Archive | June, 2011

The Good, bad and cuddly of the week

30 Jun

The Good – After Hours GP Helpline Begins
Babies never fall ill at 10am on a week day. It always happens at 2am when you are at your least rational, all medical centres are closed and the only option of getting medical help means a dash to the hospital, wherupon you will probably have to wait a couple of hours before being reassured that all is fine and sent on your way with a dose of panadol. Apparently, about 23% of babies under 4 months of age end up in emergency at least once because they are ‘unsettled’ – at least that’s the eventual diagnosis. I completely understand why parents take their kids to hospital when they (the babies) are hysterical and cannot be comforted; it can be frightening when they are crying in a way that suggests extreme pain – and you know the mantra – it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to babies who cannot tell you what hurts, or why. However, it’s a problem for a couple of reasons. Not only is the dash to hospital completely stressful for the parents, it’s also a big burden on the health system. Now – write down this phone number – 1800 022 222 – it could save you a trip to hospital. As of today (July 1) that number will connect you to a free helpline (in all Australian states and territories except QLD) where you can speak with a nurse who can assess the issue, before putting you through (if needed) to an actual GP for an over-the-phone consultation. It’s available to anyone, not just parents of babies. If it can prevent those unnecessary trips to hospital, it will be a godsend. Sometimes, a little reassurance at the end of a phone line is really all we need.

The Bad – the man cold is real
Why is it that when men get a sniffle, it’s ‘the flu’ but when women get sick, it’s just a cold? I know it’s a major generalisation but I believe it to be true – men just don’t seem to cope as well as women when it comes to colds. It’s like they haven’t seen the Codral ads which urge us all to ‘soldier on’. That’s what women do – we soldier on. Men tend to hoick violently and blow loudly so that no one is under any illusion as to the seriousness of the illness. Well, there’s bad news. It seems ‘the man cold’ is a real thing. The Sydney Morning Herald reports researchers from the University of QLD have found women have a much stronger immune response to the virus than men. The leader of the study is quoted as saying ”The way nature has put us together has been done to keep the female of the species alive as a survival thing,” Professor (John) Upham said. ”Women bear the children, where as men are dispensable.” He said it was the first time gender had been identified as a factor in the immune response to rhinoviruses but that sex hormones were known to influence the response to other viruses. Damn it! Now, I will feel obliged to give my husband a little extra TLC when he’s ill, in the knowledge that he probably is feeling the pain a little worse than I am. I used to just dismiss it as men being a little bit pathetic (sorry darling!).

The Cuddly – Dad Returns home from Iraq
I think it’s hard for any non-military person to understand just how difficult it is to let a loved one go off to war – but I think you get a sense of it from this video. It shows a little girl, being surprised by her soldier Dad returning from combat. Her reaction is priceless. But it’s also a powerful reminder of the sacrifice made by the families of all soldiers.

