toddler-with-ipad When it comes to the arguments for and against iPads and technology among the under 5 set I fall somewhere in the middle, and here’s why. Moving overseas in 2013 with a then 18 month old, the tablet and its constant supply of Peppa Pig became a reliable source of calm in between long haul travel, hotel stints, and jet lag.

There have since been circumstances where the tablet or iPhone – loaded up with a Tinkerbell movie – has been brought out to pacify our toddler; from a midwife appointment to a day-long family photo shoot. However, these occasions are few and far between and ultimately my husband and I are against technology providing our toddler with the majority of her entertainment. You won’t find the television acting as background noise in our house, that’s not to say it’s never on – there are of course periods of time taken up with children’s TV, more Tinkerbell movies and morning news shows before my husband leaves for work. However, we like to advocate the notion of moderation with everything from chocolate to Charlie & Lola.

Growing up in homes where outdoor play, long walks, reading and make believe play were the norm, and more so encouraged by our families, both my husband and my childhoods were largely technology free. Granted, the late 80s and early 90s saw the burgeoning technological advancements of the internet, with Google and Amazon slowly coming to the fore during our teen years but those were still the days of data drudgery and dial-up.

The most exciting development I remember from my youth was the arrival of Encarta, a CD-operated encyclopaedia which held reams of information about the world, or so I thought. In some ways that should have been enough to satisfy human curiosity, limiting our boundaries to what we’d been given on one disc of knowledge instead of demanding more bites from the forbidden apple and opening ourselves up to a deluge of dangerous activity. My husband remembers the excitement of chatrooms, allowing access beyond the realms of his usual social circle. As he points out however, “I could’ve been speaking to paedophiles and wouldn’t have known.”

Both a source of information and connectivity, the internet has proven itself a breeding ground for far more sinister interests and behaviour that put children and adults alike at increased risk. However, my concern with toddlers accessing technology has more to do with their own social development at this stage than exposure to real world danger. Not just that my child will replicate behaviours I witness regularly of school-age children literally plugged in to tablet or phone uninterested in engaging with fellow mankind, but also that she will have lost the ability to entertain herself through any other means.

I credit my creativity to having spent a childhood finding outlets for it, not located within plug sockets but via tangible materials, activities and experiences. Watching my daughter spend hours at the table filling a sketch pad with colour or holding lengthy conversations with the toys in her bedroom as she acts out one scenario or another takes me right back to my own formative years. Myself trying to limit my own use of phone, tablet and computer, particularly in her presence, I find it immensely encouraging that at nearly three, she is able to find entertainment and nurture her own creativity without the aid of technology.

I appreciate that within the world we’re living, a grasp of technology is important for our children to make their way towards success in education and business; however I’m not too concerned that she doesn’t have her own electronic devices at this stage. As someone who could barely work the gears on a Nintendo, I learnt how to navigate my way round the fast-moving technology entering my reality and while I’m no computer whizz I’m perfectly equipped to exist in a world dominated by technology. Similarly, I believe my daughter will come to learn the rules of a technologically-run world when the time comes, but for now I would like to watch her progress and learn in her own way fuelled not by electronic charge but by her own imagination and creativity.

bra tidy

I have now seen it all… scrolling through my daily deluge of emails, amid Groupon’s latest mish mash of discounted goodies was this absolute gem. A Bra Tidy, or Bra Organiser for keeping one’s breasticle coverings nicely ordered on one’s travels.

Product highlights include its capacity to store up to six bras in an accessible place while travelling, providing an invaluable space saver both at home and away, and in a lovely little female-savvy addition the Bra Tidy features a carry handle, for (and I quote) “convenience”.

Seemingly targeted at the woman with a penchant for underwiring and padded enhancement in her lingerie, these adorable organiser cases come in a range of couture colour ways, molded to the exact shape of the bras they intend to hold. Ribbons, lace, polka dots and perky promise will zip up your holiday trousseau in one fell cleavage-defining swoop leaving more room for shoes and, other important items…

Perhaps a brilliant Valentine’s Day find, or merely fodder for female entertainment; the Bra Tidy has quite simply made my day!!

shopaholic

I’ll admit, the first time I became acquainted with Rebecca “Becky” Bloomwood I found her a tad, ridiculous; a caricature of perhaps, myself and many of my friends for whom shopping is more than retail therapy but a sport at which to excel. But, as I waded deeper into the world author Sophie Kinsella (a.k.a. Madeleine Wickham) had created I found myself becoming more and more enchanted with this flawed young woman. Because while her bank account is habitually empty, her heart is full of love for the people in her life.

