This is Zoe’s Blog

06
Dec

Good books for those low on time, or focus. Also: summer reads!

I enjoy a meaty, enthralling brick of fiction as much as the next peanut, but sometimes my poor, overworked brain can only handle small chunks of writing, be that fiction or it’s evil, fact-based foe, non-fiction. These books I dip in to when am wolfing down some lunch, or need some inspiration, or am breastfeeding, or want something to read before going to sleep without fear of staying up til 1am reading because I am deeply entrenched in a wild, fictive narrative.

Here are some dip-in, dip-out books I have enjoyed recently*.

Some are heartbreaking and harrowing tales, some offer career/life/entrepreneurial inspirational candy, some are capable of changing your mindset, some are teachy and learny, some are funny, and some are just, well, pleasant, but all of them are worth your time, even if you can only offer 10 minutes before hurling over a heavy arm to switch off the bedside lamp.

Way More Than Luck

I have spent (too) many hours on YouTube watching first-class commencement speeches from brilliant, funny, wise people when I should be working, but I make no apology for this. You don’t need to be graduating to be able to extract beautiful life advice from the accomplished, witty rascals hand-picked to give commencement speeches to the people who will run the world one day.

My husband knows I love these, and found this book for me. They’re not all on the same level, but I read one speech a night before bed, and even if I didn’t know the author/speaker, I generally extracted at least one good takeaway. (Also, ummmm: Nora Ephron! YAS. KWEEN.) My favourite (and everyone else’s) is of course David Foster Wallace’s ‘This Is Water’ speech. Masterful bastard.

The Moth: 50 True Stories and All These Wonders

For those who haven’t heard of The Moth, it’s a cool bar in Melbourne where everyone just hangs around a giant light. JK JK, that’s sooo Sydney. No, The Moth is actually a NFP storytelling collective based in NYC. They champion the art (and boy, is there an art) of storytelling, and commonality of the human experience. They do a (Peabody-winning) podcast, and put on live storytelling events globally. They also have two books, the original, Fifty True Stories, and their freshy, All These Wonders. From war stories, to cancer, to luck and love, the stories are so incredibly broad that it will do them no justice for me to summarise them here. Not all of them light my log, but most of the stories give me the kind of feels it usually takes an entire Spielberg film to extract. Or in other words: I cried at about every third story, so beat that.

Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss

Say what you will about Tim Ferriss, (I’m equal parts, ‘He’s brilliant!‘ and ‘He’s an annoying alpha-dork!‘) but he’s a deeply prolific and impressive gent. I credit his first book, The Four-Hour Work Week for encouraging me to leave full-time work almost ten years ago, and I credit his podcast (my favourite podcast) for introducing me to some of the most exceptional thinkers, writers and people on the planet (Seth Godin, Esther Perel, Derek Sivers, Brian Grazer etc). This book is a classic dip-in book: just choose a ‘world-class performer’ as Tim calls them, at random, and learn from them. Learn their routines and habits, creative process, how they deal with family and life balance, why they mediate or exercise and how, how to start a company, etc etc. I don’t really like the eat-only-jerky-and-sardines-and-mushroom-coffee-and-do-gymnastics-every-day health section, but I love the wisdom and wealth sections.

(I expect his latest, just-released book, Tribe of Mentors, will be equally great, but I can’t read it yet cos it’s wrapped up for my husband for Christmas and luckily he never reads this blog so there’s no risk of him knowing that unless YOU tell him, in which case: thanks for ruining Christmas.)

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

I re-read this recently and man. As the at-the-time anonymous columnist, Sugar, on The Rumpus, Cheryl Stayed was phenomenal. I think her writing here is even better than Wild. More raw, more urgent, more energetic. This is an agony aunt book, and agony is the key word. Agony from Sugar, agony from the letter-writers, and agony as you wade through the messy, complicated lives of people in trauma and pain and confusion, and Sugar/Cheryl’s brutal but compassionate advice. (She is the master of me-too, yet it never feels egocentric, and it sure as shit isn’t dull.) Or, more accurately, her semi-memoir-laden responses, filled with empathy, and heart, and honesty and most of which ultimately advise: if you want a good life, despite what unthinkable torrent of shit is hurled at you, you have to create it. If you don’t like advice columns, or self-help, or swearing, or feeling uncomfortable, maybe give this a miss. (And if you’re a writer? Don’t give it a miss.)

Principles, Ray Dalio

This is a strategy book, on values, attitude, life, success, management and how to be effective. (If that’s boring to you, and there’s a high-chance it is if you found my blog via a skin care line or fart book, skip this bit.) Since we’re friends, I’ll admit I skim sections of this book. (Ray is a spectacularly successful hedge fund manager and investor, and also a philanthropist, so there’s a fair whack of shares/stocks blah blah blah stuff.) But Ray’s thoughts on principles, (personal/life principles and also professional principles), has been a bit of a circuit breaker for me. It seems so obvious to have a set of guiding life principles, but do you actually know what yours are? And if you run a business, what are they for your business? I didn’t. I’m getting closer, now, and I’m enjoying the journey. (I like having a framework to live and work within. Funnily enough, it permits me to be more creative.) Principles offers precise, meaningful advice on business, mindset, and life and quite frankly, Ray, I DIG IT.

