Why this beauty routine is best done upside down.

26 Apr

Some beauty routines are best kept behind closed doors.

Jo hair selfie

Here’s a rundown of how I dry my hair. Try not to laugh too hard.

Step 1: After getting out of the shower, towel dry hair and immediately apply a volumising product to the roots.

Step 2: Apply the latest in a serious of products I have found that promises to make my hair full, think and healthy, avoiding the roots where the first product resides in a slightly sticky mess.

Step 3: Flip my hair upside down and use a hairdryer to dry it like this until it is almost fully dry or just before all the blood that has rushed to my hair causes dizziness.

Step 4: Flip my hair right side up and then proceed to blow dry it section by section with an enormous round brush.

Step 5: Tease the hell out of it, at the roots.

Step 6: Lightly comb it all down to give the illusion of natural thickness.

Step 7: Finish with half a can of salon-quality hairspray. Hope a bird doesn’t fly into your head or it will bounce right off, or never escape.

A bit ridiculous, right? But this is what takes to make my hair look thick and healthy.

I was born with lovely, long, chestnut hair that bore a slight wave. It looked great, when I was five, however the older I got, the more it began to adhere to the sides of my face. Thus the early onset of constant teasing at the roots, and hairspray, and all that other stuff. There was my unfortunate reliance on heated rollers in my early twenties, my attempt to give it more fullness by cutting it quite short in my mid  twenties and then my giving up on styling it and wearing it in a ponytail in my late twenties. My thirties haven’t been much better.

There was also that day that my stepson walked in on me blow drying my hair, while naked, because my towel had fallen off. EVERYTHING was hanging down and gravity is not kind. Not on any of my body parts and particularly not on my hair. We have never spoken of this.

And we will never speak of this.

So I jumped, leaped, catapulted at the chance to try the new L’Oreal Elvive Fibralogy Thickening shampoo, conditioner and serum. Could this be the magical elixir I have been searching for my entire life, closely followed by the one that allows me to eat as many biscuits as I want without gaining weight? Could this be the key to fuller, thicker, healthier hair that I can just dry upright like a normal person and not lather in mountains of products that are mostly incredibly disappointing?

For the next four weeks I’ll be using nothing but L’Oreal Elvive Fibralogy on my hair and I’ll going to let you know exactly how it goes. I really really really hope it works. I do love my L’Oreal products. They haven’t let me down before.

I’ll keep you posted on the results.

In the meantime why don’t you join the Fibralogy Circle and try the products out for yourself? All you need to do is head to thickerhair.com.au, enter your details and you’ll receive an exclusive discount.

Fibrology

I’ll have her hair please!

Fibralogy is available at all leading retail outlets for RRP $5.95 for shampoo and conditioner and $9.95 for double serum. What incredible prices!

I’m also delighted to offer MY FIRST GIVEAWAY here at joabi.com.au. How would you like the chance to win a L’Oreal Paris Gift Pack valued at $150? All you need to do is tell me about the unique challenges your hair presents you with in the comments section below. We all have our hair struggles but we don’t have to go through it alone!

In the comments section below, tell me all about your unique hair challenges and you could win the prize pack!

Uni blues…sing it sister!

21 Apr Mummy and Caterina grad

I’m pretty sure my uni is trying to kill me…

Mummy and Caterina grad

Let me try not to overstate this. My uni is trying to kill me. It lured me into ANOTHER Masters course, tricked me into a first year exemption (that contained all the basics I would need for this year) and then charmed me with information sessions containing delicious finger foods and cohorts and academic staff that immediately loved and aspired to be like.

By the time I realised I might be a tad in over my head, it was too late to back out. Call it ego, call it pride, call it the scholarship I’d been awarded, call it stubbornness, call it self-destruction, call it an inability to not be busy (my husband insisted I add that one in), call it an endless obsession with eventually becoming a Doctor of something and then teaching writing courses while writing bestsellers myself…

Call it what you will.

The bottom line is that I am drowning and failing and this is not something I am used to. I normally do really well at things. I tend not to put my hand up for anything I’m not good at. What is happening? Who am I?

