Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lazy Sunday

What a brilliant day! We've started a bit of a new Sunday tradition which I'm absolutely loving. Once the girls are awake (usually verrrrrry early) we walk the 10 minutes or so down to our local shops. It's a small but quality arrangement of places to eat, organic and homeopathic merchants, and general necessities.

We were disappointed a few months ago to learn that our favourite restaurant, Element, was morphing into a cafe (we thought "if it ain't broke, why fix it?") We shouldn't have worried. Its new face, EU Cafe, is brilliant and has added a new energy to the strip.

Check out some of it's offerings: A bowl of Cafe Au Lait and "The Relatively Large Breakfast" hubby's claim to fame is being the first person to manage to scoff both in one sitting!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Shortcuts

When it comes to providing meals for the family, I'm always a bit lazy on Saturdays...but I've found a couple of ready-meals which, in less than five minutes, can pass muster. If you can't be bothered going to pick up takeaway, or bribe your spouse to take two kids under three to dinner, try these!

For you: The Commissary Pumpkin, Sage and Feta Risotto. Either on its own or served with one of the Chargrilled Chicken Breasts from the same range (or you can throw some on the BBQ). It's yummy with a simple green salad or some green beans tossed with butter and flaked almonds.

For the kids: McCain's Healthy Choice Twin Packs - our fave is Meatballs and Pasta. This is a faithful standby for us - it's tasty, low in fat, and Olivia inhales it every time. It's a fairly small portion, so is ideal for when you don't have the time or inclination to whip up something fabulous.

Coming up: In the next couple of weeks I'll share some of my "Ready in 10 minutes" meals which are brilliant for those days when you just can't bear the kitchen.

Fashion Smashion: MTV Australia Awards

Wrong: Lara Bingle
Wronger: Brandon Flowers
Wrongest: Delta Goodrem

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fashion Smashion: Just plain ugly

I don't care if those jeans are Dolce and Gabbana. And I don't care that Fergie is an international singing sensation. Tie Dye leggings are NEVER PRETTY.

Stilettos and the sacrifices of a mother

I can barely see this shoe through the drool I've dripped all over my laptop screen. It's the Liatris from Nine West and three years ago I would have already gone out, bought a pair, and be wearing them pretty much anywhere. Who cares if silver glitter should really only be worn at the discotheque?

Before May 2006 the only flat shoes I owned were havianas and runners. Everything else in my wardrobe had at least a 7cm heel...I wore heels everywhere. I. LOVED. THEM. They way they made me feel sexy, the click they made when I stalked the pavement, the sheer frivolity of them.

Stilettos remained my shoe of choice right up until my eight month of pregnancy when I reluctantly switched to 2cm kitten heels. My poor, swollen feet just couldn't take it anymore.

A week after the birth I was ready for our first outing into the real world - stilettos triumphantly back on now-normal-size feet, stylish nappy bag on shoulder and tiny newborn in arms. I strode confidently out the back door and started down the (rather steep) back stairs...and realised how easy it would be to tumble all the way to the bottom.

That day I bought my first pair of non beach or exercise related flats...and haven't looked back. I now sing the praises of the ballet flat and have enough pairs (plain, satin, jewel-embellished - that's my latest acquisition, the Shima Ballet from Witchery, below) to rival my once impressive stiletto collection. With a toddler and little bub they're the smart choice.

But I still miss my heels. No matter how practical and pretty flats are they just don't hold a candle to the stiletto in the "make me feel like a woman" stakes. So I've made myself a deal...I can buy one pair of terribly impractical, improbably high heels per season and, even if I just wear them to do the laundry, they make me smile.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fashion Smashion: Can she not afford a clutch?

It was all going so well. Pretty frock, new "do", rather snazzy green car to pose with...and then Michelle Rodriguez had to go and do that with her sunglasses. Sweetheart, that's what your purse is for...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The return of the domestic goddess

While waiting for new tyres to be fitted to the Mum-mobile, I happened to pick up the March edition of The Australian Women's Weekly. On the cover, a sub heading read "The return of the domestic goddess: Learn how to sew, cook and bake all over again."
Given the title of this blog, I thought it was worth a read...and this is what AWW had to say:

"The rise of the domestic goddess is returning to Australian households as women are getting back to basics and rediscovering traditional activities like painting, knitting, sewing, cooking and gardening.