More Letters of Note

I wrote about this book last time I did a book list, but it’s worth listing here, cos it’s pretty much the ultimate dipper-inner, and whenever I read or re-read this book I want to interrupt the room and READ ALOUD TO EVERYONE WHAT I JUST READ. There is also the original Letters of Note, of course, and Lists of Note, if you’re, like, so over letters. I still can’t think of a better booky gift.

Or actually, I maybe can: the What I’ve Learned books, from American Esquire. (Not British. British Esquire sucks.) Pretty much the perfect gift for anyone, but especially men, but only if you’ve bought them a chainsaw or monster truck already.

Shannon’s Kitchen, Shannon Kelly White

No, a book of recipes probably doesn’t belong in this list, but if we’re being technical, you DO dip in and out of a cook book. Also: Shannon’s writing is so inappropriate and vulgar and funny that I often just pick it up for a chortle at her usage of ‘a bee’s dick of salt’ as a genuine measure, and the rating/time system of ‘How many fucks given’ for each recipe. Plus: GOOD FOOD! Tasty recipes with big ass pictures, which I need cos if I can’t see what I am aiming for, I won’t cook it, that’s just the kind of simple person I am. I give many fucks about this book because Shannon has (organically and unconsciously) disrupted a completely saturated and often tired and overly earnest genre with her combination of disgusting language and delicious recipes. Fucking love it.

Messy, Tim Harford

I’m always down for books that allow me to write off my messiness and procrastination and creative dysfunction as ‘purposeful’ and even admirable, so when my husband bought this and unthinkingly placed it near my breastmilk pump station, I awkwardly, one-handedly jumped in. I like Messy, because it values disorder and chaos, and confirms that when you deviate from routine and organisation, that’s often when magic happens.(I always suspected tidiness was overrated, and now I have some evidence. Soz, Kondo.) (Still love you babe.) Playfulness, gentle chaos, boundary-pushing, intuition and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pantsness has been core to my work ethic and, well, success, probably, so I’m a big advocate for Tim’s line of thought. Embrace mess! Within reason! Hoarding is not okay! You know what I mean!

Alright, that’ll do. I’m hungry and you’re bored, so let’s wrap this right up.

For book pervs who need a summer reading list, here’s mine:

  • Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
  • The Heirs, Susan Reiger
  • History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
  • My Absolute Darling, Gabriel Tallent (I inhaled A Little Life, so hopefully I can handle this…)
  • Standard Deviation, Katherine Heiny
  • Do Not Become Alarmed, Maile Meloy
  • Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
  • Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari (been on my bedside table for months, glaring at me)
  • No One Likes A Fart, Zoe Foster Blake (JK, way too high brow.)

And finally, random books I remember reading this year that are good:

  • Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan – the final book in the Crazy Rich Asians series, trashy trashy fun fun fun
  • My Brilliant Friend, Elana Ferrante. I read all four in the Neapolitan series which took up a solid few months. It was strangely engaging, despite not a great deal happening. Huh.
  • The Whole Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson – because I have a threenager
  • You’ll Grow Out Of It, Jessi Klein. (Also, watch Big Mouth on Netflix. So wrong, so funny.)
  • Not Just Lucky, Jamila Rizvi, a wonderful book about professional self-worth by my friend, and the future prime minister of Australia.
  • Force of Nature, Jane Harper, Not as harrowing as her spooky, sad debut, The Dry but still page-turny to the MAX
  • A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara. A masterpiece that will completely drain you, and you will hate reading because it’s deeply unsettling and disturbing and sad and fucked up, but it’s also sensationally written and entirely mesmerising. The book I love – and hate – to recommend. NOT a beach read.
  • Eve Babitz! All the Babitz. I just inhaled Sex and Rage, LA Woman and Slow Days, Fast Company in quick succession and fall harder in love with Eve’s writing each book. She tells lush, dreamy, witty, naughty LA girl stories, and her characters and adventures are absurd and delicious.

 

*That doesn’t mean they’re new, just that I’ve read or revisited them recently.
Responses to this drivel: 5 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: 14 Comments
07
Aug

I did a fashions range!

I’m good at some things: interrupting people, spilling yoghurt on my top, eating chocolate right before dinner…. but one thing I am NOT good at is fashion.

A great way for someone to learn this about themselves is to work in fashion magazines, which I did, and was gifted immediately with the confirmation of something I always suspected, which is that fashion is hard.

If you let it be, that is. I was in my twenties back then. Cared too much about what people thought. Thought I needed to be turbo on-trend, to the detriment of my bank account, figure, and sense of worth. I didn’t. The key, of course, is knowing what you like, and wearing it with confidence. No matter what that is. Wear some goddamn lederhosen if it makes you happy.

Now, in my shimmering thirties, I give little to no fucks about what people think of how I dress, and one look at my trainers-jeans-and-hoodie combo today will quickly validate this.

I care about how I feel though. About making an effort. About quality. About wearing things I like, and which delight me, and which look good, and will last. Oh, I still love a chain store purchase here and there, H&M, COS and Zara do some great stuff, but buying a good coat, sweaters, jeans, tees, shoes and bags – a uniform of sort – pays off. Cost per wear blah blah blah, things that spark joy etc etc etc.

‘Investment’ buying needn’t be dull though. Shit no! No white shirts and black pants for me. No! No. You gotta buy stuff you love, colours that thrill you, stuff that makes you feel happy, and a bit chin-to-the-sky when you wear it. The kind of stuff you might wear on your birthday, to mirror your feelings of joy and elation. (Or, boost them if you’re feeling scungy. Which is why, as a mother of a newborn, I have worn my red cockatoo jumper three days in a row, because bright red makes me feel ZINGY AND ALIVE, even though inside I am a lactating zombie running on toast and cold coffee.)

