This is Zoe’s Blog

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: 2 Comments
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
03
Jul

Fiji is the perfect family holiday destination.

My husband went to Fiji when he was three, and had the holiday of his life. He vividly recalls the beach and kids club in great, and some might say, unnecessary detail; it was a profoundly happy time in his life. Had I not revealed this, however, you would never know: he keeps that trip a closely-guarded secret, mentioning it only if someone mentions they’re going to Fiji, or whenever we consider holiday destinations with our two small children, or on Tuesdays.

It was horrible. As you can see.

Why Fiji made such a lasting imprint on him made no sense to me. Truth be told, Fiji never held too much appeal to me, I relegated it as a ‘family place.’ Friends with kids and their knowing nods only cemented the notion: “When you’re a family, you’ll see. Families LOVE Fiji.”

And so, once we had kids (plural: you can go anywhere with one kid; two steps things up a notch.) Fiji suddenly became very alluring. Especially after schlepping 18 hours to Maldives recently, for, if I’m be honest, The Exact Same Thing.

Just a teeny baby girl and her big ol’ daddy living their best sunset life.

And just like everyone says, Fiji really is the perfect holiday for families. The good overlords at Expedia knew this, which is why they sent me there to get proof.

The water is pristine, the weather is perfect, the diving and surfing is sensational, the flight is only five hours (from Melbourne), our favourite show in the world, US Survivor is filmed there, but the best thing about Fiji, is the people. Ask anyone who has been, (my husband included though you’ll have to drag it out of him, he’s very enigmatic) what they loved most; it’s the people.

Sure, when we hold hands and stroll in Melbourne it’s nice. But not THIS nice.

The Fijians I met were walking, talking sunbeams. Total A+ in delightfulness, helpfulness, and warmth. Because of who I am, (an optimist dipped in healthy cynicism) I searched for chinks in the armor, a momentary lapse in charm, but I never saw it. Not even when I had to politely ask for my baby’s dinner to be mushed up a bit more… and then send it back again for more mushing because perfect mush levels are known only to me. Oh, and Fijians LOVE kids.

This is wonderful Kat. My son loves her more than seems fair, considering I gave birth to him, and Kat did not.

Maybe even more than I love my kids, and you love yours. The way Fijian people connected and interacted with our children was genuine and whole-hearted. It never felt contrived or like it was their job. No matter which part of the island we were on, no matter what time of day, the staff would swoop our baby out of our hands, and whisk her off for songs, cuddles and quiet flower gazing. Meanwhile, our preschooler knew everybody’s names, and they his, and every day was like that scene in a movie where the popular guy walks through the school and everyone serves up pistol fingers and high-fives. (He cried in the shower at night because he wanted to go back to Kids Club RIGHT NOW, not go to stupid bed.)

Both of our children relished their deity-like status, (how strange!) and tailor-made activities and toys on offer. Resorts in Fiji are READY-MADE for kids: this is not arriving to find one of the conference rooms housing a few balls and a cheap tent as the “kids zone.” This is purposeful, considered child-minding, and it’s a huge relief for parents. Because if your kids are thrilled to be finding crabs and building pirate ships all afternoon with a gang of other kids and some funny adults, and your high-energy baby is with a doting nanny and 1000 toys at kids club while you and your husband have a meal and a swim, then everyone’s having a holiday.

We travel for lots of reasons: to see the world, to make the kids resilient, to bookmark our lives, and to be present with each other and especially our rapidly-growing young children, which is hard in our big, busy life back home. But at risk of breaking an unwritten parent code, parents don’t actually get much time off on holiday. We’re still parents! Gotta tend to the sick baby all night, and keep the kid entertained, and find clean clothes/snacks every two hours!

Good lord. This is the most ‘mum’ photo I have ever seen myself in.
I have two kids! How’d that happen? I thought I was still 22.