Travelling, in the literary sense, from Becky’s life in London as financial journalist to her ideal career as personal shopper in New York and around the world on honeymoon with her husband PR guru Luke Brandon, watching her learn and grow along the way; by the time this latest instalment reached my eager hands I felt as though we were old friends. Picking up where Mini Shopaholic had left off, Shopaholic to the Stars sees Becky, Luke and their young daughter, Minnie land in LA, city of dreams, celebrity and new age thinking.

Set on transforming her career to become a professional stylist to the stars – case in point, Luke’s big celebrity client, Sage Seymour – Becky will stop at nothing to see her dreams come true. Seemingly oblivious to how her plans for stylist superstardom may be affecting her family and friends, there are many lessons and truths to be realised along the Hollywood walk of fame before Becky will remove her “red-carpet tinted glasses” and see that though it looks pretty from the outside, Hollywood may not be so glittery within.

Prompting laugh out loud moments, as Becky’s notions stretch so far as to include a security detail on the back of her fifteen minutes of fame, not to mention Luke’s ever-endearing affection for his wife’s idiosyncrasies; Kinsella has crafted my favourite women’s fiction series to date. Becky can be silly and selfish, not unlike most of the population, but she is also generous, kind and loyal. Her struggle to achieve the future she sees for herself is one I personally can relate to, easy as it is to become blinded by our goals in the face of what really matters. The question is, will she choose the right future for herself and the people she cares about?

Becky’s journey takes centre stage though behind the scenes trouble is brewing among the cast of supporting family members and friends. Her homely Mum and Dad, the latter of whom appears to be hiding some rather big secret, her long-time best friend, Suze, whose aristocrat husband Tarquin is being led further and further astray by a possible cult-leader while she herself has been befriended by Becky’s arch nemesis, Alicia Bitch Long-Legs, and Luke whose long-awaited reconciliation with his Chanel-toting mother has been pushed onto his priority list. All this and more will lead the fearless fashionista on a new journey into the Las Vegas desert as our favourite shopaholic takes a gamble on life, love and the luck of the draw… but what will transpire we do not know as Kinsella’s comic genius leaves us hanging with baited breath until Becky returns.

Please Sophie, don’t keep us waiting for too long, the suspense is killing me…! Viva Las Shopaholic anyone??

stay-at-home-mom

No one truly understands what it means to be a stay-at-home mother. Unless they are one themselves. It’s not that we don’t adore our offspring or that we resent the direction our lives have taken, it’s just that the adjustment from me to mum can be …somewhat tricky. I’ve gone from being a career-driven, earning member of the workforce with endless opportunities ahead of me and my own money (albeit not much of it) sitting in my bank account, to someone for whom the concept of a joint account really just means “I spend my husband’s money”. Said husband asks me the same question every day upon arriving home: “How much did you spend today?” followed closely with, “have you written this month’s budget yet?” No dear, that would imply I’d already written one for last month or any month to be perfectly honest.

wisecracking-wednesday-stay-at-home-mom-guilt-L-yiuqsLIt’s a rather degrading situation to find yourself in, when, aggrieved at the idea of waltzing along the beach with legs hairier than a gorilla’s, you have to implore your husband to allow you to book a waxing appointment. Yes darling, it does cost more than $10 to remove the equivalent of a football field’s length of hair that resides below my waistline. And no darling, I don’t enjoy it but I made a promise to my mother from the age of 13 that I would never shave. And considering the fact that I get my hair cut once a year and the words manicure and pedicure equate to a smudged DIY job in our bedroom once our toddler is asleep, I think I should be afforded this one luxury.