An increasingly difficult economic climate, concern for health and wellbeing and environmental issues are inspiring the click-click of those knitting needles, the mending of old clothes rather than buying new ones, cooking classes and other assorted domestic activities.

According to social forecaster AustraliaSCAN, as many as one in three Australians now knits and makes his or her own clothes. David Chalke, social analyst, says that while economic and social factors are primarily to blame for this shift back towards home and family, that people are "discovering there is virtue in not going to the mall and buying a new one, but mending the old one or pulling it apart and remodelling it."

I must admit that my foray into domesticity wasn't prompted by any of those factors: rather, a desire to channel my creativity somewhere accessible to a stay-at-home mum. But, I'm curious...if you're a modern domestic goddess, what was your motivation for rediscovering these traditional activities?

Friday, March 20, 2009

6 things I wish I'd known before I gave birth

It's baby season! Around a dozen of my friends are pregnant - most of them with their first child. It got me to thinking about the things I wish I'd known before giving birth...the little bits of wisdom that perhaps would have made me realise my emotions and experiences were normal. That's Olivia and I above shortly after her birth in 2006 - still riding the wave of adrenalin (and probably some morphine, too...thanks emergency caesar!)

So, I want to share just a few of these things in the hope that they might reassure others venturing into motherhood for the first time...and encourage you to share your thoughts, too.

1. Having children is the best thing you will ever do. It's also one of the hardest. When you give birth to your first child you wave goodbye to life as you once knew it, and it's really quite shocking. The toughest thing is realising you cannot control the uncontrollable - babies will do what they want when they want to do it and you pretty much need to ride the wave as well as you can! Reassure yourself that in a few months this will be situation normal - everything is temporary.

2. Labour is just the beginning. So much to-do is made about the actual pregnancy and birth that you don't actually realise that there's an "after". Truth is, you launch straight from the birth and into caring for a newborn...there is no respite. You are exhausted, emotional, and now you are about to become very well acquainted with the hell of sleep deprivation. Don't beat yourself up if you feel overwhelmed and teary - it's completely normal for mums (and some dads) to shed a few tears in those first few days...or weeks! It's ok to be anxious and to feel like you have no idea what you're doing - just remember, every parent of a new baby has felt exactly the same way.

3. Rest while you're in hospital. You'll need energy for when you get home and it's just you and the baby. Most hospitals encourage "rooming in", which I absolutely agree with, but if you're an absolute zombie by home time you're not going to do anyone any good. If you really need a sleep, talk to the midwives and ask them to take the baby in the nursery for the night (bringing bub to you for feeds) - it's amazing what a difference a few uninterrupted hours' rest makes.

4. Even though you're now a mum, you're still you. I reckon the thing I struggled with most after having Olivia, our first, was losing my sense of identity. I went from working 12 hours days and being a well-respected manager, to being "just a mum". I didn't realise how much of myself was tied up in my career until I didn't have it anymore. So, do things that keep you in touch with "who you are" - whether that be writing, studying, hanging out with friends, etc. because your baby will only be a baby for a little while - you'll be you for the rest of your life, and being mum to a newborn is only one part of that long journey.

5. Take time our by yourself occasionally. Particularly if you're breastfeeding, it may seem like you and your newborn are tied together 24 hours a day...the reality is that you can't really bugger off for an entire day of pampering unless your bub takes a bottle. But unless you give yourself some time alone every once in a while - even if it's to go for a wander around the shops for an hour "between feeds" - you'll quickly go a bit barmy. It's important to look after yourself and not try to be superwoman - a baby has two parents for a reason - give Dad and bub some alone time occasionally and you'll all be a lot better off.

6. Babies aren't born knowing how to breastfeed. When it comes to breastfeeding I'm one of the lucky ones. I have lots of milk, gave birth to two boob fans, and have (so far) avoided mastitis or any other horrible side-effects. But getting it sorted in the early days took to most women and you'll hear the same story. So don't be disheartened if bub doesn't instantly latch on; if you're really keen to breastfeed and can't seem to get the hang of it, call in a lactation consultant sooner rather than later - several friends describe it as the best money they've ever spent. And if it doesn't work out, don't beat yourself up...Olivia's best friend has been on formula since she was two weeks old and I dare anyone to be able to pick the breastfed child from the two of them.

