May 31, 2013

Plaits, Ponytails & Plenty of Posing

Oh dear, there I go with the alliterative title again. That Mauz has a lot to answer for!

Anyway, many of you will already know, due to my daily bombing on Facebook of my mug and various body parts, that I partook in the April Style Dare.

"What is a Style Dare?" I hear you ask. (Yes you, lone reader who doesn't know me in real life and thereby did not suffer through a month of me poncing around in selfies on Facebook and Instagram)

Well, lone reader, I'm glad you asked.

Style Dares are run by the gorgeous and very foxy Andrea over at Fox In Flats and I have to say it was the most fun I've had with an iPhone, various fashion accessories and a tube of lipstick.

There were three things I loved about doing it:

1. I rediscovered things in my wardrobe that I had either completely forgotten about (hello denim jacket!) or found a new way of wearing (like the necklace stack - a bit like a pancake stack but with necklaces. Huh.)

2. I went way outside my comfort zone on a couple of dares. I have never worn my hair slicked back, nor would I have ever considered wearing fuchsia coloured lipstick. And yet I could and I did and the fashion police didn't come around and handcuff me.

3. I loved the creative aspect of photographing each day's style dare. Those of you who know me will tell you I never met an iphone photography app I didn't LOVE! Hipstamatic, Afterlight, Tiltshift Generator - I love them all. I am not a big fan of the selfie, but there comes a time when we have to learn to love 'ourselvies' (sorry, that was kind of pathetic . . . ) Seriously though, I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with new ways to form each composition, using various angles or lighting in different parts of the house or garden, using natural light whenever I could and then jooshing it with my beloved apps. I also met some seriously clever, funny, warm women on Instagram via the Style Dare challenge and learned more about style and photography as the month wore on. I also learned a lot of people like cats on Instagram.

Fun times!

It's all starting again tomorrow with the June Style Dare and I'm tempted to jump on the whole merry-go-round once more. But what I would love, more than anything, MORE THAN CEREAL, is for some of my buddies to get on board with me.

Come on! It's fun, it's easier than you think and there's no pressure to do every single dare. But I guarantee you will enjoy yourself and, if we live close by, think of all the money we can save by sharing tangerine nailpolish and hot pink lipstick!

Also, the first dare is Big Hair! A chance to release your inner Working-Girl-Melanie-Griffith. Or perhaps, Austin-Powers-Elizabeth-Hurley is more your style. How can you possibly pass that up?!

You can find this month's line-up, including tips and ideas for each style dare, here.

And if you have no idea what I'm talking about and missed all the selfie-action in April, here's a recap of my Idol Journey Style Dare Journey

Day 1: Arm Party

Day 2: Sparkles
Day 3: Scarf
Day 4: Slick
Day 5: Pink Lips
Day 6: Boots
Day 7: Dress
Day 8: Braid
Day 9: Necklace Stack
Day 10: Red Nails

Day 11: Denim
Day 12: Animal Print
Day 14: All Black
Day 15: Curls

Day 16: Stripes
Day 17: Studded
Day 18: Pattern
Day 19: Brooch
Day 20: Black Eyeliner

Day 21: Multicoloured Mani

Day 23: Ponytail

Day 24: Red Lips

Day 25: Australian

Day 26: Collared
Day 27: White

Day 28: Pigtails

Day 29: Flower

Day 30: Hat
So come on chicks! Don't be chicken. Come on in - the water's fine xx                                       

May 24, 2013

Sydney's Public Transport - I Thank You

Today is one of those days when it seems inconceivable that I was swimming in the ocean a mere eleven days ago. Winter has sprung in formerly-sunny-Sydney. The ocean is fifty shades of grey-green,  big white marshmallow clouds are galloping across the sky and the ugg boots have come out to play.

Just a word on ugg boots . . . my neighbour Jo just popped in to invite us to a shindig at their place on Saturday night. She was wearing ugg boots. I was wearing ugg boots. The dress code for their party is ugg boots. Because that's the way we classy Collaroy chicks roll. Woo! We do, however, draw the line at cardy-chardy cask wine you'll be relieved to know. We drink from BOTTLES!!

