Back to school

Back to School image via Shutterstock

This year’s Back to School in September is a biggy for us as we’re going up. Yes, the girls will be moving on to Year 3 and junior school and although the school is only next door and has the same name we had to reapply.

It means not only a change of teacher but of school uniform, school times and much more that I am finding out as the time draws closer.

We’re going to have to teach the girls to put a tie on and tie up shoe laces. We’re going to have our larger school bags to contend with, satchel or rucksack? Pencil cases are needed with named products inside. So as you can imagine there’s quite a lot of preparation already taking place.

Back to school tips and tricks

Marks and Spencer asked me to share some of my top tips for making sure our Back to School is worry free and painless.

Uniform

Think ahead – I have already been to the local shop and bought the school cardigans with logos on, I’ve sent in money for the school ties and the compulsory PE bag too as last year some students had to go without at the beginning of term. Also by thinking ahead you can take advantage of the sales and pick up quality uniform at a fraction of the initial price.

Getting dressed – It’s important to get the girls into a habit of dressing themselves and I find if I have laid out the uniform with them the night before so they have to think of what they need for the following day it makes them more responsible (she says with fingers crossed)

Lunch

School dinners or packed lunch? I must admit after a whole year of not having to worry about making a packed lunch every day I’m tempted to pay for them to continue with school dinners. If we do find ourselves reverting to packed lunches then they will be prepared the night before and once again I shall rope the twins in to sorting out their lunch boxes with me

Pencil case

I shall be taking them shopping over the school holidays and choosing a school bag and a new pencil case. I have invested in a Stamptastic stamp which allows me to stamp EVERYTHING they own.

Keeping the knowledge

It’s important to keep their knowledge ticking over on the summer break and by that I don’t mean over doing it with homework but little games for the times tables, at least the 2s 5s and 10s plus lots of reading good books. Visit the local library or start a book swap with other school mums.

School bags

Always get prepared the night before. Only last minute addition could be a lunch box out of the fridge.

Walk to school

We are just down the road from our school so we walk every day unless it’s tipping it down in which case we jump in the car. We have a checklist we all say before we leave the house so we all remember what to take: – Book bags, water bottles, keys and so on. We’ll often talk about things we see on our walk to school or use the time for conversation.

First day back

An exciting day and a worrying one too for some? On our first day back parents will accompany the children to the junior school hall form that day onwards the children will have to enter via the school gate on their own and in past years I have noticed this can be quite daunting for some children. We shall be organising with the other school mums to meet at the gate from the second day onwards so the children can go in together.

Reaching half term

I always think the first term back is the hardest especially when it’s a new school, new teacher and lots of new information to take on board. I like to get homework done over the weekend in the morning so the day is clear and we haven’t to worry about it anymore. I think weekends should have something to look forward to, this can be playing in a local park or baking some brownies, anything that for the children is a fun task.

Marks and Spencer got in touch and asked me to share some of my top tips with them, have you got any to add? How do you make your Back to School smoother?

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Marks and Spencer they have a 20% off promo that runs until the 14th of July

 M&S Best of British

Last week I took myself off to London and went to see the M&S AW14 collections, I was once again blown away by the collections on offer PLUS I bumped into Mary Berry, well not quite literally but we crossed paths and I beamed at her and she smiled back at me most likely very grateful I didn’t go in for a paparazzi thing or shove a pen and paper under her nose but I was being sophisticated and on my best behaviour.

Anyway back to the collections.

Marks and Spencer AW14 Children 

#AW14MandS

Fun fun fun. I love the way M&S take special care to deck out the rooms to show their collections off in the best possible manner and the kids collections had moodboards hung here and there which gave a great insight into the thinking behind each product.

M&S moodboard

The girls have some wonderful faux fur gilets and sparkly tutu skirts to wear over leggings to look forward to 

M&S girls AW14

Here’s one item I have my eye on for the twins this year

M&S kids gilet faux fur

Then for the smaller people there is an abundance of colour to look forward to, I love the jumpers, they are so vibrant

M&S kids girl

Then it was over to the boys side of the room and I couldn’t stop smiling at the fun injected into their collections

M&S Boys AW14

I fell in love with these socks and trainers too

M&S boy AW14

Marks and Spencer AW14 Women

The women’s collections are divided into different themes, the image at the top of the page is the Best of British, where pieces are made from quality fabrics and entirely UK made from fabric to finished product. The other moods are classified this year as Down Town, Gentle Woman, Modernist and The Arts, below is an image of the Gentle Woman collection

M&S Gentle woman range

As every year there are lots of gorgeous accessories made from top quality leather and extra care and attention gone into them

M&S Bag and boot

I love this black and white coat, a lot of fun and warm too.

