[MODEL MADHOUSE] Hey Baby

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[MODEL MADHOUSE] Hey Baby


When my job turns into a family day out at the beach and the campaign images become some of my favourite family portraits it’s sometimes hard to believe I get paid for this. Don’t get me wrong though, rolling around on the beach with my baby girl, snacking on chocolate and spending the afternoon with my husband is still really hard work.

Jokes aside, the afternoon was spent shooting the newest campaign for Hey Baby’s bamboo swaddle range with Miss V being the star of the show (obviously). Clocking up her fourth job so far she’ll be sitting on a sweeter retirement than Georges and I in no time.

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After loading up the car with all the essentials (essentials being a rusk, her floppy bunny and sultanas a.k.a my life savers) in jumped mummy, daddy, baby and grandma and we headed for the beautiful Cronulla beach.

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Now for those who don’t know Georges has surprisingly good knowledge of hair and make up. I mean he did grow up with 3 older sisters and has worked in the fashion industry for over 12 years so you’d think something would have stuck. That being said, without hair and make up on set Georges took it upon himself to become my unofficial/official hair stylist. But it didn’t stop there….

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“In the words of GWEN STEFANI, hey baby, hey baby, HEY!”

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Where ever there’s a camera there’s a Georges Antoni not far behind. I could quite literally see his fingers twitching, aching to get involved. Not one to sit back and watch all the action he was right in there with scrims, hair flicking, swaddle wrapping and baby entertaining. Photography is quite literally in his blood whether he likes it or not. And Jack took it all in his stride. At one point he lent over to me and said, “I can’t quite believe Georges Antoni is assisting me!”

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Now I’ve been asked on several occasions whether or not I think putting Valentina to work is the right thing to do. First of all it’s not something I sought out. I used to bring Valentina to my jobs when she was much younger and I was still heavily breastfeeding. It was on one of these jobs that I got asked by the client if Valentina would be able to model for them and if she had representation. So I put it to my agency who said they could represent her on my behalf and I decided to give it go. Of course there were and still are things I take into consideration. Firstly, where is the job? Inside, outside, 1 hour away or 20 minutes away? What time of day do they want to shoot? 6am, 7am, 12pm or 9pm? And with regards to length of time, the industry has imposed a 4 hour limit for children her age. All of this goes towards making my final decision and whether or not is will be safe and comfortable for Valentina. All I want is for her to enjoy herself and as a bonus we get some incredible photos that we can cherish forever. Until the day comes and she turns around and says to me, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” (and her wishes I will whole heartedly respect and honour) then I see no harm in hanging out together, having our photo taken and in the meantime filling up her bank account. By the time her 18th birthday rolls around then we’ll see who’s the annoying, embarrassing, ‘you never do anything for me’, mum.

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So after 4 hours working on my tan……….oh sorry, working, we wrapped (get it) a fun, relaxed, beautiful, family filled shoot. It’s days like these that I really love my job but more so that I really love my family. Proud mama, proud wifey and proud daughter in law (there’s no photographic evidence but Georges mum Mona was doing an excellent job holding fort). Now for the car ride home and thankfully being carried all day was exhausting for Miss V and she slept like a baby all the way to Bondi.

You can purchase the new swaddles at the website linked below.

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Photographer: Jack Steel
Stylist/Client: Melanie Ekermans
Unofficial Hair Stylist and Photographer Assistant: Georges Antoni

Website: www.iloveheybaby.com

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[REVIEW] Ciccio Sultano Two Star

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[REVIEW] Ciccio Sultano Two Star


Taking a stroll one night around the back streets we discovered a hidden gem tucked behind the main square church. A two star degustation restaurant. We hadn’t eaten anywhere particularly fancy so we decided to treat ourselves and booked in for lunch the next day.

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A gorgeous little restaurant, simply and sophisticatedly decorated. It had a comfortable aura which made you feel instantly relaxed. I sometimes find with high end, degustation restaurants you feel the need to play a part, to act as though you “belong”, here I felt I could have rocked up in my sweatpants and a t-shirt and would have been equally as welcomed.

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One of the reasons I love degustations is that you don’t have to chose what to eat. You pick the big or small menu and alcohol or no alcohol. We went big with no alcohol. When they came to take our drinks order I made a beeline for the non alcoholic cocktails. Being my indecisive, pregnant self that waiter made a suggestion. “Why not go for the…….’pomegrante’…….. drink. Pomegranate is known to be extremely good for pregnancy including helping with the growth of the baby.” I absolutely loved that he made such a personal and thoughtful suggestion (and even though I don’t like pomegranate I said yes because I appreciated his effort. And I knew Georges would drink it if I didn’t.)

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It’s difficult to explain how good the food was because it’s something you really need to try to understand. The dishes were based on traditional flavours and combinations of Sicilian food but of course done with a touch more finesse and delicacy. A couple of my favourites included the cheese and carbonara sauce filled gnocchi with pork and cuttlefish meatballs, topped with squid and mussels as pictured below. Ok, that doesn’t sound quite so delicate. However, for something that sounds like they just threw it all in the pan and hoped for the best it tasted very thought through. The gnocchi had more a texture of a dumpling and the cheese was incredibly gooey and oozing. I loved how unique a dish it was.

