HOT: Fashion Tips for a new mum

A mum of 2 and friend recently posted an article on Facebook with fashion tips for a stay at home mum.

Given that I recently wrote a post about the 60 second beauty routine that I follow as a new mum, I thought it would be a logical next post for me to provide some fashion tips that I’ve discovered as a stay at home mum, in addition to those set out in the article.

I’m not claiming to be Vogue and my tips have a specific focus on my lifestyle – I’m still breastfeeding, NKOTB isn’t mobile yet and I ride a bike regularly – but they are ideas I’ve adopted in the last 6 months.

If you have any fashion tips please share them too!

1. Tights, not jeans. With winter I’ve found the best bottoms for me are tights rather than jeans. I’ve never been much of a jeans wearer but with pregnancy and post-baby body it simply wasn’t feasible for me to continue wearing my Calvin Kleins. Plus it got me depressed when I couldn’t fit back into my jeans when I expected to be able to.

To get yourself out of the Mummy Uniform rut (jeans and a top) try wearing tights with skirts. I find that combo more comfortable and sartorially more elegant – no muffin top, no underpants showing, no cuffs caught in bike chains and still able to crawl around on the floor or do housework. In addition, I think legs are the part of the body which are most likely to be back to their usual size and shape post-baby – best to show them off and hide/camouflage everything else :–)

My favourite tights are Levante opaques, wool tights or micronets. It is actually cheaper to buy them from the UK and have them shipped to Australia via UK Tights or a similar company.

2. Flat shoes – with straps. The reality of being a mum is that wearing high heels while pregnant or with a little one is more difficult. Even Victoria Beckham has been ordered to wear flat shoes by her doctor. So while flat shoes are a no-brainer, I’ve discovered that the best footwear are shoes with straps (or in winter, boots) – no necessarily laces, but something to hold your foot inside the shoe. Simple ballet flats slip off when you’re running around or riding a bike.

I most often wear Sharidelie black ballet flats from Eco Fashionista  or Francesco Morichetti  boots from Zomp.

3. Stretchy, stretchy, stretchy. While I’m slightly sick of my Metalicus pregnancy wardrobe, I do still find their stretchy pieces useful for breastfeeding and cycling, plus they’re easy to wash and always keep their shape. I also like the jersey dresses by US brand BCBG which I buy cheap off eBay.

4. Low necklines. But nothing too obscene. With breast-feeding, my chest has gotten HUGE. And nothing looks worse on a huge chest than a high neckline – you start to resemble the prow of a ship. You need to show some skin to break up all that expanse of chest, but have some dignity and don’t do a Brynne Edelsten interpretation. I wear a lot of scarves in winter for colour around my face and of course warmth.

5. Pockets. This does not mean cargo pants. Pockets are very useful things! Learning to juggling keys, phone, wallet, nappy bag, shopping and NKOTB means that I’ve sorted my wardrobe into two categories – things with pockets (which I wear when I’m going out with NKOTB) and things without pockets (which I wear when I’m going out alone or someone else is carrying NKOTB). Note I am not advocating cargo pants or safari jackets.

Week 29: Fathers’ Day

If you’ve been following Tot: Hot or Not for a while, you might remember that Joyce wrote a very moving piece about her first Mothers’ Day earlier this year. I think she was quite pleased with how it came out because she asked me to do a similar post about what becoming a father has meant to me on the occasion of Fathers’ Day. It’s a somewhat daunting task  following on from the high expectations created from her post. In fact I should have learnt from our Wedding (where she gave a truly virtuoso speech) not to let her proceed me in matters of this nature.

Anyway. So far, fatherhood has been a meaningful, but uncomplicated affair.  Once the initial shock wore off, fatherhood has felt like the most natural thing in the world to me. Maybe it’s just because Joyce and I tend to orient towards naturally balancing each other out on one issue to another, but I haven’t felt the same anxieties and uncertainties that Joyce has about the day to day decisions of parenting. I genuinely take great comfort in the idea that people have been raising children for millennia and Joyce and I are better equipped to look after NKOTB than 99% of the people who have preceded us. Joyce and I pay a lot of attention to parenting – I don’t feel like we’re going to make any truly disastrous mistakes.

