Walking In The Saltmarshes

Happy New Year!

I’m lucky to have the salt marshes & mudflats virtually on my doorstep – it is just the place to blow away the cobwebs after days of overeating and drinking during the Christmas/New Year period. In fact, it is a great place to walk whatever season – the marshes change so much and the salty air is so embracing. On New Year’s Eve 2018 the weather was cloudy but mild – unlike previous years where the air was crisp and the skies were cloudless and blue. The ground was a bit muddy underfoot too … very muddy… but nothing that a good pair of wellies or walking boots can handle. So where are these salt marshes?

The green coastal areas are the salt marshes – my walks are at the north of the River Blackwater around the creeks of Tollesbury & Salcot

The Saltmarsh Coast is the 75 miles of coastline and creeks that stretch from the estuary of the River Crouch to the south to the estuary of the River Blackwater in the north, of the Maldon district of Essex in South East England. The Blackwater Estuary is internationally recognised as being an area of outstanding importance for wildlife and conservation – the marshes are habitat for migrant wildfowl and waders; and a magnet for thousands upon thousands of wild duck, geese and wading birds. On Old Hall Marshes it is estimated that around 4000 Brent geese feed here in winter. The site also supports 24 species of butterfly, dragon and damselflies.

No wildlife or birds to be seen today though! When the tide comes in the grasses are under water. Walking along the seawall at Tollesbury.

Historically the Romans were interested in this highly salty area – the Roman town of Colchester (Britain’s oldest town) is only around 10 miles away and the famous Maldon Salt is still produced in the town of Maldon. However, in the 19th century the major industry here was oyster dredging. Small oysters were dredged at Tollesbury and sent along to the Kent coast to mature. There are still small oysters to be found. As the Tollesbury mudflats are a very important area for native oysters, it is a good place to spot oystercatchers, so my birdwatcher friends tell me.

Oyster beds, River Blackwater… I took this photo in the summer from Tollesbury Wick Marshes.

One feature I always photograph whenever I walk the seawall and that is the Tollesbury Tree …. it looked quite lonely this week!

Tollesbury Tree

There were still grasses and berries abound but under the cloud the mud reigned supreme.

I can’t wait to show you the seawall in Spring and in the sunshine….here’s a sneak peak from a previous summer ….

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden; map downloaded from Maldon District Council’s Saltmarsh tourist site.

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SPROUTS, STUFFING & SEASONAL SOMETHINGS

SEASONS GREETINGS to you all!

As it is the last post of 2018 I thought I’d reflect on the “S” words that summarise this SEASON.

In the UK, and in most other countries I can imagine, this coming weekend will be mad in the SHOPS and SUPERMARKETS as people try to STUFF their trolleys with last minute gifts, extra wrapping paper and tags and enough food to probably last months but we will all consume in the week to follow. And then there is the booze….

SNOWBALL (egg nog), SPUMANTE, SHERRY, SCOTCH WHISKY, SAUVIGNON BLANC, SPANISH RED WINE …. SHARE the corner of the cabinet alongside Baileys Irish Cream, prosecco, brandy, beer, gin, vodka,Guinness….. I actually discovered in my fridge an unopened bottle of Baileys Irish Cream from last Christmas as I was putting this year’s bottle away. It had a best before date of end November 2018 … it smelt alright and tasted ok… I had to test it! Irish Cream is one of those drinks that I tend to buy each year… and I do like it … but after Christmas it tends to be redundant. I’m sure I’m not the only one with spirit bottles that have been stored away & only retrieved on the odd occasion that someone might want a dry martini and lemonade instead of a glass of pinot grigio! This year I fancied trying these liqueur chocolates…

SANTA CLAUS …. who can forget ST NICK? Even though my children are teenagers and adults, they still get a little SOMETHING from “Father Christmas” that resembles a SATSUMA but isn’t as healthy! The SMILES from children when they SEE their STOCKINGS or SACKS filled with gifts on Christmas morning makes being STIRRED awake at some unearthly hour worth it.

Christmas Day breakfast – SAUSAGES, SCRAMBLED EGG, SMOKED SALMON, SAUTEED MUSHROOMS, SAUCY BAKED BEANS, SMOKED BACON RASHERS, SQUASHED TOMATOES, SELECTION OF FRUIT JUICES ….. OR are you like me – I reach for my usual cereal as I just can’t face eating a full breakfast knowing that in a few hours time I will be indulging in the Christmas Dinner? My husband and sons disagree with me though!