But in Fiji we got PROPER time off. The golden, rare kind where you know your kids don’t want to be with you, even if you want to hang out, cos they’re having more fun without you. And when you collect them, you’re revitalised, you’re excited to spend the afternoon with them swimming (three year-old) and eating sand (baby) and enjoying paradise (parents). You’ve had time to read a book, and relax, instead of Real Life, where any time the kids are out of the house, you’re working, or doing errands and household shit, so when you’re with the kids again, you’re buggered, and operating at 40 watts, and Just Doing Your Best To Get Through.

My idea of a happy family holiday isn’t about ditching the kids and sipping rosé all day, (…or IS IT?), it’s about having some time to re-charge so that the time I spend with my children on holiday is outstanding. Quality, present and who-cares-where-my-phone-is, time. Slow morning strolls and raucous pre-dinner swims, none of the snapping and ‘hurry-up-and-put-your-shoes-on-we-have-to-go!,’ that peppers each day in Real Life.

Fiji offered all of this and a bag of coconuts. We were lucky enough to stay at Kokomo Private Island, which is new, and very luxurious, and where everything (especially hiring!) is done exceptionally well. Families abounded, often boasting several generations, the food is world-class and the reef is breathtaking. We had a week our (then) three-year old has a chance of remembering for the rest of his life, and that’s not nothing. (Just ask my husband. He’ll never tell, obviously.)

Actual view from the front door of our villa. Disgusting.

At the end of our stay, I cried. Maybe it was the rousing, smiling choir of new friends that assembled to bid us farewell in song on departure, or maybe there was sand in my eye, or maybe we’d just had one of the best holidays a young family could ask for. Who can say.

What I can say is we are going back to Fiji next year.
We’re a family, you see.
And families love Fiji.

Responses to this drivel: 6 Comments
07
Jun

How to (easily) look after your skin on flights.

Back when I was a product-obsessed beauty editor and didn’t sashay round with a handbag full of corn puffs and plastic cars, my flight skin advice would have read something like this:

“Start with a deep cleansing exfoliating mask, then a hydrating mask, then three serums, a face oil, eye gel, and SPF then makeup before you leave the house. Once you’re on the plane, cleanse your face with a cleansing balm and muslin, and pop on a sheet mask. Ignore the weird looks. Once you remove it, re-apply serums, oils and SPF again. Before you land, apply tinted moisturiser, mascara, blush, brightening eye shadow, a pop of pink lipstick, and apply dry shampoo throu-“ … you get the idea.

Who has time for that?

Lots of people probably, the lucky squids.

But not me people.

These days I spend all my energy, time and handbag real estate on nappies, sippy cups, snacks and Lego. I know! I know. It’s as glamorous as a burp.

And so, since I now boast the holy trinity of:

  • Very young children
  • Lots of travel under my belt
  • Years spent creating skin care products for people who don’t want fussiness and confusion and seven-step routines, just skin that looks good and feels nice

… I have a pretty effective, simple philosophy of flight skin care. Most of it is done before you get on the plane, so you can focus on your meal and a movie/walking your child up and down the aisle 75 times.

My humble travel overlords at Expedia asked me to share my tips. I warned them they weren’t very glamorous, but they insisted, so here they are:

Do a mask before you fly.
You’ve seen how much flights suck your face dry, right? Well the battle starts before you get to the airport. So whether it’s a nourishing cream mask the night before, or a serum-drenched sheet mask (I am pictured below in my own creepy little glow-boosting sheet mask: Go-To Transformazing) the morning you fly out, DO take 10 minutes to hydrate your skin before a long flight. Bonus points for exfoliating first. I like Sodashi’s Plant Essence Replenish Mask.

Layer oils and creams.

To give your face (…and neck and chest because your face stops at your boobs) its’ best possible chance to retain moisture, apply a nourishing face oil and then a rich facial moisturiser the day you fly. I slather myself in my own Go-To Face Hero and Very Useful Face Cream, obviously.

Click here to read the rest of the article, or risk dry post-flight skin and probably a huge loss of reputation.

