Eye of the storm

by Tilly Smith Dix

It is said there is a price for living in beauty. Well, after my experience of last week, the price for living in a beautiful region could be exorbitant.

At first, after watching the news, on which the goddess-like blonde weather lady on Channel 7 advised us of the strong winds to be expected from Gippsland, I thought it just another storm in a teacup. After all, the weatherwoman seemed so cheerful during her seemingly delighted delivery of this expected weather event!

Having experienced three big storms, in which one of my trees landed on a neighbour’s roof, trees fell in my garden and even bigger trees fell on my road and surrounds, I became concerned when that quietly ominous wind started its sweeping carnage.

You see, we’d had a lot of rain as winter is our wet season here in the beautiful Hills, the gateway to the Yarra Valley, which leads to the Victorian high country, where the ski slopes beckon.

Why does the rain worry me in the eye of a storm? The eucalyptus trees, whilst growing impressively enormous, have a shallow root system. This results in these giants toppling so much easier when the ground is wet. Imagine sweeping hills and valleys, and you get the picture, trees falling downhill and wreaking havoc with powerlines, roads, houses, vehicles…

This storm, the worst in 40 years, the news anchor said, was different and far more forceful than its predecessors. It started off quietly, but determinedly. Then it built up to a crescendo, which sounded like a large plane flying around and over the house, non-stop, for approximately eight hours. It may have been seven, but I lost track of time.

The first loud bang, like a gunshot, went off behind the bedroom wall, where the cat and I were holed up under the covers. That was the power, gone. I looked through the window and saw a tree on fire. The tree that hit the powerline. I saw my neighbour running around his garden with a torch. I called him on the phone as we would not be able to converse in the noise outside and I was not going out there! I wanted him to get out of harm’s way! He wanted me to know he was calling SES – State Emergency Services.

Luckily, because of all the rain earlier, the tree hanging on the powerline did not burn for long but the damage was done.

Then there was another loud bang, this time, the powerline on the corner of my road, outside a neighbour’s house, exploded. A massive tree branch hit that one. The entire village was now in darkness.

I must have drifted off into some kind of slumber, or trance, and awakened sometime later, when it felt like the earth moved. Still, that drone of a Boeing flying around the house continued but it was no plane, it was the wind, now coming from the south.

This time, I grabbed the torch next to the bed as I heard voices and heard my name, when someone said, “it’s Tilly’s!” I thought perhaps my car had been overturned in the driveway. I stumbled to the lounge, to see what the commotion was through the large windows. Then I realised the view, albeit in darkness, was different. Why? Then it struck me, the massive tree outside my kitchen, where I have spent many happy hours observing and photographing the daily steady stream of prolific birdlife, was no longer there!

Pictured above, the devastation of a storm – in my garden and my neighbours’ home. Then the beautiful, unapologetic sky after…

I again became aware of my neighbours with torches, yelling in the wind, which was travelling at 125km an hour, still. What I saw in their collective torchlight clarified the panic in their voices, the canopy of that enormous tree had smashed through my neighbour’s roof. I was frozen. I could not move. I could not scream.

Finally, I called my neighbour again on his mobile and he confirmed the worst but, at least, nobody was injured. They were simply trying to move their furniture out of the rain pouring through the gaping hole that was their roof no more.

They could seek shelter elsewhere in their house and at least had gas for cooking. However, they now had no water. None of us had power.

They could stay with relatives the next day and their insurance company has put them up in a hotel since then. They remain sanguine throughout. Respect.

The unspeakable damage to homes, cars, powerlines, roads, not to mention the trauma suffered by everyone, not forgetting their animals and the wildlife, is heartbreaking. It will take weeks for folks closer to Mount Dandenong, nearby, to get power back on. As for rebuilding homes and overcoming the emotional shocks, those will take much longer.

A few days later, I received a call from a man named David. He is an arborist and heard about my tree and the neighbour’s damage. He clears trees at no cost for people in difficulty. There are angels on this planet.

After a discussion with my neighbour, we agreed, there are folks in peril who need this Good Samaritan’s services far more than we do at present. We have insurance. Many don’t.

If anything, in the eye of a devastating storm, the light shines bright on these beautiful souls, whilst resilience remains key.

As for that blonde operational meteorologist on TV, she honestly needs to take a turn in a drama school to fine-tune her news delivery style. Just saying.

Winter warmers

Winter is a celebration of whatever warms the soul, in my book anyway. If it warms the cockles of the heart binging on good movies, just do it. Love good music? Turn it up and dance as if nobody’s watching! Curling up with a good read and be transported into another life, go to it. Prefer to travel if you’re allowed and go on a gin tasting safari? Go!

If this past year and the pesky pandemic have taught us anything, it’s an appreciation for special moments, folks, and the good stuff that make us happy and grateful.

From spectacular sunrises to our faithful pets and the abundance of nature around us, life ain’t half bad.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend a ‘special persons day’ at my little prince’s kinder. Seeing life through the eyes of a 3.5-year-old, him showing me all the amenities and serving me banana muffins baked by the teachers and parents, like a little gentleman, was a delight. Nothing melts the heart faster than the sound of children singing. I realised he might become an actor or performer as simply singing with the rest was not for him. While singing, he moved around, owning his space. Adorable.

Afterwards, I took him to his favourite café, set in parkland, which houses a petting farm, where children are allowed to feed chooks and goats at Edendale Community Environment Farm in Eltham. My little man Ashton was such a joy, and I was grateful for spending this quality time with him. These are the things one appreciates so much more now. Last year I missed so much of his and his two equally delightful sisters’ development during lengthy lockdowns. Carpe Diem.

What’s your poison

I saw a social media post recently that resonated with me, deeply. As a result of our personal experiences and horror stories from women we know, and the news, a new ugly monster has reared its multi-faceted head, namely, man-bashing.

The moment someone writes about the bad behaviour of a man, or men, many women hop on that noisy wagon, adding poison to the ghastly wound. This often is a result of their own, or someone close to them, having been treated badly by a man. We found our voice and we are using it.

I do believe, at times, I’ve been guilty of that too. A little wiser now, and less inclined to believe that every male is a bullying, misogynistic narcissist, this is a shoutout to GOOD men. They deserve to be celebrated, respected, and adored. And, yes, they DO exist. I know several and have seen others with my own eyes and it is always heartening to see how those men’s partners flourish in their caring lovelight.

Long may they live, and it is our job to shine a light on their kindness and pure, old-fashioned respect for women.  I remember manners being drilled into our minds, as children. My late dad was a stickler for handling others with respect, especially women. He instilled such behaviour in my brothers too, starting during their formative years. And, if dad was at work, Mom made sure the mutual respect between the sexes were adhered to in the household. Simple rules.

The fact that some men are rotten and think it their satanic duty to abuse and stalk women, even on the internet, where they believe we position ourselves purely for their sick pleasure, cannot be denied. However, we cannot, in our hurt and annoyance, allow these vile bottom-feeders to blind us to the goodness of other men. Cheers to all the good men. And to the rotten apples, take a moment to learn from these gods. Oh, and advertising the size of your manhood or what you would like to do to us does NOT impress.  If that is your poison, scoot over to dial-a-tart-dot-com to find your own kind. Leave the decent women alone. Voetsek – it’s in the dictionary…

Gin’s the word

Armchair travel is my thing for now and, frankly, I’m deeply green with envy as my halcyon day memories of luxe safaris in South Africa are plentiful and everlasting. So, discovering that South Africans are travelling locally at highly reduced rates to five-star safari lodges, such as Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, stoked my enthusiasm!

Gin tasting and winter specials abound at five-star Tau Game Lodge in South Africa.

Having visited that gem, where the game wanders free and the humans are safely contained within the lodge camp, Tau’s June special for gin tasting, overlooking that verdant waterhole, where the magical wild things gather for their own tasting 24/7, is pure safari heaven. Go to www.taugamelodge.co.za to go gin-gin! Out of Africa does not get better…

Staying close to home here in beautiful Victoria near Melbourne, I’ve not been short of delicious food and bubbles either. Lockdown is easing, and I’m off to support my local restaurants, cafes and wineries as we speak…

Pictured above, a typical Maling Road schene; below, left to right, winter street scene; egg, smoked salmon and avocado on sourdough at BetweenUs; new developments depicting the old facades on Maling Road.

So many delightful eateries, where service is friendly and efficient, the food delicious, the local wine pure nectar of the gods. Locations, from scenic city to panoramic Yarra Valley or picturesque Mornington Peninsula scapes, we are simply spoiled for choice.

My local dining maatjie (mate, great friend), and I have explored and often been pleasantly surprised. After an expedition of my surreptitiously looking at properties for sale, my current obsession, we met up for a quick, casual bite in Frankston, at Frankston Waterfront restaurant overlooking Kananook Creek.

The proprietor was about to close for a break before the dinner session but kindly served us anyway, and promptly, as we were ravenous. The crisp, golden crumbed calamari was tender and sweet, attractively plated with fresh, peppery baby rocket, drizzled generously with olive oil, and complemented by plenty aioli and fresh lemon slices. The local bubbles proved a perfect tipple and we promised, like Arnie, to be back, soon! Check them out, you won’t regret it.

Another favourite eating haunt, closer to the city, is Maling Road. I’ve written about the food often but strolling along that delightful community, where the vibe is happy and old world, I was particularly chuffed when I saw newly built office and apartment blocks reflecting the historical façade of most of the older buildings along that road! Hats off to the developers for paying homage to the old, yet, celebrating the new, with updated, gorgeous spaces.

Sofa binge

Filthy Rich, streaming on 7+ with Kim Cattrall. New Orleans. Christian Television network and all the drama and billions attached. Sadly cancelled after one season due to Covid restrictions and production costs. Hope it gets picked up again later by Fox. True escapism. Kim is sensational. Charismatic evangelism at its OTT best!

One of my many passions includes ballet, and the transforming music of composers focused on dance, such as Tchaikovsky. Years ago, I worked with dancers, musicians, actors, and opera stars. I savoured every nuance of their respective crafts. The dancers I particularly enjoyed interacting with at the time, included two highly acclaimed stars, then dancing in New York, Natalia Makarova, who had defected from Russia, and Ivan Nagy, who escaped from Hungary. Sadly, Nagy is no longer with us, and I now discover he retired from dance aged only 35, subsequently directing film and television, including episodes of CHiPs. He was married to Australian ballerina Marilyn Burr when he died. With a riveting noble stage presence, he was one of America’s most highly acclaimed dancers. He had, in fact, danced with Dame Margot Fonteyn as well.

Natalia Makarova was tiny, beautiful and frankly, born to dance as she floated across the stage like a gossamer butterfly as you could not hear her touch the stage floor! As we had similar measurements at the time, I did the preliminary fittings for her costumes, designed by my friend, sadly also no longer with us, Dicky Longhurst, who became a successful fashion designer.

Makarova and Nagy came to dance a world premiere of Swan Lake in South Africa. I was in dance heaven. Her performances set new standards of artistry in the West. Still beautiful at 80, I believe she still choreographs her passion, ballet.

A few years after working with them, they returned to South Africa and whilst I did not work with them at that time, I managed to say ‘hi’ at a favourite eatery on the Sea Point waterfront, La Perla, and I was immensely flattered they remembered me! Well, I guess you don’t forget a company manager (just an assistant PR making sure the stars are happy and arrive at rehearsals on time in those days), who took them gliding for entertainment! We all sang or whistled Windmills of Your Mind, during that quiet flight. If you are old enough to remember the original Thomas Crown Affair, starring Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen, you’ll get my drift.

These vivid, magical memories came flooding back when I watched a documentary on Netflix of the magnificent Rudolph Nureyev. Seeing him described, at that time, as a dancer with animalistic charisma, does not surprise me. Beautiful, poised, and with a dark side stemming probably from beatings by his cruel Tartar father and the tough life they had when captured by Russia. I believe his emotional traumas inspired much of his relentless dance techniques, and an ability to embrace the art as a virtuoso as well as classical dance god.

I highly recommend this riveting documentary. His personal relationship with Dame Margot Fonteyn is not depicted in depth, mostly in dance, but there is an indication they loved each other deeply. Kindred spirits in dance, which in the artistic world often leads to romance. Such relationships are complex but I do have a deep understanding thereof. They were, indeed, magic on stage and his respect for her never dwindled, even when she left the stage to take care of her womanising husband, Tito,  Roberto Arias, when he became disabled. She died in Panama in 1991.

Another binge includes the finale, Season 3, of The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas. He has aged like a fox and frankly, I enjoy his work more now that he is a silver fox. Sensitive, funny, poignant, this final series had me glued to the sofa for the weekend! Prepare to laugh, be outraged, and cry like a girl. I did.

Spotlight on style

Fashionistas abound and nobody could be more thrilled with the feminine, gossamer, floaty designs, reappearing in our midst, reminiscent of the Halston era, than me. Pure mastery, it was, except for his JC Penny era…

Watching all five episodes about this iconic fashion designer, who’s life sadly spiralled out of control because of drugs, drink and fast living, was riveting. Brilliantly cast and directed, the series on Netflix had me spellbound.

Ewan McGregor nails it in the title role, whilst Krista Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli, Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti, Bill Pullman as David Mahoney, Gian Franco Rodriquez as Victor Hugo, and Rory Culkin as Joel Schumacher were all brilliant.

The fashion and elegance of the era, where plenty hedonistic action took place at Studio 54, currently a Broadway theatre in New York, which I spotted on my last visit to New York. Gosh, it was certainly an eyeopener what went on in that club – since 1927! I remember seeing pictures, in my early twenties, of Bianca Jagger riding a white horse into the Club on her birthday! This was a typical Halston era moment, I’d say.

