Big Families – Look No Further Than The Volvo XC90
Almost a year ago to this day, I found out I was expecting our third child. Like most big life transitions, this discovery sparked a whole host of emotions, and even more questions.

How would we afford three sets of school or daycare fees? Would Charlie cope with a baby in the house? Would my pelvic floor survive another childbirth? Could my heart stretch even further for this third child? And uh oh … How on earth would they all fit into the car?

As my frantic Google and Facebook Group searching very quickly revealed, I wasn’t the first mother to have a slight mental breakdown over the question of whether three children relegated you directly to the land of the minivan.

But as I've since realised with each one of those aforementioned questions (with the exception of the school fees), I need not have worried. The heart, body and car situation all sorted themselves out in the end.

It turns out that your heart does expand, your body is remarkably elastic, your children adapt, and as well as there being a (very expensive) professional service dedicated to squeezing three car seats into your vehicle, there are actually cars (lovely ones at that) designed specifically for big families.

I had the pleasure and privilege of test driving the Volvo XC90 for a one-month period (including this trip to the gorgeous Palm Beach), and can confirm that this is the exact vehicle my stressed-out pregnant self would have designed.

The first thing I'll say about this car is this: it has an in-built booster seat. Perhaps I'd been oblivious to Volvo's innovations for years, but it had somehow slipped under my radar that Volvo's larger cars come equipped with booster seats for slightly older children. How this is not a prerequisite in every SUV, I have no idea. Because it completely changes the game.

In the XC90, this booster is in the second row's middle seat, and it transformed the experience my children have in the car. Rather than squeezing into a bulky booster sandwiched between two full-sized car seats, my eldest son had space and comfort in his spot, with a booster that activates with – literally – the push of a button.

The screams of, "He's TOUCHING ME!" and "I HAVE NO SPACE!" and "I AM NOT GETTING INTO THE CAR!" quietened to silence, and I can't begin to explain the positive impact this had on our journeys (and my mental health).

For families who regularly carpool or cart other children around to activities, this is also a lifesaver.

Speaking of space, the Volvo XC90 unsurprisingly delivers it in spades.

The car is a seven-seater, but unlike our current family car (which could barely squeeze two infants into the third row), the XC90 can actually accommodate seven adults. My 6″4′ husband sat in the third row for an entire part of our journey (much to the delight of our baby who could stare straight at him from his rear-facing car seat), and didn't once complain about the space.

What's more, even with the third-row seats, there is still significant boot space available to fit a pram or the outrageous amount of groceries that are required for a large family. Without the third row up (they fold down to be completely flat), the boot space is unsurpassed. For a weekend away with our family of five, we fit in a full Bugaboo Donkey (not a small pram), a port-a-cot, two full suitcases, toys, and food (plus perhaps a few bottles of wine) for three days. After asking my husband, "Do you think we'll need to take up another car?" while packing, the fact that there was still space to see out of the back window (and to even pack in some Avalon shopping purchases) blew my mind.

Amy wears shirt and bag by LMND. Charlie and Henry wear Goldie + Ace.

Even with its ample size, driving the car doesn't feel like manoeuvring a beast.

It's easy (a delight, in fact) to drive, even up the terrifying winding roads of Palm Beach, where we visited for this long weekend getaway. If you've ever made the drive through the streets of Palm Beach, you'll be familiar with the 180 degree turns and ski-run-steep driveways. The XC90 handled them all with complete ease, and the turning circle is remarkably wide for a car of this size.

As someone who is ever-so-slightly terrified of driving on tricky roads, I felt as safe and secure as you'd expect from Volvo's impeccable reputation.

The vehicle is also undoubtedly elegant and refined, with Volvo's distinctive Scandinavian design.

While family cars are so often a capsule of all things chaotic, the XC90 exudes a remarkable sense of calm. The interiors ooze modern Swedish luxury, and there are really beautiful details that elevate the driving experience. I was also really pleased to read that one of my favourite features – the gorgeous wood finishes – are made from carefully selected materials that are authentic and sustainable.

The features of the XC90 are also unparalleled. In fact, with the exception of the parking assist, I'm convinced I barely did them justice.

Most of the functions in the car are controlled through a large central touch screen that works exactly like an iPhone. It's sleek, responsive and clear (with a portrait format that was refreshingly simple to use) so reading information and selecting options is a breeze.