The money aside, there is a sense of self-worth and value I miss that only comes with doing something I am both good at and passionate about. Pondering on the respect I once garnered in my former life as a copywriter for Christie’s and the pleasure I took in working on each project; it simply doesn’t compare to facing a toddler whose hands are firmly planted across her mouth in response to the homemade meals I’m offering. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all bad, in fact someone asked me today whether I like being a mother and the truth is, I love it. I love my daughter more than anything in the world and I know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to spend my days with her, we have so much fun together and seeing her happy is the best feeling in the world.

And yet, I worry. What kind of example am I setting her adult self? I worked so hard in my life BC (Before Child) studying, interning my arse off and finally securing paid work at reputable companies and publications, for what? To cash it all in the minute maternity leave kicked in. Have I taken leave of my career and my identity and all that encompasses? I want my daughter to lead a life fulfilled in whichever way she chooses and I want to be someone she can respect and look to for guidance and support in achieving her potential. To know that she can be financially independent, to follow her career dreams, to have a family, to reach for the stars.

Sure I dabble with a bit of freelance here and there, mostly unpaid, just to keep my hand in and keep my creative juices flowing but I’m worried, the longer I stay out of the working world the smaller my confidence will become in believing I actually belong there.

imagesLife in its truest form is about survival and the stay-at-home mother knows this better than anyone. We work hard to look after everyone around us, our hard-working husbands who still after almost a decade have no clue what a made bed looks like or that washing up needs to be done this evening not tomorrow morning (code for ‘never’); our children whom we love unconditionally but who test us just a little every now and again (usually at mealtimes and bedtimes when endless requests for cuddles are quickly uncovered as a ploy for staying up later); our friends with whom we endeavour to engage in a reciprocal arrangement of support; our parents, whose feelings we will never not be anxious about upsetting and whose ups and downs affect us just as much now as when we were children. The more people you add to your life, the fuller it becomes yes, but the further down the priority list you go and I think the most important lesson to understand is never to lose sight of yourself and what you need and want, because if you have those your own happiness will extend to the ones you’re trying to make happy around you.

Robin_Williams_Wallpaper-

Mork and Mindy was regular Monday night viewing at our house, I took comfort from its innocent humour during my own age of innocence, going to sleep each night with the closing sentiment of ‘Nanu Nanu’ still making me smile.

When I was a little girl my parents divorced scattering familial fragments far and wide as my Dad moved across the world while my mother stayed in the UK with my brother and I. I prayed night after night for my Dad to return and while I knew how much he loved his children I also knew that a life divided was the future I must get used to. I remember watching Mrs Doubtfire through tears as I witnessed the lengths a father would go to in order to be with his children, wishing my own father would do something as drastic as assume a female guise just to be in our lives.

We would travel to Israel every summer, where my Dad’s family live to reunite for a fortnight in a sunlit paradise where we could forget about real life and just enjoy each other’s company. Aladdin was one of the few Disney videos my aunt and uncle had in their house and every afternoon without fail, after a morning spent in the swimming pool, Dad and me would hunker down in the relative cool of his sister’s living room and watch Robin Williams’ comic genius flow out of that magic lamp and capture our hearts and funny bones time and time again.

It might sound strange but I formed a connection with this great actor that had everything to do with trying to retain some semblance of a mutual bond with my Dad. When you don’t spend your life with someone but collect snippets and glimpses of who they are through phone calls and occasional visits and reflections of others who know them, you have no choice but to create an ideal of who you think they are and possibly who you’d like them to be. My Dad loves Robin Williams, his films are among my Dad’s favourites and though this encouraged my own admiration and affection for Williams’ canon of cinematic greatness, it was the devoted father in Mrs Doubtfire, the confidant in Good Will Hunting, the fairytale foe to Dustin Hoffman’s Hook, the unique voice in Good Morning Vietnam, the kind-hearted doctor in Patch Adams, the inspirational teacher in Dead Poets Society that made me fall in love with this amazing man.