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Now, from the strange to the simple. It doesn’t get more basic than a sun dried tomato ciabatta but it’s usually the simple ones that surprise you. The bread is from a town called Monreale which is famous for its semolina flour bread. It has a beautiful golden, colour and is slightly nutty in flavour. Georges and I become obsessed with this bread and tried to track it down in every town we visited.

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It wouldn’t be a trip to Sicily without scoffing down a cannoli……or four. Not all at one time of course. Here we politely shared one between us but I can’t say that wasn’t difficult. I twas served with ricotta, almond sorbet and a prickly pear sauce (another commonly used ingredient in Sicily). The pastry was extremely short and I loved the combination of the fruity, nutty flavours.

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“While SICILY filled my heart, Ciccio Sultano FILLED my appetite.”

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And of course no degustation is complete without petit fours. A mixture of mandarin and cinnamon jellies and brownies. And as if all that yummy food wasn’t enough they go and give us a beautiful coffee table book with stories of the restaurant and recipes from their menu. At no extra charge. That’s the Sicilians for you. It was a really special momento of not just our experience at the restaurant but of our entire holiday.

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Website: www.cicciosultano.it/en

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What I'm Wearing
Dress: Portmans // Sneakers: Stylerunner // Sunglasses: Sunglass Hut


 
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[INTERVIEW] Sali Sasi

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[INTERVIEW] Sali Sasi


Tell us about your new life in Bali. How does it differ to that of living in Sydney? And why Bali?

The easiest way to describe our new life is that the days are longer, we have way more family time and are enjoying being out of the Sydney rat-race …. for now. It’s funny I have never even been to Bali for a holiday prior to relocating there to live. Nathan was offered an opportunity to work with a really cool young group of expat professionals opening up several restaurants in Canggu. We figured these ‘adventures’ in life don’t come too often so lets give it a go. 

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What does this move mean for Frankie Peach?

Frankie Peach is business as usual where our team still operates out of Sydney. For Lotta and I it means A LOT more what app meetings and calls. The exciting news is that with a move to Bali it has opened up a creative space for another brand Lotta and I are working on. We are hoping to launch by November so stay tuned! 

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Just when I think you can't do anymore, a little Instagram birdie tells me you’ve got another project on the horizon. Can you spill the beans on Her Black Book?

I had an idea to build a directory of some sorts for women but my idea didn’t feel complete so I registered the business name I was after and sat on it for years. I guess being in Bali it has given me more time to think about it and once the lightbulb hit its been all guns blazing to bring it to life. So Her Black Book is a multi-dimensional directory platform for women. Offering exclusive discounts among retailers, hospitality, travel and services. It will have real-time geo tagging as well as engaging female focussed content. 

Your life embodies both food and fashion but heres the ultimate question. Which do you love more?

Food - without a question. It’s what brings people together and all my greatest memories are surrounded by great company, good wine and tasty food! 

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What does Nathan need to cook you to have you wrapped around his little finger?

Anything! Contrary to popular belief being married to a chef does not mean restaurant like meals every night, in fact its the opposite. They’re either working during the hours of lunch and dinner on most nights OR the last thing they want to do is cook after a 16 hours shift. So when he does cook I’m happy with anything, from homemade pasta, a spicy curry or  roast pork with his insanely good crackling!

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Favourite meal in Bali so far?

Anything at Fish Bone Local. Their salt and pepper calamari is next level! Considering I don’t normally eat seafood and often pretend I have an allergy so I don’t have to eat it, the fact I crave most of their dishes says a lot.

You’ve been very open about your journey as a cancer survivor, how did food play a part in your recovery?

A huge part.  I think in order to have a healthy mind you need to look after your body from the food you put in to the energy you hold onto. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat junk, show me a block of cadbury black forest and I can eat the entire thing in one sitting. However generally I am good, 80% of the time I eat foods that are wholesome the remaining 20% I don’t have rules. 

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How will/have you taught your boys to have a healthy attitude towards food?

We try and teach them to try everything, even if mum doesn’t. Ha. I am one of the fussiest eaters you will meet but Nathan is great in teaching them to just try something. Growing up he was actually super fussy too so we both try and involve all the kids in all stages of food. From growing herbs and veggies to shaving them help pick out groceries at the markets or supermarket. Ordering a bunch of different meals to share so they taste and test the different flavours and textures.  Ultimately it’s also about balance - teaching them to enjoy things like a Sunday Roast as much as they enjoy a kinder surprise egg. 

Describe each of your boys as a dish.

Ohh good question, let me see.

Simun - Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup - He’s easy going, an old soul, gentle and has the kindest nature. 

Harvey - Blistered Pardon Peppers - 99% of the time he’s sweet, gentle and warm - he does however have a 1% fiery streak where he’s headstrong and adamant. 

Harry - Warm Apple Pie - he’s the most chilled child ever. Always smiling, always chatting. He wakes after an 10 hour sleep and just hangs in his crib chatting to himself till someone comes to get him. Day, Night, Summer, Winter - it doesn’t matter - he’s the same consistent little cruiser. 

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How have you managed your role as a mother living in a completely new environment?