Speaking of options, the huge array of pre-programmed radio stations in the car were one of my children's favourite features. Kinderling Radio and even Elf for Christmas music (yes, it was a little too early) were on regular rotation.

While I was certainly fond of the radio stations too, what impressed me most with the car's functionality was the intuitive interaction. While all the information is available on the central touch screen, there is also a digital display that pops up behind the steering wheel with important information. It appears right in front of your face on the windscreen, so you don't need to take your eyes off the road. This features everything from navigational directions through to warnings of speed limits, and was incredibly handy and effective. There is also a voice-activated control that responds directly to your cues, which my whole family adored.

Suitcase by Away.

I also can't write about the XC90 without mentioning the incredible sensors for parking and alerts.

The car features "City Safety", which helps to protect people inside and outside the car, day or night. This innovation – which is standard for every XC90 – identifies potential hazards like other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and animals ahead. Thankfully I didn't need to use this feature, but it is such a welcomed relief to know that you will be warned if a collision is imminent. Even better, if you don't react in time, the car can automatically apply its brakes to help avoid a crash.

The XC90 also features Steering Support, which helps you to steer away from danger as effectively and safely as possible. On top of that, there is Run-Off Road Mitigation, which detects if your car is going to leave the road unintentionally at high-speed limits, and will use steering (and brake support if necessary) to guide you back onto the right path. Then if your car does happen to leave the road, an energy-absorbing structure in the front seat cushions will reduce your chance of serious injury in the event of a hard landing.

And when it comes to keeping your family safe and secure inside the car, this is at the forefront of Volvo's design. Ultra high-strength boron steel – one of the strongest types available – forms a rigid safety cell around you and your family, with safety belt pre-tensioners and load limiters keeping your seatbelts in just the right state of tension.

I've always known (as so many of us do) that Volvo is renowned for their safety features, but experiencing them first-hand offers such incredible peace of mind.

When we reached the freeway on our way up to our getaway, the other feature that made driving so much more enjoyable was the Pilot Assist.

The traffic wasn't pleasant (as anyone who travels regularly to the northern beaches will know), so this feature allowed the car to be programmed to be a set distance behind the vehicle in front of us, which made the drive a little less stressful. The car also automatically steers you (gently) into the centre of the lane if you're veering, with a slight vibration through the steering wheel that proved very helpful on the freeway.

Amy wears pyjamas by Jasmine + Will. Charlie and Henry wear Nature Baby.

The final item that sealed the deal when it came to my love of the Volvo XC90 was parking assistance.

This is no regular parking camera. Rather, you see your car from a 360 degree bird's-eye view, where you can see all the surrounding elements – from people, to cars, to gutters. Let's just say that I'm not known for my parking abilities, and this surrounding view made parking feel like a very achievable game of Tetris. Truly, a revolution when it comes to parking in small spaces.

One feature I didn't use (I was too impressed by my own new parking abilities) was the Park Assist Pilot, which helps you park perfectly. It uses sensors to gauge the size of spaces as you drive by them, and lets you know if one is big enough. It can then steer the car into a parallel space just 1.2 times the length of the car, then all you need to do is operate the gears and brake according to the screen prompts. So, so impressive and exciting for anyone who struggles a little with navigating spaces. Big families in inner-city streets, I'm looking at you.

Amy wears dress by Ephemera. Charlie and Henry wear Goldie + Ace.

All in all, it can't be understated what a perfect family car the Volvo XC90 is. It is practical, it's spacious, it's beautiful and it's incredibly safe.

From the tiny touches (like the pull-up window shades in the back seat) through to the major safety elements of the vehicle (that show just how committed Volvo is to keeping our families secure), it really is the ideal car for large families.

So if you're about to embark on a Google or Facebook Groups rabbit hole in a search of a vehicle for your expanding family, stop your search right here.

In association with Volvo | Go to

The vehicle reviewed in this article was the Volvo XC90 D5 Inscription in Osmium Grey.

Photography by Grace Alyssa Kyo.



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Smoosh Founder Mim Gascoigne
Do you cleanse your face properly?

For so many of us, the answer is probably no (and it doesn't help when you have a small child at your feet trying to get your attention). Which is why we like to keep our skincare regime simple and effective, and also why we opt for oil-based skincare.

Enter Smoosh, a fuss-free, natural skincare range based on the hydrating power of oils, created by Sydney mum of three and teacher Mim Gascoigne.

