Make no mistake, I am definitely not a morning person. Even though at the moment I wake at 4:40 am three times a week for work, My body, mind and soul want to be awake at 11:00pm and sleep in every morning.
To make matters worse, is the fact that with the change of season it is getting quite chilly in the mornings. There is however, one aspect of the chilly mornings on my days off that I look forward to, breakfast!
I am very much a breakfast person, the reason I wake so early for work is so that I can sit down with a coffee and breakfast before leaving for work. Setting myself up for the day, so to speak.
On days I wake early for work, time is of the essence when it comes to my routine. After all, I really do not like waking so early, so every minute counts. So on such days, breakfast consists of a simple bowl of cereal and a pod machine coffee.
However, this routine very much changes on chilly mornings when I have the time to indulge, in a relaxing and comforting breakfast of porridge and tea.
Now I know for many people this sounds quite abhorrent, stodgy porridge and watery tea. However, done well, it becomes a wonderful and delicious warm hug in the morning.
Neither a comforting bowl of porridge, nor a pot of tea can effectively be made in an instant. Both take a little time to do right and this is part of its restorative properties.
You see, part of the ritual includes both the time to make them and then the time to sit and enjoy them in a relaxed fashion. Allow at least half an hour in the morning, more if you have the time for this contemplative breakfast ritual.
Most porridge that I see is unappetizing and stodgy. As such, I can fully appreciate just why so many people find it unappealing. When done wrong, it becomes a coagulated bowl of chewy and extremely bland oaty lumps.
For me, a good bowl of porridge is velvety and luxurious, well seasoned with a touch of sweetness whilst containing added textural elements. I make my porridge with a vastly different liquid to oats ratio than most. Most recipes are closer to 1 part oats to 2 parts liquid, whereas my recipe is closer to 1 part oats to 5 parts liquid. (Recipe to follow.)
On a cold winters morning, a steaming bowl of velvety porridge, accompanied by a pot of good quality tea is the perfect start to the day. The porridge and tea are like a warm hug, comforting and fulfilling. the time taken to make them allow you to waken fully for the day and then, sitting down and enjoying them gives the opportunity to relax and de-stress fully before the day begins.
My Porridge Recipe (For 2 people)
Add all ingredients except the banana to a small saucepan and place on a low to medium heat on the stove. stir the pot regularly especially as it boils and thickens. When it begins to boil, turn the heat down to a slow bubbling simmer and stir more frequently to prevent it sticking to the bottom and burning.
The act of stirring actually helps to activate the starch and produces a creamier porridge.This should take about 8 minutes. In the meantime, cut up your banana and make your pot of tea.
The goal is a porridge that is not too thick, a consistency that when hot will easily pour of the spoon while not being too watery.
After about 8 minutes you may need to add some more liquid, adjust the salt or sugar to taste. Now add your coarsely chopped banana, and stir for another 30 seconds over the heat.
You should now be ready to serve, so sit down with your pot of tea and have a relaxing start to the day.
A Covid19 World
It is of course no secret that the entire world has been turned upside down due to the Covid19 pandemic. Essential workers such as teachers and nurses are now considered heroes, whereas celebrities and sports stars are not playing a part in our thoughts at all (With the possible exception of the actors we are binge watching during isolation).
People of the World are currently stuck at home as a result of mandated isolation. Some like myself are still going to work whereas many no longer have jobs to go to. This global pandemic, is like nothing most of us have ever seen.
To date, there have been in excess of 3.5 million confirmed cases of covid19 worldwide and a number of these individuals are left with permanent health concerns such as impaired lung function and damage to other organs such as the heart and kidneys. Coupled with more than a quarter of a million confirmed covid19 related deaths and the impact on family and friends of those who have succumbed, covid19 is cutting a swathe of destruction around the globe
The World, for a large part has been shut down, people are stuck in their homes and we are starting to see the adverse affects of this forced isolation. But it will come to an end.
Mandated isolation and the accompanying restrictions have impacted all our lives to varying degrees, but has been essential in controlling the spread of covid19 and limiting the death toll.
The economic impacts on a personal, national and global scale will be felt for many years. Rising unemployment due, not only to job losses, but to the closure of businesses and even entire industries will see many peoples live change forever.
Individuals where part of their identity is linked to careers they no longer have, are but one of many groups that may well struggle post pandemic. This would include industries that may well be altered forever such as Tourism, Arts, Entertainment and Music.
The Unseen Victims
Among the many who are and will suffer as a result of this pandemic are the unseen victims, those who are suffering indirectly from this insidious virus and the quarantining and isolation.
Domestic abuse, depression and mental health issues, relationship breakdowns and addiction concerns are all rising as a result of the enforced quarantining.
Reports of domestic abuse have risen to such an alarming rate during covid19 quarantining that The United Nations has called for urgent action. Of course, this is just the reported cases. A Personal Safety Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2005 estimates as little as 30% of cases are reported.
During quarantine, everyone's patience is tested, no team sports or gyms, children home schooled and constantly demanding attention or something to do, no catch ups for coffee or a drink, in fact often no socializing other than online. Couple this with the financial stresses of losing a job and any underlying personal matters and a perfect storm ensues.
It is vital that as a society we keep in touch with friends and monitor their well being. Help does exist even during quarantine. It is however important to note, that anyone who is currently a victim of domestic abuse may find it extremely difficult to call for help even if they wanted to.
With the abuser and the abusee/s all unable to leave the house it may well be unsafe to call for help. This is where us as friends need to step up and should we believe an abuse is taking place call for help yourself on their behalf.
Help is available through several sources, but all advise recommends calling for Police assistance ( In Australia call 000 ). There is also a variety of organizations that can offer support or information on topics such as emergency accommodation, for example The Department of Social Services , Reachout or White Ribbon Australia .
Another area that is not spoken about, is the strain the enforced quarantine is placing on peoples relationships. Spending every hour of every day in your home can quickly bring to the surface, issues that time and distance would normally disarm.
Unfortunately, many relationships and marriages will falter during lock-down if not dealt with. Do not fall into the trap of allowing things to fester, thinking you can deal with them "after all this is over".
Help is only a phone call away, as there are a myriad of relationship counselors available. Whilst it may well be hard to swallow your pride and admit there is an issue, surely your relationship is worth saving. A quick online search of counselors in your area will reveal many options or you could simply organize a telehealth call with your GP who can point you in the right direction. For further information Relationships Australia is a good resource.
Another issue that is escalating is alcohol and substance abuse and addiction. Many people turn to alcohol and drugs in times of stress or boredom and quarantine is supplying both. My advice is to be aware of your intake and perhaps limit it to the weekends. Try to ensure that your drinking or usage remains on par with pre-lockdown levels.
If you feel your partner, housemate or friends consumption is escalating try to intervene, or at least seek advice. Again your local GP is a great place to start and during lock-down most GP's are offering Telehealth phone appointments. Other places to seek advice or help include Reachout , Drinkwise or the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
Mental health is in itself something of a silent pandemic, affecting millions around the world. However in times such as these, there will be many people experiencing mental health and depression for the first time.
The first thing to note regarding mental health is that it is NOT a sign of weakness and that the sooner you seek help the easier it can be to treat. Signs that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression during quarantine may include an increase in alcohol or drug use, an increase in aggressive behavior, irritability, not finding anything enjoyable, a change in sexual desire or activity, poor sleep, loss of appetite or over-eating, a lack of energy, headaches or muscular pain and a general distancing from others.
Quite often, the best first step is talking, whether that be to a loved one, family, friend or a professional. That will depend very much on the individual, who may not want to speak to some they do or do not know.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of mental health issues of any kind, there are plenty of online resources loaded with great advice. A telehealth call to your local GP can be a great starting place, as can be one of the many online resources such as The Black Dog Institute ,Beyond Blue or Lifeline. Health Direct also offers great advice on helping someone with depression.
Whilst many of us are struggling with the restrictions to our lives, it is important that we remember a few things.
Firstly, remember to look out for family and friends, keep in touch more regularly, a quick phone or video call to just check in. At the same time, we need to be looking out for any signs that our family and friends are not coping as well as they are saying they are. Then, if need be, step in and help.
Help can mean, more frequent calls, a visit if allowed or contacting the required services. Lastly, just remember, this will all be over and whilst things may not be the same there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Your place or mine?Read Now
I have been lucky enough now, to have been in a wonderful relationship for just over two years. We are, as a couple going from strength to strength and both see our long term future being together.
Now I am not writing this in order to brag, even though I feel a tad justified in doing so. The reality is, that rightly or wrongly our society expects relationships to progress in certain ways.
It is inevitable, that questions begin to emerge regarding the direction of your relationship and where it is heading in the long term. If I am honest I feel that it can be a healthy thing to be self appraising of your relationship.
For the most part this self appraising is quite simple, "Do I love my partner, Do I see us together for the long term and Am I happy?". I think we are all aware that open communication is crucial for any relationship and ensuring your expectations are the same is part of that communication.
Obviously for any long term relationship to work, you both need to be on the same page regarding your future together. Do you want to move in together, Do you wish to get married and even if you would like children together are all things that will need to be discussed.
All too often your family and friends will make assumptions based upon their own personal beliefs regarding these issues. Many will assume that you intend to marry or that you will move in together.
So it is vital that couples discuss these things with each other before facing the barrage of questions and expectations from friends and family. My partner and I have of course discussed such matters and found, not to our surprise, we are in total agreeance.
Even as someone in his 50's, it would appear that many, if not most people, assume our relationship goals would include cohabiting sooner rather than later. But in our case this is something which we are in no rush to be doing.
Make no mistake, I absolutely love spending every possible moment with the woman I love. Some of the best times as a couple are the little moments of domesticity, things like sitting together watching your favourite TV programs, eating breakfast together or sharing a mid afternoon coffee.
However, having your own homes does not mean you cannot share these wonderful moments together. In fact it makes the times you do so, all that more special, so by not living together we do not take these moments for granted.
We spend a lot of time together, weekends, some evenings and Public Holidays for instance and we make the most of those times. However the more mundane times, the times that we are not at our best or most sociable, we can spend in our own space.
As we both live alone, we have all the benefits of living alone, coupled with all the wonderful aspects of being in a loving relationship. We live about a 30 minute drive from each other so it is no issue to jump in the car to offer a hug or shoulder to cry on if needed or simply call in for a coffee and chat.
I do shift work with 12 hour shifts, when on days I wake at 4:40 am, when on nights I stumble into bed at 7:00am, long days such as this see me at best, non-sociable. As a teacher, Fi works at home most week nights and often until quite late.
Now because of my shift pattern, I can get away with being non-sociable on work days because I live alone and have a 6 day break between working weeks. Whereas Fi can work at home without feeling as if she is ignoring me and gives her the opportunity to focus on all her work tasks. This allows us to give our undivided attention to each other when we are together.
Neither of us are ignorant to the fact that from a fiscal perspective, living together and only paying one mortgage and set of household expenses makes a lot of sense. However, at least for now, this is of lesser importance than our building a relationship with a strong foundation and ensuring we will be spending the rest of our lives with each other.
So do not allow societal expectations to dictate how you conduct your relationship, instead do what you both feel is the right thing for you as a couple. And remember, when it comes to your living arrangements, the question may well be "Your place or mine?", but the answer may well be Both!
Being Thankful After Hard TimesRead Now
We have all experienced hard times. Financial concerns, relationship breakdowns, health issues and matters concerning both family and friends.
After my divorce, I certainly found it difficult to see the silver lining in anything. I was in an enforced financial hole, my marriage over and looking forward, all I could see was a lonely future after turning 50.
Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I can look back now and realize that I had much to be grateful for. In fact, I firmly believe that coming through hard times can make us better and stronger.
When I was first married, we struggled financially, to the extent of having to sell personal items to simply pay bills. We made it through and became more understanding of those facing hard times financially.
In hard times, your mental health is understandably at its most fragile. As such your outlook on things can be negatively distorted and so it can be difficult to appreciate what you have.
So I thought I would compile a rudimentary list of things that can easily be taken for granted but shouldn't be.
I know that during hard times, not everything in the list may apply to you, but it is important to understand that you only need one thing to be thankful for , to be able to begin a rosier outlook on life.
Things to be thankful for and not taken for granted
Other things to be thankful for
No matter how bad you feel that things are in your life, there is always something for which you can be thankful for. All too often we forget the small things. The freedom to walk along a sandy beach or the opportunity to simply chat with another person.
Obviously this is a far from complete list, but hopefully it gives food for thought and allows you to mentally add to the list with things that you yourself are thankful for.
The Negroni is considered by many to be the perfect cocktail. A balance of bitterness, sweetness, dryness and spicy aromatics. It is also simple to make, being made of only three ingredients, equal parts Gin, Vermouth and Campari and served with ice and orange rind.
Personally, I love a good classic Negroni, easily considering it my favourite cocktail or mixed drink. The taste of a Negroni is polarizing, you either love them or hate them ( The coriander of the cocktail world). Those who enjoy bitter notes however, will usually love the taste.
Of course for many, bitterness is something that they struggle with. However if you appreciate the bitter notes from coffee or dark chocolate then you are ready for a Negroni.
So What Does A Negroni Taste Like?
The Negroni is an acquired taste due largely to its bitterness, but don't let that put you off. The beauty of a classic Negroni is in its balance. The bitterness is counteracted with sweetness leaving a refreshing bitter-sweetness that gets your taste buds dancing.
A Negroni is however quite a strong cocktail coming in at about 24% ABV or 2 standard drinks.( Of course this depends on the strength of the gin or vermouth you are using). This is because it contains no mixers such as soda's or juices.
Another aspect to its unique flavour profile is the aromats. As the drink is made from 3 liquors all renowned for their use of herbs and spices in their manufacture, it is hardly surprising.
It is this bitter-sweetness combined with the spiciness from the aromats that make it such a special drink.
This year (2019) sees the 100 anniversary of this much loved but polarizing cocktail. The story goes that in Florence, Italy in 1919, Count Camillo Negroni asked his bartender to make his Americano (Itself another classic cocktail) stronger by substituting Gin for the soda and thus the Negroni was born.
The Negroni family then founded "Negroni Distillerie" a distillery that specialized in a ready made version of the drink.
Started in 2013, Negroni Week is a seven day tribute to the Negroni. During this week long celebration, bars around the world, having registered as participants, donate money and proceeds to a number of local charities.
Negroni week also sees these same bars, create variations of the classic Negroni and offer them for that week only. Whilst many variations use different gin's, vermouth's or amaro's other than the traditional Campari, some add interesting new flavours. During last years Negroni week, I tried a coffee Negroni and an interestingly delicious beetroot Negroni.
This year Negroni week is next week June 24-30. To find out what bars are participating near you, simply visit the Negroni Week website.
So what is in a Negroni?
A Negroni is comprised of three different liquors, Amaro (Traditionally Campari), Gin and Sweet Vermouth.
So lets start with the Amaro. An Amaro ( which means bitter in Italian) is a bitter liqueur from Italy. It is made from a spirit base, utilizing citrus fruits and flavoured with herbs. The most common citrus used is the bitter Chinotto Orange.
The traditional Negroni uses Campari although using differing Amaro's will add different complexities to your drink. My favourite Amaro is one from Applewood Distillery in Australia called Okar, flavoured with native ingredients such as Davidson Plums. However I rarely use it to make a Negroni as I much prefer to drink it neat over ice.
Vermouth is an Amaro made using a fortified wine base and flavoured with herbs, spices and other aromatics. Originally used for medicinal purposes, it is as an aperitif in Italy where its popularity began.
Vermouth is a component of some of the best known cocktails in the world including the Martini, the Manhattan and of course the Negroni. Historically coming in two differing styles of White (also known as Dry or French) and Red (also referred to as Sweet or Italian). Today there are a number of newer styles available.
Unlike the drier Martini, it is the sweet red Vermouth that is used in a Negroni. The sweetness of the Vermouth offers the counter point to the bitterness of the Campari.
Gin is where the real variety comes into a Negroni. The past decade has seen a real resurgence in Gin and as such the varieties available are numerous and varied. Gin is a distilled spirit made typically with Juniper berries as the most pronounced aromatic, but utilizing many others as well.
With the current popularity of Gin, we have seen an ever expanding array of Gin styles and flavours. As such, changing which Gin you use in your Negroni can vastly alter the flavour profile.
How to make a Negroni
The recipe itself could not be any simpler. Combine 30ml of Campari, 30ml of Gin and 30ml of Sweet Red Vermouth either in a shaker with ice or a muddling jug with ice. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass ( or your glass of choice) with ice and garnish with a slice of Orange or a twist of Zest.
Like many cocktails, there is much argument over whether a Negroni should be shaken in a cocktail shaker or mixed in a jug. I myself tend to use a shaker.