Thankfully with ease! We’re really lucky that we have nannies to help us especially with Nathan working. Bali has definitely been a completely different experience for us as a family. Our kids are constantly out and about exploring - we basically only have them home to take their baths and naps. The days are long and warm and there is so much do and see. The fact that it’s all far more affordable then that in Sydney it helps. 

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If you could go anywhere in the world, at anytime of the year and eat anything you wanted. Where, when and what would it be?

La Buvette in Paris - It’s a place Nathan and I fell in love with when we went on our honeymoon. It’s super small has great bar snacks and it’s run by this super cool french girl who owns the place and is both the host, sommelier and chef. 

Instagram: @frankiepeach - @herblack book_com

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[INTERVIEW] Nathan Sasi

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[INTERVIEW] Nathan Sasi


You are one of Australia’s most successful chefs. Why did you decide on Bali being your next foodie chapter? 

I was offered an opportunity to work with some cool young Aussie professionals and was brought onboard to consult for The Brett Hospitality Group across a series of new restaurants with various concepts. That coupled with being set on an island - well, it sounded like a good adventure and a bit of a break from Sydney. 

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Fishbone Local is your most recent project and is doing extremely well. What’s next in the pipeline?

I came on board for Fishbone after it had launched so it was a great way to understand how restaurants are set up and run in Bali. Our next project however that I have been involved in from the get-to is MASON and that launches in a matter of days. The menu is mediterranean and that is something I love so I’m pretty excited about creating a menu I hope both the locals and tourists will love. 

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You have a very specific sense of style. Has your fashion sense influenced the way you cook?

I’m traditionally a little old school in my dress sense and I guess that goes for my cooking also, in that I love old school techniques. However the older I get the less I seem to care too much about fashion and it’s more about basics, ease and comfort. 

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If you could have anyone cook for you who would it be and what would they make?

My late farther and without a doubt it would be his schnitzels and mash. 

What’s your favourite season to cook with?

Summer is my favourite season, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini are abundant and I love throwing down a big batch of ripe non greenhouse tomatoes into some jars to use during the winter.

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Why is cooking food from scratch so important to you and what do you hope doing so will bring to the industry?

It’s something I’ve always loved doing ever since I first made pasta from scratch. I was in awe of how a few simple ingredients can be transformed into something so tasty. I wanted to continue that theme with everything I did. I think it’s important that the industry doesn’t allow things like old school techniques and skillsets to die.

Favourite pizza topping?

Meatlovers - bbq sauce

What do you cook when you're…….
Feeling lazy? Spaghetti Bolognese
Trying to impress? slow roasted rib eye with all the sides
In a nostalgic mood? My dads chicken schnitzels and mash
Trying to be healthy? Grilled Chicken, Steamed Broccoli or Grilled Steak with Sautéed spinach
Cooking for your wife and children? I’ll always make roast chicken vegetable soup throughout the week, my son Harvey loves it and it’s an easy way to make sure he eats his veggies. Otherwise some type of homemade pasta or Roast with a variety of veg

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If you could go anywhere in the world, at anytime of the year and eat anything you wanted. Where, when and what would it be?

It would be reliving my honeymoon with my wife. We went on an incredible food odessy through Spain, France and London. 

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Instagram: @nathan_sasi@fishbonelocal - @mason.bali

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[REVIEW] Blanca Bar and Dining

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[REVIEW] Blanca Bar and Dining


Wearing our medals with pride (Valentina included) the staff at Blanca more than happily accommodated our less than scrubbed up appearance and slightly sweaty brows. We may not have "looked" the part but they sure made us feel it. Valentina felt very at home too...... 

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OK, where to start? Oysters, naturally. Beautifully fresh and topped with the most incredible of Asian flavours. Even Georges who is not much a fan of oysters was sucking his fingers clean. The flavours were super fresh and zingy and I especially loved the cold, crunchy granita on the oyster Valentina has her beady eyes on. Might need to wait a few more months baby girl. 

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"BLANCA by name, definitely NOT Blanca by nature."

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I love Asian cooking for how perfectly they balance their flavours. Sweet, sour, salt and spice. This next dish was a brilliant example of that. The bonito pastrami was next level with it's sticky sweet sauce, tangy cream and salty fish all married together to create an elegantly complex and delicious dish. And definitely the prettiest.

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CROQUETAS `BEIJING DUCK´ hoisin marinated duck, almonds, honey, cinnamon cream.JPG

I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that one of my favourite foods EVER are duck pancakes. I know, it doesn't get much better. Or does it? Imagine a duck pancake..........but fried! Dreams really do exist. A potato croqueta filled with hoisin marinaded duck and an almond, honey and cinnamon cream. My first thought on taking a bite was that it was quite unusual and it was heavy on the cinnamon. However, once my tastebuds understood what was going on I thoroughly enjoy it. It was a fun take on a popular favourite.

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Right, ignore me for one second. Look behind me to the left. See Valentina? See that face? That is a face of utter dismay at the realisation that she wasn't getting a bite of the beautifully bouncy Blanca buns. Oh dear me! These buns are heavenly. We ordered one of each (although on reflection I think 10 of each would've been more sufficient) of the softshell crab, beef cheek and shiitake mushroom. The bun itself is more dense than others I've eaten but without effecting the fluffy texture you'd expect in a bun. I put it down to their robust, overflowing fillings needing a sturdy little sleeping bag. Hands down softshell crab took the number one spot with the other two following very closely behind. 