Now I am faced with an incredibly difficult decision. I could either:

1. Withdraw from the course and start over mid-year in the first year of the course;

2. Switch to part-time, lose the scholarship but be able to take my time and do my work properly and to the standard I want it to be done;

3. Quit, and never look back;

4. Buck up and just get stuck into it. I have already done so much work. Why stop now, and have it all be for nothing?

Jo grad

My grand master plan this year (pun intended!) was to drop my children off at school each day after feeding them a wholesome breakfast I had lovingly prepared in a relaxed way because I had soooo much time up my sleeve due to my new habit of waking up early, go home, do all my uni work and regular work, be done by the time they get home, spend a blissful afternoon taking them to all their activities, feeding them a wholesome dinner I had lovingly prepared in a relaxed way because I had sooo much time up my sleeve thanks to the magical fairies that do my housework, send them to bed and then watch reality TV while drinking tea.

SO NOT HAPPENING.

Everything has become a big scrambled mess and the main reason is because I don’t really know where do begin with all my uni work, how to do it, how to track it and I am so scared of mucking up I’m just avoiding it and not spending enough time on it.

I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to buck up. Anything else and I just couldn’t live with myself. I want to redeem myself to my supervisor and superiors and after the year is complete they will marvel at how quickly I caught up and how much I improved. Or…I’ll will scrape through and try and make the best out of it. Maybe they’ll let me enter the PhD program out of pity. Maybe they’ll let me clean the room in which the PhD students study.

It remains to be seen.

I never expected a Master of Research to be easy, but I did expect that I would know what to do and be happy to do it. I didn’t expect it to be such a mental feat. That’s despite hearing endless accounts of how research and PhD programs are really really hard and yet, so so rewarding.

To everyone who congratulated me on getting into the program at my dream uni, to everyone I encouraged to do the same, I stand by my decision to continue my education and I still encourage anyone who is thinking about it to do the same.

It’s sink or swim time. I plan to swim, even if it is a awkward doggy paddle as opposed to my cohorts who seem to be executing an effortless breaststroke.

Wish me luck. x

Have you ever bitten of way more than you can chewed, and made it out alive?

So, my 10-year-old has started drinking coffee.

9 Apr

I can think of worse things to give him.

Philip drinking coffee

My children have always been curious about coffee. To them, it is a magical drink that makes me instantly happy. They’ve grown accustomed to me gasping, “I need coffee”, like a hung-over-twenty-something. Except I’m not hung over. I’m tired and overwhelmed. Coffee has always been about comfort and community to me.

They’ve all tried it and it was pretty funny watching them spit it out and dramatically gag, as though they’d just had a mouthful of vinegar. I’ve been the only regular coffee drinker in my home for as long as I can remember (my husband only drinks it occasionally) and I’ve been pretty happy with that state of affairs.

Philip is ten and he has been a tea drinker for years. After I put the little ones to bed each night, Philip and I have a cup of tea (a weak one for him) and chat or play Scrabble for half an hour before he too goes to bed. He took me by surprise this week when he asked for coffee instead of tea.

“It smells nice to me now. I think I’ll like it.”

So we had the ‘coffee chat’, about how it keeps you awake and a couple a day is enough, preferably before lunchtime.

“Can I have coffee tomorrow morning then?”

“Okay, but just a weak one,” I said. He is turning 11 in a week. #growing too fast.

Coffee fixes everything

The next morning we were running late for Tennis Camp so we didn’t get a chance to even have breakfast let alone make coffee but after Tennis Camp I suggested we go to a cafe for a snack.

“And can I have coffee,” he asked.

“Sure.” I mean, why not? To me, coffee for kids is much better than, say, Fanta or Coke In fact coffee has been proven to have health benefits – as long as it isn’t covered in whipped cream and caramel sauce – and I’ve been drinking it all my life. Coming from an Italian background I was always free to have a sip of wine or a bit of milky coffee.

I ordered him a weak cappuccino and a skim one for myself. He really really enjoyed it.

Now, my 10-almost-11-year-old is a coffee drinker and I’m okay with that. I never really had a problem with him having a bit of coffee here and there. I think my momentary struggle with it had more to do with how fast he is growing up, how mature he is and how I can now say to him, “Want to grab a coffee?” like I do with my grown up friends.

I’m preparing myself for some startled looks when I order him a coffee from our local cafe. They are used to kids requesting hot chocolates, which in my view are way more unhealthy than coffee.

