this year, that if the silhouette is right, I can adjust things like length, and width easily with my trusty sewing machine.
For now, I am thrilled with the progress I've made. I continue to learn and grow, and am forever thankful for Marie-Anne Lecouers support.
I truly am, A New Me.

How have you changed or grown this year?