SPROUTS, STUFFING, STUFFED TURKEY CROWN, SPUDS (crispy roast potatoes), SEASONAL VEGETABLES, SAUCES, SAUSAGES wrapped in bacon and SPECIAL TURKEY GRAVY made by Gran! Followed by STEAMED CHRISTMAS PUDDING (SIXPENCE no longer inside) with a SELECTION of creams, SUMPTIOUS brandy butter, STEAMING hot custard or SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM. SPROUTS. I don’t actually like SPROUTS. And yet every year I have to dish up one on my dinner plate, just because. My mother in law discovered a new recipe recently that mixed sprouts with bacon …. mmm… maybe, however, with “pigs in blankets” already on the menu, perhaps plain, steamed would be better. It is strange that a vegetable that is good for you – SPROUTS count for one of your “five a day” and contain antioxidants which are thought to prevent cancer – can lead, through overindulgence, to bloating with gas which can be uncomfortable for you and could be unpleasant for others…

STOMACH ACHES! SUDDEN change in diet can lead to uncomfortable consequences – the rich, creamy foods as well as overindulgence of sprouts, peppers, broccoli, eggs, baked beans…. The traditional post Christmas dinner STROLL could help – good for relieving STRESS & that STUFFED feeling, STRENGTHENING family bonds, STRETCHING those legs, and STAVING off that overwhelming SLEEPINESS feeling that will hit you once you SIT down on your SOFA to watch on the TV SCREEN those SOAPS and Christmas SPECIALS…

3pm. STANDING up as our National Anthem is played heralding the START of our Queen delivering her annual SPEECH on our TV SCREENS from her STATELY abode of SANDRINGHAM. I quite like this traditional of listening to the Queen’s SPEECH – it’s a bit like receiving a royal “Round Robin” updating the nation on her family events! SHE has quite a bit of news this year what with the Royal weddings and births!

SNOW. Let it snow! Despite what many people think, the UK rarely experiences snow at Christmas – The Met Office says snow has fallen somewhere in the UK on Christmas Day 38 times in the last 54 years. However, of all the winter months, December is when Britain is least likely to see snow. The last time it snowed in the UK on Christmas Day was on 25 December 2010! Will it snow on Christmas Day in 2018? Personally, I doubt it…. we shall see. If it does, I suppose we could dig out the SLEDS from our SHEDS, build SNOWMEN and make SNOWANGELS , throw SNOWBALLS, SCRAPE our car windscreens, SHOVEL our drives, and SKID our way to SING SONGS in the local church SERVICE ….

SONGS! Carols or Pop songs – nothing puts you in a good mood when the SEASONAL SOUNDS are heard over the airwaves! There was a game on one of the SOCIAL MEDIA SITES – I can’t remember which one – which from the 1st December, you had to try and last the month without hearing “Last Christmas” by Wham as you go about your daily life. Easy you might say ….but SUPERMARKETS seem to always have it on their playlists and if you hear it whilst SHOPPING, you’re out! As I’m a retail merchandiser working in SHOPS & SUPERMARKETS with their radio stations playing all day, I think I lasted a few SECONDS…

SMELLS…. SPICES around this time of year are delightful ….cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger….

SIX O’Clock. Time for SNACKS, SWEETS, and other SUGARY delights before SUPPER at 9pm…. cold meats, SALMON, French bread lavishly SPREAD with SALTED butter, pickles, STUFFED dates, STUFFED olives, SALT & VINEGAR crisps, SALTED peanuts, SAUSAGE rolls, cheese STRAWS….

In the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE it is SUMMER where the temperatures are SIZZLING and I can imagine that it is too hot to contemplate eating as much. I expect the order of the day is a barbecue on the SAND, grilled SALMON STEAKS, SHRIMP cocktail, SALADS, various SKEWERS of meat/veg …. followed by a frolic in SURF, under a glorious SUN and an ice cold SOMETHING to quench your thirst.

SHOW you care this SEASON and think of those whose home is on the STREETS, those who need SHELTER, those who need SOMEBODY to talk to, those who are STARVING, those who are SUICIDAL, those who are SAD, those who are SUFFERING….try and SPREAD a little SEASONAL SPIRIT where you can…

For Pinning

SEE you all in 2019!

LINDA x

All photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.

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What Happens in France: A Book Review

If you are anything like me, I do like a good book to read, especially when I’m on holiday.  I like a variety of genres… I must admit to loving the gritty thrillers, horrors and mysteries; although I just as readily delve into the realms of the classics, the historical sagas, the travel journals and the fun loving feel good romantic comedies.        So when I was given the chance to read “What Happens In France” by Carol Wyer before it’s publication  on January 28th 2019, it was a more than a pleasure.

Carol is an author I’m well acquainted with – I read her book Three Little Birds and was smitten with her feel good romantic comedy style. Thankfully she agreed to an interview (read the interview HERE) and I’ve been following her career ever since.  I’ve read every book she has written since then too. Carol has written romantic comedies like “Life Swap”; she has written non-fiction such as “Grumpy Old Menopause” which won the People’s Prize for non fiction 2015; she has written thrilling crime in 2017 – the 1st book in her DI Robyn Carter series “Little Girl Lost” shot to #2 best selling spot on kindle, #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible, and a USA Today top 150 best sellers; and now Carol has returned to writing a heart warming romantic comedy – “What Happens In France”.

“What Happens In France” in a nutshell….

For years Bryony Masters has been looking for her long lost sister Hannah.  When her father has a stroke, Bryony realises that time is running out and she is even more determined to find Hannah to reunite the family before it is too late.  Bryony spots an advertisement for candidates for a new prime time game show and  fondly remembering that Hannah was a TV game show addict, decides that applying to take part might be a great way of getting her search for Hannah in the public eye…hoping that Hannah herself would come forward.  Of course, Bryony gets through and that’s when her adventures begin…. a private jet,  stunning French countryside, a handsome team mate, interesting and unique personalities, game show antics….. and a delightful pug dog called Biggie Smalls….