M&S black and white coat

Here are a few of my favourite pieces I saw and am coveting for this winter

M&S Mari's choice

Great news the polo neck is back, I love this style of jumper, I’ve worn it a lot in my time and this gold sparkly one is so me. The suede blue jacket is in the Twiggy range and costs £195 but worth every penny to brighten up a dull day and the stripy coat, well it caught my eye as it’s different and so far away from the classical black we see all winter  it’s a must

Moving onto lingerie and Rosie has an exceptionally pretty range this year, these dressing gowns are the softest of soft, you’ll be like a teddy bear, Purple one for me please.

M&S lingerie AW14

You may wonder about the tights in the above photo well, they have an extra warm layer in to keep your feet warm – genius! No more cold feet on autumn and winter evenings.

Marks and Spencer AW14 Beauty

M&S Pure face cream

New to the arena  and very exciting. M&S no longer hold just their own brands but have carefully chosen other brands that you can find in store too. Like Pure above, it’s a face cream made out of the discarded skins of grapes, in fact I learnt that the grapes are made into wine by the lovely people down at Chapel Down in Kent who make a marvellous Pinot noir, the discarded grape skins then get sent off to the people at Pure who wave their magic wand and produce a face cream which will be on your shelves at the end of July, I shall be trying some of this as they are telling me it’s very good.

handbag Marks and Spencer 2013

 

Ok so the summer is drawing to an end we all need something to look forward to and with autumn on it’s way it’s the perfect excuse to update our wardrobes right?

I’ve been looking around for the best bag for autumn 2013 and I am loving the styles out there this year, there’s a nod to the 80’s punk themes that were so fashionable when I was a kid; tartan, zips, lots of red and a healthy dash of leopard print thrown into the mix. If that’s not your bag (see what I did there) there are plenty of other autumnal themes to please all tastes and all ages.

Marks and Spencer asked me ‘What’s in your handbag?’ and it’s a post I’ve done a couple of times including one for BritMums way back and one thing I notice is how the content I drag around with me has changed as the girls grow up. Not a nappy in site these days and wet wipes are a rarity, I only carry kiddy snacks if I’m going on a long journey and no more drink bottles to be lugged around unless I’m going on the Tube in London.

It’s like I got my bag back!

A big capacious shoulder bag is still my preference. Do you like my Real Leather bag from the Marks and Spencer Autograph range? It’s gorgeous isn’t it?

In it you will find

  • My purse which holds all cards, photos, receipts and God knows what else
  • My phone – which doubles up as a camera too
  • My camera –  a light portable Panasonic Lumix which is great for an every day shot.
  • My keys
  • My glasses – I have prescription glasses so there’ll be sunglasses too if the weather is good.
  • A bag in a bag – should I ever get caught out in a shop, it curls up in a tight ball and comes in real handy
  • A pen
  • A notepad
  • A list – I’ve always got a list on the go

Other items you may find are

  • cardigan or pashmina if I think the weather is going to be cooler later
  • tissues if one of us has a cold
  • Chocolate if I’m suffering PMT – sometimes even when I’m not
  • Kids stuff – ‘Mummy can you look after this please for me?’

M&S have appointed a new style director, Belinda Earl, who is championing quality and style for the AW13 womenswear range. Go Belinda! Here is a selection of bags from their AW13 collection; they’re gorgeous aren’t they and I struggle to decide which I like best which one would you like?

 

Marks and Spencer bags autumn 2013

Disclosure: Marks and Spencer sent me the bag in the top photo and asked me what’s in it, now you know! RRP £89.00

going to school

 

3.10pm Mrs H let’s the class out.

Bessie comes bounding towards me, a huge smile on her face carrying her lunch bag, her book bag, a half empty water bottle and a plastic bag with what looks like her school summer dress.

‘Oh dear. What happened?’ I ask relieving her and her sister from their bags and the days works of art. I note she is wearing an enormous school dress that isn’t ours.

