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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Slaughtering cattle - humane versus inhumane: the Four Corners investigation

You've probably seen, most definitely heard about the explosive Four Corners episode entitled "A Bloody Business."

You can watch the whole ep here (warning, graphic footage): http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20110530/cattle/

After watching it, please sign this petition (I did, and it felt good. Pass it on):


The story centres around the extreme cruelty inflicted on Australian cattle exported to Indonesian slaughterhouses.

Right from the start, before I'd viewed the footage even, all I kept thinking about (in addition to those beautiful animals) was how appalled Temple Grandin would be.

Don't know who she is or what she represents? Watch this:

We all know cows are slaughtered, and yes many of us like to eat meat, but there is much merit, logic, and heart to treating God's animals with the respect they deserve before meeting their inevitable death.

Cosmopolitan Middle East, June 2011: Blake Lively. Plus, Lily Allen's a fan

Voila! The latest edition of Cosmopolitan Middle East has just hit the news stands and it features the white-hot-right-now Blake Lively.

Meanwhile, Lily Allen and her sister Sarah Owen jetted in to Dubai to launch their fashion line, Lucy in Disguise (brill name), and sat down for a chat with Cosmopolitan Middle East deputy editor Aoife Stuart. The three had a girly afternoon catch-up, while Lily couldn't keep her hands off the fresh new June Cosmo.

Gotta love that!

Motherhood made me lose control - and possibly my mind

Did you read the header?

Oh yes, I have almost lost my mind, people.

No, there is no need to call a mental facility.

It is just another day in the paradise called 'motherhood'.

These days, women are much more vocal in owning up to how terribly difficult and constraining being a mum can be. How the element of no/little control leaves them gobsmacked. There are forums and blogs and websites aplenty. Women air and vent, and men (and women with no babies) run for cover.

Are these women mad, they think? Pfft, when Iiiiii have children it will be vastly differently. I will be all Zen-like and calm. There will be music, and games, and an air of... well, anything but what those crazy mums are talking about on the www.

But unless you are in that sphere, that world of mummydom, you cannot possibly imagine how life-altering motherhood can be.

Even if you have a gazillion nieces and nephews. Even if you are a childcare worker, or a teacher, or a nanny. Live-in, even.

Because when you have the job of rearing and teaching and feeding and comforting and averting a world war amongst siblings daily (Every. Single. Day), it takes on a whooole new perspective. Trust me on this one.

Planning on having a baby?

Please, take a seat. Get comfy.

Here are the cold, hard facts:

- You will never (and by never, I mean for the next 5, maybe 10 years) go to the toilet without someone beating the door down. You will finish your business while barracading the door with one hand. True. I do it almost daily. Unless I can sneak off to the loo without being noticed.

- You will become your mother/a 'broken record' - "don't take your jumper/socks/hat off". Insert your it's-for-your-own-good rant here.

- Your child will do a poo when you're about to leave the house. And running late.

- Those nutritious meals you worked so hard to make? Some days, they will be untouched in favour of "custard, Mummy, I want custard! Or ice cream!"

- Your property is no longer your own. Childproof all you like, someone will still get their grubby mitts on your precious things.

- Your mobile phone is the most fascinating gadget around. And must be played with at the exact same time you need to make a call. Or search for a phone number.

- Phone calls will be made in another room. Until they discover you have gone to said room. Then 'evil child' will make as much noise as possible. In direct proportion to how important the call is.

- Conversations. Interrupted ("Mummy is talking. Wait!"). Forever. Beyond annoying.

- Items of clothing will be strewn across the house. Until they learn how to 'pack away', it's your job.

- Toys. As above.

- Warnings of "it's cold outside, please put on a jumper, you have a cold" will be ignored.

- Walls? Carpets? Ha! They're for drawing, aren't they? (it takes TWO seconds, people. You will see).

- Clothing. It will be dirtied, changed, taken off, perhaps ripped several times a day.

- Dressing and undressing. Cute when they're 0-2; annoying when they're two+ (fiddly feet and spaghetti arms - you know what I am talking about here, parents!)

- In my house, a 'princess dress' is imperative. Five different costume changes daily. I am changing my daughter's name to Lady Gaga by deed poll shortly.

- Going out. Never the same again. Crazy critters will be demanding/bored/hungry/tired.