Anyway. It was with all that in mind that I collaborated with Skin and Threads on a little capsule collection, which is now on sale! via their stores, in Myer, or online.

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 Me in the Melbourne At Night tee and checked cotton trench.

We started work on it last year.

“Wanna do a collab?” S&T designer and director, Penelope said.

“Look, you know I love your stuff, but what I would want to make, is what I would want to wear, and that will be too fruity for you guys,” I said.

“Try me,” she said.

“I gotta have chips. Fruit. Muscle cars. Sea creatures. And HEAPS OF PINK.” – I said.

Let’s do it.” – Penelope, now in a leather jacket, fedora and smoking a cigar.

The whole process was a lot of fun. Unlike my business, Go-To, where I think up the product, test it a million times, get samples, packaging, consider all the logistics etc etc, Skin and Threads took care of aaaaall that, and I basically sat on a banana chair with a Pina Colada barking orders: PUT THE LOBSTER THERE. NO, HIGHER! I SAID HIGHER, YOU BUFFOON! NO ONE LIKES A LOW LOBSTER!

(It was more a bunch of Pinterest boards and emails and meetings, but you get the gist.)

Anyway. I LOVE IT. I really do. As you can see from these images of the glorious Hirschy in the range, I had a lot of sartorial shits and giggles designing these clothes. The quality is high, as it always is with Skin and Threads, and the vibes are GOOD.

170501_03_315_WEB_800x1200Cos I loved wearing my older brother’s puffy Torana t-shirts as a kid.


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A fancy gold skirt! Fancy!


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The big, cosy, glorious pink hoodie. Complete with compliment. A FAVE.


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A sweet, soft ladyblouse with orange slices, and the trench.


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The classic, super soft, all-purpose V-neck grey sweater. 

 After all, it’s perfectly legal to have fun getting dressed! (Ditto applying your skin care/makeup/doing your hair). Life is short! Wear a friggen lobster already! Or a cockatoo! Or some rockets! Or an Iced VoVo! Live it up!

170501_09_601_WEB_800x1200The “mom” jeans that are cooler than that, and a 1987-y Melbourne at Night tee.

170501_11_970_WEB_800x1200A classic shirt dress and collar. Belt it! Don’t! Wear with heels! Or trainers!

170501_12_1035_WEB_800x1200Chips are the best food. That’s why they get glitter red font.

170501_13_1113_WEB_800x1200A classic Breton with a crustacean twist.

170501_14_1191_WEB_800x1200Man I friggen love this wool rocket jumper. And the girly high-waisted skirt.

It’s not all novelty and nostalgia, though. You need balance, some classics. So, there is an elegant shirtdress, and skirt, a checked trench (with a hood, because coats with hoods are always better), classic high-waisted cropped jeans, and V-neck cashmere sweater (a True Wardrobe Staple) and a few ladylike blouses for fancy-casual dressing. My ideal outfit pirouettes between jubilant and elegant, and I think – or rather hope – this collection exemplifies that.

And if it doesn’t, and it’s a huge failure, and you guys don’t like any of it, at least I got some great new clothes to see out this vile, never-ending Melbourne winter.

170501_PORTRAIT_07_931_cr_WEB_800x1200

A brief word about the fit: I like my sweaters (and t-shirts) either tight and tucked in, (lobster/rockets/cocky) slightly cropped to sit over high-waisted jeans, (Vovo), or oversized and boyfriendy (V-neck/hoodie). All the sweaters in the collaboration have different fits, (so do the tees) so they are definitely worth trying on. Also, I find the sizing a bit on the small size (could be these breastfeeding mams) – so consider going up a size. Also, I love you and thanks for reading all this. 

Responses to this drivel: 7 Comments
24
May

A trip to Europe is a YES, no matter your age or life stage.

When my friends and overlords at Expedia asked me to write a piece about Europe as a good holiday destination I said NO WAY and pretended to jam my fingers down my throat.

“Europe is the worst.”

“Then why do you keep going?” they said.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That’s right. Europe is the FRIGGEN BEST.”

It really is. God, it’s good. And I’m not alone in loving a trip to Europe: USA and Asia aside, Europe is where Aussies go most for holidays. And good on us, I say! If we can suck up a 30-hour flight to Athens/Rome/Heathrow, we bloody deserve it.

Depending on our age or life stage, your Euro holidays will vary tremendously. But they’re all significant, whether they’re building resilience, or inspiring us creatively, or just giving us some unrivalled memories. After all, having your handbag stolen in Berlin when you’re 25 means you’re a smarter traveller when you’re in Venice at 35. Missing your flight to your cousin’s wedding in Sardinia at 22 and having to spend a night in Naples and $1,000 Euro on a new flight ensures you’ll never miss another flight again. And taking a two-month trip around Tuscany at 48 because you’ve earned it, well, that’s just bloody golden.

But before we get to the elegant-strolling-through-vineyards bit, there are a few European-holiday rites of passage…

*These may or may not be based on personal experience. You’ll never know and I’ll never admit it.

