I am 52. I have wrinkles. I have lived. I have actually been through a lot – we all have really. No matter what we have been through we are essentially beautiful.
Anyone who reads my blog will know that my personal philosophy is to strive to be fabulous despite what life throws at us. I wear make-up and do my hair, I like wearing nice clothes and looking pretty. It is not about vanity, but rather about celebration and determination.
The one thing that I have never done though is to hide my imperfections.
I was scrolling through Facebook recently and saw this fabulous meme about a Japanese art form called Kintsugi. Basically broken pottery is mended with gold – highlighting the flaws and making them beautiful rather than hiding them. It is also about celebrating an object rather than trashing it.
Kintsugi Art Metaphor: “Mending Broken Pottery With Gold”
What Can We Learn From a Broken Pot?
Kintsugi, as the practice is known, gives new life or rebirth to damaged or aging ceramic objects by celebrating their flaws and history. One can consider how we might live a kintsugi life, finding value in the, missing pieces, cracks and chips – bringing to light the scars that have come from life experiences, finding new purpose through aging and loss, seeing the beauty of ‘imperfection’ and loving ourselves, family and friends even with flaws.
What do we do with something that breaks. We throw it away. In Japan, the philosophy is to embrace imperfections (Wabi Sabi) and this is the source of the art of Kintsugi.
I don’t often write about my own cracks and breaks. I do have them though, many of them. Some from age, and others from circumstance. These cracks are what makes me. It is our experiences and life that we have lived that makes us the beautiful humans that we are.
Let us embrace our imperfections. Celebrate ourselves with our cracks and breaks in sparkling gold. I don’t mean that we should dwell on the negative, but rather acknowledge it and how much stronger it has made us.
Signing off as a beautiful kintsugi vase, showing off my imperfections.
I have always loved celebrating my birthday. I guess it is really just a great excuse to get together with family and friends and celebrate life.
As I get older (and I will be 52 in a few days time), I try and reason with myself. You are too old, too tired, not well enough, it will be too much work, and then something happens to remind me why we should celebrate our birthdays.
Last week I listened to Facebook CEO, Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley.
Sheryl Sandberg is a fabulous woman in my opinion, and has shown just how strong she is following the death of her husband just over a year ago. In this speech she is very honest and quite emotional about the shock of dealing with his sudden death and how she has coped.
She talks about finding joy and meaning. “Dave’s death changed me in profound ways. I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void — or in the face of any challenge — you can choose joy and meaning.”
Choosing joy over sadness can be really hard, but the rewards are immense.
I urge you to listen to the speech which you can do here. Her honesty about pain and hurt is so real, but so is the message that we can continue on.
Now what has this to do with cake? During her address Sheryl Sandberg says “I used to celebrate my birthday every five years, and friends’ birthdays sometimes. Now I celebrate always.”
We do not know what is ahead of us, but what I do know is that my riches in my life are in people, my friends and family. A birthday party – why not? It is a great excuse to celebrate life and to focus on gratitude for what we have experienced this last year.
I have decided that this year I will simply open my home, and spend quality sofa time with wonderful people. It is an open invitation to if you would like to join in, please message me.
I have chosen to celebrate on 6 June which is a day early, but as it is a bank holiday it will be lovely and relaxing.
I urge you to use any excuse really to celebrate and spread joy.
Being brave is huge! It means different things to different people really but it is really a very powerful emotion that can propel us forward in a really good and positive way.
What does brave mean to you?
For some people attending an event or a function is brave. For others it might be attempting something that they never thought they could do. We all have our comfort zones and when we take a step outside of this lovely comfortable place we are being brave. For me it is stepping out into the unknown.
I am being really courageous this year. Due to my health, I have had to start again. Literally. Imagine almost 52 and having to find a new career which will fit in with my current life. It isn’t easy, but I am reading and learning and hopefully will be able to work part time very soon.