I always knew that I wanted to be a father and have thought that if the opportunity arose, I would probably want to do so sooner rather than later. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been able to pack a whole lot of ‘young person’ living into the last ten years of my life (travel, socialising, rewarding professional experiences) so I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing the opportunity to be young and footloose – I’ve been there, done that (though I do worry a bit sometimes about how I’m going to get to see the places in the world that I haven’t seen yet and can no longer just grab a backpack and turn up to).  While my life has changed quite a bit in practical terms (no more impromptu trips to the pub after work, no more late night endurance for films, books etc), I don’t spend my time longing for a different life.

With that foundation, fatherhood has been a really enjoyable experience. It’s a simple thing to say, but NKOTB and I just seem to get along. I’ve always loved being around kids and she is just such a cheery kid that’s it’s difficult not to look forward to every minute we get to spend together. In fact, having to leave her every morning to go to work has been by far the hardest part of fatherhood to date. Every morning when I set out for the office she just stares at me with very intense eyes that follow me all the way to the door. It’s very hard to be the last one to break eye contact! But even this daily sadness is offset by how excited she gets when I get home. A manga-sized smile lights up across her face and she flails her limbs up and down as soon as she sees me come home. It’s pretty special.

I’m concious of how lucky Joyce and I have been with NKOTB; we’ve had no health issues, relatively straightforward sleeping patterns, no financial pressures etc. I’m also concious of how lucky NKOTB and I have been to have Joyce as a wife/mother throughout this experience. So I’m trying not to feel too self-satisfied. Really, I am. But it’s hard, because for the moment, for my first Fathers’ Day, things are just fantastic.

HOT: Mixed Business, 486 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill

P1060565v11 HOT: Mixed Business, <a href=here 486 Queens Pde, order Clifton Hill” width=”529″ height=”410″ />


  • space for prams
  • high chair
  • books for little ones

Mixed Business is a popular cafe in Clifton Hill that is worth a special visit for breakfast. While it’s at the very end of a strip of shops on Queens Parade, it’s not in a place with constant foot traffic (or parking), yet on a weekday morning it was consistently busy.

It is particularly popular with people with kids, as the airy spaciousness and quaint rough-and-tumble wooden furnishings make it an ideal place for young tots to roam around and with plenty of space to park prams. There’s also a sunny garden area where kids can toddle about and you can sit in amongst delightfully unkempt flowering herbs punctuated by the gentle rumble of the Epping line.

P1060571v1 HOT: Mixed Business, 486 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill

I sidled into the restored church pew padded with summer-stripe cushions that’s positioned against the communal table. A pixie-haired waitress immediately greeted me with a menu and a glass of water and I think I halfway fell in love with the cafe right there thanks to her huge friendly grin.

The breakfast menu contains items that are a little out of the ordinary. The aforementioned gingerbread waffles with vanilla bean ice cream, roasted apples and candied walnuts ($14) is listed amongst poached eggs with sourdough accompanied by half a dozen different sides – from ham hock white beans, pancetta, tomato and parmesan to potato and rosemary rosti with avocado (all $13.50). While normally I’m not much of an egg person I was very much torn between a sweet or savoury breakfast, but in the end compromised on sweet so I could take away one of their hot rolls.

P1060566v1 HOT: Mixed Business, 486 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill

Two freshly baked waffles arrived heaped with topping. I have a fear of doughiness  in pancakes and waffles but these two wholemeal rectangles were perfect – crispy on the outside, springy on the inside. The toppings provided contrasting textural interest, with cold, hot, crunchy and smooth all sounding out together.