I want to conclude this post by acknowledging that it does dwell more on the negative...but there are so many wonderful, positive things about having a baby that I would need an entire library to document them all. Oh, and I'm not an expert by any means, so please read this in the spirit it is intended - as one mum's perspective.

What's your essential advice for mums-to-be?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fashion Smashion: Haute Couture or Horror?

On the left: Jessica Alba in Miu Miu. On the right: Samara from scary movie The Ring.

I am somewhat concerned Ms Alba has been partially swallowed by the Japanese horror demon.

Time: The New Luxury

When did it become more about "how long it takes" than "how good it looks"?

As I peered at myself in the mirror this morning, wondering if I could get away with not doing my hair, I had a flashback of spending 40 minutes blowdrying my then-waistlength wavy hair dead straight EVERY MORNING. It got me thinking about just how low maintenance I've become.

Granted, my hair is now less than 5cm long all over, but I've also downsized in the cosmetics department. This is a photo of my beauty essentials...I rarely use more than this and sometimes use less. It's destination-based.

For example, if I'm doing a school drop-off, all I'll use is a touch of Benefit's benetint on my cheeks and lips and a dash of Napoleon Perdis Long Black mascara. Maybe some Aveda Control Paste if I can't get away with just running my fingers through my mop.

If I'm going out to lunch or Mums' Group, then the Napoleon Minimal Makeup gets a run, along with some grey kohl eyeliner which is so old I can't even read the brand name anymore. It gets the obligatory smudge with the eyeliner brush. If I remember, I might even give myself a spritz of Coco Madamoiselle.

If I'm going somewhere really fancy, the Napoleon Lip Lacquer may come out to play, but I can never be bothered to reapply. Sometimes I'll blend on some eyeshadow, too.

So, have I let myself go or just become more comfortable with who I am? I'd like to think it's the latter.

What's your beauty priority? Speed or style?

Run, don't walk...

Is it sad when you start buying the same piece of clothing in different colours? Or just a sign that it's hard work finding clothes to suit a post-baby body?

Before I had my two beautiful girls, my body problem areas were my bum and they're competing with my muffin top for the title. BB (Before Babies) the solution was simple - a fitted top with wider legged pants; now, a mumu is really the only guarantee of covering all the lumpy bits.

But, all praise to Country Road, I have found the perfect shirt to disguise at least some of the souvenirs of pregnancy. A few weeks ago, I bought their "pocket shirt" in black and have been living in it ever since. It's light weight cotton, doesn't really need ironing if you hang it up straight off the line, and can be worn either long-sleeved or at the elbow. It's wonderfully structured, so it skims your curves and just looks smart.

So, imagine how excited I was to find that they were reduced to $59.95 (from $99.00) in the Country Road sale...and that I was eligible for a further 20% off as a CR cardholder. I was so happy that I bought one in pink and one in white for the grand total of $95.92 - less than what I paid for my black one!

So ladies, if you're after the perfect post-baby shirt, get thyself to Country Road before they all won't regret it!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fashion Smashion: Does being SJP make it ok?

Ok, so we all know that Sarah Jessica Parker can pull off looks that mere mortals cannot. But the jury's out on this one. I think it's just a bit too much...feathers, snakeskin, gloves, lace-up heels...there's a lot going on!


Sophia's room

When I was at school I was involved in all sorts of creative pursuits - drawing, painting, poetry, sewing - you name it, I was probably doing it. That all fell away with uni and work because, suddenly, there seemed no time for it.

Recently I've discovered sewing again, thanks to my good friend Barb who has been making fab things for the last year or two. When Sophia was in hospital Barb gave her a gorgeous little vintage fabric "taggy" cube...and this was to be the inspiration for her nursery.

While Sophia struggled for ten weeks in hospital, I felt the need to put some of myself into the room we were preparing for I decided to make her a quilt. I hit Addicted to Fabric and managed to track down offcuts of the fabric which Barb had used in the cube and teamed it with some gorgeous white and pink spots.