Do your kids drink coffee? Would you let them if they asked?

5 things to do with leftover Easter egg chocolate.

6 Apr

Because there’s no such thing as too much chocolate.

Caterina banana chocolate muffin

We have a RIDICULOUS amount of Easter egg chocolate in our house and it is awesome. There is so much we can do with it, post-gorge. Yep, we are O-V-E-R actually eating it straight up. Now, the real fun begins.

I let my children eat as much chocolate as they like on Easter Day. The next day, I collect it all and sort it all out. The really fancy ones, like the Darrell Lea variety, gets cut up and bagged into little bags for my husband and I to enjoy for the next couple of weeks with our afternoon coffee. The rest go to good use.

Here’s  things you can do with leftover Easter egg chocolate. Enjoy.

1. Dip

Getting kids to eat fruit is a constant challenge in my house. Two out of three of my children have a handful of fruit they are happy to tuck into, and the third? Well, let’s just say, he sometimes eats bananas. Very reluctantly.

Leftover Easter egg chocolate is the perfect way to entice children to try new fruits. Let’s face it…when foods are dipped in chocolate they are suddenly more appealing to children, and their parents (hey, I’m human).

To melt chocolate, place in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat for 60 seconds, stir, and then heat for a further 30 seconds. Stir once again. If the chocolate isn’t yet melted, place in for a remaining 30 seconds. Then, get dipping.

You can dip strawberries, bananas, kiwi fruit that has been peeled and quartered, raspberries, apple slices, pineapple, and then serve it up.

2. Crack

Crack some of the good quality chocolate eggs and place them in a container in the fridge for snacking. Placing it in the fridge keeps it fresh and crunchy and by cracking it all up into pieces it prevents anyone trying to eat an entire giant egg themselves. Then crack a few more pieces up into smaller pieces and use them as ice cream and yoghurt toppings.

3. Gift

A family friend donates left over Easter eggs to a retirement home in her area. She visits the centre over the long weekend and spends some time with the residents, handing out Easter eggs to anyone who is still allowed to eat chocolate. She says the really enjoy the company and the chocolate. Ring ahead to make sure you are allowed to do this. You might even visit a local hospital children’s ward and do the same. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

4. Store

Any Easter eggs that haven’t been removed from their original packaging can be stored for next year. Yes, they do last that long. All you need to do is keep them in a cool, dry place that is protected from children, animals, insects and the elements. I store mine in a high cupboard in my wardrobe. They keep really well. Trust me, supermarkets often do the exact same thing.

5. Bake

This is my favourite thing to do with left over Easter egg chocolate. All you do is melt down some chocolate and stir it into your favourite, healthy muffin recipe or even chocolate cake recipe. If you bake them into muffins or cupcakes you can eat some now and freeze the rest. Then, when you want to eat them, just put them on the bench to thaw in time for afternoon tea. Here is my favourite recipe.

BANANA CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

Chocolate banana muffins

Ingredients

4-6 ripe bananas

Approximately two cups of melted Easter egg chocolate

3 cups self-raising flour

1 cup oatmeal

2 tbsp baking powder

Pinch salt

1/4 cup olive oil (NOT EXTRA VIRGIN)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp vanilla essence

3 cups milk

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Line muffin tin with muffin cases.

3. Mash bananas and place in a mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except for the melted chocolate and stir with a fork until combined.

4. Pour in the melted chocolate and stir briefly.

5. Separate into muffin cases and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until they spring back when lightly touched.

What do you do with your left over Easter egg chocolate?

How Facebook helped me to re-enter ‘the world’ after becoming a parent.

30 Mar Jo on Facebook use

Jo on Facebook use

As startling as becoming a parent was – you mean I get to bring the baby home?!? – I was more than happy to say ‘goodbye’ to my old life and completely sink into full-time motherhood. Call it an escape, call it hiding, call it what you will, I was in self-imposed heaven, delighting on finally being able to complain about what I saw as ‘real’ problems like lack of sleep, breastfeeding, child rearing and finding the best highchair money could buy. As parenting goes, I was nailing it. That is until my children became older and I suddenly had to face a grim reality.

They needed me less. And I wasn’t one to sit down and twiddle my thumbs.