The Total Blur Trip

When you’re 18 and fresh out of high school, a party trip through Europe is a fantastic idea. (Do NOT tell my children this, please.) Mostly because organised tours, backpacking, compulsory socialising with strangers, and being broke doesn’t yet faze you. You must capitalise on this. Within a few years the idea of sharing a Spartan room with three snoring, deeply-boozed mates (and 1-2 non-English speaking but quite handsome holiday flings) in Mykonos will not seem fun, nor will having no money when you lose your credit card on a nightclub floor. Also, your body won’t be resilient to a daily diet of gyros and red bull vodkas forever. You’re here because the tour was cheap, because everyone else was going, and because FOMO in the age of social media is torture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeeing important ruins with a hangover/while being a goose, and not paying any attention is a vital part of growing up. 

 

The Fun Seeking Adventure

In your early twenties the thrill of being overseas far outweighs the expensive and largely prohibitive experience of visiting places like Paris and London. But you’re 23! You don’t care that your bedroom is the size of a mandarin! That you’re sleeping next to a train line and a nightclub! That the low cost airline lost your suitcase and you’ve been wearing the same jeans for 10 days! You’re as robust as McDonalds lard, which, funnily enough, is probably your major food group, along with street crepes and pots of cider. You walk or catch trains everywhere; you actively and happily meet new people (a trend that will fade with each subsequent trip), and the idea of your accommodation being anything more than a place to store your suitcase, and occasionally, your head, is truly foreign. You’re here for adventure, for excitement, and for experiences: good, bad, uncomfortable, ecstatic: all of it. Your energy, resilience and enthusiasm is disgustingly buoyant. Embrace it.

VENICEPlease note my elegant bumbag. Please also note it’s fake Gucci. Many thanks.

 

The Grown-Up Euro Holiday

By thirty, many of us have set off on the classic sightseeing adventure of, say, Venice, Rome and Florence. This is when travel finally starts to look a bit more like Real Life, as opposed to making you feel and live one notch up from a backpacker. Your hotel offers more for breakfast than boxed cereal and cordial, decent dining kicks in, and souvenirs extend beyond ashtrays and shot glasses. Since you saved up so much money for so long to take this trip, you chew the bone and suck the marrow: no landmark is left unphotographed, no three hour queue for David unjoined, no signature aperitif undrunk. You give every day 120% and your sore feet, depleted bank account and sky-high calorie count are proof. You’re here to see and appreciate other cultures, collect memories, and amass a nuclear social media feed. GOOD!

 

SCOTLANDThis is a small Scottish castle. It was 11.30pm and freezing, despite being mid-summer. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA ladies trip to Santorini. It may not get better.

….. Read the rest of the article here!

But not here.

Responses to this drivel: 2 Comments
16
May

Why my second pregnancy is better than the first.

… the first bit aside, of course, which was a tragi-comedy of 24hr nausea, fatigue and wanting to punch people. I remember “morning sickness” being shit, but this felt, well, cruel. Lots of laying on the floor and allowing my son to watch back to back Shaun the Sheep while I felt sorry for myself, licking my desperately cracked lips (that will happen when you can’t stomach liquid in any form: cute!), and fantasising about sleep.

I’d sneak off to buy McDonalds (full dirty coke, cheeso or nuggs, fries and a hash brown on the side, since you asked), because it was the only food – and I use the term loosely – I could stomach. This from a woman who had spent 2016 living a low-FODMAP, gluten, lactose and fructose-free life of baked fish, eggs, arrogant earnestness, and DIY bulletproof coffee. The shame.

IMG_7728Eating Happy Meal, and yet still apparently not very happy.

The spell broke around week 17 when a Poke place popped up near home, and I ordered a big, around bowl of veges, tofu and rice. And a drink! It felt incredible to be eating food from, yknow, the ground, again.

IMG_8672This is from Poke Me. It’s delicious.

DID YOU KNOW!! The reason salad, veges, eggs and meat repulse you when you have morning sickness is for a reason! Our primal brains instinctively understand that bacteria resides on plants and in protein, (e.g: salmonella in chicken, toxins or bugs on greenery), so the body rejects them in order to keep the foetus safe from poison or sickness. Choose safe old cheese toasties and Saladas instead, it’s saying. “Can do!” we respond, with very little say in the matter.

Anyway. I eat normally now. (All low-FODMAP considerations are void under advice from my GP but I’m still lactose free because lactose makes my guts rough-as)… Oh, except for my ALL-ENCOMPASSING DESIRE FOR CARBS AND SUGAR. Jesus. It’s intense. And since I dodged gestational diabetes this time, (woo!) self-control has been a bit of a struggle. And by struggle I mean: Easter.

*Also on the list of preggo shit they don’t tell you about is that your eyesight can buckle because of hormonal changes. My right eye went blurry (long-sightedness, it turns out) in the second trimester, and after two weeks of assuming it was just fatigue or a scratch I had an eye-test. I now have to wear glasses whenever I look at a screen. (ALL DAY.) Oh, also I have had at least nine cold sores since I discovered I was pregnant, three bad colds, and many UTIs. Naaaw, thanks, low immunity! You’re the best!

PREGNANCY THE SECOND TIME.

You’re better at it round two. You know stuff. You don’t panic about every weird twinge. You don’t ‘eat for two’, cos you know that’s a filthy trick. You’re busy with your first-born, can’t remember how many weeks you are, and forget you need to set up a room or buy clothes for the incoming child.

And should you have had any debilitating pelvic/pubic/back issues last time, well, you do all that you can to avoid that. You really, really do.

