Monday, 17 August 2015

The Festival of 35

Another year, another birthday. I must admit, the excitement was not the same as a few years ago - 35 sounds pretty middle-aged to me. Actually, I was pretty bummed about the prospect of edging closer to 40 and entering what I imagine is the second half of my life. Kiddies, a super-attentive husband and some cake baking sort of dispelled the whiff of desperation that was hovering around.
And then my family came, my mom, my brother and his brood and the house was full of laughter, singing and candle-blowing and I instantly felt better.
My mom brought me the best of gifts - a perfume and an orchid.

Prada's Infusion d'Iris has been a favorite for quite a while. I love its clean, uncomplicated smell, with some pretty powerful undertones.

The 100 ml bottle came with quite a few samples and I'm loving all of the Prada Candy varieties.

Just look at this beauty! It really made my day. I just hope we'll be friends for a long time and she'll bloom again and again - I'm determined to make this one a keeper, despite my previous disastrous record with orchids...

Having trouble staying away from the sales, I treated myself to another pair of  Clarks:

These will be perfect for walking the cobblestones and broken sidewalks of Belgrade this fall while taking my daughter to school and trying to get to work on time. They can be worn in the rain, another bonus, not to mention how delightfully comfortable these are - for me, that's what I get from Clarks shoes. After I got my first pair last summer, I now own four and I have never looked back.

I have a few drinks with friends scheduled throughout the week, so the festivities continue, an my man has his birthday later in the week as well. Lots of Leo action going on in our family!

I have a 'books I've read so far in 2015' post lined up, however, I can't seem to get around to finishing it these days. Will have to have another crack at it soon.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Long and the Short Of It

Actually, I'll aim for as short as possible this time.

The hairy situation:  Slowly, over the past few years, I've slipped into the 'I have to die my hair every six weeks' situation. Putting not to fine a point on it - I'm hopelessly grey! Underneath the layers of L'Oreal die, I'm all silvery white, and while I will for sure at some point in the future give up and go au naturel, we are not there yet folks. Hence, the trip to the hairdresser's every six weeks. It is a nuisance in a way that I do not like when my grey roots show up - which usually happens around week four - but then I stick with them for a little while longer before hitting the salon. However, once in there, it's pure joy. And for the following reasons:
1. The staff are super nice and, as I have been a regular for the past eight years, they know me well and know what I like, what kind of hairstyles work for me and when is the time to try a new shade of die or a new hair cut. I never protest, I just let them work their magic and I've never regretted it.
2. There is always a copy of the newest Vogue UK laying around which promptly ends up in my lap, I'm served a cup of the finest filter coffee to be had around here and after initial inquires as to the current situation in the household, I'm left on my own, quietly sipping coffee and reading while the die is being applied and then sitting on my head for whatever amount of time necessary.
3. The restorative and transforming power of hair color and haircut/blow dry is never lost upon me. I look and feel 100% better after every visit, my head feels so much lighter, both physically and metaphorically speaking, after I'm given a special massage while my hair is being washed and it never fails to give me a special bounce in my step.

The sales situation: Yes, I've managed to fit in a few visits to the shops, and the latest two purchases made me happy!

The white and silver cap toe flats from Clarks, in wide fit - apart from a very good sales price, it is the wide fit that won me over. These really fit like a glove and have the softest sole padding, as is the case with all other Clarks I own and am very happy with. These come in lieu of the LILU white and silver pointy toed ones - much as I loved the pink detail on the rubber sole, these are a much better fit and the price difference is considerable.

This came home with me as well as it was heavily discounted. It was worth a wait as it will combine brilliantly with other stuff in my wardrobe to take me through to fall.

