THE BLOG

01
Nov

What I used and liked for my second baby.

It occurred to me, as my 15-month old daughter poured herself a Scotch and sat with me on the porch last night, she is no longer a baby. I had always intended to write a post on the stuff I liked and used when she was a baby, but maybe because she was a baby, and there was an older brother as well, I was a bit busy, and I never got to it.

And so, here is a hastily written, half-forgotten list of some stuff I recommend if you’re having or have a baby. Second time around you accrue far less of the pretty, superfluous and fancy shit, and just streamline everything into What Will Make Life Easier.

GASSY, WINDY BABY TREATMENTS

I make lusciously gassy babies. Which means that until they were around 10 weeks old, they cried and cried and cried, and would not settle after feeds because of their unsophisticated digestive system/being pigs and drinking too fast/my milk flow being set to 100kmph. The thing that changed this for us was Willby’s Wind and Colic mix. I think I started on it when she was two weeks old, for 2-3 weeks. It’s not meant to be used for long, so I moved back to my faithful Infant’s Friend (also good for general calming) and/or Infacol.  You have to call and have a consult before they will send it to you.

NESTS

Before Rudy was born, I bought a Sleepyhead (same company as DockATot) on Gumtree, (because it was super $$$$ to get a new one shipped to Aus – that’s no longer the case cos DockATot has an Australian site now) cos I’d heard so much about their magical ways.

It was great for exactly one week, while Rudy was still in that heavenly, sleepy in-womb mode. But once her gassiness kicked in at about 10 days old, her laying flat was out of the question. She wailed and wailed.

A five day old lady in The Sleepyhead/DockATot

A friend evangelically recommended the Cocoonababy. I’d been gifted one yonks back when I’d announced my pregnancy, but like so much stuff I didn’t need cos you still have everything already from the first kid, it sat untouched. I unwrapped it and plonked her in it at around 3am on a particularly hellish night. It changed everything. Rudy loved it. Slept every nap and night in it til she was three months old. We took it overseas/everywhere. It cozily cuddles the baby, (it felt weird with her all alone and so tiny on an expansive, flat bassinet anyway… A bassinet I’d just bought cos I felt like I needed one on wheels. I absolutely did not) it’s on an incline, and it’s wonderful. I’ve loaned mine to three friends, bought one for a new mum friend and deeply wish I’d invented it.

For sleeping bags, I used this great Ergopouch swaddle bag above, (which has press studs so it morphs into a hands-out sleeping bag later), and also the straight-jacket-esque Ergobaby Swaddler for sleep to keep her hands down and wrapped, (as opposed to them creeping up and into her mouth and face and keeping her awake), as well as the good ol’ Love to Dream Swaddle UP for day naps. She moved out of her nest and into her cot at three months, and graduated to unwrapped with hands out (so, in just a sleepysack) at around 4 months. (That was a rough week.)

Hot tip: If you know someone having a baby, buy them a Swaddler, a Love to Dream Swaddle UP, or go in with some buddies and get the Cocoonababy nest. They will get some sleep, and you will win Best Present Givererer. Both are important.

BOTTLES, PUMPS ETC

I used the Medela Swing maxi double electric breast pump to express at home, which I had leftover from my first baby and it worked great, and the Avent manual pump for travel, but following a trip to the country where I forgot my manual pump like a dingus, and had to drive for 40m to a Kmart, I switched to the Kmart brand manual pump because it is excellent.

Whenever I would get a plugged duct, or mastitis would threaten, (or blatantly storm in) I immediately took Nurofen, and would either jump in the shower and hold a hot face washer on the boob in trouble, or use this electric heatpad (which I loved more than even my darling husband during labour) for 10-15 minutes before feeds, then use an icepack on the book for 5 minutes after the feed. I would also gently massage the lump towards the nipple as I fed, or feed her on all fours. It was a very glamorous and not at all annoying routine. (I trust KellyMom and ABA, and La Leche League for BF advice. And NURSE-ON-CALL OH MY GOD I LOVE NURSE-ON-CALL! Any time a baby has a crazy rash or fever, I call them straight away: 1300 60 60 24.)

When Rudy was gassy and very little, I bought the Dr Brown Options Wide-Neck Newborn bottle (with a Pigeon wideneck SS teat) to use in her dreamfeed, as directed by our midwife/sleep whisperer wizard friend, Amanda (McGill, director of Nest Nannies.) (If your baby is having trouble sleeping, and you are at your wits end, Amanda will get your baby sleeping. She is brilliant.)

Once the gassiness settled down, I moved to a Comotomo bottle, which I love cos they are silicone and soft and squishy like a boob, and we used happily with Sonny for years, too.

 

PRAMS

We are a multi-pram family: a big hardy one for home, a light, easy-fold one for my car, and a travel pram. I used a Bugaboo Cameleon3 for Sonny, but we needed some form of double pram when Rudy came cos Sonny had just turned three, AKA that weird in-between stage where he didn’t need a pram, but can’t walk that far, and was a bit shit on the scooter. (Sorry mate, but you were.) Because I had banged on about loving my BabyJogger City Mini GT so much with Sonny, when BabyJogger found out I was pregnant they very kindly sent us their new City Select LUX for Sonny and Rudy. So that made the decision for me, because if someone is willing to send you a really good new pram, you use it.

It is a true double pram, but it can be anything (it has about 400 different combinations). I like it because instead of a ride-on/toddler board for me to constantly smash my ankle on, it has a little seat with seatbelt that Sonny sits on, right under the handle, and we have a chat. And then Rudy is in her bassinet/capsule/seat behind him.

With the bassinet. Nowdays she is in an upright seat.

It’s a great pram, is ideal for two kids and our street walks and playground visits, but there is no way I would collapse it for the car or travel. It is big, and it is heavy. I prefer something more lightweight. I gave Sonny’s old BabyJogger City Mini GT to my sister in law, but I missed it a lot. So I bought a new one, which became my car pram and eventually, our travel pram (I bought the Uppababy G-Luxe for travel but it doesn’t recline and can’t fit a toddler on it so it’s out. The Mountain Buggy Nano is good though, I rate it for short trips), and confirmed to me that it is my favourite pram.

We SMASHED the Mini GT around Greece, Italy and NYC for three months, and it was consistently best on field. Also it was a great makeshift double pram, as you can see from this photo. Sonny more often than not perched on the front while Rudy sat behind him and kicked the shit out of him. Cute.

TRAVEL

Up until Rudy was about 10m old, and still fit in an airplane bassinet, we’d travel with the Cozigo, which I remember seeing on Shark Tank as Fly Babee, and thinking: GENIUS. It’s a little pop-up black out tent for the bassinet (or pram, so they can sleep in airports or while out and about) and it’s so handy. Now she’s bigger we just use a regular sun shade over the pram to black it out.

We always travel with a full roll of gaffa tape to tape down blinds and curtains in hotels and AirBnBs that dare to let light into the children’s room, or to stick dark t-shirts or scarves to smaller windows with no coverings. It’s up there with passports in terms of Don’t Fucking Forget To Pack This.

I packed Infacol and Infant’s Friend on flights when Rudy was young, but only til she was about 9m old I think. Maybe 6m. God, I really can’t remember a goddamn thing.

And as for their skin, I used Go-To, to be honest. If they got rashy or dry or scaly, I used my own skin care line on them, and it always worked. That’s an arrogant thing to say, but I always have a stack of samples around, I know what’s in my products, they’re wonderful for sensitive or inflamed skin that needs soothing and calming, and obviously I trust the ingredients implicity.

HOME/TOYS/ETC

We used Sonny’s old baby Bjorn bouncer and carrier, though we didn’t do a ton of baby carrying due to our shit backs and impatience with complicated instructions. (I love the idea of Ergobaby, my sister won’t shut up about them, but on zero sleep, I could NOT figure out how to wear it, even with the YouTube tutorial.) I used a Stina’s Style activity mat cos it wasn’t lurid green and yellow, and used Sonny’s old Ubabub pod cot. Miann & Co do great very nice bedding. So too, Halycon Nights. (AUSTRALIANA!) (They do very cute onesies also.)

Halycon Nights. Also: thighs.

I use white noise (ocean waves, specifically) every nap and sleep for my babies, pretty much as soon as they’re home from the hospital. It’s all part of their sleep cues etc, and helpful for day time construction or sirens blasting past or noisy older siblings etc. I use an app called – wait for it – White Noise – on the iPad when we travel, and a classic nightlight sound machine thingy at home from MyBaby that is no longer available but there are loads out there that make wave noises. For calm down time before bed, which is the most ironic title I could give it cos the kids go FRIGGEN TROPPO between bath and sleep, we haul out Tranquil Turtle, which is a cuddly toy + lights and sounds that makes the room into an ocean. Day spas slash therapists should use this turtle. It’s terrifically stress relieving. (If I am super tired or hungover I make their room dark and put on an “underwater party” and just lay on the floor while they play with anything sea creature related in the house around me. Mumming to the maxxx.) Also, I’d like to say that Indestructible baby books are chewable non-rippable and super awesome and a great gift for a 1-18m old.

Oh, and don’t buy a baby bath if you already have a bath. Just buy a little terry toweling cradle thingy and use that til they can sit up properly.

Alright. That’s all the stuff I can remember. (Here’s the stuff I used with my first baby. Lots of double-ups.)

Stuff I remember not using:

Muslin cloths/wraps swaddles – I don’t wanna be doing frustrated wrap origami at 3am in a pitch black room after I’ve fed and she’s done an epic poo and is wailing because I dared to change her. Technology has moved on: there are now ready made swaddle bags and sleepsuits. I celebrate this.

Bottle steamer – what a big, dopey waste of precious bench space. Boiling water worked fine for me.

Bumbo – my daughter’s thighs were too juicy to fit into it; my son hated it. Am sure many babies love it; not for us.

Bassinet – the nest ensured that was a fat waste of cash. She was happy and felt safe in the nest, in her cot – no need for bassinet at all.

Nappy bag – I find them ugly, and also cumbersome, and an additional bag on top of my already giant tote bag. For both kids I just tossed a changing clutch/roll (this JJ Cole was indispensable) and a ziploc of snacks, (and a spare onesie when she was really young and in explosive poo mode) into my regular tote.

Wine before noon – I tried to wait until at least 5pm.

It has to be said that we mums have it SO GEWD these days. Shit is getting SO good in baby land! Waterproof baby monitors! Inflatable baby baths! Wagon slash pram hybrids! So useful, so brilliant, so clever! This no barrier to entry Ecommerce era we live in has fired up the most incredible small business-big idea combo, and WE are the benefactors. I saw this even with a difference of three years between my babies – imagine what our mums think? I slept in a WARDROBE DRAWER, for god’s sake. Or in a bassinet at mum’s feet in the car. Or safe under the warm belly of a mother wolf in the nearby forest.

Okay, bye, I love you, you’ve got this, hang in there, you are DOIN IT!!!!