What I loved about “What Happens In France”….

  1. The details.  Over the past year, I have spotted Carol on TV taking part in daytime game shows and I know that she has spent a lot of time in France … Carol has always embraced challenges in order to write truthfully about experiences – it shows in this book: the game show process, the characters, the knowledge of the part of France where the fictional game show is set.
  2. The characters.  Believable characters.  And the delightful pug dog, Biggie Smalls.   I loved how all the characters came alive in my head and were so relatable – the handsome team mate Lewis, the vain and pompous quizmaster,  Bryony’s ill father who asks for Hannah all the time.  Bryony is a fab character – she holds a place in my heart – I wanted her to believe in herself at times! 
  3.  The storyline.  It’s a different angle to most romantic comedies. It is really hard to do a review without giving too much away as quite often I want to tell every minute detail but although I want to  reveal all I am really going to zip it!  Suffice to say I really hope Carol follows up on this story with a part 2 … about  what happens  after France … I need to know what happens next! 
  4.  It is an easy going, feel good  romantic comedy that embraces friendships, family, love and laugh out loud moments. It is one of those books that the pages keep turning and you can lose track of time….  Ideal for relaxing by that pool, perhaps in France…. 
  5.   If you like authors such as Marian Keyes, then this book is in the same ilk. You won’t be disappointed. 

Book Info….

“What Happens In France” by Carol Wyer is published by Canelo. Release Date:  28 January 2019.                                                                                 ISBN: 9781788632768.                                                                                                   Pre Order from  Amazon  HERE.                                                                                

To learn more about Carol, go to www.carolwyer.co.uk or follow Carol on Twitter: @carolewyer. 
Carol also blogs at www.carolwyer.com

 For Pinning  Later.

Credits….

Thanks goes to Carol Wyer and Ellie of Canelo Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read the book before general release. I loved it. 

Thanks to Carol for her kind permission for allowing publication of the photographs (except the pinning photo which was taken by myself (Linda Hobden) in France).

Linda x

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An Interview With Bright Corner

Messages to cut down on packaging, reduce the use of plastics and to help halt the severity of global warning, among others, are repeated every day on our news. I’m pleased, therefore, to interview a company that is totally eco friendly – even down to the packaging.  Bright Corner is a company that specialises in pretty interior wooden LED lights for the home that brighten up even the dullest corner. Good lighting in your home is important emotionally for making you, your family and your abode happy.  I caught up with founder Chloe Harrison to find out more… Hi Chloe!

Hello, I am Chloe,  founder and owner of Bright Corner, where I design and make wooden LED lights to create and inspire a happy, cosy home.

Your company designs and makes simple wooden LED lights. What inspired you to start your company?
I left my job in London a few years ago, to start something myself that gave me a better work / life balance. I spent a while volunteering and doing some courses but before I had figured out what I wanted to do, I became pregnant. This obviously took over for a while, but I knew I wanted to start a small creative business. Bright Corner came to me when I couldn’t find a simple wooden light for my little girl’s bedroom. So, I decided to design one and it grew from there.
Bringing a little bit of nature indoors, it makes a refreshing change to use natural wood. When it comes to packaging etc though, does your company maintain its eco friendly ethos by avoiding plastic?   
Yes definitely, I aim to be as environmentally friendly as possible. My products are packaged with no plastic, in simple brown boxes, protected with loose fill paper packaging – all recyclable. My parcel bags are Eco friendly made from Coex, a 100% natural product.
There are 3 designs to choose from: Star Tent, Townhouse & Woodland; as well as a choice of 3 fabric cable colours: natural jute, olive green, mustard yellow – which design and colour cable seems to be the most popular amongst your customers? Do you have a favourite design?
It is still early days, and all designs have been well received but the Star Tent seems to be the most popular for children’s rooms and the Townhouse, Woodland for adults. The cable colour favourite is mustard but I think that’s a top colour this winter. My personal favourite is the Townhouse with mustard but ask me in 6 months and I would have probably changed my mind.
Are there any new additions to your range of lights in the pipeline for 2019?
Yes I am working on a few new designs for the Spring / Summer and maybe even some new products, but they will have the same simple, wooden feel to them as my lights do.
As you are based in the UK, are your products available to customers abroad?
At the moment I only supply a UK plug but also send to Europe. I am hoping as my company grows, I can offer different plugs and expand to America / Canada.
Have you always had an interest in design or did you have other aspirations growing up? 
My sister was the creative one growing up and I was obsessed with films. I ended up working in the film industry, so still a creative world but I wasn’t creative myself. I felt a gap in my life for creativity, so I started to paint and had that as my outlet until I decided to leave my career and start a new adventure.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I prefer winter clothes to summer, I love tights with skirts / dresses, boots and jumpers, cosy clothes.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

I love a charity shop bargain, I once bought a COS T-shirt for £3 and wear it all the time. I am trying to buy more independent and recently got an amazing moon/ star jumper from Alphabet Sweats. For a treat I love Finisterre and Toast –  gorgeous brands, beautiful clothes.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I have always wanted a pair of Swedish Clogs, maybe I will treat myself for the Spring.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, they are much more practical and there are better designs out there. I am a mum, so love a slip-on boot, so much easier when you are carrying a little one in and out of the house.