Dreams don’t always come true – and that’s OK

28 Jun

Last week my 2 year old daughter received her first pair of ballet slippers. They’re powder pink, in soft-as-butter leather, with little satin bows at the toes. I wish they were mine. As she excitedly showed them to me, I held them to my nose and inhaled that gorgeous, new-shoe, real leather smell – and with that whiff came flooding back a host of childhood memories – and the sense of a dream – unfulfilled, and never likely to be fulfilled. As a child, my dream was to be a famous prima ballerina with the Australian Ballet Company. I certainly pursued my dream, attending weekly dance classes with teacher Marylin Jones – herself a former Principal and renowned dancer with the Australian Ballet Company. I remember our uniform exactly – pale blue leotard, pink tights, ballet slippers, a chiffon over-skirt and hair always scraped back into a bun. What really motivated me through the hours of arabesques, plies and jetes, was the thought of wearing a tutu in the end of year concert.
 I did get to – once – a hot pink number with layers and layers of frothy tulle. I took it very seriously – my family, not so much. My Mum says tears of laughter ran down her face when she saw her chubby little 7 year old daughter prancing across the stage. There were a couple of on-stage tiffs between the performers as we bossed each other into the correct position. Graceful, elegant, artistic – we were not. At the age of 11, ballet class started to get serious. It was time for pointe work, and that meant an extra two classes per week, making a total of 3 afternoons devoted to ballet. As much as I loved it, I also loved other things – like tennis, piano, and speech and drama. And there was another issue – I simply wasn’t a very talented dancer. No one ever said so. I think I just knew it. And it wasn’t like anyone begged me to keep dancing – which is a sure sign that I wasn’t a big loss to the ballet world. To be a great ballet dancer you need to work bloody hard but you also need to have genes on your side – a natural turn-out and flexibility are pretty important – I had neither – I’m about as flexible as a plank of wood. But did my dream die? Absolutely not. I continued to love dance – not as a performer, but as a spectator, and I read copious books about little girls whose dance dreams did come true. To this day, ballet is still a passion. I still go to ballet concerts and marvel at the artistry of the dancers and the ways they can manipulate their bodies in ways you can hardly believe possible. I really want to do one of those adult beginner ballet classes. At the age of 35, I still fantasise about wearing a big, white tutu and pirouetting my way to fame in front of loving audiences. But I know it’s never going to happen. And I’m OK with that. With maturity, I’ve learned just how hard a career it is – it’s tough on your body and at best, can only last about 15 years. In some ways, I’m glad it’s a dream that’s never been fulfilled – the reality may not have lived up to my imagination. So often, we’re urged to ‘follow our dreams’, or in the words of solo-sailor Jessica Watson ‘live your dreams’. In her Australia Day speech, the 16 year old said “You don’t have to be anyone or anything to achieve something. You’ve just got to believe in it and work hard… So, to all you Aussies out there, particularly us young guys, let’s dream big. But more importantly, let’s make it happen.” I don’t disagree with this comment, and I would never want to discourage  anyone from pursuing their dreams but I would say this – dreams can still be wonderful, even if they don’t come true – even if you can’t ‘make it happen’. Achieving a dream takes more than hard work and belief, it also requires a fair bit of luck, which is beyond anyone’s control. I wasn’t lucky enough to be born with a dancer’s body. Jessica Watson was lucky that a rogue wave didn’t destroy her boat, and therefore, her dream. I think we put too much emphasis on achieving our dreams and therefore, feeling like failures when they don’t come to fruition.The reality is that there is enormous enjoyment to be had in simply having a dream and`working towards it. Let’s accept this – some of the best dreams are only ever played out in our heads, and that’s where they should stay.

Fab and Fail Fashion of the Week – Kate Moss, Nicky Hilton and the Duchess of Cambridge

27 Jun

Fab – Kate Moss does good casual
It’s the perfect shopping/lunch date outfit – not too casual, nor over-dressed – this is the definition of smart casual. Better still, it’s a version that we can all achieve. Black jackets, white t-shirts and ballet flats are probably staples in most women’s wardrobes. As for the stripey pants, I reckon versions of them are being knocked up by the chain stores as we speak. There’s a couple of details that make this a great outfit. See where the pants finish? Just before the ankle – an extremely flattering length as it shows off the skinniest part of the leg. Also, the stripes are elongating – double bonus. The other great touch is the red handbag – a little splash of colour in an otherwise monochrome outfit. Winner.

Fail – Nicky Hilton does bad casual
It’s hard to explain how much I really dislike tie-dye. For me, it’s right up there (or down there) with hyper-colour t-shirts. And this version is pretty bad. Nicky Hilton is wearing it – so I suspect it’s not a cheap dress, but like all things tie-dye, it looks like it cost $5 at a second hard clothes market. Now, there’s nothing wrong with cheap things – I shop at Kmart and Target – but the trick is to buy things that are cheap but don’t look cheap. The braids, mirrored aviators, and the green handbag don’t help either – it’s kind of a hippie Heidi look, but with an expensive handbag, as if Hilton is reminding us that she really is very rich.

Fashion Faux pas – Kate Middleton
Don’t get me wrong, I love this coat. Love the buttons and the three quarter sleeves, which is so flattering, showing off the wrists (see point above about showing off ankles – it’s the same rationale). But I think the coat is inappropriate for the event, which was a military ceremony marking Armed Forces Day. In my view, when one is attending an event at which soldiers are present, it’s best to not dress like a soldier. The military-style of the jacket is inappropriate for a military event – way too literal. It would have been perfect at any other ‘do’. Also – the hat – or is it a fascinator – or a hatinator. Whatever you call it, it’s not right for the coat or the occasion. Little straw things are great for weddings or cocktail parties but not for military ceremonies – and certainly not with that coat. This is a coat that called for a decent sized, structured black hat. It would have looked a-mazing.

The good, the bad, and the cuddly of the week that was

24 Jun
Jeune fille endormie

The Good – The $20 million dollar gift
So an American turns up at Sydney Uni, fresh off the plane, and from his hand luggage produces a painting which he promptly hands over, requesting the Uni sell it and use the funds for research. That little painting was a Picasso. For the past 18 months, the Uni’s Vice Chancellor has kept the precious piece hidden in a secret spot, known only to him. The insurance on such a masterpiece would have been too pricey. This week the joyous work, depicting Picasso’s French lover Marie-Therese Walter, went under the hammer in London. It sold for $20 million. What an incredible gift! The money will fund the Uni’s research into cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Incredible generousity, which will no doubt save lives – and the donor doesn’t want any credit, preferring to remain anonymous. Whoever you are – I salute you.