BLANCA WHITE BUN soft sesame bun, pickled shiitake mushrooms, miso dressing, daikon and BEEF CHEEK BUN soft white bun, beef cheek, aged soy mayo, pickled cabbage, chilli .JPG
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So this next dish wasn't one that we ordered. This next dish was a very pleasant surprise. This dish was a gift, a gift from the chef himself. According to him this dumpling was made incorrectly and therefore couldn't be served to the original orderers. Some may see this as sloppy seconds, however, we saw it as lucky leftovers. And for a dish that didn't make the pass I'd love to know what it tastes like when made correctly. It tasted amazing! The broth was incredibly clean and light with a great chilli kick and the texture of the dumpling was super silky. Give me a "poorly" made dumpling any day!

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MISO EGGPLANT grains, mushrooms, kombu, garlic, sesame hummus.JPG

We closed the show with some epic side dishes. Miso eggplant with grains, mushrooms, kombu and sesame hummus. I thought this was a really clever fusion mixing Asian with Middle Eastern. The miso turned sticky and almost caramel in taste which paired amazingly with the charred eggplant. The roasted pumpkin with kombu butter, persimmon, black garlic and pumpkin puree was one of the most beautiful dishes we ate. I loved the pop of yellow and delicately sliced persimmon. Flavour wise it wasn't my favourite of the bunch but if every other dish was a 10 this was a 9, so still pretty good. 

ROASTED PUMPKIN kombu butter dashi, persimmon, black garlic, pumpkin puree.JPG

Even though little Miss V wasn't able to enjoy the delicacies set before us (although I'm pretty sure her daddy gave her a cheeky lick of the potato croqueta) she has given Blanca a 3 bottle rating in our new Baby Appetite scoreboard. As well as telling all you lovely readers how much I love (or not so much) the restaurants I dine at, V and I will be including a baby rating on how baby friendly they are. Because that.............is my life now. 

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Baby Appetite Rating

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Pros:

  • Their response to Valentina and our ginormous pram was extremely welcoming. They did everything they could to get us a comfortable spot.

  • Plenty of outdoor, pram friendly seating.

  • They describe themselves as being a place for everyone (families included) despite the expensive looking interior and they were more than happy to accommodate us even in sweaty, post City2Surf gym gear.

  • Highchairs are also provided as well as a baby changing facility downstairs next to Harris Farm.

Cons:

  • On busy sittings it might be tricky to maneuver the pram between seats.

Website: www.blanca.com.au

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What I'm Wearing
Jumper: Flightmode


 
 
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[INTERVIEW] Sian Redgrave

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[INTERVIEW] Sian Redgrave


Describe yourself as a dish.

Oooh this is a tricky one to get started on! I would have to say something simple like a bowl of pasta with a rich homemade tomato and chilli sauce. Probably a pasta shape that is tricky to roll like strozzapreti and the sauce would have something like anchovies and chilli for a little salty/hot kick. I guess what I'm trying to convey is that I'm simple yet complex at the same time! Sounds like most people right?

You won The Great Australian Bake Off in 2015. What has been the most rewarding part of claiming that title?

Bake Off was such a rewarding experience in so many ways. I think going on a journey like that and proving to yourself that you're capable of anything you set your mind to is so empowering and absolutely priceless. The second I was on the Bake Off set cooking everyday I became aware that it was what I was supposed to do with my life, so I was given a lot of clarity. I think life becomes a lot more simple when you are on your path and you have found your purpose.

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You've been pretty open about your enjoyment of cooking savoury dishes more so than sweet. What is it that you love most about cooking on the savoury side?

I think cooking has my heart as it's this beautiful balance between understanding structure and discipline and just surrendering and going with the flow. Cooking has guide lines however there is also a freedom to be spontaneous and creative, adding in a little of whatever may take your fancy. Almost a metaphor for life really! I also don't possess a sweet tooth. I was born with a bread, salt, butter and cheese tooth, so making something savoury also satisfies my cravings. 

What’s your opinion on avocado brownies?

Depends who's making them because word has it that yours aren't great, haha! But in all honesty, a brownie is no place for an avocado. If you're going to eat a brownie please ensure it's made of excessive amounts of chocolate and butter, preferably warm and topped with ice-cream. Clearly I'm the all or nothing type.

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Word on the street it that you have a little book project in the making. Can you tell us anymore about what's to come?

Word on the street is correct. I was finally mad enough to write a cookbook, which has been a dream of mine for some time. Put simply the book will showcase seasonal produce and hopefully inspire people to cook through colour, texture and tone. Georges Antoni, one the most creative and incredible souls I have met, who also happens to be a genius with a camera (and a great cook), is shooting all of the imagery. The book has organically become this great project to connect with friends, share a meal and ideas and fulfil a lot of artistic dreams, I'm so grateful! Release is aimed for September next year, so get your stovetops and appetites ready!

If you could cook a meal for anyone who would it be and what would you cook them?

