The Black Hole

First Born is growing. Like a fertilised weed. A very well fertilised weed. Working Boy and I cannot help but notice that every few weeks he has crept a few millimetres closer to that moment where he will be taller than his mother. It could be months away, it could be weeks away, it could be days away, but the moment is coming. They say a watched pot never boils but when your child starts encroaching on your superior height, you can practically see your power slipping away before your eyes. 

With such obvious growth, it somehow still always takes me by surprise when his clothes don’t fit from one year to the next. Or sometimes from one month to the next. As the weather cooled over the last school holidays, it became painfully obvious that First Born needed some new tops. And jumpers. And shirts. And pants. Even undies (Sorry First Born. There was a reason I never told you about my blog). 

First Born’s feet are now a 40. He is a size 16 in clothes. Let me tell you something about these sizes. They are literally the black hole of clothing. They do not exist. Most of the kids shoes finish around a 36. The men’s shoes start at a 41. I am not joking. We have had a good few years now of floating around blindly in shoe no man’s land. Cooking Child is just entering this unenviable phase, as First Born will finally make his entree into men’s shoes. Last year an excellent friend in the same predicament tipped me off that Windsor Smith has some styles starting in a 39. There’s a reason that these days my kids ONLY wear sneakers outside of school and it’s not their sporting prowess. Sneakers seem to be the only shoe form that bridges the gap. Until we emerge firmly in men’s shoes, my kids will live in Nikes. There are worse predicaments in life. 

As for the clothes, some of the brands have TRIED to target the situation, and for a while the gap was bridged – there’s FREE by Cotton On (for 9-14s), Seed Teen, and Pavement. These are my first points of call. But this season…..nothing. There are just so many boringly plain things, or stupidly sloganed. And only Pavement goes to a 16 which means that First Born has grown out of teen sizes but is still not quite ready for men’s.

I have ransacked DJs, where I can generally dress my entire family with ease……nothing fits the bill. Or the boy. I am not stingy when it comes to First Born’s clothing. There are 3 smaller bodies waiting to wear it, so I am more than happy to pay more for something that will last. But I can’t pay for something which does not exist.

I have been to Country Road and the gap between where the boys clothes finish and then Men’s clothes begin is Grand Canyon-esque. 

See that space in between man and child? That space is where all the clothes I need for First Born are hiding. Somewhere between child……and man. I can just see their teen range when it finally emerges (and I’m sure it will)…..County Road: Manchild

So what do I do and where do I go? How do I fill the black hole of shopping?

First, Zara. They opened their kids’ section in WBJ with so little fanfare that even I only realised it was there about 3 months after it opened. Shocking confession, I know. Last year, First Born wanted a white shirt. They had a size 14 shirt which was plain white enough to keep Working Boy happy, with a small twist to keep me happy. Their 13-14 is generously sized so this will keep Cooking Child clothed for a while, at least, though First Born is still in the wasteland. 

I went to Myer. I don’t love shopping at Myer, but their teen boys’ section is reasonably well stocked. I’ve had luck with Mossimo (ha! My autocorrect turned Mossimo into Missoni – who knew the phone had the complexity to make Freudian slips?) and Bauhaus, one of Myer’s in house brands. 

I’ve been trying the smallest size of menswear with mixed results. XXS t-shirt from TopMan? Success. Size 28 chinos from Cotton On? Success. I have bought t-shirts and shirts from Cotton On in size S which First Born tries on and says “It’s a dress”. Interestingly there appear to be size XS and XXS but these options are always blocked out online. I’m not sure if this is because they are not available or whether the more experienced gap mothers snap up all the XXS and XS the second they become available. I’m sure by the time Master T reaches “the gap” I’ll have worked it out. 

The other problem, apart from actual size, with trying to bridge “the gap” by shopping small sizes of menswear is that the styles are often too adult for a twelve year old. And the prices are also too adult (this is why Cotton On’s regular 30% off deals come in handy). 