And to finish this off with some breaking news - the tightest of my pre-pregnancy jeans fit! It was scientifically established this morning, after a quarter of an hour of careful observation in front of the full-length mirror in my hallway. No unsightly bulge anywhere around the midsection, hence no muffin top, showing off the bootay, what more could a girl ask for? Same favorable impressions were gained from trying out a part of my back-to-work wardrobe - some dresses, skirts and pants. I felt like popping something open and celebrating, however, being home alone with two underage children in my care, I settled for a lemonade ;)

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Why Getting All Dressed Up Matters

It seems so frivolous at times to be thinking/writing/reading about style when you consider all the horrible things going on in the world today - the refugees in the Calais, the war in Syria, the economic crisis, the renewed polarization of the world's politics (West vs. Big Bad East all over again), not to mention the environmental issues - or should these be the primary concern? Violence, corruption, poverty are rampant in my own country as in many other corners of the world. I read the papers, I watch the news, I know about these things - I'm not living under a rock. However, as desperate as these make me, I have no solution, no concrete action to take. Focusing on my family, my little universe, a few friends and the everyday is what I can manage and where I'm needed the most, so that is what I do.

An important part of staying on top of the everyday is organization and routine. I can manage chaos in small doses and at times, but constantly - it drives me crazy. That is why a streamlined repository for clothes, shoes and accessories, aka The Closet, is a must. Wardrobe space is precious in our apartment which means I have to be on top of things regarding the number of items I own. The situation is still a far cry from a carefully curated collection of items I love and enjoy, but I'm getting there slowly. Yet, this post is not about wardrobe organization. It's about why these things matter to me. Or, in other words, why personal style helps save my life in the madness of daily living.

Structure: getting dressed for the life I live first thing in the morning gives structure to my day. If I'm staying at home with the kiddos, it's the track suit bottoms and a t-shirt or an oversize men's shirt (my dad's), mundane, plane, but if it's clean and it fits, is made of cotton or other natural fabric - it's all that I need. Staying in my pj's past the breakfast time and I already feel anxious. If I'm dressed for the daily activities, then I can get on with them and that helps me stay focused and not just waste away the hours watching crappy TV all morning (although we've established that I do that sometimes as well;) Also, doing my face and hair is a part of this routine and even if I don't leave the house all day, I want to feel pulled together. I know this stems from the need to control the often uncontrollable in life, but it helps me.

Presentation: I work in an office environment where casual dressing is considered a no-no - no jeans, no casual Fridays, none of that. I have to look pulled together and exude a sense of authority as I often participate in meetings with officials where the corporate dress code is to be observed. As I spend most of my time at my job, that means that most of my closet is work clothes. I am, however, not the pant suit lady. My aesthetic is just different, more bohemian, less strict. So I find middle ground in order to comply. My blazers are soft, less structured and certainly not boxy (although I've recently found what represented a holy grail of unattainable clothing chimeras for me - the perfect black blazer), but in block colors. My trousers are of a classic cut but with interesting prints. I do wear pencil skirts as these hug my curves in all the right ways, but they are of interesting, textured fabrics. And I accessorize big time - scarves, jewelry, shoes, bags - you name it. This helps me stay true to myself while at the same time presenting the best version of me to my professional environment. I have ascertained in numerous occasions that the way you look may make or break a meeting, a presentation. Done properly, it projects the right image to your coworkers, partners and lets you achieve what you set out to do more easily. Which leads us to ....

Communication: Getting the right formula with the outfits also lets me show loud and clear to the world who I am without having to explain a lot. If you want to read the messages I give out through my clothes (and people do so, even if subconsciously), you may gather that I'm an open and forthcoming personality with a positive outlook, yet serious and determined when required. You may also understand that I'm a bit quirky with a flare for the unexpected. Or, at least, that is what I would want you to understand about me. That is what I get dressed up for and what I want to project with my overall look. This is an important part of non-verbal communication and I believe a vital one.

Appropriateness: Showing up so that your outfit matches the situation - the ultimate mastery of social context. It means to not show up over or underdressed, to not show disrespect, but primarily to feel good in what you're wearing and look comfortable. It is only when you're bien dans sa peau that you can really be appropriate and presentable. It's when you are wearing the clothes and your look, not the other way around. And that is the trickiest bit, the one that requires soul searching, understanding of the self and translating that knowledge in your wardrobe. I believe that is a life-long process, wisdom that is not attained lightly. But it is also the process I enjoy and the trial and error part is what makes it fun.

All this maybe reading a bit too much into what you put on yourself primarily not to walk around naked and protect your body from the elements. You can look at it that way. I prefer to look at it as an essential part of who I am, an opportunity for learning and growth and a process that makes me more considerate, less wasteful and more temperate as well.