Never have I been so affected by the passing of someone I never actually met, but I feel a sense of helplessness that I didn’t do something to help him. I, like many many others, enjoyed his talent, sitting down in front of the TV of an evening and switching him on to entertain me while I eat my dinner but what of the man behind the screen, the script, the character. What about Robin Williams? I feel for his family and friends and I pray he finds the peace he craves knowing all the while how painfully he will be missed, how much he gave to this world and how his iconic memory and legend will live on through the wonderful characters he portrayed that revealed but elements of the real Robin Williams.

Nanu Nanu…

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Rapunzel knew better than most the simultaneous blessing and curse of having beautiful long thick hair. It’s wonderful, an asset, until it becomes tangled and knot-ridden. My own little Rapunzel, with a head of golden ringlets fears the comb like many fear the dentist, an unpleasant yet necessary ritual to be repeated as often as required.

That was until we discovered one of the newest products from our favourite kids beauty brand, UK-based Child’s Farm: Get un-knotted! hair detangler for flowing locks. In a compact spray bottle and comprising the delicious scents of grapefruit and organic tea tree essential oil, a few spritzes of this magic product saw the pain of après-bathtime fade as a distant memory.

The hair detangler not only makes brushing out knots a doddle, its luscious ingredients also protect your little one’s hair against head lice. As with all bath and body products in the Child’s Farm range, the hair detangler is likewise natural, affordable and kind to skin from newborn and upwards. Dermatalogically tested and paediatrician-approved, all products are safe for excema prone skin, meaning my knot-afflicted princess with her super-sensitive skin has found her perfect cosmetic match.

New to the range, the hair detangler (£4.99) is joined by Quick dip! (£3.99) a fabulous 3 in 1 after swim care which combines shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Its scrumptious strawberry and organic mint scent is the perfect antidote to wash away the chlorine and leave skin and hair clean and shiny. So now those trips to the seaside, swimming lessons and weekly hair-washes don’t need to end in tears, just sweet-smelling tendrils of detangled hair.

rhythm-factory2

When you think of a two year old, which words come to mind? Patient? Predictable? Attentive to direction? I’m inclined to think the antonyms to these words are more apt in surmising the average toddler’s behaviour. So what do you get when you mix said ‘average two year old’ with an age appropriate dance class? The perfect student? I think not.

Embarking on a weekly dance lesson courtesy of the Rhythm Factory franchise (Randwick branch), my music-loving two year old had enormous fun running around the parachute instead of sitting quietly on it, running in the opposite direction of her classmates, pompoms in hand and occasionally climbing onto the benches which ran the perimeter of the dance studio, from which I promptly removed her.

It sounds like a total bust, doesn’t it? But although it seems all she did was assert her non-conformist rights as someone going through the “terrible twos”, for the majority of each session she did participate with the simple routines and took great pleasure in handling the various props and socialising with her peers, two of whom have become great friends of hers.

A new teacher arrived after we’d been attending for just over a month, however, clearly lacking her predecessor’s sunny disposition and affinity for her young pupils. My fellow mothers and I were wary of her as she barely broke a smile, rather assuming the expression of one Miss Hardbroom – the stern school mistress from my childhood fictional favourite, The Worst Witch. Unhappy for a child to hold onto a prop after its two minute usage for a particular song, fielding complaints through the upper echelons regarding the consumption of food and drink during the 30 minute class and demanding my child in particular sit with me if she could not follow the prescribed choreography for the class duration; in short, I think we all felt like we were in school.

A change in class time saw a marked improvement in my two year old’s engagement with the routines and I was thrilled to see that she had in fact absorbed the choreography and sequence of the lesson. However, last week she had a slight setback, reverting to her fondness for subverting the expected attentiveness during the class. Running around rather than following all the actions, at one point climbing on the benches and though participating at points, overall her attention was elsewhere. The teacher again reprimanded her and told her to sit with me if she could not join in.

It goes without saying that I do not condone my toddler’s anti-establishment antics; I pay $20 a class and do not enjoy seeing it wasted on activities she could enjoy elsewhere for free. I find it embarrassing when she diverts the attention of her friends who would otherwise participate and find it exhausting to have to chase after her when my fellow parents are enjoying 30 minutes sit-down time. Having said that, my daughter is two and I appreciate that her behaviour, needs and desires are less than predictable and in light of a teacher who regards her with such hostility and irritation it is no surprise to me that she would act in opposition of such a person.