My older sister, 16 years my senior, was a tall, movie-star model beauty, who always looked elegant. Some of my earliest memories of style and grace are of the cool elegance of Rina. She would have been a perfect Halston model. She is still a beauty.

A kind friend, returning from the US, brought me a frothy evening dress, designed by Halston in the late 70s, as well as the perfume. I felt like the queen of style, dancing at Raffles in Cape Town back in the day. I was invincible in that creation and the scent of a woman lingers on…

Now in the chilly throes of winter here in panoramic Victoria, I’m loving the feather-soft, snuggle-friendly mohair, alpaca-merino wool blends and cosy comfort of being wrapped in luxe coats from my vintage closet. As for hats, any excuse, especially when it’s raining, and a bad hair day is threatening to overthrow any serious attempts at looking respectable in the hair department. A hat, a wise person once said, is making a statement without saying a word. Not talking hats with corks to keep flies at bay. Not all of us wear those here in Aussie…especially not in winter, when the flies head to warmer pastures, perhaps Queensland, as everybody seems to be ducking off in that direction, chuckle…

Here’s a taste of some of the current trends I’ve been featuring on my fashion page on Instagram – for more detail, pop to Sixty_is_the_new_40 for some winter style inspiration. While you are there, take a peep at some of my spectacular followers – those gals know how to shine their light on style, all over this fabulous fashion world of ours…from spring to summer, fall to winter, every season offers new beginnings and ways to refresh an ageless wardrobe…I call it therapy! They are also incredibly supportive of each other. A magical tribe.

Cheers to a good life, choose joy, gratitude, and stay safe…

A Winter’s Tale

By Tilly Smith Dix

Well, just colour me in autumn shades of blissfully happy. Why, say you, when so many folks are already complaining about the colder season setting in?

This is the time for comfort food, cosy log fires, scenic drives, delicious cake, hot chocolate and my favourite, layering up for cosy comfort.

Cooking also becomes more fun as one does not feel like a slave in a hot kitchen. Rocking a full apron over comfy woollen sweaters, the scene is set for some hearty soups, warm puddings (date pudding is my favourite), and delicious casseroles.

Yes, I know in other parts of this blue planet others are now entering spring and I’m happy for them – new beginnings! Changing seasons is a beautiful thing and Mother Nature remains a marvel, in spite of too many humans doing their utmost to mess her up…

I’ve often featured the myriad colourful bird species gracing my garden with their presence. I, however, never take for granted the sweetness and peace of doves. I currently have a honeymoon couple canoodling on my deck daily, looking at me as if I’m a voyeur. Love makes them bold, I guess…who could blame them as the sunrise spectacular playing out over the Yarra Ranges certainly creates a profound sense of owning the panoramic views.

A childhood memory of me nursing an injured dove, giving it warmth in my bed, springs to mind. The poor creature was wrapped in soft old towels in no time, in its own bed, an open shoe box, as I ended up in the bath, pajamas, sheets and all, as the poor bird was covered in lice, which took a quick liking to the taste of my five-year old skin! I do remember my parents stifling giggles, shame on them, I was mortified. Happy ending, the dove survived and could be set free after a few days.

Lovey dovey on the deck at sunrise over the Yarra Valley.

Cathy, me and the sofa

Speaking of trends, I’m kinda bored with the endless violence, loud music, space-age speed and unrealistic and often hard-edged contents of most movies and have decided to take a sabbatical from new movies, unless they come highly recommended. Call it my new therapy. It’s like wearing an old, comfortable pair of slippers. You know their flaws, but you know they’re going to keep your feet warm and toasty.

I might get shot at dawn for this criticism, but I honestly was bored watching the 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the cast, I never tire of the story and visually, it was magnificent. However, Kenneth Branagh really made a meal of promoting brand Branagh, I fear. I worship Dame Judi Dench and adore Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Lucy Boynton and Willem Dafoe, not so keen on Johnny Depp anymore, but that’s personal, savvy…

I was addicted to Agatha Christie stories from my teens right up to my late twenties. Could not get enough. Mystery, glamour, always catching the bad guys so elegantly.

So, last night I watched the 1974 movie again. Directed by the late, great writer, producer and director, Sydney Lumet. The cast, similar to the most recent production, was very much a who’s who in Hollywood too, with the amazing and now sadly deceased Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery and the still fabulous Jacqueline Bisset, whom I had the privilege of interviewing when she visited South Africa in the early 1990s. She was modest, gracious, and so natural and easy to converse with. I remain a fan.

As for the other late luminaries cast, such as Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, John Gielgud and Ingrid Bergman, all I can say is some current stars and directors have enormous shoes to fill.

The music by Richard Rodney Bennett was sweeping and sophisticated, fitting for a grand event such as the Orient Express.

I did, however, find a delightful more recent movie on Netflix, titled Boundaries, starring one of my all-time favourite actors, Christopher Plummer, who sadly passed in February, with the beautiful and always authentic Vera Farmiga. I highly recommend this movie, a true gem. There are some telling lessons here and several great laughs. The one-liner that had me howling with glee, causing Cathycat to look at me with deep concern, was Plummer’s character telling his daughter, played by Farmiga, she was the Pied Piper of mange!

Vera’s character attracts stray dogs in need of physical and often emotional help. This movie gives one some quirky ideas about overcoming family drama and old grudges. I may watch it again.

Yep, it’s just dawned on me, many of the stars I admired greatly for so long are now dead. My late dad used to say you knew you were getting near the finishing line when most people you admired are dead. Scary but, in my defence, these folks were all plenty older than me…just saying.

That being said, life is for the living. The past is there only to draw good memories and valuable lessons from. Otherwise, the present is now, and we should savour every moment. Yes, we must plan and dream about a good future but the here and now is going to be in the past tomorrow! Deep, right? Simple, though.

Friends with benefits

Yep, that got your attention! Sorry, no sexy stories here, only good vibes about friends and family who have our backs, as we should have theirs.

Never, in my lifetime, has there been a time when I have felt more grateful than now. Given this pandemic, causing suffering and loss in so many ways, from physical and mental health, to financial disasters, having our tribe in our corner, is key.

With loved ones offering emotional comfort and some even financial assistance where needed, it has to be said, silver linings are more evident than ever. Never underestimate how much we need each other in good as well as bad times.

My sweet late mom believed in putting out caring energy. She often said the people at which you direct the much-needed comfort very often might not be the ones to return the favour when you need it but that in the end, the Universe equals it out. Now I hear a tune by The Beatles, The End, in which the lyrics end with: “And in the end, the love you make, is equal to the love your take….” Somehow, that works for me. More so than when I bought that album, my only Beatles Album, Abbey Road, all those years ago.

Feeding the beast

Ah, food, glorious food, so many choices, such eclectic choices and, joy of joys, we are able to eat in restaurants, drink wine and fix the world with the folks we adore spending time with.

I’ve reviewed Between Us on Maling Road, Melbourne before. However, I had a dish there recently, which was so spectacular, I simply have to mention it again. Next time you’re in Canterbury, try the crayfish tail, prawns, poached egg, sauteed dill spinach and sourdough bread. Washed down with a glass of delicious bubbles, and the world is hunky-dory, darlings!

I’ve just discovered where the term hunky-dory comes from, thank you, Professor Google! Apparently, it’s from a street called Honcho-dori in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors coming ashore go in search of all the things sailors on shore-leave go looking for. So, there’s your sexy story, happy now?

Scenes from Waves on the Beach Restaurant, Frankston. Top right, prawns, chorizo and sour dough, lamb cigar, and golden fried calamari.

Another delicious meal consumed in the good company of my lovely tribeswoman Rika, was at Waves on the Beach in Frankston. Can’t fault a restaurant with great service, ocean as well as city views, and scrumptious food! Ah, and then there is the French bubbles, which, to our delight, happened to cost less than a glass of local. Go figure…

As usual, our eyes were too big for our stomachs after a scenic drive around the Mornington Peninsula. Ocean air will do that to you.

Crayfish tail, baby spinach, prawns and hollandaise on sour dough at Between Us.

We picked three small dishes, to enjoy tapas style, and this proved a resounding culinary triumph. Lamb cigars, golden-fried calamari, and king prawns and chorizo bowl. I’ve not been to Spain as Italy and France always had a stronger draw for me but this kind of dining may lure me there! Hook, line and sinker, I’m a new fan of Waves on the Beach. In the words of Arnie, “hasta la vista, baby – I’ll be back…”

Book worm

Receiving a book to review is always a challenge as I’d like to deliver a glowing review but what if it stinks! As I honestly try to remain authentic, I tell all the collaborators who liaise with me I’ll not give a bad review of their product or books. However, if I don’t like it, I’d rather advise them and return their gift.

So, when I received a book from Smith Publicity in the US, written by Eugenia Zukerman to review, Like Falling Through a Cloud, I was captivated from page one.

           

A poignant book of poetry about her trying journey with Altzheimers, by Eugenia Zukerman, Like Falling Through a Cloud. Available on Amazon.

This is a lesson in learning to deal with early onset of Altzheimers with grace and dignity. I cried and laughed. Eugenia’s creative mind refuses to give in without a challenge, painting her journey with poetic prose, often outraged. I salute this incredible woman and her courage is an inspiration. Some of her musings reminded me of my late mom’s struggles when her memory started to fade during the onset of Parkinsons, as well as my adored Melbourne relative’s current struggle with dementia. I highly recommend this book and if this does not bring poetry back on literary trend, I’ll eat my hard copy.

I could not have summarised it better than my favourite cellist, Yo-Yo Ma: “Eugenia Zukerman reminds us of the delicate balance between human fragility and resilience.” Indeed. Respect.

Fashionistas unite

I’m besotted with the new fashion trends for winter as it is so reminiscent of my youth. Feminine, sometimes edgy, flowing, or boho elegant. In fact, anything goes. You love Audrey Hepburn’s elegant style from Breakfast at Tiffanies? Got it. You like the trendy style so colourful and sassy back in the day when Carnaby Street was top of the pops? You’re in!

Never a follower of specific trends, especially if I thought they did not suit me, except for those enormous shoulder pads we wore in the Eighties, which only looked okay if we were 6 foot plus and stick skinny, cringe.

Layered up for autumn. Much of the above featured items are from my vintage closet – slow fashion is my forte. Okay, I’m a sucker for good quality that lasts. The vibrantly coloured jumpers as well as the check knit are current, ranging from Seed Heritage to Country Road to Witchery, great Australian designs to complement any revived classics. Detailed descriptions and tags are available on my Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40 page – locations for the shoots featured above are at home and at The Loft in the Mill, Olinda.

By now, my male readers are losing interest as we all know, most of them love the feminine form to be displayed with very little left to the imagination. Do not fear, my good chaps, we will not be wearing shapeless cheesecloth and caftans covering every inch of our female form. We are simply leaving more to the imagination, in a classier style. Move over burlesque, fabulously elegant is back.

From trend-setting leather and suede trousers to snug blazers, to comfy coats, wear it with panache. Confidence is feeling fabulous.

Cheers to the good life and to all the amazing people in our lives…happy autumn or spring, wherever you may be – just choose happy!

Sweet Easter surrender

Ever had a dream within a dream? It could be amazing or a nightmare. I guess Freud would have had an explanation for it but I believe our subconscious manifests our dreams, feeding on our fears, expectations, and, I am told by some, flashbacks from past lives. One could lose your marbles trying to debate which is which, so, I prefer to dissect dreams and turn them to my advantage. Got to stay positive, right?

While contemplating how to spend the Easter weekend, starting with Good Friday, a message from my sister appeared on Whatsapp, and it just seemed so apt:

The Irony of Life: it takes sadness to realise what happiness means, chaos leads to appreciating silence, and absence leads to the value of presence. Food for thought.

Don’t get lost in love – stay true to you and if love is worthy it will stay. I wish I could say this to folks on the train, when I cannot help but overhear their conversations. Okay, I do have great hearing and find it intriguing. Mia culpa!

One such conversation, a while back, took place between two thirty-something women. One was advising the other on the way she always fell in love. It seemed the one telling her story was compromising and not always showing her authentic self. This reminded me of what a classic actress once said about being divorced so often, the fact that men went to bed with one of her sexy, romantic characters, then seemed disappointed when they woke up with her.

I believe this is something many of us are or have been guilty of. Is it because we don’t think our true self is good enough? One of the many things I like about ageing is a better understanding of what makes me happy and who I am. We need to appreciate who we are. Finding too many flaws? We are the masters of our souls. We are good enough. If someone makes us feel like we are not their first choice, smile, shake hands, and walk away.

I see plenty flirtations on social media. Many of these people are married or in a committed relationship. Why does the grass always seem greener on the other side? Often, it’s simply because we are not watering our own lawn. If we treat our loved ones as if they don’t matter, they will behave as if they don’t matter.

Enough with the agony column, on with what was a much-deserved long weekend!

I believe long weekends are sent to rejuvenate us when we need it the most. I plan weekends and cherish at least one quiet day to regroup, potter, listen to music, and have peace.

It is a privilege to have my adorable little family nearby. Nothing is more joyful than watching kiddos hunt for those sweet delights, getting hyper-active on all that chocolate, then crashing early when Mom and Dad are in need of a respite, bliss, I’m told.

My pixies are lucky as they have a balanced upbringing, with plenty crafting to develop their imagination, reading, outdoor activities and occasionally, a movie to get them to relax before bed. I got my fix of plenty hugs, delicious food I did not have to prepare, bubbles, chocolates, great company, giggles and catching up with my adored family and their friends on Sunday. I sang in the car all the way home as it made my heart soar, these precious moments in time!