I have also had to be extremely brave and face some of my exercise demons.
This time last year I was living in Westport, working as the Head of Marketing for a financial services company and generally living it up.
Now my life has changed and I am living in Galway and trying to get my body as strong as possible in ways I can control. I think this is really important as I cannot completely control the arthritis or fibromyalgia (never mind the other issues), but I can control my fitness levels.
I was brave in February when I did a 10km walk for charity. I felt this way again when I did the Darkness into Life walk earlier in May. I felt terribly brave when I went to my first yoga class. Granted it was a yoga class for people with joint pain, but it was still hard to walk into a room and realise that you might be the biggest person in the class and more likely the least flexible person.
Fast forward a few weeks and I am lying on my back with my legs up against the wall, and trying various poses. It is still a long way from the downward facing dog, but I am proud that I am taking these little brave steps.
Every day we have a choice, to be brave and take that step out of the comfort zone or stay cuddled in the warmth of the known.
I do both. One thing I have learned though is that every time I take a brave step, the reward is there. It isn’t always immediate, but it does come.
Please feel free to stop by and tell me your stories about being brave. It honestly doesn’t matter how small the step, it is a step in the right direction.
When a flower is blooming, it doesn’t worry about the flower next to it, neither does it compete with it simply blooms. This is a wonderful sentiment and one that I really need to take heed of.
As woman (even from a young age) we are always very aware of our peers. How they look, how they are doing and how we are doing in comparison. I don’t know about anyone else but I always seem to come up short.
We have so many lessons we can learn from nature.
For fabulous women there are two sides to this very relevant quote:
A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms
The first is that we should delight in each other’s growth and celebrate each other’s victories.
A couple of months ago I started a group on Facebook called Fabulous Woman. It was something that I did because I was looking for a tribe. I was seeking positive woman who were not bitchy and who wanted to lift each other up rather than breaking each other down.
I can’t begin to express the joy that this group has given me personally. In a space of two short months it has grown to over 800 members with many members active on a weekly basis. As I am lucky enough to have two home countries membership has grown not only in both Ireland and South Africa, but across the globe. It is so wonderful to see support pouring out across the miles, and fabulous women friendships being formed.
This wonderful bunch of fabulous women is just like a full field of flowers all blooming together and celebrating life.
The second part is one I really need to take note of. We are all individual and unique. It is so easy, especially on social media to wonder if you are good enough or if you are doing enough in terms of diet, exercise or even fashion. We are constantly bombarded with messages of what we should and shouldn’t do.
I think we spend far too much time competing with others – and sometimes they are not even aware that we are competing. I often find myself using my energy on something that isn’t productive. Something that doesn’t make me bloom. We need to nurture ourselves.
I also seem to be a worrier. I am told if there was nothing to worry about I would find something. I have had to learn, and am still learning that other people’s problems are exactly that, they are not my problems.
So today let us remember this Wednesday quotation:
‘A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms’
Project Runway has always been one of my guilty secrets. Of all the reality shows this is the one where I sit quietly with a cup of tea and absorb. Warning – don’t talk to me or interrupt – this is my program.
Season 14 kicked off and I was even more excited to meet Ashley Nell Tipton, a big beautiful woman who wanted to win to launch her own plus sized range. This was a woman living my dream.
Ashley is all about self acceptance and loving you.
Her mission: to represent for full-figured women and to enable them to have options to express their style and individuality through fashion just like women who wear “standard” size.
Project Runway Season 14
Throughout the challenges on Project Runway, Ashley designed for the standard models and early on she began to shine. It wasn’t about designing plus sized fashion, it was about designing beautiful garments. I loved her quirky taste and very wearable fashion sense. I wanted to buy her clothes already.
Early on in the season during a team challenge some of the other very trendy girl competitors tried to ‘throw her under the bus’. It was ugly and quite obviously planned. I was delighted when Kelly Osbourne called them on it! Bullying is never ok in my book, and despite showing vulnerability, Ashley showed them by winning challenge after challenge.