Speaking of gaps, it occurs to be that one place I have not searched to fill the gap, is, in fact, The GAP. Wouldn’t it be ironic if The GAP actually filled the gap? 

In the meantime, the gap is alive and well, and living in my house. I’m open to suggestions.

XOXO Shopping Girl 

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Where to put the stuff

I can’t remember how to write. Actually it’s not really the writing that’s the problem. It’s the time. I cannot remember how to make time to write. Cerebrally I know it is possible. I am no busier now than I was a few months ago, although arguably Baby N is at a somewhat all-consuming stage. I am busy but I am not so busy that there is not a single second to spare. As finite as it is, time can also be elastic. You can always squeeze a little more in.

It’s like storage. Sometimes when you think there’s just none left, somehow if you just re-arrange the cupboard, or throw away a couple of things, it all fits again. The only difference is, when you really can’t fit anything else in, you can always buy more storage.

I love storage. It’s a first world shopping category, storage. In order to need storage, you first need lots of stuff to store. A guy called Howard has made an absolute mint, no doubt, off our inability to limit our rates of acquisition, married with a desire for our homes to appear clutter-free and orderly. Howard is a clever man. He knows that when I run out of coat hangers, I don’t think to myself “gosh I really have too much clothing”, I think “I need some more coat hangers”. When you need clear perspex boxes to organise your make-up you have TOO MUCH make-up (and I know I do, because mine doesn’t fit in all my little Perspex boxes).

There are so many gorgeous storage options available at the moment. They have become quite the decor item du jour. Here are my picks:

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Wire Baskets (mine are these Robert Gordon Fishing Baskets).
There are variations on this theme popping up everywhere. We all know I love everything metallic but these are so useful. I have nappies and wipes in one, magazines in another and a proliferation of toddler toys in the third. Fisher Price has never looked so chic.

Washable Paper Storage Bags
These are EVERYWHERE. It started with Uashmama. The second I saw those silver bags I snapped them up for Baby N’s nursery.

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I can’t say it improves the experience of changing a nappy. And some may say that storing nappies seems to have taken up a not insignificant percentage of my storage budget in the last year. My rule is simply that whatever I buy must be multipurpose – when it’s done storing nappies (that time seems so far away) it needs to have a future elsewhere in the house. For now, the change table is organised and the nappies look better in little silver sacks. Except used ones which look better in plastic sacks in the outdoor rubbish bin.

Country Road have just released some washable paper bags too, in plain neutrals. I’m thinking they’ll be perfect for Lego storage. Lego storage could definitely be a post of its own. Even if I just detailed the history of our Lego storage journey (p.s. If you store Lego in woven raffia baskets, the Lego absolutely WILL disappear into the raffia). The important thing for you to take away is that with 10 years of Lego storage under my belt, I am thinking that washable paper bags might be my best stylish solution yet.

Paper storage bags
These are much like the washable paper bags except not washable and more papery. Thick, tough paper. I have recently purchased two. First, the toy bag, by Tellkiddo.

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It has that whole Scandi vibe that I love so much, the toys look neat and organised in it, and what’s more it makes it SO easy for the kids to work out WHERE they need to put the toys. I have a lot of complicated organisational systems, and then I wonder why I am the only one who knows where everything goes. This one is self explanatory.

Right now I have soft toys in there. They look really cute peeking out the top. A very happy solution to a very annoying problem (what to do with all the bloody soft toys), and much cheaper than that cute soft-toy zoo.

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Another bag in this category is The Paper Bag

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There are so many places I want this in my house. Right now it is being used as a waste paper bin in First Born’s room but the bag is showing a lot of promise. I think a promotion could be on the cards.

The best thing about all these bags (and their sister, the coated fabric bag) is that they look great standing alone, sitting on a shelf or as part of a storage system, like the omnipotent Ikea Expedit. Win, win, win.