As of mid September, when the real life strikes again, I will have to have this process down pat however. My outfits will have to be planned a week in advance (same goes for my elder daughter), laid out complete with all the trimmings the night before and put on in the morning with a very small margin for error - there will just be no time to change my mind. That means the next few weeks will be spent culling my wardrobe, distilling only the most essential items for the coming season, and loads of washing and ironing. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Scarf Magic

I'm checking in shortly today as tomorrow we leave for the house in the country - my husband's grandparents' place in Croatia, for a long weekend of garden frolicking and barbecues. Sadly, grandma and grandpa left us last year and it will be really strange spending time there without them but in a way it will also be as if they are there still, in spirit, nodding approvingly at the house being filled with children's laughter again. My older daughter remembers them well and all the love and care that were bestowed upon her there since day one. It's sad that my younger child will not experience that but we'll try and keep the legacy alive at least by regularly visiting the place and recreating some of the unique atmosphere.

I recently stumbled upon the magic that is Laniakea scarfs on Facebook and was blown away by the design and look of these beauties. Designed and printed in the UK with the final touches done by hand in Belgrade, they are silk and glorious with hand-rolled edges and wonderful colorways.
My personal favorite is below, but do check their website for the whole collection. The price may seem a bit on the high end, but for silk scarves and with such unique design - they are ending up on my wish list for sure.

I woke up on Easter island

Their FB page boasts the following spirit:


Worth checking out. My love of scarves know no bounds, I love them as accessories all year round, but there is decluttering to be done in that wardrobe department as well! For now, though, I'm just going to look forward to travelling and enjoying life with the family - priorities!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Box

As in the telly, gogglebox, the tube, idiot box. I love watching television. There, I've said it. Sounds blasphemous, I know, but I really do, even though I will never, apparently, become a millionaire because of it. You see, millionaires and uber successful people in general do not watch television. Boring!

I am a child of the eighties and TV was a big part of my growing up. It was truly a window to the world, albeit a very special one. TV was where all the earth's flora and fauna lived (Survival, Bellamy), where the Greek myths unraveled before our eyes, secrets of ancient Egypt and pharaohs' tombs were explained and few but very good quality children's TV shows provided indispensable information about the world we were growing up in. Oh, and the obligatory cartoon at 19:15h every evening. A pretty simple fare, as you can see.

The nineties brought the atrocities of civil war in the ex-Yugoslavia live on the small screens and into our homes. I swapped the grim reality for MTV as it once was, with Ray Cokes shows and cool videos, making my growing up all about the Seattle grunge, a perfect backdrop to the angst of the world and the angst of my teenage years.

The nineties also honed my taste for TV shows - a good mix of crime and thriller with a sprinkling of a documentary. Feature films - not so much, at least TV is not my go to medium for these. I much prefer the cinema. As you can imagine from the above, I gorged myself on Sherlock, Poirot, NYPD Blue, Law&Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, Inspector Morse, etc.

Of course, as any teenager, I also devoured shows such as Beverly Hills 90210, My So-Called Life (a clear favorite) and Dawson's Creek. Many a night was spent dreaming of Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano and me wishing for Angela's (Claire Danes) cool hair color and haircut.

The noughties and the onslaught of stupid reality TV didn't affect my choices much. I just learned to filter, so no Big Brother for me. It was more CSI (in all its incarnations), Midsomer Murders, The Medium, NCIS, and the like. But the noughties also brought us the holly grail of chick TV - Sex and the City, which for me goes on a par with any of the famous sleuths whose adventures I religiously followed.

It is during the two pregnancies and the ensuing maternity leaves that I've spent many an (odd) hour in front of the box. Cooped up with the baby (both were born in the fall which meant I spent the better part of their first four months indoors), it was one of the things to do without interrupting much of their habits/behavior. The TV also provides constant noise, chatter, illusion of something important happening which saved me from going crazy with a newborn more than a few times.

Interestingly enough, I turned my attention to reality TV in these periods of my life. The first time around, I loved Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, while these days I'm more about How Do I Look?, Dress My Nest, Say Yes to The Dress, What Not To Wear and Love It or List It Vancouver. These shows are really only light entertainment but bring with them a good story and a touch of  interior decorating magic (e.g. Dress My Nest). Some of the presenters like Stacey London (What Not To Wear) and Tom Filicia (Dress My Nest) I've grown to really appreciate and like for their wit, insight and useful advice.