Ashley Nell Tipton’s finale show stole my heart. I was metaphorically ordering everything that came down the runway, other than the shorts, because I am beyond wearing shorts really! I didn’t love this fashion because it was for plus sized woman and was being modelled by plus size models. I loved it because it was fresh and wearable. It had style and was simply fabulous.
The finale show was themed around Mexico City in the 50s and featured the most wonderful head pieces full of flowers. If I get invited to Ladies Day at the Galway Races this year, I will make myself one of these!
All the fabrics were hand dyed in unique shades of my perennial favourites of pink, aqua and violet.
I have to admit that I created my own spoiler. About ten minutes before the Project Runway winner was announced I picked up my iPad and started googling to see if I could buy something from Ashely’s collection. I immediately found out that she had won, but to be honest it didn’t take away from the joy of watching the results.
Clothes and confidence
When it comes to clothes and fashion I believe that it is all about how you feel wearing the clothes. If you feel fabulous you will exude confidence and that will make your inner beauty shine.
On the other hand if you are uncomfortable or conscious of a bad fit you will feel awkward and this will filter through to the rest of your demeanour.
I am so excited that Ashley has secured a deal with JC Penney to produce a line of clothing for them. The clothes are expected in Autumn and Winter this year.
This way all the fabulous girls will get to wear gorgeous clothes!
Fun, funky and fat. Why not just say it like Ashley does and not be apologetic about it.
Thanks for reading and celebrating a truly fabulous woman.
This is a little story about a yellow handbag, but really it is a story about human kindness.
I was visiting London just after Christmas and was delighted to receive a beautiful yellow handbag as a gift from my sister. I was excited, and immediately changed everything over.
The next day I packed up my things to catch a train to Birmingham where I was attending a craft exhibition at the NEC. I felt really smart heading off with my new handbag and a borrowed backpack.
I need to stop here and draw a little picture of where I was in my life at the time. I was suffering from severe depression and had made a decision (on my own) to come off the anti-depressants. While I was over in London my Dad was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, and I was trying to process this. Life was a little hard, to be honest but I was still determined that all would be well.
On the second day of the exhibition I packed up early and had a quick breakfast in my hotel in the centre of Birmingham before catching the rush hour train from Birmingham Central to Birmingham International. I boarded the train with my backpack, my yellow handbag and my bag of goodies from the exhibition.
What I didn’t realise was that my body was going into withdrawal from the anti-depressants and that quite honestly I was cracking up.
It is a short distance from the station to the exhibiton. Considering the day ahead, I walked along and then I stopped and stumbled and nearly fell over in shock. I didn’t have my handbag with me.
Passport, money, phone, train ticket, air ticket, house and car keys, everything. I felt physically sick.
I stumbled along to the organiser’s office where I told them what had happened. They offered me a seat and the use of the phone. By this stage everything had closed in on me. I was crying uncontrollably. The shock added to everything else that was going on in my life, the worry about my Dad and the loss of my handbag had flattened me.
I had no idea how I could even get back to London, never mind Ireland.
I walked back to the station and asked about my ticket. “You need to purchase another ticket to London”, I was told. I walked back to the NEC – I didn’t know what to do.
Human Kindness from a friend
On returning to the exhibition I tried to focus and realised that I needed money of some sort to at least get back to London and to my sister. Thankfully Sara from Crafters Companion, who was exhibiting, knew me didn’t even hesitate – she loaned me 50 Pounds.
I tried to enjoy the exhibition but by this stage my heart was not in it. I felt broken.
Walking back to the station, yet again I really didn’t know what to do. Something led me back to the enquiries office where I had been turned away earlier. The man on duty clearly saw my distress and told me to go down to Platform 7.