Responses to this drivel: 2 Comments
26
Feb

Some good Melbourne dinner options.

Look, it was before Broadsheet and social media and Cardi B, but back when I would visit Melbourne as a Sydneysider, I’d always feel so lost, and pathetic, and excluded, and clueless as to where to eat, and shop, stay, etc. I’d end up doing cliché shit (‘Chapel St’) and eating average, touristy food (‘Southgate’), and feeling like I was wasting my visits. And my god, I really was.

I will not allow you to have the same experience.

Melbourne is a magnificent city, a sophisticated, tasty, friendly labyrinth of outstanding culinary delights, and I’ll be damned if you’re going to miss them. Also I’m sick of texting lists to mates asking where they should eat when they come down, and will hereby send them to this link moving forward, like the efficient, heartless robot I am.

(Is Sydney or Melbourne better? Redundant question. They are both terrific. That we can zing between two of the world’s best cities in a couple of hours feels wildly lucky to me. The real question should be: when the fuck is that fast train coming?)

MY VERY BEST FAVOURITE MELBOURNE DINNERY PLACES THAT I CAN REMEMBER RIGHT NOW

PASTA ADAGIO, RICHMOND

It’s so eye-rolly when someone calls something ‘the best’ of something in a city, but guess what: I reckon this might be the best pasta in Melbourne. It’s a low-key joint. Unfancy. Book ahead though cos it’s small and much-loved. The chef, Carmine, is friendly and passionate; his pasta is exceptional. The Famous One is the egg tagliatelle ragu, and so it should be. But I gotta mention the deconstructed carbonara (and I loathe carbonara), which we had a few weeks ago, since it was the most delicate, delicious, ingenuous pasta dish I have ever eaten. (A fried spaghetti nest with an egg inside, as per below: gahhhh!)


BAR LIBERTY, FITZROY

For ages I’d look at Bar Liberty’s menu and deem it too fancy and tricky. Too many ingredients I didn’t know, and too pretentious. But at the persistence of a food-adoring couple whose opinion I respect, we booked. And reader, I felt like a damn fool. This teeny bar hits all my restaurant high notes: exquisite cocktails, a comfort-zone-breaking wine list, and perfect versions of simple food. I recommend LOTS of the bread, the salt and pepper veges, the potatoes, and DEFINITELY the cacio e pepe. And loose pants. And dessert. And no guilt. And booking.

KISUME, CBD

When I moved to Melbourne in 2014, my stomach and I were deeply dismayed at the lack of Japanese eateries, a cuisine in which Sydney excels, from the fancy and expensive, to the corner joint doing gluggy teriyaki salmon. But Melbourne is WOKE! Nobu no longer needs to hold the fort; Kisume (sushi bar and restaurant) is flawless. We have eaten there thrice, and I can’t fault it. Not the service, not the pace, not the subtle, modern, playful Japanese dishes. But you’d expect that from Lord Chris Lucas, the chap behind Chin-Chin, Kong and Baby, all three of which are all in my heart and favourites list. I recommend: wagyu truffles, the crispy flathead, charred baby cos lettuce, and the black sesame sponge. And the cocktails. Man I love delicate, citrusy Japanese cocktails.

MARION WINE BAR, FITZROY

From the silky paws of Andrew McConnell (he of Cutler and Co, which is next door, Cumulus, Ricky and Pinky… actually I should mention Ricky and Pinky, too: it’s on the same street and does fun, delicious Chinese food. Plus the décor is basically a ready-made Pinterest board) comes this ‘local’ wine bar. Even though it’s not my local anymore, I still visit a bloody lot. A shared meal of (the best) salted flat bread and dip (in the country), simple pasta, roast chicken, fries and salad (and a Negroni, obviously) is unbeatable in this pig’s book. Finish off with a Martinez (this should be your new cocktail) at Bar Everleigh down the road, then Uber home, full, fed and cutely sauced.

