Springtime At The School Gates

Hi More than Toast readers! I’m Katie and Alice has very kindly allowed me to write this post for you. With each passing season it seems fashion rules relax even further, meaning you can wear the same pieces for work and play – and from season to season – if you choose them carefully. Thanks for having me!

I know we’re all still in our thickest winter woollies, but it’s never too early to start planning next season’s wardrobe, particularly when you can pick up some of spring and summer’s key trends now. For me, my wardrobe has to be pretty multifunctional – cosy enough to walk the kids to school in the morning, smart enough if I’m going into the office or comfy enough to wear if I’m working from the kitchen table at home. And while pieces that tick all those boxes can be tricky to find, I’ve already got my eye on a few…

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Subtly sheer

Sheer fabrics were another big trend on the 2014 runways. And because sheer pieces are bang-on-trend most seasons, vintage boutiques and sites are a great place to pick up blouses that are true multi-taskers. This polka dot blouse from Rokit looks very Stella McCartney but at a fraction of the price. I’ll be wearing with leather look skinnies and ballet flats for a gorgeous off duty look or tucked into black trousers for work.

New season flats

While fashion and practicality don’t always go hand-in-hand, when it comes to footwear, it was all about the flat during New York Fashion Week’s spring summer 2014 show. There were Helmut Lang’s white mesh slip ons, Peter Som’s psychedelic brogues and Oscar de la Renta’s floral pumps. These flats from Heels.com take in many of next season’s trends with their white, lasercut styling. I’m going to be wearing mine with wide-legged or cropped straight legged trousers or to give a bit of an edge to a girly floral tea dress.

The classic trench

When it comes to spring cover ups, you simply can’t go wrong with a classic trench coat. It’s a wardrobe staple that you’ll wear and wear, which transcends seasons and years. Burberry’s spring summer 2014 runway show, as always, showcased the most stunning trench coats. This time round, the designer most famous for iconic cover ups sent models down the catwalks wearing beautiful pastel hues including lilacs, minty greens and sky blues. But, given that I end up spending more on my little ones clothes than mine these days, my budget doesn’t quite stretch to Burberry. Instead, I’ve been scouring the high street and I love the gorgeous soft khaki version from La Redoute. It has stunning peplum detailing on the back meaning you can wear over everything from workwear to a LBD or just with a pair of jeans for the school run.

The statement necklace

A key look for many seasons, the statement necklace is showing no signs of falling out of favour. It’s one of my favourite go tos when I’m rushing around fitting in the 9-5 with doing the school run. By wearing a pair of black skinny trousers and a white t-shirt with my parka and high tops to take the kids to nursery and school, I can add low heels, my necklace and blazer for a work look which is smart enough for meetings with the boss. This Marni necklace is stunning. It’s pricey but would work with everything. I’d wear over t-shirts, under the collar of a crisp white shirt or to liven up my little black dress.

The slouchy trouser

We’ve been squeezing ourselves into skinny jeans for seasons now. And, while a great pair of skinnies, particularly a high-waisted pair, can be super flattering, it’s great to see a slouchier silhouette appearing. I’ll be wearing mine like the models in the Karen Walker show, turned up and teamed with brogues, a cropped sweater and a blazer. This pair by Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic combines this season’s checks with next season’s slouchiness – the perfect transitional piece.

A Christmas Girly Day Out

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I realised something the other day when I was scanning through iPhoto. Since I separated from my ex-husband at the beginning of the year I have barely taken any photographs with my DSLR. It’s all been Instagram, VSCO cam-filtered pictures that are all vintage-y and trendy.

I can’t quite work out why that is. There were a couple of issues with the autofocus (which I think I’ve fixed now, wooh) but it’s gotten so bad that I think I’ve almost forgotten how to use the darned thing. I had a very frustrating time last week when I was trying to snap the kitchen for your viewing pleasure – I love my new kitchen – and I kept getting the exposure horribly wrong. But me and the DSLR, we worked out our differences right before I threw it out the window and resorted to my iPhone and the lens will live to see another day.

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(Actually, camera buffs: I’m using a 5 year old Canon EOS 400d with this lens but it’s really quite limiting. Should I get another lens or a more portable camera? I’ve always loved the look of the Olympus PENs… a gal can dream)

So one of my New Years Resolutions this year will be to cart my camera around with me. There’s no excuse not to: my handbag is always of epic proportions thanks to all the Playdoh and Peppa memorabilia I seem to need on my person at all times. Where I go, the Canon goes.

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And so it came with me one lovely lunchtime last week. My friend Bryony and I made a date to take our eldest girls out to lunch and for an afternoon’s shop. It’s very rare I will spend time with Elfie, just her and me. Hux and I have a real double act thing going on thanks to Elfie’s 5 mornings at pre-school, but not me and E. So to take her on such a special day out was a real treat, and something both of us enjoyed.

