On… meet Ned

Introducing Ned William… the 7 lb 11 oz mewling who arrived last Friday.

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He is perfect. So happy. More soon.

 

xxx

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On… the perfect Christmas stocking

Okay, so this is a stealth post.

It’s for you to send to your boyfriend/husband/sister/mother/father/beh-eff-eff, so that they have some extra hints about inexpensive little somethings to put in your Christmas stocking, if you are Christmas-stocking inclined.

But it’s also for Fox, who is not blessed in the art of Christmas stocking composition, but who valiantly endures my Christmas stocking obsession and agrees to do it every year. He’s unexpectedly away for work this week, thus inevitably making his Christmas shopping as last-minute and stressful as possible, probably culminating in a stocking-filler dash to the pharmacy across the street on Christmas Eve where he’ll panic-buy a box of Antacids, some ancient Lily Of The Valley bath salts and a roll of surgical tape to stuff in the damn thing. (“How did Santa KNOW?!”) So here you go, my lovely Foxatron.

The Perfect Christmas Stocking For A Grown-Up Woman:

1. Lip balm

FACT. Women can never have too many lipbalms, these are a slam-dunk of a stocking-filler. No, put the Carmex down. I realize that you find an ancient pot of the damn stuff in your ski jacket every year and so it’s top of your mind when someone says ‘lip balm’ but really, there are many better options. Most independent pharmacies will have a funny little one from Avene or La Roche Posay or someone marvelously French like that, alternatively, Maybelline BabyLips, I’ve been wanting to try it since forever.

2. Studs.

A pair of gold (or silver, if you’re not me) earring studs – for some reason, I think every Christmas stocking needs a pair of earrings. There are lovely little studs from Gorjana at Shopbop, and they’ll deliver anywhere in the world in three days.

3. Magazine

A rolled up magazine with a year-long subscription to the same magazine. As you know I already have a slightly ridiculous number of magazine subscriptions – hey! I’m a reader – but maybe try The Atlantic, or LOVE. But remember, no People or Star or US: gossip magazines make me feel sticky. And not in that nice sexy way.

4. Chocolate coins.

You can usually get these at any corner shop in Britain, or any pharmacy in the US. Can’t find them? Get this Lindt Sea Salt Dark Chocolate, it’s the best chocolate in the damn world. But chocolate coins are more Christmassy and therefore stocking-appropriate. (Incidentally, this is where someone usually chimes in with a plea for the eternally awkward Terry’s Chocolate Orange, or a Toblerone just in case you want your chocolate to HURT, or, worst of all, an entire bloody orange, I mean literally, a piece of fruit. There is no room for fruit in my Christmas stocking. Ever.)

5. Childhood sweets

Everyone has sweets that remind them of their childhood. For me, it’s Super Lemon and White Rabbit chewy sweets that you can get at any Aji Ichiban, and/or Australian chocolate-covered licorice bullets. You might also try AQuarterOf if the stocking recipient grew up in the UK and is mad for flying saucers and space dust, or Old Time Candy if you’re in the US and aforementioned recipient will squeal with joy about Nerds and Bottle Caps. I also really miss some London stuff like Tunnock’s Tea Cakes, by the way, but I can pick them up anytime I’m in the West Village. (Fox grew up in Ireland, and therefore becomes tearfully nostalgic about Taytos, a powdery potato chip. If anyone knows where I can buy them in NYC, let me know.)

6. Bath mitts.

These are better than any bath scrub for truly smooth skin, though if you’re feeling generous, Bliss Hot Salt Scrub is spendy but utter heaven in winter. You can buy bath mitts anywhere but the ones from The Body Shop are my favorite. Incidentally, I was a freelance copywriter for The Body Shop for a while in my 20s, till I ran out of ways to say ‘nourishing’. (Actually, I was working for a woman who was so highly strung she practically vibrated, and after a few months of absorbing her stress I thought ‘fuck this’ and went somewhere else.) The big secret at The Body Shop, by the way, is that their lovely natural unguents are returned all the time because they grow MOLD. (Or is it MOULD? I’m not sure and I am too lazy to check.) Anyway, all of this is completely beside the point. The point is, smooth skin needs scrubbing.

7. Pens.

I’m a writer and yet I can never find a fucking pen. Ever. I am pretty sure you steal them, Foxy, and have them hidden away somewhere, but let’s not get into that right now. A nice big stack of gel-tipped ones like this, please, in blue or red so that it shows up when I review and edit manuscripts.