Ps Keep a HUGE jug of water and a cup on the bench or table once you have your baby, and refill it every night before bed. I drank so so much more water because My Jug was there, ready to go, and I didn’t have to think about it, or search for my cup. Also, buy one of those 1L vacuum jugs and make a strong pot of tea each morning. It will stay hot all day, and you might stay awake all day.

 

Responses to this drivel: 15 Comments
07
Jul

M•A•C makeovers! Pens being used to sign books! Excellent fun had by all

Once upon a time (12 noon til 2pm) there was a day called Friday July 11, 2008. And on this day a young lass called Zoe Foster stood at the M•A•C counter at Sydney city Myer and watched as talented makeup artists gave fun women complimentary makeovers that matched the looks in a book she once wrote called Air Kisses.

The looks were created by M•A•C Senior Artist and hotstuff genius person, Nicola Burford, and were inspired by the characters in Air Kisses: One was called Illuminated, and was a lovely glowing, no-makeup look. One was called Hannah Red, which featured a deliciously dramatic red lip, and the third one was Thunderstorm Brewing, which was a sexy, foxy, minxy and other words meaning ‘attractive’ and involving the letter x, smoky eye.

And so these women came to this M•A•C Myer counter and they had their copies of  Air Kisses signed as they enjoyed one of these three magnificent looks being applied to their face and then they all went out that night, some to dinner, some bowling, some to origami making class and some to the kind of nightclubs that charge $17 for a vodka, lime and soda and give you attitude when you ask for a glass of water please, and they all looked incredibly beautiful with their professionally applied makeup and took lots of delightful photos that ended up on Facebook but they didn’t un-tag any of them because they looked so hot.

And then, the very next day, July 12, at the very same time of day, Zoe Foster did the EXACT same thing at the  M•A•C Myer counter at Parramatta because she enjoyed it so much the first time. THEN she did it again, but this time in Melbourne city Myer, on Friday July 25.

The end.

For more details and less fairytale, open this file: Download book_signing_media_alert.doc

For a really cool thing to do on Friday or Saturday during your lunch break, go back to the top of this post and read it again.

Responses to this drivel: 15 Comments
19
Jan

My Best Of Melbourne: food, facials and playgrounds.

I’ve just moved back to Sydney after eight years in Melbourne.

To be able to stomp into the sea at the end of a ratty day feels incredible after so many years in a city. (The spiders and frizz I could do without.) My god. A dream.

But back to Melbourne for a moment, and the services, places and things I became intensely fond of, and will miss dearly. I share it because it takes a longass time to build up Your Things in a city, your army of friends, parks, cafes, grocers, and of course, people who magically transform your hair and face.

I got it real wrong for a solid year I reckon. It was pre-Instagram so you had to, like, read newspapers or blogs to be in the know. ‘Where do you go for breakfast?’ I’d ask women I barely knew. ‘Where do you get nice cushions? Flowers? Hummus?’ I wondered what I wasn’t being told, why I couldn’t find a decent cobbler (here’s one!) cursed those who weren’t giving up the goods, and had some truly terrible haircuts before I worked it out.

I’d argue Melbourne is still the kind of city you need to know where the good stuff is, or you risk walking around St Kilda or Southgate wondering what everyone’s on about because: ?

Just on Melbourne.

She is an exceptional city. She is beautiful, innovative, interesting, and peppered with some of the best food, art, design, creativity and minds in the world. Anyone so vulgar as to pit Sydney against Melbourne is entirely missing the point: they’re both brilliant, in very different ways.

We went through something truly remarkable in Melbourne last year. I feel incredibly bonded to the city and its people after months and months of intense lockdown, it’s a kinship unlike any other I’ve felt to a place. The other states have heard this a lot, but “you don’t know what it was like.” This doesn’t mean it all stunk! I have happy memories of a pumping MCG and Fitzroy gardens, crisp and sunny, heaving with lockdown runners, rugged-up two-person picnics, and families laden with bikes and scooters and balls, reluctant to give up even a minute of their one-hour of outside time. I also have memories of a heavy police presence there every single day, and my kids going mute each time we were asked to move on cos we’d stopped to eat an orange, or stomp in the creek, but that’ll pass.

Locals feverishly supported locals, and everyone lead with kindness. Florists were overwhelmed with deliveries from March right through, as people from around the state and country strove to cheer each other up. Compassion was king. It gave me great comfort to see how humans lift in strange, scary times. I’m a 1980s baby born into a middle-class white Australian family. I’ve had the immense fortune of a deeply privileged and comfortable life. This year –from the bushfires to Black Lives Matter to Covid – has woken me up. I’ve never felt more connected, and more motivated to be a better human. I know I’m not alone in this.

Okay! Onto the good stuff.

Caveat: I am a creature of habit, and a slave to postcode. These recommendations are largely based around Richmond, Fitzroy and Melbourne city.

Another caveat: I am not a born-n-bred Melbourne local with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city. This is just one woman’s cherry pickin’ of shit she likes.

FOOD

It’s hard to get a bad meal in Melbourne. I use Broadsheet to stay updated, but I’m basic, short of memory and usually hangry by the time decision making time rolls around, so usually fall back to these classics:

Capitano is our favourite Melbourne restaurant. Simple, perfectly executed pasta and pizza. (And they do a Peanut Butter and Miso Old Fashioned.) Don’t overthink it. Go to Capitano.

I will miss their Vodka rigatoni a lot. Their sister restaurant, Bar Liberty, is also perfectly done, especially if you’re into incredible wines and your cacio e pepe (who isn’t?). Daughter in Law/Mrs Singhs has the most delicious, light, subtle Indian food I’ve ever had the good fortune of eating. I recommend the Prawn curry, Paneer masala and butter chicken. (Tonka and Horn Please are also excellent.) I love an efficient, Melbourne-institution minute steak and fries at France-Soir, or the more relaxed, Lillet-spritz version at Entrecôte in South Yarra.

My husband and I inadvertently wearing the same thing to Nobu, 2013. Cute.

Flowerdrum is five-star for a reason. Classic, never-fail, outstanding Chinese. Ditto Nobu at Crown. DOC, Ladro and Baby all do outstanding pizza. Marion Wine Bar is the place you book when you want to impress your date in an accidental-no-big-deal way fashion: delicious food (roast chicken, fish, pasta) and a wine list that will appease even the most educated wine monster. (Same could be said of Rosetta.) Poodle is nearby and offers what might be Melbourne’s only seafood platter…? Slick and fun.  Supernormal (pan-Asian) and Kisume (Japanese) are a bit fancier/pricier but 100% guaranteed delicious. Attica by Ben Shewry is next level, and the one for a Special Occasion. (Or in lockdown, delivery lasagna! #PIVOT) Also good for special occasions: Donovans and Stokehouse, down St Kilda way. I also recommend booking out Pasta Club with a bunch of mates for a very fun, yummy, loose evening.

Also: Down on the Mornington Peninsula there are myriad great places and wineries. My standout meal is Rare Hare at Jackalope. It is WONDERFUL FOOD. Stunningly tasty vegetarian options abound! As do excellent wines and cocktails. And the view. Just all of it. Their fine dining dinner option, Doot Doot Doot is also exceptional. Degustations do my head in as a rule, but I went vego and it was interesting and delicious and innovative.

Special nod to The Lakehouse and Dairy Flat Farm in Daylesford for special occasions or fancy weekend getaways , and I love lunch and a run around the lavender gardens with the kids at Lavandula.

Marion excels at a simple vegetarian pasta.

In a city blessed with so many Italians, the gelato will not let you down. Pidapipo wears the crown: it serves all the extras I love in Italy (cream, hot Nutella sauce) and Piccolina does simple flavours, extremely well. As everyone knows,  Lune make the best croissants in Australia. Never not worth the wait. Go. 

Breakfast

I love the pancake (it’s singular, and the size of a cake) at Top Paddock, and there is fun to be had at Ned’s Bake and Darling Cafe (super-extra Instagram French Toast etc) in South Yarra. In Fitzroy, Archie’s All Day is a beloved breakfast stand-out, and the nearby Bentwood is also great. I maintain Fitzroy does the best coffee in Melbourne. *ducks*

Laikon Deli is a solid family favourite, as is the Rowena Milkbar, which we lived a few doors up from, and Pillar of Salt is always reliable and delicious.

Remnants of the pancake at Top Paddock. It feeds me + two kids. It is glorious.

Cakes

As a certified cake beast, I’ve had the good fortune of sampling many cakes in Melbourne. Many will look great, but only a few taste good, too. If I’m ordering a cake, I go to Beatrix Bakes, Miss Trixie, (she does cakes and cookies), or Proof Bakehouse. If I need to pick up a cake en route to a party, I usually head to Babka in Fitzroy, or order ahead from the genius @tarts_anon in Richmond who just do tarts, and do them exceptionally well. Special nod to Burch and Purchese for their very extra, high-art offerings.

Miss Trixie serving up a sugary nostalgia pun bomb for Halloween.

Bars

The smaller, darker and more unambiguous, the better. If I am going to the effort of a babysitter and hangover, I want to feel like I can walk in and give the bartender a few notes, and he/she will create me a symphony. Bar Eveleigh is flawless, as is Siglo, which always makes me feel like I am in Italy with that rooftop view. Eau de vie, Byrdi, Bar Americano are also fantastic, and a Margarita at Gilson on a sunny afternoon is a delight.

BEAUTY

Hair
I see Lauren MacKellar or Alex Newman at Meta hair in Armadale for my colour, and cuts too, though it’s colour that really sets these women apart. For styling and event hair I have a laugh with Hermiz Daniel at Joey Scandizzo. My son had his hair cut at Beef’s Barbers, and so did my daughter, often enough. Shaun and the gang are super friendly and cool, and you won’t end up with a naff ‘little boy’ haircut. (Kids sit on skateboards as they have their hair cut, which should give you a clue.)

Brows/Lashes

In 2014, in Melbourne, someone ruined my brows. I was puffy and pregnant and mid-book tour and really didn’t need unflattering brows on top of all that, yknow? So I asked my Sydney brow expert, Lien Davies if she would consider making a trip down to Melbourne to save my face and probably many other faces. She did, and she still visits every 8 weeks or so. What a diamond. I also recommend Kylie Brown Beauty for brows, and the gang at Me Skin and Body do great brows and lash lifts, too. Lash extensions? For me there is only one: Thi (@lashes_by_thi). She does the most incredible, natural lashes.

Makeup
I love and trust Jade Kisnorbo, Monica Gingold, and Yvonne Borland with my face and hair. (Git yourself a girl who can do both.) If I am in a bind and didn’t book them in time, I book at Mecca in South Yarra, or, um, just do it myself, which I got very used to doing during several lockdown press tours.

