Magpie Mama

UK Fashion/Beauty/Family blog for Mamas that still like shiny things

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

People Tree Organic Cotton Breton T-Shirt

If there's one thing my capsule wardrobe was not in need of, it's another striped T-Shirt.

But this People Tree Organic Cotton T-Shirt is a bit special. I spotted it browsing on ASOS (mental note: must stop doing that) and it was one of those scenarios where the styling on the model completely drew me in. I almost certainly would have just forgotten about it if it hadn't been for the fact that this brand's pieces are ethically and sustainably made and their processes support the local rural communities that they are made in. I love supporting companies that have a great business ethos and so this T-Shirt has found its way into my wardrobe. Even though it's got a fair bit of competition from my other striped tees, I think it's going to get a lot of wear.

I absolutely love the boxy fit, the texture of the fabric and the contrast stripes on the sleeves. It's simple yet has something about it that makes it very pleasing. The fact that it's 100% cotton is a big plus point for me for breathability in warmer weather.

This exact piece has sold out now but is available as a dress style on ASOS here (I'm seriously tempted) and there are other gorgeous styles available directly from People Tree.

I'm wearing it today tucked into my Gap straight leg jeans with a satin floral print bomber from Marks & Spencer that I bought around Christmas time. This one isn't available anymore but M&S have quite a few similar styles in stock here.

I don't think there is an outfit that shouts Spring more than a floral print jacket over breton stripes with light wash denim.


Monday, 20 March 2017

How we eat

At the end of the month I will have been completely meat and cows milk free for three months so I thought why not share some background on how we currently eat as a family.

I guess the purists would say I'm a crap vegetarian because I still eat a bit of fish and the vegans would think it's pointless not drinking cows milk if I consume eggs and cheese but I don't think you have to follow anyone else's rules - you can decide for yourself what you are comfortable with eating or not eating. I know that plant based is the way to go. It's taking me a while to get there but I'm doing better than most.

My journey to giving up meat has been slow and steady. Over the course of the last 4 or 5 years after watching many documentaries on TV about poor animal welfare standards particularly in terms of mass supermarket meat production I started only wanting to buy the highest quality, organic meat that we could afford. Then, when that felt too extravagant for everyday meals I stopped buying meat at home altogether. Eventually, at the start of this year I plucked up the courage to tell our families that I'd decided to give up eating all meat. I was only really eating it to be polite. I was nervous that they'd think I was being faddy or high maintenance but they've been exceptionally supportive.

I've watched all the major documentaries when it comes to veganism - Earthlings, Forks over Knives etc... but it was Cowspiracy that ended up being the one that tipped me into making a permanent change.

If you haven't seen the documentary I highly recommend watching it. You can watch it on Netflix or YouTube. These are some of the stand-out facts:

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. 
  • Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today. 
  • Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. 
  • A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction
  • We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people
  • 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries  (Source)

It's such a no-brainer to me that we should we should be giving up (or cutting down on) meat and dairy to stop humans from completely destroying the planet with their selfish appetite for eating meat,  especially when plants can provide all of our dietary needs and are so abundant. It also feels entirely wrong to be eating meat when there countries where people are starving but grain is being fed to their animals for the West to eat. If we could ensure that no one in the world is going hungry and also be kinder to the planet, why wouldn't we just give up eating meat?

As the main cook and food shopper in our household, the rest of the family happily go along with my preference. My husband will occasionally choose to eat meat if he's out and we decided that the children should experience a "standard" diet while they are still young enough to not know the difference, so they eat a bit of meat outside the house.

Edward is 3 now and knows what "meat" is but doesn't fully understand that is is the flesh of a dead animal. He interchangeably uses "lamb" or "chicken" to describe any meat. He doesn't distinguish between the food he eats at home versus meals containing meat that he might have elsewhere. I was brought up to feel like I was being short-changed if there wasn't animal protein on my plate at all times so I'm happy that he would probably choose broccoli over a piece of meat if it was offered to him. I don't doubt that when he's old enough to understand that he'll want to follow my example and choose not to eat meat as well.