Personally my go to ingredients are Cinzano Rosso Vermouth, Tanqueray London Dry Gin and Campari and a twist of orange zest. To add extra aroma and flavour, I like to twist and therefore bruise the orange zest, thus releasing the volatile oils, then rub the zest around the rim of the glass before putting it in the drink.
One of the great things about this type of cocktail is that you can make it premixed. Whether you plan on offer a welcoming Negroni to your guests or simply have it ready to go for your own enjoyment, premixing is simple.
To do so, buy equal sized bottles ( making sure that they are genuinely equal and not say 700ml, 700ml and 750ml). Then mix all together and using a funnel pour them back into the three bottles. When it is time to serve, just pour over ice and garnish.
Cheers! I hope to see you at a Negroni Week event next week or in future years.
Can I Be A Male Feminist?Read Now
So to start with, I need to make it clear that this is very much an opinion piece and as such it is my interpretation of the subject. I say this, as the Feminist movement throughout history has contained numerous factions and all with differing agendas and approaches.
What is a Feminist?
In its simplest form, Feminism is a belief that the binary genders of Male and Female are equal. The Feminist movement is about realigning the imbalances that were created from our history of being a Patriarchal society.
In essence, equal rights! Rights such as the right to vote, the right to equal pay and the right to not be portrayed as a weaker, one dimensional and less capable gender.
Can a Male Feminist exist?
Well this really depends on just who you talk to. There are those who believe that any man who is a supporter of Feminism is just that, a supporter and cannot lay claim to being a Feminist. The belief is that without the personal experiences unique to women, someone cannot be part of the Feminist movement.
Another view an one that I subscribe to ( albeit as a male) is that anyone who supports and believes in the concept of gender equality and equal rights for women should be able to be termed a Feminist.
So from my perspective anyone, male, female or non-binary can lay claim to being a feminist, provided they genuinely believe and support the fundamental ideals of the movement.
So what then are my beliefs on Feminism?
Personally I believe that Women should have no more or less rights than their male counterparts. I strongly believe that the world will be a far better place with total equality across the genders.
This means equal representation across all areas of society and most notably in positions of power such as Government. It also means equal pay for equal jobs as well as access to those equal jobs.
On top of this, my ideal would see a more varied portrayal of women in the media, one that reflects society as a whole.
Does this make me a Feminist?
Well the answer to this is actually both yes and no. Whilst obviously I do strongly believe in equality between men and women and as such ally myself with feminist principles.
I cannot call myself a Feminist. This is not due the fact I am male, nor is it in response to some of the more radical factions within the movement. Rather it is simply because to call my self a Feminist would be too restricting of my social beliefs and conscience.
Instead of calling myself a Feminist if pressed to categorize myself, I would call myself an Equalist. You see my belief in equality goes beyond that of women's rights and includes everyone.
As a Father of a gay Transgender teen (about which I have written in my post Goodbye Daughter , Hello Trans Son), how could I not be as strongly supportive of LGBTIQ rights as I am of women's rights? As a Man, I hate to see men on the receiving end of gender inequality ( Although rarer, this does exist)
My beliefs are to fight against any form of inequality and prejudice, be that based on binary or non-binary gender, race, skin colour, religion and others.
I am an Equalist and I am Proud of it
The people I admire the most are those who are actively fighting against inequality and prejudism. People such as the worlds first Plus Sized Supermodel Tess Holliday who has created the #effyourbeautystandards movement. A movement about body acceptance of all (Fat, Thin, Disfigured, Hirsute, short , Tall etc)
So whilst I clearly believe that I have the right to call myself a Feminist I choose not to do so and call myself and Equalist instead. There are bigger things to worry about than belonging to a group that feels itself to be superior to others.
Shoes Maketh The Man Pt2Read Now
Now that I have discussed some of the common shoe types in Shoes Maketh The Man Pt 1, it is time to delve into some of the confusing terminology from the shoe world.
I shall begin with some basic shoe terminology. With unique terms such as welt and vamp, it can be confusing if not familiar with the terminology.
So why is it that I recommend that you become familiar with these terms unique to footwear? Well the answer is, that when looking to purchase a pair of quality shoes, a basic understanding of the lingo will help you to compare shoes beyond just their external appearance.
Knowledge of these terms, will arm you with the ability to determine the build quality of the shoe. This in turn will allow you to purchase shoes that will last longer.
Whilst price point may reflect build quality to some degree, some basic knowledge will allow you to compare shoes of a similar price. I will also discuss, some terms that relate to a shoes appearance. terms such as pebble-grain, patent or whole-cut.
Lets begin with terms relating to a shoes construction and the name of it's parts.
The term wholecut is quite a literal term and refers to a shoe whereby the upper has been made from a single piece of leather. Wholecut shoes may contain a single stitched seam on the back of the heel or may been seamless.
Wholecut shoes are handmade my artisan shoemakers and possess very clean lines. As such they are typically quite an expensive shoe and suit more formal attire such as black tie.
The counter is a piece of stiff material between the upper and the lining at the heel. The counter strengthens the heel of the upper. Cheaper quality shoes may have no counter or one made from untreated cardboard.
A poor quality counter will deteriorate quickly and leave the heel unsupported. It is recommended that you always use a shoe-horn when putting shoes on so as to protect the counter.
The eyelet's are simply the holes for the laces.
Considered to be the very best way of attaching the sole to the the upper. The process is a labour intensive one as it is done exclusively by hand and is a complex process involving grooves cut into the insole. The outsole is then stretched over a shoe last by hand before the actual welting is fixed, whereby the welt is sewn to both the upper and insole rib. The last step is using a separate stitch to attach the welt to the outsole.
The heel is a term most of us are familiar with as it is the rear part of the sole that raises the sole higher at the rear. The heel seat is the part that comes in contact with the upper and the part that comes in contact with the ground is called the top piece. The entire heel can be replaced but it is more common ( and cheaper) to just replace the top piece when it wears.
The insole is the layer of material between the sole of the shoe and the foot. The insole hides the joining of the sole to the upper as well as offering the wearer added comfort. After market insoles can be purchased to improve shoe comfort.
Some shoes are made without a lining, however most come with a lining. The lining helps to improve comfort by adding a layer of protection between your foot and any stitching. Having a lining may also lengthen the life of your shoe by absorbing sweat away from the leather and stitching.
The outsole is the part of the sole of the shoe that is exposed and comes in contact with the ground. This can be made a a variety of materials including jute, rubber and leather and offers grip, durability and water resistance to the shoe. Some outsoles can be replaced, most notably leather soles.
Much like the counter, the puff is a reinforcing of the shoe giving it strength and defined shape. The puff is the reinforcing underneath the upper and toe cap that gives the shoe it's shape. Not all shoes contain a puff.
The term quarter refers to the rear and sides of the upper and sits behind the vamp
Not all shoes contain a midsole. The term refers to the layers between the insole and outsole.
The throat is not as some people assume the opening of the shoe through which your ankle protrudes. Instead it is the front of the vamp behind the toe cap.
The toe cap is the front of the shoe that covers the toes. A stitched over toe cap refers to an additional piece of leather that is sewn over the top of the toe cap and such shoes are referred to as capped toe shoes. The toe cap may be decorated with brougeing .
The welt is the thin strip of material, which runs around the edge of the sole. The welt on a dress shoe typically sticks out past the upper, it's purpose is to attach the upper to the sole.
There are three main ways of attaching the upper to the outer
The vamp is the front part of the shoe that covers the toes and a part of the foot.
Other Shoe Related Terms
Now here is one for the crossword buffs, for every now and then a word pops up for something you didn't know had a name. Such is the case with Aglets. An Aglet is that hard covering of metal or plastic at the end of your shoelaces. It's purpose is two fold, firstly it prevents the end of your lace from fraying and secondly it makes lacing your shoe much easier.
An apron toed shoe is one with a unique design where there is an apron like piece of material sewn in to form the top of the vamp. This extends only to the top of the toe.
Balmoral is simply another term for an Oxford shoe. The term is more commonly used in the USA.
Whilst the term Bespoke is generally more associated with suits, the term is still used in the shoe world. A Bespoke shoe refers to shoes that have been designed and hand made for one person. Each foot is measured and the shoes made unique for that individuals feet.
Blucher is a term used in America for Derby shoes.
The term break refers to the natural creasing of the leather across the vamp caused by everyday wear. Using a quality shoe tree can help in minimizing the effect of the break.
A Brogue is a style of shoe with decorative holes and edging. As mentioned in Shoes Maketh The Man Part 1 , brogues come in differing styles such as full brogue and wingtips.
Brogueing refers to the decorative perforations on a Brogue shoe.
Boat shoes, sometimes referred to as Deck shoes were originally designed to be a non slip shoe to be worn whilst boating.
A Cap Toe shoe is a shoe with a visible overlayed toe cap and straight stitching across the toe.
A boot style with elastic side panels and no laces. Chelsea boots are typically ankle height.
Chukka's are a plain ankle height boot with laces, frequently seen made with suede or nubuck leather.
Crepe Soles are shoe soles made of a thick crinkly rubber.
A Derby or Blucher is a shoe made with Open Lacing, where the quarter is sewn over the top of the vamp.
As the name suggests, the driving shoe was originally designed for driving. A simple moccasin design that is soft and flexible and without a hard sole. The sole of a driving shoe consists of a series of rubber grommets or occasionally rubber pads.
Espadrilles are a casual shoe style that can be lace up or slip on and were originally made using a woven jute sole.
The Flit-Flop (or Thong as it is known in Australia) is a very casual open slip on sandal that is ideal for the beach.
Full Grain Leather
Leather that has been tanned in such a way that the natural texture of the animal skin is still visible.
A Last or Shoe Last is a wooden block used to shape the shoe. A last can be generic or made bespoke to match an individuals foot.
A type of slip on shoe or moccasin. Loafers range from very informal to formal in style.
A thick and chunky sole as seen on work boots.
The Medallion is the ornamental brogueing on the toe of dress shoes.
The Monk shoe is a style of shoe that uses a buckle closure instead of lacing.
Nubuck is a leather similar to suede. However during the tanning the leather is sanded on the outside of the hide, leaving a much shorter nap than suede.
An Oxford shoe is a shoe where the quarters are stitched under the vamp and is more formal than a Derby.
This is a fine grade leather that has been treated with polyurethane leaving it with an extremely high level of gloss. Shoes made with patent leather are very formal so are really only worn to black or white tie affairs.
Pebbled grain leather has a unique pebbled texture and so adds an extra degree of interest and formality
Casual footwear with and open toe and back that encases the foot with straps.
A shoe horn is a metal or plastic tool used to aid in slipping the foot into a shoe. Use of a shoe horn is highly recommended as it protects the counter from being bent and twisted out of shape.
A shoe tree is a device used to preserve and maintain shoes. It does so in 2 ways, firstly it is shaped akin to a foot allowing the leather to maintain it's shape after wearing and the leather relaxing. Secondly, a good quality shoe tree should be made from raw and un-coated cedar, this allows the wood to absorb the sweat left behind in the shoe. A good quality shoe tree should be purchased for every pair of quality shoes you buy.
This is a type of napped leather with a distinctive furry appearance. Suede leather is typically soft and very pliable. However, shoes made from suede should be kept away from rain and water. It is recommended to use a spray on leather waterproofer regularly. Due to the nap of the leather, regular shoe polishes and conditioners cannot be used, instead a specific suede brush is required for cleaning.
Shoes maketh the Man (Pt 1)Read Now
For many men, shoes are almost an afterthought when it comes to their appearance. They get dressed, then delve into the wardrobe to choose one of the three pair of shoes they own.
It is not like anyone is going to really notice them is it? Well, the reality is that shoes do get noticed and may well be the deciding factor on whether you give off a good or bad first impression.
It has often been said that your footwear is one of the first things Women notice upon meeting you. The truth however, is that your footwear can really say a lot about you as a person, regardless on who you are meeting.
The world of Men's shoes can be intimidating, confusing and expensive. I hope to give you a better understanding of why shoes matter, the different types, a few tips to maintain them and how to choose what to wear.
What your shoes say about you
Before you have even opened your mouth, people have all ready formed opinions about you. Your appearance plays a big part in this.
To be honest, if you had an appointment with a financial advisor in their office, and they were wearing thongs (Flip-flops), it would be only natural to feel uncomfortable about investing with them.
Certain shoes are more appropriate to certain scenarios. However it is not just your choice of shoe that will see people judge you, both consciously and subconsciously.
The condition of your shoes is vital as well, regardless of whether you are wearing sneakers or dress shoes. Tatty, dirty and unkempt shoes will always give the impression that you do not care about yourself or others.
Whereas, well maintained shoes will suggest an eye for detail, a sense of respect for both yourself and others, confidence and trustworthiness.
So lets now have a look at the bewildering array of men's shoes commonly seen today, starting with some of the more causal styles.
Sneakers are very on trend at the moment and come in a rather broad variety of styles. However, most of the trendy styles are best left to the 20 somethings to be worn with loud graphic Tees and Snapback Caps.
The big name sneaker companies are continually releasing limited edition sneakers, often made in collaboration with celebrities. Upon the release of these collectable sneakers, people will often queue for days to be first in line.
A style often favoured by men in their 40's and 50's are white sport shoes worn with blue jeans. Personally I find this looks like you have given up trying to look smart and see them as a simple and comfortable compromise.
Yes! I do own a pair of white sport shoes, however I wear them when riding my bike or playing sport and not with jeans. A better alternative is leather Dress Sneakers, a sneaker style that is designed to be worn with jeans
Running shoes are exactly as the name suggests, shoes designed for running in. With greater support and cushioning these shoes tend to have a snug fit. When buying shoes for running, it is advised to get fitted at specialist stores, thereby buying a shoe that suits your foot and running style.
Slip on shoes include a variety of styles, including boat shoes, driving shoes, loafers and some espadrilles. (Espadrilles can come in a lace up form as well.)
Boat or Deck shoes were originally designed in the 1930's for use on the decks of boats and had a non slip and non marking sole. Today, they are a popular casual shoe made of either leather or canvas.
Another defining aspect is the lace is threaded through the shoe going around the heel. Rarely if ever worn with socks, they pair perfectly with chino shorts and a Polo shirt for a Preppy look.
Driving shoes were invented in Italy in the 1960's for wealthy sports car owners to drive in. Generally made of very soft leather with rubber nipples on the sole, for grip on the pedals, driving shoes are less bulky than regular shoes and provide better foot to pedal feel.
Today driving shoes are usually made from brightly coloured leather and frequently made from suede leather. The bright colours make them not for the faint of heart and are typically worn without socks and with shorts.
Espadrilles are a type of lightweight, flat soled shoe, originally with a rope like sole and a canvas like upper. They can have laces or be of a slip on type.
Typically worn with shorts they can also be worn with Chinos. It is worth noting that they are a very casual shoe, so shouldn't be worn with anything more formal than Chinos.
The term loafer generally refers to the more dressier and formal of slip on shoes. Often referred to as Penny Loafers there are a few variations including Gusset loafers, Gucci loafers and tassel loafers.
Loafers are considered a very versatile shoe as they can be worn casually with jeans, dressed up with chinos and a sports coat or worn at work with your business suit. Just remember that unlike other types of slip on shoes, most loafers should be worn with socks.
Sandals are a shoe type that has the biggest range of styles and are always only ever worn in casual settings. Sandals are basically any shoe type that leaves all or most of the foot exposed, often by using straps.
They can be constructed from anything from leather, plastic, rubber to canvas. They may be of a slip on nature or include buckles, ties or even velcro straps.
They are without question the most informal of all men's shoes and should only ever be worn with shorts or swimwear and only in very casual and informal settings and never with socks.
A common type of footwear in Australia is rubber flit-flops or thongs as they are often called in Australia. They make for ideal footwear for the hot Australian beaches, however wearing them away from the beach shows a total lack of any concept of style.
Boots are a very flexible style of footwear in that they can be worn casually or in more formal ways. Many boots today reflect the styling of dress shoes with features such as broguing, monk straps and wing tips.
For me, boots are my go to footwear especially in winter. They come in a range of styles from casual to formal, including chukka's, work, chelsea, cowboy and dress boots.
Chukka boots or Dessert Boots as they are sometimes called are an ankle high laced boot usually made with suede leather with a flat sole.
Pair Chukka's with jeans for a smart but causal look. They make for an ideal addition to any man's wardrobe, regardless of age.
The workboot as the name would suggest is designed as heavy duty footwear with safety in mind. As such they are typically equipped with steel caps as a safety feature.
However, today a second type of workboot exists, one that is not designed to be worn in an industrial or hazardous environment. These are boots designed to give the rugged look of a workboot but with the purpose of being no more than streetwear.