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We started our trip the way all shopping trips should begin, with Prosecco, pizza and flirting with the young handsome Pizza Express waiter. The girls (Elfie and Frankie not Bryony and me) stuck stickers onto their children’s menu while B and I gossiped about boys, friends and the internet. Bryony put me to shame by ordering a superfood salad and I ate three quarters of a pork belly and apple sauce pizza. It was as good as it sounds.

(Another sidenote: Pizza Express have this festive menu at the moment and not only does it start with Prosecco but it ends with Limoncello. If you are a busy mum looking for a relaxing lunch you could do much worse than to imbibe some Christmas spirits with your pizza ;) Please drink responsibly etc etc).

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When we were done we took off to Claire’s, who had kindly sent us a voucher so we could start teaching our kids all about consumerism ;) In all seriousness, I don’t often take Elfie shopping for things just for her, for special treat times; toys and things she needs are saved for birthdays and Christmases, and anything in between is usually bought by me over the internet. So with the exception of good old Waitrose cakes she doesn’t really experience many things being bought for her.

It was really liberating to hand our girls shopping baskets and tell them to choose some treats. I have had some pretty good  experiences through this blog but seeing how happy that made Frankie and Elfie is up there with the best of them. Both the girls were so excited that they were able to choose presents for themselves; smiles and shrieks all round.

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I think one of the reasons Frankie and Elfie get along so well is that they’re both quite girly girls. I’ve always been really careful to buy gender-neutral toys, to not dress Elfie in pink and to let her be her own person. But still she gravitates towards the glitter, the tiaras, the Hello Kitty. Frankie is fairly similar (girlfriend has an enviable handbag collection by the way) so I think Claire’s was kind of like heaven for both of them.

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A good half an hour later and we were done, with two bags brimming with girl toys. Inexplicably, both girls had selected One Direction pens alongside necklaces, bracelets and of course the toddler favourite of the matching tiara and wand. Or in Elfie’s case, non-matching. She would not hear me when I tried to tell her that pairing gold and silver was a bit of a faux pas.

On the way out to the car we took the girls to see the Christmas decorations in the main hall of the shopping centre. I love them so much, my mum used to bring me to look at the lights and see Father Christmas every year there when I was younger so it’s such a pleasure to do the same with my little girl. Bryony and I had a ride on the carousel with our little princesses and then it was off home to show off (and reluctantly share) our loot with Hux.

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The day made me realise how important it is to make time for your children, not just together but as individuals. I got so much out of the afternoon we spent together and I think she did too: she really enjoyed the one on one mummy attention, free of the errand running and domesticity that our days are usually filled with.

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Thank-you Claire’s, not just for treating us and our girls but for making me think a bit harder about the relationship I have with Elfie and for giving us that special afternoon together. And thank-you Tescos clubcard points for my meal at Pizza Express ;) Buying restaurant vouchers with my points makes me feel slightly less angry at the cost of petrol and loo roll.

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:

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

 

What’s In Our Stocking?

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Shopping for the kids has been a bit of a challenge for me this year. I have Elfie, who likes practicing her writing, purple things and shouting loud. Then Hux, who enjoys tea parties with Elfie, bathtime and throwing food on the floor. I’ve found it pretty difficult to come up with ideas for presents I know they’ll enjoy.

Elfie now really understands the idea of Father Christmas, in fact maybe too much. When she was being a little bit of a pickle last week I reminded her that he would be watching her to see if she was naughty or nice, and if she was naughty he wouldn’t bring her any presents. She couldn’t sleep that night because she was worried about the man in the sky watching her. Total parenting fail on my part.

Anyway, she knows that on the 25th December she’ll be getting a stocking and she’s really excited about it. I’m carrying on the Christmas tradition and we’ll be sneaking down the stairs super early to open our pressies in our pyjamas before before a fancy smoked salmon breakfast. It’ll be just the three of us before we head off to my Mum and Dad’s for lunch and more festive merriment.

Because I am a bit boring, I like to include functional gifts in our stockings. Elfie’s ‘big present’ is a gorgeous cow-print Trunki, for Elfie to pack her and Hux’s clothes in when they go and stay with their dad. Hux is getting a wooden drum and wooden tool kit (down with plastic toys! killjoy), banging things and doing DIY with my dad being two of his favourite pasttimes. He’ll also be getting socks, natch.

Ahh, Christmas:

 For Elfie…

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Elfie will be getting a lovely cow-print Trunki for packing her weekend clothes when she goes to her Daddy’s house. She’s also started to show a real interest in timekeeping (that’s my girl!) so I’ve chosen a purple BabyBez watch for her from BooRah (keep an eye on Mama tomorrow for an interview from BooRah’s founder!). I’ve bought her some fun but functional hair clips as these always seem to get lost along with Hux’s socks as well as some new colouring pencils and books. I love the Remarkable range of eco-stationary: these in particular have been recycled from old CD cases and the covers of their notebooks are made from old tyres. Really cool! Elfie was also sent a dress from Their Nibs a couple of months ago and she’s just grown into it now, so she’ll be wearing it on Christmas day.