The Bad – mobiles and laptops are making us work more
It is as I suspected – technology is making us work longer hours and chewing into personal time like never before. This is the finding of a survey of 500 white-collar workers which found that two-thirds of them continued to work while on holiday. Reality check – a holiday is not a holiday if you’re working. It also found a third worked while commuting, which all adds up to a lot of unpaid overtime. I can’t help but think this is a bad trend. Yes – technology has given us flexibility – but it’s completely blurring the lines between work, and personal time. Sometimes, I long for the days when work was something you went and did, and then switched off from once you got home. Thanks to mobile phones and computers, we’re now permanently switched to ‘on’. What happened to devoting time to important things, like – relationships – with friends, kids, partners and family. Where are our priorities heading?

The Cuddly – Video taken before THAT photo
This is not cuddly in the cute sense – it’s video footage of THE cuddle that made headlines – the one where a couple was photographed kissing in the midst of a riot. Did you think it was a set-up? I know I did. I mean, really, who lies down in the middle of a riot for a smooch!! Who does that? I DO remember that feeling of being head over heels in love – but risking life and limb for a kiss? This video gives a little more context into how it all happened – and it seems it’s all legit.

Bridesmaids – it’s not about you, it’s about the bride

22 Jun

The movie, Bridesmaids, is getting big raps isn’t it? Chicks can be funny, say the reviewers. Who knew? Umm… the 50% of the population that have a v-jay-jay probably could have told you that. Anyway, in a nutshell, Bridesmaids is about thirty something year old Annie, whose life has turned to crap – dud career, dud love-life, dud everything. And then her best friend, Gillian, announces she’s getting married and wants Annie to be her maid of honour. Bad move. Annie’s crap life gets more crap and she turns out to be the maid-of-honour from hell, ruining every single pre-wedding event possible in the most outrageous (and funny) ways. Annie clearly didn’t get the memo about how to be the perfect bridesmaid. Basically, it’s like being a parent – it’s all about a putting someone else’s needs before your own. I’ve been a bridesmaid twice. On both occasions, the brides were lovely and it was all smooth sailing. But I have heard horror stories. When I was getting my wedding dress altered, the seamstress told me she no longer made bridesmaid dresses because the sneaky little minxs were always going behind the bride’s back and asking to get their dresses altered. The poor old dressmaker was piggy in the middle of a bride war.
A good bridesmaid’s mantra must be – ‘it’s all about the bride’. You are the maid to the bride, you’re there to serve. You’re the one who has to hold up the dress while the bride does her number ones on the toilet, or worse, number twos. The bride wants you at the hairdressers at 5am – you say ‘Sure, I bet the sunrise at Tony and Guy is really beautiful’. The bride asks you to wear a so-tight-you-can’t-breathe hot pink, taffeta number with cascading layers of ruffles – you say ‘I love, love, love it. As long as you love it, I love it!’ – and say it sincerely. To my mind, Pippa Middleton was the perfect bridesmaid. She was attentive to her sister, attending to her needs during the ceremony (photos below) and arranging her train at the important moments. She also kept a firm (but gentle) grip on those potentially wayward little flower girls. And – as we all know – she looked stunning. I am of the view that a bridesmaid’s dress should compliment the bride’s. It should neither be too elaborate so as to overshadow the bride, nor should it be awful, so as to be distracting. Pippa’s frock really just served to enhance the overall beauty of the picture. But you know what was most helpful about Pippa? In those days after the wedding, when Prince William and his new bride just wanted to be left alone, it was Pippa who filled the media vacuum. The world went potty for Pippa and every part of her life – job, boyfriends, bum – were dissected by the tabloids. While she was being hounded by the paps (and still is) her sister and new husband were left in blissful solitude to start their married life away from the media glare. I’m not saying it was a deliberate decision by Kate or William to thrust Pippa into the media spotlight – the fact is – the media did that all on its own, but gee, Kate must be really stoked at how her sister has defused the spotlight that was beaming on her. The fact is, that level of instant fame can be hard to handle – some people would crack under the pressure, lash out at the press, or simply run away and hide under a rock. To Pippa’s credit, she seems to be handling her new found fame with grace – neither seeking the attention, nor shirking from it – ever the perfect bridesmaid. If only Annie was taking notes.