There are so many people in the world (dead and alive!) I would be so honoured to meet who have impacted my life, from Oprah Winfrey to Picasso to David Bowie. But my favourite person to share a meal with and cook for is my mum. Since I moved from Perth to Sydney I don't get to see her a great deal and it's very hard for me. So dinner with mum, sharing a bowl of homemade gnocchi, her favourite, would have to be my dream.

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Food like fashion comes in and out of style but what food trend do you think will stand the test of time?

I think seasonal, sustainable and locally grown food will become the next big thing, not only out of trend but also necessity. As consumers I think it's so important that we take time to discover where out food was grown, the way it was farmed and what's going into our bodies and its impact on our planet. Conscious eating can benefit so many areas,  from our health to our farmers, so I truly hope there is momentum building in that area.

Top 5 restaurants in Sydney. GO!

1. 10 William Street (I go alone and eat the pretzel with their amazing whipped bottarga and a glass of orange wine.)
2. Society Pizzeria (best pizza in Sydney!)
3. Ester
4. St Peter
5, Hubert (I love the vibe! Feels like a night out in Paris.)

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Other than a knock out, best selling cook book, where would you like to see yourself in the next 5 years?

I think my greatest goal is to find a way to reach and inspire people to eat well and to enjoy the art of cooking. Food is not about perfection, I think it's actually far from it. For me, cooking encompasses self care, creativity, the act of sharing and love as well as pure enjoyment. So I hope to be cooking, creating and sharing with an audience who loves to eat as much as I do and cares about the origin and quality of their food, in whichever format that takes shape (hopefully in a series and through another book!).

If you could go anywhere in the world, at anytime of the year and eat anything you wanted. Where, when and what would it be?

I would be off to Tuscany in the spring, to eat Pici (a thick hand rolled spaghetti) with cacio e pepe. Washed down with a beautiful bottle of red and concluded with a big piece of ricotta crostata or cannoli. Right I'm off, need to book flights, Tuscany is calling!

 

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Something your fans may not know about you is your equally great passion for music. Why does music have your heart and how does it tie in with your love of food?

Music for me is so powerful and evoking. I can be in any state of thinking or feeling and listen to a great song and just be so encapsulated by it. I grew up with parents who are really into music and played instruments at school. My biggest passion is deep house and hip hop and I love listening to it while I’m cooking. I think music is so alike to food, it has the ability to transport you to another place and nourish you.

"NIGELLA who?"

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Food Vs Fashion Quick Fire Round

1. Online shopping or Online ordering?
To be honest I'm not much of a online kind of gal, technology and I haven't really bonded. I really love to dine in restaurants and I love to shop in store so I can try things on. But in this case online shopping wins, I'm a sucker for a sale on Farfetch or Net-a-Porter.

2. The Orient Express or Sushi Train?
Sushi train hands down. What's better than a conveyor belt of food?!

3. Gucci or Gnocchi?
You have gone for my weaknesses here and stumped me! Gucci is just so creative in their art direction, styling and photography. They are a true source of inspiration to me,  I especially love their creations for the met Gala every year. And then gnocchi, pillowy soft and even more delicious when it's pan fried. Might have to be a tie on this one P!

4. Catwalk or Pub Crawl?
Pub crawl takes the cake on this one. Must be my English blood but I adore old pubs and equally adore Guinness.  

5. Peach Colour or Peach Flavour?
Stone fruit season is one of the most bountiful and beautiful times in my opinion. I love baked peaches with amaretto or a delicious frangipane tart with peaches and mascarpone. No to peach colour, it washes me out! 

6. Celebrity Model or Celebrity Chef?
Celebrity Chef all the way, although I'm a little obsessed with 90's supermodels like Cindy Crawford. They are my beauty icons!

7. Chanel or Champagne?
Chanel wins this one. Coco was such a strong willed and resilient woman who I think has inspired so many young girls. And who can say no to a perfectly tailored suit?

8. Blow Dry or Dry Martini?
I'm sadly really slack when it comes to my hair. I just jump out of the shower, brush it and hope for the best. So a blowdry is always very welcome (people usually say "wow you look so different, what have you done (sigh)", however martinis are close to my heart and just so happen to be one of my favourite drinks.

Follow @sianredgrave for food inspiration, recipes and drool worthy images such as the ones pictures above.

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Sian portraits taken by photographer Georges Antoni

 
 
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[LIFE BEHIND THE SCENES] Great Australian Bake Off Final

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[LIFE BEHIND THE SCENES] Great Australian Bake Off Final


When a party consists of baking, balloons, burgers and babies you know you're in for a good time. When the baking has been done by Sian Redgrave, the balloons are the size of a small house, the burgers are the best you've ever eaten and the babies are as cute as a button then you're good time just turned into a little slice of paradise. 

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I was in my element. The big kid inside me squealed and clapped at the donut wall, gazed in awe at the magical carousel, grinned like a Cheshire cat at the balloon arches and drooled like a dog at the colourful lolly buffet. Of course, not forgetting that the reason we were there was to film the final episode of the Great Australian Bake Off and not just stuff our faces. 

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Friends, family and guests were all lined up outside the picnic area ready for our grand entrance. As they called action you could feel the buzz and excitement as we edged closer to the picnic party and of course the Bake Off shed in which the three finalists were finishing off their showstoppers. 