Human Kindness from a stranger
There I met the kindest man who took my missing handbag seriously. He called everyone he knew. He traced the train down to London where it was on a siding being cleaned. He spoke to the cleaners. He left no stone un-turned. He checked every station along the way. He checked lost property. I just sat there with my crumpled tissue feeling lost and desperate.
Eventually he had exhausted all his options and we called the police. There had been a number of incidents where handbags had been stolen they told me. They took down the report.
Just as I sat down the phone rang. ‘Stay here,” he said. Minutes later he walked in with my handbag. My beautiful handbag. ‘Check it please,” he said. I did and nothing at all was missing.
Human Kindness from a woman I never met
The story was that one of the staff members on Virgin Trains had seen me get on the train at Birmingham Central with the yellow handbag and seen me get off at Birmingham International without it. She was near the area where I was sitting, and rescued my handbag and brought it back to Birmingham International where she knew I would be stranded.
This was quite a few years ago, but I have never forgotten the kindness of the man who helped me search for the bag and the woman who had cared enough to bring it back to me. I don’t know if it is possible, but perhaps through social media I might find this angel and be able to thank her properly.
If you have a kindness story, I would love to hear it.
I am privileged to have had many woman in my life who have guided me and shaped me and made me who I am. Today I would like to acknowledge the life lessons taught by my maternal grandmother – Olive Hanson.
My granny passed away in 1978, when I was 13, I may have been young but I have remembered she taught me some great lessons.
My granny was born Olive Pickavance (I do like that name) and was one of 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls. All the girls had names of plants – Olive, Iris, May, Hazel and Violet. My granny was a lady, and one with a sharp wit.
I have fond memories of staying over at my grandparents on a Friday evening. We went to sleep with a huge sense of anticipation of the adventure the next day. My grandfather brought us tea in bed, something that didn’t happen at home. We got up and got dressed with our frilly knee socks and black patent shoes and got ready to ride the bus to town. Saturday morning in town meant a visit to the hairdresser for my gran (a proud supporter of the blue rinse) and then a visit to the multi-storied department stores which have now disappeared. The excitement of tea and scones in the tea room and a little purchase or some kind meant we returned home on a high.
These trips were the ignited a passion for independence which had me riding the busses for many years. At 16 I rode the bus into town and secured myself a job selling children’s shoes.
Here are a few great life lessons I learnt from my Granny.
You are never too old to learn. Granny learnt to drive at 63 before my Grandad passed away. I think it is fair to say that she was never a great driver but it didn’t stop her getting around. My little sister always maintained she could hear Granny arriving.
The importance of underwear. Granny always maintained that you should have good undies in case you were ever in an accident. Years later I was in an accident and found myself lying in the ambulance trying to remember what I had put on in the morning. Luckily I was ok!
The value of a good story. Granny was a great storyteller. Sometimes the stories grew and grew like the story of the cat that was so big it could fill a bath. I did see the cat once and it was big, but not quite that big. Stories are our history and really should be passed on
The need for walking shoes and sitting down shoes. As a young child I couldn’t understand what Granny meant when she talked about sitting down shoes. Now I know exactly what she meant. I have both types on my shoe rack.
The importance of being well dressed. Granny was always elegant and well dressed. She valued her clothes and would spend a good deal of time choosing a piece of fabric that would then go off to the dress-maker. She also didn’t like black.
The value of a social occasion. As she got older she often attended the funerals of her friends. She wore Navy and saw these occasions as not only an opportunity to pay her respects but also to socialise, a wise woman. She also loved a good wedding for the same reason.
How important quotes and sayings are. She loved sayings – perhaps I have inherited that from her too. One of my favourites was – You would notice an inch on the end of your nose. This referred to skirts that were too long or too short. (She was way ahead of her time would have enjoyed Pinterest)
The value of occasion. She had a real sense of occasion. A tea-tray was set and cups and saucers and always a little something to nibble would be brought out for a visit after school. Making small things special.