See, my first pregnancy was a bit shit; that’s why I am writing this post: I don’t want any other pregnant women (or men, no discrimination here) to end up like that.

The full post is here. (Lots of useful stuff in the comments, also.) In a nutshell, what started as some spicy, achey hip/groin/pubic pain from week 24, was deemed pelvic girdle pain, or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), which is common when you’re gestating. But mine developed into a fractured pubis, and then osteitis pubis, eventuating in crutches at week 31 until birth.

crutchesMe at 38 weeks last pregnancy. OMG so cute.

I expected the pain to fuck right off once I’d released the human in my uterus, but post-partum the pain was even worse: I couldn’t walk for longer than 10 minutes, and it took many exercises, much frustration, two years (and about a million dollars) of osteopathy, pilates and myotherapy to heal my pubis, and get my glutes, core, and pelvis presley strong again.

But I had no idea pelvic stuff was even A Thing! I assumed pregnancy was all cute dresses and insufferable bump-caressing. People warn you about flatulence and swollen ankles, but no one tells you pelvic pain is A Thing. GUYS: IT’S A THING.

In my obliviousness I did zero exercise or strengthening, and had no treatment. Even the g-damn physio who put me on crutches didn’t recommend getting treatment. It blows my tiny mind. Other regrettable stuff I did:

  • I‘d walk and walk (at the park, or choosing cot sheets at Baby Bunting) until it became too painful, because I‘d heard walking was good in pregnancy (It really is NOT if you have pelvic issues)
  • I did guided weekly pilates on one of those big, weird torture looking devices with a disappointing physio who offered no advice or treatment on my pain other than to give me a print out on how to stand and sit correctly with SPD
  • I did nothing to help my body- no glute-strengthening, no active stretching, no core work, minimal pelvic floor work, no foam rolling, nothing. I had no idea that I was supposed to. And judging by the amount of emails and comments I get from pregnant women in pain and desperate to know how I got it sorted so they can do the same, I’m not alone.

And this is what really grinds my gears: pelvic pain is possible, even probable when you’re pregnant, but it is totally manageable with professional treatment and the right exercises. Yet so many pregnant women don’t seem to know this. And I reckon someone – their GP, their obstetrician, their PT, their chiro, their sister, Margery from two doors down – needs to tell them. (Cue ol’ nosypants Fosters: your friendly, unsolicited advice monger.)

I live in inner Melbourne, have access to Google, and still had trouble finding people to help me. I went to a physio-pilates joint that specialises in pregnancy for months and they entirely missed the problem… So what the hell do women in Mudgee and Marulan do?

Annnnyway. Leading up to and during this pregnancy I did All The Right Things, optimistic I could sidestep the drama and pain. Alas, the pubic pain is back. But! It’s okay: it’s not osteitis pubis, or instability, and my glutes and core are strong. It’s just classic preggo SPD which my Osteopath is treating, and which she assures me is both transient and normal.

Some days are 7/10 pain, some are 3/10, and some days are pain-free. Sitting down is the worst, which is a real turd when you write for a profession, (this post has taken friggen weeks, one chunk at a time) or want to binge on Veep/Fargo/Survivor at night, or catch a plane, but overall I’m fine. No limping. No tears. No kicking tyres. I know which exercises, or active stretching and release will help when I get tight and sore, or to book a massage/extra Osteo treatment, or run a big ol’ Epsomy bath if things are really painful after doing errands for an two hours in cute but non-supportive shoes. (Idiot.)

PILATES. DO PILATES.

You’ve heard it a million times, but sweet golden cheeses will pilates help in pregnancy. I do pre-natal pilates with Candice Kino, director of pre and post-natal pilates at Studio PP in South Yarra, twice a week. PP is where I have religiously done reformer pilates studio since mid-2015, and where I have regained a shitload of strength and mobility. Stuff you want when you’re up duff.

Some pregnancy exercise tips and loving warnings from Candice:

NOTE: Always seek medical advice if unsure. Don’t exercise if your doctor has recommended you not to, you dingus!

1. Strengthen your deep core

Focus on strengthening your deep core muscles (esp the pelvic floor) with APPROPRIATE exercises. These muscles will support you through pregnancy, minimising pelvic instability/pain and low back pain, and help deliver your baby. I highly recommend investing in a private session or pregnancy-specific exercise class with a pre-natal qualified instructor – even if it’s only once – to help you learn about your deep core and pelvic floor muscles and how to strengthen them effectively.

2. Focus on good posture

Sit, stand and walk tall! You need a strong back and glutes! Strengthening your hamstrings and glutes will help support your pelvis and pelvic floor muscles. Increasing your mid-back strength will also support your deep core and get you strong for lifting the baby. (My all-day job is to lift up my pelvic floor (not squeeze, lift)… zip up my lower belly… lengthen through the torso and up through the top of the head. For posture, strength, and, of course, BIRTHING SUPERPOWER.)

 3. Avoid coning

This is when you see bulging down the middle of your belly because your deep core muscles aren’t able to support you in an exercise or movement. (I see it when I try to get out of bed quickly, instead of all the rolling to the side palaver – Zo.) Coning can increase the occurrence and the severity of Diastasis Recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). SO AVOID CRUNCHES AFTER THE FIRST TRIMESTER! This includes getting up from your back when in bed; instead roll to your side to get upYour exercises should change or be modified as you progress through your pregnancy. NOTE: Appropriate exercises can be different for each woman and each pregnancy. See a trainer who is qualified to give advice for exercise throughout your pregnancy.

