Epanoui Jewellery, Self-Employment and Cake

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When it comes to work I sometimes find self-employment a little tricky. I’ve been a freelance Marketing Consultant for four years now (errm, how did that happen?) and have been lucky enough to include my blog in my job remit for the last one and a half years but sometimes I still feel like I’m playing at my career. This probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t feel like a grown-up yet, and also because with my two little responsibilities I’m not able to work full-time – though with all the evenings I do manage to bash out about 32 hours a week. I absolutely adore working though, it forms a huge part of who I am and I feel extremely lucky that I’m able to forge out a self-employed career in an area I love.

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I have big plans for my business in the future and it’s important for me to keep working hard at what I do. I know I’ll be a role model for my children and I want them to believe they can have it all: a family, a career, a busy and fulfilling life. Which is why I love to meet women who are similarly inclined, women with a fire for business in their belly and who have given up other parts of their lives to go it alone and follow their dreams. Last week I was lucky enough to meet one such woman: Hannah (above, having a little snuggle with Hux), who is a talented jeweller working under the name épanoui, a french word which means to blossom, grow and flourish.

Delicate spheres necklace

I took Hux along to meet Hannah and he was as enamoured as me by her creativity and her lovely jewellery (you can see me modelling the beautiful spheres necklace above and up at the top). An ex-PR professional, after leaving University (she studied Fashion Marketing and PR at Nottingham Trent) she always dreamed of making jewellery for a living and one and a half years ago she took the plunge and left her fast-paced career after attending a course at Central St Martins.

All her creations are designed and made from her home studio in Bedfordshire and they’re exactly how I like them: beautifully dainty and easy-to wear.

Memento inspire bracelet

Radiance coin necklace

Hannah’s pieces are inspired by nature and I love the texture this brings to her jewellery, with this Radiance coin necklace being a particular favourite. I’m also a huge fan of the Memento leather & gold bracelets which come in different colours, each representing a different positive feeling (I think ‘Inspire’ in violet would be the one I’d hanker after!). But my ultimate favourite is the Delicate Spheres necklace (£45); it’s simple enough for me to wear every day and too small for little grabby hands to be interested in it. It looks gorgeous layered up with other necklaces or simply on its own.

Hannah’s attitude to work really inspired me; like me she is easily distracted when she’s working with things like food or the washing (self employment < rock n’ roll) and it was lovely to talk about how we got over our home-working hurdles. We had a similar step into self-employment too, Hannah was commuting into London as I did once upon a time and we agreed how soul-sucking it can be when you’re dying to channel your creativity elsewhere. She says that her least favourite thing about working for herself is the tax return (I hear you, sister) but the best things far outweigh Inland Revenue: she loves to create pieces she knows people will love and treasure forever and says she absolutely loves going to work each and every day.

Heritage necklace Heritage bracelet

épanoui jewellery is great for those big birthdays – 18th, 21st or 30th – because many pieces are able to be engraved. Hannah can make lots of things to order, too: I love the idea of one of her Heritage bracelets with engraved discs, a bit like a charm bracelet. On my birthday list is one with Elfie and Hux’s initials and birthdates.

Florence linen wrap

Hannah’s also just launched a range of 100% linen wraps that are again all handmade in her studio. The creative process to put these together involves design, pattern making, dying, sewing and a lot of love on her part! They also have gorgeous names; above is the Florence but you’ll also find the Annais Leonié, Olivie, Luna and Amelie on the website very soon. I can’t wait to grab one of these myself (£45 – I LOVE the soft grey of the Florence), perfect for summer evenings when there’s that chill in the air.

What I loved about my morning with Hannah was the absolute passion she has for her creations. She comes from a creative family, her mother is an artist and her grandma a dressmaker, so it’s most definitely in her blood. She has such an obvious zest for what she does, her enthusiasm and happiness is infectious. If you’re after some jewellery hand-made in England with love, skill and craft then you need look no further than épanoui.

Thank-you Hannah for your awesome attitude and a lovely coffee morning! And thanks for not letting on to the Internet that I hate half of Hux’s cake… ;)

 

Getting dressed: Winter Jumpers

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It’s taken 28 years, but I think I’m finally at a place where I feel happy with the clothes in my wardrobe. I know what I like, I know what I feel comfortable in and I know what (I think) looks good. I try to steer away from reverting to my ‘mumiform’ (more on that here) and I really have Gap to thank for sorting all my basics out in their sales. I love the Gap sale more than anything.

My current obsession is jumpers. I throw on my jeans or trusty Gap skinny pants or jeans, a nice jumper and my leather jacket. A pair of boots or my favourite trainers and boom, I’m done. My absolute favourite jumper is anything in grey marl: at last count I had five and I will keep going until I am bored of grey marl (I’ll never get bored of grey marl). Grey marl grey marl grey marl!