‘Molly tried to help me open my fruit juice today at lunchtime and it squirted all over my dress!’ replies Bessie with peals of laughter at such hilarity.

She continues, ‘and then Mrs C (dinner lady) took me to find a clean dress and gave me an age 8 one!’ more laughter and a can you believe it mummy expression on her face.

 

This is not a one off. Sometimes there will be slips in the playground ending in wet trousers/tights/skirts. In reception there is the odd toilet oops requiring a complete change, so how much uniform should one stock up on and what are the tips to look out for when buying?

I’ve noticed the shops are stocking uniform ready for us to buy so what should we be keeping in mind when buying for the coming year?

Tips for buying school uniform

Make a list of everything you need. Your child’s school should give you a uniform checklist. Buy 3-4 of the key items such as  shirts so that you aren’t having to wash them every day. Buy lots of socks, for some reason I’m always hunting down pairs of school socks!

Shop early, avoid that stressful last minute rush and you most likely won’t be able to get it all in one go.

Be conservative, if you need more you can buy later. I made sure I had one change. (1 on, 1 in the wash)

Easy changing children will have to dress and undress themselves for PE and do up their own shoes, last summer I did a lot of practising with my two to get them ready but they still have come out of class with shirts inside out and shoes on the wrong feet. Choose velcro fastenings on shoes and polo shirts rather than long sleeved shirts if they are allowed.

Make life easy Make sure it’s all machine washable and look for easy or non-iron items. Some shorts and trousers have special stain repellant teflon-coating and you will also find that coloured polo shirts look cleaner for longer than white ones.

Growing room It’s amazing how much they shoot up over the course of a year I have found skirts, trousers with elasticated waists are good. Coats are worth buying with room to grow but make sure shoes are fitted properly. I wouldn’t buy these too much in advance, I bought the girls the week before school.

Label everything, I mean everything, by Christmas we were three gloves (different kinds) and two hats down but luckily as it was all named we retrieved them. You’d be amazed at the amount of uniform I saw in Lost Property, all un-named.  Use fabric pens, sew-in or iron-on labels.

school uniform

Marks and Spencer School Uniform Innovations

At the recent M&S Autumn Winter 2013 preview I spoke to the innovations team. They have spent a lot of time working on their School uniform products and I was so impressed I asked them to send me the details to pass on to you. They’ve been listening to mums and the problems that arise with uniform, then they go back to their desks and devise ways of putting the world right, take a look at what they’ve come up with.

Crease-Resistant – Crease resistant Trousers, Shorts, Skirts, Blazers, Pinafores and Summer Dresses.  Creases fall out more easily.

Stormwear+ – A finish that repels water and oil, M&S Stormwear+ lasts longer than any other stain defence technology on the high street.  Stormwear keeps you dry in rain showers and helps to repel mud and stains…  Available on Trousers, Shorts, Skirts, Blazers, Pinafores.

Sealed Hems – Thread that melts so the hems don’t fall down. All boys’ trousers have sealed hems and selected girls’ trousers too

Stain Away – A finish that helps stains wash away more easily, available on polo shirts and selected shirts/blouses

Supercrease – Supercrease –  ensures the crease is completely permanent on our classic school trouser. This is achieved by a special resin which is applied into the crease and ironed

Stay NEW – Stay NEW technology keeps clothes looking newer and brighter for longer, it also helps to reduce bobbling and colour loss

Ultimate Non Iron – Our ultimate non iron shirts are the best on the High Street. They have special taped seams and superior fabrics which allows mum to tumble dry then hang up with no need to iron!

Expandi Cuff – Special elasticated construction which means that cuffs on long sleeved shirts stretch, so that the button does not need to be undone.

Easy Close – Found up to age 8 on 2pk ultimate non iron shirts/blouses necks which close easily using Velcro

Fresh freet – Fresh Feet school socks – with Freshfeet antibacterial finish to keep feet fresh and odour free

Body sensor School tights – Body sensor tights – actively regulates your body temperature, keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer

Fresh Feet Finish Shoes – Freshfeet antibacterial finish to keep feet shoes and odour free for the lifetime of the shoe

Permanent Pleats – Permanent pleat stays neat and tidy to save time  – no need to iron them back in after washing

Scuff Resistant Shoes – Scuff resistant shoes

Ink Resistant Pockets – Special ink resist lining has been developed for use on the inside chest pockets on our classic blazers. This means that leaking pens won’t spoil your shirts!