My captoed boots are an example of such a boot. With a rugged appearance reminiscent of workboots, they can only be worn in casual or semi casual settings. Warm in winter, water resistant, comfortable and offering good ankle support they are ideal in uneven terrain (think picnics in National Parks or by the river)
Whilst like all shoes, they should be well maintained, they have the added advantage of developing some character by wearing them in. A few light scratches and creases within the leather can add to there appeal.
Chesea or Slip On Boots are boots with an elastic side gusset allowing the wearer to simply slide their foot in with no need for laces. Chelsea boots can be of an informal work boot style or come as a more formal dress boot.
Dress Boots can come in a variety of styles such as my Chelsea Boots, more commonly slip on or zipped up, they can also be lace up. They have a sleeker profile and a sole reminiscent of a dress shoe.
A Dress Boot can include all or any of the decorative styling of Dress Shoes and so in many ways are more like a higher ankled dress shoe. They may include Brogueing, Capped Toes or even Monk Straps, if laced, the laces will be of the finer 2.5mm (2/16 inch) dress shoe variety.
Unlike other boots, dress boots can be worn with suits for work attire or more formal situations. Dependent on the colour and style they may also be dressed down, the less decoration, the easier to do so. I wear my Ortiz and Reed boots, regularly with chinos or even jeans and can do so as they have only a small amount of very fine brogueing on the toe.
Like all shoes, regular care is important, however like dress shoes it is even more important with dress boots. They must be kept well polished and ideally with a highly shined toe, obtained using a wet or spit polish technique.
For many men, Dress shoes are all the same with the obvious exception of their colour, the reality is that there is a differing degree of formality to dress shoes. For instance patent leather shoes should only be worn with black tie or white tie attire.
So what then are the options? Derby, Oxford, Monkstrap or even Whole Cut refers to the style of shoe. However, there is much more to the story, brogues, toe caps, suede, patent leather and wingtips can be decorative features on all but Whole Cut shoes and each decorative style carries with it a level of formality or informality.
Derby or Oxford
Derby or Oxford is the most perplexing question faced by men new to the intricacies of dress shoes. The Derby shoe is the more casual of the two and makes for ideal everyday footwear. Whereas the more formal Oxford has a more streamlined appearance making it more suited for business and formal attire.
So what then is the difference? Well it is all in the construction and look of the lacing. It may seem a small detail, but it does impact the overall formality of the shoe.
The formal Oxford, has what is known as closed lacing, which really means that the leather pieces through which the laces go (the Facing) is sewn under the vamp as opposed to on top. With Oxfords, the laces pull together leaving little if any of the tongue exposed, leaving a crisper and cleaner look.
The more detailing on your Oxfords the less formal they are. A Full Wingtip Brogue Oxford will work fine with a casual suit but will not work with a Tuxedo. A plain Toecap Oxford will work well in a more formal situation, yet is still not formal enough for Black Tie.
For Black Tie dress, your only options are plain Oxfords, patent leather Oxfords or Whole Cut Oxfords. White Tie events give you the sole option of wearing patent leather Oxfords only.
Derby shoes are perhaps the most versatile shoe in your wardrobe. Derby's can be worn casually with jeans at a BBQ, out to a dinner date with dress pants, at work in the office or at a wedding with your best suit.
Due to their less formal nature, Derby's have a slightly wider number of variations than Oxfords. Suede or Nubuck leather, Toe Cap, Brogues, Crepe soles etc.
I would recommend having a few variations in your wardrobe. I myself have a red suede pair as well as a pair of brown wing tipped full brogues and a plain black pair just for starters.
Brogues are characterized by their decorative perforations and the serrated edging along the leather edges. The amount of brogueing can vary, with the less decoration the more formal the shoe.
There are four different toe cap styles of brogues, full-brogue (or wingtip), semi-brogue, longwing-brogues and quarter-brogue. Each with a different degree of decoration. Brougeing can be seen on Derby's, Oxfords, Monk-Straps or even Boots.
Full or wingtip brogues, as seen below have a pointed toecap and wings that extend down the sides of the shoe as far as the ball of the foot. Semi brogues only have perforations on the toe cap (like my Ortiz and Reed Boots pictured earlier).
Quarter brogues are the most formal and only have brogueing and perforations along the edge of the toe cap and none in the centre of the toe cap. Longwing-brogues are rare and are similar to Full-brogues but with the wings extending the full length of the shoe to the back of the heel.
The term Brogue comes from the Gaelic word "bróg" (shoe). The origin of brogues comes from the Irish workers in marshes harvesting flax. The perforations were originally there to allow drainage.
Brogues are a versatile shoe (or Boot), however it is important to match the right brogue to the occasion. They can be worn with everything from jeans to a business suit, however when paring with something more formal like a business suit that the less decoration the better.
Monk or Monk-strap shoes have found a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Monk-strap shoes have no lacing and are closed by a buckle and strap across the top of the foot. The terms Single Monk, Double Monk and Triple Monk refer to the number of buckles. The most common is a Double Monk with its two buckles.
Wholecut shoes are made from a single piece of leather, their seamless look makes them ideal for the most formal of occasions. Due to the craftsmen's skill involved in making them, they tend to be on the pricier side
Part 2 of this article will deal with shoe terminology and shoe care. So if you don't know the difference between the Welt and the Vamp, keep an eye out for Part 2.
The 123 of EDCRead Now
What the heck is EDC?
EDC is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. EDC stands for Every Day Carry and has been around since man first walked the Earth.
In essence it is those items that you have with you everyday. In it's most basic guise it is the things that you pat your pockets for as you walk out the door. Your EDC items can be useful, stylish or both. The important thing is that it is yours to curate.
With today's post I intend to share the basics of Everyday Carry, share my own EDC and hopefully inspire others to think more about the items they carry themselves. Naturally, I will also recommend some of my favourite EDC pieces.
The EDC Holy Trinity
Not meaning to be sacrilegious, the term EDC Holy Trinity, refers to the 3 pieces that lie at the core of EDC. These three items are carried by pretty much everyone.
Keys, wallet and phone! Who among us does not instinctively check that they have these 3 things each and every day.
Today, nearly everyone carries a smartphone with them. Regardless of whether you carry an iPhone, Samsung or one of the other brands of phone, there is no denying our reliance upon them.
June 2007 saw the introduction of the first iPhone from Apple and since that date we rely more and more on our phones for so many things. The smartphone has revolutionized EDC.
The smartphones of today replace the need for gps/maps, music players, hand held gaming devices, camera's, a torch, gaming devices, personal planners/diaries. Indeed, today's smartphones are relied upon for such a variety of tasks.
With just the phone in your hand you can do all your banking online, manage your daily schedule, buy tickets to a show, watch television, play games, listen to music, get your daily social media fix, sign important documents and return them that day, get real time directions when driving and even read a novel.
Your phone can be personalized by the purchase of a cover. In my case, I have a black leather case that matches my other EDC items. I choose black as it is a colour that looks classy in all situations.
Whilst many cars are key-less, most of us still carry keys with us everyday. Your set of keys can be a great way to individualize your EDC. Indeed adorning your keys with decorative king rings has been popular for years. I however have taken a slightly different route regarding my keys.
I choose to use a Key Caddy a brand of key organizer that is made of Aluminium. I find that using a key organizer not only keeps your keys neat and tidy but also stops them from jabbing you in the leg when in your pocket.
There are many key organizers available today, much of them made from leather or Aluminium. I find the Key Caddy the best of the ones I have seen.
The Key Caddy is expandable, whilst still holding the keys tightly. I personally find it a classy touch to my EDC.
Another aspect of your keys as EDC is the ability to add other items to your keys. I have a small knife blade that folds back into a key shaped cover. It is inoffensive but has come in very handy.
Also added to my Key Caddy is a bottle opener that folds in with my keys, again, something that is very handy especially at BBQ's. In fact it is almost un-Australian to not have a bottle opener on your key ring.
Even though I can use the torch on my iPhone, I have found adding a quality micro torch to my keys has been invaluable. Before I purchased my torch, I did some research as I wanted something very small but of high quality.
The result is that I now have a Streamlight Nano Light and couldn't be happier. The torch is waterproof, very bright at 10 Lumens and is indeed quite tiny measuring only 10 x 30 mm.
Whilst there are those who rarely carry a wallet, relying on their phone case to do the job, the majority of us still prefer to use a wallet.
A wallet of course carries your cards and cash. Even though we are fast heading towards a cashless society, I still recommend carrying at least a $20 note on you at all times.
The traditional bi-fold leather wallet is still the most popular. However there are a few other options on the market today.
Some of which include tri-fold, nylon ( bi and tri-fold types. Both of which are more suited for a 20 something surfer type), Phone case wallet, money clip or micro wallets.
Of course choosing a wallet is a matter of personal choice, however as for all style items, selecting something that is age appropriate is important. Practicality is obviously paramount but a sense of style goes a long way.
Another issue to be mindful of when choosing a wallet is RFID blocking. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a system used on many cards such as your credit card. RFID blocking prevents the scanning of your cards by someone nearby and thus preventing card fraud or identity theft.
The style of wallet that is currently growing rapidly in popularity is micro wallets. I myself now use a micro wallet and wish I knew of them earlier.
A micro wallet as the name suggests is much smaller than a traditional bifold and is usually only the size of a credit card and has a money clip or an elastic band to carry any notes.
I have seen micro wallets made from nylon but most are made from aluminium. However I recently replaced my aluminium one with one made from carbon fibre. It is light weight, smart looking and contains RFID blocking.
I prefer micro wallets as not only do they fit in your coat or pants pockets without a massive bulge but are unobtrusive if you prefer to carry by hand. I also find them quite a stylish addition to your EDC .
Beyond the Big Three
Beyond the big three, of wallet , keys and phone lies a never ending list of EDC items. Many of which will be activity specific.
The EDC carried by an office worker is naturally going to be different to someone who runs wilderness survival courses. So obviously your daily routine will dictate what items you will carry.
One item that I will always carry is a clean old fashioned handkerchief. Whether you need it for blowing your nose, holding against a paper cut, wiping down a table, or even offering it to someone else. A clean and freshly ironed handkerchief is an essential item for me.
Pen and Notebook
Sure you can always add notes into your smart phone, but for many, carrying a pen and often a small notepad is essential.
For a few dollars more you can buy any number of rather smart and stylish notepads, adding an elevated touch of class. As for the pen, I would recommend carrying something better than a cheap plastic disposable pen.
For less than $50 you can buy a decent stainless steel pen which will always look far more stylish than plastic. Whilst I do appreciate quality pens, I would recommend you leave your $2000 Mont Blanc pen at home or in your office, as you do not want to risk losing it.
A small folding pocket or penknife is an item that comes in very handy. Be that for opening some packaging, cutting some tape or that stray bit of hemming cotton, you never know when you may need a sharp blade.
If you decide to carry a blade, I would suggest a small folding blade as it is safer and less intimidating to others. There are many quality knives available today made with quality steel ( which stays sharp) as well as being good looking artisan pieces.
Multitools, as the name suggests, are a very multi purpose item. They also come in two main styles, namely multitool and card multitool.
The most well known multitools are made by Leatherman and as the name suggests include numerous different tools. My own Leatherman includes pliers, wirecutters, screwdrivers, knives, a file and even a saw amongst it's functions.
A card multitool is as the name suggests, is flat and card like and often the size of a credit card. Some of the options can be knife, saw, bottle opener, screw driver, spanner and ruler. Usually quite inexpensive they offer good value compared to a traditional mulitool.
Power-bank and cable
Other items that are almost essential in today's tech reliant world are a Powerbank and a charging cable. The ability to recharge your phone or other devices at any time, can save you from a great deal of tech-withdrawal stress.
Power-banks are like a personal battery charger. Whether you are walking between appointments or rocking out at a music festival, a power-bank gives you the ability to fully recharge your phone when you do not have access to a power-point and mains power supply.
The power-bank I use is about the same size as my phone itself but has the ability to fully recharge my phone about 4 times without recharging the power-bank itself.
When buying a power-bank, be mindful of it's storage capacity. Ranging from 2000 to 100,000mAh, I would suggest not purchasing anything less than 10,000mAh. Doing so may mean it is both cheaper and smaller, but it is unlikely to be capable of fully charging your phone.
The other item to carry with your power-bank is a charging cable. I recommend buying a quality braided cable as they last far longer. Even if you are not carrying a power-bank, just carrying a charging cable can allow you to recharge your devices.
USB charging sockets are today often seen on buses, trains, at fast food outlets and other public areas. All you need is a cord to connect your device with.
During Summer it would be foolish to leave home without a water bottle. The need to keep yourself hydrated is vital and rather than buying disposable bottles of water, a good quality re-usable one is essential.
My own water bottle is fully insulated and keeps water cold for hours. I would recommend stainless steel rather than plastic.
Personally I would be lost without my sunnies during summer. The glare alone is enough to give me headaches and leave me easily tired.
Sunscreen and Lip Balm
Another two items that are crucial during the Summer months are Lip Balm and Sunscreen. Protection against sun burn, dry chaffed lips and even skin cancer should always be on your mind when outdoors.
I always carry a small comb in my back pocket. perfect for a quick tidy up of wind blown hair. A quality hand made comb is a fine thing, teeth that wont stab you in the scalp and also polish your hair leaving it shinier. However, as an EDC item I carry an inexpensive plastic comb and leave the quality one at home.
Whether you use it to share photos, documents or even music, having a USB stick on hand can be immensely handy.
Regardless of whether you prefer earbuds or over the ear headphones, having access to them, allows you to stream music on your phone, watch cat videos on social media or even watch your favourite sport live. All while not disturbing anyone around you.
Small bottles of hand sanitizer are now readily available. Whilst there is a debate about the over use and even need for hand sanitizer, I feel that using it on the odd occasion that you find it difficult to wash your hands before eating, makes good sense.
Reusable Coffee Cup
Buying your morning coffee is a daily activity for many of us today. However, from an environmental perspective, the use of disposable cups is frowned upon.
The answer is to supply your own reusable cup. Some cafes actually offer discounts for those bringing their own cup.
Adding a packet of mints or breath freshener to your EDC will keep your breath smelling fresh regardless of how heavy handed the Chef was with garlic at lunch.
A small bottle or strip of painkillers can put an end to a day ruining headache. How often have you heard friends or work colleagues asking if someone has any head ache tablets?
I suffer from back and neck issues which can result in debilitating headaches, so I try to never leave home without some paracetamol or ibuprofen.
As a general rule, my own items of everyday carry are very basic. Phone, wallet, handkerchief and keys with a torch, bottle opener and very small knife attached.
However, depending on my plans for the day and how long I will be out of the house for, I will at times carry a messenger bag with me. If so, then my bag will contain additional EDC items.
In my messenger bag I will often carry the following
Cooking for oneRead Now
One of the big changes after divorce, is organizing your daily meals. This can be a challenge for a number of reasons.
First of all, many divorced men have left relationships where their ex partner had done the vast majority of the cooking. Therefore, they may lack the confidence and perhaps even knowledge, on how to cook for themselves.
Secondly, for those who are confident in the kitchen, many find that cooking for one is quite a challenge compared to cooking for a couple or a family.
I myself found this harder than I expected for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons were unique to me , whilst others were universal.
I know my way around a kitchen, having worked as a qualified Chef for 10 years, admittedly though, it was over 20 years ago. During my time married, I also did most of the cooking and grocery shopping .
So it wasn't as though I lacked the know how. Another complication for me was the fact that I work shift work, consisting of 12 hour shifts both days and nights. The last thing anyone wants to do after a 12 hour shift at work is to cook dinner.
Many divorcees find that it is way simpler to buy take away, ready prepared meals or Uber Eats. Sure, I eat takeaway but it consists of only a small part of my diet.
So why is it harder to cook for only yourself than it is to cook for 2 or more? The answer is a complex one, psychological, physical and knowledge based.
Psycologically, no one wants to come home after work and have to cook a meal from scratch, regardless how how many you are cooking for. However, when cooking for only yourself, there is no one but your own self to talk you out of ordering Uber Eats and as such, takeaway food usually wins.
Without someone else with you it is all too easy to just say "I really cannot be bothered cooking, I will just buy something". My answer to this is to eliminate the need to cook from scratch. Plan ahead and have something ready that is quick and easy.
When referring to physical reasons not to cook, I don't mean being physically tired, as that is more a psychological reason. Instead I am referring to not having enough in your pantry or fridge to be able to make a meal. Again, plan ahead.
Knowledge based excuses basically mean a lack of cooking knowledge or no idea on what to do with what you have on hand. All excuses can be rectified with a bit of prior thought.
Obviously my years as a trained Chef come in handy at home, but not everyone has my knowledge or love of cooking. Non the less, this is still easily rectified.
A quick Google search will reveal a number of cooking schools, mostly aimed at those with little culinary know how. So I would suggest you enroll in such a course and gain some kitchen skills and know how.