However, I didn't plan to write about ugg boots. Not to say that I couldn't write a whole post on ugg boots. I have a few good ugg boot stories. They aren't all pretty, but then, neither are ugg boots. All I will say is that black ugg boots may look good, but they ARE NOT GOOD. Subject closed.

Anyhoo . . .

We were forewarned by the weather bureau that this miserable cold wet weather was going to set in, so on Tuesday I decided to take advantage of the last sunny day of our rapidly diminishing Indian summer and take Francesca on some public transport.

This was not her first adventure on public transport. She went on a bus with our friend Philippa last year. And only last week, I took her on a train ride from North Sydney to Waverton, an impressive distance of one station north. AND BACK!

Right about now, those of you who don't have children or who are too old to remember what it's like to have many, many, many, many long, long, long, long hours in a day to find ways to entertain a toddler, are thinking that I am a miserly cheapskate with no imagination. Public transport as entertainment? Am I mad?

But those of you with pre-school children are nodding and chuckling and throwing back another glass of wine (from a BOTTLE I hope, you classy reader you!) in acknowledgement. Public transport as a form of pre-schooler amusement, is absolute gold!

It's new! It's exciting! It's time-consuming! It's cheap! And to a small child, it's like a fabulous dream come true in which every appealing, lovable, highly merchandised form of transport has crossed over into real life. Thomas! Chuggington! Cars! Who is that blowing the whistle? OMG, IT MUST BE THE FAT CONTROLLER!!! (cue toddler swoon).

On Tuesday it was time to try the big kahuna of Sydney's public transport system - the ferry. Whenever we cross Spit Bridge, Francesca points out the window and yells excitedly "Look Mummy, BOATS!!" Fortunately, we live in a city where it is very easy to fulfill a toddler's boat riding dreams. For the price of a movie ticket, we were able to jump on the Manly ferry for the half hour ride to Circular Quay and oh my, it was every bit as exciting as it promised to be.

All the way to Manly in the car, Francesca was talking about the boat and how it was going to be a yellow boat. THANK YOU Sydney Transport for painting your boats yellow. Mind you, Francesca's grasp of colours is not all that great. The ferries could be painted in purple and orange stripes and I'm pretty sure I could have sold her on the fact they were definitely yellow.

Thank you Sydney Transport for painting your boats yellow
The journey across the harbour was terribly eventful, what will all that going inside, going outside, going inside, going outside business. To the lady trying to read her novel just inside the door, who lost her place every time we opened the door to a blast of wind, sorry. I'm glad you moved. Eventually.

The 'outside' bit

The 'inside' bit
Even though we didn't need a reason to go to the city because, hellooo, BOAT!!!, we decided it would be fun to do something once we got there and arranged to catch up with my gorgeous friend Clare, who works in a vault somewhere under Castlereagh Street. Under all that Chanel couture and Mont Blanc pennery (new word!) is a vault where the Jason Bournes of Sydney can store all their alias passports, fake moustaches and fifty kinds of currency in private safety deposit boxes.

After inspecting the vault, we decided to go for coffee and cake.

And that's where the excitement of the BOAT!!! came back to bite me. Because everyone knows that too much excitement in a tiny body can cause a subsequent meltdown.

We went to a fancy cafe on the fancy level of Westfield (Jones the Grocer) where the cakes looked like works of art and the olive oil was backlit. We sank onto the leather banquette ready for a good catch-up chat only to have Francesca proceed to whine and not dine. She didn't touch her layered babycino, and spat out the jam filled cake she had determinedly chosen. Oh, it was painful. Clare laughed it off and, because she not only remembers the toddler years but is also like a sister, didn't hold it against me. She didn't give me the pained look that says "This is why I'll never have another baby." She just said it. "This is why I'll never have another baby." God love her. Obviously I agreed. She will probably look at me the same way in 13 years, with the pity of a woman who has survived three teenaged girls.

Then Clare did what all good aunties do . . . took Francesca next door to the lolly shop for a sugar fix. Problem solved. Those ten jubes occupied Francesca in her stroller all the way back to the ferry. In fact, she was so relaxed and happy all the way home, I decided to forgive her for being blacklisted from the fancy cafe on the fancy level at Westfield. I also got a chance to play with my iphone photo apps and take some pics of my daughter's first excursion to the city she lives in . . .