For pinning later

 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Bright Corner.

https://www.brightcorner-shop.com/

https://www.instagram.com/brightcornershop/

https://www.facebook.com/brightcornershop/

Lovely designs Chloe!  Although I do so love the minimalist interior home designs that are trending –  your lights are simply stylish and versatile – looking good in a new build or in a rustic old style country cottage.  I look forward to seeing your new creative designs in 2019.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chloe Harrison of Bright Corner.

 

 

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Spotlight On The Chameleon By Root7

Root7 is a small company based in Wimbledon, London that specialises in designing drinking products, eg cups, mugs, glasses etc and they have just launched their Kickstarter campaign introducing their rather funky colour changing stainless steel water bottle, known as The Chameleon.  Root 7’s ethos is to #DrinkDifferently – by that they mean they only design drinking products that they love and that are either new in concept, looks or function.  Stainless steel water bottles are not “new” and The Chameleon looks like a water bottle …. sort of …. using thermochromic ink, which reacts to cold water,  the Root 7’s white bottle turns to a pretty colour once cold water is added.  As you drink the water, warmer air fills the void left changing the bottle back to white.  Adding to the fun factor, you can clasp your filled water bottle to make patterns with your fingers as the paint reacts to the heat of your fingertips!

The idea was created by the team in February 2018 – they wanted a fun way to encourage people to drink more water and to use less plastic.  The Kickstarter was launched this month and in 25 days the company hopes to not only launch the water bottle on a major scale but next Spring but it has other development ideas to add to the enjoyment of the product. With pledges starting from £11 – the company are offering a water bottle in a choice of 3 colours with matching “sun jacket” plus free shipping to the USA, UK and Europe. The Kickstarter products will be shipped in January, just in time to kickstart your 2019 New Year New You aim!  The water bottles will be hitting the retail shops around March 2019.

The bottle itself is rather sleek, slim and stylish ( not surprising after looking at Root 7’s other products).  Made of #304 food grade stainless steel, it is perfectly safe to be reusable.  It is not for boiling water or thermos uses though – just cold water! The slim design makes it very easy to transport – fitting neatly into handbags, gym bags, school bags, etc and yet it holds a capacity of 600mls (21 fl.oz). Root 7 has worked hard to ensure that the bottle and its lid was leakproof too.

At the moment the water bottles come in 3 different “filled” colours – blue, peach and purple.  Magenta looks to be in the pipeline for Spring 2019 too.  The lid also has a tag the colour of your bottle when filled – practical as when empty the water bottle is white and the lid just gives a reminder which bottle is yours!  Super handy if you have a family with identical water bottles – it will save a lot of arguments!

Each bottle comes with a “sun” jacket to help prolong the bottle’s life.  The stainless steel water bottle will last many years – the ink changing the bottle’s colour will last but will need looking after.  The “sun” jacket is made from tear resistant silicone which will help protect the water bottle from bumps, scratches and harmful UV rays. Clean your bottle by gently using warm water and washing up liquid  and give it a shake – avoid scrubbing and don’t put in the dishwasher.

Get yourself over to the Kickstarter website and order one or more of these stylish water bottles.  As the news headlines tell us that over 38 million water bottles are sent to landfills each year; that plastics are being dumped in our rivers and oceans; that we should drink more water; eat healthily …. it makes sense to back a project like this, don’t you think?!

Linda x

DISCLAIMER:  The post does contain an affiliate link but all views I’ve expressed are purely my own.

Photos & Gifs have been published with kind permission of Root 7.

 

 

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My Favourite New Season Nail Colours

I am addicted to buying nail colours. There, I said it.  I have just moved my bottles into a larger toiletry bag.  I love the array of colours and shades available. I love to match my nail colour to whatever I’m wearing – sometimes not.  I have even bought a new nail colour today! I counted my hoard this evening – it was more than my shoe collection – 45 – including 10 different shades of green.   Can you not guess that green is my favourite colour?!

Talking to the assistant in the pharmacy this afternoon about nail colours, I told her that I couldn’t resist a new shade.  She replied that she doesn’t indulge herself, but she goes to the nail bar for her professionally applied colours that last 3 weeks.  I tried having my nails professionally done – I liked the result – BUT, yes there is a BUT – for me, at any rate.

My reasons for preferring bottled nail colours over professional gel nails:

  • My nails are short – I can’t work or type with long nails – and I feel that people with long, pretty nails benefit from the professional touch.
  • If I’m working in the warehouse, especially opening boxes, my nails are likely to get chipped.  I’d hate to spend money on lovely looking nails that, in the best will of the world, would be chipped half an hour later.  Holiday time is the best time to treat myself at the nail bar for those stunning finger & toe nails.
  • I get bored easily wearing the same colour, day in, day out. I like to change my nail colour on a daily basis!