- Eating out: forget it, until they're... check back in with me. We haven't hit that age yet.

Think yours will be different?

Oh wait, did you just hear that? That was the sound of me falling off my chair in fits of laughter.

We allll think ours will be different because we go in thinking we can control our nerves, our patience, our tolerance levels. And to an extent, that is true.

But what we fail to factor in is what we cannot control. Our child's temperament, moods, special needs, illness, or frankly just being a right little turd.

Stay tuned for my next blog post called "all the ways motherhood made me a hypocrite."

And may I add there are AMAZING, WONDERFUL, GOTTA CATCH YOUR BREATH aspects of motherhood which blow me away. So many times a day I lose count. Sometimes they move me to tears.

I adore having a bath with my kids (yes, sometimes having my private time invaded is actually a pleasure. Mad, I know. Being at eye level in a bubble-filled bath with my beauties is crazy-good).

It takes my breath away when they interact with and hug and kiss their dad.

It knocks me for six when my daughter says, "Mummy, I am sorry. I love you", then proceeds to kiss my leg because that's as far as she reaches. This happens around 20 times a day lately.

I love waking up to them, and the barrage of cuddles and kisses that await.

I am gobsmacked at their daily progress and wonderment around their new world.

And I feel so ridiculously blessed I have them. Have to pinch myself, blessed.

But some days...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Marie Claire Australia - July 2011: Red Dress Campaign

Notable beauties have donned stunning red dresses for the marie claire Australia's 'Red Dress campaign', which raises awareness for heart disease - which kills more women than breast cancer and lung cancer combined.

Photographed by renowned fashion photographers Harold David and David Gubers, the celebrities - including Megan Gale (also this month's covergirl), Jennifer Hawkins, Miranda Otto, Sonia Kruger, Stephanie Rice, and Sophie Vallejo - showed their support for the cause by wearing gorgeous red dresses designed exclusively by Australia’s leading fashion designers, including Alex Perry, Dion Lee, Collette Dinnigan, Ellery, Willow, Lisa Ho and Ginger & Smart.

Model and Project Runway Australia host Megan Gale, who graces marie claire’s cover for the first time, says “It’s critical that we do whatever possible to bring heart disease – and the things we can do to prevent it - to the forefront of women’s minds. Our lives depend on it.”

In celebration of the 2011 ‘Red Dress’ July issue, and the marie claire Red Dress campaign, marie claire’s editor and publisher, Jackie Frank will also open the doors to her home for a star-studded red themed soirĂ©e.

"marie claire is very proud of our long-term association with the Heart Foundation and this important cause. We will continue to champion the cause, which takes the lives of so many women we love - our mothers, sisters and friends. Despite the fact it is the number one killer of women in Australia, it is also one of the most preventable diseases, so raising awareness and education is paramount," Jackie Frank says.

To really get the message across, Ms Frank has asked all marie claire readers to wear a splash of red on the magazine’s designated Red Dress day of June 9.

And, the one-off red dresses will be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the Heart Foundation - they can be viewed and purchased online at www.marieclaire.com.au from June 1.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - Oh. Em. Gee.

I saw this TV show some time ago on the Foxtel PR schedule and was postively beside myself - when will it be screening, I pleaded with the publicist.

The wait is almost over: 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' [as it's known in the US; it's known as 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding in the UK] starts screening on Foxtel on June 20, on LifeStyle You.

When I first saw the pics I thought, oh look, it's Katie Price [formerly 'Jordan'] on bridal fashion 'roids.

Nope. Better.

'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' documents ancient traditions-slash-modern fashion (well, their interpretation of it anyway), where girls as young as 15 and their families compete to have the most outrageous weddings.

This fly-on-the-wall doco follows the public spectacle of the OTT affairs of four gypsy brides, as they prepare for their wedding day. Incredibly, many girls get married after their 16th birthday with the support of their family.

With the brides competing to have the most flamboyant dresses (which often weigh more than the bride herself), we are given rare access into this curious community, one where sex before marriage is taboo and divorce is unheard of. And yet, some of the outfits look far from conservative.

At first glance, the women in the doco series seem to be intent on emulating celeb weddings (then turning the dial to, oh, about 20. Thousand), but it's much more than that for them.