"Cleansing is such an important step in your routine. If the cleansing step is too harsh and dries out the skin, you are a few steps back and you've only just stepped onto the starting block," she says, referring to that feeling of dryness that can come after cleansing if you've stripped all the hydration out of your skin. She set about solving that skincare dilemma. Smoosh's Silky Cleansing Oil, contains six organic and natural plant oils, including camellia, peach, jojoba, watermelon and passionfruit and leaves your skin feeling soft, supple and hydrated (the opposite to the aforementioned dry, tight state).

Next in the Smoosh skincare regime is a serum, and there are three in the range, so there's something for all skin types. "Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs," she says. "I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way." As for what serum actually does (i.e. how it'll help us glow), she explains that a serum is that extra step after you cleanse and before you moisturise, that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. If your skin still feels dry after you apply serum, Mim advises you to keep your skin damp when you apply: "our oil serums absorb quickest when skin is damp. after cleansing or misting is a great time to smoosh. Three to four drops massaged into damp skin should leave skin supple, bouncy and moisturised never greasy."

Her passion for plant-based skincare products came from her mother, who is a GP and studied naturopathy. "She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications," says Mim. And as for the name Smoosh, it was inspired by the feeling you get when you see chubby baby thighs. "You really want to 'smoosh' them," says Mim. "Whatever age you are, healthy skin has that beautiful glow and softness that brings about the desire to touch and smoosh it."

Here we talk to Mim about how she got her business off the ground (and the ups and downs of that journey), the key ingredients in her products and why your skin will love them, practical time management tips for the working mother, and most importantly, how to Smoosh.

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Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

Smoosh skincare

Smoosh skincare

Smoosh Nourish oil serumSmooth Soothing Balance oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Smoosh's range of serums

There are so many cleansers in the market, why did you decide to launch an oil cleanser and what are the benefits of oil cleansers?

So many cleansers, yet I still felt like I hadn't found my perfect one. Personally, having such sensitive skin I really wanted to create an oil cleansing blend that was free from essential oils and fragrance, yet was also light and silky enough for all skin types. A cleanser that is gentle yet thorough is crucial. This is where an oil cleanser shines, it has the ability to cleanse away the most stubborn makeup and sunscreen yet leave your skin soft, hydrated and your skin barrier healthy and intact. I also had customers asking for me to create one.

What skin types would this product suit? For example, should oilier skins steer clear?

All skin types can benefit from our Silky Cleansing Oil, each plant oil in the blend has been thoughtfully chosen to provide just the right amount of slip for a beautifully smooth massage and cleansing ritual, without overloading the skin. Once massaged in and gently removed with lukewarm water and a soft cloth, your skin will be perfectly cleansed, super smooth, nourished and glowing. No greasy oil slick in sight.

Smoosh has three different serums. Firstly, what role does serum play in our skincare?

A serum is that little step that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. Our oil serums can be used alone or added to your moisturiser. Luxurious, potent and brimming with goodness each of the three oil serums is loaded with omega fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants to help nurture and bring about healthy and glowing skin.

What is the difference between the three serums you offer - and how did you settle on three?

I settled on three, as I feel within the trilogy, all skin types can find a a blend to support them. Whatever skin season they are having. Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs. I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way.

Radiance oil serum is a nectar-like oil serum, deeply moisturising so wonderful for very dry and/or mature skin. It turns around lack lustre skin really quickly and it's also wonderful in cold windy weather. Soothing Balance oil serum is for all skin types, especially those prone to breakouts, it's silky and light yet still provides beautiful moisture. It's calming on inflammation and brings clarity to confused skin. Nourish oil serum is a satiny, berry packed oil serum, it gives dewy hydration, nourishment and is really rejuvenating for normal to dry skin types. It's a bit like a super berry smoothie in a face oil!

Natural skincare has always been part of your life - tell me how your mother influenced your skincare decisions and how you approach your skincare regime?

My mum is a GP and also studied naturopathy so I was surrounded by tinctures and natural skincare products from a very young age. She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications. She was also instrumental in teaching me about the benefits of nutritious healthy food, the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle and how both can impact skin health for the better. She was into bone broth long before it was trendy!

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Nourish oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serumSmoosh Soothing Balance oil serum

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Skincare has changed a lot over the years, what are some ingredients or products which have stood the test of time?