I did not hunt for Easter eggs but as my lovely neighbours are away, I’m collecting fresh eggs daily from their chooks, as those hens get all my leftover scraps. A fair deal, I’d say… but I must also mention how fond I’ve become of those feathered darlings. We have lively conversations.

Dining pleasures

After the lengthy forced abstinence from dining out, namely lockdown, my friends and I are making up for lost time. Things we took for granted for too long are now so much appreciated. Just being in the company of caring friends who support each other, is now a treasured occasion. Thank you Covid, you got something right…

Whenever I venture to the Mornington Peninsula, sweet friend Rika takes me on a grand tour of the beautiful surrounds as a prelude to lunch. So, when she visits to explore more of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, I am more than happy to return the favour as I love this region of plenty.

Our recent lunch at the Healesville Hotel was scrumptious and we opted for the alfresco experience, dining under the trees and umbrellas on a perfect late-summers day.

The thinly beer-battered, generous portions of fish, chips, duck croquettes, crab and avocado salad, washed down with some local Yarra Valley bubbles, were sensational.

Pictured above, clockwise, from top left: avocado and crab salad, beer-battered fish and chips, outdoor dining, the road to Healesville, and the duck croquette at The Healesville Hotel.

The drive back to my village, through the back of Healesville, past the Tarrawarra Art Museum and vineyards, green pastures, paddocks with healthy livestock and rolling hills, where kangaroos usually appear before sunset, proved yet another sweet distraction and we agreed, we were both ready to address life head-on again.

Did I mention alpacas are also popular livestock here? When they are not actively bred for their luxuriously soft wool, they also serve a vital purpose, protecting lambs from foxes, as alpacas stomp and foxes are not stupid.

On another occasion, we took one of my favourite drives in the world, up there with Big Sur in California, Chapman’s Peak in Cape Town, and the Garden Route of South Africa, Mount Dandenong Road to the charming village of Olinda on top of the mountain.

Dudley’s in Olinda was buzzing with good cheer and the delicious mezze and sizzling haloumi cheese with olive paste did not disappoint. In fact, we loved the Helen’s Hill bubbles served with our meal so much, we traversed back to the Yarra Valley to purchase a few bottles from their cellar door, which is not far from where I live.

Another delectable lunch with my South African tribe living in Melbourne was at The Beach Café in Seaford. My BBQ Ocean Prawn salad was simply delicious. Pity they are not licensed but they are working on it, I’m told.

During my recent visit to the Peninsula, I revisited The Rocks in Mornington, which is great value. You can’t find a better seaside location, right up there with The Baths in Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula.

The Rocks restaurant overlooks the yacht basin of Mornington and is conveniently situated in the Yacht Club. This just always brings back happy memories of my teens, when I lived in a sailing community overlooking an estuary in South Africa.

Again, the food and service at The Rocks were sterling and the conversation effervescent between three good friends. Nothing beats bonding further over a delicious meal, sipping something heavenly and savouring a panoramic vista.

My linguini marinara was laden with plump prawns and succulent mussels. The chef even obliged by omitting the tomato at my request. We’ll be back!

Dining at Bond Store in South Bank in Melbourne proved a less enjoyable experience with my friends, though. An extremely rude waitress with a French accent put a dampener on our lunch.

However, the manager was extremely apologetic and compensated generously for his staff member’s bad service and shocking attitude. I’d give the restaurant another go as I believe regular staff are now returning to their old posts as Job Keeper has run its Covid course. It’s a charming location in the city, close to the Yarra River, where old architecture meets modern skyscrapers in this still most liveable city.

I know I’ve mentioned my neighbours owning a dream wedding event destination, surrounded by verdant vineyards, rose gardens and a lake in a previous, in fact several, blogs. Last year was a disaster for that industry because of the lengthy lockdown, as we know only too well, but it is heartening to see business picking up again.

On weekends, when there is no wedding party in progress, Immerse, in the Yarra Valley, is open for lunch to the public – always good to make a reservation as the food is fabulous and the restaurant is popular.

What I love about Helen and Stephen Myles, is not only are they good friends, they seemingly read my mind too. I was indecisive as everything on the menu was calling my name! So, they suggested we order several smaller portions to sample and enjoy between three.

Their bread is a treat, and I’m not a lover of bread! Served with the chef’s choice of dip, olives, parmesan oil and Murray River salt flakes, it is pure sour-dough heaven.

We relished the confit duck arancini with pear and fig relish, parmesan, pickled vegetable salad and pomegranate; the chorizo and manchego croquette, chickpea, corn, roast pepper salad and smoked paprika aioli hit the spot; and the kuro prawns, soba noodles, edamame, radish, cucumber, coriander, roast sesame dressing and renkon proved a sensation.

I’m no longer a dessert fan but again, my arm was twisted easily and sharing the lemon meringue tart with passionfruit sorbet, blood orange puree and yuzu syrup, plus blueberry cheesecake with lychee, cream and glass shards, as well as a sinful chai and almond panna cotta with vanilla tuille, coconut and mango sorbet with pistachio crumble, proved the perfect finale to a superb experience.

Of course, I’ve always been a fan of Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay and I was not shy to indulge on this day, again…I did find the energy to report my experience on TripAdvisor as it was the very least I could do after such a glorious spoil. Then I had a late afternoon snooze…

Dining at Immerse in the Yarra Valley, pictured clockwise, from top left: views of the gardens from the restaurant, setting up for a wedding dinner, raspberry cheesecake, and a symphony of flavours in: confit duck arancini with pear and fig relish, parmesan, pickled vegetable salad and pomegranate; kuro prawns, soba noodles, edamame, radish, cucumber, coriander, roast sesame dressing and renkon; and chorizo and manchengo croquette, chickpea, corn, roast pepper salad with smoked paprika aioli.

On the couch

So many choices of sofa bingeing and when in doubt, I tend to return to old favourites as I’m looking for a happy ending, just common old feel-good viewing of a story that feels like a comfortable blanket, almost like a home-made quilt, not always perfect but cosy. Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond and Greg Kinnear, is one of those indulgences. I still love the soundtrack too – evergreen.

Speaking of security blankets, How to Make an American Quilt, with the late and forever inspiring Maya Angelo, Winona Rider, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Bancroft and Dermot Mulroney, still gives me that warm, cosy feeling.

Recent releases that have proved enjoyable, with staying power for me, include: The Dig, with the adorable Lilly James and Ralph Fiennes; and Yesterday, again with Lily James, Himesh Patel, featuring Ed Sheeran in a cameo role. Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, both from a British sitcom I used to take great delight in, The Kumars at No. 42, are good value, as always. Get ready for sweet, happy tunes to get good memories flowing. Especially if you are old enough to remember The Beetles, (chuckle).

Sleeping Beauty

Health, beauty and fashion cannot be ignored as, after all, it is the very essence of my expanding Instagram following. It simply goes to show starting a hobby with stuff we are passionate about, we will be rewarded, somehow.

One of the many rewards is the support and inspiration most of the Insta tribe members I interact with offer each other. It is a joy and, especially during these trying times of lockdowns, illness and struggles, they are there for each other. So many people get lonely and sad, and this is a great way to offer some solace, albeit from a distance.

One of the many thrills of my Sixty_is_the_new_40 page is the fact that I get to collaborate with some incredible people, who produce superb skin and beauty products, not to mention glamorous fashion!

I wish to remain authentic and will not test, wear or promote anything unless I have tried it for a while – or the design fits my form. If it does not come up to par, I will report this to the product representatives.

The highly professional and courteous publicist for i-On Skincare contacted me several weeks ago. We negotiated and now, after having put the Age Disrupting Skin Cream and Age Disrupting Total Performance Eye Cream to the test, I am delighted to share the news of my rejuvenated skin.

Featuring DII technology, a proprietary age-disrupting technology that safely removes excess iron from the skin to prevent formation of free radicals, which produce lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity and uneven skin tone, commonly known as ageing skin, I’m now convinced @iOnskincare is delaying the ageing process in my skin.

Founded by Dr Xi Huang, one of the world’s leading researchers on the correlation between iron levels and health, the publicist informed me the product would reduce the appearance of wrinkles rapidly.

The range contains the latest scientifically advanced anti-ageing ingredients, whilst it also, in the case of the Eye Cream, reduces dark circles under the eyes. After several weeks of using the products continuously, I see a visible improvement in my skin and am in total agreement with these claims.

Key ingredients include: De-ironizing Inducer (D.I.I.) – a blend of reducing agents, such as vitamin C, and high buffering capacity clearing agents, such as pearl powder, which removes excess iron from ferritin in the skin to prevent the formation of free radicals; Key Peptides – includes acetyl tetrapeptide-11, which helps skin look and feel healthier, and tetrapeptide-9, which restores the skin’s natural support system and stimulates collagen production for smoother, firmer skin; Portulaca Oleracea Extract – a herb with anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties to benefit sensitive and/or allergy-prone skin; Different Molecular Weights of Sodium Hyaluronate – two super-charged forms of skin-replenishing hyaluronic acid formulated to provide deeper and longer-lasting hydration; and Fucus Vesiculosus Extract – a heme oxygenase-1 inducer, which acts to degrade hemoglobin, thereby reducing dark circles.

After the first application, I awakened with my skin tingling, but in a good way. I knew I’d not see results after one night but checked in the mirror anyway. No rash, no allergy, a great start.

I can honestly say that after several weeks of applying the eye and skin cream daily, my skin seems plumper, and the fine lines I’ve been dreading seem to have gone undercover!

I highly recommend @iOnskincare and would happily continue using it. We all say age is just a number, and to defy it, not deny it. So, for now, this over-sixty gal is feeling extremely lucky as my skin is positively glowing.

See more at www.ionskincare.com – tell them Sixty_is_the_new_40 sent you! You’ll thank me later…

 

In the mix

Autumn is slowly winding her way through the final throes of summer and I could not be happier. Layers, mixing, matching, not working up a sweat, totally my thing!

I’ve always enjoyed autumn colours as they are warm and seem to complement my skin. However, I’ve had such encouragement from my Insta fashion gang about wearing pastels and pink, I’m clinging to it as there is no rule for colour and seasons. I’m loving the jewel colours coming into the fold again, gone for so long, and I even see some of those colours reflected by the fashionistas across the waters, now entering spring.

Someone recently said, the trick was to be the trend, not to follow the trend. I like that as I believe we should wear what brings us joy. To many of us, clothes are an extension of our personality as well as a mood-changer. When we feel good, we act good.

Dressing for oneself is so much more rewarding than dressing for others. One of the many things I love about ageing, I don’t care what others think of me. I know who I am, I know what makes me happy, and I try to avoid anything or folks who make me unhappy. Simple. Easy.

So, cheers to us owning who we are, and cheers to a good life, darlings, we only live once…twice, if we are really lucky!

Run, Charlotte, run!

by Tilly Smith Dix

This is an email I’ve sent to this scammer, who stole my images off Instagram and my blog to create a fake US passport card as well as fake online dating profiles to scam elderly, lonely men.

How did the victims find me? They used Google’s photo reverse tracking to find the origins of my images once they became suspicious of my likeness, known as Charlotte Shaw. To all the real Charlotte Shaws out there, report this thief for stealing your identity! Don’t be abused.

Why did this despicable person steal my photos? I live in Australia and they probably thought my pictures would not be recognised in the US. They underestimated this South African – and the power of the internet. So, this is what I sent to one of their known email addresses. I also have their phone number…want it?

Above, photographs stolen from my Instagram fashion page by the fraudster to create a false US ID and online dating profiles to defraud lonely older men!

Email to a fraudulent thief:

Charlotte – we know this is not your real name and international crime investigation is on it now.

You call yourself Charlotte, amongst other names I’m sure, defrauding lonely older men on dating sites. Yes, some of those people were smart enough to find me to report your actions to me, using MY images! How DARE you!

You have messed with the wrong person by stealing my photographs to create your fake ID and profiles to scam people. I used to be an investigative journalist. Your crime is a federal offence around the world – from Nigeria to the US!

Your actions have been reported to international internet fraud government divisions. We now have all your contact details and images used in your disgusting scams, with your digital ID. It is rather exciting.

Today I am going live on the internet with your fake IDs and images used of me. I believe it is going viral.

I suggest you start deleting my images and running back to the dark hole you obviously come from – vile bottom-feeders like you eventually go to jail. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun there, meeting others just like you.

I have blind copied several authorities herewith. I look forward to taking this to the next level. International law is an exciting field.

Keep doing this and simply dig a deeper hole for yourself. You are now in the spotlight.

You can run but you cannot hide.

TILLY

Lemons, tequila and lemon meringue pie

by Tilly Smith Dix

So far, I’ve managed to ease into this new year with quiet resolve, mostly…

We’ve had a pretty good run with this pesky virus since the Holidays but we ended up in a five-day level-4 lockdown after a scare in a quarantine hotel, with international visitors returning to Melbourne.

The new cases were identified and isolated, so, for now, we are back on track, able to travel beyond 5km from our homes, kids back at school and shops and businesses operating again.

Sadly, so many shops have had to close their doors since this chaotic pandemic took hold of our world and I’m making it my mission to support local businesses and local brands. Got to reach out to those with the determination and resources to continue earning their livelihood and creating jobs for others for a fighting chance.

Someone posted on Facebook some time ago how tired they were of all the pearls of wisdom others were sharing as it seemed so cliched. I beg to differ. Proverbs remind us of good, simple old values, often. Actually, I don’t beg at all.

Valentines Day came and went and several folks seemed sad as they either had no Valentine or they were stuck with the wrong Valentine. My pearl of wisdom, to quote a message from one of the greatest songs ever written, sung by the great George Benson and then by the late great Whitney Houston: “learning to love oneself, is the greatest love of all.” Amen to that, darlings.