I myself went to a cooking class last year that was specifically about making pasta. I had a great night, met some wonderful people (including singles) and honed my pasta making skills.
The class I attended, finished with us all sitting down to a communal table and enjoying a variety of shared platters of pasta, gnocchi and focaccia all made by us earlier and accompanied by a glass or two of wine.
If your not wanting to get out and about and attend a class or two, I would recommend the purchasing of some cook books for beginners. Whilst most of the cookbooks available today are targeted at so called "Foodies", there are still a great many books aimed at beginners.
Even some of the cookbooks aimed at children can be a great way to expand your cooking know how. You will just need to shop around and find one that suits you.
There are two great books for beginners that are available here in Western Australia. Both books have been around for a very long time, but offer simple and basic recipes.
The CWA Cookbook (Country Woman's Association) has been around for over 70 years and 17 editions. Whereas the Golden Wattle Cookbook, has had 27 editions since 1924. The Golden Wattle Cookbook was used in Western Australian schools to teach cooking and my own very dog eared copy I bought when I first moved out of home is still referred to today.
Last of all is the internet. The net is a wonderful source of recipes, for beginners and chefs alike. Search for a particular dish or search for recipes containing the ingredients you have on hand at that moment.
To alleviate physical excuses it just requires some forward planning. I do my grocery shopping once a week and upon leaving the supermarket, I will have a general plan in place for my meals for the upcoming week.
Whilst I come up with my menu plan while I shop, you may find it easier to devise your own menu plan before going shopping. I do not always fully adhere to this plan but it does mean that I am at least prepared.
If for instance, I decide to make a lasagne, I would make sure that I purchase everything that I need to make it. There is nothing quite as frustrating as making a recipe and discovering you forgot an ingredient. Try making a lasagne without cheese or pasta sheets.
Another piece of advice is to keep your pantry/fridge stocked with basic items as well as ingredients for a quick simple meal.
I know that in my pantry I have a few options to be able to make a basic quick meal. I for instance have a can of beans and some eggs in the fridge or I can quickly cook some pasta and heat up a jar of pasta sauce.
Meals such as these are not ideal as an everyday thing but can be a quick and hearty option to take away when needed. I will turn to my "emergency" meals in times when time has got away from me.
For example, I may have been out visiting friends all day and arrived home much later than I expected. I may have planned on cooking a meal that night and had the ingredients ready, however arriving home late and hungry, something quick and easy is the best option.
I know myself, after a long and physical day at work, the last thing I want to be doing is cooking my dinner, even though I enjoy cooking. It is for this reason that so many turn to the likes of Uber Eats.
Yet again my answer involves being prepared. On my weekends I precook meals that can easily be reheated in the microwave. Dishes such as curries are not only delicious but are easy to reheat.
Whilst I am quite happy to eat the same thing for a few days in a row, I understand those who prefer something different each day. The answer to this is to freeze your portioned meals. Then each night select a frozen meal and put it in your fridge to defrost ready for the next evening.
Not every meal needs to be something like a curry or a stew, pasta dishes also can be easily reheated, as can soups and even some Asian dishes.
Another approach involves components that are easy and quick to cook. Crumbed fish for instance involves simply placing on a tray in a heated oven to cook. Add your fish to your pre-bought soft tacos (or Bao) with some pre-purchased coleslaw and your done.
It really is a matter of planning your meals ahead and choosing things that are simple to get ready to eat.
Everyone should have a pantry containing basic staples. What goes into your basic staples is up to you and will depend on what you like to eat
Below is an idea of the sort of things I will always have in the pantry, fridge or freezer.
Like pantry staples there are items of equipment that I recommend you have .
Although it isn't really basic equipment, I use my electric pressure cooker a lot, both as a slow cooker and a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker allows you to cook an 8 hour curry in about 30 minutes.
A pressure cooker is not inexpensive, but cheaper ones like my Ronson are available.
When buying meat, how you intend to cook it determines what grade of meat to get. Meat comes as either Primary or Secondary cuts. Never be afraid to ask for help and suggestions on what cut to buy.
A Primary cut is something like a nice steak. It comes from a muscle that does not overwork and is cooked quickly. Ideal for BBQ or cooking in a frying pan.
Whereas a Secondary cut like Gravy Beef or Lamb Shanks comes from a part of the animal that does a lot of moving, and as such requires a long slow cook. Such cuts should be cooked in a slow cooker, pressure cooker or perhaps slow roasted.
This is important to know as a Primary cut like a steak will become dry, pasty, cardboard like and unpleasant when slow cooked. Whereas the sinew and connective tissue in a secondary cut will become like a piece of rubber if barbequed as it requires time to break down.
Most of my cooking uses secondary cuts like gravy beef and beef cheeks as they are not only cheaper but when cooked slowly produce deliciously tender meals that can be reheated with ease.
The truth is that it is not that hard to cook for one, it just requires a little bit of planning and forethought. It will not take long to develop some culinary confidence if the kitchen is unfamiliar territory for you.
As an added bonus, if your wanting to start dating again. Many women find the ability to cook, an attractive feature in a man.
5 Handy Apps For Your PhoneRead Now
The advent and proliferation of smart phones has seen a huge change in the way we do every day things. A big part of that is the abundance of apps to assist us, or keep us entertained.
While the most popular apps are for Social Media and the streaming of music and TV, there are a great many apps that are genuinely handy. There is an abundance of apps acting as dictionaries and thesauruses and plenty of apps available to help converting units of measure at the press of a button.
There is however a myriad of apps that can provide assistance beyond what we would have at first thought feasible. I am going to mention 5 of the apps that I personally find very useful and handy to have ready access to.
Many of these apps are regional and so are relevant to where I live in Perth, Western Australia. If you find a particular app not relevant to your location, a simple search should find an app more suited doing the same thing in your area.
The DocuSign app allows you to sign paperwork you received by email and return it without having to print the document, sign it, scan it and then return it by email or snail mail. It is simple to use and also offers the opportunity for multiple people to sign if needed.
Of course when dealing with official documents, it is important to consider the security of your documents. Docusign is a well established Tech company which is about to list publicly.
In fact, as far back as 2012 it was reported that 90% of Fortune 500 companies were using it.
Even if you don't regularly sign documents, it can come in very handy when refinancing your mortgage or organizing insurance.
Photomath is a camera calculator. You just point your phone camera at the math problem and it gives you the answer and the detailed working out. No more typing in long and complicated equations into your calculator, just point and shoot.
It is very simple to use and is capable of doing advanced scientific calculations.
The Emergency + app is one that could literally be a life saver. Developed by the Emergency Services and the Australian Government, it offers a simple way to contact help in case of an emergency.
On opening the app you find a choice of 3 buttons which can instantly dial 000, State Emergency Services (SES) or the Police. It also provides you with a map with your current location and GPS coordinates so that you can relay that information to Emergency Services.
Another page offers a wider selection of emergency numbers from Health Direct to the Poisons Information Line.
The real beauty of this app is in it's simplicity. Even in a state of panic or shock you will have easy to use emergency numbers as well as your location details. I personally hope to never need to use it, but keep it on the front page of my phone just in case.
The National Public Toilet Map
Another initiative by the Australian Government. The National Public Toilet Map identifies more than 14 000 public accessible toilets throughout Australia.
Using your current location it can inform you of toilets nearby, also supplying information such as opening hours, parking and disability access. By entering in your intended location you can plan ahead, which can be vital for those caring for young children (i.e. Grandchildren) or those with IBS.
Again, a great app to have that you may never use, but will be forever grateful should you come to need it.
WAM Field Guide
The Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna is an informative data base of Fauna in WA and its surrounding waters and was developed by the Western Australian Museum .
It contains detailed information on the more common fauna species, including birds, fish , frogs, insects etc. The information includes photos, descriptions, a map showing distribution as well as details on their scarcity.
I have found it to be quite a useful guide when trying to identify a bird or animal that has caught my eye.
There are of course a great many other very handy apps that I am yet to discover, so feel free to let me know of other to add to my collection.
I can clearly remember the moment I received the news, that the life of my only child was about to be turned on its head. I was driving and had to pull over to the side of the road to process the phone call I had just received from my ex wife.
The news was a shock and I was struggling to grasp the concept that the life of my young teenager would never be the same again. They were in hospital and doctors had confirmed they were now a Type 1 Diabetic.
I can also recall, being informed that they were on the Autism Spectrum, just a few years before. On both occasions, there is a clear before and after moment in my head.
Both diagnoses came out of the blue and were a complete surprise. They also meant big upheavals for the parents and the unfortunate teen, including some big lifestyle changes.
However, the same cannot be said for the moment my daughter became my son. It was not a lack of comprehension of the gravity of the situation, that had left me without a defining moment.
The reason for a lack of a defining moment, was due to a combination of it being a gradual process, as well as simple parental intuition. In other words, I had been aware for a number of years that my daughter had been struggling with a number of issues relating to their identity.
Indeed the previous year, they had been seeking help from the Perth Gender Clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital. (For access to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Western Australia, a referral from your GP is required.)
It is important to note that my son made his decision(s) himself with the help of specialist. The specialists in no way pushed him regarding a time frame or a decision, instead, they helped guide and advice him to make an informed decision at his own pace.
At first his decision was one of continuing with the status quo, but as time went by he became aware that his assigned gender was indeed incorrect and a decision to be himself and identify as male became the only option.
Watching your only child, struggling with the concept of where and how they fit in, on top of all the usual teen angst is heartbreaking. His mental health was a real concern and this was compounded by several other issues beyond Gender Identity and Body Dismorphia.
So how then did I handle the idea that my only child was now my son and not my daughter? In many ways it was easier for me to handle, in part, because of the fact I do not get to see him anywhere near as often as I would like.
Much like his Diabetes diagnosis, I was not required to deal with it on a daily basis. The day to day changes were not an issue for me, except on the weekends that Danny stayed with me.
Initially, perhaps the hardest part was having Danny stay over less often for a while. Danny, my ex and myself had discussed this and we agreed that, for the sake of Danny's mental health it would be better for him to stay at home.
To understand this decision, you need to be aware that those on the Autism Spectrum, find change very distressing and tend to have their own "safe space" they can go to, when overwhelmed.
For Danny, this safe place was his bedroom at his Mothers home. So not being able to retreat to the safety of his bedroom would simply add to his stress level.
Understanding of your child's mental health needs, is key to both helping your child through this difficult time and simply good parenting. I still stayed in touch and would see Danny when I could.
This was made complicated by Danny living nearly an hour and a half away and the fact that I work shift work. However a caring and supportive parent does what they have to.
The reality was that no one was in any hurry to rush into things. The fact that my son is home schooled, meant that his timetable for coming out was his own.
I feel sure that just making the decision, must have been a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. The rest of the world could wait, for the time being the focus was on his own well being.
Of course the time would come to gradually let others know, starting with family members. But for now there was no need to rush.
At this point in time Danny is essentially no different to the person he was before. The only real change is his name and change of pronouns.
Danny has always had a non gender specific appearance and this remains the same today. His interests and passions are still exactly the same, as are his friends and his sense of humour.
So how have I as a Father dealt with this change? After all I have lost a daughter and gained a son.
The name change was hard, due in part to the fact that he had chosen a name that I wasn't exactly enamored with. However two things have helped me to accept his new name.
First of all has been time, I have simply got used to using his new name. I will on occasions, especially when tired, slip up, but for the most part Danny is Danny.
Secondly, is a realization that everyone has the right to make their own decisions. Danny is a sensible and mature teen and so I do not have the right to dictate who they are.
A parent's role is to guide their children to be capable of making reasoned decisions. I feel confident that Danny's choice of name is the right one for him and now have no issue with it whatsoever.
The use of pronouns was admittedly difficult. Pronouns are words such as He, She, They, Her and Him and every Transgender person will have their own preference as to which pronouns they prefer.
I found the use of new pronouns difficult at first, the first issue was knowing what pronouns to use, the second issue was to remember to use a different one to what I had been using for 14 years.
The next issue was trying not to draw attention to the changing pronouns. In the first few months the only people who knew were his immediate family.
His extended family, being his Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles as well as our greater circle of friends had not been told at that point. My response was to use gender non specific pronouns such as They instead of He or She.
Naturally when we did inform the rest of our family, the need to use gender non specific pronouns became no longer necessary. I then had to change to Danny's preferred gender specific pronouns.
To be honest I really haven't found the change of pronouns all that difficult. I think this is primarily because I am accepting and supportive of Danny.
For me the hardest part was not the the idea of the changing of gender, but the knowledge of the difficulty of the road ahead, that worried me. The Trans community can attest to the prejudice, the violence, the misunderstanding from the wider community.
It is natural for any loving parent to be concerned, knowing that the life ahead for their child will be a difficult one. I am very much aware that Danny does have the support and understanding of those around him.
The greater community is also far more accepting of LGBTIQ. Transgender celebrities such as Jordan Raskopoulos, Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and former Australian Soldier Catherine McGregor have certainly helped with community acceptance.
I know that this has been the right thing for Danny. I am also aware that he will have to fight against prejudice and ignorance.
As a Father, of course that pains me greatly. However I have always been a proud supporter of LGBTIQ rights.
I for one am proud of Danny. For in him I see a wonderful young man who will grow into a prejudice free, citizen of the world. Whilst he himself may face discrimination, I know he will be accepting of others.
On a final note, I am one of few fathers who has had both a son and a daughter, yet only had one child.
Moving on from a grey divorceRead Now
Like many men, I found myself divorced, 50 and uncertain as to where my life was heading. It is such a growing trend that there is now a specific term for middle aged divorce, Grey Divorce.
Again, like so many others, I was blind sighted and ill prepared for divorce. I was left struggling on so many levels and felt very little hope for a future of happiness and contentment.
Yet as I sit here a few years on from my divorce, I could not be happier with my post divorce life. In fact, I have had several people comment on how they have never seen me happier.
My point, is not to brag, but to reassure that regardless of how bleak things may seem, digging yourself out of the hole you are in, is actually easier to do than one would think.
Truth is that there are many places online and off set up specifically to help you through and after divorce. These experts will offer you a step by step guide to surviving divorce.
What I hope to offer is some advise based on my own experience. Not so much a one step at a time approach, but actions that can result in massive positive steps towards the next phase of your life.
Whilst everyone is different, the following actions will help you to push the reset button on life and have you looking forward with a smile.
If you are like most men of our generation, then it is likely you rarely see a doctor. Well unless that is, you are dying of man flu. Whilst it is better to get a yearly checkup, yearly and not once a decade, doing so during or right after your divorce has a number of benefits.
First of all, a health checkup whilst your are going through the added stress of a divorce should make sense to all, especially if your checkups are only once a decade.
Secondly, aside from all the blood tests and the poking and prodding, your GP is also the ideal person to gauge your mental health. Divorce and Post Divorce is stressful and can have a serious effect on your mental health.
Depression is all too common and whilst it is usually temporary, it is also very treatable. Just remember that Depression is no sign of weakness but a sign you have been strong for so long.
The chances are that your GP will not feel there is any issue with either your mental or physical health. However, it pays to be careful.
Men's mental health is a serious issue and one of the highest causes of death, especially post divorce and yet there is so much you can do to prevent it. For further information take a look at my post on Mental Health and Divorce, both part 1 and part 2.
Some men will think this a waste of time and money, but I can assure you that is a very effective way to move on from divorce. Whilst I discovered an interest in fashion after my divorce. This step has nothing to do with developing a new found interest in men's style and everything to do with leaving the past behind and moving forward.
There are a few reasons why this is such a great post divorce move. Firstly, it is inevitable that your wardrobe could do with an update. When I was going through my divorce, my clothes were all about 10 years old as I would rarely spend any money on myself.
Secondly, by going through your wardrobe and updating, it gives you the chance to get rid of items that may bring back memories of your marriage. I would suggest not doing this in one fell swoop, but in stages or else it can be a very costly exercise.
Start with your everyday attire and work from there. Remember, this is your chance to build a wardrobe you like and not one influenced by what your ex wanted you to wear.
Thirdly, the effect that new attire will have on your self esteem can not be underestimated. Be it a new shirt, a new pair of boots or some new jeans, you will feel like a new man. This will see you feeling happier as well as looking better and perhaps more importantly, your ability to deal with the stresses of divorce will be much improved.
If you haven't done so already, I would strongly advise that you start a bucket list. This is your chance to add things to your list that your ex thought were silly, as well as doing or experiencing things you have always wanted to.
It does not matter if it is big or small, this is your list. Always wanted to skydive or go to a Formula One or Moto GP event? Put it on your list. Always wanted to drive a convertible or maybe learn to fly fish? Put it on your list.
The point is to get you thinking about the future and how good it can be and not leave you dwelling in the past.
Find the you that you are now
Whilst this may seem a stupid statement, to suggest that you do not know who you are. The reality is that having just come out of a marriage, you have for many years been part of a couple and now find yourself as a single.