4. Listen to your body

If it doesn’t feel good, DON’T DO IT! You should feel better after a workout. (I always do, even though I CBF most of the time. A lot of it is analgesic. – Zo.) If you don’t, you need to modify or change your workout. There are numerous benefits for both mum and bub to exercise appropriately during pregnancy and it’s never too late to start – even if you are in your third trimester.

IMG_1868 Candice and I. (She’s the one NOT pestering for a selfie.)

GET AN OSTEO.

I see a body-fixing wizard Osteopath named Daniela Aiello at Bulleen Osteopathy (Melbourne). She began helping me at 6-weeks post-partum, when I was in world of pain, and I have seen her at least monthly since.

As the pregnancy heats up, (“boob sweat”) and things get sexy (“snoring, waddling, panting”) I see Dan weekly, or more if my pubis is being bitchy. Osteo is magical. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, I don’t think anyone knows, it may be a government secret, but it involves muscular and structural release and relief, and I cannot believe I did a whole pregnancy with out it. No friggen wonder my pubis got so fucked up. Anyway. FIND A GOOD OSTEO, is my loudest and caps lockiest piece of pregnancy health. They’re everywhere now. Get one who understands the pregnant body.

I asked Daniela, at gunpoint, to write some stuff for me about pre-natal Osteo:

“Your body will go through tremendous change during pregnancy. With these changes it is unfortunately very common for women to experience musculoskeletal pain, but they do not always seek treatment.

 Just because pain is common, it doesn’t mean it is normal. There is help available! By understanding the hormonal and physical changes that are occurring during pregnancy, your Osteopath may provide you with much needed relief. My aim is to assist women in the natural process of pregnancy by using appropriate treatment techniques to restore motion and reduce muscle tension, thereby maximising the ability to cope with the physical changes that occur with a growing baby.

When your body is stronger, you tend to cope a lot better with the physical changes of pregnancy. As part of your treatment, we can also advise you on pelvic floor and other specific exercises to strengthen your body. We can also advise you on particular activities* to avoid during pregnancy.

*She’s not kidding. She will text me if she sees me sitting in an unstable position on Instagram.

I’M AN UNASHAMED TEACHER’S PET

Candice and Daniela give me strengthening stuff to do at home: clams, leg raises, squat pulses, Theraband stuff, pelvic-floor breathing, and lots of foam-rolling, fit ball stretching, cat-cows, and spiky ball release stuff. In the past, if you had told me to exercise daily, for fitness, or weight-loss, or some form of glorious #fitspo physique, I would have tapered off after about four days. But since I know what happen if I don’t do these exercises, I don’t miss a day. I expect some form or medal to arrive in the mail any day now.

IMG_1908An array of my homework accoutrements. They look fun! They’re really not. 

I take magnesium powder every day, and have a magnesium spray I use at night on sore bits, and go through a tonne of Epsom Salts. Magnesium is the preggos’ best friend.

bioceuticals-ultramuscleze-usultram150_524x690 Tastes gross; does good stuff.

BE A SMART PREGGO

Pregnancy is unforgiving, relentless work. This is not a time to play martyr or hero. Ask your partner for a foot rub every night, with no guilt. Have a rest when you can. (Now I’m in the third trimester, Daniela’s rule is 20 minutes on one activity or in one position, then change. It’s a real P in the A but I try.) And, have as many massages as you can afford: don’t think of it as a luxury, your body desperately needs release and care. I have discovered Mary de Pellegrin in Carlton, and she is very special. She’s been doing it for 20 years, and artfully blends my two favourite disciplines: myotherapy and shiatsu for incredible relief. I also like the futon massage at Body Freedom Urban Spa in South Melbourne.

HotDOG. This is a long post. I’m sorry. But not really, cos if it wasn’t of interest or relevant to you, you would have already gone back to scrolling Instagram, and plus, I’m passionate about this stuff, because I spent almost three years in daily pain fixing a preventable problem, and also, being pregnant is tough enough without being in agony, ay.

I was shitting myself about this pregnancy, but it’s been good. I feel in control, and strong, I’m not just ‘sucking it up’, and I have people now if I need help. One thing I learned about chronic pain is that a lot of it is mental. Re-adjusting my attitude was imperative.

Well-meaning people tell pregnant women to relax, and ease off work, and rest, but I’m not going to tell you to do that cos it’d be completely disingenuous; I am doing none of those things. (That said, if you work in a super stressful or physical job, um, you should probably relax/ease off work/rest.)

I love what I do for work (Formula One driver/part-time back-up singer) and will happily plod along on my current projects until baby Darlene/Dwayne arrives. I won’t do a national book tour at 32 weeks, or launch a skin care brand at 35 weeks, though. That was a rookie fail.

What I will do – and say – is be smart about it.
Know your limits.
Don’t push yourself to go to Ikea for a rug for the nursery if your feet are killing and your back is sore.
Put in the time and effort to care for, maintain and strengthen your body.
Strengthen and equally indulge your magical baby-creating machine.
Make people be your slaves because by law they can’t argue with your bulbous tyranny.
And if there’s a choice between eggs and pancakes, eat the pancakes. Always eat the goddamn pancakes.

orangutan-stan-i-was-told-there-would-be-glowingI didn’t know what photo to end on. Sorry.