Knowing that re-entry is one of the most dangerous parts of space travel, but feeling like the analogy worked quite well for how it felt to be facing a new life post-motherhood, I decided to procrastinate for a while in front of the TV, going as far as to carry my old and dusty laptop onto the coffee table and placing there, front and centre next to my coffee cup, wondering WHERE ON EARTH I would begin.

Then one day, I opened it up.

Like all media-savvy ex-media employees such as myself, I had obligingly set up a Facebook page when it was first in it’s infancy and I’d even posted some incredibly boring information about my food consumption, my moods, my marital status and my thoughts on television shows post Oprah’s retirement, but I’d never really been serious about it. Imagine my surprise when I realised that Facebook had also been fed and nurtured and had grown into a fully-fledged people connector. Without even having to leave the house or brush my hair or fit into my old jeans I could connect with my old life and try and figure out a new one.

All my old people were there, waiting for me.

Me and the kids

Facebook had gotten serious. Was there anything you couldn’t do on it these days? I think not. I scrolled madly down my neglected feed and was told all about grocery delivery services, sleep training techniques (four years too late to help me) and all the information I could want about my friends, family and colleagues and where life had taken them.

I dove right in and before I knew it, I felt…found. Funny that. I hadn’t even realised I was lost.

Facebook became the conduit through which I discovered and designed my new life. Now it has become my constant, my portal through which I send and consume information about everyone and everything, both serious and not so much.

It got me thinking…I know the role Facebook played in my parenting life. It ‘found’ me, it informed me, it fed me and gave me company and gossiped about my friends and work colleagues. Facebook was my friend, family, job agency, news feed, dietician, pediatrician, counselor, confidante…and if had quickly become so important to me, how important a role did it play in the lives of other parents.

photo-5

And for those who became parents well after Facebook found it’s calling to be everything to everyone, how has this shape the role it plays for parents today?

Also, what role does it now play for me?

And that, my friends, is how I arrived at my beloved thesis subject. “What role does Facebook play for parents”, or something like that. Every time I sit down with my thesis supervisor we come up with a million variations. I’m thinking of putting them all into a hat and picking one at random, in order to decide.

My thesis is just the first step. That’s this year. Next year I embark on my PhD which I have been assured will take me WAY LONGER than the allotted three years. It could be four, it could be five. By then, Facebook would have gone through so many rapid-fire changes that it will be a completely different beast? The roles it could be playing for parents by then will be endless.

Have you ever stepped back long enough to examine the reasons behind your Facebook use, the choices you make while using it and the role it fulfills for you, or is Facebook so established these days that to step back and analyse your own use of it is similar to pondering your heart’s ability to beat, or your lung’s ability to breath?

Has Facebook become that ingrained in parenting yet, or is this the future I imagine for it? Over the next four or five years, I plan to explore it in all it’s glory.

I’ll keep you updated on my findings. I’m pretty excited to get stuck in, to be honest.

Let the thesis commence…wish me luck.

x

It’s never too late to change EVERYTHING.

13 Mar Mummy and Caterina grad

You are in control of your life. You just forgot that you were.

My first university experience was fresh out of high school. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to be. I had a rough idea in my own head of the kind of path I wanted to take. Also my parents (my dad) had bashed me over the head with his expectation. “You should be a financial journalist”, he would say to me. However something I’ve always been good at is knowing my limitations. I loved high school Commerce and Economics but was in know way smart enough ‘that way’ to write about it everyday.

So my career went something line this:

Grocery store

Toy store

Bar tender/waitress

Radio announcer

Author

Traffic reporter

Journalist

Not too shabby, right?

It wasn’t an easy ride. I could write a book about each and every one. But it’s mostly the transition from traffic reporter to journalist that I want to talk about, that I am asked about and that I am the most proud of.

I was sitting at home a few years ago with a son in school, a toddler and a baby, feeling like my life was over. I felt like my best and most productive career years were way behind me and I didn’t have what it took to be a full time working mum. I have always understood and accepted my limitations and handling stress is not one of my strengths.

So I started dabbling in writing from home. Then I went to Google and started looking at writing courses.

I had always dreamed of going back to university and actually studying my first choice field and my first choice university. For me that was writing at Macquarie University.

Filling out the application form/s was an exercise itself. It felt like a cruel and grueling test which I thankfully endured and I got in. Then I actually managed to do okay at it and graduate.