I want to be Claire Underwood when I grow up!
Recently, it was Homeland, new Sherlock and The Silent Witness, as well as two political dramas - the Danish Borgen and the House of Cards - that rocked my TV boat. I can't wait for the 5th season of Homeland (will the Clare Danes/Rupert Friend thing take off, or will there be a new guy for Carrie?), as well as the follow-up to the House of Cards - Francis finally made it to the White House and who wouldn't kill for Claire's wardrobe and that haircut?!?!?!

But what I'm really looking forward to is the Sherlock New Year special which will see the detective and his trusty sidekick go back in time as the original Arthur Conan Doyle heroes. Martin Freeman grew a mustache for the role, while Benedict got himself married and with a newborn - that must have softened those steely eyes a bit, right?

In the meantime, summer days are spent enjoying the latest season of Bones (hello David Boreanaz, you will always be the Angel to my haven't mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer, have I? Uh, guilty pleasure ;) and Castle. With a healthy sprinkling of the Sex and the City reruns - it's summer in New York and Carrie is cheating on Aidan with Big - my favorite episodes.

Monday, 20 July 2015


This God awful heat is doing nothing for me, I tell you, nothing! It was ok for a day or two, but after four days of temperatures not going down below 30 degrees Celsius even during the night, I've had enough. The scorching atmosphere is conducive to nothing - sleeping, getting dressed up, making an effort, styling your hair, just nothing. The only advantage is that it is not conducive to eating either - small blessings ;)
My brain is working though, even if in a heat-induced stupor. There are issues to ponder, important stuff you know, like - after having decided on the bottoms (trousers and skirts), as well as dresses, for my back-to-school wardrobe, I realized that the one category of clothing sourly missing from my closet is tops! Yes people, tops! And I think I know why: after spending a few years buying any t-shirt, shirt, blouse that I stumbled upon at the sales, and after these have all pilled, sagged or just become ill-fitting (if they ever fitted me properly in the first place), I decided I didn't have the skills requisite for purchasing proper tops and I gave up. 
What that left me with are a few mariniere style shirts with both 3/4 and short sleeves, a bunch of tatty t-shirts and several cotton Zara tops, in navy, peach and dusty pink. Another thing - my body changed a lot after my first pregnancy, going from 'I can't fit any of my clothes', to 'this is soooo big I can hide a horse and a cart underneath' and all the stages in between. That meant that I stuck stubbornly to some of the pre-pregnancy pieces that I liked but that never really worked after the baby, especially in the boobs department.
Tops are almost like an accessory part of the outfit to me. I like simple bottoms. Whether it's a skirt or a pant, simple cuts, basic colors and no frills materials appeal to me. With the tops, however, I like to see them pack a punch, either with color or an intricate pattern. The real problem is - I don't like tops to cost much! I feel like good trousers or an elegant jacket are a much better investment since they pull an outfit together and make you look more polished. Tops - they are there for the fun of it, they usually don't last more than a couple of seasons, thus - I cannot justify an exorbitant price tag for what is essentially a glorified t-shirt. 
And now we come to the real issue here - if I don't want to blow my budget, what I'm offered is either cotton tops, which just don't wear well and get saggy quickly and have to be washed after each wear, or I have to settle for polyester! God forbid, if you ask me! Risking sounding too snobby, I just don't do synthetics. It itches, it creates static, it goes on my nerves and I don't like the feel of it.
Difficult much? Yes and no. I am definitely not splurging for silk or fine knits this year, so I got down to business and scoured the net and the sales in search of something acceptable. Here's what I've come up with:

1. A patterned, viscose blouse which ticks all the boxes for me - fun details, a flattering cut, color that go with much of my wardrobe.