It was with shock and upset that I received a call following last week’s class to say that following prior complaints from the dance teacher, my daughter was being removed from the class. Her disruptive behaviour and inability to engage with the choreography had apparently gotten to be too much for the teacher and she no longer wanted my child in her class. I hadn’t realised it was so structured, as I said to the woman verbally punching me in the gut on the other end of the phone, I thought I was just taking my daughter to a fun music class on a Wednesday morning. How wrong I was.

This is a direct quote from the introductory page of the Rhythm Factory website: “At Rhythm Factory we aim to provide a fun and relaxed atmosphere, nurturing each child’s individuality to build their confidence and love for dance.” I don’t believe that this teacher understands the meaning of a “fun and relaxed atmosphere” and I certainly don’t see how her hostile attitude equates to instilling young children with a love of anything, least of all dance. Clearly, we were misled into thinking we were signing our daughter up for a fun, relaxing dance class. Until the Randwick branch acquires a new teacher I can only say the website is brandishing false advertising.

With a self-proclaimed philosophy that champions fun, comfort and confidence and assures parents that each child is given individual attention, as well as encouraging the physical exercise component of the class through music and movement; I don’t understand why my child was singled out. All she was doing was having fun, feeling comfortable and confident in her own skin and moving to the music. Perhaps at times she wasn’t moving to the beat of the teacher but then, she is a toddler and like snowflakes, there is not one alike.

I suppose my daughter is one of a kind, unique, someone who knows her own mind and dances to her own tune, in some cases, literally. She is not a standard model manufactured by a Rhythm Factory and of that I am very proud.

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Her signature bow, trademark polka dots and ladylike finesse have made Disney’s Minnie Mouse an icon over numerous generations. As befitting such a style maven, a roster of fashion collaborations have sprung up in her wake, including Marc Jacobs, Giles Deacon, Lulu Guinness and Richard Nicoll. Now is the turn of global fashion etailer, ASOS.com who have just announced their own exclusive partnering with the animated “first lady.”

Creating a collection of Minnie Mouse ears headbands (from £10), just for grown up girls, each design picks out one element or other of the Disney star’s timeless flair. The “Classic”, “Dotty” and “Blossom”, which features a summery floral bow, are among a range of nine unique styles that will be available online from June 2014.

Drawn for the first time in 1928, by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney, Minnie Mouse was modelled after the “flapper girl” fashion of the time. Her look adapted to the times, becoming more conservative during the 40s and 50s and later loosening up as fashion finally caught up with her carefree attitude.

Fellow female icon, Madonna, proved once again the enduring influence of Miss Mouse as she posed in Minnie Mouse ears and bow, topless save for some strategically-positioned bed covers, for Herb Ritts in 1987. The image found its way onto a set of t-shirts designed by Stella McCartney in aid of Red Nose Day in 2009 and in 2012, a whole host of designers took their cue from the cult cartoon character for an exclusive collection to be unveiled at London Fashion Week spring/summer 2013.

From Michael van der Ham and Kate Hillier to Richard Nicoll and Terry de Havilland, designers were falling over themselves to create one-off garments and accessories inspired by Minnie Mouse. The pieces were later auctioned on eBay in support of the charity Fashion Arts Foundation, which works to promote and nurture relationships between the fashion, film, music and art worlds. Design duo Meadham Kirchhoff further announced its own unique collaboration with the Disney darling at its SS13 catwalk show.

Alber Elbaz, designer for Paris couturier, Lanvin, dressed Minnie in his own bejewelled and shoulder-padded creation for a catwalk show in Disneyland Paris in 2013, and in the same year, Minnie Mouse made her magazine cover debut. Inspiring a series of covers for LOVE magazine’s fifth anniversary issue, Minnie was featured amid a red, white and black polka dot motif. Designer heavyweights from Prada and Gucci to Miu Miu and Louis Vuitton got in on the act, celebrating the magazine’s milestone and the cult appeal of Minnie Mouse with their own interpretations of her signature ears and bow silhouette. Models including Cara Delevigne and Georgia May Jagger donned the designer headbands for the additional anniversary covers.