The importance of high standards. Always told her three daughters to put a price on themselves. It has been something I have never forgotten – the importance of valuing yourself – featured on my blog here. Her three daughters, my Mum, Aunty Ingrid and Aunty Elna were reminded – Remember you are a Hanson. Basically behave yourself and keep high standards.
Everyone is special. Granny had a way about her that you always believed that the time she spent with you was special. A real gift that I hope I have inherited.
My granny was born on 12 March – she would have been 109 on Saturday and probably still dishing out wisdom in the form of stories. I will set a tea-tray and sit down and raise a cup to Olive Hanson – thank you for the lessons you taught me Granny.
I am always inspired by women who are fabulous in every way. Woman who defy the rules, and set out to reach for their dreams no matter what.
I was invited to an ITWBN blogger event at 56 Central, a new snazzy eatery in Galway. The food was beyond delicious, the décor really extraordinary and the company of my fellow ITWBN bloggers sublime.
What really struck me though was the quiet confidence of the fabulous woman who welcomed us. Gill Carroll spoke with passion when she spoke of the ethos of the restaurant that provides culinary excellence from local producers and invites people to connect.
I knew at this point that I wanted to do a ‘Fabulicoius Woman’ interview with Gill. I wanted to know what made this fabulous woman tick!
Q: You have opened two unique eateries, 37 West renowned for healthy food and 56 Central which is based on connections. Where do you find your inspiration?
Gill: I spend a lot of time researching, studying from great leaders. I take one thing from everyone and then use them to drive me on! You can learn from anyone now online – but, I do like to go to talks as well to get the real deal!
Q What would you consider your greatest achievement in your career thus far and why?
Gill: I think it was when 37 West (the first restaurant launched by Gill), won Best of Galway Awards or when we got our first McKenna award – seeing the teams faces when we got the awards was something special – we all worked hard for them.
Also, creating my vision boards for 37 West and putting them out, and ALL of them coming true!
Q How do you reboot yourself when you hit a low?
Gill: I always go back to basics. I have a Dream Day and over many years have created many vision boards – so when things go low I go back to them – read them and remind myself of where I want to go – where I said I wanted to go when times were good!
It is easy lose focus business is hard – people expect a lot so you. My aim is to follow the words of Tony Robbins and create, not destroy. I have super people around me too, which means in seconds I can connect with people who just get me!
Q Who inspires you? And why?
Gill: So many people!!!
My Dad for his true fearless entrepreneurial spirit.
My Mother for her passion for fun and enjoying life.
My best friend Pat for his constant inspiration.
My business partner Lisa in Strive For It for her passion for consistency.
Q If you had to sit down and have a meal at 37 West – what would you order?
Gill: For breakie I have an omelette with Cajun chicken, jalapeno, feta cheese and gluten-free bread! My last supper would be of course a Chicken melt, chunky chip, garlic mayo and a san Pellegrino lemon! ahhhh heaven. (And I am hungry just reading that)
Q How do you relax? You have two very busy and successful businesses, but I would imagine that you need to relax and rewind at some time. I think this is an important part of being fabulous, hence the question.
Ok, I am bad on the relaxing! I love training, it’s my way of letting go and having me time. I am in the gym early in the morning before the world gets up! I love going to the Radisson to sit in the hot tub for hours.
I believe in the freedom days – taking a day off away from world and doing something very exciting – at least once a month!
Q Lastly, what do you do you do to make yourself feel fabulous?
I am not into make-up, hair or fashion. I have to be told to do that sort of stuff! To feel fab I enter a race the crazier the better – getting your body and mind in shape for something wild like that is when I feel alive inside – like doing Tough Mudder or Spartan race. I feel alive covered in mud in a field, helping myself and others get through some hard hours!
If there’s a charity element I am even more ready to get covered in mud. It makes the whole event so much more worthwhile. Last year I was part of a team that raised €160k for Cystic Fibrosis – a really special moment of my life!