Years ago, a friend suspected her husband, whom she regarded as her soulmate, was having an affair. She was crushed and whilst she had no concrete proof, she felt he was not as present as he’d been in their first 15 years together.

I advised her to send herself a bunch of roses every week from an anonymous admirer. Yes, she knew she’d sent them but receiving those beautiful blooms with a card that read, “you are loved, never forget,” gave her joy!

At first, her husband seemed amused. By the second week he got antsy. By the third week he had a total freak-out. Her response, “I have no idea who it is but gosh, it’s nice to know somewhere in the world someone is thinking of me with such admiration.”

By the fourth week, her husband started sending her roses. Now, almost twenty years later, they are still together and happy. I think it was the flush of joy on her face that got to said husband every time she received the ‘anonymous,’ blooms.

A further proverb to annoy those who don’t appreciate them, see the worry in my eye, baby, is, ‘when life gives us lemons.’ What to do? Decide what your poison is, whether you prefer to make lemonade, margaritas, or lemon meringue pie. Can’t decide? Feeling a bit overwhelmed?

Take your sweet time to decide. Start by taking quiet time, just for you. Breathe. Look at nature. Detach from the stress. Get lost in a silly movie or a sad one, whatever. By escaping reality temporarily, the mind gets a break and soon, it becomes easier to tap into our inner wisdom – and instincts. This is the gold that seals the cracks in our fractured lives. Be kind to you. It DOES get better, (note to self)…

A walk in the hood

Living in Victoria is pure joy. Spoilt for choice to walk, hike or get serious about physical endurance-testing, it does not get better than this.

One of the trails I enjoy strolling in, in my steady, easy pace so I can still stop to smell the sweet, clean hilltop air, or chat to a kookaburra gazing at me with an inquisitive eye, is the Lilydale Warburton trail. The old rail track is ideal for walkers and cyclists.

Pictured above, scenes from the Lilydale-Warburton trail. A kookaburra quietly focused on lunch…

I don’t enjoy crowds when I’m communing with nature and it never seems crowded on this trail. My most recent meander was on a cool Sunday and it was quiet. The few folks passing me would greet, smile, and move along.

I heard a rustle in the tree above me and looking up, there was a juvenile kookaburra quietly waiting for something in the bush to present itself for a tasty Sunday lunch. I’m not insulted that said kooka ignored me quietly chatting to it. Focus on the prize…and free lunch! Much to learn from kookaburras.

Just driving to my family a mere 35 minutes away is like a holiday. My preferred route is through Wonga Park to Warrandyte. Horses, livestock, alpacas, kangaroos, it is always a panoramic treat.

Pictured above, driving between Lilydale and Warrandyte, clockwise, from left, kangaroos relaxing before sunset, healthy livestock and pretty horses.

Bonding with the sofa

A friend recently messaged me that he was going to propose to his sofa as it is truly his best mate.

My most recent indulgences from the comfort of my trusty sofa include: The Undoing, starring Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman. Riveting stuff with an unexpected twist.

I got hooked on Big Little Lies, also starring Nicole Kidman. There’s a scene where a narcissistic husband loses the family fortune. However, he salvages something that is of importance to him, at enormous cost. I don’t want to spoil the scene but think of me when the wife’s preferred choice of weapon against the offending treasured toy is a baseball bat. I’ve always wondered what such action would feel like and boy, it looked good…

The location, Big Sur, is a region I fell madly in love with during my visits some years ago. In fact, I spotted Doris Day, then still alive, walking her dog and her smile was just as bright as when she was a young woman. So, it was a little trip down happy memory lane, watching this captivating series.

Another series I’ve really enjoyed, is Firefly Lane. This is a sensational comeback for the talented Katherine Heigl, who is also part of the production team. The always captivating Sarah Chalke needs more PR. The enduring friendship between two polar opposite friends seems so true to life and I am hooked. An Aussie star making headlines in the US, Ben Lawson, does a great job in his role as a self-absorbed TV producer.

Watch documentaries at your peril. Most of them are quality viewing. However, watching the life of Jeffrey Epstein was not ideal viewing before bedtime. It shook me to my core, again being reminded how this sick individual, now gone, and his female companion, who’s name I cannot bring myself to even type, ruined the lives of young women not yet old enough to have been called women. How does a woman do this to other members of her species, especially young girls, or anyone, for that matter? I hardly slept. May justice be swift.

If you appreciate diamonds in the rough, and a saga of ranchers experiencing plenty hard knocks, peppered with some booze, romance and plenty laughter, flick to The Ranch on Netflix. Ashton Kutcher, Sam Elliott, Debra Winger, are included in this sterling cast. Warning, you won’t stop until you’ve seen the satisfying finale.

Remember the beautiful Katherine Ross from The Graduate? She is married to Sam Elliott, my quintessential modern cowboy. He is even more craggy now but still ticks the boxes as an actor and grumpy good guy. Loved him in The Ranch. Salt of the earth.

Fabulous food

Driving to the Mornington Peninsula to have lunch with my best South African maatjie in Aussie, (friend in juvenile Afrikaans), is always special and getting a fix of the azure bay, heady sea breezes and relaxed vibe of the region is food for the soul.

This time, we visited Mount Eliza and I was delighted by the old-world charm and refreshed town centre, and location. As it is mostly a residential village, it was not heaving with holidaymakers.

We had a mezze feast at 1001 Nights, an authentic Turkish restaurant. The service, atmosphere, Covid-safe operations, and food made for a superb lunch. I’ll be back!

Pictured above, clockwise, from top left, my lovely Instagram friend Sue, Turkish mezze platter at 1001 Nights in Mount Eliza, outdoor dining Mount Eliza, salmon eggs at BetweenUs on Maling Road.

My first taste of Turkish cuisine was at Sofra in St Christopher Place, London. Not a tourist in sight, even though it was a tiny Turkish hop from Selfridges but tucked behind the bustle of Oxford Street, with quaint cobble-stoned roads to picturesque mews homes.

It became a favourite haunt of mine during my visits to that bustling city, where I could meet friends, family or even dine solo, observing locals going about their business, especially the view of the deli next door selling scrumptious treats.

Joyful memories of similar eateries around the world and feeling welcome in a place where most folks seem to know each other’s name, truly enhances the dining experience for me. Not apologising for that little quip from Cheers. If you’re old enough to remember the series, cheers, mate.

I also had a delicious catch up with my lovely friend Sue, who spends her time between homes in Hawthorn and Sorrento, lucky little fish, and her adorable silky, Midge, at one of my favourite eateries on Maling Road, BetweenUs. I’ve reviewed the restaurant often over the years and still enjoy the location, service and cuisine.

The historical architecture of the building, refreshed with a modern dash of style, makes for a convivial ambience. In the 1900s it was home to a dentist, which my aged relative used to visit. When she was still firing on all cylinders, she would remind me of this memory from her youth.

Once Covid-restrictions were eased to visit our elderly folks, I popped in to see her and it was so sad to see her dementia having taken hold of that feisty spirit.

Well, suffice to say my sadness about her deteriorating mental condition was brightened by the fact that she still has an eye for the obvious and a tongue that speaks her mind. As I bid her goodbye, trying to hide my sadness about her confusion in general, I overheard her asking a fellow resident, at the top of her voice (she is rather deaf now), “how on earth does Tilly walk around without falling over in those high heels.”

I was about to enter the lift and burst out laughing and continued to giggle until I reached my car. It made my day. She still has spunk and dementia ain’t taking it from her. Silver linings.

When it comes to delicious food, my cousin Jason is a corporate, corner-office magician during the week. Weekends, he offers his gorgeous wife Helen, who juggles husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat and 4 hens, not to mention the wildlife in the garden, a break by doing the cooking. I’d hire him out but he is kinda busy.

The most recent Sunday BBQ was, again, a masterpiece, with J producing the most succulent deboned lamb, perfectly pink in the middle, as their eldest, beautiful, smart Cameron, attested.

Never a dull moment with my adorable family, especially around the dining table. Ashton, now aged three-and-a-half, has some incredible stories to tell. He informed us at table that he had been to the moon. When asked how he got there, he informed us in all seriousness, his sister took him there in a rocket but forgot about him! Intrigued about where this would go, we all wanted to know how he got back home!

Without any hesitation, he retorted, with big baby blues, “it was Batman!” We all cheered that amazing super-hero for bringing our boy home safely.

The imagination of children. We all need to tap into our inner child for some pure escapism and never have we needed it more than now.

In my skin

I don’t often share my beauty regime as, quite frankly, I take for granted that most women know how to take care of their skin.

A kind follower on Instagram recently asked me to share some tips.

My beautiful late mum was not big on make-up, talcum powder, a wet finger to shape her naturally arched eyebrows, a tiny pinch on her cheeks to get them all rosy, and a rose-coloured lipstick simply enhanced her glowing and age-defying skin.

Pictured above, clockwise, from top left, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, Clarins Extra-Firming Lotion, Clarins Double Serum, Lancome Micellaire Water, Aspect Hydrating Mask from Skincare Doctor, Lamcome Cleansing Milk.

She did teach me that we have one skin. Once it is ruined, it cannot be saved through lifting and expensive skin treatments. It is the foundation of our appearance and her simple skin regime consisted of cleansing with Ponds cold cream, then washed with warm water, followed by cold water to tighten the pores before applying Nivea moisturiser over her entire face and eyes, as well as neck and decolletage. It worked for her!

Of course, she also believed in drinking plenty water and eating a balanced diet. Low carb, high protein.

Sadly, my skin regime is more complicated but Mum enjoyed it when I’d be home for holidays to pamper her skin with facials and gifting her with my lotions and potions on her birthdays and at Christmas.

So, here goes. I never go to bed without cleansing my face. Cleanse and feed, I say. I prefer cleansing milk, to be rinsed off and Lancome has always done me proud, my preferred cleanser being, Lait Galateis Douceur.

My preferred gentle eye makeup remover remains Lancome Bi-Facil, non-oily and ideal for sensitive eyes.

This cleansing method is followed by a gentle wipe with Lancome Eau Micellaire Douceur – the miracle express cleansing water for face, eyes and lips.

I then rinse my face with warm water and tone with rosewater after drying, or with my favourite toner of many years, Sukin hydrating mist-toner.

My night-time facial pamper is Clarins Double Serum, for age control, accompanied by Clarins Super Restorative Total Eye Concentrate. Why? I believe in feeding my skin at night and lifting it by day.

The morning beauty routine includes rinsing my face with warm water, then splashing it with cold water before toning and applying Clarins Extra-Firming Treatment Essence for bounciness, followed by Lancome Renergie Multi-lift crème and its multi-lift eye cream sister.

If my skin feels a tad tired from stress or lack of sleep, my magic potion for many years has been Clarins Beauty Flash Balm – it brightens and tightens, and the skin feels and looks rejuvenated.

Every two weeks I use a gentle enzyme mask, sent to me early last year from the Skincare Doctor Direct and it is pure beauty alchemy. The Aspect Fruit Enzyme Mask smoothens and soothes. Once it is rinsed off, I tone before applying the Aspect Hydrating Mask for overnight pampering, accompanied by my night-time eye cream and always a lip balm.

On alternate weeks, I use a gentle exfoliator instead of the enzyme mask. Clarins Fresh Scrub works best for me, and again, followed by a simple rosewater toner before applying an eye cream and the Aspect Hydrating Mask.

The sun is good before 10am but after that, I never go out without a sunscreen and a hat.

We also need to feed our skin from within and Nature’s Way’s collagen chewable gummies are amazing! Two of those babies a day, and they taste delicious too. I could see a visible improvement in my skin, hair and nails within weeks! Woolworths had a special on this product recently, so, I suggest we stock up with these yummy super gummies.

I also believe in treating my neck as kindly as I treat my face, so, whatever goes on my face, applies to the neck and chest – they are all closely related, so, treat them as one, needy family. When applying skin cream, use upward strokes as it stimulates the skin – and it prevents stretching skin in a downward motion. We don’t want that!

Glow on, lovelies! You deserve to take care of you. We are so worth it. Hope this was of some use.

Fashion fix

Last, but certainly not least, our love of fashion sustains us on my Instagram feed @Sixty_is_the_new_40 – not only do we share style ideas, but it is also a superb network of women supporting each other. Yes, you get some silly buggers who don’t take the time to peruse our bios, and shamelessly ask for dates, kisses and further inappropriate favours but the middle-finger, commonly known as my social media blocking finger, gets some exercise. Frankly, at my age, I should feel flattered, chuckle!

My diverse list of clients publicised over the years included the School of Etiquette, in which the first course focused on how we present ourselves to the world. The rule was very much about dressing for the position you wish to hold when going to your place of work.

  

Pictured above, clockwise, from left: a classic wrap dress from Poetry, in Hydepark Sandton, of about 7 years ago; classic straight pants at Country Road, about 3 years old; A big white shirt over a linen Country Road dress for layering; woollen ponchos are forever, same as faded blue jeans from Jeanswest, about 5 years old; a classic cashmere blazer from Queenspark, Sandton, about 24 years ago; a linen-knit dress from Country Road about 5 years ago; delicious ice cream pink linen dress at Country Road, still current in blue; pussy-cat tie blouse from Witchery two years ago; a classic pencil skirt from Witchery, still current, teamed with leopard-print bovine skin heels at Pink Inc at Myer; classic straight-leg jeans of about 13 years ago from Zara, London; all Trenery, classic, of about 10 years ago, except the wedge sandals at Midas Shoes, and handbag from Wayne Cooper at Myer; flared pants of about 20 years ago, teamed with a denim blazer from Decjuba two years ago and still current. Ageless style serves our closets well…

Old school, some might say, however, this always worked for me as I regarded dressing for success as showing respect for myself, the workplace as well as the folks I interact with in the workplace.