Heat-sealed Button Security – The unique elastomeric gripping force and the heat sealing are the key to button loss prevention as the thread permanently squeezes the attaching threads.

Thermal – Keep toes toasty warm with these snug thermal socks

Engineered seams – Taped reinforced seams for a smooth neat look  on ultimate Non Iron

Adjust-a-hem (NEW for 2013) – Keep kids in their clothes for longer with our clever adjustable hem technology – simply….. 1. cut along the blind stitching, 2. remove the thread and 3. let down the extar 11/4″ of fabric and press

My Fit – Wider range of fits – plus, slim, short, long and extra long on slected styles online including skirts, trousers, pinafore, blazer, shirt and blouses

Heatgen – made from a special fibre blend that keeps you warm and comfortable.

Thinsulate™ inside quilted Blazers – With a warm thermal lining and Thinsulate™ technology,  ideal for cooler months. trapping air molecules between you and the outside, Thinsulate™ lining keeps you extra warm while remaining breathable, for great comfort and warmth.

Skin Kind – Special finish developed to help soothe sensitive skine eg eczema. Seams are as flat as possible, no sharp edged labels, latex-free elastics and any trims have been chosen to be super-soft. Also endorsed by the British Skin Foundation

Ultimate Non Iron on pure cotton – Our ultimate non iron shirts are the best on the High Street. They have special taped seams and superior fabrics which allows mum to tumble dry then hang up with no need to iron!

Starting primary school in September? Check out my post  Top tips for starting Primary school

You may remember I went to the Marks and Spencer A/W 2013 collection recently and came out gushing with how fabulous this year’s autumn and winter fashion is going to be?

I wasn’t lying and you’ll soon be seeing for yourselves just how fabulous it is when it hits the stores over the summer. In fact M&S got in touch and offered me £100 to choose some items from their collection to wear to BritMums Live. Lucky me and I asked them specifically if I could buy and review their Insolia shoes too as I was so impressed with the technology and wanted to see if my feet didn’t ache after a day standing in them.

Marks and Spencer Dress range

So a dress was first on my list and M&S have an enormous range that starts at a very reasonable price too. But what to go for?M&S Summer dresses

My problem is always my waist, as in it’s BIG and needs covering or disguising cleverly, the outer dresses do that with the black lines training the eye to see curves and the middle beautiful bright pink dress is a shift so hangs easy around the body. What do you think?

M&S holiday dresses

Then I took a look at the holiday dresses, after all it’s better to buy a dress that can be worn again and again right? I love the colours in the maxi dress and it would feel so comfy all summer, in fact I loved it so much I bought it! Was £35 but had a 20% discount on so took it home for £28.

But before we move on, take a look a these tempting ‘Drop a Dress Size’ dresses and tell me what you think?

M&S drop a dress size

There is an incredibly genius innovation and quality team behind all of the M&S products and I got to speak with them and discovered some awesome information including the Drop a Dress Size dresses. Each dress has built-in shapewear that smoothes and flattens your tummy, hips and thighs so no need for shaping underwear. Clever eh?

Insolia shoes

Of course no outfit is complete without shoes and M&S have an ingenious range called Insolia also coming out of the Innovation and Quality department. You wouldn’t believe the lengths these people go to to make sure the clothing bought from M&S is 100% perfect.

Insolia® shoes work by moving weight back to your heel for better body alignment, balance and comfort all day. There’s less pressure on the front of your feet and more stability for your ankles

So I bought a pair to try and see and I shall be wearing these gorgeous snakeskin-like sandals (£45.00) all weekend to see if Insolia really does make a difference.

M&S Insolia shoes

Accessories

What else does a conference going working mum need to complete the whole shebang? Accessories and M&S have tons.

M&S Accessories SS13

I added this gorgeous large red tote £29.50 to my goodies as I can fit my laptop, phone, charger, camera, business cards and so much more in it.

Plus a last minute grab was the pretty bracelet for £12.50 again I went over by £15 and that’s the last minute grab that got me

Now all I need to do is pedicure, manicure, pack my case and make sure there’s food in the fridge for the family whilst I’m away

Disclosure: M&S very kindly sent me £100 to spend in store and I bought the items you see above and I’m very happy with them too