A relationship helps define who we are as individuals and this is usually a healthy part of a relationship. You have for many years been compromising, yet now all decisions are yours to make.
Another factor is that it is normal for many of us to freeze time whilst married. If you were married at say 30, much of who you are will still be stuck in your 30's, think of your clothes or your entertainment choices.
So you need to discover what the 50 year old you is into. The aforementioned bucket list can help with this.
My own journey has seen me discover things about myself that were never on my radar whilst married. Things like the way I dress, the foods I eat and how I socialize are very different to my married days.
This process will take some time, but learning who you are will fast track your happiness. In a previous blog post of mine, I discuss this concept with greater detail.
You may find that the 50 year old single you, is not much different to the married you. However, you do need to work out who you are now.
Reconnect with old friends.
Over the course of our lives we tend to lose touch with friends along the way. Life just seems to get in the way and the next thing you know is that you haven't spoken to someone for 15 years or more.
Couple this with divorce and our friend circle is almost non existent. One of the unspoken tragedies of divorce is that not only are our assets split up, but so to our friends.
Most men over 30 have few close friends and those we have are mostly the husbands of our wife's friends she made through your child's school etc. So after divorce she keeps the friends.
We all need mates yet find it difficult making new ones. So go and reconnect with old ones. Look through your phone numbers and give old mates a call.
Facebook and social media is an amazing way of reconnecting, even if you are not a fan of social media. Through Facebook, I myself have reconnected with many people from my past that I had lost touch with.
I have got back in touch with old workmates and even people I went to school with and have made a number of new friends this way.
Seek out life and adventure
Whilst much of this will be included on your bucket list, I feel it is worth mentioning on it's own. Don't wallow in self pity, instead, go out and face life full on.
I know it can be easier to say that than to do it, however it really is a great way to move on faster. Forcing yourself to have fun, may be hard, but the end result is still fun.
Start small by catching up with friends, going to see a movie or go and see some live music. The goal is for you to feel happy and alive again.
Ultimately you will be wanting to lead up to bigger and better things, things that make you feel alive. Go bungy jumping, swim with sharks or hire some hot laps at a track day. Getting your adrenaline pumping, is a sure fire way of getting your smile back.
Naturally, what I have suggested here is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to moving forward. I know myself that once I started actively doing these things that my outlook became far brighter.
Divorce sucks! I know that as well as anybody. The trick is to not allow the divorce to swallow you up. What is done is done, move forward and reinvent yourself ready for the next journey in life.
Things may be hard, but forcing yourself to move on and enjoy life will shorten the duration of the tough times. Being in your 50's is not a sign that it's too late, rather it is the ideal time to live the life you always wanted.
With the possible exception of today's 20 somethings, most of us would like to be in a loving relationship. Certainly those of us in our 50's, desire the emotional intimacy and the simple joy of sharing life's journey with someone special.
After my marriage breakdown and subsequent divorce, whilst I certainly did not rush in to anything, I was well aware that eventually, that was what I was ultimately after. So, after a period of time, I felt myself ready to date again and delved into the scary world of online and speed dating.
But was I really ready for a relationship? The answer in hindsight was, No! This as it turns out, is quite the norm. Based on my own experiences and observations from the dating scene, I believe that there are in fact 4 distinct stages we go through on our road to a new relationship.
The first step, especially after a long term relationship is to rediscover just who you are and to lose the baggage left behind from your previous relationship. In a previous post, I discuss this further. However it is important that you accept that this is indeed a part of the process.
The second stage is to actually get out into the world and begin meeting new people.This can be very daunting and whilst it takes a conscious decision on your part, it is usually sparked by some prodding from friends, your feeling of loneliness or a mixture of both.
I tried several ways of meeting new people including bars, blind dates, online dating and speed dating. All of which for me took courage and a conscious decision to get out and about. From my experience, by far the most effective and fun way, was speed dating. I found speed dating a lot of fun, once I got my head around the concept. My post on speed dating contains a number of tips and hints based on my own experiences.
Unfortunately, simply getting out and meeting people does not necessarily mean you are actually ready to date and the same applies to those you meet. Being ready to meet people is different to being ready to date.
During my time at speed dating events, I met a number of wonderful people, who unbeknown to themselves, were not emotionally ready to actually date. So being ready to date is the third stage.
As a result of speed dating, I went on a number of actual dates with wonderful people that never eventuated into a second date. The reason was not always incompatibility, much of the time it was because one or both of us were not really ready to date and so without knowing it, we built emotional walls around ourselves. Again this is normal and something that will change when you are indeed ready to seriously date again.
The fourth stage is being genuinely ready and open to a relationship. This means that you brush aside commitment issues, the fear of getting hurt and the pain of previous relationships.
There is no shortcut to get here, nor is there a light bulb going off informing you when you arrive. What I found, was that dating was becoming more relaxed and comfortable, and that I was going on more second and third dates.
For me the end result has been, I am now 6 months into a relationship that sees me very happy and thinking, if only the two of us had met earlier. The reality is that had we met earlier, unless both of us were ready for a relationship it is highly unlikely that we would have progressed beyond a second or third date.
This is not because of a lack of compatibility, but because one or both of us were unconsciously not ready to risk the commitment a relationship entails. Time, as well as meeting and dating people is really the only way for your subconscious to break down the walls holding you back.
So, if like me you find yourself going on a few dates but not going any further. Don't beat yourself up, get despondent, depressed or give up. Simply accept that you or your dates are not quite ready, the timing is wrong and keep looking.
Regardless of the pain and hurt from your previous relationships, I for one believe that a relationship is well worth the struggle, the anguish, the self doubt and most of all, the risk. Just ask those around me who are saying that they have never seen me so happy.
Recently on social media I was met with much scorn and derision when I mentioned that I re-used my coffee pods. My coffee pod machine is a Caffitaly S14 which uses a coffee pod unique to Caffitaly.
The issue is, that unlike Nespresso pods which are made from aluminium, the Caffitaly compatible pods are made of plastic and as such, are not biodegradable.
The amount of used coffee pods going into landfill today is quite staggering. I should add that I purchased the machine without realizing that the pods were in fact plastic.
The reason for the scorn on social media is that the coffee pods are not designed to be-refilled, re-used or indeed recycled and here I was claiming to re-use mine.
Yes it can be a bit fiddly re-using your pods but there are two good reasons to do so. Firstly, from an environmental view point, whilst obviously it would be better to utilize biodegradable pods, no such pod exists for this brand of machine and the next best option is to continually refill your pods. Secondly it works out a great deal cheaper.
The first thing to do is to disassemble your pods, starting by using a small sharp knife to pierce the plastic covering acting like a lid and then peel it away from the pod.
Once you have peeled away the plastic lid, it is time to empty your pod of its components and old coffee grounds. I find the best way to do this is firstly to have a container ready in which to empty your coffee grounds and a sink with water in it.
You then gently squeeze the sides of the pod between your thumb and forefinger, allowing the top disc to pop out. Inside your pod there are two plastic discs sandwiching the ground coffee. These discs you will need to keep.
Now, using a dinner knife, gently pry the discs away from the coffee, give the discs a quick scrape and place the two discs and the pod casing into your sink of water and the coffee into your waste container. This sink of water will give the components an initial rinse, something that is necessary as the coffee grounds can make quite a mess.
Your next step is to thoroughly clean your components in warm soapy water. I do this using an old toothbrush. This is a crucial step to prevent bacteria and mould growing within your pod, resulting in an unpleasant and unhealthy cup of coffee.
Once you have scrubbed all the components, rinse them in hot water. Now place all of the components on top of a cake rake to dry overnight. I use the cake rake simply to allow good airflow.
By allowing to dry overnight , this again eliminates the threat of mould growing within your coffee. If you intend to use your pods within the next 24 hours , drying overnight would not be necessary.
Once all the components of your coffee pods are dry it is time to assemble and fill your pods. My first step is to simply put the smaller discs inside all my pods and stack the pods inside each other in small piles. Be sure to insert the small disc the correct way up with the flat base of the disc on the bottom of your pod casing.
When it comes to putting the coffee in your pods, my advice is to use a teaspoon and secondly lay out a piece of greaseproof or baking paper on your bench and work on top of the paper.
This will enable you to simply fold the paper and pour the unused coffee back into the bag of grounds. Again, thinking of waste, I reuse this sheet of baking paper, I simply fold it up and clip it to my bag of coffee ready for use next time.
Now using a teaspoon, spoon a heaped spoon of coffee into the pod casing, no need to worry about making a mess as that is what the greaseproof paper is for. After placing in a spoon of coffee I like to gently tap the bottom of the pod against the benchtop to settle the grinds before adding the remaining coffee.
The finished amount should see the pod seem overfull as shown in the photo. Now simply place the larger disc on top with the flat side facing up and push gently down until it is level with the top of the pod case and with that you are now finished and ready to make a well deserved cup of coffee.
It may seem complicated and not worth the effort at first, but I can assure you that it is actually very simple. A point to be aware of though is that because your pod no longer has a lid, dropping a pod will result in coffee grounds everywhere.
I also find that occasionally my pod doesn't seat quite right in my machine requiring me to open the pod chute. The result of this is that the pod will fall in among all the used pods making it hard to determine which is the new pod.
This just means that I "lose" the occasional pod. I originally place a small piece of aluminium foil very tightly on the top of the casing to act as a lid. Sure, it worked although it can make the pods a tight fit into the machine, however I no longer deem it necessary and think it a waste of foil.
So when you yourself stumble upon an online debate about the environmental impact of coffee pods, you too can say "I refill all my pods, it really is quite simple to do"
Life Rules For MenRead Now
Everybody likes to think of themselves as a good person. In today's ever changing world, the concept of toxic masculinity and what makes a man, has been debated constantly.
Indeed, in the wake of the Weinstein affair and the Me Too movement many men are now questioning their own actions and are confused about what is expected of a man. The male role may be changing, however, the basics of being a good man have not.
I have compiled a list of rules that I feel are timeless and reflect the values and actions of a well rounded, happy, contented and good modern man.
My 50 years upon the planet has seen me gain a modicum of wisdom and as I write this list, I do so with the thought of sharing it with my own son, so feel free to do so with any burgeoning gentleman in your life.
I am sure that you may feel I have missed some things, however at the very least my list here is a good starting point. Most of these suggested rules apply to people of any gender and age.
A quick look over my list and I realize that there are a few items that I could focus more on myself. That in itself is a reminder to all that,n on occasions we forget and sometimes need reminding of our very own advice.
It's Hip To Be SquareRead Now
The Pocket Square for me, is perhaps one of the greatest style accessories a man can wear. A Pocket square, in all but the most formal of occasions allows the wearer to add some pizzazz to his outfit.
Worn in the breast pocket of a Suit, Blazer or Sports Coat a pocket square whilst traditionally made of white silk is today the style accessory that the wearer can have the most fun with.
Textured linen, crisp cotton, fine silk or indeed any fabric of choice may be used and much like their colours, the patterns can be simple, plain, muted or outlandish and vibrant.
The advantage a pocket square has over an accessory such as a tie is that only a little of it is on show, which allows for more adventurous designs and colours.
There are some traditions and rules that should be followed, but for the most part, a square can be a great way of expressing your personality.
Some Pocket Square History
The past fifteen to twenty years has seen a resurgence in men's accessory use and this of course also means the pocket square. The history of the pocket square dates back a very long way indeed.
Although its origins are not totally clear, some believe that it stems from the Ancient Greeks carrying a scented cloth, others feel it dates back to the Romans and the tradition of dropping pieces of cloth during Gladiator bouts.
From an etymological point of view the word Kerchief derives from the French words "couvrir" (meaning to cover) and "Chef" (meaning head). During much of the Middle ages, a Kerchief was a piece of cloth worn on the head.
It was in the 16th century that saw a shift with kerchiefs going into peoples pockets, and the term Hand Kerchief arrived. It is believed that the handkerchief was mostly used for two purposes.
Firstly as a scented rag to cover ones nose, due to the overwhelming stench from the poor hygiene practices of the middle ages and secondly the more familiar use of wiping ones nose or sweaty brow.
It wasn't until the rise of the 2 piece suit in the early 1900's that the pocket square as we know it was born and found its way into the breast pocket of men's jackets. Indeed for the first half on the 20th Century men would often carry two handkerchiefs, one in their trouser pocket for personal use and another in their breast pocket to offer to someone in need.
The introduction of the disposable tissue by Kleenex then saw a change in how the Handkerchief was used. No more was it required as a practical accessory it now simply became a fashionable and stylish accessory.
Different Colours, Patterns and Textures
As with any style accessory, the variety is endless. For the most part it is up to you the individual to decide upon what square to wear with what jacket. I myself have about 20 different pocket squares and are chosen to be worn dependent upon a number of things.
Some of the questions to ask yourself would include, How formal is the event or my outfit, What and how many colours are already present in my outfit, What is the sheen of my jacket and simply do any pocket squares clash with what I intend to wear?
The choice of colours are never ending as indeed is the variety of designs. Indeed some high end pocket squares consist of a complete scene more reminiscent of a painting. Paisley, floral or even geometric designs are quite common as are plain solid block colours.
The fabric themselves can vary as well, traditionally a handkerchief would be made from linen, whereas today linen, cotton, synthetic materials and even silk may be used.
Also, the thickness and weave of the material may differ, an example of which would be satin, a type of weave resulting in a glossy appearance.
Another aspect that can vary is the edging on the pocket square, the cotton used may match the material or may in fact supply a contrast to it.
For instance in the photo of the two satin pocket squares, the blue and white striped square utilizes a matching blue thread whilst the white square with icecream designs has a contrasting pink edging. ( The satin Icecream design is currently available in my store along with a few other inexpensive pocket squares )
A Few Basic Rules
There are a few basic rules that should be remembered especially for those new to accessorizing. Whilst most rules are really no more than good pieces of advice there is one hard and fast rule that should always be heeded.
When dressing for a black tie or white tie event the only pocket square to be worn is plain white.
Always take into account the sheen of your jacket, typically a suit jacket has more sheen (i.e. is shinier) than a sports coat or jacket. So naturally a pocket square that works well with your suit jacket may look odd when paired with a tweed sports coat.
Another factor to consider is price. This may seem an odd thing to comment on but whilst inexpensive squares ( such as my own newstartat50 pocket squares) work equally well in many occasions, there are times when paying more for a high end product makes sense.
If for instance you are wearing a $3000 designer suit which is constructed using the best quality suiting material then to wear a square made from a lesser quality fabric would be apparent to even the most casual observer. A fine suit would always warrant a good quality silk pocket square.
When searching online for pocket squares, you will all too frequently come across pocket square sets. My advice is too avoid these at all costs.
A typical set will include a pocket square with a matching tie and in all but one scenario, matching your pocket square to any thing else in your outfit just looks like you have no idea what you are doing. The one exception is if you are the groom or a groomsmen in a wedding party.
The layout test
I find that the simplest way to choose which pocket square to wear is to do what I call "The Layout Test", the beauty of this is that it works for all components of your outfit and ultimately ensures that all pieces work together harmoniously.
What I do is to lay out my outfit on the bed and place a selection of squares on or about my jacket. Then upon seeing how they all work together with the Jacket , my Shirt, Trousers etc I then select two or three options and then try each one of them in my breast pocket.
The point is to not worry about having ironed your clothes, whether or not you have a coat hangers in place, but simply to ascertain the best overall combination. Of course once you have decided, it is time to press your clothes,and ensure they are smart and ready to wear etc.
How to Fold a Pocket Square
There are numerous ways to fold a pocket square however I will show you the 9 most basic ways.
The Presidential Fold
The crispest and most formal is the Presidential (or Square Fold). Not only is this a simple fold but it is the only fold to be used on your white pocket square for Black or White tie events. It is an understated yet ultimately classy fold.
Laying your pressed square flat and fold to the width of your jacket pocket, then fold up to form a rectangle about 10-15mm longer than your pocket is deep. Tuck the folded edge into your pocket which should allow about 1 cm protruding neatly from your breast pocket. Ensure there is no visible overlap as everything must be very neat and sharp.
The Casual Fluff
This is one of my favourite folds, but partially because it requires no folding or any real precision. Of course as such it is a very casual look that pairs well with Jeans and a Casual Sports Coat with a T shirt.
It is so simple I didn't ask my son to draw an infographic. Simply place your index finger in the middle of the underside of your square and use your other hand to draw the fabric over your finger.
Place the pointed end in your square in your pocket and use your fingers to fluff up and adjust to your liking.
The One Point Fold
This is a nice neat fold, suitable for both business and casual attire. Lay your pressed square flat with a corner facing up like a diamond, then fold in half to create a triangle.
Next fold the corners on the base inwards so to create a width the same as your pocket. Now just tuck into your breast pocket leaving only the triangular part exposed.
