For my sister on her birthday

When I was four years old, a funny little baby came to live with us. My parents said I could name her whatever I wanted, and because I desperately wanted a dog, I named her Fluffy. Her birth certificate says ‘Sonia’, but we all still call her Fluffy, even at 30.

2015/02/img_5644.jpgFluffy was a screecher. It’s a wonder Tutti didn’t chuck her out a window. She screamed like a banshee morning, noon and night. I can still remember sitting on the green, foam, modular lounge, wrestling with baby fluffy as she pterodactyl-shrieked like a maniac, arching her back as if possessed. Even then, I loved my little sister. ‘There, there, Fluffy,” I soothed as I peered into her pink, furious face. “There, there.”

2015/02/img_5643.jpgFluffy has always been quite uncoordinated. She was never going to excel at any sport that required the catching of a ball (though come to think of it, neither was I). But she has been blessed with the most astounding creative spirit. I think the word for it is accomplished. She can sew like a master. She makes incredible clothes and hats and beautiful children’s toys; she is a brilliant and quirky illustrator and a wonderful writer to boot. If you have never seen the impressive body of work that is her Nun and Crocodile blog, then you ought to. Now. Run, don’t walk!

2015/02/img_5645.jpgWhen Fluffy could first talk, she called me Little Mummy, and I always took great pride in my role as older sister, to look after her, and out for her and give her advice and a bit of tough love. Sometimes you need someone to tell you to shut up. I am very good at that. And I credit myself with gifting Fluffy with her very own spirit animal. The Honey Badger. Honey badgers are fierce. They are the most fearless creatures in the world. They are crazy. They do not give a shit.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.08.42 pmI have always thought Fluffy was better looking than me. She is definitely more photogenic and has an enviably thin waist. I’m not even sure I have a waist.  But I have never, ever been jealous. I am quite proud of that fact.

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Here is Fluffy, today, on her birthday, wearing a necklace I made for her.

Anyway, all that’s left to say is Happy Birthday little Fluffy. I have no doubt this next decade is going to be spectacular. Being in your 30s is the BEST. Until you turn 40. I hear 50’s good. Sixty’s the new 40 apparently. According to some of the ladies over at Advanced Style, being 80 is AMAZING!

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Love,

Ceci xx

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A Celebration of Love (and colour)

Tutti, the Guru, Matty, Marnie and I went to a wedding yesterday. It was truly lovely – a celebration of life and love and a brilliant excuse to get dressed up. (Not that one ever truly needs an excuse for that. Wear your best frock to the shops to buy milk, I say. Not that I do. I went out with Marnie the other day looking horrible. “At least put some lipstick on,” said Tutti, kindly ignoring the brooch of baby vomit on my T-shirt and my hair which looked at best like a curly, fluffy hair-nest, just waiting for a sparrow to take up residence.)

Anyway. We did what anyone does at a wedding. We danced and laughed and ate things and cooed over the bride who was wearing a sparkly, almost-60s-style shift dress and looked absolutely divine. In short? We had fun. But then, we almost always do.

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Here I am with my beloved Matty, wearing my Francis Klein glasses, outfit by Et Al Melbourne and flower corsage that I found in Tutti’s wardrobe (score!) Matty’s wearing his beautiful Clifford Gordon jacket that he last wore five years ago when we got married and skinny pants by ML Denim.

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What can I say about Tutti except that she is always a colourful feast for the eyes. I recently bought her that jacket from an op shop in Melbourne for the princely sum of $12 and yet it looks a million bucks.. Love her Miu Miu glasses, Alistair Trung skirt and bright sandals by Django & Juliet.

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Tutti the beauty.

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Giving good shoulder.

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The Guru and Tutti. I had probably just said something HILARIOUS.

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I art directed this shot. “Look romantic,” I said.

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Power pose.

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Even Marnie got in on the action, partying the night away. Well, until 10pm. Which is pretty rock’n’roll for a baby.

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Here are Tutti and Matty standing in front of a chalkboard of random words. #catatonic!

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Looking alert and economic. Apparently.

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The couple of the moment. Nathan and Elly. Wishing them a lifetime of health, happiness, laughter and all good things. It’s a bit of a photographic fail from an iPhone point of view, but you get the gist. They looked gorgeous.