Some industries don’t require formal dressing, which is fine. However, even when relaxed attire is in order, a clean, neat appearance will make a better impression.

Now that we’re dressed up and ready to attend meetings and business lunches again, some sound advice given by an employer years ago, was to be nice to people you meet on your way up the ladder. Fact, you’ll need them when the next best thing tries to topple you from the top of the business ladder.

So, after this quick lesson in basic business protocol, enjoy feeling fab and caring enough to look your best for any occasion. I honestly believe we tend to feel as good as we look.

Of course, I’m super chuffed that I get huge discounts, receive fabulous vouchers and gifts of gorgeous fashion. The fact that my friends and family also spoil me with such gift vouchers for Christmas and my birthday, is a testament to them respecting my devotion to the finer things in life.

Cheers to the good life, life is (often) longer than we think, death is short… I heard that somewhere and liked it. Double cheers to that!

Pictured, clockwise, from left, wonderful attractions around the world at the moment: the Get a Grip of the Grind Festival in Bright taking place this weekend to encourage women to shine in their careers in Australia – http://www.getagripofthegrind.com.au; waterhole dining at Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, South Africa – http://www.taugamelodge.co.za; the Sandstone Easter Steam Festival 2021 in the Eastern Free State, South Africa – http://www.sandstone-estates.com

Ends.

From travel in South Africa to Getting a Grip in Australia…

by Tilly Smith Dix

The past year has certainly shown us how to appreciate silver linings. Seeking joy during a trying time. Doing whatever gives us hope – and having the smarts to be safe and forge ahead.

Never has the time been better to reflect, examine our lifestyle, careers, travels and options for a happy, healthier way forward.

From riding on steam trains to going on a sublime safari, South Africa offers plenty hospitality.

Something that grabbed my attention here in Melbourne, is the upcoming festival in Bright, guiding women towards living their most fulfilled lives.

Cheers to the good life…here’s to living our best life.

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA:

Get A Grip of the Grind Festival 26-28 February 2021

Living a life we choose. We have a choice. We are able to change our mind. Set boundaries. Create me-time. Stick with people who elevate us. Negative thoughts can be changed. Mindfulness is key. The outdoors clears our mind. Exercise in nature.

These are factors that are important in creating a life in which we are happy and fulfilled. We cannot help others or nurture them unless we are able to do so for ourselves.

Mental fatigue creeps up on us and we feel overwhelmed. Detached, yet bound to our stress. It becomes a shield. We feel like victims and cannot deal with the tsunami of life. The past year certainly threw those curveballs long and hard and they still keep on coming…

Three years ago, Get a Grip of the Grind Festival was launched as the antidote for working women wanting more from their life, and their career. This is the remedy to ceding to conventional career and parenting pressures, in addition to societal expectations, which are driving women towards burnout.

The brainchild of Dr Eibhlin Fletcher (pronounced Evelyn, she is of Irish origin after all), and a team of maverick female role models, the Get a Grip of the Grind Festival takes place in Bright, Victoria.

The purpose of the festival? Assisting women to be their boldest, best self to take control of their lives. Inspiring and exhilarating conversations, riveting speakers, complemented by outdoor adventures in the sublime beauty and tranquil spaces of Bright, women are given the courage to explore their full potential to set in motion positive, lasting change.

Eibhlin has broken barriers in some of the most prolific male dominated industries. As a change agent in Civil Aerospace Operations for Rolls Royce, she was responsible for production improvements on the iconic Trent 900 engine, which is now on the wings of the Airbus A380. She has a PhD in Catalysis.

Dr Eibhlin Fletcher in action with women finding their tribe to shine at a typical Get a Grip of the Grind Festival in Bright, Victoria, Australia, clockwise from top left.

She is also an avid adventurer competing in some of the most gruelling 48-hour adventure races. She has rock climbed the world-renowned Snake Dyke in Yosemite National Park in the US and represented Ireland in the World Duathlon Championships.

Says Eibhlin, “We are inviting women to plan an unforgettable weekend with their girlfriends, colleagues, mothers and daughters in the verdant High Country of Victoria. The purpose is to help women live the life they choose.”

The Get a Grip of the Grind Festival weekend:

Programme to include:

  • Workshops, adventures, inspiring female speakers, evening picnic, adventure film under the stars, networking soiree, dinner on a private estate, fireside discussions.

The Focus:

  • How to unlock performance blockers and fearlessly exploit your own emotional strengths
  • Deepen awareness of self-limiting mindset and behaviours, and unmask personal motivational and behavioural patterns
  • Unleash courage and confidence, with challenging outdoor adventures (rock climbing, abseiling and mountain biking)
  • Connect with like-minded women and share their daring effervescence

Tickets are on sale now at $250 per person for the weekend – Corporate Group packages available @ $5,300 for a minimum of 6 on a twin-share basis.

Email info@getagripofthegrind.com.au

Phone +61 (0) 437 194 745

For further information, see www.getagripofthegrind.com.au

FB @getagripofthegrind

SOUTH AFRICA

Sandstone Estates 2021: Summer and Easter Steam Festivals

February 26-28 and April 2-5 2021

Unforgettable. Unique vintage cars, farm equipment and trucks. World-famous 2ft narrow gauge vintage steam railway on 30km of track. Unique location. Panoramic surrounds. Majestic Maluti Mountains. Sandstone Estates is a marvel for steam enthusiasts from all over the world. Working oxen with wagons. Just north of Ficksburg, the cherry capital of South Africa. Authentic railway stations. Cosmos fields. Corn fields. Sunflower fields. Pristine farming estate.

This is how visitors to the Steam Festivals at Sandstone Estates in South Africa have described their experiences over the past twenty years.

Walking tours of the movie-set friendly farm, complete with 30km of narrow-gauge rail track, remain part of the timeless attractions of this highly productive farm.

Sublime vistas of the surrounding Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, a unique vintage steam and heritage museum, and highly productive farmland, toiled by a team of 36 working oxen, are just some of the many attractions to be embraced by all age groups.

Bookings now open for:

  • 26 to 28 February 2021 Sandstone Steam Festival – highlights include: Train rides all day from 10am
  • 2 to 5 April 2021 Sandstone Steam Festival – highlights to include:

     Train rides all day from 10am.

     The Mountain Wanderer train to run daily, at 15h30, duration two

     hours…

Entrance fees comprise:

R230 per person, R145 per child under 12 years of age – includes all train rides, starting from 10am daily.

Call 051 933 2235 for enquiries and visit www.sandstone-estates.com for further details.

Fun with steam at Sandstone in the Eastern Free State, South Africa, above.

Easter and Autumn safari in unpretentious five-star style

Autumn, for many, is a special time of year. Days are cooler and evenings call for delicious hot toddies and much conviviality around safari log fires.

This is also the time when the visibility of game enthralls visitors to Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve. Game is less inclined to seek shade after the summer heat has gone.

For 26 years Tau Game Lodge has hosted visitors from around the world. Guest reports have always been along the lines of their having visited many safari lodges, some very swish, but the welcoming team and comforting hospitality, paired with sublime game viewing and a waterhole visible from every room and hospitality deck, will beckon them to return time and again.

Safari game drives with sightings of the myriad game, including the Big Five, followed by sundowners in the bush before a magical dinner, listening to a lion’s roar and elephants trumpet are just part of the magic of Tau – the place of the lion…

The five-star family-friendly lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in the humans being subtly fenced in, while game, including several crocodiles, roam free, including the spectacular birdlife.

The Tau Easter and Autumn 2021 packages @R16,000 per couple, include:

  • Accommodation for 2 nights in one of the 12 newly renovated Luxury Standard Chalets as an introductory offer
  • 3 meals per day
  • 2 game drives per day
  • Drinks and snacks on safari drives
  • Tau Spa Oasis African Foot Ritual (30 minutes) per adult: Allow your feet to be pampered by our therapists in a soothing footbath to drain away tiredness. Next your feet are pummelled and massaged with an aroma-therapeutic based scrub to remove all dead skin followed by a true African warming foot massage.

This rate is exclusive of the following:

  • Park Entrance fees of R180.00 per person (Subject to change)
  • Tourism Levy of R10.00 per person per night (Subject to change)
  • Bar, Mini Bar, Laundry and all other extras
  • Rhino Conservation Levy of R165.00 per adult per night
  • Easter egg hunt for kids applicable for families in Deluxe and Family Suites – please contact the lodge for rates

To book this special package, please quote: TAU EASTER 2021

The culinary team’s delicious and healthy meals are served a-la carte and tables are spaced apart at an appropriate distance, as per Covid-19 regulations to keep guests safe.

The highly addictive Tau live webcam will keep you mesmerized on: http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

Safari magic at Tau Game Lodge, in the eco-friendly Madikwe Reserve, mere hours from Johannesburg.

Tau Game Lodge opened its 5-star safari doors in 1995 and offers 30 rooms, from newly renovated Luxury Standard & rustic Standard Chalets, to Family Suites. Family-friendly, with a Tau Cubz Club for children, the Tau Spa Oasis, and a Conference & Events Centre. Eco-friendly. Malaria-free.

+27-(0)11-466 8715/17 – taugame@mweb.co.za 

www.taugamelodge.co.za

The mother of all years

by Tilly Smith Dix

January 2021

Plenty inspirational messages have crossed my screens in the past 24-hours, all with one message in common: be safe, learn from the year that was, embrace the lessons, and welcome the New Year with passion and joy.

My message to me is simple: Do the right thing and stop pursuing what we can’t control. What, pray, is the ‘right thing?’ An action that will be the least harmful to man or beast. An action that shows we will not accept bullying and dishonesty aimed at us, at any other person, or creature. To speak out, ‘do the right thing,’ and instead of turning the other cheek, walk away once we have ‘done the right thing.’

Then, to trust in the Universe to be fair and hear us. Of course, one is always tempted to call in forces stronger than us and better equipped at dealing with narcissists and other greedy humans. Sadly, I simply cannot afford Nikita, or, my latest vigilante hero, Peppermint, to do the job, so, for now, I rely on my imagination – and karma.

Last year I threatened 2020, saying I would be coming for it. This year, I’m waving it a jolly goodbye.

As for 2021, I’m clinking a glass or two, welcoming it with quiet resolve to deal with whatever it serves. My wish? To bring us good health, honesty, happiness, success, humility, kindness, clarity, joy and all the love we could possibly need. My word for this new year? Hope.

Dining in style

It was the season to be merry and catching up with people we were unable to see during the long, hard lockdown was pure bliss.

I did not need any coaxing to drive to the scenic Mornington Peninsula to celebrate my dear friend Rika’s birthday at Stillwater Restaurant at Crittenden Estate in Dromana. Not only was the food scrumptious but the vistas of vineyards and the tranquil lake, complete with weeping willows and happy ducks, made for an idyllic day.

Feasting at Meletos at Stones in the Yarra Valley…

My entrée of fried scallops on a bed of saffron spaghetti, with crispy bacon crumbs, was a triumph. My main, succulently fried duck, (hopefully not from the verdant pond), with a melody of beans and crisply roasted potatoes, was sensational.

Rika and her lovely friend Trish waxed lyrical about their respective dishes, which included crispy crumbed quail and barramundi. Washed down with the delicious Crittenden bubbles, the mood was festive.

My birthday turned into a three-day feast, never to be forgotten. It kicked off with a delicious barbeque with dear friends, who are like family. I got to meet their new pets, which now comprise four cats and two very large guinea pigs. The fluffy menagerie seemed pleased to meet me too. Yes, I’m the loon who talks to animals as if they understood. Of course, they do!

After a delectable meal with my little family the next day, where the three impish pixies sang to me, I then had lunch with my Aussie bestie at Meletos at Stones of the Yarra Valley.

What a joy to finally return to this exquisite restaurant in this glorious wine valley. I have to mention that my gorgeous friends Helen and Stephen joined me there the Wednesday prior. So, in reality, I was spoiled rotten for almost a week. How lucky can a gal get.

The Meletos menu remains a thrill. My lemon caper butter scallops, with pea puree and apple tarragon, followed by Cape grim beef striploin, asparagus, beetroot, and fondant potatoes was delectable. On my next visit, I savoured the gin-cured salmon. Sensational! A glass or two of the delicious local Domain Chandon bubbles, and we had no worries, mate. Life is good.

Maling Road in Canterbury has always been one of my favourite spots in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I love the old architecture and beautiful old residences, enhanced further by the established leafy green avenues and boulevards.

Clockwise, from top right: views from Stillwater at Crittenden on the Mornington Peninsula; Maling Road at Christmas; salmon avocado eggs at Between Us in Maling Road; avenues of Canterbury; succulent duck at Stillwater; scallops on a bed of saffron spaghetti at Stillwater.

Between Us has been a preferred eatery for me and I always have a touch of whimsey when I dine there as my elderly relative, who grew up in nearby Surrey Hills, once told me the restaurant used to house her dentist some 70 years ago! If those old walls could talk, right?

My preferred choice for brunch on this lovely day during the Holidays, salmon eggs, smashed avocado and bubbles. Heaven.

Christmas arrived all too soon and it was heartening being able to spend time with my two respective families. Christmas Eve, now our little family tradition since arriving in Aussie, is a veritable feast. Again, the munchkins sang and honestly, seeing Christmas through their eyes and conjuring up stories of how Santa was so tired after the long lockdown, he dropped some presents at my house as his sleigh team simply could not make it over more hills and tall trees to the pixies’ house, almost had me believing my own blarney.