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It was that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment as we stepped through the balloon archway and were faced with an explosion of colour, sound and smell. First things first we located the perfect picnic position (aka prime photo taking backdrop) before Sian made a beeline for the coffee van. While she was doing that I ran around the party like a mad man taking photos before the donut wall and lolly buffet were demolished by all the sugar hungry children. 

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"Cake is for LIFE, not just for BIRTHDAYS."

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While most people would consider a picnic to be a couple of crustless sandwiches, a bag of Twisties and a few carrot sticks thrown in for good measure, you've clearly never attended a Sian Redgrave picnic. So we chowed down on an Isreali couscous, lentil, cauliflower, green bean, tomato and broccoli salad, a quinoa, radish, spinach, pomegranate and almond salad, a cheese board with all the trimmings (provided by yours truely) and of course a couple of baked treats because...........bake off. 

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Living up to her title of season one's Bake Off winner Sian's coconut and raspberry slice was heavenly. Beautiful and crumbly and finished off with a dusting of pistachios and rose petals. Her lemon meringue pie with a twist was incredible. The twist? Passionfruit! Perfectly short pastry and creamy, tart lemon curd with pops of passionfruit seeds and the stickiest, marshmallowy meringue.

You'd think after bringing enough food to fill 40 people we'd have no room left even for oxygen. You'd be wrong.........Bring on the burger! 

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If I'm honest I wasn't expecting much from this burger, I assumed it was just a filler for all the kids. Something easy and fuss free to keep them quiet. Never did I think I would claim one of the best burgers I'd eaten to be at staged picnic in the middle of a field from a food tent. Oh how wrong I was. And of course you can't have a burger without fries. Thin and crispy, just how I like em. 

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It wasn't all about the food (although that did play a very important part) it was also the experience of watching the epic grand final of three homemade bakers for one of Australias greatest reality shows. Sometimes watching them play out in real life can taint the tension and excitement that the TV brings to the living room but there was no doubt that the sweat on each of the contestants brows was as real as my sugar high and the tension just as raw. We arrived for the last two hours of their bake and the shed doors were left open for the guests to come and watch as they pleased. 

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Now we couldn't leave the party without taking a ride on the carousel. For Valentinas sake of course. However judging by the look on her face and ours it's not hard to see who were the real kids in this situation. It really is true what they say about children bringing out the child in you. You begin to see the world through their eyes and your wish is for them to see and experience as many beautiful things that the world has to offer. Candy floss and carousels included. 

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Sadly V and I couldn't stay to witness the announcement of the Bake Off winner. My motherly duties called and it was waaaaay past V's bedtime. We did get to watch the finalists bring out their masterpieces and serve them at their table of family and friends. And I can tell you that they looooook goooood.

But before we headed home there was one thing left to do........

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"GOOD things come to those who BAKE."

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FAN GIRL MOMENT! Seeing as Sian and Maggie go way back (2015 to be precise) I was able to nab myself a quick piccie with the Queen of cake herself. She is as adorable in real life as she is on the box. Courteous, graceful and humble as ever, the perfect example of celebrity. 

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I'm sure by now it's no surprise that Bake Off gets me a wee bit excited. Not only for the food porn but for the people it has brought into my life. Firstly, it is because of Mrs Maggie Beer's Burnt Fig and Caramel Ice Cream that I am married to the man of my dreams. What started out as an ice cream flavour debate soon became a dinner invitation and eventually a marriage. It is also because of Bake Off that Sian up and moved to Sydney and is now one of my best friends.

Food, family and friendship. Three of life's greatest pleasures. Thank you Great Australian Bake Off!

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What I'm Wearing
Trousers: Zara (old) // Tshirt: Uniqlo // Jacket: Zara (old) // Watch: The Horse


 
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[MODEL MADHOUSE] First Day Back

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[MODEL MADHOUSE] First Day Back


Is it wrong of me to have looked forward to spending a day at work? Doing something away from the routine of motherhood? Indulging in something that I love without my baby girl? I'm sure we all have different answers but my answer is no. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't miss her or think about her or request photo updates from Georges (see picture below right) but I do believe that it's important for a mother to have time on her own, time to refresh, time to reflect, time to replenish and time to re-energise. Surely it can only make you a better mother which can only result in a happier baby. 

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Saying goodbye to my little cherub was made all the more easy knowing that she was in good hands. Georges was also rather vocal about how excited he was to spend a whole day indulging in fatherhood. Something he (and she) experience very rarely. I think dads can get left out of the picture all too easily and I know how much Georges misses her when he has to go to work. Now it was my turn to feel how he feels. However, I loved knowing that he was able to spend some quality daddy/daughter time with her and spoil her like the daddy's girl that she totally is!

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"A model mum, OR a mum that MODELS?"

So, back to the job at hand. Cashmere Essentials were my wonderful client today. As you can see from the rack below it was no mean feat but jumping back on set was like riding a bike. I loved getting back in front of the camera and it felt good knowing I was out working and doing what I could to contribute financially to my family.

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The wonderful and very fortunate thing about modelling is that it doesn't have to be a daily grind. I can shoot as much or as little as I choose which means I get to balance being a mum and a model in a way that suits Georges and I. Of course not having any family in Sydney means that it's pretty much all down to Georges and I to juggle that illusive work/life/parent balance. 