I can hand on heart say I've not missed meat one bit or felt tempted to cheat. We eat pretty much the same type of food that anyone on a meat eating diet would, but without the meat - our curries are made with chickpeas and vegetables, our stir fries with tofu or nuts, our bolognese with lentils, Sunday roast with nut roast. We still have lazy freezer food nights, I challenge anyone to tell the difference between a Quorn nugget and the real thing. I've never been a massive fan of bacon and I genuinely prefer veggie sausages over even the most artisan of meat versions. I've even replaced the milk in my beloved cups of tea with soya. It doesn't feel restrictive at all and now that mainstream restaurants like Zizzi are offering such wide ranges of vegetarian and vegan options it feels like the winds of change are turning in terms of vegetarianism and veganism not being seen as "out there" or weird but in fact the socially responsible choice when it comes to diet.

I'm eating less and less fish, eggs and cheese. In fact just last week when I popped out of work to get lunch at Itsu I grabbed a veggie sushi box instead of my favourite spicy tuna rolls or salmon sashimi. I'm consciously cutting these out of my everyday diet (slowly) but I have to admit, having them as an option does make life easier when it comes to eating out and especially when we eat with our families.

The point that I would like to stress though is anything is better than nothing. Don't feel like you need to be conform 100% to the "rules" or "label" of vegetarian or vegan. If you decide to do meatless Mondays or have the odd vegetarian Sunday roast then that's a start and change always has to start somewhere.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

These are a few of my favourite things - #1 The skincare edition

Kicking off a new little series delving into some current favourites. Today I'm talking skincare and you'll see there's a distinct theme of balms and oils going on.

I like to keep my skincare simple but after having Grace I think you could say that my simple skincare routine (a baby wipe, a splash of warm water and a bit of moisturiser) was barely a routine at all and my skin was seriously neglected. I noticed the lines around my eyes and mouth getting deeper and my skin seemed very grey and tired looking. I don't know much about skincare so I took myself off to Caroline Hirons to get some pointers on what I needed to re-vamp my routine and inject a bit of life into my skin.


Caroline is a big advocate of the double cleanse and the concept made complete sense to me so I ditched the wipes and searched out a bottle of an old favourite Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish and went out to buy the Clarins Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm.

I've used Cleanse and Polish for years and I think the only reason I stopped using it regularly was laziness. I love the slightly medicinal scent and I always feel like it really helps with breakouts.

The Clarins balm is new to me. I love oil cleansers and have used the Shu Uemura one a lot over the years but it's messy and contains mineral oil so to have a natural oil cleanser in a solid balm form that performs as well as this does at getting make up off is a dream. It's a work horse product, no bells and whistles whatsoever but it ticks all my boxes and I can't see myself ever being without it now.

I've almost come to the end of my Cleanse and Polish and I've decided to try the much hyped Oskia Renaissance Cleaning Gel next. I'll report back.

Of all the products in my Marks and Spencer beauty advent calendar last Christmas, the one product that I absolutely couldn't live without re-purchasing was the Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm. I ended up buying the giant size of this. It's wonderful as a second cleanse or for days when I'm not wearing makeup to pep my skin up a bit. It feels like a spa facial every time you use it. Definitely worth the hype, I'm a convert.

Pro-tip: If you are a parent and use Cheeky Wipes the re-useable wipes on your children's bottoms, hands or faces; the microfibre ones make excellent cleansing cloths. You're welcome.


I had never used a serum before in my life. I didn't even really know what the point of one was but Carline Hirons said you need one so that's that. First I tried the Liz Earle Superskin Serum but ended up absolutely hating it. The smell is so bad I ended up emailing them ask if my tube had gone off. I also didn't feel it did anything for my skin whatsoever so I wouldn't recommend it. After researching the ingredients that I felt I needed for my particular skin needs, I decided to go for the Ren Radiance Perfecting Serum that contains Vitamin C for radiance and hyuralonic acid for a boost of hydration. Just one application of this made me feel instantly like I'd slept for 10 hours and been for a facial. I honestly just can't believe how good it is. I'm thoroughly enjoying using it.


The jewel in my moisturisation crown is my beloved Liz Earle Superkin Concentrate for night. I absolutely love this stuff. It contains loads of plant oils and botanical extracts (Argan and organic rosehip oils, neroli, lavender and chamomile essential oils, plus antioxidant natural source vitamin E). I use one pump of it every night and if I forget, I can really tell in the morning that my skin looks somehow duller. This stuff is pretty pricey but it lasts ages. I'm on my 3rd or 4th bottle now.