The Two Point Fold
The Two Point Fold is almost exactly the same as the One Point Fold except when making the first fold, by folding in half upwards towards the point you do so slightly off centre allowing the second point behind to also show.
This works better with a square made from material that is the same both sides. It is simply a step up from the one point fold.
The Three Point Fold
Now we are starting to get into some more complicated folds. The three point fold is a classier and more advanced fold.
Start with a neatly pressed square place flat like a diamond and again fold in half upwards , however you then have to skew your fold slightly so that the fold itself does not run point to point.
Now bring the bottom left corner up to the top to create your three points. Now finally fold the remaining corner inwards and neatly place in your breast pocket.
The Four Point or Cagney Fold
Another advanced fold, but one that is far simpler than it looks at first. Again fold upwards and slightly askew allowing two corners to show.Fold the left corner up followed by the right corner in such a way as to have 4 evenly spaced peaks.
Now simply fold the left and right sides in together and turn up the bottom to allow you to put it neatly into your pocket. ( The orange pocket square in the photo below is available in my store)
The Puff Fold
This is quite a quick and easy fold and is pretty much a reverse of The Fluff. Patterned squares will look better with this fold, so think paisley, dots, pictures etc.
To make the Puff Fold pinch the centre of your square and lift it up allowing the edges to hang. Now carefully roll the bottom up until the correct length for your pocket has been achieved and insert into your breast pocket.
The next step is to spend a little time gently tugging on the square to achieve a 3 dimension and good looking puff. It is crucial to note that The Puff Fold will have some dimples and creases, this is part of its organic looking appeal.
The Winged Puff Fold
A versatile fold with the wings giving it a touch of added style. You will need a pocket square that is as close to being a genuine square shape as possible for this one.
Simply lay your square out like a Diamond and this time folding down and towards yourself joining the top and bottom corners. Now fold the two top corners in to form a smaller diamond shape.
Now with the exception of the top winged peak, fold the remaining 3 corners in. Your next step is to tuck it in to your pocket and gently puff it out a bit, being mindful that a crisp peak is not required and that a domed peak will give it its natural puff look.
The Scallop Fold
This is a fold that certainly has a sense of class and style about it. Begin with a pressed square flat in a square shape as opposed to a diamond this time. Now you need to fold in half to form a triangle and then do so again to form another smaller triangle.
Your next step is the tricky part, rolling each of the two top down and across, it is vital that you don't fold but carefully roll the fabric to create a smooth curl reminiscent of a scarf around your neck.
Poke the pointed end into your pocket and tidy up the scallop so it has a soft and organic look.
Hopefully now I have inspired you to start your own collection of pocket squares and that you are no longer daunted by the prospect of folding them.
Pocket Squares are a simple way to personalize any outfit when wearing a jacket. So feel free to pop by my store where I have a few inexpensive handmade squares for sale
Just before turning 50, I met and began dating a wonderful lady and now, upon looking back over the past months of our burgeoning relationship, I can clearly see a change in my activities and interests.
Well, kind of. The past few months have seen me partake and experience things that I have always found interest in but never really been willing to fully indulge.
I have always been of the opinion that a healthy relationship be it old or new, is a partnership that takes the both of you in a new direction. Each of you have been traveling your own unique pathway, however as you enter into a relationship a new path with influences from the both of you emerges.
To continue down your own path would require your new partner to relinquish all of what makes them an individual and in doing so would result in an unhealthy, dangerous and ultimately doomed relationship and of course vice versa.
My new shared path has been one which, alone I may have caught glimpses of from my own trail, but certainly not one in which I would have wandered down alone. Naturally I am finding this new shared path a beautiful place to be and as I stroll down it hand in hand, I yet again find I am learning more about myself.
New experiences are part of your journey of self discovery and even at 50 there are things to learn. Part of what I am learning is a new found interest in things that I never really allowed myself to indulge in, as well as interests that I had long forgotten.
I am of course the very same person, with the same likes and dislikes I have always had. However, what has changed has been the order of preference.
Rarely would I indulge in the luxury of going out for breakfast, however my new path has me working through a list of local places that are known for their breakfast menus. As someone who enjoys quality food, I have always liked the idea of going out for breakfast more often, however previous circumstances in my life did not lend itself to doing so, now however I do so regularly.
So what changed? Well the answer to that is that I am now very happily seeing someone. Someone for whom going out for breakfast is not unusual. So now the question is, Am I blindly being led along, joining her as she continues to walk down her path or have we forged a new road of our own, one which has formed through compromise and mutual likes?
The truth is that I am now able to indulge my wanting to eat breakfast out more often due in part because it is a mutual interest. I should add that my new found interest in eating out for breakfast has seen my lovely lady breaking her routine and eating breakfast out more frequently and at differing places, so it is safe to say we are walking down a path of our own making.
My new relationship has not been all about stuffing our faces with breakfast goodies. Whilst I have always had an untrained interest in the Arts, going to small gallery exhibitions was something I would very rarely do.
Not so much through a lack of interest on my behalf but rather a lack of an interested second party. As a result, such cultural exploits were generally further down my list of things to do. Now however, I have a partner with very similar interests we have been to several exhibitions both large and small.
I must say it has been a great joy to see and discuss varying works of art together, regardless of whether we like it or not or even fully understand and appreciate it.
I was lucky enough to recently see an exhibition that I rate as one of the best art exhibitions both large and small I have ever seen. (For those of you in Perth W.A. I highly recommend going to "Revealed Exhibition:New and Emerging WA Aboriginal Artists" at the Fremantle Arts centre, whilst it is on)
This was an exhibit that I would not have seen before, aside from the fact I rarely went to exhibitions, we were unaware it was on and simply decided to go and see if there was anything on we would like to see. Again, something that alone we may not have done but together we did.
The point of today's blog is not to brag about my new relationship or how cultural I am, but to emphasis the point that with any new and healthy relationship it is normal for you to seem to change a little. A new relationship will bring aspects of yourself to the surface that may have been forgotten, whilst other things, once a big part of your life may be pushed to the background.
It is all part of the ride and learning process. Not only will it strengthen your relationship but it will allow you to experience life by walking down a different and more interesting path than you were before.
In Gaelic, whisky means Water of Life and so it is to the many whisky lovers the world over. However, the world of whisky can be a confusing one, with terms like Single Malt, Peat, Cask Strength, Sherry Cask and Bourbon. For someone new to whisky, deciphering what it all means can be hard.
So whether you want to know the basics, so you can gift your whisky loving family member or friend a bottle or you yourself want to delve into the ever so tasty and varied world of whisky, I shall attempt to demystify all that is whisky without sounding like too much of a pretentious whisky snob.
Much like wine, there are those countries whose production is steeped in tradition and strict laws regulating the old school values and the non traditional countries left to innovate whilst still paying deference to tradition.
For many new to whisky, the first question is often, do I spell it whiskey or whisky? To answer this requires a little knowledge of whisky history. Whisky originated in the Gaelic countries of Scotland and Ireland and as is so often the case, regional differences in dialect have resulted in the Irish spelling whiskey with an E and the Scots spelling of whisky without the E.
The third traditional whiskey distilling country is that of the USA, the American spelling, influenced by all the Irish immigrants is that of whiskey. However, now we have other countries like Japan, Canada and Australia making a big impact on whisky markets.
These countries, not bound by tradition are free to do as they so wish and as a general rule of thumb, any whisky spelled with an E (Whiskey) is usually of the American bourbon style and those spelled without the E are of the Scottish style. As such I tend to use the spelling whisky, unless referring to Irish or American whiskey.
So what is Whisky?
whisky is a distilled spirit, much like Brandy, Vodka or Rum. It is made by malting barley (malting is a way of getting the grain to germinate faster and generate alcohol producing sugars), the kiln dried malted barley is then mixed with water and yeast to produce a type of beer (Yes, you need to make a hop-free beer before you can make whisky).
This beer is then distilled in either pot or column stills before being matured in Oak barrels. Now that may sound relatively straight forward, however the reason whisky is so confusing and varied comes from a mind boggling array of variations, the most obvious are the use and ratios of different grains and the barrels used to age the whisky. Other factors include the use of peat, the water that is used and even the environment around the distillery itself.
Different styles and types of whisky
Now we began to get into the area that scares and confuses many new to whisky and that is all the different styles and types of whisky. As this is a beginners guide I have kept to the more common types and my descriptions simple.
Malt Whisky; Malt whisky is made exclusively from malted barley and is the dram most associated with Scotland, although many other countries like Japan, Australia, India, France and New Zealand produce malt whiskies. For example Limeburners Heavy Peat , Laphroaig 10yr old or Macallan Amber.
Grain Whisky; Grain whisky is whisky made without using malted barley. Often using wheat and distilled in cheaper column stills, grain whiskies are frequently used to make blended whiskies due in part to them being cheaper to produce.
Blended Whisky; As the name suggests, these whiskies are made from different whiskies blended together to create a uniform and consistent whisky. The whisky used may be malt whiskies, grain whiskies and whiskies sourced from other distilleries.
Many whisky drinkers will scoff at the idea of drinking blended whiskies as they lack the "snob" value of a Single Malt, however there are a great number of very fine blended whiskies. Blended whisky, accounts for the majority of whisky sales thanks in part to companies like Johnnie Walker that specialise in blending whisky.For example Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker Black Label or one of my favourites, Nikka From The Barrel.
Bourbon; Bourbon is a whiskey from the USA and has a unique flavour profile. Only whisky made in America can be labelled as Bourbon, but that is not to say that a Bourbon style of whisky is not made in other countries.
Indeed, I have a wonderful award winning Sour Mash whiskey ( Sour Mash refers to a Bourbon style that has used material from an older batch to kick start the fermentation process) from Western Australia called Tiger Snake. Strict laws exist in the US surrounding bourbon production, for instance it must be made using a minimum of 51% corn and aged in brand new oak barrels. Examples of bourbon include Jim Beam, Makers Mark, Cougar and Pappy Van Winkle.
Rye Whiskey; Rye whiskey must be made from at least 51% Rye and is generally made in the USA or Canada. Rye whiskey tends to have a spicier taste examples include Knob Creek Rye, Bulleit Rye and Michters Rye.
Corn Whiskey; A uniquely American whisky made entirely from Corn. Corn whiskey tends to be relatively bland and as such is usually used in blending.
Irish Whiskey; Naturally, Irish whiskey must be made in Ireland. Nearly all Irish whiskey is triple distilled which gives it's unique smoothness. Brands such as Teeling, Jameson's and Tullamore Dew are all Irish whiskies.
Scotch Whisky; One can hardly talk about whisky without delving into the whiskies from Scotland. Like Bourbon, strict regulations are in place controlling many aspects of whisky production. Scotch whiskies rarely use new oak barrels, preferring to add unique flavours from casks previously used to mature Sherry, Port, Pedro Ximenez etc.
To make things more confusing for the beginner, Scotch whisky is divided into 4 regions, Lowland, Highland, Islay and Speyside all with characteristics unique to the region. ( with some rebellious exceptions). Many maps will include the Cambeltown region as well, however it is no longer recognised as an official region.
Speyside; Nearly half of Scotland's distilleries are in the Speyside region. Known for Lighter and Sweeter whiskies. The areas distilleries include Cardhu, Glenfiddich and The Macallan.
Lowland; Only 3 distilleries now remain in the area once famed for its triple distilled floral and light whisky. These are Auchentoshan, Bladnoch and Glenkinchie.
Highland; By far the largest region, so a big variation in flavours can be found although honey flavours as well as a much dryer style are common. Notable distilleries include Aberfeldy, Dalmore and Glenmorangie.
Islay; The boldest and most polarizing whiskies are found here on this tiny island of Scotland's West coast. Islay malts are not really for the beginner with strong flavours of salt from the ocean, Iodine from the seaweed in the peat and a real punch in the face of pure peaty smoke.
Whilst at first it sounds decidedly unappealing, Islay Malts are among the most idolised around the world. That peaty smoke is an aquired taste, but once you develop a taste for peated malts then you will want nothing else.
Peated Whisky; Peated whiskies polarize even the most devout whisky drinkers, but was exactly is peat and why does it affect the whisky so much? Well peat is simply the decaying (mostly) vegetable matter found in bogs.
Peat has been used for centuries as combustible heat source, it is readily avaliable in Scotland and burns well and long, it also produces a lot of smoke. Using this peat in the kilns to arrest the germination of the malted barley leaves the grain infused with an intense smokiness.
Dependant on the peat itself the flavour that is imparted will vary. Different distilleries will allow the smoke to do its magic for differing amount of times resulting in variations of smokiness. Aside from the very obvious smoke, peat can impart flavours reminiscent of moss, bacon or even iodine and can leave tastes of nuttiness, creaminess, citrus fruits and the saltiness of the ocean. Whiskies from Islay are renown for their peatiness .
Whisky producing countries.
Whisky is now produced all over the world in more than 20 countries. With many countries producing whiskies that deservedly win international awards.
Whisky production began in either Ireland or Scotland ( Much debate still exists) and both countries remain major whisky producers. Irish whisky was once the most popular in the world but now pales in popularity behind Scotch and Bourbon.
In the America's we see whisky from both Canada and the USA. Bourbon from Kentucky in the USA is one of the worlds most consumed spirits.
Europe whilst not ones first thought for whisky production beyond the borders of Scotland and Ireland sees whisky produced in a number of countries. France, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands and Wales all produce Whisky.
South Africa is starting to develop a reputation for producing some great whiskies and is considered one of the regions to watch.
From Oceania we see whisky produced in Australia and New Zealand of a very high quality. Indeed the Southern Island State of Tasmania has over 20 distilleries. Australian whisky is fast developing a reputation for high quality low volume boutique distilleries with whiskies from both sides of the country being hailed as among the worlds best.
Asia is perhaps not the first region you think of when mentioning whisky, however Asia consumes more whisky than anywhere else which would perhaps explain why it is also the largest producer. In fact India consumes nearly half of the worlds consumption of whisky each year and is also know to be the largest producer in the world.
However, due to lax regulations, much of what is labelled whisky in India would not be labelled as such in other countries. Having said that, India does produce its own fair share of fine single malt whiskies such as Amrut and Paul John
The Taiwanese distillery of Kavalan, as the countries only distillery has produced whiskies reknown the world over and won many prestigous awards.
Japan is now seen as the hottest whisky producing region in the world. In fact the prices for Japanese whiskies in the past few years have skyrocketed to the extent that prices outside of Japan are viewed by many as too high.
So why the rising prices? Quite simply, the reknown eye for detail of the Japanese has seen them produce some of the best whiskies in the world. Japan is now famous for its high quality Single Malts but also produces some wonderful blended whiskies like Nikka From The Barrel. Hibiki, Yamazaki and Nikka whiskies sell out so quickly they become collector items lusted after the world over.
One aspect of the world of whisky that confuses everyone new whisky is the abundance of terms. Being able to decipher a label and all its information will go a long way to understanding whisky.
There really is no right or wrong way, drink it as you enjoy it. However, mixing a good quality whisky with cola will drown out all that makes that whisky special. My advice is feel free to mix a cheaper blend (I myself use JW Black Label for mixing), but drink your better whiskies without mixing.
Whilst that sounds simple enough, we now delve into neat v ice v water. An age old whisky debate. In my opinion, each whisky needs to be treated differently and so you need to work out with each whisky how you prefer it.
My preference is to never use ice, I find chilling the whisky masks many of its glorious subtleties. I will normally try my whisky neat, that is, straight out of the bottle and into the glass.
I will then taste it adding no more than 1/2 a teaspoon of bottled water between tastes until I find it just right. The adding of a small amount of water "opens" up the whisky and it is frequently quite incredible the difference it can make. Of course, a cask strength whisky is likely to take more water as it has a much higher alchohol content to start with.
After all of this, my advice to any whisky newbie is to try, try, try. Plenty of liquor outlets and hotels offer tasting evenings accompanied with great advice from experts.
Due to the large variety within the world of whisky, you need to find your own taste preferences. For instance whilst I enjoy most whiskies, my own preferences is for a lighter styled, bottle strength, Sherry cask finished whisky.
If buying a bottle for a family member or friend, my advice would be to find out their preferences first and use that as a starting point. You can do this a number of ways, obviously asking them directly can work but it takes away some of the element of surprise.
You can ask a significant other or you can have a look yourself at what they carry in their liquor cabinet. Then using some of what you now know, you should be able to know what to look for.
Dictionary.com describes style as "a mode of fashion, as in dress, especially good or approved fashion; elegance; smartness". Whereas, for me, a persons sense of style, is the way a person chooses to portray themselves aesthetically.
A persons style should reflect who they are, who they wish to be and how they would like others to view them. So how then with all these subtle complexities, do we discover our own sense of style?
