Four Essential Dresses For Every Woman’s Work Wardrobe (Guest Post)

When I went to Britmums Live! blogging conference last year, I attended a stylist session with Jenny from Mummy Mishaps. The very lovely stylist was desperate to get me to wear a dress, and Jenny hasn't stopped begging me since. It is a fashion item that I find difficult to wear and the last one was my wedding dress, however (as explained in this guest-post) I'm aware that there's a style to suit every woman; even little old me!

Whether your work environment is smart and sophisticated or casual and chic, it’s important to have a wardrobe that you can always rely on, and particularly that will take you through the seasons. For effortless professional wear throughout the year you can always turn to a great dress, and there are four styles in particular that we think should be a part of every ladies’ work wear collection – you’ll wonder how you ever coped without them!

The Wrap Dress

No matter what your figure, you can trust a wrap dress to flatter it, which makes this style of dress a staple in a work wear wardrobe. After all, when you look good, you feel confident too, and we all know how important that is for client meetings or critical presentations! Choose a wrap dress with three-quarter length sleeves and you’ll wear it all year-round, and what’s more, by adding a bold necklace or a fabulous pair of heels, you’ll have work-to-dinner dressing nailed.

The Shift Dress

With a cap-sleeved shift dress in your work wear arsenal, you’ll never be stuck for the perfect dress, and there are dozens of ways to wear it. In the Winter, a blazer, opaque tights and boots completes your seasonal work look, whereas when the weather gets warmer, switch your boots for ballet flats and add a chiffon scarf and cardigan to look elegant, and appropriate. Stores like Bonmarché always have a fantastic range of ladies’ work dresses to choose from, including stylish and affordable shift dresses that are designed to complement every shape, and will help you to build your essential work wardrobe for less.

The Maxi Dress

When you want to look pristine and put-together, yet a shift dress feels a little too restrictive, a simple yet sophisticated maxi dress could be the answer. Designed to skim comfortably over the figure and keep you cool and covered, ankle-length maxi dresses are perfect for Spring and Summer professional dressing as they can easily be accessorised with a wide belt and flat pumps, or even wedges for a more formal occasion. When the seasons turn cooler, add a light cardigan and scarf over your maxi dress for an on-trend layered look.

The Skater Dress

Although skater dresses are currently very much in vogue, we believe they always deserve a place in your work wear collection. The full, knee-length skirt is surprisingly flattering on many different body shapes, as it helps to add the illusion of curves to slender figures, whilst it works to balance out curves on hourglass and pear-shaped bodies. Sleeveless or cap-sleeved skater dresses are ideal for Summer, yet when you add a suit jacket and a scarf, you’ll be wearing your skater dress through Autumn and beyond.

This is a featured guest post.

Country Kids: Fun In The Sun

gruffalo hunting

With the cobalt blue sky and the sun shining so beautifully all week, getting out and about has been an absolute must for us. It coincided brilliantly with the start of the holidays, and has ensured that we haven't wasted our time together!

Sunday – Gruffalo Hunting

On the way back from Silverstone on Sunday, we stopped off at an RSPB nature walk to stretch our legs. While we were hunting for The Gruffalo and calling out to mouse to see if he knew where he was, we came across a cave and The Boy just had to explore it to see if anyone was inside!

Pebble Plopping

After Mr. TBaM got home from work on Monday, we nipped down to our local beach to partake in some pebble plopping. Mr. TBaM was determined he'd be able to skim stones, whereas The Boy just wanted to make the biggest single plop possible.


We met up with our toddler group down at Barry Island beach and managed to avoid high tide, but only just. Then, because we hadn't played with enough sand, we came home and built some more sandcastles.

Clifftop Picnic

On a Friday morning The Boy goes to nursery. While he's there he has lunch, but because he has so much to say for himself, he never eats well and quite often doesn't like what they give him anyway (spinach and potato pie for example). I'm not bothered because the socialisation is more important for him, but when I pick him up we always have to have a second lunch to make sure he's had enough to eat. I decided to take him to the clifftop park for he could burn off some more energy and eat a picnic lunch.

Pirates at Barry Island

The sun today heralded more outdoor play so we headed for the beach again. We originally went further down the coastline to Southerndown beach, but the problem is that when high tide is approaching there it covers all the sand and only leaves a swathe of rocks. Cue an about turn and off to the old faithful of Barry Island! More sandcastles, more buried The Boy, and finishing up with a round of pirate mini-golf!

Hope next week is just as activity filled!

Meal Planning Monday #8

meal planning monday 30th april 2012

By and large I stuck to the plan last week with the exception of Saturday when we had cheese and biscuits later in the evening because we'd been a mid-afternoon barbecue. And yes it was raining, don't ask.