As we do every year, the kids helped me trim the pavlova and I have to say, I’m flattered that my boy munchkin, now old enough to understand and able to wrap his smart tongue around the word, pavlova, loved it.

Christmas Day, spent with my Aussie family proved a feast, again. Surrounded by children finding joy in every nuance of the festivities, delicious food, and superb local wine, in true Aussie tradition, was a veritable feast. The mouth-watering menu, starting with steamed king prawns, was followed by succulent gammon, golden crisp smashed potatoes and fresh garden salads. The pudding was the proverbial cherry, with brandy, on top!

Actually, given this trying, strange, yet oddly educational year, I’ve decided to hang on to the Christmas feeling for a while longer – the tree will only come down in February, maybe… my Christmas music continues to extend the good cheer, so, the smooth sounds of Michael Bubble, Steve Tyrell and the late great Al Jarreau will keep me jolly for further weeks to come.

On the sofa

My latest couch binge includes biographies. I certainly enjoyed the life and times of Frank Sinatra, a bad boy, JFK, also a bad boy (when it came to women), and Jackie Onassis, who I’m delighted to see, had a truly loving, caring and faithful partner in Belgium-born American businessman Maurice Tempelsman until her death.

However, the story that captured me, for several personal reasons, was about the late Franca Sozzani, who edited Vogue Italia until her death from cancer in 2016. I had the privilege of meeting her, briefly and unexpectedly, during a press visit to Milan in 2003.

Before my December Holiday travels, I would schedule meetings with top travel media in countries I was visiting every year, and having always had a soft spot for Italy, this time, I decided to meet with some of the travel editors of the Conde Nast Publications, based in Milan. The crème de la crème.

Well, let’s just say, as with fashion, the Italians have the warmth, glamour, style and attitude to charm the world at will. Not only did the stylish, charming team welcome me with open arms, they also arranged for me to meet with travel editors at other publications, based not far from their offices!

The British travel media as well as those kick-ass editors in New York were always welcoming and helpful too, I must add. However, it seemed the Italians simply loved South Africans and its tourism destinations, not to mention how everyone knew about the magic of Cape Town and luxe safaris in the bush.

While I was drinking coffee and feeling immensely flattered that these elegant editors were being so kind to me, yet another striking woman, dressed in black, popped her head in the door, and simply and briefly, introduced herself as, Franca. She apologised she was on her way to a meeting, otherwise she’d have chatted to me. She happened to comment on my soft, fitted black leather coat, asking if it was Italian. I had to admit it was made in South Africa, to which she responded with, “I love South African street fashion!” Her charming Milanese accent sounded like a purr.

I was positively aglow and when she departed, I asked my hosts who this graciously charismatic woman was. They seemed surprised I did not know: she was the editor of Vogue Italia! Their queen, so to speak, at Conde Nast!

I was still gulping like a guppy, inwardly, whilst working hard on maintaining some gracious composure whilst picking up my jaw off the floor, when they took me on a tour of their historical building, located on the Piazza Cadorna, which is a mere minute’s walk across the road from Sforza Castle in Sempione Park.

The architecture and ornate frescos, not to mention a sweeping staircase at the entrance, reflect romance and history. Their offices offered contemporary, practical work spaces and Google now tells me it was recently refurbished further to reflect Fashion Week 2019.

The neighbouring castle, built between 1360 and 1499, has been a museum since 1862, embracing treasures such as Andrea Mantegna’s Trivulzio Madonna, and other masterpieces by the likes of Titian. If you are keen on ancient musical instruments and Egyptian artefacts, Sforza Castle will delight you as much as it did me.

So, watching this touching biography on this immensely talented, gracious and beautiful woman felt deeply personal to me. No surprise to see the admiration with which the great Helmut Newton spoke of her, declaring, “she is the woman who lasted the longest in my life.” I highly recommend Franca, Chaos and Creation, produced by her talented son on Netflix.

A series, also streaming on Netflix, that I felt at home with, is Virgin River. I got totally hooked as it is a perfect escape package. A believable storyline, stunning leafy Northern California location, a stellar cast, great direction and some eye-candy in the gorgeous form of Kiwi heartthrob Martin Henderson, make for a great binge. It’s like slipping into a comfortable chair. Gather your snacks and tipple as you don’t want to let this one go. Can’t wait for series three.

Tricksters at large

I have always been suspicious of dating sites and my fears have been realised. In fact, the only time I ever went onto such a site was to prove a point, the point being, anyone could spin a yarn and mislead you. I guess, these tricksters spoil it for good folks simply wishing to meet someone nice…

When I received an email from a woman in the US, advising me someone on a dating site called Zoosk, had assumed the identity of one Charlotte Shaw, and she had lifted images from my blog of about two years ago as her online identity photographs, I was obviously concerned! The trickster had conned the sender’s lonely father!

Naturally, I was suspicious of the woman emailing me but when I saw what she had to say, I took notice and did some sleuthing of my own.

In brief, this grifter had honed-in on a lonely widower in Covid lockdown – and probably several other gullible, older, lonely men too. ‘She,’ was so believable, this normally intelligent man was looking forward to meeting her –  all her online profile images were of me!

This poor, lonely man sent her $4,000 too!

How did the gentleman’s daughter discover the true identity of the woman in the images? She got onto Google and did a reverse search, using the images of me used by the con on the site. This resulted in her finding my blog. The upside, I now have a new follower and keen reader of my blog. Downside, a sweet, gullible, lonely man got conned.

I reported this to the site, and my new follower’s dear dad managed to get the trickster’s profile shut down on the dating site. However, someone else’s images might now be used under a different alias by this vile person, who, it has been alleged, might not even be a woman – and might even be operating from another country. Frightening.

So, if you see old pictures of me pop across your screen, don’t send the police to my house – but let me know. I’m thinking of liaising with the FBI, the CIA, and possibly Nikita. She’ll get the bugger. Capiche?

Style at any age

My inspiring, fabulous tribe on Instagram agree, fashion, and luxe lifestyle online bingeing, has been our therapy through a long, often lonely, lockdown 2020. What pesky COVID-19 has done, though, is prove how immensely powerful social media is, and what a thrill it is in the time of a pandemic, when used positively.

Winter was long, wet and chilly but I had no complaints as one could hardly go anywhere anyway, so, it was great weather to stay home, work, write, photograph fashion, the cat and birds in the garden, whilst playing with my ageless closet. I also enjoyed playing smooth jazz and often danced in the lounge. Anything to lift the mood…

Style it up or down, pretend to be back in Paris, escape to whatever takes your fancy with fashion therapy – full details and brand tags on Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40 – from vintage to boho to Riviera style…be YOU!

Some brands were extremely generous as this was a lucrative online sale opportunity for them and this older but not over gal ain’t complaining as I managed to upscale and bring several old fashion items up to current trends with a new addition here and there. Accessories are key, ranging from classic styles to the new boho chic, which is happily reminiscent of the late 70s, and animal prints.

A quick dab of leg-bronzer, a dollop of sunscreen, summer dresses, hats, culottes, frothy blouses, and now it is a brand New Year. Hope.

Be safe, take care and don’t forget to have fun – life is too short not to feel fabulous and joyful…cheers to the good life, darlings!

Lifting a ring of steel

by Tilly Smith Dix

It certainly feels terrific being able to drive beyond the initial 5km then 25km radius from home once more. And to top that, after too many months of lockdown house arrest in stalag 2020, actually eating in restaurants again.

Sitting at a table, breaking bread with good people, lively conversation, laughter, sipping bubbles, with a magnificent view to boot, serotonin levels are pushed to a ring-the-bell-top-the-charts high. Prescription meds encouraging 5-hydroxytryptamine apparently kept many folks’ spirits positive during this pesky pandemic.

To tell the truth, I never knew the scientific term for serotonin was 5-hydroxytryptamine, but Professor Google helped me in that department, and I thought you’d be massively impressed. Not that I want to impress anybody, however, it’s always good to dazzle a reader with science, right?

Speaking of dazzle, my first sojourn out of my hood when the ring of steel started easing, was to one of my happy places in this magnificent state of Victoria, The Mornington Peninsula.

Dining beyond the ring of steel

Just filling up the car at a gas station felt like a fun thing to do as I’ve not performed that simple task in many months. Wearing a mask whilst doing so is not a bad idea either. I dislike the fumes during this filling up process, so, it was all good. I even checked the tire pressure. Still impressed?

So, on a bright, sunny, perfect spring day, I set off to meet up with my friend Rika in beautiful Mount Martha, from where we took the scenic ocean road to the charming seaside village of Sorrento.

Above: Sorrento, The Baths Restaurant, and traversing the back beach with my ya-ya friend Rika Keyser from Mornington Peninsula Tourism.

The village centre is delightful and if we were going shopping, we’d not have been disappointed. From fashion choices to satisfy the most discerning, woman, man, pet and child, to luxe homeware, art and antiques, with prices seemingly affordable, this sophisticated yet unpretentious town has it all.

Window shopping done, we set off for The Baths, a restaurant set as if on location for a romantic beach holiday, right in front of the bijou Sorrento Jetty, offering splendid vistas of the Sorrento Pier, close to the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, where the ferry docks.

A feast for the senses, and that before we’d even ordered bubbles and lunch.

Lunch was a delicious event and I rather enjoyed the social distancing of tables in the restaurant. My entrée of salmon gravlax on a beetroot and chive cream bruschetta, did not disappoint. Rika started off with a crispy fish taco, with Asian herbs, pickled cucumber, crispy shallots and chipotle mayo. All washed down with some affordable Yarra Burn bubbles.

Mains were equally delectable, and Rika’s ricotta gnocchi, with creamy tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil and dried olives, hit the spot. My fish & chips, comprising battered fried flake, Greek salad and tartare, proved too much but it ticked all the boxes. More Yarra Burn, cheers.

An Instagram follower, now a delightful new friend, Sue, who lives in Sorrento, joined us for a glass of elixir and it felt like a glorious holiday. You never know if you really like people on social media until you actually meet as gracious protocol often hides a dark underside.

Protocol flew out the window over the beautiful bay as the three of us got along like old friends. Obviously, I’m a tad envious as these two Mornington Peninsula locals will now be spending plenty time together, laughing, dining, sharing anecdotes and going on the many scenic walks around their hood. Well, I have news for them, I’ll be tagging along often and happily going forward.

So fabulous when the tribe is ya-ya. Cheers to the good life!

I know South Africans are able to travel within their country again so, here’s some superb sites to peruse, from a fun steam festival between 19 and 22 November at Sandstone Estate to a five-star safari at Tau Game Lodge for Christmas, choices abound at:

www.sandstone-estates.com and www.taugamelodge.co.za

Couch potato

Recent small screen binges have certainly saved what sanity remains, and a friend is now learning Spanish. Why? Is she planning a trip to Spain as soon as we are allowed to board the airways and wing off to destinations afar?

No, she is not, she says. However, what sparked her interest, was binging on superior television series produced in Spain. She was the ya-ya sister who introduced me to Velvet, the series I lamented about in an earlier blog. Now, she’s done it again, and got me hooked on the period drama, Grand Hotel. Some of the cast members starred in Velvet, with the gorgeous Amaia Salamanca in a major role. This time, she is a good girl. She was equally convincing as the conniving bad girl in Velvet. A versatile actress indeed.

Yes, these series come with perfectly legible English sub-titles. However, the ear gets accustomed to the language and picking up a few familiar phrases is not difficult. Anyway, my friend may still convince me to take up that sweet language in due course.

Years ago, a cousin, on her return from Spain, said she had never visited a country positively crawling with beautiful people. She told her husband to behave as she may just return to Barcelona, solo, next time. She also claimed learning a new language was so much more fun if you found a local to teach you. She was taking up Spanish. It scared the hell out of her spouse. That reminded me of an actress friend who spoke fluent French. She only had school French before she spent a few years studying in Paris. She never told me who taught her to speak like a local…

Anyway, I digress, back to binging on the small screen. I highly recommend The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. They had me giggling like a schoolgirl and looking forward to an hour or two of their shenanigans. Think grumpy old men but with plenty style and attitude. I look forward to the next series. What I would love is to introduce them to Grace & Frankie. Now that would be a show – or a showdown? Now, to pitch this idea to the producers…

Yep, I’m still watching old codgers and thoroughly loved Going in Style, in which Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman, and again, Alan Arkin, prove they could still act and frolic their way around any script. Pure delight. Nothing like a hoot to lighten the mood and brighten the spirit during lockdown. Natural serotonin in bucket loads, I’ll take it, gracias – said with a gentle lisp on the ‘c’…

Mrs Fixit

So, the fridge door spring gave up the ghost. I heard a ping, heard something drop and this strange thingy fell to the floor. Panic set in. I have never fixed such a gizmo before.

Anyhow, Google helped me find Fisher & Paykel parts, a helpful online expert assisted and the part was ordered. It arrived within two days. Impressive.

The instructions were clear about replacing the old casing and inserting the spring, after removing the bottom of the fridge flap door. The images on the instructions were shocking, though. Luckily I have some psychic powers and some practical savvy.

I finally worked it out, found my limited toolkit and proceeded with great caution. It worked and I am right chuffed, mates. No fridge or fingers were harmed in the process. Plenty hail Marys, though, some cussing took place, and the cat did not approve.

Style it up

Fashion therapy has remained a passion and whilst the Opshops were shut during lockdown, I have been saving some items that might be of use to other fashionistas. However, versatile, quality style never dates. Adding current accessories to tweak the old wardrobe to look more current, is great fun.