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A Tribute to Tutti

Twelve hours before I gave birth to my daughter, Marnie, Tutti made me a midnight snack. Cheese and butter soldiers, lovingly stacked, Jenga-style, for me, her 33-year-old daughter, who has never grown out of thinking that toast tastes better, bite-sized.

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Marnie-in-utero and cheese toast soldiers.

In hospital, as I was pushing, feeling sure I was soon to expire from exhaustion, she held my heavy, anaesthetised leg, to help my baby emerge. Matty offered solid encouragement well away from the business end. (“Don’t go there, mate,” a friend had warned him. “It’s like watching your favourite pub burn down.”)

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In the maternity ward, where the food is not always edible, Tutti brought me my favourite Chicken Tandoori Za’atar toastie and a vanilla milkshake from Café Zivelli, so I could have a delicious lunch and feel momentarily removed from the dreary room, with the call bells constantly beeping and the babies wailing in corridors.

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This is what hospital food looks like.

When we came home with the baby, bleary eyed and shell-shocked, Tutti wielded her brilliant bub-soothing powers to quell the pterodactyl-shrieks of our perfect newborn, ensuring it wasn’t nearly as stressful as it could have been. And when Matty moved upstairs so he could get some much needed sleep to fuel his busy days at work, Tutti stayed up with me way past midnight until baby fell asleep.

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She’s done infinite loads of washing and ironing and grocery shopping and cooked delicious healthy meals and laughed in the face of endless vomming and nappy changing (the baby’s, not mine) and has been instrumental in ensuring that I don’t turn into a pyjama-round-the-clock-wearing, scarecrow-haired, makeup-free hermit. (The refrain of ‘Put some lipstick on!’ ever ringing in my ears).

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And I think that if I can be even a quarter of the mother to my daughter that she has been to me, Miss Marnie will be a very lucky little girl indeed.

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Tutti, me as a baby and Tutti’s mum – my darling grandmother Minnie, who Marnie was named after.

 

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Marnie

My daughter Marnie entered the world with barely a squeak. Barely a whimper.

One minute everything was going marvelously. I was lying in bed feeling utterly relaxed, delighting in the little green light that flashed every 15 minutes indicating I could top up my epidural.

The next, there were suddenly too many people in the room. Too many furrowed brows. Hardly a sound but for the slowing beep of the baby heart monitor. I held my breath. I may have prayed.

Marnie was not having a particularly good time of it, thanks to an entangled umbilical that had strapped her in like a seatbelt. And for all my red-cheeked, vein-popping, labour-intense pushing, she was not going anywhere fast.

The kind-faced obstetrician wielded the forceps. Don’t worry, just the small forceps, he told me. He could have been using giant salad servers for all I cared – I was blissfully oblivious to whatever contortions my nether regions were performing, thanks to the spectacular spell of anaesthesia. All I wanted was to expel my little baby from her womb with(out) a view and for her to be okay.

And then, finally, she arrived; sweet and squashed, foaming at the mouth. Silent.

She was placed on my chest for all of two seconds, then whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to have life rubbed briskly into her pale pink body; to be oxygenated and aspirated and hooked up to monitors and tube fed.

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Matty was no longer in the room since he’d followed Marnie to the NICU (quietly plutzing over his dramatic start to fatherhood). I lay in bed feeling shell-shocked and amazed that a human being had just been squeezed out of me.

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I didn’t get to hold my baby properly for a couple of days. The first time I met her, a good few hours after her delivery, I peered down at her in her plastic crib and stood awkwardly, unsure of what to do with someone so small and vulnerable – with her toothpick limbs and bobble head. I almost felt I should extend my hand with a formal ‘pleased to meet you.’ After all, we had only just met, even if she had lived inside me for the most part of a year.

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The WTF-has-just-happened? face. Seriously. WTF.

There were no sudden explosions of overwhelming love, or fireworks or thunderbolts. Rather, my adoration grew slowly, over days, over weeks; stretching, unfurling like a lazy dog in the sun.

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The many faces of Marnie

And now, six weeks on, I’m amazed at how I’ve adapted. At how I’m able to leap out of bed at 3am and 6am – with a smile on my face because my baby needs me and she’s incredibly cute. I’ve become a morning person and a night owl and everything in between. I’m exhausted and jet-lagged and I don’t mind at all.

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Being a baby = exhausting.