8. Hair elastics

I don’t know how, as I must have purchased 46, 002, 498 hair elastics in my damn life, but I’m permanently on the verge of running out. H&M ones used to be the best, but they’ve cut down on the stretch in them so now they’re shit. Anyway, just try plain black ones from oh, anywhere.

9. Miniature travel-size toiletries.

This is particularly good for GemGem as she’s about to go into hospital to have a baby, but it’s probably good for a non-preggers person, too, and yes, sometimes GemGem just refers to herself in the third person for no particular reason whatsoever. You can buy nice mini toiletries next to the till at Sephora in the States, or at big Boots in the UK. Think: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste. Don’t bother with body moisturizer. You know I’m a dedicated user of this, this, and this. I used to be dedicated to The Body Shop Body Butters but well, you can guess why I stopped.

10. An eyemask.

I always wear these, I have since I was a teenager. Mostly I just use ancient economy class ones, or the nice ones that you give me when you fly at the pointy end of the plane for work, you lucky bastard. So a really hot shit sleep-happy eye mask would be so cool.

Hope this helps, my little sugar plum fairies! Have a veh merry Christmas. I’ll be back when I have photos of a new little mewling to share with you…

(And just imagine, Foxerama, if I put this much thought into my OWN Christmas stocking, how much thought I’m putting into yours…)

xxx

 

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On…. Kanye West / Billy Joel

Mash-up made in heaven: Billy Joel’s ‘Still Rock And Roll To Me’ vs Kanye West’s ‘Black Skinhead’.

Incidentally, Fox pronounces Billy Joel ‘Billy Jo-elle’. It’s an Irish thing. So I usually add ‘Billy Jo-elle? From the Clonakilty Jo-elles?’ and laugh helplessly at my own hilarity.

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On… Instagram

The last month has been veh busy indeed with work, moving apartments, Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving and you know, life, plus a bit of late pregnancy just for good measure.  Instead of telling you about it, let me SHOW you through the medium of Instagram (with which I am predictably obsessed, about three years after everyone else was obsessed with it). Words! Who needs them?

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There must be a way to make these images bigger, but I am too thtoopid to figure it out and I have to get back to the ol’ grindstone. BTW, my Instagram name is gemmakburgess.

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On… Brooklyn Girls, Dutch and Polish

I love international covers. They always reflect the countries just as much as the novel itself.

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I mean, check out this Dutch cover . You just KNOW that girl is cool.

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And this is the Polish cover. I love it. But I can’t pronounce it.

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On… The Way, Fastball

I forgot this song existed. Situation rectified.

So 90s. So good.

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On… Revenge

I was thinking about writing about my favorite TV comedies. But it’s too exhausting and I don’t really even know where to start. New Girl, The Mindy Project, Party Down, Episodes, Modern Family, Ben and Kate (sigh), Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23 (yes, take another look, and also, sigh), Veep, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and that’s just the start.

When I look at that list I wonder how the hell I ever get any work done, actually.

I could also write a passionate post for why you should go back and watch the first season of Cheers, Mad About You and Will and Grace. But really, one sentence is enough: seriously, you guys, watch them, they’re brilliant.

So instead, I was thinking we could talk about a light TV show that isn’t a comedy.

And it is awesome.

REVENGE.

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The basic premise is Count Of Monte Cristo, set in the Hamptons, with a young hot female protagonist.

Season One was delicious. I got a little tired towards the end of the season, I got the feeling the writers did too.

But Season Two… well, it’s the most exhilaratingly brilliant plot I’ve ever had the pleasure of following. Seriously, it’s like a masterclass in how to plot. Fast, unexpected, original, tight, and always, always wildly entertaining.  More happens in 15 minutes on this show than happened in entire YEARS of Santa Barbara (Hong Kong’s leading – okay, only – American soap opera when I was at school).

This guy Gabriel Mann is particularly great. I would watch him read a phone book. He always stays just this side of outrageous no matter how insane his line.

I want everyone to watch it, so we can all clap our hands in glee in unison every time something even more ridiculous – and yet, somehow, I swear, almost believable – happens. So why are you reading my blog? Go and watch Revenge Season 2 already.

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On… the best baby books

This is a post about baby books. So, if you are baby-free, then WOO! Don’t bother to read this, instead, put on something inappropriate and go have a stiff drink right now.

If you’re pregnant, come on in, take a seat, I’ll bring you a snack in just a moment.

And if you are a dude, you are probably my husband or my Dad. Hi guys.

Okay. There are a million ways to be a mother.

But there are only two ways to be a mother-to-be.