This is a community that lives alongside - yet detached - from mainstream society. It is one of contrasts: they live by centuries-old religious and cultural traditions, but at the same time embrace the garish celeb extremes of our times.

It is a must-watch. UK viewers agreed: the BAFTA-nominated hit had more viewers than the 2008 season of Big Brother.

Want to know more about this unusual world? Go here: http://www.lifestyle.com.au/style/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-gypsies-and-travellers.aspx

[UPDATED: Australian viewers can now enjoy the unusually addictive show, from the very first series, on Channel Nine from Wednesday October 3, 2012, from 8.30pm.]

Watch the series preview here:

Friday, 27 May 2011

VS Sassoon Big Hair Styler and Big Hair Root Boost - just magic

VS Sassoon’s new Big Hair Styler is the best hair tool I have come across. Ever.

This little baby has to be sampled to be believed.

Warming up instantly, you take a section of hair, 'loop' it around the hair and voila... incredible shine in seconds. Body and bounce - instantly.

Again, it must be seen to be believed. Gobsmackingly good results - immediately.

Here's how it works: it combines the benefits of a hairdryer with a rotating motorised brush in the one tool - making the styling process very (very!) easy. The unique styling action allows the large ceramic barrel brush to create fullness and body as you style, while its soft bristles create in-credible shine and smoothness.

This 700 watts number also has ionic conditioning technology, working to condition hair to reduce static, leaving hair silky and shiny; ceramic technology for even heat distribution, two heat/speed settings plus a cool setting for variable style control; a multi-directional, motorised brush which creates volume and shape, two rotation buttons rotating in clockwise and anticlockwise direction, a large ceramic barrel to give fullness and body; and soft brush bristles for smoothness and shine.

With big hair back in a, er, big way (for a big hair Cindy Crawford aficionado like me, it never really went away) you can create any variation of your desired bouffant style.

Extra styling tip: use the styler with the new VS Sassoon Big Hair Root Boost - with micro crimp plates - for the underneath layer of hair for instant root lift and fullness that lasts.

The Big Hair Styler is $99.95 and the Big Hair Root Booster is $52.95; see www.vssassoon.com.au/BigHair for more info or go to www.facebook/VSSassoon

Want a visual how-to? You're in luck! Both the Big Hair Styler and the Big Hair Root Boost video tutorials are right here:

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Hangover 2 - first look + (kinda) review

Director Todd Phillips

Here are some movie stills from one of the most highly anticipated movies - and sequels - of the year, The Hangover Part II.

Watching the preview on Tuesday at Sydney's George Street Event cinema there was certainly an air of expectation. 

The resounding question from jealous pals was: is it funnier than the first? Well, yes and no.

The first 20 minutes is like waiting for a mate to recount a joke you hope - for their sake - will have a killer punch line.

There are a few lines in the first frames which are so lame they are met with a smattering of laughs in the room. And some character traits in Alan (Zach Galifianakis) I didn't see coming... was he really that nasty to his folks in the first one?

The laughs only really come when they get themselves into may-jah strife.

Best not to give away what will become the talking points of the movie (ladyboy alert! Oh, sorry...).

Suffice to say, here is what you need to know.

- Is Bradley Cooper beyond-words hot? YES.
- Will you see Mr Chow's small penis? YES.
- Will Stu be up shit creek? Um, YES.
- Will Alan ruin the night out, but end up being the saviour? YES.
- Is Bradley Cooper beyond-words hot? Hello?
- Does Mel Gibson make a cameo? NO.
- Does Bradley Cooper rock a pair of aviator sunnies like nobody's business? YES!

The Hangover Part II is now showing.

Kim Kardashian's engagement ring - too much?

When is something just a little 'too much'?

When does an object surpass 'tasteful' and head into 'vulgar-big' territory?

Right about... now?

Kim Kardashian's engagement has spawned a (pre-planned, prepped probs two weeks ago) People magazine cover, a pap frenzy for the first shot of her ring (et voila!), and no-doubt myriad PR opps for the family who have made a living out of sniffing out the best press possible.

What do you think?

Is this a tad OTT? Or do you think, well, it's their money they can spend it how they like?

The custom 20.5 carat diamond ring was designed by jeweller Lorraine Schwartz (with help from Kris Humphries, Kim's new fiance) and is reportedly worth almost US$2 million (A$1.9 million). Too much?