To see Matty with his daughter is incredibly special. He’s a wonderful father, as I knew he would be. And there’s no more devoted a big sister than Tiggy the dog, who looks concerned when Marnie cries, lies by her cot, gently nuzzles her ear and watches on adoringly with big, brown eyes. We’re a family now, and it’s inexplicably lovely.

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Daddy and baby. Carbon copies.

I’m mesmerised by Marnie’s every sound (perhaps not the pterodactyl screech that breaks through the sound barrier of acceptable decibels and could probably shatter glass – but still.) I could stare at her face all day. Her expressions are hilarious. I guess no kid of mine had a choice but to be at least a little bit funny looking.

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Funny faces. It’s in the genes.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself – to think that I’m a mother, with a blue-eyed, red-haired daughter. An impossibly sweet one, who fits perfectly inside a fine-china teacup.

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Embarrassment 101: Why you should engage your brain before your mouth

A bald head bobbing in the waves: the man I love, in the sea.

A bald head bobbing in the waves: the man I love, in the sea.

Allow me to set the scene.

It’s 2001: a beautiful, typical, Sydney summer’s day. The sun is blazing, the sky is endlessly blue, the smell of sunscreen is in the air, wafting along on the most gentle balmy breeze that gently caresses your shoulders and butterfly-kisses your face. An ice-cream, having toppled off the cone of some bereft child, melts on the pavement; a casualty of over-enthusiastic licking.

There I am, getting ready for a day at the beach with the man that I’ve been seeing for two months, who I’m madly (secretly) in love with, having already (secretly) marked him as my husband-to-be. Of course I haven’t told him I love him – it has only been two months after all – but I can confess to silently mouthing “I love you” at the back of his perfectly smooth head, willing my words to telepathically enter his brain so he will understand – finally – and say it first.

Anyway. We’re at the beach. The waves are crashing. The sand is glinting. The seagulls are squawking. We have a day of utter smoochy romance, lying on our towels and swimming in the sea. We’re curled into each other, attached like two limpets on a rock,  and all the while I continue with my telepathic onslaught. “I love you,” I say silently. “I love you so much.”

We towel dry and brush off the sand as best we can. Throw on our clothes and head to the Newport Arms for fish and chips. We stand by the fish and chip counter, in an embrace, staring into each other’s very souls.

“Shall we order fish and chips?” I ask.

And this is the moment – the moment at which I could swear he looked into my eyes and said:

“I love you.”

But did he really? Had my ears deceived me? And then the silent, torturous, mental freak out: OH MY GOD! DID THE MAN I LOVE JUST TELL ME HE LOVED ME? I’M NOT SURE IF I HEARD HIM CORRECTLY. WHAT SHOULD I DO? WHAT SHOULD I SAY?

We ordered fish and chips. We carried it down the stairs. I hadn’t responded yet. I couldn’t bear it. And before I had a chance to engage my brain, I asked this question. Blurted is more appropriate. Seven words that rolled off my tongue and fell out of my mouth, before I could stop them.

“Did you just say ‘I love you’?”

Cue long, nausea-inducing, awkward pause.

“Errrm, no,” he said, looking suitably mortified. “I said I’d love to. You know, order fish and chips.”

 

 

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Stalking, talking and too much coffee: How I met my husband.

The day I met the man who would be my husband, I was sitting in Marcello’s café in Chatswood (long gone) sipping a hot chocolate, smoking a cigarette (back when I didn’t think it was a disgusting habit) and writing in my notepad.

I can’t remember what I was writing – probably the beginning of yet another novel which I’d already imagined would be a bestseller and which, 800 words in, would be discarded and forgotten in some dusty drawer – but I do remember that Marcello’s hot chocolates were a tall glass of the thickest, most decadent, Belgian choc, slowly melted and stirred into steaming milk – about 15 billion calories of sweet, liquid indulgence.

I can also remember (how could I forget?) the man who delivered my drink order: all sparkly blue-green eyes and mischievous dimples, set in the most perfectly round, smooth head (read: bald as a badger. Which is a stupid cliché, because anyone who has ever seen a badger knows that they’re not bald, but furry. And vicious, I’ve heard. They’d eat a small child – or a large one – given the chance.)

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Here he is. My husband: the man who makes me laugh the most, who makes a mean dark chocolate creme brûlée without having to follow a recipe and who knows how to work a vacuum cleaner (not a euphemism).