Crates
What is with wooden crates? They are sooooo unbearably chic. Especially if they are vintage, or look vintage, or they could just be repurposed and not that old at all. I am on a major hunt for the perfect crates. I want to put our piano music in them. They will provide the right amount of “rough” in my polished lounge room. I love these at Loft Furniture. I like the wheels. You know, cos me and Working Boy live such a spontaneous, fly by the seat of our pants life that we just never KNOW when we’ll need to wheel something from one room to the next. Who can tell? You just can’t limit us to keeping our possessions in one room. That’s just how we roll. Haha. Roll. Wheels. Hilarious. Or maybe just a bit tired.

Anyway that’s me. And that’s a wrap on storage.

XOXO Shopping Girl

Spring is sprung

It’s the first day of spring and the sun is out in all its glory. There’s that hint of warmth in the air that has me thinking leg wax and pedicure. Just as I waited so desparately for it to cool down after thrashing my post-baby summer wardrobe, I am now officially over my warm clothes and I’m ready for some cool (new) ones. The sales racks are being packed away, and the new collections are out.

This is what I have my eye on. Please note: these are NOT suggestions. They are MY picks…..got it? MINE:

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Sportsgirl Mono Zip Back top
They did this top a while back in Zebra print. I didn’t act quickly and it was sold out by the time I tried to move on it. Lesson learned, love the new pattern.

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Ginger & Smart Floral Confessions Shift Dress
Ohhhhhhh how I love this dress. BFF stay away from this dress (remember the denim floral vest from Little Horrors in 1989?? We don’t want to go there again…….). Ginger & Smart are always bang on with their dresses. I feel like we are spiritually connected somehow. In every collection there is always at least one dress that it seems criminal not to add to my wardrobe. Yes, criminal. At $500 a pop, I’m going to have to wait it out until the sale. Nail-biting stuff. Readers, do me a favour and DO NOT BUY THIS DRESS.

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Karen Millen Pointelle Knit Jumper
I love a detailed back. And this one was a surprise. I normally don’t go into Karen Millen. It’s just not on my radar. But I went in yesterday and I could have walked out with 4 or 5 pieces in that many seconds. This was another favourite:

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which looked gorgeous but a) its soft, fluffy nature is partly due to angora, which makes me itch. There are no two ways about it, I cannot wear angora no matter how divine it is to stroke. b) This looks warm. It is not a spring piece. Not in Australia anyway (although THIS jacket on The Outnet

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almost made me rethink that whole idea, because as I said to Uma (remember her?) there’s always next winter).

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Anyway moving on……this dress from Trenery is surprisingly lovely. It’s a bit of a statement though and I’m worried that statement is “I bought the dress from the latest Trenery advertisement”. I haven’t tried it on yet…..could fall into the category of looks gorgeous on tall, willowy model but less so on regular flawed human. I may not have the height to carry it off and I am more pear than willow so the jury’s still out on this one. I’ve got time – Trenery (and their mum, Country Road) discount so often, I would never consider paying full price. I’ll wait for the next store-wide promo before I think about it.

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The Slouch Knit from Witchery
It’s possibly a little bit Nina Proudman and not so much Shopping Girl. But I’m always suckered in by the slouch. It promises that unattainable stylish insouciance which I am dying to master and never will. I think I am
just a deliberate dresser. I look like I deliberately put on my clothes and that’s because I did. How can anyone look accidentally stylish when NOT walking out of your house naked requires such a purposeful action? On Sunday I just threw on my clothes but far from looking like a Witchery model, I spent the day in a skirt that I’d worn on Thursday and forgotten I’d stained with chocolate whilst baking. Anyway I do really like this top and if her thighs are available I’ll buy them too. PS Witchery has a worthwhile rewards program.

No spring look is ever complete without sunglasses. My beautiful Chlôes died a premature death a few months ago. They were years old and are no longer available. They improved everything I wore. They fit me so perfectly I could not feel them on my face. This proved to be their ultimate downfall because I could not feel them on my head either. One evening I was leaning over our upstairs railing when they slipped off my head and fell to their untimely, irreparable death.