  • Sunday: We went to Frankie & Benny's for lunch (a review) and mum & dad's for tea. No cooking for me!
  • Monday: Salad. Just picked up a reduced chicken salad (and a whole load of other reduced quality meat for next to nothing to go in the freezer) in Tesco's so hubby will be having that while I have a cheese salad and anything else I bung on the plate. Can you tell me enthusiasm is minimal today?
  • Tuesday: Mango and coconut paneer, carried over from last Saturday
  • Wednesday: Quiche, salad and potato wedges. An 8.15-6 day for me, so hubby needs something easy to bung in the oven for when I get in.
  • Thursday: sausage stew done in the slow-cooker. This is take two as the first one done the other week didn't really work for us.
  • Friday: turkey stew (reduced aisle bargain!) for Mr. TBaM and The Boy, something from the freezer for me.
  • Saturday: Chinese! Deep fried tofu/chicken balls, crispy seaweed, egg-fried rice, chips and spring rolls.

I'm linking this up with Mrs. M's Meal Planning Monday

The Gallery: Animals

The theme this week provided by the lovely Tara is animals:

I'm sure we're going to see a lot of photos of pets, but try to branch out, be a bit different. Test yourself. Go off in search of a cow or a ladybug or something a little more exotic.

Tara will be pleased to hear that I'm not even going to touch the idea of pets. We haven't got any and I don't want any until I can no longer avoid it with The Boy. Although before he was born, we had some gorgeous fancy goldfish including a Bristol Blue Shubunkin called Bob who was stunning. Absolutely gorgeous! He originated as a classroom pet along with Daphne, Derek, Clive and Cynthia. Daphne and Derek were sent home with two children, who adored them, at the end of the school year. Clive and Cynthia came home with me. Unfortunately they didn't cope with the move very well and turned up their fins. But Bob was indestructable. I almost killed him twice through keeping him a plastic box which, it transpires, was slowly poisoning him in the sunlight. However, I managed to save him and from then on in (for three years) we were inseparable. Until I had The Boy and couldn't face cleaning him out regularly. So he and Betty, her with the deformed mouth, were dispatched to a good home.

I've waffled on about pets when I wasn't going to.

We've had a summer of animals!

This last weekend, we have been up to Manchester with the initial purpose of seeing Mr. Fletcher at MediaCity, but ending up socialising instead. On Saturday we went to Blue Planet Aquarium, Chester with MammyWoo, AddyWoo and the Irish One. I've long wanted to take The Boy to an aquarium to show him fish, this is a really good one as it has an aqua tunnel which is 70 metres long and takes you into the world of sharks, rays and stunning tropical fish.

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Earlier in the summer, we had another tweet-up with some other fabulous bloggers (Wendy and family from Inside the Wendy House, and Helen and family from The Crazy Kitchen). Here we joined the traffic jam which is normally synonymous with Birmingham, but this time relocated to West Midlands Safari Park. As amazing as it is, two and half hours driving around a load of Safari animals who are mostly asleep in the trees is a tad frustrating. That was until we came to my favourite animal of all time. I'm not saying anything else on the subject…

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Now pop over and check out the other entries by pressing this little widget

The Gallery: My Weekend

For quite a lot of the people I 'socialise' with through social media, this weekend meant one thing and one thing only: CyberMummy. However, for me it meant one thing and one thing only: Summer Fayre.

Being a teacher doesn't only include the teaching hours that are the obvious part of the job, we are also directed to work other events as well such as parents' evenings and school fayres. Which is why, as much as I protested months ago that I wasn't interested in CyberMummy and it would feel like an INSET day, in the end I couldn't go because I had to paint eleventy billion pink butterflies on little girls' snotty faces.

And it turned out that when the decision was taken away from me, I actually really wanted to go.


Anyway, I then tried to fill my weekend with as much fun and games in other ways that I could. Here's the proof:


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This is entered into Sticky Fingers' The Gallery for the theme of 'My Weekend'. Click the link below to see the other entries.

New Numbers


You will have to excuse the self-indulgence in this post; this one is a reminder for me in the future.

I am amazed at all the things that my child learns to do; just how these things happen astound me. How does The Boy know how to hold the crayons? How does he know that by putting his finger on that button, then the balls will drop on his gumball machine? Here's the biggy: how does he know how to talk? I mean, obviously the more you talk to children, the more they hear and can imitate. But I actually mean how does he know how to shape his mouth and move his tongue and manipulate his vocal chords? It is such an amazing feat, children are so clever.