Skin
As someone who makes and sells skin care, I believe most of the heavy lifting when it comes to healthy skin comes from a simple but effective daily routine of cleansing, hydration, protection and gentle exfoliation. (And: SLEEP!) But professional treatments a few times a year? That’s the difference between having your car washed, and it being detailed. Over time, those professional treatments will make a difference, especially if you’re trying to maintain (not eliminate – impossible) hyper-pigmentation. I’ve been seeing Brooke at Me Skin and Body for years. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of ingredients and I turn to her to look after my pigmentation and tone, and get my skin glowy before events. (Laser Genesis, needling, Dermafrac etc). I also love a facial at Melanie Grant when Mel is in town, (she also has a salon in Sydney and LA and is a special kind of magic.) Speaking of pigmentation, I started seeing Alicia at Bare Laser and Skin last year who has being doing Q-Switch laser on my pigmentation, and also zapping my veins and pregnancy-induced skin tags etc. The gang at The Little Company in Cremorne do a beautiful pampering facial, great for gifting. These women are all business owners and extremely passionate about skin. They’re informed, trustworthy, up to date on tech and products, and follow a less-is-more policy, which I prefer.

The zingy no-makeup glow that follows a blueberry peel + Laser Genesis with Brooke.

Tan

Spray Aus in South Yarra. They also make the best mousse in a bottle around, in my opinion: no splotchy fade out, and no orange. The technicians are very well trained, but more than that, they listen when I say I’d like a light spray cos I am doing a red carpet and wearing white.

Massage

Lacking! Gah! I always struggled finding a good masseuse cos I prefer sports therapist intensity over relaxey. The one I did find and LOVE is not on Instagram yet, and is in the middle of setting up her business, so I will post that when she’s ready. The AURORA Spa always has excellent therapists but it’s pricey for a regular fix. (Terrrrrific present if you wanna gift a friend in Melbourne.)

Miscellaneous

Fertility

Something you don’t think about moving cities as you fall pregnant is that you don’t have that built-in network all your mates and sister etc used when they were pregnant. It sucked a doz. But, I found my people and now you can have them too. I swear by Dr Alice Gao. She is a Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist who specializes in fertility, miscarriage, labour induction etc. She is a very special woman. For pregnancy pain, find an osteo. I ended up with a fractured pubis and osteitis pubis in my first pregnancy, but neither were diagnosed accurately until post-birth. TLDR; I found Daniela Aiello who specializes in natal osteo and she fixed me, and kept me fixed for my a second, strong pregnancy. Also, lots of pilates: a killer combo for a strong core and birth. I went to Studio PP.

Shopping
It took me ages to find “my shops” in Melbourne. I prefer local business and street shopping over malls, and frequent Filly’s Stable in Albert Park, Grace and Bassike in Hawksburn Village, The Standard Store in Fitzroy, and Incu in QV for fun, eclectic bits and pieces (Rixo, Ganni, Proenza, Nanushka, Anni Lui etc). I love a stomp around Armadale for Acne, Camilla and Marc, Viktoria + Woods etc. If I do a mall, I like Emporium or Chadstone. (How original!) I love getting fancy dress and also Real Life clothes at Global Vintage in Richmond.

Movies
We always end up at Cinema Nova in Carlton. You can have a great meal beforehand, then take a negroni into the film. *chef’s kiss* Also love Kino in the city, Lido in Hawthorn, and the glorious deco Rialto in Kew. (For a kids movie, Hoyts Victoria Gardens. Always a seat, always a park, and you can get some Ikea storage containers on your way out.)

Gifts
I just drive straight to Gertrude St, Fitzroy. We lived there for years and I adore this little hood. I go to Third Drawer Down for unique, arty, witty gifts (stocking fillers and little thank you gifts for hosts etc), as well as The Standard Store, Le Labo and Mud, handily are both nearby. Modern Times is up Smith St, and has beautiful art, prints and objects (and furniture), and Happy Valley books is close by, also. My go-to gift in lockdown to struggling mates was a selection of ready-made cocktails from Blackhearts and Sparrows and some Hey Tiger chocolate. Both brilliant Melbourne businesses with excellent offerings.

Bookshops
Is there such a thing as a bad bookshop? I would argue not. My favourites are Avenue bookstore in Richmond and Albert Park, Readings and Readings Kids in Carlton, and Little Book Room in Carlton. Oh and the Collins St Dymocks in the city is PHENOMENAL, the sheer size of it!

Florists
I generally go Flowers Vassette when sending bouquets, I love Hattie Molloy for flowers as art, Brett Matthew John does beautiful, made-for-the-gram stuff, I’ve used Bloom Boy to do floral artistry for a party, and we supported our local, Glasshouse, in Richmond most weeks.

Lil’ bit of Hattie.

Furniture/Home
Church St, Richmond reigns. I buy a lot from JardanSignorino and Artedomus for tiles, and Space and Living Edge are full of wild pieces and ideas. Modern Times in Fitzroy does great vintage furniture (and art), and I’ve bought lots of second hand stuff from @curatedspaces. Some of my most-loved pieces at home I bought from Grazia and Co, a Melbourne company. The Family Love Tree has fun kids bedroom stuff and bedheads, too.

Just on home stuff, Simone Haag and Angela Harry both did remarkable things for our interior design, we have used LocBuild happily for every reno, fix and build we’ve ever done while living in Melbourne, and Will Gibson created some real planty-garden magic for us over the years.

FAMILY/KIDS STUFF

NGV
There’s always an exhibition on for kids, and the grounds are great for a picnic and run around. Plus, you’re across the road from more gardens, the Botanic Gardens etc. An easy and fun way to fill half a day.

Legoland
If you live here, get a membership (it’s tied into a Merlin Pass, which also includes a Sea Life Aquarium membership – score!) cos one-off entry is purrricey. There was a time when we would head there every Sunday: my pre-schooler loves the Duplo section, my kid loves the building and the 3D movies, and I hate exiting through the gift shop for obvious reasons.

Bounce
What did we do with kids on rainy days before indoor trampoline joints? We had our son’s birthday party here. We are regulars. (Bonus: you get an incidental workout.)

Collingwood Children’s Farm
A sweet little (working) farm in the city with cows, roaming chooks, ducks, pigs, horses, tractors etc, surrounded by bushland. Has an excellent café, interactive animal activities, and can fill a solid two hours. It’s right next to the Abbotsford Convent, which has beautiful gardens, galleries, creative wares, food, and lots of things to snoop around. A destination all of its own, especially on a sunny weekend afternoon.

Royal Botanic Gardens/Ian Potter Playground
When I first moved here, I cringed hearing everyone call the Botanic Gardens ‘The Tan.’ Now I call it that too: omg cuuuute! (To be clear, the Tan is the track around the perimeter of the gardens, which is always packed with runners and walkers. It’s just under 4k a lap.) The gardens are majestic and I highly endorse an untimed stroll through them, with a packed picnic. There is a little gated garden at the top (Domain Rd), with a creek, and some water fountains and a gorgeous grassy area we love on hot days, though be warned the opening days/times are pretty confusing, so check online before you go. (Wed-Sundays in non-school terms from 10am, and the fountains are only on if the temp hits 25 degrees and the sparrow flies north etc etc.)

The Museum + Scienceworks
Museum is definitely worth a membership, Scienceworks is great too, but in Williamstown so not as close for us, and a few-times-a-year activity. Pre-lockdown we’d hit the museum weekly in this house. There is a full indoor playground, (+ an excellent park and playground in the gardens next to it, which is not part of the museum) and floor after floor of interesting, curious animals and exhibits for kids and adults alike. Also there is an IMAX here and the grounds between the exhibition hall next door and the museum is GREAT for little kids to scoot. It’s just bloody great.

Melbourne Zoo
I adore the Melbourne Zoo, it is very worth a membership. (Also includes Werribee Open Plains Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, both worth a visit, but a fair whack out of the city.) It’s a large zoo, with a strong conservation message, and frequent updates. Butterfly house remains my favourite. Yes, I’m six.

Playgrounds (Free!)
Silly because there’s one on every block, but here are some Next Level playgrounds I love: Hay’s Paddock (Kew), Royal Park Nature Play (Parkville), St Kilda Adventure Playground, Maritime Cove Community Park (Port Melbourne) and Fitzroy Gardens which has a great creek and which really saved us in lockdown tbh.

Oh, there were many days spent doing this.

Kids clothing
Bit lacking, sadly. I love Big Dreams in Northcote and Little Fenix in Carlton, and Frankie’s Story for clothes, which was at South Melb markets but now just online. I buy toys at Kids Stuff or Jasper Jones in Fitzroy, and books at The Little Book Room or Readings Kids in Carlton.

And if you want WONDERFUL, cool, non-cheesy, total-framers-forever photos of your children, or family, (or wedding!) there is only one choice, the magnificent and indelible Mrs White.

Okay, I’m spent. I will update this list as more comes to mind, and please comment any thing you love in Melbourne so newcomers and tourists can have a really non-sucky, delicious, fun time.

Off to the beach!

Zo x

(JK I am off to Kmart to buy a clotheshorse.)

 

All typos are intentional except where unintentional.

 

Responses to this drivel: 24 Comments
12
Jul

The Bose sleepbuds work! And also don’t.

“Hello, you’ve reached First-World Complaints, this is Zoë speaking, how may I help you?”

My wonderful ears grant me many, many pleasures: the sound of my baby’s laughter, crunchy toast being buttered, Vampire Weekend’s new album, a fresh mug of coffee being poured… but I fear they are taking their job far too seriously. They think they work for the CIA, and must never dip below Aggressively Vigilant. On the plus side, I do feel like I might save the family if a burglar ever gives it a crack.

Just like my inability to jump on trampolines, I blame the children. It pretty much kicked in the day my firstborn arrived, as did my anxiety and complete loss of rhythm on the dance floor, and it seems to get more powerful with each new child/year that goes by, yknow, like the stench of a Camembert that’s rolled under the back seat.

On any given night my extremely over sensitive ears will run the auditory gauntlet of:

1. My husband’s snoring breathing. It was just occasional snoring , but then I coerced him into sinus surgery to “help” him, and now his basic inhalation and exhalation volume is set to AUDITORIUM thanks to all the new airway space created. So that’s cool. No regrets there. (Fun fact: The thing that stopped his snoring – til he stopped practising – and which stopped his daily use of Ventolin and prednisolone for his asthma, was the Buteyko method. It works. And as the person sharing a bed with him, I can vouch for it.)

2. My five-year old calling out for a drink… or that he is cold… or coming into our bed, or my one year-old crying because she is a one-year old and they do that, especially when they are teething, or sick, or their brain is doubling in size and capability, so, always.

3. Possums fucking around in the tree right outside. We’ve got the goddamn Possopranos out there: it is violent, it is relentless, and I swear I heard the word gabbagool the other night.

4. High-density urban living… i.e.: neighbors daring to have a life and drinking and chatting outside or parties, traffic helicopters flying overhead at 6am, 5am garbos etc etc whatever. That’s life, I get it, let’s all bloody move to Bangalow.