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Anyway I quite like these Tom Fords. They’re not Chlôe…..but maybe I have to move past my grief. Maybe it’s time to let a new pair of sunglasses into my life.

XOXO Shopping Girl

OT #2: 10 best Shopping Apps

So I’ve had my pensive moment, and now it’s time to get back to the task at hand. “Thank g-d!” you’re thinking. “You promised us shopping hints and tips and all we’re getting is a discussion of the origins of your predilection for sweets, and glorified accounts of Baby N, under the guise of a “shopping blog”.

So back to business today. As I have mentioned to you before, a not insubstantial amount of my spending is done online. Without further ado I present to you:

Shopping Girl’s Top 10 Shopping Apps

(Okay just a bit more ado first – Remember when I said I don’t speak some languages like practicality? I also don’t speak HTML or whatever it is I need to speak to do special things on my blog. My idea was to have the icon of each app that you would be able to click on, which would take you to the AppStore. I cannot for the LIFE of me figure out how to do this, and I am not spending anymore precious writing time trying to figure it out). Now, onto the list:

1.Shopbop
Let me count the ways in which I love the Shopbop app. On the other hand maybe let’s not, because they really are bountiful. Shopbop’s best feature is that it emails me when items on my wish-list go on sale. Not even my best friend does that (however, it should be mentioned, she makes up for it in other ways). It also emails me when stock of a wish list item is running low. Seed from Bondi Junction calls me when new stock comes in but no-one calls me when stock is running out! And for that not so subtle hint, you can share your wish list 😃 Plus really fast, free world-wide delivery. It’s a winner.

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2. eBay
The most important thing to remember is: one girl’s garbage is another girl’s Gucci. When funds are running low, and you cannot survive another moment without an army green parka (this is just a theoretical example of course…..ps. check ASOS) sell your stuff on eBay. We all have stuff we don’t use or wear. Often quite good stuff. Sell it. Those are dollars sitting in your cupboard that could be better spent…..spending. The app makes it ridiculously quick and easy. Seriously I can cook dinner, help kids with the homework, feed a baby and list an old Country Road shirt simultaneously.

3. Safari
Okay I know technically this is not an app, but it’s on my iPhone and has an icon. And it is the GATEWAY to all Internet shopping. On that basis alone it makes it into the top 10.

4. Booko
What? You don’t know Booko? Get with the times! Type in the name of the book you want, and all the online retailers that sell the book will appear before you IN PRICE ORDER including shipping. It is equal parts genius and dangerous. In the unlikely event that you want to purchase a DVD, you can look that up too. I got the app because the website was difficult to use on the phone, but seems they have rectified this problem recently with smartphone interface.

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5. Shopping list
I LOVE ShoppingList. I NEED Shopping List. There is nothing more frustrating than getting home in the nick of time to put the baby down for a nap and cook dinner. Only to discover that you forgot to buy your main ingredient. Or you forgot the nappies. It’s always the nappies. And there is NO getting out of having to go back to the shops if it’s the nappies. There is no substitute for nappies. You cannot choose a different recipe with nappies. I have different categories on shopping list – you can make up your own, and have as many as you like:

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As I run out of groceries, I add them to my Coles list. If we are entertaining, I plan my menu and then add my ingredients. I use it as a “to-do” list for errands. You can drag and drop your items easily so I order my shopping list in order of the supermarket aisles. I would lose my mind if I wasn’t mostly organised. Shopping list is my life.

6. Shopstyle by POPSUGAR
Shopstyle is awesome. Trying to find green sequinned leggings because you’re having a Kermit fashion moment? Filter your search terms and watch the options appear before you. Dying for a pair of Rag & Bone Newbury boots? Type it in and you can clearly see where you can get them and how much they cost at each store. PLUS like beloved Shopbop you can set sale alerts on the items that you like. So the second your shoe goes on sale, you’ll be the first to know. Along with all the other Rag & Bone and Shopstyle fans out there.