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Teen Mom 2 - now screening on MTV (plus, make a 'virtual baby'!)

What to say about a series called Teen Mom 2, the spin-off of the MTV documentary series 16 and Pregnant?

To be honest, the promo clip - with the cute teddy, guiding the teen away from malevolent sutuations - had me intrigued from the start. Who wouldn't want a stuffed toy to flick the channel to Dora, averting your child's eyes while you're busy pashing your partner. Ahem.

The show follows the stories of four girls from the second season of 16 and Pregnant and documents the challenges of their first years of motherhood. Each episode interweaves stories of four teenage girls who are navigating the bumpy terrain of adolescence, growing pains, and coming of age - all while facing the responsibility of being a young mother.

Each story gives a look into the myriad challenges young mothers face: family support (or lack thereof), money, rumours amongst their community, finishing school, starting uni, getting a job and all the things teens are going through - except these mere kids have their own kids in tow, immediately upping the difficulty factor.

As someone who has navigated life with twins (with the support of a partner), I wouldn't wish that kinda tough road on my enemy. It is heart-warming, though, to see these determined girls having a good go at a less-than-ideal life situation.

Wanna know what it'd be like? The MTV Australia Facebook page has an app for a 'virtual baby'. Maybe this should be mandatory for all parents-to-be, longingly looking at nursery colours and cute matchy-matchy baby outfits. That'll give you a wake-up call, peeps...

See: https://www.facebook.com/MTVAUSTRALIA?ref=ts&sk=app_4949752878

Teen Moms 2 airs Sundays at 5pm on MTV.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Ellen DeGeneres Goes Playboy at Palms Casino Resort

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres serves as a celebrity bunny dealer at the Playboy Club inside the Palms Casino Resort in an episode airing today, Tuesday, May 24 (check local TV guides - Nine screens it at midday; Foxtel repeats it throughout the day, with last repeat at 10.30pm on Arena).

In the segment, Ellen becomes a certified blackjack dealer to raise money for US-based charities the Gentle Barn and the Farm Sanctuary.

Seeing Ellen don bunny ears is reason enough to tune in!

UPDATED: Here is the video link. Watch Ellen deal blackjack as only Ellen can (super jealous of Ellen's visit to the Hugh Hefner suite at the Palms...)

(Photo Credit: Michael Rozman/Warner Bros)

For more info, see: http://www.palms.com/ and see the Palms Facebook page here:
www.facebook.com/palmscasinoresort and Twitter page here: www.twitter.com/palmslasvegas

Kate Hudson & Ginnifer Goodwin: Marie Claire, June 2011

Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson are dual covergirls on Marie Claire's US June 2011 issue. The actresses star in new flick Something Borrowed, and in the issue they talk about weddings, babies and body bits.

Kate, who is six months pregnant with the child of Matthew Bellamy, frontman for the British band Muse, says she gained 70 pounds (about 35 kilos) during her first pregnancy, and losing the weight was a struggle.

"Let me tell you something. It's an emotional roller coaster, having to lose weight. I gained so much — I was 185 pounds at the end. You actually experience how much energy is stored in that and how much emotion you actually hold in that mass. It is emotional, no matter how determined you are. It takes work to bounce back so quickly."

This time, Kate has gained only 11 pounds so far. "I was so sick the first trimester that every time I tried to read, I couldn't concentrate. So I started brainlessly watching TV in the fetal position on my couch. It was brutal. I only just started getting a bigger appetite. I'm eating, but I like healthy foods in this one," she tells the magazine.

For more, see: http://www.marieclaire.com/

Weekend away in Wollongong - the perfect family destination

Ah, Wollongong - how I love you!

Over the Easter long weekend, our family took the plunge and took a family holiday. Actually, it was our first time away from home as a family.

What took us so long, you ask? Well, we were a little panicked about how it would go - would our three year old twins sleep somewhere other than their own beds, for example? Would they experience enough 'fun stuff' to not get bored. Because as any parent knows: bored = slightly 'feral' children.

When choosing our first destination, I knew it needed to be not to far from the Sydney suburbs. For us, it's not so much the very important message of 'stop, revive, survive' - more one of: how many kilometres can we do before there are tears and tantrums. Ours.