A recent discovery of mine is the boutique Feather and Stitch in Richmond and online (see the interview I did with founder Fiona Sanderson over at Mama). Up at the top I’m modelling their Des Petits Hauts Kirsh top: it’s all fleecy on the inside and so cosy. Here are my current favourite sweaters from their collection:

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From top left: 360 Jack Sweater, £215. Des Petits Hauts Gunter Sweater, £108. Des Petits Hauts Azia Sweater, £99. 360 Jules Sweater, £189.60 (Father Christmas, if you’re reading, this is the one). 

And some from the high street:

highst

 

Grey Sweater, £9.99, H&M. Boatneck Sweater, £22.99, Gap. Sweater with pearls, £35.99, Zara. Skull Sweater, £7.99, Gap.

 

The AW13 Mumiform

I kind of like having my ‘mumiform’. The clothes I can, on days when I’m too tired/busy/stressed to wade through my cave of a wardrobe, just throw on in one combination or another and I know they’ll look good. And it not good, at least acceptable.

From Autumn through to winter it goes something like: jeans, comfy tshirt, sweater, boots; the jeans skinny and stretchy and the jumpers woolly. Comfy and warm, the sartorial equivalent of a big hug.

So when Dorothy Perkins got in touch with news of their new Essentials Range my ears picked up. A selection of 10 key pieces to simplify my A/W wardrobe? Perfect…

DP’s have selected The Biker, The Sculpted Tee, The 2in1 Dress, The Fit & Flare Dress, The Skirt, The Fur, The Blouse, The Item Sweat, The Cute Fit Knit and The Skinny (jean) as essentials we can choose from to quickly update our wardrobe this season. I selected The Sculpted Tee, The Cute Fit Knit and The Skinny as essentials I knew I would wear all winter. Here’s how I’ll be rocking them:

The Sculpted Tee

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The sculpted tee is great for days you want to just throw on a tshirt but need to look a bit dressy. I wear mine with a Zara leather jacket, skinny blue jeans and my new Liberty print Vans (yep, I bought them!).

The Cute Fit Knit

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The Cute Fit Knit is great for those like me who have felt the need to put the heating on already (BRRRR!). It’s lovely and cosy to sling on over the top of a tshirt and dress up with some indigo skinnies and boots.

The Skinny

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I love these skinnys. The rise isn’t too high but high enough to hide my leftover mumtum, the stretch is perfect and they really old their shape (no going baggy at the knee, side eye my old TopShop Baxters…). I wore these for my Radio 4 appearance earlier on this week and I’m wearing them on a date tonight, they truly are versatile.

Have a listen to Natalie Hartley, InStyle’s Fashion Director, as she chats about the new Style Essentials collection:

The collection is a great value way to update your A/W wardrobe – prices start at a happy £14 – and pieces are both versatile and on-trend.

Makeover your winter wardrobe with £500 to spend on this seasons Style Essentials! Dorothy Perkins will put you and a friend up in a fancy hotel and send you off for a posh meal after you’ve been given a styleover by one of their friendly Style Advisors. What’s not to love? Get entering!

Dorothy Perkins sent me my favourite items to try from the collection and also compensated me for my time to write about them. Which makes me one happy bunny. 

An Autumn Wardrobe Update

Do you have a ‘mum uniform’? You know, a default ‘look’ that you are able to reference on three hours sleep in the morning when the last thing you want to do is pick an actual outfit? I most definitely do, but it’s getting to that time of year when my Havaianas and optimistic sleeveless tshirts are no longer going to cut it. Yes, a heatwave has been predicted for this weekend, but the rain is hammering down right now and I’m in a hoodie so it feels like a long way away.

And so I’m looking to autumn, my second favourite season after summer. Not surprisingly I’m probably going to be wearing a similar autumn uniform to last year – as being the mother of a 1 and three 3 year old doesn’t really lend itself to silk and cashmere – so we’re talking jeans, trainers, light scarves and sweaters. It may be plain but it’s comfort all the way, baby.

Here’s what I’ll be wearing come October:

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Distressed jeans, £44.95, GAP. Navy bird print scarf, Fat Face. Fur hooded parka, £75, ASOS. Crew neck knit, £34.99, Mango at ASOS. Striped sweater, £14.99, GAP. Liberty print Vans, £54.99, Office.

FYI: what I wore last winter, what I wore this summer, my pregnancy wardrobe.

How To Dress A Bump

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I loved being pregnant.

OK, I didn’t. I really didn’t. I felt sick, exhausted, flat out ill. I never had the pregnancy glow, at least not without the help of a lot of make-up. I looked grey, had bad hair and could not stay awake. One of my lasting memories is that of me at three months pregnant, lying on the sofa. Trying to entertain a 1 year old Elfie but just weeping because I felt so wretched. She was laughing so I think she found the weeping entertaining.