7. xe.com
If you’re going to shop internationally, you need to know your exchange rates. If your brain is fried from too many readings of “Where is the Green Sheep?” (If I was a sheep, and my only responsibility was……nope can’t think of a single sheep responsibility, I would also be asleep. I’m thinking I should consider being a sheep)……See, child-induced brainfry. I cannot even finish one train of thought without getting distracted. I am so used to being interrupted, I interrupt myself. AS I WAS SAYING – xe does the currency conversion for you, so all you need to calculate is if your bank balance can take the hit.

8. Instagram
“Instagram is not a shopping app!” I hear you protest. Au contraire mes petits pois (that translates as “on the contrary my little peas”….I think something gets lost in translation), and I will prove it.

A few months ago (I am being deliberately vague), I was scrolling through my Instagram Feed, when a picture of a gorgeous black lace dress caught my eye, and purse. It appeared in the feed of Gail Elliot, former supermodel, and current designer of Little Joe. The accompanying text indicated that the dress was on sale at Fashion Weekend for $80. Reduced by hundreds. Size Medium. Someone had already replied to hold it for her. I posted a message below to say that if the original buyer did not want it, I would love to take it. Gail wrote to me herself (yes, herself! The woman is besties with Cindy Crawford!) to say she would get her “girls” to check if there was another, but later she wrote back to say she only had a small and would keep that for me if I wanted. Great! Thanks so much!!! I said. No I didn’t. Size small I said to myself? I think medium was already pushing it. A few weeks later a message popped up on my Instagram. It was Gail. She said that she and Cindy wanted to go for drinks. Oh and also that another medium had turned up when they unpacked from Fashion Weekend, and did I want it? You bet your bottom dollar I did. I went to Paddington the next day and picked it up.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you shop on Instagram.

9. Pinterest
I use Pinterest not actually to shop, but to keep track of what I want to buy. Like this:

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I don’t need the whole world to see everything I have my 👀 on, so I have secret boards too 😉.

10. Lasoo
Does your son want an iPod for his birthday? Would you rather not pay top dollar? Did your dryer recently catch fire? Do you have an aversion to paying retail? Then Lasoo is the app for you! Lasoo is basically a database of catalogues from popular (Australian) stores. This is not the place for your boutique buys, but if your toaster’s toast this is a great place to check out where your product is on sale at the moment.

So that’s it. My top 10 apps.

XOXO Shopping Girl

This post is dedicated to the sparkly silver ex-lolly bowl featured in the previous post, who has moved onto a better place where there aren’t babies cruising around, hell-bent on bowl destruction. Rest In Pieces, lolly bowl. You don’t really have a choice.

Shopping with baby: the 5 best and 5 worst things about it

Five best things about shopping with a baby.

1. Heavy bags.
You don’t have to carry your shopping bags, or even your handbag. When my pram basket is full, I hang the extra bags off the bugaboo’s brake.

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(Disclaimer: that is not my finger)

2. Friendliness.
People are nicer to you when have a baby. Strangers talk to you. The world is a friendlier place. AND people compliment your baby (or maybe it’s just when you have as cute a baby as *I* do) which as all parents know, feels like you personally are being complimented.

3. Excuse.
If you bump into someone who you don’t feel like talking to, you can use the baby as the excuse to keep moving. “He hates it when the pram stops”. “He has limited patience in the pram, and I’ve just got to get through my errands”. Having the baby as an excuse to get out of anything you don’t want to do is actually one of THE best reasons to have a baby at all.

4. Ears.
My personal favourite – you have someone to talk to. You don’t have to walk around the shops muttering what you need to do to yourself. Your baby has no choice but to listen to the fact that “first we need to take back J’s pants, then we need to do daddy’s banking, then we need to check out the new things in Country Road and THEN we’ll go to Coles and get milk!”. Even just “I LOVE this” sounds better directed at a person (no matter how small) rather than thin air. As someone who feels the need to comment aloud during my shopping trips, baby-as-pair-of-ears is a useful addition.