Now I am back there again studying something new. I have more plans after that.

Here comes the lesson: It’s never to late to completely change your life.

Ever since I posted my graduation photo on Facebook last November I have been inundated with friends and acquaintances asking for advice on pursuing their dreams. I know countless reality TV contestants have said, “Follow your dreams no matter what” but it can be scary, and impractical.

I had to consider my children, my husband’s schedule and sadly, money. I kept fiddling around and snooping around until I found a way to do it that worked for me. There is always a way, if you want it badly enough.

Uni grad

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but have never gotten around to? The great thing about life is that we are in control of it. We aren’t just at the mercy of it. It can be so easy to forget that. I never let my children forget it. I constantly tell them, “You can be anything you want to be” but it wasn’t until I started saying that to myself that I really comprehended it.

Parents, partners, bosses, friends and colleagues can’t control our lives. We can let them control our lives if it suits us. We can listen to opinions and advice, accept jobs and factor in peoples feelings. At the end of the day, however, we have to please ourselves.

We are all running our own race, no matter what our circumstances are. So run it well, or change tracks if you’re not happy.

It is never too late and I am an example that it can be done.

Do you think it’s realistic to change careers later in life? How much should you let family pressure influence your dreams?

This is why I don’t want to send my son to school camp.

5 Feb

IMAGE PHILIP FOOD ALLEGIES

My son has school camp next week and I am terrified. This is the first time I am letting him attend a school camp. He’s only gone on one excursion with the school. I’ve been too scared to send him before because of his severe food allergies.

How am I meant to raise a strong, happy, confident child when just one bite of the wrong food can kill him? How am I meant to protect him from a healthy distance so he can develop his own survival skills?

I feel as though every choice I make to try and protect him from his food allergies directly opposes the way I know I should be parenting, but I also feel I have very little choice.

Philip is 10 and yes, he is aware of his allergies and he even has a rough idea of what he can and cannot eat. Being allergic to egg and nuts is complicated. Everyone has heard of nut allergies but egg allergies are more complicated. It’s in almost everything, particularly foods kids enjoy eating, and although he is starting to slowly grow out of it, it’s still deadly to him in large doses.

So I continue to try and protect and educate him in a way that allows him to have some independence from me and remain alive so he can enjoy his new-found independence.

At first I said he couldn’t attend camp and he was distraught. He’d already missed band camp and the excursion during which they cooked and ate fried rice, an allergy mum’s total nightmare. He was sick of missing out. My husband and I made the difficult decision to let him go and since then, I haven’t slept a full night.

I met with the school and they assured me the venue was experienced in child allergies. I contacted the venue and they assured me Philip’s meals would be prepared separately by a qualified chef.

Philip and mum

No, I’m still not comfortable. What keeps popping into my head is the numerous incidents of children who have died at school camps after parents have been assured everything would be okay. The bottom line is that people make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes with Philip and accidentally fed him egg and nuts, but luckily I recognise the symptoms of his allergies which are different every time. How will they know he needs to be treated way before he becomes visibly ill?

So I’ve decided to pack all of his food myself.

The only thing is that he may feel left out of all the food fun at camp, but we have spoken about it and he is happy to do this as long as he still gets to go. Maybe next time we’ll do it differently, but this time, it’s the only way I can let him go.

We sat down and wrote down a two-day menu plan of foods he will be happy to eat and my job this weekend is to prepare it all, write out a menu, email the menu to the school and the venue, and then have a face-to-face conversation with every member of staff attending the camp, making sure they are all aware of his food allergies and my instruction that he is only to eat the foods I have packed.

Philip know he must only eat the foods I have packed and if he does well, then he can go to band camp later in the year.

It’s okay to let kids know you are scared in situations like this, isn’t it? I think so, as long as we discuss our fears and a solution that addresses them. That’s empowerment. That’s educating him to manage his food allergies himself for the rest of his life.

I felt the need to vent and rang my best friend. We had one of those conversations where we lamented the existence of food allergies and expressed frustration at the fact they exist, they are getting worse and that doctors don’t seem to know how they occur or how to treat them.

It’s a work-in-progress, a very slow one and one I hope we manage to solve in my son’s lifetime.

How have children’s food allergies affected you? Do you have to cater to children with food allergies at your children’s food allergies?

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