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So this is the photo that I asked Georges to send me when the pain of missing her was getting just a little too much. Asleep and happy, all a mum could ask for. 

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A couple of hours after lunch I began feeling my boobs slowly swelling and filling up with milk. I'm pretty sure I grew a whole cup size in the time I was on set. It never occurred to me that even though Valentina would be fine, what with her grand supply of bottled breast milk, I on the other hand still needed to release the pressure. My boobs felt like a time bomb ready to explode. Cue freak out! Of course all thoughts led to mastitis and I was seriously considering running to the bathroom to hand expressing into the sink. As my fellow mums will know this is like flushing away liquid gold. Not the ideal solution but when the choice is that or infection I know which one I'd rather take. 

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Lucky for me (and my bulging breasts) Georges and Valentina dropped in to say hi so without hesitation out popped my boob and on popped Valentina. OMG! The relief was incredible. Lesson learnt. If I'm going to do this whole working mum thing then I need to either pump on set or bring V with me. I think I know which one everyone on set would prefer.

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I really did love getting back on set. It felt good to do what I loved prior to having Valentina. Of course it doesn't compare the amazing job of being Valentina's mum but every now and again I don't think it will hurt to be model instead of mum for a day. 

Website: www.cashmereessentials.com

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[LIFE BEHIND THE SCENES] It's A Girl!

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[LIFE BEHIND THE SCENES] It's A Girl!


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When Lebanese and English combine it can only mean one thing (other than one damn cute baby)........a Middle Eastern High Tea Baby Shower. As well as the usual baby shower games, enjoying the "beautiful" weather (pregnancy and 33 degrees do not mix well) and of course catching up with my gorgeous girlfriends, this shower was all about the food. So when Sian very kindly offered to cater my shower, instead of the polite banter which us Brits are very accustomed to -
P: "Oh no, I couldn't ask you to do that."
S: "Please, it would be my pleasure."
P: "Are you sure? I don't want to put you out."
S: "Honestly, I would love to!"
Yes, yes, yes, was my very quick, very blunt, very non apologetic answer.

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My  favour boxes were filled with pink, blue and white sugared almonds which are a Middle Eastern tradition given at weddings, birthdays, christenings and baby showers. They symbolise health, wealth, happiness, fertility and a long life.  Not a bad thing to leave a party with. 

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I had always loved the idea of combining a classic English high tea with the exotic flavours of the Middle East. I didn't know for what occasion exactly but my baby shower seemed like the perfect excuse. When I pitched the idea to Sian her eyes lit up and I could see her cookery cogs turning as she wrote down the menu in less than 10 minutes. Cue three days straight of prepping, cooking and baking madness. 

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Now no high tea is complete or can even begin without perfectly cut, crustless finger sandwiches. With four fillings to choose from, salmon, cream cheese and watercress; good old cucumber sarnie with a crushed pistachio crust; smoked ham, cheddar and Branston pickle (a personal favourite of mine) and falafel with garlic sauce and micro herbs. Does it get any more English come Lebanese than that??

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SCONES!! All hail the scone. Whether you like em simply simple or filled with dried figs and a bit of spice, we gotcha covered. Jo's got the right idea!

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Sian pretty much made and baked everything. OK, not pretty much, she did. I helped by licking all the bowls clean which is really not all that helpful. So I thought maybe it would be a good idea to actually contribute some of my own cooking abilities. Pulling out one of my favourite cake books I made these truely epic earl grey and honey cupcakes from The Caker. I did however put my own little spin on them by adding a chocolate ganache topping (because pregnancy and chocolate mix very well). They were such a hit! So much so I will send the recipe to anyone who asks and I guarantee you will be everybody's new BFF. 

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Sadly I, nor Sian, can take credit for these beautiful baklavas. Yes we put them on a fancy plate and sprinkled them with rose petals but all kudos goes to Al Sultan Pastry in Rockdale. These really are the most amazing baklava and even though anywhere outside of the Eastern Suburbs seems like another planet I urge you to take the drive and to take an empty stomach with you. 

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This cake was a personal request by Georges (yes he was at my baby shower. Who do you think took all the lovely photos?!) We had the pleasure of first tasting it at Sian's birthday and decided that once was not enough. This is one of the best cakes I've ever had. Semolina, pistachio and rose water cake soaked in a lemon and rose water syrup finished with crushed pistachios and dried rose petals. In fact, it is so good that Georges, his mum, sister and I attempted to make it for Valentina's christening. And not to blow our own trumpet but we did a bloody good job.

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As this is a high tea, with the key word here being tea, we set up a tea station of English Breakfast (obviously), mint tea, earl grey and cinnamon, cardamon and ginger. Sian introduced me to this amazing prop hire place called Major and Tom  where  we hired a selection of beautiful, vintage teapots and mix and match cups and saucers. The perfect corner to wash down all the sugar!

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Ah, the piece de resistance. The mother of all baby shower cakes. The type of cake you want to smoosh your face in. Sian's masterpiece! I mean, she won Bake Off after all, it was bound to be bloody sensational. Sian has such a style when it comes to celebration cakes. Slightly imperfect, asymmetrical, rustic, homemade but the most beautiful thing you ever did see. For some serious food porn check out her instagram @sian_redgrave

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"READY to..........."