Hotel rooms, of course, are a firm turd out of five for getting a good night’s sleep. Lifts going up and down, the air con vent, party cats, late-night TV viewing next door, housekeeping vacuuming the hallways at 12am (WHY), doors clanging etc. (I am now one of those assholes who checks in and asks for a quiet room away from the restaurant and bar and lift, please.) If anyone can recommend a genuinely quiet hotel room in Sydney, which is where I travel to the most for work: please do. I am six years into my search and still no dice.

Of course, all of this over the top sooking and night waking means I’m a bit of ear plug connoisseur. I reckon if you shine a torch over my Google search bar, you will see the faint words: best ear plugs light sleeper, which I type in relentlessly.

The ones I found to work best I bought in the UK and until my sister-in-law’s dog made off with one of them, I swore by them. Then I found them here in Australia, and discovered they are actually swimming earplugs, and under no circumstances should they be worn overnight for sleeping.

I‘ve tried expensive custom fit ones, and every size and variety of foam plug Amazon reviewers rave about. Yes, before you ask, I tried the Earfoams, and no, they weren’t for me. A friend raves about the Antinois brand, but I generally just revert to 3M or Mack, make sure I insert them properly, and hope for the best.

And that is still kind of the case, even though I bought the Bose Sleepbuds for almost $400 hoping they would be my saviour, mostly with regards to the human sharing a bed with me, and his various, adorable breathing (how dare he) and honking habits. I bought them after a weekend away with my husband, where his snoring was so AGGRESSIVE that I ended up sleeping with my airpods in, and nature music turned up to the point of ear drum perforation.

I’m not gonna go to deep on what these things are/do, the Internet has that covered; they are noise-masking in-ear earbuds, that deliver sounds via Bluetooth from the Bose app in your phone. It’s like a white noise machine, in your ear. You can not use them for calls or music: they only work with the Bose app and the library of noise-masking sounds within. That’s a lotta cash for a very limited job, but Bose aren’t dummies, they know the sleep deprived will pay anything for some zzzs.

This is the case/charger. You get 16 hours of bud charge (cool name for a band?) from a full charge.

The Sleepbuds are good, but also not. They could be better. I was holding out for V2, which is generally the time to buy new shit, cos all the bugs have been ironed out by then, but there was no V2 on horizon, so I dived in. They really need to make a V2.

PROS

They work.
But not in the most useful way since I can still hear snoring, banging and loud music. Maybe that’s too much to ask from a small piece of plastic or foam, it’s highly likely. We have been gifted the blessing of hearing, and we should be grateful. That said, I find that if you blast the ‘downstream’ sound, it can mask pretty well. But man, it’s intense. I feel like there is a waterfall IN my head. It’s disconcerting and gives me weirdass dreams. I couldn’t do that all night if my partner was a total honker. It’s too full on, and I think it’s unnatural to have that kind of level of noise, even a gentle nature noise or a soft ambient pink noise, funneled directly into your ears.

I do it when my husband’s snoring is dialed up to 10, or when a neighbor is having a party, or when my husband is trying to give me a sleep in and the kids are being VERY LOUD. I use a lesser noise choice and a lesser volume to mask street noise etc.

My buds have saved me in hotels when the people upstairs wake at 5am and stomp around before they leave for their 7am flight, and it’s allowed me to sleep through parties, and it means on holidays where we are all in one room together sleeping, I don’t turn me into a murderous witch.

They’re comfortable.
I’m a side sleeper and they are totally fine. Comfortable. And they stay in.


These are the buds, they are cute, fit well (there are three sizes of cover with each set) and comfy.

 

They’re update-able.
You can (finally) download more noise masking sounds. (There was only 10 for ages.)

CONS

They do not mask snoring.
Ooof, they try, but they don’t. If I am already asleep with them in, these may keep me from waking from my husband’s snoring, but if I awake because he belted off to dreamland first and started snoring? No.

They don’t seal the ear like a foam plug.
So, yknow, noise is gonna come in.

They’re fiddly as hell.
As an Apple fan, and daily user of airpods, I’ve had the enormous privilege of an instant Bluetooth connection, and efficient retrieval and removal of the earbuds from the charging case. Bose are several decades behind Apple here. It’s not uncommon for it to take me 5-6 goes to carefully align the buds into their charging unit, and there have been many, many nights when I take the buds out and insert into ears, (which is when the connection is meant to fire) and the app cannot find and connect to them. At 2am, in the darkness, this is really fucking annoying.

The app as the controller.
It’s a pest having to fire up your phone and app to use these. Hey, sleepyhead, here is some INTENSE BLUE LIGHT just to soothe you back to sleep. I sleep with my phone on flight mode on the other side of the room, and the whole procedure is fiddly, riddled with bugs, and feels very clunky. Do better, Bose. Please. You are onto something here.

Volume adjustment
Same family of complaint as above: you have to go into your phone and the app to adjust volume. THIS IS SO DOPEY. Make it work with the volume buttons on the side of the phone, you heathens. We’re tryin’ to sleep and you keep making us light up our dang phone!

Low sound quality
As in, for this kind of money, I don’t want to be able to detect the loop on a nature sound. I suspect my brain’s over activity is part of the reason I am a light sleeper, so if it can find a loop or rhythm in a ‘white noise’ or nature noise, my god it will, and with furious pace, and then it will obsess over it like a tongue with a loose tooth. Several of the sounds I could easily detect where the noise started and stopped. Boo. Hiss. (Repeat.)

You will know they’re there.
By that I mean: I don’t really notice foam plugs, they can stay in all night. But I am aware of these guys being in there, as comfy as they are. They don’t fall out, they’re just… not my ears. And I know that my ears don’t usually have sounds pouring into them. So if you’re a hyper-sensitive weirdo like me, you may feel this is all a bit foreign and it may annoy you during the night, causing more night-waking than if you didn’t have them in… if that makes even a licka sense.

OVERALL

I do not at all regret buying them, esp when I travel for work, and know a noisy night awaits. I pack them every time I go away, and they’re always charged and ready to go at home. But, I think of them as a smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency tool, not a useful, every night solution like foam ear plugs. And, they don’t block out snoring. In my experience, only a spare room truly does, and as we have two kids and a three bedroom house, that’s not really the answer.

Also, if my husband is away, I can’t use them, cos I worry I wouldn’t hear the kids or the fire alarm. So in that sense, they are, um, too effective.

What a brilliant customer case study I am for Bose: “They don’t work! They work too well!”

Anyway. I wrote this not cos I have a tech gadget blog or time to write product reviews, I wrote it for the many other light sleepers or people with snorey spouses who are looking for a yay/nay on these things. Even though of course the whole thing is hugely personal and subjective. I myself read a breathtaking amount of reviews on these things before buying them, like, waaaaay more reviews than on something I’ve paid a lot more money on, (a mattress for example) because I wanted very honest, very specific advice, and also, I’m used to spending $7 on ear plugs, not $380.

In summation: They’re useful, and they have helped me. I feel confident going to bed knowing they’re in my artillery.
If you can afford them, and your sleep is suffering because of noise, I recommend them.

Fondest,
Tikki Tikki Tembo, Recommendo.

PS If you use ear plugs that are game-changey, please, for the love of light sleepers, tell us below!

Responses to this drivel: 48 Comments
02
Mar

(Why and how we did) New York City With Small Kids

The jovial travel lords at Expedia commissioned me to write a piece on travelling to NYC with young kids, presumably because most people would read that sentence and think to themselves WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT ARE YOU CUCKOO NEW YORK CITY WAS BUILT FOR COCKTAILS AND RESTAURANTS AND SHOPPING LEAVE THEM AT HOME WITH GRAMMY AND POPPOP FOR THE LOVE OF BAGELS.

As it turns out, not only is NYC entirely do-able with kids (the people who live there even have some of their own!) it’s fun. And it makes for a pretty exquisite set of memories.

I say this because last year my husband and I spent six weeks in summery, sweaty NYC with our four year-old boy and 14-month-old girl. Partly for my work, (if you’re in North America reading this, next time you’re in Sephora, try Go-To skin care, okay thanks) but mostly because we love that city, and our kids are not yet locked to the school term, so we can afford to be a bit cavalier/ambitious/obnoxious with our trips.

We arrived in NYC after six weeks of training in Greece and Italy, where we perfected the art of constantly moving into new places, and eating pasta and pizza every day.

We chose to stay in three different areas of NYC. This is because:

1) If we booked one home for six weeks and it was noisy, (HAHAHA JK, every place in NYC is noisy) or it sucked, we were stuck

2) NYC is huge; there are so many areas to explore, and limiting ourselves to just one felt silly

3) We enjoy packing and repacking suitcases, schlepping them up and down lots of stairs, and making our children feel displaced and confused.

One of many city playgrounds we got to know very well. This one is on Bleeker.

We began with two weeks in a cosy apartment in SoHo.

This was ideal, since my work was based there, and we could get all our favourite NYC restaurants (Sant Ambroeus, il Buco, Minetta Tavern etc) and shopping out of our system so we didn’t spend the rest of the trip hankering for the part of Manhattan we know and love best. Our apartment was RIGHT IN THE THICK OF IT. Tourists everywhere, sirens, party drunks: SoHo is never quiet. But, the kids didn’t care. We slept well. Big days mean big sleep.

I found a babysitter through a friend so we grown-ups could enjoy the city. No point being in NYC and staying home every night. She babysat for us for the duration of the visit, and I am very grateful to her.

At Color Factory. If it ever comes to a city near you… ya gatta!

We ate: Out a lot – we were right on the cusp of Little Italy after all. Aside of that, take-away soup, sushi and chili from Gourmet Garage was our go-to. (I live on chicken noodle soup in NYC.)

We kept the kids busy with:

  • Numerous city playgrounds: There are a few around Bleeker that are huge, with water parks and fountains and lots of local kids to play with
  • Exhibitions, plays, and kid-based art stuff. (We went to Color Factory; it was phenomenal)
  • Going to Times Square (ahem, the M&M store) and the Empire State Building
  • Trips to The High Line for ice creams and sweltering strolls/tantrums (mine)
  • A train trip to Coney Island for the day with some friends (just the boy and the husband; too hot and far for baby)
  • Walking around the city finding parks and patting dogs

We had to: Buy a ton of Lego and puzzles for hot afternoons inside.

A wheely wonder-full time was had at Coney Island (sorry)

Next we headed to Park Slope (Brooklyn) for 16 days.

My knowledge of Brooklyn was limited to Dumbo and Williamsburg (I’m a Carrie, not a Miranda, after all), so we booked this having never been to the area. Next time we’ll spend a bit longer on Google maps, or ask any ex-pats we know over there for insight, as it wasn’t quite what we had envisioned. 