5. Coffee.
Babies get hungry and need to be fed, food or milk. This requires being seated. Sometimes it requires the assistance of hot water. This means you must stop and have a coffee.

6. Numbers.
I know I said 5 but we should have one more positive than negative, so number 6 is it’s just the baby with you. Not all 4 children. Just thinking about that makes you happy you’re shopping with (just) the baby.

You don’t have to have the most vivid imagination to come up with a list of reasons why shopping with a baby can be problematic. It takes a special kind of positivity to appreciate the flip side. As you have seen, I am that Optimist. I have easily told you the five (well, 6) best things about shopping with a baby, but I have also BEEN shopping with a baby so here’s the reality check…..

1. Throwing.
Baby N has a throwing habit. If he dislikes the taste of something, or even if he just doesn’t absolutely love it, he throws every last scrap across the room, or just onto the floor at the very least. Last night at dinner he threw a corn cob directly into my face.

In the pram, it’s socks. The second he sits down he starts pulling hard at the toes of his socks. Once they are off, quick as a flash, he extends his arm horizontally, opens his hands, and then instantly pulls them in again, in a movement so fast it’s barely perceptible to man. Or woman.

Lost socks aside, this throwing habit is completely out of hand as I discovered at Coles two days ago. Once the goods got to a level in the trolley that he could reach, everytime I put something in the trolley, he turned around, picked it up and threw it onto the floor. Every single time. The shop took me twice as long as normal. I don’t think I can go grocery shopping if this is how it’s going to be now.

2. Not so friendly after all.
People insult you when you have a baby. And all parents know when they criticise your baby they are really criticising you. That’s why sometimes I want to say “So are you!” when people
say in faux adoration “Your baby is so fat!”. Or they say “I just want to pinch his cheeks!” and I think “I want to pinch you too. Hard”. Because the next line is “What are you FEEDING him????”.

And yes, you think people are being friendly but really they just want to give you unsolicited advice. Like “Your baby’s feet are cold”. Actually they aren’t. As we have COVERED ALREADY, he has an internal heating system called baby fat and if I let you touch his magnificent feet you would see that, actually, they are warm. Besides which, it’s bloody irrelevant because he just threw his socks out of the pram when I wasn’t looking. There is no point putting socks on these feet.

3. Momentum.
If you DO bump into somone you want to talk to, you can’t actually do so. That thing about liking the pram to be moving is true, and Baby N will only stay in it stationary so long before he starts getting cranky. And that’s about 10 seconds.

4. Impatience.
The limited patience thing is also true. I list my shopping / errands on my shopping app in order of the levels and shop placement in the mall because time is at a premium. Going to the shops with baby is not a leisurely, meandering browse. It’s an exercise in time & risk management. Babies don’t always have a great appreciation for the need to get things done. And they have a habit of voicing this loudly. Or sometimes they just want to be held, which, with 14kg in one arm, and needing to still push the pram with the other, is equally restrictive.

5. Lack of coffee.
Yes you have an excuse to stop for coffee but you don’t actually get to drink it. The baby’s hunger comes first (I’m not game to ruin everyone else’s peaceful coffee with my baby’s screams) so you’ve missed the hot stage of your coffee (only temperature I like to drink my coffee at). The coffee has to be out of reach of the baby, too.

Once the baby is fed, you now have a wriggly, grabby baby on your lap, who is all like “Okay I’ve eaten, what are we sitting around for? Proceed with the walking tour of the mall!”. And as you regretfully strap the baby back into the pram, and he alternates arching his back with planking even though he clearly wasn’t enjoying sitting at the cafe, you regret not asking for your coffee to go.

XOXO Shopping Girl

Shopping with baby – love it or hate it or neither-it’s-just-life?