However, for a more budget friendly option you could mix your own facial oil. My awesome friend Vicki of Champagne Dreams, Lemonade Life sent me her tried and tested mix which contains sweet almond oil, organic rosehip oil, frankincense, rose otto, lavender, bergamot oil and... love. Not too dissimilar from the Liz Earle blend and equally as luxurious feeling on the skin. I'm definitely going to be experimenting with making my own oils in the future.    


Thursday, 16 March 2017

On returning from maternity leave

Today marks the end of my first week back at work after maternity leave so I thought I'd write about my thoughts on returning to to work after having a baby, now that I've done it twice.

My experiences with both maternity leaves and returning to work have been quite different. When I had Edward, it was the biggest, most life changing event that I'd ever experienced. I went from having just been in charge of myself for 34 years, earning my own independent disposable income and being able to choose how I spent my time; to being attached to a small, needy human who relied on me for his every need, day and night. I was on statutory maternity allowance as I was a freelancer at the time. That money just about covered my share of the household outgoings leaving my bank account empty and me having to ask my husband for money so that I could buy whatever I needed on a daily basis. Of course he was completely happy for me to spend whatever money I wanted to, that went without saying; but it was a real ego dent to me to have to ask for the money rather than know that it was in my own bank account, earnt by me.

Edward was really hard work as a baby. He didn't sleep and breastfed continually round the clock. His naps took me longer to get him to sleep than he actually slept for and I felt trapped in a never ending loop of breastfeeding and trying to get him to sleep then being up all night feeding him. When weaning started, he took months to take to food so things didn't get any better. I spent a lot of time covered in food, pleading with him to open his mouth and then cleaning up spat-out and thrown food. At points I felt despair that I'd never get any freedom back and that this was what my life had become permanently.

I just couldn't wait to get back to work.

I secured him a place at a really fantastic nursery and arranged to go back to work earlier than planned, when he was 7.5 months. At the time he was not really eating any solid food and refused to drink liquid from any other receptacle other than breast (not for want of me trying). Nursery were so understanding though and said they'd be fine. I left him on day one with some formula (which he'd never drunk before) and a sippy cup (which he'd never drunk more than the odd sip from).

On my first day, I remember stopping off on the way and buying coffee and a croissant and it felt like such a huge treat. Having proper adult conversations all day and not watching the clock to time for the next nap window or the constant making and clearing up of food. Spreadsheets never felt so appealing.

Edward took to nursery so well. To this day he has never cried when I drop him off. Nursery send me photos and reports of what he gets up to - messy play, painting, baking, crawling around the garden.  It's such a stimulating and fun environment and I genuinely feel like I couldn't offer anything like that at home if I was a stay at home Mum. Once I was back at work, for the first time since having him,  I actually started to enjoy motherhood. Maternity leave felt like limbo, being back at work felt like real life again.

Second time round things felt quite different. To start with, I actually had some perspective on the situation. I knew that I'd be going back to square one, but I knew would be temporary. And as this was the last time I'd be doing it, I really wanted to try to enjoy it and not get too bogged down in the mundane again.

As it happened, Grace was an entirely different baby. She fed and slept easily and I spent my whole maternity leave thoroughly enjoying having a new baby, meeting old and new friends for lunches, pottering around shops and appreciating the time I had with her without having to go to work.

The thought of going back to work wasn't a big deal.  I knew I would have to eventually but I was happy to string it out for as long as I was still getting some maternity pay. Eventually it came to the point where I needed to go back after just over 9 months off.

Of course, Grace settled into nursery like a dream.  All of the carers have remarked at how happy and content she is. She smiles when she sees them in the morning and is always still smiling when I pick her up in the evening. I think it helps that I 100% trust the nursery and I feel completley comfortable with leaving her.

This time, I have felt a little bit different in myself on returning to work. I think it's because I know this time I'm returning back to normality permanently. No more upheavals of having any more babies in the future and so I've started to think about my longer term career and the fact that I need to think about how I'm going to accommodate work around school terms in the future. So whilst going back to work hasn't been a big deal in the slightest, like last time, it's just felt like returning to normal; I'm feeling more of a pull towards focusing on my own career path and putting some plans in place for my longer term career.

Over all, I've felt my transitions from maternity leave to work have been really easy. I would say it definitely helps to have a nursery that you trust entirely and a job that you like doing and is understanding and accommodating of your family needs which isn't always the case for everyone. I know I'm not the type of person that would enjoy being in charge of two children on my own for 5 days of the week. I've been lucky enough to have close friends on maternity leave at the same time as me so we've been able to spend time together but I don't really know any other permanent stay at home Mums, everyone I knew has returned to work.

