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… ;)

 

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.

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. 

The Game-Changing Changing Bag

 

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I’ve never been much of a handbag fan. When I admit that, other women look at me with the same confusion in their eyes they get when I tell them I’m not a big fan of chocolate. Like, are you sure you’re part of the sisterhood? I suppose it’s supposed to be ingrained into women to like bags and shoes. And chocolate.

But yeah, I tend to buy one (usually massive and leather) handbag, use it to death for five years and then repeat. I can’t be bothered with swapping my belongings from one to another all the time, something always gets lost.

When the children were born I had dalliances with various nappy bags but found it so much easier to use a handbag/nappy bag hybrid. In my opinion they look better and it’s a lot easier to cart around the one bag. I started using the Sugarjack a year ago and never looked back: I thought it was the perfect bag.

UNTIL NOW

*Ominous face*

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The kind folk at BabyBeau sent me one of their Ellie changing bags in Black and I was fully prepared not to love it as much as the Sugarjack. I was wrong. This bag has been a bit of a game-changer.

On the outside (and inside) the bag seems quite standard. It has all the pockets you need for your various baby-related accoutrements, with a removable lining so you can choose to not use them if you don’t want to. I don’t anymore, they’re always surplus to my needs and I end up losing things in them, but they’re great when you have a baby with bottles/nappy bags/dummies/kitchen sinks.

BUT THEN. The accessories, bottle holder and changing mat, are leather. I’ve never seen that before in a changing bag. +1 BabyBeau.

What swung it for me though were the straps. This bag has an across the body strap, shoulder strap and shorter hand straps.  Bloody brilliant. Never underestimate how difficult it is to carry a one year old, hold your toddler’s hand and somehow shift a huge big nappy bag across a busy car park/supermarket/TopShop. The across body strap has quite literally changed my life.

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(I can’t be the only person to cart around creepy babys in my bag, right?)

This is a good looking bag, too. Its style is reminiscent of Longchamp but is made of the most delicious leather, has a huge interior, is very well-made and feels very solid. It also comes with buggy clips (a relevation!) and a stripy interior. In a nutshell, I love it: this is most definitely my handbag for the next 5 years.

I was sent the Ellie free of charge for the purpose of this review. It has not left my side since. 

 

I Used All The Changing Bags So You Don’t Have To

A little while ago Pregnancy and Birth magazine asked on Twitter if there were any mothers with young babies who wanted to test out baby changing bags. As I change so many bums these days I list ‘poo’ as one of my Facebook interests I responded wholeheartedly with a YES PLEASE.

When I was pregnant with Elfie I went straight for the Limited Edition Cowshed bag by Pink Lining (as you know what a big fan of Cowshed I am) but as it was so, well, pink I was looking forward to trying something a bit different. I was sent bags from Mia Tui, Pacapod, Pink Lining and Sugarjack… here’s what I thought.

Pink Lining and Pacapod changing bag

 

The Pacapod (above, right), £80

This is an awesome changing bag as it’s so different to anything else I’ve ever used. I love the colour and pattern and it’s made from really good-quality wipeable canvas. There are two main pockets on this bag: the first one is large and opens at the top and the second is located on the side and contains two little containers, a ‘changer pod’ and a ‘feeder pod’. These ‘pods’ are for all the bits and pieces you need for changing and feeding and whilst at first I thought it’d be a little fiddly to be getting bits in and out of them it actually works really well. There’s no scrabbling round at the bottom of the bag looking for bottles as you know exactly where to find them, in the dedicated insulated ‘pod’! If you are happy to be carrying around a bag that’s quite obviously a baby changing bag, this is an excellent option for meticulously organized mothers (like me). The bag comes with a changing mat along with the various ‘pods’ you might need. Check out the Pacapod website for full information on how the bag works.

The Pink Lining (above, left), £79

I was lucky enough to be sent a bag from Pink Lining’s collection before its release to the general public on 10th September (though it’s currently available on pre-order). The interior of the bag is very similar to my current Pink Lining bag so there were no surprises, it’s a great sized bag with loads of handy pockets (some insulated for bottles) along with my favourite feature, the in-built mirror! A matching changing mat is included. I have to admit that the exterior of it is just a little too, hmm, twee for me… I’m not a ‘yummy mummy’ sort of gal and having had one baby already I was more interested in a bag that perhaps didn’t look so much like it is carrying nappies.

 

Mia Tui and Sugarjack changing bag

The Sugarjack (above, right) £249

For me, this is the Dogs Bollocks of changing bags. Just look at it: burnt orange, gorgeous leather… you’d never know you were toting nappies around in it. Since I received this bag it has not left my arm, there’s nothing I dislike about it. There are pockets on the front for keys and other little bits and a detachable lining that has pockets for baby-related paraphernalia, so once the baby has grown out of nappies you can still use it as a handbag. Again it comes with a matching changing mat and bottle insulator but it’s so super-stylish nobody would ever know that is what you are carrying around. Basically, if I had to use one bag for the rest of my life then this would be it, and if I had £249 to splash on a changing bag then I’d be throwing it Sugarjack’s way.