P1060578v1 HOT: Mixed Business, 486 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill

For lunch that same day I had a toasted ciabatta roll tucked with salty corned beef, tomato relish, tangy Dijon mustard, Swiss cheese and rocket ($9). A classic 50s combination which was still satisfying after a couple of hours.

Given its popularity on a weekday I imagine weekends at Mixed Business can get very busy, but nevertheless I urge you to try it out for breakfast or lunch – you won’t be disappointed.

Mixed Business, 486 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill +61 3 9486 1606
Tue-Sat 7.30am-5pm Sun 8am-5pm

HOT: Baby Sign Language and Australian Baby Hands

Language and literacy are issues that Tim and I are very interested in as parents.

For years before we were at the stage of having children we were buying kids books for our future progeny. Both Tim and I are keen readers (though book-reading has sort of fallen by the wayside for me) and we wanted to instil that love into our kids. I’m semi-bilingual and I want to pass on some of my knowledge of Chinese to NKOTB so that she can converse with her Chinese relatives and gain some insight into half of her cultural heritage.

Another language that we’re adding to NKOTB’s repetoire is baby sign language. Last week she graduated from the three week Australian Baby Hands Beginner course. Six months old and achieving already :–)

What is baby sign language? Basically it’s Auslan – the sign language of the Australian Deaf community – but you only learn signs that are most relevant for your day to day interaction with babies. So, while in an adult Auslan course you’d learn the deaf alphabet first, with baby sign language the first signs taught are milk, food, bath, bed, book, sleep, nappy, dirty, clean, nappy, more, finished, mummy and daddy. Some of the more sophisticated signs have been adapted for little hands which don’t quite have the fine motor skills to make certain movements.

Baby sign language sounds like something that only hippie parents might be into but Tim, Mr Anti-hippie, was the one encouraging us to learn it, as he’d read a research article (can’t remember where) about its benefits. The main advantage of baby sign language is that it helps pre-verbal children to communicate their needs and interests before they develop speech. As with adults, babies can get frustrated when they are unable to communicate what they want but with babies that’s likely to result in a screaming tantrum. The dream of every baby sign language parent is a baby who will tell you that they want to go to sleep!

(Interestingly, a friend told me that sign language is sometimes taught to Down Syndrome children and their families for the same reason – so that a child with speech difficulties can still communicate their needs and wants and reduce frustration.)

Another advantage for us learning baby sign language was that there would be a consistent language for NKOTB to communicate with us, given that Tim is speaking English to her and I’m speaking mostly Chinese.

A common question is whether teaching baby sign language would delay speech development. According to the Australian Baby Hands website, it actually helps accelerate the speech process. Here is a list of other benefits of baby sign language.

Tim and I arranged for Amanda Crosslands from Australian Baby Hands to come to our house to teach a group of my friends 60 signs for 3 weeks for 90 minutes per session. Classes are normally held over 6 weeks in Mitcham and Vermont (in Victoria) but the great thing is that Amanda will come to you if you have enough participants. As a group we didn’t find that doing two themes instead of one theme a week too intense and doing the course over three weeks reduced our weekly time commitment.

During each class we learned signs with our babies from the following themes: Bedtime, Around the Home, My Favourite Pets and On the Farm. I was dubious about the relevance of the animal themes but then I realised that all the animals pop up in nursery rhymes, which means you can sign your way through the songs. I’ve found that my hands, animated facial expressions and a sing-song voice really capture NKOTB’s attention.

We practised the signs in songs, stories and games. I feel that even if we never get a sign back from NKOTB it was a nice way to spend an afternoon, particularly for the Dads who generally don’t get the same opportunities to attend play group and music classes.

The course normally costs $120 per adult, and with a minimum of 5 adults required.  This includes resources and handouts for the signs you learn each theme plus songwords to help you remember the songs practiced in class.