I think face oils have been around for a long time but have definitely become more mainstream which is great as I think they are really transformative. Oil and balm cleansers have been used by actors and stage performers for decades to remove heaving makeup so their credentials are pretty good too. Weleda Skin food is a great classic as is Dr Haushka Rose Cream. Lanolin is another ingredient that has stood the test of time, Lanolips 101 ointment, is such a great formula. Glycerin is a bit of an underrated ingredient, it's been around for ages and is so healing for dry skin. It seems to be having a bit of a resurgence though!

The term "clean beauty" is very trendy - how would you define clean beauty?

As there is no official definition for the term, I feel the term can sometimes be confusing. One brand's clean list can vary from another. I would say Smoosh Skin is a clean beauty brand insofar as it is organic and natural, plant-based, free from added fragrance, vegan and cruelty free.

What are the hero ingredients in your products?

This is a hard one; we source 26 of the highest quality organic and natural plant oils and create all our formulas in small batches so they are fresh and vibrant. They all play an important role, but special mention to the luminous coral red of the organic Rosehip fruit oil, and the dark vivid green of our virgin Hemp seed oil, however, they are all such a delight to blend and work with.

Where do so many of us go wrong when it comes to skincare?

I think trying too many new products, all at once can often send skin into a spin. I speak from experience in this area! Adding one new product to your skincare routine at a time and using it for a few days before adding the next, is the best way to see if a product is working for you. Also, when using actives like retinol and acid toners it makes you even more susceptible to sunburn so it's so important to practice good sun safety.

Smoosh founder Mim Gascoigne

What lead you to launch your own business - was there a defining moment where you made the decision?

I'd thought about it for many years, however, once I started having babies it took a back seat. Once I had my third child, I somehow felt ready to start a new chapter and had the confidence to jump in. I've always been naturally driven by creative projects and have a genuine passion for skincare so it helps to have a real love for what I'm doing.

The beginning is often a stumbling block for so many women when it comes to launching their own business. Where did you start and how quickly did you launch?

Much of the product line is a culmination of decades of my own research and experience so developing the products has taken years. However, once I decided to go for it, building the brand and business itself, took about six months to solidify. I drew on a bit of knowledge I had from some marketing subjects I did at university. My husband works in marketing so he offered to give me a framework to build the business from i.e. key steps to follow in launching the business, which was very helpful.

What has been the most challenging part of starting a business?

The most challenging parts have been sourcing packaging, labelling and suppliers. Some of our oils have been very hard to source. Covid-19 social distancing and restrictions hit just as I was launching, which brought new challenges as many of our oils were suddenly out of stock. Lastly, being from outside the skincare business, it is a challenge to build brand awareness as a small start-up as it is a crowded market, so that is our biggest challenge right now.

What about the most rewarding?

Customer feedback. Seeing our customers' skin transformations from our products. Having sensitive skin myself and dealing with eczema and more recently rosacea, I know how hard it can be to find a product that works and supports your skin. I genuinely love that we can help our customers get relief for their skin condition and attain healthy, happy skin.

Now, how do you manage your time between your children and your business?

It is a constant juggle, especially as many of the aspects of starting a new business are completely new to me, so I feel like it takes me more time than the next person, I have to do more research and this comes with more frustration! I have three kids, 9, 7 and 2, so working with them around makes any task infinitely longer! When possible, I plan ahead and carve out pockets of time to work when they are otherwise engaged. I have moved into a casual teaching role which gives me more flexibility to work on the business too.

How do you look after your skin daily? What products do you personally use?

I cleanse every night with our Silky Cleansing Oil and a soft cloth. I then use one of our three oil serums depending on how my skin is feeling.

In winter I mostly reach for Radiance oil serum in the evenings, it's so deeply moisturising and wonderful for dry winter skin. I then often choose the lighter, Soothing Balance oil serum in the morning. In the summer it's more often Soothing Balance in the day and Nourish oil serum at night.

I don't cleanse in the morning unless I've used a mask overnight. Skipping the morning cleanse has been really helpful in calming rosacea flare ups.

Every 7-10 days I use the Allies of Skin retinal and peptides overnight mask. I also use a pure white french clay mask mixed with one of the Smoosh oil serums if I need a soothing mask.

Other loves…….
Mother SPF
Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturiser and RMS Un-Cover Up
Baby Cheeks Blush Stick by Westman Atelier
Tubing mascara as I have hooded eyes and no mascara stays put!
Lanolips 101 Ointment

The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.

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