Wollongong was the obvious choice. Close. Water. And things to do. But it'd been so long since I'd ventured to 'The Gong', as it is affectionately known, that I wasn't sure what to expect.

I did remember, however, that the only hotel I would want to stay at - the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach. More on this wonderful hotel later.

The drive on day one of our two day escapade was easy enough - about an hour's drive south from Sydney's suburbs. After a drive through the gorgeous coastal scenic route, we stopped off at the Southern Gateway Centre, a new tourist complex which is a destination in itself. Think sweeping views of Bulli Tops and beyond, a swank restaurant in Altitude 1148, and a gift shop with the friendliest of staff - knowledgeable too... a phone call to Rachael there when we were heading in the wrong direction (don't ask) had me at ease, and got us there in a jiffy.

You can also you can pre-purchase tickets and get big savings to local attractions including Jamberoo Action Park, SkyDive the Beach, the Illawarra Fly and whale watching at Jervis Bay.

Best part? It's open seven days a week, every single day of the year. I must admit we were happy to stay and enjoy the spectacular coastal views from the external viewing platform for almost an hour.

We then headed across to the Wollongong city centre, and after an obligatory kiddie Maccas stop, we checked into the Novotel Northbeach Wollongong.

Management there were kind enough to host the four of us for this travel story, and right from the outset they were the friendliest staff I've ever encountered at a hotel, with an added touch of what I came to know as 'Gong Attitude'. That is, everything is served up with an extra dollop of kindness and hospitality.

The hotel is also recognised for their sustainability initiatives, with some of them including:

* Paper, cardboard, polystyrene boxes, wax boxes, paints, solvents, e-waste, cooking oil, glass, tin, building materials, light globes, candles, linen, furniture, toners and plastic wrap are all recycled.

* Over 450kg of food from the hotel's restaurant Windjammers is donated to Oz Harvest every year to feed the disadvantaged - just amazing

* Organic waste is sent to worm farms

* Two 3,000 litre rain water tanks capture water for filling the pool and for irrigation

* Over 350 LED lights have been installed in public areas of hotel

We were in a beautiful, ocean-view room (it's amazing how simply staring out into the sea in the distance can have an immediate calming effect - suddenly, I left my Sydney stress behind) which overlooks the recently converted decked terrace area. It's so lovely for weddings and the like.

The hotel also won three Australian Bridal Industry Academy Awards in 2010: winner of 'Hotel Reception Venue', '1st Night Honeymoon Accommodation', and 'Function Coordinator'.

So after a well rested sleep (the kids slept in portacots provided by the hotel - they were out like a light in five minutes flat!), and a hearty meal at the Windjammers breakfast buffet (what is it about those hotel brekkies? So very good - the rice pudding concoction was too divine) we headed off to explore even more of Wollongong.

First stop was a walk to the nearby lighthouse. Such a lovely stroll with the kids. On the way back we soaked up the view by plonking ourselves on the grassy hill near the commemorative war cannon.

Next, we reluctantly checked out of Novotel Northbeach Wollongong (but we aim to be back soon!) and headed off to the Nan Tien Temple at Berkeley, which is just a 15 minute drive from the hotel.

It was gorgeous, yes... but venturing there with three year old twins is a recipe for slight mayhem. We didn't leave feeling all-Zen like at all, but that may have been because we may have interrupted a wedding about to take place, took photos inside the temple (and perhaps we were not meant to), and one of the kids ran on the temple's altar. Oops.

Next on the daytrip list was Kiama. I knew it had a blow hole, knew it was a short drive (under half an hour) and knew we needed a space where the kids could run around and see something they hadn't before. Tick, tick, and tick.

The Kiama blow hole is an ideal family spot. Although, when you think about it, it's... just a hole sprouting water. The fascination levels are extraordinary, and I must admit I did get caught up in the excitement. Until... I didn't - because kids can only watch natural water jets for so long. And adults, for that matter.

After staying to enjoy the Kiama township with a spot of lunch, we set off again towards Sydney.

Our stay was exhilarating, relaxing, and one we are eager to repeat, even for a day trip.

Wollongong - we heart you!

For more details on Novotel Northbeach Wollongong, see: http://www.novotelnorthbeach.com.au/ or call +61 (0)2 4224 3111

For all info on what to see during your stay in the region, see:




or http://www.welovethegong.com.au/