So I was even more impressed yesterday when he started 'counting' *. We had a full "1, 2, 3, 6" from him. Absolutely astounding. Hubby recited the numbers up to ten but he didn't bite, so we left it.

Today he decided to fulfill his role as a performing monkey and bestow upon us the numbers up to ten. Ok ok, we had an ommission of '5' and occasionally '8' but without any prompting The Boy uttered "1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10".  And ok so the pronounciation on a few of the numbers is quite frankly a little bizarre but recognisable (7 is 'zenner').

It just demonstrates how much babies and toddlers absorb from the world around them. Obviously we say or sing nursery rhymes and songs to and with him, but I'm not sure how many of those actually go above five.

There is really only one place I can think of that he's heard this repeatedly. One of the television programmes that he loves is 'Charlie and the Numbers' on BabyTV channel (sky 623). Everyday Charlie plays with a different number and they have a little adventure. Then at the end of the programme there is a little song "One, one two three, one two three four five, six seven eight nine, nine ten, six seven eight nine, nine ten". So you see I think I know a reason why he misses out five, and sometimes four; they're the only two numbers not repeated in the song (long shot theory I know)

The Boy is clearly a mathematical genius – (audio link)

(* As an ex-nursery nurse and a teacher, I have a minor issue with using the word 'counting', The Boy is more appropriately sequencing. Proper counting is when a child associates the numbers with one more item each time; they point to a series of items and can say the relevant number increase each time. Merely reciting the numbers is not counting. I know this but I am not relaying this each time I write the word 'counting'. Plus he's a genius!)

My Top 5 Famous Dinner Party Guests

The lovely @katetakes5 has issued the latest challenge to identify our favourite dinner party guests. (This reminds me of 'High Fidelity' – top 5 all time greats)

My Top 5 Famous Dinner Party Guests

1) Belinda Jones – I love her novels; the places she has described have inspired a number of our holiday locations over the past few years.

2) Johnny Depp – because there has to be a bit of totty at the table.

3) My husband – because I love him and would like to spend more time talking to him, not something we get a chance to do nowadays. Yes I know it says famous and I am going to break the rules and include him in this, because it's my list. And he has been retweeted (from a single tweet) 50,000 times.

4) Chris Evans – I think he is fascinating. I'm reading his first autobiography on Kindle and it is extremely insightful as to his behaviour and television personality.

I'm having a bit of difficulty with this one… so many people but it's difficult to choose. Hmm, aha, I know!

5) Sandra Bullock – because I think she's funny, lovely and sweet. I want to ask her if she did the horizontal fandango with Keanu Reeves, why she made 'All About Steve' and died her hair blonde, and I'm pretty sure that hubby fancies her.

My 2010

status updates

I've been trying to work out how to do this post, and came across an app on Facebook that I have used to help me come up with my status updates throughout the year. Having perused them I have come to the conclusion that I post an awful lot of waffle on Facebook, probably not as much as I do on twitter, but hey no-one's making you read are they?

So here goes, this was my 2010; the vast majority of it excellent, a small proportion was mind-numbingly monotonous and some of it was heart-breaking. Here you go:

January… The Boy's first ever snow day. Yippee! I was still on maternity leave and hubby couldn't get down the road. He built a snowman for The Boy (yeah right it was for him) and we had fun!

February…is shell-shocked: it's not right to lose one of your ex-pupils at the brink of their teenage years. Rest peacefully sweet girl. One of my ex-pupils died from an asthma attack at the age of 12. I was asked to do a reading at the funeral but to be perfectly honest my hormones and emotions were still raw after The Boy and I couldn't do it. As we came out of the church, it has snowed and settled on the fir-trees and the glass carriage which carried her coffin.

MarchThe Boy is starting to walk around the furniture. I am starting to have palpatations about what needs moving or stapling down.

Aprilwould like to report that dad's operation went well. 8 hours in surgery, 3 hours in recovery, gallbladder removed and 8% of his liver. My father, who was two and a half years in remission from bowel cancer, was diagnosed with liver cancer. The prognosis was not good originally and I was devastated. Luckily he seems to be fine and is in remission again.

May…I don't want to! 13 hours and counting! Someone please knock on my door and present me with a windfall so I don't have to! I had to return to work after a year off on maternity leave. Luckily it was only for two and half days a week, and my mum has The Boy, however I was beside myself and felt so guilty. It took three weeks before I got back in the swing of things.

June… can't believe my gorgeous boy is 1 today! We had such fun with the best first birthday ever! I went all out on the Very Hungry Caterpillar them, including food from the book and 50m of bunting!

July…my clever 13 month old has just walked from the living room to the kitchen and put his tippy cup into the sink. I promise you I did not train him to do this, but he loves tidying up his drinks after him. Walking brought a whole new experience and the need for his first pair of shoes. Very cute!