But still, I loved being pregnant and I love to look back on the time when my babies were in my tummy. It’s a pretty crazy and magical thing that we women do, growing people. Elfie has recently learned that babies grow in mummies tummies and I’m trying not to feel offended that she asked me if I had another baby in there when we were in the bath last week. Instead I feel touched that she has been asking to get back in my tummy :) And then she says “oh no! Elfie too big!”. Too right.

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

This time last year was my favourite time of pregnancy. I was about 30 weeks pregnant and had finally found some energy, I wasn’t too freaked out yet about being a mum of two under 2 and had stopped feeling so ill. I was completely unable to eat during the first 18 weeks and ended up losing a lot of weight so was all bump. It’s lots of fun dressing a bump!

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

One thing I never got on board with was Maternity clothes. I could never bring myself to buy clothes from such a small collection that would last me only 9 months, although even now only a year on there seem to be so many more brands out there to choose from. There’s Vertbaudet for one, Keungzai and good old ASOS Maternity. In fact, looking at all the photos on this page I’m not wearing any maternity wear: only maternity-waistband jeans and leggings (H&M are best for these in my opinion… I definitely don’t still wear them. Ahem).

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

There’s absolutely nothing like having your child grow inside you. It’s so freaky and alien-like but also the most natural thing you can do. I often feel a bit sad that this is something men won’t ever get to experience, but then I’m not sure they could handle it. Plus they get to do other fun stuff, like peeing standing up ;)

I’m getting way too wistful about pregnancy here, it’s making me feel quite nervous (and if Will is reading this I expect his balls are slowly retreating at the thought of Harold baby number 3). To balance it out I’m going to remind myself of this: piles. Constipation. Leaky boobs. Pregnancy UTIs. Post-natal depression. Morning sickness.

It’s not working! How is pregnancy so intoxicating?

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

Thank-you to Vertbaudet for collaborating with me on this post. Please take a look at their selection of fabulous maternity wear! 

Gift Ideas: My Favourite Necklaces


L-R: Pipe Dreams, Lazy Giraffe, Molly Brown London, Paper and Chain

I am a big necklace fan. By which I mean I LOVE necklaces, and also like BIG necklaces. But as statement neckwear is not very appropriate when you’re in possession of a chest-headbutting baby who doesn’t have control of their own neck I’ve had to re-think my jewellery choices. And since I’ve said goodbye to big bib necklaces I’ve enjoyed shopping around for more dainty alternatives.

As it’s the season of goodwill (bah humbug) I thought I’d share my most recent finds: you can’t go wrong with a classic bit of jewellery when you’re considering Christmas Gifts and I’d be really happy with anyone who’d like to buy me these necklaces. Again. Plus they are made by some of my favourite people on the internet! Win/win.

 

 

When I went back to work in London for a short time 6 months after Elfie was born I wanted her to know that I was thinking of her, even when I wasn’t there. So I bought an ‘E’ charm necklace and religiously wore it, and of course I had to do the same for Hux; that’s when I came across this gorgeous chunky Molly Brown Alphabet necklace (above). Namechecked by Tess Daley and BNTM so you know they’re good, I love to wear my H and my E together. And I’m sure even though neither of my babies can yet string a sentence together they’re thankful of the gesture! Molly Brown are on Twitter and also do a sweet collection that was called ‘Tiffany for Girls’ by Vogue. Impressive.

 

 

I was lucky enough to work with Nicole Kai in my former life at Vice Magazine in her first job fresh off the plane from Canada. I like to say I was responsible for her big break but she’s pretty awesome so would have made it big without me, I’m sure. Anyway, Marketing-Assistant-turned-Jewellery-Designer Nicole recently launched her ‘Pipe Dreams’ Collection, inspired by “the unintended appeal of common hardware pipe fittings”. My favourite of hers is this gorgeous triangle pipe necklace (above), the nicest bit of plumbing I’ve ever seen. See more of her gorgeous work at pipedreamsjewellery.com or like her on Facebook.

Ismay Ozga is both a long-term Twitter friend and long-term talented jewellery designer. I love that she hails from my home county of Worcestershire and I seriously adore everything that her and her partner in Paper and Chain, Naomi, produce. Their new collection ‘Auxo‘ has just been released and I can’t get enough of this pink necklace that has been made with a string of vintage sequins (above). In fact if Will is reading, please take note: Hex Trio necklace in brass, Vega ring in brass and Solitaire necklace in silver ;). I’m chuffed that Paper and Chain is now stocked locally in my friend‘s shop, so do check out the collection in person if you are local.

 

 

Another long-term Twitter friend is Deepa, AKA Lazy Giraffe, and she specialises in the daintiest of jewellery like my full circle necklace (above – which I’ve just noticed is now in the sale!). She also does a great line in pearl-based wedding jewellery and my personal favourite  are her thin textured and smooth stacking rings (WILL! Are you there?! Size L, FYI). Everything she makes is handmade to order which is awesome and I imagine her in her studio with a tiny hammer banging out a load of gold and silver. That’s how it works, right?

Go on – show me your favourite jewellery. I definitely need more!