Above: Spring style from my closet, in with the old as well as the new. From classic to boho chic, anything goes when the season is fickle. Loving the candy pink linen and saffron jersey-linen blend from Country Road this season.

I was immensely flattered when a young follower messaged me to say I had inspired her to not buy on a whim anymore but to only buy good, quality, durable fashion to last at least a lifetime. Mission accomplished. I’d never think of myself as an influencer but I honestly like the thought of inspiring women to go slow on fashion but never compromise on quality. It kinda lightens our carbon footprint, right?

That being said, I have acquired three new items for the season only. I’m also happy to say, they did not cost me a dime as they were gifted. Call it a collaboration of brands and great friends. Lucky ol’ me.

Boho chic is back and I loved watching the enigmatic Julia Stiles in Riviera, now in season 4, carry off the look with great panache. LOVE this feminine, sexy look, the flow of sheer summer fabrics, and styling it up or down for any occasion. The revival of quirky belts and accessories to complement the boho vibe almost brought a happy tear to my eye as I’ve not been able to ditch some of my vintage accessories since pa fell of the buggy. Back in style, babes!

Then, there’s the colours. Yes, here in Aussie we are in spring about to enter summer, with candy pink, saffron, many shades of green, pastels, and fuchsia lifting our fashion spirits with gusto. Even our sisters across the waters, now mostly entering autumn and winter, are breaking into bright, festive colours. Of course, the whites, blacks, tans and greys will remain with us forever as the classics are forever in vogue.

Three cheers to fashion, feeling fabulous, great friends and a jolly good life, all considered…

Conversations in a pandemic

6 October 2020

By Tilly Smith Dix

When all else fails and I feel at the end of my tether, I become flippant. It’s a survival tool and some folks find it annoying.

Well, that is just wrong, I say. Read between the lines, especially when the world is tipped on its butt, which, many refer to as ‘getting down under,’ but I will not ever say that as it would be offensive to my adoptive country. So, I’ll stick to the planet, just for a while, being tipped on its derriere and trying to keep its knickers in place to save further embarrassment. Made you smile?

It has been upsetting to see people being nasty and taking their lockdown frustrations out on others. Why should diminishing someone else improve our own status? Narcistic behaviour seems to have become more prevalent and seriously, it is most disconcerting. This, I believe, is the time to find a hobby that can be pursued from home.

Find an interest, pursue it with passion and who knows, it could turn out to be the best therapy and improvement of self. A friend’s husband took up online painting with watercolours. He has not only surprised himself but his family too. They now struggle to get him separated from his easel. He is no longer grumpy and who knows, his new hobby might even fetch a tidy sum should he ever choose to exhibit his work.

One of the most gorgeous, caring, inspiring women I follow on Instagram was interviewed in a British tabloid, in which they highlighted her past struggles, her strength, and her determination to overcome abuse and hardship. She finally triumphed as a successful, independent single mother, model and Instagrammer, proudly owning her age, which is almost 60.

I was so thrilled when I saw the article. Then, the trolls took her to hell and back with their vitriolic responses on the publication’s social pages. Frankly, if I was planning to move to the UK, this would have stopped me in my tracks. Such vile, poisonous comments speak volumes about the people who spout such bile. After my initial fury, I realised how many people simply take their frustrations, especially during the current world health crisis, out on others.

So, I jumped into the discussions and am delighted to say the amazing, sophisticated, kind tribe I’ve come to think of as my sisters in arms, readily came to this beautiful woman’s defence and united we stood in declaring, ‘trolls must go.’ She now also realises this was not about HER, but about people’s own unhappiness within themselves. She is doing great!

We are in the same storm and paddling different boats, canoes and life-rafts, and some are struggling more during this time than others. I think it is to our emotional advantage to be honest about what we are going through. Folks who care WILL listen. We need to share. If someone asks, ‘how are you,’ we need to feel confident in responding with, ‘I am struggling today.’

Thus, when we are having a better day, it is a good idea to reach out to others, thereby creating a chain, so to speak. When we hear about someone else’s struggles, we often realise our burden is so much less, compared to theirs. An instant shift takes place, and gratitude becomes our focus – we realise we are better off than we thought.

So, to hopefully reach more people going through a tough time during this trying pandemic and the restrictions placed on being normal and that which we always took for granted, this message posted on social media helped me on a day when I truly needed it:

He said, “In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus.

Spring shyly unfolds her pretty petals

For some reason, nature here in the verdant Yarra Valley has displayed the undiminishable magic of spring, yet, the temperatures have tended to stay on the wintery side. The parrots in the garden are atwitter with expectations and a little black thrush is building a nest in the eaves of the garage between the current dwellings of two possums, who don’t get along, I might add.

When their early evening hissing gets too loud, I pop my head out the door, look up at them, and advise them to, ‘put a sock in it, be nice.’ They look at me with big eyes, remain quiet for a few minutes then dash off on their nocturnal travels.

Rhododendrons announce the arrival of spring in the garden
Blooming magic

The scent of spring is poignant in the wild garden and the rhododendrons are bursting with blooms, when only two weeks ago I accused spring of being too shy. The only shy thing I can think of at present is the temperature, which is not rising much. However, knowing how I’ll complain about water retention and the swelling of feet, not to mention sleepless nights during the heat of summer, I’m not hurrying her along. She is beautiful in any guise, even if somewhat reluctant.

Spring fever is also bringing new hope. Here in Victoria, I would go slow on travel for now, but how I look forward to heading to some favourite nearby wineries to indulge in scrumptious lunches and sipping delicious wine. My first port of call on my doorstep will be Oakridge, where I’ll find an outdoor dining space with panoramic vistas of the rolling hills and vineyards of the Yarra Valley. Projecting positivity feels good – join me at  www.oakridgewines.com.au

The vineyards and vistas of the Yarra Valley from Oakridge Wines Restaurant

I see travel restrictions in South Africa have eased and tourism will once again be revived, at least for local travel. During a recent phone conversation with Renate Oostmeijer, General Manager of the Johannesburg Office for Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, she reported bookings were already reaching new highs for December and well into next year. Pour me a G&T, garcon, and just let me be at that wild and wonderful waterhole  – see more at www.taugamelodge.co.za

Dining overlooking the waterhole at Tau Game Lodge, South Africa

On the Couch

Binging has kept me sane during these surreal months of isolation. If our world becomes too structured and controlled through lockdown and social restrictions, I say get into another world and laugh, cry, get scared, solve a mystery and savour at least one tipple whilst doing so. No kicks on Route 66 (been on that, not the fix I’d hoped for), but certainly on the screen!

My neighbours recently pampered me with a bottle of French indulgence, Saint-Martin Brut, and I savoured every sip. I laughed louder, cried harder and cheered enthusiastically while immersing myself in the small screen.

A tall glass of delicious went down a treat as I watched episodes of The Catch on 7Plus – addictive, I kid you not. Won’t spoil your fun by letting the cat out the bag. Suffice to say the protagonist, Alice Vaughan, superbly portrayed by the gorgeous Mireille Enos, confirmed my belief that dynamite often comes in petite packages and when they rock stilettos and titian tresses, the impact is devastating on the bad guys as they just don’t see it coming!

Peter Krause, as Benjamin Jones, a slick conman, is delightfully convincing. Be prepared for many twists and surprises. Just the way I like it. Sonya Walger as Margot Bishop is a stunning bad girl, and boy, will she get your eyes a popping with her vivid persona. I know the boys will love this too, every man’s private fantasy, I am told…say no more…

Snacks ready, tipple ready, go! Next? Ah, Velvet, a superb Spanish series about a fashion dynasty on Netflix came highly recommended by a gorgeous friend. A sterling production which apparently cost plenty to produce for our entertainment on the small screen.

For at least one hour a day I get lost in Grace & Frankie’s world, also on Netflix. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are the quintessential opposites in personality, and as for Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston as the gay husbands, simply hilarious, and at times touching, pardon the pun. June Diane Raphael as Brianna, Grace (Jane Fonda)’s feisty daughter, is a hoot. Hilarious, witty, sophisticated and ever so stylish, my kinda show. Cheers, darlings! Life could be worse.

United sisters of fashion

Someone told me years ago that women who look after themselves too well are vain, frivolous and shallow. I was very young and already keen on projecting an image of a woman who is well-groomed and successful. I believed in creating an image for yourself of the person you wished to become.

At the time, I was probably too taken aback and reluctant to be confrontational but today, what I would say to that sour-faced, bitter soul, is: Firstly, never judge a book by its cover. Secondly, if you look good, you feel good. And, it is common knowledge that people who look their best get further in life. I’m not talking obsessive self-absorptions, so, don’t jump to the wrong conclusion here.

Shopping my closet when spring changes her mind about the temperature for the week is a creative outlet. The garments are mostly vintage from my cupboard. The good stuff hardly dates and if it does, it gets stored with fragrant soap and little sachets of salt to keep it dry and to deter moths. The newest items in the images above are the chinos from Country Road, top left, of early this year and the two-tone shoes above left, from last year at Nine West. Fun with fashion, fabulous therapy. The floral skirt, above right, is silk and made in Paris, bought in Sandton, Johannesburg about 20 years ago.

In fact, working with the amazing team of The School of Etiquette some years ago, which received its training in Washington and The Hague, confirmed the following. If you LOOK successful, you are perceived as successful. Now just ensure you have the necessary knowledge, skills, good manners and street-smarts to do the job well and the deal is clinched.

During this lengthy time of isolation, playing with my wardrobe brought back vivid memories of my teens and twenties, when fashion was my goddess and getting creative with my existing wardrobe has, quite frankly, saved me a fortune in therapy. Reviving fashion from years ago and giving it a new life is not quite The Indian in the Cupboard but more like Style in the Closet…

On my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram fashion page, I have forged a sustaining bond with women across the planet, from Prague to Paris to Portland to Perth – to Parys, and beyond. It’s not just about pretty pictures. It’s about people’s stories and I tell you, sharing life experiences, trials, tribulations, joys, lifestyle, laughter and fashion with likeminded women of the world is pure feminine joy. Boy, it’s good to be a woman!

Interestingly, many men follow our posts too, mostly posting complimentary responses. Then, there are those who cannot differentiate between fashion posts and dating posts. How sad is that? Before blocking one desperado recently, I first had to Google what MILF even meant as he used the expression in a response to my posts that day – twice. Once I understood, my block button finger got busy. Still not sure if I should feel flattered, thought…

It is frustrating that much work still needs to be done to get certain men to understand we are NOT looking for a date, husband or cheap thrill when we are sharing fashion ideas and lifestyle stories on social media. On we march…and I hope in the end, the trash will take itself out. So nice when that happens.

To the good, honest, respectful men out there, thank you for flying the flag. You are appreciated. Teach your sons to do the same and call out those confused, misguided souls when they mess up.

Cheers to the good life and the many good people I’ve grown to appreciate, respect, admire and adore during these strange and trying months. You rock my world, thank you. Don’t hide your light, ever.

Ends.

Get smart, be kind

By Tilly Smith Dix

So, I thought I’d try and find the lighter side of this trying time for us all, which is proving worse for so many folks who are losing their jobs, businesses, homes – and partners. Many challenges still await us during and post-Coronavirus…

I remember my parents telling stories about the Depression after WWII – it was tough on everyone. However, my always optimistic mum said it also taught people to become entrepreneurial and resourceful. So, she got stuck into the garden and got my siblings involved in planting vegetables, breeding chickens and selling eggs.

“Live off the land,” she said and sell the surplus. In many instances, folks could not afford to buy my mother’s home-grown veggies, so, she would happily barter. “I give you potatoes, beans and carrots, you give me fruit off your trees and we are square,” she would say. These are the stories I grew up with as by the time I came into this world, people were getting over the post-war hardships as the Fifties became boom-time.

Word got around that on a Friday, when those who ‘had’ were at work, Mum would simply leave some of her surplus vegetables, fruit and old clothes on a table on the sidewalk for anyone in need to walk by and help themselves to what they needed.

Apparently, this was of enormous help to people who were still struggling as well as domestic workers who were working for minimum wage, to make ends meet. This resulted in some people of all races offering to assist with housework or gardening without asking payment to repay my mother for her kindness.

My point? We have much to learn during these trying times. By starting with kindness and being more understanding of each other’s individual struggles, we create a state of grace. Not always easy as humans are flawed. But, it’s a great place to start with small kindnesses and eventually, it simply becomes natural to be empathetic.

Just imagine how wonderful the world would be when we get to go back to normal life again. For many, things will NEVER be the same as they would have lost too much in this travesty of a pandemic. However, for those of us in a better position to help others, it would certainly clean our karma bus to be more mindful of others. Even when we wear a mask, people can see when we are smiling – it’s in our eyes. A good start…

Serendipity abounds

During this difficult time, I find myself being more grateful for things we tend to take for granted. A phone call from someone simply wanting to know if you are okay. A single rose left in a little bottle of water at the front door. A neighbour calling to say they are going to the shops, do you need anything…

Often, these serendipitous events will manifest when we are most in need of kindness. I’m not one for feeling sorry for myself as pity parties are for others who are more needy. However, just when I reached a low ebb, the phone started ringing and it never stopped. Firstly, my nephew calls from New Zealand, he says he heard my late mom, his Ouma Antjie, telling him to call me. He adored her.

A few hours later, another beloved nephew calls, this time from South Africa, just to say ‘hello, Aunty, I miss you.’ As I got to bed, feeling much uplifted having heard from these special boys, I get a call from an elderly friend, also from abroad, just to tell me she was remembering the great travels we enjoyed together in the South African Cape Winelands and thought she needed to hear my voice. I believe I woke up still smiling this morning, having gone to sleep with an enormous, grateful grin on my face…

Binge fest

So, then there is the binging on movies and series on our flatscreens or laptops, whichever is our poison. I have discovered folks who always professed to hate television now succumbing to the guilty pleasures of the small screen. About time, I say, escape therapy!