In truth, the answer to that is to say "Over Time". A personal sense of style is something that evolves, something that begins as a foggy haze of influences and likes and which over time begins to come in to focus, resulting in a your own unique look and a sense of self confidence and worth.
On the surface, one would imagine that any search for a personal sense of style would begin simply in buying clothes you like, but starting here will see you waste money and slow down your style discovery.
Sure, most of us have an idea of what we like and what we don't like, some even have a concept of how they wish to look. However, to truly discover your own personal style means first to discover who you really are, or at the very least, begin that journey.
Know yourself first
I maintain that very few people have any real concept of themselves until they are thirty and it is not until you turn forty that you are really getting a handle on who you really are.
In your twenties, you tend to be swayed by your interpretations of what society expects of you, social media, peer pressure and the wish to impress others (Usually those of the opposite sex that have sent your hormones racing). This does not mean that someone in their twenties cannot dress in style, it means that he is unlikely to have discovered his own unique sense of style.
Knowing who you innately are, will help you define what you want from your attire, what environments you are likely to be in and your overall lifestyle. For instance should you regularly attend Gala's and Gallery Openings a regular outfit comprising of blue jeans and a crisp T-shirt may not be the best look for you.
Of course I cannot tell you who you are, that is something that only you can know. I do however know that being divorced and nearly Fifty, I had to go on a journey of self discovery myself and have blogged about discovering your single self after divorce, although the advice within is relevant to all, divorced or not.
So once you have a concept of who you really are, the next step is to begin building your wardrobe. My piece of advice here is to do so slowly and allow it to grow.
If you go out and buy an entire wardrobe full of outfits, you may find that whilst they are good outfits and you look great in them that they may not fit your evolving style. The best way is to first of all edit your current wardrobe. Remove everything and only put back that which you would want to wear now that you are focusing on a sense of style.
Now you need to look at what you have and what is missing, thinking primarily of the current season. If it is Summer, no point in worrying that you no longer have heavy jackets and jumpers, that can wait until it is indeed cold and wet.
Regardless of the season, I always find that long is best, long pants look far smarter than shorts and a long sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up is always a better look than a short sleeved shirt. Again, no need to rush out and purchase bulk outfits, looking at your edited wardrobe should tell you if you have any complete outfits and what you lack.
Do you lack pants, shirts or footwear? If this is the case, then go and make a few small purchases to plug the gaps. Just remember we are talking essentials at the moment, as your sense of style evolves you will add more items and no doubt retire many more too.
For many, you will be surprised to see that you still possess a complete wardrobe, this would suggest that you already dress well even though you are yet to fully develop your own personal style.
Do your research
Now comes the fun part, developing your unique style sense. I would suggest, if you haven't already, getting on social media, start following some style influencers, men's wear lines and bloggers, maybe subscribe to a men's fashion magazine (most are available in a digital e-format) and simply get a concept of current fashion trends.
I personally follow many of my favourite menswear stores/producers on social media such as Tarocash, Gordon Rush, Blazer, David Jones and Dapperscene. Magazines like GQ, The Journal and Men's Style are an invaluable source of style trends.
However the best source of information is from fashion influencers and bloggers such as The Stylish Man, The Sartorialist, Inspiration Style, The Art of Manliness and my personal favourites Gents Lounge and Blake Scott. Become (within reason) immersed in the world of men's fashion and gauge what you like.
One at a time
Your next step is to start with one purchase at a time and begin refining your look. There are two ways to approach what to start with, the first and most logical, is to identify an item of clothing you wish to upgrade.
I would recommend a larger statement piece such as a sports coat or shoes. Get a specific idea of what you are looking for, i.e. tan double monkstrap shoes and go and seek them out, don't rush the purchase, buy quality and shop around.
The second and less logical way is the way I went about things. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entitled Red Suede Shoes and a Blue velvet Jacket, my journey began with seeing a pair of red suede shoes in a store window.
I fell in love with them, but did not buy them at first, waiting about two weeks before doing so. In other words, you can start with an item you find that you cannot get out of your head and desire really badly. Of course I would recommend against pure impulse buying and suggest you allow yourself a cool down period before actually purchasing.
Once you have your first item that is a step up from your usual purchases, bit by bit start adding more. Making single, considered purchases is the key here. In my case I purchased my red shoes and next was the blue velvet jacket.
But I certainly was in no hurry to buy , buy , buy. You need time with each new item, time to wear them, see how you feel in them, gauge peoples responses and in essence get an idea of if they are part of your burgeoning personal style.
That old saying that "Clothes Maketh The Man" may have an element of truth to it but your sense of style should go beyond just your garments and footwear. Accessories play an important part and provide the perfect opportunity to individualize your look, whilst adding highlights of texture and/or colour.
Accessories include, ties, watches, jewellery and much more and I have discussed there use and impact in a previous two part post dedicated solely to their use, Accessories: Style items that add pop Pt1! and Accessories: Style items that add pop Pt2!
Lets too, not forget that your hairstyle is an vital part of your look, so once you begin to develop your sense of style with your attire, I would recommend talking with your Hairdresser about styles that may suit you better.
So how do I know if I'm on the right track?
The simple answer to this is that only you will know. Remember that this is your own personal style. If you like it, then ultimately it is right.
Of course it is always best to ask yourself a few questions every now and then. Do I look good? Do I feel good? Does what I'm wearing give me confidence? and perhaps most importantly, Do I feel like myself and comfortable? This is all about you, so it really is only your opinion that matters.
It is important to remember that style should also be an evolving creature. Fashions can change at an alarming rate and you will need to change with them. For instance the current sockless trend is likely to disappear within the next few years and anyone sporting the sockless look then will look quite ridiculous.
So keep up with your trends on social media. Other things to remember are style basics, buy quality items, ensure you have a good fit by getting your clothes altered to fit, look after your wardrobe by keeping your clothes ironed and your shoes polished. Ensure your outfit is clean and fresh and should it start to get a bit tatty, either replace it or get it repaired.
Speed dating, I'm sure you have heard of it, and have scoffed at the very idea of trying it yourself. If you are anything like I was, then you no doubt think of it as too gimmicky and perhaps kitsch.
The truth however could not be further from the truth. The reality is, that speed dating is probably the most effective way, of finding that special someone in today's mostly impersonal tech focused world.
On this I am talking from personal experience, having tried a myriad of online dating sites and phone apps over quite a number of years, I finally decided to give speed dating a try. I immediately wished I had done so sooner and now, after a number of events I am in the early stages of dating a wonderful women I met through speed dating.
Speed dating itself, began in the late Nineties before becoming all the rage in the early Noughties. Then the buzz around it died, due mostly to the abundance of phone based dating apps.
However, that is all changing and people the world over are realizing that the impersonal nature of phone apps are ineffective as opposed to meeting face to face with real people.
So why such a turn around in the popularity of speed dating? In many ways it is due to societies current attitudes. People today lead very busy lives and traditional methods of meeting prospective dates are seen as inefficient, we want things to be more time effective.
Plus there is another side to societies attitude of the moment and that is the acceptance of casual sex. I mention this as it plays a big part in why other ways of meeting people have become ineffectual, at least at this moment in time. All too often nowadays, there is an assumption by those using online dating and smart phone apps that the majority of users are seeking a casual partners and those that aren't, are, as a result extremely guarded.
A similar thing applies to meeting people in bars and clubs, with societies acceptance of casual sex, people in bars and clubs with the help of alcohol, have a tendency to be wanting to find a casual partner rather than something more permanent. The overwhelming difference with speed dating as opposed to most other ways of meeting people is that it is purely focused on and attended by those who are looking for a genuine long term relationship.
So how does speed dating actually work and what goes on?
For starters every event I have ever attended has been a well organized and relaxed affair, taking place in a private area in a bar. The premise is quite simple, an equal number of men and women all wanting to meet eligible singles, who get the opportunity to briefly engage in conversation as a way of screening potential dates.
Don't think of speed dating as going on 12 to 15 dates over the course of an evening, as you really are not dating anyone. Moreover, it is an opportunity to meet other singles and find out if there is any mutual interest which may lead to a genuine date.
The evening will usually begin with everybody casually mingling usually with a drink in hand. During this period waiting for everybody to arrive, I have met some wonderful people and have had fascinating conversations with men and women alike.
Bear in mind that should you feel a bit apprehensive, a bit nervous, that everybody else is feeling that exact same way, you are all there for the very same reason.
Once every body has arrived and been given a numbered name tag ( You are certainly not expected to remember everyone's names), then the ladies will sit at their allocated table/seat where they will be joined by the guy whose number matches that table. A bell will ring and you begin chatting for 5 minutes before another bell lets the men know that it is time to move to the next table.
The events I have been to have at the halfway point, had a break, enabling you to refresh your drink and again casually mingle, this time over some trays of finger food. After the event has seen you spend time with every prospective date, people again will mingle.
After meeting each date you then mark on a sheet of paper a simple yes/no against their name, this is used by the organizers to work out mutual matches. The key word here though is mutual, both parties need to say yes for there to be a match. The following day, you will receive an email or text message with the contact details of any matches. From there it is up to you.
For those of you in my home town of Perth in Western Australia, it would be remiss of me not to recommend Dare2Date. I have have always found that Dare2Date events something that I looked forward to, fun and well organized evenings spent meeting a range of wonderful people. Debbie who runs Dare2Date is also a relationship coach who offers services such as online profile writing and personal coaching.
The overwhelming feeling with Dare2Date is that the staff are passionate about helping people finding their special someone and that the financial side is never the focus. ( Unlike online dating whereby it is all just a money making machine)
Advice on getting the best out of your speed dating time.
Over the course of the past two years I have attended quite a few speed dating events and it is fair to say I have learnt a few do's and dont's. So I think it time now to share some tidbits of advice from my own experiences with speed dating.
The first thing I will say is to relax and don't put too much pressure on yourself. You certainly do not want to be seen as a sweaty bundle of nerves. So relax, be yourself and feel confident about who you are.
Treat the event as a great night out. If the right person is there you will get a match, if not well that's okay too because you would have had a fun evening, meeting a variety of people you wouldn't normally get to meet
Whilst it is important to be yourself, if being yourself means wearing football shorts and a T-shirt, then you may need a rethink. Dress to impress while still staying true to who you are. If the only time you have ever worn a suit was to your Grandmothers funeral, now is not the time to wear it again. You must feel comfortable. Your clothes can have a dramatic effect on how you come across at a speed dating event.
It is widely accepted that confidence is a trait women find appealing, overdress and you will feel uncomfortable and awkward. However, dressing better than you normally would, will leave you feeling great, your posture will improve as will your confidence and sense of self worth.
An item of clothing that men tend to forget that women will generally notice is your footwear. A good pair of leather dress shoes always look smart, just make sure you polish them. Think about your grooming, have a haircut a day or two before, have a shower, brush your teeth and use a breath freshener, clean and file your fingernails and wear some nice cologne.
Make certain that you have allowed plenty of time to get to the event and you know where it is and where you will park if driving. The early bird catches the worm as they say, so if you arrive late, then every other guy in the room has already had plenty of time to mingle and make a great first impression with the ladies.
Do not become a cliche. It is natural for everybody at a speed dating event to ask the same things. What do you do for work, What do you do for fun, What are your hobbies?etc. Remember, this is not a first date.
Speed Dating is simply a way to discover if you and your fellow single have enough interest in each other to want to know more. So leave the interrogation for later, you only have 5 minutes and that goes very quickly. I suggest all you want is some light hearted banter, just as you would in a bar situation.
Plan ahead. This I cannot emphasis enough. Think about what you will talk about. Yes the conversation needs to be natural and not seem rehearsed, but it is vital that you come armed with a choice of conversation starters. Light hearted and simple questions, questions that do not require deep thought to answer. Just remember, they are nervous too and like you they want to leave a great impression.
I once made the mistake of asking What would your Biography be called?, sure it is a question that could reflect a lot about a person, but it is not one easily answered in a hurry. Asking this question, meant long pauses of up to a minute long as they thought carefully on how to answer.
I have also asked, What superpower would you not want to have? again not an easy one to answer quickly. So think about questions that if asked of you, you could answer easily, without having to stop and think too long.
What type of questions are easy to answer? Multiple choice. Just remember to keep them light hearted, everybody likes to smile, especially when in a nerve wracking situation like speed dating . So perhaps instead of asking about which superpower etc ask something like, Superman has X-ray vision and can fly, which one would you choose? The response will then be one or the other.
It is not the answer that counts, it is the fun conversation that ensues that really matters. I mentioned to my wonderful Ladyfriend (that I met at a speed dating event) that I was writing this post. Her response was for me to share the conversation starter I used that night.
That evening I went armed with a few questions with a choice of two answers but the one that really generated great conversation was " If you have to give up one of these two things for the rest of your life, which one do you choose to keep? Coffee or Chocolate?" The answers then led onto discussions about needing coffee to start the day or how a piece of chocolate cake is their go to pick me up when feeling down etc. The answer itself was irrelevant, but the resulting conversation was always lively, easy and fun.
As mentioned earlier, you have a piece of paper on which you respond with a yes or no to each single you meet. I suggest that against each name you make a notation as a way to remember who they were. You are meeting a lot of new people in a short space of time, so don't expect to remember all their names the next day.
It need not be an essay,a note about something that makes them unique and memorable, "wore a red dress", "liked listening to Tom Waits", "has an amazing smile and dimples". Then at the end of the night, take out your phone and take a photo of the sheet as you will be handing this sheet back to the organizers. This way, when you recieve your matches contact details, you know exactly who they are.
My final piece of advice, relates your yes and no responses. My advice is to have Yes as your default response. So instead of trying find a reason to say Yes and ending up saying No to everyone, say yes to everyone unless you really feel you have no interest at all. Saying Yes is not a marriage proposal, all it is that you are saying is, yes I am interested in finding out a bit more about this person over more than a rushed 5 minute timeframe
So I urge all singles to give speed dating a try. Go in with a positive mindset, free of any expectations aside from having a great evening. Ensure you are dressed and groomed well and smell nice. Smile , engage with everybody, whether it is whilst mingling or in a one on one situation and most of all, have fun.
So between Christmas and New Year, I turned 50, yes the big Five Zero. So does that now mean I am old, that I now need to start looking at retirement homes, caravans, walking frames and hearing aids? Of course it doesn't, unless of course I wished or needed to, which I can say I don't. It does however mean that my head of Grey hair is more age appropriate than when I started greying at 16.
Very few birthdays bring about a change in our lives, here in Australia, turning 18 does see things change, at 18 you have the right to vote, are legally considered to be an Adult, can now legally drink and buy alcohol and enter licensed premises such as nightclubs. Another example here in Western Australia is that at the age of 80, you are required to pass a medical examination each year to keep your drivers license. No such changes exist however for when you turn 50. Sure, it is a milestone birthday, half a century of living on our planet is as good an excuse to celebrate as any I have heard and so celebrate I did. A gathering of family and friends helped me to celebrate my Fiftieth and I had a wonderful time doing so. But nothing else changed.
I didn't for instance, change my choice of radio station, even though Triple J is a station aimed at the youth market of 16 to 25 year olds, I still like the same music I did the day before my birthday and the number of years since my birth wan't going to change it. I most certainly did not develop the urge to wear ill fitting cardigans and socks and sandals or any other ageist cliche. The reason being , is that nothing has changed.
It is my belief that with each passing decade, everybody ought to take a look at themselves and the way they are viewed by others, and your Fiftieth decade is no different. Now I am certainly not suggesting that you necessarily need to make any changes, but without taking time out to assess who you are and how others view you, it can be all too easy to come across very differently than how you think you do. Many of us have smirked upon seeing a Fifty something acting and dressing like a 20 something, a simple review of yourself each decade can prevent you being the one laughed at. A previous blog post of mine about my own review upon nearing 50 goes into a bit more detail on this.
So am I now past it?
Well you are, if you think that you are! But bear in mind that you can expect many more decades of life still to come. In Australia and the U.S. life expectancy is now between 78 and 84 years, so don't be in any hurry to feel old. Sure, we have aches and pains we never used to have but advances in medical science have seen ways to combat these. Anti inflammatory medications, surgeries like hip replacements as well as activities like yoga and exercise can see us lead active lives well into our Seventies. I for one still intend to be playing the occasional game of golf in my Seventies. I am no stranger to aches and pains and back and shoulder issues as my blog post An Ageing Body, Massages and Yoga details.
How can I not feel old when I look old? Well if it is your appearance that is making you feel old, then be realistic about your expectations and make some changes. Ageing is natural, but there are things we can do to help slow down the way it affects us. Obviously Diet and Exercise are important, the healthier and fitter you are the younger you will appear. One of the simplest things you can do to slow down the appearance of ageing is to drink more water. Buy a water bottle you like and keep it with you, sipping away and refilling it throughout the day. My personal water bottle is made of stainless steel and is insulated, it will easily keep my water chilled for 12 hours and its woodgrain appearance I think is rather stylish.