Alas! We’d heard Park Slope was great for families, and it really is. Lots of playgrounds, the colossal, lush Prospect Park, and tons of family friendly eateries and shops. The best way to sum it up is that it was like Real Life, whereas Manhattan always feels romantic and crazy and like I’m in a movie. (And that’s why I love it.)

Prospect Park BRINGS IT.  Esp on a Sunday morning. 

We ate: Mostly at home; there were loads of those dazzling, overflowing NYC grocery stores around. There were some great places around for early family dinners, notably Hugo and Sons, and we bought crepes at the delicious Colson patisserie on our daily walk up to Prospect Park. I booked an organic toddler food delivery service,(frozen, delivered in bulk for the week ahead, Nurture Life was the company) so we always had healthy lunch or dinner options.

We kept kids busy with:

  • Daily trips to Prospect Park (rivals Central park in size and beauty; above)
  • Numerous local playgrounds
  • Brooklyn Zoo
  • A ferry over to Governor’s Island to camp for the night under the gaze of the statue of liberty (just my son and husband; baby not a keen camper) Even if you don’t camp, go: it has the longest slide in NY and an awesome park
  • Brooklyn Bridge park in Dumbo, (AKA, we went to the Jane Carousel, but this whole area is brand new and great)

We had to: Rack off to the Hamptons for a weekend to stay with friends to escape an epic heat wave. The Hamptons were GREAT. So pretty! Such good food! Many things for the kids to do, and many celebrities to spot! (Important.)

At LUNCH in the Hamptons. Yes, ’tis the diner from The Affair.

For the finale, we moved up to Central Park.

We’ve never stayed uptown (midtown, more accurately) before, but with kids it made sense. So, for the last 12 days we booked a hotel one block back from the park (1 Central Park – 10/10 recommend) to go out on a movie-set high.

I want to say: if you have young kids, stay up here. We were in that wonderful park twice a day, for the playgrounds, duck feeding, the zoo or the fairground. It’s magic, and it tires them out, and it’s just so dang beautiful.

We ate: Mostly in our room. (We upgraded to a room with a dining table and more space after seeing our tiny original room, knowing from experience that the money is worth it when you spend so much time at home with your kid and still-crawling baby.) I still had the toddler food delivery in place, but classic diner breakfasts or picnics in the park with sandwiches were good fun. The grocery stores in the city all do great soup/stews/salads, which I have zero problem with after three hours at a museum.

We kept them busy with:

  • Central Park (squirrels! Rocks to climb! The best playground we’ve ever seen!)
  • Central park Zoo
  • A Yankees game
  • MoMa (it has a lovely outdoor area and interactive kids room)
  • The Intrepid air sea and space museum (you can see a real space shuttle)
  • The American museum of Natural History
  • The subway anywhere. Kids. Love. Trains.

Before booking, I made sure each place we stayed had:

Some space to play indoors – Hot NYC summer days are super exhausting for small people. The kids could generally tolerate one big session outside a day, then they would nap, and hang inside on hot afternoons til dinner, which we would often go out for, because they were buzzing to get out, and so were we, and we’re more relaxed on holidays so we can forgive the later bed time and amount of ice cream being consumed.

Dark bedrooms – I always double confirm there are blackout blinds in the kids room. (We always travel with gaffa tape to tape down any light leaks too.)

White noise – much needed in NYC with all the sirens etc.

Proximity to playgrounds or parks – no more than a block or two. They act as your backyard.

A lemonade fountain and indoor slippery slide – obviously.

Oh, it was a big, beautiful, blur of a trip. We were in a constant loop of excitement, FOMO and exhaustion in NYC; it’s a city that gives as much as it takes, and we are more than happy with that transaction. (We are also more than happy with the amount of Aussie cafes popping up over there, because we are Melbournians and therefore very ARROGANT ABOUT OUR COFFEE.)

At Dumbo House. I LOVED this night. Thank you, friend with membership!

Responses to this drivel: 4 Comments
31
Jan

Using skin care doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.

Of course it doesn’t! You’re a marvellous, clever sausage with fantastic taste in blogs. And you look after yourself. That’s pretty unidioty.

You might think otherwise if you read This Article, titled ‘Skin care is a con.’

Someone on Twitter was yelling about it this morning, and since I’m in a conference today, while my fellow directors were talking about boring stuff, I read it. And then secretly wrote this blog while they went on about logistics and revenue and blah blah blah.

It feels a bit like high-brow clickbait, and is riddled with dismissiveness and superiority. But just cos the author’s opinion is unpopular, that doesn’t make her article any less deserving of eyeballs than the four million articles published daily blabbing about the virtues of skin care, I guess.

Look, I own a skin care company, Go-To, (OMG you should totally buy some right now it’s sooo good), so you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more bias, but in fact I think in many ways this wildly contrary article is right. A lot of what we are sold and told about skin care IS bullshit! And yes, your beloved products can backfire if they’re used incorrectly or disrespectfully or impatiently.

My problem with the article, though, is that a few buzz products, trends and ingredients were used to frame a daily act of self-love and care into something narcissistic, naive and dangerous. I take umbrage to this and also I’ve never used the word ‘umbrage’ on this blog before and my god it was time.

Please note: I am an insufferable skin care lover/dork/pest. I worked as a beauty editor at Cosmopolitan and Harper’s BAZAAR, wrote a beauty book, and make and sell skin care. I spend a huge portion of my time working with my brilliant chemist and formulators creating products for women and men to put on their skin. (Just the essentials, mind you. No frilly stuff.) It’s hard, and fun, and meticulous, and it’s a titanic responsibility. I think skin care is WONDERFUL. I’ve seen the results, I’ve heard the stories; I know what good skin can do for people’s confidence.

As such, I’ve written some explainers to some of the spicier statements in the piece. Not cos I need to defend skin care, (ummm, it’s just fine), but cos I firmly believe there is more nuance to skin care than it simply being:

A) the answer to all of your self-worth, happiness, and worth, WUDEVAITCOSTS
B) bullshit in nice packaging.

“Perfect skin has become the thinking woman’s quest.”

Nah. The quest is far from new. And actives have been around forever. We just talk about skin care more now because we have more channels to do so, and more access to more products that do more things, because science and technology keeps improving, and so does packaging, and so do the products available to us. It’s not witch hazel toner and sorbelene cream any more, Judith!

We probably always used five things on our face each day, but without Instagram to showcase and discuss them, how would anyone know? We have more access to more faces, and more brands, and more products than ever before. Even outside of uppity online brands like Go-To, it’s a very, very noisy and confusing and overwhelming market.

When I was 17, I had the pharmacy, supermarket and department stores (if I took a bus for an hour to get there). I had no social media, no Mecca, no Sephora, no online shopping. I couldn’t buy products from France, or America. I bought what was available in the stores closest to me. I was guessing, and on reflection, doing it all wrong for my skin type. (Google would have been of terrific help.)

This has changed. I know of 15 year-olds using such a sophisticated skin care routine that I feel like an amateur. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary, but it’s happening, and, well, it’s not really up for judgement, actually. Do what you like with you.

“Perfect skin is unattainable because it doesn’t exist.”

Perfect skin is not the goal of skin care, you dangus! Well, not for me, or Go-To. My goal is looking after something that’s exposed to the sun, wind, air con, makeup and pollution. To protect my skin against all that in the morning, and remove all of that at night. (If nothing else, I tell women to wear sunscreen, then cleanse and moisturise at night. And remember: your face stops at your boobs.) To defend against the damage the sun does with burning and pigmentation, and heal and regenerate the skin when it has been attacked because you ended up playing at the park for an hour with your kids, but didn’t think you would be outside so long, and so you got a bit red, you sweet goose.

“Real, flawed women have real, flawed skin”

Yes… but if your skin is red and sensitive, or over-producing oil, or you have acne, you’re allowed to manage that without feeling like it’s a superficial vanity move. When the skin is not healthy or suddenly changes for the worse, it’s generally symptomatic of something else: diet, stress, hormones, allergies. That’s not something to be ignored.

I use skin care to replenish my skin, and keep it supple and healthy. It’s the thing I see every day, and the thing everyone else sees of me each day, and I feel zero shame in saying I want to keep it looking good, and feeling good, for as long as possible. Especially as a very busy, very tired, very mum-of-two person. If my skin is in good shape, it means I can wear less or no makeup. Good. To me it’s a sign of self-care, and a ritual of self-love. Like washing my hair, or choosing denim over activewear to signify to myself and the world that, ‘I’m making an effort.’ Even if I am hungover, stressed, tired and everything can just get fucked.

“At the core of the New Skincare is chemical violence.”

A touch dramatic. Actives like Vitamin A (which incorporate retinol/retinoids), AHAs (glycolic, lactic acid) and BHAs (salicylic acid) are skin care classics, and when used correctly, are not destructive. They are great, genuinely transformative, that’s for sure, but they can also mess your skin right up if you go too hard. The anecdotes in the article citing wounds and burns from layering too many actives are theatrical, but not uncommon. The author is right: more is not more. When it comes to actives, tread gently, get advice, and if in doubt, limit yourself to actives in 1-2 products daily, max.

HAHAHA, laugh all the glow-monsters. AS IF. I get it! I get it. You see the fresh, glowing skin after using high-strength retinols or AHAs, and you become addicted. The GLOW! The RADIANCE, oh GOD, the RADIANCE!

I discovered my friend was using a cleanser with 10% glycolic acid,  a serum jammed with retinoids (Vitamin A), and a night cream with both AHAs and retinol. She was 40 and looked 13, but OF COURSE SHE FRIGGEN DID SHE WAS REMOVING A LAYER OF SKIN EVERY NIGHT.

This is essentially a daily mini-peel, and it’s a terrible idea. Stop it.

The skin has finite layers. If you start ripping off skin layers with an overuse of DIY actives (without professional advice), you will end up with a compromised barrier, and a weird, shiny, taut complexion that will never, ever look the same.

I advocate AHAs. They are wonderful for all ages, (teens with bad skin will generally be put onto BHAs or AHAs) when used under advice, and with respect. I use lactic acid in my Exfoliating Swipeys because it is gentle, and hydrating, and exfoliates thoroughly. If I swiped daily my skin would likely be more glowy. But I stop at 3x a week. Because skin care is a long-term game.

“Skin care is a scam.”

No. It’s not. It’s purposeful, helpful, useful and, well, just a lot of fun, to be honest.

But as an informed consumer you should know that some skin care, in some ways, is a bit of a scam. There’s marketing gibberish and wild promises and faux science and filler ingredients with zero efficacy but nice smells. This is what inspired me to start Go-To in the first place: I was tired of being sold promises and using silicon-laden creams that did nothing. Of having to write up creams that cost $500 that worked no better than the one that cost $50.

A smart consumer buys skin care for the ingredients, not the brand or promise. 