First: women who geek out and read everything as though there’s an exam coming, highlight the most important parts for their partners to read, and even type up and print notes summarizing the best tips (I did this, yep, don’t judge me) (actually, go ahead, judge me, I don’t mind, I would if I were you, too). We ask every mother friend for as much advice as possible (and while we’re here, thank you to all my friends for their awesome advice, thank you thank you thank you). We wash and iron all the baby clothes by the time we’re eight months pregnant and rearrange them every second day from then on. We watch swaddling videos on YouTube and practice on soft toys. We have five colic cures, ready to go, just in case, even though we’re not sure colic is really a thing, because you know, it might not be. We have excel spreadsheets. Like four of them.

Secondly: mothers-to-be who have a see-no-evil approach, make a point of reading nothing, say things like ‘how hard can it be? It’s just a baby!’ and then lose their shit when a baby turns up, and don’t sleep or shower or eat for like five months.

I was a bit of both. I was in a bad mood for the first six months of pregnancy and refused to read anything at all. Then I started reading, became obsessed with being The Most Prepared Mother In The History Of The Motherfucking World™, and now am rabidly pro-geek. Research makes everything easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think 98% of baby books are useless. Maybe it’s the illusion of controlling the unimaginable that makes it easier. Or maybe it’s just that immersing yourself in stories about babies makes it easier. Most of the books are nothing more than tale after tale about other people’s babies, and somewhere along the way, you pick shit up. I don’t know. Why am I still debating this with myself? This is not the point of this post.

The point is, babies are funny and silly and awesome and damn good company and not actually hard at all, as long as you’re prepared. These books are practical and brilliant. They will prepare you.

The Happiest Baby On The Block by US pediatrician Dr Harvey Karp.

This book teaches you how to calm your baby. End of story. Oh my God, I love this book. We didn’t actually discover it till about three or four weeks in, when teeny tiny cashew-nut-sized Errol was having seriously bad witching hour screaming fits, and the tips for calming a fussy baby worked so easily, and so fast, that we almost passed out with joy. Thanks to this book, Errol just stopped crying. Just stopped. I don’t know any parent who did his five Ss for whom it did not work. My mother-in-law came to stay with us soon after and kept saying ‘He hasn’t cried once!’ and we were all smug like ‘yah, we’re totally awesome’. We’re not totally awesome. The book is totally awesome. (His book about toddlers is also brilliant, by the way, as is this lovely book, but we’re not talking about toddlers, we’re talking about babies.)

Baby Secrets by British supernanny Jo Tantum.

This book teaches you how to teach your baby to sleep. (And yep, apparently they need to be taught; in the womb they’re in a sort of drugged-up perma-haze.) This book is AMAZING. The easy, gentle, flexible way to get your baby to sleep through the night. It’s all about counting wake time, not sleep time, and making sure your baby never gets overtired or overhungry. I could go into specific, routine-by-routine detail about why it’s better than ol’ bitchface Gina Ford or Babywise or anyone else, but I’d bore the shit out of you. Just trust me.

The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins.

This book teaches you how to breastfeed. I’m totally breastapo. I wish I wasn’t, as those militant udder-flashing hippies feeding their seven-year-olds on the cover of Newsweek are so awful, but I can’t help it.  I worried about finding breastfeeding impossible and traumatic, as some of my friends have (When Boobs Just Won’t Play Ball), and so I read as much as I could on it. Breastfeeding is not like turning on a tap, and even with all my geeking out beforehand, I found it difficult and needed extra help from a lactation consultant in hospital. This book was recommended by one of my favorite people for kind and wise mothering information and all-round-fun, Joanna, she also wrote an excellent and useful post about breastfeeding here, by the way.

Other useful websites are Kellymom and AskMoxie and MyBabySleepGuide– I still constantly refer to all of them. (See above re: geekdom.)

I hope that helps. I’m going to go back and read these books all over again now, in the hope that they help with the arrival of my second baby in a couple of months. Maybe they won’t. Maybe – probably – this baby will be totally different to Errol, maybe he’ll be a sleepless screaming hellspawn who comes out saying ‘SAY GOODBYE TO SANITY MOTHER’ and my blithe ‘darling it’s so easy this is ALL YOU NEED’ attitude will bite me in the ass. We’ll find out.

I wrote this post ages ago but kept putting off posting it as you know, it’s a fairly audience-specific post. I keep imagining 26-year-old me reading it and being like ‘BORINGGGGG, where the fuck are my fags can we have a drink now please?’ But I keep sending these tips to pregnant friends who ask me about books, or talking about them in great detail with newly-babied-up friends, so why the devil not, hmm?

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