Responses to this drivel: 30 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: 5 Comments
27
Feb

Tips for flying (long haul) with a toddler.

Those congenial Expedia travel lords recently asked me to write about my experiences travelling with a toddler.

I happily obliged, because if there’s one thing I know about travelling 36 hours with a toddler, it’s two things:

  1. If possible, choose a toddler you actually like or are related to,
  2. It’s achievable.

We decided we liked our two year-old enough to fly to Europe with him, and so the planning began. We are frequent flyers, we travel domestically a lot and overseas a few times a year. We have even done this exact trip with him before… except he was four months old and all that was required was my boobs and the plane bassinet. We have flown to NYC and the Maldives with him, but this was before he was moving around. A toddler is different. And by different, I mean, do you really need to go to Italy?

There is a reason many antipodean parents instill a no-fly rule when their kids are aged between about 10 months and three. It’s a marathon effort. My husband wears sports clothes because he genuinely thinks of it as an endurance race.

IMG_4854

Alas, I write this knowing our parent (2) to child (1) ratio is comically easy, especially when a friend of mine with SIX children, including twin one-year olds was on the same flight as us, but there is still planning involved, inasmuch as ideally you:

  1. a) Avoid melt-downs (yours. But also theirs, I guess)
  2. b) Get some sleep
  3. c) Not deliberately leave your child in transit because they’re slowly but powerfully extinguishing your will to live
    Here are some of the tips I have accrued for long-haul toddler flying.

Fly at night

Choose a night flight if it’s a long one. The child will be wide awake and stimulated at the airport, so run them ragged and make sure they have food in their belly. Yes, you risk a bit of a meltdown choosing a late night flight and it likely won’t be pretty at the departures gate, but better to have them so exhausted they can’t put up a fight on the flight, rather than well-rested and ready for ice cream and Despicable Me followed by Frozen and a few hundred laps of the aisle. Day flights have always failed for us. It’s too bright and exciting for child to sleep, and they are generally already hungry, antsy and tired from transit before we even board. What fun.

Be at the airport first, but board last

Be at the airport early. Everything takes longer with kids. If you’re travelling as a family, try to get one parent on first to ensure you get some cabin space for all your bags, then the other parent boards last with the kids (why sit on the plane any longer than required?) Once you’re on, try to make their seat as ‘bedroomy’ as possible: bring their sleeping sack/blanket or pillow, their comforter or teddy, and our travel must have for both the flight and the hotel at the other end: a big black scarf or piece of fabric and gaffa tape to tape over any lights above them. Read books to calm them.


IMG_1096

 

Spare clothes

Pack a Wondersuit/PJs for child, (we dress ours in this for the airport, just chucking a jumper over the top and some shoes on for a stylish update) plus a full change of clothes for arrival. And plenty of undies or nappies. (We went through TEN NAPPIES flying to Greece with him as an infant. TEN. And four Wondersuits.) Also pack a spare top for you. You’ll be grateful for it.

Read the rest of the article over here.

But not here.

Responses to this drivel: 3 Comments
05
Dec

Some books I read, loved and can recommend.

Every now and then I take a photo of a book, or even a stack of books, with nice lighting and cute composition, with the intention of placing said photo on the Instagram, enthusiastically endorsing them so that everyone else can experience the same thrill and feverish page turning mania I did.

Then I forget to post it, start a new book, and promptly forget all about previous book, especially when someone says, ‘Read any good books lately?’.

So here’s a list of (some of the) Books I’ve Loved* this year.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only books I read, nor that they were necessarily released this year, by the way, just that I read them this year. So don’t get all fidgety if you see Are you there God, it’s me Margaret on the list. A good book is a good book! They don’t expire! Good on them!

Of course, it goes without saying (but not, apparently, without writing) that a book is a tremendous Chrimmus gift, especially since many people, like myself, get crippled with indecision at the book shop.

Another great gift is a homemade cream and sponge cake, in case anyone I know is reading this.

TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT, Maria Semple

If you are yet to read Maria’s brilliant Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, for the love of lice, do. It is a triumph in funny, clever, manic story telling. This is equally wonderful, her female protagonist again dancing dangerously between feisty, glamorous wife, mother and woman, and complete nervous breakdown. Semple is a former writer for SNL, Mad About You and Arrested Development. So, yknow, chops. She’s sharp as lemon and funny as hell.

Good for: Lovers of wit, sassy dames, and just all women with pulses, really.

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THE DRY, Jane Harper

Utterly harrowing and at times difficult to read (as a mother – those who’ve read it know what I mean) this Aussie outback murder-mystery-thriller is a cracking yarn, which is not a sentence I thought I would ever write, but there you go.

Good for: People into crime stuff.

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ELEANOR AND PARK, Rainbow Rowell

Not only does Rainbow win at names, but her tale about two misfit teens falling in love (in the EIGHTIES NO LESS!!!) is a masterpiece of deep feels and wonderful detail. I loved this book so much. Make me a mixtape already.

Good for: Romantics and nostalgics and ’80s kids.

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THE GAP OF TIME, Jeanette Winterson.

A sexy, elegant, (get ready for it…) unputdownable modern retelling of Billy Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. (Also: Jeanette Winterson! She of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit!) Fun fact: The Gap of Time was the first in a series of modern Shakespearian re-tellings. Since then Anne Tyler has published Vinegar Girl (casually hanging out in the stack next to my bed) which is based on The Taming of The Shrew, and the inimitable Margaret Atwood has just released Hag-Seed, a retelling of The Tempest. Woo!