The quilt snowballed into cushions and artwork...I covered bare canvases with more fabric and then stuck butterflies from Little Chipipi on with spray adhesive. The decals are designed for walls but didn't want to play nicely with our rendered the canvases were a "fix".

Little touches which pull the space together are a gorgeous butterfly lamp and an Ikea Lack shelf which holds a collection of trinkets and toys - everything from a vintage wire bicycle to a "recycled" Peter Alexander pyjama box.

My final purchase was an Eames rocker from Matt Blatt, which I had been lusting after for quite a while. It was not only perfect for cuddles and breastfeeding, but its modern lines work perfectly with the contemporary minimalisim of the Modena cot.

I'm really happy with how the room turned out - its mix of vintage and modern suits our gorgeous little girl so well...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Turning two in style

My very good friend Barb is the most stylish person I of those effortlessly put-together people who could make a hessian sack look like high fashion. So it stands to reason that the second birthday party for her beautiful daughter, Isobel, would be equally fabulous.

Here's a peek into the celebrations...and maybe some inspiration for your next "little" birthday event!

Proof that you don't need to spend loads of money for a perfect party, most of the little touches for Isobel's party were handmade. Vintage-inspired fabric "balloons" set the vibe for the invitations and the patterns echoed in the muslin gift bags, each personalised with the initial of the lucky guest.

Gifts were simple and age appropriate - a couple of chocolate freddos disappeared quicker than you can say "not until after dinner" - and a funky little notebook and multi-coloured pen from Smiggle kept Olivia, my 2.5yr old, busy for hours. Baby Sophia loved chewing on her rubber ducky's nose and grinned at it all the way home in the car.

Suspended pink and white tissue paper pom poms took the place of balloons and created a fairy-like atmosphere (find out how to make your own here). Sugar blossums topped pink and white cupcakes, adding to the feminine floral theme.

So, there you have it! A beautiful, girly birthday party without a Dora or Wiggles character in sight - thanks for sharing, Barb!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The washing machine: freedom fighter

Came across this little gem on Clearly, the Vatican has its finger on the pulse of the modern woman.

Vatican says washing machine brought rights to women

The washing machine has had a greater liberating role for women than the pill, the official Vatican daily said in an International Women's Day commentary.

"The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax," said the headline on the article in Osservatore Romano.

"In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of western women?" questioned the article.

"The debate is still open. Some say it was the pill, others the liberalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. Others go even further: the washing machine," it added.

The long eulogy to the washing machine - for which the first rudimentary models appeared in the 18th century - highlighted "the sublime mystique to being able to 'change the sheets on the beds twice a week instead of once'," quoting the words of late American feminist Betty Friedan.

While the machines were at first unreliable, technology has developed so quickly that now there is "the image of the super woman, smiling, made up and radiant among the appliances of her house", wrote Osservatore.

Photo by Harry Freeman courtesy of

Saturday, March 7, 2009

One decorating idea you should avoid at all costs

In my quest to become a modern domestic goddess, I have become quite the surfer of "living", the wave took me to the electronic home of real living magazine.

I actually really like the publication - it's a good read, always has yummy recipes and, most of the time, has very tasteful and creative home decorating ideas. But something went terribly wrong back in May, when they published this humdinger:

Make a "dressy" shirt tablecloth

Found! A new use for your partner’s worn or outgrown business shirts: turn them into a funky tablecloth. It’ll certainly get the conversation flowing and is a quirky touch to a rather dressy function.

Step 1 Button the shirt up and cut away the sleeves and the back, leaving the collar and a seam allowance of 1cm to sew on excess fabric.

Step 2 Grab an old sheet or plain tablecloth that matches the shirt and cut in half.

Step 3 Lay the shirt front in-between the two halves of the tablecloth and sew both edges, creating one tablecloth with the shirt in the middle.

Step 4 Hem the entire tablecloth with a 1cm hem.

Thanks, real living, but I think I'll just give Drew's old shirts to Vinnies...

Friday, March 6, 2009

International Women's Day - uniting to end violence against women

Yesterday I went along to UNIFEM's annual International Women's Day (IWD) lunch which, each year, raises vital funds to help women in countries less fortunate than ours. The IWD theme for 2009 is "Unite to End Violence Against Women."