I’ve been signing every day with NKOTB, during our day to day interactions as well as singing nursery rhymes to her. There’s no telling when I might get my first sign back from her but the key, as with any new language, is to be patient and consistent with the signing. I try to sign to Tim as well even when NKOTB’s not around but it’s a little harder to remember to do so in those situations. Fortunately the signs are pretty intuitive and easy to remember. For instance, the sign for milk is like two hands milking a cow :–)

For more information about Australian Baby Hands, click here.

PS For those of you who know Auslan/baby sign language, you’ll know that in this post Amanda is signing Gin & Tonic – G and T :–)

HOT: Blackmores Pregnancy & Breast-feeding Gold + Giveaway!

During my first appointment with my obstetrician, he asked me whether I was taking any vitamins for my pregnancy. As I didn’t know what sort of vitamins I should be taking he put me onto Blackmores Pregnancy & Breast-feeding Gold, sort of a one-stop shop for vitamins, acids and minerals important for my baby’s growth.

Then I found out that almost every one of my pregnant friends were taking the same vitamins so Blackmores have probably cornered the market. I’m not even aware of any other brands selling a similar product.

Pregnancy & Breast-feeding Gold contains 17 essential nutrients for mother and baby, including iodine, omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid. These vitamins promote a baby’s health brain, eyesight and hearing development, help reduce the risk of brain and/or spinal cord birth defects and support calcium absorption for healthy development of your baby’s bones.

I’ve been taking two of these capsules religiously every day since that first doctor’s appointment and I’m now onto my fourth giant jar as I’m still breastfeeding (I buy them in bulk when they go on sale at the chemist). I think it’s a small task for keeping NKOTB healthy and miraculously she has hit 6 months and not been sick at all. So imagine my delight when I attended the Bloggers Brunch and was given another jar of Pregnancy & Breast-feeding Gold!

Giveaway! Thanks to Blackmores I have a 60 capsule jar of Pregnancy & Breast-feeding Gold, which is approximately one month’s supply (RRP $28.95). All you have to do is leave a comment below and let me know whether you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. The winner will be chosen at random on Monday 5 September. Good luck!


Week 28: Leftie

NKOTB’s newest trick is that…she might be left-handed!

I’d not noticed until Tim pointed out to me that NKOTB often sucks on her left hand and often reaches out for things with her left hand first. It could just be a function of the fact that I hand things to her with my right hand (so she receives it on the left) but now I testing her like a lab rat to see whether or not she really is left-handed.

I have to admit my instinctive initial reaction was of disappointment. The world is made for right-handed people! But as my (left-handed) friend pointed out, left-handedness is useful in sport, especially boxing, tennis, fencing and judo. So let’s hope that NKOTB gains her Dad’s hand-eye coordination skills and not mine. Because otherwise not only will she have trouble using (right-handed) scissors and (right-handed) can-openers, she won’t be able to hit a ball either.

This week NKOTB has also been rolling like the proverbial stone. Remember how she used to hate tummy time? Well now I can’t keep her on her back! Sometimes she’s able to flip herself onto her back again but more often she gets a bit tired, has a growl at the floor or just lies there with her head to the side looking helpless until an adult helps her out.

While pear is still NKOTB’s favourite food, she’s now shed her vegetarian diet and taken to her first taste of chicken. Well, pear-y chicken anyway. She’s getting three small meals a day in her at the moment, mostly of vegetables and fruit. I’ve bought a potato ricer to mash her food, it’s like a giant garlic press and makes a huge mess, but it has been very useful for making chunkier-style purees particularly as it leaves the peel inside the press.

In the last week I’ve dropped the 9-10pm dream feed as it didn’t seem to make any difference in the middle-of-the-night wakeup. That means she now sleeps anywhere between 7-11 hours at a stretch, making for an early start as she goes to sleep at around 6:30pm but giving us the evenings free and a fair stretch of sleep overnight.

For entertainment NKOTB is loving the iPad, Sesame Street music videos, her squishy ball, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (with baby sign language actions) and her feet. Fortunately the weather has been warmer lately, allowing me to release NKOTB from her tights so that she can hold her feet and suck her toes. Hours of entertainment!

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