Cookies to cook with your kids

21 Jun

My toddler is mad for cooking at the moment. Mad for it. It’s doing my head in. She wants to help with everything. I used to enjoy the half hour round 6 ‘ish at night when my husband would get home and look after the kids, giving me a free 30 minutes to put the dinner on and listen to the radio. But ever since my little girl got the cooking bug, my relaxing half hour has all but disappeared. Cooking an adult dinner with a toddler is stressful – gas flames, sharp knives, hot ovens – it’s a recipe for disaster. But. And it’s with a capital ‘B’. I don’t want to discourage her.
Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around cooking – mainly cakes. My cook books were my most thumbed and dog eared books. I had one disaster where my hair got caught in the mixmaster but mainly it was smooth sailing. So, I do want my daughter to share my enjoyment of cooking. There’s also the fact that, if I play my cards right and teach her well, in a few years time she should be able to cook the occasional meal for the family. Why not? I watched Junior Masterchef and was astounded by kids like 12 year old Pierre whose favourite meal to cook was herb crusted lamb cutlets with stuffed mushrooms and green beans. Pierre, when can we come over? Anyway, at the moment, I’m on the lookout for recipes that I can cook with my little girls – things that allow her to pour and mix and do the things that toddler can do. The bickie recipe below fits the bill. The original recipe is from a blog, Frills in the Hills, and included nuts, which I have left out to make it kid-friendly. We made them the other day. My toddler cracked her first egg! It ended up all over her face, my face, and with shell in the bowl. But that was the only disaster. Basically, I handled the melted butter and the measuring of the ingredients, she poured them in and then helped me shape the cookie dough into balls. It was messy, yes. But fun. The stuff memories are made of.

Ingredients

•1 and a half cups plain flour
•1/2 cup self raising flour
•1 cup firmly packed sugar
•2/3 cup quality cocoa (if you don’t want to use cocoa, add ¼ cup more plain flour)
•150gr melted butter
•2 eggs
•1 tsp vanilla extract
•200g chocolate of your choice, chopped up or in pieces
Method
1.Preheat oven to 180 degrees c.
2.In a bowl or mixer combine all ingredients with the exception of chocolate.
3.Mix through chocolate with a spoon or spatula.
4.Roll into balls around the size of a golf ball, place on a greased baking tray and flatten down slightly into a cookie shape.
5.Bake for 12 minutes or until cooked. Cool on tray.

Makes 24.

Fab and Fail Fashion of the Week

20 Jun

Here’s the first what I hope will become a regular post on this blog – a quick look at the best and worst celeb looks of the week.

Kate/Fab. William/Fail
Talk about a post-honeymoon glow. These two look like they are still basking in the sunshine of their beautiful wedding. I adore this pink confection of a dress on the Duchess of Cambridge (AKA Kate Middleton). Just goes to show that you don’t need to flaunt your flesh to look beautiful. The dress covers it all but fits her whippet-thin figure to perfection, giving it a punch of sexy. But there’s one problem with this fairytale picture. In fact, there are three problems – they’re called buttons. Wills – what’s the deal with the double-breasted tux? I can’t see a double breasted jacket without thinking of Captain Stubing from the 1970s TV series, The Love Boat (photo below) which was set on a cruise liner. Wills – do us a favour and keep the buttons for your military uniforms – not your black tie get-up.

Jessica Alba – Fab Pregnancy Dressing
Gosh – I want to look just. like. this – when pregnant. Actually, even when not pregnant would be nice. It is so, so, so hard to look edgy when you’ve got a watermelon stuffed down your t-shirt. But Alba gives us a lesson in how to do it. She’s boho on the bottom with that gorgeous, flowy printed skirt – and rock-chick on the top thanks to that fab leather vest. The vest is what give it the edge. Must remember that for next (hopefully) pregnancy. I did a little investigating into where she was wearing this outfit – seems she was at her partner’s University reunion. Geez – I feel sorry for the other partners that went along. Bit hard to compete with Ms Alba, or Mrs Warren, as her name tag read at the function.

Nicole Kidman – Fail, fail, fail
Sorry Nic – but this is a shocker. Looks like you’ve done a Maria Von Trapp and used your curtains to whip up a frock but run out of that awful green striped velvet material, so you’ve tacked a bit of black chiffon to the bottom. And what’s going on with the shoes? Which outfit were they meant to go with? Certainly not that dress. Not to harp on – but the hair’s also a mess – that frizzy, bad fringe is a crime when we know you’ve got a gorgeous mane (and no doubt a hairdresser on-tap).