Antioxidants, AHAs, BHAs, Vitamin A, C, E, peptides, anti-inflammatories, physical UV blockers: these, things, work. There are reams of clinical evidence to support these ingredients. And clinical evidence is not just handed out. It has to be earned. (I know this first-hand. Mr and Mrs Clinical Evidence are complete hardasses.)

“Most skincare is really just a waste of money.”

So is that Zara top I bought on Saturday. So is $18 smashed avo for breakfast. So is that book of stickers I bought for my son. So is lots of stuff.

What we choose to spend our money on is our choice. Buy what you like. (Not this, please. I think you’re terrific, Elon, but no.)

If you’re interested in not wasting money on skin care, just:

  • Buy products with ingredients that are proven to do something (as above)
  • Use moisturiser (or dedicated sunscreen) with at least SPF 15 daily
  • Clean your face at night, and apply something with antioxidants afterwards

I’m kind of grateful someone wrote a skin care diss, cos it has reinvigorated me, and made me remember why I started Go-To.

I love the ‘New Skin Care’ craze. My hope is that it’s not misguided, and people are not taken advantage of, which sounds like lunacy or lies or false concern from a woman who sells skin care, but I mean it.

I don’t care what you use or buy, if you’re gentle, and you’re doing it cos you love and respect your skin, and want to look after it, (just like you eat broccoli and pretend to enjoy tumeric lattes to look after your body), then you’re doing it right.

Enjoy yourself.

Responses to this drivel: 14 Comments
11
Oct

A labour, birth and post-natal questionnaire.

Did your waters break in a cafe and did you have to quickly hail a cab to the hospital?

Oh, come on. That shit only happens in the movies. My contractions began at 2:30am and were pretty pathetic til about 5:30am, when I reluctantly called my Mother-in-law to come over to look after our toddler. I say reluctantly cos I had been in frustrating pre-labour for a week, and while the contractions were every eight minutes, they were mild, so I didn’t want to be the boy who cried wolf when I got to the hospital (Epworth Freemasons, which is fantastic. Their staff are great – but then, aren’t all midwives? – and they have double beds so your partner can sleep next to you as you recover) and get sent home.

With my first baby, I stayed home til I couldn’t talk through my contractions, cos being in bed at home is far nicer for early labour than a hospital room, but I’d heard second babies can bloody ZING out, and I didn’t want to risk a rapid ramp-up and the potential of a backseat-of-the-car-delivery.

Anyway. My lovely MIL came over at 6am, we got to the hospital at 6:30am, I was 4cm dilated, my obstetrician broke my waters, and we were off!

IMG_3699_newBefore my waters were broken and labour was still mild. Hence: smile.

Did your labour go for over 1000 hours?

Thirteen.

What was the most useful accessory during labour?

My husband. Second, this electric heatpack he placed on my lower back as I rocked on the fit ball, and howled, and tried to run away from my body. (Also comes in handy whenever that stinky wench mastitis comes for me.)

hotpodAny music?

A Spotify playlist I made with lots of Ray LaMontagne and Father John Misty and Feist. And Metallica. Ha ha ha! Just kidding! Obviously Megadeath is the heavy metal choice for labouring women.

Do you rate your birth experience as positive? Better or worse than your first birth?

It was awesome. Quite similar to my first. I feel tremendously lucky. I know how quickly things can get serious, and heavy, and how out of control it can all get in there for some mothers and babies, and I feel intensely fortunate to have had two positive births. Really I do. Your birth experience is incredibly significant; it stays with you for life, good or bad. I know how lucky I am.

For those who care (I LOVE birth stories): I went into spontaneous labour at 2:30am the day before my due date, had my waters broken at around 4cm, (7am), then laboured like a, well, mother, til I was about 7cm dilated. I used gas for pain relief and quite loved it. (Last time I was given morphine and I deeply regret it. It made me spew a lot and I was so fuzzy. For days. Foul.)

By about noon I demanded the anaesthetist stop racking off (he got called away to theatre twice on his way to me) and bloody give me my epidural before I missed the window/so I could rest. He did, all efficiency and magic, and I fell asleep for an hour, which pressed reset on my exhausted head and body, and gave me the strength to PUUUUUSH. (My doula angel lady, the magnificent Marie Burrows, taught me to use the epidural for fatigue, not to escape pain.) (I may have used it for both.) It also slowed everything down, as it tends to, (this happened last time), so they put me on the (Syntocinon) drip to get things moving.

An hour later and it was time to push. I completely forgot how. “Like you’re pooing!!” the midwife yelled (I remembered then) and within 15 very athletic, intense, wonderful minutes, our little girl was with us.

She didn’t cry, (IS SHE OKAY?! I bellowed, perhaps a little too aggressively), she was serene, all wide-eyed and looking around. Someone plopped her straight onto my chest, where she lay for an hour or so, in dim lights, and we cooed over her, and she suckled, and adjusted to being in oxygen and breathing and planet earth and stuff. What, a, moment! Incredible! Total bliss party! Ugh. I loved it so friggen much. It will forever be branded into my brain (with a unicorn horn and glitter).

IMG_3714_newThis is one of my top five Life Moments and also photos.

I really reckon the weeks of acupuncture, acupressure massage (and meditating) I did leading into birth helped a lot, both times. My body did a fantastic job, and so did my baby. Rudy helped me as much as I helped her. I am so grateful to her. She was an exceptional birthing partner, in the true sense of the term.

If you are in Melbourne, here are the people I used for my labour prep. I can not recommend them highly enough, but goddamit I will try:

DR ALICE GAO. I relied on her with my first baby, also. She treated me when I was trying to conceive, through morning sickness, and then from 36 weeks pregnant to prepare the body for birth. She is a very special woman.

MARY DE PELLEGRIN A lovely and superexperienced, masterful masseuse who specialises in pregnancy massage. She does guided relaxation as she works on you, and it’s deeply lovely. Plus: she strong. This is serious massage. You’ll get wild relief and relaxation.

MONA (0420 708 516) A magical wizard with incredibly powerful hands and a decade of physio experience. She does mobile massage, but the word massage seems somehow … ungenerous. It’s much more than that. Mona doesn’t watch the clock, she just treats you and your sore spots and knots until they’re fixed. Properly fixed. And she does makes you better. She is with me (and my husband, he is her number two fan, after me) for life, whether she likes it or not. (I have been using her post-birth for the ol ‘breastfeeding shoulder’ also.)

And also my osteo, who I talk a lot about here.

Did you use even 50% of the shit you packed for the hospital bag, or did you just live in your dressing gown and big black grundies?

How dare you assume I overpacked. (Of course I did.) And since I treated myself to a fancy cashmere robe as my own push present (this one, from Naked Cashmere) I barely needed clothes. I just wore lots of Bonds breastfeeding singlets, and Kmart men’s black undies. Cute! I packed Tom maternity pads because they are like a big fluffy cloud, (by far the best maternity pads. The others are too thin, or too long, or too surfboardy) and BodyICE ice packs, for the whole… situation down there, and all my beloved Go-To skin care so I felt human and smelled nice. (Sometimes. Sometimes I was just tears and colostrum and pizza grease.)

I wore a tracksuit home. I don’t understand dressing nicely to go home. Do people still do that? All I did was come home to empty house with my husband, son and baby, feed the cat, then feed the baby, then feed me. Tracksuit seemed fine for this.

cashmeregown

This is not me. This is slightly cranky lady wearing the same dressing gown I have.

What was your first meal, post birth?

A meatball sub, fries, and a glass of champagne. Then ice cream. Since my husband brought me my favourite pancakes to the delivery room at around 10am (I birthed at 4pm), I wasn’t too ravenous. HA HA HA as if. I was starving. Birth is hardcore. I needed to replenish with a tonne of shitty junk food.

When your milk came in, and your tits went ballistic, did you briefly flirt with the idea of moving into glamour modelling?

What do you mean ‘flirt’ with? Google ‘Milky Mams’ (DEFINITELY DON’T.)

Did you have a lot of visitors in the hospital/hotel? 

I consider those first few days sacred. People can come to the house in the following weeks, instead. In a slow trickle. One set a day. Because as we all know, no sleep + remembering how to breastfeed + newborn + hosting visitors is a really shit idea. (Our good mates sent us a big box of food from Gourmet Dinner Service, which saved us for many nights, and I now gift other newborn parents the same thing.)

Did you slide on those recovery shorts two minutes after you gave birth?

The SRC Recovery shorts? No, I did not. I struggled to get them on two days after birth: it was an ugly scene. Then, not 10 minutes later, a friendly physio came to check on me, and said, ‘Oh, don’t stress, just wait til you get home! Don’t make life hard for yourself!’ (Also, since I had minimal abdominal separation, and I wear the shorts for pelvic support instead, wearing them right away wasn’t crucial.)

You wear them everyday?

I wore them, or some form of compression/support shorts every day for the first 8-9 weeks, and finally moved back into Real Life clothes (“denim” and “wool”) at around 10 weeks. You gotta wear the SRCs under baggy pants, cos they are quite thick. (My best maternity and new-baby pants are these Camilla and Marc ones. The recovery shorts are perfectly hidden underneath and the pants are comfy but stylish, so you don’t feel like a total dag. I’ve thrashed them. The cost per wear is magnificent.)

I alternated the shorts with some of the excellent post-partum support leggings/tights that definitely did NOT exist when I had my first kid, three years ago. I love Active Truth tights, which I wore while preggo as well. They are the most firm and the most flattering of the bunch I reckon. I also wear Blanqi nursing support leggings, (though they’re not quite as firm as I like) and also Hello Monday (these are shinier, straight up activewear).

They all do same thing: work as compression tights, give support, cover up your stomach as you feed (they go up to your bra line) and smooth out all the tummy and arse jiggle so you feel nice and look smooth. And that’s what I want in those early days. To feel like I have one tiny portion of control over my leaky, wobbly, tired and taxed body. Also I bought some super strong, nude, very thin/invisible Spanx on recommendation from a friend, to wear under jeans etc.

BLANQI_support_leggings_baby_600xThis is not me. This is a blonde lady. She is wearing the Blanqi tights. 

IMG_5062This IS me in them, around five weeks after birth.

 How was your recovery, by the way?

Good! Great! Hip and pubis and pelvis are AOK! I am back doing my (at-home) pilates and strengthening exercises and walking a lot. I feel good. I mean, my neck, back and shoulders are completely fucked from breastfeeding and constant baby-jiggling and resettling, but that’s standard.

And mentally, everything okay? 

Good question. Important question. I’m good, thank you. And I mean that: my baby is ‘doing her nights’ as they say, and since she’s 12 weeks old now she’s way more predictable. Also, her gassiness has finally subsided. She smiles and coos and looks up at me with her big ol blueys, and I just kind of stare at her all day through the emotional version of a Snapchat love-heart filter.