I spend a lot of time looking 'up' when I'm in the city - I love seeing our gorgeous heritage buildings rubbing shoulders with shiny modern architecture

Waiting for the ferry, Wharf 3, Circular Quay

Looking up again, this time at Circular Quay, where these seahorses live under the roof

The giant gnarled fig tree in Macquarie Place takes my breath away, flourishing next to its concrete & stone neighbours

Strolling . . .
Back in Manly. Melt down? What melt down?

May 13, 2013

The Mama Mix

Four generations of Bumparella women
So, let me tell you a modern day fairy tale.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who dreamed of one day meeting a handsome prince. (No, not that little girl; that one had to move to Denmark, live in a palace, wear designer clothes and learn to speak the notoriously difficult Danish language - how very dull for her . . .?)

Anyhoo, the little girl in our story met, instead, a lovely commoner and fell head over heels in love with him, even though he already had three children. So she married the man and became, not a princess, but a stepmother. (Oh, okay, she was a little bit of a princess too, but we all know you don't need a crown to be a princess huh?)

So by now, clever reader, you've figured out the princess-ish stepmother is me.

On my wedding day, I stood at the altar and looked at my new husband and my three new step-children and thought “Wow, I'm actually marrying four people. Hmmmm . . . how hard can Danish really be?!"

No, no, no . . . I jest! What I really thought was, “Oh God, let me be a good stepmother and create a happy home for them.” I thought it was the parents who do the teaching, not the other way round.

Well, those kids taught me a lot of things. I learned how to:
  • Put on a band aid, and take it off with only minimal screaming
  • Iron hair
  • Listen to a girl with a broken heart
  • Get out of a top bunk bed at 2am with a hot arm strangling me and a slingshot digging into my chin without waking a child
  • Have three-way conversations with a teddy bear named Paddington 
  • Bake birthday cakes in the shape of a football
  • Read every Harry Potter book out loud and do a pretty good Voldemort voice that’s not too scary
  • Cheer along at every sports event every weekend (on only one occasion to the point of embarrassment)
But probably the most important thing they taught me is that ‘mothers’ and their children can come in many different forms. You don’t necessarily have to be related by blood in order to be a mum or to love someone else’s children. They also taught me to be real. To be myself. Such a hard lesson to learn, when you're doing everything in your power just to be liked. I felt I somehow needed to make it up to them for being someone they didn't choose to have in their life. It took awhile for us all to realise that we were an "and" in each other's lives, not an "or".

Lessons about how to be a mum also came from my grandmothers.

My maternal grandma had eight children. Eight! Can you imagine? Clearly a good Catholic family. (Also, it was the 1940s. No television. Say no more).

Without going into too much detail, my unwed mother found herself in the family way at the tender age of 18. Now, in the 1960s, this often led parents to come up with solutions for their unwed daughters that these days we would find unacceptable. Banishment. Adoption. Sent to live with nasty maiden aunts. But my very Catholic, extremely devout grandparents never considered anything but supporting their daughter and welcoming their new grand-daughter (me!) with much love and understanding.

So from my maternal grandmother I learned what is probably the most important lesson in how to be a mum - how to give unconditional love.

My paternal grandmother taught me about the importance of a bosomy hug as a fix-all solution to any woe. She also taught me the art of Tim Tam appreciation and how to play poker. In this age of sugar reduction and political correctness, this may seem irresponsible but I'm telling you, Tim Tams still have their place in a mother's arsenal of bribery tools. Likewise, you shouldn't underestimate the ability to pull a good poker face.

My own mother has, of course, taught me a lot about being a mother. By 21 years old, she had 3 children under 4. I think she has selectively blocked most of the early years from her memory, but I haven’t. From her I learned these things:

  • When making a cake, let your children lick the bowl
  • Let your daughter wear a crocheted bikini when she is five but NOT when she is fifteen
  • Do not let a four year old watch the Wizard of Oz because the wicked witch of the west is really quite scary
  • Indulge your children in their fantasies when they’re young, even if they fall out of a tree pretending they were Queen of the Fairies and sprain their arm.
  • Read to your children every day
  • Let your daughter buy that old orange Mini that stops dead whenever it runs through a puddle because she WILL learn that buying a crappy cheap car is NEVER a good idea
  • If you barack for a team that is NOT the Sydney Swans, you will be disowned
  • Sometimes mummies need to lock themselves in their bedroom with a packet of scorched peanuts and a trashy magazine. And that’s okay.