Work day mornings can be quite hectic trying to get everyone out of the door on time. The cost of childcare means I'm barely making any money at the moment but even so, I definitely prefer to go out to work and I think nursery is really beneficial for the children so I'm happy to be back in our little groove.


New beauty bits

I wrote here about how I'm all about the paired down makeup routine these days. It's a quick wash of warm brown on the eyes with a nude lip or just a slick of my favourite navy blue mascara and a bold lip. Obviously brows and a shit tonne of under eye concealer too, that goes without saying.

I try not to hoard products in the same way as I used to in the old days but I'm still partial to a fancy makeup purchase if I know I am going to get plenty of use of it.

Behold the two most recent items I've succumbed to.

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Champagne Pop

I already own the pressed version of this highlighter in the shade Moonstone which is a gorgeous ethereal sheen that I've been really enjoying for a few months now. I was in Space NK buying my friend a birthday present and picked this out for her and pretty much knew I'd be buying it for myself too. I thought I'd pick up this slightly more pigmented colour in the liquid format because who doesn't love a dewy, glowy face in Spring and Summer?  So far I'm loving it so, so much. I keep catching reflections of my side profile in the mirror as I walk between rooms in my house and stopping to give myself a little "dang guurl!"as I go past. Very happy I've got this in my life. It's pricey but pretty sure it's going to last me a really long time and bring me untold amounts of joy.

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Damned

I've wanted to get my hands on one of these for the longest time but I could never decide on which colour. Plus I would always just default back to buying MAC. However now I've made the decision to go cruelty free with all my new makeup purchases and as MAC is sold in China where animal testing is mandatory, I won't be buying any further MAC products until that situation changes - sort it out please Estee Lauder!

I'll happily and confidently wear this kind of deep berry colour in the day time, something I probably wouldn't have been brave enough to do a few years ago (thanks ageing). I'd probably describe this a a typical Autumn colour really but I don't care about that and will still be rocking it in the Spring and Summer nonetheless.

I'm currently trying to stop myself from going onto the Nars website and scouting out more colours because I really do love the texture of this and the pencil format is so convenient to apply.

Need to ensure I don't find myself wandering around in the vicinity of Space NK again for quite some time.


Monday, 13 March 2017

Spring Capsule - The "On-Duty" Edit

You can read my Spring Capsule Wardrobe Update and how I put together my shopping list for these
pieces here.

ASOS Mannish Blazer
Reiss Maya Knitted Blazer (Sold out, similar here)
Monki Pyjama Blouse
ASOS Printed Drape Front Blouse
Marks & Spencer Printed Trench (colour sold out, similar here)
Monki Longline Printed Shirt
Marks & Spencer Khaki Shirt Dress
Reiss Rose Gold Sparkle Sleeveless Knit (sold out, similar here)

I really had fun shopping for these pieces because it's been quite a while since I've shopped for clothes that don't make me look like a Mum!

I knew I wanted to add a couple of blazer options to my work wardrobe after trying on a couple of old favourites and finding they were too tight over my shoulders. I'm particularly pleased with this navy checked, double-breasted, boyfriend style blazer from ASOS with the contrast stitching. I had tried on loads of options and nothing was quite working so I started to look at some higher end blazers. I had my eye on this one by By Marlene Birger on Net a Porter which had similar contrast stitching. So when I finally came across this one on ASOS I didn't hesitate. I picked up the black, knitted, single-breasted blazer from Reiss in the sale for a bargainous £45. The knitted texture gives it a somewhat more casual feel and stops me looking like I'm heading to a job interview and instead just slightly smartens up a jeans and T-shirt combo.

I added two blouses to my wardrobe, firstly a pyjama style one from Monki and secondly a draped front, japanese style printed one from ASOS. I've been a big shirt wearer in Autumn/Winter and I usually wear them buttoned up to the top to give a fairly androgynous look. So I thought that for Spring I'd go for some options with looser, more more billowy silhouettes. I think these both work great with jeans and instantly ramp up an outfit and make it look sassy but very feminine.

I found two longer line shirts, a printed one from Monki and a khaki one from Marks & Spencer. I envisage wearing with bare legs in warmer weather but until then over skinny jeans with plenty of buttons undone at the top or the bottom to give a slouchy, effortless feel.