August…Ah self-catering holidays; all the comfort of home but not quite, where's the black-out blind? We went on our first family holiday with The Boy and my parents to Dorset. Fabulous time but extremely stressful packing for it. (Oh and my parents moved out of my childhood home, I sobbed like a baby)

September…is going to take The Boy swimming later for the first time and is only a little apprehensive. I know, how ridiculous to wait until he was 15 months old but I was scared. Anyway hubby took the day off work and we had great fun; The Boy adored it. We really ought to go again!

October…right new phone, not a clue. However it's very lovely and pretty. I got my first smartphone, a HTC Desire. Blame that for my tweeting and blogging.

November…looking forward to seeing 'Sparks in the Park' later in Cardiff. The Boy's first firework display, he loved it but was more excited by all the fallen leaves under the trees.

Decembermy oven died on Friday. It is 6 days 'til Christmas. I am starting to panic! It was scary for a moment but, thanks to a marvellous company in Cardiff who came out and fixed it for me, we did have Christmas Day. Hurrah!

Breast v. Formula Feeding

I get tetchy about the topic of formula feeding babies. The kettle inside me boils and the hackles stand up. I then jump in feet first and have a go at the poor soul who dared to suggest that breast is best. I am incapable of remaining calm about the situation; push me and I will snap. I have massive guilt issues about it, always will and I cannot cope with the breast-feeding army.

At 3 weeks old my son was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, unconscious.

I watched while the paramedic held my child in her arms as I was incapable of holding him. I stood there in Accident & Emergency while three doctors and four nurses worked on my newborn baby. My mother (who's had four children) had to leave the room in tears as he screamed in fright. For a while I wasn't allowed to hold his hand. My husband and I just stood there watching our precious bundle on an adult bed surrounded by seven people trying, and failing, to get blood samples from him, to get fluids in him, to calm him, to work out what was the matter.

And to this day, I still don't know for sure.

My milk kicked in quickly, like really quickly. 38 weeks pregnant and I was a B cup, the following week I was up to a D and I was leaking milk in the shower! I was induced at 40+8 and gave birth to my 10lb 5oz son on Friday 12th June at 9.35am. Within a day I was trying to breast-feed, they were now an E cup. I hadn't wanted to feed but when I had The Boy, there was no way I wasn't going to. He was a lazy feeder, he'd latch on and fall asleep. I'd try everything but no, he was away with Mr. Sandman. In the end we came to an arrangement I was happy with.

Then one boiling hot Tuesday when he was a few weeks old he decided to feed 15 times in 8 hours, and only for a minute at a time. At midnight, I phoned my mum and sobbed about how I could no longer do it, it hurt so much. She reassured me that it wasn't a problem and that is what they made formula and bottles for. The next day, I breast-fed him for the last time, and then The Boy started on expressed milk in a bottle. He did so well and I was so proud of him. But by Friday, my breasts were rock-solid and blocked. I went to the doctor who said "just stop, you've got mastitus, it's not coming out, just stop." I was prescribed antibiotics and painkillers; they hurt so much I couldn't hold my son.

That's when it all went wrong. He had his first formula feed at 11am. It was a scorching hot, drowsy day and he fell asleep. He woke up a few hours later and had another bottle. He fell asleep again. So did I, the painkillers were strong. By midnight he had only woken up one other time for about an hour. He had more milk and fell asleep for the night.

And then he vomited it all up. In his sleep.

He didn't cry, he didn't open his eyes, he didn't anything. Mum, hubby and I looked at each other and phoned NHS Direct. The operator was asking if he was unconscious and I kept saying "no, he just won't wake up." To me unconscious meant something far worse, The Boy was just sleeping. Ok, he was unresponsive but surely he was just hot and tired. Newborns sleep don't they? She sent a paramedic out who was with us within three minutes. When he did a heel-prick test and The Boy screamed, I sobbed. It was the first sound from him in hours.

Fast-forward to my son being admitted to the Children's Hospital in Cardiff. He was ok now, responsive and fine. We spent three nights in hospital and when we left we were told he had had gastroenteritus. It's strange though they wouldn't entertain the concept that it could have been that brand of formula. He had it all Friday and ended up unconscious. On the Saturday I was told to try him with watered down formula which I did and he vomited everywhere and went unresponsive again. On the Sunday I tried Cow and Gate and he was fine! But no medical practitioner is going to admit that a brand of formula may have a negative effect on children.

So I beat myself up about it. If I had breast-fed him, if I hadn't used formula then this wouldn't have happened. I feel I failed my son and risked his life because my nipples hurt.

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