One in three women will suffer some form of violence in her lifetime. Yesterday's guest speaker, Fozilitun Nessa was born in Bangladesh in 1981. In 1999, Fozilitun was the victim of an acid attack after refusing to marry her neighbour, whom she barely knew.

Fozilitun was admitted to DhakaMedical Hospital for many weeks and underwent five reconstructive operations. Although doctors have advised her to continue these painful surgeries she has decided not to, as she believes what happened to her was not her own mistake, rather her own fate.

Fozilitun has been instrumental in raising awareness about this pervasive violation of women’s rights, through her work with the Bangladeshi Acid Survivors’ Foundation where she is now a Board Member. In 2007 there were over 187 people who suffered acid attacks, the majority of whom were women, often under the age of 18. Fozilla is determined to bring these women out of the shadows and help give them hope for the future.

It saddens me that violence against women is so prevalent - and not just in third world countries. One only has to read the police notes from the recent attack on Rhianna by Chris Brown to know that it is universal. I take heart from the fact that there has been such a massive cry of outrage and shock - and the fact that Chris Brown will be blacklisted by the town that made him a star.

You can read more about how UNIFEM is working to end violence against women, and join the campaign, here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What goes around...

When I was about 15 (during the 80s, the decade that style forgot), there was a trend towards huge, large-checked flannel shirts...preferably worn with tight acid washed jeans.

Well, it appears the westie fashion movement is once more in vogue, as evidenced by the latest Country Road collection. For what it's worth, I won't be going there a second time. Will you?

The great debate: Bringing Up Baby

For the last couple of weeks, the ABC has been broadcasting a British documentary series which "takes the guiding principles of three of last century's most influential childcare manuals - Dr Truby King's 1913 book Feeding and Care of Baby, Dr Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care and Jean Liedloff's 1975 The Continuum Concept - and observes six families as they put into practice their chosen method for the first few months of their babies' lives."

Each of these families is given a "mentor" to guide them through this process - and it is here that controversy has erupted. The advocate of the Truby King method, Claire Verity (above, torturing a small child), believes in four-hourly feeds from day 1 (make sure you hold the baby away from you when you feed - you wouldn't want it getting too cosy), minimal cuddling (10 minutes each day), no eye contact with the baby, and leaving the baby outside alone in the "fresh air" for hours each day.

The result, she says, is a baby that will sleep from 7pm to 7am each night from 12 weeks old and your life back within weeks. Now, I am a fan of sleep. And I like a certain structure to my days. And, believe me, I know how absolutely horrific sleep deprivation can be, having two girls under three years of age. I am even ok with controlled crying when the baby is old enough to cope with it. But on the program, sleeping through is put up as the "finish line"...when the baby has slept through, the technique has worked and all is fine with the world...your life is "back to normal".

What is the cost of this "reward"? Having to listen to your newborn baby scream for up to two hours until the magic four-hourly feeding time is reached; having to helplessly watch as your baby cries because it is left all alone outside for hours on end (you're not allowed to comfort it); and a real risk that you won't develop that all-important bond with your little one.

To me, it sounds like a punishment for both parties. One of the most magical things about having a baby is being able to hold her; smell her sweet baby smell; nuzzle her little downy head. Why on earth would you deprive yourself of those pleasures? They win over sleep any time.

Woo Hoo! New Oobi Winter!

I love Oobi ...both my daughters have oodles of their beautiful vintage-inspired clothes and the latest Winter range looks set to seriously damage my credit card.

If you're not familiar with them, Oobi Baby and Kids is an Australian company which creates "beautiful, charming and slightly whimsical fashion that pushes the boundaries of what people usually expect from childrenswear."

What I love about Oobi is that their pieces are just so beautiful...the skirts and dresses are old-school pretty and their knits are plain adorable. They let kids be kids.

Some of my picks from the new range are below. You can find retailers by visiting the Oobi site or order directly from my favourite online boutique, Baby's Got Style.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cyclone Olivia

Curse that Bureau of Meteorology...some warning would be appreciated next time a cyclone of this strength is about to descend on our playroom!