Good for: Shakespeare fans. And also non-Shakespeare fans.

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BURIAL RITES, Hannah Kent

I finally read this (2013) smash as a catch up before reading Kent’s new book, The Good People, which I have not got around to reading but it’s coming on holidays with me because what could be better than some dark and miserable Scandi Noir over summer. Like billions of others, Burial Rites grabbed be my the goolies and did not let go. And that’s saying something cos a tale set in rural Iceland in the 1800s about a woman condemned to death for the murder of her employer is not generally my jam. Kent is a phenomenal writer, and this is an exceptional book.

Good for: People who can read.

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BEAUTIFUL RUINS, Jess Walter

I read this in 2015 and again this year because I’m lazy, sure, but also cos it’s great. It’s wonderful and often feels as though you are watching a film. There’s romance! Glamour! Mystery! Love! Italy! Movie stars! Death! Oh, what a ride! Jess Walter is constantly referred to as a ridiculously talented writer, but this book is rubbish. No, wait. This book proves it! This book proves it.

Good for: Romantics and film-lovers and fans of a good bloody story.

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LETTERS OF NOTE, Compiled by Shaun Usher

I gift this book constantly. (Also it’s follow up, More Letters of Note.) It is a magnificent, very special collection of rare, romantic, historical, heartbreaking, harrowing, hilarious, breathtaking and bombastic letters from presidents, poets, painters and paupers, featuring job applications, suicide notes, letters from fans and the first recorded use of OMG. This is a brilliant, gutting, gorgeous book, full of gems, and OH, how I love it.

Good for: ANYONE. No, wait. EVERYONE.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED, (US) Esquire

My favourite page from my favourite magazine (note that it’s US Esquire, not that stinkin’ UK edition), where, thanks to the exceptional interviewing skills of (usually) Cal Fussman, you get access to the most crystallised, potent little mind diamonds from successful, fascinating and brilliant people. Often funny, always interesting, and with more wisdom than, I don’t know, something really wise like an owl maybe, there are a few editions, but the older ones can be tricky to get your mitts on. The most recent edition (featuring Ted Danson, Robert DeNiro, Aaron Sorkin, Lionel Richie, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Schumer etc etc) isn’t though.

Good for: Everyone but tis an especially terrific gift for any male human you’re struggling to buy for.

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WE FOUND A HAT, Jon Klassen

The newest and maybe my favourite from the king of very silly and very perfect picture books. If you haven’t already bough his other hat-based tales, This Is Not My Hat, and I Want My Hat Back, then you’re a sweet fool.

Good for: Toddlers and – gasp! – their parents.

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Also I hear that beauty book Amazinger Face is good, and that book that they made a telly show made out of, The Wrong Girl is great, and The Younger Man and Playing The Field and Textbook Romance and Air Kisses are really awesome and worth a read too, but I can’t remember who wrote them except I think her name had something to do with a beer and she has frizzy hair.

 

*I also read lots of (often dull) non-fiction (Unfinished Business, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, Big Magic, The Importance of Being Little, The Whole-Brain Child) and am totally up to date with Sweet Valley High, but they’re not books I loved with a big pink loveheart.

Responses to this drivel: 34 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.

 

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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.

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Venice?

Rome?

Capri and Positano?

Florence?

Click here.

Definitely not here.

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27
Oct

How to pack for (and dress up on) your holidays.

When Expedia (he’s just one guy wearing a cowboy hat and board shorts, by the way) said to me: “Hey Travel Ambassador Lady, does dressing up on holidays make sense to you?” I said, “Expedia, to me, dressing up on holidays makes PERFECT sense.”

I put it in the same category as ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ except that it’s more, ‘dress for the place you’re in, not the one you came from.’

I cop a fair bit of stick about it from my mates, of course. It’s so much effort, my mates say. Who cares how you look on holidays, they say. Take off that velvet cape, they say.

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But it’s not an effort for me. I love it. I adopt a new personality overseas, a much more flamboyant, fruity one than the jeans and trainers girl back home.

To me, the holiday experience is about playing along. About immersing into the city or country you’re in. So, if you’re in Sicily, you eat pasta alla norma, cannolli and caponata, you drink Zibbibo and you swim where the locals tell you to. And for me, you dress in bright colours and with as many pom-poms as legal.

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I’m embarrassingly osmotic when I travel. If I see a cool woman wearing a slip dress with a flamboyant head wrap in Portofino, I want in. If I see a minimalist woman wearing bejeweled slippers with a white pantsuit in Rome, I want in. And if I see a babe in a white shirt tucked into a colourful ankle-length skirt with a neckerchief in Florence, I want in. To me travel is Real Life Instagram; I see things that inspire and delight, and in that moment, in that piazza, in that sunshine, I want to play along. Even if it’s just with a new ZARA top and belt, and a bucket of holiday confidence; I’m in.

Anyway. Recently I went to Italy.

I knew I’d shop over there, so I packed light: a tight edit of shoes and a few dresses and tops from last summer, half of which I was ready to farewell if space got tight. This, I’ve learned, is smarter than flying with nothing, assuming you will fill your suitcase with cute new stuff the second you arrive, only to arrive and discover they are already doing autumn-winter fashion, and it’s 30 degrees, and you’re screwed.

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Read the full story here.

Not here.

Responses to this drivel: 9 Comments