The collaboration with ASOS.com marks Minnie’s continued reign over the style industry. Inhibiting a timeless relevance as she appeals to fans of all ages, Minnie Mouse stands for not only finding the fun in fashion but most importantly, consistently celebrating individual style.

The hairbands start from £10 and are available online at www.asos.com this month.

george_r_r_martin039s_logic-297643

There’s a simple rule a writer must follow when it comes to the business of storytelling, and that is to create a protagonist who gets his or her audience on board with the journey they are taking. Disney understood this formula perfectly; from the kind-hearted generosity of a homeless boy to a teen mermaid’s battle for independence from an over-protective father, Disney gave us heroes and heroines we couldn’t help but like and more importantly empathise with. So, when these characters came up against the inevitable big bad waiting around the corner (or seabed), we the audience were actually invested in a successful outcome for our hero or heroine.

This formula is something George R. R. Martin seems happy to dispense with however, as he serves up one grisly death after another at the expense of many of his most likable characters. The latest offering, The Mountain and The Viper, proved once again that no pawn in Martin’s Game of Thrones is safe. Because they are in fact just that, pawns on his medieval chessboard of brutality. I do understand where Martin went with this particular storyline, as Prince Oberyn dwelt too greatly on his need for retribution than on the task in hand and Tyrion discovered that while he backed the victor for his first trial by combat at the Eyrie, the same luck would not befall him for a second time.

While we cheered at King Joffrey’s all too kind death by poisoning (though accurate for the fact that he was himself the living incarnate of poison) and enjoyed Viserys receiving his molten gold comeuppance at the hands of Khal Drogo; the same cannot be said of the grim fate of the Starks, Ros, Theon Greyjoy and Prince Oberyn. The heightened contrast between those on the side of good and their foes upholding the evil certainly highlights the former, and without the toxic players in this game the victories of the ones we like would seem flimsy and unimportant. But, seriously, the more good that is killed off, the more certain that bad will prevail.

If Jafar had succeeded in slaying Aladdin and turning Agrabah into his own personal sorcerer’s wonderland, and if Ursula had eternally imprisoned Ariel along with the rest of her poor unfortunate souls; well, they wouldn’t be the classics that they are today. Put plainly, ultimately we want to see good triumph over evil. It is what the world is built on, it’s why we have a justice system, a legal system, a police state… though the truth is, a murderer will only serve a portion of his sentence, a rapist will be out in less than three years and children taken from an abusive home will more than likely be returned to those parents after some time.

Maybe the reason we find it so abhorrent to see our favourite characters beheaded, tortured and tormented is because it is simply a reflection of our society and our real grievance lies with the fact that we know bad things happen to good people and there’s little we can do about it. George R. R. Martin presents us with the fact that every person is capable of both good and evil, but it is our personal motivations that determine on which side of the coin we will fall.

There may be room for Happy Ever After, but only once we have battled adversity, and then it may only last until the next force of evil is put in play.

chef-movie

I love it when a movie inspires more than just a feel-good feeling. Written and directed by Jon Favreau, Chef, is one of those movies that makes its audience fall in love with food again. Just as its bearded and bespectacled hero finds himself doing. LA chef, Carl Casper (Favreau) finds himself the victim of a social media onslaught following a less than praiseworthy review of the restaurant he works in. Bumbling into the twittersphere in order to engage with food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) and educate him on the impact of his words and the falsehood behind their sensory perspective; Casper finds himself embarking on a journey of rediscovery.

Evicted from the kitchen and subsequently from the creative rut into which he had fallen, Casper goes it alone at the helm of a food truck. Joined by his ten year old son and friend and line cook, Martin (John Leguizamo), Casper gets his groove back taking his truck and his audience from Miami to Austin and to the heart and soul of where it all began, New Orleans. Getting back in touch with the food that inspires his menus, as well as reconnecting with his son, Casper’s story is heart-warming and full of fun.

With a script as sharp as it is funny, set to the beat of a Cuban band and the tweeting power of social media, the real star of this film is the food. Shown in all its glory, it will have you salivating in your seats as you long to have a taste of what Chef is selling.

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