I don’t know what it was. Ordering a hot chocolate is nothing out of the ordinary. But as it landed on my table, I was suddenly struck by the most overwhelming waiter-crush and a small voice in my head that really, truly said, “Yep, you’re going to marry that one!” It seems ridiculous looking back, even now. After all, I didn’t know him from a bar of soap (another stupid cliché. I mean who ever really gets to know a bar of soap? They’re not exactly good conversationalists).

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A rare sunny day in London.

And so began a couple of months of harmless, infatuated stalking. By which I mean that I started frequenting the café… by which I mean I’d have up to five cappuccinos a day, on my most desperate, stalkerish days, while I sussed out the situation and watched my completely oblivious husband-to-be with mist in my eyes.

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At Kenwood House, Hampstead, London

It’s probably a good time to mention that back then I wasn’t a coffee drinker. I didn’t even really like the taste – but to my 20-year-old mind, drinking hot chocolates all day just didn’t seem, well, sophisticated enough. The chocolate was out – the coffee was in. The anxiety disorder didn’t really appreciate it, to be honest (jitters, much?), but who was I to care? I had a man to impress (and apparently, coming across as a crazed, café-obsessed caffeine-fiend was the way to do it).

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Prague, 2007. We missed our flight because we drank too much the night before, and directed our taxi to the wrong airport. When we finally arrived, we realised in our inebriated state, we’d packed our suitcase so stupidly, Matty only had one pair of pointy dress shoes to wear, and pointy shoes + endless exploring + cobbled streets = ruptured achilles tendon.

It’s impossible not to build a rapport with someone when every day you drink insane amounts of hot beverages at their place of employment. So my waiter (who I discovered was a 23-year-old backpacker from London) and I started chatting. Just a bit of small talk here, a little bit of banter there.

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Three years ago, the day I turned 30.

I’m going to cut this very long story short now and tell you that I eventually asked him out on a date. Not a real one, mind you. Just a casual ‘I’m-going-to-Home-nightclub-with-my-friends-on-Saturday do-ya-wanna-come?’ It wasn’t very romantic. He even left with his friends, without saying goodbye. But the following week, he asked me out and we went for dinner and danced and chatted all night and discovered that beyond his ability to make coffee – and mine to drink it – we had a lot in common. And the night after that, I came home to a gigantic bunch of flowers (a completely quirky, spiky mix of native Australian blooms) and I remember standing at the front door and holding my flowers in my arms and having a little weep because no man had ever sent me flowers before and it was so lovely.

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So young, so fresh-faced. Standing in our flat in Golders Green, London where you can’t see the threadbare green carpet, the paint peeling off the walls from the damp, nor hear the mouse scurrying through the kitchen cupboard.

We were inseparable from then on. Well, for the next three months, because then his working holiday visa expired, which meant he had to go back to London… which meant he tried to make his life easier by repeatedly trying to dump me. Trying being the operative word. Every time he suggested parting ways I brought out my very best histrionics and pitiful tears and desperately sad eyes and most wonderful, romance-novel-worthy heartstring-tugging lines until he relented.

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Just got engaged, April 2008. I’m not sure I look happy enough.

And when he did have to leave, which was one of the saddest days of my life, I cried all day. Until he arrived in London, and we spoke on the phone – and we resolved to speak every day after that. And somehow, we managed to keep it together and have a Sydney-to-London long distance romance for almost 18 months, with only short visits (and expensive phone calls, and packages in the mail) in between.

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It’s worth noting that THIS is my engagement ring. Yep, I definitely married the man of my dreams. And my reality. (Apologies if you require a vom bucket about now).

A month after finishing my Creative Arts degree at Uni, I moved to London. We were there for almost six years together before he proposed and we decided to get married and settle back in Australia. It’s now 13 years since I drank that first hot chocolate. I still prefer chocolate to coffee.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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How to tie a headscarf, Tutti-style

There’s no denying Tutti has amazing hair. It’s as pure in colour as a unicorn’s mane, defies gravity and grows vertically, like the spikes of a snow-white pineapple. But it’s her headwear that has people turning heads. For as long as she can remember she’s been tying all manner of scarves, donning hats and even in the ’80s used to thread scarves around these weird, padded headbands (see pic below, top left) which she still managed to make look fabulous.

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