I also love to go for good meal, sip on a big glass of red wine and laugh my head off with good people. Follow it up by dancing my ass off. Basically acting like a big child!
I would like to sincerely thank Gill for not only welcoming me to her restaurant, but also taking the time to do this interview. I can honestly recommend the food at both eateries (and I do love good food).
I started my blog at the beginning of the year, but I can honestly say that the real kick-start came after attending a blogging event.
That first event was the ITWBN meet-up at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway. I was made to feel so welcome and was so inspired by fellow bloggers, speakers and the sparkling and lovely event organised by Saibh and Sinead.
Now, I am not strictly a beauty blogger, but I do love my make-up and love being fabulous so I dressed up fancy (and had my photo taken by a friendly photographer), and headed out with a spring in my step.
What a wonderful an inspiring event. It started with a warm welcome from my fellow bloggers, some which I knew already, and others who I had the pleasure of getting to know. We were treated to gorgeous fruit cocktails and fragrant Solaris tea before sitting down to a spread.
The food was delicious. Our table devoured the yummy savouries and were delighted to receive an extra plate. Scones, and sweet goodies followed all washed down by tea. Catriona from Solaris Tea urged us to try some of the special teas and I found myself addicted to Chai Green Tea, so much so that I had to buy a box to take home!
Joanne is glamorous in person, but is also very down to earth. As she shared her story, I found myself inspired and was quickly jotting down ideas for posts and for increasing my readership. Joanne built her blog from very little. The success of her blog is a result of lots of hard work and consistency. It wasn’t all about beauty, more about blogging and Joanne was very generous about sharing tips for taking your blog the step further. Question time was great, lots more scribbling from me.
No blogging event from the fabulous ITWBN would be complete without a legendary goody bag. Snuggled up on my sofa after the event, the pencil came out again as I started planning even more blog posts based on the goodies!
Blogging can be a very solitary hobby, but by attending events and joining groups you become part of a community. A community of colleagues that are there to inspire you.
This is a two part blog post. The first part is how I got myself stuck on a table in a beauty salon, and the second a tribute to excellent customer service.
I was really excited on Saturday morning, I was returning to Westport for a day of visiting old friends and haunts. The Hair and Beauty Rooms in Westport is a ‘haunt’ and a place where I have made some very good friends. I wanted to treat myself to a few treatments including a leg wax. I honestly believe that every fabulous woman should where possible have salon days (and if money is tight, treat yourself in your own home).
I woke up on Saturday morning bright and breezy and simply sat on the sofa. Pop – my back went out. Excruciating pain. It hasn’t happened for years, but it happened on a day when I didn’t want it to happen. I tried lying on the floor and doing a manoeuvre to pop it back in. The only thing that happened was that the dog was worried about me and tried to lick me better. I struggled up, took a pain killer and set off to Westport. Thankfully I was not driving.
It eased up a bit and I struggled up the stairs of the salon eager to begin my treats. It all went very well. I lay there and was pampered by Lindsay, chatting away and thinking that my back wasn’t really that bad. We got to the part where she asked me to turn over to wax the back of my legs. Eeek – out it went again. I was stuck I couldn’t move one way or another.
Now in a way this was a funny situation, but in another it was awkward. Here I was bent double with half my legs waxed.
I cannot applaud the customer service I received loudly enough. Lindsay was determined that I would leave the salon all beautifully waxed. She finished the job with me bent double – I first for us all. The awkwardness then increased as I realised I couldn’t reach my trousers which had slipped to the floor, never mind get dressed. Lindsay kindly helped me to dress and sent me off to my favourite Westport pharmacy where again I was welcomed and given both great advice and the right medication to relieve the pain and enjoy the time with my friends.
This is a shout out to all those who give amazing customer service as part of their job. They are heroes.
Thank you for reading. If you would like to leave a comment, please do and tell me about your customer service hero.