Photo: Harvard Wang

LAZERPIG, COLLINGWOOD

Lazerpig is very casual and pub-like, only with open fires and disco balls and often, a DJ. We take our three-year old here for 5:30 dinners, and we all dance and eat pizza and drink wine. (He prefers pinot noir.) This is the home of my favourite pizza, (D.O.C in Carlton is a close second) and, controversially, my favourite cheeseburger. (See below.)  I don’t know what else you want me to say; that’s a really, really big call. Just sit with it for a second.

TONKA, CBD

I love Horn Please, in North Fitzroy, but am pretty green when it comes to Indian cuisine.  Tonka is doing a great PR job for it as a genre, I gotta say. It’s subtle, and delicate, and feels nourishing and satisfying, rather than heavy and stodgy. Sit at the bar, it’s always more fun and you can usually snake in without a booking that way, order that blueberry cocktail, and some pani puri and pakora. I also love the palak paneer because quite frankly paneer is the most underrated cheese in this whole goddamn world, and also butter chicken because duh.

CHIN CHIN, MAMASITA, KONG, BABY

Ah yes, the classics. I’m sure you’ve heard of all them all, and probably even been.

Mamasita started the ‘new Mexican’ trend eight years ago, and still do it the very, very best. There will be a wait; go early, or late. Or! Visit their cheeky casual option, Hotel Jesus, in Collingwood, instead. It’s good fun, and utilises just the right amount of swimming pool blue.

Chin Chin still might be the best Asian restaurant in Melbourne, but the wait really breaks my balls. Be quicker to fly to the new Sydney Chin Chin most nights. The cheat? Eat downstairs at GoGo Bar instead. Small but perfect menu with flawless cocktail mastery.

Baby is Italian, in South Yarra/Richmond and while I reckon A25 down the road actually does better pizza, I love the atmosphere, polenta chips, meat and fish dishes at Baby. (Also their breakfast.)

Kong is a Korean BBQ, just up the road from Baby, and it’s crunchy and gorgeous. Fresh Yuzu-y cocktails + fried chicken = YES.

 – If you’re in the city and need a quick, tasty meal: Gazi (Greek) or Fatto (Italian.)


Mamasita.

But there are no bayside or northside picks!
My picks are essentially locked to three postcodes, cos that’s where I live and hang.

Or greater Melbourne?

Okay then, how about Doot Doot Doot at Jackalope. My god. That deep-fried avocado. Look, it IS a Special Occasion place, and it IS a tasting menu so if you hate those (I studiously avoid, as a rule) maybe it’s not for you. But I loved it. I went for the vegetarian option and I not only didn’t feel sick at the end (a terrible and unfair appraisal of some outstanding food, but come on, most tasting menus are Too Much), I was satisfied and delighted. No gross filled mushrooms or lazy pasta dishes, in other words. Clever, delicious food.

The Martinez, father of the Martini, son of the Manhattan.

 

But you didn’t mention any seafood restaurants!
Correct. There aren’t many down here. It’s not Sydney, after all. (That said, Stokehouse is pretty fantastic for a luxe beachside feast. Or, a casual one, downstairs.)

Or Thai!
Shhh. Go to Longrain. (They offer a fructose-free menu, which my fructose malabsorption issues deeply appreciate.)

Your taste in restaurants is so trendy and overpriced!
True. These days I only eat out properly about once a month, so I make it count. (There’s plenty of misschu, Grill’d and Jimmy Grants in-between, trust me.)

Alright, food monsters, that’s all I can think of right now. (You’ve got Broadsheet now; you’ll be fine.)

What about breakfast? You’re always bangin’ on about breakfast!
Oh I’m gonna do a breakfast list, alright. Breakfast is the champion of meals, and melbourne treats it like fine dining. I reckon we do the best breakfast in the world. There. I said it.

There will be no lunch list. Lunch is the pesty middle child. I usually just eat breakfast again to teach it a lesson.

Responses to this drivel: 18 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: 13 Comments
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: 7 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: 19 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.

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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