As most of the news is devastating and depressing, I now find myself indulging in happy endings. Yes, I know, that sounds like a special service at a massage parlour. Get your mind out the gutter, I’m talking about emotional happy!

Some years ago, I got hooked on Brothers & Sisters. A successful wine-merchant family experiences the ups and downs of normal folks. Set in California, the Walker family is real and easy to identify with. This is why it is compelling to watch, living life vicariously through their trials and highs in Pasadena. 

The stellar cast includes the always believable and adorable Sally Field as the matriarch, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffith (love her), Matthew Rhys (the start of his now brilliant career, I’d say), Emily VanCamp, and, my personal favourite, Rob Lowe. Yep, my guilty pleasure, still think he is delish…bite me! Get hooked on 7Plus.

Another series I’ve enjoyed is Mirage in the Desert on SBS. The location of Abu Dhabi is spectacular, the storyline action-packed and the cast, quite frankly, brilliant. The protagonist, Claire (Marie-Josee Croze), personifies grace, smarts, real-life beauty (not styled into a space doll), and strength. However, she sure is pushed to the limits. Should she trust Gabriel (Clive Standen), even though they have a history? Won’t spoil it for you but I honestly cannot wait for the next season.

A movie that touched my heart was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The leading character, an author, talks about meeting people whom one feels you knew long ago, although you’ve only just met. That feeling of belonging with such people, is what makes our souls soar. Such people, she says, are your true family. I so get that.

Directed by Mike Newell, with a stellar cast, including Lily James, Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson (of Doc Martin-series), Michael Huisman, Penelope Wilton and the always superb Sir Tom Courtenay, this gem is currently available on 7Plus too.

Music of the heart

Ah, and then there is music. Still the best mood-enhancer for me. Someone recently posted a YouTube link of Procol Harum live in Denmark and wow, did that bring back beautiful memories and make my day – the more recent rendition seems even more poignant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GZIYjG7nbk

Feeling better already?

In my skin

I was lucky to be blessed with parents with beautiful skins. My gracious mom, who referred to herself as a plain Jane because she did not wear much makeup, was anything but plain. Blessed with a glowingly healthy skin, big baby blues and rosy cheeks, she got away with a little bit of face powder and a rosy-pink lipstick. She cleaned her face with Ponds and used Nivea as a day, night and eye-cream. Even in death at the age of 83 her skin looked young and translucent. Sounds a tad macabre but I kissed her goodbye on her deathbed and it just felt right. She looked like an angel, which she was, mostly.

My handsome father could have been described as a babe-magnet as younger women made fools of themselves over him. He was old-school charming, handsome, and had impeccable taste. His skin reflected the Huguenot blood in his veins as he turned a gorgeous shade of olive in summer, when he loved spending time with his prize roses in the garden, right up to his final months on this earth, when aged almost ninety.

His skin was so smooth, people never believed his age. Not without a touch of vanity, Dad took great delight in whipping out his passport when people expressed doubt about his age!

So, I chose my parents well, especially in the skin department. However, I have a strict skin regime, even in my twenties when I stupidly, like most of my compatriots, spent hours baking in the sun, swathed in olive- and baby-oil to turn berry brown. I never went to bed without cleansing, toning and feeding my skin, even after a late night.

When that shiny, combination/normal skin started turning a tad drier because of age, I started a weekly deep-cleansing, uber-feeding skin regime which has resulted in a healthy skin, I’d say.

I’ve never thought of sharing my skincare secrets with others, unless asked but a kind Instagram follower of my Sixty_is_the_new_40 page suggested I shared my skin and dietary routines as she felt other women could benefit. 

Well, it’s not complicated, so, here are a few tips.

I start my day with a bowl of fruit and yoghurt, followed by a frothy latte. I take vitamins, which include vitamin A, B, C, D and E. I prefer a good lunch as my main meal of the day, I go slow on carbohydrates as I’m definitely more of a protein person. When I eat carbs, I tend to not mix them with protein.

I recently developed an allergy to chocolate and nuts, yes, that is so sad, but I love cheese, so, I’m good with that. I also enjoy ice cream, usually once a week, even in winter. Yep, weird. Most evenings I have chicken-liver pate and goats-milk cheese with water crackers or brown rice crackers – and, often, accompanied by a glass of bubbles. The latter is for medicinal purposes, it helps me sleep, right?

Once a week my skin deep-cleanse comprises a gentle facial wash, mostly Lancome, followed by a refined Clarins exfoliation scrub, followed by a nourishing overnight mask, my current favourite is the Lancome Hydra Zen Masque.

Eye-cream is my addiction, day and night, whilst a good moisturiser by day, preferably with a lifting agent, and a nourishing night cream, are my staple creams. I am honestly seeing a difference in my skin with the Clarins Lift-Affine Visage Serum Facial Lift for day, and when I’m feeling a little tired and need to add some extra oomph, especially when stressed or tired, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm brightens and tightens miraculously within minutes.

I do get dark circles under my eyes when tired or stressed and was encouraged by a good friend to try a little gizmo that stimulates the skin cells through vibration, thereby reducing those dark circles – and puffiness.

I then discovered the little magic wand also reduces wrinkles if used regularly anywhere else on the face and neck, so, it now gets a good workout several times a week, especially around the areas prone to facial lines, such as laughter lines around the eyes, frown lines, stress lines around the mouth, and, never to be ignored, the soft bits of the jawline – commonly known as jowls, or, as so brilliantly satirised in the Ali McBeal series, the wattle! I believe it’s called the dewlap on animals? I’m working on mine and honestly see a difference already. That dewlap is sweet on cows but scary on me…

An electronic magic skin wand and some help from Clarins.

Reminiscing about travel

With travel off the charts for now, I find going through my photographs and stories of past travels deeply gratifying. Experiencing the journey all over again, remembering incidents that sparked enormous joy, and even little pleasures, are proving superb therapy right now.

Some of my fondest memories comprise visiting Prague, the magical capital of Bohemia, as it was known during the time of the great composers such as Beethoven. 

Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge are simply spectacular. I bought two delightful watercolour paintings from an artist practising his craft outside the little house where Kafka worked all those years ago.

The Bond-type funicular at the Movenpick.
The magic of Prague from my hotel room.

I recall staying at The Movenpick Hotel, where I was upgraded to an executive room, with views of the city and the Vltava River, the longest river in the Czech Republic. I felt as if I was in a Bond movie when transported from the Reception of the hotel situated in the Old City in a cliffside funicular travelling up, then sideways, then up again to the top of the cliff, where the hospitality facilities were located, offering spectacular vistas of the city beyond.

I was hugely impressed with the executive service I received as a tourist-class traveller. The day prior to my departure, the hotel manager arranged for a taxi to collect me at 5,30am to catch my train to Salzburg, Austria. I love train journeys throughout Europe. The taxi-driver went beyond the call of duty. 

As all the directions at the station were in Czech, he took it upon himself to carry my luggage to platform 5, which was quite a distance from the drop-off point, with several flights of stairs en route! I’d still be dragging my suitcase up those stairs had it not been for this sweet man. When I reached for my purse to offer him compensation for his additional service, he stopped me, raising his hand, and said, “Madam, you are a beautiful lady and it was my pleasure to assist you. Send your friends to Prague.” That’s how smart tourism works. I’d love to return – with all my mates.

Another vivid memory of my travels was a business trip to London, then Paris, after which I was to hire a car, solo, to traverse Provence, and wind my way to Nice for a much-deserved holiday. As I’d always travelled in the European winter, which I love, this was a spring break with some press meetings in the major cities.

When my friend Lisa heard about my plans, she expressed her desire to travel with me. Her husband, Bruce, who was my long-time friend, casually asked what my budget was for my impending trip. Always with an eye on getting value for money, he seemed impressed when I told him. After another glass of wine, and getting further clarity on my travel itinerary, he looked at his beautiful wife and said, “Lisa, would you like to go with Tilly? I’ll take care of the girls and school runs if you go.” They had two young daughters.

Well, Lisa and I looked at him as if we’d just seen God. I wiped a tear from my eye and Lisa just wept with joy! At the time, before booking purely online, I used the services of a savvy travel agent, who had served me well, taking care of even the smallest details, saving me time, as I was pretty busy working in my agency.

This fabulous travel whizz, Rozanna, called me the following day, which was a Monday, and she was hysterical with laughter. She announced my friend Lisa had been to see her and was so excited about travelling with me, she introduced herself as my good friend and hugged everyone in the travel agency, promising to bring champagne for all of them next time she popped in. And she did!

London, as always, was enormous fun and, although we may have only had one day of sunshine in the 3 days we spent there, spring was in the air. We walked. We shopped. We met with old friends for lunch. We drank Spanish wine. We hardly stopped laughing. We drank French champagne. We laughed more. We also enjoyed the most delicious seafood pasta at one of my favourite little Italian restaurants on The Strand and bought French berets in Covent Garden.

A favourite London landmark.

I had never driven in Europe before. As I usually travelled alone, I preferred trains and planes. This time, we agreed I’d be the driver and Lisa would be the navigator as she was great at that. I was the better driver. Nervous about driving in France, after several days of meetings, shopping at Galerie Lafayette, walking and simply soaking up the magnificent flavours and scents of Paris, we collected our little rental car at Gare de Lyon after a delicious cruise and lunch on the Vedettes du Pont Neuf. Ah, the Seine…

That last evening in Paris was as Parisienne as they come. We parked out little car outside our hotel located near Le Marais, with its nose pointing in the direction we’d be travelling the next day. We walked to Montmartre, gazed at the Sacre-Coeur in the twilight, then took a slow walk back to our hotel, stopping for some sustenance along the way. First, a coffee at a tiny patisserie, then, an orange crepe and a glass of champagne at another little café.

The historical dome of Galeries Lafayette

Nervous about traffic and driving on the right-hand side of the road, we decided to make an early departure to miss the Saturday crowds – those circles are daunting when everyone is going in the same direction and you are in the wrong lane! Gulp. We made it! Only once did we travel around the same circle twice to get onto our route and we were away!

Our first stop was Lyon, where we had booked to spend a day and night before travelling to Avignon. Our luck was a tad rotten as there was an attempted bank heist near the hotel where we were supposed to stay and all the roads leading there were cordoned off with police!

It was mayhem and after about two hours of driving around the city, which did offer some spectacular insight and vistas of this city where the Rhone and the Saone Rivers meet, to finally flow into the Mediterranean Sea as one.

Avignon, Palace of the Popes.

The architecture is magnificent, and it is no surprise the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but on that Saturday, when there also happened to be a student celebration of some kind, we were happy to be informed our hotel would provide a full refund in view of this inconvenient drama. The helpful receptionist also informed me when I called her on my cell phone (before smartphones), she would call ahead to our little hotel in Avignon to advise them to expect us a day earlier. Within minutes she called me to confirm all was arranged. What service! I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the hotel, but I remember sending a glowing email report on the sterling service provided later.

An hour outside the city, we pulled into a service station, topped up our fuel, and decided to have a late lunch as we were starving and thirsty. As we sat down for our meal with a view of the road, a little Renault pulled over on the other side of the highway, smoke pouring out of the hood. The driver got out and dashed across the road, just as the car burst into flames! Now there’s something you don’t see every day, unless you are making an action movie. Someone with a portable fire-extinguisher ran across the road, managed to put the flames out and returned to the service station like a champion. Everyone cheered, he took a bow like a star.

Still bug-eyed, we decided to make tracks to get to Avignon before dark. Ah, now there is a city and region that stole our hearts. I promise to get into more detail on the next blog – hope you like it so far…

Looking good is feeling good

Spending so much time in our homes leads to tardy dressing, right? Glamming up? Gosh, no fashion police around, bugger…

Honestly, I often don’t wear makeup and settle for comfy casual clothes as I’ve discovered the sloppy comfort of knitted track pants and long-sleeved T-shirts covered by big jumpers. Never thought I’d get to this. And big socks.

However, on days I don’t feel too chipper, I find it great therapy to spend time on my makeup, hair and outfit for the day, even if I’m just at home. It creates a sense of occasion, even when I’m not leaving the house on that day.

Those precious few weeks in which we could go out to restaurants again were confusing, as one felt you needed to be uber-cautious, yet, going out for a socially distanced meal and overlooking the vineyards of the Yarra Valley with its verdant hills, proved balm for the soul.

I got to enjoy a scrumptious lunch at Meletos in Coldstream, mere minutes from my home, where I felt like an exuberant puppy, wagging its tail and literally jumping up and down with excitement. I had to take serious control of me to behave gracefully and graciously. Dining on delicious scallops, followed by a juicy steak and washed down with delicious Domain Chandon bubbles proved a treat.

Meletos in the Yarra Valley.

What did I wear on a cold, rainy winters day? Jeans, boots, a woollen jumper and one of my favourite coats. A beret and scarf completed the look and I felt like the queen of the valley. I was OUT!

Finding my vintage style, and shopping my wardrobe during a long, wet, cold, beautiful winter.

Good friends are a gift and it’s in times like these we need them more than ever, and they need us. So, even though for now we can’t be sociable and meet for those lunches and dinners we so took for granted, we can do facetime, dress up, drink a glass of our favourite elixir and munch on something delicious as if we are sharing a table, breaking bread, and laughing. Almost perfect.

Stay positive, take care and don’t lose hope – we can do this…cheers to the good life…