I have found that some “cheaper” brands are actually better nail polishes than expensive brands in many ways.  I am attracted to colour choice, thickness (I don’t like a thin, watery colour), gel or gel like finish and quick to dry.  Here are some of my recent favourite nail colour purchases:

POUNDLAND

For £1 (or, in some cases 50p if they are end of range), you just can’t beat Poundland for nail colours.  They tick all of my boxes: cheap, great colour selection, great 1st layer colour (not too thick or thin) and very quick drying.  Decent size bottle too. My two favourite colours from this season’s collection are Copper Kiss and Mushroom Magic.

If you are a fan of pinks/reds or sparkles then Poundland’s Autumn/Winter range should certainly satisfy you, though!

GEORGE AT ASDA

I like this supermarket’s range of gel effect nail colours – the 4 colours from their range this season that I’ve bought are (from left to right) Mali-blu; Twilight; Dusk; Echo.  The gel effect nail colours are dearer than the other type of nail enamel produced by Asda, but you are still looking at around £3.  Quite a small bottle, but the colours glide on perfectly first time with a decent first coat and are quick drying. I love the latest colour, Twilight, that was introduced in October. It is a dark teal/navy with subtle sparkle… gorgeous.  Here’s me wearing Mali-blu (only one coat applied):

AVON

You are spoilt for choice with Avon.  I have bought many colours and types over the years and found them quite excellent on application, colour and drying abilities.  I’ve bought 2 colours from Avon this Autumn – both pastel shades despite the season – Moondust and Lemonade.

OTHER BRANDS

I also recently bought 4 other colours from different brands :

Rimmel “On Fleek” 60 seconds Super Shine.   This was the colour I bought today. It is a gold/black/green colour that is super sparkly – just great for the Holiday/Party season. Rimmel is one of my favourite make up brands and this nail colour dries super quick.

Max Factor Gel Shine Lacquer in “Gleaming Teal”. Fab colour & coverage.

Maybelline Color Show 60 seconds in “Watery Waste” & “Downtown Red”.  Perhaps the most expensive of my favoured nail colours – I love the Maybelline brand and the nail colours are pretty bold (& quick drying).

Do you like nail colours? Any favourites? Let me know  via  my Facebook Page what you think!

For Pinning

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

 

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An Interview With Spark

This week I’m talking about kitchen gadgets, utensils and gizmos – those gadgets that  you think you don’t have a need for, then you get one and you realise it is an absolute godsend for making your life easier! I bet every household has got at least one  kitchen gadget that may not be a necessity but its versatility renders it one of your favourite kitchen items. If you haven’t got such a gadget, then perhaps my guest this week will tempt you with one of his creations. I’m talking with Billy Dulay, co founder of “Products By Spark” – a small company that has big ideas – its Splatter Catcher and Infinity Mat are just two items worth looking at. Hi Billy & welcome!

Hello & welcome to “Spark”, a small but growing company specializing in “The newest kitchen gadgets/utensils and beyond”. We believe passionately in innovation and first-rate service, which is why we commit ourselves to giving you the best of both. If you’re looking for something new, you’re in the right place. We strive to be industrious and inventive, offering our customers something they need but with an innovative twist, putting their desires at the top of our priority list.

What was the inspiration behind the introduction of the Splatter Catcher and the Infinity Mat?

The Splatter Catcher, this idea was made after cooking a rather splattery chicken thigh for dinner. Covered in grease, we wanted to develop a product that wouldn’t affect the food in any way but keeps stoves clean, behold the Splatter Catcher.

The Infinity Mat was a bi-product of our creative juices after creating the Splatter Catcher, “What multi-use tool can we create which will be a must in any kitchen?” thus sparking into life the Infinity Mat.

There are similar items on sale from other brands – so what are the main selling points of your products?

The Splatter Catcher is the first product of its kind to the hit the UK market, the main selling points are as follows:-

Fits 28cm pans (Diameter)
BPA free – Made from fully compliant 100% food grade silicone 
Heat resistant up to 230 Celsius
Dishwasher Safe – Place on to two racks of the dishwasher, leave out to dry.
Easy roll up storage
Seamless application – Tab system allows for the Splatter catcher to be applied with ease, ensuring it has been applied securely.
Allows all steam to escape the pan
Blocks fine oil from escaping – rest assured that your cooking surface and clothes will be free of any fine oil splatters.
Prevents Spills – freely overfill the pan without the fear of food contents dropping out of the pan. Perfect for large stirfries

The Infinity Mat not only has uses for indoor and outdoor application:-

Trivet
Food Cover
Placemat
Jar Opener
Oven Glove
Grip for your chopping board
And Many More!

It is also available in 4 different colours.

The Splatter Catcher and the Infinity Mat come in array of lovely bright colours – which colour seems to be the most popular amongst your customers?
Yellow and Red – These colours can brighten up the dullest of kitchens.
Are there any new additions to your range of products in the pipeline for 2019?

Yes! Yes! Yes! There’s definitely more in store for 2019 we haven’t even got started.

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to customers abroad?

Yes, we ship all over the world.

Working in the field of kitchen products, as you do, do you enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking? If so, do you have a signature dish?