The printed trench coat was a surprise purchase really, I knew I needed some kind of coat option for Spring but didn't have an idea of what I wanted. I struggle a lot with outerwear. But I was browsing the beauty section of Marks & Spencer in Bristol (I'm kind obsessed with Pixi makeup, but that's a post for another day) and right next to that section I saw this trench coat and was immediately drawn to the print in particular. I've always liked the idea of a trench coat but I think I look like Inspector Gadget in a classic camel coloured one but this monochrome print looks super stylish. I love that this coat also has a "Stormwear" coating which means it's stain and water repellant so will be perfect for April showers. I think it works equally well with both trainers and boots so I'll get a lot of wear out of it.

Last but not least, this rose gold, knitted, sleeveless top is from Reiss, again, another sale purchase. It works well as day wear but as it's got a bit of a sparkle to it is also currently my token "going out" top for those rare (but not non-existant) nights out that I can now start to enjoy again. In fact I've already worn it twice, once to London for a bit of a boozy afternoon tea with some girlfriends and once out to dinner at Pasta Loco in Bristol, which I might add was fabulous!

I feel really happy to have plenty of great options in my wardrobe now to see me through to the really warm weather in summer, which lets face it, usually lasts about a fortnight if we're lucky.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Spring Capsule - The Off-Duty Edit

You can read my Spring Capsule Wardrobe Update and how I put together my shopping list for these
pieces here.

L to R / T to B:

Gap Mid Rise Deconstructed Vintage Straight Jeans
Être Cécile Flamingo Breton Stripe T Shirt
Whistles Très Bon Embroidered T Shirt
Monki Ruffle Fire Engine Red Sweater
Nike Air Max 90 Trainers in Oatmeal
Marks & Spencer Leather Block Heel Ankle Boots (now half price, £39 in the sale!)

I'm so happy to add this little collection of pieces into my wardrobe. The Gap Jeans remind me a lot of the Levi 501s that I used to wear in the 90s. They're really comfortable to wear around the house (no need to immediately change into comfies the moment I cross the threshold) but also look chic with these M&S ankle boots. The wooden block heel and charcoal coloured leather give them a little something extra for Spring rather than a plain black ankle boot. They come up quite high on the ankle so they look great with cropped jeans and the heel is low so they're comfy enough to wear for the whole day. Beauty is definitely not pain these days.

I invested in two fairly pricey T shirts, which ended up both being Breton stripes but I don't think you can go wrong with stripes. There were about 10 designs that I loved from Être Cécile but after much deliberation I went for this Flamingo design is it's so damn cute, I love it. As soon as I saw the the Whistles T-shirt on one of their emails I knew I had to have it (well played Whistles). It's gloriously soft and comfortable to wear and the dipped hem at the back makes it really flattering. Both of these T-shirts make me feel so good wearing them, even though they're just basic cotton T-shirts.

I'm chuffed to have this new pair of Nike Air Max's. I'm not ashamed to say I wear a pair at least 50% of the time. I've lived in my black and purple ones for absolutely ages and they're looking a bit battered now. I think these oatmeal ones are fab for Spring and the mock croc texture on them definitely makes them feel like fashion trainers not gym trainers. I'd forgotten how bouncy a new pair of trainers feels.

The fabulous red ruffle sweater from Monki was a slight impulse purchase if I'm honest. I love Monki and own a lot of their clothes but I usually order online because until recently there's not been a store where I live. So I decided to have a little browse around the new Bristol store and my eye was really drawn to it. It's not a colour I would ordinarily go for but I've been more and more open to reds recently.

Ruffles are very on-trend right now and as a rule I try to stay away from very trendy pieces. There's a lot of crazy ruffles around that don't do anything for me whatsoever so it's a trend that I'd completely written off. However these ruffles aren't overly exaggerated and just give this sweater a little bit of a feminine touch that works so well with the bold colour. Paired with the oatmeal trainers and the Gap jeans you've got yourself a really cool casual outfit that's got a little bit of something-something. With skinny jeans, boots and a monochrome silk scarf you've got yourself an effortless work outfit. When the even warmer summer weather rolls around I can see this working with a denim skirt for those chillier mornings before the sun warms up.

In my next post, I'll be going through my acquisitions for more "on-duty" occasions - work wear and going out.
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