Another way to minimize the appearance of ageing is the use of a good skincare regime. I dealt with this on my blog 5 Essential Grooming Products For Your Face. The things to remember though are to look for products that are specifically designed for men and more specifically, men in their Fifties. Men's skin differs from that of women and so requires a differently formulated product, plus as you age your requirements change. You will be wanting to add more elasticity and vibrancy to your skin than you would when in your Twenties.
So I guess the thing about turning 50 is that yes, it is only a number, but no one cares what that number is as long as you yourself don't. If you feel old, make the changes that will leave you not feeling old any more, but ready once more to take on and enjoy all that life has to bring.The choice is all yours to make, yours and yours alone.
Now is the time
What better time to kick start the new you than the new year. Like most people, I am several (well more like 30) years behind on achieving any New Years Resolutions. I still carry too much weight, I could eat healthier and be fitter, these are after all, the standard and cliched resolutions for the new year and ones that for most of us rarely get achieved.
So perhaps we need to rethink our strategy for resolution making. First of all, in order for us to achieve any resolution we have to genuinely want to, as opposed to feeling the weight of societal expectation on us to do so. Secondly, we need to feel it is obtainable and thirdly, we need to stop rehashing the very same resolutions year after year.
Regardless of how long you have been single or divorced, the New Year is an ideal time to begin the evolution of the new you. Sure, the process can easily begin at any time, but the new year can act as a starting point, new calendar year, Christmas Season has been and gone ( Plus in my case so has my post Christmas, Birthday.) and for many it can signal a return to work after annual leave or time off. The "New You" is however not an instant thing, but part of a process of evolution, something that you may have already began without actually knowing. However, lets make an effort to make the new year, the time in which you make the conscious decision to begin your journey to make the changes in yourself you wish to make.
In other words, it is not so much about making a a New Years resolution, but rather a conscious decision to work towards making changes. Start with little things, perhaps you may decide to wear less short sleeved shirts and instead roll up your long sleeves in hotter weather ( a far more stylish and mature look), you may decide that you wish to begin delving into the scary world of online or speed dating. The bottom line is, it is simply a great time to signal your intent to yourself.
Beginning the process.
Well you have decided that the New Year is a great time to kick start the new you. So what now?, Where to from here? Well the first step is to figure out just who the new you really is. This is not necessarily a quick and easy step, it is however one that on a sub-conscious level you have probably been formulating a concept of. I have written an earlier post titled; Who am I? Rediscovering your single self dealing with that very issue. This will enable you to work out for yourself what things about you, you would like to make changes to. Bear in mind that this is not a quick fix, but the start of an ongoing process of evolution.
So what then are some areas that you may want to address? To answer this I must look to my own journey of reinvention and mention some of the areas that I myself felt I had to begin to change, some of which I have and some are still ongoing. The obvious one for me was my dress sense, I felt that my attire was no longer reflecting who I was as a person, I can say now that even though I do make my own fashion mistakes at times, my clothes better reflect the new me. I also wanted to make changes that would see me improve myself socially and as a person. To that end, I began speed dating and dating in general as well as making a conscious effort to get out in the world and not to hide away in my own little shy world, something that I was all too prone to doing. The result has been going to more social events, comedy shows, gigs and seeing someone beyond a first or second date for the first time in years.
So call it what you will, A New Years Resolution, a Promise of Intent to Yourself or whatever. But the start of a new year really is the best time to push that reset button and start the process of change. By having a date of commencement, it makes it easier and more real in your own mind. Without my making a very conscious decision I certainly would not be in the early stages of what could be my first relationship after my divorce. We all know just how hard it is to initiate change, we as men have a tendency to resist change at all costs, often to our own detriment. So use the new year as impetus to make change, use it as the beginning of your journey. Yes, we all want to lose weight and get fit, but surely beginning a process that will see you become happier about both life and yourself is a priceless step to make.
So I have discussed the easier and more basic accessories in part 1 of this blog post, so now it is time to step up your game. All the best dressed and most stylish men know how to incorporate the more advanced accessories into their look. These items are the ones that really add that pop of colour, that contrast of texture and most importantly allows you to express your individuality with the subtlety needed to remain stylish. Each and everyone one of these accessories, has the ability to step up your style game from smartly dressed to the sharpest dressed man in the room.
Aside from having your clothes tailored or at least altered to suit, very few subtle things can impact your style game as much as the advanced accessories. But beware, such items as these need to be worn with an editing mindset, in other words, its not just the actual items that create the impact but how you wear them. It is all too easy when first delving into using these types of accessories to go over the top and wear them all. This instantly takes you from stylish to try hard, a look that impresses no one. I speak from experience, as, like many who are delving into the world of accessories, I wanted to wear all my favourite new pieces at once. Remember, these really are the accent pieces.
So what type of pieces am I talking about? Well, there are larger pieces like hats and scarves, small pieces like tie bars and bracelets and those accessories like pocket squares that can be used to add vibrant pops of colour or contrast.
Hats. Like many of the advanced accessories, the wearing of hats by men can have the effect of having you look like a fool. Myself, I like to wear flatcaps with my casual dress and own a few different ones. I have lightweight ones suited better for the warmer summer months and thicker woolen ones that work well in winter. I have tried other hat styles but for the most part, I find that they don't suit me that well.
So lets look at some of the hat styles available without going into too much detail, or we will be here for days. I've already mention the Flat Cap which I feel to be so much classier than caps like Flat Caps, Golf Caps and Trucker Caps. They can be worn with smart casual attire and suits but pulling that look of can be difficult. The most well known of the wide brimmed hats are the Fedora,Trilby and Panama, there is also the more formal Homburg but this is rarely worn today. The Fedora and Trilby have become the hat of choice for many a 20 something festival goer, the result of which is the proliferation of cheap Fedoras everywhere. This in turn means that for the most part, wearing a Fedora or Trilby is associated more with 20 somethings and are no more considered stylish accessory for the 50 year old gent. However, a good quality or vintage Fedora can rise above the mediocrity and can be a great addition to your wardrobe. Add to the list styles like Western/Cowboy, Newsboy, Pork Pie and Stingy Brim and there is a vast array of styles to choose from. My advice though is to buy quality and try every hat on before buying, as you need to find a hat that suits you.
Scarves. Scarves are a wonderful way of adding both texture and colour to your outfit. Obviously the primary reason for scarves are warmth, but they can also be used to add an extra something to your attire. Scarves can be quite thick or very lightweight and may come in vibrant colours or neutral tones. As a general rule, choose scarves that do not have long tassels on the ends as they look more feminine. There is quite a few ways to wear a scarf, The blog Real Men Real Style has a wonderful infographic on tying a scarf. It is well worth checking out their blog.
Jewellery items. So what do I mean by Jewellery items? Well this includes things like rings,cuff links, tie bars, necklaces and bracelets. I myself at the moment, am not a big wearer of jewellery beyond bracelets, the last ring I wore was my wedding band.
Cuff links and Tie Bars, really only belong with a suit, I have both but rarely wear a suit. The things to remember with tie bars is to never wear a bar that is wider than your tie and that its main purpose is to pin your tie to your shirt.
Like all jewellery, rings and necklaces need to be worn using the KISS principle, do not over do it. The Mr T look was ridiculous in the 80's, so do not try to emulate it now. Think of the size and chunkiness of your jewellery pieces in comparison to your own size. A thick , chunky gold chain will look ridiculous on someone with finer features.
Bracelets. Bracelets are one of my favourite style accessories and come in a variety of styles both hard and soft. I will be honest here, I have not spent much money on my bracelets, there are many sites online where cheaper bracelets can be purchased. However, bare in mind that I am not going for a high end look of luxury. There is 4 types of bracelet that I wear and I will generally mix and match them. There are the softer Rope and Anchor/Hook, Braided Leather, Stainless Steel and finally Stone Beads. One point to keep in mind, is to not overload your wrist, a good rule of thumb would be to wear bracelets together no wider than your watch, if you are wearing a bracelet against your watch then keep your other wrist free.
Pocket Squares. Often referred to as hankies or handkerchiefs, pocket squares are small squares of material worn in the top pocket of your suit jacket or sports coat. I like them as they are very much an accessory you can have a lot of fun with. I purchase mine online for less than $10 each, often as little as $2. The only real rule would be to not wear a matching tie and pocket square set together, rather use your square as a contrast.There are many ways to fold a pocket square, some more formal than others, I myself push my finger up through the centre, then invert it so that all four corners are poking out of the top of my pocket( As can been seen in the photo in the pocket of the jacket on the right) . Once again Real Men Real Style have a wonderful infographic on folding pocket squares.
Wearing accessories can take confidence, do it well and nail your style and confidence will come naturally. Feel free to experiment and develop your own style. Start small, buying inexpensive pieces before you know fully what works for you, but most of all enjoy.
Using accessories to add pop to your outfit is a great way to personalise your attire. But knowing what accessories to wear, without going over the top can be tricky for a beginner. So what do I count as accessories? Well a good basic description would be your accent pieces. Think along the lines of the brightwork on a car, the chrome pieces certainly add to the look of the car without necessarily any other function, the same can be said for style accessories. Some are functional, whilst some are simply there to add subtle detail.
For many, the idea of adding accessories to your outfit may seem confronting, confusing or leave you feeling like a Christmas tree. But what if I was to tell you that in all likelihood, you have already worn accessories and that there is a good chance you are doing so now? A watch, a belt or a tie are among the most common of fashion accessories for men and I count them as the Basic Accessories. The ones that are a good starting point and are familiar and easy to use. A second group is the non wearables, which includes items like your wallet and phone. Items that a smart dresser never overlooks. So what then of the others, the more Advanced Accessories? These are the types of accessories that can make a huge difference to your style but must be worn with a less is more approach. These include, tie bars, cufflinks and pocket squares, items that used with restraint can turn a nicely dressed man into a Stylish and Sharp Dressed Man, (Cue the ZZ Top song. ) and will be discussed in Part 2 of this blog.
These are the accessories that you will already be familiar with and no doubt wear already. That doesn't mean that you can't step your game up a bit. Unlike the more advanced accessories, these basics can be worn at the same time. As a general rule these are everyday accessories, which means that you should have multiple options for each, at the very least, a casual and dressier option.
Watches. Watches are no longer the necessary timepiece they once were, our use of the smartphone has seen us use them as the most common way to know the time. Watches, whilst still a wonderfully usefully timepiece are often more of a style item now. (Although I do hesitate to include the ubiquitous fitness tracker as an item of style.) Watches of course come in a variety of styles and the prices can be the same as that of a family house. The world of watches is a complex one and best left for a latter blog. The rudimentary thing to remember with watches as style accessories is that they match your outfit. An informal fabric banded watch will not work with a suit just as a formal watch will look silly when worn with shorts and t-shirt at the beach. For this reason it is best to have at the very least, a formal and informal watch option. As you evolve your accessory and watch collection you will develop a feel for specific watches for specific situations.
Belts. Every man should have a variety of belts in their wardrobe. Much like watches their are formal and informal styles. A general rule of thumb is that formal belts have smaller buckles and tend to be narrower than casual belts. The finish on formal belts will be better too with the edges often stitched. There are other rules for wearing belts, match your belt to your shoes, this applies mostly to leather belts and shoes. A black belt with Brown shoes and vice versa is a definite style No-No and doing so will mark you out as someone with no dress sense whatsoever. Have a look at your pants, if there are belt loops, you must wear a belt to do otherwise will make any outfit look scruffy.
Belts come in a wide array of styles and materials, for the most part however there are 5 styles that should comprise your minimum collection of belts. Leather belts in both formal and casual styles in both Black and Brown and a casual canvas or woven belt. If however your need for formal belts is occasional at best, a good quality leather reversible belt can cover both black and brown. My advice is to buy quality leather belts, never skimp and be tempted to buy cheap vinyl or bonded leather belts, not only do they look cheap but will appear tatty and frayed after one or two wears. Look to spend between 50-80% of the price of a good pair of jeans and your belt will outlive all the pants in your wardrobe. The other thing to remember about leather belts, is to maintain them. A good quality leather treatment or polish regularly will keep them smart and fresh.
Socks. At the moment, socks ( or lack there of) are very much an on trend item. Socks are an interesting item to put in the Basics category. Loud socks with very bright colours can make a huge difference to your outfit, but are perhaps not for someone beginning to experiment with colours and style. My advice is to start with a more classic approach. The rule of thumb is to match your socks to your pants.This allows the lines of your footwear to not look deformed and the lines of your pants to flow. So this should be your default if you are unsure.
The current trend however is for more vibrant colours to act as a contrast between your shoes and pants. I would avoid novelty socks and stick with striped, argyle patterns or block colours. Novelty socks tend to look more juvenile and so not very becoming of someone in their fifties. Feel free to experiment but remember you are trying to look stylish and not look like Crusty the Clown.
Another trend at this point in time is the sockless look. A couple of points to keep in mind if you wish to try to pull this look off. Firstly, have a look at the cut of the pants you intend to be wearing, to achieve this look without looking ridiculous you need to have either skinny or slim cut pants. ( Personally, I think skinny cut looks ridiculous on most people anyway). If the diameter of your cuffs are too large then the sockless approach just looks sloppy. Secondly, keep hygiene matters in your mind, your feet will sweat and without your socks to absorb it, your shoes and feet will smell. There are a few ways to combat this. The best way in my opinion is to find invisible socks, socks that are so low cut that they cannot be seen when wearing shoes. Invisible socks come in a range of cuts and are not suitable for every shoe type. Another option is to rotate your shoes, if you have enough pairs of shoes to do so. For every day you wear a pair of shoes sockless, don't wear them for 2 or 3 days. The third option is to use foot powders or sprays to keep your shoes and feet smelling fresh.
Ties I myself rarely wear ties, I feel my lifestyle is more casual than the look that is reflected by wearing a tie. Having said as such, I do have some ties and wear them on occasions. So not being a tie expert, I will only briefly mention a few pieces of advice. The first thing is that ties go out of fashion, that tie you wore to a wedding 10 years ago will not do you any favours wearing it now. Stay away from those hideous novelty ties, as, much like socks, just make you seem immature. The last thing I will say is about quality, to the uninitiated a cheap tie looks OK, but to those in the know, they look cheap and nasty especially when paired with an expensive suit. A moderately priced off the rack suit or jacket can work with a moderately priced tie, but if you have invested in a quality suit or jacket its best to buy a similar quality tie.
I should also mention the bow tie. Yes a bow tie can be seen as a bold piece of attire. But, as an accent piece they can work very well. I have on a number of occasions worn a bow tie, but be mindful not to wear too many statement pieces at once, as it will come across as trying to hard and look rather silly. I will mention more about statement pieces in part 2 of the blog.
Sunglasses. Nothing says I don't really care about my appearance more than generic sunglasses bought when refueling your car. Look after a quality pair of sunnies and they will last a lifetime. Some Style bloggers will suggest that you have multiple pairs for different occasions, but as I wear prescription glasses, my sunglasses are a prescription pair and therefore a bit pricier it is not a school of thought I subscribe too. A quality pair of sunnies will certainly compliment your look.
The Non Wearables
For many, when talking about style accessories, the mind only thinks of items that are worn. However, ensuring that your non wearable accessories are up to scratch can make a big difference in your appearance. Remember, accessories are about the finer details and so if something seemingly minor is tatty, all the effort made becomes irrelevant.
Wallet. Your wallet is something that you will carry with you at all times and as such usually cops quite a beating. I myself, prefer the use of a micro wallet, in my case a small credit card sized aluminium wallet with an inbuilt money clip, called The Ridge Wallet. However, before I started to use a micro wallet I had two wallets. The idea being I had an everyday wallet which contained all my cards and money and was usually found bulging and misshapen( with loyalty cards not money) and a quality leather wallet that I used when going out. When heading out I would transfer my drivers license, credit card and cash to my "good" wallet, so as to keep a slim line appearance.
Mobile/Cell Phone. Another forgotten item that is usually in full view by all and sundry is your mobile phone. Again, I find the best approach is to have at least two cases for your phone. An everyday one and one that is used for better occasions. In fact I would recommend having a few options on hand dependent upon the occasion and what you are wearing. i.e. having a case that has a more formal appearance reserved for more formal occasions.
Another thing to add when it comes to your phone case is that many phone case incorporate slots to hold cards. So take your credit card and license out of your daily wallet , put them in your phone cover and use a money clip for your cash.
Keys. We all carry keys, be they car keys, house keys or both. Keys can be a really bulky item and keeping them in your pants pocket can result in an unattractive bulge. I myself use a metal key holder that has a much simpler and more stylish appearance. The thing to remember is that you are after a stylish and streamlined appearance, something that a loose set of keys will never be.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.