But oh, there were some dark days around week six and seven, though. Like all mums, when my infant hit peak crying and restlessness, all the bliss that carried me through the newborn era slipped quietly out the back door, and I began floundering. Managing a toddler, even a quite independent three year-old one, and trying to feed and settle a wailing baby at the same time threw me. The fact that two children need you constantly, and at exactly the same time, was an entirely new and wildly challenging experience. After three years parenting just one (pretty chilled) kid, I felt totally unequipped and out of my depth. Parenting is, without a lick of competition, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the hardest job there is. They were the toughest few weeks of my life, I reckon. How single parents, or parents with twins, or three, four, five, SIX kids do it, I have no idea. I salute you. Cos there’s only so much pacing back and forth in a pitch black room with white noise blaring and a screaming baby one can take. Fuck me. The fourth trimester is REAL.

I don’t think I was anywhere near PND, (I have several girlfriends who were diagnosed after their second baby; so be alert for the symptoms), it was simply, as a friend pointed out, PND. Gah! The same acronym, how awkward! But this PND stands for Post Natal Depletion. Being hormonally, physically, and emotionally depleted…. Or in other words: being a mother. Getting mastitis repeatedly and wanting to run away and sleep for 12 days straight were pretty good clues.

I was lucky to have support. To be able to call in night nurse to allow us some proper sleep a few nights each week. (Tip: when your parents ask what they can give you for your new baby, ask for a night nurse voucher. Cos when mum gets sleep, the whole family benefits.) To have a baby who is thriving, and in good health. But many, many mums aren’t nearly so lucky. I send them love, strength, good coffee, and this link.

Any other post-baby stuff you’re jazzed about?

Thought you’d never ask. I think the Mammojo breastfeeding hoodie is very clever, and not just cos I am a devout grey hoodie fan. The invisible zips mean you can feed anywhere without a whole luscious boobo on show, and the hoodie recognises that baby-mums are 90% likely to be living in activewear.

IMG_4371Me in the hoodie, with my camo baby.

I like Hello Monday’s breastfeeding crop top sports bra (took the pads out cos the last thing I need is more volume), and still wear most of my LEGOE maternity stuff, which I recommend cos it’s nice, non-maternity, non-breastfeedy-looking wear. I love their pants, and their jumpsuit with breastfeeding zips. (No, ‘breastfeeding jumpsuit’ is not an oxymoron! Who knew.)

Also, you know how you get keratosis pilaris (small, pimply bumps on the skin) after childbirth? (Mostly cos your skin is so friggen dry while you’re breastfeeding. I use Exceptionoil on my body after the shower, for stretch-mark prevention – as I did during pregnancy -heated up under the hop tap so it’s all liquidy, to soothe the drysies.)

Anyway, it’s very common, especially on the upper arms. I had it with my first baby, and it’s back. My facialist told me to use PCA Body Therapy, (an AHA body cream) and it’s helped a LOT. The bumps are far less angry, widespread and visible.

Enough about your bumpy arms and all your pants. What about all the baby stuff?

Enough for today, nosy. I need to nap.

 

Responses to this drivel: 21 Comments
14
Mar

Break-ups are the worst. And, the best.

In 2010, I pitched a break-up advice book to my publisher. It was to be called I Love Break-Ups! and would act as a companion to my just-released self-helpy relationship guide, Textbook Romance.

I wanted to write it because I passionately believe break-ups are an intensely positive thing. And while they really, definitely hurt, so does all of the most important growth in our life. Re-framing a break-up in a positive light helps you heal, and forgive, and move forward, and ultimately, be happier and more confident. (And waaaay better at attracting quality relationships in the future.)

I felt like break-ups had wielded far too much power over us for too long, and they needed to be taught a goddamn lesson.

Plus, around 80% of the emails I got from girls reading Textbook Romance, or my (effervescent but completely unqualified) relationship advice column in Cosmopolitan for seven years concerned break-ups: should they instigate one, how could they handle a bad one, what were they to do when they really weren’t handling a bad one, etc. And I realised that the resources for young women going through a modern break-up were pretty scarce. Or a bit naff and Americany and Sign Up To My 30-Day Course-y. Or, just dull, cliche and easily ignorable and therefore redundant. 

COSMOZO

One of my Cosmo columns. I insisted on my illustrated swing.
Never go anywhere without it.

Anyway. Writing novels took over and I Love Break-Ups! was parked. After a few years, I bought back the rights, because who knows! Maybe I would quietly release it just as an ebook, or do a website instead, or whatever. But then I got busy with more books and Go-To and a baby, and yet again I Love Break-Ups! was put on ice.

In 2016 I finally got the time and the headspace to focus on my break-up project. And I realised:  It should be an app, not a book! After all, the phone is where the freshly broken-hearted live! Where their anguish and anger rises, and all their relationship memories are housed, and where their stalking is far too easily enabled, and, of course, where their terrible drunken texting occurs. Having break-up help in your phone might be more helpful than having it at home on your bedside table, in other words.

This medium change didn’t at all hinder the enormous volume of content of course. I wrote a books’ worth of advice for the app, but instead of chapters 1-20, the information lives, intuitively, and non-chronologically, in a small electronic advice, on call, as you need it, when you need it. (‘As you’re about to call your ex/open another bottle of sav blanc.’)

And it’s finally done!

Introducing Break-Up Boss!

I changed the title from I Love Break-Ups! to Break-Up Boss, and here’s why: It’s not about me, or what I love. (Croissants, beer, massages.) Plus, when your heart is in the gutter and your cheeks are wet with tears, a jubilant and nauseatingly optimistic title like I Love Break-Ups! might make you want to vomit or kick something/me.

LogoSMALL

And Break-Up Boss is exactly what it should be called. It’s a purposefully empowering term, to remind you that the break-up is not the boss, YOU are.

Break-ups, generally speaking, and there are always exceptions, take over our lives, personalities, work, diet, TV-watching choices and desire for alcoholic beverages, and quite frankly, this has to stop. YOU can take charge. YOU can be the boss of your break-up. YOU can choose to make it a time of growth and emotional evolution. Life is too short not to learn and grow from our romantic upheavals, then move the hell forward.

Useful and meaningful and helpful!

Break-Up Boss gives you all of the tools and techniques to deal with all of the stages of your break-up, from blatant denial, to blind rage, to deep, unshakable misery and even those first, sweet strains of getting-over-it. This is a Real Life, no-nonsense picture of a break-up, and an enthusiastic, empowered and positive view of how to deal with it.

When you make big changes in your life, (or, um, they are made for you) you need someone on your side, championing you, helping you, serving up tough-love and making sure you don’t fuck up. This is Break-Up Boss. It is your advocate, your pocket coach and your friend. It has a singular goal: to get you through your break-up in a positive, healthy manner. (Or at the very least, not text your ex just cos it’s Sunday and you’re sad and hungover and horny.)

Exceptional illustrations!

I lovingly roped in Mari Andrew, a NYC-based writer, illustrator, Instagram superstar, and wonderful, insightful, funny, wholehearted and full-feeling lady, to illustrate Break-Up Boss. I fell in love with her comics on Instagram, and dared to ask if she wanted to collaborate, such was the depth of observation and wit she displayed with her work on the topics of romance, dating, heartbreak, and the single life. She said YASS! And the app is 1000% better for it. My god she’s good.

Illo-7-Anatomy-of-Woman-in-Pain

One of the many magnificent and omg-that’s-so-me Mari masterpieces that grace Break-Up Boss.

Call me arrogant, (it’s how you pronounce my name in Dutch anyway) but I genuinely believe that Break-Up Boss can help you if you’re going through a break-up. Or more accurately, it is my genuine hope that it will.

I have had my fair share of grim, nasty, angry and sad break-ups, and I was atrociously bad at almost all of them. But then I wasn’t. I was good at it. And I grew up a lot. And I knew what I wanted, (or more crucially, what I did not) and who I was, and now I am one of those insufferable smug married jerks who writes books telling single people what to do. Cute!

(Needless to say/write, Break-Up Boss makes a TERRIFIC gift for friends going through a break-up: it lasts longer than a bottle of wine or flowers, and is a genuine investment in their healing.)

Anyway.

All the information, and all of the features (including the bit where you can ‘send a text’ to your ex for the purpose of catharsis and rage-unleashing sans loss of dignity) are explained in the app, which is available from the App Store now (and very soon from Google Play) for $9.99.

I’m donating 10% of every purchase to Safe Steps, a Family Violence Response Centre in Victoria, (available nationally via freecall on 1800 015 188, 24 hours a day, seven days a week). My app is lighthearted, but the simple, awful truth is that family violence can play an enormous role in break-ups, either as the impetus, or post break-up. I’m not equipped to administer advice on family violence, but Safe Steps is, and I urge any victim of family violence to call on their crisis support team, 24/7, to explore your options, or just have a chat to someone.

I’m proud of Break-Up Boss. She’s my darling, my seven-year passion project. I believe in it, and I really believe in women, and maybe, just maybe, this little app can heal and rebuild a few decimated hearts.

Download it now or be miserable forever!
JK JK! Just for a year or so.

Break-Up Boss App
Break-Up Boss website
Break-Up Boss Instagram

BuBsuck

Responses to this drivel: 9 Comments
28
Nov

My favourite bits of Italy.

Despite the fact that it requires many thousands of dollars/kilometres for Australians to holiday abroad, and our currency is always being picked on by the bigger kids, we Strayans continue to travel overseas in rising numbers, and with craftier luggage tricks. Good on us.

I usually choose Italy. I’ll go there annually if they’ll continue to have me, despite my terrible pronunciation of “grazie”.

Some reasons include:

  • Carbs
  • Fashion
  • Negronis
  • Ricotta cheesecake
  • Swimming off rocks and no sand anywhere
  • No judgment when ordering a bowl of pasta, then pizza
  • Friendly, warm, welcoming Italians
  • Everyone looks great because everyone wears sunglasses always
  • Carbs

Like most people, I’ve done the classic Italian hotspots: Venice, Positano, Sicily and, of course, Athens. Here are some of my favourite things to do/see/eat/visit in the aforementioned hotspots.

Taormina, Sicily

We stayed in Taormina, on the beach, rather than up in town. But with a cable car swinging its way between the town (all the food/shops and most of the hotels) and beach (a handful of hotels and restaurants) all day, both options are good. Have a fancy, view-soaked drink at Grand Hotel Taormina, and outstanding aperitivo at Timoleone. Have your (daily) granita at Bam Bam bar, swim at Isola Bella, and make a day trip to Noto and Syracuse if time permits. Definitely eat lunch (or ideally stay) at Country House Villadorata, just outside of Noto, if you’re roaming. It served up the finest meal of my trip.