For Hux…

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Hux is getting a kettle and toaster set so he can make his imaginary friends a snack while he’s holding his epic tea parties, along with a tool kit for all the DIY he likes to help Papa with. He’s also going to be receiving a wooden drum (I might regret this one…) so he stops banging everything in my kitchen. I’ve chosen a Raa Raa book for him (Raa Raa is the only thing on TV he goes crazy for… I think it’s the jungle music) and yet more wooden toys, the London range of Le Toy’s cars. Also… SOCKS! H&M’s are my favourites for little boys.

Trainer Love

The amount of trainers I own are definitely not in proportion to the time I spend exercising. I adore them though: I love how these days it’s acceptable to wear a lovely silk dress and slap on a pair of Nikes to dress it down a bit. I love how comfy they are on the school run (though obviously no literal running takes place) and I love the pop of colour they can bring to an outfit.

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My newest loves: New Balance Running Shoe, £71.99

Trainers remind me of when I was at school and it was totally acceptable to strap on my Filas with my 90s high-rise stonewashed jeans to go and loiter outside New Look. I still remember my lilac platform pumps from Miss Selfridge with the fondest of memories: evidently I’ve always enjoyed wearing trainers until the cows come home.

As a fully paid-up sneaker fan I have a Pinterest board dedicated to my favourites and have a wishlist of ‘trainers I need in my life’:

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Via Six Feet From The Edge

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Via Alice & Sara

Starting with these Black Nike Free 5.0+. I love to see them with an all-black outfit or to chic up a pair of bright trousers (of which I have plenty); these are first on my list.

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Via What I Bought Today 

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Via The Frugality

Next up is a pair of grey Nikes with neon trim: similar are these Nike Free Bionic training shoes for £71.99.

For me, trainers MUST be worn with skinny jeans or leggings; I’ve recently been sent these confident curves leggings from Isme and they are amazing, they hold everything in and give a lovely silhouette. A bit of grey jersey and tailoring or leather on top and job’s a good’un.

Written in partnership with Millet Sport. For more information please see my disclosure

An Ode To John Lewis At Christmas Time

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There are certain things in life that give me the warm and fuzzies. Every time Elfie comes out with something hilarious or Hux learns a new word. Jacket potato with cheese and beans or cheese on toast with marmite (lots of cheese-based things, actually). Visiting places from my childhood: Bournemouth’s beaches, the New Forest, Mum and Dad’s house.

John Lewis is also one of those places.

When I was a kid we used to visit my grandma in Milton Keynes about once a month and take her in her wheelchair to what is now my local shopping centre. We always without fail would stop for a coffee at John Lewis’s coffee shop, Nana would have a cappucino and I’d do my very best to convince my mum to let me have the freshly-made crepes that we’d watch the chefs preparing. My grandma would give my brother and I all the 5p coins she’d saved (her hands were arthritic and she found it a struggle to pick them out of her purse) and we’d scour the children’s toy department looking for treasures.

These days I still visit the John Lewis coffee shop each time I go shopping, though now they have two: the slightly fancier Espresso Bar and the Cafe itself (I prefer the Espresso Bar and if you go I recommend the South African Sauvignon Blanc… I had it because it was my birthday, honest). I buy the children’s shoes and clothes from John Lewis, all my beauty products come from their beauty hall and I shop there for shoes and kitchen bits, too. I bought my last laptop from them and had my pre-move massage at the in-house Clarins day spa (it was blissful, I fell asleep and am going back next week for the post-move edition). The first place I met my lovely friend Lizzi at was the High Wycombe John Lewis coffee shop and, though it’s not the same, Waitrose are owned by the same people and I wholeheartedly love that place.

But it’s Christmas when John Lewis really comes alive for me. I can still remember marvelling at all the bright lights and big baubles of their Christmas department (erm, alright then, I still do marvel at them. IT’S CHRISTMAS after all). I went with my mum there last year to help pick out an ‘alternative’ Christmas Tree, she went with this one as she is super trendy and the shop for this years tree is slated for a couple of weeks time.

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John Lewis also wins in the Christmas TV ad arena. Say what you will about ‘The Bear and The Hare’, it may not be factually accurate but then neither was the Animals of Farthing Wood and you can’t deny the addition of ‘Somewhere Only We Know” by Lily Allen is pretty special. At the MK John Lewis they’ve made the experience immersive and brought the animals and the cave to the store; as a special treat Elfie went to see it with her own grandma last Friday evening, so maybe it’ll be giving her the warm and fuzzies in years to come?

Instead of leaving with you with The Bear and The Hare I’m going to post 2011′s advert. I still can’t watch this without weeping like a child, and for me it really captures a special bit of what Christmas is all about.

End of cheese.

This sponsored post was thanks to John Lewis, my long-term love. See my disclosure here for more info.