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Thank you to all these epic babes for making my baby shower the best I could have possibly imagined. Clearly we were having so much fun that little Valentina decided she wasn't going to miss out on all the action and came three weeks early, the day after my shower. And get this.......as soon as she was born she popped out smelling like cake batter! Go figure. 

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[LIFE BEHIND THE SCENES] The Joy of Being Pregnant

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[LIFE BEHIND THE SCENES] The Joy of Being Pregnant


Q. Planned or unplanned?

A. Definitely planned. We started trying in January this year and were lucky enough to fall pregnant by May. In fact after our first scan at 7 weeks the Dr told us we conceived on 16th May which was the day after Georges got back from LA. Thank goodness she didn’t miscalculate otherwise that would have been a very awkward drive home.

Q. Is pregnancy exactly what you imagined it would be like?

A. Not really, you get told what to expect and what will happen to you physically and emotionally but I imagine like parenthood you can never fully understand it until you go through it yourself. One thing I definitely didn’t imagine was just how much I would enjoy being pregnant and how much bonding happens before you even meet the little human. I've also loved seeing how excited Georges is getting. He says hello to my tummy before me. 

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Q. How have you changed your routine since becoming pregnant? How has it changed your life and daily routine?

A. Nothing much has changed really. Especially in my second and now third trimester I do everything I used to do before being pregnant just with a little extra weight attached to me. My first trimester was pretty tough, I went from going to the gym 6 times a week to not at all because my energy levels were non existent and I suffered with morning sickness for the first couple of months. However, now my day to day is pretty much back to normal. Except for the occasional trip to Baby Kingdom and a guilt free donut (or two).

Q. Have you done any modelling jobs since finding out you were pregnant? If so what were they for?

A. Yes I have! In fact right this moment as I type this, I’m sitting in a cafe in Melbourne having just wrapped a shoot for Target. 

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Q. What are you looking forward to most after the baby arrives?

A. Finding out if it’s a boy or a girl. Georges and I have decided to keep it a surprise (I never thought I would have the strength to wait). I’m also looking forward to seeing what our baby will look like. There’s been so much speculation because Georges and I are totally opposite in our appearance. Georges has always said as long as it looks like you then the baby will be sorted. Finally I’m looking forward to introducing our baby to all my family in the UK, especially my grandma. I’m not sure when they’ll all get to meet him/her but I know it will be very special when they do. 

Q. Have you had to buy specific maternity outfits or do you have a go to designer that does the job for you?

A. So far I haven’t had to. Surprisingly my wardrobe seems to cater pretty well for pregnancy, lots of oversized shirts, maxi dresses and body con dresses are doing the job just fine. As I’ve gotten bigger I have had to stock up on a few extra outfits but just going to my regular haunts and buying larger sizes seems to be enough. I will say I am missing a good pair of jeans and denim shorts so if anyone knows where I can get a fashionable maternity pair please holla! 

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Q. How has your food habits changed, have you had any cravings and what has been your go to comfort food?

A. For the first couple of months food was my enemy. I wasn’t interested in anything unless it was loaded with carbs and fat and sugar. I was completely turned off cooking, I had to hold my breath every time I opened the fridge or pantry because the smell of food made me feel sick. Coffee was also a right off! I couldn’t step into a cafe if it smelled strongly of coffee as it also made me want to throw up. I had a strong craving for fruit juice and Calypos for a while and now I seem to have lost interest in meat. It’s incredible how the body tells you what it wants and what it doesn’t want. It was so hard, especially being such a foodie. I can’t wait to go to my favourite sushi restaurant and demolish a thousand plates of salmon and avocado rolls. 

Q. Describe how you will be as a first time Mum?

A. I don’t even know if that’s possible. I have ideas of what I would like to be as a parent but whether that ends up happening I guess all depends on the type of child we have. In short I’d love to encourage our child to embrace life and get involved in all sorts of sports, activities and community programs. I will teach our child to be open minded and accepting of all people, cultures and religions. I think I will be fairly disciplined as rude, ill mannered children really get under my skin. And if we have a girl I will totally indulge her in all things Disney, dancing and pink. I’ve already begun educating Georges on the Disney princesses but he still thinks Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood are the same person.....

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Q. You are originally from England, is your family coming out for the birth?

A. Hopefully, my Mum is flying in a week before the birth then she’ll stay for about 5 weeks. Being her only child this is quite a big deal for her as it’s her first grandchild so it will be very special to give her those first few weeks to bond. I’ve got some friends coming to visit around April/May and then my dad will come out as soon as he can, unless we get over to the UK sooner. 

Q. How is Georges preparing for fatherhood, how do you think he will be as a father?

A. Georges has had seven nieces and nephews to prepare for fatherhood. He’s amazing with children and there is no doubt in my mind he will be an incredible father. I think his main fear is not having enough time to spend with the baby, however Georges is a very present human being so the time he does have for his children will be completely devoted to them. I can’t wait to see him as a dad. Also, is it just me or is a strong, rugged man holding a baby a real turn on??

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Q. Drugs or no drugs?

A. Haha! I’ve told myself if I can do it without the drugs then great. However, giving birth is no mean feat so if gets too much I’m not ashamed to call on for a little help.

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