The Mia Tui (above, left) £44.99

This is another bag that’s constantly in rotation in our house: as I use the Sugarjack as a handbag this one travels with Elfie as her nappy bag to my Mum and Mother-in-Law’s houses. For those on more of a budget (and really, few can afford to spend £250 on a nappy bag with a baby on the way)  this is a most excellent option. It doesn’t look like a nappy bag but it has everything you need; including even a handy matching interior wallet that can be used to switch your ‘handbag belongings’ between bags. It’s easy and simple to use with plenty of room for all your baby bits and pieces and is super-stylish too, a friend commented recently to me how much she liked my new handbag. I was lucky enough to meet Charlotte, the creator of Mia Tui and her beautiful daughter Amelie (who has a bag named after her, just like Harper Beckham) and hear the lovely story behind the inception of Mia Tui which you can read about here.

Conclusion: if you’re looking for a traditional ‘nappy bag’ then either the Pacapod or Pink Lining are great options. They’d especially work well if you’re bottle feeding or starting to wean as there are so many features to assist with this. However, if you’d rather carry around a bag that looks like a handbag or that you can use when you’re not with baby (we used the Mia Tui when travelling to Madrid) then I’d definitely recommend the Mia Tui or Sugarjack.

Psst… Mia Tui are offering 10% off with the code ‘MT2012′. 

 

Fashion For Kids

Baby Elfie in spots and stripes

I’d just about gotten comfortable with dressing myself when I got pregnant with Elfie. Not in a practical sense, like “Yeah, I can finally get my hand through my sleeve”, but on a “Does this top go with theses trousers?” sense. I was working for a magazine in London, going to fashion week, constantly thinking about what I was wearing.  And once I’d got it down to a fine art Elfie arrived so then not only did I have to think about outfits for myself but there was another, cuter person to dress. And now I have two. So I’m thinking about my own fashion sense, my toddler fashion sense and my baby fashion sense. It’s a sartorial minefield.

 

Learning to crawl in GAP dungarees

I knew from the start that I wasn’t into traditional baby clothes. I hated the pink, frilly, flowery business that you see so often. I like more unisex colours on Elfie: blue, green, white. I like polka dots and stripes, not butterflies and fairies. I’m not a fan of baby blue on Hux – I prefer green again, stripes and because Hux’s grandfather was a sailor, boats.

 

A denim dress, stripes and UGGS

When we went to Nottingham for Elfie’s last hospital appointment we got so saturated with rain that I had to buy new outfits for everyone; the best of the bad bunch for Hux had slogans all over them, ‘Mummy’s New Man’ and ‘Handsome Like My Daddy’. I know some people go nuts for these sorts of things on kids but I cringed all the way through buying them. It’s just not me, and because the kids can’t speak yet it’s not them either.

Spots and a Zara shirt

We were lucky with both children that we were generously handed down lots of lovely clothes but when it comes to buying new ones I struggle somewhat. John Lewis has a great kid’s range but is a bit more than I like to pay, ditto GAP (though the sale is great and I buy a lot of stuff at this time) so I generally look to H&M and the internet for inspiration.

This time around I bought my favourite sleepsuits from Next (stars, animals and rainbow stripes = winner) along with some awesome baby chinos. I magically found some striped tshirts at Tesco (similar) and along with Elfie’s old unisex bits we’ve had enough clothes to last the summer. Though unfortunately, because our summer has been non-existant he’s pretty much existed in the same 6 babygros that have been rotated. No cute tshirts here.

A special note here for the amazing baby tux that Huxley sported at my Sister-in-Law’s wedding from H&M. Also, the speed that babies grow out of their clothes is just crazy. It’s insane. Babies = weeds. 

One of my favourite online sources for kids clothing is Oh Baby London. They’re based on Brick Lane and have some amazing Olympic-themed outfits at the moment. Who wouldn’t want their kid wearing a faux-Olympic medal?! I’m also well into their lightening-bolt pieces, and check out their Hawaiian prints. Here are my picks from their current collection:

 

 

KyNa Boutique is an online clothing store dealing only in the best-quality organic kid’s clothes. The boutique was started by my friend Jenny when she discovered one of her sons had eczema and she found the need for fun and fashionable clothing that wouldn’t irritate his skin. Jenny was kind enough to send me a gorgeous onesie (not a hint of a cringey logo!) as a gift for Hux when he was born – here’s what I’m loving from their current collection:

 

I have an Organic Zoo Bee bodysuit (see above) to give away to one lucky MTT reader (thanks Jenny!), age 6-12 months. Check out those awesome elbow patches! If you’d like to win please enter via the Rafflecopter thingy by telling me what your favourite item of clothing is from the picks above (apart from the bodysuit, obviously). You get one extra entry for tweeting about this competition. Good luck!

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