When I can get time I love cooking. I’m not the best chef in the world however I’d like to say I’d hold my own in the “Chicken Stir Fry Arena” which is my signature dish.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Jeans, open collar shirt and blazer – smart casual and definitely a nice pair of shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Definitely Asos.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Has to be a nice winter coat, I’m dreading winter.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – Look smarter.


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about the Splatter Catcher & The Infinity Mat.

Website (www.productsbyspark.com)

Instagram – (_sparkproducts)

Thank you Billy for chatting to us about your kitchen gadgets.  I can just imagine you cooking your stir fry and pondering over how you can make sure the oil doesn’t splatter everywhere…. 🙂 I didn’t realise just how many different ways you can use the Infinity Mat – definitely  a useful item to have in the kitchen.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Products By Spark (Billy Dulay).

 

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Introducing Alphabetville

I’m pleased to introduce onto my blog this week illustrator Mary-Louise Hussey.  I have followed Mary on Twitter for a while now – her little creature drawings that make up Alphabetville, remind me of illustrations that used to be in my fairytale books as a child.  Her illustrations and the animal characters are delightful –  such a lovely way to introduce ABC.  I caught up with Mary-Louise recently to talk about her illustrations, Alphabetville and  life in the 1970s! Hi Mary-Louise!

Hello, my name is Mary-Louise Hussey and I was brought up in West Sussex in the UK.  I had an unusual childhood living in the wing of a grand old Victorian mansion, a preparatory school for boys.  I don’t remember being lonely, but looking back it was an insular existence to begin with spending long days in the nursery, or playing in the garden under the Old Lime Tree with imaginary friends, mostly of the wildlife kind.

When I left school I was sent off to various ‘courses for young ladies’ in London preparing me for life! One of these was Lucy Clayton modelling school, which taught me how to glide down a ‘cat walk’, and though tall and lanky apparently ‘my neck was too short for modelling’, something I am still self conscious about! Luckily this led me to look down other avenues.  Working in a glamorous fashion shop in Knightsbridge, the ‘heart of smart’ in London, gave me a lust for the latest fashions.  Mary Quant, Biba, miniskirts, hot pants, buckets of makeup and Beatles music were all the rage.  Inspired by this experience and with a small legacy from my grandmother I opened ‘Sheba’, my clothes ‘Boutique’ and fashion mecca in a charming little country village.  The 1970s were dizzy days and my confidence blossomed.

Later married and with two young daughters, we moved away to rural Herefordshire. Glorious countryside and friendly people, I took up painting once again.  With an urge to set up another business I fell into my new career.  Sheba Designs, a mail order catalogue selling ‘Personalised Gifts for Children’, most notably ‘Illustrated Name Pictures’.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Animals at Work’ who live in Alphabetville?

I’m so glad you asked me this as the memories are still quite deep. You remember the Old Lime Tree I was telling you about in our garden – I loved that tree?  Sadly in 1987 there was a hurricane which ravaged the countryside in the South of England.  We went down from Herefordshire to my old home, and I wept when I saw my Old Lime Tree had been whipped up and flung down, broken. Right then and there I determined that the memory of this beautiful old lime tree and the happy times spent under it with my imaginary friends should not be lost. On returning home I immediately set about designing my little animal alphabet ‘Animals at Work’ who now live in Alphabetville.  The design was a huge success in my business and when a Japanese wholesaler asked me at my trade stand at an exhibition if I had written stories around the characters, I crossed all fingers and said ‘YES’.  At home I feverishly created characters for my little animals and gave them the village of Alphabetville to make their home.  And that is where they are to this day making children everywhere happy.

You have written and illustrated 2 children’s picture books based on the antics of the animals of Alphabetville.  Can you describe Alphabetville in a nutshell and how the books can help young children in mastering their alphabet?

I love this question, but how to fit Alphabetville into a nutshell, and how to crack it without shattering the illusion? I’ll do my best.

The village is down in a little dell….not far from you actually!  Tarquin and Tarqueena the slightly eccentric Royals who live in ‘The Royal Oak Palace,’ leave all the essential running of the busy village to ‘The Animals at Work’.  From the School, the thriving Gift Factory and the Railway Station and Farm, to the Corner Shop and Church all is run fairly smoothly.  It’s not always a tight ship, but it’s fairly average really except that it is run by ANIMALS. Oh and did I say that they get into quite a pickle sometimes, well who doesn’t?

Our plan is at this early stage of learning the alphabet, for The ‘Animals at Work’ to become your children’s best friends – simple.  You see each animal’s name cleverly starts with a different letter of the alphabet. Ie.  Albert Mole head teacher of the village school, Boris Bear the chef who loves hot and spicy food,  Clarrie the caring nurse,  ‘Dodge’ Dougal the village policeman etc. So while the child becomes familiar with the characters and their names they soon begin to recognise the accompanying letters…. Here is the first tentative and enjoyable step towards learning their ABC.

I love the Alphabetville animals – my favourite is Gloria Gussey – a stunning lizard who is a super model with brains who hopes to become a doctor!  Have you got a fondness for any particular character?