Mum in 1969 - a natural mama, despite only being 19. Don't you love the 60s glamour?

But most importantly, my mum has taught me the importance of support. Of always being there, even if it’s just at the other end of a phone, to get excited about a work promotion, or a new pregnancy, and to tell you you’re beautiful and amazing even when you’re feeling old, ugly and washed up. A mum who will get drunk with you in a margarita bar in Hong Kong is also a gal you want to keep by your side as long as possible.

There have been so many other women in my life who have taught me how to be a mother. My darling mother-in-law, who passed away last year, taught me the importance of listening with interest to everything your children say, of engaging with them and asking questions. She also taught me how to sew a neat French seam when she helped me with the ridiculously ambitious task of sewing my three bridesmaid’s dresses.

Some of the most precious lessons have been gifts from other mothers. The girls in my mother's groups, school mums, neighbours - I have soaked little bits of you all up! How else do we learn about the best sleeping bags, the benefits of screen-free time, how to sneak vegies into dinners and the tooth fairy's going rate?

My dear friend Elizabeth, another beautiful, inspiring mother, whose heartfelt words made me realise just how strong the desire to be a mother can be, urged me to try everything in order to have another baby. That conversation led me to an IVF clinic. Without that single conversation, little Francesca Barraclough would never have been born. Francesca's middle name is Elizabeth, after the woman who inspired her into life.

From my friends who are adoptive mothers I have learned how the power of motherly love can transcend blood ties, as they welcome a child into their homes and hearts with a love that is immediately and wholly unconditional. Where does that instinct come from? The power of mother-love blows me away.

And from friends who had to grow up without their mothers, I’ve learned about courage and strength. These women are among the most warm, nurturing mothers I know. They're doing something that comes naturally – being a mother is more than just what they've learned. It's been passed down to them in their genes by mothers who loved them so fiercely they fought their illnesses like crazy to stay on this earth and watch their daughters become mothers themselves. To lose the right to watch your children grow must have been scarier than death itself. Witnessing my friends turn their grief to love and pour it into their own children brings me undone.

Of course, I have learned the most about being a mother, not just from being a stepmum to three young people who were half grown, but from the two I had the privilege to know from birth - Jack and Francesca. From these five children, I have learned how the joy of motherhood is mostly in the little moments.
  • Watching the intent focus on the perfect, soft, unlined face of a young boy building a Millennium Falcon out of forty thousand small pieces of Lego, using a brain whose synapses are firing faster and more intelligently every day
  • Singing along to the Sound of Music or having suddenly-strong limbs leap upon you as boy becomes Spiderman
  • Lying on our backs on the trampoline in the afternoon watching the clouds change shape and discussing the finer points of goal kicking or whether teddy should wear a purple or green elastic on his ears
  • Getting man-sized hugs from boy-cubs grown into strong bears and stubbly kisses from once smooth faces
  • Out-of-the-blue text messages of love and appreciation from a gushy, gorgeous teenager grown into a warm, wonderful young woman.
The five people who have taught me most about being a mum

I’ve also learned, from being a mother, that the garbage truck will always, without fail, come around and empty the bins exactly ten minutes after you’ve just gotten the baby down for a sleep.

And where would a mother be without the father who contributed a special little something that helped produce the children and made being a mother possible. My husband John makes me a better mother by being my wing-man in this parenting business. I know for sure that I would be a more tired, grumpy, possibly hysterical mother if I didn’t have him to take the kids off for a hot chocolate on a Saturday morning so I can have a sleep in, or to consult with about that funny rash that appeared on a child’s arm and decide it’s nothing to worry about, or to pile us all in the car for a cheap and cheerful dinner down at the Dee Why sushi joint when he knows I can’t face another night of cooking three separate meals.

If it’s true that you never stop being a mother, it’s also true that you never stop learning HOW to be a mother.

So if you see me staring at you in the playground or on the beach or at the cafe, don’t worry I’m not stalking you. I’m probably just taking notes.
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