2. A two-tone cotton t-shirt with an interesting pattern and a powerful color.


3. A basic shirt, in cream, communicates timeless, summer style.


4. Teal and flowers - one of my favorite combinations.


5. Again, a pattern with an amazing combination of colors - white, rust, ochre, teal.


5. This is an afterthought, but I couldn't skip it - a perfect, striped cardigan:


Now I just need to get to the stores and star trying stuff out - I used to be a hit-and-run shopper, just mindlessly racing to the register with anything that caught my fancy, without bothering to enter the changing rooms and have a proper look at myself. Not any more - no money to burn, thank you very much. Will report back with the results.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Bling Bling

With the impending return to the coalface and the daily grind, my mind inevitably turns to wardrobe issues. I have to switch gears and go from playground mommy with cute but often smeared outfits (courtesy of my very own baby:) to office appropriate. And it will not be easy, but I won't lie - I will enjoy it! I like my play clothes primarily for their comfort, but there is only so much of the sneaker/jeans or shorts/birks combinations a girl can stand.
Apart from the actual outfits (which merit a post or two of their own), I find myself fretting over the jewelry section of my not-so-large wardrobe. It has grown, considerably, over the past few years. Some additions more valuable and pricey than others, mostly costume jewelry pieces though and many gifts from the hubby and friends. The emotional value of these pieces is what makes it so difficult for me to try and downsize some so that the whole collection is more manageable and that it allows me easy access and decision-making in the morning rush. 
I've cracked the problem somewhat before the baby girl arrived last fall. Knowing that for months I will be mostly house-trapped and surgically attached to the little one, I culled both my wardrobe and my bling leaving only those easy pieces that I knew would come into play for that instant pulled together look on the odd occasion that would see me leave home and look presentable someplace. The rest of the bling is neatly stashed on the highest shelf of my wardrobe patiently awaiting resurrection from the box.

Most of the things I selected as go-to items for the first year of the baby's life that I'm spending on maternity leave actually got worn, though some more than others. Exhibit A - this cocktail ring which I received as a birthday present last year from my best friend. It's a unique piece from blown glass made in Italy and I find it so special yet so versatile and matching almost everything in my wardrobe. I like a good sized cocktail ring - I have long fingers and nice-looking hands (still) so I don't shy away from showing them off. This is a keeper for my back-to-work combinations for sure.

This charm bracelet was also a last-year birthday gift from a dear friend and it made the cut in many combinations. Although it primarily feels like a summer piece, jangling away with beads and charms, it also has that edgy, leather/metal combination look that got me to wear it during colder months as well. The orange/tobacco colorway helps as well as it goes with most items in my wardrobe.

Desigual bracelets! OMG! The hubby recently visited Barcelona on business and, as requested, he came back with Desigual dresses for me and my elder daughter, however, the store threw in a surprise with the purchase so I received a trio of bracelets as an extra. There is the thinnest, lilac one missing, but it just does not get as much wear as these two. They fit well at a certain point on my forearms and don't come down clanking and banging onto stuff as I wear them, which I find a nuisance especially when I'm seated at a desk or typing at the computer. They get worn almost daily and I love them!

This bracelet was also a random present from the same friend who brought me the cocktail ring from Italy (what can I say, she's a gem ;) and I love it! It's made of recycled bicycle parts (that's what I gathered anyway) and is so edgy and cool that I ended up wearing it more often than I initially thought I would. Keeping it in the work wardrobe though - I'm not sure. This is the summeriest and most casual of all these pieces so I think it will be relegated to the box, waiting for the next spring/summer season.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Life Lately

Talk about a blog hiatus! With a six-year old and a baby, pretty much everything else in my life had to take a backseat for a while, including this space which has been sadly neglected for eight months :( After the first nerve-wracking three months with the newborn, just as we were sailing into the new year, life got a bit easier, and at the same time so much more intensive and required my full-on, full-time presence and involvement in everything that was going on in the now household of four.
At the same time, I was slowly getting back to myself, a lot easier this time around than after my first pregnancy, although not without a few hiccups. Taking time to care for myself did the trick. I started pilates in February and I can safely say now that it has made me fell better in my own skin than anything else I tried both before and after the pregnancies. I can really feel the muscles that have come back and, barring the odd spare tire around my waste, that is still persistent in lingering on despite the almost six pack beneath it ;) I feel so much stronger, more flexible and like I own this wondrous instrument that is my body and that it is serving me well. Walking around with the baby in tow for a few kilometers every day helps as well, just as a recent fortnight by the sea did.