I just have to say Emmie the talented faMouse artist or she would clobber me – because she is ME and my alto ego.  One major difference being that she has 12 little ‘mouselings’…. and I don’t!  I blame Emmie (Emeraldine) for the painting of all the pictures in my books, which sort of lets me off the hook a bit. Furthermore In a corridor in the Alphabetville village school you can find ‘Rogues Gallery’ where Emmie’s portraits of each of the pupils hang on their leaving.  She is now proud to have over 10,000 followers on her Twitter account. Have a peek @AnimalsatWork

When did you start designing and hand painting illustrated name pictures?

Both my daughters had started school and I took up painting again in earnest.  But one day trying something new, I illustrated a name picture with wildflowers for my goddaughter Amanda. It seemed to be a hit with those who saw it and I capitalised on that by taking a few orders from friends, then from coffee mornings, charity fairs, school functions and so on until I brought out my Mail Order catalogue and started advertising and even ventured into the wholesale market.

I can tell you are an animal lover – but are you scared or wary of any particular animal in real life? (I’m wary of cows and ants)

Yes, I love animals but I have to admit to being nervous of horses.  I was ‘plonked’ on a pony at the age of about 7 years and told to hold on tight.  The novice teacher led four of us off across a field at a trot.  Soon out of control I tumbled off and was promptly ‘plonked’ on again, whereupon the pony took off back to the stables with me hanging on for dear life. I love them but I have never trusted a horse since.

Growing up, did you always hope to have a career connected with art or were your dreams directed elsewhere?

I rather fancied myself as a pop star when I was in my teens.  I used to strum along on my guitar with friends and we spent hours recording ourselves on a big old fashioned recording machine, we were pretty awful but had lots of fun. I will soon be recording the songs I have composed for The Animals at Work.

Where do you prefer to read – in bed, in a comfy chair, in a library surrounded by books or elsewhere?  Do you prefer hardback, paperback or Kindle? Favourite genre?

In a deckchair in the garden with the sound of birds singing in the trees, however that’s nearly impossible unless on holiday.  So as my husband goes to bed before me I crawl in to my side of the bed with my Kindle under the bedclothes and read till my eyes close. One of my historical novels will keep me awake like this for a short time but I usually find the Kindle still there when I wake up early the next morning.

Where can people purchase your Illustrated Name Pictures and books?  Is there worldwide availability?

Both through my website www.alphabetville.net                                                                                                                              The books and (eBook to come) –  self publishing at  https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/862c                                                                                                   Twitter @AnimalsatWork                                                                                              Facebook  –  Alphabetville

Personal now – What outfits and shoes would you normally be wearing?

With long legs but rather thick ankles I normally wear trousers to flatter/hide my shape.  Colour is my thing, so my tops are many and varied.  Well cut shirts for style in linen or cotton, or silk skimming the hips, printed over tops, often with a matching scarf. Casual but neat flat shoes mainly or boots in the winter.  I’d be more wacky if I could find fun clothes for my age group.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

That’s a bit difficult really because I pick up clothes wherever I find them.  I used to be very fussy having had my own shop in days gone by, but now I seem to find clothes are all too classical for me and not adventurous enough.  It’s not fun anymore and after shopping in shops or online I seem to end up with the same dull old things.

What next on your clothes/ shoe/accessory wish list?

I am now a blond haired person in a previously dark haired person’s clothing!  So I need to reassess my wardrobe completely really and go for subtle colours and soft flowing materials with drapes to hide unwanted lumps and bumps.  Flattering warm brown and light caramel colours with splashes of burnt coral. Short donkey brown boots and a large cashmere shawl to dashingly fling round your neck.  That doesn’t sound at all like ‘old me’, but then I’m not the ‘old me’ any more.

Boots or Shoes?

A good pair of stylish boots… or two, will take you anywhere and hide the thick ankles.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc. so that readers can find out more about you and the Animals at Work in Alphabetville.

Website: www.alphabetville.net

Facebook: Alphabetville

Twitter: @AnimalsatWork

Books:  1.  Animals at Work in Alphabetville,  2. Albert’s Birthday Surprise

Ahh…the hurricane of 1987..I remember it well as I had moved to my first house away from my parents who lived in London, to a small village in coastal Essex that very day the hurricane struck. We had a tree hang precariously over the bungalow but it was safely removed and thankfully, no other lasting damage! Sorry to hear of the demise of the Old Lime Tree, though.

Thank you for taking the time to chat to us about your beautiful illustrations and  Alphabetville – it has been a real treat! 🙂

Linda x

All illustrations/photos have been published with the very kind permission of Mary-Louise Hussey

 

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Problem Solving In The 21st Century

According to a recent Carphone Warehouse Survey of over 2000 adults in the UK, 83% turn to the internet for help – whether it’s to solve a personal problem, self diagnose an ailment, read up on facts, getting a DIY tip or recipe, get career guidance, find love and friendship.  I know in my household, that for awkward homework questions and project work in general, “Google” is our friend rather than the set of Encyclopedia Britannica and World Atlas that used to occupy my bedroom shelves in the 1970s.  I do still have an updated World Atlas in book form and I do enjoy poring over the maps in a geeky kind of way – however, there is no denying that for fast information, the internet is kingpin.