 

IMG_5093

Portofino

Portofino could never be accused of being cheap, but that’ll happen when you’re a) tiny, b) breathtaking, and c) overrun with super yachts and tourists. But it’s so lovely! Pop on your best boaty pastels and make the trip already! Head up to Hotel Splendido (often called the best hotel in the world, and after staying there, I’m a believer) for a sunset cocktail, and when the bill arrives suck it up and file it in your “Lifelong Memories” folder. Buy some cheese, wine and crackers in town and have a picnic in the surrounding national park; have a casual lunch at La Taverna del Marinaio, or walk away from the packed main square to L’Isolotto for some of the best pizza of your goddamn life. There’s a small, protected swimming area just below Splendido where locals swim laps (scene of one of the most magical rock swims of my life), or Paraggi beach just outside town.

IMG_1752

Venice?

Rome?

Capri and Positano?

Florence?

Click here.

Definitely not here.

Responses to this drivel: 7 Comments
26
Sep

On having one’s book adapted into a TV show.

Look, I’ve barely mentioned this, maybe once or eighty times over the past few months, but my 2014 novel, The Wrong Girl, has been adapted into a TV series, and that TV series begins this week.

Since no one – NO ONE AND I WILL FIGHT ANYONE WHO DECLARES OTHERWISE – is more thrilled about this than me, I wanted to diarise the process, so that I could read it one day when I’m a grown up blogger and come back to my childhood blog and go through my blog diary etc.

Timing and luck.

I may be infuriatingly self-deprecating (‘Australian’) but I also understand how lucky I am. An adaptation is not why you write books (you do it for the free bookmarks and the private jets), it’s an incredible, super cherry on top bonus.

When I was an arrogant, ignorant cute pig in my twenties I told my agent that my novels were perfect for TV, (because how could she, a seasoned professional, possibly know this unless I told her?) or even a movie, and she should “get them out there” which means nothing, and was a huge neon sign pointing to my naiveté: you don’t shop your books around – people come to you if they want in.

Obviously nothing came of any of that. And nor should it have. When you want something too much, for the wrong reasons (in my case a firm belief that my books were SO GREAT/designs on fame and grandeur/general youthful self-importance) and push it too hard, it very rarely, if ever comes off.

Fast-forward 10 years. I’m busy with a family and a business instead of losing sleep wondering why my books aren’t transformed into a film directed by Clint Eastwood.

And sometimes when you’re busy getting on with life, and not attached to the win, good stuff happens. I grew up with a mum who lovingly taught me the power of the subconscious mind at a very young age, and I still subscribe to the ask, believe, receive etc model. Manifesting is my superpower. It works because I believe it works. (Like deodorant. Or Apple TV.) (Sometimes.)

But at the core of all the ask-the-universe-for-shit stuff, is the fact that you must let go. To make the request, and believe it’s happening, and then say goodbye to it. If you hold on to it too tight, and focus only on that, to the point of obsession, it doesn’t work.

I wonder if I’ve subconsciously always had 20 projects on the go so that I don’t get too attached to any one of them too much. Awful to have too much time on your hands and one thing you’re desperate to hear about. Better to keep busy. Models, actors, writers – anyone in an ebb and flow industry learn this pretty quickly.

So make your requests, then get on with life, and do good work, and be grateful, and be present in all the great stuff you get to do and have, and think about what you can offer others and do next. This makes for a fantastic life, but also you’re in a much better flow for good stuff to happen because you’re projecting abundance, and you’re feeling abundant and so you welcome more of it. Etc etc. A date breeds another date and so on. Like attracts like.

How the TV show came about.

Annnyway. The lovely people at Playmaker (the production company who have gifted us Love Child, House Husbands and The Code) approached my agent about optioning The Wrong Girl for a TV series last year. This is not wildly unusual, but most of the time, the optioning period expires before anything comes of it. But Playmaker were enthusiastic about getting it up, and fast. And this made me VERY EXCITED. But I kept a lid on it. Didn’t pester my agent. Just played cool. Kept busy.

Playmaker asked me to come on board in a consulting capacity (official title: associate producer) (made up title: All Powerful Author Wizard) which I thought was wildly flattering and wonderful, since it meant they weren’t just buying the world of The Wrong Girl, and doing whatever they liked with it (which they are absolutely entitled to once they have bought the rights), they were asking me to be part of it, too. It felt like being picked first for the football team, which I assume feels terrific, but wouldn’t know since I prefer golf.

One of the first things they did was bring in a scriptwriter to create the first episode: Judi McCrossin, TV script magician of The Secret Life of Us and Time of Our Lives.

When I read her script, I cried a bit. It was a triumph. How the fuck do you even DO that, my author-y brain demanded. How do you turn an already fully-formed story (‘the novel’) into something fresh, and new, with so much depth and heart and breadth, while retaining the original flavour of the book? Adaptations are notoriously tricky. The balance of old and new; loyalty and innovation. But she’d nailed it. I loved it.

I was a teeeeny bit anxious before reading it, although I’d told myself as soon as I signed the contract that whatever happened with the TV show was A) okay, and B) out of my hands. Judi could do anything she wanted with it. She could have driven a horrible, cheesy, naff stake right through the heart of it. But she didn’t. She gave it five Red Bulls, etiquette lessons, a whole new family, a huge heart, intense therapy and made it onto a godamn TV princess.

IMG_9758Judi and I on set being rascals. 

After many months of hard work from Playmaker to get the show funded and sold, I got a Friday night call that Channel 10 had picked up the show, which was the official piece in their huge production puzzle. I drank all the champagne.

IMG_1095Drinking some Good News Booze the night I got the call. We always keep some GNB the fridge in case good shit happens.

 The writing

The writers began work immediately. Joining Judi was the magnificent Michael Lucas (Offspring, Wentworth, Party Tricks) and Christine Bartlett (Offspring, Party Tricks) as well as Ian Meadows (The Moodys) (… later cast as Pete!), Claire Phillips (Bedhead) and myself. This was my 30 Rock moment: getting to sit in with the writers as they worked on the story for each episode, and listen and laugh and watch and marvel as they did their thing, which is a very specific and inspiring skill.

I did ZERO writing on The Wrong Girl; I was just there with the writers, enjoying seeing them map it all out, and helping with brainstorms on plot and character developments occasionally. Another writey brain to bounce off.

The first few sessions I had to gobble the words, ‘But in the book…”  back into my mouth. This was different! It was a whole new story; a new piece of art. The key characters and loose story were the same as in the book, but that was it. This was a big, beautiful new vision. Pete, for example, I dispose of very quickly in the book. But he is a major character in the TV series, and thank F for that. He is fantastic.

As a commercial fiction writer, and having worked in magazines I’m used to my work being edited and changed. I don’t get attached to what I write, I just want it to be the best it can possibly be, and for people to read it. And that’s why editors and publishers exist, and why I trust them: they know what they’re doing.

So when characters changed, or appeared who weren’t in the book, or people were cast who didn’t look like their book cousin (Lily, for example, is Eurasian in the book, but a blonde in the show) I didn’t mind at all. It’s an adaptation, not a reenactment. I envisioned my characters to look one way; the casting process offered another. Both are great. And look, to be honest, what my characters look like is a bit of an afterthought for me. It’s their essence, their personality, the way they speak and behave that I use when I write. I often go through at the end and give them their eye colour and hair length. Especially if they’re based on someone I know and I need to REALLY make sure that person won’t recognise themselves. Ahem.

 The Cast

The many many people who worked on The Wrong Girl are extremely competent, clever, experienced people who have worked in the biz for a long time. Whenever I would visit the set, I’d be clapping giddily, unable to believe it was all really happening, and just being a pest in general, and constantly reminded I wasn’t to post any social media.

Occasionally I would touch a desk or a prop in the on-set (‘pretend’) TV production office (very meta) and say to myself, ‘This all came from your head, you beautiful bastard’ and allow myself a second to feel proud. But mostly I would just be a pest who only came when crew meals were being served.

IMG_8526My first visit to set, sitting at the split with one of the three marvellous TWG directors, Daina Reid. Playing it cool, as usual.

The show has the most exceptional crew, directors, producers, and of course, cast. EVERYTHING on this show is quality. Pay attention to Lily and Simone’s bedrooms. Jack’s apartment. The beautiful lighting of the show. The music. The wardrobe. (Lily basically got to wear every Bella Freud, Etre Cecile and Equipment sweater I’ve ever wanted.) It’s astonishingly well done.

And the cast, well, they’re diamonds.

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The core four.

We have, of course, Jessica Marais, who plays Lily, and who is in almost every scene, which is a real win because she is an incredibly talented and experienced actor, who lights up the screen even when she is at rock bottom. I could watch her face all day. She is also a terrifically funny and generous player, and that came across again and again. Jess’s Lily is relatable, weak, strong, adorable, frustrating and real. It’s beautiful to watch.

Simone is played by Hayley Magnus (The Dressmaker) and from her first audition, I was enchanted. Simone is your classic manic pixie dream girl, but with heart, and vulnerability and strength, and Hayley brings it. It’s not the key love story in The Wrong Girl, but to me the relationship between Lily and Simone is the most powerful.

Rob Collins (Cleverman, The Lion King) plays Jack, and gives him the perfect measure of handsomeness, gravitas, and makes-you-feel-nervous-and-want-to-impress-him quality of Jack. Rob is a sensational actor, and the perfect gid-inducing love interest for Lily/Simone/anyone with a pulse.

Ian Meadows (The Moodys) plays Pete, Lily’s best friend (or perhaps more?). Pete is that scruffy, adorable, larrikin, brotherly-best mate you have forever, and all your friends think he’s bangable, but you can’t see it, because you have burping competitions with him after a few schooners. Ian is tremendous in this role. Charisma + caring + cute.

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At the first table read. I was a touch excited but didn’t let on.

… That’s the core four, but oh, there are so many more! The cast is the perfect blend of experienced faces and energetic newcomers. Craig McLachlan and Madeleine West are the attractive, bitey, passive aggressive Breakfast TV hosts, the fantastically dry David Woods plays Dale, CeCe Peters plays adorable Alice, the very funny Christie Whelan Browne plays Nikkii, Kerry Armstong and Steve Vizard play Lily’s mum and dad, Hamish Blake (hunk alert) is Hamilton the weather guy, Ryan Shelton is Bernard the cock (that’ll make sense later), Kevin Harrington plays Pete’s dad, Doris Younane is Sascha, Hugo Johnston-Burt is Lily’s brother, and Leah Vandenberg is Pete’s flame. (Fun fact: Leah is on Play School and a big hit in our house.)

IMG_9637The time Sonny and I went to set to see Daddy and he yelled just as there was a quiet and poignant moment in recording. Good one, mum!

Anyway. I think you get the picture: I’m excited. I have had the great privilege to have seen the whole season and this is a genuinely great show with tremendous feels. I would have endorsed it regardless, but I am so impressed, and so five-steps-removed proud of what has been created.

Don’t worry about not having read the book (although you should definitely read it): they are two different, glorious beasts. Just enjoy your new favourite best-ever TV show. (Too much?)

The Wrong Girl starts this Wednesday at 8:30, on Channel 10.

I’ll be tweeting hard from @zotheysay and perving on all your tweets via #thewronggirl

WOO!

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