In order to highlight some of the changes in problem solving in the 21st century, Carphone Warehouse also commissioned a set of 5 fun illustrations, reimagining the storyline of 5 iconic pre-21st century movies for the digital age:

BRIEF ENCOUNTER….

According to the results in the survey it seems that the internet gives us social courage and, in some cases, a silver tongue.  25% of Londoners look for help finding friends online.  16% of men are more likely to look for help regarding their love life than women (9%).

PSYCHO…

Before going to any hotel, motel or inn, do you check out the place nowadays online before booking? Do you read the reviews?  I know I do! 

PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS…

How many of us shop online or use auction sites such as eBay? To sell & buy used items locally it used to be an advert placed in our local village shop window … and hastily try and find a pen & paper in your coat pocket to note down a number or address of the item you wanted.

SCHOOL OF ROCK…

With sites such as Link’dIn and Facebook, how many of us check somebody out online before meeting them?  You can be sure that nowadays employers check out potential employees before interviewing them …. their appearance, credentials and lots more besides! I read some wise words in a meme recently that said “Never post anything onto your Facebook/Social Media profile that you wouldn’t want your granny reading!” …

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT…

Got to go to a new destination? Finding locations and addresses and directions is so much easier with Google maps, SatNav devices and smartphone apps that can locate your position easily if you get lost.  

Isn’t it just amazing how quickly society has absorbed the internet and how much we rely on the internet! Other interesting data findings from the survey found that 45% go online for meal inspirations; 56% of women are most likely to be looking for health and wellbeing advice; 49% of men are most likely to turn to the internet for help with their personal finances; and 73% of respondents find it easier to approach their crushes online. 

Interesting stuff! What  problem solving help do you use the internet for?

LINDA x

My thanks goes to the Problem Solving CarPhone Warehouse Campaign & Study for giving me permission to publish both the data findings and the commissioned illustrations. https://www.carphonewarehouse.com/broadband/internet-problem-solving.html

Header/Pin photograph by Linda Hobden.

 

 

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An Interview With Max Lemari

Using the finest Italian leather, Italian shoe makers Max Lemari, have added to their collection of the classic Italian male staple shoe, the driving moccasin,  and are now offering customised driving loafers.   These shoes are extremely stylish  – all hand constructed, hand stitched and hand painted.  I was lucky enough to interview the brand CEO Max Guidi about his brand, his obsession with shoes and to ask, if there was going to be a female version of the driving loafer …. Hi Max!

Hello. My name is Max Guidi. I’m CEO of Max Lemari. I’ve been working all my life in the fashion industry.  I was chief product and development officer for Gucci, Armani, Burberry, Dior and collaborated with many more high-end brands. Max Lemari is the union of two names: Max is mine and Donato Lovito Lemari is the artisan responsible for the shoes’ manufacture.

What made your company decide to concentrate on driving loafers?

Because it’s the shoe category that exalt our expertise. Lemari has been manufacturing loafers for over 40 years for some of the most expensive brands in the world. When we handcraft loafers, we are sure that we have the best quality on earth.

In your latest collection, I like the look of the Capri in yellow & blue  What styles and colours are most popular amongst your customers?

During last summer our best seller was the Ischia Taupe & Yellow

https://maxlemari.com/product/ischia-taupe-yellow/

Have you got a favourite style & colour from your collection?

Yes, I love the exclusive silk calf leather and I wear the Salina Mucchina

https://maxlemari.com/product/salina-mucchina/

How can a customer get his loafers customised?

From our website product pages, you can automatically put your initials in our drivers and we will engrave it for you. If you want a total customization, a special number or something else, you can contact us and we will do our best to make it happen.

https://maxlemari.com/contact-us/

Hypothetically speaking, which famous male, dead or alive, would you love to see as the “ambassador” for Max Lemari?

Giorgio Armani – I’ve been working with him and I remember that he was always very elegant yet casual. I think he would have loved our mocs.

Growing up, have you always been obsessed with shoes and been interested in a shoemaking/ designing career?

Actually, my first dream was to be a pilot. Maybe that’s another reason why we are making drivers 😀

At the moment you are only manufacturing driving loafers for men. Have you got plans in the future to design similar footwear for women?

Yes, we want to launch a women driver as well. We are already developing the first prototypes, but for now we’re keeping them secret.

You are based in Italy – are your shoes available to order overseas?

Yes, we want to be global. Customers will have to wait a couple more days for the shoes to arrive, but we are doing our best to ship everywhere.

 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

During the week I usually wear high end sneakers. They are really comfortable.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (apart from your own!)

I like Hermes very much.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

It’s the Dior jacket with the bee sewn on the heart.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes. Italian weather is not so cold and I’m happy wearing shoes all year long.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Max Lemari and your range of driving loafers for men.

The best place is to visit our website:  http://www.maxlemari.com/

Thank you Max.  My youngest son has ambitions of being a pilot and he does like looking his best… perhaps his future lies in the shoe industry too!  I look forward to those driving shoes for ladies – the men’s styles are fabulous and such gorgeous colourways!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Max Guidi  (Max Lemari)

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